In Filth it Shall be Found, a review

*I originally posted a short verision of this on Goodreads, but didn’t feel that I had properly done my opinion justice. The publisher’s site is here.

Transgressive fiction is pretty niche, and this book embraces that. This isn’t to say that the stories aren’t varied, they are. There’s a great range of talent from authors that I wasn’t familiar with at all, as well as a mix of genres. When I saw this anthology pop up on Kickstarter I was intrigued enough to back it. Let me just say that, if hindsight is 20/20, then I am on occasion, a genius. This is a quality anthology.

Each author’s contribution did what it was supposed to do, challenge the reader’s perspective by presenting people who articulated themselves in ways that are generally not, shall we say, expected. There were people who were down and out, criminals, scumbags, victims, and so on. As I said, there was a great range presented in this collection. There are a couple of authors whose works I’m going to explore further after reading their stories. That’s a success as far as short story collections are concerned.

One example of a standout I particularly enjoyed Isaac and Me by Don Logan. The story started out with a guy killing his wife, only to end up living on the streets. When he befriends a male prostitute, his life takes a turn for the better. However, the book’s conclusion was a great surprise, and this was an excellent psychological thriller. I’ve shortlisted this author for the sake of checking out other things they may have written.

There were other stories that rubbed homicide and mental illness in the readers faces, as if the author wanted mash the audiences nose in shit. Some of the stories were, in a word, ‘abrasive’. This was the point though. Figure out where the line is in respectable daily life, and intentionally cross over it so as to linger in the shadows where less pleasant things are concelaed.

Other reviews have pointed out that there is a fairly mixed group of authors, and this is also a positive. It’s one thing to have a range of content, but it’s refreshing to see that equal attention was probably paid to content creators. Fiction as a whole benefits from this. There are too may perspectives to leave people out, intentionally or not.

Where the book faltered was that I didn’t feel like my assumptions of proper conduct in society were challenged enough. It’s one thing to show people acting in ways that might not meet our expectations, but that’s not enough. There needs to be a contrast of where the actions deviate away from what’s regarded as normal. Here and there, yes, that sort of juxtaposition is present in small quantities. Yet, more often than not I had the impression that the authors were trying to toe the line of what would be considered “shocking” to the average reader, but that was enough on it’s own.

In a way that’s a success because there are a couple of stories that made me feel a bit dirty after enjoying them. The problem was that I expected to have the conventions of the world around me challenged by the characters in the story. People needed to break free from the confines of polite society, and there wasn’t enough of clear break present in a lot of the stories. A lot of the characters were just varying shades of deplorable. Unfortunately, despite the quality of the book, I had wanted a bit more in this respect. Trangressive fiction shines brightest when that sort of divergence is central to a narrative’s architecture. Otherwise, it just ends up being people trying to upset the squares, which can be a bit tedious after a while. At least in my opinion.

As an anthology, this book scratched an itch. It’s a strain of storytelling that isn’t on most people’s lists, but it has its place. Don’t be fooled either, this stuff is dark. It isn’t for everyone, but for anyone that does enjoy having their limits tested, then this book is for you. The selections within miss the mark occasionally, but not one of them was poor quality. I genuinely enjoyed this book from start to finish, even if it was sometimes a little hard to read them all. Ultimately, a job well done by Outcast Press.

Brilliant actors reading a classic poem

Halloween is just around the corner, and there is no time like the present to dig into the public domain archives to see what we can find. One of my personal favourites is Edgar Allan Poe. His stories and poetry strike the perfect chord this time of year.

Yet, to truly do them justice, it takes a professional. What is probably one of Poe’s most famous poems is The Raven, and it captures so much of what made Poe a fantastic author. For full effect, consider having a listen to the versions read by actors Christopher Lee or Vincent Price.

Both actors were known for their distinct voices. Lee’s deep booming voice carried him through his eclectic career, and it is a fantastic accompaniment to The Raven. He casts a wonderfully serious and sombre tone for the poem, and his reading works extremely well to bring the text to life.

Alternatively, there is another version by Vincent Price. Most of Price’s acting career was in horror, specifically lower-budget horror movies. Over the decades, he became an icon of the genre. His voice possesses a distinctly creepy tone which contributes strongly to the atmosphere of the poem. Personally, I think Poe would have been proud, and I have a slight preference for Price’s reading.

