A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 40
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
Here in this place of eternal bareness and solitude it seemed that life could never have been. The stark, eroded stones were things that might have been reared by the toil of the dead to house the monstrous ghouls and demons of primal desolation.
Space travel is a pretty optimistic, life-affirming type of endeavor. Maybe that’s why space horror is so captivating. The idea that our highest human ambitions might meet with something monstrous is just terrifying on a bigger scale than zombies and vampires.
These types of tales can range from the simple monster-from-another-planet plots of Alien or The Thing to the more truly cosmic horror of Lovecraft and his followers. Clark Ashton Smith’s work is usually grouped with the latter, but one of his greatest stories, “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” adds just a bit of Alien to “Call of Cthulhu.“
It tells the tale of an ill-fated archaeological expedition on Mars. The scholars attempt to study the ruins of the earliest Martian city, a towering place called Yoh-Vombis which even the present day Martians refuse to visit. What they find buried among all the time-worn rubble is not one of Lovecraft’s god-like immortals but a kind of fungus. An awful, awful fungus.
You won’t have the time to know or care about any of the archaeologists, but what the tale lacks in characterization it makes up for with atmosphere. The desolate landscape provides much of the chills. Oh yeah, and there’s also the icky body horror of the fungal aftermath and maybe just a slight hint at something bigger, more ominous than the fungus lurking in the background.
It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a Lovecraft fan but wouldn’t mind something more visceral in your horror stories.
Review by Matthew