8 Lovecraftian Tales for Those Who Don't Want to Read Lovecraft

Adrian Liang on February 23, 2018

Fascinated by H.P. Lovecraft's weird, dark tales but dismayed by the author himself? Good news: Others have used Lovecraft's stories as a springboard for their own imaginative works, building upon and stretching beyond Lovecraft's core writings.

Each of the eight books below give Lovecraft an innovative spin, offering a dark taste of Lovecraft's tales without having to gnaw on the bigoted vine.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle - LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom achieved finalist status in the Bram Stoker, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Hugo awards and then went on to win the Shirley Jackson award. Retelling Lovecraft's "The Horror of Red Hook" from the perspective of a black man in early 1900s New York, LaValle delivers a novella pulsing with both the awfulness that comes from lurking monstrosities as well as the awfulness of institutionalized prejudice.

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley - Vibrating with the occult horror that hearkens back to Lovecraft's original tales, Talley's work revolves around the stories told to traveling Miskatonic student Carter Weston as he seeks a book that is the companion volume to the Necronomicon. A finalist for the Bram Stoker award, That Which Should Not Be brings a modern mind-set to the darkest Lovecraftian creatures.

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys - Cited last year by a number of fantasy authors as a groundbreaking book, Winter Tide brings readers to Lovecraft's notorious Innsmouth. A generation ago, the magic-wielding residents of Innsmouth were sent to internment camps far from the source of their power, and only a few of their people now survive. When the government asks for Aphra's help, she seizes the opportunity to return to her town and discover how much magic is still within her reach. A slow-building, atmospheric story with nods to Lovecraft's original stories even as it upends his stance on who is the hero and who is the enemy.

Lovecraft Country: A Novel by Matt Ruff - In 1950s America, Atticus Turner searches for his missing father, finally discovering him locked in a New England manor house as part of an occult ritual. Dodging white folks who don't wish them well and the secret cabal who has lethal plans for his family, Atticus has to figure out if he can turn the dark powers against his enemies. Each chapter is a puzzle piece in this rich, colorful, and tense picture of a family beset on all sides…and from other worlds as well.

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge - An excellent pick for literary fiction fans who like to be unsettled, this novel traces the discoveries made by a woman whose husband became obsessed with the life of Lovecraft before her husband vanished in the middle of winter, assumed to be a suicide in a remote, icy lake. As she investigates his obsession, stories bloom within stories, and soon, like the husband, you’ll find yourself unable to find the horizon between fact and fiction. Weird, unsettling in its acuity, and beautifully written, La Farge’s novel sways between an homage to fantastical fiction and an unwrapping of our too-human desires.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows (The Cthulhu Casebooks) by James Lovegrove - Leaning more heavily toward "fun" than "fantastical," this book and its companion, Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities, wraps together two famous mythologies as Holmes and Watson uncover the link between a number of deaths in London and mysterious, powerful forces of a Lovecraftian nature. It's refreshing to see Lovecraft's critters outside of America, and the derring-do of Holmes and Watson gives this mashup a joyful swagger.

Carter & Lovecraft: A Novel by Jonathan L. Howard - When reluctantly-retired cop Daniel Carter inherits a bookstore in Providence, Rhode Island, he also gets with the deal a stubborn employee who is the last known descendent of H. P. Lovecraft. But the bookstore is the least of Carter's worries when he realizes that Emily Lovecraft's ancestor's tales were not fiction at all. An entertaining amalgamation of crime fiction and fantasy, with plenty of nods to Lovecraft's Old Ones and faceless horrors.

Way of the Wolf: Book One of the Vampire Earth by E.E. Knight - Set in a postapocalyptic world, with humanity barely holding on against vampires who are trying to wipe them out, Knight's 11-volume-strong Vampire Earth series is long on military maneuvers and heroism and shorter on Lovecraftian creatures, but there are plenty of nods to Lovecraft's places and things that a fan will pick up on and enjoy. Freedom fighter David Valentine learns the skills he and his soldiers will need to survive—and ultimately defeat—the vampires that have overrun the earth, and some of those skills involve negotiating with other bands of survivors. Lots of action, danger, and bad, bad vampires.

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