Through a Mythos Darkly
Glynn Owen Barrass & Brian M. Sammons (ed.)
P S Publishing Ltd
A few weeks ago, the author William Meikle noted on his blog, and on social media, that a Mythos anthology that he had a story in, Through A Mythos Darkly, had apparently fallen off the radar of reviewers, as it didn’t have a single review on any of the Amazon sites. I’m a huge fan of Mr Meikle’s, and I was surprised that an anthology containing one of his stories had attracted so little attention; I was even more surprised when I looked up the anthology online, and discovered that it was published by a well-known publisher – P S Publishing Ltd, had stories by luminaries like Mr Meikle, Cody Goodfellow, Edward Morris, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Brian M. Sammons amongst others, and was edited by no less than Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons. These are some of the finest writers (and editors) of Cthulhu/Lovecraftian Mythos fiction in the modern day, and I was genuinely dismayed that such a heavy-weight title had apparently just been ignored by reviewers. So I put down my money (£3.99, hardly a huge amount to ask for nearly 400 pages of entertainment), downloaded the anthology to my Kindle, and got reading. And quite frankly I’m glad I did, because I can confirm that people are missing out on a lot – this may be one of the most imaginative and entertaining Mythos anthologies to come out in a long while – it’s obvious that both the authors and the editors had fun with the themes this collection is centered around
The thematic basis of the anthology was quite simple and yet deliciously full of potential. To quote the editors from their introduction, “For our guidelines, we asked this of the writers invited…Think about the history of the Cthulhu Mythos, and create a future, a past, or a now, where the Serpent Men, or the Elder Things reign Supreme…” Given that invitation, how could the resulting stories not be entertaining in nature? There are some fantastic, engaging and even occasionally whimsical tales within the anthology, but all of them share the same qualities of being incredibly well-written, enjoyable and highly imaginative. There are a total of eighteen stories featured in Through A Mythos Darkly, and as per my usual standard, I won’t discuss each story in turn, but instead focus on those that I thought deserved particular mention for standing out amongst their peers. The first story in the collection, The Roadrunners by Cody Goodfellow, is an excellent introduction to anthology’s theme, a grim, dark and fast-paced piece that follows the crew of an American bomber in the aftermath of an apparent Nazi occult attack on the United States. The ending of the tale has an intriguing twist, and I enjoyed the author’s takes on the different levels of loyalty – to your friends, to your government, your country, and how occultism can transcend or even break these bonds of allegiance.
Sweet Angie Taylor in: Subterranean Showdown by John Langan is set in a late 19th-Century version of the United States where something called ‘The Break’ has opened up in the west, a huge portal to another dimension that is affecting the land around it, and also sending out strange and abnormal creatures, many of which are deadly to the native population. It’s an stimulating setting for the imagination, even moreso because there are relatively few ‘Weird West’ takes on the Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos, and I enjoyed both the main plot of the story, and also the background that is hinted at – especially the plot-point about cross-breeding Earth animals and creatures from The Break, and the potential implications of the resultant animals. Perhaps one of the best tales in the entire anthology is Scrimshaw by Jeffrey Thomas, a tale of jealousy and revenge set against the backdrop of a whaling community that harvests the corpse of an immense alien creature that in the waters nearby. It’s an incredibly good story that I’ve re-read several times since finishing the anthology, and I think it deserves to be expanded into a full-length novel, as the author has built up a vivid backdrop with themes that deserve in-depth examination.
An Old and Secret Cult, written by Robert M. Price, is a thought-provoking piece of writing that flips one of the standard Mythos tropes, imagining a world where worship of the Old Ones is the dominant religion and Christianity is only worshipped by, effectively, cultists; Holy writ is spread orally in hushed, clandestine meetings, and the nature (and costs) of organised religion and blind faith are very effectively explored. Vying with Mr Thomas’ tale for Best in Anthology would be The Last Quest by William Meikle, a steampunk-esque tale of a modern King Arthur, Saxon dirigibles and the meaning of leadership and sacrifice, with an entertaining (and distinctly less glamorous) take on the Knights of the Round Table that had me smirking several times.
Towards the end of the anthology, I enjoyed Christine Morgan’s Fate of the World, which to me was a highly original take on the combative nature of humanity versus the Old Ones, where the arrival of a world-ending asteroid forces both sides to reluctantly cooperate in order to survive. Seen through the eyes of two human hostages sent to R’lyeh as guarantors of good behaviour, the combination of a ‘fish out of water’ tale, an unexpected romance, and then a sudden upheaval of events by the actions of another Mythos power late in the tale really impressed me, and it’s another story that just cries out for a sequel. Finally, the collection is closed out by two particularly dark tales. Plague Doctor by Tim Waggoner is an incredibly harrowing tale of the efforts of a doctor to fight off an occult version of the Spanish Flu, and the figurative (and literal) effects it has on the man’s psyche and body; the last page in particular had me grimacing, a testimony to the skills of Mr Waggoner. And Kai Monstrai Ateik (When the Monsters Come) by Damien Angelica Walters takes a look at the constant fighting and sacrifice needed to safeguard a society against a world dominated by Mythos gods, and how easy it can be to give in to occult powers and the things they offer in return for unquestioning service.
Through a Mythos Darkly is, then, a credit to P S Publishing and the editor and contributors, a fantastic collection of Mythos tales, all of which are of an incredibly high standard and often distinctly original in nature. There are several stories that really deserve their own novellas or even novels, and I can only hope that we see them expanded, or at the very least Through A Mythos Darkly 2 published in the future.