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Eternal Lovecraft:
The Persistence of HPL in Popular Culture

edited by Jim Turner
Golden Gryphon Press, 411 pages


Art: N. Jainschigg
Eternal Lovecraft: The Persistence of HPL in Popular Culture
Jim Turner
Jim Turner was the man behind the wheel at Arkham House for many years before he left to found his own small press, Golden Gryphon. Since then he's produced two wonderful collections, Think Like A Dinosaur And Other Tales, featuring the short fiction by James Partick Kelly, and The Moon Maid and Other Fantastic Adventures, which collects the work of R. Garcia y Robertson.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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In Eternal Lovecraft: The Persistence of HPL in Popular Culture, Jim Turner has put together an excellent anthology of 18 stories. Some tales are set in H.P. Lovecraft's (HPL) fictional and personal haunts ("Lovecraft Country"); some merely use or allude to his mythology and props ("Eldritch Influences"); and some share the cosmic vision, especially prevalent in his early Dunsanian tales ("Cosmic Realms"). In his prefatory statements in "The 'Shadow' over Lovecraft", Jim Turner outlines the events in HPL's life that led to his particular literary quirks, and the genesis of HPL's "The Shadow out of Time," which Turner suggests is HPL's defining work. There then follows a single paragraph on the structure of the collection and some of the stories contained in it. If this collection is flawed in any way, it is that Turner tells us nothing of why he has chosen the particular stories included in this anthology, or anything about their authors.

The first entry in "Lovecraft Country" is Alan Rodgers' "Her Misbegotten Son," a straightforward tale of a child abandoned in the Arkham welfare offices but marked as a sacrifice to Nyarlathotep. With lots of the requisite blood and gore, it is a fitting Lovecraftian tale for the 90's. Peter Tremaine's "Daoine Domhain" tells the story of one of the sailors involved in the depth bombing of Innsmouth harbour (see the conclusion of HPL's "The Shadow over Innsmouth"), who becomes fodder for the Deep Ones (Daoine Domhain in Gaelic) on his return to his ancestral home in Ireland. The last and most original of the stories in this section, "To Mars and Providence" by Don Webb, deals with the young HPL himself and how his close-encounter with Martians landing in his cherished Providence are the source of his mythology of extra-dimensional beings lurking just beyond our senses.

"Weird Tales" by Fred Chappell begins the "Eldritch Influences" section. Set in the circle of HPL's closest friends, including Samuel Loveman, it is the pseudobiography of one Sterling Croydon, visionary author, recluse, and ultimately victim of the Pre-Columbian god Dzhaimbu. In Nancy A. Collins' "The Land of the Reflected Ones," Mr. Emerson, owner of the entire collection of Elder Lore books kills for an ancient spell book and gets his just desserts. The most beautifully written of the short pieces in this anthology is Thomas Ligotti's "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World," a tale of what lurks in the good earth. Ligotti's writing reminds one of the prose-poems of Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith, beautifully polished yet capable of telling a grisly tale of horror. Here follows just a snippet of Ligotti's lovely description of fall foliage horribly out of season:

