The John Langan Mythos

While I was on paternity leave, I accomplished very little aside from bonding with my newborn daughter. I’m not complaining. It was great. One of the few things I did accomplish was reading John Langan’s two newest releases. Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters is a 2022 reprint of Langan’s debut collection from 2008, while Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies is his newest collection. After finishing these two works, I wanted to celebrate the fact that I’ve now read all Langan’s released novels and collections. I’ve previously reviewed The Wide Carnivorous Sky, The Fisherman, House of Windows, and Sefira, but I didn’t want to do another five-paragraph review. Instead, I decided to categorize his work according to my own observations. I felt that Langan’s work deserved this kind of analysis, and I hope others will be inclined to expand on what I’ve started here. If you’re reading this and wondering if I’m a crazy person for doing this, I am, but why don’t you judge me after you’ve reviewed what I’ve written below.

 

Note: If you’re confused by my categories, I define them at the end of this post. Additionally, some of my notes and categories may contain spoilers. Lastly, John Langan’s Story Notes in the back of his collections contain far more information than what I listed below, so I recommend checking those out if you like this post.

 

Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters 2008 (2022 Reprint)

On Skua Island – Scottish Myth/Ancestry/Setting

    • Note: This story is about a mummy.

Mr. Gaunt – Scottish Myth/Ancestry/Setting + Fatherhood

    • Mythos Note: The character of George Farage is an occultist who reappears in Langan’s short story, “The Supplement.” The protagonist, Henry Farage, is also heavily implied to appear in “The Supplement” as George’s new assistant.

Tutorial – Art/Writing Reflection

Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers – Apocalyptic + Parenthood

    • Mythos Note: It’s possible that Langan’s apocalyptic stories are connected and occurring during the same apocalypse. Other stories Langan has written on apocalypses are “The Shallows,” and “Inundation.”
    • Easter Egg: One of the protagonist’s names is Wayne, and he wears a Batman t-shirt.

Laocoon, or The Singularity – Art/Writing Reflection + Horrible Transformation + Fatherhood

    • Mythos Note: This story contains some thematic similarities with “The Communion of Saints.”

Tethered – Ghost Story

    • Note: Original to 2022 Reprint

 

House of Windows 2009 – Ghost Story + Fatherhood + Occult

    • Mythos Note: Papers belonging to the protagonist of this book reappear in “The Supplement.”

 

The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies 2013

Kids – Teaching + Zombie

How the Day Runs Down – Apocalyptic + Zombie

Technicolor – Teaching + Occult

    • Note: This story fictionalizes elements of the life of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Wide, Carnivorous Sky – Vampire + Military

City of the Dog – Lovecraftian

    • Note: This story features Lovecraft’s ghouls from “Pickman’s Model.”

The Shallows – Lovecraftian + Fatherhood

    • Mythos Note: It’s possible that Langan’s apocalyptic stories are connected and occurring during the same apocalypse. Other stories Langan has written on apocalypses are “Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers,” and “Inundation.”

The Revel – Monster + Experimental

    • Note: This story examines the tropes associated with werewolf fiction.

June, 1987. Hitchhiking. Mr. Norris. – Laird Barron + Occult

    • Note: The protagonist of this story is the author Laird Barron.

Mother of Stone – Exorcism

    • Mythos Note: The statue at the heart of Mother of Stone reappears briefly in The Fisherman.

 

The Fisherman 2016 – Occult + Lovecraftian + Fatherhood

  • Mythos Note: The characters of Rainer and Wilhelm Vanderwort venture to a magic city on a black ocean patrolled by bird-like figures. This city and its inhabitants reappear in “Outside the House, Watching for the Crows,” and “Shadow and Thirst.”
  • Mythos Note: Late in the novel, the protagonist, Abe, encounters the statue from “Mother of Stone.”

 

Sefira and Other Betrayals 2019

Sefira – Monster + Occult

    • Mythos Note: The character of Madame Sosostris reappears in “Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs,” found in Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories edited by Ellen Datlow.
    • Note: This story is about a Succubus.

