It was one of the most instantly appealing concepts I’ve ever been asked to participate in: cosmic horror set against a backdrop of golden age, small-town America. Or, as the subtitle puts it, “an anthology of small-town Lovecraftian terror.”
The thing about H.P. Lovecraft is that with his towns, there’s already something obviously wrong with them, and it goes back a long, long time. So I loved the notion of an uncaring, even hostile, universe juxtaposed against this idyllic illusion of safety, peace, and prosperity. And illusion it was: These were also the early Cold War years, under an ongoing threat of nuclear annihilation, where the defensive reaction against missile strikes taught to schoolchildren was “duck and cover.”
My take on this illusion, “This Stagnant Breath of Change,” is actually set in the late 1980s, in a town that not only hasn’t changed in a generation, but can’t. Because there are oligarchs at every level, and if it suits their purposes, they won’t hesitate to make some perfectly terrible decisions selling out the rest of us.
Or, as the kids of Tanner Falls used to sing:
“Old Mad Donald had a town,
ia ia oh!
And in that town he had a goat,
ia ia oh!”
Ramsey Campbell thinks it works just fine. From his introduction to the book: “Brian Hodge takes on Lovecraft’s love of the past, in particular as epitomised by small-town America, and transforms it not just into a nightmare but an authentically Lovecraftian specimen.”
Edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. Published by Hazardous Press in trade paperback and e-book editions. And it’s freshly released this weekend.