Christine Morgan reminds us that sex is so much more than just bodies coming together in her story Lascivious Tongues; it’s as much a mental, linguistic game as anything else. Words have power, particularly during sex: some words might only power your fucktoys, others could power your house, your city… or destroy your reality altogether! Lascivious Tongues is a lot of fun in a classic “don’t read the cursed book” way, and delivered to us by a master storyteller with a great feel for dialogue and character.
—Justine Geoffrey, “On Old Names, Old Guards and Great Old Ones” in Necronomicum #1
There are definite parallels between Mythos literature and pornography. The Necronomicon and 120 Days of Sodom are both forbidden books, shunned by normal people, dealt with (at least in earlier times) only by specialists and pursued only by particularly fanatical readers, often hidden in libraries. These works are all taboo—just reading or possessing them carried a social stigma, and in some cases could even be illegal according to some authorities. Generations of Mythos fans have appreciated the fetishistic element to Mythos tomes when they read of the decadent works described in “The Hound.” Later authors have exploited these parallels to create Mythos tomes that combine the forbidden lore of erotica and cosmic horror—as in Le Pornomicon (2005) by Logan Kowalsky, or “The Perils of Liberated Objects, or, The Voyeur’s Seduction” (2009) by Caitlín R. Kiernan. (For more on this subject, see “The Necronomicon as Pornography” in Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.)
The term “fetish” as normally applied to sex signifies a particular and often fixed image of veneration. This sense of the word is derived in turn from European encounters with votive objects among the indigenous peoples of Africa—literal idolatry, when viewed through the Christian world-view of the traders, sailors, missionaries, and later anthropologists who sought to catalog and categorize what they saw, even if it was with imperfect understanding.
Cthulhu, not coincidentally, had an idol too.
She cared not a whit that the eccentric New England recluse’s library was said to have also contained dozens of tomes on occultism and folios of pornography. Nor did she lend any credence to the scandalous talk of orgies, covens, sacrifices, rituals, and other such hysteria and nonsense.
And it was absurd even to suggest that the book had anything to do with Grantham vanishing.
—Christine Morgan, “Lascivious Tongues”
Sexual fetishes lend themselves to cataloging and categorization too. Specific images—the stern headmistress is a staple character, the all-girls school a staple setting—lend themselves to endless permutations. Like Cthulhu, there is never one single, correct, absolutely perfect and eternal depiction; there is only endless and fascinating repetitions and variations, writers and artists playing on a theme, trying to capture or depict specific moods and ideas.
Which is a long way to say that the similarities between erotica and Mythos fiction are more than skin-deep; there is a certain fundamental similarity in purpose with fetishistic sexual literature. The really good writers are seldom dispassionate, but in the throes of their own fascination with the material, the techniques used in many Mythos pastiches and erotic works are essentially the same—and occasionally bleed over. This is a bit obvious when it comes to remixes such as “Kanye West—Reanimator” (2015) by Joshua Chaplinsky vs. “Herburt East: Refuckinator” (2012) by Lula Lisbon, but the dividing line between “serious Mythos story” and “erotic Mythos story” can be exceptionally thin—and it is entirely possible for a Mythos story to be a work of erotic horror, for a Mythos image like Cthulhu’s tentacles to become a sexual image fulfilling a particular fetish.
“Lascivious Tongues” works in no small part because Christine Morgan plays specifically to images of Lovecraftian horror as well as to sexual fetishes. In combining the two, she is sort of crossing the line twice—in both directions. Jessica Barlowe, the stern, virginal, and sexually repressed headmistress of the all-girl’s college does not satisfy what might be the expectations of the reader—her tastes, once awakened, lie in a more occult direction—and the Lovecraftian horrors have a form and appearance distinctly atypical for those expecting phallic-headed tentacles to burst forth from beyond the portal, as described and depicted in the Necronomicon in Noé & Barreiro’s The Convent of Hell.
Her facility with languages, combined with her position as headmistress of the Eastridge School for Young Ladies, meant that Jessica Barlowe had long since wearied of the inevitable ‘cunning linguist’ jokes with which each new wit fancied himself so clever.
—Christine Morgan, “Lascivious Tongues”
Yet more than anything, Morgan has tongue firmly in cheek. While the puns are few, she is definitely cognizant of the play of words and concept. Lovecraft and pornographers both have a tendency toward adjectives and adverbs, and if “Lascivious Tongues” doesn’t reach the heights of Lovecraft’s ultraviolet prose, it is definitely trying to evoke the particular idiom of a certain range of Victorian and Edwardian erotica in some of its diction.
Compared to many Mythos pastiches are overwritten and drag in terms of pacing, “Lascivious Tongues” moves almost too briskly, hitting its story beats and not slowing down until the weight of the sex scenes demands it. Many passages and transitions are downright terse. It is a very pulp/erotica style of writing, unlike the longer literary form such as Widdershins (2013) by Jordan L. Hawk, which otherwise shares a similar period setting. Which is to say, “Lascivious Tongues” is not exactly The Way of a Man with a Maid (1908) with the addition of a Mythos tome. It could easily have been something like that, if Morgan had aimed at a novel instead of a short story. The basic building blocks for such an erotic Mythos novel are there—but the market is different.
“Lascivious Tongues” was published in Necronomicum: The Magazine of Weird Erotica #1 (2014). Erotica is often ephemeral fiction; read once and then forgotten or discarded. It took quite some time to build up the idea of “erotic horror” as durable literature, beyond masturbation fodder. Which is a shame because some quite good fiction has been lost to disinterest, in men’s magazines and the wilds of the early Internet…and to ebooks which were available for a period, and then disappeared, taking their stories with them.
Necronomicum was set up as a triannual e-periodical; it made it to four issues…which isn’t bad at all, considering it published some well-known authors such as Ramsey Campbell, Christine Morgan, and Brian Sammons. The trick for any series publication is reaching the right market—all the more difficult in an internet already flooded with erotica and pornography. For such a publication, with a token payment, short & simple makes sense. “Lascivious Tongues” isn’t the worse for being written as a fast-paced bit of Lovecraftian erotica, but it definitely makes more sense in context as something written as a quick read in a small ebook anthology.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).