I told him I saw no need to broaden, i.e., to dilute, my understanding of “Lovecraftian.” […] I realize that genres grow and develop by an incremenetal process of transgressions of inherited genre conventions. Thus it is no crime to do something different and still call it “Lovecraftian.” What passes for Lovecraftian tomorrow may seem quite different from what the term denotes today. But I can’t pretend to see how you get there from here.
—Robert M. Price, foreword to “She Flows,” Straight to Darkness 193-194
“She Flows” (2006) by Takeuchi Yoshikazu (竹内義和) was published in the third volume in the Lairs of the Hidden Gods series from Kurodahan Press, edited by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健). It is the English-language translation of the 2002 story 清・少女 (Se Shojō); the translator was Nora Stevens Heath.
The Mythos as a concept is a struggle for definition. What makes a Mythos tale? Does it have to use specific words, deliberate tie-ins? What are the minimal requirements? The status of “Mother of Serpents” (1936) by Robert Bloch as a Mythos story hangs on a single word. “Hypothetical Materfamilias” (1994) by Adèle Olivia Gladwell is a Lovecraftian tale with three. “Red Goat, Black Goat” (2010) by Nadia Bulkin has none, though we recognize the shadow of Shub-Niggurath without ever reading the name of the Black Goat of the Woods. Does any story become a Mythos story if it includes the Necronomicon? Can a story be Mythos but not Lovecraftian, if it uses the right words but in a vary un-Lovecraftian way?
Rhetorical questions. There is no set canon to the Mythos, no strict definition as to what is or is not Lovecraftian. Every individual carries a canon in their head, maybe multiple canons. You the reader decide whether a story is Mythos or Lovecraftian to you. Don’t let anyone else decide for you.
“She Flows” is challenging in this regard. There are, as Robert M. Price notes in his foreword, no explicit connections to the Mythos. The implicit connections are filtered through what feels like a different cultural lens: compensated dating, alcoholic parents, abusive parents, depression. Two girls with eyes a little too wide apart.
People with monstrous faces, long red tongues.
The reader has to make their own connections. Takeuchi’s approach is showing more than telling. Never says “Deep One,” or “Innsmouth.” But they write:
My theme is the ocean.
All I sing are songs about the ocean. You know that folksong, “My Bonnie lies over the ocean”? I liked that one. I remember my dad always used to sing it softly into my ear when I was little.
So maybe that’s why all the songs I write are about the ocean.
—Takeuchi Yoshikazu, “She Flows,” Straight to Darkness 206
Where does the reader’s mind go? A European folksong. A mother who hates her daughter’s face. Was her father a Deep One…or a Caucasian? It’s a story about the ambiguity. Reading between the lines. The reader bringing their own understanding to complete the story. Robert M. Price in his foreword wondered if this was a Deep One story; couldn’t quite make up his mind because there is nothing definite there.
Yet in context, this is a story in a Mythos anthology. Had it been placed in an anthology of yōkai stories, would it have been received differently? It would not be difficult to see these creatures as some form of yōkai, or as some delusion of a mind unhinged by child abuse. The story is weaponized ambiguity. It cuts those who want it to mean more than what it is, who want it to connect to something larger than itself.
Is “She Flows” Lovecraftian? It is if you want it to be.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).