Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Nice Lovecraftian Visit


It remains a kind of miracle to me that S. T. Joshi, ye world's leading Lovecraft scholar & editor, came to dwell in my home town and is nigh one of my best buddies. For an obsess'd H. P. Lovecraft fan-boy, that is sweeter than ice cream. We spoke of many things, and S. T. encourag'd me to write a story for one of his forthcoming anthologies after I had determined I was unable to come up with anything original or interesting. H. P. Lovecraft is the source of my need to write, and S. T. is the potent alchemist who fuels my creative machine.

S. T. went to visit his mother and came home with some of his books that were in her possession, and he made these titles available for purchase. I snatch'd up ye moft sought-after prize, H. P. LOVECRAFT: FOUR DECADES OF CRITICISM, publish'd by ye Ohio University Press in 1980. And I was rather struck by ye opening essay, "H. P. Lovecraft: His Life and Work", by S. T. and Kenneth W. Faig, Jr. Here's that paragraph:

The criticism of the life and work of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) represents a singular chapter in the history of of literature. Lovecraft the man has been labelled a "sexless misfit," an "eccentric recluse," a "horrifying figure," a "sick juvenile," or simply "strange;" but others (most of whom knew and met Lovecraft) have said that he was "a great gentleman, the the truest sense of that much abused term," a "rational man before anything else," a "fascinating companion, teacher, and guide," and "not freakish, simply different." Of his work still greater contradictions arise: he was a "ghastly writer," a "bad writer," "not a good writer," and an "atrocious writer;" yet on the other hand he was "the supreme master of the tale of horror," "one of the most sensitive and powerful writers of [his] generation," and "the greatest American author of horror tales since Poe;" his tales are "nearly always perfect in structure" and are "superbly written;" his style has been called both "distinguished" and "undistinguished." It is difficult to find an author in this century whose life, character, and mannerisms have been so minutely and voluminously documented; whose writings were so unrecognised in his lifetime, yet so widely known after his death. We must look  to Poe and LeFanu to find writers whose lives have accumulated such bizarre legendry; to Conan Doyle to find one whose work has inspired such blatant imitation; and to Nathanael West to find one whose work has suffered such vicissitudes in critical acceptance. The reasons for all these occurrences are many, and to explain them requires an exploration not only of Lovecraft's life, work, and character, but many aspects of literature itself."

That was written in 1980--and it seems more relevant to-day than any other decade; and, to me, that is simply incredible. I will confess that ye current bad-mouthing of HPL and S. T. that can be found online is one of ye main reasons I began this new blog. I find both men almost-entirely admirable. My criticism of HPL is his blatant and inexcusable racism, and his seemingly indifferent attitude toward the fate of his fiction. I mean. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was left with his unpublish'd papers in an unpolish'd manuscript form, and we are lucky that HPL didn't destroy that manuscript as he did so many others. My main criticism of S. T. is more an expression of bafflement over his love of contact sports--he loves watching football on telly! (S. T. counters this by saying, "You're appalled at my love of sports, and I'm repulsed at your being a Mormon.")

I am as blatant an S. T. Joshi Enthusiast as I am an obsess'd H. P. Lovecraft fanatic--and that will no doubt be ye recurring theme of this blog.


Monday, November 16, 2015

I, too, have had my influence . . .


Lovecraft isn't ye onlie one who has had a nefarious influence on weird fiction. When I became a total Cthulhu Mythos nut in ye early 1970s, one of my all-time favourite writers was Brian Lumley. My ghod, I thought he was magnificent. I cannot now recall how I obtain'd his address--probably from Jim Turner of Arkham House--but I began to write Lumley ferver'd fan letters, and then I wrote foam-at-ye-mouth articles about how excellent his fiction was in my Lovecraft fanzine. Honey, I was young and clueless, and utterly obsess'd with ye Mythos. Indeed, to my shame these days, I wrote a rather disapproving review of one of Ramsey Campbell's collections in an early issue of Nyctalops--disappointing because I found the stories lacking in wondrous Cthulhu Mythos elements!! How dense ye young can be! 