For anyone that would like to read the poem on its own, it can be found here, and in many other places. (Check your library!)

Poetry, a public domain treasure

Pretty much anything published before 1923 should be in the public domain. This includes poetry. Aside from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, The Divine Comedy, or maybe Beowulf, I suspect most people don’t consider public domain poetry much.

As someone that reads a lot of genre fiction, it’s almost impossible to avoid poetry. Fantasy authors seem to have a particular enthusiasm for it, and love to write odes, bawdy drinking songs, and whatnot into their texts. This goes back to the beginning, at least as far back Tolkien, which contained poetry as a sort of world-building tool. However, I also enjoy poetry in its own right. I respect it and a writer’s ability to create it immensely. Try writing some verses yourself, and you’ll see why these people merit their accolades.

While poetry isn’t anywhere near as popular as it once was, it remains a valuable art form. I’ll avoid a formal analysis of this poem, but here is a decent example that fell into the public domain cracks.

LXXII
Warnings

  • When Heaven sends sorrow,
    • Warnings go first,
    • Lest it should burst
    • With stunning might
    • On souls too bright
      • To fear the morrow.
  • Can science bear us
    • To the hid springs
    • Of human things?
    • Why may not dream,
    • Or thought’s day-gleam,
      • Startle, yet cheer us?
  • Are such thoughts fetters,
    • While Faith disowns
    • Dread of earth’s tones,
    • Reeks but Heaven’s call,
    • And on the wall
      • Reads but Heaven’s letters?
  • Between Calatafimi and Palermo.February 12, 1833.
  • LXXIII

Taken from public domain eBook Verses on Various Occasions by John Henry Newman. Accessed 16-09-2022, original source: https://standardebooks.org/ebooks/john-henry-newman/verses-on-various-occasions

Whether you agree with the religious nature or not of the poem isn’t the issue. I like it because I feel like it sounds like a sort of faith-based prophecy criticizing people from the old ways to the new. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d expect to see in a fantasy novel where forms of prophecy are very common.

There is so much out there, so many wonderful books and pictures that sometimes people forget poetry even exists. The poem cited above is one example, but there are many, many more.

Keeping up with the Awards’

Last week, the winners of the Hugo Awards were announced. After looking over the list, I realized I was familiar with very little of the content in ANY of the categories. Immediately, I felt the twinge of guilt I always feel for not being more current and promised myself to indulge in some of the stuff that had at least been nominated. Then I realized how silly that was because let’s face it, there’s no way to keep up with everything out there.

Think about it, aside from the Hugos, there are the Nebula Awards, the Locus Awards, and the Bram Stoker Award, and this list could become very long. There are a lot of awards from a variety of organizations. Is it even possible to stay on top of all this?

One of the people on the list of Hugo Winners was N.K. Jemisin (Best Graphic Story or Comic WINNER: Far Sector, written by N.K. Jemisin, art by Jamal Campbell (DC)), and I swear, at the rate she’s going she’ll die one of the most decorated writers of genre fiction ever. Robert A. Heinlen has won six Hugos, but I suspect Jemisin could overtake him, despite everything else she’s won. Then again, she has a ways to go before they name an award after her, so we’ll have to wait and see. Anywho, I hadn’t even realized Jemisin was nominated because I’d completely lost track of the fact that the Hugos were going to be taking place! I know, I’m a bad nerd.

The thing is, I don’t know that I really care. All of that great content will still be there in the future -ironic for science fiction, right?-and I can explore it then. By the time I finally get around to it there will have been more rewards granted, and more content, and more rewards, and so on, and so on, and so on…

At the end of the day or the beginning of the night, whichever you prefer, there is simply too much out there. Awards help filter through some of the detritus, but there’s a lot of stuff out there. When it comes to entertainment options, there’s no shortage. There was a time when my to-be-read pile was filled with stuff from various awards and honours, almost exclusively, and a lot of what I got through was first-rate. After a while, it all became too much. There’s a sense that you have to keep up with the current trends, the best new books, and the most award-winning title. It isn’t true though, and while I think the creators that are considered for an honour, let alone winners of the awards, are worth your time, it’s impossible to keep pace with everything.

