William Francis Nolan (b. 1928) died around 2 A.M. on July 15. I heard the news from his close friend, Jason V Brock, about twelve hours later. He had been hospitalised for about two weeks prior to his death, afflicted with a variety of ailments (including Covid—which he got in the hospital).
There is no question that his demise represents the passing of an era, both for himself and for our field in general. He was the last surviving link to the “Group”—the cadre of dynamic writers (Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and several others) who revitalised weird fiction after Lovecraft’s death, taking it into new directions and fusing it more directly into ordinary life; as such, they set the stage for the best-selling work of Stephen King and others.
But Bill Nolan’s role in literature is one thing; his distinctive character is an entirely different matter. I was lucky to have known him for nearly fifteen years, after being introduced to him by Jason V Brock around 2008. He was one of the most engaging individuals of my acquaintance, full of lively opinions and fascinating tales about the many luminaries (not only the writers mentioned above but such other figures as John Huston, Steve McQueen, and many others). His sense of humour was infectious, and it was always a joy to be in his presence.
I am proud to have been the editor of his volume Nolan on Bradbury (Hippocampus Press, 2013), a volume that won the Bram Stoker Award. But Bill’s bibliography is impressively large and spans a wide range of genres and subjects. He left an imperishable legacy on our field and other fields as well.
On other, lesser matters:
I am in receipt of a sheaf of “little books” published by Borderlands Press. I have just compiled one such volume for Lovecraft, which I imagine will be published later this year or early next. The volumes that I have received from Thomas F. Monteleone, the publisher, are these:
Here is the publisher’s website for the series: https://www.borderlandspress.com/product-category/little-book-series/. Well worth securing! The title of my Lovecraft book has yet to be determined; Tom wants some kind of alliterative word to match the word “silver” in the proposed title (A Little Silver Book of …). Any suggestions?
Late last month I gave two long interviews on consecutive days for two separate podcasts. The podcasts are now up. The first is by a New Zealander, Colin Rowsell, and in my interview I managed to say a number of things (about subjects ranging from atheism to music to some aspects of my personal life) that I haven’t said before. It can be found here: https://www.project-tempest.net/s-t-joshi.
The other podcast was conducted by Mark Griffin (who, incidentally, is assembling a combined index to all the Hippocampus Press letters volumes—a very useful undertaking!). Here it is: https://anchor.fm/lcpl/episodes/Interview-with-S-T—Joshi-e14fbtv. This was a somewhat more lighthearted interview focusing chiefly on Lovecraft. But I hope there is some interest here also.
Otherwise, work continues in the usual manner. I am devoting much attention to preparing the text (with annotations) of George Sterling’s Collected Essays. This volume is likely to come out next year in conjunction with our edition of the Bierce-Sterling letters (tentatively titled A Splendid Poison). On both projects we are being substantially assisted by Vince Emery, a longtime Sterling scholar. He is himself a publisher, and he has a number of tempting books available: http://www.emerybooks.com/.In my “fire sale” of a little while ago, I failed to include a price for the hardcover copies of my anthologies, Apostles of the Weird and His Own Most Fantastic Creation. I am now prepared to offer them at the bargain rate of $20 each. I only have one copy of each of these books, so get 'em while they last!
It’s been a reasonably eventful two or three weeks. On the weekend before my sixty-third birthday (i.e., June 18–20), we moseyed down to Vancouver, Washington, to see our friends Jason and Sunni Brock—and, of course, the ninety-three-year-old William F. Nolan, who is now living with them. Bill is looking a little frail these days, but that is only to be expected; otherwise, he’s hanging in there, and I was happy to exchange some engaging conversation with him. On the 19th Mary and I toured some local waterfalls—Lucia Falls and Moulton Falls—and she took a picture of me at the former site. So here is proof that I actually do get out of my mancave and venture outdoors once in a while:
We actually went to a restaurant (Red Robin), where I had the Impossible Burger—quite tasty indeed. It has the added advantage of not filling you up the way an ordinary burger does—a point worth considering, since the Brocks, with excessive generosity, plied us with not one but two substantial desserts at home.
Soon after our return, we had to face the consequences of the hideous heat wave that struck the Pacific Northwest. We took refuge in a nearby hotel for two nights, where we relished the air conditioning and took a few dips in the hotel pool. Much of the time, however, the pool was littered by incredibly rowdy little children. Thank heaven there are no bairns around here! We felt sorry that we had to leave our cats at home: no doubt they wished there was a way of removing their fur coats. But they survived, and the temperatures have now moderated.
In terms of projects, I have been working extensively on the joint correspondence of Ambrose Bierce and George Sterling—a compelling batch of letters that we hope to publish next year. My coeditor, David E. Schultz, and I have been receiving invaluable assistance from Vince Emery, a longtime Sterling devotee (and an editor and publisher in San Francisco), who has lent us his expertise and provided documents we were unaware of. As a companion volume, we may issue a volume of Sterling’s Collected Essays, which would include pieces on Bierce, Jack London, Joaquin Miller, and many other subjects—including an essay reflecting a sort of Schopenhauerian pessimism, entitled “Pleasure and Pain!” (Yes, the exclamation mark appears in the text.)
The Lovecraft Letters project approaches completion, although it will probably be 2023 before the final volumes appear. These are:
The first three of these volumes are actually close to completion, but we need to have access to various libraries before we can finish them.
We hope that will happen later this year. Another volume that is dependent on our access to libraries is the vastly expanded edition of R. H. Barlow’s collected writings, Eyes of the God. The initial edition of 2002 has now been augmented by a great deal of additional fiction, as well as his essays and reviews and a few more poems. The book must be more than twice the size of the original volume.
I was pleased to receive a copy of Cadabra Records’ newest release, a spoken-word recording of Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” read by Andrew Leman (https://cadabrarecords.com/products/h-p-lovecraft-beyond-the-wall-of-sleep-lp-read-by-andrew-leman-score-by-chris-bozzone-black-and-blue-splatter). I wrote the liner notes to the LP. I haven’t actually listened to the recording, but I’m sure Andrew’s reading is a splendid one.
