Well, it is as I feared: the decline of copy editing affects even major publishers, not just the small press. I have just finished reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (2016), published by William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins. A quite random and incomplete list of grammatical and stylistic infelicities turned up the following:
The use of “of” after “all” is notoriously widespread—why, I have found it even in Lovecraft and Mencken! It is a somewhat complicated grammatical point having to do with the “partitive genitive” (look it up, folks). But proper usage can be found in any number of famous literary titles, such as Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings (not All of God’s Chillun Got Wings) or Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (not All of My Sons). There was even a long-running soap opera called All My Children (not All of My Children).
I am particularly exercised over the misuse of “like” for “as” or “as if,” which Mr. Tremblay employs so frequently that the occasional correct usage (“as,” “as if” or “as though”) strikes one as some kind of accident. (The rule is based on the fact that “like” is purely comparative [“He looks like me”] and cannot be used to introduce a verbal clause.) One might as well retitle Shakespeare’s famous play as Like You Like It. And as for split infinitives, I assume Mr. Tremblay feels that Hamlet’s soliloquy should be rewritten as “To be or to not be: that is the question.”
Then there are such gaucheries as “T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland” (226; the title is properly rendered “Waste Land”), and the curious use of a period in the sentence “Kate. I’ll be right out” (326). This latter usage is becoming increasingly common, but it is ridiculous to think of “Kate” as a complete sentence. This is an instance of what in Latin and Greek is called the “vocative”—the citation of a name as a form of address. No matter how much of a pause a speaker may make following the utterance of the name, a comma must be used (“Kate, I’ll be right out”), otherwise the sentence collapses into grammatical absurdity. If a writer really wants to emphasise a pause (for what reason I cannot fathom), he or she would be obliged to use an ellipsis (“Kate … I’ll be right out”).
It is an obvious fact that these and other errors begin with the author. However incompetent (or nonexistent) a copy editor may be, errors like the above would not have occurred if they had not been committed by the author in the first place. But today, we seem to be in the unenviable position of being subjected to both authors and copy editors who are insufficiently versed in the fine points of grammar and style. Truly, the blind leading the blind!
Meanwhile, the antics of my enemies continue to provide rich amusement. Their staggering inferiority to me, in intellect and achievements, is becoming more and more apparent with each passing day; but what is now becoming increasingly obvious is that they are really not very nice people. Stupidity is one thing—a condition that is perhaps unalterable, and one that is more deserving of pity than anger; but duplicity, mendacity, hypocrisy, petty vindictiveness, and a host of other moral failings—well, I suppose these can only be attributed to bad upbringing and an insufficient exposure to civilised values.
It is particularly amusing to note that, while many of these worthies loudly protest their political liberalism, their actual behaviour is strikingly in accord with that of timorous and enraged right-wingers. They exhibit the same dogmatism, intolerance, and touchiness as evangelical Christians of the Roy S. Moore sort; they cultivate the same sense of grievance and victimisation as rural folk resentful of their more prosperous compatriots in the cities; they congregate in a self-congratulatory echo chamber (just like the viewers of Fake—er, that is, Fox—News) in a desperate attempt to plug their ears against honest criticism; and, like our Twitter-obsessed “president,” they lash out hysterically at their opponents with abuse and insults, in the grotesque belief that such puerile taunts could actually wound their enemies instead of merely provoking derisive laughter at their own expense.
Well, there is not much one can do with these deplorables. One can, I suppose, hope against hope that they would simply shut up. But they won’t, because it is not in their nature to do so. Dogs will bark—at anything and at nothing.
I see that Mr. Joe Hill has published yet another book—a series of novellas—that has incited certain critics to shower him with far more praise than he deserves. Did I not say that there are very few sound critics of weird fiction? Well, some time ago I wrote this article on Mr. Hill as part of my 21st-Century Horror that I hope will begin setting the record straight on this mediocre writer, so I offer it to those who are interested.
I suppose it might be considered an instance of “punching down” if I were to pay any more attention to the lies, distortions, and stupidities of Brian Keene, but a few points in his recent screed about me are worth addressing—not because they are of any substance, but as indications of his overall temperament and personality.
Let us consider his assertion that I have gone out of my way to attack certain individuals who have criticised Lovecraft only because they are women (Ellen Datlow), persons of colour (Daniel José Older), persons in the LGBTQ community (S. J. Bagley [although his membership in this community is news to me]), and self-styled “‘white trash’ Appalachians” such as himself. If anything could reveal Mr. Keene’s nincompoopery—not to mention identity politics run amok—this must be it. Mr. Keene ignores the fact that I have also addressed other individuals—unimpeachably Caucasian and undeniably male—such as China Miéville (see my blog of August 23, 2014), Charles Baxter (blog of December 3, 2014), Robert Dunbar (blog of February 27, 2015), and others. Then there’s Niels Hobbs, about as chalk-white a Nordic as one could ask for. But more significantly, Mr. Keene is blithely unaware of how his assertion can be flipped around and made to bite him in the posterior. By his own reasoning (if it can be called that), anyone who criticises me for any reason must be an anti-Asian racist. For it cannot be news to Mr. Keene that I was born in India and am an immigrant to this country (but a U.S. citizen of long standing). Is Mr. Keene therefore prepared to admit that he is a racist? How about it, Mr. Nicolay? What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Lockhart?
But of course this is absurd. I have never accused any of my antagonists of prejudice (only of stupidity, hypocrisy, and suchlike faults that are widely shared by all races and genders), and I trust I may be granted the same courtesy, especially in the absence of evidence (and of course there is none) that I myself have ever exhibited racial or gender prejudice. I confess to an irremediable prejudice against illiterate morons like Mr. Keene (in part because this “revolt of the stupid” inflicted upon us our current “president”), but beyond that, my record is clean.
Mr. Keene also asserts, preposterously, that I do not want Lovecraft’s racism discussed. I myself have discussed this issue—in my biography and elsewhere—more comprehensively and with a greater understanding of the historical, philosophical, social, and cultural issues involved than any other commentator. Where Mr. Keene got the idea that I threatened to boycott the 2017 NecronomiCon if there was a panel on this subject, I cannot begin to imagine. In fact, Niels Hobbs and I, long before our falling out, had already agreed that there need not be any such panel at the 2017 event, since we had had panels on the subject at the two previous conventions—and I was a member of the panel in 2013. My boycott threat was tied specifically to the presence of known and unrepentant Lovecraft-haters on the program—and I was under the impression that Mr. Hobbs had acceded to my request to keep them off the program. But then he turned around and violated that agreement (and then went on to deny that there was any such agreement). As for signing books at the convention—I did so at the request of my publisher, Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press. It is interesting that Mr. Keene says nothing of the overt threats I had received, in the days before the convention, that I would be physically attacked if I showed up at the event. I laughed these threats off as the ludicrous bluster that they were, since for the most part they were issued by timorous individuals who speak loudly in the safety of their basement hidey-holes but melt away in fear at any actual confrontation. But the threats were there, and I would like to know if Mr. Keene thinks this is how people should speak and behave.
Is it not obvious that my dispute is solely with those commentators who tendentiously [Mr. Keene had better look this word up, as I doubt he knows what it means] seize upon the single issue of Lovecraft’s racism to cast aspersions on his entire literary achievement and his character, or (and this is, unsurprisingly, Mr. Keene’s favoured method) those who dumb down the issue into a simple-minded caricature and, not coincidentally, make a public display of their own self-righteous sanctimony? With these agenda-driven partisans I am happy to spar at every opportunity, using the weapons of logic, erudition, satire, and ridicule to lay bare their own folly and duplicity.
Mr. Keene (stealing from others) parrots the now commonplace view that “So much of Lovecraft’s work is driven by fear and disgust of ‘the other.’” Personally, I think this a rather crude and superficial analysis. The central premise of Lovecraft’s work is the inconsequence of humanity (and, indeed, all earth life) in the vast realms of the cosmos. In some of his later stories, the “others” (i.e., the members of an alien species) actually become the “heroes” of the tale. But let me put forth a counter-example. In a certain well-known literary work, a loathsome immigrant from Eastern Europe comes to England and begins preying upon helpless English women! What a horrible example of racism—and misogyny to boot! It is obvious that we should ban Dracula from the canon and rename the Bram Stoker Awards. Who will have the moral uprightness to take up such a just cause? Where is a rabble-rouser like Daniel José Older when you need him? But in fact, I suspect “fear and disgust of ‘the other’” is a motivating principle of a substantial amount of weird fiction, old and new. Why, Mr. Keene’s own novel Ghoul might be classified as embodying this principle (and I have already pointed out the contemptible misogyny underlying his portrayal of female characters in that wretched work).
Mr. Keene goes on to say that he admires Lovecraft the writer but not Lovecraft the man. Well, he is entitled to his opinion—but I humbly suggest that he doesn’t know enough about Lovecraft the man to make this kind of judgment. Can he be ignorant of the fact that Lovecraft’s friends and correspondents have almost uniformly expressed the highest admiration for him? Robert Bloch, whom Mr. Keene cites favourably in his screed, has written that, had he known that Lovecraft was dying, he would have crawled on hands and knees from Milwaukee to Providence to be at his side (and this was written long after Bloch knew about Lovecraft’s racial views). Does that make Robert Bloch a shameful apologist for Lovecraft? The opinion of Ernest A. Edkins—that Lovecraft “remains enshrined in my memory as a great gentleman, in the truest sense of that much abused term”—is shared by nearly everyone who ever knew or met the dreamer from Providence.
As I have said before, the outrage of the Lovecraft-haters over the racism issue seems curiously selective, and in two ways. It not only ignores every other aspect of Lovecraft’s life, work, and thought, but it neglects to condemn with equal fervour the racism, misogyny, and other unfortunate traits of other writers whom several of these scolders of dead people’s morality profess to admire—such as T. S. Eliot (anti-Semite), Ezra Pound (notorious anti-Semite), George Orwell (homophobe), Jack London (anti-Asian), Robert E. Howard (racist), Ambrose Bierce (misogynist), Bram Stoker (racial and religious bigot), Robert W. Chambers (anti-Asian), John W. Campbell, Jr. (racist), Roald Dahl (racist and anti-Semite), and countless others one could mention.
Mr. Keene also maintains that my recent analysis of Laird Barron’s work was done out of “spite” because Mr. Barron refused to let me reprint his story “Man with No Name” in the paperback edition of my anthology A Mountain Walked. Since Mr. Keene could have no firsthand knowledge of this matter, he must have derived his information from Mr. Barron—and I am sorry to see the latter telling such a bald-faced lie. Here is what actually happened:
As I have said before, Mr. Barron and his various bootlickers were miffed at the fact that my review of his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All (2013), was less than wholeheartedly enthusiastic, even though it was still generally favourable. It was at this time that I was compiling A Mountain Walked; but my publisher, Jerad Walters of Centipede Press, was intimately involved in the compilation as well. Some submissions came to me, some to him. Mr. Barron sent his story to Jerad, who then passed it on to me, recommending that we print it. I confess to having misgivings about the story, since (a) I did not think it particularly good (and, at nearly 19,000 words, it would take up a fair amount of space in the anthology), and (b) I felt that it was not even remotely Lovecraftian, hence inappropriate for an anthology whose subtitle was “Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.” But this was 2013 (or maybe 2014), and one did not reject Laird Barron; so I reluctantly agreed to include the story in the Centipede Press edition. Then my agent negotiated terms with Dark Regions Press for a paperback edition. The publisher offered a modest advance, which I—in accordance with standard practice—sought to distribute to contributors on a pro rata basis, based on the length of their individual stories. Every other contributor was happy to assent to this plan; but Mr. Barron, in addition to wanting his pro rata share, demanded an additional sum of money that would have exceeded the entire amount given to all the other contributors (and, presumably, would have had to come out of my own pocket).
To this day I do not know why Mr. Barron made such an unwarranted demand. Perhaps he was in need of money at the time; perhaps he wished to dissociate himself from me, and therefore made a demand to which he knew I could not accede. I replied to Mr. Barron (politely, I trust) that I could not give him this kind of special treatment, and so we mutually agreed to drop the story from the Dark Regions edition. Far from being angered by this result, I was rather relieved; for not only was I able to remove a story that I felt should not have been in the anthology in the first place, but I was able to include a much better story—namely, Jason V Brock’s “The Man with the Horn”—in its place. Several reviewers of the paperback edition made special mention of Brock’s tale as a noteworthy contribution. As for Mr. Barron, I wish him all the best and hope that he can resume the scintillating work that made him so significant a figure back around 2010. But he should know better than to lie about this matter. I have the emails to prove his deceitfulness, and with his permission would be happy to publish them.
