S. T. Joshi's Blog

February 13, 2019 — Weird Fiction Review Out at Last

This blog will be rather short, for a variety of reasons—not the least of which is that here in Seattle we are dealing with an unprecedented succession of snowstorms that have paralysed the city. I myself have had to shovel snow on several consecutive days—and I doubt that I have shoveled more than four times total in all the years I have lived in this otherwise temperate city. Driving is incredibly treacherous, especially for those of us who live on side streets that have no hope of getting ploughed by the meagre resources this city has for such a purpose.

But I am happy to announce that the much-delayed issue of Weird Fiction Review (the ninth annual issue) is now out from Centipede Press (http://www.centipedepress.com/anthologies/wfreview9.html). I see that the publisher is currently offering the issue for a bargain price of $22, so I will undercut him by offering my four spare copies for $20 on the usual terms. It is a splendid issue, with all manner of stories, articles, and artwork, and featuring the usual splendid Centipede Press design. This will be the last issue I edit, as the publisher will now enlist a rotating series of guest editors for each successive issue.

Dark Regions Press informs me that the ebook version of my anthology A Mountain Walked is being promoted on a special sale by BookBub, with a substantial reduction in price for both the US ($1.99) and UK (£1.99) editions. Here is the link to the US edition: https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Walked-Neil-Gaiman-ebook/dp/B018829F8E; and the UK edition: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mountain-Walked-Neil-Gaiman-ebook/dp/B018829F8E.

A welcome book that has come in recently is Frank Coffman’s outstanding poetry volume The Coven’s Hornbook and Other Poems (Bold Venture Press, 2019). Here is the publisher’s web page for the book: https://boldventurepress.com/the-covens-hornbook-other-poems/. This substantial collection (254 pp.) is well worth obtaining by any devotee of weird poetry. A number of the poems in it have appeared in Spectral Realms.

Another book that has made its way here is The Best of the Scream Factory (Cemetery Dance, 2018: https://www.cemeterydance.com/the-scream-factory.html). This weighty hardcover volume contains my article “How Bad Are Lovecraft’s Revisions?” (from the Autumn 1992 issue). Needless to say, it has many other items of interest.

More later, when the snow melts away!

January 23, 2019 — Ave Atque Vale and Others

I am happy to announce receipt (at last) of copies of Ave atque Vale: Reminiscences of H. P. Lovecraft, an immense (502 pp.) compilation of Lovecraft memoirs assembled by David E. Schultz and myself and published by the revived Necronomicon Press (https://necropress.com/ave-atque-vale-reminiscences-of-h-p-lovecraft/). Comparisons will inevitably be made with Peter Cannon’s outstanding volume, Lovecraft Remembered (Arkham House, 1998); we have included most of the material in that volume (some items were omitted for copyright issues; others for editorial reasons) and included several newly discovered memoirs not included in Peter’s volume. The new book is issued in both a limited hardcover and a trade paperback edition, the latter costing $29.95. I have several copies of the paperback and will be happy to let them to go interested customers for $25.00.

For those who are curious as to the meaning and pronunciation of the book’s title, I can state that the phrase is Latin for “hail and farewell” (atque is somewhat more emphatic than et, although both mean “and”). As for pronunciation—well, this varies depending on whether the phrase is used in prose or in poetry. In prose, it would be rendered something like: “AH-veh [not -vay] aht-queh VAH-leh.” But in poetry, the second syllable of the first word is elided, because it is followed by a word beginning with a vowel. Hence it would be rendered as “AHV’ aht-queh VAH-leh.” Its most famous usage occurs in one of the most poignant lines in the entire range of Latin poetry—Catullus’ poem 101, an elegy on his dead brother: “atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale” (and for all eternity, my brother, hail and farewell). (Note here that the second syllable of the first “atque” is also elided—i.e., “atqu’in”). I can never read that line without choking up—just as I can’t read the final line of Clark Ashton Smith’s elegy on Lovecraft (“And from the spirit’s page thy runes can never pass”) without choking up.

Another book that has emerged is my Development of the Weird Tale, another publication from Sarnath Press. (See the Sarnath Press page for a link to the Amazon entry.) The table of contents of this collection of my miscellaneous essays on weird fiction—ranging from the work of Mary Shelley to the films of Guillermo del Toro—can be found in my blog of September 10, 2018. I will be ordering no books to sell to customers, so people will have to purchase directly from Amazon.

I am in receipt of a new book (although it appears to have emerged in late 2018), Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death and Others, illustrated by Jason Eckhardt and published by Sam Gafford’s Ulthar Press, 2018 (https://ultharpress.com/). I wrote the introduction to the book. Of course, the book is noteworthy because of Eckhardt’s spectacular illustrations, which evoke all the terror and weirdness of Poe’s text. The list price of the book is $11.95. I have exactly one spare copy that I will be happy to let go for $10.

I was much engaged by two recent podcasts by noted writer and critic Scott Bradfield, available on YouTube. The first (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thzC1LDdPw4) discusses a number of my Penguin editions—M. R. James, Blackwood, and others. The other (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPhB5k6Cs8w) is interesting in presenting the impressions of a reader relatively unfamiliar with Lovecraft—and of one who has now reassessed his opinions of the Providence writer and found him much more worthy of consideration than before. The amusing thing is that in these videos Bradfield actually pronounces my last name correctly, but (as so many others have done) flubs on the proper pronunciation of “Cthulhu” (also of “Dunsany”). I have, in my smart-aleck way, pointed out these errors, and Scott promises to correct them in a future podcast.

