who would have hated it
and for Bob,
who probably saw it coming
Dedication to “Red Monolith Frenzy” (2012)
Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone” (Weird Tales Nov 1931) was one of the first expansions of Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s Mythos; it introduced the Black Monolith in the town of Stregoicavar; the mad poet Justin Geoffrey and von Junzt and his Black Book, Nameless Cults. Lovecraft enjoyed these new elements to the Mythos, particularly von Junzt and his book, which the Gent from Providence incorporated into his own stories, including “The Shadow out of Time,” “The Dreams from the Witch House,” “The Haunter of the Dark,” and “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and two stories ghostwritten for Hazel Heald:“Out of the Aeons” and“The Horror in the Museum.” Lovecraft even had a hand in creating a German name for the Black Book: Unaussprechlichen Kulten.
What Lovecraft largely did not comment on in the story was the lengthy flagellation scene that the protagonist in a dream-like vision witnesses before the phallic image of the Black Monolith. Robert E. Howard’s inclusion of this scene was plainly an effort to get on the cover of Weird Tales, which often went to stories with scenes of female nudity and flagellation, as beautifully illustrated by Margaret Brundage. Lovecraft’s refusal to include such scenes may explain why during his lifetime none of his stories ever received a cover illustration.
“The Black Stone” wasn’t the first hint of sex in the nascent Cthulhu Mythos, but for a long time it was one of the few stories that had anything like a sexual act on the page…and has inspired others. For one example, Spanish artist Estaban Maroto famously lifted the flagellation scene from “The Black Stone” to spice up his comic adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Festival,” recently republished in Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu (2018). For another, there’s “Red Monolith Frenzy” by Justine Geoffrey.
Inspired by Robert E. Howard’s mad poet, “Justine Geoffrey” is the female pseudonym of Scott R. Jones, author of books like When The Stars Are Right: Toward An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality, a number of short stories, and the editor and publisher of the sadly defunct Martian Migraine Press, which produced evocative anthologies such as Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath (2014), Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond (2015), Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis (2016), Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth (2018) as well as Necronomicum: The Magazine of Weird Erotica (2014, 4 issues).
The use of a feminine pseudonym by Jones is similar to the use of “Sally Theobald” by Robert M. Price for “I Wore The Brassiere Of Doom” (1986): a transparent hoax, not intended to deceive the audience. However, where Price never used that name for more than the single story, Jones found his alter ego an excellent editorial voice as well as author pseudonym. In adopting this voice for the editorial of the premiere issue of Necronomicum, “Justine” is able to make observations about her “co-editor”:
For instance, my co-editor Jones frequents any number of Lovecraftian and weird fiction groups on social media, and reports that all too often, when the subject of Sex and the Weird comes up, he is witness to a barrage of prudish voices protesting that there’s no place for sex in horror. “Lovecraft never wrote about sex!” they shriek while clutching at their pearls. (Never mind that sex and sexuality and weird blasphemous couplings are pretty much the foundation of HPLs horrific universe. Methinks the geeks protest too much!) These are the same voices that get inordinately upset when you mention Lovecraft’s racism, or chuckle with derision if you happen to misidentify a Gug as a Ghast during casual conversation. Basically, these are the to-be-expected thrashings of the Old Guard as they’re shown the door by the new fans, and the new voices with new things to say.
As an authorial and editorial poise, the assumption of an identity had value for Jones—and he is neither the first nor the last author to find refuge in a pseudonym, to take on those aspects and attitudes necessary for what has to be written.
Such as the Blackstone erotica series.
Taking its name from Robert E. Howard’s eponymous monolith, the Blackstone series of Lovecraftian erotica began with book 1: “Red Monolith Frenzy” (2012), and was followed by book 2: “Green Fever Dream” (2012); book 3, “Yellow Sign Bound” has not been published, although an excerpt appears in the printed collection Priestess (2014), which also contains the prequel story “Summonings: Anicka and Kamil” (2012) and the interqual “Summonings: Yvette’s Interview” (2013).
