December Belongs To Cthulhu

A Cthulhu Christmas, some gift suggestions—part two

Hippocampus Press published five volumes of Collected Essays by Lovecraft, all edited by S.T. Joshi. The volumes cover Amateur Journalism, a rich volume demonstrating Lovecraft’s deep involvement in amateur criticism; Literary Criticism, with essays about Lord Dunsany, Frank Belknap Long, and Clark Ashton Smith, “Weird Story Plots,” and the famous “Supernatural Horror in Literature; Science, with essays for the layman about the solar system; Travel, a fascinating trip report by Lovecraft of his travels along the east coast in the last ten years of his life; and Philosophy; Autobiography and Miscellany featuring opinion pieces on a wide range of political subjects. Also, his memorials for Henry S. Whitehead and Robert E. Howard, a “Confession of Unfaith,” “Instructions in case of Decease,” and a variety of odds and ends that provide insights into the man. Unfortunately, only a few of the volumes are still available new (and from the bookstore) but the rest might be found used.

Here’s a handful of entertaining Lovecraftian novels, in and out of print.

Nick Mamatas’s Move Under Ground, (Prime) an entertaining first novel that combines the “beats” of the 50s and their experiences on the road with the Cthulhu mythos. Imagine that the Elder Gods are taking over America, city by city and only the alcoholic emotional wreck Jack Kerouac, his junkie friend Bill Burroughs, and Neal Cassady are between them and human annihilation. It’s a crazy idea and it works by the sheer force of will and by the marvelous ability of Mamatas to capture the voices of the beat trio (with a guest appearance by Allen Ginsberg).

The 37th Mandela by Marc Laidlaw (St. Martin’s Press) is an accomplished Lovecraftian novel that slams new age charlatans such as Derek Crowe, who has made a name by interpreting stolen occult material. His cynical use of 37 mysterious mandalas allows them (they’re monsters) into our world. When an innocent young woman is “possessed” by them, her husband takes her on a road trip to seek out Crowe and his supposed expertise.

Resume with Monsters by William Browning Spencer (Permanent Press) combines office politics with Lovecraft in this antic comic novel about a poor schlub who moves from one dead end job to another, haunted by monsters imaginary and real. Winner of the 1995 International Horror Guild Award for best novel.

The Darkest Part of the Woods by Ramsey Campbell (Tor) — Campbell’s early fiction was strongly influenced by Lovecraft, and he became expert at the Lovecraftian pastiche. But since making his way out from under the influence, he has become one of the most lauded contemporary horror writers today. He’s known for both psychological and supernatural horror stories and novels, including one of my favorites, The Face that Must Die. With The Darkest Part of the Woods, he returns to supernatural horror for the first time in several years and pays homage once more to the Elder Gods.

Much of Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction shows a possibly unhealthy interest in the fungal, as seen in his most recent novel, Finch (Underland Press), the third about the imaginary city of Ambergris. John Finch is a human detective brought in by the Gray Caps (called such because they resemble mushrooms), aliens who control the city, to solve a double murder.  Spies, thugs, alien weapons, treachery, mysterious doors, and the past—weighing heavily on most every character—make for a fine read.

The New Lovecraft Circle edited by Robert M. Price (Del Rey, reprinted from the Arkham House hardcover) focuses on the second generation of writers influenced by H. P. Lovecraft, with stories by writers such as Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Lin Carter, Karl Edward Wagner, Richard A. Lupoff, and Thomas Ligotti, among others.

Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse) was an attempt by myself to put together an anthology of mostly original stories (with four reprints) that pay homage to the mythos and obsessions of H. P. Lovecraft without being slavishly imitative of his style. So I asked for my contributors to avoid using the trappings of the master and begged them to avoid tentacles. Some brave souls threw in a few tentacles or Elder Gods and I still loved their stories.

More next time.

Ellen Datlow is currently tied (with frequent co-editor Terri Windling) as the winner of the most World Fantasy Awards in the organization’s history (nine). She has also won, with co-editor Windling, a Bram Stoker Award for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror #13, and with co-editors Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, a Bram Stoker Award for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror #17. She has also won the International Horror Guild Award for her anthologies The Dark and Inferno; the Shirley Jackson Award for Inferno; the Locus Award for Best Editor in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 and the Hugo Award for Best Editor in 2002, 2005, and Best Editor Short Fiction in 2008. In addition, SCIFICTION won the Hugo Award for best Web site in 2005 as well as the Wooden Rocket award as best online magazine for 2005. Ellen was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre.”


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