Flip The Script: H. P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft's work is immensely influential in the horror genre. Any book that takes a nihilistic, deep dive into the cosmos or mentions tentacles of any sort gets that "Lovecraftian Horror" genre-label, but here's the thing:
Some readers of horror fiction haven't read any H. P. Lovecraft.
*raising my hand*
I'm snitching on myself here. I haven't read any of Lovecraft's work. But I'm not a subscriber or member of any genre gatekeeping movement that tries to tell readers what needs to be read and enjoyed in order to qualify as a horror fiction fan. And anyways, we all know H. P. Lovecraft is problematic. He propagated White Supremacy ideals in his personal life which leeched into his fictional stories. So while his infamous, Cthulhu Mythos has inspired a legion of horror writers—I'm confident we can experience the tenets of Lovecraft's fictional universe by reading modern cosmic horror fiction. We can 'flip the script' on H. P. Lovecraft by exploring the lore, atmosphere, and tropes of his tales while making sure its infused with inclusivity.
Here are the authors and books that have taught me everything I need to know and love about cosmic horror without ever having to break open an early 1900's tome. And just so folks don't think they have to educate me on the importance of reading H. P. Lovecraft, look—I have stacks on stacks of books I want/need to read and review. If I happen to get a hankering for something classic, I'll look into it. I own some. But for right now, I'm plenty busy reading books by living authors who could use the support and attention.
1. "The Fisherman" by John Langan
A melancholy tale about two men, Abe and Dan, who have both suffered through great grief and loss. They bond and tell stories while they fish. Seeking adventure, they venture to a fishing spot rumored to be limitless in possibility, but also haunted by 'Der Fisher'. This book has some seriously pitch-black moments of pure, unadulterated horror. John Langan is the man to seek out if cosmic horror is a favorite genre flavor.
2. "The Ballad of Black Tom" by Victor LaValle
A modern classic, this book deserves to be on everyone's shelves as the gold standard for Lovecraftian fiction. LaValle deals with Lovecraft's racist, antiquated, xenophobic undertones by allowing a new generation of readers to see the imaginative mythos through the eyes of Tommy Tester. Genius.
3. "Garden of Eldritch Delights" by Lucy A. Snyder
Short stories are my jam. I can't think of a better way to get to know an author's storytelling style(s). This collection has a dozen, cosmic horror, science fiction and bizarro fantasy tales to suit a variety of tastes. Lovecraft-lovers will especially enjoy "Sunset on Mott Island" and "Executive Functions".
4. "The Writhing Skies" by Betty Rocksteady
This is my most recent journey into transgressive, cosmic horror. A recommendation from a trusted source and man, this did not disappoint. First of all, this would appeal to readers who love illustrations. Secondly, if you enjoy that feeling of allowing an author to completely hijack your imagination and take it somewhere unexpected, this novella is your ticket to the unknown. A wild and crazy ride.
5. "Murder Ballads and Other Horrific Tales" by John Hornor Jacobs
This story collection just celebrated its book birthday at the end of June. One of the best aspects of Jacobs' writing is that his stories sometimes live in the same universe. There are a lot of connective tissues to be found between some the characters, places and happenings. A very Lovecraftian tradition. Also, John Hornor Jacob is one of my favorite storytellers of cosmic horror. If you love it too, this book is for you and so is A Lush and Seething Hell.
It's my belief that while H. P. Lovecraft might be the father of cosmic horror and his legacy shouldn't be ignored, the genre currently belongs to modern storytellers and readers. There are new trails being forged into the unknown and readers can grab ahold of these new cosmic pioneers, following their lead as they tell stories of the void in their own voices. I don't think modern day readers of the horror genre have to be well acquainted with Lovecraft's stories in order to develop an affinity for cosmic horror. It's a great time to explore this sub-genre with all the diversity celebrated within it, told by those who have flipped the script.
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