Recent Batrachian Readings

two books

Some recent reading

Currently I’m reading Black Wings of Cthulhu 2, a Lovecraftian anthology edited by S.T. Joshi, jumping around from story to story as the mood takes me. The stories range widely across the things that fit under the “L” rubric, and Joshi addresses in his introduction the question of the breadth of materials that might be considered “Lovecraftian.” So far I’ve most enjoyed Jason C. Eckhardt’s “And the Sea Gave Up the Dead,” Richard Gavin’s “The Abject,” Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan’s “Houndwife,” and Nick Mamatas’ “Dead Media.” Nicholas Royle’s “The Other Man” does partake of the alienation of HPL’s “The Outsider,” but it feels to me far more Ligotti (or perhaps Cisco) than Lovecraft—which I say not as a criticism, but more along the lines of a signpost for something that was both an unexpected and pleasant turn from the course.

Among this anthology’s stories, however, I could not fully engage with Rick Dakan’s “Correlated Discontents.” I usually don’t offer much critical commentary here, but this story is problematic. It’s not that it’s not well written— it flows nicely and has some good characterization. It’s not that it’s not interesting—it is, doing something novel with Lovecraft as a character (of sorts). On a fundamental level, however, the basic events of the story are not particularly plausible. Randy Stafford’s review at IFP touches on some of this, but in addition to the question of the familiarity of Lovecraft readers with his letters, academic research faculty with student assistants, labs, etc., do not present their findings at film festivals. I understand the intent here, both the characters’ and the author’s, but—no. Some things make it difficult to suspend one’s disbelief, whether the sudden appearance of “warp speed” in hard SF or the fantastical depiction of mundane things. In fairness, I will say that other readers had different reactions to this story, including Ellen Datlow, who gave it an Honorable Mention for YBH.

I haven’t yet started into, but am eagerly anticipating, Mike Griffin‘s Far From Streets. It came in the mail last week, and I’ve got it cued up on the to-read pile.

In Belgium, No One Can Hear You Fhtagn

What waits between the stars? Story illustration by Peter Szmer

What waits between the stars? Lovecraft eZine illustration by Peter Szmer

It’s been a pretty good month. I’m delighted to announce that I have sold French-language translation and publication rights for my Lovecraftian SF story, “How Rare Are Light and Life.” My first foreign rights sale! They were acquired by Patrick Dechesne for a Lovecraftian anthology forthcoming this autumn. Patrick is starting a French-language house, entitled “Les Editions de l’Instant,” which will publish anthologies and novels, including some translated from English. I’ll share more information about this project as I have it.

Big thanks to Mike Davis for first publishing this story in The Lovecraft eZine, a year ago this month. I’ve been pleased to hear from both friends and strangers who have read and enjoyed it over the last twelve months, and I’m glad to see its wings tentacles spread a little farther.

On The Existence of the Female Tentacle

“Is appreciation of Lovecraft and the Mythos a Guy Thing, like the Three Stooges?” That was the beginning, a couple days back, of a lengthy conversation in a Lovecraftian group on Facebook. As far as I can tell, the editor who asked the question wasn’t setting out to irritate, enrage, depress, or offend a large number of dedicated aficionados of the Old Gent, but it happened nonetheless.  As the shitstorm he inadvertently brewed up has waned, I’m still quietly boggling.

One can understand, studying tables of contents and looking back on the long run of Lovecraftian, Mythos, and generally cosmic horror, how one might come to ask if it’s just a “Guy thing.” There are, for instance, a grand total of three female Cthulhu Mythos writers listed on Wikipedia. Most of the Old Guard are or were men, and Lovecraftian fiction hasn’t historically been a place to go looking for strong women.

The problem is that this conversation happens constantly in publishing, genre and otherwise. Someone looks around and asks, in apparently willful ignorance of past discussions and the thousands and thousands of women who read and write every stripe of fiction, “what about those women?” Asking this is itself a kind of erasure: it’s staring obliviously into the face of those women and asking if they exist. Lovecraft is no longer a cult author, and readers of things Lovecraftian are no longer a coterie: from Hellboy to Hello Cthulhu to a geek President of the United States who undoubtedly knows his Cthulhu from his Yog-Sothoth, the tentacles have crept into everything.

There were a number of articulate responses in the discussion on Facebook, some polite and some caustic, but for my money, this comment by Molly Tanzer was the best:

As a new thread gets going in this community asking the tough questions like “What are women writers? Are they like… regular writers? I mean, they’re women, right? So, like, what do they write about? What’s their stuff like?”, I just don’t know what else to say. Especially as the first comment is basically “I can only think of three lady Lovecraftian horror writers!” So, awesome. Anyways, I am happy to say that I have felt welcomed and valued by the editors I’ve worked with within the Lovecraftian horror community, very much including Mike [Davis, editor of Lovecraft eZine, who did not initiate the discussion]. But this whole conversation is starting to wear me out. Apparently in 2014 women writers must still do double-duty–by which I mean, it’s not enough (for some) for us to just, like, write and publish quality Lovecraftian horror. We must do that, while enduring comments about how women don’t mythos because baby-makin’ hormones, while also taking our time to alert people to the fact we exist, AND remembering do so very, very politely so as not to offend the sensitive souls of editors who apparently don’t like to be reminded that part of their job isn’t just publishing their friends, but paying attention–actively reading what is being published by strangers and newcomers alike–trying new things and new people and new voices. Oh, and doing all that while also somehow preserving our sense of humor about life and publishing while being talked down to about how historically “masculine” means this-or-that, or Lovecraft such-and-such. Jesus. I mean, I have a degree in Gender Studies, and a Master’s in humanities that focused on history. And I write in this community. So… yeah.

Here are links if you want to do some reading. No consistency to these, really, just grabbed a bunch. I wasn’t able to find explicitly Lovecraftian/Cthulhuvian free online fiction for all of the authors listed, or wasn’t sure which to pick, and so left things as I did, which looks a little odd on the authors list. If you have suggested links about women who write Lovecraftian fiction, feel free to drop them in the comments.


Women Who Write Lovecraft

Women at the Lovecraft Film Festival

Favorite Women in Horror

All-Female Authors Issue of Lovecraft eZine

Lovecraftian Archetypes: the eternal feminine

Joanna Russ and Lovecraftian/Mythos fiction


Caitlín R. KiernanWikipedia. Amazon.

Ann K. SchwaderInterview. Story.

Elizabeth BearInterview. Essay. Story.

Molly TanzerInterview. Story.

Silvia Moreno-GarciaInterview.

Gemma FilesProfile.

Lois GreshCollection. Interview.

Amanda DownumInterview.

Livia LlewellynInterview.


Lovecraft Unbound

Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath

The Book of Cthulhu

The Book of Cthulhu II

New Cthulhu: the Recent Weird

Cthulhu Unbound, Vol. 2

Lovecraft in Space

Illustration by Peter Szmer

What waits between the stars? Story illustration by Peter Szmer

Many people claim that Alien is the best Lovecraftian movie ever made, and while I have mixed feelings about that, there is something inherently disquieting about the gulf between the stars, and the question of what might wait there. Building on that disquiet, and thinking about both Gliese 581g and the challenges of colonizing space, I came up with a story called “How Rare Are Light and Life.” It’s now live for you to read over at The Lovecraft eZine. If you prefer reading the issue on Kindle or Nook, just click here. I’m grateful to Mike Davis for publishing this story, to Jesse Bullington for providing comments on the draft version, and to Peter Szmer for his striking, wonderful illustrations. Enjoy!