I am thrilled to announce that copies of What Is Anything? Memoirs of a Life in Lovecraft have now reached me. It is a beautiful hardcover book of 346 pages, with a splendid and evocative dust jacket illustration by my old friend Jason C. Eckhardt. I have a grand total of six copies available to sell to interested customers. The publisher has terminated the discounted price he had offered for pre-publication orders, and the book is currently available at the list price of $45.00 (https://www.hippocampuspress.com/h.p-lovecraft/about-hp-lovecraft/what-is-anything-memoirs-of-a-life-in-lovecraft). I am happy to offer my six spare copies for $40.00, on the usual terms.
In addition, I have received copies of the first two volumes of my Classics of Gothic Horror series from Hippocampus Press: From the Dead by E. Nesbit and Lost Ghosts by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Each volume contains the totality of the weird short fiction of these writers, along with an extensive introduction and a bibliography. Both books feature superb cover art by Aeron Alfrey (cover design by Daniel V. Sauer). Each book is selling for $20.00 from the publisher, but I have an abundance of copies that I am offering for $15.00 each.
In addition, I have a few copies of the newest issue (#23) of Dead Reckonings, containing my reviews of James Ulmer’s The Fire Doll and Mark Samuels’s The Prozess Manifestations along with my pungent essay on “The Theory and Practice of Satirical Criticism” (an expansion and revision of my blog post of November 6, 2017). I see that I also still have a fair number of copies of the last issue (#8) of Spectral Realms. So I am now making a special offer: Anyone who purchases any of the titles cited above can also secure a copy of these magazines for only $5.00!
Otherwise, things continue at their usual entertainingly hectic pace. Jason V Brock and I are working hard to complete our mostly original anthology, Future Weird: Tales at the Intersection of Science Fiction and the Weird. We have already received splendid original contributions from Cody Goodfellow, James Gunn, Joe R. Lansdale, Lisa Mannetti, William F. Nolan, Darrell Schweitzer, John Shirley, and others, and we have bolstered the volume with reprints of relatively obscure stories by Charles Beaumont, Nancy Kilpatrick, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, F. Paul Wilson, and others. Several other authors expect to send in original contributions soon.
I am pleased to note that Hippocampus Press has agreed to publish a volume of Mark Samuels’s best stories, under the title The Age of Decayed Futurity. It is a splendid volume that reprints the best stories from Samuels’s seven previous collections, and Mark expects to write one or two new stories for the book. I imagine it will appear next year.
The next issues of Spectral Realms (#9) and the Lovecraft Annual (#12) are nearing completion. The latter has some splendid essays by such scholars as Kenneth W. Faig, Jr., Duncan Norris, Darrell Schweitzer, Bobby Derie, James Goho, Robert H. Waugh, and several others. I have written a pungent review (presented here) of a scholarly book on Lovecraft that came out last year, under the peculiar title The Love of Ruins, by Scott Cutler Shershow and Scott Michaelsen (State University of New York Press, 2017). It is a deeply silly book, as I hope my review indicates. In addition, I have written a brief article on Michael Houellebecq’s treatment of Lovecraft’s racism in H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (1991).
The other day I was interviewed by Alexandre Philippe, who is preparing a comprehensive documentary on the film Alien, the fortieth anniversary of whose release (1979) will occur next year. This documentary should be widely shown at film festivals (including Sundance) as well as available on Netflix and other venues. I of course spoke of Lovecraft’s extensive influence on the film, via the screenplay of Dan O’Bannon and the set designs by H. R. Giger.
Perhaps less widely available will be Darin Coelho’s documentary on Clark Ashton Smith, which I understand will soon be issued by Hippocampus Press and will also be shown at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, this October. I was interviewed for the documentary, although I do not know how extensively I am featured in it.
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Michael Fantina (b. 1946) a few days ago. Michael had sent some of his last poems (one of them actually about me) to me some months ago, and they will appear in Spectral Realms #9. I also arranged to have a collection of Michael’s scintillating fantasy tales (inspired by the work of Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith) accepted by PS Publishing, and I trust that publisher will proceed with the publication of the volume next year. I knew Michael only by correspondence, but felt a deep attachment to him because of our mutual love of weird poetry and weird and fantasy fiction.
I was thrilled to receive copies of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s Houses Under the Sea: Mythos Tales, a spectacularly beautiful volume from Centipede Press (http://www.centipedepress.com/horror/housesunderthesea.html). It is a beautiful hardcover slipcased volume assembling the totality of Caitlín’s Lovecraftian tales. I wrote the introduction, and Michael Cisco has written an afterword. The volume is illustrated by a quartet of talented artists: Piotr Jablonski, Richard A. Kirk, John Kenn Mortensen, and Vince Locke. The book is not cheap (the current list price is $225), but I am happy to offer my one spare copy for the bargain price of $175—and included in that price will be priority mail shipping in a sturdy box.
Another item that I was delighted to see is an Italian translation of my compilation of Lovecraft’s atheistic writings, published here as Against Religion (Sporting Gentleman, 2010). The Italian edition is titled Contro la Religione and is issued by a firm called Nessun Dogma, apparently based in Rome. It is a fine-looking paperback volume, with translations by Guido Negretti and an afterword by Carlo Pagetti, a leading Italian scholar on Lovecraft and weird fiction. I have several spare copies of the book for interested customers. The list price in Italy is 18 euros, and I am happy to offer the book for $15.00.
Yet another item that delights and amuses me is a Spanish translation of my pungent essay on Jeff VanderMeer (“An Aesthetic Catastrophe”), appearing in a journal entitled Ulthar (April 2018). Here is the magazine’s website: http://ultharmagazine.blogspot.com. My piece (“Jeff VanderMeer: una catástrofe estética”) appears on pp. 84–101 and is extensively illustrated (chiefly with stills and other matter from the film Annihilation). I have no spare copies of this item, so interested readers should purchase it through the website.
Speaking of Spanish, I have recently purchased (or been given) three volumes of Clark Ashton Smith’s work in Spanish, as I needed information on them for the Clark Ashton Smith bibliography (which is now nearly done and should be out this summer or early fall). The three books in question are:
The first is a paperback, the other two are hardcovers. I have no particular use for these volumes, so if anyone is interested in taking them off my hands, I will be happy to let them to for $15.00 each (or $25.00 for any two, and $35.00 for all three).
Another book on which I have been working lately is The Astounding History of Fantasy and Horror, a lavishly illustrated volume to be published by the English firm, Flame Tree Publishing. I will apparently be listed on the title page as a consultant (I say “apparently,” because the title page did not appear in the pdf they sent me!), and I wrote the introduction. The volume’s various chapters were written by a number of leading scholars. I was not privy to the authors of some of the chapters, although I know that Mike Ashley and Matt Cardin wrote one each. The later chapters were, in my estimation, unduly weighted toward media (especially film and television), and the book as a whole seemed more focused on “fantasy” than “horror”; but I hope that my various recommendations to augment discussions of leading weird writers past and present had some effect. And Ramsey Campbell wrote a foreword! I imagine the book will be out later this year. At a minimum, it will be a physically impressive volume, with numerous illustrations of various sorts that ably complement the text.
I was interested to see that the response to Laird Barron’s crime novel Blood Standard (to be officially released on May 29) has been a little less than enthusiastic, if some early reviews in prominent venues are any guide. Consider this from Publishers Weekly (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7352-1287-9). Then there is this from Kirkus Reviews (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/laird-barron/blood-standard-an-isaiah-coleridge-novel/). “Often formulaic” … “Hard-boiled without being distinctive.” Not so hot, as HPL once said (in reference to one of his line drawings).
To augment Mr. Barron’s discomfiture, there is the awkward fact that a hard-boiled novel that I wrote, The Removal Company, received a glowing review in Publishers Weekly when it appeared in 2009 (under my pseudonym “J. K. Maxwell”): https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4344-5717-2. Now, one or two reviews do not constitute a critical consensus … and I daresay Mr. Barron’s sycophants are already peppering various online sites with lavish encomiums of his book. But the opinions of more objective and critical evaluators offer a salutary antidote to this sort of bootlicking.