I was interested to hear that Randal Plunkett, the 21st Lord Dunsany, has released a new film, The Green Sea (2021). I greatly enjoyed his 16-minute zombie film, Out There (2012). The Green Sea is a full-length film (1 hour and 44 minutes), which Randal directed, produced, and wrote the screenplay for. I don’t doubt that it is an entertaining work. Here is a trailer for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9hbXEoGZw8.
I am in receipt of five new and splendid publications from Hippocampus Press, which I am happy to offer at a slight discount from the retail price (to say nothing of offering free media mail postage to US customers):
I hardly need describe the Lovecraft volume aside from noting that it checks in at a hefty 492 pages. The Chambers book is my selection of what I believe to be the author’s best weird tales, taken from The King in Yellow (1895), The Maker of Moons (1896), The Mystery of Choice (1897), In Search of the Unknown (1904), and Police!!! (1915). The anthology by Jim Chambers (presumably no relation to RWC!) contains previously unpublished stories inspired by The King in Yellow by such authors as Lisa Morton, John Langan, Darrell Schweitzer, JG Faherty, Tim Waggoner, and Curtis L. Lawson, not to mention a previously unpublished novella by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
The Sidney-Fryer book is another engaging volume of his prose and poetic miscellany, with articles on Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many other writers; not the least distinctive item is an essay (“Cosmic Troubadours”) on weirdness in rock music. John Shirley’s book contains a pair of unpublished tales: the title novella and a shorter but still lengthy story, “A Prince in the Kingdom of Ghosts.” Both tales are a fascinating mix of fantasy and terror; the novella has elements that draw upon both Smith and Lovecraft.
I have also received volume 1 of the “livre de poche” (“pocket book”—i.e., mass-market paperback) of Je Suis Providence, the magnificent French translation of my biography, I Am Providence. This book has already come out in a two-volume trade paperback and a huge (and expensive) one-volume hardcover edition. I am having a bit of trouble finding the page on the publisher’s website for this exact edition. What I find is this: https://www.editions-actusf.fr/a/st-joshi/lovecraft-je-suis-providence-tome-1. But this appears to be a page for the trade paperback, since it gives the page count as 712, whereas this “livre de poche” is 893 pages. In any case, I have one spare copy that I can part with for $25, if anyone is interested.
Another book that has come in is Unquiet Stars, the newest poetry book by Ann K. Schwader, one of the premier weird poets of our time. This book was published by Weird House, the relatively new imprint that Joe Morey has established (https://www.weirdhousepress.com/product/unquiet-stars/). I’ve written a review of this book that will appear in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectral Realms. I have one spare copy of the Schwader book that I will be happy to let go for $10 (or for $5, if you buy one of the books mentioned above). We should all support Weird House, Dan Sauer’s Jackanapes Press, and any other publishers that are devoted to weird poetry—a genre that has tremendous aesthetic potential but doesn’t generate a great many sales, making it economically difficult for publishers to release such books.
My friend Joshua Rex, who has already established himself as one of the dynamic young luminaries of weird fiction, has posted an interview of me on his podcast: https://anchor.fm/joshua-rex9/episodes/S—T—Joshi-e11s8gh. I greatly enjoyed talking with Joshua, especially given the fact that we discussed subjects (such as my interest in music) that I don’t usually get a chance to talk about.
I am about to write an introduction to Michael McDowell’s Cold Moon over Babylon (1980) for a planned reprint by Centipede Press. I regret to say that I didn’t discuss McDowall at all in Unutterable Horror, even though I knew his work by reputation as among the better writing of the horror “boom” of the 1970s and 1980s; and I am glad to become belatedly acquainted with this novel, which is a superlative piece of work.
Scott Bradfield, who has done much to promote Hippocampus Press books of late, had long ago written a review-essay of our Arthur Machen books (also including the recent volume of Autobiographical Writings); but this article, commissioned by the distinguished UK periodical The New Statesman, was delayed intolerably, and so Bradfield pulled the essay and has now placed it with the Los Angeles Review of Books, where I trust it will appear shortly. I am continuing to work on a volume of Machen’s general essays on philosophy, literature, and other subjects (Hieroglyphics and Other Essays), scheduled to be released by Hippocampus Press next year.
My friend and colleague Ovidio Cartagena was so taken with José R. Montejano’s afterward to the Spanish translation of W. H. Pugmire’s Bohemians of Sesqua Valley (Bohemios del valle de Sesqua [Madrid: Carfax, 2021]) that he has translated the piece. I have received the publisher’s permission to publish the translation. It conveys many of the sentiments we all feel when contemplating Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, the man and the writer.
I am happy to announce the publication of my 350th book—my edition of Ambrose Bierce’s supernatural tales in the Centipede Press Library of Weird Fiction (http://www.centipedepress.com/masters/biercelwf.html). This the customary superlative production job from Centipede; and, unlike my recent three-volume paperback edition of Bierce’s collected fiction from Hippocampus Press, this volume includes only those tales that are specifically weird (either supernatural horror or psychological horror [including tales of the Civil War] and his political satires and fantasies). I have exactly one spare copy of this book, which I can let go for the discounted price of $40.
I figure I need to get some books out of this increasingly crowded house, so I am offering yet another fire sale of these titles. All the titles on the list below can be obtained for only $10 each. Please note that in many cases I only have one spare copy to offer. Most are recent books from Hippocampus Press:
The following books or magazines can be obtained for a mere $5 (but if you purchase only one title, I will have to ask for an additional $5 in postage):
And I have found some fairly rare and choice items that I didn’t know I had:
As for my own activities, I am currently reading proofs and compiling the index for my study Ramsey Campbell, Master of Weird Fiction (an exhaustive revision and updating of Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction ) for PS Publishing, so I hope it will be out reasonably soon.
