RogerBW's Blog

She Walks in Shadows, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles 12 February 2018

2015 fantasy/horror anthology, consisting of Lovecraftian stories by and about women. Because, as the editors point out, there's a substantial strand of writers of Lovecraftiana who have continued Howard's premise that women just aren't terribly interesting or worthy of notice (both in their stories and in real life), so why not?

As with many anthologies, it's pretty patchy. Quite a few of the stories here are just middle, with no beginning or end; others set up a spectacular and impressive moment, but then don't do anything with it.

  • Ammutseba Rising (Ann K. Schwader) is poetry which doesn't speak to me.

  • Turn Out the Light (Penelope Love) reimagines the life and death of Lovecraft's mother, but apart from projecting Lovecraft's later imaginings into his childhood fantasies has little to say.

  • Bring the Moon to Me (Amelia Gorman) deals with magical patterns and how they can be implemented; it's rather effective.

  • Violet is the Color of Your Energy (Nadia Bulkin) talks effectively about the experience of hosting a Colour from the perspective of the farmers, but can't quite bring it home.

  • De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae (Jilly Dreadful) is an excellent series of notes on a Mythos Tome as it modifies the note-taker; this includes what I thought was the best line in the book:

I asked Carlo if he would be so kind as to give me permission to devour him. He said yes. While he offered up his body in humble obsecration, his voice joined the incantations that churned in my mind.

  • Lavinia's Wood (Angela Slatter) tries to deal with Lavinia Whatley [sic, for no obvious reason] and why she might be a willing participant in blasphemous rites (The Dunwich Horror); but it doesn't quite hold together, because it never really explores her personality.

  • The Adventurer's Wife (Premee Mohamed) starts off promisingly but repeatedly takes the most predictable course to come to an expected end.

  • Lockbox (E. Catherine Tobler) has vague connections to Exham Priory (The Rats in the Walls), but is really more of a conventionally phantasmagoric horror piece. Heavy footnoting feels forced.

  • Hairwork (Gemma Files) follows up on Marceline (Medusa's Coil), with more plausible characterisations. It's a solid piece that's an effective answer to Lovecraft's story.

  • The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad (Molly Tanzer) deals with a parallel situation to The Thing on the Doorstep, with a good twist that continues to work on re-reading.

  • Body to Body to Body (Selena Chambers) is another answer to The Thing on the Doorstep, looking at other members of the household, and with a new resolution. It's another excellent piece.

  • Magna Mater (Arinn Dembo) is too short; as part of a novel it might work, here it's just a fragment.

  • Chosen (Lyndsey Holder) has a student of Keziah Mason (The Dreams in the Witch House) trying to finish her work… and then collapses at the end.

  • Bitter Perfume (Laura Blackwell) is perhaps connected with Cool Air, but doesn't in the end have anything to say. Lots of emotion but no meat.

  • Eight Seconds (Pandora Hope) is a solid story of rodeo riding and the Great Mother.

  • The Eye of Juno (Eugenie Mora) is set in Roman Britain, but is fairly conventional horror, with a very predictable ending twist, but very atmospherically written.

  • Cthulhu of the Dead Sea (Inkeri Kontro) has a fractal life form but then does nothing unexpected with it. (And its protagonist is perhaps too similar to the author.) Lovely ideas, too many of them ignored rather than developed.

  • Notes Found in a Decommissioned Asylum, December 1961 (Sharon Mock) deals with the aftermath of a Cthulhoid incident, but like so many of these pieces offers a short straightforward progression that brings no surprise or, really, interest.

  • The Cypress God (Rodopi Sisamis) is a tale of immense forces abused for petty purposes, but nobody involved seems to notice that that's what's going on.

  • When She Quickens (Mary A. Turzillo) is a minimally-Lovecraftian story of betrayal and revenge from beyond the grave.

  • Queen of a New America (Wendy N. Wagner) has Nitocris dwelling in a new body… but it's just a snapshot, with no plot.

  • The Opera Singer (Priya Sridhar) is hinting about possession, but it's so busy hinting it forgets to have a story.

  • Shub-Niggurath's Witnesses (Valerie Valdes) offers a welcome touch of mild humour, though it doesn't do much.

  • Provenance (Benjanun Sriduangkaew) is set aboard a decaying space station, and aggressively denounces any possibility of plot.

  • T'la-yub's Head (Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas) is full of lovely imagery but says nothing.

Too many of these stories can't reach an ending, and either flail about destroying themselves in the attempt or just stop short. Others have nothing to say; though at least they're all pretty short so even the boring ones aren't boring for long. Only a few of the authors seem to apprehend what makes horror cosmic rather than icky. To me it's about half good stories and half ones that don't work at all, which as anthologies go isn't bad.

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