I was much amused to learn that Mr. Keene is trumpeting a tweet by Stephen King in commendation of his work as some kind of refutation of my article on him. It is a well-known practice of bad writers to circle the wagons to deflect genuine criticism of their work; and the idea that the author of Cujo and The Tommyknockers has any kind of standing as a literary critic is funny enough to make a cat laugh. Both writers will ultimately fall into the maw of oblivion—and, for my part, that welcome eventuality can’t come soon enough.
I take the title of this blog from the repetitive question in Mr. Brian Keene’s recent blog, as I noted in my previous one. No doubt Mr. Keene’s query was meant as a feeble jest; and yet, it strikes me that there is a fairly wide misperception of the totality of my literary achievement. Flattering as it might be to be typecast as “the Lovecraft guy,” I am forced to point out that, in total numbers, my non-Lovecraftian book publications substantially exceed those devoted to the dreamer from Providence. So I feel that a brief and condensed survey of my output might be in order.
I have written a 300,000-word history of weird fiction from Gilgamesh to the present day (Unutterable Horror, 2012). In addition, I have discussed certain authors in more detail in such books as The Weird Tale (1990), The Modern Weird Tale (2001), The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004), and Varieties of the Weird Tale (2016). I have also compiled such reference works as Sixty Years of Arkham House (1999), Supernatural Literature of the World (2005; 3 vols.) and Icons of Horror and the Supernatural (2007; 2 vols.).
I have compiled comprehensive bibliographies of H. P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Ramsey Campbell, Ambrose Bierce, Gore Vidal, H. L. Mencken, and William Hope Hodgson.
I have prepared editions of various writings (fiction, poetry, essays, letters) by such weird writers as Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Robert E. Howard, Bram Stoker, Henry Ferris, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, W. C. Morrow, Robert W. Chambers, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Hichens, Ramsey Campbell, R. H. Barlow, Lord Dunsany, George Sterling, Samuel Loveman, M. P. Shiel, M. R. James, W. H. Pugmire, Maurice Level, Barry Pain, Gertrude Atherton, John Metcalfe, Edward Lucas White, William F. Nolan, Sax Rohmer, Carl Jacobi, Edgar Allan Poe, Fred Chappell, David Case, Dennis Etchison, Michael Shea, Fritz Leiber, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Mary Shelley, E. Nesbit, Gouverneur Morris, Irvin S. Cobb, Thomas Burke, W. W. Jacobs, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, E. F. Benson, Robert Aickman, D. H. Lawrence, and Théophile Gautier. (Some of these are forthcoming.)
I have written a monograph on Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction, 2001), compiled an anthology of critical essays about him as well as a collection of his unreprinted short stories (Inconsequential Tales, 2008), and assembled an exhaustively annotated edition of his correspondence with August Derleth.
I have compiled 5 reprint anthologies and 10 original anthologies of weird fiction (2 other anthologies contain both reprinted and original stories), as well as a comprehensive historical anthology of weird poetry (Dreams of Fear, 2013).
I have prepared 65 editions of the work of H. P. Lovecraft, including 22 editions of his fiction, 10 editions of his essays, 4 volumes of his poetry, 8 volumes of his miscellaneous writings, and 23 editions of his letters.
I have written the standard biography of Lovecraft (I Am Providence, 2010), a philosophical study (H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West, 1990), a general study (A Subtler Magick, 1996), and a catalogue of his library. I have written many essays on Lovecraft’s life, work, and thought, now gathered in Lovecraft and a World in Transition (2014). I have translated Maurice Lévy’s monograph on Lovecraft from the French.
Among my works of fiction can be counted two short detective novels, a detective novella, a supernatural novel with Lovecraft as the central character, and a forthcoming weird novella, aside from sundry weird and detective short stories.
Among my non-weird publications are these:
I have prepared 10 editions of the work of Ambrose Bierce (who is, of course, in part a weird writer, but not predominantly so), including a 3-volume critical edition of his collected short fiction, a volume of his collected fables, an annotated edition of his Devil’s Dictionary, a volume of his selected letters, 2 volumes of his miscellaneous writings, and the Bierce volume for the Library of America.
I transcribed the totality of H. L. Mencken’s published work (coming to 12 million words) into Word files, from which I have drawn the source material for 8 volumes of Mencken’s unreprinted and lesser-known writings.
I have written or compiled 7 volumes on atheism and freethought, as well as a polemic on politics (The Angry Right, 2006) and the anthologies Documents of American Prejudice (1999) and In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women (2006).
I have written a critical study of the detective writer John Dickson Carr (1990) and have recently completed another volume on the detective story, Varieties of Crime Fiction.
I have edited the journals Lovecraft Studies (1979–2005; 45 issues), Studies in Weird Fiction (1986–2005; 27 issues), Necrofile (1991–99; 32 issues), Dead Reckonings (2007–11; 10 issues), the Lovecraft Annual (2007–date; 11 issues), Weird Fiction Review (2010–date; 8 issues), the American Rationalist (2011–17; 38 issues), and Spectral Realms (2014–date; 7 issues).
I am obliged to note that the above enumeration of book publications is not complete. And of course it does not include hundreds of miscellaneous articles, reviews, introductions, and so on.
Among my non-literary interests, I played the violin for more than 12 years, and I have also conducted orchestras and choirs and composed and arranged music. As a member of the Northwest Chorale I have performed Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt, Requiems by Mozart, Verdi, Duruflé, Fauré, and John Rutter, Bach’s B Minor Mass, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and numerous other shorter works.
Whew! Just listing these items has tired me out. Don’t I deserve a rest?
I have recently taken the trouble to read Paul Tremblay’s Above and Below: A City Pier Novella (2007), published by Sean Wallace’s Prime Books. At the moment I am not concerned with its literary substance, which is not inconsiderable; but I feel the need to take note of some embarrassing errors of style and grammar:
I do not point out these errors in an attempt to ridicule Mr. Tremblay or to deny the occasional effectiveness of his writing. Indeed, by comparison to Mr. Keene, Mr. Tremblay deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. But these silly errors—which cast disrepute upon both the author and the publisher—are one more reason why small presses in our field are in desperate need of able copy editors. Will they ever heed the call? Perhaps if I continue to hold up their books to public ridicule, something might happen someday.
I have recently expatiated on topics of recent interest in a podcast run by an engaging individual calling himself Kevin the Strange: http://www.kevinthestrange.com/tqp-23-a-podcast-on-the-borderland-w-s-t-joshi/.
Various friends, colleagues, sycophants, and lickspittles of Mr. Brian Keene have loudly protested my less than kindly handling of this worthy gentleman in the article appended to my last blog. Well, that was only to be expected; but it offers me a welcome opportunity to elucidate the motivations behind this latest instance of what I have called “satirical criticism.” I am by no means the inventor of this distinctive and rarely practised literary genre; my own mentors, Ambrose Bierce and H. L. Mencken, were probably its inventors, although Edgar Allan Poe’s occasionally scathing reviews preceded them both. And the screeds of these writers make my own ventures seem as if they were written by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I am sorry to report, however, that Americans in general are, for various intellectual and cultural reasons, woefully unappreciative of satire (the English and Europeans much less so); so it behooves me to expatiate on what I hope to accomplish when I dip into this mode.
Generally speaking, I unleash my satirical criticism in instances when I encounter authors or works that are, from an abstract literary perspective, so far beneath contempt that satire is the only recourse; at the same time, I continue to use the most rigorous tools of the literary critic in my analysis. As Juvenal of old said, Difficile est saturam non scribere (“It is difficult not to write satire”). I may mention that I have wielded this device considerably more frequently in reviewing certain books on religion and politics in the American Rationalist, to say nothing of my “Stupidity Watch” column for that now-defunct paper. I hope I may be permitted some harmless fun of this sort from time to time.
Some tender-hearted individuals—even among my supporters—appear to believe that the tone of my “satirical criticism” is to be deprecated. They complain that I come off sounding “arch” or “pretentious” or “holier than thou.” People, the adoption of that tone was done quite deliberately! The essential purpose of satire is to provoke, to annoy, to irritate, to offend, even to outrage; and the fact that I appear to done exactly that in blogs, articles, and reviews suggests that I have succeeded in my goal. But I do maintain that I have a more serious purpose in mind than merely dialing up a few zingers to hurl at the objects of my derision. Chiefly, I regard my satirical criticism as a kind of public service, whereby I fervently seek to save readers from wasting their hard-earned money on the rubbish that I eviscerate. What could be nobler than that? Okay, that comment itself was somewhat satirical, but not entirely so—and it underscores a truly serious point.
The plain fact of the matter is that criticism of weird fiction is still at a very primitive stage, and the number of critics who could be said to have the critical judgment, educational background, and (perhaps most importantly) the courage to direct an unflinching gaze toward the contributions in our field, both past and present, is woefully small. Some critics who may otherwise be capable of the job seem to feel that the very attempt to sort good writing from bad is somehow not a legitimate function of criticism, whereas I see it as its central mission. To a degree—but only to a degree—the decision as to what is “good” or “bad” is subjective; but one finds, both in this field and others, a general consensus among informed critics as to who the leading figures are, even if judgments on individual writers vary, and perhaps vary widely. As Lovecraft once said, critics of poetry may differ as to the relative merits of Pope and Shelley; but all sound critics of poetry will agree that Pope and Shelley are true poets whereas, say, Edgar A. Guest is not.
Ever since I entered this field in the late 1970s, I was struck by the amount of mutual backpatting going on among fans and writers of all sorts. In part this tendency was inspired by the perceived need to stay on good terms with leading authors, editors, and publishers in the hope of cultivating their favour and thereby advancing one’s career; but in large part, I believed, it was simply a result of a lack of sound critical taste. This was, indeed, a chief motivating factor in my co-founding of the review journal Necrofile (1991–99); I in particular, not feeling any obligation to curry favour with the bigwigs in the field, wrote blistering reviews of books I genuinely felt to be markedly inferior, especially if they were by popular writers whom others did not venture to criticise. I continue to write censorious reviews and articles today, even though they occasionally alienate certain writers to whom I would like to extend invitations to contribute to my anthologies. But I also write reviews (and articles) on authors and works I judge to be meritorious, including Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, T. E. D. Klein, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Jonathan Thomas, Michael Aronovitz, Steve Rasnic Tem, Jason V Brock, and a host of others.
There has now developed, over the past several years, an even more distressing tendency for certain writers and their followers to band together in tightly knit cliques; these individuals are so terribly insecure that they cannot endure the slightest criticism, however well intentioned or constructive. Or is it that they are actually convinced that they have already attained the pinnacle of literary achievement, and therefore that criticism of any sort is a kind of lèse-majesté? I have no idea. But whatever the cause, the development of these cliques is unfortunate on many levels. It results in extreme touchiness, resentment, groupthink, and all manner of other bad things that inhibit honest and straightforward criticism. I trust I may be pardoned for at times baiting these timorous folk; given how quick they are to express blubbering outrage and self-righteous indignation, they easily fall into the trap I set for them.
Am I myself a member (or even the leader) of a clique? If so, I am not aware of it. Naturally, I frequently communicate with a number of like-minded friends and colleagues; but because of the wide diversity of my own interests, I have a correspondingly wide and disparate set of associates. These include: devotees of H. P. Lovecraft (fans, students, scholars, writers seeking to elaborate upon his vision); devotees of other authors of weird fiction on whom I have done significant work—Machen, Dunsany, Blackwood, Bierce, Clark Ashton Smith, Ramsey Campbell, and so on; mainstream writers on whom I have done significant work—Mencken, Vidal, etc.; devotees of weird poetry; and so on and so on. There is no uniformity of opinion in any one of these groups, and we engage in lively and at times heated disputes on all manner of subjects, whether by correspondence or in person.
