Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon | Table of Contents

From mid-June till now, I dedicated some time to reviewing Swords v Cthulhu, a freshly-released anthology of ‘swift bladed action’ set against the backdrop of HP Lovecraft’s literary legacy and the monsters + existential dread that beset it, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington, and published by Stone Skin Press. Here’s the linkstorm to all of the entries. Enjoy!

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Non Omnis Moriar by Michael Cisco

The Lady of Shalott by Carrie Vaughn

St Baboloki’s Hymn for Lost Girls by L. Lark

The Dan no Uchi Horror by Remy Nakamura

The Savage Angela in: The Beast in its Tunnels by John Langan

The Dreamers of Alamoi by Jeremiah Tolbert

Trespassers by A. Scott Glancy

The Children of Yig by John Hornor Jacobs

BUMPER EDITION: Carson, Wilson, Grey

BUMPER EDITION: Stewart, Wagner

BUMPER EDITION: Fuller, Sauer

Without Within by Jonathan L. Howard

Daughter of the Drifting by Jason Heller

The Matter of Aude by Natania Barron

The Argonaut by Carlos Orsi

The Living, Vengeant Stars by E. Catherine Tobler

Of All Possible Worlds by Eneasz Brodski

The Final Gift of Zhuge Liang by Laurie Tom 

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Meanwhile, I also got the chance to interview Tanzer and Bullington, which exchange you can check out here

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Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #18 | Laurie Tom

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I have dedicated an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method was peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These were presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification. This is the final review of the series.

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The Final Gift of Zhuge Liang by Laurie Tom

Though it’s not technically the last story in the table of contents for Tanzer and Bullington’s anthology,  I think Laurie Tom’s contribution makes for a fitting ending for this review series. Never mind that it has ‘final’ in the title — this epic Three Kingdoms tale has got the kind of orchestral scope anyone or anything would want to go out on.

Like other writers in the anthology, Tom tests the bounds of the short story’s ability to absorb substantial content by going large — suggesting the wider arcs of this key, and much-mythologized period of Chinese history. However, Tom doesn’t overreach, and instead focuses on a single act of military recon to tell her story of honour, ambivalent friendship and the ghosts of prime ministers (recently) past.

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Zhuge Liang as depicted in the Sancai Tuhui (1609)

After the passing of prime minister Zhuge Liang, the military officer Jiang Wei is charged with fulfilling his final request — pacifying the region as the war rages on. He is helped along on this complex and dangerous mission by the genderfluid Ma Yun, and the friendship between the two makes for a delicate pall across this story of carefully executed military manoeuvres — tinged as they are with the supernatural towards the end.

On the pulpy vs subtle binary that Tanzer and Bullington’s anthology appears to run on, Tom’s story falls into the latter category, with the thematic focus being on keeping one’s word no matter how metaphysically impossible the task at hand may be, and with the supernatural elements being borne out of long hours of study and shown to us through ghostly fog, rather than outre displays of action and eldritch gore.

An arresting and emotionally resonant tale with a wider universe right at the edge of its peripheral vision.

Read previous: Eneasz Brodski

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And so ends my review series of Swords v Cthulhu! Thanks to everyone for reading — it’s been fun. But the fun is actually not over yet! Later on this week I’ll be running an interview with the anthology’s editors — Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington, so stay tuned for that. 

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #17 | Eneasz Brodski

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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Of All Possible Worlds by Eneasz Brodski

We started this reviewing journey in Ancient Rome, and as we near its end we prove the adage that all roads do, indeed, lead back to the Eternal City.

However, Brodski’s take on the milieu is markedly different from that of Michael Cisco. Whereas the previous story slid in its weirdness among the Empire’s reputation for sterling military prowess and efficiency, here we are plunged into the city’s multicultural squalor — where violence and exploitation are the order of the day.

In other words, it’s less Neil Marshall’s Centurion and more Fellini’s Satyricon… with some mind-bending eldritch strangeness thrown in for good measure.

Still from Fellini Satyricon (1969)

Still from Fellini Satyricon (1969)

Our protagonist Marad deals with peddling animals for gladiatorial shows, and though he does betray hints of a conscience about his chosen profession, hints are all that remain. In fact, the phrase, “I am sorry. You must die so that I may live. I don’t ask your forgiveness; this is the way of life. But know I wish this world was different,” ends up being something of an anchoring chorus throughout this dizzying narrative.

How this plays out when placed side-by-side with classic Lovecraftian cosmic indifference makes for a good thematic twist, which I won’t spoil. But more importantly for the rest of the tale, that other Lovecraftian trope — the power of nightmares — is employed to give the story an animating force.

