“New Maps of Dream” edited by Joe Pulver and Cody Goodfellow! Reviewed by Pete Rawlik.

Edited by Cody Goodfellow and Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
PS Publishing, 2021

Reviewed by Pete Rawlik, author of Reanimators, The Peaslee Papers, and other books.

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Many years ago I ordered a fish sandwich. After the requisite amount of time my plate arrived with a bun between which a slab of something deep-fried lay. I took a bite and surprisingly found the contents chewier than expected, brownish-grey, and with an odd savory flavor. It was definitely not fish. After some rigmarole with the waitress I learned that I was eating a local dish, deep-fried pork loin, kind of like a country-fried steak. It was a rather decent sandwich, surprisingly tasty, particularly with sausage gravy – but it isn’t a fish sandwich.

That’s how I feel about New Maps of Dream.

The jacket hints that this new anthology was designed as new explorations of the Dreamlands, the Dunsanian fantasy world created by H.P. Lovecraft in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, “Celephais”, “The White Ship”, “The Cats of Ulthar”, and several other tales. This fantasy world was further explored and expanded by other authors, including Gary Myers, Brian Lumley, Jonathan L. Howard, and Kij Johnson. I myself have contributed several stories to the sub-genre, including one called “The Last Days of Ulthar”, which detailed the destruction of the famed city where no man may kill a cat. I had no idea how prophetic my story would be.

There are nineteen stories collected in this book, but only about half actually deal with Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, the others are meditations on the idea of dreams invading the waking world and the dreamer being unable to find the separation between fantasy and reality.

But these are fine stories.

Michael Cisco’s “Siren Song”, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy’s “Inbata”, and Philip Fracasi’s “Over 1,000,000 Copies in Print”, are thought-provoking explorations of what reality is, and isn’t, and could be if enough people believe. These are stories that explore the darkness that lurks on the edge of our subconscious, but they aren’t Dreamlands stories.

Cody Goodfellow seems to acknowledge this issue in his introduction, noting that “To our grave dismay, the first monographs to reach us described no perfumed jungles, cat-haunted cities, or wine-dark seas.” Fortunately for the project, a significant number of the prerequisite tales did arrive, not surprisingly heavy involving or referencing either cats or the city of Ulthar.

Notable amongst these are Matthew Bartlett’s exploration of an Ulthar marketplace evolved over the century into a vast mecca of commerce known as “The Malls of Ulthar”, Nathan Carson’s inventive “Oil of Cat”, and Mehitobel Wilson’s playful “If the Cat Were Around, He Would Have Eaten the Fish”. Scott R. Jones gives us an intriguing exploration of the Dreamlands under threat from an invading elder force very reminiscent of Nyarlathotep, but “The Dankness Over Dylath-Leen” is something far more sinister. Pieces by Rios De La Luz and Lucy A. Snyder explore the impact of dreams, dream quests, and their ability to impact the lives of marginalized populations, while Orrin Grey explores their impact on a rather singular soul.

Christopher Slatsky presents a rather troublesome tale. “Fearful is the Ancient Evil of Their Faces” is a high fantasy drawing on Mayan mythology to detail an armed invasion of the moon to plunder the underworld of Xibalba. It’s a fascinating and engrossing read, reminiscent of the strange fusions of science and sorcery that I associate with China Mieville, and filled with the same fantastic non-western kind of imagery. But as much as I enjoyed it, I have a hard time categorizing this as a Dreamlands story. That is unless one takes into account the transformations and evolutions implied in Bartlett’s piece, S. P. Miskowski’s “If I Could Be Any Animal I Would Be…” , and Christine Morgan’s “At the Crossroads” – that the world of dreams, the collective Dreamland is constantly evolving, changing as new dreamers are added, and old ones fall away. Imagine what the Dreamland of five hundred years past must have been like?

This idea that the Dreamlands are changing and must change, can lead to some sad losses as detailed in Damien Angelica Walters “The Sweetest Girl in the World”, which takes us to a familiar piece of geography long forgotten, and therefore decayed and polluted, at least until someone cares to do something about it.

The editors have chosen “Drunk on Dream” by Jeffrey Thomas to closeout the collection. It’s a superb little piece that reminds us why Thomas is so loved by his readers. It’s full of the ennui of modern life, and the joy that comes from the tiny seemingly insignificant fantasies that sustain us through the day when nothing else will, and the deep sadness – that strange melancholy that swallows us – when we are forced to abandon them.

As with most PS Publishing volumes the production values for the book are high, with cover art by Marcelo Gallegos that invokes both wonder and terror. There are a few typos, but not too many to make it unacceptable. There were a few authors that I was not familiar with, and a small biography section would have been helpful. Otherwise, the book is a handsome and memorable addition to the genre.

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Reviewed by Pete Rawlik, author of Reanimators, The Peaslee Papers, and other books.

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