Twice Upon an Apocalypse: Lovecraftian Fairy Tales
Rachel Kenley & Scott T. Goudsward (eds).
Crystal Lake Publishing
May 30, 2017
Reviewed by Elaine Pascale
My love for Crystal Lake Publications is no secret, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Twice Upon an Apocalypse: Lovecraftian Fairy Tales.
The marriage between fairy tale characters and the unforgiving world of HP Lovecraft almost seems like a no-brainer, and yet the stories in this anthology go to places I would never have imagined. This anthology posits fairy tales back where they belong: in a grim (pun intended) world. Due to Disneyfication, we sometimes forget that the original fairy tales were dark and foreboding. Not everyone lives happily ever after and those that survive live imbedded in a narrative that contains treacherous woods, dangerous huntsmen, and wolves. What better showcase than Lovecraft who created his own mythology that, like fairy tales, spawned retellings and reimagining’s? Lovecraft’s stories and the classic fairy tales share the themes of forbidden knowledge (beware of curiosity and “stick to the paths”), anthropomorphic creatures far wiser or slyer than humans, and a Western European sensibility. The stories in this anthology synthesize familiar tales with Lovecraft smoothly, incorporating the Necronomicon, The Whateley’s, The Great Old Ones, and Cthulhu in a natural way that becomes integral to the plot.
As with everything in the Crystal Lake canon, the writing in Twice Upon an Apocalypse is superb. Every single story is impressive in its own way. That said, here are some that stood out for me:
The Three Billy Goats Sothoth by Peter N. Dudar: Aelrick the troll had developed a bad case of ennui due to his wooden bridge being paved over. Dudar blends Lovecraft’s suspicion of technology and science with the rhythm (visits by three goats) of the original tale. The goats are harbingers and the troll would be wise to listen.
Little Maiden of the Sea by David Bernard: This mermaid is not a voluptuous siren, but a hybrid creature from the line of “the Deep Ones.” I don’t want to give too much away, but this story demonstrated how the darkness of Hans Christian Anderson really resonates in Lovecraft’s world.
The Great Old One and the Beanstalk by Armand Rosamilia: I was really attracted to the imagery of the world at the top of the beanstalk.
The Horror at Hatchet Point by Zach Shephard: This story is a version of Rumpelstiltskin that gives the name-guessing game a remarkable twist.
The Most Incredible Thing by Bracken MacLeod: Strong writing by MacLeod in an Anderson fable about art and creation and envy.
Follow the Yellow Glyph Road by Scott T. Goudsward: Dorothy is certainly not in Kansas anymore, and where she finds herself is more frightening than any childhood phobia over flying monkeys.
The Gumdrop Apocalypse by Pete Rawlik: In this story, Little Red Riding Hood meets the Cats of Ulthar. The plot deviates from original Red story by incorporating other Grimm moments. I am a fan of good last lines and this story has one.
Curiosity by Winifred Burniston: Based on Bluebeard, the main character, Sonia, is told not to enter a room in her lover’s home. In this version, curiosity does more than kill a cat.
Donkeyskin by K.H. Vaughan: Vaughan uses the apocalyptic visions of Lovecraft to explain that uncomfortable incest that exists in the original tale. The good news: dad gets his comeuppance here.
Again, all stories were wonderful and carried a lot of punch. This anthology is a “must have” for horror fans, fairy tale fans, and Lovecraft fans. Even those who are not familiar with Lovecraft will find much to enjoy. A highly recommended collection.