Tuesday, June 10, 2014
H.P. Lovecraft's "One Froggy Evening"
England's Titan Books seems to have gotten into the H.P. Lovecraft business. Gratifyingly, their first two releases are the long-out-of-print tribute anthologies Shadows over Innsmouth and Weird Shadows over Innsmouth, both of which riff on Lovecraft's novella "The Shadow over Innsmouth" (which was retitled "The Weird Shadow over Innsmouth" for one American collection of the 1960's). A third anthology, Weirder Shadows over Innsmouth, came out in hardcover in late 2013, though Titan hasn't yet reprinted it in paperback.
I eagerly await Completely Normal Shadows over Innsmouth.
Most of the stories were original to the volume, with a couple of exceptions. Lovecraft's early 1930's novella about a New England coastal town inhabited by human/man-sized-frog hybrids really seems to strike a chord with a lot of writers. It's not my favourite Lovecraft novella, but it is a good time. And with the sea containing an awful lot of volume to contain multitudes of sinister, intelligent servants of the malign Great Old Ones, the novella offers a lot of avenues to explore. Or canals, to keep with the aquatic theme.
The Deep Ones are Lovecraft's ancient race of sentient amphibians, worshippers of Dagon, a demi-god-like lieutenant of the Great Old One Cthulhu, one of many beings with designs on Earth that don't include leaving humanity in charge. Or alive. The Deep Ones can produce viable offspring with human beings. Which is unusual, but so it goes. They apparently want some stuff they can only get from land-dwellers, so a pact is struck with a Yankee South Seas trader named Obed Marsh. He comes home to Innsmouth in the late 18th century having struck a pact with Deep Ones.
Consequently, Innsmouth goes to the frogs.
The stories riff in a fairly wide variety of ways on Innsmouthian horror and miscegenation. Some, like "From Cabinet 34, Drawer 6" by Caitlin R. Kiernan, cleverly offer stories seemingly set in the same universe as Lovecraft's original novella without slavishly imitating that novella in form or content (though Kiernan's non-linear approach to the narrative seems to me a bit of a mis-step). Others offer what could be called parallel situations, or variations on an aquatic theme -- Ramsey Campbell sends an English student-teacher on an ultimately unfortunate (though bleakly comic) detour into a mysteriously deserted village by the sea, while Paul McAuley offers up a terrifically entertaining story about a Bristol music festival where the bad drugs do a lot more damage than Woodstock's brown acid.
There are a couple of questionable inclusions here, but the problems are minimal compared to a lot of Lovecraft-themed anthologies. And the delights, whether a history-twisting, metafictionally tinged outing from Kim Newman or Brian Lumley's bleak "The Taint", are many. Highly recommended.