That is to say, don’t bother. There’s so much out there to enjoy, don’t let the awards make the choices for you. I’ve made this mistake in the past and found myself lamenting that I’d pushed some of my own interests aside in favour of what was supposed to be the “it” thing. Learn from my mistakes kids, and unless they overlap, keep focused on your interests.

(Now, where was my library card to go check some of these winners out…)

*List of winners of the Hugos can be found here (<- actual site) and here (<-Gizmodo).

Publishing date and the public domain: When a work doesn’t enter the public domain

During his lifetime, British author E.M. Forster received awards, honours, and all kinds of platitudes for the quality of his writing. His novels have been made into films and plays, and have stood the test of time. For anyone that isn’t familiar with his works, they are almost certainly available through a library, but also available as public domain works.

However, despite the fact that Forster was writing at the outset of the 20th century, one of his works may not be available in the public domain. The novel, Maurice, is to put it crudely, a gay love story. Fearing retribution for having written favourably of a homosexual, Forster buried the book and requested it be published posthumously. He was, apparently, afraid that the book would destroy his career. With his death in 1970, Forster’s “unpublishable” manuscript finally saw the light of day.

However, despite the book being a very worthwhile read, especially as a quality LGBTQ+ work, it isn’t available in the public domain. Despite other, and Forster’s most critically acclaimed works, shedding previous copyright protection, Maurice’s later publication date (1971) shields it from joining the author’s other novels. That doesn’t mean it isn’t accessible, but not in the public domain.

It is a curious situation that a book was published some 60 years or so after it was written, and remains separated from other works in Forster’s oeuvre. The Trial by Franz Kafka was published posthumously; although, it is now in the public domain, along with other works. The publication date in this case is the main issue. Originally, Kafka’s original works became public domain, but the translations which were published later did not enter the public domain at the same time, or at all. The same is the situation with Maurice.

It can be purchased or borrowed from a library, but it remains under copyright protection. It is an anomaly, but not a unique one. If you are interested, the book is very good. It was chosen as a selection for the book club I’m a part of and will be reviewed once we’ve completed the novel. This article was put together to cover a unique trait of the novel, but not one I had wanted to discuss at length during a proper review.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance: Chronicles #1), a review

What books do fans of fantasy fiction think of when they reflect on the works that define the genre? After The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, or A Game of Thrones and its subsequent sequels, it’s fair to challenge people to name works of fantasy fiction. “name your top five fantasy novels…” I imagine people would name Harry Potter or Conan as well, so we’re up to three or four now.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? People might struggle to name more than a few. Despite its apparent popularity, fantasy is not well-explored by most people. Interestingly, one of the books-series of books, actually-that I often see on shortlists of “Best Fantasy Novels” is Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. In fact, I picked it up and read it because someone else suggested it as a favourite work of fiction.

This novel is the first in a trilogy that details the adventures of a group of heroes in a fantasy world (Krynn) created for the tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff find themselves pitted against the forces beyond their comprehension, and seemingly well beyond their capabilities. They read like archetypal fantasy. Dragons, medieval wizards and warriors, elves, dwarves and so on. So much about this book perfectly encompasses what I suspect most people imagine when they think of fantasy fiction, for better or worse.

This book scratches a particular itch. On one hand, and let’s just get this out of the way, detractors of fantasy will point to books like this as an example of why the genre is garbage. Overall, the sophistication of the story probably fits with YA novels. The characters feel somewhat contrived and based on well-worn cliches. On the other hand, who cares what they say!

So much of what has become a staple of geeky culture is evident in this book. The humour, the character archetypes, and of course, the fact that the story is one giant D&D reference. Back when this novel was published, in 1984, people thought about stuff like TTRPGs much differently. There was the infamous Satanic Panic, which would have been at its peak when this novel was published. Tabletop gaming, in general, was much more niche 38 years ago when this book hit the stands. Yet, this book has endured and has cultivated fans for decades. From start to finish, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is like a precursor to every geeky joke and anecdote you might expect to hear people swap at a gaming table.

This last point is probably the most important for the novel’s legacy. It’s easy to tear this book down because it isn’t highly refined literature. However, it is fun, and it is fun in a unique way for its fans. Sometimes a book can be greatly enhanced when the audience gets the “in-jokes” that are peppered throughout the story. Weis and Hickman wrote their tale to include all of that, but the thing that stands out for me is that they get the in-jokes as well. They could be swapping them with the readers because they’re also the audience. Both author and reader played TTRPGs, principally D&D.

