edited by Carrie Cuinn
Dagan Books (2010)
If you think this anthology amounts to little more than tentacle porn, think again.
Carrie Cuinn has assembled short stories that are not merely about monsters having sex, though more than a couple do feature some remarkably … unusual intimate encounters. The majority of stories come from authors who explore jealousy, loneliness, betrayal, morbid curiosity, and a slew of other facets, all wrapped up in a pastiche that is either directly influenced by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft or at least offer allusions to those stories.
Personally, I’m not much of a Lovecraft fan. That is to say I am not among those who deify the man and his work. Certainly, there is something to the mythos he created that has latched on to the minds of readers, and I do find the broader ideas of his stories to be quite appealing. But, the suffusion of his bigotry is noticeable to a point that makes some stories unpalatable, and the rather dated flourish to his prose only makes it harder to appreciate his stories. I’m not one to close myself off to an artist’s work though, as I still manage to appreciate Roman Polanski’s films, so I had no qualms in seeing what other authors could provide as a way to better understand Lovecraft’s work.
I found most of the stories avoided imitation and provided their own styles, though there were a couple of instances where the language felt so Lovecraftian it almost felt satirical. The real draw for me was the way the stories approached existing characters and settings from a whole new vantage point, and its through this method that I came to enjoy the stories and hop on board the bandwagon.
The stories I liked most were varied. Some took a more contemporary approach, some had a more streamlined style to Lovecraft’s while hanging onto that imitative flavor. Stand outs for me included: “Descent of the Wayward Sister” by Gabrielle Harbowy, which was the first story and did an excellent job in setting the tone for the rest of the book; “Infernal Attraction” by Cody Goodfellow, that had an ending I found to be deliciously bleak and sinister; “Turning On, Tuning In, and Dropping Out at the Mountains of Madness” by Ahimsa Kerp, which was absolutely saturated in a sixties milieu that felt almost too fun to belong in a Lovecraft world; and “Transfigured Night” by K.V. Taylor, which effectively used journal entries to ramp up the horror–and I usually stray from that journal entry style.
There are plenty of stories here, ranging from poetic to prurient, and the collection is something I’d highly recommend to any Lovecraft aficionado, as well as those who like stories that offer new twists on old material. I suppose it is much like Lovecraft’s own work, in that it can be easily dismissed by the unfamiliar, but there is a lot more slithering beneath the surface than we might give it credit for. I say give it a chance if you’re feeling adventurous.