Black Wings: the Second Slap

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

As reviewed previously, S.T. Joshi’s original Black Wings of Cthulhu collection found him collecting a bunch of all-new original Cthulhu Mythos stories which, whilst a bit hit and miss, at least managed to be an interesting exploration of the breadth of the field and, to my eyes, ended up with a better batting average than more pulp-oriented collections.

I was happy to find that the second Black Wings collection managed to hit a higher overall standard than the original. Part of it is that it’s a little slimmer – Joshi realising that it’s better to have a slightly slimmer book with less poor stories in it than a fatter book with a worse hit-to-miss ratio. Part of it presumably comes from the fact that the original collection made Joshi’s name as a Mythos anthologist – which means that a greater spread of writers would then submit their stories to subsequent volumes, giving him a deeper bench to choose from.

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When Tourists Visit Goatswood…

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Made In Goatswood, published by Chaosium in 1995 and edited by Scott David Aniolowski, is much like Aniolowski’s later collection Singers of Strange Songs. Like that volume, it’s a tribute anthology of short stories by various authors honouring a significant figure in recent Lovecraftian writing; whereas Singers was a tribute to the highly hit-or-miss-prone Brian Lumley, Made In Goatswood is dedicated to the outright excellent Ramsey Campbell, and was compiled to celebrate his Guest of Honour Appearance at NecronomiCon 1995.

In some respects, Campbell made it a bit easier than Lumley for later hands to produce an anthology that hangs together thematically. Like Lumley, he’d invented his own swathe of Lovecraft-inspired horrors, but in addition to that he’d also invented his own geography of horror – a fictional region of the Severn Valley around the imaginary city of Brichester, a place similar enough to his Liverpool stamping grounds that he could write about it vividly but distant enough from reality to allow him to invent local histories of Roman occupation and ancient cults to suit the needs of his stories. Thus, all the stories here are set within the Severn Valley setting, which instantly offers a range of ties to Campbell’s body of Lovecraftian work as summed up in Cold Print.

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Nick-You’re-Not-The-One

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Back when Shim reviewed Black Wings of Cthulhu, Adrienne gave a recommendation for the work of Nick Mamatas, whose Cthulhu Mythos stories are compiled in the punningly named Nickronomicon from the Innsmouth Free Press. Both Shim and Adrienne were somewhat turned off the collection, however, due to reports that Mamatas’s horror is genuinely, well, horrific.

This, naturally, attracted me like a moth to a flame. Unfortunately, no enjoyable burning sensations were forthcoming, the end result feeling more like bumping up against a fluorescent light tube you’d thought was the sun. Let me dust off my wings and give you the lowdown…

To give Mamatas his due, he knows this territory well. He’s the sort of Lovecraft fan who has not only bothered to read the Selected Letters, but actually can mimic their style quite well, which turns out useful in those stories that play the “Lovecraft hit on something real” card (in itself an old standby of post-Lovecraft contributions to the Mythos). At the same time, he also has a fairly rounded view of the man and doesn’t set him above criticism – in particular, Mamatas refuses to deny Lovecraft’s well-documented racism, and appears to hold the (decidedly reasonable) position that The Horror At Red Hook is irredeemable trash.

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