Reading two Hugo Award shortlisted Lovecraftian stories
I’m currently judging shortlisted items for the Hugo Awards presented at the World Science Fiction convention each year, and in 2017 to be held in Helsinki, Finland. Note that "scifi" reference there is a bit misleading: the awards cover fantasy and horror too, and are not just pure scifi.
In this year’s awards the Novel category does lean heavily towards traditional scifi. But in the Novella category, for slightly shorter works, there’s a strong leaning towards fantasy and horror, and two of the six shortlisted novellas are Lovecraftian.
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson is obviously inspired by a Lovecraft original. In this new version the traveller is a Dreamlands inhabitant trying to travel to our world. Much of this journey is a mirror of Lovecaft’s original story, including travelling through forests with strange beasts, and underground journeys with ghouls etc. I did enjoy this book a lot, especially its different perspective starting from within the Dreamlands. But I did find the ending disappointing.
The other Lovecraftian shortlisted novella is The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, which reworks Lovecraft's very problematic The Horror at Red Hook. This version is told largely from the perspective of an African American character. In doing so it strays true to the racism of the period, but provides a quite different take on it from Lovecraft's original, and an extremely refreshing one. It's also a very exciting read - far more so for me than the original story it's based on. It's action packed, and a real page turner. Though I found the second half of the novel less successful, it was still very good overall.
Both these novellas are in my top three favourites in the ballot this year, and it will be interesting to see how they place when the results of the Hugo Awards are announced on 11th August.
Meanwhile I'm pushing on to judge other categories, like Novelette and Short Story. I don't know if I'll encounter anything more Lovecraftian though.