" It is new, indeed for I made it last night in a dream of strange cities: and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the
contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon" The Call of Cthulhu

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ralph E. Vaughan; Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu

 When I buy an collection or anthology I normally flit through the table of contents looking for authors or titles that intrigue me. What I normally do not do is read it from front to back. Often I do not finish every story, intending to come back later, but I have lots of books so this may or may not happen. I have followed Ralph E. Vaughan's blog Book Scribbles for many years and when I saw the post concerning this collection I purchased the book. It came, I read a few stories, and mentioned the purchase here. 


Then some time ago I picked it up, started at the beginning reading to the end, and immediately purchased Sherlock Holmes: The Coils of Time and other stories, (these are not Lovecraftian, but Holmes does meet Wells or his universe in several really enjoyable stories), read it and purchased his out of print work,  Sherlock Holmes, The Dreaming Detective from ABE. So I guess you can say I liked the first book.

I am not sure if kids still do, but when I began reading books from the library, the Doyle stories were among the first I read. "The Hound of the Baskervilles" I read while alone in the house and it was scary and atmospheric. A great discussion of the stories can be found in Michael Dirda fun and informative book On Conan Doyle, which covers all of Doyle's work, not just the Holmes Stories.


I loved the original stories, but as with Lovecraft I also got into the world of Holmes pastiches, a vast landscape. A number of years ago I decided to read all the Holmes pastiches, novels and collections held by the Calgary Public Library. It took many months, there were a lot, he went everywhere, some stories were good, some bad. I remember a particularly long and unhappy encounter with the Giant Rat of Sumatra. So I know my pseudo Holmes stories. And Holmes has meet the Lovecraft Mythos in a number of stories and anthologies. One of the most well known is probably Shadows over Baker Street, which contains the best ever Holmes Lovecraft mish mash "A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman, I cannot describe it you must read it. But as always with works of this kind (Lovecraftian or not) the quality of the collection overall was uneven. Still a good read.

This is not to say that all Vaughan's stories are gems, some are better than others, but the quality is quite high and I like what he has done in both collections. To confuse the issue a few comments will relate to both collections, but there is no test later so whatever. I will not address each story, but rather highlight some of the reasons I enjoyed them so much. 

Sherlock Holmes is definitely Doyle's Holmes but possibly a little less stiff, and when they are appear, Watson and Lestrade are a little brighter and a little less, cardboard cutout's. Vaughan has a perfectly good explanation that I accepted immediately. The characteristics of all of them have been exaggerated in Watson's stories to advance the plot. So in reality, and these stories are real, aren't they, they will be a little, (not much) more human. The stories are not based on the rigid Holmes and Watson have a client and solve a case formula. As has become typical of  Holmes pastiche's in general, they are narrated by a number of individuals, as Watson does not always appear. Sometimes Holmes barely appears. The stories cover Holmes for his entire career in one he is an old man on a tour of the United States, in another he is a student on a walking tour. Several of my favourites involve Lestrade and his rather clueless sidekick Sergeant Jacket, who is a big Holmes fan as you can imagine. 

But one of the things I enjoyed the most is that rather than one shambling Innsmouthian after another, Vaughan explores the entire mythos as well as various characters from the works of Doyle and Wells. Some of my favourites are "The Woods, The Watcher & The Warding", "Lestrade & the Damned Cultists", "The Terror out of Time", "The Adventure of the Shattered Men" and from  

Sherlock Holmes: The Coils of Time and other stories

"The Coils of Time", "Lestrade and the River Pirates", "The Adventure of the Counterfeit Martian" and "The Dog Who Loved Sherlock Holmes" To sum it up these are fun stories, hopefully you can enjoy them as much as I have. 

and let's let Ralph bring this post home. 

