Week 106 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Campbell, Marmell, Pulver, Barlow, and Lovecraft

Welcome to Week 106 of my weekly horror short fiction review project! This week we’re going to close out two of the collections we’ve been working through: Ramsey Campbell’s Cold Print and Lovecraft’s Medusa’s Coil and Others. Starting next week these two will be replaced, respectively, with Campbell’s Demons by Daylight and Joshi’s A Mountain Walked anthology. A lot of folks would probably say that “The Night Ocean” would be their favorite story of the week, but I’m just not that big of a fan of Barlow’s flowery language (there’s clearly almost no Lovecraft in this story). My favorite was “Engineered” by Ari Marmell, which has a really intriguing cosmic horror premise.

Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)

“Blacked Out”

A Brit named Lamb is traveling around Bavaria and happens on a small village where he stays for the night at an inn; there’s also a semi-ruined church which seems to be the village’s central attraction. He eats in the inn’s restaurant and thinks that the pretty barmaid is trying to seduce him. It later becomes apparent that she is not, but rather attempting to set him up to be sacrificed (perhaps?) in the ruined church. Lamb is then chased by the townsfolk but manages to elude  them. There’s no real sense of menace or clarity about what’s going on here, so the reader is left with a sense of pointlessness to it all.

Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

“Engineered” by Ari Marmell

Timothy is trying to locate his brother Harold, who has gone missing during the interwar period. Harold is a gifted mechanical engineer who seems to have gone mad, believing that the growing European telegraph and rail networks are part of some vast, malign entity. Harold is actually correct, and this entity can control machines to do its bidding; it will also be able to find Harold if he leaves the train. This story had an extremely novel premise at its heart, and a truly chilling ending when Timothy releases that he too is now unable to leave the train, and must serve as a porter forever, lest he be found and killed by the entity.

The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)

“Tark Left Santiago”

A man is on a roadtrip, with a kind of Groundhog Day effect seemingly going on. Sorry, this one was just too experimental and stream-of-consciousness for me to really get a sense of coherent narrative out of this one. For me personally, not a successful experiment.

Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)

“The Night Ocean” by R. H. Barlow and H. P. Lovecraft

One of the few pieces by Lovecraft (well, he seems to have written about 10% of this one) that I had not previously read. A misanthropic muralist has rented a seashore cottage for a month or two. He goes into the nearby town for dinner every evening, but otherwise spends the day longing and swimming, and then staring out into the ocean every night, which entrances him. (I’m not a big beachgoer but that actually sounds pretty nice.) There is a vague sense that there are some oceanic menaces present: there are a lot of swimmers nearby who have gone missing; he recalls a fairy tale of a human woman being loved by the king of an under water kingdom but she is kidnapped by a strange being with the face of a withered ape and wearing a mitre; he finds some flotsam washed up on the beach that may be part of a rotted human hand; he sees some dark figures near his cottage one night, then later sees a humanoid figure coming ashore carrying something over its shoulder. I think that the story strongly implies that Lovecraft’s Deep Ones (from “The Shadow over Innsmouth”) are involved but this is never resolved or brought to a head. There’s a small fraction of weirdness and a lot of an artist with clinical depression at the root of this tale. I can’t say that it’s one of my favorites, because it’s mostly a story of mood over plot with lots of flowery language that must be courtesy of Barlow because it’s atypical of Lovecraft.


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon

Week 105 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Campbell, Laws, Pulver, Sterling, and Lovecraft

Welcome to Week 105 of my horror short fiction review project! Today’s entry marks the first in our third continuous year of weekly reviews. Selecting my favorite story of the week was pretty easy this time around: that award goes to “In the Walls of Eryx” by H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling, which was one of the very first Lovecraft stories I ever discovered, though I was pleased that it holds up well for adult readers (that’s not always the case with stories remembered fondly from one’s youth).  There’s a lot going on here.

Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)

“The Faces at Pine Dunes”

Michael is a twenty-year-old who lives with his parents in a travel, having traveled around Britain with them, never staying for very long in one place. His parents seem to indicate that they’re ready to settle down in a new town, so Michael gets a job at a local bar and finds a girlfriend named June, who is fascinated by witchcraft and sometimes takes LSD. Michael starts prying into his parents’ private lives and comes to believe that they think they are witches. Based on the writings he finds, the reader understands that they are actually cultists, worshippers of Cthulhu and other Mythos entities, though Michael doesn’t understand the implications of their beliefs. He ends up getting involved in a ritual his parents undertake, and they seem to get subsumed into some entity’s body, with their ultimate fate left somewhat ambiguous. It also becomes clear that Michael may be the product of some ancient cultic breeding program, though he is clearly intended to be a waypoint (rather than an endpoint) for this program. (That had a very Paul Atriedes/Dune-esque vibe.) Not a bad story at all, though perhaps a little longer than it strictly needed to be.

Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

“Inscrutable” by Robin D. Laws

This was an odd one, but enjoyable for all that. Phut is a manservant of Asian extraction to Sir Russell, a British gentleman adventurer. Two Asian assassins come on board the Orient Express, tracking Sir Russell because of his past exploits. Phut kills the assassins and dissolves their bodies, horribly. Phut is likely a Tcho-Tcho, though that term is never used, and quite possibly not fully human. For ritual purposes, the exact nature of which is left unstated, Phut plans a terrible fate for Sir Russell, even though the dwarfish servitor has come to like the man. As I said, odd.

The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)

“The Sky Will Not Fall”

Very brief. Depicts some of the events leading up to the fall of Carcosa before it has become clear that the city’s doom is inevitable. Too short to be more than an evocative vignette, but I liked where Pulver as going with this.

Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)

“In the Walls of Eryx” by H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling

This has always been one of my favorite Lovecraft stories; along with “Pickman’s Model,” this was one of the first stories of his I read when I was thirteen or so. It’s an unusual one for Lovecraft, since it’s very much in the pulpy science fiction vein, and set in the future, when humanity has traveled to Venus and found it to be a lush, jungly kind of world (the common trope for Venus in the early twentieth century) inhabited by primitive, betentacled lizardlike humanoids who don’t take too kindly to humans seize a particular kind of Venusian crystal because they house vast stores of energy—but are also objects of tremendous religious or cultural significance to the lizardmen (who are held in such contempt by humans that we don’t even know their names or anything about their culture). To harvest these crystals, individuals are sent out to retrieve them, armed with respirators and flamethrower pistols. The narrator is one such man, who travels to a set of coordinates to retrieve a crystal that has been detected by long-range sensor scans. He finds a dead prospector there but is able to retrieve the crystal. Just one problem: he finds himself trapped in an invisible labyrinth from which he cannot extricate himself. Imagine being trapped in an invisible maze for days as you watch your food and oxygen supplies slowly dwindle, surrounded by hordes of lizardmen who come to watch your excruciatingly slow demise. (I also think there’s an implication that the invisible walls and entrances either shift on their own over time or are moved by the lizardmen while he sleeps.) Ironically, as he is dying—and of course keeping a detailed log—he comes to be much more sympathetic to the lizardfolk, ultimately renouncing the humans’ imperialistic and exploitative ways. It’s actually pretty poignant, and probably not what most contemporary readers would expect from Lovecraft. The narrator does finally expire; those who eventually find him demolish the labyrinth, retrieve the crystal, dismiss his change of heart as desperation-induced insanity, and plan to wipe the lizardmen off the face of Venus entirely. Sadly, that’s probably a fairly realistic portrayal of human reactions. I liked this one a lot and thought it held up well to my re-reading of the story.


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon

Weekly Horror Short Story Review Project – Year 2 in Review

I began this project on February 16, 2017 and it’s been going strong ever since. Because I typically schedule these posts in advance, I have the luxury of taking a week or two off every now and then but no one ever notices. I’m still enjoying reading and reviewing the tremendous body of horror-themed short fiction in my library and have lots left to go. Perhaps the biggest announcement I have to make in this post is that there will be (at least!) a Year Three of Reviews! As I said in last year’s end-of-year review, this project has given me the excuse to really sit down and read it all systematically, working my way through a number of single-author collections and anthologies featuring stories by a wide variety of authors I probably should have read before now. It’s been a lot of fun.

