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Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror
The best of the 22 stories that H.P. Lovecraft scholar Joshi (The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos) has selected for this all-original anthology take their cue from the 20th-century horror master without slavishly imitating him. High points include Laird Barron's The Broadsword and William Browning Spencer's Usurped, cumulatively creepy studies of Lovecraft-style locales where inexplicable supernatural phenomena suggest an otherworldly dimension intersecting our own. Both Caitlín R. Kiernan's Pickman's Other Model (1929) and Brian Stableford's The Truth About Pickman riff neatly on Lovecraft's ghoulish classic Pickman's Model. Ramsey Campbell's unsettling The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash encapsulates the entirety of Lovecraft's unique ambitions as a horror writer in the rambling letters of one of his unbalanced (fictional) correspondents. A few tales are too insular to be appreciated by any but hardcore Lovecraft fans.
The work of H. P. Lovecraft continues to inspire many of the leading contemporary authors of horror and the supernatural. In this anthology, S. T. Joshi, the world’s leading expert on Lovecraft and the author of the lively treatise The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos, tries his hand at assembling a modern-day Lovecraftian anthology, casting his net on both sides of the Atlantic and producing a volume that radically expands our notions of what constitutes “Lovecraftian” fiction.*Caitlín R. Kiernan, Brian Stableford, and Nicholas Royle produce innovative deconstructions of Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model” and “The Hound.” Michael Shea transfers the Cthulhu Mythos to San Francisco, Laird Barron and Philip Haldeman set their Lovecraftian horrors in the Pacific Northwest, and Donald R. Burleson and William Browning Spencer enliven the parched Southwest with cosmic monsters. Ramsey Campbell, Jonathan Thomas, Jason Van Hollander, and others make Lovecraft himself a character in tales of cosmic menace, while David J. Schow and Michael Cisco ring new changes on the Lovecraftian concept of the forbidden book. These and other stories by Michael Marshall Smith, Norman Partridge, W. H. Pugmire, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Darrell Schweitzer, Donald R. and Mollie L. Burleson, Sam Gafford, and Adam Niswander all reveal how vital and vibrant the Lovecraftian idiom remains . . . and how terrifying.*S. T. Joshi is a leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft and the author of The Weird Tale (1990), The Modern Weird Tale (2001), The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos (2008), and other critical and biographical studies. His biography, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (1996), won the British Fantasy Award and the Horror Writers Association award; it has now been published in an unabridged edition as I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2010). Joshi has prepared corrected editions of Lovecraft’s fiction, poetry, and essays, and is working on a long-range project to publish Lovecraft’s collected letters. He has also done work on Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, Lord Dunsany, and other writers. He has received the World Fantasy Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. He lives in Seattle, Washington, with his wife, Leslie, and numerous cats.
In introducing this exceptional set of original horror tales, editor Joshi places a little extra emphasis on the term Lovecraftian to describe its contents. Instead of simply mimicking Lovecraft’s distinctive gothic style or spinning stock variations on his famous Cthulhu Mythos, the contributors use Lovecraft as their inspiration for a breathtaking range of colorful new ideas and literary styles. Laird Barron and Philip Haldeman abandon Lovecraft’s New England to put their Lovecraftian monsters in the Pacific Northwest, while William Browning Spencer and Donald R. Burleson place theirs in the Southwest. A hard-boiled crime story is followed by stories of psychological terror and some in which Lovecraft himself is a character. Standouts include Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “Pickman’s Other Model,” wherein sketches by Lovecraft’s eccentric painter are discovered depicting a disgraced actress’ true, bestial nature; and Stanley C. Sargent’s “Black Brat of Dunwich,” which cleverly deconstructs Lovecraft’s classic “The Dunwich Horror,” about a half-human creature lurking in rural New England. The high level of craftsmanship throughout will delight even horror fans completely unfamiliar with Lovecraft.
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