They say that certain trends in the world of horror can be linked to various political and cultural movements. Such as the idea that vampire stories take hold in the public consciousness when liberals are in power because they represent everything conservatives are afraid of, effete foreigners who will steal their women’s virtue. And that zombie stories catch hold when conservatives are in power, because they’re un-thinking masses of destructive beings who think of nothing but themselves. Who knows if this is actually a valid idea, because it doesn’t exactly match up to the various shifts in power over the years, but it’s hard to deny that there’s something to it. Our opinions on what’s scary change over the years, and suddenly, seemingly for no reason, we get a deluge of similarly themed horror. And, for some reason, there’s a new trend in horror going on, one that I’m not quite sure why has gained prominence. We’re really fascinated with Lovcraftian horror right now. My best guess is that we’re freaking out about the impending ecological disaster we’re all living in, and that’s taking the form of stories about giant, impossible to understand beasts that come from the ocean coming to destroy us, without there being anything we can do about it. Is that too bleak? Well, it’s the best I’ve got. And, for whatever reason, the ramblings of a near century-dead racist have really caught on with the general public, and we’re being bombarded with stories that take the tropes of Lovecraft’s specific brand of horror and finding ways for it to fit in with other kinds of stories. I’ve seen Lovecraftian noir, Lovecraftian historical fiction with an emphasis on race, and Lovecraftian pulp adventure. So, the logical next step is Lovecraftian Scooby-Doo. Yep. Let’s do this thing.
Meddling Kids, as you could probably guess, is a pastiche of Scooby-Doo. It has some DNA from other childhood detective series’, like the Hardy Boys. It follows a group of friends who were child-detectives in the seventies, known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club. There was Peter the leader, Andy the tomboy, Nate the nerd, Kerri the intellectual, and their trusty dog. Together they found out that a sad man was trying to convince people that a mansion on a small island in the middle of the deepest lake in North America was haunted for his own gains. They brought him to justice, and then quickly faded apart. But, now that they’re in their twenties and the gang is brought back together by Andy, who is now a former soldier who has escaped from a prison. She finds Kerri, now a bartender who gave her dreams of biology away, living with her newest dog, Tim. Andy convinces Kerri to join with her, an together they go break Nate out of a mental asylum. Nate’s there because he has had a slight break from reality, and seems to be haunted by the ghost of Peter, who committed suicide after becoming a child-star after the mystery solving. So, with the band back together, they return to Blyton Hills, the small mining town that they all grew up in, and that contains Sleepy Lake, the location of their final mystery. They’ve all been haunted by dreams of that last mystery, and have become convinced that there was something more going on than they thought, and it’s up to them to solve it. They find Blyton Hills a much sadder place than they remembered, run-down and dying, while seeing the various townspeople that aided or deterred their investigations drifting through life.
And, when they decide to go visit the mansion on Sleepy Lake that housed their final adventure, things start to get bad. They come across a horrible creature resembling a Lovecraftian beast, and are forced to kill it before it can kill them. They bring it back to town, and realize that they had repressed a lot of memories of that fateful night. Something much darker was going on on Sleepy Lake, possibly related to the mysterious family that owned the mansion, and who may have been led by an immortal necromancer. The quartet then begin exploring Blyton Hills, slowly piecing together what’s actually going on. There actually is a body-hopping sorcerer in Blyton Hills. He’s functionally immortal, and he’s attempting to use a Necronomicon to raise an ancient god that is trapped at the bottom of Sleepy Lake, causing a vast swath of death that he’ll be able to use to power his various spells. He was about to do this in the seventies, but Blyton Summer Detective Club were able to stop him, causing him to swear vengeance on them, and make a plan that requires the presence of the kids. But, through perseverance and dumb luck, they’re able to stop the sorcerer, save Blyton Hills and the rest of the world, and rid themselves of their internal torment.
I’m not quite sure if I found this book to be entirely successful. I enjoyed the characters, even though they were pretty basic analogues to the Scooby-Doo characters, and the mystery was well-crafted. But, the book was just a little dull, more interesting in theory than in practice. The style of the novel was really hard to pin down as well. For the most part it was a pretty standard bit of prose, but it would randomly switch around, looking like a script occasionally, with dialogue, stage directions, and camera movements. It was a strange decision, and one that actively took me out of the story any time it happened, really begging the question of why it was a feature at all.
The novel was decent. I probably won’t remember it in a few months, but it asked the question “what would it be like if Scooby-Doo investigated Cthulu?” and it answered that question in an entertaining matter. But, after finishing the novel I found myself racked with a different question. Why do we feel the need to make our childhood stories mature with us? One of the more common accusations of Millennials is that we live in a state of perpetual adolescence, clinging to the things we loved as children far into adulthood. And, while that certainly may be true, one of the weirder side-effects of that obsession is that some people feel a deep shame for it. They still love and obsess over the things that made them happy when they were children, but they also can’t deal with the fact that these are things meant for children. So, in retaliation they attempt to reinvent the things they loved in away that will still appeal to them as adults. The most noxious form of this is when aging perverts become furious that new cartoons they liked when they were children are remade in less misogynistic ways. And, on the far tamer end of the spectrum, we get the impulse to re-imagine Scooby-Doo with more murder, cults, and elder gods. We’re allowed to like what we like, and shouldn’t feel the need to seek out more “mature” versions of the stories that make us happy when the original stories are still there. I have no idea if this book came from that form of shame or not, and I don’t want to throw aspersions to the author, but it just feel emblematic of a strange thing our culture seems to do, and which I don’t understand.
Meddling Kids was written by Edgar Cantero, 2017.
Categories: Page Turners