Let Sleeping Gods Lie

After reading West’s “A Manuscript Found in Carcosa” and “The Haunter of the Wheel”, I wanted to read more of West’s fiction with Porter Rockwell. The latter story is part of West’s Cowboys & Cthulhu series, and this story seems the first in the series.

Review: Let Sleeping Gods Lie, David J. West. 2019. 

Cover by Carter Reid

When three Chinese miners show up at Porter Rockwell’s saloon one night, they are in a hurry to abandon their diggings around the camp of Murderer’s Bar. One of them is dying. They want to trade a “dragon bone” and a book for a horse and wagon. They found working them their claim on the putatively haunted Scorched Devil Ridge. Rockwell trades them a cart and mule for the goods but not before the Chinese mention the Old Ones and hungry ghosts, and that, in two nights, the stars will be right.

Well, the group doesn’t get far on the trail to Sacramento. They are found dead on the trail by two sometimes comical characters – though courageous enough — Zeke and Bowles. For that matter, the night watchman at the saloon is killed too.

And they won’t be the last killings Rockwell, employee Jack, faithful hound Dawg, and the fearsome Bloody Creek Mary will have to contend with. The question is are they just the depredations of the local Mountain Hound gang or something far stranger?

This one has more the feel of the traditional western than “The Haunter of the Wheel” with Rockwell spending almost as much time battling outlaws as a menace from the past linked to Zealia Bishop’s and H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Mound”.

Of course, the mysterious Mr. Nodens shows up, always willing to provide hints to Rockwell but no actual help. Sasquatches do too.

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The Book of Yig

David Hambling sent me a review copy of this one. It is, incidentally, “respectfully dedicated to Brian Stableford”.

Review: The Book of Yig: Revelations of the Serpent, eds. David Hambling and Peter Rawlik, 2021.

First off, there’s not a bad or even so-so story in this book, and I definitely recommend it.

It follows the successful formula of earlier Cthulhu Mythos releases from Crossroad Press: Tales of Al-Azif and Tales of Yog-Sothoth. They take an element of the Mythos, get stories from a bunch of contributors (often working in their own Mythos series), and present the stories chronologically with thematic, character, and plot links between the stories. Appropriately, some mysteries, but not all, are revealed at the end. (You can also throw in the earlier Crossroad Press release Time Loopers in this category, but I didn’t know that when I read this book. I’ll be reviewing Time Loopers later.)

I suspect there are two reasons this anthology works so well.

First is that it is built around a more obscure element of Lovecraft’s work, “The Curse of Yig”, which he worked on as a ghostwriter with Zealia Bishop. While I’m sure there are others, the only other Yig story I’ve read before the ones in this book was Walter C. DeBill, Jr’s “When Yidhra Walks”. That gives the authors plenty of leeway.

Second, the authors, after taking Bishop’s and Lovecraft’s story as their starting point, combined it with some of the rich symbology around serpents and other elements of Lovecraft to give us a new benchmark in Crossroad Press’ unique approach to Mythos publications.

Bishop gets a mention in David Hambling’s “The Serpent in the Garden” as does Kipling, Poe, and of course, the Bible given the title. We’re introduced to the snake-men Yig, their hidden presence among us, and their mysterious motives and nature.

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H. P. Lovecraft: A Life

The Lovecraft series continues with a look at S. T. Joshi’s biography of that writer.

Joshi has expanded this 708 page book into 1,200 pages with the updated edition called I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m going to do my wrists a favor, when I do, and get the kindle edition.

Raw Feed (2005): H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, S. T. Joshi, 1996, 2004.H P Lovecraft A Life

Joshi is such a concise writer that it would do little good to sum up all the points of interest in this book’s 655 pages of text, and some it, expectedly, repeats Joshi’s H. P. Lovecraft and H. P. Lovecraft:  The Decline of the West. Since Joshi sums up all of Lovecraft’s fiction including some of his most important revisions, I think this book comes about as close as you can get to a one volume introduction to Lovecraft without reading his work.

He gives brief summaries of Lovecraft’s most important correspondents and professional contacts, the magazines he published in, and other matters related to Lovecraft’s interests, life, and times.

Granted, some of this gets a bit far afield.

Is it really necessary to give a summary of Antarctic exploration when mentioning Lovecraft’s interest in it even though it is, of course, relevant to his “At the Mountains of Madness“?

Still, I learned a lot about Lovecraft. Continue reading

“Medusa’s Coil”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “Medusa’s Coil”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This is, in general plot, that old ghost style formula of visiting the odd house at night, seeing horrifying things, leaving the house in the morning only to be told by a local that that house and its owner (seemingly alive last night) burned years ago.

Of course, the narrator, as they always do in these stories, finds material proof (the hair of the home’s owner) that what he saw was reality.

However, in this general framework is an interesting take off on the Medusa story with the mysterious Marceline being the descendent of a long line of priestesses serving in a cult older than Atlantis — specifically Cthulhu deities.

