Bad Ways to Live Forever Part 397: H.P. Lovecraft and Henry Whitehead’s “The Trap”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re reading H. P. Lovecraft and Henry Whitehead’s “The Trap,” written in 1931 and first published in the March 1932 issue of Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. Spoilers ahead.

“And in some outrageous fashion Robert Grandison had passed out of our ken into the glass and was there immured, waiting for release.”

Summary

Narrator Canevin has traveled far afield, most recently in the Virgin Islands, where in the outbuilding of an abandoned estate-house he discovered a mirror dim with age but graceful of frame. Sojourning in Connecticut as tutor in a friend’s school, he finally has an opportunity to break the mirror out of storage and display it in his living room.

The ...

Lovecraft in the Funhouse Mirror: Joyce Carol Oates’s “Night-Gaunts”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Joyce Carol Oates’s “Night-Gaunts,” first published in the October 2017 issue of Yale Review. Spoilers ahead.

“On his father’s right cheek, a small coin-sized birthmark of the hue of dried blood, with a suggestion of miniature fingers, or tendrils. An opened hand? But very small.”

Summary

Horace Phineas Love, Jr., sees a face in the window of the (vacant) Cornish House atop Charity Hill in Providence, where (once) he lived. It’s gaunt, pale and impassive, eyes sunken yet alive and alert. Gleeful. But there can be no face in the empty house. Perhaps it’s the reflection of the quarter-moon, “paper-thin and elusive behind a bank of gauzy stratus clouds.” ...

Wolverine vs. Sabertooth vs. Dracula: John Langan’s “Wide Carnivorous Sky”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at John Langan’s “Wide Carnivorous Sky,” first published in John Joseph Adams’s By Blood We Live anthology in 2009. Spoilers ahead.

“Even the soldiers who’d returned from Afghanistan talked about vast forms they’d seen hunched at the crests of mountains; the street in Kabul that usually ended in a blank wall, except when it didn’t; the pale shapes you might glimpse darting into the mouth of the cave you were about to search.”

Summary

So, is it a vampire?

That’s the burning question four Iraq War veterans ask each other over a campfire deep in the Catskills. Narrator Davis, along with Lee, Han and the Lieutenant survived a particularly bloody confrontation in Fallujah, but ...

The Secret Life of Abdul Al-Hazred: Reza Negarestani’s “Dust Enforcer”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Reza Negarestani’s “Dust Enforcer,” a chapter from Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials, a 2008 novel published through Re.Press. This week’s excerpt can be found in Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s The Weird anthology. Spoilers ahead, but it’s not really the sort of piece where that matters.

“Abdul Al-Hazred as an adept rammal (sand-sorcerer) probably wrote Al Azif through the dust-infested language of Pazuzu, who constantly enriches its howls with pest-spores in order to expand the hallucinatory space of progressive arid diseases.”

Summary

Caveat Lector: No summary can substitute for reading this excerpt from Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, described by editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer as a fusion of “Lovecraftian ...

For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Shoggoth: Howard Waldrop & Steven Utley’s “Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley’s “Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole,” first published in Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions anthology in 1977. You can read it more recently in Lovecraft’s Monsters. Spoilers ahead.

“It was only when he began to make out the outlines of a coast in the sky that he experienced a renewed sense of wonder.”

Summary

The story’s scaffolding is complex, but our Omniscient Narrator kindly lists its components:

In 1818, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein. John Cleves Symmes published a treatise claiming the earth is hollow and holds concentric spheres, accessible at the poles. Edgar Allan Poe was nine. Herman Melville wouldn’t be born for another year, but Mocha ...

Finding Faith in All the Wrong Places: John Connolly’s “Mr. Pettinger’s Daemon”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at John Connolly’s “Mr. Pettinger’s Daemon,” first published in his 2004 Nocturnes collection. Spoilers ahead.

“The moisture tasted like blood upon my tongue.”

Summary

Army chaplain and WWI veteran Mr. Pettinger is summoned to his bishop’s palatial library. Pettinger thinks the bishop, with his tapered bald head and flowing crimson robes, looks like a bloody dagger; his skeletal fingers move like spider legs. Pettinger dislikes the bishop’s fingers. But then, he dislikes the bishop.

He dislikes more his current post at an army hospital. It’s hard to soothe shattered minds and shore up shaken souls when his own sanity and faith are so fragile. In dreams, he still hears shells explode and rats scurry ...

Jack Vs. the Fungi From Yuggoth: T.E. Grau’s “The Truffle Pig”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at T. E. Grau’s “The Truffle Pig,” first published 2013 in Ross E. Lockhart’s Tales of Jack the Ripper anthology. Spoilers ahead.

Our narrator is many things: a ghost, a whisper, the shadow of a thing that casts none. Oh, and also saboteur, tracker, and killer of men and women. Especially women. Reviled, hated, yet the only thing that stands between our world and its fall into “the soundless crush of the eternal abyss.”

