Tag Archives: Anthologies (multiple authors)

The Dark Rites of Cthulhu

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphlius reviews The Dark Rites of Cthulhu: Horrific Tales of Magic and Madness from 16 Modern Masters of Terror! [Bookshop, Amazon] edited by Brian M Sammons, illustrated by Neil Baker, with Glynn Owen Barrass, Edward M Erdelac, John Goodrich, Scott T Goudsward, T E Grau, C J Henderson, Tom Lynch, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Brian M Sammons, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas, and Don Webb.

Sammons The Dark Rites of Cthulhu

A fairly slender volume containing sixteen stories of liturgical Yog-Sothothery, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu featured only four authors previously familiar to me, so I was grateful for the appended “About the Authors” info. The stories are reasonably solid throughout. Some do sort of stretch the category of ritual magic, such as one oriented around martial arts (“Of Circles and Rings” by Tom Lynch). A few are detective stories oriented around ritual murders. There is considerable variety of flavor within the “magic” field, encompassing voodoo, online cult recruitment, and stage magic, among others.

Most of these tales don’t bother with Arkham and Lovecraft country, though some do, and a few even go so far as to include or reference specific characters from Grandpa Cthulhu’s “ritual literature” (so-called by Michel Houellebecq). The Lovecraft stories that most conspicuously served as references in this assortment were “The Dunwich Horror” (of course) and “From Beyond.”

“The Dark Horse” by John Goodrich is set in a stars-were-right post-apocalyptic regime of human dispossession. Edward Erdelac’s story “Black Tallow” lost points from me initially by misspelling the name Aleister Crowley, but ultimately redeemed itself with a credible representation of pathological contemporary ceremonial magic, along with lovely Club Dumas bibliophile fan service.

I read this book slowly over several months, since there is no continuity from story to story. It’s a decent collection of new weird fiction built around specialized themes that are of particular to interest to me, and I was satisfied by it.

I’m with the Bears

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews I’m with the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] edited by Mark Martin, introduction by Bill McKibben, with Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Kim Stanley Robinson, &al.

Martin Atwood Robinson Mitchell McKibben I'm with the Bears

This 2011 anthology is made up of short fiction concerned with climate change, extinction, and environmental collapse. Two contributions, the ones by Lydia Millett and Kim Stanley Robinson, are excerpts from previous novels, while two others by David Mitchell and Paolo Bacigalupi seem to have been advance work for novels they later completed and published (The Bone Clocks and The Water Knife, respectively).

Of the ten stories collected here, three are set in the present or recent past. These are concerned with the futility of protest-based activism against environmental depredation and with the unbalancing of the human mind in the face of non-human extinctions.

Another six stories are set in the relatively near future; 2040 is the specified date for two of the stories, and these seem to be the far boundary of the set. All of these depict varying types and stages of social collapse as a result of environmental exhaustion and climate change, in the (former) UK, US, and Italy. All are plausible, none are cheering, and easily the bleakest is “Diary of an Interesting Year” by Helen Simpson.

The collection concludes with Margaret Atwood’s three-page “Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet,” which doesn’t offer anything like hope. I was a little galled that this set of narrative fictions held out even less consolation than Roy Scranton’s book-length essay Learning to Die in the Anthropocene.