As a novel connected to the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired cosmic horror board game Arkham Horror, David Annandale’s Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth (paperback, Kindle, audiobook) is obviously as inspired and influenced by the writings of the iconic (and problematic) Lovecraft as it is by the game itself. But as Annandale notes in the following email interview about it, this isn’t the first time he’s dealt with this kind of darkness.
To start, what is Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth about, and when and where does it take place?
Labyrinth follows Miranda Ventham, a professor at Miskatonic University. Stricken with tuberculosis, she becomes a patient at the newly opened Stroud Institute. This being Arkham, of course, the sanitarium holds a dark secret.
The novel takes place primarily in 1926, and mostly in Arkham, but we also spend some time in the Galloway region of Scotland.
How is Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth connected to both the game Arkham Horror and the previous Arkham Horror novels and short story collections that Aconyte have published?
It’s a stand-alone novel. The book connects to the game through the presence of one of the investigator characters, Agatha Crane, who plays a major role in the book, but otherwise is not part of a particular narrative or chronology.
Where did you get the idea for Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth? What inspired it?
I was casting around for an idea for an Arkham Horror novel, and happened to be listening to an episode of the podcast Backlisted. In this episode, they discussed Betty MacDonald’s memoir The Plague And I, and that gave me the idea of setting a story in a tuberculosis sanitarium.
How familiar were you with Arkham Horror before you starting writing Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth?
Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Labyrinth but not on any of your previous novels?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. Apart from The Plague And I, which had a huge impact on this book, I don’t think I could point to an influence that was at work here and not in other cases. I find that the writers that influence me do so in all kinds of different ways, at different times, and I might not always realize they have done so until after the fact. Many of them are also constant companions, always there in the background.
That said, this is my first book where William Wordsworth played a role in its composition, in more ways than one. I reference an incident he describes in The Prelude, for one thing. Though it’s not what he’s most associated with by any means, there are surprising moments of cosmic horror in his work.
How about H.P. Lovecraft, whose stories inspired Arkham Horror? Did he also have a direct influence on Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth or was it more indirect?
Lovecraft was a formative influence on me. I read him voraciously as a teen, and aspects of Lovecraftian horror is present in one way or another in almost everything I’ve written. I even have a Cthulhu story under my belt, “Final Draft” (which appeared in the anthology Dead But Dreaming). So Labyrinth is definitely written with the idea of being true to his sense of monstrous, vast, and ancient horrors.
And how about non-literary influences; was Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Besides Arkham Horror of course.
The biggest non-literary influences on this book would be Dario Argento’s films Suspiria and Inferno. In fact, the architecture of the Stroud Institute is modelled on the apartment building that is the central setting of Inferno.
Now, along with novels and short stories, you’ve also written some plays. How do you think writing plays may have influenced Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth?
I don’t know if I can say for sure how one form of endeavor influences the other. I might say that dialogue is where they have the closest overlap, and I will often hear the characters speaking in my head.
I mentioned that you’ve written other books before. One of them is Doctor Doom: Reign Of The Devourer, which is about the Marvel Comics supervillain who is himself somewhat Lovecraft-ian. Did writing that novel have any influence on how you wrote Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth?
I’d say it’s less of a case of one book influencing the other, and more that there were moments where they shared goals. Even more than my first Doctor Doom book, The Harrowing Of Doom, Reign Of The Devourer leans heavily into horror. So there were times in both books where I drew from that set of writing skills. And the Devourer is a rather Lovecraftian entity. So the two novels are both shaped by that love of cosmic horror that, as I said, pops up over and over again in my work.
Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth is going to be followed in the Arkham Horror series by the short story collection Secrets In Scarlet [out October 4, 2022], which features a story by you called “The Man In The Bubble.” Is “Bubble” connected in any way to Labyrinth?
There are no connections between the novel and the short story, nor are there any links, to my knowledge, to another story.
I assume then that there’s also no connection between Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth and the next Arkham Horror novel, Lair Of The Crystal Fang by S.A. Sidor [December 6, 2022].
None that I know of.
Though having said that, did S.A. ever get in touch to say, “Hey, please don’t do this because it will ruin my story”?
No. I did make one change, though, early in the process of writing Labyrinth. My protagonist had originally been going to be a minor character from the core rules of the game, but she turned out to have a pretty big role to play elsewhere, so I created my own character in Miranda Ventham to avoid complications.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth?
I’ve tried to make this a very spooky read, so keep the lights on.
Finally, if someone enjoys Arkham Horror: In The Coils Of The Labyrinth, which of your other novels would you recommend they read next and why that one?
Getting the chance to write Doctor Doom has a been a dream come true for me, so I’d love people to check those out. And if readers want more things that go bump in the night from me, they should have a look at Legend Of The Five Rings: Curse Of Honor and The House Of Night And Chain.