Trolls, Shub-Niggurath, and the Dark North

Valancourt Books (previously) has increasingly been releasing horror in translation in recent years. Their Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories does what work in translation should do, “bringing the news” from other parts of the world to your own, or at least to your own language, and has shown up in reviews, on syllabi, and other places of honor. Not coincidentally, the press won the 2021 HWA Speciality Press Award, testament to their impact on the field, from reprinting forgotten classics to their translation work, to the Paperbacks from Hell series.

Recently they released a book that’s even better than the norm for them: Anders Fager’s Swedish Cults (Valancourt|Bookshop|Amazon). I no longer buy books based on blurbs, but I can honestly say that the blurbs for this book are correct. It’s a vigorous collection of Lovecraftian horror that belongs on a shelf with Caitlín R. Kiernan & kin. Reading it, I felt the same old/new shock that I got on reading Charles Stross’s “A Colder War,” that sense of a new take. Fager’s blend of sex and surreality is distinctive, he has one of the best uses of Shub-Niggurath I can remember reading, and there are no bad stories in this book. If any of the above resonated with you, check it out. Good reading for dark nights…

Anders Fager's book on a shelf of Lovecraft books
Swedish Cults in their native (?) environment

I should probably say that I was predisposed to be interested in Fager’s book. Growing up Scandinavian-American, my childhood was full of the usual stuff: lefse, rosemaling, Ole & Lena, etc. It also featured more than a little Norse mythology and folklore, including trolls of all shape and size. My interest in that has revived in recent years, partly for personal reasons and partly due to encountering works like Midsommar and Swedish Cults. I’ve bought or repurchased various related titles, some pictured below.

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths, Berenstain's The Troll Book, the Kittelsen/Nunnally edition of Troll Magic, and the Nunnally/Gaiman Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbjornsen & Moe

Tack for reading, and check out Fager if his book sounds up your alley at all!

Reading for the Holidays

To say that I have too many books on my to-read pile is among the feeblest attempts at humor ever made, but I have nonetheless added a couple more. In no particular order…

  • The first anthology edited by noted poisoner and blackguard Jesse Bullington, Letters to Lovecraft, from Stone Skin Press
  • A trio of novellas from Innsmouth Free Press entitled Jazz Age Cthulhu, which contains work by Mr. Bones himself, Orrin Grey
  • A short story collection entitled Love & Other Poisons, from the proprietor of Innsmouth Free Press, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • A collection of inimitably Lovecraftian tales that tend experimental, published by Innsmouth Free Press, from Nick Mamatas: Nickronomicon
  • Of Parallel and Parcel, S. J. Chambers’ chapbook from Duhams Manor Press, shipping in December

"The Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him."

“The Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him.”

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to one and all.

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.