Sunday, January 31, 2016


When I was a young Lovecraftian, I cou'd not "get into" this novella. I was obsess'd with pure Lovecraftian horror, and ye idea of a fantasy novel lack'd appeal. Trying to read Dream-Quest at that young age, I became impatient with many of ye fabulous creatures that Carter encountered, finding them silly, absurd, and boring. The one allure the novella had was that it featured Richard Upton Pickman in his ghoul state; but ye dreamland ghouls rather disappointed me, because they meep. What the hell is meeping? However, over time, as I return'd to "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath," I found more therein that charmed me; and now, last year, my collaborator, David Barker, and I have written an entire novel set in Lovecraft's dreamlands--, or rather, our own version of it. 

Because of ye novel's length, this edition in ye PS Publishing LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED series contains just the wee novel, plus a new Introduction by S. T. Joshi, and a charming rambling essay by artist Pete Von Sholly (the LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED series was Pete's idea and all nine volumes are filled with his vivid colour artwork). The illustrations are superb, so enjoyable, and it adds immeasurably to the joy of reading the book to turn a page and be confronted with an image from Lovecraft's mighty imagination. On page 43 we have what is ye finest rendition of a night-gaunt that I have ever seen--a really inky fiend. Pages 50/51 are taken up with a spread depicting this line from ye novel: "There, on a tombstone of 1768...sat a ghoul which was once the artist Richard Upton Pickman." This is perhaps my favourite scene in ye novella, and Pete's rendition of it is quite eerie, using hues of purple, blue, and black. 

Dream-Quest is, as far as I understand, a first draft never revised or polished by HPL. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is also a first draft never prepared for publication, but Lovecraft revis'd the manuscript throughout, causing it to be rather a mess (see image). Writes S. T., in his Introduction, "In many ways, the Dream-Quest and Charles Dexter Ward are mirror images of the same basic idea--that idea that 'you can come home again.'" In Dream-Quest we encounter one of Lovecraft's recurring characters--Randolph Carter--one whom, it has been suggested, is Lovecraft's fictive portrayal of himself.
Von Sholly seems to have picked up on this idea, for in some of his paintings Carter does indeed vaguely resemble his creator.

Never publish'd in Lovecraft's lifetime, Dream-Quest saw its first publication in Beyond the Wall of Sleep (Arkham House, 1943). It has since found many admirers. Joanna Russ, that supreme sf author, is quoted in Wikipedia as saying "charming...but alas, never rewritten or polished." And that Wiki article also notes that "In 1948, Arthur C. Clarke sent Lord Dunsany a copy of The Arkham Sampler containing part of The Dream-Quest. Dunsany responded, 'I see Lovecraft borrowed my style, & I don't grudge it to him." Strangely, Lovecraft seems to have been unable to appreciate the great merit of his finest work, and he is known to have destroy'd much of his fiction with whichhe was displeased. We can count ourselves fortunate that The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was kept from ye flames and survived potential destruction or disposal during and after HPL's lifetime. 

This PS Publishing edition of Dream-Quest, in their fabulous LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED series. is one result of that lucky survival. Pete Von Sholly's magical illustrations are a rich and wondrous manifestation of Lovecraft's brilliant imagination. This is one cool book, my darlings!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rejected by Amazon...

For some strange reason--perhaps because I have quoted sections from the book in review--Amazon won't post my new review of MEDUSA'S COIL AND OTHERS. This is quite annoying, because I spent a nice wee while typing up that review. However, I was able to print out ye review, and so I am going to share it here, with ye. I think it requires a nice purple typeface.

Medusa's Coil and Others. Volume 2 of THE ANNOTATED REVISIONS AND COLLABORATIONS OF H. P. LOVECRAFT. Arcane Wisdom, 2012. Editing and Annotated by S. T. Joshi.
I keep returning to this wonderful tome, and to its companion volume, THE CRAWLING CHAOS AND OTHERS, for a number of reasons. I feel a close kinship with H. P. Lovecraft because I have been an obsess'd fan since ye early 1970s, at which time I also began my hobby of writing weird fiction that is heavily tainted by Lovecraft's oeuvre. I think my initial reading of many of these revisions fueled my desire to write Lovecraftian horror; I began to correspond with some few of these writers when I was young, and the idea that others had been inspir'd to write in ye "Lovecraft tradition" proved alluring. I kinda wanted to become a "member of ye club," so to speak. Reading Lovecraft's correspondence captivated me, especially when those selected letters spoke of Lovecraft's writing of his weird fiction, or had him encouraging others to write such stuff. This second volume of Grandpa's revisions & collaborations shews how intense his influence was while he lived. Most of these stories, published in pulp journals, did not wear Lovecraft's name in their byline; but some readers became suspicious about the authorship because of the writing style and mentions of Mythos elements in these yarns. 