It was a level playing field between the creators and the consumers, and even if the stories don’t break the mould, they bring to life what a lot of gamers were engaging with during TTRPG sessions. These novels were created to breathe a different sort of life into D&D (see Shannon Applecline’s Designers & Dragons), and they ultimately succeeded. The original Dragonlance modules served as inspiration, and have become something of a cult classic in fantasy fiction.

No, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is not for everyone. People who like fantasy and D&D might not even like Weis and Hickman’s treatment of the source material, but there are those that do. These novels are for the people that play games, first and foremost. That was always the intended audience, and it always will be. If you’ve ever played D&D and enjoyed traipsing about the wilderness, clashing with evil spellcasters, and slaying monsters, then these books are for you. They were always meant for you.

Thoughts on “Grimdark” fiction

Recently, I read Joe Abercrombie’s novel, The Blade Itself. I’ve seen this book named many times as a “to read” selection for fans of genre fiction, especially if the audience wanted a darker tale. I’ll review this book in another post, but I wanted to take a minute to reflect on “grimdark” in genre fiction.

Grimdark isn’t really its own genre. It’s a sub-genre of fiction, usually, genre fiction that, according to Dictionary.com dystopian fantasy fiction characterized by harsh settings, extreme violence, and a bleak, fatalistic perspective on the future of humanity. It’s hard to see how grimdark could stand on its own as a genre, at least to me. Once a writer begins incorporating elements of fantasy or science-fiction, then the tale is necessarily absorbed into the larger genre. If it were literary fiction, then maybe it could be some iteration of transgressive fiction, but the issue remains. Grimdark is its own little subgenre in fiction, a distinct form that can shape a story.

By definition (see above) grimdark is not really cheerful. It serves a purpose, but as a generalized framework, there is a real risk of things becoming too negative, with no chance for any variation. In another medium, I feel like grimdark would be similar to painting, but the artist was only allowed to use varying shades of gray. If everything is bleak or harsh, what is left but to carry on in the face of so much misery?

Like I said, there’s a place for this. Fantasy in particular is guilty of too many epic heroes, and characters destined for greatness. Stories can become trite very quickly, and grimdark can serve as a correction to all of that. However, because it is so limited, grimdark offers severe limitations to a writer.

None of this is to say that I think grimdark is bad, just a bit narrow. Along with The Blade Itself, Glen Cook’s series of books, The Black Company, are often highly regarded examples of grimdark. Furthermore, there is absolutely an audience for these kinds of tales. They offer their respective genres a more varied perspective and invite more experimentation on a variety of approaches to presenting a narrative. This last bit is especially true with regard to morality. If everything is horrible and stands to remain horrible for the foreseeable future, how does one determine what is “good”? It’s a complicated question at the best of times, but in a situation where hope is less an ideal and more a historical concept, articulating morality becomes a much different challenge.

What’s more, grimdark isn’t limited to books. Try using grimdark as a keyword in Google and you’ll get Warhammer 40,000, a tabletop war game. Yes, Warhammer has its own line of fiction, but the tagline of “”In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.” sums things up very well for the darker vein of storytelling.

Grimdark has an audience, and it doesn’t require statistics of book sales to prove that. However, it’s a particular audience because the appeal is limited. Perhaps that’s the point. Grimdark will invite readers that seek a harsher story than what they might be used to. To that end, grimdark is a great variation on the selection of available reading.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, a review

It is a rare thing when an author of so-called “literary fiction” veers off to create genre fiction. However, when it does happen, it can be a thoroughly engaging read. That is the case with The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Nobel Prize-winning author is well-known for a number of literary works, but his fantasy novel, The Buried Giant, stands a bit apart from those other texts. It is most definitely dramatic, the story incorporates fantasy elements, enough of which drag it into the genre itself. To be specific, the story is probably best catalogued as “Arthurian” due to its references to the fabled king.

The tale is set in Britain shortly after the death of Arthur, but at a time when his knights may still be roaming the countryside. The protagonists are an elderly couple (Axl and Beatrice) that set off to visit their estranged son. However, they can’t remember where he lives on account of a memory-draining mist that is created by an enchanted dragon. As you can plainly see, the story has fantasy elements.