Numerous volumes should be appearing soon from Hippocampus Press, including Donald Sidney-Fryer’s Random Notes, Random Lines, John Shirley’s A Sorceror of Atlantis, Ken Faig Jr.’s Lovecraftian People and Places, etc. etc. I hope my historical study The Recognition of H. P. Lovecraft will be out before the end of the summer. And I am diligently working on the next issues of Spectral Realms (No. 15), Penumbra (No. 2), and the Lovecraft Annual (No. 15).
And, of course, I continue my history of atheism (right now I am neck-deep in the study of Buddhism). Never a dull moment around here!
Let me begin this blog post with the most momentous news I can think of: Lovecraft’s letters to Frank Belknap Long have now reached the John Hay Library! I imagine many of you are aware of the long and at times frustrating effort to purchase these letters (more than 500 pages of handwritten manuscript) since they were purchased in late 2006 by L. W. Currey. Well, the goal has finally been achieved, thanks largely to Derrick Hussey’s Aeroflex Foundation, the crowdfunding campaign launched by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and, of course, my own sale of books from the library of W. H. Pugmire. It will no doubt take the library several months to scan the letters and make them available to David E. Schultz and me for editing; so one should not expect to see these letters in print until 2023. We hope to publish Long’s side of the correspondence (which survives in abundance) as well, so that in all likelihood this will be a two-volume job.
An interesting work of Lovecraft scholarship is Cédric Monget’s Lovecraft, l’Arabe, l’horreur, recently published by La Clef d’Argent (http://clefdargent.free.fr/llalh.php). The booklet includes a discussion of Lovecraft’s response to Islam, Arabian culture, and other issues relevant to his creation of the Necronomicon by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. I see that this same publisher has issued a book entitled Lovecraft: Sous le signe du chat (Lovecraft: Under the sign of the cat) by Boris Maynadier. Sounds most tempting!
I have received several copies of W. H. Pugmire’s Bohemios del valle de Sesqua (https://labibliotecadecarfax.com/tienda/es/w-h-pugmire/23-bohemios-del-valle-de-sesqua-9788412281316.html), a Spanish translation of Bohemians of Sesqua Valley. This is one of several books of Wilum’s work that will be appearing in various foreign languages. Recently I have been contacted about a translation of his work in Italian. I still have two copies of Bohemios for sale at the bargain price of $10.
Speaking of Italian, I have been notified that the first issue of the Lovecraftian magazine Voci da R’lyeh (Voices from R’lyeh) is now out (https://www.facebook.com/VdRlyeh/). It contains an interview of me (first published in a French website in 2019, following my appearance at Les Imaginales in Epinal that summer). But the issue (86 pages in length) contains a wealth of other interesting matter, from fiction to articles to graphic adaptations. I cannot tell if the magazine is online only or is available in print; at any rate, I have not received a copy.
Phantasmagoria No. 4 (2021) is an enormous periodical of more than 260 pages, edited by Trevor Kennedy, and entirely devoted to the life and work of Ramsey Campbell. Hardly an unworthy subject! I contributed a piece on Lovecraft’s influence on Campbell, focusing on his recent Daoloth Trilogy, and also wrote a brief piece expressing my admiration for what I believe to be Campbell’s most frightening story, “Makintosh Willy.” You can order the issue from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Phantasmagoria-Special-4-Ramsey-Campbell/dp/B093R5TMGF/. I do not have any spare copies of this fine magazine to offer for sale. I now see that Campbell’s second essay collection, Ramsey Campbell, Certainly (edited by me), is soon to appear from PS Publishing. I believe that my own revised study of Campbell—first published as Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction (2001) and now extensively revised as Ramsey Campbell, Master of Weird Fiction—will be coming out from PS around the same time, although I have yet to read proofs of the book.
From Cadabra Records comes a two-LP recording of Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” (https://cadabrarecords.com/products/h-p-lovecrafts-the-call-of-cthulhu-2x-lp-read-by-andrew-leman-score-by-anima-morte-variant). The story is read by Andrew Leman and has a musical score by Anima Morte. I wrote extensive liner notes for the recording. In conjunction with this recording, Cadabra has released a print booklet of the story (https://cadabrarecords.com/collections/all/products/cadabra-illustrated-7-h-p-lovecrafts-the-call-of-cthulhu-illustrated-by-matthew-jaffe-black-cover-edition), with splendid illustrations by Matthew Jaffe. My corrected text has been used.
I am in receipt of Joshua Rex’s A Mighty Word (https://joshuarex.com/books/a-mighty-word/), a superlative short novel that mingles supernaturalism with a timely sociopolitical message. We are treated to the resurrection of a young woman from the Victorian age in the (fictitious) town of Still City, and along the way we learn the grim truth about a ruthless corporation that is polluting the city’s poorer environs. I copyedited the book for the author—something Joshua mentions on the copyright page. I was happy to do the job (and in fact did relatively little—Joshua’s work doesn’t need much fixing), and am grateful for the acknowledgment. I have one spare copy (signed by the author) that I would be happy to part with for $10.
Hippocampus Press continues its campaign of clearing up its immense backlog of books. I have now received a generous number of copies of my novella Something from Below, so I repeat my offer to sell this to any interested customers for $10. Another item that has come in is K. A. Opperman’s splendid poetry volume The Laughter of Ghouls (https://www.hippocampuspress.com/other-authors/poetry/the-laughter-of-ghouls-by-k.-a.-opperman), which I will offer at the discounted price of $10. Those who wish both books can have them for a combined price of $15.
More books will follow. Among our forthcoming items are:
And there is still more to come! We will be issuing a pair of unpublished novellas by John Shirley, a large volume of Matt Cardin’s essays on weird fiction and philosophy, my own treatise The Recognition of H. P. Lovecraft, and much else.