from Book Scribbles "Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu

A few years ago I posted a blog about when I introduced Sherlock Holmes to HP Lovecraft in The Adventure of the Ancient Gods. If you're interested in reviewing it, you can click on the link in the title and be taken there. However, if you're interested in reading the story, you may have a bit of a problem. Copies of the original fanzine, Holmesian Federation #4 are very difficult to find and can be costly; copies of the chapbook published by Gary Lovisi's Gryphon Books are likewise hard to find and can be even more expensive, especially if it's the first edition with my name misspelled on the cover. Purchasing the book, along with any of my other Sherlock Holmes books published by Gryphon is no longer an option, thanks to a visit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That incident led me to republish a later book, which introduced Sherlock Holmes to HG Wells' Time Traveler as Sherlock Holmes: The Coils of Time & Other Stories. The "other stories" in the book were all new ones I had written after 2005, all either about Holmes directly, in homage to Holmes, or about other characters in the Cano

for the full post

related posts on Book Scribbles

Sherlock Holmes & The Coils of Time (Redux)


When Sherlock Holmes first met H.P. Lovecraft


The Story Behind "Sherlock Holmes, the Dreaming Detective"


Sunday, February 3, 2019

2018? More of less Part 3 (Finally)

  I took some time choosing the last three stories that I read in the past year or so to recommend, because I wanted to select tales I thought about after reading them.  They may not be the best but they did standout to me for one reason or other. Two involve Lovecraft's Dreamland cycle. Lovecraft's Dunsany inspired work is not as significant to the genre as his Cthulhu mythos. Possibly because these works lean more to fantasy than gothic or cosmic horror. I am particularly fond of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and I enjoy seeing what people can do with this theme. 

Black Wings cover by Gregory Nemec and Jason Van Hollander.

That said, I never expected anything like Mark Howard Jones' short story "Red Walls" in Black Wings of Cthulhu 5 . It is definitely horrific. I may come back to this story in another post but for now a quick overview. 

It is a short and very effective story, we are propelled into the story and the traumatic events that befall the narrator with no build up.

"The air was too thick to breath. Or there was too much of it, and coming at him too fast. He has woken far too suddenly., Yet he doesn't remember even falling asleep.
To his horror , he is in mid-air. Flying along at an enormous speed, his mind races to match his velocity. He must have been in an air crash, he reasons. No, he hates flying. He has never flown-not until this moment. " 

And he is not alone, rather he is part of a storm of people shooting along in the air in the same direction, all crying and flailing around. Wow I will leave you there but this one struck with me especially, once I figured out how this fit into the Lovecraft universe.

Nightmare Realm is a collection of original nightmares edited by S.T. Joshi, cover by Samuel Araya. I have just begun delving into the stories but may of my favourite mythos authors are represented, including Ramsey Campbell, Caitlin R. Kieran, John Langan, and Darrell Schweitzer. 

But the story I want to discuss is "In the City of Sharp Edges" by Stephen Woolworth. Alan our narrator is on his first visit to Dr. Ingalls a psychiatrist, to discuss a recurring nightmare. In this nightmare, Alan is lost in a strange Escher-like city constructed of obsidian-like glass.  Alan does not think it is a place people have visited before.

" Because it makes no sense. Doorways that end in stone walls, hallways that seem to go on forever and lead nowhere. vast rooms with no floor." 

and he is not alone in this nightmare city.  

" Can you describe this being?" "It changes. Sometimes it's so cold, it burns, like dry ice. Sometimes it crackles and sparks. hot and stinging, like static on clothes fresh from the dryer. Sometimes it has skin: sometimes, scales." 

If Alan description seems a bit vague, it is because he is blind, experiencing both city and creature by sound, touch and especially smell. Woolworth has really provided us with a thought provoking tale. Even the details of Alan everyday life, like the fact he uses origami to distinguish the denomination of the bills in his wallet or his strategy for searching the internet are new to me and I think add to the otherness of his experience for me. And the story itself is great, well written, nicely paced and imaginative. And when Dr. Ingalls states that dreams cannot kill anyone, it is Alan's reply that seems spot on. 