When you’re reviewing four stories a week, one from each of four books simultaneously, you end up working your way through a lot of books. This past year I’ve reviewed all the stories from ten complete collections (including the vast collection The Dark Descent, which was one of the four collections I started with in Week 1) and have started four more. Note that the numbers of collections completed this year are elevated slightly over last year because I had previously reviewed most of the stories found in Ramsey Campbell’s Dark Feasts. Here’s the complete list (collections that we’re still working on are bolded below):

  • Weeks 1-55: The Dark Descent, edited by David G. Hartwell (Tor, 1987)
  • Weeks 40-56: Black Wings of Cthulhu 3, edited by S.T. Joshi (Titan Books, 2015)
  • Weeks 48-78: The Yellow Sign and Other Stories, by Robert W. Chambers (Chaosium, 2004)
  • Weeks 51-76: The Book of Cthulhu, edited by Ross E. Lockhart (Night Shade Books, 2011)
  • Weeks 56-91: Alone With the Horrors by Ramsey Campbell (Tor, 2004)
  • Weeks 57-74: Black Wings of Cthulhu 4, edited by S.T. Joshi (Titan Books, 2016)
  • Weeks 75-99: Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, edited by Paula Guran (Running Press, 2016)
  • Weeks 77-88: The Crawling Chaos and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 1, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)
  • Weeks 79-89: The Hastur Cycle, Second Edition, edited by Robert M. Price (Chaosium, 1997)
  • Weeks 89-ongoing: Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)
  • Weeks 90-ongoing: The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)
  • Weeks 92-95: Dark Feasts, by Ramsey Campbell (Robinson Publishing, 1987)
  • Weeks 96-ongoing: Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)
  • Weeks 100-ongoing: Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

Some general thoughts and reflections on the reviews and collections from Year Two in no particular order:

  • Three weeks into the year I finally wrapped up the monstrously large The Dark Descent (ed. David G. Hartwell). More misses than I had hoped for, including some from big names, but in general that was a terrific collection. I would like to read Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s The Weird (a similarly large compendium of classic weird fiction), and will some day, but the book is currently in storage in another state. Maybe we’ll start it at some point this next year.
  • While I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, there were many of his collaborations (including ghostwritten stories) that I had never had the pleasure of reading previously. Some of them are forgettable but some are as good as anything he published under his own name.
  • Robert W. Chambers’ King in Yellow/Carcosa/jauniste mythos is really inspirational and I’m glad that there are at least a few weird fiction writers who have begun writing in this vein. More would be very welcome!
  • We very badly need an index of all the reviews done thus far, and that will be coming out this next year. I have already begun working on that; there will be an index organized by author and a second organized by collection. Expect an announcement when the first draft of those indices is available.
  • I need to start posting some reviews of Thomas Ligotti’s work, and works inspired by Ligotti. I plan to do that this next year, perhaps in a separate series of posts. I’m not sure what form this will take, but I will start doing something with Ligotti soon.
  • I want to have some special Halloween-related reviews in celebration of The Best Holiday Ever. I had wanted to do something special for Halloween 2019 but just couldn’t get my act together in time. Expect something in 2020 though!

As I mentioned last year, the life of a blogger is a sometimes lonely one, so let me know what you think of the reviews, or hit me with any other questions or comments you might have. As always, thanks for reading!

Week 104 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Campbell, Cunningham, Pulver, Lumley, and Lovecraft

Welcome to Week 104 of my horror short fiction review project! Today’s entry marks TWO (!) years of uninterrupted weekly reviews, with more than 400 works of short fiction reviewed. I’ll have a separate year in review post up soon, so look for that in the near future. My favorite story of the week was Joe Pulver’s “The Songs Cassilda Shall Sing, Where Flap the Tatters of the King”–a great story in its own right, and if you ever attended a goth/industrial club event or saw a band at a club like that in the 1990s or early 2000s, I think this story will especially resonate with you. Joe captures the feel of those places perfectly here.

Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)

“Among the pictures are these:”

Not a story, per se, but rather a description of various encounters between humans and various monstrous entities in desolate and alien settings, who description/vignette per paragraph. It is unclear how or if any of these paragraphs fit together with or relate to any of the other descriptions. These descriptions are unsettling to say the least. The final paragraph is an author’s note, stating that he found several notebooks containing his own crude sketches that he had done twelve years previously. He sought simply to describe the drawing as clearly and objectively as he could. I found this a fascinating project.

Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

“A Great and Terrible Hunger” by Elaine Cunningham

A story of two rival sous-chefs and their ungrateful passengers aboard the Orient Express. The two agree to have a contest to resolve their interminable dispute: one will create a dish and the other will attempt to replicate and improve upon it; the loser will resign and leave the train. The train encounters a landslide and is forced to stop and clear the obstruction. One of the chefs ventures into a cave and encounters a strange, quiescent monster there, along with some unearthly mushrooms. He takes samples of the creature’s flesh and some of the mushrooms back with him and uses these in his dish, knowing that his rival will not be able to duplicate his ingredients. Consuming the mushrooms, as it turns out, drive people into a delusional, homicidal frenzy. Not a terrible story, but it seems silly rather than scary the more you think about the story’s elements; as I typed up this brief summary, I can see that the premise is absurd when written out plainly.

The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)

“The Songs Cassilda Shall Sing, Where Flap the Tatters of the King”

A young girl named Susan reinvents herself as Lily and travels across country to live and work in a big town and experience the goth/industrial underground scene that she has been fantasizing about. Pulver captures Lily’s character perfectly—we get deep into Lily’s character and that’s what makes this story work so well. In a lot of ways, Lily finds the life she has always dreamed of: she finds an amazing night club, some new friends, a place to stay, a job in a goth boutique, etc. The club also has an upcoming concert by Lily’s favorite group: The Society of the Yellow Sign, which goes by SYS. Pulver again captures the feel of this club and Lily’s anticipation for the show perfectly. SYS’ performance is not at all what Lily expects however; these are not the songs from the bootleg recordings she’s heard, but rather an actual summoning ritual for the King in Yellow, who sucks all the attendees dry. Tragic. Really captures Lily’s longing and hope well.

Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)

“The Diary of Alonzo Typer” by H. P. Lovecraft and William Lumley

An occultist decides to spend a week or so inside a haunted mansion that was reputed to be the ancestral home of a long line of sorcerers and cultists (seriously, I’d love to do just that—I think it would be great fun). As it turns out, this is not just a simple haunted house tale. Yes, I think it’s clear that there are ghosts in the house, but there are other kinds of non-human spectral presences as well. The house also has a locked vault in the basement (all good haunted mansions should, after all) that houses a vast, evil being (some sort of ancient being) that wants to escape, or at least get at the occultist who has camped out in the house. By the end of the tale, the narrator discovers that he is also a descendant of the family that once owned the home. Ultimately, of course, the ancient evil in the basement gets him, but there’s a nice sense of menace throughout. I only wish the narrator’s fate had been a bit less generic—he is dragged off to some unspecified fate—and we had a clearer sense of what was going to happen to him or what the ancient evil’s intentions/goals/plans were, which would have dialed up the horror a bit. Not a bad story though.


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon

Week 103 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Campbell, Hite, Pulver, Rimel, and Lovecraft

Welcome to Week 103 of my horror short fiction review project! We were blessed with an abundance of great stories this week. On an ordinary week, Joe Pulver’s “Yvrain’s ‘Black Dancers’” would have been the best story of the week (it’s a great one), but this week Ramsey Campbell’s “Before the Storm” was even better. Treat yourself and read both.

Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)

“Before the Storm”

Great. A newspaper-seller has made a bargain with a Mythos entity of Campbell’s creation, Eihort, who has granted the newspaper-seller the ability to send his consciousness into other (non-human) beings’ bodies and experience the vastness of the universe vicariously. The newspaper-seller has viewed this as an amazing gift. But now the bargain that was struck has come to an end, but the newspaper-seller is resistant to completing the bargain (it will presumably lead to his untimely demise), and so Eihort has the man’s consciousness experience various deaths in other beings’ bodies, and he has also sent his minions to essentially re-possesses the man’s body. A fascinating concept in itself, but we also get to see what the newspaper-seller’s experience looks like from the perspective of outside observers. To them (mostly, petty bureaucrats who work in a tax assessment office), he simply appears to be a deranged homeless man ranting and raving about nonsense. A few of them do, however, get a glimpse of what he is experiencing at some cost to their sanity. Really interesting and cosmic ideas here.

Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

“La Musique de l’Ennui” by Kenneth Hite

Kristie is a Canadian super-fan of The Phantom of the Opera (I didn’t realize there was such a thing, but of course there are) who has taken a modern-day Phantom-themed excursion on the Orient Express. It soon becomes apparent that the Phantom has or is becoming blended with Robert W. Chambers’ the King in Yellow here as things become unreal and frightening. Hite is probably inflicting a bit too much of his research on the readers here—who knew there were so many different versions of the Phantom?—but there are some interesting ideas here, and I’m always open to new iterations of the King in Yellow.

The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)

“Yvrain’s ‘Black Dancers’”

This was a story that could have been conceived of by Clive Barker, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s short but it packs a powerful punch. The artist Boris Yvraine, at the behest of Dr. Archer—you will recognize these characters from Robert W. Chambers’ work—has sculpted a pair of demonic, rutting statues that drive their viewers insane in an orgy of lust that rapidly descends into frenzy, torture, and murder. This is very powerful stuff, despite the brevity of the story. Some of Pulver’s best short work.

Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)

“The Disinterment” by H. P. Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel

This is a pretty straightforward mad scientist tale involving a head/brain transplant. The narrator contracts leprosy and begins to live in seclusion at his friend’s home, the friend being an experimental surgeon. The physician approaches the narrator with a proposition: he has perfected a chemical that can allow him to mimic death (by placing him in a deathlike comatose state), which he will use to have the narrator buried and then disinterred sand revived so that he will not have to be sent away to a leprosarium. When the narrator is revived, he eventually learns that his head has actually been transplanted onto someone else’s body, which causes him to fly into a murderous rage. Very Frankensteinian. Though it doesn’t tread any new ground, it’s not bad.


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon

Week 102 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Campbell, Morton, Pulver, Howard, Long, Merritt, Moore, and Lovecraft

Welcome to Week 102 of my horror short fiction review project! While I really enjoyed “The Challenge from Beyond,” a round robin story by Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, and C. L. Moore, I thought that “Bitter Shadows” by Lisa Morton would make a great opening to a larger story project.

Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)

“The Moon-Lens”

A bit of an incoherent mess, I’m afraid, with a very “Shadow Over Innsmouth” vibe that could have worked but did not. A man named Leakey has shown up at a hospital to consult with a physician who is known as a euthanasia advocate; Leakey wants the doctor to help him die. Leakey, it seems, had been staying in a small-town hotel when he ran afoul of the town’s residents, who seem to worship some sort of Pan or Shub-Niggurath-like entity. As the only stranger available, Leakey has been designated as a sacrifice to this entity. He manages to escape but not before his body is transformed somehow. The sight of Leakey’s body apparently drives the physician insane. I really wanted to like this one much more than I did.

Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

“Bitter Shadows” by Lisa Morton

The story of George, a former filmmaker, and Heleb, a con artist, on the Orient Express in 1923. Helen has stolen the idol of a cult that is hot on her heels. Georges gets sucked into the drama as he attempts to help Helen. The story’s got all the right elements for a two-fisted, pulpy Mythos story but it feels much more like a vignette than a complete story—this would have been a really outstanding opening for a novella or novel rather than a stand-alone.

The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)

“Epilogue for Two Voices”

A brief play-like poem that is a really just a conversation between Thale and the Masked Stranger (two of the characters from Chambers’ The King in Yellow, of course). The language is certainly evocative, but I must confess that I just didn’t get much out of it. Lovers of poetry will likely enjoy it more than I.

Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)

“The Challenge from Beyond” by Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, and C. L. Moore

This was a story written by a collection of big names in weird fiction, with each author picking up the reins and continuing the story from where the last author left off. I was slated to participate in one of these group writing challenges many years ago, but the novel project died long before it was my turn to contribute. I suspect that these kinds of experiments can’t really work, given the logistics of it, and how different authorial visions tend to be. This one was pretty boring until HPL picked up the reins with his section (he wrote the most words of any of the authors in one of the middle sections, and his is the most important piece that determines the main thrust of the action). I should also note that in some ways Lovecraft borrows from his own “The Shadow Out of Time,” which Joshi points out he had just completed but hadn’t yet published. (He also ties the story in nicely with his own At the Mountains of Madness.) Here, geologist George Campbell finds an alien cube while camping. The cube activates and causes Campbell to switch minds with a member of an intelligent worm-like race of conquerors (and vice versa, the worm-being’s mind is transported into Campbell’s body as well). Thanks to HPL and REH (who characteristically made his section a nice little gruesome bloodbath), this story ended up being a lot more interesting than such a mishmash could have produced. Not one of my favorite HPL tales, but not terrible either.


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon

Week 101 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Campbell, Gillan, Pulver, Barlow, and Lovecraft

Welcome to Week 101 of my horror short fiction review project! My favorite story of the week was “The Lost Station Horror” by Geoff Gillan, an author about whom I know nothing, but I really enjoyed it.

Cold Print, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor Books, 1987)

“The Will of Stanley Brooke”

A curious little story that hints at far more than it reveals. Told from the perspective of the eponymous Stanley Brooke’s attorney, this is the tale of a dying man who wishes to change his will and cut his family out completely in favor of a stranger no one has ever met but who is supposedly Stanley’s best friend. And Stanley warns the attorney that this stranger looks identical to Stanley. We know that Stanley sought out various esoteric cures for his cancer and well, it seems he found one (sort of). Stanley dies, the will is read, the family is angered, and a stranger shows up who, sure enough, looks like a deathly pale version of Stanley. I think we all understand what has happened here: Stanley has found a way to come back from the dead. Then we have the strong implication that, understanding what has happened, the attorney has bludgeoned this stranger to death (again?) off-screen. A very odd and not altogether satisfying story.

Madness on the Orient Express, edited by James Lowder (Chaosium, 2014)

“The Lost Station Horror” by Geoff Gillan

The construction of the Oriental Express railway line is underway in a remote and mountainous part of Bulgaria. The narrator is a young German engineer sent to this remote area to oversee the construction of a new train station after the death of the project’s previous overseer. (Cue foreboding music.) There has been a rockslide, with much of the site destroyed and many workers missing. It’s an excellent premise, and Gillan takes the story in some interesting directions. This becomes an exploration of weird angles and the eldritch geometry of another space (and the beings that dwell there) intruding on our reality. A very nice bit of body horror. I don’t know the author’s work but this was well done.

The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Lovecraft eZine Press, 2015)

“Under the Mask Another Mask”

Arianne is gang-raped, beaten, and disfigured by her attackers. She finds solace in the Book (I think you may have an idea which one) and comes to don the King in Yellow’s mask. She is remade into a kind of avenging angel as Cassilda, though she meets a bad end anyway (I suppose the King in Yellow is never going to be the kind of being that helps the wronged achieve justice). This was a pretty good story, though just a tad too stream-of-conscious for my liking.

Medusa’s Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 2, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)

“Collapsing Cosmoses” by R. H. Barlow and H. P. Lovecraft

This is a brief, unfinished space opera parody in the vein of E.E. “Doc” Smith of Lensman fame. It is a vaguely amusing story of multiple nonhuman (and nonhumanoid) alien species working together in a galactic federation in preparation for an extra-dimensional invasion by even stranger beings (perhaps Cthulhoid in nature, one hopes?). It’s unclear if the story could have even been finished coherently, or if it would have become increasingly absurd. In any case, not much to this one.


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon


Buy the book on Amazon