So ye can imagine my utter delight when Lumley (I addressed him as "Briantus" in my letters to him) sent me the follow missive:


O My Holy Yuggoth!!!!!!!!! One of my favourite writers wanted to write a story inspir'd by my idea! & he wanted to name one of ye characters after me!!!! 

You see, I began writing horror fiction seriously when I was a Mormon missionary in Ireland. Yes, that's right--ye eldritch queen was one of yem lads who went around knocking on doors and annoying people. Can ye image having ye geek pictur'd below knock on your door wanting to preach about Jesus and Joseph Smith:

Anyway, while station'd in Omagh, Northern Ireland, I began to write horror stories. And although I have no memory of it, I wrote one called "The Seashell", using "Bill Pugmire" as my byline, and sent it to some fanzine called SCORPIA, who printed ye tale in their issue of October 1972. I don't remember getting a copy of the published tale, but 1972 was when I got transferred from Ireland to ye Arizona/Las Vegas mission due to health problems, so if ye issue was sent me it must have got lost. I seem to recall having rewritten the story in the mid-1970's, when I became "serious" about being a writer, and submitting it to some other fanzine. Anyway, I must have mention'd ye tale to Brian in our correspondence, and he asked to use ye idea for a wee story, which then became the wee novel, THE RETURN OF THE DEEP ONES. Some mate in England sent me ye British pb edition when it came out; and then, later, I bought ye hardcover edition of The Whisperer and Other Voices (Tor Books, 2001), where ye novel was reprinted. 

Over the years, after my initial obsession with Mythos fiction, I became less enamored of the genre and, in my maturity, found Lumley's fiction rather wanting. Thus I confess that, although I have try'd --- I've never been able to completely read The Return of the Deep Ones cos I find it too bloody boring. Still, it was a wonderful thrill, when I was young, to have one of my Lovecraftian heroes write that story and name one of his nasty Deep Ones "William P. Marsh".

  

Friday, November 13, 2015

still cool, bitches

I was sent ye ARC of The Annotated Fungi from Yuggoth---& I cannot speak too much about ye book because it is still a work in progress and not yet available for pre-order from ye publisher. But--Great Yuggoth!--it is such a cool edition, utterly sublime & definitive. Hippocampus Press will probably publish it in handsome hardcover format early next year. 


One of ye highlights of ye book, for me, is that each page of Lovecraft's holograph manuscript has been photograph'd & printed; and, once again, I am rather happy that I never had ye yearning to be an editor of Lovecraft's texts. I mean, check it out:

Lovecraft wrote Fungi from Yuggoth in the week between December 27 and January 4, 1928--so that had me imagining that he sat down at his desk and easily spill'd forth his sonnets onto paper, that the entire thing was a simple and fast affair. But as ye can see above, he freaking slaved over ye writing of ye poem--for each handwritten original draft looks like ye one pictur'd above. Eventually, of course, a typed manuscript was produced. That wasn't the case with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which was left in handwritten manuscript form only at ye time of Lovecraft's death. Can you imgine trying to decipher a short novel where every page of manuscript looks like this:



Lovecraft handwriting can be rather attractive, and those clever folk at The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society sell a font based on Lovecraft's penmenship; and Will Hart, in his audio readers of ye Fungi from Yuggoth downloaded on YouTube, has used that font as the video image of each poem, thus:



Fungi from Yuggoth is a work that has captivated me for a long time. It inspir'd me to finally try my hand at my own sonnet sequence, which was publish'd in Sesqua Valley and Other Haunts--and I am now so asham'd at how poor my poems are that I won't allow moft of yem to be reprinted. I've been working on a new series, Sonnets of an Eldritch Bent, the first few of which have just been publish'd in Weirdbook #31. Of my old sonnets, my favourite is the one I wrote in memory of Oscar Wilde:



I had in mind the idea that I wanted to write something entirely inspir'd by Lovecraft's sonnets, and then Will Hart began to upload his readings of them on his site and on YouTube--and that's whut finally did it for me. I decided to write a prose-poem sequence completely inspir'd by Fungi from Yuggoth, a sequence of 36 segments, each individually inspir'd by one of HPL's thirty-six sonnets. Segment one was my prose "rendition" of Lovecraft's sonnet #1, &c. I became obsess'd with ye writing of this book--for I had indeed visualized it as being publish'd in book form as a wee individual volume. I became utterly obsess'd with ye project, and shock'd myself by writing ye entire thing (I think that first version was 33,000 words or something like that) in six weeks. Honey, I burned to write! First I wou'd listen to one of Will Hart's readings, then I wou'd carefully study the printed sonnet; and then I wou'd pen my prose piece. I have never written anything so quickly, so smoothly. I was high on art, babies. Happily, once ye piece was finish'd, Arcane Wisdom Press agreed to bring it out in a small hardcover edition, beautifully design'd, with illustrations by Matthew Jaffe. His jacket for ye book remains my favourite cover for any of my books.


For my newest book, Monstrous Aftermath, publish'd this past summer by Hippocampus Press, Matthew return'd to the scene of ye cover for Gulf

And now Will Hart has recorded new audio renditions of the entire Fungi from Yuggoth, with magnificent musical accompaniment by Graham Plowman. This is an astonishing production, and will be available on audio cd from Fedogan & Bremer in ye near future. Along with ye entire Fungi from Yuggoth, there are recorded renditions of other poems such as "The Ancient Track", "In a Sequester'd Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walk'd", "Nemisis", & many others. I haven't an exact date for when this set (probably a two-disc set) will be releas'd, but as soon as I know I'll give y'all ordering info. 

We are living in such a rich Lovecraftian era, with many more delights in store for future time. Lovecraft, that excellent artist, is indeed Eternal. Ia! Ia!



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Letters to Robert Bloch and Others


Above is a letter Bob wrote me in 1985. I first began to write to Bloch in 1969, when I asked him to write a wee tribute to Forry Ackerman for my horror film fanzine, Fantasia. I was deeply into horror films at the time and had little interest in reading fiction. When, in 1971, I was stationed in Northern Ireland as a Mormon missionary, I wasn't allowed to attend horror films (they were deemed a bad influence); and so, because I was pen pals with Bob, I began to go to wee used book shops and find anthologies wherein Bloch was one of many writers. That's how I got hooked on reading horror fiction, which became my main addiction over the new few years. I was stationed in Omagh, County Tyrone, when I found a used copy of a book that had but recently been republished in paperback: THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK AND OTHER by H. P. Lovecraft ( Panther Horror, 1970). I knew of Lovecraft because of some films that had been made based on his stories, and because one entire issue of an old film fanzine, Gore Creatures, had been dedicated to HPL. Imagine my surprise when, turning to the book's title story, I saw that Lovecraft had dedicated "The Haunter of the Dark" to my pen-pal, Robert Bloch! Corresponding with Bob led to my thinking I too wanted to be a horror writer, and I wrote and sold my first story while still a missionary in Omagh. And it was because of my friendship with Bob that I became interested in H. P. Lovecraft, and interest that blossomed into an obsession once I returned to ye States.

So this just-publish'd edition of Lovecraft's letters to Bob (and others) has a special charm for me. Bloch began to write to Lovecraft while he was a young teen-aged reader of Weird Tales, and it was Lovecraft who suggested to Bloch that he should try his hand at writing weird fiction. Not long thereafter, Bob was selling his stories to Weird Tales, and sending them to HPL for Lovecraft's assessment and criticism. I never had the guts to send any of my own tales to Bob to ask his opinion of them, and I doubt that he read many of those early tales that were published in the small press journals. In time I began to correspond with others who had written for WT, and then I was able to hang-out with H. Warner Munn, who lived nearby in Tacoma; and soon I almost felt that I , too, was a part of that initial Lovecraft Circle. 

