Tuesday 10 August 2021

My review of Called By Cthulhu: The Eldritch Art of Dave Carson

My review of Called by Cthulhu: The Eldritch Art of Dave Carson was broadcast by Trevor Kennedy on his midday show on Big Hits Radio UK last Sunday and will be published in the next issue of Phantasmagoria magazine, due later this week.

Here it is in full:


Shoggoth Press, 2021

Dave Carson's magnum opus, Called by Cthulhu, contains nearly all of the artist’s illustrations for the past 50 years, much of it in the Lovecraftian Mythos vein for which he is famous.

I have loved Dave’s artwork ever since I first came across it back in the day. And indeed, when I took over editorship of the British Fantasy Society’s newsletter Prism in 2010, the first artist I contacted for a cover was Dave Carson, who immediately and generously provided me with a wonderful illustration called “De Vermis Mysteriis” (see page 261).

Measuring 10 x 6 3/4 inches and 384 pages long, Called by Cthulhu is a large soft cover book with hundreds of Dave Carson's amazingly distinctive black and white pictures, including, I was pleased to find, the illustration I commissioned for issue 1 of Beyond magazine which I edited and published in 1995, for Karl Edward Wagner's story Gremlin (see page 219). It was one of the last stories Karl ever wrote and sadly wasn't published until after he died the year before. I know Dave struggled over this illustration because, a close friend of Karl’s, he was still deeply upset at his death. Nevertheless, he forged ahead and created an unforgettable illustration I was proud to publish.  

The book opens with an Introduction by Neil Gaiman, who enlivens it with some fascinating anecdotes, including the time he saw Dave on a panel at the 1983 British Fantasy Convention. After heavyweight notables Karl Edward Wagner, George Hay and Ramsey Campbell had finished expounding their views on “Lovecraftian subtext”, Dave was asked for his comments, to which he typically responded: “Fuck that, I just like drawing monsters.” Despite this amusingly modest rejoinder, Gaiman goes on to conclude that “the magic of Dave Carson’s monsters is that he loves them, and each drawing and each sculpture becomes a love letter to the night side, something perfect and true, that manages, remarkably, to communicate that love to us.” I fully concur. And its truth can be seen from the amazing amount of meticulous detail with which he creates each illustration, painstakingly constructing a thing of intricate, outlandish beauty dot by well-placed dot. The artistic talent and immense patience he must possess in drawing these is nothing short of awesome.

Called by Cthulhu is a book to pore over page by page, to take in and appreciate the skill with which each illustration has been created, and the unenviable hours of arduous work that has gone into them. Dave is a magnificent artist, whose illustrations are an endless delight to behold. 


Both Called by Cthulhu and Phantasmagoria are available from Amazon.

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