"How do you know that if all the people who've died from dreams never wake up.?"

I have had the last story for years in my collection Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Arkham House 1990, but did not read it until I noticed it in this 1977 World's Best, cover by Richard Corben.

"My Boat" by Joanna Russ is another Dreamland inspired tale. I am unsure if she has contributed any other Lovecraftean stories but this one is excellent. Russ is considered one of the top science fiction writers and you can certainly see her reputation is deserved. It is nice to see a really competent writer handle a pastiche, "A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman is another story, where high level skill and imagination combine to create an outstanding tale. I love the history of both science fiction and the weird tale and "My Boat" while very much a modern story has a bit of an old fashioned feel, for me. The idea of passages between realities, reminds me of stories like The Blind Spot by Flint and Hall or "Through the Dragon Glass" by A. Merritt. 

The story is narrated by Jim a writer who is trying to sell his agent on ideas for a tv script. Desperate, he beings to tell him of something that actually happened when he was a teenager, something he now needs to tell someone, because something happened recently that brought it to mind. It is 1952 and Jim and his friend Al Coppolino are seniors in a school on Long Island. Integration is just beginning and Cissie Jackson a small, very withdrawn black girl is placed in their drama class. Initially they object feeling that she has too many emotions problems, but the principle explains that her father was killed by the police in her presence and that she is a genus and not going anywhere. Indeed both eventually befriend Cissie and she and Al become quite close, Al even lends Cissie his Lovecraft books, wow, that's love. Cissie eventually tells the boys that she and a cousin rent a marina slip and have a boat. When pressed, she describes it was a yacht. When they finally visit, Jim however see it is anything but "It is an old leaky rowboat with only one oar, and there were three inches of bilge in the bottom," Or was it, for Jim sees, but has trouble believing, that things and people seem to have changed. 

"I said. ''Cissie, you look like the Queen of Sheba,"
She smiled. She said to me. "Jim, Iss not Shee-bah as in thee Bible, but Shaba. Sha-bah. You mus' remember when we meet her."" 

But Jim never does  at least as far as we know. I was really impressed when I read this, the central concept, as I mentioned earlier is not new. But Russ takes it farther adding layer upon layer, creating a rich, visually  complex story that enchanted me. The plotting is excellent and even Jim, with his doubts and regrets grows and changes and becomes a more rounded character that we can root for.   

I am convinced that I need to read more by Joanna Russ.

So that was 2018, if anyone has read or reads the stories I have discussed, please leave a comment.


Cover by Jeffery K. Potter

Saturday, February 2, 2019

New Eldritch Tomes, Richard Powers

I have discussed my love of the art of Richard Powers in two earlier posts on this blog as well as my Jagged Orbit blog so I was delighted to find this anthology originally published by Dodd, Mead & Co. in 1958.  

Contents: from ISFDB

6 • Introduction (Deals with the Devil) • (1958) • essay by Basil Davenport
11 • Sir Dominick's Bargain • (1872) • short story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
24 • Enoch Soames • (1916) • novelette by Max Beerbohm (variant of Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties)
49 • A Deal with the Devil • [Jorkens] • (1946) • short story by Lord Dunsany
66 • Satan and Sam Shay • (1942) • short story by Robert Arthur
79 • The Devil and Simon Flagg • (1954) • short story by Arthur Porges
86 • The Devil and the Old Man • (1905) • short story by John Masefield
91 • Threshold • (1940) • short story by Henry Kuttner
106 • Nellthu • (1955) • short story by Anthony Boucher
108 • Threesie • (1956) • short story by Theodore R. Cogswell
116 • Hell-Bent • (1951) • short story by Ford McCormack
134 • The Devil, George, and Rosie • (1934) • novelette by John Collier
152 • The Devil Was Sick • (1951) • short story by Bruce Elliott

Earlier posts




Monday, January 21, 2019

New Eldritch Tomes

  While I have not completed part three of 2018? More or Less, new items have passed thru the dark portal and appeared on my doorstep. First off the mages at PS Towers (their term) had a sale  on signed editions of The Dulwich Horror & Others by David Hambling, cover by Ben Baldwin.

