No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Dead But Dreaming 2

Dead But Dreaming 2 is an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction - 22 tales from authors ranging from the well-known (at least in inbred Lovecraft Country) to comparative unknowns like myself.

I confess I have a pretty dim view of the current state of Cthulhu Mythos fiction. Or maybe it's fairer to say that I have a dim view of the state of CM fiction from ten years ago, when I largely gave up on consuming it. It had descended into formula -- a Chinese menu of protagonist type/forbidden tome/alien god, combined with greater and greater dollops of conscious parody or (even worse) unconscious parody.

So, if you're the type of HPL aficionado who thrills to the toes every time a hidden bookshelf is lovingly described with a litany of a half-dozen unspeakable tomes, or a story develops the genealogies of blasphemous deities... you may not like this book. The number of brainless namechecks (I almost wrote 'nameless brainchecks') is vanishingly small, with authors relying more on the themes and feel of Lovecraft's fiction rather than on the familiar litany of proper names. Though still derivative, DBD2's greatest strength as an anthology is that its stories largely eschew the cliche in favor of the original, breathing new life into the Old Gent's legacy. None of the contents were written on autopilot, and if not all of them are overwhelming successes, at the least they ventured into uncharted territory with us in tow.

I'm always a sucker for stories set in my hometown of Los Angeles, so I enjoyed Walter Jarvis' "Taggers", which leads off the book, though maybe not quite as much as I enjoyed Stephen Woodworth's similarly-themed "Street Runes," which I coincidentally read not that long ago. Other winners include:

Darrell Schweitzer's "Class Reunion"
"Your Ivory Hollow," in which WH Pugmire pulls off the difficult task of writing a story -- a good story, mind you -- using second-person narration.
"Dark Heart" by Kevin Ross, who also edited the anthology.
John Goodrich's "N is for Neville"
Donald Burleson's joke-y mashup of The Terrible Old Man and A Christmas Carol ("Christmas Carrion") avoided my ire with its cleverness.
Pete Rawlik's "Here Be Monsters" provides a fitting conclusion with a wry variation on a theme.

All in all, the anthology is mostly solid hits with a number of home runs and just a couple strike-outs. But I was a little disappointed that nobody (I think) had really knocked one out of the park. Now as I said, I'm pretty jaded about Cthulhu Mythos fiction, so I may be a harsh grader. So when I say that DBD2 is 'only' very good, keep in mind that my reaction to a lot of contemporary Mythos fiction is typically: "Well, that was crap."

Modesty forbids me from discussing my own story -- apart from lamenting that several apostrophes appear to have been consumed by a punctuavore -- but strangely modesty does not forbid me from quoting from Pugmire's review: "One of the finest stories is the beautifully poetical "The Spell of the Eastern Sea" by [essentialsaltes], which I love for the loveliness of its prose and its setting in Kingsport, my favourite of Lovecraft's mythical cities. As an evocation of HPL's city of mists, the tale is brilliant."

*does 'We're not worthy!' routine*
Tags: bio, book, writing

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