“Though the autumn season theme is very subtle in some of the stories, the variety of cosmic terrors will linger on the mind long after the last page is turned.”
The level of commitment Lovecraft eZine has to keeping the world of the Cthulhu Mythos thriving is a testament to the imagination of HP Lovecraft, and most notably, those writers that have followed in his footsteps. The mythos is more popular than ever, slipping into the mainstream, and now we find writers stepping away from pastiche of Lovecraft into strong narratives that transcend the genre and flow into the wider, more diverse field of Cosmic Horror. Yes, the natural, as well as the unnatural, care not for humans, and Mike Davis and company are here to document our interactions with the unknown abyss with Autumn Cthulhu. This themed anthology, positioning cosmic horror and weird fiction with the season of autumn, presents us with nineteen tales of dread that will send a shiver down your spine and keeping you looking over your shoulder.
Featuring stories by Scott Thomas, Laird Barron, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Damien Angelica Walters, Michael Griffin, Robert Levy, a novella by John Langan, and many more authors, these stories are solid reminders that not only is cosmic horror and weird fiction perhaps mostly associated with Lovecraft, but that the genre’s modern practitioners have perhaps escaped the master’s clutches and ventured into their own, more personal, visions of dread and unimaginable horrors too. The Cthulhu part of the titles is perhaps a little less justified, but it fits in the grand scheme that all of these tales are dark, and represent decay in both a seasonal and an interpersonal sense. Cthulhu is certainly not a one-word definition of the term Cosmic Horror, but for this anthology, it works here quite nicely.
Beginning with the innocently titled “The Night is a Sea” by Scott Thomas, we can sense somewhat of a subtle homage to Lovecraft while breaking new ground. Thomas is not new at all the Weird Fiction scene, and his story feels quite Lovecraftian, with a scholarly journalist narrator on the hunt for ghostly happenings. What he finds is a much richer experience, filled with histories both public and private, and is thrust right in the center of unnatural circumstances that challenge his viewpoint of the supernatural all around us.
“Memories of the Fall” by Pete Rawlik is one such tale that uses the genre to enforce its motifs. The narrator here comes to us with a weary, disjointed voice, and quite cynical and almost a literal prop. By the end of the story, you discover the reasons for this, and there’s very little you can do to escape the heartbreaking dread.
“Andy Kaufman Creeping Through the Trees” by Laird Barron is perhaps a strong contender for short-story of the year. Here Barron takes on the voice of a cynical teenaged girl, and the perspective is spot on. Seeking the ultimate gift for her dying father, she perhaps goes a little too far. Tony Clifton, Andy Kaufman’s alter-ego, has never been more menacing. By the story’s creepy conclusion, readers will be convinced that Laird Barron’s voice has never been stronger, especially when tackling a narrative position you wouldn’t expect from him.
“The Smoke Lodge” by Michael Griffin presents us with a group of writers and scholars together following a convention, traveling into the country to a ‘smoke lodge’. Once there, things get quite heavy, with literal fire and smoke, and feasting and drinking on a primal level. Things are definitely not normal, but these practitioners of The Weird don’t shy away, choosing to embrace the experience. By the end of the story, their world, their lives, and yours will be changed forever. Griffin manages to make it all work, tying several motifs together to bring his vivid imagery to life, concluding with a scene that will stick with readers for a very long time.
Autumn Cthulhu is another solid cosmic horror themed anthology from some of the best in the business. In a time where it seems there’s another anthology like this is releasing every month, this particular volume contains some of the best we’ve read, with each author bringing a fresh perspective to the table, along with their A-game. Every story is well done, each with their own unique voice, which is where the talent of the volume comes from. Though the autumn season theme is very subtle in some of the stories, the variety of cosmic terrors will linger on the mind long after the last page is turned. This is one anthology you definitely don’t want to miss.
Publisher: Lovecraft eZine Press
Release Date: 4 May 2016
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