Then a bookseller I have been doing business since, well it started via snail mail, had a sale. I got this lovely paperback I had been admiring for some time. Cover by Virgil Finlay.

But the item that really grabbed me was this Canadian Edition of Weird Tales. Weird Tales had a lot of interesting cover artists over years. A volume on Margaret Brundage appeared in an earlier edition of New Eldritch Tomes, and there were also artists like Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok. One of my least favourite artists is Lee Brown Coye, but I could not resist his bright red cover for March 1948. And we have Smith's Master of the Crabs, not to mention the rest of the lineup, a who's who of Weird Tales authors.

Illustration by Lee Brown Coye

Illustration by Lee Brown Coye

I had been reading some of Wellman's
 John Thunstone stories earlier today. 
Illustration by Boris Dolgov

Illustration by Boris Dolgov

Illustration by Boris Dolgov

Illustration by Lee Brown Coye

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2018? More of less Part 2 (there will be a part 3)

  6. The Firebrand Symphony by Brian Hodge
"And slowly, as the ancient skull of Homo sapiens primoris watched on, I began to decipher the music of distant stars." (411)

In part one I covered two short stories by Brian Hodge, and after finishing my post began looking for a story about a giant skull that I wanted to include in part two. At the time I could not remember the author. But yes it was Brian Hodge. 

Our narrator is an artist who mixes sounds for use in movie soundtracks in a studio in the Cascades region of Oregon. His father was a musician, an acid rocker, who overdosed in a rented farmhouse in Vermont when he was 6. His mother a groupie disappeared and he was raised by his aunt and uncle. At one point he had a band whose avowed purpose was to burn down the world with their music. But eventually the band broke up. he married a Swedish music critic and founded his current company Megalith. When the story begins he is working on tracks for a movie called Subterranean. During a visit by his uncle Terrance, a retired professor from Boston he is given a massive skull some 350,000 years old. Terrance classes it as an  erratic enigmatics, an artifact that should not exist. It was uncovered during an archaeological excavation by Miskatonic University, who had enlisted Terrance for the dig. And therein lies the tale. To often mythos tales retread the same ground, so much so, that the creators of The Great Lovecraft Reread on Tor.com start each post with checklist of certain elements. While the mere mention of Miskatonic University seems to indicate Hodge is about to tread the path too often taken, he does not. Many familiar elements are here, Pop culture tropes, Charles Fort like artifacts, MIB like conspiracies, ancient astronauts, the weird astronomical knowledge of the Dogan tribe of East Africa. But Hodge welds them into something, new, fresh and unexpected. Many of these elements  fascinate me, add the archaeological element, I worked in archaeology for close to ten years, and this story was one I was almost genetically programmed to enjoy just like…, But I will leave you here.

7. Black Ships Seen South of Heaven by Caitlin R. Kieran

While Brian Hodge is a newer inclusion in my pantheon of Mythos Gods, the ultimate ruler, the daemon sultan at the heart of it all, remains Caitlin R. Kieran. And in honour of the latest photos from Ultima Thule, I had to include one of my favourite stories by her. The tale of what happens when New Horizons returns and the stars are right.


Nova also has put out a great program on New Horizons,
Pluto and Beyond.


"New Horizons returned, ignoring its programming and using Pluto for a gravitational slingshot back towards the inner Solar System, hurtling across near vacuum and cold and all those millions of miles back to earth. The probe crashed somewhere in the Sahara, or the Caspian Sea, or Scandinavia. 

No one was ever certain, as tracking stations seemed to show it coming down in multiple locations. 

But it returned with secrets, and the scientists could grasp at straws forever and never have one iota what those secrets were. New Horizons returned, and R’lyeh rose, and the one sleeping there awoke. 

And The End began. 

