Tag Archives: HP Lovecraft

Equal Opportunity Madness is here!

28 Aug

A panel discussion at Balticon 49 in 2015 about ‘problematic things’ in fiction led to this collection, EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness – A Mythos Anthology. As the editors note, and I’ve discussed before, the relationship between authors and their work can be an awkward one for readers and defies pat responses in either extreme. Instead of rejecting Lovecraft’s creations out of hand, a joking suggestion about creating an anthology of stories that would make the ‘old gent’ spin in his grave was taken up and made reality.EOM colour

Now, I must declare an interest in EOM as I contributed the story The Horror of the Atoll, which heads into Cthulhu’s stomping ground of Polynesia and features native Polynesian characters as protagonists.

Other stories go further in offering characters quite unlike those found in Lovecraft’s fiction. The opening story introduces us to an “old, crippled servant and the even older mute priestess” of Bast, for instance, while the penultimate story features a lesbian Rabbi taking on the evil out of Innsmouth with a golem!

I must say that the final, not exactly serious, story, in which Cthulhu awakens on the first day of Chanukah, bored and grumpy, was my favourite. Luckily, he is entertained then bored back to sleep with a dreidel and humanity is saved!

It’s not uncommon to find Cthulhu Mythos tales that feature protagonists unlike those used by Lovecraft (I’ve written a few myself), but this collection strives to provide a real variety.

So, rather than worrying about the old gent’s views on race, you should read this collection and see just how far his collection can be stretched.


Equal Opportunity Madness!

26 May

EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness – A Mythos Anthology by Otter Libris

In the depths of the cosmos there is madness to be found and there are stories to be told…

H.P. Lovecraft first unveiled his dark and twisted vision of human insignificance to a wide audience with the publication of his short stories beginning in the early 1920s. He became a significant influence on horror writers and readers around the world and left a profound imprint on the horror genre itself. But something was missing in his work, things like positive portrayals of people of color and strong women.

Lovecraft is one of those problematic authors who created astounding work, but carried personal attitudes that most modern audiences find repugnant, like racism and anti-Semitism. Whether or not he was also a misogynist is a topic of spirited debate, but there is no question that his work lacks female characters, and when they are present they portrayed as weak or evil.

And then a group of feisty writers and one plucky little independent press, Otter Libris, decided to fill in some of the gaps in the Mythos….

What began as a joking suggestion to write stories that would make Lovecraft roll in his grave grew into the little anthology that could – EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness. Why should straight, white men of Anglo-Saxon descent get to have all the maddening fun?

EOM includes stories from writers in America, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Greece, and the protagonists are male and female, straight and not, and come in a wide variety of skin tones. Come enjoy all the madness of the Mythos in a rainbow of colors with EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness from Otter Libris, soon to be available in trade paper edition and your favorite e-book flavor.

Visit our Kickstarter and make sure you’re the first on your street to go mad!

No Mythos, Thank You

9 Jan

The Cthulhu Mythos. Even if you aren’t a fan of speculative fiction, you probably know what that is. If not, look it up; you may have a pleasant surprise. It’s a popular shared universe of stories. But, not with everyone.
Recently, I’ve noticed a number of guidelines for anthologies and magazines specifically barring either the Cthulhu Mythos itself or shared universe stories or stories based on out-of-copyright franchises more generally. In one sense, I can understand their reasoning – Mythos fiction has become incredibly popular in recent years and almost seems ubiquitous at times and I can see someone feeling that such stories must be unoriginal or that most of them are poorly written. Which, of course, like any large collection of fiction is likely to be true.

But, when considered logically, it is clear that such a ban is likely to have been born more from a literary snobbishness than rational consideration. Just because a lot of Mythos fiction is likely to be of poor quality or unoriginal is no argument against Mythos fiction in general; most SF, fantasy and thriller fiction will be equally unoriginal and badly written and unlikely to be accepted. Of course, there have been similar bans on things such as zombie stories and vampire stories due to saturation, but, again, that meant excellent stories were being denied an outlet due to the ‘sins’ of the majority. A more honest restriction would be on stereotypical stories than a blanket ban.

When justification is sought in terms of a ban on shared universes and out-of-copyright franchises, perhaps on the grounds that unforeseen legal entanglements might exist, one has to wonder how far back one must go before such become acceptable, or are semi-historical, folkloric and mythological elements also banned? If King Arthur is allowed, how about Robin Hood? If Robin, what about Don Quixote? If he, why not characters from 18th-century literature? If 18th, why not 19th? And, if we allow the 19th, proto-Mythos elements such as the King In Yellow are suddenly legitimate.

But, if we ban such things, is it just the specific names that are out? In that case, entities and books of forbidden lore identical in purpose to Mythos entities and tomes would be allowable, which rather makes a mockery of the ban. “Sorry, you cannot submit your story featuring Cthulhu, but rename him Roggoth and it’s fine.” Indeed, one might even ask what actually constitutes the Mythos and just how many references make something a Mythos story. A story about Cthulhu clearly is part of the Cthulhu Mythos, but does a single obscure reference to Hali qualify? Confusing!