I have just returned from a quick trip to a place of great significance in the life of H. P. Lovecraft—none other than Quebec, a city he ranked only third (behind Providence and Charleston) among his favourite places in the North American continent. The visit was arranged by Qais Pasha, a young Canadian filmmaker of Pakistani parentage who is in the process of assembling a documentary about HPL’s fascination with Quebec. Along with his camera man, Ben Wong, and his sound man, Adrian Pop, we tramped all around Quebec over the course of two full days (Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29), as well as filming a separate interview on more general matters pertaining to Lovecraft.
As this was my first visit to Quebec (a place I should have visited prior to completing my biography of Lovecraft, given its importance to HPL), I was thrilled to see all manner of landmarks that I had only read about—chiefly in HPL’s long travelogue (A Description of the Town of Quebeck, 1930–31), but also in various letters on the subject. The following picture shows me admiring the spectacular interior of a church:
Unfortunately, I cannot recall which church this was! It could not have been the Anglican Cathedral (which HPL admired), since we went there on Sunday afternoon, only to find it closed. It also could not have been St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, since that church has now been converted into a library (!), although many of the interior elements of the church still remain. I think this was Notre Dame des Victoires, which HPL admired.
Another photo has me looking over one of the parapets of St. John’s Gate, near Artillery Park, with ominous cloud formations in the background:
Finally, there is a photo of the plaque that was set up on a building where HPL stayed on one of his visits to Quebec. This plaque dates to 2001—a period when even Providence had not set up anything remotely similar to honour its illustrious scion.
We stayed at the Hotel St. Paul, near the old train station. HPL himself had stayed at a hotel of this name, but the current hotel is a relatively new one (although the outer façade looks old), either on the exact spot of the older hotel or very near it. We explored the train station (a cavernous building that reminded me of Providence’s Union Station), along with other such sites as the Rue Sous-le-Cap (“the narrowest street in Canada”), the “oldest house in Quebec” (which HPL believed to date to 1641, but in fact dates to 1675–76—now a restaurant, where we had lunch on Sunday), Dufferin Terrace (which presents a spectacular view of the harbour and the adjacent land masses across the St. Lawrence), Point Lévis (a town on the other side of the St. Lawrence which presents a vista of Quebec much appreciated by HPL), Montmorency Falls (an impressive waterfall some miles outside of the city), the Ursuline Convent, and other sites.
The only drawback was that Sunday was rainy throughout the day, and exposed areas like Dufferin Terrace were tremendously windy (the umbrella that Qais had purchased for me bit the dust there); so I am not certain how well the footage of these sites turned out. Qais says it came out quite well, so let’s hope for the best. When I came home, I was able to locate a map from the B & M (Baltimore & Maine) Railroad’s online archives that appears to indicate the exact route that his train took on his 1930 visit.
There is obviously a great deal to be done in shaping the raw footage that was shot and in adding other ancillary material; but I am confident that Qais and his crew can produce a splendid documentary that illuminates this significant and heretofore unexamined aspect of Lovecraft’s life.
On matters closer to home…I am preparing to perform Mendelssohn’s spectacular oratorio Elijah with the Northwest Chorale on May 12 and 19 (http://www.nwchorale.org). I can assure you that this will be a fabulous performance, with a full “Romantic” orchestra. The second performance will be recorded and eventually made into a CD (or, more likely, a 2-CD package, like our recent Israel in Egypt CD). Any locals who are otherwise unoccupied are urged to attend one or both concerts!
I now see that the distinguished Lovecraftian illustrator Pete Von Sholly is in the process of gathering the illustrations he has done for the seventeen volumes of PS Publishing’s Lovecraft Illustrated series into a lavish volume. Every Lovecraftian should support this undertaking, and I trust you will take the time to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign for the book (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1268917023/pete-von-shollys-lovecraft-illustrated/posts/2175539). I will be writing an introduction to the book in due course of time.
I am approaching the completion of my treatise, 21st-Century Horror. Currently I am writing my essay on Clint Smith (whose second collection, The Skeleton Melodies, will be published next year by Hippocampus Press). After that, I have essays on Simon Strantzas, Reggie Oliver, Gemma Files, Jason V Brock, and Nicole Cushing to write—and that will be it! The book will come to about 100,000 words, and Pete Crowther of PS Publishing has already expressed an interest in it. It will, in essence, be the third volume of Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction.
Mary and I have just returned from a nightmarish visit to Minnesota. Why nightmarish? Well, we thought that April would be a safe enough month to visit that state—and so, too, I daresay, did Mary’s niece Laura Miller (no relation, mercifully, to the dreadful journalist who has made such a fool of herself in her discussions of Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, and other writers), who was to be married on April 14. We got to the Twin Cities (staying with Mary’s mother, Nancy Krawczak) safely enough on the 10th, and on the 12th had a very pleasant meeting with Dwayne Olson, also paying a visit to DreamHaven Books (http://dreamhavenbooks.com), where I signed numerous copies of my various books. But then the snow that was forecast for the weekend started to fall—and fall—and fall. … In short, the snow began on Friday and did not let up until (I believe) the wee hours of Sunday morning.
We managed to get to the venue for the wedding (the basilica in Minneapolis) safely enough, although even that was touch and go, as many streets were not ploughed (I believe city officials felt they needed to wait until the snowfall had ended before bringing out the plows, so that they wouldn’t have to do the work over and over again). But when we tried to get to the reception—held in the town of Stillwater, about 25 miles away—we simply were unable to get there. On three separate occasions, as Mary valiantly drove her mother’s vehicle, I had to push the car out of snowdrifts into which it had gotten stuck. At last we determined that we simply couldn’t go on—either to the reception or even back home. We pulled into a gas station and attempted to call a taxi (as well as drivers working for Uber or Lyft) to take us home—all to no avail.
At last, Mary took a bold initiative. Seeing a snow plow being filled up with gas, she approached the driver and pleaded with him to drive us back home—about a 15-minute drive, under ordinary circumstances. We of course offered to pay him for his services, and he accepted. He and a colleague took us back home—it probably took close to half an hour, and the plow itself found the going treacherous, since the streets in Nancy’s development were entirely unploughed. But we managed it! We cobbled together a reasonably nice dinner of our own—and then went to bed!
We were fearful of the prospects of flying back to Seattle the next day, but by then the streets (and especially the freeways) were indeed reasonably well ploughed and our flight was theoretically on schedule. In fact, it was delayed nearly three hours on the runway, but we finally did take off. I was never so glad to get back to a civilised climate. I was also so hungry that I immediately drove to Wendy’s for a double cheeseburger!
But happier events are in the offing. I was pleased to find that my essay on Richard Gavin (“Richard Gavin: The Nature of Horror”) has been accepted for publication in Vastarien, a new literary journal devoted to the study of weird fiction being edited by Matt Cardin and Jon Padgett. I have not been informed as to which issue my essay will appear in, but I imagine it will be soon enough.
I see that my memoirs, What Is Anything?, are now available for advance order: https://www.hippocampuspress.com/h.p-lovecraft/about-hp-lovecraft/what-is-anything-memoirs-of-a-life-in-lovecraft. As can be seen, it features a superbly cosmic dust jacket illustration by Jason C. Eckhardt—its only drawback being my own ugly mug appearing in three different renditions (at ages 20, 40, and 60, I imagine). I cannot resist printing the full photo layout of the book here (6 pages of photos to be scattered throughout the book), to give you some idea of the other individuals who will be discussed in the book. Only 250 copies of the hardcover will be printed (they will not be signed—you’ll have to come to the publication party scheduled for my birthday in New York, where I will be signing some copies), so better order soon!
The Little Prince with his father and mother. S. T. in Poona, age 4. The Joshi family c. 1962): Tryambak, Ragini, Nalini, S. T., Padmini.
S. T. at Leal School (Urbana, Ill.). S. T. at 1107 W. Green Street (Urbana, Ill.). S. T. at 4621 Cornelius Avenue (Indianiapolis, Ind.). S. T. at 405 S. Normandy Drive (Munci, Ind.).
S. T. and Fritz Leiber at Lovecraft panel, Iguanacon (Phoenix), September 1978. Crispin Burnham, Keith Daniels (standing), Donald R. Burleson, Bob Eber, Will Hart (standing), S. T., and Dirk W. Mosig at Iguanacon. S. T., Ken Neily, Donald R. Burleson, Marc A. Michaud, and Jason Eckhardt at H. P. Lovecraft's gravesite c. 1979). Charles Hoffman, Robert M. Price, [unidentified], Marc A. Cerasini, S. T., Sam Gafford, and Peter Cannon in New York c. 1983).
