Tentacular History: An Overview
In "First Watch," my interwar novella, Earth is populated with at least two types of sentient creatures: humans, and Lovecraftian horrors from the depths. Both kinds of creature are historical, in that they remember and relate past events, and both kinds of creature are political, in that they make alliances and wage wars to enforce them. This is all well and good, except for one crucial flaw in my master plan: Human history and politics--at least, as I know them--are completely devoid of tentacle monsters.
Of course, human folklore has always had a place for things that go bump in the night, and our fairy tales are full of the things that live in darkness. For most of human history, this is exactly what my eldritch horrors were--night terrors, beasts that preyed on the unwary and feasted in plague-ridden streets. They gorged on those who died at sea and were thrown overboard; they passed like shadows between the moon and the earth on winter nights, and their eyes shone beyond the glow of the hearth fire. Their relationship with humans was purely predatory, and not in the least political. They were the stronger beasts, the more powerful and brutal, and they consumed us without a pang of remorse.
Along the Pacific rim, humans had been making alliances with and waging war on these creatures for centuries, but in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, tentacled beasties were more slow to emerge. As I envision it, two developments pushed the Atlantic Lovecraftian horrors out of the sky and the sea. The first was human incursion on their spaces, as signified by the 1858 completion of the transatlantic telegraph cable and the development of commercial flight in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The second, and perhaps the more pertinent, was the rise in deadly military campaigns during the nineteenth century; as scavengers, these creatures were drawn to our regiments of the dead and the dying. They began to understand as they never had before how delicate was the political balance between human factions ... and how tasty our casualties were, when the balance got tipped.
On the battlefields of nineteenth-century Prussia, Russia, Turkey, and Virginia, the soldiers and the camp-followers began to speak of creatures moving over the corpses, all mouths and rope-like limbs. They spoke of beasts like harpies spiraling over the thick smoke of battle, waiting for the smell of the dead to rise. Soldiers returned from the battlefield with marks like tattoos, but what of that? Soldiers returning homeward always had tattoos and scars that had never been there before. There were strange new men in business and in politics, pale-faced and smooth-cheeked, but what of that? One politician was as bad as another, and at least these were well-groomed.
The first photographs--and even a few early, uneven films--emerged during the Great War. No one could mistake what the images displayed, although naysayers claimed foul play and photographers searched for signs of tamper. The soldiers knew, though, beyond the faintest shadow of doubt.
They had seen the creatures moving in thick, gelatinous masses over the spent shells and the bodies of the wounded. They had heard their comrades screaming as they were eaten alive ... or worse, seen their comrades return to them with the rising sun, their newly-healed flesh marked with characters in an unknown language.
Here's a blurb from my book, First Watch, at Riptide Publishing:
What price would you pay to survive?
Do you want to live? In the darkness of a WWI battlefield, young Legionnaire Edouard Montreuil lies dying. As teeth nibble his flesh, a voice whispers, Do you want to live? Frightened and desperate, Edouard bargains his freedom for a second chance.
Aboard the Flèche, a grim submarine captained by the nightmare who granted Edouard new life, Edouard pays the price for his survival. Each night, he gives his body to his captain as the bells sound first watch. But surviving is not living, and as the days stretch into months beneath the waves, Edouard grows desperate for escape.
Can Edouard’s old comrade Farid Ruiz help him break this devil's bargain, or will Ruiz fall to the same fate, trapped beneath the waves at the mercy of a monster whose hunger knows no bounds? Edouard and Ruiz served together once before, and slept together too, but courage and passion failed to save them from the eldritch beasts who roamed the night. This time, the cost of failure is nothing so clean or simple as death, and the spoils of victory are not just life, but love.
To read an excerpt and to purchase First Watch, click here.
About Peter Hansen:
Peter Hansen is a teacher, writer, and former spelling bee champion who lives a stone's throw from the Erie Canal. He got his start in publishing with his college newspaper, where he was forced to write "I will not rake the muck" one hundred times on the chalkboard before they let him write editorials. With that gritty, real-world experience under his belt, he promptly turned to science fiction and fantasy. He spends his days teaching young writers about the pathetic fallacy, his evenings mainlining iced tea, and his nights building a time machine in his basement.