Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis edited by Scott R Jones.
I enjoyed this anthology of contemporary yog-sothothery. Many of the stories keep clear of the canonical names and standard fetishes of the micro-genre, but even the ones that mention Arkham, Shub-Niggurath, or the Necronomicon have a distinct remove from the original Lovecraftian tone. While the stories might still be horror, the protagonists in this book all have (or develop) a conscious appetite for the thrill of congress with the inhuman, or “The Black Gnosis” as it is denominated by the subtitle. Protagonists are generally not “cultists” per se: although they might be votaries of some praeterhuman entity, they largely fall outside the bounds of even cult communities.
The longest story and “star” of the collection is Ruthanna Emrys’s “Litany of Earth,” which I had read in its earlier online publication at Tor.com. It is in many ways more involved with the Lovecraftian canon than other stories in the book, but in a highly revisionist manner that inverts many of the perspectives in the earlier fiction. It follows an Innsmouth native as a sympathetic survivor of the government raids and arrests in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Emrys’s social comparanda are not just the internment of Japanese-Americans, but also Nazi Versuchspersonen. The integration of the Yith into the lore of the Esoteric Order of Dagon was a little surprising at first, but I thought the story sold it well. It held up for me on its second reading, and I am seriously contemplating a go at the author’s novel Winter Tide centered on the same character.
Other stand-out contributions here include Gord Sellar’s “Heiros Gamos” exploring the Eleusinian Mysteries, a mother-daughter team of eschatologists in John Linwood Grant’s “Messages,” a thing on many doorsteps in “Feeding the Abyss” by Rhoads Brazos, and the outre apprenticeship and epiphany of Stephanie Elrick’s “Mother’s Nature.” In addition to short fiction, there is a sprinkling of poems and manifestos adumbrating the Black Gnosis, and these, along with the more straightforward explanations of editor Scott R. Jones’s introduction, have me interested in his “auto-enthnographical work” When the Stars Are Right. [via]