An Imp of Aether
August 1, 2019
Reviewed by David Goudsward
If you are a devotee of H.P. Lovecraft, you are already aware of the passing of W.H. Pugmire, the leading Lovecraftian author writing today. Too many authors think tossing a cursed tome or a few tentacles into a story is to write in the style of Lovecraft. This is but mere pastiche. To write in the style of Pugmire is to embrace the art of the prose poem and sing with beautiful subtle horror of the mysteries of the universe.
This is a collection of his stories spanning a 40-year career marked with vivid characters in a dream world: male, female, gay, straight, naive, or scheming. Under his deft pen, these protagonists become three-dimensional personalities who seek an indefinable sense of place that draws the reader along on a journey that is not always the one the character anticipated.
Like a ghostly shadow, Pugmire seamlessly integrates subtle homages to the Old Gent of Providence – a passing mention of Dunwich or Arkham, but much like his own haunted place, the Sesqua Valley, setting is a canvas upon which the writer paints with dreams and regrets in shades of aether and ash.
If there is one weakness is the book, it is the sequence of the stories. Editor S.T. Joshi wanted a collection that spanned the author’s career, but Pugmire’s earlier work doesn’t mesh well with his mature work. As a result, the book comes across as uneven in spots. The stories should have been placed chronologically to show the maturing process in the author’s career. This is at best a minor complaint, although I also must admit I regret that a personal favorite Pugmire story of mine, “Storm Horses,” coauthored with Scott Thomas, did not make the volume.
The volume includes 26 stories, many of which are difficult to locate. All 26 demonstrate why Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire will remain the apex of languorous prose and lush language in dreamily supernatural short stories.