Friday, May 30, 2014

Stories from King David and the Spiders from Mars #6

Are you an H. P. Lovecraft fan? If so, then you're in for a treat with Marsha Morman's “Chabad of Innsmouth,” an updated and Jewish take on this very fishy town. If you aren't familiar with Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth, you should read it before diving into Morman's “Chabad.” Her tale will resonate so much more if you're familiar with the source.

The story begins in the present day when the narrator Menachem Schneuri—a young, newly-married rabbi—receives his first post, the new Chabad house in Innsmouth. He is overjoyed to receive what he considers such a plum assignment. Fund-raising will not even be a problem. The donor, one of the Russian Jewish immigrants in Innsmouth, donated a cache of queer-looking gold jewelry to fund the center. Menachem's enthusiam for Innsmouth dampens with some online research. Much of the town was destroyed in a government raid against bootleggers and Innsmouth is now divided between the decrepit Old Town and the modern New Town. Much of what he finds mystifies him.
Three or four times I saw something about the Esoteric Order of Dagon, some Catholic worship as far as I could tell. There was no way to keep track of all of those Christian saints. Another search revealed nothing about the order itself, just a useless link to the Assyro-Babylonian fertility god mentioned in the Books of Yehoshua and Shoftim.
He feels a sense of revulsion when he visits Innsmouth, which reeks of rotten fish, but he is determined to make the best of this opportunity and grow a community. The situation deteriorates steadily. His pregnant wife becomes so sick that she has to stay with friends in a neighboring town. Four of the older Russian immigrants come regularly to services but don't actively participate. He has never met their wives, whom he learns are local girls, shiksas. What will it take to convince Menachem that there still lies a shadow over Innsmouth? And what will he sacrifice to save a lost soul of his community?

Morman does fantastic work updating Lovecraft's Innsmouth and integrating new material with the old. She also weaves in a bit of humor. Her heroic young rabbi is a startling contrast to Robert Olmstead, the narrator of Lovecraft's tale.

To learn more about Marsha Morman and her work, check out her Facebook page. “Chabad of Innsmouth” is the seventh and last story in King David and the Spiders from Mars. To win a paperback or ebook copy of the anthology, enter the May Giveaway: King David and the Spiders from Mars.

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