Will Murray, Jennifer B. Lee, Jon Cooke, and S. T. at H. P. Lovecraft Memorial Plaque, John Hay Library, Brown University (August 20, 1990). Gail Schultz, David E. Schultz, S. T., Scott Briggs, and Hubert Van Calenbergh at NecronomiCon, Providence, R.I. (1993?). Ramsey Campbell and S. T., NecronomiCon (Providence, R.I.), 1995. T. E. D. Klein and S. T. in New York (April 2003).
Linda Aro, Chris Pfaff, Leslie, and S. T. in New York (April 2003). Sunni K Brock and Jerad Walters in Lakewood, Col., 2014. S. T. and Lady Dunsany at Dunsany Castle, 2013. S. T., Mary, Sunni K Brock, Jason V Brock, and William F. Nolan at our wedding, 2014.
S. T. playing the violin, 2014. Greg Lowney, W. H. Pugmire, and S. T., 2017. S. T. and Mary in Santorini, 2017. S. T., Jonathan Thomas, and Derrick Hussey in Seattle (2016)
I am also delighted to see that Sean Moreland’s anthology of essays on “Supernatural Horror in Literature” has now been officially accepted by Palgrave Macmillan. It appears that the book will simply be titled Supernatural Horror (Moreland’s chosen title had been The Call of Cosmic Panic). It could appear as early as this fall. I have written an essay for the book entitled “Lovecraft and the Titans: A Critical Legacy,” focusing on HPL’s discussion of Machen, Dunsany, Blackwood, and M. R. James in the final chapter of his essay.
Some time ago I was encouraged to investigate the novels of Adam Nevill, a young British writer who had contacted me all the way back in 1990 to pass on a thesis on Lovecraft that he had written for a British university, but from whom I had not heard since then. Nevill has written a number of impressive novels in the past decade and a half, and I now present my chapter on Nevill from 21st-Century Horror. The person who recommended him to me was none other than Ramsey Campbell, whose comment to me (that Nevill has a “good sense of dread”) I have boldly used as the subtitle of my essay. I wish I had had time to read more of Nevill’s work—he has published two collections of short stories—but time is short! I hope my piece gives some idea of my general admiration for this dynamic young writer.
I am happy to announce the acceptance of my Varieties of Crime Fiction by Wildside Press. I think this is just the right press for this book, which is designed as a popular (not academic) study of the subject. I have no idea when Wildside will issue the book, but I have signed a contract and hope to see proofs in due course of time.
A highly interesting book has come to me from Henrik Möller, a Swedish writer and filmmaker who has teamed up with the artist Lars Krantz to produce a book (bilingual in Swedish and English) called Vägen till Necronomicon / Creation of the Necronomicon. The book was actually published in Latvia by a firm called C’est Bon Kultur (2017). It consists of brief passages about Lovecraft and the Necronomicon with splendid black-and-white illustrations by Krantz (a well-known comic book artist). This distinctive publication is well worth securing by all devotees of Lovecraft. Here is some more information on it: https://www.bokus.com/bok/9789187825125/vagen-till-necronomicon-creation-of-the-necronomicon/.
The other day I had occasion to do some good old-fashioned library research. In this case, I was attempting to locate a letter by Leah Bodine Drake that was published in the American Mercury (September 1948). (This was, of course, the magazine that H. L. Mencken had co-founded in 1924, but he had retired from its editorship long before, in 1933.) I found the letter at the University of Washington Library and made a scan of it—which I present below, with a large part of my gnarled hand accompanying the page:
Otherwise, I continue frantically inputting information (secured by the diligence and tenacity of David E. Schultz and Scott Connors) for the Clark Ashton Smith bibliography. That book will be close to 600 pages when it appears later this year from Hippocampus!
Jason V Brock and I are also focusing on the completion of our anthology Future Weird, which has garnered some powerful contributions of late. We hope to finish the book in the next two months—and also hope to secure a good publisher by then, if not much earlier.
Recently a screed against me written by one Weston Ochse last November was re-posted on the S. T. Joshi Enthusiasts Facebook page. I had not read this document when it was originally posted, since with exquisite moral delicacy Mr. Ochse believed that speaking about me behind my back was a more admirable course than addressing me directly. All I can say, now that I have digested this post, is that it amazes me how someone can go around seething with such hatred and resentment. Don’t you get tired, Mr. Ochse? Are these not utterly fatiguing emotions to feel? The inspirations for Mr. Ochse’s post were my essays on Laird Barron and Brian Keene, which, in an impeccable instance of Freudian projection, he himself believes to be motivated by hatred—this in spite of the fact that (as I have repeated time out of mind) there was not one phrase about the personal characteristics of either writer in these pieces, but only a dissection of their literary work. But Mr. Ochse’s own screed goes well beyond whining like a baby at my purportedly unjust treatment of his pals; he attempts to deliver a succession of body-blows to my work in general and my place in the field. Well, let me state bluntly that the word of Mr. Ochse is not likely to carry the day. But some counter-arguments to his post may be in order even at this late date, for they get to the heart of so much that is wrong with this field.
Mr. Ochse maintains that my piece on Laird Barron was not in any sense “academic” and amounts to something he might have read in an “English 226” class. I am not clued in on the cryptic significance of that number, but no doubt an “academic” of Mr. Ochse’s high standing no doubt can explain it to us. I am at least not to be classified among college freshmen, who customarily take classes in the 100 range. So I guess my paper qualifies as the work of a fair-to-middling sophomore. Well, that’s something!
But a question immediately arises: what exactly is Mr. Ochse’s authority for uttering such an Olympian pronouncement? He holds a B.A. from some place called Excelsior College (Albany, NY) and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from some entity named National University (La Jolla, CA). Even though these institutions of higher learning are not very well known, they are no doubt considerably more prestigious than the colleges I attended, Brown (B.A. and M.A.) and Princeton (half of a Ph.D.). And I repeat that Mr. Ochse is himself an academic of impressive credentials. He teaches (or has taught) at Cochise Community College, wherever that might be, whereas I have never taught anywhere, being a dropout from Princeton Graduate School (where I scornfully discarded the Paul Elmer Fellowship in Classical Philosophy).
But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? When Mr. Ochse opines whether anything I have published has been “peer-reviewed,” I am humbly forced to say: “Well, yes.” Aside from random articles in such peer-reviewed journals as Extrapolation, American Literary Realism, and others, I have had thirty-nine books issued by a variety of academic publishers. (I list these publishers in my blog of September 6, 2017.) In each case, these books were evaluated by two or three bona fide academicians hired by the publisher, who then pronounced the books academically rigorous enough to be published. I am of course gratified that these professors should be so charitable toward a non-academic “barbarian and alien” (as Lovecraft would have said) such as myself. What is more, the great majority of these books were reviewed favourably in the academic press. Let us now consider how many books Mr. Ochse published with academic publishers. The answer is readily forthcoming: zero. That’s right, zero. But let’s never forget that Mr. Ochse is an “academic” and I’m not!
Mr. Ochse goes on to make the astounding claim that I have illegitimately profited from the work of the impoverished dreamer from Providence, H. P. Lovecraft. He seems incensed that so many books of Lovecraft’s work found in bookstores bear my name. Well, to anyone who loathes me as much as Mr. Ochse does I daresay this ubiquity of my despised moniker must indeed be highly annoying; but let me say here and now that, in the great majority of cases, publishers have solicited me to assemble these editions; I did not solicit the publishers. This process started in 1982, when James Turner (managing editor of Arkham House) sought me out at the World Fantasy Convention in New Haven to prepare corrected texts of Lovecraft’s fiction, and has carried on through most of the other editions that I have edited, including my three Penguin editions. There are, of course, some exceptions: I worked closely with Marc Michaud of Necronomicon Press to assemble various small editions of Lovecraft’s obscure work (which required extensive research to unearth and annotate), and I did approach Derrick Hussey with the idea of publishing Lovecraft’s Collected Essays (2004–06; 5 vols.)—for which I was paid nothing—as well as the recent variorum edition of Lovecraft’s fiction.
