Tan Kaiyi reviews Julya Oui’s Taiping Tales of Terror (Penguin SEA, 2020) and states how this collection gives a refreshing positive spirit to the modern horror tale
The past two decades have seen a steady rise in cosmic horror in the mainstream. With H.P Lovecraft given “classics” status through publishers Penguin Classics and Modern Library, movies and books have seen an uptake of Lovecraft’s philosophical pessimism and nihilism. Writers, including Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, hail Lovecraft as the god-king of modern horror. His current successor, Thomas Ligotti, has yet to achieve his level of popularity but still exerts a considerable influence. HBO’s True Detective series (2014 – 2019) pays homage to Ligotti’s depressive world view, with its creator Nic Pizzolatto citing the writer as a huge shadow over his artistic vision. In the show’s first season, two detectives investigate the brutal ritualistic killing of a young woman. Alex Garland’s Annihilation (2018), based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, follows a group of women scientists investigating alien phenomena in a mysterious area called Area X. There, they encounter lifeforms beyond comprehension and at times hostile to human life, a theme that echoes Lovecraft’s pantheon of blind uncaring cosmic gods.