As ye can see, I cannot write about Lovecraft or review his Work without repeated references to myself. Although my ego is enormous, that's not why it happens; rather, it is because reading Lovecraft's fiction has become so intimate a part of being an obsess'd Lovecraft fanboy. To write an "objective" review is impossible, and instead mine are rather bubbly and personal. However, I am also an author, and I take the creation of Literary Art very seriously. Those writers whom I most admire--Oscar Wilde and Henry James and H. P. Lovecraft &c &c--also consider'd ye writing of fiction an art form. So, fanboy that I am, I am also dedicated to striving for excellence in the fiction that I compose. Lovecraft did this as well, and from his correspondence we learn that he was determined to write fiction that was excellent. That he succeeded in this is evident in those editions of his Work publish'd by Penguin Classics, Liveright, and The Library of American.

ye Contents of ye Booke:
Introduction, by S. T. Joshi
Medusa's Coil, with Zealia Bishop
The Trap, with Henry S. Whitehead
The Man of Stone, with Hazel Heald
Winged Death, with Hazel Heald
The Horror in the Museum, with Hazel Heald
Out of the Aeons, with Hazel Heald
The Horror in the Burying-Ground, with Hazel Heald
The Slaying of the Monster, with R. H. Barlow
The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast, with R. H. Barlow
The Tree on the Hill, with Duane W. Rimel
The Battle That Ended the Century, with R. H. Barlow
"Till A' the Seas", with R. H. Barlow
Collapsing Cosmoses, with R. H. Barlow
The Challenge from Beyond, with C. L. Moore, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long
The Disinterment, with Duane W. Rimel
The Diary of Alonzo Typer, with William Lumley
In the Walls of Eryx, with Kenneth Sterling
The Night Ocean, with R. H. Barlow
Notes to "Medusa's Coil"
Notes to "The Challenge from Beyond"
The Diary of Alonzo Typer, by William Lumley
The Sorcery of Aphlar, by Duane R. Rimel

I reread "Medusa's Coil" last week in this edition; and for ye first time, I came away feeling disappointed with this fun tale. There is a sentiment among critics that Lovecraft was less careful in his prose with these revisions than with stories that wore his byline. I don't think I agree with that, and one reason I love the stories in this book is that they read very much like work by HPL. "Medusa's Coil" may be said to be flaw'd by Lovecraft's racism, and Derleth seems to have been sensitive of this flaw when he included the story in The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions--for he actually changed the final sentence in the story, thus "editing" Lovecraft's bigotry!Here's Derleth's version of that final line in ye tale:
[spoiler's alert] "...for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a loathsome, bestial thing, and he forebears had come from Africa." That sentence captivated my youthful imagination--ooo, whut kind of daemonic thing dwells within ye shadows of Dark Africa?! Here is Lovecraft's original sentence, now restor'd to ye text by S. T. Joshi: "--for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a negress."

This anthology is a hefty book of 484 pages. It's fascinating to see how Lovecraft, in writing some of these tales, completely takes over the plots suggested by his "collaborators" and writes what is essential a new story by H. P. Lovecraft. The range of fiction is wide in regards to style and content, and some of this fiction is bloody awful. I mean, it's almost outrageously weird to see, with "The Horror in the Museum," Lovecraft writing a story that reads more like a Derleth pastiche than authentic H. P. Lovecraft! 

