Anarchy in the Black Lagoon

It’s coming sometime, maybe—climate change and rising tides might one day transform Earth into a boiling hot tub. How long will it take? Who knows? But as temperatures continue to get hotter, experts tell us that sea levels will also continue to rise. 

That’s bad news for humans, says Dr. Brice Chalefant. As a marine biologist, he knows that we’re doomed to extinction unless we adapt to the emerging Neo-Devonian period. He becomes obsessed with finding a way to transform men and women into hybrid creatures with terrestrial and marine attributes. 

Instead of doing the logical thing like studying the DNA from frogs, salamanders and lungfish, Dr. Chalefant pursues another avenue of abstraction. He gets a tip that a fish-man was captured in a secluded Amazon bayou back in 1954. He’s positive that this creature from the black lagoon is the key to mankind’s future.

In this way, the original mid-century Creature movies—including the iconic debut and the sequels Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us—are folded into the continuity of Paul Di Filippo’s novel from 2006. (For better or worse, the author completely ignores a memorable episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour where comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello tangle with the Creature.)

Dr. Chalefant learns pretty quickly that the creature from 1954 is now dead, but that doesn’t stop his mad quest. When a childhood friend invents the world’s first time travel machine (!!), Chalefant makes plans to jump 400 million years into the past to walk side-by-side with the original Gill-Men. The doctor’s mission statement is simple: “I want to find a living specimen of the creature and bring him back to the present day, so I can analyze his physiology and genetics, with an eye toward splicing the good stuff into the human genome.”

The time machine, btw, isn’t a “big-ass Jack Kirby cosmic-Death Star” contraption. It’s merely a standard issue iPod from 2015. “Small applications of energy and information produce gigantic results,” says the smug inventor. 

Once the time machine is unpacked, Chalefant and his girlfriend skip around the Paleozoic era like two giddy tourists. They do, eventually, make contact with a village of Gill-Men, but they also experience the dangers and oddities of pre-history (big sharks, big bugs, etc.). 

In many ways, Time’s Black Lagoon is a standard issue tie-in novel. It continues the Gill-Man’s mythology and features lots of callbacks to the original source material. Unfortunately, Di Filippo makes one disastrous change to 70 years of Creature canon. Most readers, I suspect, will hate it. I’d love to bash the author for his unnecessary twist, but I won’t. You can read the book yourself and be disappointed just like me. 

[Creature from the Black Lagoon: Time’s Black Lagoon / By Paul Di Filippo / First Printing: August 2006 / ISBN: 9781595820334]