Even those editions of Lovecraft that do not explicitly identify me as editor—such as Joyce Carol Oates’s edition of Lovecraft’s Tales (1997) and the Library of America edition (2005), edited by Peter Straub—use my corrected texts. For the use of these texts I was again paid nothing. I felt it was important that my texts receive wide dissemination in contrast to earlier, corrupt texts. I very much doubt that Mr. Ochse (since he does not do work of this kind) has any conception of the amount of time, effort, expertise, and research that have gone into the preparation of many of these editions. If I were to calculate what rate of payment I received from all these editions, I would have to estimate that it amounts to perhaps a dime per hour. No one is likely to become financially secure preparing editions of H. P. Lovecraft!
Mr. Ochse also believes that we should all be supporting one another as writers rather than tearing one another down. A laudable sentiment, indeed! I would be the first to hang up my satirical barbs if certain other figures—Ross E. Lockhart, Scott Nicolay, Nick Mamatas, and, yes, Laird Barron—were to do the same when it comes to addressing me and other individuals. But they seem in no way inclined to do that. So the question becomes: why doesn’t Mr. Ochse condemn these worthies instead of merely belabouring me? Is there some esoteric reason why these gents receive a pass for their intemperate vituperation (almost always uttered behind my back) and I don’t? Trust me, my own blogs could have been written by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in comparison to the torrent of abuse I have laughed off from these and other individuals over the past several years. But Mr. Ochse is apparently not bothered by these attacks in the slightest. And his own screed against me, as I have mentioned, is itself so full of hatred, insult, and resentment that it unwittingly undercuts his “Can’t we all get along?” exhortation.
But perhaps Mr. Ochse is referring to reviews or critical essays—in which case I fear I cannot follow him. For he seems to be suggesting that we should all puff up one another’s work as if it were all superlatively great—but who could possibly agree with such a naïve assessment? Is it really the case that Brian Keene’s work is equivalent to that of Ramsey Campbell? If it isn’t, then why is it some kind of treason to say so, as Mr. Ochse seems to believe? Are there to be no critical standards in our field? Is everything uniformly praiseworthy? I have stated repeatedly that my screed on Keene was deliberately satirical, because his literary infamies are so flamboyantly extreme that only satire is sufficient to deal with them. But I maintain that my essays on Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas, Paul Tremblay, Jeff VanderMeer, and others are unequivocally fair and balanced; if I find that these authors come up a little short of literary excellence, it is because that is my informed judgment as a critic.
We do our field no favours by pretending that anything written by anyone is worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. Distinctions need to be made; for the long-term health of the genre, only the worthiest products (as determined by a consensus of opinion by well-informed critics and readers) should be promoted. I am well aware that tastes and standards change over time, so that the reputations of some authors rise and others fall; but I believe it is still possible to say that quality wins out over the long term. It is particularly essential, in my judgment, to ascertain whether those writers who have attained popular or critical acclaim are actually deserving of their accolades. In all too many instances they are not. Long ago I popped the bubbles of overrated writers such as Stephen King and Clive Barker, and I will continue this mission for the foreseeable future. How can this be considered “literary bullying”? That is a grotesque and disingenuous misuse of the term. I have never—I repeat, never—trashed a novice or obscure writer with a satirical article or review. What would be the point? On the contrary, I have assisted dozens of apprentice writers, helping them improve their craft so that a good many of them are now established professionals who have little need of my help. As for Mr. Keene—let us recall that he received (by some inexplicable twist of fate) the Grand Master Award at the 2014 World Horror Convention! That would seem to suggest that he is hardly in the novice class, and I daresay he would be mightily offended if he were considered anything but a tough-guy professional. If he really is such a delicate flower that he needs Mr. Ochse to defend him from hostile criticism—well, that’s his lookout!
Has Mr. Ochse forgotten the derivation of the word “criticism”? It comes from the Greek verb kritein, which originally meant “to divide” (as in a piece of land), but then developed the figurative meaning of “to judge, to distinguish, to discriminate.” This is why I (following the lead of Ezra Pound, Ivor Winters, Wayne C. Booth, and others) believe that it is a central function of criticism to discriminate—most particularly between good writing and bad.
I have stated until I am blue in the face that criticism is not an exact science but an exercise of critical judgment; and my judgments are meant to be suggestive, not prescriptive. If there are those who find my judgments unsound, then the thing to do is not to vilify me with all manner of intemperate abuse but to offer counter-arguments based on an alternative reading of the material in question (and this requires something a bit more detailed and cogent than merely saying “I like this book!” or “I think this guy’s a good writer!”). This is how rational people conduct a debate of this kind. It is a lesson Mr. Ochse and those who think like him seem incapable of learning.
I am pleased to announce the receipt of my 252nd book—my edition of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rocking-Horse Winner and Other Supernatural Tales from Centipede Press (http://www.centipedepress.com/horror/rockinghorsewinner.html). It is a fine-looking book—but that is hardly a surprise from this publisher. I am informed that the book may be sold out already, but I have a few copies that I am willing to let go for $40. And since the response to my previous offer to sell copies of Spectral Realms (issues 6, 7, and 8) and Lovecraft’s Library (4th rev. ed.) was rather less than overwhelming, I am prepared to throw in copies of Spectral Realms for $5.00 and Lovecraft’s Library for $10.00 to those who purchase my three spare copies of the Lawrence book.
I am informed that I am once again the target of vitriol and billingsgate from certain quarters. The recent whining dredges up claims that do not even have the virtue of originality, as they have been aired before—that I am a “literary bully” (in which case, comments by certain of my opponents, notably Ross E. Lockhart, would seem to brand them as “literary terrorists”); that I am woefully insensible to the transcendent brilliance of that “rising star” Laird Barron; that it was unfair of me to point out the bewildering array of grammatical blunders in the work of Brian Keene (errors that the [non-existent] copy editors at his two-bit publishing houses should presumably have caught); and so on and so forth.
I could not have asked for a more pungent and triumphant confirmation of the substance of my previous blog, so I thank my antagonists for their acknowledgment of my prescience. Only days after writing that blog, in fact, I received thunderous confirmation from the Master himself. I refer to a passage in a letter by H. P. Lovecraft in which he was discussing whether there is a need for an author to be an “egotist” to produce outstanding work. Lovecraft demurred on the point, stating in part:
“The most exasperating spectacle is that of the inferior pretender who, without any of the skill or substance of greatness, possesses the coxcomb vanity & coddled neurotic egotism commonly associated with artistic eminence. These pathetic clowns fancy that they are great because they have the weakness which great persons sometimes have—as if all club-footed persons were as great as Byron because Byron had a club-foot! Actually, egotism is simply a result of the absence of thought. It is not absolutely universal among the foremost artists—Virgil, Milton, Wren, Copley, Wordsworth, Galsworthy, & scores of other front-rank creators have been thoroughly normal & modest—because the moment one starts to think, he cannot help dropping it at once …. & there is nothing about great art which utterly forbids its practitioners to use the frontal lobes of their brains.” (Letter to Helen V. Sully, 28 October 1934)
Spot-on, HPL! The question, of course, is whether my antagonists actually have anything in their frontal lobes—but that is a query for another day.
One of the more unusual criticisms now directed at me is that, as a critic, I only discuss dead white males. The timing of this criticism is singularly unfortunate, for Hippocampus Press is about to release the first two volumes of my Classics of Gothic Horror series, featuring the work of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and E[dith] Nesbit. Here is the publisher’s page for the Freeman book (https://www.hippocampuspress.com/mythos-and-other-authors/fiction/lost-ghosts-the-complete-weird-stories-of-mary-e.-wilkins-freeman) and for the Nesbit book (https://www.hippocampuspress.com/mythos-and-other-authors/fiction/from-the-dead-the-complete-weird-stories-of-e.-nesbit). Now while both these authors are emphatically dead, I believe (correct me if I am wrong) they are also emphatically not of the male gender. And in my corpus of publications I see editions (with introduction and commentary) of the work of Gertrude Atherton, Edna W. Underwood, and other non-male writers, not to mention an entire anthology called The Cold Embrace: Weird Stories by Women (Dover Publications, 2016). This book, in fact, was to be the first of a three-volume set, but a change of editors at the publishing company derailed plans for the other two volumes.