Among Mr. Keene’s more vociferous defenders I may mention one Weston Ochse, who makes so bold as to call me a “literary bully.” Well, lordy me! Can he truly be unaware that, since at least 2013, I myself have been the object of a mountainous fusillade of personal attacks—from such worthies as Scott Nicolay, Laird Barron, S. J. Bagley, Nick Mamatas, Scott R. Jones, Paul Tremblay, Ross E. Lockhart, Robert S. Wilson, Orrin Grey, and a host of others? I confess that their screeds inspire in me little more than transient amusement, whenever I can be bothered to take note of them; as Lovecraft once said, “I am as offence-proof as the average cynic.” But why Mr. Ochse refuses to brand these individuals “literary bullies” is beyond my understanding. I repeat what I have said before: it was precisely my unwillingness to kowtow to the Barron-Nicolay clique back in 2013–14 that caused this outpouring of crybaby abuse in the first place. (I also repeat that no fair-minded reader of the article on Barron that I recently posted could come away thinking that it was anything but even-handed and balanced; but that is not good enough for the clique, who thinks anything less than unstinting praise amounts to a “personal” attack.)
I now see that Mr. Keene himself has chosen to reply to my article, although he admits that he has not actually read it, but only heard summaries of it from his various lickspittles. (I cannot be troubled to provide the URL of his long-winded whine, as it is simply a piece of literary vacuity that it would profit no one to read.) It is a testament to the acuity of Mr. Keene’s steel-trap mind that he took seriously the mock-lament that opened my previous blog, wherein I complained of the agony I suffered in reading his work. Brian, that was satire! In fact, once I recovered from being flabbergasted at Mr. Keene’s various ineptitudes (such as differing names for the same character), I richly enjoyed skewering his work, although I suppose there was not really a great deal of sport in it: shooting fish in a barrel would have been more challenging.
There is, unsurprisingly, not much of substance in Mr. Keene’s remarks; it is of particular note that he makes no effort to rebut (for how could he?) my strictures on his grammatical blunders. I have, indeed, been informed by a colleague that Mr. Keene has stated in the past that there is no excuse for professional writers to make these kinds of errors. When my colleague pointed out this awkward fact—on three occasions, on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog—Mr. Keene not only failed to reply but deleted the queries on each occasion and then blocked the annoying individual from the site in question. It would appear that he is a trifle sensitive to criticism—not to mention being inclined toward hypocrisy and duplicity.
Mr. Keene’s blog is peppered with the repeated question “Who is S. T. Joshi?”; but he knows full well who I am, as he has taken a fair number of vulgar potshots at me in his podcast. (Let it not be said, however, that he is a literary bully—no, indeed!) Mr. Keene does not in fact offer much of a defence for the wretchedness of his output; indeed, he frankly admits that it is written for the great unwashed, exactly as I myself had (satirically) stated. I am gratified that he acknowledges the validity of my criticism!
Mr. Keene concludes his blog by depicting me as some sort of senile has-been—this in spite of the fact that a substantial proportion of my publications (including those that have won multiple awards) have occurred in the past fifteen years. I am also obliged to report the inconvenient fact that I have, at this moment, thirty-six books forthcoming from various publishers ranging from Hippocampus Press to PS Publishing to Centipede Press to Dark Regions Press and a number of others, all more prestigious than the two-bit firms that issue Mr. Keene’s hackwork. Among these titles are such works as my memoirs (What Is Anything?), my two-volume edition of Robert Aickman’s complete weird tales, numerous annotated editions of Lovecraft’s letters, and a weird novella that I recently wrote (Something from Below). Once all these titles are published, I will have about 280 books to my credit. I hope I am around to see them all appear before I descend into dementia. Of course, quantity is one thing and quality something altogether different, even though Mr. Keene himself seems to value the former over the latter; but as it stands, my output of work is about five times the size of his own, and I am only nine years older than he. Since we are, therefore, approximately of the same generation, it is an open question who shall be afflicted with Alzheimer’s the sooner. Oh, wait: given the grammatical and other errors that riddle his books, it seems that he has already succumbed to that dreaded ailment.
For the past two or three weeks I have been in misery. In short, I have been reading the novels of Brian Keene. Were I not driven by my sacred duty as a literary critic to assess the work of this grotesquely prolific blowhard for my treatise, 21st-Century Horror, I would have been relieved of this excruciating agony; but the job is done, as is my chapter on Keene, which can be found here.
Moving on to much more pleasant subjects!
I continue to work hard on editing Lovecraft letters for Hippocampus Press. David E. Schultz and I are not merely approaching the completion of three further volumes—Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others (which will probably come out later this year) and the two-volume Letters to Family and Family Friends (which contain the 450,000 words of Lovecraft’s letters to his aunts, among other items)—but we are looking ahead to editing new editions of the letters to Rheinhart Kleiner, Alfred Galpin, and Donald Wandrei, which we previously edited for other publishers. Each of these volumes will be augmented by smaller batches of letters to other individuals. For example, the Galpin volume will include a substantial number of letters to Edward H. Cole, while the Kleiner volume will include the letters to Arthur Harris, James Larkin Pearson, Winifred V. Jackson, Arthur Leeds, and Paul J. Campbell. Expect these volumes to appear next year.
Speaking of Hippocampus Press, I beg to remind interested customers that I still have some copies of the recent publications, including:
I have only one copy of Lovecraft’s Letters to C. L. Moore and Others ($20). But I have a superabundance of copies of Complete Fiction, Volume 4, so I am prepared to make the following offer: If you purchase any of the books (not including the magazine Spectral Realms) listed above, I will throw in the Collected Fiction volume for a bargain price of $15. Alternatively, with the purchase of any book (including Collected Fiction at $20), I will throw in Spectral Realms for free!
This is probably old news, but I was tickled at Michael Dirda’s flattering reviews of my edition of Dunsany’s Ghost in the Corner and also of the Lovecraft-Smith correspondence in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/boo-the-best-ghost-stories-you-probably-havent-heard-yet/2017/10/18/f991eeaa-b352-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html). I had not been aware that this review was in the works, and of course I was delighted, especially given the prominence of the venue. Let’s hope this justifies a second hardcover printing of Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill! I have no idea how this volume (the Lovecraft-Smith correspondence) is selling, but I have to believe that it is doing reasonably well, given the fine notices it has received.
I was asked by the editors of Dead Reckonings to write a review of the recent anthology Looming Low, edited by Justin Steele and Sam Cowan. This volume has apparently been much ballyhooed, but I fear the actual content of the book is not commensurate with the hype preceding it. You can read my review here.
On a happier note, I am pleased to announce that my anthology Apostles of the Weird is now complete and has been submitted to PS Publishing, which should bring it out about a year from now. Here are the complete contents:
Speaking of my anthologies, I was gratified to see a very nice review of Black Wings V from William Dean (http://www.hplhs.org/reviews_blackwings5.php). Meanwhile, PS Publishing has officially announced the imminent publication of Black Wings VI, which I believe upholds the high standards of the previous volumes. I do not seem to be able to post a link to the PS Publishing newsletter here, but here is the publisher’s webpage for the book itself: http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/black-wings-vi-hardcover-edited-by-s-t-joshi-4415-p.asp.
I have received some copies of the paperback reprint (from Fedogan & Bremer) of my edition of the two Donald Wandrei novels, Dead Titans, Waken! and Invisible Sun. It is a handsome edition with fine cover art by Jon Arfstrom (https://www.fedoganandbremer.com/products/dead-titans-waken). I have exactly one spare copy that I would be happy to let go for $20.
A firm called ReaderLink recently arranged to use my corrected texts of Lovecraft’s work for some highly attractive editions. One is called Tales of Horror (Canterbury Classics [https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1607109328/]), and the other is Cthulhu Mythos Tales (Word Cloud Classics [https://www.amazon.com/Lovecraft-Cthulhu-Mythos-Tales-Classics/dp/1684121337/]). I do not regard these as “my” books, since I had nothing to do with the selection. But for any Lovecraft (or Joshi) completists out there, I have one spare copy of each that I am prepared to let go for $20 and $10, respectively.
I have had my disputes with Ellen Datlow in the past, but I do have some regard for her editorial judgment when it comes to non-Lovecraftian material. I have learned that her annual list of “honourable mentions” for 2016 has appeared, and I am particularly interested to see that she has chosen 11 poems from Spectral Realms #4 and #5 for the list:
The final name on that list is, I believe, of especial note, for reasons that should be obvious._
I am thrilled to see that Sam Gafford has published his superb weird novel Whitechapel (formerly discussed in this blog under the title The White People) through his own imprint, Ulthar Press (https://www.amazon.com/Whitechapel-Sam-Gafford/dp/1546898948/). I was happy to write a blurb for it (which can be found on the back cover). This is a thrilling novel about the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888, with Arthur Machen serving as a kind of detective. I cannot endorse it highly enough. Sam has already written the Lovecraftian novel The House of Nodens (now available from Dark Regions Press) and a story collection with plenty of Lovecraftian tales, The Dreamer in Fire (just out from Hippocampus Press); this third volume of fiction is the capstone of a remarkable year for him, which of course also includes the splendid “graphic novel” biography of Lovecraft (with art by Jason C. Eckhardt), titled Some Notes on a Nonentity (PS Publishing).
I am fully underway with my new treatise, 21st-Century Horror, a kind of follow-up to Unutterable Horror (2012), where I did not have time to cover many of the contemporary writers who are doing good work (and not so good work) in the field. As the book currently stands, I will address these writers (cited alphabetically):
The list is subject to change. Of course, I will discuss some of these authors in order to demonstrate (to put it mildly) that their reputations are not quite commensurate with the actual quality of their work. If other writers’ names are not on the list at all, it means that I regard them as too insignificant to discuss in any fashion!
I have already written the essays on Michael Aronovitz, Laird Barron, Richard Gavin, John Langan, and Caitlín R. Kiernan. As an example of what my book is shaping up to be, I present my essay on Laird Barron here. I keenly regret the decline in quality that I have detected in his work over the past several years.
On a related note, I observe with (minimal) interest a new recruit to the undistinguished cadre of Joshi-haters. (Is it not remarkable that all these individuals amount to almost nothing, whether it be in terms of literary accomplishment or honour and decency?) It is one Ross E. Lockhart, who has taken it upon himself to launch several unprovoked attacks upon me. His latest salvo is a conjecture as to what the S. in my name stands for. In Mr. Lockhart’s opinion, it stands for “s—tlord.” One wonders what inspired this devastatingly witty jibe, on which Mr. Lockhart no doubt worked diligently for days. What, in short, have I ever done to him, aside from pointing out certain painful and obvious deficiencies in the books he has edited and/or published? If I had more time and inclination, I might advocate the boycotting of the books published under his Word Whore (er, sorry, I mean Word Horde) imprint—but since I cannot imagine why any sane and intelligent person would want to buy these books in the first place, I shall dutifully refrain and let Mr. Lockhart’s imprint descend of its own accord into the oblivion it so richly deserves.
I have at last received a shipment of the Hippocampus Press books that appeared last month, and am able to offer them to interested customers at a slight discount from the retail price:
Certainly a splendid array of fiction, essays, letters, and other work! In most cases I only have 3 or 4 spare copies, so get ’em fast!
I was particularly delighted to see Sam Gafford’s first short story collection. I have known Sam ever since we got in touch around 1982 (he visited me in Providence at that time, just before I headed off to do further graduate work at Princeton), and he has evolved into a fine fiction writer, some of whose tales I have used in my Black Wings anthologies. (In my humble opinion, Sam’s story “Passing Spirits,” in Black Wings I, is one of the best contributions in the entire six-volume series.) Aside from this story collection, he has also published a superb Lovecraftian novel, The House of Nodens, which has just come out in an attractive paperback edition from Dark Regions Press (https://darkregions.com/products/the-house-of-nodens-by-sam-gafford).
Speaking of Dark Regions Press, the publisher, Chris Morey, has informed me that the Kindle edition of A Mountain Walked will be discounted to $1.99 for the period September 27–October 3 (https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Walked-Neil-Gaiman-ebook/dp/B018829F8E). A great time to pick up the book at a bargain price!
And speaking of ebooks, I am thrilled to see that Michael Aronovitz’s superb ghost novel Alice Walks is now available in a Kindle edition (https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Walks-Michael-Aronovitz-ebook/dp/B0759PFMN8/). You are unlikely to read a more gripping, compelling, and withal poignant weird tale than this—unless it be the same author’s even more ambitious novel, Phantom Effect (Night Shade Books, 2016).