The Notes are fascinating and inform'd, and elucidate these entertaining horror tales--which are indeed the work of HPL, for Lovecraft wrote what is finest in them.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ye Inescapable Influence

I have started working on a new story for a second collection of Enoch Coffin tales that I am writing with Jeffrey Thomas. Jeff and I initially agreed that, unlike our first book, this second collection would not be Lovecraftian. So what am I doing to-night? I'm rereading "Out of the Aeons" in S. T.'s edition of Medusa's Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H. P. Lovecraft  (Arcane Wisdom, 2012). First, I want to set ye tale in Boston, and "Out of the Aeons" has that city as its setting. Second, I wanted a sexy beginning for the story, & ye idea came to me to have two or three persons wrapping moist gauze around Enoch's naked body as part of a bizarre "art project" in which they replicate in living form the mummy of ye Cabot Museum. Such is my wonky memory that--although I have read ye tale numerous times--I cannot now remember how the story ends or the fate of the mummy. Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten in doing a mental "outline" of ye tale--and it isn't much. But often ye alchemy of inspiration comes during ye creation of a rough draft. Sometimes all I need is just that wee germ of an idea, and then when I begin to type ye rough, the imagination does its magick and ye ideas begin to flow. I'm not really interested in making this any kind of Mythos tale, but it will be what it will be. (I confess that I have a mighty attraction to ye idea of having some few references to Friedrich Wilhelm Von Junzt--but I'm fighting it.)  

I have one other idea for an Enoch Coffin story, concerning a woman artist, perhaps elderly, who is no longer seen in public. Although she doesn't dabble in magick to ye extent that Enoch does, she has accompany'd him to two or three covens and their ceremonies. When Enoch finally goes to call on her, he complains about her anti-social behavior. He wants to take her out for lunch, and perhaps to a gallery or two, as Boston has some fascinating new exhibits. She cannot attend, she tells him. "I have lost the day." "Whatever do you mean?" "I no longer experience the day. I exist in never-ending night."

Okay, back to my Nameless Research.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Good Year Thus Far . . .

Above is me in Boston, at ye gates adjacent to Harvard. My friends Maryanne and Greg took me on a three-week tour of New England and New York, and those were the moft magical three weeks of my life, never surpass'd. To be a Lovecraftian on his first visit to Lovecraft Country--Great Yuggoth, what an experience! I've been musing about Boston because I am preparing to begin work on a second collection of Enoch Coffin stories, and I want the first tale to be set in Boston. My memory of ye city is now so poor, however, that I fear making a lot of mistakes in describing it, &c. Well, I write fantasy fiction, so I guess it's semi-okay if ye Boston I evoke is more phantasy than reality.

With this second collection of Enoch Coffin tales, I am going to evoke the spirit of Poe rather than Lovecraft--at least that's my intention. Poe had a bit of an attitude regarding some of Boston's authors, but ye city seems to have embrac'd ye poet, as ye pictur'd statue of Poe and his Raven has been erected near ye Boston Commons. It's such a cool-looking thing that I feel an intense ache to travel to Boston so as to kneel before it and recite some snatches of "Ulalume". 

Anyway, the writing, for some reason, is flowing. It's not something I can ever plan on, to become suddenly productive. My great shame as an author is that I am so lacking in discipline, that I can only write "when in the mood". As I age, the mood to write becomes more rare. But of late, things have been moft encouraging. This morning, a friend accepted the story I have been slaving away on this month, "The Barrier Between". My friend's anthology has as its theme "nightmares and dreams," and that immediately made me think of Lovecraft, one of ye world's Great Dreamers. I was able to fight my initial Lovecraftian urge, however, and began to devise a story that was in no way Lovecraftian. Hopefully this isn't a false start. I want--I need--to write.

So ye rest of this evening will be devoted to musing on Poe, on dipping into some few biographies retelling his life story, and in listening to some of his poetry on audio cassette. I want to drink Poe's aura, and then part my lips and spill, as ink, Poe's haunting of my soul.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ye Antique Critique

I couldn't find my copy of Carter's book on ye Mythos (a friend in Australia sent me ye Panther Horror pb edition some few decades ago), so I order'd an inexpensive copy on Amazon; but to-day, while trying to read ye damn thing, I grew more annoy'd at Lin Carter's critiques of Lovecraft than ever before. Now I know that the book, written in ye early 1970's, was the first full book about Lovecraft to be publish'd, and it was written at a time when so much rancid misinformation concerning HPL was being hurled by clueless idiots; yet, still, so much of Carter's criticism is so harsh that one wonders why he felt compell'd to write the book. Of course, the book is much more than a volume about Lovecraft, being an investigation of the thing we have come to call "the Cthulhu Mythos". The Mythos can put a person into a state of fannish fever--and when I first read this book, I caught that fever big-time. I knew that I had to try and become one of these Mythos guys, to plant myself into that coven of writers.