And in the many dozens of reviews I have written over the past forty years, I find discussions of the work of Sherry Austin, Jacqueline Baker, Karen L. Garst, Lois H. Gresh, Joan Wylie Hall, Susan Jacoby, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Faye Ringel, Sharon Talley, and Connie Willis. (Some of these are writers on atheism and freethought.)
But all this is too absurd. I have stated before that it is only a curdled liberalism that focuses on the racial or sexual aspects of an artist as opposed to the intrinsic merits (or lack of them) of that artist. It hardly need be added that literary merit can be found in writers of all different sorts, and I have done just that, as any reader of Unutterable Horror and other of my treatises can attest. But I flatly admit that I am such a traitor to American democratic ideals that I indulge in the vilely aristocratic and elitist principle of vaunting quality as the supreme test of literary greatness. I am on record as stating (in reply to Clive Barker’s fatuous comment that “You get your material to the largest cross-section of people you possibly can”) that “Art is not a democracy, but only an aristocracy of excellence.” I rather like that turn of phrase—it should be in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations!
Now consider some of the writers I have recently discussed in essays planned for my 21st-Century Horror book, or other individuals I have mentioned (or who have discussed me):
I suppose this means that, when all these worthies descend into their graves (let it not be soon!—they are providing me with too much amusement), no critic should be permitted to discuss their work. Of course, that is likely to happen in any event—but for entirely different reasons.
Let us pause a moment on this Keene fellow. Much as I am disinclined to attack the characters of those who perceive themselves to be my antagonists (a restraint that those same antagonists are happy to dispense with when it comes to discussing my unworthy self), I am compelled to point out some very dubious practices that this person has lately indulged in. He recently issued a podcast in which he condemned Chris Morey of Dark Regions Press for failure to pay royalties to his authors. I have no knowledge of the substance of this claim, but I can assure you that I myself have always been paid promptly and fully by Mr. Morey for all the books I have prepared for this publisher.
But we need to dig a little deeper. Exactly why did Mr. Keene issue this podcast at this particular time? Of course, the white-hot fervency of his righteous indignation on behalf of his fellow authors must always be considered; but can it be that a recent kerfuffle with Mr. Morey lent any impetus to his attempt to blacken Mr. Morey’s reputation? I refer to the fact that Mr. Morey once paid Mr. Keene an advance of $1,500 for a book—and then waited three years for the book to be delivered. It never was, and Mr. Morey then asked Mr. Keene to return the advance, which Mr. Keene reluctantly did.
Now all this is beyond my powers of understanding. Mr. Keene has always exhibited an evil facility in producing books—not surprisingly, since it would seem an easy task to churn out pseudo-literary rubbish if one pays no heed to style, grammar, coherence of plot, plausibility of character portrayal, and other elements that despicable elitists such as myself think are necessary for “good” writing. So why Mr. Keene never delivered on whatever book Mr. Morey commissioned is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But there it is. Now of course we cannot be so vulgar as to assume that this dispute had anything to do with the issuance of Mr. Keene’s podcast. That would convict Mr. Keene of being petty, vindictive, resentful, and intent on tit-for-tat vengeance, and we cannot attribute such base motives to this valiant crusader for authors’ rights. Can we?
But it gets worse. It has come to my attention that Mr. Keene is bragging about his contribution to an insane magazine for gun nuts called Prepper Survival Guide (http://www.briankeene.com/2018/02/14/prepper-survival-guide/). Please observe that this post on Mr. Keene’s website occurred on the very day of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida! And what is more, it is still available on Mr. Keene’s website. Now I have no idea whether Mr. Keene is himself a gun nut (I think the prospect is highly likely, since he proudly describes himself as a “‘white-trash’ Appalachian”) or is merely being a crass opportunist in writing for such a vile rag. Whatever the case, it does not speak well of the social morality of Brian Keene.
If the bulk of my antagonists are on the intellectual and ethical level of Mr. Keene—and they must be, if they support and defend him—then I don’t think I have much to worry about.
I am in receipt of two new items from Hippocampus Press: Spectral Realms No. 8 (Winter 2018) and the 4th revised and expanded edition of my compilation of Lovecraft’s Library: A Catalogue (2017). The former item hardly needs an introduction. The current issue of this journal of weird poetry contains spectacular contributions by such poets as Richard L. Tierney, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Ashley Dioses, Adam Bolivar, Darrell Schweitzer, K. A. Opperman, Alan Gullette, Christina Sng, John Shirley, Ann K. Schwader, and—not least—two poems by Mary Krawczak Wilson. One of its “classic reprints” is a poem written by Farnsworth Wright and published in Weird Tales under a pseudonym. It also contains a long and rigorously argued article on “Verse vs. Free Verse” by Frank Coffman. The price of this issue has now been reduced to $10.00.
Lovecraft’s Library (now fittingly bearing David E. Schultz’s name as co-compiler) now lists a total of 1085 books in Lovecraft’s library, or more than 150 titles more than the original compilation of 1980. Schultz and I have also provided much more detailed notes about Lovecraft’s use of the various titles in his work and his citations of them in his letters. This edition is priced at $15.00.
I have a fair number of copies of both titles available to interested customers and am prepared to offer them for $10.00 (Spectral Realms) and $12.00 (Lovecraft’s Library). I still have 2 copies of issue #7 of Spectral Realms, and 6 copies of issue #6. Should anyone be interested in any two issues, I would be happy to let them go for $15.00. All three issues can be purchased at $20.00.
My attention has been drawn to an interesting crowdfunding campaign to finance a new “complete” (intégrale) edition of Lovecraft’s stories in French: https://fr.ulule.com/lovecraft-prestige/. I believe this is from the same publisher that recently issued the three-volume Clark Ashton Smith edition, which I can assure you is—at least from a physical standpoint, and probably from other standpoints as well—a superlative job of book production. In fact, I believe I have been asked to supply an introduction or other commentary for the edition. So any interested readers are urged to support the venture.
And now I trust I may be allowed to vent a little.
I have to say that recent responses to my various essays and reviews on contemporary weird fiction have been even more disheartening than I had expected. I suppose I was not fully aware of the extent to which certain writers are so pathetically insecure that they cannot endure even the slightest and most constructive criticism of their immortal masterworks. They have gotten so puffed up with arrogance, self-importance, and delusions of impeccability that anything less than undiluted praise strikes them as some kind of lèse-majesté (for those of you who don’t know French, that phrase basically means treason).
But it is not the grotesque and contemptible antics of the authors themselves that is the worst part of this whole sorry spectacle. Their rabid, uncritical, and still more insecure toadies and sycophants exhibit an even more despicable and hysterical response to criticism. What they tend to do is to react in fury at such perceived slights to their lord and master and, in classic mob fashion, attempt to gang up on the bold and outspoken critic for his or her temerity in questioning the superlative greatness of the author whom they have chosen (for reasons that often remain opaque, but appear to have more to do with tribal affiliation than abstract literary merit) to idolise.
I should point out that my own essays and reviews say virtually nothing about the personalities of the authors I discuss. Even my satirical piece on Brian Keene made no mention of his character (about which I know—and want to know—nothing); I merely made some harmless witticisms directed at his multifarious crimes against the English language. And yet, he and his claque uniformly responded as if he and they have been personally attacked, and as a result their own ripostes were nothing but personal attacks upon myself. But given that these furious screeds do not address any of my fundamental critical points—or, at best, single out some tiny and insignificant issue, distort it wildly, and turn it into an attack on my character (usually—predictably enough—from the perspective of race or gender), I am forced to conclude that none of my attackers can actually find any meaningful rebuttal to the essence of my argument, and that leaves me more convinced than ever that my judgments are sound.
If these disreputable lickspittles think they can silence me with this tsunami of vitriol, they had better think again. I am more resolved than ever to utter my critical opinions fearlessly and defiantly. It is apparently a widespread belief that casting evaluative judgments, as I habitually do, is somehow not even a legitimate function of criticism; but to me it has always been central to the critic’s role. There is a great need for the critic to take on, at times, the job of a sanitation worker—clearing away literary rubbish so that works of genuine aesthetic merit can be more readily perceived by readers.