More of my books appear to be in the offing. I have signed signature sheets for two volumes for Centipede Press—my edition of Robert W. Chambers (in the Masters of the Weird Tale series) and a smallish volume of D. H. Lawrence’s weird tales, under the title The Rocking-Horse Winner and Other Supernatural Tales. I am currently reading proofs of Black Wings VI (PS Publishing) and have completed reading proofs of The Red Brain: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Dark Regions Press). My inexorable push toward 300 published books is in full swing!
Let me see if I can write a completely non-controversial blog—unless, forsooth, the very act of setting down the following tokens of my ascending fame causes the growing legions of Joshi-haters out there to gnash their teeth in enraged frustration! But to proceed:
My ninth compilation of H. L. Mencken’s writings—A Saturnalia of Bunk: Selections from The Free Lance, 1911–1915—has appeared from Ohio University Press (http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/A+Saturnalia+of+Bunk). This book—a selection from the 1200 “Free Lance” columns that Mencken wrote for the Baltimore Evening Sun, totalling about 1.5 million words—has long been in the works, and I am pleased to see that it is out at last. It has already garnered a favourable notice in (naturally enough) the Baltimore Sun (http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/retro-baltimore/bs-fe-retro-mencken-book-blue-laws-20170831-story.html). It will be seen that the publisher is already offering the book at a discount from the list price of $49.95, but I will undercut them by offering my few spare copies for $35.00.
Another tempting item that has come in is a vinyl recording of Robert W. Chambers’s hypnotic story “The Yellow Sign,” read by Anthony D. P. Mann. This has been issued by Cadabra Records (https://cadabra-records.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/robert-w-chambers-the-yellow-sign-lp-read-by-anthony-d-p-mann-score-by-maurizio-guarini). I wrote the liner notes about Chambers for this item. The list price is $32.00, but I have some copies that I am prepared to offer for $25.00.
Speaking of audio, I am thrilled to see that the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society has issued a complete audio recording of Lovecraft’s stories, using my corrected texts: https://store.hplhs.org/collections/frontpage/products/the-complete-fiction-of-h-p-lovecraft-an-audiobook. The physical appearance of the item is itself delightful, and I am confident that the readings of the tales by Andrew Leman and Sean Branney are powerful and effective. I see that a musical score has also been added.
I am featured as one of the “bonus selections” on a Blu-ray disc of The Resurrected, the film adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward directed by Dan O’Bannon (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dvd-the-resurrected-john-terry/3619681?ean=0826663179354). Since I do not have a Blu-ray player, I cannot see or hear my brilliant commentary; but I have been informed that my little spiel has garnered some good press here and there—here is an example: https://www.hollywoodintoto.com/resurrected-blu-ray-review/. Glad to know I’m on the way to becoming a media star! I have done similar interviews for later Blu-ray releases of Stuart Gordon’s Dagon and Beyond Re-Animator.
I was pleased to have written afterwords to a three-volume edition of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories translated into French by the publisher Mnémos. I received a slipcased edition of the three-volume set recently. Volume 1 contains the Zothique and Averoigne stories; volume 2 contains the Hyperborea and Poseidonis stories; and volume 3 contains stories of “other worlds” (autres mondes). I am having trouble finding the publisher’s webpage about this three-volume set; all I can find is a page about volume 1 (http://www.mnemos.com/catalogue/integrale-clark-ashton-smith-volume-1-zothique/). In any case, the volumes are beautifully produced and constitute a significant token of Smith’s increasing celebrity.
PS Publishing has issued the spectacular “graphic novel” biography of Lovecraft written by Sam Gafford and drawn by premier Lovecraftian artist Jason C. Eckhardt, as Some Notes on a Nonentity: The Life of H. P. Lovecraft (http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/some-notes-on-a-nonentity-the-life-of-hp-lovecraft-hardcover-4293-p.asp). I worked closely with Sam on the text of the work, but I have yet to look in detail at Jason’s artwork; I am quite certain, however, that it is superlative. I will be writing a review of the book for Robert M. Price’s revived Crypt of Cthulhu, to be published by the revived Necronomicon Press. This distinctive item belongs in the library of all devoted Lovecraftians!
Speaking of PS, I was flattered that its publisher, Pete Crowther, saw fit to accept my novella, Something from Below. He will issue it as a separate hardcover volume in the fall of 2018. That will follow the issuance of my memoirs, What Is Anything? (a draft of which is already written), and my collected mystery and horror tales, The Recurring Doom, both to be issued in the summer of 2018 (to commemorate my 60th birthday) by Hippocampus Press.
I am right now reading (at long last) proofs of Black Wings VI for PS. It will be a humdinger of a volume, let me assure you! And I am also putting the finishing touches on a new anthology for PS, Apostles of the Weird. More on that when the book is actually done.
With each passing day I am more pleased than I can possibly say that I am not on social media. In the first place, places like Facebook, Twitter, and so on are such a colossal exercise in time-wasting that my productivity would be vastly reduced if I were to participate in them. Why, it is likely that I would have considerably fewer than the 35—count ’em, 35—books that are currently sitting with publishers waiting to be published. But, as I have said in the past, the chief problem with social media, and the superficially immediate gratification it provides by allowing one’s unvarnished thoughts to be thrust out upon an unsuspecting public, is that it becomes fatally tempting to write before you think. (I make the perhaps unwarranted assumption that the people making these posts are actually capable of thinking.)
This is why I was so easily able to catch St. Ellen Datlow and Niels “Spineless” Hobbs in silly lies in their recent posts about me. Perhaps these individuals did not expect me to have certain “inside information” that allowed me to detect the lies in question; whatever the case, the end result was a certain hit to their reputations for honesty and integrity.
This same problem apparently afflicted the eminent S. J. Bagley, who recently posted that my failure to obtain a Ph.D. from Princeton means that I am not a “real” academic. Guilty as charged, my friend! Awkwardly for Mr. Bagley, I have never claimed to be an academic, real or otherwise. The definition of an academic is simply this: a person who teaches at a college or university—which I have never done and do not wish to do. There are many academics who do not publish academic scholarship, and many individuals who are not academics do publish it. Perhaps this fine distinction escapes Mr. Bagley’s otherwise trenchant intellect, as does the fact that, in the wake of my “failure” to receive that coveted Ph.D., I have published only 234 books, including 39 from academic publishers. Remarkably, these publishers (which include the University of Texas Press, Scarecrow Press, Greenwood Press, McFarland, Liverpool University Press, University of Tampa Press, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, University of Tennessee Press, Ohio State University Press, University of Georgia Press, Ohio University Press, Louisiana State University Press, and Wayne State University Press) either did not know or care that I was not a “real” academic. Imagine that!
There now emerges a new Joshi-hater, one Paul Tremblay. In response to my recent posts, he thought long and hard and came forth with the pungent remark: “F**k you, S. T. Joshi!” Touché! Bravo! The incisive perspicacity of this comment has of course utterly destroyed my arguments and will make me slink away in shame and humiliation.
Well, maybe not.
The moral of this story is: when conducting a debate, don’t lie, don’t hurl insults that will blow up in your face, and don’t use vulgarities. By using any of these tactics you are all but shouting to the world that you have already lost the argument. (It is noteworthy that our current “president” uses many of these tactics in his arguments with his many opponents, which is why he is a contemptible idiot, and worse.) If you have nothing substantive to say about an issue, just shut up. Better yet, get off social media altogether: it will do wonders for your peace of mind!
I am a far-left liberal. Especially in the wake of the ongoing nightmare of the Trump administration, I have been speaking out loud and clear about the multifarious derelictions of conservatives and Republicans of all stripes. Most individuals in the weird fiction community are probably unaware of these screeds, because they have generally appeared in my journal, The American Rationalist, especially in my column “The Stupidity Watch.” Regrettably, this journal is now defunct, so I have lost this forum for my lambasting of contemporary conservatism. (I have reprinted my columns from 2011 to 2016 in my self-published book, The Stupidity Watch [https://www.amazon.com/Stupidity-Watch-Atheist-Religion-Politics/dp/1544821646/]).
Otherwise, I prove my liberalism by voting uniformly for Democrats (I have not voted for a Republican since 1984 [Thomas Kean of New Jersey], and I regretted that vote later); I contribute to Democratic political campaigns and also to organisations such as the ACLU; I do what I can do drum up support for liberal candidates and liberal causes. This strikes me as genuine liberalism.
What I do not do is launch furious attacks on H. P. Lovecraft for his racism. Of course he was a racist; everyone knows that. But I fail to see what good it does to attack him for this admitted failing at this late date. He has been dead for nearly three-quarters of a century; what is more, his views had no influence on the culture of his own time, or even on his small cadre of friends, colleagues, and correspondents. Indeed, it is telling that Frank Belknap Long, who met Lovecraft on an almost daily basis during his years in New York (1924–26) and frequently in later years, has testified that “during all of those talks on long walks through the streets of New York and Providence, I never once heard him utter a derogatory remark about any member of a minority group who passed him on the street or had occasion to engage him in conversation”—an inexplicable circumstance if one believes that Lovecraft was “obsessed” with the issue of race.
It is easy to condemn Lovecraft as a racist; it gives one a momentary feeling of self-righteous virtue and superiority. But it accomplishes nothing. It does nothing to combat the racism that we increasingly see in our midst today. If this is all you can do, you are indulging in fake liberalism. Indeed, it is of interest that the great majority of individuals who have tendentiously spoken out on this issue are white (and, in fact, white males). Evidently it counts for nothing that I am one of the few persons of colour in the realm of Lovecraft scholarship and criticism, and for that matter in the overall realm of weird fiction: because I regard Lovecraft’s racism not as a cudgel with which to beat him over the head, but as something to be considered with nuance and a full understanding of the historical, cultural, social, and intellectual circumstances surrounding this immensely complex issue, I appear to be regarded as some kind of honorary white conservative.
Well, that hardly matters to me. But I do wonder at this monomaniacal fixation on one single (and, to my mind, not enormously significant) aspect of Lovecraft’s life and thought. Why is there not more discussion of Lovecraft as a lifelong and full-throated atheist? as one who thoughtfully evolved from extreme political conservatism to moderate socialism? as a keen commentator on the literary, political, and social movements of his day? as a devoted if impecunious traveller who in fact learned to appreciate other cultures (the French in Quebec, the Spanish in Florida) on his far-flung voyages? as a devotee of amateur journalism and, more broadly, of the principle of aesthetic expression without thought of monetary reward? All these features seem to me of much greater importance to the essence of H. P. Lovecraft than his racism; but hardly anyone outside of scholarly circles talks about any of these things.
But the chatter on the Internet and social media will ultimately make not the slightest difference to Lovecraft’s standing as a writer. He is continually being translated into more and more languages around the world, and his work is being disseminated in the English-speaking world more and more widely. He will outlive us all, and he deserves to.
Once upon a time there was a convention devoted to H. P. Lovecraft named NecronomiCon Providence. It was run by a well-meaning but somewhat weak-willed individual (rather reminiscent of Edward Derby in “The Thing on the Doorstep”) named Niels Hobbs. The initial conventon of 2013 was a wondrous event that left all participants and attendees feeling good about the state of Lovecraft studies and of Lovecraft’s recognition in the wider literary community. The convention of 2015 was generally successful but had some awkward moments.
By the time the 2017 convention was in the planning stages, trouble was brewing. Specifically, it appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been captured (and, indeed, rather willingly) by the forces of political correctness, so that the focus became less on Lovecraft himself and more on those aspects of weird fiction that those horrible dead white males had evilly suppressed. (It is not entirely clear how this suppression occurred, but let that pass.) And it also appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been swayed by various forces hostile to Lovecraft in the initial stages of programming.
Consider the naming of the redoubtable Ellen Datlow as a special guest. Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence. This act has, of course, not stopped Ms. Datlow from capitalising on Lovecraft’s growing popularity—and the concomitant popularity of weird fiction in general that has occurred in his wake—to assemble several mediocre and fundamentally un-Lovecraftian anthologies that use his name to line her pockets. In these anthologies she makes no bones about her low opinion of Lovecraft (from the introduction to The Children of Lovecraft: “his prose was often clumsy and overblown”—a witting or unwitting echo of the odoriferous Daniel José Older’s preposterous claim that Lovecraft was a “terrible wordsmith”). And yet, she was chosen as a special guest! There were other individuals who were chosen, quite frankly, less for their inherent literary merit than for the fact that they allowed Mr. Hobbs to check off certain specific boxes in his quest for “diversity” and “inclusiveness.”