Okay, so we ban anything that sounds or feels as if it belongs in the Mythos. But, wait a minute – on that basis we should ban all vampire or superhero fiction, too, given that there will be inevitable similarities to others of their ilk. Fantasy monarchs reminiscent of King Arthur and wise sages and mages who bring to mind Merlin or the Doctor. Any character, being or item that is at all similar to any other in fiction should be disbarred. And, why stop there? Most time travel stories are more similar than most Mythos tales. Alien invasions have been done to death. Just where do we end?

So, we’ve banned anything that isn’t incredibly original, but have we actually ensured that the tiny number of submissions we’ll receive will actually be any good? They may have novelty, but the quality of their plotting, their characterisation, their general writing, all depend upon the writer not the genre. Duff writers will still submit duff, albeit originally duff, stories. Meanwhile, those brilliant Mythos stories are going unappreciated.

In reality, the Cthulhu Mythos covers an enormous variety of stories and a blanket ban is foolish. Just because a story might mention the Necronomicon or feature a Byakhee doesn’t define the brilliance of its invention or the quality of its writing. Indeed, drawing upon the example of Lovecraft’s own stories, many ostensibly Mythos stories contain only the lightest of dustings for an aura of verisimilitude, the remainder being quite new and inventive.

The Cthulhu Mythos is not a second-rate field of fiction – anything but! – and denying an outlet for Mythos stories is, in my opinion, a foolish thing to do. Give Cthulhu a chance!

To judge or not to judge?

27 Aug

Quite frequently, I see posts about how HP Lovecraft was a racist and whether we should stop reading his stories. Although the question of how to react to the work of someone whose opinions we disagree with is a fascinating one, I do tend to find these posts rather irritating as they mostly seem to approach it as if this is a new discovery. Even though we cannot necessary take what a writer puts into a story as an indication of what they believe (it’s called fiction for a reason), it is unlikely that any reader of Lovecraft has failed to notice that he often references issues of race and other topics that are not considered PC and had to decide how to react to it. For those interested in his life, it hardly takes any effort to discover that he did indeed hold such unpalatable views (although a little more research will reveal that he did modify his views over time and married a Jewish woman, making him, like most people, a complicated and often contradictory figure to judge).

Given that I’ve just published a booklet of poetry and fiction celebrating the 125th anniversary of his birth, I certainly don’t fall into the camp that feels the work of Lovecraft should be shunned. I am not ashamed to enjoy his writing, nor to add to the Mythos he helped birth. But, I have no illusions that he was anything but a flawed human being. Had we met, I don’t know how well we would have got on (I don’t think we would have approved of me), but I’ve managed to enjoy (and publish) the work of writers I do not particularly like as people, so however such a theoretical meeting might have progressed has nothing to do with my ability to appreciate his work on its own merits.

How to react to a writer’s personal life or political views is entirely a personal decision. It is, of course, complicated in the case of living writers when the money they make from their writing may be used to support causes you disagree with. We may be able to detach the writer from his work in terms of its artistic merit, but if buying that work will have a real world effect, should we buy it? (Of course, on that basis, we should be investigating every step in the production of every product we buy in order to ensure the money made from us is spent in what we consider an ethical manner. Those who actually do that have my admiration!)

With a dead, especially out of copyright, writer, such as Lovecraft, the choice is easier – he’s not going to use your money to fund an organisation you disagree with, after all, or buy hate-filled books or anything else you disapprove of. Enjoying his work doesn’t involve any indirect endorsement of anything.

Perhaps the simplest thing to do is try to avoid learning too much about your favourite authors lest you become disillusioned with their work and only read fiction that contains nothing that offends you…

It’s hard being an editor…

31 Jul

When the fate of your submission is in the the hands of an editor, it’s easy to imagine them atop some lofty ivory tower in a well-cushioned throne quaffing nectar as they sit in judgement upon your work, but being an editor is actually hard work. I had that rammed home to me while deciding what to accept for the booklet due out in August to celebrate the 15th birthday of author HP Lovecraft. Due to the popularity of the theme and a space of just two weeks or so between the deadline for submissions and the planned release date, I found myself having to read and decide upon a lot of very good submissions in a very short period of time. I originally envisoned the booklet as a fairly-slim one, but had to up the page count just to fit those I really wanted to include. In fact, almost all the contents ended up being those that made my initial ‘Yes’ list, with only a couple of those on the ‘Maybe’ list joining them. Unfortunately, there were many more on that ‘Maybe’ list that could easily have gone in, but I was already worried enough about meeting the planned release date without adding even more pages!

Oh, how I found myself agonising over just what to include! The trouble was that most of the submissions been stories (had most been scifaiku, there would have been even more contributors!) and, other than a few that didn’t really fit in with those I definitely wanted to included, there was a lack of clear reasons for rejecting any. When you only have room for, say, one more story and there are a dozen of equal merit, how do you choose? With great difficulty!

So, the next time you’re waiting to hear back about a submission, spare a thought for the poor editor who is struggling to choose which pieces make the grade…