“Red Monolith Frenzy” is the start of things, chronologically and narratively. A novella in five parts, the narrative is a combination of the structure of “The Black Stone” and Lovecraft’s “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” at least initially. “Justine G.” is the narrator, the character that is the focus of the action, and Jones’ adoption of the pseudonym for these works lends strength to the idea that this is really her story (weirdly and unconsciously echoing the confessional style of “Sally Theobald.”)
There is a lot of deliberate homage, sometimes almost to the point of parody. But the work is not a remix in the sense of “Herburt East: Refuckinator” (2012) by Lula Lisbon; it is an original twist on the old material, keeping a sense of humor like “Koenigsberg’s Model” (2011) by Peter Tupper & “The Ape in Me: A Tale of Lovecraftian Lust” (2016) by Raine Roka. The pacing of the story is determined: contemporary erotica demands regular “beats” of titillation every couple of pages, much as action stories require hitting the right action beats to keep things moving, and keep the reader turning to see what happens next. A dull spot in a regular novella a reader might struggle through, but with porn they’re more likely to put the book down and never come back. So the flow of the story is a bit faster than Lovecraft, or even Howard writing at his Lovecraftian best. For the “omnisexual” Justine G., this means the fun and revelations keep on coming, usually more or less at the same time.
The sexual content is explicit and varied. It is difficult not to draw comparisons with Edward Lee’s “Hardcore Lovecraft” fiction such as Trolley No. 1852 (2010) and The Dunwich Romance (2013), which takes similar inspiration from Lovecraft but also doesn’t attempt Lovecraftian erotica pastiche. On the spectrum of erotic horror, this first episode in Priestess definitely leans toward the fun-loving erotic, and does so in a way that doesn’t involve rape, inhuman monsters, or even tentacles, which is rare enough for Lovecraftian erotica. The editorial for Necronomicum returns to mind when considering the direction of this story:
We want to showcase a kind of erotica that, though it draws a lot of its dark inspiration from, say, the work of H. P. Lovecraft and writers of his ilk, moves beyond the cheesy realms of “monster sex” or “tentacle smut” and into areas where our connection to ourselves, and to the Other (within us and outside of us) can be explored. Stories that thrill as much as they chill, that provoke thought in the head as much as they produce heat in the… well, elsewhere, let’s just say.
The character of Justine Geoffrey—both within this story and in a more metafictional way as the author and editor of works for Martian Migraine Press—is not that of a victim, a prostitute, or a sadistic slut. She enjoys sex, and gets sexually excited easily; emotional attachments in this first chapter are very ephemeral, so that sexual attraction and consummation does not necessarily equal love. By some standards, her behavior might certainly be considered evidence of hypersexual disorder, but Justine G. feels no inherent guilt or distress at her sexual desires and escapades.
At what point does a woman empowered by and embracing her sexual nature and actively pursuing sexual experiences cross whatever threshold separates a healthy sexual appetite into a mental health disorder? At what point does a character in a porn novella cease to be a believable character and become a wanton caricature, a fantasy of a nymphomaniac? Does the apparent gender and sexuality of the author influence how the audience reads these stories? These are the questions at the heart of the characterization of Justine Geoffrey, both in the stories and in the larger context as author and editor.
Answers are going to be subjective. The complexity of Scott R. Jones’ female anima is one of the more interesting aspects of a series that largely makes no bones about nor has any shame in being Lovecraftian erotica. “Justine G.” is not a patient to be analyzed, and as an editorial voice has grown beyond the role she experiences and enjoys in “Red Monolith Frenzy” and the other episodes in Priestess, where Jones would go on to draw inspiration from Mythos writers such as Ramsey Campbell and Alan Moore.
“Red Monolith Frenzy” was initially published as an ebook in 2012. It was collected in Priestess in 2014, which was translated into German and published as Die Chronik des Schwarzen Steins in 2018 in a limited edition of 999 copies.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).