But let us consider who was not invited. The absence of Dr. Robert M. Price was cavernous, and I now have inside information on how this came about. Dr. Price had requested a public apology from Mr. Hobbs for throwing Dr. Price under the bus after the latter’s admittedly controversial remarks in his keynote address at the 2015 convention. Needless to say, Mr. Hobbs was unwilling to offer such an apology. However, he was magnanimous enough to say that Dr. Price would certainly be allowed to attend the convention—so long as he was not put on any panels!
Well, this is most interesting! It appears that Mr. Hobbs believes that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. What do I mean? Simply this. Mr. Hobbs expressed high dudgeon when I, in an attempt to save the convention from being polluted by the Lovecraft-haters, presented a list of individuals who I felt had nothing of consequence to contribute either to the discussion of Lovecraft or to that of weird fiction as a whole; the omission of these names from any aspect of programming became a condition of my own participation in the convention. Indeed, Mr. Hobbs went to the extent of posting on the NecronomiCon website, just days before the event, a self-righteous message whining about being “pressured” by certain nefarious individuals (i.e., myself) into enforcing a “blacklist,” which of course violates all notions of diversity, inclusiveness, freedom of speech, blah blah blah. Evidently, when Niels Hobbs blacklists Robert M. Price, it is all very benign; but when I declare that the presence of certain individuals at the convention will necessitate my withdrawal from it, that is evil and intolerable. It also appears that Mr. Hobbs’s notions of “diversity” and “inclusiveness” only extend in certain specific political directions. Am I the only one smelling a whiff of hypocrisy here?
There must be something wrong with a Lovecraft convention that has alienated the two figures—Robert M. Price and myself—who, over the past forty years, have done more to promote Lovecraft scholarship than any individuals on the planet. (I hardly need remark that, with the notable exception of Sam Gafford, no member of the NecronomiCon convention committee has made the slightest contribution to Lovecraft studies.)
However, the derelictions of Mr. Hobbs are dwarfed by the backstage shenanigans of his Svengali, Mr. S. J. Bagley. This person, in charge of the NecronomiCon “memento book,” kept horning his way into programming decisions, attempting to overrule the nominal program director, Sam Gafford. Like a bad computer virus, various names kept inserting themselves into the panel assignments during the planning stages of the convention. Sam kept removing these names, but they just came back, like bad pennies. Bagley indulged in other high-handed actions that conveyed the impression that he was actually running the show. Given the paucity of his own accomplishments, it would appear that Bagley thinks he can gain some credit for being the Grand Panjandrum of the convention. (His ambitions for achieving fame and fortune appear to be curiously limited.) When Sam finally complained to Niels about Bagley’s actions, Niels appeared to side with Sam—only to go behind my back, and Sam’s, to set up a special event for Scott Nicolay and his current squeeze, Anya Martin!
Niels now attempts to maintain that I had in fact only banned Nicolay from “panels” (or maybe just from “Lovecraft panels”) and not from other events—but this is a lie, and he knows it. If Niels thinks he was being proper and above-board in this action, why is it that he never notified me in advance to this effect? He claims that there is an abundant paper trail of our discussions on the matter, as indeed there is. But I find no document in which he stated to me ahead of time that he was to take this action. Strange oversight! Instead, since I did not have the time or inclination to check the NecronomiCon website every minute of the day, it was left to others to alert me of this turn of events. What else could I do—after all the other frustrations of dealing with such a spineless and duplicitous individual—but to walk away?
Niels has also made the astounding claim that Nicolay is not in fact a “Lovecraft-hater.” Can he really be so ignorant of the fact that, over the past three years, Nicolay has been a leading flag-waver of the “Lovecraft-is-nothing-but-a-horrible-racist” meme? Niels seems to have developed a remarkable skill at selective ignorance and amnesia, especially where his own perceived friends and allies are concerned.
Niels goes on to say that Nicolay is an “important” figure in contemporary weird fiction. My friends, Scott Nicolay has published one (mediocre) collection of short stories. Offhand, I can think of about five dozen contemporary writers who are more significant in our field than him. Indeed, Jonathan Thomas, who aside from having the virtue of being a “local writer,” has published five scintillating collections of tales as well as perhaps the best Lovecraftian novel ever written, The Color over Occam. But did Thomas get on any panels? No. And why was his reading slot set for the very end of the convention, after a good many attendees had already left? Is it any surprise that he, along with any number of other figures who were treated in a shabby manner, have now decided to have nothing to do with NecronomiCon in future?
The plain fact of the matter is that, if NecronomiCon Providence is to be saved, it can only be saved by a wholesale replacement of the current convention committee, especially the Hobbs/Bagley cabal. It is abundantly plain that these people do not have Lovecraft’s best interests at heart and wish to turn NecronomiCon into a more general weird convention where the Lovecraft content is reduced to a minimum—and, indeed, where even the focus on the weird is in a narrow, politically circumscribed, and ultimately exclusionary direction. Those who still wish for a NecronomiCon that remains true to its original purpose would be advised to contact Mr. Hobbs (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let their feelings be known.
I am pleased to announce that the Russian publisher Azbooka Atticus has just completed an arrangement to publish my anthologies Black Wings I & II in Russian. I am not sure when the books will be out, but I am hopeful that they can appear as early as next year. The spectacle of Russia’s de facto dictator, Vladimir Putin, curling up with a copy of one of these books is not a little amusing. Of course, I have no idea whether Putin’s reading tastes run in the direction of weird fiction; but since he himself seems intent to bring about a world apocalypse, I would not at all be surprised.
A Russian scholar on Lovecraft, Armen Alexanyan (who has a brief article in this year’s Lovecraft Annual, just out), tells me that “there is some monstrous biography of Grandpa Theobald in Russian written by one Gleb Eliseev. Horribile dictu, this gentleman argues with you on some issues about HPL (for example, he alleges without reason that Lovecraft was some sort of “crypto-religious person,” etc. etc.).” Imagine anyone questioning my view of Lovecraft! The very idea is surely a kind of lèse-majesté, no?
I have now prepared, as previously announced, an edition of Robert Hichens’s The Dweller on the Threshold (1911), containing an introduction and some critical notes by me, for publication as both a paperback and ebook (https://www.amazon.com/Dweller-Threshold-Annotated-S-Joshi/dp/1974131165/, under my Sarnath Press imprint. We do not in fact know if Lovecraft ever read this book (whose very title is strikingly Lovecraftian—or maybe Derlethian?), but it is a fine short novel nonetheless and well worth reading.
I hasten to remind readers that my original anthology Nightmare’s Realm (https://darkregions.com/products/nightmares-realm-new-tales-of-the-weird-and-fantastic-preorder) is out in paperback, deluxe hardcover, and ebook, and that The Red Brain: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (https://darkregions.com/products/the-red-brain-great-tales-of-the-cthulhu-mythos-edited-by-s-t-joshi), in the same formats, is due out in October. Better pick them up fast! Both are published by Dark Regions Press, and healthy sales of these books might encourage the publisher to take on more of my projects. And that’s always good, isn’t it?
Speaking of projects, I am delighted to hear that many new Hippocampus Press books are now out, although I will probably not get copies until I return from the NecronomiCon (August 17–20). Pre-eminent among these is Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, which has just received a glowing review in Publishers Weekly (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-61498-174-9). Notices like this are always gratifying.
I am happy to announce the publication of Christina Sng’s poetry collection A Collection of Nightmares, just out from Raw Dog Screaming Press (http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/a-collection-of-nightmares/). I was happy to have provided a blurb for this book, written by a poet from Singapore who is a regular contributor to Spectral Realms. This is a scintillating volume of poems—ranging from the weird to fantasy to science fiction—by a poet who is clearly a rising luminary in the constellation of weird verse.
As I mentioned, I have not yet received the new batch of Hippocampus Press books, but I understand that copies of the Lovecraft Annual for 2017 will reach me before I leave for the convention, so I am happy to offer my few spare copies to interested customers for $10 a copy. And I feel inclined to offer a mini-fire sale of some older titles, specifically Gothic Lovecraft, a fine original anthology that does not seem to have garnered the attention it deserves. Accordingly, I am prepared to sell my remaining copies for $25.00 for the trade edition and $50.00 for the signed/limited. Here are some older titles of mine that I am happy to dispose of for $10 a copy:
In some cases I have exactly one spare copy of these titles, so get ’em while they last!
I trust I may be pardoned for the long interval between my previous blog and this one: my excuse is that Mary and I went on an extended trip overseas (July 7–24), much of which involved a cruise on a Holland America ship that took us to Italy, Albania, and Greece. The voyage started with (ugh!) a red-eye flight from Seattle to Venice, where the cruise would begin. We arrived in Venice a day or two early, on the afternoon of July 8, and immediately had a splendid meal near our hotel. It sounds like an absurd truism, but the Italians sure know how to make pasta!
On Sunday, July 9, was our major exploration day in Venice. We of course took in the Piazza San Marco. When we arrived, a service was in progress at the basilica; but we were allowed to go the museum of the basilica, which afforded us a fine view of the church’s interior as well as a bird’s-eye view of the square itself. Fabulous! Then we trudged all the way to the majestic domed Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute—but because it was a Sunday, the church was closed from noon till three P.M.! So we satisfied ourselves with gazing at the exterior. We returned to our hotel and took a dip in the pool—rather small, and in effect a kind of oversized hot tub. We had another splendid meal that evening. We did some minimal exploring the following day before heading to the place where the cruise ship was docked.
Of course, the advantage of a cruise is that nearly all your meals are provided for, and you don’t have to pack and unpack your clothes, and do not have to worry too much about transportation from one place to another, as this is generally provided (for a fee, of course!) by the cruise ship. The cruise left port on July 10 and spent the entirety of July 11 at sea, landing at the Albanian beach resort of Sarandë on July 12. This was a moderately interesting place, but really it was meant as a replacement for the cruise’s initial plan of going to Istanbul—a plan that political events in that increasingly authoritarian country have rendered hazardous to Americans (and others).
On July 13 we ventured to one of the Greek islands in the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia, where we were taken around the town of Argostoli and also to Melissani Lake and the Drogararti caves—my first true experience of caves. This was a fairly spooky place, and the acoustics in the cave are such that actual concerts are occasionally held. Our tour guide urged me (the only halfway decent singer in our group) to belt something out, and I obliged with a few bars from a tenor solo from Handel’s Messiah.
At last the cruise reached mainland Greece, where we saw the ruins of ancient Mycenae (one of the oldest civilisations on earth, dating to at least the second millennium B.C.) and Olympia, where the first Olympic games were held in 776 B.C. The chief distinction here was the superb Hermes of Praxitiles, housed in the archaeological museum in Olympia, one of the towering masterworks of world art. Then we ventured to Athens itself, where of course we saw the Acropolis with its majestic Parthenon and other sites. I would have liked to have gone to the archaeological museum there (one of the greatest in the world), but we didn’t have time. We did take a look at the ancient remains of Corinth, which one rivalled Athens for supremacy.
Then we went to two Greek islands, Mykonos and Santorini. Both of these islands feature distinctive architecture—nearly all the buildings are painted white, with the occasional blue roof or dome. The vistas that can be obtained from various lookout points are beyond description, with extraordinary views of the blue Aegean. Then we made the long trip through the Straits of Messina to Naples. We did not explore that city itself, but did take a tour of ancient Pompeii, where we saw a few examples of human bodies covered in lava (although it was not clear to me whether these were genuine or copies or casts made of chalk). The whole site was remarkable—not least of which was the lupanar (whorehouse), where pictures of various sex acts on the wall were designed for the purpose of allowing the patrons to select which exact position was desired.
The cruise ship left us off in Rome on July 22, and we spent that day touring the Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel and all), having another great Italian meal, and then spending the next day on a largely pedestrian tour of the major sites—Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter’s. We only went into the square of St. Peter’s, as the line for actually getting into the church was immense.
The entire trip was sensational, but the weather was so cripplingly hot and humid that we both felt the need to take shelter in the afternoon with long naps on the ship or in a hotel. The virtues of the siesta became very obvious to us! If we go to the Mediterranean again, we will have to go at some other time of year—not only because of the weather, but because of the mobs of tourists at every turn. As it was, I developed a heavy tan that makes me even more of a person of colour than before!
