A few weeks ago (as of when I write this in October) I came to learn that the most popular tabletop RPG in Japan right now was neither D&D nor a homegrown RPG like Sword World, but Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. Also, I learned Dark Horse Comics had released a collection of adaptations of the works of H.P. Lovecraft by artist Gou Tanabe and had announced a planned release of Tanabe’s adaptation of At The Mountains of Madness. Thus, it seemed appropriate to read the first of Tanabe’s adaptations and get a feel for his take on Lovecraft’s work. (more…)
The thing with collections of short stories is that, in theory, they should serve as your narrative buffet. You take the stories you like, and if there’s one you don’t like, you can move past it and go on to the next. However, much as some buffets have nothing to like, occasionally some short story collections have nothing enjoyable to them. Thus is the case with The Hastur Cycle and me.
As someone who has enjoyed some of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, and playing the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, I had thought this collection would be right up my alley. I was wrong. As a collection of stories, it has a profoundly unpleasant tone to it that seems to permeate every work in the story. There’s recurring motifs of cruelty to animals in general and cats in particular that particularly turned me off. One story has the “lead” (I wouldn’t call him a protagonist) attempting to murder a cat with their cane, and then another draws a connection between a bus driving off a road into a flood with a sack of kittens being downed.
The latter example felt particularly unnecessary, and bounced me hard out of the story in two different directions. The first was in the context of the image being particularly gross. The second was because I had to ask myself – how and when was this particular act – drowning kittens – widespread enough that it was something that an author would feel is familiar enough to draw reference to – and finding myself really not wanting to know the answer, as learning it would be bad for my sanity.
This isn’t helped by the stories not being in any real chronological order by publication. Some of the earlier stories fit, but the rest don’t have any information in terms of when they were published, and consequently it makes it hard to figure out what stories and conceits came from HPL, and which were contributed by those particular authors. Looking at the list of stories and diversity of authors in this book, I was hoping was an aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos where Lovecraft was influenced as much as he was influential. Unfortunately, this book does not contain the answers to those questions.
That said, the central focus of the stories – Hastur, Carcosa, and the King in Yellow – are concepts of the Cthulhu mythos that I hadn’t run into that much, and I was interested in reading more about, so this made the fact that the book bounced me out all the more disappointing. It does make me wonder if this particular issue is particularly intrinsic to stories related to Hastur, or if there are short stories and novels where this isn’t an issue.
I can’t recommend this book, though I admit the issues that caused me to bounce out of this book might not be issues for other readers.
If you do want to pick up the book, it is available from Amazon.com. I receive a commission from purchases picked up through that link, so if you want to help support the site in a manner other than my Patreon, consider making any purchases through that link.
When I entered Middle School, I started reading the works of HP Lovecraft. If you’re a fan of Horror, especially horror in the vein of the fantastic, you probably know some of Lovecraft’s works, without actually reading them. Lovecraft has inspired many a horror writer and director, from John Carpenter (“In the Mouth of Madness”) to Steven King (“The Mist”). However, while homages to his work have been made off and on over time, direct adaptations of his work have generally sucked, and sucked hard.
I’ll be frank – Lovecraft’s work doesn’t lend itself to adaptation very well. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Lovecraft’s horror was derived from the idea that the human brain was incapable of realizing how insignificant humanity is in the vastness of space, and if we ever realized it, our minds would shatter – and they’d be even further destroyed if there were older, more powerful races than us, that thought in ways that we couldn’t possibly imagine. Now, putting aside the fact that humanity has recognized just how small we are in the universe, and not only has survived without mass hysteria, but had a response that could best be described as “apathy”, this type of horror just doesn’t film well. Far more often, Lovecraft had to try to convey this by having the cosmic terrors be something that words couldn’t describe, which is a bit of a cheat – though one that ages better. Still, this is something that doesn’t necessarily film as well either – and it’s something that, frankly, most directors haven’t tried to do.
Instead most directors have tried to go to the personal horror route. Perhaps the most adapted of all of Lovecraft’s stories is The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which a reporter goes to the city of Innsmouth in New England to investigate, and discovers a great horror within the city. The barely escapes from the inhabitants, who have become less human and more something else. In his investigations from outside the city, he discovers a terrible shock to his identity, that he too carries some of the inhuman heritage of the residents of Innsmouth and returns. The idea with this adaptation is that the audience would be able to emphasize with this struggle over identity. This is not, however, Lovecraft’s most famous story, and the one which named his mythos. (more…)