Reviews: “If Only to Taste Her Again” by E Catherine Tobler, “Ahuizotl” by Nelly Geraldine Garcia-Rosas

Yes, it’s true–this review is two for the price of one, but I promise I’m not getting greedy yet. For my next few reviews, I’d like to introduce a loose, informal series I call “what’s THAT look like” in which I…well, I think it’s best explained with a funny Twitter story:

Every so often, I’ll become an e-celeb for a few hours and I have a collection of celebrity tweet faves. Try not to judge me too hard. But a peculiar conversation sparked on my timeline just a few months ago about your favorite and mine, a Mr HP Lovecraft. Specifically, a solidarity-tweet with my fellow black Lovecraftian Vernon Reid (guitarist for Living Colour for all you rockers out there) led to a RT, a flood of favorites from OTHER black Lovecraft geeks, a fav from Nona Hendryx (truly a highlight of my life), all the way to a conversation on Lovecraft and race with William [expletive removed] Gibson, y’all.

As you might imagine, internally I was like “YOOOOO.”

I was so excited to meet up with other black weird fiction/Lovecraftian/pulp fiction lovers and discuss our stories and apply critical thinking to them, especially other women. It was around this time I started thinking to myself, “man I need to find some more women weird fic writers”, which is not an unusual question for me, but as ever my enthusiasm was soaked when I had to ask myself, “umm what does that even look like?”

Have you ever had this problem? Looking for something so specific and so…rare that you’re not even totally sure it’s out there. And if it is, well…what does it look like? I had to know. Which brings us back to the whole purpose of this, and presumably why a lot of us are here: you want to support a market, but you have no idea what to look for. Allow me to illustrate:

With a trusty search engine at my finger tips, you’d think I have little problem finding exactly what I want. Of course there are plenty of women Lovecraft-inspired authors. You look them up, find a few. Where’s the rest? You’ll find a bunch of results asking the same thing. Yikes. Here’s the thing: weird fiction/Lovecraftian are rather nebulous categories and tend to mingle with each other, and that can make finding works hard. And the ones you do find might be in anthologies or collections, might be stand alones. But hopefully they’re still in print AND available in your area. Sigh.

And of course the ever-present question of, “what does that even look like?” Do I want strong women characters? Female-identified monsters? Essays? Just something written by a woman? I fell down a frustrating rabbit hole pretty quickly…

Until on a rainy day when I probably should have been doing my day job (oops), I stumbled upon a couple of free samples from Innsmouth Free Press‘s Historical Lovecraft anthology. Just looking at the table of contents, I got pretty excited because not only are there women editors, but women writers as well! I gravitated towards the samples to check them out. And I was blown away.

The first story presented, “If Only to Taste Her Again” by E Catherine Tobler, definitely solidified what I had so much trouble putting into words: a strong piece of Lovecraft-inspired writing with a dark, feminine but no less dangerous edge. It’s a lavish story as befitting a Pharaoh’s court, with danger lurking under every sensuously described texture, scent, and taste. Hatshepsut as a main character definitely intrigued me, as she has been a favorite historical figure of mine since I was young. And an Ancient Egyptian setting without the glossy romanticization of a Renaissance portrait? Count me in. And if you need something to tip you over, yes, there ARE tentacles present.

Now, “Ahuizotl” by Nelly Geraldine Garcia-Rosas showed me something I think I’ve been kind of wanting, but didn’t realize I wanted that badly until I actually saw it: a Lovecraftian story that manages to combine colonial conflict and imperialism. Whoa. Did I just say that? Did I just read that? This story is set in colonial Mexico, and not to give too much away, let’s just say it takes a fishy trope that Lovecraft fans will recognize and turns it on its head in a much different setting. There’s always been hints that people beyond New England knew about these otherworldly horrors, but it’s not often that we actually get that story. If you’ve ever wondered what indigenous people think of Cthulhu, this is for you.

Reading these stories definitely shone a light for me and I felt really inspired. They made me realize what I really want to see is out there and tangible, and this is what it looks like. And that led me to She Walks in Shadows, the upcoming all-women Lovecraft anthology once again from Innsmouth Free Press. I gotta cop that, obviously. I’m going to grab up everything I can find to fill the non-euclidean hole in my bookshelf. Also importantly, it’s a blueprint for people that want to create the content they want to see in the future, so we never have to ask the question of “what does a woman Lovecraft author look like?” or anything else for that matter. Check out both free samples here (both are PDF files).