The Legacy of Erich Zann and The Womb of Time by Brian Stableford
Two novellas published in one volume by Perilous Press, 2010
These novellas, both rooted in the tales of H. P. Lovecraft, manage to explore some of the ideas within Lovecraft’s tales without abandoning the unease that readers can still feel on reading them.
The Legacy of Erich Zann takes place some years after the events described in Lovecraft’s, The Music of Erich Zann. However, the setting is now identified as nineteenth century Paris, and the narrator is an American correspondent of Edgar Allan Poe. Furthermore, he has written to Poe about some of the exploits of his friend, Auguste Dupin, who has therefore featured in some of Poe’s published tales. Brian Stableford has interwoven the work of Poe and Lovecraft, and a lot more besides, to create a new and intriguing work of his own.
The ideas woven into the story are expressed from the point of view of characters living in nineteenth century France, but the author has the benefit of wider, and more recent, knowledge. Contemporary readers may still be troubled by the threat of The Crawling Chaos, that so terrified Erich Zann at the moment of his death. But Dupin, the rationalist, is well-suited to the task of moving the story onward and considering such terrors from a different perspective.
Dupin may be a nineteenth century character dealing with the implications of a horror conceived by a twentieth century author, but in this story, his character is further developed by a twenty-first century author.
When we discover that our ways of thought are not fit for purpose, we need to let them go, and consider new possibilities, as Poe and Lovecraft have demonstrated. This story brings us up to date on the Legacy of Erich Zann.
The Womb of Time is set in Dunwich, England, in 1935. Halsted, the main character, is a young American academic, researching the work of the English writer, Thomas De Quincey. Halsted is visiting England after a ‘crushing disappointment in love’, but he normally works at Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts.
Halsted believes that De Quincey may have written his famous Confessions of an Opium Eater when staying in Dunwich, at an inn now called The Hidden Crown. He is surprised to find that other guests at the inn are also interested in the unusually low tide which is about to occur, exposing an area of the sea bed to the air for the first time since De Quincey’s visit, a hundred and fourteen years before.
What is eventually revealed, and how the interests of the various guests and the innkeeper are connected, involves an interweaving of H. P. Lovecraft’s invented mythology, Arthurian legend, Thomas De Quincey’s writing, and much else. The ending of the tale is no less unnerving for the fact that much of the mystery is eventually explained.