I finished Graham McNeill’s Dark Waters trilogy today.
I enjoyed it, but I won’t be reviewing it. It’s linked to a game, Fantasy Flight Games’ Arkham Horror to be exact. I don’t review gaming novels or art books or graphic novels. Part of that is I lack the needed contextual knowledge or vocabulary. Mostly it’s because I read them as a break, books I don’t feel the compulsion to review.
As obvious from the title, Arkham Horror is a game based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft. It’s part of the vast collection of efforts — games, comics, movies, fiction, music, and art — playing off that part of Lovecraft’s fiction usually called the Cthulhu Mythos though Lovecraft himself referred to the literary games he and his friends played with his fiction — fanfic in a way — as Yog-Sothothery after one of the “gods” of his stories.
I don’t know the exact date I discovered Lovecraft. I know the book. It was Sam Moskowitz’s Masterpieces of Science Fiction which included Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”. It still remains my favorite Lovecraft story, and it was also the work that he thought the best. At some time in high school, I found The Lurking Fear collection with the odd John Holmes cover shown here.
It was a glancing Lovecraft blow, no more an impression on my mind than many of the new authors I discovered than. Then, on my first break from college, a friend lent me a copy of Brian Lumley’s The Burrowers Beneath. I went back to college and spent a January reading Lovecraft in Arkham House editions from the college library, including, appropriately enough for a dorm room with a faulty heater and ice on the walls, At the Mountains of Madness. Neither that nor his The Shadow Out of Time made a big impression on me.
But, even though I don’t reread a lot of authors, I did re-read Lovecraft. Somewhere along the line I read all of the Titus Crow/de Marigny series started by The Burrowers Beneath (which deteriorated book by book from its opening two novels), came across Michael Shea’s intriguing sequel to the “The Colour Out of Space”, The Colour Out of Time, got my own editions — with texts corrected by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, of Lovecraft. I even got Lovecraft’s ghost writing work. And even though I no longer needed the text, I kept the Del Rey editions of Lovecraft just for their Michael Whelan covers.
Even during Lovecraft’s lifetime people were engaged in Yog-Sothothery and a lot of these early efforts were collected in two volumes by Lovecraft’s disciple and publisher, via Arkham House, August Derleth. (And some say he did a great deal of damage to Lovecraft’s reputation, but that’s another story.) They were Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, vol. 1 and vol. 2. Somewhere before 1987, I read the first volume, and it didn’t impress me that much. I read the second in 2005 after a bout of Poe reading. It was then I decided that “modern” writers (the book was from 1973) might do something interesting and novel with Lovecraft’s Mythos.
I was dimly aware of a current of contemporary Lovecraft writing going on. I’d seen the Chaosium tie-in anthologies built around various settings and gods in Mythos fiction as well as authors who influenced Lovecraft like Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, and Algernon Blackwood. So, in 2005, I started to get more involved in reading Lovecraft — critical works on him, his letters, and his poetry. And, with Stephen Jones’ anthology Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth, I started regularly — if not obsessively — reading Mythos and Lovecraftian fiction. I even started reviewing both, on occasion, for Innsmouth Free Press.
Unfortunately, its magazine has ceased publication — though the excellent back issues are still easily available. They are part of a golden age of Mythos fiction which includes many books form large and small presses and even self-published. A very popular source is Lovecraft ezine. I haven’t spent as much time there as I would like, but what I’ve seen is good.
I’m not sure if anyone, even writers and scholars like Robert M. Price and S. T. Joshi, has a complete knowledge of all the Lovecraftian and Mythos fiction out there. The closest I know is the man some of us know as the “legendary Amazon reviewer” Matthew Carpenter. He comes the closest to covering the sheer volume of Lovecraftian gold and dross out there. I find him a good, thorough reviewer, and he certainly helped me in finding good contemporary Mythos fiction. In fact, in the Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth link above, you’ll see one of his reviews.
And, if are curious about the man that started all this Yog-Sothothery, there is no better introduction than the H. P. Lovecraft Archive.
I doubt this will be the last time I mention the Man from Providence.