Of course the paragraph that really gets to me, that makes my blood boil with rage, is this: "Lovecraft was such a bundle of contradictions that he will be the despair of his eventual biographer. How does one deal with a man so quirky and changeful and perverse that within a month after selling his first story to Weird Tales, he turns around and writes a piece of snobbish idiocy to [Frank Belknap] Long such as the following: 'I am well-nigh resilv'd to write no more tales, but merely to dream when I have a mind to, not stopping to do anything so vulgar as to set down the dream for a boorish Publick. I have concluded that Literature is no proper pursuit for a gentleman; and that Wrighting ought never to be consider'd but as an elegant Accomplishment, to be indulg'd in with In frequency, and Discrimination.' In that passage you have much of what I would call the worst of Lovecraft, his weakness and his folly: the absurd pretentions to gentility on the part of a man who had lived barely above the level of utter poverty for three years; the ludicrous self-delusion of thinking himself an "artist"--the snobbishness of spelling "literature" with a capital L..."   I would whisper to Lin Carter's ghost that it was this "ludicrous self-delusion", and Lovecraft's striving to write works of fiction that exhibited the best of his abilities, the effort made toward writing excellent weird fiction, that resulted in H. P. Lovecraft's eventual edition from The Library of America.

What made me toss the book away from me as I was reading it just now in me bathtub was the castigation aim'd at Lovecraft for one of his finest pieces, the prose-poem "Nyarlathotep": "He appears in a story fragment (prose poem?) called Nyarlathotep, and those already familiar with the figure of this devil god, one of the most prominent in Lovecraft's later pantheon, will be surprised to see him appear in this brief tale or sketch as a sort of traveling showman or charlatan. The story (or whatever it is) is unfinished; it is most unsatisfactory, too, and its flawed ineptitude seems to have haunted Lovecraft. He turned the initial impulse behind the yarn into a sonnet...and later employed Nyarlathotep in the Cthulhu stories and elsewhere, as if the original germ of the story, which he had left undeveloped in his initial treatment, haunted him and would not let him move on to other things until he had utilized it to the hilt." Gawd, what a load of clueless idiocy! Lovecraft knew exactly what he was doing when he compos'd his initial prose-poem (Carter seems too stupid to actually grasp the form in which the piece is cast), and wove references to the Strange Dark One in future works as he did with several other entities in his cosmic pantheon. Lovecraft couldn't "move on to other things" after having written this piece? His very next effort is one of Lovecraft's most powerful tales, "The Picture in the House," followed quickly by such outstanding works as "The Outsider" and "The Music of Erich Zann". Carter makes these outlandish statements that have no foundation of truth. He knows little, but assumes much. Of "The Nameless City" Carter writes, "This is now universally recognized as the first of the stories in the Cthulhu Mythos...", and that is entirely untrue, for there are scholars who do not consider the wee story part of ye Mythos at all. Let me go find my copy of LOVECRAFT: A BIOGRAPHY to see what de Camp says of "The Nameless City"...[ha!! in seeking my copy of de Camp's book, I found, instantly, my Panther pd edition of A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, right there in plain sight...] "'The Nameless City'(1921) is the first story of what was later called the Cthulhu Mythos." Thus de Camp, wiriting a few years after Carter's book was publish'd, is agreeing with him chum. He disagrees, however, in his assessment of ye tale: "...the story is rather good of its kind". Carter dismisses it as "not much of a story": "The Nameless City itself is essentially a trivial exercise in Poe-esque gothica". Okay.

My own feeling re: "Nyarlathotep" is that it is perfect as is, and that it is exactly what Lovecraft intended it to be. I agree with S. T. Joshi, who writes in I Am Providence, "The entire prose-poem is one of Lovecraft's most powerful vignettes, and shows how deeply imbued was his mingled terror of and fascination with the decline of the West." The figure of Nyarlathotep has so haunted me that I publish'd an entire book of stories featuring Lovecraft's dark entity. The Strange Dark One appears in S. T. Joshi's Lovecraftian novel, The Assaults of Chaos, and as a major character (Reverend Nye) in Robert Bloch's vastly entertaining novel, Strange Eons. Chaosium has publish'd a source book devoted to Nyarlathotep, and for them Robert M. Price edited an anthology, The Nyarlathotep Cycle. I used to think that my story, "The Strange Dark One," was my ultimate "tribute" to ye Crawling Chaos, but now a few friends have help'd to convince me that it's a poor story, overlong and confus'd, and so I need to write a new really long story concerning Nyarlathotep that will be my essential tribute to this creature that has so haunted me over ye strange aeons of my mortality.