I am in receipt of two splendid books from Perla Ediciones, the Mexico City publisher that is undertaking an admirable project to translate some of the leading (or, at least, more interesting) works of Anglophone weird fiction into Spanish. The books that have come in are Julian Gloag’s La casa de nuestra madre (https://perlaediciones.com/catalogo/la-casa-de-nuestra-madre/), a translation of Our Mother’s House (1963), a curious work of Gothic horror that was effectively filmed in 1967; and Algernon Blackwood’s El valle perdido y otros relatos alucinantes (https://perlaediciones.com/catalogo/el-valle-perdido-y-otros-relatos-alucinantes/). I’ve written introductions to each volume. The introduction to the Gloag book was commissioned for this edition (I have now printed the English text in my Progression of the Weird Tale); the introduction to the Blackwood book (whose contents I helped to select) is taken from my Penguin edition of Blackwood. We should all support Perla’s campaign to bring Anglophone weird fiction to the Spanish-speaking world!
I see that my article “H. P. Lovecraft’s Racism and Recognition” has now been translated into Russian, in the online journal Darker Magazine: https://darkermagazine.ru/page/rasizm-i-priznanie-g-f-lavkrafta. I fear that I cannot even read the Cyrillic script, but it is interesting to see my name (and Lovecraft’s) in this script. I have a few recent Russian editions of Lovecraft here, and they are striking items indeed.
My history of atheism stands at nearly 35,000 words! I am almost done with the chapter on the Greek philosophers (down to about 150 B.C.E.), but will now go back to doing the first chapter of the book (on the origin and development of religion from the dawn of time to about the 5th century B.C.E.), then tackle the chapter on the Romans (which will of course also include an outline of the origin of Christianity).
I’ve gotten my vaccine! Well, the first shot anyway. But this occurred not at my health clinic (University of Washington Medical Center), but at a Safeway! My devoted wife searched the Internet high and low for a place where I could get vaccinated, and after diligent effort signed me up at this place. So far I feel nothing untoward (I got the shot only about 25 minutes ago), but I was told that side effects (fatigue, headache, etc.) may manifest themselves tomorrow. We’ll see about that!
Some interesting books have drifted in here lately. Of chief interest is Jean L. Pérez-de-Luque’s Ideology and Scientific Thought in H. P. Lovecraft (Editorial Comares, [2021?]). The book, curiously enough, is not dated, but I received it only a short time ago from the author, who has had at least one article published in the Lovecraft Annual. Although the book was published in Granada, it is written in English; in fact, I believe it is a version of a thesis that the author wrote at the University of Córdoba in Spain. Here is the Amazon page for the book: https://www.amazon.com/IDEOLOGY-SCIENTIFIC-THOUGHT-LOVECRAFT/dp/8413690501.
Brazil continues its extensive publication of Lovecraft’s work. Editora Ex Machina has issued a second edition of Contos reunidos (collected stories), translated by Francisco Innocêncio, edited by Bruno Costa, and containing an introduction by me. Here (for those who can read Portuguese) is the publisher’s web page for the book: https://www.editoraexmachina.com.br/produto/contos-reunidos-do-mestre-do-horror-cosmico/.
I have nearly completed the assembly of this year’s Penumbra. This issue has ten short stories, including an original tale by Ramsey Campbell (“Lost for Words”), along with stories by Mark Samuels, Curtis M. Lawson, Darrell Schweitzer, Geoffrey Reiter, and several dynamic young writers; it also features articles on Lord Dunsany, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Clark Ashton Smith, Greg Bear, vampire poetry (by Kyla Lee Ward), my article on Guy de Maupassant (which will serve as the introduction to my edition of Maupassant’s weird tales, forthcoming from Centipede Press), and other items. And this year’s Lovecraft Annual is also almost done.
More books should be appearing soon from Hippocampus Press: Lovecraft’s Letters to E. Hoffmann Price and Richard F. Searight; K. A. Opperman’s poetry collection The Laughter of Ghouls (actually, I believe this may already be out); volume 1 of a fine selection of the weird work of Marjorie Bowen, prepared by John C. Tibbetts (volume 2 will appear next year); and a pair of volumes relating to Samuel Loveman: the letters of Loveman and Clark Ashton Smith and a much augmented version of the 2004 volume Out of the Immortal Night, this new version containing a great deal more poetry, a large selection of Loveman’s essays, and a fascinating interview of Loveman conducted in the 1960s by Thomas Hubschman. The book now probably exceeds 500 pages!
The fourth volume of my Leslie Stephen edition is now out: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091WCSTCW. It contains some fabulous pieces! This is the first volume of his essays on literary subjects, and as many as four more volumes on this subject (dealing with individual writers from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century) will follow.
My history of atheism is now approaching 30,000 words; I am nearly finished with the chapter on the Greeks (by which I mean Greek philosophy and related issues from the dawn of time to 146 B.C.E., when Greece was conquered by Rome). The chapter, if anyone is interested, is divided into the following sections:
I present the section on “Aristotle and His Legacy” here. I fear this section may be difficult to understand for those who don’t have a background in Greek philosophy—especially since at least part of the discussion refers to earlier sections of the chapter, especially the section on Plato. Well, good luck!
I understand that the Hippocampus Press edition of my novella, Something from Below, is now out. Here is the publisher’s web page for the book: https://www.hippocampuspress.com/other-authors/fiction/something-from-below-by-s.-t.-joshi. I will be getting a fair number of copies of the book, but these may take a few weeks to reach me; and I will not be able to offer them at a discount from the already inexpensive list price ($10.00), although I will still cover media mail postage for US customers. If you can’t wait to read this piece (which I do believe is my most serious and creditable work of weird fiction), then go ahead and order it from the publisher! Or if you wish to reserve a copy from me, do let me know.
My colleague Denilson E. Ricci has sent me a pair of books he has published through his imprint, Editora Clock Tower in Brazil. The first is a collection of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories, Além da imaginacão e do tempo (http://loja.sitelovecraft.com/produto/casmith/). The second is Volume 2 of O mundo fantástico de H. P. Lovecraft, which contains a preface by me. The publisher’s website (http://sitelovecraft.com/editora/) shows other fascinating books by Anglophone weird fiction writers translated into Portuguese.
My neighbour Jim Dempsey points me to a recent online article from the Scientific American website that mentions Lovecraft: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/100-million-year-old-seafloor-sediment-bacteria-have-been-resuscitated/. Who can forget that, almost exactly 115 years ago, Lovecraft himself published a prescient letter in that illustrious magazine?
