Posts tagged Robert E Howard
Though I grew up in the era that saw the rise of Dungeons&Dragons as a cultural touchstone, I was largely clueless about the genre it drew most if not all of its cues from. An example: I had no idea what those kids were playing when I saw E.T.: The Extraterrestrial as a boy.
I thought it was some kind of club meeting or something, and wondered when the spaceships were gonna show up. (I suppose it was a club meeting, after a fashion. And I was always waiting for spaceships to show up, anywhere.) This remained the trend into my teens: I was more into Heinlein than Hickman, more Bradbury than Brooks, more PKD than Piers Anthony.
When I did finally get into Sword & Sorcery, it was only through the British New Wave, and the work of Michael Moorcock, especially…
And back from there, to Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories, to REH and Conan, and finally to Clark Ashton Smith, who I was learning about at the same time I was first encountering HPL. And even then, I burned out on Sword & Sorcery early, finding the majority of the stuff (aside from the greats already mentioned) to be derivative and dull. It’s a genre of necessarily broad strokes, easily becoming a parody of itself.
So, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Sword & Mythos, the new anthology from Innsmouth Free Press that melds S&S with the cosmic beasties and themes of HPLs world and worldview. The Cthulhu Mythos is itself a genre (or a thematic idea that attaches itself to genres, leech-like) that crumbles into pastiche in less-than-sensitive hands.
Thankfully, the diverse hands at work here are sensitive indeed, and editors Moreno-Garcia and Stiles have collected stories that are thoughtful, energetic, creative fusions that are (with one exception) a joy to read, and I’m happy to report there’s not a blonde-headed reaver of the standard S&S type anywhere.
Locales and times visited here range from Africa (Maurice Broaddus’ The Iron Hut and Thana Niveau’s The Call of the Dreaming Moon), ancient Palestine (Ed Erdelac’s incredibly muscular and horrific The Wood of Ephraim), primal Mesoamerica (Nelly Geraldine Garcia-Rosas’ creepy In Xochitl In Cuicatl In Shub-Niggurath), the island nations of Java (Nadia Bulkin’s regal Truth is Order and Order is Truth), and imperial China (the tone-perfect and truly excellent The Sorrow of Qingfeng by Grey Yuen), to more mythic zones: Arthur’s Britain (Adrian Chamberlin’s The Serpents of Albion), the Carcosa of Chambers (Sun Sorrow by Paul Jessup), and an interdimensional hell-realm ruled over by an avatar of Nyarlathotep (E. Catherine Tobler’s And After the Fire, A Still Small Voice).
This latter tale was a standout for me, and a good example of what makes Sword & Mythos such a good collection: Tobler’s heroine here is someone familiar to readers who know their history, and the tragic nature of her plight, and the nuanced way Tobler hints at her identity and reveals her character through the narrative is masterful. (I won’t spoil the reveal.) This mastery is on display in most every selection here, whether it’s used in the service of humourous broad-chested bombast (Balogun Ojetade’s Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises), revealing the terrible costs of sorcerous contracts (Spirit Forms of the Sea by Bogi Takács), or cleverly deconstructing the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Jon Carver of Barzoon, You Misunderstood by Graham J. Darling) and fairy-tale tropes (Orrin Grey‘s little gem, The Bones of Heroes). Each author’s mash-up of the genres is fresh and interesting, and their characters are anything but cookie-cutter Conans. There are plenty of strong women (I do not mean the execrable Strong Female Character), fully eight of the fifteen tales have female protagonists; and people of every race (human and otherwise) besides. This is an anthology that attempts, and I believe succeeds, in presenting a very wide world to the reader. “Myopic” is one thing Sword & Mythos is not, which is incredible, considering the subject matter.
The only exception to this rule, in my reading, was an irritating tale by the prolific William Meikle, No Sleep for the Just. This featured a sentient blade and its English master/slave versus a fairly standard Dagon cult. I’ve enjoyed Meikle’s stuff elsewhere, but here he employs a stylistic tic of italicizing certain words again and again (the sword is constantly thrumming, there are fish, and things, and so on), an amateurish effect that pulled me right out of the story. Maybe it’s my early exposure to the cult of Moorcock, but the living sword here could have been done so much better, as it is in the other, superior tale here, Jessup’s Sun Sorrow. Diana L. Paxson’s Light was similarly clunky, but I put that down to the modern day setting (an archaeologists dig, manned by at least two SCA members, possibly more, and referencing that organization at least once) meshing poorly with elder Norse mythology more than anything else, and it is nowhere near as grating as Meikle’s entry.
