This is not a recycled Amazon review because, to be honest, I sort of had ethical calms about posting it there. Why? Because I was, in a minor way, a contributor to the book. (It was my first contribution, in fact, to Innsmouth Free Press.)
However, the publisher understandably wanted the collection promoted by its contributors, so I compromised and wrote this up for LibraryThing and posted it on January 20, 2012.
By the way, there’s no way Paula and Silvia would let me get away with paragraphs this long for anything accepted by them.
Review: Future Lovecraft, eds. Silvia Moreno-Gracia & Paula R. Stiles, 2012.
From France, South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, the editors have gathered 38 reasons to “fear the future”, an assemblage of poems and stories with few duds.
Before I slice and dice and categorize the works, full disclosure requires that I note I’m one of the contributors.
While the editors’ definition of Lovecraftian fiction doesn’t always match mine, there’s plenty here that unquestionably slithers into that category. A list of the liveliest follows. Yes, Nick Mamatas’ “Inky, Blinky, Pinky Nyarlathotep” combines Pac-Man, transhumans, and primo cosmic horror. Don Webb’s “A Comet Called Ithaqua” (one of four reprints in this anthology) puts ghouls in space with, as the title hints, echoes of Algernon Blackwood and August Derleth. Lovecraftian fiction is, of course, famous for its tomes of esoteric blasphemy, but Helen Marshall’s “Skin” looks at a different set of disturbing literature. I knew from an opening quote from Francis Thompson’s militant poem “The Hound of Heaven”, I was going to like Julio Toro San Martin “Iron Footfalls” which mixes the Hounds of Tindalos with killer robots. “Tloque Nahuaque” from Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas makes a connection between Aztec gods and Lovecraft’s. The prose-poem that is A. C. Wise’s “Venice Burning” hides some illogic and vagueness, but I’m giving it a pass for its apocalyptic images of Venice and a rising R’lyeh. Anthony Boulanger “A Day and Night in Providence” is sort of a wry commentary on fantasy literature and the opposition between the poles of Saint Tolkein and the heretical church of Lovecraft, Smith, and Howard. And, speaking of Clark Ashton Smith, Leigh Kimmel’s “The Damnable Asteroid”, with its tale of asteroid miners being menaced in space, reminded me of some of Smith’s pulp science fiction. And the Mars setting of Meddy Ligner’s “Trajectory of a Cursed Spirit”, a gulag for a revived Russian communist state, also reminded me a bit of Smith’s Martian horror stories, but I also liked its mixture of Lovecraftian horror and unpleasantly real horrors from Russian history. Smith is evoked most explicitly in Jesse Bullington’s “The Door from Earth”, sort of a wry, action-packed sequel to Smith’s “The Door to Saturn”. I loved the title of Tucker Cummings’ “Concerning the Last Days of the Colony at New Roanoke” and the story, an academic examination of 17 objects found in the lost colony, didn’t disappoint. I have a weakness for this sort of pseudo-documentary puzzle piece. Orrin Grey’s “The Labyrinth of Sleep” is not only a sure-footed, compelling riff on Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter stories, but an excellent variation on all those science fiction stories which feature dreamnauts and their sleuthing and symbolic combat in the symbolic land of dreams. “Go, Go, Go, Said the Byakhee” from Molly Tanzer is effective far future horror of cannibalism, mutants, and a lake god in Cappadocia.
There were some stories explicitly Lovecraftian, that didn’t seem in the best of health to me. Again, though, few are outright duds. Peter Rawlik evokes Robert Chambers in “In the Hall of the Yellow King”. The comic “Tri-TV” from Bobby Cranestone channel surfs a future cable system to give a picture of growing chaos. Interesting and moody is Michael Matheson’s “Rubedo, an Alchemy of Madness” with a morphine-addled woman living in a reef of space junk. The eponymous heroines of “The Library Twins and the Nekrobees” from Martha Hubbard battle a demon for the future of the world’s libraries, but the tone and ideas didn’t do much for me. The supernatural aspects of Pamela Rentz “Lottie Versus the Moon Hopper” didn’t move me, but I liked the idea of a space program operating out of an Indian reservation interesting. E. Catherine Tobler’s “Myristica Fragrans” has a spaceport threatened by shipment of what looks to be nutmeg. James S. Dorr’s “Dark of the Moon” (a reprint from The Children of Cthulhu) seems more an intellectual exercise in looking at the history of imaginary lunar voyages than a horror story. I’m not sure I completely understood Maria Mitchell’s “The Kadath Angle”, but its vision of a future Innsmouth wasn’t very convincing though the ending partially redeems it. There was too much unexplained in Sean Craven’s “Deep Blue Dreams”, a story of a future drug called “jelly”, though I did like its half-serious notion of an economic collapse caused by rigorous enforcement of copyright laws.
There are several good or, at least, ok stories here that don’t seem to possess much Loveraftian DNA. Ada Hoffman’s “Harmony Amid the Stars” recounts the psychological and murderous disintegration of spaceship’s crew. The language of Paul Jessup’s “Postflesh” mesmerized me with group of people trying to escape the deadly alien junkyard that is the planet of Shadrim. “Dolly in the Window” from Robyn Searle, with its setting in a far future orphanage, seems more Dickensian than anything from the head of the Gentleman from Providence. The setting of a depopulated Australia littered with “time wells” was interesting in Jen White’s “A Cool, Private Place”. (It could arguably be inspired by Lovecraft’s “He”.) The Nigerian setting of Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso’s “The Last Man Standing” , a disaster story of a mutated HIV epidemic, and its forthright, unadorned style made it enjoyable. Another story from an African writer is “People Are Reading What You Are Writing” from Luso Mnthali. I didn’t mind this story of a political exile, but I didn’t find it that remarkable either.
There weren’t any non-Lovecraftian stories I found outright bad.
There are several works of poetry here. It’s always tricky, given what should be its feature of compressed language, commenting on poetry, so I’ll pick out only a few for comment. Ann K. Schwader’s “In this Brief Interval” is a strong kick off to the anthology. It’s written to a form (a villanelle for the poets keeping score at home) with comprehensible, memorable language – the repetition of “the stars were right” playing off Lovecraft’s famous line and letting us know we’ve always been screwed. “Do Not Imagine” from Mari Ness has some nice imagery as it deals with the madness inherent in space travel. A. D. Cahill’s “This Song Is Not for You” is about that flute-playing god, Azathoth, at the center of creation. Mae Empson’s “A Welcome Sestina from Cruise Director Isabeau Molyneux” uses no definition of “sestina” I’m familiar with. Lee Clark Zumpe’s “Transmigration” has memorable language in its account of post-apocalyptic religious cult.
This anthology stands as more evidence that we live in a Golden Age of Lovecraftian fiction whether it is of the Mythos fiction subspecies or more general “cosmic horror”.