I have been in touch with Mara Kirk Hart (the daughter of Lovecraft’s friend George Kirk), who is in the process of downsizing and moving from her longtime home in Duluth, Minnesota, to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Aside from her incredible generosity in passing along some choice books that have been in her collection for decades, she has sent along a photograph that is of some interest. It shows Mara (on the right), her sister Kitty (on the left), with myself in the middle. We are, obviously, standing in front of 169 Clinton Street in Brooklyn. This must date to the early 1990s. The question is: Who took the photograph? Peter Cannon? Scott Briggs? Some passing stranger? At any rate, it is a rare memento!
My beloved spouse, bless her heart, has been combing through some bins of unsorted material that have been lying around for years. Much of this material has properly been consigned to the dustbin, but one interesting item has surfaced—an item that I was convinced was lost forever. This is nothing less than the first movement of a trumpet concerto that I composed (probably in the 1980s or 1990s) when I was still under the sway of the Baroque era. I present a scan of the first page below.
The pretentious title—Suonata per il tromba ed archi in re maggiore (Sonata for trumpet and strings in D major)—tells the whole story. The word Suonata (a now archaic spelling of sonata) was used in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to designate a concerto. I see that, although I completed the first movement (about 45 bars), I did not fill in the viola line throughout. I have always found viola parts to be difficult to write, and not merely because of the totally non-intuitive “viola clef” (different from treble clef and bass clef) that one must use. But perhaps I will resume this work someday. The second (slow) movement will probably feature only strings; the trumpet will then return for the third and final movement.
Mary also unearthed my transcription of Bach’s Italian Concerto (for harpsichord) as a violin concerto. Bach wrote the work as an avowed imitation of the concerto as produced in great quantity by Vivaldi and others. Bach himself actually transcribed several of Vivaldi’s violin concerti for harpsichord, so I came up with the brilliant plan to do a transcription in the reverse manner. I recall doing this while house-sitting for my sister Ragini in her apartment in Cranbury, New Jersey, during my years at Princeton (1982–84).
On a related note, the postponement of NecronomiCon Providence until the summer of 2022 has necessitated some alteration in the schedule of Hippocampus Press, and my book of songs (Songs from Lovecraft and Others) will now be delayed until next year. But my treatise The Recognition of H. P. Lovecraft, along with a reprint of my anthology of stories about Lovecraft, His Own Most Fantastic Creation, are still scheduled to appear this year.
My history of atheism has already reached 20,000 words, mostly concerning the Greek philosophers from the Presocratics to Aristotle (6th to 4th centuries B.C.E.). God be with me!
I have received another sheaf of recently published books from Hippocampus Press. As a way of getting them out of here (and fending off Mary’s complaints about too many books in the house), I am offering them at a marked reduction from the list price:
The Bierce edition is a repackaging of The Short Fiction of Ambrose Bierce, published in a three-volume hardcover edition by University of Tennessee Press in 2006. But here the stories have been arranged thematically rather than chronologically. The first volume contains tales of psychological and supernatural horror; the second volume contains tales of the Civil War and tales of the grotesque; the third volume contains tall tales and satirical sketches, political fantasies, and future histories. All very entertaining!
The Last Oblivion is a revised reissue of one of the earliest Hippocampus Press volumes, first published in 2002. This is, to my mind, one of the best selections of Smith’s weird verse currently available, and its reprinting is long overdue. The Averoigne Chronicles is a paperback reprint of the expensive Centipede Press hardcover edition of 2016. It features an introduction by Gahan Wilson, an afterword by Donald Sidney-Fryer, and a map of Averoigne designed by the book’s editor, Ronald S. Hilger. But of course the chief feature of the book is the material by Smith himself—all the tales and poems he wrote about this imaginary realm of mediaeval France.
As a bonus offer, I will throw in a free copy of the latest Spectral Realms to any customers who buy the Bierce edition or both of the Smith volumes. I only have 4 spare copies of all these books, so don’t delay in ordering!
I continue to work on various fronts, and I understand that Lovecraft’s Letters to E. Hoffmann Price an Richard F. Searight and K. A. Opperman’s splendid poetry volume The Laughter of Ghouls will be out soon from Hippocampus. I myself continue to revel in the work of Leslie Stephen, the first volume of whose essays on literature I am now editing. Consider this timely discussion of literary cliques in the essay “Genius and Vanity” (1877):
“No stings can be too severe which help to kill down the noxious swarm of parasites which fmd their natural food in the fulsome stream of adulation. For, unluckily for us, there was never a time when this weakness was so prevalent, because there never was a time when the power of advertising, and therefore of winning notoriety without attaining excellence, was so enormous. The evil tends to corrupt the highest and most sensitive natures. A man can scarcely keep his head, when the voice of real sympathy is drowned by the chorus of insincere jubilation. . . . We abuse the severe critics who quench youthful genius. The true evil is different. The really mischievous persons are those appreciative and generous critics who force all eminent writers to live, whether they wish it or not, in an atmosphere so thick with the fumes of incense as to be enervating to the strongest constitutions. A clique is notoriously bad; with our customary twaddle about generous criticism, we are going far to make the whole literary world into one gigantic clique. Youthful genius is no longer crushed—it is puffed into imbecility. We long for some of the bracing air of the old slashing criticism, which, if it caused much useless pain, did at least promote the growth of tough fibres instead of fatty degeneration of tissue.”
I have begun the actual writing of my history of atheism: I’ve managed to set down about 5000 words. Only half a million (or more) to go!
Well, I’ve done it! I’ve published a volume of my juvenile fiction and poetry—Back from the Dead (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08X6DX7D8). What other cover image could I use but the photo of me at the age of about four, holding my beloved toy truck? Unfortunately, the format of the cover doesn’t allow readers to note that the truck itself has the initials “S. T.” on it! (I think that stands for Standard Transportation, or something of the sort.) Anyway, this volume is simply a riot—and should make everyone relieved that I didn’t pursue a career as a fiction writer or (Gawdelpus!) a poet.
