Lest you think that all we do here in Castle Blogferatu is lounge about watching movies all the live-long day, there’s also an impressive, if I do say so, library to be availed. In particular there’s a good deal of Lovecraft and works inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos.
Lovecraft is, of course, a troubling figure. The reach of his influence is undeniably far, but the man himself was a fairly rabid racist and xenophobe (it’s said that he later regretted and attempted to disavow such benighted attitudes).
The fact remains, though, that the world he created continues to be expanded on and added to, a practice that is unlikely to stop any time soon. So here’s a list of my Top 10 Cthulhu Mythos Stories Not By Lovecraft.
#10 Diana Of The Hundred Breasts (Robert Silverberg, 1996)
I must confess, I’m not the biggest Silverberg fan. Many years ago I bought a copy of Lord Valentine’s Castle based entirely on its cover. I have never finished it. Still, this story is engaging and touches on something I’ve thought about as a lecturer on mythology, and that’s the idea of the gods of myth and legend are in fact various Elder Gods (a sentiment shared, to ridiculous proportions, by folks like Giorgio Tsoukalos).
#9 Little Lady (J.C. Koch)
J.C. Koch is one of the numerous pen names used by Gini Koch. This particular story follows a group of bandits/thugs who have just burned down some small Western town and brought the survivor with them. She’s supposedly going to lead them away from any pursuers and on to safety. She intends to bring them to meet her “father,” and things very quickly become far more than they seem. The end of this story in particular is undoubtedly cosmic horror of the first order. I found it in an anthology called The Madness Of Cthulhu.
#8 Sticks (Karl Edward Wagner, 1974)
An illustrator happens upon some stick lattices whilst fishing in the Adirondacks. That’s just the beginning. What’s even more interesting about this is what we’ll see later in The Blair Witch Project and, even more strikingly, Season 1 of True Detective. Also interesting is that Wagner edited two books for, wait for it, Carcosa Press where Wagner saw the and apparently took inspiration from the illustrations of Lee Brown Coye.
#7 A Study In Emerald (Neil Gaiman, 2003)
I enjoyed the hell outta this story. Based (obviously) on “A Study In Scarlet,” it’s just so damn clever. I don’t wanna give too much away, but Holmes and Watson as well as Moriarty and Moran live in a Lovecraftian London. There’s some interesting role reversal in terms of character and narration, and the whole thing is just a helluvalot of fun.
#6 Bad Sushi (Cherie Priest, 2007)
I wrote about this a while back in Horror 365 Movie 97. John Pinette once did a bit about trying to lose weight and dreaming that Dr. Phil was outside yelling, “It’s not what you’re eating. It’s what’s eating you!” Indeed. Like The Stuff. In this case, an aging sushi chef, Baku, notices that something’s a little off about both the sushi he’s been preparing and the patrons who’ve been partaking of it. The careful reader will also be rewarded by a big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of clever cultural and Lovecraftian references. Bon appétit.
#5 Jerusalem’s Lot (Stephen King, 1978)
I mean, there had to be a Stephen King story on here. Night Shift is one of my all time favorite short story collections. This story is widely considered a prequel to ‘Salem’s Lot and is pretty much his homage to Lovecraft, almost as if King were trying to exorcise the influence of “The Rats In The Walls” by writing it out of his system. Very Lovecraft and maybe some of Stoker’s Lair Of The White Worm sprinkled lovingly throughout. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone told me Ken Russell read “Jerusalem’s Lot” in connection with his Stoker adaptation as well. Jus’ sayin’.
#4 The Big Fish (Jack Yeovil, 1993)
Kim Newman writes under this name. I first ran across him on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments as well as at least one documentary about Video Nasties. This story does a fantastic job marrying detective fiction with Lovecraftian horror, better, in fact, than “A Study In Emerald.” That may be a personal note as I love noir every bit as much as horror, and Yeovil’s P.I. is much more Marlowe-esque. The story therefore becomes a kind of Murder My Sweet meets “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and Yeovil’s ear for that hardboiled Chandler-y dialogue is flawless.
#3 Pickman’s Other Model (1929) (Caitlín R. Kiernan, 2008)
This is another story from Horror 365 #97. It picks up shortly after where Pickman’s Model leaves off. Blackman, her narrator, is yet another a long line of ill-fated Lovecraft narrators: “the mind may not…simply forget the weird and dismaying revelations visited upon men and women who choose to ask forbidden questions.” It’s straight out of the Lovecraft playbook. It works well as a standalone story. It also works as a sequel, reading much like a finely executed second chapter to the source material.
#2 Fat Face (Michael Shea, 1997)
This one’s just straight up creepy as hell. A prostitute has her curiosity aroused by a face she sometimes sees in the window of a building she regularly passes. Eventually this curiosity gets the better of her, and she goes to satisfy it. The story is chock fulla Mythos standards: unexplainable attraction to the unknown, strange architecture, soft but unidentifiable strains of music. And for some reason, the description of Fat Face himself always reminds me of Butterball from Hellraiser.
#1 Flash Frame (Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 2010)
“The Yellow Wallpaper” freaked me out over the color yellow for a good long time, especially sickly, aged, decayed-looking yellow, the kind of yellow that pervades “Flash Frame,” Moreno-Garcia’s story of a cursed film which has many of the same effects on viewers as The King In Yellow has on readers. It’s a peculiarly haunting story, the kind that, once you start it, it takes a hold and won’t let go for a while. You start to get a sense of what this story is getting at if you watch Antrum or Fury Of The Demon, but ultimately they don’t come close to the grip “Flash Frame” will have on you. I don’t wanna spoil this for anyone, so I’m gonna stop here.
And that’s this week’s Top 10. Have you read any of these? What’s your favorite Lovecraftian fiction by other writers? Let me know in the Comments.