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.

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