Dagan Books, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-98313-731-3
Cthulhurotica is all about those tentacles. It’s about lust in a pool of slime that smells like rotting fish, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll end up pregnant with a tentacle spawn, much to the delight of Jap… er, cultists worshiping the almighty slime thing. In other words, this is another way of saying “acquired taste”, although those who are curious or looking for an unusual day out are welcome to dip their toes into the swampy mire of this anthology. If you know how to spell the title of this book without giving it a second glance, then you may already know what to expect here.
Of course, for those who feel vaguely dirty for even picking this title up, be assured that there are three essays here to justify any tingling in the loins you may experience at the idea of having a few tentacles jammed up a body orifice or two. It’s a feminist thing, says Justin Everett, and Jennifer Brozek says that it’s actually okay to find these things sexy. Kenneth Hite talks about how smart people tend to find such perversity exciting. Therefore, there is no need to run off to confess to church if we get odd feelings while passing the display of squids and octopus in the wet market. It’s okay, we’re all feminists, geniuses, and exciting people with perverse delights that we should be proud of.
So, the dirty stuff. Okay, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is hardly any graphic description of tentacle fun here. In fact, despite the implication of the title that this anthology has plenty in common with a typical wholesome cartoon from Japan’s perversion industry, most of the stories stop short of the grand finale. Oh, the big slimy thing arrives, and he’s coming nearer, and… the end. When the author does go into detail, it’s mostly vanilla sex, and that happens only in a handful of stories.
Many of these stories are tailored after HP Lovecraft‘s formula a bit too much for their own good. You know, scary place, wandering around, creepy people, All Praise Dagon, gills are cool, and the tentacles pull the curtains down, the end. Some, like Gary Mark Bernstein’s Optional on the Beach at the Festival of Shug Niggurath, could have been any story in any setting if I take away the references to Cthulhu and friends. Matthew Marovich’s Sense could have been any horror story. Therefore, it’s either too much like HP Lovecraft or HP Lovecraft’s mythos as wallpaper where the stories are concerned.
Some do deliver some pretty good psychological thrills, such as Kirsten Brown’s Le Ciél Ouvert. That one, incidentally, is my favorite story of the lot because it almost works as a tale of disquieting sexual attraction to the ultimate taboo.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a very well-written anthology. The stories here are a good way to past the time because, no matter how good or weak they may be, it’s easy to get lost in them. It’s just that I don’t know what this anthology wants to do. As an exploration of dark and disturbing emotions in HP Lovecraft’s perverse world, this one doesn’t quite work as many of the stories aren’t good erotica or horror. Too many stories here are readable but too easily forgotten as I move on to the next story. The creepiest – and occasionally, disturbingly erotic – reads are the occasional short works by HP Lovecraft that show up here, which goes to demonstrate that, perhaps, some things can’t be improved on when it comes to tentacle fun with primordial entities.
If you are not a horror fan, especially of those works by HP Lovecraft and Clive Barker, Cthulhurotica may seem like a daunting trip into a very disturbing place, but it pushes the envelope far less than you may think. That’s why I’m somewhat disappointed by this, I guess. I want to be scared and be subjected to disturbing thoughts and emotions, but this one doesn’t seem to know how to make the most out of its abundance of tentacles.