New praise for Cthulhurotica!

Cthulhurotica got a great new review!

I grant you, by staying away from porn, Cuinn ended up treading a line in many places between Cthulhurotica and Cthulhuromance, which is not necessarily an awful thing at all (the most obvious example of this is Don Pizarro’s “The C-Word”, which, perhaps not coincidentally, ended up being my favorite story in the volume). Not to say that the authors who got down and dirty didn’t do so in ways that will get the reader’s Old Ones up and running; Gabrielle Harbowy’s “Descent of the Wayward Sister” is just delicious, and oh, Mae Empson’s “Between a Rock and an Elder Goddess.”

Read more at Popcorn For Breakfast

Free Fiction: “Descent of the Wayward Sister” by Gabrielle Harbowy

It was an unfortunate and shameful predicament that led me to seek lodging with my estranged older brother. We were strangers raised by the same parents with more than a decade between us, like serial lodgers with only a house and a pair of kindly if distant landlords in common. I knew nothing of his secrets, nor he of mine.

His was a stately row house on a venerated downtown block. It was the sort of street along which young businessmen walk with ambitious longing, and ladies make a show of disembarking from their carriages so that other ladies might see them welcomed inside. I came to his doorstep in the evening, in the rain, with the glow of the streetlight forming a halo behind my bedraggled, dripping hair. My brother was a stern-looking man, but I was accustomed to charming my way into the hearts of stern-looking men. The words spilled past my lips: I confessed to him that a grave misunderstanding with a young gentleman had ruined my station, and that I had nowhere else to go. Upon my repeated apologies, sobbed between solemn assertions that I would not inconvenience him and only needed a safe place for my reputation to convalesce in privacy, he took me in with a nod and a long-suffering sigh.

At once, he arranged for me the sorts of diversions appropriate for a lady: music lessons, and embroidery, and dancing. It was an unexpected kindness, perhaps evidence of how deeply he had been moved my plea. Or perhaps to keep me occupied while he was away all day, toiling at whatever labor provided him the financial resources for such a well-situated home. He did not discuss his work with me, and I did not ask. When he returned home in the evening, we dined in formal silence at opposite ends of a long, impersonal table. After coffee, he received callers and retreated to his study, leaving me once again on my own.

I rarely saw him. Still, hints of his secrets soon began to make themselves apparent. The servants – for he had several – were not at sufficient ease with me to treat me as one of their number, as I would have preferred. However, they were unaccustomed to another presence pacing the halls by day, and forgot to guard their tongues. They whispered about him, about the house, about the visitors, about the need to keep a vigilant eye on me to prevent me from wandering where I shouldn’t. There were doors, I learned, that were perpetually locked. To these rooms the house servants were forbidden entry, and strict punishment might befall any well-meaning girl who rearranged his books, or so much as shifted his papers.

A locked door, however, had never been a match for my curiosity. Indeed, I had made my livelihood upon the riches and secrets they shielded. Willpower and gratitude held me back for a full two days, but on my third day in residence I claimed headache in the middle of my piano lesson and sent the tutor away. It was, I thought, something a spoiled lady might often do, and indeed the nice gentleman seemed willing enough to escape my dreadful playing while presumably keeping his full afternoon’s fee. With the servants distracted by the afternoon bustle as they prepared for their master’s return, my slender lock picks and I crept into every room on the upstairs floor, in search of a bit more background on my closest blood-relation.

Want to read the rest? Download the free PDF here!

“This Book and I Could Be Friends” reviews Cthulhurotica

The opening piece, Gabrielle Harbowy’s “Descent of the Wayward Sister,” does a great job setting the tone for the rest, turning Lovecraft on his head by centering on a bold female character who greets the monstrous with open arms (literally). An unapologetic thief and prostitute, she’s a rule-breaker on the margins of Victorian society already, as opposed to some stuffy New England aristocrat. Don Pizarro’s “The C-Word,” on the other hand, is a quiet modern tale of two lovers, a young man and a woman seventeen years his senior. Except she lives in Innsmouth, which adds another layer to the issues of aging and physical change that have caused her to push him away.

Plus the reviewer gives “thumbs up” to the idea of Cthulhurotica 2!

Read more at This Book and I Could Be Friends

Interview: Gabrielle Harbowy

Name: Gabrielle Harbowy

Author of: “Descent of the Wayward Sister”

Age: 30-something

Geographic Location: SF Bay Area

Original Hometown, if different: Like Lovecraft, I’m originally from New England. But I mostly grew up in the suburbs around Washington, D.C.

Twitter: @gabrielle_h


Past publications: A short story called “Swimming Lessons,” written for PG Holyfield’s “Tales of the Children” anthology, which was a 2010 finalist for a Parsec Award for Speculative Fiction Podcasting. “Descent of the Wayward Sister” is my second published work of fiction, with much more planned and forthcoming.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? “The Colour out of Space” is my favorite, I think. It stands out for me because there’s such a strong speculative science fiction component to the horror, compared to the other stories of his that I’ve read. Watch out, Earth, this could really happen.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? What they have in common, to me, is a hunger so obsessive that people are happily willing to be consumed by it to the point of madness. In Lovecraft’s writing, it’s usually knowledge, or power, or both. In erotica, of course, it’s usually sexual desire…but also sometimes power. The longer I thought about the combination, the more it made sense.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I saw the call for submissions on Twitter and thought, “That’s a cute idea,” and didn’t think much more about it. Then my story concept snuck up on me and I decided that I had to give it a shot.

What inspired your story? It isn’t my favorite Lovecraft story, but the image that sticks with me most strongly is from the 1970 movie version of The Dunwich Horror, which I saw when I was in high school. It was dated, campy, and to be ridiculed in the best B-movie tradition. There’s a scene with a woman chained to an altar with an open book propped between her thighs. We all made fun of that scene when we saw the film (“It’s not safe summoning unless you use a book cover!”), and it became iconic of cheesy horror. When I thought of mixing Lovecraft and erotica, I knew I wanted to sexualize that scene; redeem it, maybe, by transforming it into something else. Something arousing. So that was the inspiration. Then it was a matter of realizing that it needed that sort of “Victorian erotica” voice to make it work.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? None. I wrote during a power outage. My tools were a green felt pen and a hardcover journal. It was a morning power outage, so I can’t even claim that there were flickering candles or menacing shadows. Just a couple of restless cats.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? I rewrote and did a lot of polishing when I transcribed from journal to computer, and a little more polishing and clarifying after I let a trusted reader take a peek at it. The core of it hasn’t changed much.

What is your favorite bit?

It had been kind of him to attempt to turn me into a lady of society, and within a matter of days I had learned enough of the protocol to put on an eager show of it when I was in his presence – it would have been ungrateful to do otherwise – but in truth I was not taking naturally to it. Needlepoint and music were tiresome to me, and the tutors he had called upon to school me in the domestic arts were as dull and sour as old milk. I had been too long on my own, or perhaps I had simply seen too much of the lively underbelly of the world to be content sitting still.