Or the Beginning."

S. T. Joshi. Black Wings of Cthulhu (Volume Four) 

A brilliant tale combining elements of the mythos, with a Chicago now transformed into Hodgson's, the Last Redoubt from The Night Land surrounded by his various fungal horrors and doomed by the machinations of Lovecraft's Black Pharaoh. Keirnan shows us what exactly happens when R’lyeh rises and horrors roam the world.

Cover Credits

Children of Cthulhu, Dave McKean

Black Wings of Cthulhu 4, Jason Van Hollander, Gregory Nemec

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018? More of less Part 1

  Over on my Jagged Orbit blog I did a 2018 Year End Review which included purchases, posts and reading for 2018. As I noted there I do not keep a reading diary so my recollection of what I read in a given year can be vague.  What I have decided to do here is list ten titles I have read from 2017/2018 and just provide a brief note on what attracted me to them. I will do this in two parts because I do go on a bit. The stories are numbered for clarity, this is not my ranking of best to least. If I have posted on a specific title previously I will provide a link.


Some titles I enjoyed recently:

 1. "The God of Dark Laughter" by Michael Chabon
Okay, this is probably my favourite HPL inspired story, period. You can find it online. I prefer the version in The Weird ed. by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. The story is narrated by Edward D. Satterlee the district attorney of Yuggoghey County, and a more world weary (mythos weary) narrator you would be hard pressed to find, include a clown worthy of Thomas Ligotti and the pathos of the primate and Chabon shows why he is a master story teller, and a big fan of genre fiction. 

"The line went dead. He was so keen to hang up on me that he could not even wait to finish his sentence. I got up and went to the shelf where, in recent months, I had taken to keeping a bottle of whiskey tucked behind my bust of Daniel Webster. Carrying the bottle and a dusty glass back to my desk, I sat down and tried to reconcile myself to the thought that I was confronted – not, alas, for the first time in my tenure as chief law-enforcement officer of Yuggogheny County – with a crime whose explanation was going to involve not the usual amalgam of stupidity, meanness, and singularly poor judgment but the incalculable intentions of a being who was genuinely evil. What disheartened me was not that I viewed a crime committed out of the promptings of an evil nature as inherently less liable to solution than the misdeeds of the foolish, the unlucky, or the habitually cruel. On the contrary, evil often expresses itself through refreshingly discernible patterns, through schedules and syllogisms. But the presence of evil, once scented, tends to bring out all that is most irrational and uncontrollable in the public imagination. It is a catalyst for pea-brained theories, gimcrack scholarship, and the credulous cosmologies of hysteria."

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories (p. 905). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 
My full (gushing) post here

2. Copping Squid by Michael Shea

Here it is the gatekeepers and the strange house itself that forms the setting for the cosmic encounter, that drew me in and made this story something different. 

"The houses thinned out even more, big old trees half shrouding them. Dead cars slept under drifts of leaves, and dim bedroom lights showed life just barely hanging on, here in the hungry heights. 

    As they mounted this shoulder of the hills, Ricky saw glimpses of other ridges to the right and left, rooftop-and-tree-encrusted like this one. All these crest lines converged toward the same summit, and when Ricky looked behind, it seemed that these ridges poured down like a spill of titanic tentacles."

Shea, Michael. Demiurge: The Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales of Michael Shea (pp. 164-165). Dark Regions Press. Kindle Edition. 

  Next Brian Hodge is to my mind one of the best writers of HPL inspired stories working today. I did a full length post on his story "The Same Deep Waters As You, which also appeared in Tor.com's The Great Lovecraft reread. 


3. It's All The Same Road in the End by Brian Hodge

In his story "The Picture in the House" Lovecraft tells us 

"Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands. But the true epicure of the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteem most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.[5]"

But even less promising seems to the setting of Hodge's story. Brothers, Clarence and Will Chambers are searching for their grandfather Willard Chambers who disappeared some 50 years ago while collecting folk songs in Kansas.

