Evermore. Edited by James Robert Smith & Stephen Mark Rainey. Arkham House. $34.95.
We just can’t let Edgar Allan Poe rest. Even now, nearly 158 years after his death in abject poverty in
The writers in Evermore keep their focus on Poe’s works by and large as narrow as other writers do, but the orientation of this anthology is different – which makes it conceptually quite interesting. These are stories about Poe, not (in most cases) in imitation of his writing. The authors imagine things that could have happened during Poe’s life, or in his life in an alternative universe, or after his death (but still to him), or in his last hours. From a few facts, such as Poe’s undeniable love for his child-bride, Virginia, and his being quite disgustingly drunk when found a few days before his death in 1849 (which is not to say that he died of drink; that remains very much in dispute), these authors weave tales of what-might-have-been and what-might-have-happened.
The stories themselves are, not surprisingly, a mixed bag; also not surprisingly, none has even a whiff of Poe’s own astonishing style (although
The style of the earliest tale here, “An Author and His Character” by Vincent Starrett (1928), is chronologically closest to Poe’s but not noticeably closer to his work’s effect than the style of such later stories as Trey R. Barker’s “In Articulo Mortis,” which extends (or, rather, overextends) “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” All the remaining stories have some points of interest: “The Clockwork Horror” by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, “Cloud by Night” by Melanie Tem, “From the Wall, a Whisper” (a title more of Lovecraft than of Poe) by Kealan Patrick Burke, “Of Persephone, Poe, and the Whisperer” by Tom Piccirilli, “The Masque of Edgar Allan Poe” (which should really be “mask”) by Steve Rasnic Tem, and “The White Cat” by Fred Chappell. But none of the tales really does justice to the poe-sy of E.A.P., although “Night Writing” does have the distinction of coming up with the word “poe-seurs.” It would be unfair to use that word to describe the authors here, but it is fair to note that, a century and a half after Poe’s death, his style remains unmatched and uniquely his own – so a book like this, which will likely be of interest only to dedicated Poe fans, is foredoomed to a degree of failure through the inevitable comparison of what it is with what Poe’s work was.