In the last two years, Tor.Com’s publishing division has been publishing novellas and novels engaging with elements of Lovecraft’s Mythos. With the body of Lovecraft’s work outside of copyright or at least in dispute, the Mythos has proven a fertile ground in recent years for authors who want to explore Lovecraft, react to it, make it their own.
In Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin Kiernan, the author ties together elements of Lovecraft along with her own creation of the mysterious Signalman, a government agent of rather unusual provenance. Add in a mysterious contact in the vicinity of Pluto, a distinctive narrative voice, and a narrative told out of sequence. It’s Lovecraft as seen through a strong literary bent, which is perhaps 180 degrees away from Lovecraft’s Pulp homeground. And amazingly, for being everything that Lovecraft is not, it is unquestionably in dialogue and an addition to the Mythos. Kieran manages to bring the Mythos to literary fiction. Kiernan’s skills bring a whole new look at Lovecraft’s work. The Signalman as a character is a real star whose development and direction by the author makes him leap off of the page. It’s perhaps the less accessible of the new crop of Neo-Lovecraftian fiction of what I have read from Tor, meaning that I would not recommend readers from a SFF and Lovecraft bent start here. The unique voice and style are singular and are not really indicative of the form. This is a novella, though, that I would hand someone who was deeply immersed in literary fiction, familiar with its forms, and wanted to try something with a fantastic bent. In some ways, they are an even better audience than someone who has read Lovecraft and SFF.
The other two novellas are on far more solid SFF ground, although with their own twist. [Read more…]