"The Man with a Thousand Legs" by Frank Belknap Long (Weird Tales, August 1927) can be read here.
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The article "Frank Belknap Long's The Man With a Thousand Legs" by G. W. Thomas was published today at the website Dark Worlds Quarterly.
I was not familiar with this story, and just finished reading it for the first time. It consists of nine chapters. Each is a statement by a different witness. None of the witnesses know they are contributing to a record of the fate of mad scientist Arthur St. Amand. Only we readers of the complete "dossier" know this.
This method of telling a story will be familiar to readers of novels like Dracula (1897) and The Beetle (1897). But the real comparison (short story to short story) is best seen with Ambrose Bierce's sublime "The Damned Thing" (1893). Nothing Long offers in "The Man with a Thousand Legs'' can match Bierce's masterpiece of intensity and concision, of course.
A year after "The Man with a Thousand Legs," Weird Tales published another - superior - tale using the same multiple-witness style: "The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft there surpassed Long in the seriousness and scope of subject matter and action.
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In his article, author G. W. Thomas makes what strikes me as a very controversial statement: "Unlike Lovecraft, Frank was not satisfied to just write pseudo-Victorian style horror."
I have not ever seen Lovecraft described as a writer of "pseudo-Victorian style horror." Thomas does not define his term. Is he talking about style or subject matter? Certainly Lovecraft did not invent the braiding of sci-fi and horror: the materials and the genre trend were in the air in the 1920s-30s. Judging from the quality of stories like "The Man with a Thousand Legs" and "The Hounds of Tindalos" (1929), Long's handling of SF-Horror did not rise to the level of works by a Leiber or a Lovecraft.
5 April 2021
Master and epigone