LETTERS TO ROBERT BLOCH AND OTHERS is 548 pages and sells for $25. Here is part of ye publisher's description of the book: "H. P. Lovecraft's generous tutelage of younger colleagues earned him their lifelong devotion and admiration. Few profited more by his assistance than Robert Bloch, who went on to become the celebrated author of Psycho and other classic works of horror and suspense. Establishing a correspondence with Lovecraft when he was sixteen, Bloch learned so much about the craft of writing--and about other matters--that he later stated: 'Lovecraft was my university.'
"This volume brings together Lovecraft's complete extant correspondence with Bloch as well as with such other young writers. editors, and fans of the 1930s as Kenneth Sterling (who collaborated with Lovecraft on 'In the Walls of Eryx'), Donald A. Wollheim (editor of the Phantagraph and a leading figure in science fiction in the decades that followed), Willis Conover (whose Lovecraft at Last is one of the most poignant books ever written about the Providence writer), and others."

One of ye moft charming of the letters has a delightful history. Bob has written a story in which he used elements of Lovecraft's Mythos and based a character on E'ch-Pi-El himself! When the editor of Weird Tales saw the story, he wrote to Bloch that permission needed to come from Lovecraft to use elements of the Mythos and to depict Lovecraft as a character (to be killed off by ye title daemon). Here is the letter that Lovecraft sent to Bloch, giving him permission:

One reader of WT suggested in that magazine's letter column that Lovecraft repay Bloch's "compliment" by writing a story in which he killed off a character based on Bob--and that led Lovecraft to write "The Haunter of the Dark".

It was through the reading of Lovecraft's publish'd correspondence that I went from being a fan of the man's fiction to falling in love with Lovecraft the man. Much of the persona with which I became obsess'd in manifested in this magnificent new book. To order, go to Hippocampus Press at www.hippocampuspress.com.

Hullo, ducks!


Here is my new blog, in which I want to discuss Lovecraft's art and perhaps portions of his biography. The blog's title reflects my obsession with HPL and my long practice of writing short stories "in ye Lovecraft tradition"--I have now publish'd around twenty books of my own fannish Lovecraftian tales. My mania for this author does not diminish over time--just ye opposite. It has reach'd a new height with ye publication from Hippocampus Press of H. P. Lovecraft - Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition in three handsome hardcover volumes. 

There has been more and more online chatter concerning Lovecraft, but very little of it seems to concern his actual writing. Usually, the people who are chatting about Lovecraft confess that they haven't read much of his fiction or they haven't read his work for a long time. These critics seem more concern'd with prattling on about what they see as Lovecraft's personal inadequacies and abnormalities. You won't see any of that here. We are here to discuss ye weird fiction of Lovecraft and ye ways in which it has influenced & continues to influence modern weird fiction. Any comments from Lovecraft haters who come to condemn his personal behavior or beliefs will be instantly deleted. Take your bile somewhere else.

I've been reading H. P. Lovecraft since ye early 1970's. Although I have come to adore Lovecraft scholarship, I do not wish to pose in any way as a scholar in this blog. I'm just a girl in love, and this blog will be an expression of that adoration. I am lucky in that my best friend and fellow city-dweller, S. T. Joshi, is indeed a prominent H. P. Lovecraft scholar and editor. I've done a number of YouTube videos with S. T. in which we usually discuss HPL. Here is an interesting one, touching of ye Lovecraft texts:




Okay, y'all, just wanted to introduce myself and get this thing started. I hope to be insanely active here. We have much to discuss, & much to celebrate! And, girlfriend, I'm talking lots! To-day's poft just brought me the new mailing of ye Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association, and ye mailing by David E. Schultz lists a number of books he is working on or plans to work on, including a series of volumes of ye publish'd correspondence of Clark Ashton Smith! He also says that Hippocampus Press is interested in publishing his annotated edition of Lovecraft's commonplace book (publish'd in two chapbook volumes by Necronomicon Press many years ago) as a single trade pb volume! It was that edition of Dave's annotated commonplace book that inspir'd me to write my long prose-poem sequence, "Uncommon Places".