The Black Wings of Cthulhu is a collection of modern Cthulhu mythos stories – and I don’t know where to start.
Do I start with S. T. Joshi? Joshi is responsible for compiling the book. That makes him a good place to start. He had edited a number of Lovecraft works and written studies like The Modern Weird Tale and the biography H.P. Lovecraft: A Life.
What S. T. Joshi has done with The Black Wings of Cthulhu is put together a diverse collection of stories. These are not mythos clones. These writers do not try and ape H.P. Lovecraft’s writing style. This is a good thing. I think it’ll be hard to do that without sounding patronising or mocking. Instead, the authors in this collection of 21 tales of Lovecraftian horrors manage to evoke the Lovecraft feel by digging deeper than the lingo.
It’s also valid to start with the authors. Caitlin R Kiernan wrote Pickman’s Other Model, Donald R Burlseon wrote Desert Dreams, Joseph S Pulver, Sr wrote Engravings, Michael Shea penned Copping Squid, Sam Gafford penned Passing Spirited, Laird Barron put together The Boardsword, William Browning Spencer crafted Usurped, David J Schow wrote Denker’s Book, W. H. Pugmire is responsible for Inhabitants of Wraithwood, Mollie L Burleson for The Dome, Nicholas Royle scribed Rotterdam, Jonathan Thomas wrote Tempting Providence, Darrell Schweitzer penned Howling in the Dark, Brain Stableford put together The Truth about Pickman, Philip Haldeman wrote Tunnels, The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash was annotated by Ramsey Campbell, Michael Cisco wrote Violence, Child of Trust, Normal Partridge wrote Lesser Demons, Adam Niswander penned An Eldritch Matter, Michael Marshall Smith pulled together Substitution and Jason Van Hollander divined Susie.
The strength of the collection of short stories is certainly in its diversity. Okay, the book has diversity but it also has that powerful weave of Cthulhu mythos running through it. Expectation is an incredible force and it certainly plays a part in the Black Wings of Cthulhu.
It’s hard to judge whether the Black Wings of Cthulhu would be a good launch pad for readers not familiar with Lovecraft’s books. Yes; the language is more straight forward and approachable. No; not a single story feels like an H.P. Lovecraft. And yet; each story feels like a valid contribution to the Cthulhu mythos.
Over all, I think, the Black Wings of Cthulhu held my attention – and I read much of it on a turbulence ridden flight. It reminded me of that crazy couple of weeks when I power read my way through H.P. Lovecraft’s archive collection. The series reanimated Cthulhu for me.
But it’s different.
Cthulhu fans should grab the collection. No doubt. The rest of the book reading society… are you feeling brave?
Disclaimer: My copy of the Black Wings of Cthulhu was provided by Titan Books.