Narrator would kill every one of them if it were possible, but the order’s learned to keep its numbers low, hence secret. In the 7th century, “drunk on hubris and…righteousness,” it attempted eradication of the enemy and was nearly eradicated ...

Special Effects From Hell: Mira Grant’s “Rolling in the Deep”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Mira Grant’s (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire’s) Rolling in the Deep, first published as a standalone novella by Subterranean Press in 2015. Spoilers ahead.

“We may never know how much of the footage from the SS Atargatis was faked, or how much of it was real.”

Summary

The Imagine Network built a core audience with B-movies, SF classics and well-received original series. Then it launched a block of “hyper-reality programming,” documentaries that judiciously blended fiction and fact. After initial skepticism, Imagine’s ratings climbed. Then came the Atargatis affair.

In May 2015, the cruise ship Atargatis launches for isolated waters above the Mariana Trench. Anne Stewart, Imagine correspondent, describes its mission as the ...

Name-Dropping Nzoorl: Lin Carter’s “Something in the Moonlight”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Lin Carter’s “Something in the Moonlight,” first published in the December 1980 issue of Weird Tales. You can find it in the Cthulhu Mythos Megapack (Wildside Press, 2012) or in The Xothic Legend Cycle (Chaosium Inc., 2006).

Spoilers ahead.

“Through the use of the Ritual of the Silver Key I have been in communion with the fungoid intelligences of Nzoorl, and obtained precious glimpses of S’glhuo and Ymar. But nothing avails me…”

Summary

The statement of Charles Winslow Curtis, MD is intercut with the notes of his patient Uriah Horby, documenting the latter’s shocking death.

In 1949, Curtis leaves Miskatonic University for the Dunhill Sanitarium in Santiago, California. He gets a cordial reception ...

Never Mess With the Trees, Part 2: Nathan Carson and Sam Ford’s “The Willows”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Nathan Carson and Sam Ford’s adaptation of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”. Issue 1 came out in November 2017, and #2 will be out in February (not June as originally reported). Spoilers ahead, but minimal for #2.

“We had ‘strayed’, as Hala put it, into some region where the risks were great, yet unintelligible to us; where the frontiers of some unknown world lay close about. It was a spot held by the dwellers in some outer space, a sort of peep-hole whence they could spy upon the earth, themselves unseen, a point where the veil between had worn a little thin.”

Carson and Ford’s take on Blackwood’s classic is remarkably close to the ...

We Warned You Not to Trust the Mushrooms: Marc Laidlaw’s “Leng”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Marc Laidlaw’s “Leng,” first published in Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound anthology in 2009. Spoilers ahead.

“No adventurer has ever followed lightly in the footsteps of a missing survey team, and today’s encounter in the Amari Café did little to relieve my anxiety.”

Summary

Being a selection from the “Expeditionary Notes of the Second Mycological Survey of the Leng Plateau Region,” a rather grandiose title given that Unnamed Narrator is a fungus enthusiast rather than a mycologist and his expedition consists of himself and guide Phupten. The “First Mycological Survey” consisted of Drs. (and spouses) Danielle Schurr and Heinrich Perry, who’ve gone missing.

In Thangyal, Tibet, narrator and Phupten visit Mr. Zhang, ...

Against Plushies: J. R. Hamantaschen’s “Cthulhu, Zombies, Ninjas and Robots!”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at J.R. Hamantaschen’s “Cthulhu, Zombies, Ninjas and Robots!: or, a Special Snowflake in an Endless Scorching Universe,” first published (we think) in his 2015 collection, With a Voice That is Often Still Confused But is Becoming Ever LOUDER and Clearer. Spoilers ahead.

“The words and wisdom of H.P. Lovecraft are best enjoyed alone. Nay, they can only be savored when alone.”

Summary

Did Malcolm really think he would find kindred spirits at a gathering called the Con of Cthulhu? And by kindred spirits, he means people who appreciate the true genius of H. P. Lovecraft, which shone forth less his fictional “Yog-Sothery” than in the dour yet courageous musing of his ...

Delirious Stars and Fungous Scarecrows: Thomas Ligotti’s “The Shadow at the Bottom of the World”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Thomas Ligotti’s “The Shadow at the Bottom of the World,” first published in his 1991 collection Grimscribe: His Lives and Works. Spoilers ahead.

“On the calendars which hung in so many of our homes, the monthly photograph illustrated the spirit of the numbered days below it: sheaves of cornstalks standing brownish and brittle in a newly harvested field, a narrow house and wide barn in the background, a sky of empty light above, and fiery leafage frolicking about the edges of the scene. But something dark, something abysmal always finds its way into the bland beauty of such pictures…”

Summary

In a certain small town, this autumn is not the calendar-perfect month of fruitfulness ...