A bit confusing at first, this device ultimately creates a sense of thrilling discombobulation, one that perfectly matches the sordid and chaotic social underbelly in which the story is set.

A story with grit and teeth, told by a surrealist street performer who would just as soon slit your throat for all your cash rather than simply accepting your busking tips.

Read previous: E. Catherine Tobler

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #16 | E. Catherine Tobler

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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The Living, Vengeant Stars by E. Catherine Tobler

‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ is a very Lovecraftian concept — and a Metallica song with that title was actually inspired by Lovecraft’s own story The Shadow Over Innsmouth. And in plenty of ways that aren’t obviously linked to the Lovecraftian milieu, a lot of the stories in Tanzer and Bullington’s collection defy expectation.

Orrin Grey’s A Circle That Ever Returneth In, for example, attempts a Choose Your Own Adventure conceit in a short story format, while Natania Barron and Carrie Vaughn‘s contributions re-jig literary touchstones with a Lovecraftian touch that is both delightful and surprising.

And Tobler’s story is perhaps the most defiant of all, in that it doesn’t simply test the bounds of the short story framework, but also the expected thematic scope of Lovecraft’s legacy. She does this by going for a story in the epic fantasy mode, and it’s quite something to see it unravel. Elspeth is given a mission from the ‘dark man’, and it is presented to us as such:

Had killing the invisible horror of S’tya-Yg’Nalle not been enough? Never en ough, the dark man said, and Elspeth understood the enormity of what he wanted of them; saw in the far distance the colossal, tentacled beast slumbering beneath green waters, bound to the prison stones with chains as thick as tree trunks. This was the goal.

This mission appears to Elspeth in a dream, and we all know that dreams — and their corresponding Dreamlands — carry a lot of weight in Lovecraft’s universe. On this count, Tobler falls in line with her predecessor, but the more mundane mission of rescuing Elspeth’s sister from the “horrors of Lowenhold Prison” is what further animates the narrative, as our protagonist is joined by a ‘party’ whose set-up is immediately recognizable to those familiar with the fantasy genre.

Moria by Alan Lee

Moria by Alan Lee

But whereas other stories in the collection have taken advantage of the gamification of fantasy, Tobler goes for something more classically immersive. But beyond Tobler’s inspired hand with descriptive details — a skill that comes to full fruition at the story’s well executed climax — Tobler also endows her protagonist with a philosophical mindset. After Tobler’s closely-focused third-person narration informs us that the party was established in the most generic and ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ way possible — the ‘dark man’s proposal in a tavern — she allows Elspeth some space to ponder the wider implications of their mission:

Each [of the party] was something to behold, possessing battle techniques Elspeth had not encountered prior to this adventure. She longed to know each woman better, but this was absurd. If they were all to die, what was the point? Perhaps, she decided, that was the point — to know their ways before they were lost to the world. To preserve and keep what they knew, to see some part of them carried into the inscrutable future.

A gripping and atmospheric story that teases and the wider potential of such a genre mash-up.

Read previous: Carlos Orsi

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #15 | Carlos Orsi

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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The Argonaut by Carlos Orsi

In their introduction to the anthology, Tanzer and Bulllington described Brazilian author Carlos Orsi’s contribution as ‘Errol Flynn Goes To Hell’, and it’s a tantalizingly accurate description of what goes on in this ghoulish swashbuckler of a tale.

But the real hook of the story for me was the fact that this takes place on a Maltese vessel in what we can assume is roughly the Golden Age of piracy — and given that the Order of the Knight of St John had no qualms about sponsoring corsairs during their soujourn on the island, Orsi’s choice of setting and conceit is as apt as they come.

Nevertheless, the naval politics of the 17th century and their corresponding geo-historical context only matter up to a (sword) point in this fast-moving tale, whose key qualities lie in its cinematic scope and pace. Orsi conjures up some great images, but more importantly, he makes sure that things are constantly in motion. Stylistically, this is the polar opposite of Lovecraft, whose trembling paranoia inspires gloriously knotted prose that slowly but surely unravels a terrified but richly imaginative mind.

Bill Nighy as Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise

Bill Nighy as Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise

One would be tempted to throw Pirates of the Caribbean as an easy reference point for this tale on an unfortunate seaman charged with rescuing the husband of a Christian virgin aboard the aformentioned Maltese ship — which is assailed by shoggoths (subordinate figures in Lovecraft’s bestiary). Davey Jones would be the obvious figure that comes to mind once the bewitched sailors turn monstrous.

