Birthday Reviews: Shaenon K. Garrity’s “To Whatever”

Birthday Reviews: Shaenon K. Garrity’s “To Whatever”

The Cackle of Cthulhu-small
Cover by Dave Seeley

Shaenon K. Garrity was born on May 4, 1978.

Garrity is best known for creating the on-line comic Narbonic in 2000. She has also worked as an editor for Viz Media and has had a hand in numerous cartoons, comics, and manga. Garrity’s first prose short story “Prison Knife Fight” appeared in Machine of Death in 2010, and she has published additional short fiction over the years. In 2005 she received the Outstanding Writers Award from the Web Cartoonist’s Choice Awards. The same year she was named co-Lulu of the Year by the friends of Lulu.

Her story “To Whatever” originally appeared on episode #335 of The Drabblecast, edited by Norm Sherman, on August 17, 2014. It received its first print appearance in Alex Shvartsman’s collection The Cackle of Cthulhu, published by Baen Books in 2018.

The stories of the Cthulhu mythos are generally designed to touch on the horror of the unknown. Although this concept plays into Garrity’s epistolary story “To Whatever,” she also takes a look at the other side of the coin. Ethan is aware that there is something strange living in the walls of his apartment, but rather than allowing it to scare him away or drive him crazy, as so often happens in stories of the Cthulhu cycle, he befriends the creature, feeding it, playing games with it, and watching television with it, although he never looks at it.

Ethan’s roommate, however, becomes jealous when Ethan starts spending time with Willem, a new tenant in the building. Although Willem does begin to exhibit the signs of going through a more traditional Lovecraftian response to the proximity of an ancient one, because the story is told from Ethan’s point of view, the horror is sublimated.

The real genius of the story is that as Garrity explains who Willem is and how the evil has impacted him, the reader reconsiders the friendship built up between Ethan and his horrific roommate, making the letter writer an unreliable narrator and providing an underlying horror that Ethan is much more affected than it appears.

Reprint reviewed in the anthology The Cackle of Cthulhu, edited by Alex Shvartsman, Baen Books, 2018.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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