Cthulhu Cymraeg 2: Lovecraftian Tales from Wales (edited by Mark Howard Jones) was published by Fugitive Fiction in April 2017.
Information about Mark Howard Jones:
Mark Howard Jones comes from a town in south Wales where it once rained fish. A former BBC journalist, he is editor of the anthology Cthulhu Cymraeg: Lovecraftian Tales From Wales and author of the collections Songs From Spider Street and Brightest Black. He lives in Cardiff.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Cthulhu Cymraeg 2:
The old gods are dead... the older gods have returned!
Before the American master of the macabre H P Lovecraft, there was the Welsh wizard of wonder Arthur Machen, who filled his pages with tales of ancient evil.
Now, completing the circle, comes a second collection of tales from the land of Machen, following in the footsteps of Lovecraft and his uncanny creations.
Featuring new stories by Anastasia Catris, Adrian Chamberlin, Bryn Fortey, Rhys Hughes, Mark Howard Jones, John Llewellyn Probert and Gail Williams.
A REVIEW OF CTHULHU CYMRAEG 2 (EDITED BY MARK HOWARD JONES)
Cthulhu Cymraeg 2: Lovecraftian Tales from Wales (edited by Mark Howard Jones) is a captivating anthology filled with Lovecraftian stories that showcase the dark imagination and writing skills of Welsh authors in an excellent way, because each of the authors enriches Lovecraftian weird fiction by bringing their own distinct twist to it. It's one of the best weird fiction anthologies of the year.
I consider Cthulhu Cymraeg 2 to be an essential addition to modern Lovecraftian weird fiction, because it has a strong focus on Wales, Welsh places and Welsh atmosphere. I think it's important that this kind of anthologies are edited and published, because they bring diversity and freshness to weird fiction.
Mark Howard Jones had done an excellent and satisfying job at gathering a diverse selection of Lovecraftian stories to this anthology. The stories share many common elements, but are different from each other. They emphasise man's fear of the unknown and his helplessness against beings and forces that are far older than our civilisation.
If there happen to readers out there who have not heard of H.P. Lovecraft and Cthulhu Mythos, here are a few words about them, because it's good to know at least something about them prior to reading this anthology. H.P. Lovecraft is recognised as one of the most influential writers of horror fiction, because his legacy casts a long shadow over many authors and their works. The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, based on the work of Lovecraft. An ongoing theme in Lovecraft's work is the complete irrelevance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors that apparently exist in the universe. In his stories, H.P. Lovecraft made frequent references to the "Great Old Ones", a loose pantheon of ancient, powerful deities from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep. (More information about H. P. Lovecraft and Cthulhu Mythos can easily be found from the internet.)
This anthology contains the following stories:
- Brethren of the Coast by Adrian Chamberlin
- By Any Other Name by John Llewellyn Probert
- Dance of the Sea Serpent by Anastasia Catris
- How Gangrene Was My Sally by Rhys Hughes
- Taff by Bryn Fortey
- Confluence of Graves by Gail Williams
- Late Night, Caradoc Street by Mark Howard Jones
Each of these stories features Lovecraftian weirdness and unsettling elements, because they've been written in the vein of Lovecraft. Althought they have a distinct Lovecraftian vibe to them and have many weird fiction elements, they're wholly original stories. When you read them, you'll notice that the authors have set their aims high and have strived for writing quality, in which they have succeeded. You won't find any bad stories in this anthology.
I enjoyed reading these stories, because they strongly appealed to my taste in Lovecraftian weird fiction. When I read modern Lovecraftian fiction, I pay a lot of attention to atmosphere and writing style. I'm happy to say that I found these stories impressive and was satisfied with the literary output by all of the authors, because they wrote good prose.
I think it's good to mention that although these stories are Lovecraftian in nature and feature many Lovecraftian elements, they also make nods towards the legacy of Arthur Machen, who - along with H.P. Lovecraft and other authors - is one of the founding fathers of the weird fiction genre. There a few elements in them that can be considered to be Machenesque.
Here are a few words about the stories and my thoughts about them:
Brethren of the Coast by Adrian Chamberlin:
- In this opening story, Martin Hughes works at the Pet Crematorium. He wonders about dead dolphins that have been found on the beach, because nobody knows what caused their death. When he gets dolphine fluid in his eyes, he begins to sense and see strange things.
- The depictions of dead dolphins are fascinatingly creepy and unsettling. I'm sure that they'll cause unease in many readers.
- It's nice that the author has added pitch-black humour to his story, because it fits the happenings.
By Any Other Name by John Llewellyn Probert:
- A story about Mrs Bryce who is suffering from hallucinations and delusions. According to a psychiatrist, she has beliefs that are entirely false, but are fixed in her mind as the truth.
- I love the author's way of writing about Mrs Bryce's life and how her perception of the surrounding world changes and she begins to see strange and unsettling things in the water.
- This is an excellent and atmospheric story that will please many readers.
Dance of the Sea Serpent by Anastasia Catris:
- In this story, a mysterious circus (Cirque Du Mort) arrives at St Dymphna's Hospital, which is an old Victorian structure near the ocean...
- The author writes excellently about the circus and the sensual acts performed by one of the performers.
