Some thoughts on The Taint and short fiction in general

First off I should say that I am terrible at reading short fiction.  I don’t know what it is but I’ve never been good at it.  Reading short fiction feels like it exercises a whole different set of skills than long fiction and I’ve always found myself stalling, and eventually abandoning, anthologies and collections on a fairly frequent basis.  A few authors have managed to capture my imagination: Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Patricia A. McKillip, Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman are the ones that come to mind.

Regardless the list of anthologies and collections I have abandoned is long and storied.  I don’t know how I can read an 800+ doorstop of an epic fantasy but fail so miserably at a story barely 10% of that length; but there it is none-the-less.  I bring this all up because I find reading The Taint and other Novellas falls strongly under the “really hard” category for me.   On the one hand I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.  Despite my rabid and inexplicable enjoyment of Lovecraft’s work I have stayed far away from other “mythos” fiction.  Lumley’s collection marks my first forray into that area.  Both stories I’ve read so far have been interesting and, despite borrowing thematically and literally, from the fiction of Lovecraft manage to carry the author’s own voice.

The first story, “The Horror at Oakdeene” , as Lumley’s explanatory text reveals, is largely an amateur effort.  It isn’t without merit however and definitely shows promise.  It moves along at rather fast pace, faster than most of Lovecraft’s fiction at any rate, but at the same time lacks the archaic and weathered feel that lent Lovecraft’s fiction such an authentic and thus all the more terrifying feel.   It shows hints of Lumley’s own distinct tone but feels more often than not like a pale imitation of Lovecraft.

“Born of the Winds” is a much stronger work.  It is very much a take on Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” set amongst the wilds of the Canadian north.  Where Lovecraft’s epic novella uses the oppressive isolation of Antarctica to ferment a sense of terror and foreboding Lumley instead turns to the peoples, and their myths, of his setting as a source for the strangeness. The result is in the end a wholly original tale that combines the best of “The Call of Cthulhu” with “At the Mountains of Madness.”

Anyway I’m going to keep plugging away at the stories here.  This is one of those books where I’m glad I’m librarian and thus do not generate overdue fees on materials I’ve checked out!  Also, I absolutely love the cover art for this image but none my searching could come up with a title for the image.  It doesn’t look like Cthulhu and my inclination is that it depicts Dagon, but if anyone knows for certain I’d appreciate it.

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