In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos – Military + Monster

The Third Always Beside You – Parents + Ghost Story

The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn’s Balloons – Victorian Era + Occult + Monster

Bloom – Horrible Transformation

Renfrew’s Course – Scottish Myth/Ancestry/Setting + Occult

Bor Urus – Monster + Mid-Life Crisis + Fatherhood

    • Mythos Note: Protagonist visits the shore of the Black Ocean from The Fisherman.

At Home in the House of the Devil – Occult + Monster

    • Note: As the name implies this story concerns the devil.

 

Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies 2020

Sweetums – King in Yellow

Hyphae – Fatherhood + Horrible Transformation

Muse – Meta

    • Note: This story is a fictional letter to Paul Tremblay about Stephen Graham Jones. Laird Barron is mentioned.

Zombies in Marysville – Zombie + Meta + Fatherhood

With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts – Afterlife

Into the Darkness Fearlessly – Vengeance + Art/Writing Reflection

Children of the Fang – Lovecraftian

    • Note: This story features the lizard creatures from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City.”
    • Mythos Note: Detective Calasso appears (also appears in City of the Dog and Communion of Saints).

Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow – Ghost Story

Tragoidia – Rebirth + Occult

Ymir – Military + Monster + Laird Barron

    • Note: This story takes place in Laird Barron’s Old Leech Mythos.

Irezumi – Cyberpunk

The Horn of the World’s Ending – Lovecraftian + Roman Period + Scottish Myth/Setting/Ancestry

    • Note: This story features the Black Goat of the Wood’s Dark Young from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

The Underground Economy – Occult + Strip Club Setting

The Communion of Saints – Occult

    • Mythos Note: Detective Calasso reappears.
    • Note: This story contains some thematic similarities with “Laocoon, or The Singularity.”

Aphanisis – Sword and Sorcery + Experimental

    • Note: The story concerns killing off different versions of yourself, and this subject reappears in “Shadow and Thirst.”

Gripped – Strip Club Setting + King in Yellow

    • Note: The protagonist of this story is author Joe Pulver. Pulver is also the protagonist in Langan’s uncollected short story “Helioforge.”

Inundation – Apocalyptic + Monster

    • Mythos Note: It’s possible that Langan’s apocalyptic stories are connected and occurring during the same apocalypse. Other stories Langan has written on apocalypses are “The Shallows,” and “Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers.”

To See, To Be Seen – Occult

    • Mythos Note: An occult group called The Friends of Borges appear. They also appear in “What is Lost, What is Given Away.”

What You, Do Not Bring Forth – Art/Writing Reflection + Dreams

Vista – Art/Writing Reflection + Experimental

Slippage – Laird Barron + Art/Writing Reflection + Meta

    • Note: This story is a fictional account of a drive Langan took with Laird Barron. This story ending this collection mirrors Laird’s story “More Dark” (also a Meta fictionalized tale about writers) ending Barron’s short story collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.

 

Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies 2022

Kore – Halloween

Homemade Monsters – Childhood Reflection + Monster

The Open Mouth of Charybdis – Lovecraftian + Childhood Reflection

    • Note: This story is connected to H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”

Shadow and Thirst – Vampire + Fatherhood

    • Mythos Note: The creature in this story is a banished member of the bird-like figures who are mentioned in The Fisherman and who appear in “Outside the House, Watching for the Crows.”
    • Note: The story concerns killing off different versions of yourself, and this subject reappears in “Aphanisis.”

Corpsemouth – Afterlife + Fatherhood + Monster + Scottish Myth/Setting/Ancestry

Anchor – Laird Barron + Monster + Writing/Art Reflection + Fatherhood

Outside the House, Watching for the Crows – Childhood Reflection + Monster

    • Mythos Note: The bird-like figures in this story are mentioned in The Fisherman and a banished member of their group appears in “Shadow and Thirst.”