I am happy to announce that I have completed the writing of a novella of 37,000 words entitled Something from Below (an adaptation of the title of Donald Wandrei’s story “Something from Above”). There are faint Lovecraftian touches in it, but fundamentally it is simply a “weird tale” set in rural Pennsylvania (at a coal mine, oddly enough) with hints of cosmic horror. I rather like it; and was heartened when both Mary and Wilum Pugmire also expressed approbation of it. I am now shopping it around various small-press publishers, with the hope that it might appear next year.
I have issued another book from my own micro-press, Sarnath Press: Eleanor M. Ingram’s The Thing from the Lake (1921), which might have minimally influenced Lovecraft. This was to be a Hippocampus Press “double” (along with Robert Hichens’s The Dweller on the Threshold), but Derrick Hussey has allowed me to release the title myself. (I will release the Hichens book presently.) It is now available both as a paperback (https://www.amazon.com/Thing-Lake-Annotated-S-Joshi/dp/1521960593/) and ebook (https://www.amazon.com/Thing-Lake-Annotated-S-Joshi-ebook/dp/B074CH7MMX/). The novel is actually quite good, and I have written an extensive introduction supplying information on the author and the book’s influence on Lovecraft.
I am happy to announce that my treatise on Lovecraft’s philosophy, H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West (Starmont House, 1990), has now been issued as an e-book by Wildside Press, with an attractive new cover: https://www.amazon.com/H-P-Lovecraft-Decline-West-ebook/dp/B07179JH2S. As you can see from this link, the book is still available in paperback from Wildside. I consider this to be one of my more important and groundbreaking books, so I am glad it is now available in a form that may make it more appealing to younger people—who can’t seem to bear separation from their electronic devices!
Books of a more old-fashioned kind have come to me, among them two new Hippocampus Press titles: Jason V Brock’s exceptional story collection The Dark Sea Within and Michael Fantina’s substantial poetry volume Alchemy of Dreams and Other Poems. The list price of both books is $20, but I am happy to sell my few spare copies for $15 to interested customers at the usual terms (i.e., media mail postage covered for US customers). Brock’s volume is an even more scintillating array of short stories and novellas than his previous collection, Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities (2013); this new volume includes, among other things, a remarkable post-apocalyptic novella, Epistles from Dis, that is alone worth the price of the book. Fantina’s collection is nearly 350 pages and contains hundreds of meticulously crafted and imaginatively effective poems, most of them in strict metre.
I was happy to have conducted a lengthy interview on Lovecraft and related subjects with Ryan Grulich on the back deck of my house, and now Ryan has posted the interview: http://www.nightmarishconjurings.com/interviews/2017/6/29/interview-author-st-joshi-about-the-life-and-work-of-hp-lovecraft. Ryan has some interesting projects relating to Lovecraft that I may be at liberty to speak of later.
The exemplary Lovecraftian illustrator Pete Von Sholly is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a splendid-looking book called Pete Von Sholly’s History of Monsters: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1268917023/pete-von-shollys-history-of-monsters. The book will of course include some Lovecraftian monsters among many others, and is certainly a project worth supporting. So please contribute generously!
At my end, I continue to work on all manner of projects, mostly Lovecraft letters. David E. Schultz and I are now preparing a new edition of Lovecraft’s letters to Alfred Galpin, which will also include the letters to John T. Dunn (published in the Lovecraft issue of Books at Brown 38/39 [1991–92]) and Edward H. Cole (also a letter or two to his infant son, E. Sherman Cole). I imagine the Letters to C. L. Moore and Others and the joint correspondence of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith will be released soon; later in the year, the letters to Maurice W. Moe and others (including letters to Bernard Austin Dwyer, Samuel Loveman, and Vincent Starrett) will appear. And of course we are making substantial headway on a volume of HPL’s letters to family members (his mother, his two aunts) and neighbours (Marian F. Bonner, Bertha Rausch, etc.). This will be a huge two-volume hardcover edition, presumably appearing next year.
In terms of writing, let me alert readers to the stunning fact that I have just completed a 37,000-word novella! I will say nothing more about this until I have solicited the opinions of certain choice readers. Meanwhile, Hippocampus Press has generously agreed to publish an omnibus of my mystery and horror fiction, under the title The Recurring Doom, next year, in conjunction with my Lovecraftian memoirs, What Is Anything? (a draft of which is now complete). Recurring Doom will contain my two short detective novels, a detective novella, and seven short weird tales. It will not include my novel The Assaults of Chaos. Even so, this is far more Joshi fiction than anyone, I daresay, wants to read!
It would appear that certain individuals were a tad put out by my review of The Children of Gla’aki, edited by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass. Astute readers will also observe that this review has now been taken down from my website. I did so at the request of the publisher, Chris Morey of Dark Regions Press (who is also the publisher of some of my own books), although the review proudly appears in issue no. 21 (print only) of Dead Reckonings, now available from Hippocampus Press.
Some of the criticisms of this review strike me as a bit odd. The eminent Laird Barron finds two particular objections to the review. The first is that it is an “ad hominem” attack on certain writers. This is a rather odd thing to say. What else is a review but a criticism, positive or negative as the case may be, of a specific individual—i.e., the writer of the book under review? In this case, we are dealing with a number of individuals—i.e., the editors and the contributors. How else was I to address both the virtues (of which there were a few, as I specifically pointed out in my discussion of stories by W. H. Pugmire, John Goodrich, and Tim Waggoner) and the failings (much more widespread, in my judgment) of the stories in question? How else could I have done so except by addressing the individual writers in question?
Possibly Barron was irked by the tone of my review. I fully acknowledge that this review falls into the category of “satirical criticism”—a genre I by no means have pioneered (if there are any pioneers of this genre, it would be Ambrose Bierce and H. L. Mencken), but which I find particularly useful in certain instances. What Bierce has to say on the function of satire is of special relevance here:
“In satirizing real persons I follow the example of all satirists who succeed. It does not at all matter how obscure, or how anything-else, the persons satirized may be; the merit is in the satire. Do you suppose that the merit of Heine’s, of Pope’s, or Byron’s attacks on persons—has any relation to the personality … of the objects of it. The merit is intrinsic. Nobody cares who was hit—nobody reads, for example, the explanatory notes to ‘The Dunciad’ or the ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers’, which fool publishers think it necessary to insert. These things of mine would have the same literary value (and I’m bound to assume that they have some) if they bore any other names than the ones they do bear. Would it add anything to the interest of a personal satire to entitle it ‘Atticus’ instead of ‘Arthur McEwen’? I’m not running a guessing game: I prefer human names as Byron did.”
I may point out that, whatever I may have said about some contributors to The Children of Gla’aki, I did not in fact attack the persons of the writers in question, but only addressed them as writers. I am not in fact well acquainted with most of the writers in the book and do not care to say anything about them as persons. I note that a fair number of those who have attacked me for the review did not exercise similar restraint.
The other criticism that Barron levels at me is that I have “an ax to grind.” To this charge I plead 100% guilty! I certainly do have an ax to grind against bad writing, and will not be shy in wielding that ax. Or perhaps Barron is assuming (as, apparently, certain others have done) that I somehow feel that I, and only I, have the right to pass judgment on this book, or on the general subject of Lovecraftian fiction. Have I ever made such a claim? On the other hand, can it be denied that I do have some right to express an opinion on the subject? This book was about the Cthulhu Mythos contributions (derived from the work of Ramsey Campbell) of a wide array of contemporary writers. Have any of my critics written a treatise on the history of the Cthulhu Mythos from H. P. Lovecraft to the present day? It does not appear so. I have. Have any of my critics written a monograph on Ramsey Campbell? It does not appear so. I have. Have any of my critics assembled Lovecraftian anthologies that have sold widely and been nominated for awards? Not many, it would appear. I have.
All this kerfuffle could easily be avoided if (a) certain writers could write better stories, or (b) if they can’t, they just shut up. In that case, I would be happy to shut up also. But they seem unable to do the first and disinclined to do the second, so I fear they may be subject to further butt-kicking on my part in the coming months and years. Forewarned is forearmed!
I was thrilled to receive a copy of H. P. Lovecraft’s Contos reunidos do mestre do horror cósmico (São Paolo: Editora Ex Machina, 2017), a mammoth (607 pp.) omnibus of Lovecraft’s greatest stories, assembled by Bruno Costa and translated (using my corrected texts) by Francisco Innocêncio. Here is the publisher’s webpage for the book: https://www.editoraexmachina.com.br/product-page/contos-reunidos-do-mestre-do-horror-c%C3%B3smico. This is a splendid book in every way. Bound in sturdy hardcovers, it segregates Lovecraft’s tales into four categories: “Ciclo de Cthulhu” (the Cthulhu cycle), “Ciclo dos Sonhos” (the dream cycle), “Miscelânea” (miscellaneous tales—including “Sweet Ermengarde”!), and juvenilia (including tales from “The Secret Cave” to “The Alchemist”). A 100-page appendix contains eight substantial essays by Brazilian critics—some of these seem well worth translating into English, if anyone out there knows Portuguese. I wrote an introduction specially for this book. I am very proud to have been a part of this project, as I hope it will introduce Lovecraft to new readers in Brazil and anywhere else in the world where Portuguese is spoken.
I have just lent my imprimatur (and my corrected texts) to the British Library, which wishes to issue a modest volume of Lovecraft’s tales. I have not been given a schedule for the book’s appearance, but perhaps it will appear late this year or early next. The selection of stories seems to focus on those that are set in England or Ireland (“The Rats in the Walls,” “The Moon-Bog,” and so on). Lovecraft would be thrilled that the venerable institution where he claims the Necronomicon is housed is now poised to issue a volume of his stories!
I have at last received copies of my two newest books from Hippocampus Press: my edition of Lord Dunsany’s The Ghost in the Corner and Other Stories and my collection of essays Varieties of the Weird Tale. I still have a few copies of each title available for purchase (for $15), but supplies are limited! First come, first serve.
Hippocampus Press is set to issue a bumper crop of books in anticipation of the NecronomiCon, among them the following:
There may be even more than this, but this is all I can remember at the moment. I have gone over nearly all these titles (except John Langan’s, as he has not yet submitted the full text) in my role as Hippocampus Press copyeditor.
In regard to Dead Reckonings, I have been given permission by the new editors (Michael J. Abolafia and Alex Houstoun) to post online one of my four reviews in the issue, so I herewith regale readers with my review of the Lovecraftian anthology Tales from the Miskatonic University Library. Read it and weep!
For Spectral Realms No. 7 I did not receive any articles from my usual contributors, so I wrote one myself on George Sterling’s “A Wine of Wizardry.” I confess that I was somewhat flummoxed as to what, specifically, this poem was about, but I managed to meander on about it for a few thousand words.
Later in the year we will probably issue one more volume of Lovecraft letters: Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others (including the letters to Robert E. Moe, Bernard Austin Dwyer, Samuel Loveman, and Vincent Starrett).
Some time ago I mentioned that I had written the foreword to an anthology of criticism assembled by Sean Moreland, The Lovecraftian Poe (Lehigh University Press). I have now received a copy of the book. I fear it is a tad expensive, but online vendors are offering the book at a fairly substantial discount: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lovecraftian-poe-sean-moreland/1125826447?ean=9781611462401. However, many readers may have to be content at examining this book in a library.
I am happy to note that my treatise The Weird Tale (1990) is now available as an ebook (Kindle): https://www.amazon.com/Weird-Tale-Algernon-Blackwood-Lovecraft-ebook/dp/B0714FCVYH/. I now understand that H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West will also be issued as an ebook by the publisher of the current paperback edition, Wildside Press.
I am pleased to announce that a new role-playing game focusing on Lovecraft’s writings is in the works. At StokerCon I met C. A. Suleiman, who is spearheading this effort, and I agreed to participate in the enterprise, chiefly to ensure that the project is as authentically Lovecraftian as possible. The game, entitled Sigil & Sign, is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/461807648/sigil-and-sign-cthulhu-mythos-rpg-where-you-play-t. The campaign is coming to an end soon, so I urge all interested parties to contribute in a generous and timely manner!
My 2010 compilation of Lovecraft’s writings Against Religion (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/against-religion-h-p-lovecraft/1124817067?ean=9780578052489) is scheduled to be translated into both Italian and German. I would not be surprised if one of the chief impetuses for these translations was the splendid introduction by the late Christopher Hitchens; but in any case, it is welcome news that Lovecraft’s atheistic writings will receive wider dissemination.
