Why Finally? This one’s a finally! on two levels: one, of course, is that I said I was going to finish reading the book weeks ago—I think I even mentioned it here on the Omelet. The other is “Finally! Check out this anthology of Lovecraftian fiction, poetry and art all created by women.”
The Premise: See above.
H.P. Lovecraft is a hard author to like, given the man’s egregious racist and classist opinions and the way he spread adjectives around his stories like a thick layer of peanut butter. (It can be hard when reading Lovecraft not to reach a point in the prose where you think,”You know what? If it’s so darned indescribable, maybe stop trying to describe it.”)
My own liking for Lovecraft is partly personal: I can’t consider the author, a funny-looking bookish person with unstable parents and a sense that he arrived in this world when the good part was already over, without feeling that there but for the grace of Cthulhu go I. When your family dynamics start trending toward the Gothic, it’s easy to wonder if the monster is already lurking inside you, and that idea forms the basis of so much of Lovecraft’s work. (More prosaically, Lovecraft was at the center of my most memorable high-school slacking: I’m pretty sure everyone in my English class thought I was reading The Master Builder for our group project, but I stumbled onto “The Rats in the Walls” instead and faked my way through the Ibsen report. The story’s still kind of about architecture, I guess.)
She Walks in Shadows collects several current authors’ spins on stories and ideas in the Lovecraft mythos, punctuated by black-and-white artwork. Check out the page at Innsmouth Free Press for more information and a peek at the content.
The Verdict(s): The trouble with evaluating stories written “in the spirit of ____” is that you find yourself basing your opinion on both the quality of the stories and on how much they draw from the original material you like best. A riff on a story I love is going to seem better than a riff on a story I think is okay, so let me say first that I enjoyed the entire book. My special favorites, though:
- “The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad,” Molly Tanzer’s take on “The Thing on the Doorstep” in which, as is so often the case, horror lives in high school;
- “Lavinia’s Wood” by Angela Slatter, a sort of prequel to “The Dunwich Horror” with more Whately family dynamics;
- Jilly Dreadful’s “De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae,” in which one of those ancient tomes that drive folks mad receives a proper cataloguing. (Stories about books are nearly always my favorites.)
For my taste, it could have used more Innsmouth, but I am obsessed with sea-people of all sorts.
Might go well with: An awful lot of things I’ve already written about. Also, Amazon Prime video has an updated adaptation of “The Thing on the Doorstep“ that’s worth checking out. Not as good as the story mentioned above, I thought, but interesting.
Next time: Robot season!