Reader’s Choice

Since today is basically a free day to work on your final project, I have only one question to ask: what is the best Lovecraftian story or novel you’ve come across lately? It doesn’t have to be from the man himself, just something in that vein that piqued your interest.

I’m never exactly on the cutting edge, so I only recently read the graphic novel version of Stephen King’s short story “N.” It was decidedly Lovecraftian in nature – and it had interesting art. It was posted as an animated series on the web before it came out as a graphic novel, but I didn’t know that until a few weeks ago. I can’t vouch for the animated version, but both the short story and the graphic novel adaptation are engaging.

I can also recommend “The Terror” by Dan Simmons. With an arctic expedition gone horribly awry, and something horrible and unknown out on the ice…it seems to fit. It’s partially based on a historical expedition, too. (Wait, did we mention that last year? I can’t remember.)

What have you been reading?

About Headmistress

Sarah L. Crowder, current headmistress of Vacation Necronomicon School, was once a pupil at the prestigious Miskatonic Academy for Girls -- though she did not graduate, as the school closed under mysterious circumstances shortly before her studies were completed. She spent many years contemplating both the arcane arts and hidden dimensions of commonplace life, and now lends her talents to our little online haven for workaday scholars.
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5 Responses to Reader’s Choice

  1. Paul says:

    Something I would heartily recommend is Guy Davis’ The Marquis.

    Our hero is not young and handsome, our hero works both for an evil power (the Church as an Inquisitor), and for an evil, yet oppositional power (Satan). Goodness does not appear to exist in the world of The Marquis, which reminds me somewhat of Lovecraft’s world, with the conflict between the various gods of dubious morality.

  2. Nina says:

    I’ve made an effort to read the major works of Gothic fiction (Poe, the Brontes, Lewis, LeFanu, Maturin, Shelley, Stoker, Radcliffe, Hawthorne, etc.) , but I found there was a genre I hadn’t covered: Urban Mysteries. The Gothic genre was winding down by the 1840′s, for obvious reasons: medieval castles imprisoning wronged virgins were no longer very relevant, and no one could possibly read another book with a dungeon full of skeletons. However, in 1843 Eugene Sue wrote a book called “The Mysteries of Paris” that became a massive bestseller: it mixed real and thinly-disguised fictional characters in sinister conspiracies set in places in Paris familiar to all readers. No one had thought to make a big busy city the site of invisible and unspeakable horrors, so it struck a thrilling chord in urban readers and was enthusiastically copied by hack authors for every big city in Europe and America. The problem was that most of these novels were pretty dismal: there aren’t that many vices to serve up freshly horrible day after day.

    That’s where Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein comes in. He was a German ne’er-do-well sent by his family to make his fortune in America, only he never really buckled down, selling birdcages, working as a surveyor, dabbling in journalism, and collecting insects. He published his scandalous novel “The Mysteries of New Orleans” in installments in one of New Orleans’s German-language newspapers beginning in 1854 (where it lay forgotten until recently). What makes Reizenstein’s “Mysteries” worth reading is: first, while he wasn’t the greatest of fiction writers, he was a fine journalist, and his picture of New Orleans in the 1850s pulsates with life: poor children scavenging outside warehouses for fallen coffee beans, women selling goat’s milk from carts, mixed-race prostitutes plying one of the few trades open to them, and thieves mixing with new immigrants in slums threatened by fire and yellow fever. This portrait would be interesting in itself but is especially poignant now, with New Orleans lost yet again. Secondly, Reizenstein described “America” almost entirely through its immigrant populations; most coming from somewhere else unwillingly or in order to remake themselves, and in their bustling interactions, of Scots with Frenchmen, Germans with slaves, they form a uniquely “American” picture of city life. Thirdly, his sympathetic portrayal of homosexuality and lesbianism were unique for the time and place (he was probably gay and his mother was probably lesbian). Finally, while most of the other “Mysteries” dealt with garden-variety vices and secrets, this book had a very serious core: Reizenstein was horrified by slavery, and the novel’s plot was driven by a fast-approaching Apocalypse to purge the earth of this sin.

    The book is too long, and drags in the last half, when we spend *much* too much time following blue-eyed, blond-braided 7-yr-old Gertrude as she collects Spanish moss for bedding as her immigrant family, through no fault of their own, sinks into poverty. Angelic Gertrude begins to pall and you wish a horrible death for her, but: guess what? Reizenstein gives her one! He sees slavery as an evil that transcends ordinary morality and dooms both evil and ordinary well-meaning people to damnation. His anger is startling. While “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was forceful in its depiction of slavery’s evil, its good characters went to heaven: Reizenstein spares no one. “Mysteries of New Orleans” is certainly one of the most interesting Gothic horror books I’ve ever read.

  3. Borrowind says:

    H.G. Wells’s _The Time Machine_ (1895) was so enjoyable that I wrote a sequel to it, _The Time Machine: A Sequel_. Early Wells, although generally thought of today as a vaguely dusty and steampunky science-fiction writer, has the same interesting blend of science-fiction and atmospheric non-gore horror as Lovecraft does. As with Lovecraft he was seeking to get away from the old fashion stock shockers (vampires, werewolves, devil worshipers etc), and find new approaches for the fantastic. For those with Kindles, and in anticipation of reading through it myself, I recently put together a collection of the classic early Wells (works from 1895-1910) that has all you need in one bundle…

    Wells led me to Stephen Baxter and his _The Time Ships_ (1995), a sort-of-fun sequel to _The Time Machine_, although it only really becomes a true sequel (and in a rather dull and unimaginative manner, possibly due to the book being officially sanctioned by the Wells estate) in the last few chapters of the book. It’s quite fun getting to those chapters though, although there’s a load of tedious padding. But it was impressive enough that it led me to look at Baxter’s Xeelee Series. I’m enjoying (slowly, since I started into it six months ago now) working my way through Stephen Baxter’s long and still-growing Xeelee series of hard science fiction. If you read in sequential order…

    …then you’ll stumble early on onto some padding and tediously interpersonal bits (“publisher-driven doorstopper books that have been padded so much they can be skim-read” is Baxter’s unfortunate approach to making a book, far too often), but the mind-blowingly ‘cosmic’ ideas are certainly there once you get into it, and in abundance although not presented with Lovecraftian subtlety since this is hard SF. The ideas and cosmic sweep are what you read Baxter. He’s also interesting on the multifarious changes that humanity would need to undergo, both mentally and physically, in order to colonise the galaxy.

  4. Borrowind says:

    Oh, and I read an excellent non-fiction book recently that was quite a horror-story in its own way – Thomas Sowell’s _Intellectuals and Society_.

  5. Headmistress says:

    @Paul – I will definitely check that out – the art looks fantastic.

    @Nina – Wow, those both sound really intriguing, especially “Mysteries of New Orleans.” New Orleans has always been a very different sort of place – but so much of the history I’ve read about it has been focused on prominent figures. It will be nice to see a lower class day-to-day depiction.

    @Borrowind – Wells is definitely fun (even for those not interested in steampunk), but I have only read the famous novels. I will definitely check out the early stuff and “The Time Ships.” That Xeelee series looks intimidating in its complexity and length, though! Is there any one volume to recommend above the others? I hadn’t heard of the Sowell book. I have a cyclical pattern of reading – a few years of all fiction, a few years of non-fiction…and I’m in my total fiction phase right now. I’ll make a note of it until I’m back into my non-fiction phase. But thank you for all of the recommendations…


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