S. T. Joshi’s Blog

April 11, 2021 — Of Vaccines and Greek Philosophy

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!

March 28, 2021 — Something from Below Published

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!

Photo of Mara Kirk Hart (right), her sister (left), and S. T. Joshi in front of 169 Clinton Street, Brooklyn.

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.

First movement of an uncompleted trumpet concerto composed by S. T. Joshi in the 1980s or 1990s

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!

March 17, 2021 — Ambrose Bierce and Clark Ashton Smith

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!

March 3, 2021 — Juvenilia and Atheism

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!

February 19, 2021 — Joshi Juvenilia in the Works!

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!

February 8, 2021 — A Sheaf of New Hippocampus Press Books

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.)

January 25, 2021 — Keeping Busy

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!

January 6, 2021 — Another Volume of Joshi Miscellany

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.

Entries from 2020…