Sword & Mythos finishes up with a quintet of short essays on the literary underpinnings, historical and otherwise, of both genres. Highlights here are G. W. Thomas and his Conan and the Cthulhu Mythos (a nice breakdown of the partnership-on-the-page of REH and HPL); editor Paula R. Stiles marks out the fine lines of the genre in What’s So Great About Sword and Planet?; and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia has some fun with the Mexican comic-books of her youth in Spanish Conan: Manos, Guerrero Indomito.
Another great anthology from Innsmouth Free Press, easily one of the best small presses out there. Recommended. You can purchase the print edition directly from IFP and the title is also available in e-book formats (I strongly urge you to go print on this one: as with all IFP titles, it’s a very nicely put together book.)
Scott R Jones is the author of the short story collections Soft from All the Blood and The Ecdysiasts, as well as the non-fiction When the Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality. His poetry and prose have appeared in Innsmouth Magazine, Cthulhu Haiku II, Broken City Mag, and upcoming in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.
So, I trust we’ve all gotten over our sticky prudishness re: the intersection of Lovecraft’s Mythos/general philosophy and the vast and pulsing arena of human (and non-human) sexuality? Yes? Good. Moving on! Here are my Top 5 picks (and one Honourable Mention) for the Sexiest Lovecraftian Stories…
Le Ciél Overt by Kirsten Brown
For me, Lovecraftian sexuality is all about going that extra mile, y’know? What swims in those black seas of infinity, and more importantly, what are it’s turn-ons and turn-offs? I’m not a post-coital cuddler by any stretch, but will it call me in the morning? I’m omni-sexual in my literary tastes, and trans-humanist everywhere else, so I like any erotica that takes me Beyond the usual limitations of form and function. In Brown’s story here, the narrator explores a dead zone in Lovecraft’s Arkham where an extra-dimensional incursion took place years before. There are hints and signs, teasing evidence of a Presence, and the Big Reveal triggers a reaction in the narrator that made me clap my hands with joy. I may have even said you go, girl! which is a completely atypical thing for me to do. Great story. You can check it out in the amazing anthology from Dagan Books, Cthulhurotica.
5. The Black Stone by Robert E Howard
For me, this is the story that started it all. My whole weird-erotica experience has its germination right here, in the wild hills above Stregoicavar. Witch-cult orgies beneath cyclopean stone pillars? Blood and sacrifice? Hellish visions visited upon wandering poets? Hideous toad-deities getting off to the whole sordid display? Hells yes. Howard’s story has it all.
I was so taken with The Black Stone that when a girlfriend asked me to write her “something hot and weird” I couldn’t help but head up into those hills. That was six years ago, Tracey is long gone (miss you, hun!), and the short piece I wrote then has been expanded into the Blackstone Erotica series. Now, as a story, The Black Stone is not all that erotic (though Howard’s muscular action style does help it along) but it’s hints and florid description of awful things done in service to even more awful things from Beyond make it a classic. You can find this one in a bunch of decent anthologies.
4. Infernal Attractors by Cody Goodfellow
Two words: Tillinghast Resonator. You’d have to be some kind of dyed-in-the-wool uber-prude to miss the sexy-fun-times implications of the dimensional barrier-bustin’ device that features in Lovecraft’s story From Beyond. A harmonic machine that allows the user to see the alien beings that “float and flop loathsomely” through the very air and matter of their mundane reality? Come on. It’s the through part that filmmakers like Stuart Gordon and authors like Cody Goodfellow have rightly fixated on: the Tillinghast Resonator is the ultimate sex toy.
In Infernal Attractors, a femme fatale enlists the aid (well, it’s more of an enslavement) of a nebbish-y engineer to help her construct a Resonator, with a singular goal: to finally locate, lay, and in the end, destroy, the ultra-telluric fuck-beast that’s been feeding off her sexual energy since puberty. Some of the language in this story is completely psychedelic and transcendent, the descriptions of transhumanist congress with demonic phantom-crustaceans is totally transporting. It is a sexual chakrapocalypse painted in neon colours and glowing at full strength, with a great Lovecraftian ending, too. Beautiful. This one shows up in Cthulhurotica as well, and it’s easily one of the strongest tales in there.
