Stanley Sargent's The Taint of Lovecraft kicks off with the science fiction/horror hybrid "Their Love of Craft." Having read a fair share of Lovecraft-inspired short fiction, I've developed something of a loose hierarchy or classification scheme. At the top are stories which manage to echo Lovecraft's work yet bring an author's individual approach to it. (i.e. Ligotti, T.E.D. Klein, Karl Wagner) At the bottom are works which attempt to slavishly copy Lovecraft without managing a whit of suspense or mystery. (Authors to remain nameless.) And while "Their Love of Craft" doesn't quite rise to the heights of the former, it certainly doesn't sink to the depths of the latter.
The story is a cross between At the Mountains of Madness and The Forbidden Planet. Though somewhat derivative, the unlikelihood of the pairing (and the unexpected resonances between the two sources) make for an entertaining story. Sargent does pile on a bit with Lovecraftian in-jokes, which almost border on being too clever, yet he still gives the story an atmosphere of subtle dread or mystery as one would expect from the Old Gent himself. Well, somewhat more subtle than HPL, but its presence is always welcome even in a story with it's tongue halfway in its cheek. (Somewhat reminiscent of Kim Newman's "Big Fish" in this department.) The ending, italicized in the style of HPLs older stories, is darkly (or grossly) funny in a way that felt a bit anticlimactic, but the story otherwise balances its horror and humor elements pretty well.
Next up is Mythos Inversion: "Live Bait" and "The Black Brat of Dunwich"