There is, in my judgment, only a single author in our field today who deserves the unstinting praise that these authors and their bootlickers fondly seek; and that is Ramsey Campbell. But even he is not immune from criticism! I like to think of myself as one of his champions, but I do not care for some few items in his extensive output. What is more, Campbell himself takes negative criticism in stride—and even makes a game of it. Consider the pamphlet Two Obscure Tales (Necronomicon Press, 1993). On a page facing the title page, under the bland heading “Other Works by Ramsey Campbell,” he has provided a bevy of extracts from hostile reviews of his various books up to that time. What is widely regarded as one of his superior novels (and, hence, one of the superior novels in all weird fiction), Incarnate (1983), was regarded as “plodding” by Library Journal and as “slow, meandering” by Kirkus Reviews. (I believe Arthur Machen takes the prize in matters of this sort, as his Precious Balms  is an entire volume of negative reviews of his work.)
Here’s my advice to these delicate flowers who cannot endure any criticism short of slavish encomium: Don’t publish your work. Just hand it out individually to those of your cronies who, in your estimation, are certain to lap it up with relish and tell you so (whether they actually enjoy it or not). That will save you the agony of less-than-enthusiastic notices of your work at the hands of insensitive oafs such as myself.
My general point is that authors, by the very act of publishing, do not get to choose their readers, nor their critics. You’d better get used to that idea if you have any inclination to maintain your status as a professional writer. I myself have developed a pretty tough hide over the decades; and when my own books come out (such as my memoirs, or a thick volume of my collected mystery and horror fiction, or my novella Something from Below, which will all appear later this year), I fully expect any number of hostile or negative evaluations. But I, for one, am capable of distinguishing between genuine criticism and vindictive vituperation. Are you?
There seems to be an unwarranted belief that I don’t care for any contemporary weird fiction—a strange attitude for people to have, given my enthusiasm for the recent work of such writers as Ramsey Campbell (the third volume of whose Lovecraftian trilogy, The Way of the Worm, I have just read in ms.—and found spectacular), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, and many others, not least of whom are my own (former) protégés Jonathan Thomas and Michael Aronovitz. (I say “former” only because I cannot regard them as “protégés” anymore, as they are now veteran writers with several books—novels and story collections—under their belts.)
All this reminds me (and I suppose I am only confirming my status as an old coot as I mention this) of those old Life cereal commercials, where a little boy named Mikey has a notorious dislike of any and all cereals—until he comes upon Life, which he gobbles up with gusto. The analogy is particularly apt in that I myself have been a devotee of Life cereal (usually with blueberries or strawberries) for many years.
So I now present a chapter on John Langan from 21st-Century Horror which I hope will indicate that I can say good things about a contemporary writer. My views of John’s work are, to be sure, mixed, and I do not indulge here in unstinted praise; but I find far more to admire in his work than to deprecate, and I trust that readers find some value in my analyses. I discuss only a portion of his third story collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals, which is not yet complete: John has not submitted the final two stories in the book, including the title story. And the publication date of 2018 is also a tad optimistic, given that the Hippocampus Press schedule for this year is rapidly filling up. But we do hope to get the volume out as expeditiously as possible once John submits those final two stories.
Otherwise I have been working diligently on the Clark Ashton Smith bibliography, which is likely to be about 400 pages in print. The index alone (names, titles, periodicals) comes to 88 single-spaced pages on my computer! I like to think it is a pretty exhaustive compilation, although no doubt we have missed some foreign editions. (I am trying to find detailed information on seven Japanese editions, dating from 1974 to 2011, but have so far found such information on only one.)
I have begun examining David E. Schultz’s toweringly impressive edition of Leah Bodine Drake’s collected writings, tentatively titled Song of the Sun. Although I will be listed as a co-editor of this volume (which I hope can appear later this year from Hippocampus), I am merely a freeloader. David has done about 95% of the work so far, and I am now adding my two-cents’ worth on various textual points and matters of annotation. Drake published the first single-author poetry collection with Arkham House (A Hornbook for Witches, 1950), but that is the least of her virtues as a poet. Her “weird” poetry is in fact a relatively small facet of her overall poetic work, which has considerable merit for its simple elegance, its fascination with myth and legend, and its depth of emotion. She also wrote some weird tales (one published in a late issue of Weird Tales) that are creditable.
Copies of Spectral Realms #8 have gone out to contributors, but have not reached here yet. I also understand that some ARCs of my memoirs, What Is Anything?, have been prepared and will be sent out to (very) select reviewers and reviewing venues. I think the best things in the book are my baby pictures.
Here’s hoping the attendees of StokerCon in Providence, R.I., can literally hold on to their hats (does anyone wear hats these days?) as they dodge the nor’easter plaguing the East Coast!
I suppose it was to be expected that I would be raked over the coals in certain circles for my critical (in every sense of the word) essay on Jeff VanderMeer. Somehow I had overlooked the plain fact that he is among those privileged few writers who are self-evidently immune from any and all criticism. I am not sure how one enters this highly exclusive and lofty club, for it is abundantly obvious that I myself am persona non grata with a vengeance.
One of the earliest defenders of Mr. VanderMeer, predictably, is the eminent Laird Barron, who also feels he is a member of that exclusive club. And yet, the sum total of his criticism of my article rests in his citing the following quotation from it:
“It is amusing to note that among VanderMeer’s characters are a black woman (Grace Stevenson), a Hispanic man (John Rodriguez), a gay man (Seth Evans), and a lesbian woman (Grace Stevenson). All very proper according to the canons of politically correct multiculturalism.”
I should have predicted that this comment would be quoted in this manner; for, taken by itself, it might suggest that I have a problem with depictions of non-white (or non-heterosexual) persons in fiction. That would be very bad—if it were true. But I beg to point out the inconvenient fact that Mr. Barron did not quote my full remarks on the subject:
“The only problem is that these figures are all so indistinguishable from one another that their ethnic or sexual characteristics are of little relevance to their overall personalities and have no bearing upon the actions that their author mechanically forces them to carry out. In particular, the scenes with Seth and his lover are so mortifyingly wooden and clumsy as to seem like parodies of gay lovemaking.”
Ah! This puts a very different complexion (pardon the pun) on my comment! One must not of course assume that Mr. Barron deliberately failed to quote this latter passage; that would make him appear disingenuous and duplicitous, at the very least. No doubt the white heat of his righteous anger blinded him to the full text.
But Mr. Barron’s citation generated a predictable barrage of faux outrage on the part of his own sycophants. One charming fellow opined that I was somehow on his “friend list” and immediately expressed the desire to “find [me] and delete [me].” I can only imagine his discomfiture when he made an awkward discovery: “Oh, I can’t find him on social media.” I am aware that, in this technological age, one’s absence from social media is tantamount to being a Flat-Earther. Or is it possible that I deliberately avoid social media in order to get some actual work done and be a productive member of society?
Otherwise, it appears that I have been accused of being a bigot, a misogynist, a transphobe, and sundry other derelictions. To which my only response is: *Sigh.* I suppose most of my antagonists are unaware that I myself have compiled books on some of these very subjects; to wit, Documents of American Prejudice (1999) and In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women (2006). The amount of research that went into these volumes is probably inconceivable to most of my valiant opponents. It would then appear—if my antagonists are correct—that I paradoxically compiled these volumes to promote the very evils I was ostensibly condemning! Anyone who reads my introduction and commentary in these books will find that interpretation a trifle implausible.
People, do you not realise what you are doing? By flinging such accusations around recklessly and with no regard for evidence, you are playing into every right-winger’s caricature of the dogmatic, intolerant liberal fascist. You are thereby bringing disrepute to the very causes you claim to be championing. You are, in fact, not liberals but dictator-wannabes (rather like our current “president”). You are no different in temperament from a rabid Christian fundamentalist or a Second Amendment absolutist. Fanaticism on the left has an uncanny similarity to fanaticism on the right, and the basis of that similarity is a mutual and fatal tendency toward authoritarianism. We have already witnessed one entire political party (the G.O.P.) descend into the abyss of cultivated ignorance, fact-denial, corruption, hypocrisy, and now a thirst for tyranny; there is no need for members of the other party to follow it.
Mr. Jason V Brock has written cogently and pungently on this very subject in a recent statement. In spite of its length, I urge everyone to read it carefully: http://www.jasunni.com/2018/02/22/the-risks-of-being-different/.
And if you want an example of genuine and muscular liberalism, you might read my column in the next issue of Free Inquiry, entitled “The Party of Traitors.” You can read this dissection of the current Republican party on the Selected Writings page.
