Friday, December 19, 2008

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear

Asimov's Science Fiction March 2008My story recommendation for this week is "Shoggoths in Bloom" by Elizabeth Bear, a novelette first published in the March 2008 issue of Asimov's, and now available on-line here.

In the past five years, Elizabeth Bear has published fourteen novels and closing on fifty short stories. That would be impressive if she were writing crap, but to be able to write her award-caliber fiction at that pace is simply absurd. I only started reading her stuff last year, and I despair of ever catching up.

As Cthulhu fans will know from the title, "Shoggoths in Bloom" is an homage to H.P. Lovecraft. An earnest professor in the late 1930's studies great, amoeba-like shoggoths found off the coast of Maine and finds more than he bargained for. I know it's sacrilegious, but to my reckoning there is far more of this sort of thing around than we really need. Yes, Lovecraft was ahead of his time, and still worth reading today despite his obvious flaws as a writer. But if you are interested in his work, you can find it pretty easily; there is little need for today's authors to continue adding to the Cthulhu Mythos.

I will forgive Elizabeth Bear in this case, however, for two reasons. First, "Shoggoths in Bloom" is such a beautifully crafted story that it would make for excellent reading even if you never heard of H.P. Lovecraft. Second, Bear tells the story convincingly through the eyes of an educated African-American in the 1930's, who must silently endure being called "boy" by the ignorant locals, even as he reads with horror of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Germany. Bear manages to relate the Cthulhu background to this context, a most fitting reworking of the Cthulhu Mythos, since Lovecraft himself was an intolerable racist and anti-Semite. (Don't bother arguing the point -- the man had a cat named "Nigger-Man," for heaven's sake.) Bear handles her social message very adeptly without ever lecturing her reader.

I'll have another story involving race relations to recommend next week.

1 comment:

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