Like Shea’s “Tsathoggua”, this story takes place in the demimonde of the homeless underclass.
Our entre to this world is the unusually epistolary Knavle who sends letters to his friend, the non wino McSpittle, our narrator. That lends a certain old-fashioned flavor to this story. But it’s 1982. Knavle can’t phone or text it in.
And, as you might guess from the narrator’s name, there is some humor in this story which is Lovecraftian flavored but not of the Cthulhu Mythos.
McSpittle starts out by telling us that Knvale’s decision to become a wino was quite deliberate.
Even I, his closest confidant, had been so unsupportive as to call his choice of lifestyle a “downward path.” He had mildly replied that his was no smooth downhill way; that it was far easier, in fact, to be a short-order cook (for example) or a bank president, than to be a wino; that, moreover, in being an object of compassion, he was performing a vital moral service for those more fortunate than himself who would otherwise, lacking such flagrant specimens of misery, pity only themselves.
Knavle’s been a wino for about a year by the time the story begins. We get a brief account of the small and wiry Knavle’s (all the better to find an unobtrusive place to sleep it off) early life on the streets.
The inaugural volume for what would become a six-part series is strong but not flawless.
Have I ever read a Nicholas Royle story I liked? No, and I didn’t much care for his “Rotterdam”, either. He’s obviously paying homage to H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Hound” in plot and story setting, but it’s really just a crime story with the Lovecraft connection being Joe, the screenwriter protagonist, in Amsterdam to scout out locations for a possible adaption of Lovecraft’s story. He’s hoping to ingratiate himself with the producer so his own script will be used on the project. What he really wants to do, though, is to get the job to write the screenplay of his own published crime novel, Amsterdam. The world of film production is interesting as are Joe’s less than successful interactions with its more successful members. We get some echoes between Joe and Lovecraft with Amsterdam being sort of autobiographical in the way Lovecraft’s essays are. And, after a bout of drinking, Joe wakes up to a body in his room. No supernatural horror here.
Nor was I impressed by Michael Cisco’s “Violence, Child of Trust”. There’s no cosmic horror here in a story that has a rural cult that captures and sacrifices (after the occasional rape) women to some god. I will grant the ending did surprise me.
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.
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 →
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. Continue reading →