H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, #2

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"Innsmouth Bane" John Glasby
"He Wanted to Live" Richard Matheson
"One Day at a Time" Charles Black
"My! What Big Teeth They Have" Melissa Kirkwood
"The Dark" R.J. Lewis
"A Ghost Can Be Born" Ray Russell
"Sweet As This" Joel McRennary
"Killing the Pain" Marc Bilgrey
"The Pride is Back" Jean Paiva
"I Who Am Nothing" Chris Bunch
"Where Does the Town Go At Night?" Tanith Lee
"Innsmouth Bane" by John Glasby is a story of the town overtaken by strange frog-like and fish-like creatures. The disaster comes about due to one of the local’s trade indiscretions. The narrator of the piece watches in horror as abominable things happen to his beloved town, until it falls into inhuman hands. This is a Lovecraftian pastiche, and as such, it is a pleasant read. I especially enjoyed the transformation of the inhabitants into something less than human.

The story is written in an archaic prose, with the obligatory exclamation points and italics of a Lovecraftian story. I did not feel that it offered anything different besides a competent imitation of Lovecraft’s style, but it is an enjoyable tale in its context.

"He Wanted to Live" by Richard Matheson is a chillingly accurate portrayal of a day in the life of a man obsessed with fear of death. Matheson’s prose is compelling, even in this stream-of-consciousness story. According to the note that accompanies the tale, it is somewhat autobiographical. I am not a bit surprised, because the sheer intensity of the account hints at something deeper than writerly imagination. This is a sort of story that will haunt you for days, which is a very good thing.

"One Day at a Time" by Charles Black is a ghost-revenge short-short. The title is a pun. This story did not appeal to me, probably because it was too short to examine anything beyond sequential killings.

"My! What Big Teeth They Have" by Melissa Kirkwood is another short-short, this one with an amusing role reversal. A little girl in the playground is ambushed by a pedophile, late at night. It ends much better than it would have in real life.

"The Dark" by R.J. Lewis paints a familiar picture–a psychiatrist interviews a man, a night guard, who claims that there are things in the dark. Now that he’s seen those night creatures, they are out to get him. The plot is quite predictable, but there are a few genuinely creepy moments in this story–especially for those who are afraid of the dark.

"A Ghost Can Be Born" by Ray Russell starts as your normal ghost story–a man comes home, only to discover that he has a visitor, a friend he has not spoken to in a long while. They spend a pleasant evening, talking and drinking, until the friend disappears without a trace. There is no doubt that he was a ghost, but there is a slight problem–the friend is not dead. I was pleasantly surprised by this story.  Instead of clichéd ghost fare, this turned into a sensitive and melancholy exploration of what makes a person what he is, and what ghosts are made of. A very good read.

"Sweet As This" by Joel McRennary starts out with a sweetshop owner who caters to the most rich and demanding clientele. The sweetshop owner soon meets a mysterious lady, whose demands challenge even his extraordinary skill–she asks him to sugarcoat live monarch butterflies. The descriptions of his confections are mouthwatering, and the writing sparkles and shines. The sequence with candied butterflies is especially delightful. I was even willing to forget that those things are poisonous. Unfortunately, the resolution that involved ancient cults and human sacrifices felt like a let down–I was expecting something more imaginative. Nonetheless, this story is well worth reading, especially the first half.

"Killing the Pain" by Marc Bilgrey starts with a man after a painful breakup. He mopes around for a long while, until he decides he doesn’t want to live anymore. At this point, he stumbles upon a cryptic old man, who explains the true meaning of Halloween–excuse me, Samhain–as the night when boundaries between the worlds grow thinner, and offers the protagonist to become the next human sacrifice of a secret society with vague purpose. I found this story too clichéd to be enjoyable, even though the writing was quite good.

"The Pride is Back" by Jean Paiva describes a quiet rural town where a few people have recently gone missing. The protagonist, a frustrated writer who just returned back home, goes for a hike, and finds a beautiful house deep in the forest. The woman who greets him seems suspiciously friendly, but very attractive. Of course, she is more than she seems.

The story did not really work for me, because the stereotype of a deadly seductress has been overdone. It can be enjoyable if it is executed well, but I felt this tale was too linear and predictable, and the characters were too one-dimensional.

"I Who Am Nothing" by Chris Bunch is an allegorical tale of a boy in an unidentified country. The unnamed protagonist discovers that he has strange powers, which allow him to telekinetically kill those who would harm him, and hide in the resulting nothingness. This story is quite difficult to describe, since so much of it hinges on the atmosphere and the imagery. I enjoyed it very much.

"Where Does the Town Go At Night?" by Tanith Lee was the best story in this issue. Anton travels to a coastal town. The country remains unnamed, but it conjures an image of a small Scandinavian (or perhaps German) locale. It is a beautiful and quiet place, but Anton’s task is not a pleasant one: he is here to see Marthe, the woman he has had an affair with a few years ago. His illegitimate son, his well-hidden secret, is the reason for his visit. Before he goes to see Marthe, he runs into a beggar who tells him a wondrous tale: some nights, a part of the town detaches itself from the shore, and goes frolicking out in the sea. Everyone is asleep on such nights, except the select few, the Awake, who only remember these night travels as a dream. But while they are Awake, they see mermaids and bright fishes swimming among the flowers of the garden, and only bright seashells are left in the morning.

If it were all there was, it would have been a pretty fantasy. But the ending is perhaps one of the most effective and saddest I’ve ever read. It is a beautiful story of a lost paradise, heartbreaking, and the best Tanith Lee story I’ve ever read. This issue of HPL Magazine of Horror is worth a look for that story alone.

Overall, another very enjoyable issue. The nonfiction features are great, especially the interview with Richard Matheson.