I have also published my Progression of the Weird Tale (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WZH8PBV). I do think this is a pretty strong collection of my miscellaneous pieces, especially the reprints of many of the articles I wrote for Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia (2005) and other reference works, where I discuss writers I don’t usually talk about in the ordinary course of my work.
I have a limited number of copies of both books. I can offer each for $15 (slightly above the retail price, because I have to cover the printing costs of the book and I am also covering media mail postage to US customers) or $25 for the pair. Better put your orders in early!
I was delighted to see that the Spanish translation of W. H. Pugmire’s Bohemians of Sesque Valley has appeared (https://labibliotecadecarfax.com/tienda/es/w-h-pugmire/23-bohemios-del-valle-de-sesqua-9788412281316.html). This web page is the only indication I have had that the book has appeared; I have not received any copies of the book itself. More translations of Wilum’s work into various languages will be appearing in the coming months and years.
And now, lest anyone think that the publication of my juvenile fiction and poetry means that I have descended into a prolonged state of nostalgic frivolity and idleness, I am now prepared to announce that I have at long last begun the research (and even some of the writing) for a project I have had in mind for years—nothing less than:
A World History of Atheism
by S. T. Joshi
Even this outline doesn’t even begin to convey the worldwide perspective that I hope to bring to this project. And it doesn’t sufficiently indicate how, in some ways, the book will also have to be a world history of religion itself—beginning with what we know of the religion of primitive peoples and extending to religions in the dawn of recorded history (Egyptian, Indian, Middle Eastern [Israelite, Assyrian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian], Chinese/Japanese, etc. etc. etc.). And I also intend to discuss how religious (or anti-religious) elements enter into literature, music, and other arts. Of course, the intersection of religion and politics will be a major issue.
I am staggered, almost paralysed, at the immensity of ground I have to cover. But, as you know, I am also accustomed to writing big books; and this one is likely to exceed even Unutterable Horror (300,000 words) and I Am Providence (550,000 words) when it is finally finished (if it ever is). I fully expect it to take until my seventieth year (2028). But the only way to complete a project like this is to start it—and, little by little, it will get done. I am currently renewing my knowledge of the Greek Presocratic philosophers, a subject I studied extensively at Brown and Princeton. Wish me luck!
My colleague Rickard Beghorn has issued a fascinating book by Christer Holmgren entitled Cutting Point: Solving the Jack the Ripper and the Thames Torso Murders, under his imprint, Timaios Press (https://timaiospress.com/cutting-point-2/). I went over the book to check the prose, as English was not the author’s native language; his English was just fine, but his analysis of these two notorious series of murders was even finer, and I believe he has come up with the most plausible solution for the identity of Jack the Ripper! I of course am no authority on the case (certainly not as much of an authority as the late Sam Gafford), but Holmgren’s arguments strike me as highly convincing. I have received both the paperback and hardcover editions of the book, and will be happy to let the paperback go to any interested customer for $15.
I have lately been chiefly focused on Sarnath Press publications of all different kinds. My Mencken project proceeds apace, and I have now issued thirty-nine volumes of his work. The third volume of my Leslie Stephen project is now out (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WZHBJYH); I quoted some piquant extracts of it in my last blog post. I have also issued a substantially augmented third edition of my Stupidity Watch volume (https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544821646), this one containing a series of essays on the history of atheism that have never been collected before, including one that is apparently unpublished (I wrote it for a symposium on atheism that I attended several years ago).
My Progression of the Weird Tale should be released by the time I write my next blog post; I may obtain a limited number of copies to sell to my tens of fans. What is more, I am now carrying through on my threat promise to publish my fictional and poetic juvenilia! The volume is entitled Back from the Dead: Early Fiction and Poetry, and mostly contains the stories and poems I embalmed in the “literary” magazine I edited in my final two years of high school (1974–76), The Forum. Digging out this material not long ago, I found it was not quite as horrendous as I had remembered it to be; but even so, it is good for a few laughs and little else. This book may be available as early as late next month.
Continuing the exhibition of my early work, I may at some future date publish my Journals. I began keeping a journal as a school assignment in the fall of 1974 (beginning of my junior year in high school), and kept at it all the way through college and into graduate school. I believe the latest entries date to around 1985. This (if I actually have the courage or foolhardiness to go through with it) will be a multi-volume project, as the text is appallingly copious. The incredible thing is that, even in high school, I actually annotated those early journals! I was fanatically obsessed with my own literary status at the time and kept elaborate lists of my writings and even my readings. (I will have to see if I can pinpoint the exact date when I first read Lovecraft, although possibly my list of readings doesn’t go back that far.) All this is, I must say, quite a hoot.
A more realistic project is a volume of my Classical Papers—a gathering of the papers on ancient literature, history, and philosophy (including my honours thesis on Juvenal and my master’s thesis on Lucretius) that I wrote at Brown. (I seem not to have any of the papers I wrote at Princeton [1982–84], including a paper on Aristotle’s Metaphysics that was probably the most difficult piece I’ve ever written in my life.) Some of these papers strike me as quite brilliant, if I do say so myself!
This is what comes of having too much time on one’s hands.
On a more serious note, I was saddened to hear of the passing of James Gunn, the legendary author (and critic) of science fiction. His death occurred as far back as December 23, but it was only announced recently. Here is the fine obituary of him that appeared in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/11/books/james-gunn-dead.html. I believe I met Gunn once at the Locus Awards here in Seattle some years ago, and my friends Jason and Sunni Brock and John Tibbetts (a colleague of his at the University of Kansas) knew him well. His contributions will not soon be forgotten!