The multi-coloured leaves were softly glowing against the black sky, creating an untimely nocturnal rainbow that scattered its spectral tints everywhere and dyed the night with a harvest of hues: peach gold and pumpkin orange, honey yellow and winy amber, apple red and plum violet. Luminous within their leafy shapes, the colours cast themselves across the darkness and were splattered upon our streets and our fields and our faces. Everything was resplendent with the pyrotechnics of a new autumn.
Harlan Ellison's "Sensible City," a tale where two escaped sadistic killers get on a highway to a town designed just for them, while a good tale in itself, is one of the stories least related to the overall theme of the collection. The novella "The Golden Keeper", by Ian R. MacLeod, is a fine historical tale of a Roman accountant and parricide sent to Upper Egypt to oversee the workings of a gold mine. He steals an artifact from an incredibly ancient prehistoric temple and uses it to convert Mnar stones into gold -- with the expected consequences of madness and death. The next tale, "Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir" by Ron Goulart, might have equally well been included in the first section of the book "Lovecraft Country", as it is a thinly veiled comedic biography of HPL. Stephen King's "Crouch End" is a nasty little tourist guide to which part of London, England to avoid. The disembodied spatial and temporal travel in Richard A. Lupoff's "The Turret", seems more derivative of William Hope Hodgson's (1877- 1918) classic The House on the Borderland (1908), than of anything by HPL. While it might have fitted better in the "Cosmic Realms" section, like its predecessor, it has many stunning images of travel through time and space. In "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" by Paula Volsky, Sherlock Holmes investigates the nasty consequences of defacing and absconding with part of the rat-like idol of Ur-Allazoth, which was worshipped by degraded natives in Sumatra. While the Lovecraftian elements of the story are fairly standard, the juxtaposition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's and HPL's worlds creates a very interesting hybrid. Besides being rewarding for fans of pre-Lovecraftian Gothic horror and lost race fantasy literature, the novella "Black as the Pit, from Pole to Pole" by Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop is the best work in the collection. While it ties loosely into the theme through an encounter with the Old Ones, it is predominantly a brilliant sequel to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's (1797-1851) Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) tied in to the contemporary hollow Earth theories of the American John Cleves Symmes (d. 1829). Frankenstein's monster, haunted by his creator, doesn't die in the Arctic snows, but lives to enter the inner Earth where his attempts at humanity are dashed. Perhaps a little too erudite for today's reader of the endless stream of mediocre horror-fodder, it is a must read for anyone truly interested in the origins of modern horror. Last, the short story "The Other Dead Man" by Gene Wolfe, a horror tale set on a crippled space ship, is too reminiscent of the endless series of Alien films to be very interesting, and as such is probably the weakest of the inclusions in this collection.

The "Cosmic Realms" section begins with "The Events at Poroth Farm" by T.E.D. Klein, an enjoyable tale -- -- of an academic retreating to rural New Jersey for the summer to prepare his fall course in Modern Horror Literature. Mock invocations inspired by Arthur Machen's (1863-1947) "The White People" lead a household cat and then its mistress to become possessed by an evil entity, resulting eventually in murder. The following story, "The Ocean and All Its Devices" by William Browning Spencer, perhaps in part inspired by "The Night Ocean", HPL's collaboration with Robert H. Barlow, is the story of a young girl with very strong ties to the sea. For the fans of Spencer's usually quirky and dysfunctional characters, this is a somewhat unusual story in its fairly standard approach and "normal" characters. Fritz Leiber's "A Bit of the Dark World" has a Daddy-long-legs creature of pure darkness threatening the inhabitants of a cliff-edge dwelling in the mountains of California. Finally, the last story in the collection, Robert Charles Wilson's "The Perseids" is a weird love story between an amateur astronomer and a telescope salesperson who is more than she appears.

This collection is certainly a must for every fan of Lovecraft and his minions (that is what these authors are, isn't it?). For the uninitiated, it is a good introduction to the concepts of the master without having to deal with his somewhat turgid and gothic prose. Jim Turner says in his introduction that this will be the last of his Lovecraftian collections, but given the quality of this book, one hopes that he will change his mind.

Table of Contents (alphabetically by author)
Weird Tales Fred Chappell
The Land of the Reflected One Nancy A. Collins
Sensible City Harlan Ellison
Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir Ron Goulart
Crouch End Stephen King
The Events at Poroth Farm T.E.D. Klein
A Bit of the Dark World Fritz Leiber
The Shadow at the Bottom of the WorldThomas Ligotti
The Turret Richard A. Lupoff
The Golden Keeper Ian R. McLeod
Her Misbegotten Son Alan Rodgers
The Ocean and all its Devices William Browning Spencer
Daoine Domhain Peter Tremayne
Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop
The Giant Rat of Sumatra Paula Volsky
To Mars and Providence Don Webb
The Perseids Robert Charles Wilson
The Other Dead Man Gene Wolfe

Copyright © 1998 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.


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