Meanwhile, I remain mystified at why Mr. VanderMeer’s followers believe that he—or any writer—should be shielded from critical scrutiny. What good can come of that? My essay on him was a critical judgment, not a statement of fact. The proper way to refute me is not to hurl insults at me, which always backfire by showing the hurlers to be petty, vindictive, and full of rage and resentment. The only way to rebut me is to demonstrate that my judgments are unsound. If there are any people out there who can show why Mr. VanderMeer left so many critical plot threads in his trilogy unresolved, why so many seemingly significant characters appear and then disappear seemingly at random, why every character (male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, gay, straight, lesbian) is bland and undistinctive, and why his prose is so lacking in emotive resonance, they would be doing me and the whole field of weird fiction a great favour. But so far as I can tell, no one has had the critical acumen to make such a statement.
If we have really reached the stage where honest, hard-hitting criticism of weird fiction is verboten, then we’ve come to a pretty pass, haven’t we?
A short time ago I spent a week or two digesting Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance), published in 2014. I was quite stunned at how appallingly bad it was. Whatever my opinions on VanderMeer as a person may be, I had actually been expecting his trilogy to be at least respectable, if not scintillating. It is very much otherwise. I here present my essay on VanderMeer for 21st-Century Horror.
[It is, of course, entirely a coincidence that I disseminate my essay on the day that the film version of Annihilation opens. I am not likely to see the film—although I saw a trailer for it the other day that made me scratch my head as to what the movie could possibly be about. One review states that the film made radical changes in the book’s plot—not surprising!]
On a much happier note, I have at long last received some copies of Black Wings VI from the publisher, PS Publishing. The book actually came out late last year, but my spare copies have only just arrived. It is selling for £25 in the UK, and I am prepared to offer my copies for $30.00 on the usual terms. I have only three spares, so better get them quick!
Coincidentally, I see that a reasonably favourable review of Black Wings V (the paperback edition, titled Black Wings of Cthulhu 5) has appeared in Publishers Weekly: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-78565-691-0. I was interested to note that the reviewer singled out the Nicole Cushing story, which (to my mind) was quite a departure from the usual run of stories that have appeared in Black Wings.
I am also prepared to announce the contents of a Best of Black Wings that PS Publishing will issue sometime in paperback:
|Lesser Demons||Norman Partridge|
|Howling in the Dark||Darrell Schweitzer|
|Passing Spirits||Sam Gafford|
|When Death Wakes Me to Myself||John Shirley|
|The Abject||Richard Gavin|
|Thistle’s Find||Simon Strantzas|
|Houdini Fish||Jonathan Thomas|
|Cult of the Dead||Lois H. Gresh|
|The Dark Sea Within||Jason V Brock|
|Night of the Piper||Ann K. Schwader|
|The Woman in the Attic||Robert H. Waugh|
|The Walker in the Night||Jason C. Eckhardt|
|The Organ of Chaos||Donald Tyson|
|The Shard||Don Webb|
|To Move Beneath Autumnal Oaks||W. H. Pugmire|
It was, as you can imagine, difficult to boil down the contents of six books into a single volume: every story had a right to be considered for inclusion. But this was the best I could do—and, all things considered, I think it is a pretty good selection. The final piece is of course a poem, as I felt the need to have at least one poem in the book to reflect the fact that the last three volumes of the series have included such items.
Just yesterday I gave an interview to Miguel Peromingo (a writer in Berlin) on the subject of Lovecraft’s autodidacticism. Here is the link: http://autodidacticon.com/interviews/howard-philips-lovecraft-the-pulp-genius-interview-with-s-t-joshi/. I could have gone on at considerably greater length, but I suppose I blabbed enough as it is.
I have also been in touch with an individual who wishes to do a documentary on William Hope Hodgson. An excellent idea! Meanwhile, I hope that the documentaries on Clark Ashton Smith and Arthur Machen, both of which are in progress, get finished soon.
I was happy to receive some copies of the German translation of volume 1 of I Am Providence, which appears from Golkonda Verlag as H. P. Lovecraft: Leben und Werk (2017), translated by Andreas Fliedner. The publisher’s website (http://golkonda-verlag.de/cms/front_content.php?idart=625) is of interest in having some blurbs from German scholars or critics on my book; these must have been solicited by the publisher somehow. Very flattering! The book is selling for nearly 40 euros, and I have one spare copy of it, if anyone wants it. I’m willing to let it go for the bargain price of $25. It’s a big book (734 pages)! I think the second volume will appear later this year.
Speaking of German, I have now received an unauthorised translation of my compilation of Lovecraft’s writings on religion, entitled Against Religion (published in 2010 by Sporting Gentleman). The German edition appears as Gegen die Religion (JMB Verlag, 2017); my introduction (and Christopher Hitchens’s foreword) were removed, although my notes to the book were retained (without credit to me). Indeed, my name does not appear in the book anywhere, so far as I can tell. As I say, this book was unauthorised, and I later heard from the publisher, apologising for the violation of my copyright. My US publisher has now officially sold German rights to Festa Verlag, which has published much work by Lovecraft and other weird writers. An Italian edition of Against Religion is also forthcoming.
I present herewith the index to my memoirs, What Is Anything?, so that interested readers can find out who is—and is not—mentioned therein. Of course, the fact that some particular individual is cited in the index is no indication of what kind of reference I make to the person in question. To find that out, you’ll have to get the book!
A very strange thing has happened: I have just set a Lovecraft poem to music. I had long thought of setting one of Lovecraft’s nicer (i.e., non-weird) poems as a choral piece, so that my choir might perform it. After beginning such a venture some months ago, I wrote exactly four bars before giving it up. But lately, thanks in part to urging from Janice Klain (the president of the Northwest Chorale), I finished the job. I chose the three-stanza poem “Sunset.” The piece is set for a cappella (i.e., unaccompanied) four-part chorus. I believe this is the first time a poem by HPL has been arranged for chorus, since previous settings have been for solo voice. Whether the piece is any good or not is a debatable point. I shall have to get my choir director’s opinion on the matter sometime. But if the piece is found acceptable, it may be performed in our winter concert this December. To prove that I have actually done what I have said, I present herewith a facsimile of the rather untidy first page of my handwritten manuscript:
On to a more serious matter.
I am obliged to make some comments on one of the most contemptible kerfuffles in our field—and that is saying something. Evidently a tsunami of convenient outrage has been directed at Jason V Brock because of a single inconsidered comment he made regarding the singer Pink—a comment that was grotesquely (and, I must believe, disingenuously) misconstrued as a slur against transgendered people, even though Pink (i.e., Alecia Beth Moore) is a heterosexual white woman. Jason immediately took down his post and apologised to those he had offended, but that wasn’t enough to have him banned from participation at StokerCon.
Let us contrast the reaction to this incident—which, at worst, is indicative of a certain imprudence on Jason’s part, but is more pertinently indicative of an utter lack of humour on the part of his antagonists—with Ross E. Lockhart’s scurrilous and malicious “roast” (as he and his defenders now call it) of myself. It appears that Jason’s single-sentence comment is incalculably worse than the several-minute diatribe by Mr. Lockhart, which was clearly intended to wound and injure its target (although it of course fell far short of that goal). And whereas Jason apologised for his post, I am not aware that Mr. Lockhart has made any attempt to apologise to me or anyone else about his rant. Does he not believe he has anything to apologise for? If not, why not?
One has to wonder about the morality (and—dare I say it?—hypocrisy) of those who heap abuse on Jason but give Mr. Lockhart a pass in these matters. It would seem to be infinitely more heinous to direct a harmless jest toward a celebrated white woman (although, in my ignorance of popular culture, I had in fact never heard of her before) than it is to deliver a sustained farrago of abuse against a (male) person of colour. So the abuse of Jason (which also includes abuse of his wife) is condoned, while Mr. Lockhart (whose rant included abuse of my wife, my parents, and others) remains a member in good standing.
It appears that the outrage of certain persons is directed, not at a given offence, but at the person who happens to commit it. If you are part of the “in” crowd, you can pretty much do or say anything you like; but if you are one who refuses to kowtow to that crowd, then any amount of abuse directed at you is apparently not only forgiven, but actually encouraged.
If these are the morals that the members of the “in” crowd adopt, I thank my stars I am not one of them.
