Dexter and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Real Estate Deal: Tim Pratt’s “Cinderlands”

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 Tim Pratt’s “Cinderlands,” first published in the Drabblecast podcast in August 2010. Spoilers ahead.

“The lemons were small, and while they were yellow, it was less the yellow of cartoon suns and more the yellow of jaundiced skin or nicotine-stained teeth.”

Summary

Close to the end:

Dexter West wakes to the sound of claws on the hardwood floor of the apartment above—no. He’s moved into a house of his own; the noise is coming from the heating duct in his walk-in closet. He presses an ear to the metal and listens to the scuttle of tiny claws. Rats. In the duct. Or in the walls? He should get a cat. Back ...

Have No Fear, Or Else: Francis Stevens’s “Unseen – Unfeared”

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 Francis Stevens’s (a.k.a. Gertrude Barrows Bennett’s) “Unseen – Unfeared,” first published in February 10, 1919 issue of People’s Favorite Magazine. You can read it more recently in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Weird anthology. Spoilers ahead.

“My eyes fixed themselves, fascinated, on something that moved by the old man’s feet. It writhed there on the floor like a huge, repulsive starfish, an immense, armed, legged thing, that twisted convulsively.”

Summary

Narrator Blaisdell dines with detective Jenkins in a low-rent Italian restaurant near South Street. Jenkins chats about old Doc Holt, recently implicated in a poisoning murder. Only reason Holt was under suspicion was he lives amongst superstitious people, who swear he ...

Worse Than an Evil Twin: Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson”

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 Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson,” first published in the October 1839 issue of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. You can read it more recently in Lovecraft’s Monsters. Spoilers ahead.

“Gasping for breath, I lowered the lamp in still nearer proximity to the face. Were these—these the lineaments of William Wilson?”

Summary

William Wilson (not his real name, for that has become an object of scorn, horror and detestation due to the unpardonable criminality of his later years) feels the shadow of Death creep over him, and he now longs to explain what made him leap from relatively trivial wickedness to “the enormities of an Elah-Gabalus.” Hence this narrative.

Unopposed by weak-minded ...

Understanding the Reptilian Nature of the Divine: Robert Silverberg’s “Diana of the Hundred Breasts”

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 Robert Silverberg’s “Diana of the Hundred Breasts,” first published in the February 1996 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Spoilers ahead.

“And for a moment—just a moment—I seemed to hear a strange music, an eerie high-pitched wailing sound like the keening of elevator cables far, far away.”

Summary

Tim Walker’s on his annual tour of Mediterranean ruins. He can afford to prowl the world without profession because, like older brother Charlie, he’s lucked into a seven-figure trust fund. Charlie’s also a genius with movie-star good looks, winner of trophies and prom queens, now a renowned professor of archaeology leading a dig at Ephesus. Tim’s always felt like “Charlie-minus, an inadequate simulacrum of the genuine ...

Othniel Marsh, (Probably) No Relation: Caitlín Kiernan’s “A Mountain Walked”

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 Caitlín Kiernan’s “A Mountain Walked,” first published in 2014 in S.T. Joshi’s The Madness of Cthulhu anthology. Spoilers ahead.

“What was witnessed, for all its horror, I cannot wish to forget as it hints at a world even more distant and ultimately impervious to our understanding than the bygone ages and their fauna hinted at by our diggings.”

Summary

We read, verbatim, excerpts from the field journal of Arthur Lakes, made during an expedition to the Wyoming Territory in 1879. At Como Bluffs, with the assistance of “bone sharp” Bill Reed, Lakes and party have been unearthing the fossil treasures of the Jurassic and Cretaceous. At night the fellows tell tall tales ...

Monsters Bearing Bouquets: R.A. Kaelin’s “Mnemeros”

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 R.A. Kaelin’s “Mnemeros,” first published in 2015 in Lynn Jamneck’s Dreams From the Witch House anthology. Spoilers ahead.

“Some names are like keys; they swing doors wide open that are best left shut.”

Summary

Leah Byrd recalls her youth in a rural Texas rotten with ghost towns. With the nearest “live” town two hours away, she made her own entertainment exploring abandoned buildings for relics like bent branding irons and old medicine bottles.

Her best leads come from an old “River Rat.” He tells her about strange carved stones down by the Brazos River, which were there before the Comanches. ‘Course, you don’t touch ‘em, or the tarry stuff they drip. ...

Honor Thy Oozy, Headless Ancestor: Clark Ashton Smith’s “Ubbo-Sathla”

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 Clark Ashton Smith’s “Ubbo-Sathla,” first published in the July 1933 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

“Moment by moment, the flowing vision in the crystal became more definite and distinct, and the orb itself deepened till he grew giddy, as if he were peering from an insecure height into some never-fathomed abyss.”