But Orsi’s prose — down to its rapid-fire style — actually recalls a more significant forebear: the work of Tim Powers. After all, On Stranger Tides was not just yet another (and ultimately disappointing) installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. It was actually the book that started it all: inspiring not just the theme park ride that in turn gave way to PoC film franchise, but also that other piece of piratical pop culture lore — the Monkey Island video game series.

On-Stranger-Tides-by-Tim-Powers

And Orsi’s story, with its no-nonsense protagonist and equally no-nonsense approach to storytelling and style, channels Powers’s ability to grip the reader and keep them there. The supernatural is a by-the-by inconvenience here, but a real one nonetheless; much in the same way as Blackbeard’s meddling with the dark arts is a key obstacle for our protagonists in On Stranger Tides.

Whereas the other story in the anthology to channel pirates does so with added lyrical and surrealist gusto, Orsi’s tale provides some classic thrills.

Read previous: Natania Barron

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #14 | Natania Barron

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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The Matter of Aude by Natania Barron

Literary pastiche can be both an artistic crutch and an ambitious undertaking, with writers either piggybacking on the work of their forebears in an attempt to short-circuit their own flaws, or bravely attempting to meet their influences head on and tussle with them to produce something novel.

As with most things however, the truth often lies somewhere in between, and Natania Barron’s story in particular channels a much-vaunted work of the Western literary canon to surprising effect as she attempts to meld Lovecraftian cosmic horror with the French medieval poem, The Song of Roland.

As the title of the story suggests, Barron shifts the narration from the military dynamic of the original poem to the secondary character of Aude, the sister of Roland’s best friend and comrade Olivier, who in the poem dies of grief upon learning of Roland’s — her betrothed — tragic death in battle.

The death of Roland at the Battle of Roncevaux, from an illuminated manuscript c.1455–1460.

The death of Roland at the Battle of Roncevaux, from an illuminated manuscript c.1455–1460

Instead of the passive mourning female archetype of the poem, with Barron’s help Aude is now transformed into a Joan of Arc figure, collaborating with Archbishop Turpin to influence the outcome of the critical battle with the help of the Heavenly Mother, Queen of Heaven. Apart from supernatural clairvoyance, Barron endows Aude with a keen, perceptive intelligence. It’s made clear to us quite early on in the story that this version of Aude would most emphatically not die of grief should Roland be felled in battle: “Theirs was a union of rank and reputation and she was not blind to it, even if she played it so.”

(Think of the way that JRR Tolkien’s Arwen had to be imbued with added agency for the Peter Jackson’s film adaptations in order to be palpable to contemporary audience; Tolkien, of course, being heavily influenced the medieval romance tradition.)

While some writers may be tempted to ‘pulp it up’ with a set-up like this, Barron chooses to concentrate on Aude’s relationship to the characters and her ultimate fate. In this way, she creates an opportunity for herself to slip behind the underbelly of the Chanson and explore its inner workings — making Aude into something of a master manipulator by means of her access to what amounts to Lovecraft’s dreamlands.

Nevertheless, the story allows itself some descriptive battle scenes as Aude follows her brother’s progress, and there’s fun to be had in her sparing but spot-on use of Lovecraftian monster lore.

A giant it was, surrounded by yellow-accoutered monks, all humming in a low chant. It rose close to twelve feet high, with sloping shoulders covered in boil-covered skin, pock-marked, and the color of curdled milk. From its mouth emitted an unholy stench; Olivier found his eyes watering through his visor. Sulfur, perhaps. This giant who was once Fierabras had but one eye, black and pupil-less, and Olivier could never tell where it was looking.

Read previous: Jason Heller

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #13 | Jason Heller

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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Daughter of the Drifting by Jason Heller

One of the key tropes of HP Lovecraft’s ‘mythos’ fiction is how deeply ancient and unreachable the truths of the universe are, and that even the prospect of contemplating them leads one into a destructive spiral of madness it is impossible to recover from.

Though Lovecraft spends plenty of time suggesting the historical scope of the Great Old Ones — it’s no accident that a lot of his stories feature excavation or historical exegesis as their inciting incident — and on making sure we realise just how thoroughly devastating even gazing upon these creatures can be for one’s psyche, that’s often where it all stops.

We learn nothing of the biological workings of the Great Old Ones — save for their ‘alien’ make-up — and we certainly know nothing of their political system. Lovecraft never quite felt like peering too deeply behind that curtain, and the genuine paranoia over the full implications of this hidden parallel universe that he feels is arguably one of the strongest strands in his fiction.

