Sidesplitting Lovecraftian comedy and other books read

LOLCRAFT: A Compendium of Eldritch Humor comes from the same company that put out the Lovecraftian romance anthology Eldritch Embraces a few years ago. Once again, they’ve included one of my stories and once again the other stories are excellent (I’ve been in anthologies where that wasn’t true. Excellent is better). The Old Ones save Christmas, Bertie Wooster meets HP Lovecraft (“These American authors are all cowboys.”), the Old Ones confront corporate bureaucracy and Las Vegas and vacationers share their online reviews of couples weekend at the Arkham Witch House (“It was weird, the soap was lying on the floor of the bathtub but it seemed an infinite distance away.”). While one or two stories didn’t work for me, the vast majority were a hoot to read.I was much less entertained by Megan Lindholm’s WIZARD OF THE PIGEONS despite some glowing recommendations and Lindholm’s later success as Robin Hobb. In this 1986 urban fantasy, Wizard is a homeless Vietnam veteran wandering the streets of Seattle, dealing with his PTSD and the memories he’s trying to bury but also with the duties his magic imposes on him and the terrible threat of some amorphous evil force invading the city.

Lindholm writes beautifully but by the end of the first few chapters I could tell the ratio of pretty writing to story was way out of whack. At times the story slips uncomfortably close to movies such as Fisher King or They Might Be Giants where everything is in the protagonist’s head; I don’t think the magic is but I’m not sure about the evil force (I got to skimming a lot) and I hate All In Their Head stories. Plus the mentally disturbed Vietnam veteran was and is a bad stereotype (not that they didn’t exist but a lot more went home and resumed something approaching normal life). I’ve wanted to read this for years but now that I have it’s a disappointment.

LOVE EVERLASTING by Tom King and Elsa Charretier was more interesting, but didn’t work for me either. In the first chapter, protagonist Joan falls for her boss even though he’s dating her BFF; it all works out happily but then she wakes up as a young college student who falls for a counterculture type over her father’s objections but once again her life reboots. Eventually we learn a mysterious cowboy guns her down whenever she finds true love.

I’ve no idea where this is going and not in an “intrigued” sort of way. The stories aren’t really parodies as they could easily have appeared in Girl’s Love or similar titles (except the last one, set in the Great War, which doesn’t fit the pattern) and they’re not critiquing the stories or attitudes so was this just a way to make a modern love-comics anthology interesting? The murky discussion at the climax doesn’t explain enough to satisfy.

To end on a win, TYG and I caught the Durham Savoyards’ production of THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD a couple of weekends ago. This Gilbert and Sullivan operetta takes place in the Elizabethan age at the Tower of London. The alchemist Fairfax has been sentenced to death for witchcraft so a relative can seize his estate; to spite him, he pays Elsie, a traveling entertainer, to marry him, thereby putting his estate off-limits. When Fairfax manages to escape his fate, however, both he and Elsie have to deal with a marriage neither fo them thought would last.

The standout part is Jock Paint, the jester in love with Elsie, his performing partner. Where Shakespeare’s jesters are wry philosophers, Jack has to work at being funny, often struggling; losing his love to Fairfax ends the show on a genuinely and uncharacteristically sad note for G&S. I’ve seen this played several ways — Elsie is heartless, the ending is tragic — but here she’s sympathetic and it’s simply downbeat. It’s odd, given that Jack doesn’t have any more claim to Elsie than Bunthorne had to Patience in Patience, but it works nonetheless. Though Fairfax/Elsie doesn’t, at least for me — unlike Algernon in Patience or most G&S romantic leads, he doesn’t seem in love with his leading lady. Regardless, the Savoyards pulled this off with their usual flair.  “Tell a tale of cock-and-bull/Of convincing detail full/Tale portentious/Heaven defend us/What a tale of cock and bull!”

#SFWApro. Covers by Don England (top) and Charretier, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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