It’s time for this week’s bit of weird fiction.
(Why, you ask, isn’t there one every week. Mostly because I’ve either already blogged about the current story under discussion at LibraryThing’s Deep Ones group or I didn’t get my hands on the story under discussion).
Review: “The Arcade”, Will Murray, 2012.
You may not recognize the name of Will Murray. He writes a lot, but most of his work is in pulp fiction both as a practioner and historian. For instance, he does a lot of historical background for Sanctum Books reprints of Doc Savage novels (which I read but don’t regularly review here) and has new adventures with that hero.
Among his other interests is H. P. Lovecraft. In addition to critical work on Lovecraft, he’s written some Lovecraftian stories including “The Sothis Radiant”.
As Robert M. Price, the editor of Worlds of Cthulhu where this story first appeared, this is a Lovecraftian story that does not “depend upon a check list of unpronounceable names and magical grimoires”.
It uses Lovecraft’s Arkham locales, specifically the town of Foxfield. That was a location Lovecraft invented but never used.
This is one of those weird tales whose charm would be broken by a plot synopsis, not that it’s particularly complex.
Murray channels Lovecraft’s structure and language and his locales without a single doomed scholar or line of dialogue. I don’t recall Lovecraft ever using the gerunds “abominated” or “juggernauting”, but they seem right.
As with many a Lovecraft story, we open with landscape, the flooded valley of the Miskatonic (perhaps flooded, though I didn’t follow up to check, by the dam mentioned in Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”) which severs the old village of Foxfield between earth and water.
The titular Arcade is a mysterious grove of twenty American elms, often surrounded by fireflies, near the village.
It is in that village, in 1704, we are introduced to our one character: Remembrance Tyler. She is dragged off by Indians during Queen Anne’s War. She is an unredeemed captive and never, for certain, seen again.
But a strange woman is seen throughout the decades covered by the story which ends with the drought of 1999.
Essentially, this is a ghost story with, to my mind, a rather Buddhist ending, one certainly not philosophically keeping with Lovecraft but still interesting. Just long enough, just detailed enough, for Murray’s literary ventriloquism not to get hoarse and whisper cosmic secrets the Gentleman from Providence didn’t.