Cthulhu 2000 A Lovecraftian Anthology

Cthulhu 2000

A Lovecraftian Anthology

Edited by Jim Turner

With Illustrations by Bob Eggleton Arkham House Publishers, Inc.


An Occasional Look at Lovecraftian Anthologies: 4

Part Two




If you had to pick out just a few of the homages to Lovecraft that you feel would have made even the Master himself feel uneasy, then the tenth short story in this collection would definitely be near the head of the queue.  Even after having read it several times over the years, I don’t really know what makes it so eerie, given that very little actually happens in the way of plot.  But by God, work it does. A pity then, that in this more vulgar age of ours, with certain words not meaning what they once did, the title of T. E. D. Klein’s story has been completely ruined for any first-time reader.

Yep, Black Man with a Horn is more likely to make you smirk than shudder in anticipation.  Sure, it’s obviously a nod to that Kirk Douglas film about the trumpet player (Young Man with a Horn – I know, I know) but all that it makes me think of today is hardcore porn sites with titles like Black Dicks in White Chicks.

So: now that I’ve put those images in your minds, cleanse them and enjoy a subtly creepy yarn.

The narrator is one of the last surviving members of the Lovecraft Circle based, with a lot of poignancy, on HPL’s real life friend Frank Belknap Long:

‘I’d suspected it for years, of course, but only with the past week’s conference had I been forced to acknowledge the fact:  that what mattered to the present generation was not my own body of work, but rather my association with Lovecraft.  And even this was demeaned:  after years of friendship and support, to be labeled – simply because I’d been younger – a mere disciple.  It seemed too cruel a joke.

‘Every joke must have a punch line.  This one’s was still in my pocket, printed in italics on the folded yellow conference schedule.  I didn’t need to look at it again:  there I was, characterized for all time as “a member of the Lovecraft Circle, New York educator, and author of the celebrated collection Beyond the Garve.”

‘That was it, the crowning indignity:  to be immortalized by a misprint!  You’d have appreciated this, Howard.  I can almost hear you chuckling from – where else? – beyond the garve….’

To make things worse, he finds himself almost living inside one of his former mentor’s stories when, after an encounter with a returning Malaysian missionary, he discovers that a  creation of the famous Cthulhu Mythos  — the Tcho-Tcho People – are apparently real.

This is an outstanding story, full of foreboding, told in a disturbingly low key manner and all the better for it.

It’s just a shame about that title, Black Man with a Horn.  I wonder if the movie version will star King Dong… Heh.

Love Songs from Beyond the Garve

And now I have to recant something.  I wrote in Part One of this review that Kim Newman’s The Big Fish was the most purely entertaining entry in the collection.  Good Lord, I had completely forgotten about Esther M.  Freisner’s utterly delicious Love’s Eldritch Ichor.

This is only brilliant!

Imagine that Lovecraft had left behind him a collection of Mills & Boon style love stories, which are discovered by his Arkham relative, Marybeth Pickman, who markets them to an unscrupulous pantomime villain of a publisher.  If you have that in your mind then you’re still not even a quarter of the way to appreciating this delight of a story.

As you come across each new piece of invention you’ll either be smiling in joy or groaning happily with disbelief:

‘There was a knock at the door.

‘”That’s odd,” Ms. Conran mused.  “No one’s supposed to be able to get up here at this hour without Security ringing us first. Who’s there?” she called.’

‘”Cthul!” came the answer.

‘”Cthul who?”’

Only completely humorless Lovecraft purists won’t find this funny.  Oh wait; I’ve heard there’s more than a few of those around the place.

Pagan Memories

I’m rather embarrassed to say that even though I had read Thomas Ligotti’s very disquieting The Last Feast of Harlequin when I first bought this collection twenty years ago, for some reason I never read any more from that impressive writer.  Indeed, until the Lovecraft eZine raised the possibility of plagiarism of his work by the TV show True Detectives I had shamefully forgotten about him.  It’s really something that I have to rectify; but in the meantime a rereading of Harlequin reminds me that Ligotti is the real deal as he presents us here with an anthropologist with a particular interest in the character of the Clown in folklore and pageantry.  With nods to The Wicker Man, Worms of the Earth and Freaks among other things (in my opinion, anyway) this one stays with you for quite a long time afterwards.

HPL’s aversion to all things aquatic is well documented and may be the inspiration for James P.  Blaylock’s short but very effective The Shadow on the Doorstop.  It is very much a mood piece and I want to let you interpret it in your own way.  I think it deserves that.

Now…I remarked during our last brainstorming session that I thought that editor Mr. Turner was being just a tad cheeky with taking two long pieces from a collection that had only been published in another anthology half a decade previously – and here he is with a third, Lord of the Land.  That rounds out around a hundred pages of material that had only appeared five years before in Lovecraft’s Legacy. You can read the review in the archives.  Still, you can’t fault Mr. Turner’s taste as they are all more than deserving of inclusion in any HPL anthology.

OK…deep breath here, because these next two are where I probably royally piss a lot of people off (taking for granted, of course, that I haven’t already done just that.)

The Faces at Pine Dunes is one of several pieces that have been reprinted from Arkham House’s excellent New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and is by the Liverpudlian writer, Ramsey Campbell.  Now, I really like Mr. Campbell.  I’ve seen him interviewed a few times and always think I’d love to go for a pint with him (my life criteria).  He just sounds so knowledgeable and interesting without being –well, a know-it-all.  If there’s one thing that might put you off and make you want to kill him it’s that if you close your eyes you could be listening to that smug git, Michael Parkinson.  Anybody under forty, take my word for it.


I might as well get this over with.  You know the reason that I don’t read more of the excellent Ramsay Campbell?  It’s because his turn of phrase is often so spot-on that I find myself actually pulled out of the story.

There.  I’ve said it.  I don’t read him more often because he’s too good.  This tale of Old Ones-worship at a caravan park in Lancashire didn’t really convince me, mind.  And I’m leaving that one there before I get lynched.

Harlan Ellison, who wrote the next piece — On the Slab — is on the other hand someone I wouldn’t like to spend any time at all in company with.  And yet I’ve enjoyed reading a great many of his essays, which can be by turns utterly savage, enormously informative, devastatingly rude and hugely entertaining.  He seems to be eternally suing someone and is quite fearless but unfortunately he really is a show-off and the kind of asshole that you tend to like more when you’re in your twenties.  Also, I’ve never really cared for his fiction.  It always comes across to me as a bit preachy – and this one is a case in point.

So it was with some relief that I turned to the final story, Roger Zelazny’s award-winning 24 Views of Mt.  Fuji, by Hokusai.  And this time around I decided to read this extraordinary 50-page piece in conjunction with viewing the individual Hokusai prints at the 24 separate stages of the story.

The result left me so stunned that I’ve decided to indulge myself even farther than a two-part review of a single anthology by dedicating a separate article to this remarkable reading experience.

Well, not much point in having your own blog if you don’t allow yourself a little sinful indulgence, is there?  But in fact that is how powerful I found this reading of Mr. Zelazny’s masterpiece to be.

Next:  Arkham Tales.

Author: Charley Brady

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