A curious but engaging book has wended its way here: Cooking with Lovecraft by Miguel Fliguer (https://www.amazon.com/Cooking-Lovecraft-Supernatural-Horror-Kitchen/dp/1521077800). As a contribution to Lovecraftian humour, it ranks very high, with such recipes as “Baby Shantak Wings,” “Anziques Kebab,” “Poached Pears in Spiced Vinum Sabbati” (an Arthur Machen allusion, of course), and so on. The author has done quite a bit of research—in my I Am Providence and elsewhere—into Lovecraft’s actual preferences in regard to food, and the result is a delightful compilation. It also includes at least one “normal” recipe—for the Indian dessert called “Gulab Jamun,” which Lovecraft would no doubt have loved (and which is one of my own personal favourites).
I have recently had the pleasure to reconnect with a colleague from past years, Kirk Sigurdson, who wrote a thesis on Lovecraft that I published in truncated form in Lovecraft Studies. Kirk has evolved into a splendid novelist, and I have just finished his novel Kultus (2003; rev. ed. 2013; http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kultus-kirk-sigurdson/1117690658?ean=9780615881225), a thrilling tale of Sasquatch, set in the Pacific Northwest. With lively writing, vividly realised characters, a vital portrayal of the locale, and a narrative thrust that keeps the reader turning the pages, this is a novel that any devotee of the weird can enjoy.
That’s all for now! I just prepare for my first choir concert (Handel’s Israel in Egypt)—a grueling event, but one that I hope will be rewarding. Such luminaries as W. H. Pugmire, Greg Lowney (and his mother), and others will be in attendance!
I have now received an abundance of copies of Spectral Realms #6 (Winter 2017). The price has been lowered to $10 to increase sales, but the issue is as substantial as always. I can offer my copies of the issue at the same price to interested customers.
More significantly, two of my thirty-odd forthcoming books have now appeared: Varieties of the Weird Tale (https://www.hippocampuspress.com/mythos-and-other-authors/nonfiction/varieties-of-the-weird-tale-by-s.-t.-joshi) and my edition of Lord Dunsany’s The Ghost in the Corner and Other Stories (https://www.hippocampuspress.com/mythos-and-other-authors/fiction/the-ghost-in-the-corner-and-other-stories-by-lord-dunsany). Each of these are priced at $20, but I am prepared to offer them for $15 each. My copies have not yet come, but should be here soon.
An interesting interview of me has appeared on Charles P. Dunphey’s website: https://gehennaandhinnom.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/questions-over-innsmouth-interview-with-lovecraftian-scholar-s-t-joshi/. Dunphey is the founder and chief editor of Gehenna & Hinnom Books, and the interview contains numerous photographs of yours truly (most of them likely to be familiar to my regular readers). I am always happy to do interviews of this kind.
I also helped a scholar, Thomas Phillips, get in touch with the rather reclusive T. E. D. Klein. Phillips has now written an entire treatise on Klein that will appear this summer from McFarland: http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-7028-7. I am confident that this will be a splendid and much-overdue critical study of a leading figure in our field.
I was happy to attend StokerCon (April 27–30), held on the Queen Mary, docked at the port at Long Beach, California. Jason & Sunni Brock were in attendance, as well as William F. Nolan; and I had interesting discussions with such figures as Lisa Mannetti, Nancy Kilpatrick, J. C. Koch, and others. I also talked with my publishers, Pete Crowther (PS Publishing) and Chris Morey (Dark Regions Press). I felt obligated to point out some poor (or perhaps non-existent) copyediting that marred some of their recent publications, and I may be doing some copyediting for them in future.
On that note, I have written several reviews for the new Dead Reckonings, now being edited by Michael J. Abolafia and Alex Houstoun. I have reviewed the following titles:
I am not sure when the issue of Dead Reckonings will appear, but it should be out in a month or two.
But right now my entire focus is on my upcoming choir performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt. It should be spectacular!
I suppose it is old news by now, but I have been immortalised by Alan Moore in the twelfth and final issue of his graphic novel Providence (March 2017). I am identified by name, and I am wearing my patented black windbreaker. I confess that I have not followed the plot of this engaging work (I only own the first 5 issues), so I am not entirely sure why I am wandering about in the company of a naked lady (in a very pregnant state) and certain other individuals. But there I am.
The naked lady flatteringly identifies me as “the old world’s foremost Lovecraft scholar.” It becomes evident that Moore has read some of my work with care, for he puts into my mouth various utterances derived from my biography or critical studies. To wit:
And so on. Moore did not notify me in advance, or seek my permission, to use me in his graphic novel, but there is no need for him to have done so. I suppose I am enough of a public figure that anyone can depict me or use my utterances in a work of fiction. It’s not the first time!
If I am achieving some minimal modicum of fame, my collaborator David E. Schultz seems to relish his role as the Greta Garbo of Lovecraft studies. And yet, he did deign to give an interview to a Hungarian website that promotes Lovecraft: http://www.theblackaether.com/2017/03/23/david-e-schultz-interview/. The photograph of the two of us was taken in the back yard of his house in Milwaukee, when Mary and I visited a few years ago.
I am in receipt of a splendid book of poetry by Benjamin Blake, Standing on the Threshold of Madness (https://www.amazon.com/Standing-Threshold-Madness-Benjamin-Blake/dp/0995717311/). The author had solicited a blurb from me; and after reading the book in ms., I was happy to do so. I now see that he also managed to get a blurb from none other than Ramsey Campbell! So the book must be good. I urge all devotees of weird poetry to pick it up. A review of it will run in Spectral Realms #7 (Summer 2017).
When I’m not chained to my desk or watching reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies, I am singing in my choir, the Northwest Chorale. We are finally getting ready to perform Handel’s spectacular oratorio Israel in Egypt (http://www.nwchorale.org). This should be a splendid event, and I hope that interested persons in the Seattle metropolitan area will make the effort to attend one of the two performances. The second one will be recorded, and a CD (or, more properly, a two-CD package) should emerge in due course of time.
I am reading proofs of my next book of H. L. Mencken’s writings, A Saturnalia of Bunk: Selections from The Free Lance, 1911–1915 (Ohio University Press). I believe this book should be out sometime in the summer. It is a riot of pungent satire on all manner of subjects, ranging from the follies of politics to the horrors of religion to the Great War. The material is taken from Mencken’s “Free Lance” column, which he wrote (with some breaks here and there) six times a day for four and a half years, totalling 1.5 million words. I managed to whittle that down to a book of about 100,000 words. Mary lent invaluable assistance at a late stage in proofreading the manuscript, finding all manner of typographical and scanning errors.
I am expecting copies of Nightmare’s Realm any day now. I still have one copy available for purchase, if anyone wants to pick it up for $20.00. The signature sheets of the signed/limited edition have finally been signed by all the contributors (including the artist, Samuel Araya), so this edition should emerge from Dark Regions Press at some point in the future.
I have just heard that I will soon be receiving some copies of my newest all-original anthology, Nightmare’s Realm (Dark Regions Press). I will have exactly four copies to sell to interested customers, at the discounted rate of $20.00 (the list price is $25.00). I am prepared to take advance orders for these copies at this time. Just as a reminder, here is the table of contents of the book:
Every story in the book is, in my judgment, sensational!
I can also mention that I have received copies of my second-newest book, The Stupidity Watch. It’s quite literally a hell-raiser! If you ever want to see me lambasting the follies of religion and politics, this is the book to get. I still have some copies to sell for $15.00. You can also order copies (paperback and ebook) on your own from Amazon.
I can also announce that I have provisionally completed my memoirs, What Is Anything? Memoirs of a Life in Lovecraft—at a whopping 135,000 words. And there may be more to come. I will continue to add to it throughout the course of this year, and will also need to insert discussions of certain events that I had overlooked when writing the first draft. But the book is essentially done.
Meanwhile, I am slogging through the index to Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. The book is already 767 pages and will come close to 800 with the index in place. It will be published as a fine hardcover edition by Hippocampus Press, perhaps as early as June. It is difficult to describe the fascination of reading this massive batch of letters between two of the titans of weird fiction; it is only unfortunate that not every letter sent by the two writers to each other survives, creating at times frustrating gaps in the free-flowing discussion. But there is enough here to satisfy the desires of any Smith or Lovecraft devotee!
And Hippocampus is on pace to initiate an entire series of letters by Smith. First up on the agenda will probably be the letters between Smith and Donald Wandrei, along with those from Smith to R. H. Barlow. This book should emerge by the time of the NecronomiCon convnention this summer.
I have self-published a collection of my writings (essays, reviews, and columns) from the American Rationalist, under the title The Stupidity Watch: An Atheist Speaks Out on Religion and Politics (https://www.amazon.com/Stupidity-Watch-Atheist-Religion-Politics/dp/1544821646). The book is available both as a print book and as an ebook. This is the first official title of my own imprint, Sarnath Press, although I may someday republish my collection of reviews, Driven to Madness with Fright, under this imprint.
The book contains a sheaf of my pungent reviews attacking religion and religious apologists. I truly channel Bierce and Mencken in these killer reviews! (You can find some of them in the “Selected Writings” section of this website.) The second half of the book consists of my column, “The Stupidity Watch,” which has run in every issue of the American Rationalist since I took over the editorship with the July/August 2011 issue. Here is the complete table of contents:
I have ordered some copies and should get them soon. If people are interested in purchasing this book directly from me, they are welcome to do so; but I will have to charge a price ($15.00) slightly higher than the list price for the privilege. You can reserve your copy in advance, and I will mail them out when they show up here.
Other books are progressing. Dark Regions Press has sent out a press release for Michael Shea’s Demiurge: The Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales of Miichael Shea, which I edited. Here is the publisher’s webpage about it: http://www.darkregions.com/press-release-demiurge-complete-cthulhu-mythos-tales-michael-shea. The book contains the title story (an unpublished novella that is indirectly Lovecraftian), along with the complete contents of Copping Squid and Other Mythos Tales (2009), along with several other stories. A splendid book overall!
Dark Regions Press has also sent out a press release about my Lovecraftian anthology The Red Brain: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (http://www.darkregions.com/press-release-red-brain-great-tales-cthulhu-mythos-edited-s-t-joshi). This will also be a humdinger, so order soon!
I have made tremendous progress on the writing of my Lovecraftian memoirs, What Is Anything? The book already stands at nearly 100,000 words, with about 20,000 more to go. I will probably continue to add to it into early 2018, so that it can be as up-to-date as possible. The book’s overall outline is as follows:
At a later date I’ll come up with more interesting titles than these. So far I’ve already written the first eight chapters and am more than halfway through the ninth. Lots of ground to cover! I keep having to go back and fill in things that I’d forgotten to mention. I have (egotistically) not made as many mentions of my colleagues as I would have liked, but that may change as I go over the whole book at a later stage. I hope it will provide readers with at least a fraction of the entertainment it has provided me in writing it.
I still have copies of Gothic Lovecraft here and am prepared to let them go at an even greater discount from the list price: $35.00 for the trade edition and $65.00 for the signed/limited. Come and get ’em!
I see that Cadabra Records is soon to release its recording of Robert W. Chambers’s The Yellow Sign. I wrote the liner notes for this LP. The cover art certainly looks appealing. I imagine I will eventually have some copies to sell to interested customers.
Cover of Cadabra Records’ LP of The Yellow Sign
I have received some updates from Centipede Press about the many projects (ten of them, totalling twelve volumes) that I have assembled. I now hear that my Arthur Machen compilation, the first of the three new volumes of the Centipede Press Library of Weird Fiction, may appear around August. The immense Masters of the Weird Tale volume of Robert W. Chambers is due out in September, while a slim volume of D. H. Lawrence’s weird tales is scheduled for October. The two-volume Robert Aickman edition may appear in November. Perhaps coming out sooner than any of these is a volume of John Metcalfe’s complete weird tales. So some progress is being made! Other volumes (Bierce [Library of Weird Fiction], Stoker [Library of Weird Fiction], W. C. Morrow, Le Fanu, E. F. Benson) are still far off. I also assembled a second volume of W. H. Pugmire’s stories, and that should be out this summer or fall.
