For the past couple of days, rather than doing the usual things I do or even the interesting things I’m planning on doing, I have been making costumes.
This was just the prototype squid hat, made from this pattern from Instructables. It is only a beginning. I have made a Dark Priestess of Cthulhu costume, partly out of leftover fabric from my wedding dress. I have made two other full squid costumes, a Temple of Cthulhu (built on a portable coat rack) and tomorrow I will make the Mother of the Squid out of an old Ikea laundry hamper.
No, I have not gone into some mad HP Lovecraft fugue state. It’s for the show.
Yes, at the Torture Memos CD release we will be performing the complete Cephalopodae – A Ballet about the Spiritual Life of Squids. I, being the crafty one with the sewing machine, have been press-ganged into making costumes and set pieces.
Today I had some friends come over and help (I provided them with beer and fish and chips, don’t worry), but yesterday as I was working alone, cutting out tentacles, stuffing fins, measuring the coatrack which was to be dedicated to the Old Ones, I listened to B.J. Harrison’s excellent audiobook version of The Moonstone. Me and Ben both like his podcast, so we buy his audiobooks, because who doesn’t need audiobooks? and they’re well done and pretty cheap. The Moonstone, if you’ve never read it, is considered one of the first mystery novels. Wilkie Collins wrote it around 1850, and it has many plot elements which became cliches – a fabulous diamond from India, mysterious foreign strangers lurking around, the crime taking place in a country house in the middle of the night, a wise-cracking servant/lower-class person pointing up the failings of his “betters”, a misunderstanding between lovers stopping the mystery from being solved in the second chapter etc. What’s sort of awesome about it – what totally flew over my head when I read the original book at twelve or thirteen – is how all of those tropes (except, unfortunately, the racist ones*) are subverted in the course of the story. Wilkie Collins invented the cliches, but only as things to smash. It’s not his fault that later authors picked up on them and took them seriously.
So if you’re in the market for an audiobook, I heartily recommend the Moonstone. Ben listened to Tarzan of the Apes (also available at the link above), but I hate Edgar Rice Burroughs so I boycotted it. If you’re in the market for some entertainment next Friday night and you live in Toronto, come to the Tranzac and see my squid costumes. And my performance in the Torture Memos, of course.
*Bearing in mind that this was written during the height of Britain’s colonial period, it’s hardly surprising that Collins would think of the people of the Indian subcontinent as subhuman. They’re impressive and know lots of neat tricks, but they’re not people like the English characters are. It’s still disappointing, and it still grates, as does the constant paternalistic sexism (“No woman has any principles” etc), but the story is still good and the characters engaging.