I have at last received copies of the 2017 issue of Weird Fiction Review (http://www.centipedepress.com/anthologies/wfreview8.html), which in fact was published just before the end of the year but didn’t reach Centipede Press until early January. I now have two copies to spare and am prepared to let them go for $20 each. It is the largest issue yet (nearly 400 pages), with a bountiful array of fiction (a total of ten stories), essays, interviews, and other matter of interest.
I also have two spare copies of my edition of Arthur Machen in the Centipede Press Library of Weird Fiction (http://www.centipedepress.com/masters/machenlwf.html), an enormous 700-page omnibus of his best tales, including the complete contents of The Three Impostors (1895) and Ornaments in Jade (1924), and many other tales. I will be happy to offer my spare copies for $30 each.
Other Centipede Press editions are slouching toward publication. My edition of D. H. Lawrence’s weird tales is almost ready, although the publisher informed me that there was a snafu regarding the signature page, so the book has been slightly delayed. And (momentously) I am just about to begin reading proofs of my two-volume edition of Robert Aickman’s collected weird tales, a project that totals 1352 pages. I imagine publication of this set is still a few months off, but it will be well worth waiting for.
On a very different note, I was tremendously flattered to have received a translation of my introduction to An Epicure in the Terrible (1991)—which, in my humble estimation, comprises a reasonably sound overview of Lovecraft’s life, career, and critical reputation—into Spanish from a colleague, Miguel Bernardo Olmedo Morell. The translation can be found here. I hope it will enhance the appreciation of Lovecraft in the Spanish-speaking world, and I understand that Mr. Morell will be distributing it on Spanish-language websites. Those interested in learning more about the translator should consult his own website: https://islasdepapelytinta.com.
I was delighted to receive, at long last, copies of the two-CD recording of my choir’s performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt last May. Actually, the recording is a fusion of the two performances we had. I won’t say we were perfect in either performance, but I think the overall package is pretty nice. Sunni K Brock designed the sleeve; here is the front cover:
The Israel in Egypt CD
If anyone is interested in securing this item, I have a few spare copies that I am prepared to part with for $15.
I have now completed indexing my memoirs, What Is Anything?—but of course the book will not appear until June. The photo layout for the book (containing as many as 24 photos) is not quite complete, but close. Meanwhile, I have also been looking over the proofs of my collected mystery and horror fiction, The Recurring Doom, which checks in at nearly 180,000 words. This book will be released (in trade paperback, I believe) simultaneously with What Is Anything?, which will initially be published in hardcover.
I have lately—and not very enthusiastically—been reading Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy, published in one volume as Area X (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). I will have more to say about the substance (or, as I am sorry to note, the lack of substance) of the work at a later time. Right now I wish to focus on some points of grammar and style that occurred to me as I read the first 200-odd pages.
From a grammatical point of view, what is notable is how frequently VanderMeer uses both correct and incorrect usage on exactly the same grammatical point—an alternation that strikes me as pretty irrational, and, more tellingly, a sign that VanderMeer really doesn’t even understand that he is sometimes committing a grammatical mistake and at other times (accidentally) using correct usage. To wit:
Misuse of “like” for “as” or “as if”: “My heart felt like an animal had become trapped in my chest” (29 [incorrect]); “Sometimes it felt as if I had been placed with a family rather than born into one” (29 [correct]). Note that this alternating usage occurs on the same page.
Erroneous use of “different than” rather than “different from”: “The psychologist was no different than she had been before” (25); “Old Flopper [was] so much different from Ugly Leaper” (30).
Erroneous use of “of” after “all”: “All of these tiny remnants” (33); “[I] turned on all the lights” (37); “all of his resolve” (150); “the decay of all that plant matter” (151).
I bypass such a slight thing as the us of “disassociation” (84), when proper usage dictates “dissociation.”
Let me emphasise that this book was published by a major New York commercial publisher, which presumably hired a professional copy editor to go over VanderMeer’s book. Evidently it was the author’s, copy editor’s, and/or publisher’s feeling that the above errors aren’t errors anymore; but in that case, why didn’t they enforce the erroneous usage (“all of,” “different than,” “like” for “as” or “as if”) uniformly? A perplexing quandary.
I have now received copies of some of my recent self-published books—to wit, Lovecraft and Weird Fiction (my selection of blog posts) and my edition of Robert Hichens’s splendid weird novel The Dweller on the Threshold. Both these books bear the Sarnath Press imprint. I now see that I still have copies of a previous Sarnath Press book, The Stupidity Watch (a collection of my writings on religion and politics, as published in the now-defunct American Rationalist). I offer these volumes at the following prices:
Any two of these can be purchased for a total of $18.00; if you wish all three, I can let them go for $25.00. (This price includes media mail postage for US customers; for overseas customers, we will have to negotiate an additional fee for postage.) Copies of all three volumes are very limited, so first come, first serve!
To prove that I can actually say something nice about someone when the occasion warrants it, I offer the following review of a new book by James Ulmer. Ulmer gets almost no press in the weird fiction field, in spite of the fact that he has two books of ghost stories, The Secret Life (2012) and the volume I have reviewed, The Fire Doll (2017). This review will appear in the next Dead Reckonings. I have read Ulmer’s earlier volume, a fine book (but The Fire Doll is better), and have now fused my discussion of it with my review to make up a chapter on Ulmer for 21st-Century Horror.
More later when time permits!
I spent the last several weeks slogging through the oeuvre of the esteemed Nick Mamatas. I was expecting the job to be pretty dreary, but after a time I began to wonder why I was bothering: there is some doubt as to whether his work even qualifies as “weird fiction,” let alone weird fiction of any quality or substance. However, readers can make up their own minds: here is my essay on Nick Mamatas, scheduled for inclusion in my book 21st-Century Horror.
Otherwise, my activities have been much more pleasant. My choir performed Handel’s Messiah twice in December, on the 2nd and the 9th. At the latter performance there was a reporter from the Everett Herald (Everett is a northern suburb of Seattle) who reported favourably on the performance and, more pertinently, several photographs of the event. I can be seen in one of them (the one with the caption “Dozens of musicians …”) in the second row, fourth from the left. I am, after all, just about the only person of colour in the group (aside from the director, Lynn Hall, who is African-American). Here is the link to the online version of the article: http://www.heraldnet.com/news/a-classic-for-the-holidays/.
Otherwise, I have resolved to finish work on the Clark Ashton Smith bibliography (which I spent years, off and on, compiling, in conjunction with Scott Connors and David E. Schultz). The bibliography is in reasonably good shape, but a number of incomplete items (including several foreign editions of Smith) need to be fleshed out, and the whole work needs to be updated to cover works that have appeared in the last year or two. The book will appear from Hippocampus Press later this year—which, I need hardly remind anyone, is the 125th anniversary of Smith’s birth. To commemorate this event we will be publishing at least one volume of letters by Smith (probably to August Derleth).
Speaking of books, other of my works are either out or soon to be out—including a fourth revised edition of Lovecraft’s Library (Hippocampus Press), Black Wings VI (PS Publishing), my compilation of Arthur Machen’s works for the Library of Weird Fiction (Centipede Press), my edition of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rocking-Horse Winner and Other Supernatural Tales (Centipede Press), and the first two volumes of my Classics of Gothic Horror series for Hippocampus, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s Lost Ghosts and E. Nesbit’s From the Dead. Oh, yes—and there is Weird Fiction Review #8, which was delayed in arriving from the printer to Jerad Walters’s house in Colorado, but copies of which I hope to have soon. I also expect to have a few copies of my book of blogs, Lovecraft and Weird Fiction. Please do not ask me to reserve copies of any of these items for you. I will alert readers to their official arrival here in a future blog, and interested customers can order copies at that time.
I have also seen preliminary proofs of my memoirs, What Is Anything?, handsomely designed by David E. Schultz. The book comes to 327 pp., not including the index. I continue to add tidbits to it here and there, and I am also working hard on assembling an interesting cache of photographs—as many as 25 scattered throughout the book, and depicting me from the age of six months to my current advanced age of fifty-nine. Naturally, many of these photos include family, friends, and colleagues, ranging from Derrick Hussey to David E. Schultz to Jason & Sunni Brock to Jonathan Thomas. The book should come out on schedule this summer, in time for my sixtieth birthday on June 22.