Summary

The Book of Eibon supplies our epigraph: a description of Ubbo-Sathla, the featureless demiurge that dwelt upon Earth before even the Great Old Ones arrived. It spawned “the grey, formless efts…and the grisly prototypes of terrene life” which must one day return to it through the “great circle of time.”

A few years along that great circle, ...

You Wish It Were Forty-Two: Algernon Blackwood’s “The Man Who Found Out”

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 Algernon Blackwood’s “The Man Who Found Out,” first published in the December 1912 issue of The Canadian Magazine. Spoilers ahead.

“Here, in all the homely, friendly turmoil of a Charing Cross crowd, a curious feeling of cold passed over his heart, touching his life with icy finger, so that he actually trembled and felt afraid.”

Summary

In Professor Mark Ebor is found that rarest of combinations, the esteemed scientist and the earnest mystic. His contributions to biology are great, his “optimistic, stimulating little books” published under the pen-name “Pilgrim” eagerly awaited. Only his publishers and his assistant Dr. Laidlaw know the scientist and visionary are one and the same. Laidlaw respects ...

Sucking the Life Right Out of the Room: Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “Luella Miller”

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 Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “Luella Miller,” first published in the December 1902 issue of Everybody’s Magazine. Spoilers ahead.

“‘Yes,’ says I, ‘she’s killin’ herself. She’s goin’ to die just the way Erastus did, and Lily, and your Aunt Abby. You’re killin’ her jest as you did them. I don’t know what there is about you, but you seem to bring a curse,’ says I. ‘You kill everybody that is fool enough to care anythin’ about you and do for you.’”

Summary

From villagers old enough to remember Luella Miller to children born long after her death, all fear and shun her former home. None will enter the unassuming one-story house, much less ...

Resistance is Futile: Peter Watts’s “The Things”

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 Peter Watts’s “The Things,” first published in the January 2010 issue of Clarkesworld. Spoilers ahead.

Trigger warning for rape as a (possibly very apt) metaphor.

 

“Mutinous biomass sloughed off despite my most desperate attempts to hold myself together: panic-stricken little clots of meat, instinctively growing whatever limbs they could remember and fleeing across the burning ice.”

Summary

The scene is Antarctica, and a US research station in turmoil. Our narrator gives no name for itself but many names for the “skins” it’s currently “being”: Blair escaping into a rising storm, Copper rising from the dead, Childs guarding the main entrance. Not that names matter; all biomass is interchangeable.

This world ...

Never Mess With the Trees: Algernon Blackwood’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 Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows,” first published in his 1907 collection, The Listener and Other Stories. Spoilers ahead.

“The sense of remoteness from the world of human kind, the utter isolation, the fascination of this singular world of willows, winds, and waters, instantly laid its spell upon us both, so that we allowed laughingly to one another that we ought by rights to have held some special kind of passport to admit us, and that we had, somewhat audaciously, come without asking leave into a separate little kingdom of wonder and magic—a kingdom that was reserved for the use of others who had a right to it, with everywhere unwritten warnings to trespassers ...

Let Me Tell You About My Dream: H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Very Old Folk”

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 H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Very Old Folk,” first appearing as a letter to Donald Wandrei on November 3 1927, and first published in the Summer 1940 issue of Scienti-Snaps. Spoilers ahead.

“For many nights there had been a hollow drumming on the hills, and at last the ædile Tib. Annæus Stilpo (half native in blood) had sent to Balbutius at Calagurris for a cohort to stamp out the Sabbath on the terrible night.”

Summary

This story is epistolary because, well, it’s a letter. A real nonfictional letter, from Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, whom he addresses as “Melmoth,” bedeviled immortal wanderer of Charles Maturin’s Gothic classic. Lovecraft’s been reading a new-to-him translation ...

Luckily I Understood Coptic Perfectly Well That Night: Theophile Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot”

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 Theophile Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot” (“Le Pied de momie”), first published in the September 1840 issue of Le Musée des familles. We read the translation by Lafcadio Hearn. Spoilers ahead.

“…I placed the foot of the divine Princess Hermonthis upon a heap of papers scribbled over with verses, in themselves an undecipherable mosaic work of erasures; articles freshly begun; letters forgotten, and posted in the table drawer instead of the letter-box, an error to which absent-minded people are peculiarly liable. The effect was charming, bizarre, and romantic.”

Summary

Our narrator, a young writer in mid-nineteenth century Paris, idly enters a dusty bric-a-brac shop, hoping to find a paperweight more interesting than ...

Everything’s Cyclopean: Laird Barron’s “Shiva, Open Your Eye”

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 Laird Barron’s “Shiva, Open Your Eye,” first published in the September 2001 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and later collected in Barron’s The Imago Sequence and Other Stories. Spoilers ahead.

