After completing M. P. Johnson’s latest novella, Lake Lurkers, I felt like I needed to reach out to confirm a few points in the book that rang a little too true to be fiction. While there is nothing in Minnesota that quite rises to the level of the Loch Ness Monster, there have been a few lake creatures spotted in our 10,000 lakes. I knew a story as frightening and engaging as this had to have some grounding in truth. Professor of cryptozoology Dr. Baine Cannon, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, was kind enough to agree to a short interview about the lurkers in the book.
T. A. Wardrope (TCG): Big picture, how much does M. P. Johnson get right in Lake Lurkers?
Dr. Baine Cannon: Besides being a great read, he really gets the potential physiology of the lurkers dead on. I have to think he’s looked up some of the same eyewitness accounts I’ve read. The description he offers is eerily similar to sightings we’ve had in northern Minnesota. You can look at the eyewitness drawings to see how close it is. Happily, there’s been none of the kind of violence that reaches absurd levels of the fiction; so far only mutilated deer, dogs, and other large fish have been found near areas of reported lurker activity. Still, with climate effecting migration, I suppose it is only a matter of time before they find themselves in an urban lake. Lake Lurkers is almost science fiction in that way.
TCG: So you’re saying this could happen?
Dr. Cannon: I’m saying it probably will happen, but I don’t know about the lurker breeding mechanism; the scenes with the eggs are creepy, but there’s a B-movie aesthetic at work in the text that I don’t imagine connects with reality. There are some great images that recall movies like Aliens, but they just aren’t plausible.
TCG: Do you really think it was meant to be realistic? There is that barbecue scene . . .
Dr. Cannon: Hah. I gather that’s the appeal of his style, though. I’d go so far as to say it is like a mutated version of a Spielberg film. The rendering of the urban suburbanites that make up the first ring around your lakes is quite realistic. The human interactions, though colored by satire, are as accurate as anything you’ll find in a book suggested by MPR. I think the exaggeration helps illustrate the reality by contrast. In other words, it is realistic exactly where it needs to be. I’m just a scientist, though; I’ll leave that to the lit-crit crowd.
TCG: Say one of our readers is on a camping excursion and they find themselves face to face with a lurker. What should they do?
Dr. Cannon: As the book demonstrates over and over again, they should not be faced with violent bravado, unless you have the ability to deliver military levels of sustained violence. A peculiar set of circumstances allows Tess to manage her ordeal, unless you are exceptionally resourceful, like Ellen Ripley resourceful, you should really just run as far away from the water as you can get. All the better if you can leave someone behind to slow them down.
TCG: Are you serious?
Dr. Cannon: I’m not serious. Not totally serious.
TCG: Can they climb trees?
Dr. Cannon: That’s a very good question. Really, though, just run.