Monday, January 11, 2016

H. P. LOVECRAFT'S "THE TOMB" -- a wee commentary

Richard Lund

Richard Lund, Esq.

Have ye ever created a character who, after killing him off in a tale, continues to haunt your imagination, to ye point where you regret having destroy'd him? This has been ye case with my character of Richard Lund, ye central character in my story "Born in Strange Shadow." Perhaps ye reason this character so "lives" for me is that, when I had my wee cassette recorded and used to record "living letters" on cassette tape to send to various correspondents, "Born in Strange Shadow" was the story that I read into ye tape recorder the moft often; & I had a special deep "sepulchral" voice that I used when speaking the dialogue of Richard Lund; and in thus presenting him in those recordings, I grew strangely fond of him. 

Well, of late I have been revising some few of my older tales. This is a habit I have been trying to resist, wanting to concentrate fully on creating new work; but this evening, as I was reclining in bed and sinking into dream, ye image of Richard came to me, and I felt that well-known pang of remorse in having kill'd him at ye end of my short story. And a wee voice whisper'd to my brain, "Honey, you can always rewrite the damn story and not have him hang himself at its conclusion." 

"Born in Strange Shadow" is one of my "Pickman's Model" tales, inspir'd by one of my favourite H. P. Lovecraft stories. It was inspir'd mainly by a mention in Lovecraft's tale of one of R. U. Pickman's paintings.

"Occasionally the things were shewn leaping through open windows at night, or squatting on the chests of sleepers, worrying at their throats. One canvas shewed a ring of them baying about a hanged witch on Gallows Hill, whose dead face he;d a close kinship to theirs."

That painting by Pickman figures in my story and supplies my climatic scene. To-night, I am tempted to altar that scene--nay, more than tempted, for I am going to completely rewrite the story, and in doing so hopefully increase its wordage from ye original 2,240 to at least 3,000 words.

(ye novel mention'd in the above video, writ by me and Jeff Thomas, never got started; but eventually he and I will write a second collection of Enoch Coffin tales)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Good Year Thus Far

It has indeed been an excellent year for this writer of weird fiction. I've already had two new things accepted. In an attempt to clean ye chaos that are ye piles of papers in various rooms, I came upon a print-out of a wee sonnet sequence, "The Ghoul's Dilemma," of which I have no memory. I cannot now recall if I consider'd the thing finish'd with ye three sonnets of which it consists, or if I meant to add further sonnets; nor can I recall submitting it as is to any publication. S. T. has just accepted it for his way cool poetry journal, Spectral Realms. I am hoping to make 2016 a year of poetry--I want to write lots of it.I'm a little shy, however, about trying my hand at any form other than sonnets. I think my ghoul sonnets will be publish'd in ye 4th issue.

S. T. has a new blog up to-day
in which he announc'd: "I am also compiling a volume entitled The Red Brain: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos for Dark Regions Press. This is a kind of follow-up to A Mountain Walked, which has done surprisingly well in the paperback edition that Dark Regions issued late last year. The Red Brain will again consist of both reprinted stories and original tales, and I hope to complete the compilation as early as April of this year."  I am always delighted to write a new story for one of S. T.'s books, and it is in this forthcoming Mythos anthology that my newest original tale, "Pickman's Lazarus," will be publish'd. 

New work progresses, however slowly. David Barker and I are near ye end of writing our Dreamlands novel, and hope to have it completed by ye end of this month. I am still trying to find the "right" beginning for the new story I want to write for S. T.'s nightmare-themed anthology. I want to write a story that is slightly similar in tone and approach and use of character as my "Inhabitants of Wraithwood"; but the beginning scene that I keep returning to involves the famous painting by Henry Fuseli, "The Nightmare"--and I worry that to use that painting in the story is just a tad bit too "obvious". We shall see. It all depends in how ye idea is handled.

My best to ye, my darlings.