“A majority of the things I might tell are secrets. Therefore, I shall not reveal them whole and glistening. Also, some things are kept from me, discomfiting as that particular truth may be.”

Summary

Our narrator is an old man. A very very very old man. As he opens his tale, he’s living on a farm in Washington State, about to receive a visitor claiming to be a property assessor. Narrator knows better. Knowing better is one ...

Gardens at the End of the World: John Langan’s “The Shallows”

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 “The Shallows,” first published in 2010 in Cthulhu’s Reign. Spoilers ahead.

“The vast rectangle that occupied the space where his neighbor’s green-sided house had stood, as well as everything to either side of it, dimmed, then filled with the rich blue of the tropical sky.”

Summary

Over his daily mug of instant coffee, Ransom chats with his sole companion, the crab resident in his kitchen sink. “Crab” may just be a convenient label for the creature, which with its extra set of carapace-top limbs is no earthly decapod. Thirty yards to one side of Ransom’s house, where his neighbor’s house used to be, ripples a curtain of pale light extending as ...

I Was Into Sanity-Destroying Texts Before They Were Cool: Robin Laws’s “Full Bleed”

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 Robin Laws’s “Full Bleed,” first published in his New Tales of the Yellow Sign collection in 2012. Spoilers ahead.
“Portfolio sitting out on table. I flip it open. Glimpsed sketch may refer to text: a face that may be a mask, or may be monstrous.”

Summary Unnamed female [probably –RE] narrator works for an unnamed agency, and these are her surveillance notes on subject Michael Aubret. Aubret frequents a hip Toronto cafe called Profundity, where he hangs out with other wannabe artists, clutching a portfolio about which narrator is deeply curious. She establishes herself as a Profundity regular to infiltrate Aubret’s social circle. Though the hipsters gabble endlessly, no one mentions “the ...

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Lacy Frock: Kishin Houkou Demonbane

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, to celebrate our 150th post (and definitely not our 151st), we’re covering Lovecraftian mecha anime Kishin Houkou Demonbane. The Original Video Animation, directed by Shintaro Inokawa, was released from ViewWorks in July 2004. The animated series, written by Yōsuke Kuroda and directed by Hidetoshi Yoshida, aired May-August 2006 on WOWOW. Spoilers ahead. Both are based on a Nitroplus game first released in 2003, which neither of us has played, but which commenter RushThatSpeaks assures us is deeply NSFW. The game series has continued since, and there has also been a novel series running from 2003 through the present.
“A pure and foul ceremony is about to revive.”

Summary Kurou Daijuji was ...

How to Investigate Cthulhu on Ten Dollars a Day With Your Sanity Intact

This is definitely not the 150th post of the Lovecraft Reread. For post #150, we’re going to be covering Kishin Houkou Demonbane, which we* finally found a malware-free version of in the restricted stacks at Miskatonic. But we haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, so this isn’t post #150, quod erat demonstrandum. Ruthanna hasn’t had the chance because she vastly overestimated her ability to get work done in Australia, where she was definitely not searching the vast deserts for buried pre-human ruins, and certainly didn’t find anything. And Anne claims to be “overbooked,” which has nothing to do with forbidden tomes of any sort… ANNE (meandering in from the deepest stacks of forbidden, um, perfectly innocent tomes): This post is indeed not 150, because it exists in a bubble universe we created for the express purpose of getting time to watch Demonbane, a most ...

How to Investigate Cthulhu on Ten Dollars a Day With Your Sanity Intact

This is definitely not the 150th post of the Lovecraft Reread. For post #150, we’re going to be covering Kishin Houkou Demonbane, which we* finally found a malware-free version of in the restricted stacks at Miskatonic. But we haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, so this isn’t post #150, quod erat demonstrandum. Ruthanna hasn’t had the chance because she vastly overestimated her ability to get work done in Australia, where she was definitely not searching the vast deserts for buried pre-human ruins, and certainly didn’t find anything. And Anne claims to be “overbooked,” which has nothing to do with forbidden tomes of any sort… ANNE (meandering in from the deepest stacks of forbidden, um, perfectly innocent tomes): This post is indeed not 150, because it exists in a bubble universe we created for the express purpose of getting time to watch Demonbane, a most ...

How Not to Handle Rejection Letters: M.R. James’s “Casting the Runes”

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 M. R. James’s “Casting the Runes,” first published in 1911 in his More Ghost Stories collection. Spoilers ahead.
“Dear Sir, — I am requested by the Council of the ___ Association to return to you the draft of a paper on The Truth of Alchemy, which you have been good enough to offer to read at our forthcoming meeting, and to inform you that the Council do not see their way to including it in the programme.”

Summary Mr. Karswell of Lufford Abbey, self-styled wizard, isn’t happy about the rejection of his paper on alchemy. Not happy at all, as the secretary of the rejecting Association tells his wife. At lunch ...