3. Babymama by Kenton Hall
Full disclosure: this tale is brand-spanking new, from a brand-spanking new writer, and I chose to include it in the weird-erotic anthology I edited earlier this year, Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath. Hall grabs the reader by the delicates in the very first line and doesn’t let go through a torturous narrative of raw sex and stripped-to-the-bone emotions. It’s all very real, very literate, very immediate and visceral. Also, hot. The narrator, and the personification of his libido (which he names Steve) meet the girl of their dreams, and one thing leads to another, and then another, and another. The question posed by Brown in Le Ciél Overt is answered here: what happens when you fuck a god? What happens to you? Nothing good, but possibly something better than good. I loved this one immediately, with it’s deft examination of the plurality in us all, and I hope to read more from Hall in future.
2. The River of Night’s Dreaming by Karl Edward Wagner
This is technically a King In Yellow/Carcosa tale by Wagner, and not specifically Lovecraftian, but the sense of dread, cosmic ennui, creeping madness, and forbidden lusts satisfied in dark rooms really does it for me. It has a wonderfully Victorian-era repressive feel to it: corsets and straightjackets, outer social niceties binding an inner world of insanity and incest. Think The Pearl, but written in the world of Chamber’s The Repairer of Reputations. Something, too, about all the evocative King In Yellow name-checking… Cassilda, Constance, Castaigne, the C’s and S’s just drip off the tongue, sliding through a slick narrative with ophidian ease. Dig it. This story shows up in The Hastur Cycle from Chaosium and I’ve just learned it was also made into an episode of the cheesy Canadian/British softcore/horror TV series, The Hunger. I… I probably won’t watch that. You go ahead, if you want.
1. Ink by Bernie Mojzes
Mojzes’ story takes a while to get into, but it’s worth the somewhat tough initial slog through what feels like a derivative noir potboiler. A girl goes missing, the mother hires a detective to track her down, and what he finds is an Eldritch Abomination that holds a kind of transhumanist sexual court in a seedy bar near the river. Again, getting it on with a Great Old One: what is that even like?
In answering that question, it’s important to me that the story not simply devolve into standard hentai. Much as the inclusion of tentacles does not make a horror story Lovecraftian, neither does the intrusion of those tentacles into the usual places make a weird-erotica story Lovecraftian. And Ink does not go to the usual places, expanding the very idea and practice of sex into a kind of super-space of complete sexual and genetic expression. There is horror here, but also ecstasy: the body is used as a vehicle to transcend itself, and we come out the other side of the experience (and the story) changed. More. Different. Better. And isn’t that why we fuck in the first place? You can find Ink (and quite a few other very excellent pieces) in the anthology Whispers In Darkness from Circlet Press.
What are your favourite Sexy Lovecraftian tales? Get at me on the twitter @BLACKSTONErotic with your top picks!
Justine Geoffrey is the author of the BLACKSTONE Erotica series, Orgy in the Valley of the Lust Larvae, and Seawater & Stars: the Last Novel of Gideon Stargrave. She’s also the editrix (with Scott R Jones) of the weird-erotica anthology Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath, all from Martian Migraine Press.
PRIESTESS contest winner Bobby Derie, who is (at least so far as we can tell!) a scholar and a gentleman if he is nothing else, has dropped the first of what we know will be a string of five-star reviews on Justine’s epic collection of weird erotica. To wit:
Among the dross and fool’s gold of Lovecraftian erotica ebooks published in the last few years, Justine G.’s Blackstone Erotica series from Martian Migraine Press stands out as one of the most entertaining, intelligent, ambitious, and daring of the lot. It is perhaps appropriate that she took as her starting place Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone,” still his most-remembered tale of the Cthulhu Mythos, whose pivotal scene of sexual flagellation was itself one of the most flagrant early examples of the erotic in Mythos fiction. However, Geoffrey goes far beyond revisiting REH’s stomping grounds in the old witch-town of Stregoicavar, and continues her erotic adventures in new locales, drawing more of the Mythos into the Blackstone series – readers will find here a challenging, open sexuality that deals with bondage, domination, rites of sexual magic and encounters with Deep Ones and other entities that will fill the characters to their limit.
(read the full review here)
Do you feel like a challenge, reader? Then pick up Justine Geoffrey‘s PRIESTESS (Blackstone Volume One) today! Instantly downloaded Kindle versions over on the Big A here, or swing by our Bookstore for EPUB and PDF versions and our under-24-hours delivery times.