Cthulhu in R'lyeh by jeinu

Cthulhu in R’lyeh by jeinu

Heller, on the other hand, takes this hitherto unexplored challenge head-on, and plunges us deep into the unpleasant and cruel logic of an entirely non-human world. But instead of the paralyzing reveries that this world suggests in Lovecraft’s fiction, Heller creates a schema in which battle and ritualistic murder is the order of the day.

Heller takes full advantage of the anthology’s ‘sword’ brief, endowing the blade wielded by the hard-bitten protagonist with the cultural cred of an Excalibur. Only this time, the blade isn’t a cue for feudal solidarity and benevolent justice, but an instrument that further propagates a vicious circle of violent domination. This set-up reminded me of the recent novel by Alistair Rennie, Bleakwarrior, which I will be reviewing soon and which also posits a world of uber-humans whose sole purpose is to vanquish each other.

Heller’s choice to go for a first-person narration, as well as his poetic handling of this strange universe, make the whole experience immersive as well as alienating. Like the previous story we considered, this is another work of bona-fide weird fiction, albeit one that exploits a markedly different strand to this eclectic genre.

Read previous: Jonathan L. Howard

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #12 | Jonathan L. Howard

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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Without Within by Jonathan L. Howard

One of the great joys of the anthology under discussion is that Tanzer and Bullington appeared to have transferred their shameless enjoyment of literary pastiche to their contributors, so that most of the 22 tales crackle with the lively literary fetishes being fulfilled.

This has resulted in some funny, pulpy entries that will go down a treat with readers endowed with corresponding interests. Howard’s story, however, is remarkable and enjoyable for taking something of an opposite tack.

Being a story of Lovecraftian happenings in a suspicious tunnel inspected by a military regiment during the English Civil War, the itch that this would have scratched for me would be something like Ben Wheatley’s mad masterpiece A Field in England — set in the same era and featuring what appear to be drug-addled protagonists trapped in the titular field by some mysterious, cthonic force.

A Field in England (dir. Ben Wheatley, 2013)

A Field in England (dir. Ben Wheatley, 2013)

Instead, Howard’s tone is sober and disciplined, which ultimately results in a fine work of weird fiction whose strangeness is embedded, and eventually serves to undermine, the sober, stiff-upper-lip attitude embodied by our main character, Major Bell.

What starts off as little more than a logistical headache for Bell — who has to repair a broken wall while his men mutter about a mysterious ‘tunnel’ nearby — turns out to be a descent into a nightmare world occupied by ancient and seemingly unstoppable horrors.

So far, so Lovecraft — and the excavation aspect of the story reminded me of the Lovecraft original The Rats in the Walls in particular. The overall structure of the tale doesn’t venture too far off from the Lovecraft schema of Curious Discovery –> Madness, but Howard’s sensitive and haunting prose style lends its own weave to the cosmic horror tradition.

“It was manlike, but whether it had ever been a man he sorely doubted. It was more in the nature of a device in the form of a man, as though some ancient corpse had been the pencil sketch and the final shape the inking of an artist who had never seen a man and allowed new fancies into the design.”

See what I mean?

Read previous: Andrew S. Fuller, M.K. Sauer

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #11 | Andrew S. Fuller, M.K. Sauer

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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Red Sails, Dark Moon by Andrew S. Fuller

The Thief in the Sand by M.K. Sauer

Finally, a pirate story! Andrew S. Fuller scratches an itch I’ve developed ever since cracking this anthology open, and with ‘Red Sails, Dark Moon’ — a title whose lurid energy is certainly borne out in the story — melds the Lovecraftian vibe with a pirate sensibility.

But like M.K. Sauer’s ‘The Thief in the Sand’, Fuller’s story is at its core an exploration of how Lovecraft’s treatment of the supernatural can be a liberating force within an otherwise oppressive environment. As we’ve already discussed during the review of Jeremiah Tolbert’s contribution to the anthology, the access to a dreamland in Lovecraft’s fiction is both a source of terror and wonder — and whatever else it may be, it’s certainly an escape from the grind of the mundane world.

Concerning the coming-of-age story of a young pirate named Jinny, who falls into the clutches, then eases into the bedroom, of a nefarious female pirate captain Pyrena, the story has a double oppression at its core — the latter of which I will not reveal for fear of spoiling what is essentially something of a risky narrative twist.

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Clara Paget as real-life pirate Anne Bonny in the Starz TV series Black Sails

The mastery of Lovecraft’s demonic presences is here shown to be an emancipating force, allowing Jinny to rise in Pyrena’s estimation and affection and eventually become a feared marauder in her own right. Fuller’s sumptuously assembled tale has the energy of pulp fiction with smoother prose than that mode would suggest, and it makes for a vivid, fun experience.

