Story of the week: "An Ocean of Eyes" by Cassandra Khaw (with a few words about Lovecraft's influence)

My new story of the week is "An Ocean of Eyes" by Cassandra Khaw from The Dark, an excellent magazine of subtle horror and dark fantasy. Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's famous short story "The Cats of Ulthar," Khaw's story explores the modern town of Ulthar as seen through the interactions between an obnoxious womanizing tourist and Sigrid, a local woman he desperately wants to claim as his own.

The story is disturbing even if you aren't familiar with Lovecraft's original tale. Khaw's story is also an excellent exploration of obsession and how far too many people are willing to go to force their desires onto others — even when that desire is neither wanted nor reciprocated. As the tourist says in explanation of his increasingly desperate actions, “All maybes become a yes."

Except they don't. Or they shouldn't. As Khaw showcases so perfectly.

On a side note, there has been a lot of silly commentary lately about the decision to remove Lovecraft's image from the World Fantasy Award statue, with a few extreme critics like S. T. Joshi even saying that the "changing of the award is an implicit rejection of Lovecraft’s literary status." Which is, of course, nonsense. Lovecraft's influence on dark fantasy and horror isn't going to disappear merely because his likeness no longer resides on an award which makes a claim to represent the entire world of fantasy literature. 

Lovecraft's influence derives directly from the many authors over the decades who have done like Cassandra Khaw and written and played in his world. Lovecraft was not a great literary wordsmith — as proof, read "The Cats of Ulthar," which is more an idea of a story, a summary of a story, than a true story with fleshed-out characters, a developed plot, and rising and falling action. But his legacy is secure because of all the authors and creators who took his ideas and ran with them.

Despite what critics like Joshi say, most people are able to appreciate Lovecraft's influence on horror and fantasy while also knowing that Lovecraft is not an appropriate figure to represent all that horror and fantasy can be in this day and age.

No matter the desire of these critics to force the world to stay the same, change has happened. And that is good.