"But now they’d let the distinctions slip away. From place to place, it wasn’t that different after all. They’d seen it all before and forgotten where. Everything was the same again. This was how things hid in open daylight, beneath the vast skies, out here in the plains of western Kansas. There was no need for mountain hollows or fern-thick forests or secret caves tucked into seaside coves. The things that wanted to stay hidden would camouflage themselves as one more piece of the monotony and endless repetition." 


"There had never been much point to going where people were so few and far between that the land hardly seemed lived in at all. It had once, though. The rubble and residue lingered. Along roads that had crumbled mostly back to dirt, they passed the scattered, empty shells of lives long abandoned. Separated by minutes and miles, the remains of farmhouses and barns left for ruin seemed to sink into seas of prairie grass. The trees hung on, as tenacious loners or clustering into distant, ragged rows that betrayed the hidden vein of a creek." 

Guran, Paula. The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction (Kindle Locations 1227-1231). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition. 

As someone who has spent a large portion of his life, living, working and travelling on the Canadian Prairie I think Hodge has captured the scope, vastness, desolation and physical isolation of the prairie beautifully. It may seem like one of the least promising setting for a tale of Lovecraftian cosmicism. But the elements are all there and wonderfully realized. There is nothing of the pastiche here, Hodge instead has captured the essence of Lovecraft cosmic indifferentism. 

4. On These Blackened Shores of Time by Brian Hodge 

Again Hodge uses another theme that informs the best of Lovecraft's work, the vast incomprehensible scale of the earth and the universe. As Lovecraft did At The Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Out of Time, Hodge brings us the to the brink of the unknowable, the inconceivable distance that stands between our current mayfly lives and the deep time beginnings of life itself and give us a peek. I also found echos of the themes of Arthur C. Clarke, throw in a subterranean setting and fungus, who could ask for more.

5. The Night is a Sea by Scott Thomas

My wife is a huge fan of the magazine Fortean Times, so our household is well aware of the work of Charles Fort in recording the weird, the uncanny and the just plain odd. Here Thomas has captured the universe spanning scale of Lovecraft with the type of news items beloved of Fort. Indeed our narrator, Emerson a collector of the strange and mystical, is also the writer of the column Emerson Bridge's Journeys to the Border for the newspaper Free Worchester, producing columns taylor made for the pages of Fort's The Book of the Damned. Emerson loves to share the stories he has uncovered like that of the Ice Sisters, 

"As for the Ice Sisters… A boy searching for his missing dog found three dead women dressed in colonial mourning gowns lying in the middle of a field in the Coddington property. They were spaced evenly apart with their heads nearly touching, though their hair and faces could not easily be seen. Each had a dark wooden box enclosing her from the neck up, and underneath, shaped to the dimensions of the boxes and further encasing the women's heads were blocks of ice.  (11)

The story wanders happy along, as we follow Emerson, researching and relating stories as well as assisting in a search for a missing senior, until all the elements come together in a outstanding climax. This story is a wonderful fusion of Lovecraft and Charles Fort and any aficionado of the weird is sure to enjoy it. 

And now before beginning part two I must ransack my library, not for the Chaat Aquadingen or the Cultes des Goules, (which are right there in the C's) but rather a story about musical skulls that I want to include in part two. 

Happy 2019

Monday, December 24, 2018

Some seasonal links from Tor.com Happy Whatever you celebrate

Please enjoy what has become a quiet holiday tradition in the Tor.com offices: the reading of Neil Gaiman’s original story: “I, Cthulhu, or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9’ S, Longitude 126° 43’ W)?”



Christmas Greetings to Felis (Frank Belknap Long’s Cat)
Little Tiger, burning bright
With a subtle Blakeish light,
Tell what visions have their home
In those eyes of flame and chrome!
Children vex thee—thoughtless, gay—
Holding when thou wouldst away:
What dark lore is that which thou,
Spitting, mixest with thy meow?