- I think that this atmospheric story will strike a chord among those who love circus stories and are fascinated by strange happenings, because it's something different.
How Gangrene Was My Sally by Rhys Hughes:
- A story about a married couple, Brutus and Sally Forsythe. Brutus begins to keep a journal and Sally does the same. They travel to a distant cottage, which is in a place where Old Ones are believed to have dwelled and slithered.
- Ah, what a splendid display of originality, absurdism and mesmerising surrealism this story is! It's one of the best stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because it's simultaneously amusing and disturbing.
- I enjoyed reading about what happened between Brutus and Sally, because the author wrote captivatingly about their lives and feelings.
- This is a brilliantly original and twisted story that impressed me very much.
Taff by Bryn Fortey:
- In this story, Taff is an army man who falls for a woman called Joyce. During his tour of duty something happens to him and he changes.
- It was interesting to read about the happenings, because the author has come up with a bit different kind of a story and dares to explore violence.
- This story had a few elements that reminded me of Cody Goodfellow's weird stories.
- An intriguing story with thought-provoking elements.
Confluence of Graves by Gail Williams:
- A story about Mark whose job is to find out if somebody still lives in Beddcymmer House. He also has to do a condition survey of the building and property valuation. He is warned not to go there, because it is a believed to be a bad place.
- I found this story especially intriguing, because it features an ancient house and tunnels that were not made by man.
- I think that this wonderfully atmospheric and creepy weird story will intrigue everyone who has ever read Lovecraftian stories.
Late Night, Caradoc Street by Mark Howard Jones:
- A story about Dave who comes to town for his mother's funeral and sorts out her things.
- The author writes excellently about how Dave feels about his late mother and what kind of a relationship they had. He also writes well about what kind of a relationship Dave has with other members of his family.
- What I like most about this story is that it begins as a normal story, but then it becomes increasingly strange and finally reaches its unnerving climax in a satisfying way.
- This is a nuanced and well written story with an excellent ending.
Here are a few additional thoughts about the stories:
In 'Brethren of the Coast', Adrian Chamberlin has created a stunning vision of what kind of devastating horrors lie await beneath the surface of the ocean. He writes well about what it's like to do work that disgusts you, because he deftly explores Martin's feelings towards his job and his co-worker. The pirate elements add a fascinating touch of style to the story.
John Llewellyn Probert's 'By Any Other Name' is one of the most intriguing Lovecraftian stories I've ever read, because it's something a bit different. I enjoyed reading about what happened to Mrs Bryce, because the author wrote captivatingly about her condition.
Anastasia Catris' 'Dance of the Sea Serpent' is slightly similar to Angela Slatter's short stories. It has the same kind of compelling and strange allure to it as Slatter's stories. The depictions of the circus and its performances are wonderfully atmospheric.
In 'How Gangrene Was My Sally', Rhys Hughes demonstrates why he's one of the best authors ever to emerge from Wales. It has all of the trademarks that readers have come to expect from his stories (he has created such an impressive and unique story that you can't help but be captivated by its strangeness and originality). It's captivating how the story gradually blossoms into an absurd and surreal reading experience, because the events take a twisted turn for the unexpected. It's a masterpiece that deserves to be read.
Bryn Fortey's 'Taff' is an especially interesting story, because it explores violence in an interesting way. It was fascinating to read about what happened to Taff and how he became a loner who was interested in violence. This story has unyielding harshness that I find intriguing.
Gail Williams' 'Confluence of Graves' is an excellent story, because it has all the elements one could ever hope to find a modern yet old-fashioned weird story. This story feels almost like a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Whisperer in Darkness', because it has similar kind of elements. I enjoyed reading about what Mark and Cai said to each other, because the author excelled at writing interesting dialogue.
Mark Howard Jones' 'Late Night, Caradoc Street' perfectly demonstrates the author's ability to deliver a fascinating and well written story. This story develops nicely into a disturbing weird tale about family secrets. The ending is perfect in every possible way, because it is satisfyingly creepy and unsettling. It's the kind of an ending that readers of weird fiction love to see in their stories. I consider this story to be a genuine gem.
The afterword, 'Cthulhu is alive and well in Europe (and beyond)', by Eddy C. Bertin is worth reading, because it offers interesting information to readers who are fascinated by Lovecraftian fiction and its popularity.
The atmosphere in each story is spot on, because the authors effectively highlight the fact that something not be totally right and then let their stories descend into compellingly nightmarish depths of weirdness. Each author does this in her/his own way and pays attention to details. It's easy to see that they have respect towards the genre, but are not afraid of pushing its boundaries when necessary.
I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading the first anthology (Cthulhu Cymraeg), but it went to the top of my reading list, because I loved everything about this anthology. I sincerely hope that a third anthology of Lovecraftian tales from Wales will someday be edited and published, because this anthology is excellent.
If you're a fan of Lovecraftian fiction, you should read Cthulhu Cymraeg 2: Lovecraftian Tales from Wales, because it's one of the best new Lovecraftian anthologies. Its stories are wonderfully modern and original, but have a classic feel to them. This anthology will appeal to everyone who loves Lovecraftian weird fiction and wants to read something new.