Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Explaining Cthulhu To Grandma—Alex Shvartsman

Inspiration comes in many ways, often from where you least expect it. This particular story started out as a Twitter conversation.explaining-cthulhu-to-grandma

One day, fellow writer Sylvia Spruck Wrigley made a post on Twitter saying something along the lines of "I'm having such a difficult time explaining Cthulhu to grandma." To which I immediately replied with: "this would make an awesome story title."
Sylvia agreed, but when I checked in with her a couple of weeks later, she hadn't come up with an idea for a story yet. So I asked if I could have the title instead, and she generously allowed me to use it. In return, I named the main character after Sylvia, and the characters of grandma and gran-gran after Sylvia's own mother and grandmother.

To be honest, I don't quite understand Cthulhu -- or at least the appeal of the Lovecraftian genre for so many readers -- myself, so it was easy for me to relate to grandma. Lacking the appropriate level of respect for H.P. Lovecraft's body of work necessary to write a horror story, I shoved Cthulhu into a snow-globe and proceeded to put it through a series of indignities instead. And where better to do such a thing than in a magic pawn shop?

I have never set foot inside of an actual pawn shop. However, I've seen several dozen episodes of the History Channel's "Pawn Stars" which allowed me to learn enough about the inner workings of such aexplaining-cthulhu-to-grandma place to fake it. One of the most interesting things about "Pawn Stars" to me has always been the relationship between Rick and the Old Man. Both men constantly feel like they know best, and constantly butt heads over each other's decisions on the show. I wanted to capture some of that dynamic in Sylvia's relationship with her grandma. Sylvia feels that she's ready to run the shop, but grandma isn't prepared to admit that her young protege can handle things on her own, and is skeptical of Sylvia's decisions. This dynamic helps drive both the plot and the humor in the story.

"Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma" was incredibly fun to write, and I plan on revisiting this setting in the future. I already wrote a second Pawn Shop story (where a Pandora's box ends up in the shop) and plan on working on several more down the line.

--Alex Shvartsman