Hippocampus Press is already gearing up for the NecronomiCon with an array of new publications. I have mentioned that my Varieties of the Weird Tale is due out soon, as well as my edition of Lord Dunsany’s The Ghost in the Corner and Other Stories. I am currently compiling the index to the huge edition of the joint correspondence of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, to be titled Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill. The book will be close to 800 pages. I have also gone over Jonathan Thomas’s next story collection, titled Naked Revenants and Other Fables of Old and New England. We have also agreed to publish a Lovecraftian short novel written by W. H. Pugmire and David Barker, Witches in Dreamland, but I’m not sure this will be out by the convention. Many more publications will no doubt appear!
Things continue to hum along here in their usual hectic fashion. There finally seems to be some signs of a break in the logjam of my completed books (numbering nearly 30 at present). Hippocampus Press has announced the imminent publication of my volume of essays entitled Varieties of the Weird Tale (http://www.hippocampuspress.com/mythos-and-other-authors/nonfiction/varieties-of-the-weird-tale-by-s.-t.-joshi), announced for this month, and also of the edition of Lord Dunsany’s uncollected and unpublished stories, The Ghost in the Corner (http://www.hippocampuspress.com/mythos-and-other-authors/fiction/the-ghost-in-the-corner-and-other-stories-by-lord-dunsany), which I compiled with the invaluable assistance of Martin Andersson; this book should appear in April.
I appear not to have announced that I have completed my treatise Varieties of Crime Fiction, which is now making the rounds of a few publishers. The final table of contents is as follows:
I am so taken with some of these writers that I continue to read them in my spare time. However, that spare time may become much more limited soon, because I am contemplating writing a book called 21st-Century Horror, which will discuss some of the leading weird writers of our day—Caitlín R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, Jonathan Thomas, Michael Aronovitz, Jason V Brock, Kelly Link, Elizabeth Hand, Glen Hirshberg, John Langan, and others. In essence, this might constitute the third volume of my Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, since I was only able to cover a few of these authors (and in a somewhat cursory manner) in that treatise.
Sean Moreland’s anthology of criticism, The Lovecraftian Poe: Essays on Influence, Reception, Interpretation, and Transformation, is scheduled to be published later this year from Lehigh University Press. I wrote the foreword to the book. It contains some fine essays on Poe’s influence on Lovecraft, including pieces by Michael Cisco, Robert H. Waugh, and John Langan; it concludes with an afterword by Caitlín R. Kiernan.
I have been informed that my anthology Black Wings I (2010) will appear in a French translation under the title Chroniques de Cthulhu (The Chronicles of Cthulhu). I cannot seem to find information on who the French publisher is, but I trust I will receive a copy of the book when it appears, so I will provide further data at that time.
The bulk of my time lately has been given to writing my “Lovecraftian memoirs”! The official title (so far) of this book is What Is Anything? Memoirs of a Life in Lovecraft. I have already written more than 45,000 words and am not even through my undergraduate years at Brown! I am frightened at how long this book may turn out to be. As it is, I am deliberately suppressing information on many personal matters and focusing on my work and my association with other Lovecraftians. But the story has a long way to go! This will presumably appear from Hippocampus Press around the time of my 60th birthday (June 22, 2018).
I am immensely proud to announce that I have received copies of David E. Schultz’s landmark edition of Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth: An Annotated Edition, just out from Hippocampus Press in hardcover. This book, quite literally decades in the making (I saw a draft of it when I first met David at Steve Mariconda’s wedding in 1986), is just about the last word on this sonnet cycle. Not only does it contain the text of the cycle (with splendid illustrations by Jason C. Eckhardt for each sonnet), but it also features a reproduction of Lovecraft’s handwritten manuscript and exemplary commentary on the poem by Schultz. The editor rightly recognises that the cycle was written at roughly the midpoint in Lovecraft’s career, thereby summing up what had gone before and being a vanguard for what would come after. The book is distinctive in printing all type in a highly attractive (and readable) green type, and is also graced with a fine dust jacket with an evocative illustration by Eckhardt. This edition is currently being sold at Hippocampus for $45, but I am happy to dispose of my few spare copies for $40.
And I have now received copies of the beautiful signed/limited edition of Gothic Lovecraft. Copies of this edition are available for $70. I still have some copies of the trade edition available for $40.
Another item that has reached me is an anthology, Another Dimension: Tales in the Tradition of Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, edited by Angel McCoy (Wily Writers, 2016). This contains my article, “On Rod Serling’s ‘Clean Kills and Other Trophies,’” along with other articles by Joe Young and David Afsharirad, and stories by Gary A. Braunbeck, “Amber Bierce” (surely a pseudonym!), S. C. Hayden, and others. I have exactly one spare copy that I am prepared to let go for $10.
I have written the foreword to a volume of Lovecraft’s Short Stories, published by the London firm of Flame Tree Publishing (http://www.flametreepublishing.com/Lovecraft-Short-Stories.html). The book is an attractively produced hardcover edition that contains many of Lovecraft’s tales early and late.
David E. Schultz and I are working hard on preparing editions of Lovecraft’s letters for publication with Hippocampus. The Letters to C. L. Moore (also containing the letters to Fritz Leiber, Henry Kuttner, and Frederic J. Pabody) will be out soon, and the mammoth Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith should follow (in a hardcover edition) in May. Lots of good stuff here!
Just a short blog this time, chiefly to announce the arrival (at long last) of copies of Gothic Lovecraft (Cycatrix Press, 2016). This all-original anthology has been magnificently designed by Jason & Sunni Brock of Cycatrix Press, and, all apart from its contents (which I think are also pretty fine), is a superlative job of book production. I have numerous copies of the trade edition, which is currently selling for $45.95, but I will be happy to let copies go for $40.00 on the usual terms.
I do not yet have copies of the signed/limited edition, but expect to have those very soon. It is currently being sold for $74.95, and I am happy to let it go for $70.00. People can reserve their copies and I will send them out as soon as they are here (probably about a week or so).
Just a reminder on the table of contents of the book:
I also have received multiple copies of the full-length LP of my readings of Clark Ashton Smith’s poems and prose-poems, The Muse of Hyperborea (http://www.cadabrarecords.com/2017/01/clark-ashton-smith-the-muse-of-hyperborea-read-by-s-t-joshi/). I haven’t actually listened to the recording as yet, but it contains a full 18 works by Smith, ranging from the inexpressibly cosmic “Ode to the Abyss” to the exquisitely poignant “From the Crypts of Memory.” I will be happy to dispose of my spare copies for $20 each.
I am thrilled to announce that Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press has decided to continue publication of our weird poetry journal, Spectral Realms, beyond issue #6, which is about to come out. Although sales of this journal have not been as robust as we would like, it seems to be a great hit among the poets themselves—and I like to think that it is providing a valuable and appealing venue for the dissemination of weird poetry. There are so many good poets out there that they need a forum like this (and many others!) to broadcast their work to readers. Now let’s hope we can do something to boost those sales!
I seem to have given a great many interviews of late. One of them, conducted by Henrik Möller, has now appeared as a podcast on a Swedish website: https://soundcloud.com/henrik-moeller-180995804/udda-ting-avsnitt-17-st-joshi. Henrik informs me that this is “95% in English,” so I trust interested listeners can enjoy it.
I also gave an interview to Hector R. Laureano, a young man in Boston who is working on a book on horror fiction, film, and music. Hector states that the book’s focus is “why we actively seek out horror.” Let’s wish him the best of luck!
Maxwell I. Gold conducted an interview of me (by email), and he has now posted it: https://thewellsoftheweird.com/2017/01/18/the-historian-of-the-supernatural-the-keeper-of-weird-fiction/. A most impressive-looking site!
I believe there are still others, but they have not been put up yet.
I am interested to see that Studies in the Fantastic, an academic journal that I began with University of Tampa Press, which lasted only two issues, has been revived. Two further issues have now come out, and this second one (#4 in all) now has a fine article by Chris Brawley on Thomas Ligotti, as well as an article that discusses Lovecraft in part: http://www.ut.edu/TampaPress/pressDetail.aspx?id=32212257271. I have not read the Lovecraft piece, but Brawley’s Ligotti article is a splendid piece of work.
I note with interest the demise of William Peter Blatty on January 7. Given, however, that very little of his work subsequent to The Exorcist (1971) is of any particular interest, and given that he recently supplied a blurb to a vicious anti-Hillary Clinton polemic, I am not sure that the passing of this person is much to be mourned.
Far more to be regretted, in my mind, is the passing of Kevin Starr, a pioneering scholar of California literature: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/us/kevin-starr-dead-california.html. Starr was gracious enough to have written the foreword to our edition of George Sterling’s collected poetry, and for that alone I shall be greatly in his debt.
I am sorry to report that Joe Morey of Dark Renaissance Books has been forced to retire from publishing because of health reasons. But luckily for me, Hippocampus Press will pick up the eight-volume Classic Weird Fiction series that I compiled for Joe. So watch for these books emerging over the next few months (and years)!
The other day I received copies of Weird Fiction Review 7 (Fall 2016), just out from Centipede Press. I believe this is another superlative (and large!—360 pp.) issue, with fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, John Shirley (in collaboraton with Don Webb), Jonathan Thomas, Nicole Cushing, and Mark Howard Jones; two articles on Robert E. Howard (by Charles A. Gramlich and Benjamin Garstad), along with articles by James Goho (on Caitlín R. Kiernan), John C. Tibbetts (on Jack Finney), J.-M. Rajala (on some lost works by Ambrose Bierce), Jason V Brock (a comparison of David Bowie and Franz Kafka), and others; and poetry by Ann K. Schwader, John Shirley, Wade German, K. A. Opperman, Ashley Dioses, Ian Futter, Christina Sng, and others (including reprints of poems by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard); an interview with William Hjortsberg; and still other items. I see that Centipede Press is currently offering the issue at a substantially discounted price (http://www.centipedepress.com/anthologies/wfreview7.html). I have a few spares available and will be happy to make them available for $20 to interested customers.
I trust that Hippocampus Press is gearing up to publish some items that should have come out in 2016, including David E. Schultz’s landmark edition of Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth. I see that Dead Reckonings Nos. 19/20 (dated, I believe, Fall 2016) is announced as available, but I have not received any copies yet. I have as many as six reviews in it. I believe my edition of Dunsany’s The Ghost in the Corner and Other Stories should be out soon, along with my collection of essays, Varieties of the Weird Tale. And there are editions of Lovecraft’s letters (to Clark Ashton Smith; to C. L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, Fritz Leiber, and others; and the “family letters,” to his mother, aunts, etc.) that are close to done and should come out later in the year.
Not even counting the above, I see that I have 26 books forthcoming from various publishers. This includes 13 from Centipede Press:
I have 8 books coming out from Dark Renaissance Books (in the Classic Weird Fiction series):
Then there are other titles from random publishers:
I was thrilled to read Ramsey Campbell’s new novel, The Searching Dead (PS Publishing), apparently the first in a trilogy of Lovecraftian novels that he is writing. This novel’s Lovecraftian elements are somewhat subdued, but I suspect Ramsey is setting the stage for more overt references later. But the novel is splendidly atmospheric, with subtle and cumulative hints of weirdness throughout. Set in 1952, the novel also seems to be heavily autobiographical, as it appears to reflect Campbell’s own Catholic upbringing and his eventual renunciation of orthodox religious belief. The book seems to be a bit difficult to acquire in the US, so readers may have to order from the publisher: http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-searching-dead-hardcover-by-ramsey-campbell-4047-p.asp. Possibly copies are available with Mark Ziesing or Subterranean Press.
Another book I read recently is a more problematical item. This is Paul La Farge’s novel The Night Ocean (due out in March from Penguin Press) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-night-ocean-paul-la-farge/1124019928?ean=9781101981085. This is an historical novel about Lovecraft’s relations with R. H. Barlow, especially as the former visited the latter in Florida in the 1930s. But, aside from making all manner of silly errors regarding the work of Lovecraft and others, the author cannot help suggesting that Lovecraft and Barlow had some kind of homosexual relationship—even if the work that Barlow is supposed to have written, in which this relationship is told in graphic detail (under the title Erotonomicon), proves to be a hoax. And in spite of the fact that La Farge comes down hard on the malice and intolerance of the “social justice warriors” (his term) who have excoriated Lovecraft for his racism and anti-Semitism, La Farge’s book itself leaves the reader with the impression that Lovecraft is nothing more than the sum of his prejudices. No attempt is made to account for the universal and ever-growing popularity of Lovecraft’s work around the world. Nevertheless, the novel is compelling, and readers should make up their own minds about the kind of portrait of Lovecraft it presents.