I have at last received copies of some (but not all) of the new Hippocampus Press publications, in a few cases stretching back to books that appeared late last year. Here are the items that are now in hand (with my discounted price indicated in parentheses):
The Blake book is a scintillating volume of poetry. The Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner also includes letters to Arthur Harris, James Larkin Pearson, Winifred Virginia Jackson, Arthur Leeds, and Paul J. Campbell—many of these never before published. Eccentric consists of letters almost entirely unpublished, and richly details the lives of the two authors between 1930 and Smith’s death in 1961; it also includes a selection of letters by Carol Smith to Derleth. 20 Years of Hippocampus Press is a volume of 228 pages, listing 275 publications and containing a complete author and title index. I have nothing in Dead Reckonings, but I am prepared to offer this volume free to those who purchase any other volume. (But I only have four spare copies of any of these books!)
I am in receipt of Todd B. Vick’s Renegates & Rogues: The Life and Legacy of Robert E. Howard (University of Texas Press, 2021), a most interesting account of Howard’s life and writings. I read two different versions of this book in manuscript at the behest of the publisher, and made some detailed suggestions—both in content and in points of grammar and style—that I trust the author and publisher found useful. I am briefly mentioned in the author’s acknowledgments. Here is the publisher’s web page for the book: https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/vick-renegades-and-rogues. A book well worth securing!
Another publication that I have not obtained, but have heard about, is—get this—nothing less than a reprint of Mrs. William B. (Cassie) Symmes’s Old World Footprints (1928), which contains Lovecraft’s ghostwritten preface (he wrote it for Frank Belknap Long, Symmes’s nephew): https://www.boldventurepress.com/old-world-footprints/. Will no corner of the Lovecraftian firmament, however tangential, be left untouched?
Speaking of which, I have twisted Derrick Hussey’s arm into promising to publish my Songs from Lovecraft and Others—a volume of my recent musical compositions, in which I have set poems by Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and others to music. Here is the lineup:
I am now fine-tuning my scores (adding dynamic markings, breath marks, and other details). We will have an accompanying CD that features a computer-generated rendition of the compositions. My music notation software (MuseScore3) is capable of producing sound files that (in the case of choral works) can sing the notes (with a kind of “Ah” sound) but cannot articulate the words. But that seems good enough for our purposes. I suppose I might be able to have my choir’s performance of “Sunset” put on the CD, if there is a way to abstract the sound from the video recording.
My readers know of my enthusiasm for the British TV series Endeavour. I have just finished watching the sixth season and am looking forward to receiving the DVDs of the seventh season from Netflix. Another enthusiasm of mine is The Crown, a show that relates important events in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. I had previously believed that there could be no more boring monarch than Liz, but this show has proved to be riveting—not least because it chimes in with my recent renewal of interest in English history.
I bring this up now because it strikes me that the actor who plays Prince Philip (Queen Elizabeth’s husband) in the third season, Tobias Menzies, bears a striking resemblance to Lovecraft in his later years! I have been trying to find a photograph of Menzies that conveys this resemblance and have not been entirely successful. The best one I have been able to find is this: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0580014/mediaviewer/rm3578886144/. But even this one does not, to my find, fully convey his really noteworthy similarity to Lovecraft. You will just have to watch the show to find out! (Please note that a different actor plays Prince Philip in the first two seasons of the series.)
I continue to be busy on numerous fronts. My edition of Guy de Maupassant is close to finished, and I’ve just made my own translations of the short version of “The Horla” as well as of a brief essay on “The Fantastic” (“Le Fantastique”). My introduction may be of some length—and I think I may print it in this year’s Penumbra, since the Centipede Press edition may not come out for a few years.
I was delighted to see that I (and Lovecraft) received some attention in my native land. The annual journal Critical Imprints, Volume 8 (2020), issued by the Department of English, Loreto College, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), has published an interview of me about Lovecraft, conducted by Hemalatha Sridhar. Here is the website of the magazine: http://www.loretocriticalimprints.com/criticalimprints/index.php. If you click on the box containing the words “Latest Issue,” you will get a full table of contents of the issue. For those interested in securing this choice item of Joshiana, best of luck ordering it! Possibly you can get it from the Amazon India website.
For various reasons I have not yet received a number of recent Hippocampus Press volumes, ranging from Benjamin Blake’s superlative poetry collection Tenebrae in Aeternum (apparently published last November) to Lovecraft’s Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner to 20 Years of Hippocampus Press. I hope to get these volumes by the time I write my next blog post. Other items are imminent (or, in fact, are out already): my three-volume edition of Ambrose Bierce’s collected fiction; Eccentric, Impractical Devils (the letters of August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith); Machen’s Autobiographical Writings; Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne Chronicles (a reprint of the Centipede Press edition); and several others.
The Lovecraft Letters project from Hippocampus is, incredibly enough, winding to a close. Within the next two years we hope to bring out Letters to E. Hoffmann Price and Richard F. Right, Letters to Woodburn Harris and Others, Letters to Hyman Bradofsky and Others, and Miscellaneous Letters (containing small batches of letters to random individuals, along with an array of published letters). After that, all that will remain is to publish Letters to Frank Belknap Long, which may come out as early as 2022, but more likely 2023. That will be it! I would very much like to publish the letters by Long to Lovecraft, of which there is a substantial number.
I remain enthralled by the work of Leslie Stephen. I am now preparing a volume of his philosophical essays, and I have to say that the pungency of his style is simply entrancing. Consider this passage from “A Cynic’s Apology” (1869), where he discusses the value of censorious criticism:
“Nay, so far is criticism from damaging genuine talent, that even an impostor, if endowed with sufficient impudence, can thrive and wax fat and sell innumerable editions in the teeth of his scorners. All that the critic can hope to do is to keep alive the belief that there is some distinction between good writing and bad, and to encourage public opinion occasionally to assert its independence.”
Who does that remind you of? And here is a passage from the same essay that brings my “Stupidity Watch” column to mind:
“There are in this world certain persons known by the good old English name of fools. Although we shrink from applying the name to any individual, we know that, in the aggregate, they form a vast and almost impenetrable phalanx. Like other men, they have their uses; they serve, perhaps, as ballast, and prevent the machinery of the world from moving too fast. Certainly they do it effectually. There is something portentous about the huge masses of dogged stupidity which environ us on every side.”
