Review: Letters to Lovecraft

By Allen Griffin

Jesse Bullington, ed. Letters to Lovecraft. Stone Skin Press (December 1, 2014). Paperback: 280 pages. ISBN-10:1908983108 ISBN-13:978-1908983107.

Letters to Lovecraft is another anthology released in the recent embarrassment of riches available to the modern Lovecraftian. Yet this book, published in December of 2014 from Stone Skin Press, attempts to set itself apart from the pack with a unique concept and great line-up of authors.

Let’s tackle the concept issue first. This anthology neither attempts to directly engage the Mythos, nor is it a generalized paean to cosmic horror. Rather, it responds to Lovecraft’s essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” In this nonfiction piece, HPL attempts to elucidate his concept of what constitutes the best Weird fiction. The authors in this anthology were asked to select a passage from the essay and write a story in response to it. Each story starts with the quotation chosen and then a short explanation from the author of how the passage inspired them.

Some of the stories, such as Molly Tanzer’s “Food from the Clouds” and Cameron Pierce’s “Help Me,” resonate strongly with Lovecraft’s opinions expressed in the essay, while others seem to be more in the vein of an antithetical response to some of the ideas he puts forth. These include Chesya Burke’s “The Horror at Castle of the Cumberland” and Robin D. Laws’ “The Trees.”

The anthology itself boasts a strong cadre of authors. The stories are consistently of a high quality, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a few favorites.

Things kick off very strongly with Brian Evenson’s “Past Reno,” a story which asks far more questions than it answers and leaves the reader’s mind pulling at the Gordian Knot of details long after they are finished. Also of note is Stephen Graham Jones’s “Doc’s Story,” a tale of werewolves which, while not all that Lovecraftian, was nonetheless a very powerful story.

Asamatsu Ken’s “Glimmer in the Darkness,” a story translated by Raechel Dumas, mines a potent strand of cosmic horror, combining HPL’s interest in the science of his times with UFO phenomena to wonderful effect.

The anthology closes with the consistently amazing Nick Mamatas’s tale, “The Semi-Finished Basement.” In this story, which stirs together a mixture of midwestern fundamentalism, the Arab Spring, and mental illness, we are presented with a world gone mad, where all sense of reason is collapsing. The question is how fictional does this world really seem compared to our own “real” world?

If I had any petty criticisms of this book, it would only be in the quotations and explanations presented before each story. The content of each is fine; I would have only preferred to see them come after the story rather than before. This way, each tale could be read without any prior comments influencing the reading experience.

Scanning the table of comments once again, I find it hard to believe all the great stories and authors I didn’t mention above. This anthology benefits greatly from a variety of content but a strong consistency in content. I certainly recommended picking it up and diving right into the terrors within.

Bio: Allen Griffin is a writer and musician living in Indianapolis. He currently has two new chapbooks published by Dunhams Manor Press, No Such Heaven and The Noxious Winds of Karmageddon. He also has stories forthcoming in the Surreal Worlds anthology from Bizarro Pulp Press and Our World of Modern Horror from Eldritch Press.