zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Friday, March 28, 2008

Review: Cthulhu Australias


via HorrorScope by Robert Black on 3/5/08
Cthulhu Australis
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
David Conyers
Edited: John B.Ford
Rainfall Publications
Reviewer: Robert Black

Cthulhu Australis is a nicely produced limited edition chapbook. It has been released in 100 signed and numbered copies only and has a laminated cover with a suitably “Lovecraftian” image. It is well edited and typeset in an easy to read manner. It includes three impressive tales, each which offers a different facet of the Mythos. One is unique to this publication, two have been previously published.

The background to such a work is complex. H.P Lovecraft August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American horror writer who only achieved a minimal level of success during his life, primarily publishing in pulp magazines. His stories were anti-rational and focused on the experience of a terrifying “unknown” which generally destroyed those who perceived it. His work was marked by this perception of an “unknown” quality which intruded into the world of rational thought. His model of the world was that of a skeptic, even cynic and indeed sometimes even bordered on paranoia. It was only after his death and with the tireless work of August Derleth that his work started to reach a larger audience. In the Sixties Colin Wilson wrote of Lovecraft as the ultimate outsider and this brought his work to a much wider audience and it is from there it has continued to develop.

Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and Necronomicon Mythos is the central defining aspect of his work and I think it illustrates the paradox at the heart of Lovecraft’s fiction and indeed of the man. In his personal life he was a rationalist even an atheist and yet he used occult and esoteric themes to incredible advantage throughout his tales. Indeed, he was so adept at manipulating occult themes such as the Old Ones and Elder Gods that some pagans and magicians today still claim that he was really secretly one of their own. Kenneth Grant, for example, the idiosyncratic follower of the infamous Aliester Crowley, regularly writes of the work of Lovecraft as fact rather than fiction. In my mind this simply shows the true genius of the author rather than its factual basis.

The mythos that Lovecraft created of course outlived his death; it has taken a myriad of forms from B Grade horror films (who can forget the Dunwich Horror) to all manner of novels and tales. Cthulhu Australis explores how these tales can be expressed in terms of the world as we know it and more significantly, within the Australian environment. The tales are intrinsically Australian using Australian locations, characters and cultural idioms to create a unique expression of the mythos in a form not seen before.

The tales offered are also modern, while Lovecraft was writing a long time in the past and was somewhat coy about sex (if not a little misogynist according to many biographers), here we have a more “2008” Cthulhu mythos with all the sex, neurosis and psychological trauma that modern living entails.

I highly recommend this chapbook and believe it is imperative that we support small press efforts such as this one, especially when they are of such high quality and offer such a unique approach to one of the more intriguing strands of horror fiction.


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