Book Club Nominees

Flip through 6 Decades of the Cosmic Yearbook

by @Zodac, curator of HOWLS Book Club Nominees for October’s “Cosmic Yearbook” category

This started out with me wanting to do a selection of cosmic horror from the ‘70s, which didn’t work out. Instead, I got for you a selection of post–Lovecraft circle cosmic horror from the 1960s to the 2010s. Requirements for selection were titles stayed in the realm of weird as opposed to straying into avenues of pulp. I also looked for examples that were inspired or adjacent to Lovecraft rather than being straight up part of the Cthulhu mythos. I wanted to find authors who took cosmic inspiration and ran with it in their own direction. We got a mix of novels, a novella collection, and short story collections, something for everyone!   

Cover of The Mind Parasites by Colin Wilson. Cover shows a close up image of a face, or a maybe a statue's face, in tones of yellow and green.

The Mind Parasites by Colin Wilson

Wilson has blended H.P. Lovecraft’s dark vision with his own revolutionary philosophy and unique narrative powers to produce a stunning, high-tension story of vaulting imagination. A professor makes a horrifying discovery while excavating a sinister archeological site. For over 200 years, mind parasites have been lurking in the deepest layers of human consciousness, feeding on human life force and steadily gaining a foothold on the planet. Now they threaten humanity’s extinction. They can be fought with one weapon only: the mind, pushed to—and beyond—its limits. Pushed so far that humans can read each other’s thoughts, that the moon can be shifted from its orbit by thought alone. Pushed so that man can at last join battle with the loathsome parasites on equal terms. (Goodreads)

Peace, love, and infestations: we’re in the ‘60s. I haven’t seen Colin Wilson’s name ever dropped in HOWLS before. Besides horror fiction, Wilson wrote non-fiction books on the occult, Aleister Crowley, and the like. He apparently shared beliefs with many of these topics and his philosophies on the cosmos worked its way into his fiction. I personally find it intriguing to read cosmic horror by someone who believed elements of it.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Dark Gods by T.E.D. Klein. Cover shows a house in a stark landscape. Storm clouds gather in the sky. A creature appears to be lunging for the house from the clouds, jaws open.

Dark Gods by T.E.D. Klein

The collection opens with “Children of the Kingdom”, a beautifully crafted chiller that gradually reveals the horrors that lurk behind the shadows of the city. In “Petey”, George and Phyllis and the die-hards at their housewarming think that their new rural retreat is quite a steal – unaware that foreclosure, in a particularly monstrous form, is heading their way.

In the insidiously terrifying “Black Man with a Horn”, a homage to Lovecraft, a chance encounter with a missionary priest over the Atlantic lures a traveler into a web of ancient mystery and fiendish retribution. And in “Nadelman’s God”, the protagonist discovers, degree by shocking degree, that the demons of our imaginations are not always imaginary.

Feel that lurking disco inferno in your feet? We must be in the ‘70s. When it comes to modern weird fiction, I see Klein’s name praised and hailed as much as Ligotti’s. However, due to his  two published works being largely out of print, I do not think he is as widely read by modern horror readers. I think it would be fun for HOWLS to dive into this author together and see what all the hub-bub is about. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Parasite by Ramsey Campbell. Cover shows a man dressed like a priest at an apparently satanic black-colored alter featuring an inverted pentacle. An image of Baphomet's head with horns appears on the stained glass window behind the man. The stained glass is tones of orange and red.

The Parasite by Ramsey Campbell

Twenty years after a game of Ouija ends in a ten-year-old’s disappearance, Rose Tierney discovers that she has developed psychic powers that enable her to see into the future and travel without her body, but that make her vulnerable to an evil force. (Goodreads)

Don’t you forget about Ramsey, because we’re having a parasitic breakfast in the ‘80s. Campbell’s early books had a stronger Lovecraft and cosmic horror influence than his later stuff. Since we did a modern Campbell, let’s do a Campbell classic. Also, just got to keep the man in his honorary position as the most nominated author in HOWLS.

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Bad Brains by Kathe Koja. Cover features a distorted dark face with grey-black, almost green tinged skin. Pink tentacles snake out from tears in the flesh.

Bad Brains by Kathe Koja

Still reeling from his divorce, would-be painter Austen takes a fall in a 7-Eleven parking lot that leaves him with brain damage and strange visions, a madness that sends him on a cross-country odyssey of debauchery and pain. (Goodreads)

Do you have the time to listen to me whine about my strange visions from the ‘90s? Okay, so the ‘90s gave me a hard time. Splatterpunk was the champion, weird horror sort of not in fashion. Koja seems to walk the line. In my research I saw her first two novels have cosmic elements. I know HOWLS read The Cipher way back in the wee days, I missed it, I also know opinions were mixed. I saw Bad Brains described as a spiritual sequel to The Cipher but cranked up to 11… hopefully that is a good thing…

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron. Cover shows three tall figures in long grey-white robes. The three figures are standing in the distance at the three points of an invisible triangle. They have no faces, and their robes are wrapped around them almost like wings. Their robes seem attached to the earth, and where they are standing is red colored, like blood, with the rest of the soil tan in color. Blue and grey clouds fill the sky.

The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron

To the tradition of eldritch horror pioneered and refined by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti comes Laird Barron, an author whose literary voice invokes the grotesque, the devilish, and the perverse with intensity and astonishing craftsmanship.

Collected here for the first time are nine terrifying tales of cosmic horror, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella “The Imago Sequence,” the International Horror Guild Award-nominated “Proboscis,” and the never-before-published “Procession of the Black Sloth.” Together, these stories, each a masterstroke of craft and imaginative irony, form a shocking cycle of distorted evolution, encroaching chaos, and ravenous insectoid hive-minds hidden just beneath the seemingly benign surface of the Earth. (Simon & Schuster)

Okay I lost my momentum for the decade dad jokes. This one’s representing the 2000’s. I know plenty here have read it. But plenty of us have not. I’ve only read one Barron story as of writing this, and I really liked it with it being the stand-out story in the collection it was included in. Barron has his own cosmic mythos that weaves its way through his short stories and novels. I get really excited about short stories connected by themes and nuanced lore, and I know I’m not the only one. Also, we all know happy @frylock would be if Laird had a reason to come to HOWLS for a Q&A.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Behold the Void by Philip Fracassi. Cover shows an abstract image in red, orange, blue, and teal tones. Hidden in the image are eyes, tentacles, some kind of animal's head. The swirling colors make it look like we are viewing all this contained in a nebula.

Behold the Void by Philip Fracassi

“When you open this collection, you’re headed down a dark alley within the precincts of the Twilight Zone. It’s the kind of place where the wrong people get hurt; hazard is everywhere and it doesn’t play favorites. The complacent won’t find refuge here on the threshold of the void. Nobody is safe and nothing is sacred. Enjoy the ride.”
—from the introduction by Laird Barron

BEHOLD THE VOID is nine stories of terror that huddle in the dark space between cosmic horror and the modern weird, between old-school hard-edged horror of the 1980’s and the stylistic prose of today’s literary giants. (Goodreads)

Finally, we enter the 2010’s. Besides the fact I see this collection praised across multiple horror sources, I’ve also seen this collection described as “HOWLS required reading,” I say we make that official. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

The vote for this week of reading was a nail-biter, with The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron and Behold the Void by Philip Fracassi tied in initial results. A runoff vote selected Behold The Void by Philip Fracassi as the week’s club read. Join HOWL Society on Monday, October 4, 2021 to begin discussion!

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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