What is Lost, What is Given Away – Childhood Reflection + Occult

    • Mythos Note: An occult group called The Friends of Borges appear. They also appear in “To See, To Be Seen.”

The Supplement – Occult

    • Mythos Note: George Farage originally appears in “Mr. Gaunt.” George Farage’s assistant is heavily implied to be the protagonist of “Mr. Gaunt.” Papers mentioned in this story belong to Roger Croydon from House of Windows.

Mirror Fishing – Occult + Lovecraftian

Caoineadh – Monster + Scottish Myth/Setting/Ancestry

 

Definition of Terms:

Apocalyptic: This story occurs during the end of the world.

Childhood Reflection: This story had a character reflecting on their childhood.

Exorcism: This story is about an exorcism.

Experimental: This story plays with the form of telling a story in a novel way.

Fatherhood: The story deals with fatherhood as a central theme.

Ghost Story: This story is about ghosts. Boo.

Halloween: This story concerns the spooky high holiday.

Horrible Transformation: This story contains a character going through a horrible bodily transformation.

King in Yellow: Have you seen the Yellow Sign?

Laird Barron: This story contains elements from Laird Barron’s works or refers to Laird Barron.

Lovecraftian: This story concerns elements derived from Lovecraft’s fiction or a sense of cosmic horror.

Meta: Fiction about real life authors.

Monster: This story contains a supernatural creature. While I was tempted to create a new category for every monster I could identify, I decided to only do it for those who appear in multiple tales.

Occult: This story contains elements of occult magic, grimoires, cultists, or some combination of those elements.

Parenthood: This story deals with parenthood, not just being a father, as a central theme.

Roman Period: This story occurs during the era when the Roman Empire existed.

Scottish Myth/Ancestry/Setting: The story either deals with Scottish Myth, Scottish Ancestry, or has a Scottish Setting.

Strip Club Setting: This story takes place at a Strip Club.

Teaching: This story is about the profession of being a teacher.

Vampire: This story is about vampires or creatures that can be perceived as vampiric.

Vengeance: This story concerns getting vengeance.

Victorian Era: This story occurs during the Victorian Era.

Writing/Art Reflection: The story focuses on the creation of art or art’s impact on viewers and readers.

Zombie: This story has zombies in it.

Under Twin Suns Edited by James Chambers

I received Under Twin Suns: Alternative Histories of the Yellow Sign as a Christmas present and read it in only a few days. Unfortunately, January and February were busy months, and I couldn’t finish my review of this anthology until now. In the time since I read Under Twin Suns, it made the final ballot for the 2021 Bram Stoker Awards. Congratulations are in order for the editor, James Chambers, publisher, Hippocampus Press, and all the authors. The Bram Stoker nomination is a well-deserved accolade for this fantastic collection.

I’m an avid fan of Robert W. Chamber’s The King in Yellow. I’ve written a few tales loosely connected to the King in Yellow, and I even took a trip to visit the author’s grave in Broadalbin, New York. Suffice it to say, when I first heard about Under Twin Suns, I was excited by the prospect of an anthology consisting of King in Yellow-inspired stories. My excitement only doubled when I found out some of my favorite authors, such as John Langan, had tales included.

Per the advice of James Chamber’s introduction, I read this collection from front to back. It’s a testament to the quality of the work in Under Twin Suns that I was able to do that with no issue. I often find that anthologies have ebbs and flows, like a novel, and some stories prove to be more or less engaging based on your mindset while you’re reading. Occasionally, you may even skip a tale to revisit. There wasn’t a single story in Under Twin Suns that didn’t hold my interest. I read each one and moved right to the next until I was finished.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite tales in this collection below, but I wanted to note again that each work included in Under Twin Suns is great. These stories are just the ones that resonated most with me on my first reading. “Robert Chambers Reads The King in Yellow” by Lisa Morton is the first tale, and I loved the meta nature of it. “The King in Yella” by Kaaron Warren felt like a modern take on Karl Edward Wagner’s “The River of Night’s Dreaming.” “The Yellow House” by Greg Chapman ramped up to a stunningly insane climax. “Freedom for All” by JG Faherty felt topical as it dealt with a conspiracy theory driven cult. “Y2K” by Todd Keisling gets props for bringing David Bowie into the King in Yellow mythos. “Veiled Intentions” by Linda D. Addison was an excellent poetic inclusion. Lastly, “The Exchange” by Tim Waggoner was a perfectly Twilight Zone-esque story with a wonderful ending.

