Book Club Nominees

Build A House for your Questionably-Named Bird with 5 Repurposed Crafts

by @Pepperdrop, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for November’s “Repurposed Crafts” category

Lovecraft’s bigotry sneaks into almost every discussion of his writing because it’s so essential to the ideas he presents. His xenophobia becomes the very monsters he creates, and the Other as he feared it can be found in most monsters in his mythos. Because he was so blatant, it has created an easy readjustment of the monstrous evil from The Other to racism/sexism/bigotries. Now, much of Lovecraftian writing has transformed into an awareness of hatred and how it impacts minority groups, fighting back by turning the mythos against itself.

Cover of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Cover shows a building that may be a great hall or a schoolhouse on top of a hill, against an orange sky. The hill appears to have tentacles. A bright light emanates from the tower of the building.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy. Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of one black family, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today. (GoodReads)

This is likely the most popular option in this genre due to the HBO series, and the longest option here at 400 pages. It’s a stunningly quick, pulpy read, though and is a delight. Told through many shorts that link together to tell a larger story, the stories largely exist on their own should you want to skip around. Ruff does a great job of creating a world from the Black perspective of the evils of otherworldly racism and how it impacts people day-to-day. 

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Cover of Cthulhusattva edited by Scott R. Jones. Cover shows a figure that appears to be a cross between Cthulu and a bodhisattva. The figure is sitting cross legged, holding up one hand, and has giant wings. Two humans are kneeling in front of the creature, not quite facing it, but watching it.

Cthulhusattva edited by Scott R. Jones

Martian Migraine Press presents fifteen diverse tales of enlightenment and horror from some of the best new voices working in Weird Fiction today. Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis features poetry from Bryan Thao Worra, stories by Gord Sellar, Kristi DeMeester, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, and the groundbreaking Mythos novella from Ruthanna Emrys, The Litany of Earth. With cover art by Alix Branwyn, interior illustrations by Michael Lee Macdonald, and an introduction by editor Scott R Jones (author of When The Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality), Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis will plunge readers into a seriously entertaining contemplation of the mysticism and magic inherent to Lovecraft’s fantastical world of cosmic horror and dread. Take the Cthulhusattva Vow! Enter the Black Gnosis! (GoodReads)

This anthology has a lot of great options in it, but Litany of Earth is the main reason this is here. It was likely going to be a finalist for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novelette had it not been for the Sad Puppies controversy, only further impacting the role of bigotry in writing’s history. Poetry, shorts, and novelettes dominate this, so there are plenty of things to discuss.

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Cover of The City We Became by NK Jemisin. Cover features a city that could be New York. The city skyline has pink, yellow, and blue shadows around it almost as if the image is 3D. We are looking at the city from underneath a bridge.

The City We Became by NK Jemisin

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all. (GoodReads)

NK Jemisin is one of the best modern fantasy authors out there in my opinion, and her perception of bigotry is entwined deeply into her fantastic worlds. The City We Became is Jemisin’s direct response to Lovecraft and is her creating an alive NYC to fight against. She leans more fantasy, but her voice is worth being included because it’s such a direct rebuttal. It’s also the start of a trilogy, but none of the other books are released so you don’t need to be worried about missing them yet.

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Cover of Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. Cover shows a young girl with a backpack and a hiking stick. The young girl has a cat on her shoulder. She and the cat look out into the distance from what appears to be the top of a hill.

Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her. But the journey sends her on a quest across the Dreamlands and into her own mysterious past, where some secrets were never meant to surface. (GoodReads)

Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath becomes this modern take on feminism through repurposing of his old text. The Dreamlands are Lovecraft’s lesser-known universe and a very interesting place in their own regard, and this glow up of dark fantasy is a great example of what those realms offer.

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Cover of She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. Cover shows the profile of a woman with long flowing brown hair. She is wearing a black dress, a brown and gold headdress with horns, and has white eyes and black and red feathers in her hair. She is looking up into the distance and carrying a gold bowl. Tentacles emerge from the bowl.

She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Women from around the world delve into Lovecraftian depths, penning and illustrating a variety of Weird horrors. The pale and secretive Lavinia wanders through the woods, Asenath is a precocious teenager with an attitude, and the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Nitocris has found a new body in distant America. And do you have time to hear a word from our beloved mother Shub-Niggurath? (GoodReads)

Moreno-Garcia’s eye for cutting edge writing already spills out of her own work’s collections, but this group of writing she has compiled is a treat of aspiring women authors working within the Cthulhu mythos. The lack of women as characters in Lovecraft’s work is turned on head here, featuring them prominently in the mythos made popular.

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And The Winner Is…

Out of these five books, HOWLers voted to read She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. Join HOWL Society on Monday November 15, 2021 to begin discussion!

Mathew Wend is a librarian by day, hot sauce maker by night, and lover of all things spooky and spicy. You can find him rarely posting on twitter, almost never updating instagram, and forgetting to shelve books in the stacks. His dog and wife are way cooler than he is. Twitter: @matwend Instagram: @matograms, @arrowdoggo

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