Since I shortly plan to review other books in this series, I thought I’d post this review which first appeared on the Innsmouth Free Press website on August 29, 2012.
Review: Black Wings II: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror, ed. S. T. Joshi, 2011.
The triumph of Howard Phillips Lovecraft was complete when his name became an adjective, a literary compass heading for travel into zones of weirdness and horror. But it’s something of a deviant compass pointing in several directions.
Right up front, editor Joshi announces one territory we won’t be heading towards in this book: the land of the slavish Lovecraft pastiche, as thoroughly explored by Brian Lumley and August Derleth. Joshi and his authors point the reader to two other literary countries: the dark and fertile lands where Lovecraft’s blasphemous books and deities are not always present, but his “core themes and imagery” are, and the modern world haunted by the shade of the Gentleman from Providence.
The marches between those two areas are covered in the anthology’s first story, “When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley. In this “nautilus shell recession of narrative,” a contemporary Providence psychiatrist encounters a young amnesiac whose new memories seem to be those of Lovecraft himself. Partly an affectionate look at Lovecraft and the paths his life never took, and partly cosmic menace – with unspoken love and cats and Poe thrown in, it’s humorous, paranoid, and unique.
I’m off polishing up work for other outlets, so you get this retro review from April 26, 2010.
Out of curiosity I added up how many anthologies Ellen Datlow has done since her career started in 1981. It’s eighty-nine by my rough count. A fair number are famous titles — at least as far as anthology titles go.
Review: Lovecraft Unbound, ed. Ellen Datlow, 2009.
Unlike Datlow’s earlier tribute anthology, Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, where many of the stories, removed from authors’ notes and the context of the book, didn’t seem to have much to do with Edgar Poe, almost all these stories have an obvious Lovecraft connection. It usually isn’t a listing of the blasphemous tomes and extraterrestrial entities created by the master. Datlow wisely avoided that, for the most part, along with Lovecraft pastiches.
It isn’t an entirely new anthology. Four of the stories are reprints. But virtually all the stories are enjoyable and work as either modern examples of cosmic horror, horrific nihilism, or interesting takeoffs on Lovecraftian themes and premises.
The one exception is one of those reprints and, surprisingly, from the biggest name here. Possessing no discernable Lovecraftian theme, image, or plot element, Joyce Carol Oates “Commencement” also fails even in its internal logic. The plot concerns the allegorical cast of the Poet, the Educator, the Scientist, and the Dean and a fate they really should have seen coming at a future graduation ceremony. Continue reading
The well-done post-apocalypse story is a literary post-mortem on civilization. At its best, it looks at the wreckage of society to examine not only the workings of its physical infrastructure but the architecture of the human mind and soul.
Once upon a time, I read a fair number of these, but I sort of drifted away from it. In the last couple of years, by accident, I’ve read more than usual in the sub-genre.
Oh there’s still a lot of these stories published. But zombies have taken over the genre. Many self-published works seem to be survivalist manuals — not that anything is wrong with that. Some of Dean Ing’s works fit in that category as does, to some extant, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer. However, who knows how many of these are badly written political screeds or how to manuals?
And I have little interest in YA novels. Even when I was the target age, I usually didn’t care for teenaged protagonists.
So, hoping to see what had been going on with the theme recently, I requested Paula Guran’s After the End: Recent Apocalypses. Continue reading