Another item that has drifted over here, this time from across the Atlantic, is The Green Book, an exceptionally well-produced periodical devoted to “Writings on Irish Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic Literature,” edited by Brian J. Showers. Issue 11 (Bealtaine 2018) has numerous contributions about Lord Dunsany, including Darrell Schweitzer’s “How Much of Dunsany Is Worth Reading?” (first published in Studies in Weird Fiction, Fall 1991), Martin Andersson’s “Lord Dunsany and the Nobel Prize,” and Mike Carey’s “Appreciating Fifty-One Tales.” The issue has other pieces by Richard Dalby, Reggie Oliver, David Longhorn, and several others. For ordering information, see the publisher’s website: http://swanriverpress.ie/greenbook.html.

I have been informed by Jerad Walters of Centipede Press that Weird Fiction Review #9 is at the printer, hence I imagine it will be ready soon. The issue is of course quite late, as it should have come out in the fall of 2018. But it will be well worth waiting for! This will be the last issue under my editorship, as the publisher now wishes to have rotating guest editors for each subsequent issue.

Otherwise, work continues here at its usual hectic pace. I am working on all manner of projects … Lovecraft’s Letters to Wilfred B. Talman and Helen V. Sully … a new edition of Samuel Loveman’s Out of the Immortal Night (2004), with considerable new matter … the complete fiction of M. R. James … the Ambrose Bierce letters … and, of course, my ongoing series of Mencken’s essays and journalism. Never a dull moment around here!

January 3, 2019 — Some of the Presidents’ Men

Mary and I had a most enjoyable holiday season, highlighted by a trip to Carmel Valley, Calif., to see my two sisters (Ragini and Nalini) and some members of their families. There was quite a haul in terms of presents, including some new slippers as well as sundry chocolates. But the choicest item was nothing less than some of the figurines of the U.S. Presidents that I had so fondly played with as a boy! Ragini found nine of these gents on eBay; I shall now have to find the rest.

Those who have read my memoirs will recall the passage in which I discuss this matter:

One very curious type of solitary play I devised for myself involved a set of tiny (about 2 inches high) porcelain figures of all the American presidents from Washington up to Lyndon Johnson. I have no idea how my mother obtained these objects, but they fascinated me from the start. The pedestals gave the dates of each president’s term in office, so that to this day I know the entire sequence of all the presidents and the years in which most of them served.

But I went beyond merely absorbing dry information about these august figures. I began concocting games in which the presidents figured as players—notably what I called “Presidents’ Baseball” and “Presidents’ Football.” For the former, I used a marble (I played with marbles quite a bit) as a (rather large, proportionately speaking) ball and used the pedestals to propel the ball crazily all across my room. (This was, I suppose, closer to kickball than baseball—but I didn’t care about such a trivial detail.) I am astounded that I didn’t break mirrors and other delicate objects in my room, but somehow I didn’t.

I have subsequently learned that these presidents were given out by the local grocery store (I believe it was the IGA) in Urbana, Illinois. I now own nine of them:

Nine porcelain figures of U. S. presidents.
Nine U. S. Presidents

For those who are having a hard time making out the figures, they are (from left to right): John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Knox Polk, Chester Alan Arthur, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In terms of work, I have now nearly finished my compilation of the weird tales of May Sinclair. I am currently reading some biographical and critical material on her for my introduction.

I am happy to announce the completion of His Own Most Fantastic Creation, an original anthology of stories using Lovecraft (or a Lovecraft-like figure) as a fictional character. Here is the list of stories:

I hope PS Publishing can get this book out late this year. My own story was scheduled to appear in my fiction omnibus, The Recurring Doom (due out later this year from Sarnath Press), but it fortuitously fit the theme of the anthology so well that I have placed it there.

I expect 2019 to be a productive year from me, if for no other reason than that I expect to self-publish as many as 12 books of H. L. Mencken’s essays and journalism (2 per month). If you look at the Sarnath Press page, you will see that six of these volumes are already out, and I intend to get two more out this month. This will complete the eight volumes of his writings in the Smart Set, which will then be followed by miscellaneous magazine articles, prefaces and introductions to various books by others, and then the first of many volumes of his newspaper journalism. I don’t imagine these books are exactly flying off the shelves, but I will take personal satisfaction in their appearance.

With the advent of the new year I expect Hippocampus Press to issue several books that have been slightly postponed: the Clark Ashton Smith bibliography; the compilation of the letters between Smith and August Derleth; Lovecraft’s Letters to Family and Family Friends (a 1200-page book!); Letters to Wilfred B. Talman and Helen V. Sully; Letters to Donald Wandrei and Others; etc. etc. etc. In addition, there will be fiction volumes by Stephen Woodworth, John Langan, and perhaps others; poetry volumes by Jessica Amanda Salmonson and D. L. Myers; an immense assemblage of the writings of Leah Bodine Drake; and some projects that I am not at liberty to mention as yet. I pity the pocketbooks of my legions of fans!

Entries from 2018…