Sauer’s tale operates on a similarly joyful approach to the more surreal cues in Lovecraft’s work, and like Fuller she picks an appealing rouge as her protagonist. In this case, it’s a thief who manages to delay her execution thanks to her ability to access parallel universes that appear to exist right under the film of what we should call ‘reality’, enabling her to strike a hard bargain with her would-be vanquishers.

What’s striking is how both writers manage to skate and refine the fine line between pulp and surrealism in Lovecraft’s work: a quietly — and accidentally — avant-garde aspect of the man’s fiction that’s arguably the most significant aspect of his literary legacy. ‘The Thief in the Sand’ in particular opens with the threat of an execution, which is quickly followed by a monstrous transformation that is in turn followed by a journey into the aforementioned dreamlands — this time in pursuit of treasure.

Just as Fuller’s story taps into the inherent romance of the pirate aesthetic — with a revisionist streak that compounds the story’s edge and coolness — Sauer uses the hook of the renegade thief on a risky mission to ensnare readers into a brief but winding fugue of beauty and danger.

Read previous: Ben Stewart, Wendy N. Wagner

Swords v Cthulhu read-a-thon #10 | Ben Stewart, Wendy N. Wagner

As outlined in an earlier post, in the coming weeks I will be dedicating an entry to each story in the new anthology Swords v Cthulhu, edited by Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington and published by Stone Skin Press. My reviewing method will be peppered with the cultural associations that each of these stories inspire. These will be presented with no excuse, apology or editorial justification.

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Two Suns over Zululand by Ben Stewart

Ordo Virtutum by Wendy N. Wagner

The terrors of Lovecraft are a flexible bunch. Because Cthulhu and his fellow eldritch pantheon have no affiliation to established religious creeds — and are more or less stand-ins for the cosmic indifference of the universe to human foibles, though that’s not all they are — they can easily be applied as the antagonistic entity of choice to stories set within any country or cultural milieu.

Wagner and Stewart’s stories in particular play on the notion of the Great Old Ones infiltrating a particular social space, and the hook and twist of the stories lies in the way in which their writers manipulate our expectations of how these micro-worlds would deal with the Cthuloid threat.

Stewart’s story plunges us straight into a reconnaissance mission embedded within the Anglo-Zulu War, and on the face of it, Stewart appears to be attempting a piece of full-blooded historical war fiction of the kind we’ve already seen earlier on in the anthology with A. Scott Glancy’s Trespassers. But the real thrust of the story is more straightforward, as our protagonist, Lwazi, is told in no uncertain terms that he must retrieve the idol of ‘H’aaztre’ — an obvious stand-in for Lovecraft’s Hastur diety — from an Englishman who has it in his possession.

If Lwazi fails in his mission — as he is told by the mentor figure Mandlenkosi — they will be powerless to stop a cataclysmic event triggered by these otherworldly dieties.

Stewart wastes no time in laying out the raison d’etre of the story, and even has Mandlenkosi plainly declare what Lwazi must do in direct speech. This evokes a similar ‘gamified’ effect as other stories in the collection, and it matches the enjoyably direct, unpretentious thrust-and-parry of the rest of the tale.

Défense de Rorke's Drift (detail) by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville

Défense de Rorke’s Drift (detail) by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville

And in a strand that once again brings to mind Glancy’s story, the threat posed by ‘H’aaztre’ and everything he’s set to unleash trumps the ‘mundane’ struggles between the Zulus and the British. Though the details of these particular monsters and how they operate are influenced by Lovecraft, it must be said that the ‘common enemy who unites us in the end’ is a familiar trope to the alien invasion genre. And more than gods, Lovecraft’s creatures are alien invaders — albeit ones that tend to inspire cult-like fervour among a select group of maddened devotees.

This fervour is the engine of Wagner’s story, which takes the striking historical personage Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) as its main inspiration: in fact, the title refers to a famous piece of music by this German Benedictine abbess — who apart from being a mystic and polymath was also a composer and writer.

Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard von Bingen

Wagner is clearly infatuated with Bingen, and has no qualms about casting her into what amounts to a badass superheroine role in the story. But what’s more interesting is how Wagner builds the clerical world that Bingen belongs to — suggesting its political and social structure, and Bingen’s role within it, before it is undermined by an eldritch-struck outsider.

Though Lovecraft himself was often lost inside the rabbit hole of his psyche — which was in turn hemmed-in by his oft-discussed prejudices — these writers are adding colour and specificity to the cosmic horror that lies at the core of his work.

Read previous: Caleb Wilson, Nathan Carson & Orrin Grey