If you haven’t read Under Twin Suns yet, I highly recommend you pick up a copy. That said, be sure you’ve read at least “The Yellow Sign” and “The Repairer of Reputations” by Robert W. Chambers before you dive into this anthology. I’m sure you can still enjoy this collection if you’re not familiar with those tales, but you’ll get a lot more out of each author’s work with some prior knowledge of The King in Yellow. If you need a taste of Chamber’s prose before picking up his work, you can check out this video, where I read an excerpt from his story “The Yellow Sign” while visiting the author’s final resting place.

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House of Windows

If you like a spooky story woven through with themes of fatherhood, references to Charles Dickens, and the occasional eruption of Hellraiser-like aesthetics, then House of Windows is the novel for you. John Langan is one of my favorite authors, and I was delighted to get a copy of his first book, House of Windows, from my wife for Christmas. This novel did not disappoint my high expectations.

Spoilers Below

Much like Langan’s other work, House of Windows contains a kind of Russian Nesting Doll narrative. On the top level, there is Veronica telling a horror writer the story of how her husband disappeared. The level below that is Veronica’s tale itself, and within that level, there are several digressions into other sub-levels. Some of these sub-levels are about Belvedere House, the spooky home that plays a major part of the tale, and others are backstory related to Veronica or her husband’s history. Each piece fits perfectly into the tapestry of House of Windows.

While House of Windows seems like a haunted house story at first glance, it’s actually more of a haunted father story. The novel’s primary conflict stems from a curse that Veronica’s husband, Roger, places on his son, Ted. Roger places the curse on Ted after the two get into a physical fight over the fact that Roger left Ted’s mother to marry Veronica, his college student. Due to Ted’s death soon after the curse, Roger is unable to reconcile with his son, and Veronica is soon haunted by visions and reminders of Ted, figuratively and literally. Ted’s death breaks Roger, and to try to be closer to his lost son, Roger decides to move him and Veronica into the home where he raised Ted, Belvedere House. Once in Belvedere House, Roger becomes increasingly obsessed with his lost son’s death, and Ted’s haunting of Veronica gets progressively more intense until the novel’s climax, where Roger disappears during a supernatural event. There’s a lot I’m leaving out, but that’s the bare-bones summary of the book.

Having just completed my own house hunt, and thinking an awful lot about fatherhood these days, made House of Windows the perfect novel for me to read this month. I was enthralled by the history of Belvedere House, which is implied to have contributed to and empowered Ted’s haunting, and I was attuned to the cycles of trauma Langan illustrated with Roger and Ted’s relationship. I was also fascinated by Langan’s craft choices in House of Windows. Most of the novel is told in two long sections without chapter breaks. This is done to reflect Veronica telling her tale in long narrations over the course of two nights. I thought this was a clever choice, and I found myself turning the pages quicker because of the lack of interruption.

House of Windows is an excellent read, with a ton of moments that will please horror genre fans as well as insights into the human condition that will please literary genre fans. Langan excels at balancing these two group’s expectations in his work. While I felt that his second novel, The Fisherman, leaned more toward the horror side of the genre seesaw, House of Windows leans a little more to the literary side. Regardless of which side of the genre seesaw you prefer to sit on, House of Windows is worth your time.

P.S.

If you like John Langan’s work as much as I do, you might be interested in checking out my reviews of The Fisherman, The Wide Carnivorous Sky, or Sefira.

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