A Few of My Favorite (Pandemic) Things: Literary Edition

Here are a few books that really floated my boat over the last 16+ months…

Cover of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Finally read this in April 2020, and it was as delightful as you might expect, given its author and its awards.
Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age. An outstanding 2020 first novel that I still find myself thinking about, for its politics, humor, and most of all its characters.
Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians has been nominated for and won a bunch of awards. And well it should! This book did new things. Scary things.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is an award-winning novel that I couldn’t put down. It draws from all sorts of topics she’s researched at length. This book felt to me like the definition of a book that springs from an author’s interests & perspective in such a way that no other author could have done the same book justice.
A couple years ago, I picked up a psychological thriller called The Kind Worth Killing, by a guy I’d never heard of: Peter Swanson. It was compelling! I’ve since gone on to read most of his books and enjoyed every one. Eight Perfect Murders was no different: a mystery about mysteries, and thoroughly Hitchcock.
Though I’ve probably read more by Stephen King than any other living author, I never got around to Doctor Sleep until recently. I’m glad I did! While it’s billed as a sequel of sorts to The Shining, it’s simply a different book, and very good.
I tore through Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood. Ware specializes in modern turns on Golden-Age tropes and techniques, revitalizing them for the 21st century. If you liked Knives Out, but you just can’t plug in to Christie, Sayers, March, and kin, try this. I’m making my way through the rest of her books, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway is also prime reading.

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.

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.

Commentary

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

Authors

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.

Anthologies

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