The final sentence, in which it is revealed she is part Negro, is less racist (though parts of the story certainly play into old stereotypes of blacks) than a linkage of her with the horrible cult out of Zimbabwe.

Her hair really does turn out to be a hideously alive. (Therefore, all three Bishop-Lovecraft collaborations have snake motifs.)

I liked the horrible portrait painted of her, and the brief asides and explanations of the Decadent philosophy spoken of approvingly and personified here by Marsh.

More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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“The Mound”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

It’s actually one of Lovecraft’s more significant stories not only for its length and its satirical elements on contemporary society, but, according to Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, he wrote basically all the story with Bishop contributing the plot idea:

There is an Indian mound near here, which is haunted by a headless ghost. Sometimes it is a woman.

Raw Feed (2005, 2017): “The Mound”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This 1930 story is a dry run for the great Lovecraft stories of “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Out of Time”.

Like those stories, it features the exploration of an alien civilization with detailed descriptions of its science, mores, culture, and history.  t does mention some of the Cthulhu dieties but does not try to fit in an overarching history, linking other Lovecraft stories, like those latter works do.

Another obvious point of difference is that this underground civilization is genetically related to humans, its members originally — at least they believe — brought to Earth by Cthulhu.

Joshi has described it as a satire on “machine civilization”, and it sort of is.

At one point, the narrator, examining the manuscript of a Spanish conquistador who lived in this underground world, says that it might be a hoax as social satire. The satire is interesting because it is a repugnant, decadent civilization whose increasingly jaded entertainments run to torture, ghastly modifications to the condemned bodies, and reanimation of the dead (usually in a mutilated form).

However, this civilization sort of embraces Lovecraft’s personal morality (as shown by his “The Silver Key”) of there being no objective morality or purpose in life. Yet, Lovecraft shows us a world increasingly superstitious and unable to understand their scientific accomplishments of the past, given to sexual excess (the narrator remarks more than once on the conquistador’s unfortunate “pious reticence”). Their jaded tastes, unlike Lovecraft — who shares their ultimate nihilism — don’t run to learning and creating beauty.

They do, however, start to post more guards to the entrances to their underground world once they realize Europeans are moving in to the American Midwest (the story, likes the Bishop-Lovecraft collaboration “The Curse of Yig” is set in Oklahoma, shares some characters, and the narrators of both seem to be the same ethnologist).

I suspect Bishop’s original plot idea included the liasion between the conquistador and a woman from the underground. Again, that’s not a Lovecraft feature.

As with his “At the Mountains of Madness”, there is mention of genetic engineering being done as well as ancient wars and even older ruins.  A interesting and good effort from Lovecraft.

On reading this story a second time a few months ago, I noticed that the style is different than Lovecraft’s usual as well as the plot. There is a dearth of adjectives though still the final crescendo of revelation.

The whole thing seems a bit Edgar Rice Burroughish with the strange, horrible steeds, the underground civilization, and the aborted love plot. It is interesting how much was added to the Mythos in this story and that hasn’t been used much by other writers.


More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

“The Curse of Yig”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Curse of Yig”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1928.

An ethnologist of Indians comes across the hideous offspring of Yig, a hideous snake god, in Oklahoma. Yig raped a woman and the result is in an asylum.



More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Volume 1: The End of the Story

Since there seems to be some interest in Clark Ashton Smith (as well there should be), I will continue my series on him.

Actually, I was going to do it anyway.

After reading A Rendezvous in Averoigne, I decided to start buying Night Shade Books The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith.

Unfortunately, I was reading like a normal person in 2007 meaning I didn’t make notes on a lot of things, and that includes only partial notes on this volume.

So, it’s a …

Low Res Scan (2007): The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Volume 1: The End of the Story, eds. Scott Connors and Ron Hilger, 2006.end-of-the-story

“Introduction”, Ramsey Campbell — Besides a brief account of Campbell’s youthful delight on reading the titles of a Smith collection — to say nothing of the actual stories, Campbell manages a number of concise one sentence summations of many stories in this collection as well as saying how certain stories pre-figured more famous stories by other authors.

To the Daemon” — Not a story but a prose-poem from something called Acolyte (the date is 1943, many years after most of Smith’s stories here but the work could have been written earlier) in which Smith, in his fine poetic ways, tells, in the space of less than a page, how he is tired of stories “that lies between the bourns of time or the limits of space”. He even mentions the Oriental themes of his earliest fiction — “the isles that are westward of Cathay”.

The Abominations of Yondo” — A very simple plot here: a tortured man is released by his captors into the desert of Yondo where he encounters several disturbing sights including a “monstrous mummy of some ancient king” which cause him to flee back to the comfort of his captivity. There is little here except wonderful language, especially the opening paragraph, no moral except perhaps the cynical, weird idea that even captivity and torture are preferable to some things. Continue reading