For my part, I found the book to be very well-written, but not at all dependent upon genre conventions. There were times I doubted the story to be fantasy at all and was instead a dramatic story relying on a combination of folkloric superstition and unreliable narration. An example from the text would be when Axl and Beatrice were early in their trek and speaking about a sleeping giant that was beneath a hill. Neither characters question the veracity of the knowledge, even if it seemed absurd. It was taken as fact that there really was a giant slumbering just where they were somewhere beneath the topsoil. Rather than shirk from the genre, Ishiguro stuck it out and embraced all of this, tidily wrapping fantasy conventions into his story about two travellers at the end of their lives.

It’s here that I have a quibble. While I appreciate the talent that Ishiguro possesses, I can’t help, but wonder if there aren’t some aspects of the story that didn’t need to be present. Years ago, I had read something about writing genre fiction, I believe it was by Stephen King, and the idea put forward was that, if a writer can remove an element of the story, but the tale stays the same, then removing those elements is probably worth the writers time.

Basically, while an author might want to write a paranormal horror story, if that approach is being forced, then the author might want to consider writing a thriller without supernatural elements. It may have served Ishiguro to have taken this approach. A lot of his fantastic elements were presented literally, as though they truly existed, but I’m not sure it was necessary.

Presenting the more fantastic elements of the story works fine. They have a place and don’t detract. My slight sense of confusion comes from considering that the narrators, like everyone in the book, are unreliable. No one can remember anything, or be certain of very much. This makes the idea that folkloric superstitions are omnipresent as viable as the fantasy concepts that were at work in the story. If no one knows what is true, then anything can be.

There were never really any demons, but Axl and Beatrice were certain of their existence. Was it really a monstrous wolf creature, or just a large feral dog with mange? In order for the book to remain a fantasy novel at various points, you need to convince yourself as a reader that the fantasy elements had to be there, even when it isn’t entirely justified.

That being said, Ishiguro stays the course, and works through his story with dragons and knights and maybe even a voyage over the River Styx? Sir Gawain, the Green Knight himself! even has a role in the book. While there was ample opportunity for this to have been historical fiction or magical realism, this story does a credible job at fantasy.

Ishiguro doesn’t break the mould, but the story is a quality tale from start to finish. His real artistic flourishes come not from the genre but from his own approach to the story. The main characters are senior citizens. Historical references and allusions are peppered throughout the text. The story is built upon the architecture of earlier Arthurian stories but references a member of the round table no one in my book club had ever heard of before. Did they even exist? We actually had to debate this because it was subtly worked into the story, that no one could tell if Ishiguro invented the character, or if there was a real historical inspiration.

One thing that has remained after having finished the book is that it has lingered in my memory. Fortunately, I’m not feeling the effects of the tale’s dragon! I finished it weeks ago, and have finished other books since then. Yet, the story continues to reverberate in my mind, especially the ending. It’s one of those books.

Maybe it isn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but it will make you think if you give it a chance. Ishiguro is an expert wordsmith, and while he’s not necessarily innovative, his fantasy novel is worth your time. This is probably a great book for people that want something that straddles that line between literary and genre fiction, or people that need a break from the more formulaic entries in the genre. I promise, if you let him, Ishiguro will present a challenge, and all while regaling readers with knights, heroes, dragons, and an endearing couple in search of their long-lost child. What’s not to love?

Some selected stories by H.P. Lovecraft (Public Domain works incoming!)

There is an absolute treasure trove of media available in the public domain. Among these somewhat forgotten about creations, is a heap of classic genre fiction. What’s incredible about these old speculative works is that these books and magazines are where a lot of renowned authors got their start.

Once upon a pulpy time, Weird Tales was at the top of the genre heap. This was a notable rag for having published, among others, Howard Philips “H.P.” Lovecraft. After preparing my article on setting in Lovecraft’s work, I thought it would be a good idea to make some of his works available to anyone who might be interested. It’s easier to consider setting if you have examples to look at, right?

The Call of CthulhuWeird Tales, vol 11 no. 2 1928-02, retrieved from Internet Archive

The Lurking FearWeird Tales, vol 11 no. 6 1928-06, retrieved from Internet Archive

DagonWeird Tales, vol 2 no. 3 1923-10, retrieved from Internet Archive

Alternatively, as opposed to the individual magazines listed above that offer individual samples of Lovecraft’s work, (and those of other writers) how about a whole public domain collection? Well, look no further! The lovely website, Standard eBooks has a fantastic anthology of Lovecraft’s short fiction in one tidy digital volume.

