ED GORMAN “The Order of Things Unknown.” First published in Lovecraft’s Legacy, edited by Robert E. Weinberg & Martin H. Greenberg (Tor, hardcover, 1990; St. Martin’s, trade paperback, 1996).

   Truthfully, I had no idea where this story was going. Not until I read a little further and got to learn a little more about the protagonist’s sordid past. Apparently, some years ago Richard Hanson murdered an innocent small town girl he picked up on the roadside. His was a vile act, a disgusting murder in every sense of the word. And apparently, this Hanson became a compulsive serial killer of women. During the day, he was a normal family man with a job, wife, and kids. But he also killed and he never knew exactly why he did it and what drove him to such depths of moral depravity.

   The why is the crux of the matter in Ed Gorman’s gripping homage to H. P. Lovecraft. In “The Order of Things Unknown,” Gorman engages in genre blending, mixing a dark crime story with cosmic, supernatural themes once found in Weird Tales and other similar pulps. That question of “why” – why does an average man engage in such unspeakable atrocities? – is answered with reference to the same dark forces that haunted Lovecraft’s imagination.

   Maybe Hanson isn’t a free agent, acting in accordance with free will. Maybe he’s at the mercy of dark forces beyond his control, a mere puppet on the play strings of an ancient god. Overall, a haunting read, one that demonstrates how well versed the late Ed Gorman was with the philosophical and theological issues that so concerned Lovecraft during his short, tumultuous life.