Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Deep Roots"

Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in the outskirts of Washington DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, and occasionally attempts to save the world.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Deep Roots, and reported the following:
On page 69, Aphra meets with her least favorite FBI agents, and learns why their team of supernatural affairs experts are investigating the same disappearance that she is:
Peters didn’t look pleased, but he took a clothbound volume from one of their stacks, and opened it to a marked page. There lay sketched my childhood recollection: crablike claws, overarched with bat wings fading to fog at the edges, and an eyeless head covered with irregular protuberances like some exotic fungus. Barlow retrieved a folder from across the room. Inside, another drawing in a more formal style: where the book showed the creature poised for flight and clutching some device in its foremost claws, the folder showed it splayed as if ready for dissection. I repressed a shudder. The two figures could have been drawn from the same verbal description, but the details were all different: the folder showed the head rounder and the protuberances more varied, the placement of the claws completely different and more lobster-like than crab-like.

“This one’s a composite,” said Barlow, tapping the folder. “From reports a few years back of bodies seen in a flooding river. No corpses were found, of course, and it was dismissed at the time as mass hysteria.” Mary’s eyes tracked his finger. Her gaze passed over the drawings and back to us.

“Mass hysteria,” she said, “usually means someone’s worked hard to convince people that they didn’t see anything.”
Aphra spends most of Deep Roots wrestling with the Outer Ones—the aliens behind Barlow’s sketches—about their interference in human politics, and trying to untangle the dangers of their own inhuman conflicts. So page 69, where she gets her first glimpse of them, foreshadows a lot of what’s coming. And her friction with Barlow’s team, who nearly got her killed in Winter Tide, will continue to make the whole thing more difficult.

Trying to understand the agents’ interplay makes Aphra think about the differences between her culture and theirs:
The scene in front of me slipped further into focus: Barlow, trying to pretend that he and [Aphra’s brother] Caleb were in charge; Mary and [Aphra’s friend] Deedee, trying to let him. That might be the best way to get work done, but I couldn’t imagine keeping up the pretense. Innsmouth women might deck themselves in gold for a man’s pleasure, recite passages of lore to show off their learning, or cultivate an interest in stories about fishing expeditions. But my mother had never taught me how to efface myself to bolster male self-importance—nor had my father taught any need for it.
These differences play their own roles in the book. It’s easy to imagine how the common prejudices of 1949 America might get in the way of a woman trying to get things done; the less familiar biases of Aphra’s own people are ultimately just as problematic. I love drawing conflict from cultural pressures—mutual incomprehension between people who think they’re being obvious, or situations that put what needs to be done up against what someone can’t imagine ever doing.
“We’ve had an uptick in sightings over the past couple of months, all along the Berkshires and White Mountains,” said Barlow. “Clusters in the vicinity of disappearances, cutting off after each one. Even a few possible cases here in New York, though they’re pretty vague.”

“I hate this city,” added Peters. “One of these monsters could walk down Fifth Avenue, and people would only report if it stopped traffic.”
Also representative: Peters being a douchebag. He’ll get worse over the next few chapters…
Visit Ruthanna Emrys's website.

--Marshal Zeringue