Lovecraftian fans of the Cthulhu Mythos will need no introduction to Shub-Niggurath – as in “Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!” Yes, that Shub-Niggurath – a name so evocative as to have almost an entire sub-mythos woven around it, although H. P. Lovecraft only cited it in a few vague ceremonial chants, and did little to flesh it out beyond some allusions in other tales he ghost-wrote that tied it to the Magna Mater and Astarte. Given that Lovecraft’s squamous, rugose imaginings are often attributed – fairly or unfairly – to sexual repression, it’s hardly surprising that some of his inheritors jumped at the chance to develop appropriate parts of his mythos more explicitly. And one result is Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath, from Martian Migraine Press, edited by Justine Geoffrey and Scott R Jones, bringing you “18 pulpy tales of fertility and fear, hot sex and chilling sacrifice! Stories that squelch, tales that both titillate and terrify.”
As it happens, there isn’t all that very much titillation – Nymphonomicon this is not. But there is quite a lot of terror – or at least, fetid disquiet and unease. The Martian Migraine blurb writers are being completely accurate when they say that the roster of authors include “some of the best writers working in Lovecraftian horror and mind-bending erotica today,” and most of them eschew the easy target of manga-style tentacle sex in favor of far darker and more thoughtful evocations. Luke R. J. Maynard’s “The Potboiler Sigil,” for instance, pushes the pulp erotica meme just about as far as it will go into textual obsession. Copper Sloane “Levy’s Pieces (2) for String Octet” does things with a cello that you would probably rather not see in a concert hall, while Christine Morgan’s “With Honey Dripping” recasts the whole topic in the context of Norse mythology. Only occasionally does the collection dip into more conventional Yog-Sothothery, and then only briefly.
However it’s served up, Conqueror Womb manages to be a lot less pulpy than you might expect. I don’t think this is any deliberate attempt to sidestep the Bigfoot porn fiasco: This is just a well-thought-out anthology. It’s more likely to make your flesh crawl than tingle, but well, there’s always Bigfoot if you need to get your rocks off. If that floats your boat, or sets your shub a-shudder, go for it.