Painted Monsters: “The Labyrinth of Sleep”

For the month of October, as part of the Countdown to Halloween, I’ll be revisiting each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and suggesting movies that pair well with them, for your viewing pleasure!

I don’t write a lot that could be considered science fiction, as you may have already noticed if you’ve been reading through Painted Monsters up to this point. My obsessions tend to be rooted in the past rather than looking toward the future. So when Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula Stiles asked me to contribute something to Future Lovecraft, I started and rejected several ideas before finally settling on the one that would become “The Labyrinth of Sleep.”

I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands stories, and I feel like they don’t get enough attention, even in today’s incredibly Mythos-saturated publishing environment, so the idea for “The Labyrinth of Sleep” was basically to combine those tales with the dream-entering technology posited by a variety of movies over the years. Probably the first one that most people think of will be Inception, and certainly there are elements of Inception‘s heavily-armed dream heisters in the “dream hounds” of “Labyrinth,” but I’d say that this story probably owes more to stylized J-Lo vehicle The Cell or even 1984’s Dreamscape with its stop motion snake man, which left an impression on me as a kid, though I haven’t seen it in over a decade.

While I had intended to write a story evoking the Dreamlands, the titular Labyrinth itself–and certainly the structure at its heart–probably owes more to William Hope Hodgson’s House on the Borderland than to anything that Lovecraft himself ever did. Since that’s never been adapted to film, however, try the 1971 adaptation of Jean Ray’s Malpertuis for a similar feel.

While I know that I’m supposed to be pairing movies here, not recommending additional reading, if, like me, you can’t get enough of Dreamlands stuff, it bears mentioning that I recently read Amanda Downum‘s incredible Dreamlands/King in Yellow novel Dreams of Shreds and Tatters and it was everything that I could have asked for and more. Highly recommended!

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