Short Fiction by H.P. Lovecraft from Standard eBooks

This text is available in different formats beyond epub, so it should suit most machines people might want to use for reading the book. Happy reading, and please explore and support the non-profit organizations working diligently to get these items to you. Also, libraries will have Lovecraft’s work. I’d be willing to bet my dessert on this. Thank you for stopping by this museum!

When is a setting not a setting?

Every so often, I swap doom-scrolling online for perusing the content available via streaming services. I’m always amazed at the kind of stuff that I turn up, especially what might be best categorized as “schlock”. There is an extraordinary amount of “B-rated” television and film out there, and loads of that can be linked to the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Considering Lovecraft’s longevity, it’s hard not to wonder where the originator of the Cthulhu mythos ends, and where those he inspired begin. Lovecraft’s presence has endured for decades. However, his stories carry certain traits that are consistent, no matter if the story was written by Lovecraft, or if it falls under the “Lovecraftian” umbrella. One of the most significant is the setting.

The setting in most stories will be an active component of the text, helping to create the full effect of the tale being told. With Lovecraft’s influence, the setting must endure in the way he imagined it, one that would suit the stories he wanted to tell. Nothing has changed in the years since his death. Others have been weird-fiction flagbearers, but in order to make a story Lovecraftian, one has to respect the conventions, and that means setting.

Would anything Lovecraftian feel like it did the original author’s stories justice if there wasn’t a New England background? Sure, but are there limits? Just take a moment and mull that question. Yes, some of Lovecraft’s stories didn’t take place in New England. However, without Lovecraft’s augmented version of the corner of North America he occupied during his lifetime, would these stories even be possible? Also, if people who followed Lovecraft, building on his original concepts. but chose to stray from the foundational Lovecraftian ideas, would these new tales fit within the larger mythos comfortably?

This is kind of a peculiar case, but Lovecraft’s interpretation of his surroundings became the default setting for his fiction throughout his lifetime. All of the writers that followed him picked up on his ideas and carried them forward, but always while relying on his efforts. In any work of fiction, the setting is central to the text, and all things Lovecraftian are no different. The key element here is that the setting has to be adapted to fit the story, not necessarily the other way around.

What to make of the backdrop for Lovecraft’s weird tales? Does this count as a setting, unique and separate from the real world places Lovecraft relied upon? There are actual locations in there, but the stories required that holes be dug within them to make room for Lovecraft’s freakish ideas. The setting(s) had to be modified to allow space for weird fiction. As if this wasn’t enough, everyone that has come after Lovecraft has had to approach New England in more or less the same way to keep the setting properly, “Lovecraftian”. Despite being a real and tangible place, or conglomeration of places, does this ongoing depiction of a geographic area count as a unique and distinct “Setting”?

I would argue yes, Lovecraft’s work is a setting unto itself. Its enduring and evolving nature over all this time has led to a sort of amalgam that has taken on a life of its own. The prevalence of references to “Arkham”, for example, has given a fictitious site an ongoing utility from one author to another. If the approach to representing New England in weird fiction started and ended with Lovecraft, remaining unique to him, then it would be hard to call it a setting. However, because other people have come along after Lovecraft passed away, and carried his ideas forward, I’d have to say that Lovecraftian fiction has morphed into its own setting. It would probably be fair to say that it requires that setting in order to fit properly under the weird fiction scaffolding Lovecraft erected decades ago.

By contrast, New England is a real place. It seems to be reaching to try and say that it can be set apart as a distinct setting for a category of written works. It isn’t difficult to peel back the fiction and see the real places described within the stories as separate and apart from the tales placed upon them.

It’s a debatable topic, and it isn’t always clear when a setting really stands out as its own distinct location or a modified iteration of something real. If it weren’t for those that were inspired by Lovecraft’s work and sought to emulate him, this conversation likely wouldn’t be possible. For my part, I think Lovecraft’s interpretation of his New England surroundings has become its own entity. Regardless, what makes a setting a setting could easily be discussed far beyond what this post has space for. One thing is clear, however, that weird fiction has a home in the shadowy cracks of New England, if not also a place on bookshelves everywhere.