Bravo! If you want to read more of this sort of scintillating prose, just pick up one or the other of my Leslie Stephen editions!
I am on the verge of publishing yet another collection of my miscellaneous essays, reviews, introductions, etc. This one will be called The Progression of the Weird Tale. It may not appear until next month, as I have to wait for a review (here titled “Three Poets, Three Visions”) to appear in Spectral Realms. Otherwise, the volume contains a number of entries, long and short, that I wrote for Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2005)—indeed, the section on “Weird Writers: Brief Assessments” contains a whopping 83 articles (some of these, actually, appeared in other encyclopedias to which I’ve contributed). Other pieces in the book are introductions to books that haven’t even been published yet. Here is the complete table of contents:
On to other matters. … My novella, Something from Below (PS Publishing, 2019), will be reissued by Hippocampus Press sometime this spring. Already I have come to terms with a Czech publisher, Laser Books, for a Czech translation of it (along with three other stories: “The Recurring Doom,” “Incident at Ferney,” and “Some Kind of Mistake”). A Polish publisher is now negotiating for the translation rights to the same batch of stories, but this deal hasn’t been officially signed yet. I guess I’m well liked in Eastern Europe! (A Polish publisher issued a translation of H. P. Lovecraft: A Life in a huge doorstopper of a hardcover edition in 2010.)
The second volume of my edition of Leslie Stephen’s essays has now been published by Sarnath Press (https://www.amazon.com/Essays-Religion-Edited-Collected-Stephen/dp/B08RC4BKLJ/). This contains the balance of his essays on religion; these address certain specific religious figures, and there are devastating critiques of such thinkers as John Henry Newman, Frederic Denison Maurice, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, and others—as well as defences of the secularism of Charles Bradlaugh (an atheist M.P. who was not allowed to take his seat in Parliament because he refused to swear his oath of office on a Bible), Voltaire, and Thomas Henry Huxley. I continue to admire Stephen’s incisive logic and his fluent and idiomatic style. Lots more volumes to come!
I am in receipt of Inflections in Horror: The Weird Worlds of Carl E. Reed, Volume 1, a CD that contains a wealth of Reed’s readings of his own poems and other matter. One of the items included is “HPL: A Brief Introduction to the Man, His Work & His Lasting Influence.” Some of the poems on the CD were published in Spectral Realms. The CD can be purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Inflections-Horror-Weird-Worlds-Carl/dp/B08MKYQ6SZ. I have a few spare copies of the CD that I will be happy to part with for $10.
Another tempting item that has shown up is Donald Tyson’s The Red Stone of Jubbah, just published by Weird House in an attractive hardcover edition (https://www.weirdhousepress.com/product/the-red-stone-of-jubbah/). This is a Lovecraftian novella featuring Abdul Alhazred, and presumably constitutes a sort of sequel or follow-up to Alhazred: The Author of the Necronomicon (2006), one of the most scintillating novels of Lovecraftian terror that I have ever read. Virtually everything by Donald Tyson is worth reading, and I daresay this new item is also.
Jackanapes Press continues its fine work with the publication of Ashley Dioses’s new poetry collection, The Withering (https://www.jackanapespress.com/product/the-withering). As with its predecessor, K. A. Opperman’s Past the Glad and Sunlit Season (which I have reviewed in the issue of Spectral Realms due out this month), this volume is lavishly illustrated with black-and-white line drawings by Jackanapes’s publisher, Daniel V. Sauer. I will be writing a formal review of this book for the Summer 2021 issue of Spectral Realms, in conjunction with a new poetry book by Ann K. Schwader coming out soon from Weird House.
Speaking of books—I can hardly overlook a splendid Christmas gift that I received from my niece, Anjeli Elkins. It is perhaps the finest picture book about cats that I have ever seen: Walter Chandoha’s Cats (https://www.amazon.com/Walter-Chandoha-Cats-Susan-Michals/dp/3836573857/). This magnificent hardcover volume features photographs, taken over decades (1942–2018), by Chandoha for a variety of purposes. Every cat lover must have it!
I have been notified that a documentary on Karl Edward Wagner, in which I appear briefly, is now available for viewing: Brandon D. Lunsford’s The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/296318). I have myself not viewed it as yet, but I’m sure it is a fine production. I am by no means an authority on Wagner’s work, but I imagine I provided some background on the weird fiction of his era. I am also hoping that a documentary on Arthur Machen, for which I was interviewed several years ago at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, will someday emerge.
I am very belatedly noting a minuscule token of my ascending fame: a passing mention of me in Charles Stross’s Lovecraftian novella Equoid (Subterranean Press, 2014). This is part of Stross’s Laundry Files series, where members of a shadowy branch of the British government battle Lovecraftian monsters. In this volume, the protagonist, Bob Howard, comes upon correspondence by Lovecraft to the actual Bob Howard (i.e., Robert E. Howard), in which Lovecraft warns of the dangers of unicorns—who are not the appealing creatures of benign fantasy that we all assume they are, but are evil entities with titanic powers. I find myself mentioned on page 16: “You’re probably thinking: WHAT THE HELL, H. P. LOVECRAFT? And wondering why I’m reading his private letters (most certainly not found in any of the collections so lovingly curated by Lovecraft scholars over the years, from August Derleth to S. T. Joshi) …” Thank you, Charles! I met Stross at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton (UK) in November 2013 and sat on a panel discussion with him, Ramsey Campbell, and others. Did he mention me as a result of this minimal association?
I will say that the protagonist does not have a very high opinion of Lovecraft, repeatedly castigating the Providence writer for his purpose prose, prolixity, etc. etc. At one point he refers to Lovecraft’s “ghastly prose.” And the long extracts from letters purporting to be by HPL to REH really read like parodies of Lovecraft—full of obvious errors (such as split infinitives, modern usages, American as opposed to British spellings, and the lack of the diaeresis in the invented utterance “Iä!”) that Lovecraft would never have made, even in correspondence. Well, regardless of whether Bob Howard’s views of Lovecraft mirror the author’s own views, Equoid is an entertaining read in its lurid way.