Michel Mauvais and the Sorcerer’s Stone: H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Alchemist”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Lovecraft’s own “The Alchemist,” first published in the November 1916 issue of The United Amateur. Spoilers ahead.

 

Summary

Antoine is the last of the Comtes of C­­­­.  From a hilltop chateau centuries crumbling, now ninety years old, he recounts the strange history of his accursed line.

His own father died shortly before his birth, his mother shortly after it.  Old Pierre, last of the family servants, raised Antoine in isolation, for the neighboring peasants were no fit company for his noble ward.  Besides, the simple tenantry told such ignorant and disturbing tales about the family curse.

So Antoine grew, wandering gnarled woods alone, poring over ancient tomes in the ...

I Want My Necromancy: H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy Jr.’s “The Loved Dead”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy, Jr.’s “The Loved Dead,” first published in the May-June-July 1924 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.
“It is midnight. Before dawn they will find me and take me to a black cell where I shall languish interminably, while insatiable desires gnaw at my vitals and wither up my heart, till at last I become one with the dead that I love.”

Summary Unnamed narrator pens a last narrative at midnight, seated on an aged grave, a fallen tombstone his desk. The cemetery in which he’s taken refuge is unkempt, redolent with the stink of fungi and damp earth, profoundly—terrifyingly—silent. But he doesn’t mind, for he tells us: ...

Horrible Things Come in Small Packages: H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald’s “Winged Death”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at Lovecraft and Hazel Heald’s “Winged Death,” first published in the March 1934 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.
“The Orange Hotel stands in High Street near the railway station in Bloemfontein, South Africa. On Sunday, January 24, 1932, four men sat shivering from terror in a room on its third floor.”

Summary In a stifling hotel room in Bloemfontein, South Africa, four men sit shivering around a corpse. What inspires their fear isn’t the body, but a strange fly floating in a bottle of ammonia, an ink-scrawled message on the ceiling, and the notebook held by the coroner’s physician. The dead man checked into the hotel as Frederick Mason, but his ...

The Void is a Harsh Critic: John Glasby’s “Drawn From Life”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at John Glasby’s “Drawn From Life,” first published in the Michaelmas 1989 issue of Crypt of Cthulhu. Spoilers ahead.
“And the music! It rose and fell in wild, tormented shrieks and cadences as if the instrument had a soul of its own which was in mortal danger of being lost forever in the fires of Hell.”

Summary Certain unmentionable things occur on “the very rim of human consciousness,” but our unnamed narrator is driven to mention them, lest ignorant public authorities pull down a certain house at the end of Mewson Street and discover apocalyptic horror! For Mewson Street is not only on the outskirts of London but on the outskirts of reality as ...

Cthulhu and Sons: Lin Carter’s “The Winfield Heritance”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at Lin Carter’s “The Winfield Heritance” (unless it’s “Heritage” or “Inheritance,” sources differ), first published in 1981 in Weird Tales #3 (an anthology, edited by Carter himself, not a magazine). Spoilers ahead.
“The coiling stone stair did not end, but it vanished into a black pool of slimy liquid mud which completely filled the bottom of the stairwell. Something died within me as I shone my light across that black pool.”

Summary Here we have the written statement of Winfield Phillips, once secretary to Dr. Seneca Lapham of Miskatonic University, now independently wealthy thanks to his inheritance from maternal uncle Hiram Stokely. Hiram was born Winfield, but the Winfields so ostracized him that he ...

One-Star Reviews Have Consequences: S.P. Miskowski’s “Strange is the Night”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at S.P. Miskowski’s “Strange is the Night,” first published in 2015 in Joseph S. Pulver’s Cassilda’s Song anthology. Spoilers ahead.
“A growl of thunder overhead and Pierce imagined the ceiling cracking open, his oblong, cumbersome body drawn upward, sucked out of his ergonomic chair into the ebony sky.”

Summary It’s a dark and stormy night in Seattle, and Pierce is hard at work tapping out the two thousand words of his weekly theater review. In the paper’s warehouse office, only editor Hurley has a door to close. Everyone else packs into cubicles, making interoffice pranks only too easy. Someone’s just played one on Pierce, filling his screen with the headshot of a young ...

Bad Solutions For Writer’s Block: Henry Kuttner’s “The Salem Horror”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at Henry Kuttner’s “The Salem Horror,” first published in the May 1937 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.
“He became conscious that he was standing in the exact center of the chamber, in the circle of black stone where the odd design centered. Again he noticed the utter silence. On an impulse he clicked off the ray of his flashlight. Instantly he was in dead blackness.”

Summary Narrator Carson, author of popular light romances, has retired to an ancient house in Salem, Massachusetts, to finish his latest novel.  Locals shun the place because it originally belonged to Abigail Prinn, who sacrificed to a crescent-horned figure and worshiped a dark god who ...