Kij Johnson’s recent contribution to the Tor.com novella imprint, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, takes the reader into the dreamlands of Lovecraft to tell a very different type of story. Vellitt, our titular protagonist, is an older woman, a scholar—and she is tasked with fetching one of her young charges back from the waking world, where she has gone with a lover, himself a dreamer in their lands. Except, no surprise, it’s hardly that simple.
There are two things that make me appreciate a twist on the eldritch weirdness of Lovecraft in contemporary fiction. First, the text has to address the political and social issues of the source material—get clever with it, subvert it, acknowledge the racism and sexism. Second, the text has to contain the same hair-raising discomfort and cosmic horrors that draw readers like myself to Lovecraft to begin with.
Kij Johnson does both. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a strong novella as Lovecraftian fiction and on its own.