THAT IS NOT DEAD
Edited by Darrell Schweitzer
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos have captivated authors practically since Lovecraft first published “The Call of Cthulhu” in 1926. Not only did authors exchange letters with Lovecraft about his stories, but numerous authors, from Robert Howard and Clark Ashton Smith to Robert Bloch and Brian Lumley, expanded upon Lovecraft’s nightmarish vision. The number of authors who have dabbled in bringing the arcane to life within Lovecraft’s framework is likely numbered in the thousands. In That Is Not Dead, editor Darrell Schweitzer has invited thirteen authors to explore the role of the Elder Gods throughout history.
While most of Lovecraft’s stories detailed his horror’s influence on the contemporary world, if the Great Old Ones are truly eternal, there is no reason not to suppose that they touched the world throughout history. To that end, the stories collected cover a period from the second century BC, when Keith Taylor sets “Herald of Chaos” in Egypt and Esther Friesner establishes “What a Girl Needs” in Mespotamia, to modern England, where Harry Turtledove has set “Nine Drowned Churches” as a sacrifice to Yog-Sothoth in a sequel to “The Dunwich Horror.”
There are elder gods and there are old gods and Esther Friesner mixes the two of them in “What a Girl Needs.” Shagshag is a homely girl living in the city of Uruk, where she can’t get married until she has successfully served as a temple concubine for the goddess Inanna. Given the nature of the anthology, it is clear that Shagshag will eventually run into a Lovecraftian horror, and Friesner doesn’t disappoint, however, Friesner does more. As her main character’s name implies, “What a Girl Needs” has an undercurrent of humor in it. Shagshag’s plight is dire, and anyone who has a run-in with an elder god has a tendency to come out the worse for it, but Friesner manages the story with a light touch.
While most authors are content to place humans in conflict with the Elder Gods, Jay Lake relates the conflict between the armies of the second century Romans and the Han Empire. These two empires meet in central Asia and try to figure out whether they should fight each other or simply turn their backs and pretend they never met given the vast distances between Rome and Luoyang in “Monsters in the Mountains at the Edge of the World” The best laid plans, however, gang aft agley, in this case due to the presence of a strange statue of a Mikou, the Mi-go of Lovecraft’s writing.
Darrell Schweitzer plays with the trope of the sole survivor of an encounter with the Elder Gods in “Come, Follow Me,” in which a disheveled man on the verge of death pleads with a priest for healing and, possibly, absolution, based on an encounter with Azathoth. The priest, of course, misunderstands the man’s ramblings as an encounter with Satan and tries to offer whatever succor his can. Schweitzer provides and interesting twist that separates the story from the typical tale told in this manner.
Lois H. Gresh explores the insanity that seemed inheritable in the Russian tsars in “Of Queens and Pawns,” which posits a Tsar Alexis who ha dturned his back on the Orthodox Church, instead to focus on the worship of Yog-Sothoth. Told from the point of view of the boyar prince Artamon Matveyev, the actions of the tsar are mysterious, but not open to question, with the boyar being concerns that Alexis may, or may not, know the impact his obsession has on either of his wife or any of his myriad children or the opportunities for Russia.
Seattle burned to the ground in 1889, and that conflagration provides the background to W. H. Pugmire’s short “Old Time Entombed.” Noah and Wilfrid are reveling in the destruction and under the influence of the Chinese girl Guan Yin. The anarchy and destruction following the fire can easily get out of hand, however, as Wilfrid learns, and mysterious girls who court destruction may turn out to be more than they appear.
Harry Turtledove offers a visit to modern Dunwich, England in which Alistair, a former rock star, finds a village eerily similar to Dunwich, Massachusetts, right down to family names in “Nine Drowned Churches.” The rock star explores the village, and the ocean over the titular churches while trying to learn about his own past and how the village relates to the similarly named town across the ocean.
the concept behind Lovecraft's Great Old Ones is so ancient that placing them into various historical settings, even the ancient Egypt of Taylor's story, causes the reader to see the similarities between those periods and our own. Even the non-Western civilization on central Asia depicted by Lake is more like the world in which we live than it is to the strange realm beyond from which the Mikou have invaded. The pulp stories Lovecraft wrote, with their seemingly throw-away monsters, have proven to have an incredible staying power over the last 90 years, and as this anthology makes clear, they can be transplanted any time and retain their effectiveness.
|Keith Taylor||Herald of Chaos|
|Esther Friesner||What a Girl Needs|
|John Langan||The Horn of the World's Ending|
|Jay Lake||Monsters in the Mountains at the Edge of the World|
|Darrell Schweitzer||Come, Follow Me|
|Lois H. Gresh||Of Queens and Pawns|
|Will Murray||Smoking Mirror|
|S.T. Joshi||Incident at Ferney|
|John R. Fultz||Anno Domini Azathoth|
|Richard Lupoff||The Salamanca Encounter|
|W. H. Pugmire||Old Time Entombed|
|Harry Turtledove||Nine Drowned Churches|
|Purchase this book|