World War One in Fantastic Fiction: “The Crevasse”

“The Crevasse”, Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, 2009. (With Spoilers)

This story, seemingly set in the 1920s in the Antarctic, matches not only Lovecraft’s settings (specifically, of course, his At the Mountains of Madness”), but his mood and themes.

A team of four men has separated from an expedition and, with one of them injured, is making its way back to a base camp.  A dog falls in a crevasse but doesn’t die right away.  After listening to its whimpering for hours, the protagonist, a doctor in World War One, goes into the crevasse to put it out of its misery  In the shadows at the bottom, he thinks he sees something move and evidence of a stairway leading down.

He is not believed by a companion who also goes into the crevasse, but it is fairly clear the companion doesn’t want to believe in what he saw or its implications.  A nice, effective – in plot and setting – working of a Lovecraft theme.

The crevasse is a Nietzschean abyss one should not gaze into, a literalized metaphor for the abyss the doctor feels from the war and death of his wife, a chasm beckoning self-annihilation.

World War One Content

  • Living Memory: No.
  • On-Stage War: No.
  • Belligerent Area: No.
  • Home Front: No.
  • Veteran: No.

World War One mainly serves to explain the psychological state of the protagonist, his vulnerability to revelations of cosmic horror in the wake of exposure to world horrors.

There is, incidentally, a close link to Antarctic exploration and World War One. Photographer Frank Hurley took photos of the famed Shackleton expedition and the war. Indeed, the Shackleton expedition left Portsmouth Harbor shortly after England entered the war.

 

World War One in Fantastic Fiction.

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