Sunday, January 31, 2016

LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 1 -- YE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH


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!

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