Witch Wood

     In his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature H.P. Lovecraft writes “In the novel Witch Wood John Buchan depicts with tremendous force a survival of the evil Sabbat in a lonely district of Scotland. The description of the black forest with the evil stone, and of the terrible cosmic adumbrations when the horror is finally extirpated, will repay one for wading through the very gradual action and plethora of Scottish dialect.” Prompted by this and seeing a play based on the Alfred Hitchcock-directed movie version of Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, I read the novel. It does not deserve mention in SHIL since it is virtually devoid of both the supernatural and the horrible. There is a black forest and a stone, but it would take a very imaginative reader to find “terrible cosmic adumbrations.” In the comprehensive The Guide to Supernatural Fiction E. F. Bleiler does not see fit to mention this work, though he does provide summaries for other Buchan efforts.

     Lovecraft is right in the last part of the sentence, for I did wade through the novel, and every few pages found it necessary to check the Dictionary of the Scots Language.

     The framing story concerns references to a minister, David Semphill, who has disappeared from a seventeenth-century Scot village. The novel proper then begins, depicting the adjustment of the minister to his flock, some of who he comes to believe are followers of a pagan cult, which remains most of the time in the background. The story is told from the minister’s viewpoint and is really about his interior development through combating what he sees as sin and following his Christian duty, though it leads him into conflict with his Church.

     Although I had difficulty placing its genre, I should call this a history novel with a few Gothic flourishes. I was never certain where the plot was going—or I would think that this was how it would develop, and getting confident I had a dog–when it turned into a cat and surprised me by its non-conformity. It is very well written, but the readership for which it is intended is probably near extinction.

     Even the vaguest Lovecraftian touches pull their punches: “Men might frequent Melanudrigill [the Wood] for hideous purposes, but the place itself was innocent, and he [the minister] wondered with shame how he came ever to think that honest wood and water and stone could have intrinsic evil” (p. 2071). I imagine that Lovecraft could have been taken by a growing bleakness of view, as when Semphill “saw all human authorities diminished to cockle-shells” (p. 315). Even so, a minister is an odd protagonist for Lovecraft to sympathize with as is a theme that treats moral dilemmas.

     This leads me to ask: did Lovecraft really read the work, and if he did, was his memory so bad that he distorted the elements? Consider this comment about his consulting of sources for SHIL:

     With my rotten memory I lose the details of half the stuff I read in six months’ or a year’s time, so that in order to give any kind of intelligent comment on the high spots I selected, I had to give said spots a thorough re-reading. Thus I’d get as far as Otranto, and then have to rake the damn thing out and see what the plot really was. Ditto the Old English Baron. And when I came to Melmoth I carefully went over the two anthology fragments which constitute all I can get of it–it’s a joke to consider the rhapsodies I’ve indulged in without having ever perused the opus as a whole!2

      Particularly in the case of Melmoth there is a suggestion that he was misleading the reader. Nor is this the single instance. In a late letter he writes of “a boner regarding The Golem¼ To explain that Golem business I must confess that when I wrote the treatise I hadn’t read the novel. I had seen the cinema version, and thought it was faithful to the original—but when I came to read the book only a year ago ¼ Holy Yuggoth!”3  In his biography, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (Necronomicon Press, 1996) S. T. Joshi talks about “short cuts” that Lovecraft took in his writing of this essay. Perhaps the Buchan book was one of them. It was published in 1927, the year that saw the appearance of SHIL, and it is likely that he read the book after the essay was published and when he updated it, added Witch Wood. The only other Buchan works he mentions are three short stories from The Runagate’s Club, first published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1928. It seems reasonable that he read both novel and short stories after the 1927 edition but before his update; being influenced by the weirdness of the short stories, he remembered elements in Witch Wood that were not there.

     (After I wrote the paragraph immediately above I discovered confirmation of one of my surmises as I was checking all references to SHIL in the biography. On p. 538 S. T. lists revisions to SHIL, which includes the addition of a section on John Buchan.)


     1John Buchan, Witch Wood (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927).

     2Letter 204 in Selected Letters, Vol.2, 1968, p. 36; to James Morton, 5 Jan 1926.

     3Letter 918 in Selected Letters, Vol. 5, 1976, p.389; to Willis Conover, 31 Jan. 1937.



     The NecroComicon (what a great name) was held in May. *** A MiskatoniCon will have been held by now (scheduled for 4-6 November) in Stockholm, Sweden.  



     The O’Neill Sea Odyssey non-profit has on display a surfboard, “a 7-foot-6-inch O’Neill Lovecraft teardrop pintail from the ’70s” (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6 Sep 2005). The logo was designed in the late 1960’s by a Geoff McCormack.



     One cut on the cd for In the Mouth of Madness is titled “Pickman Hotel” and another is “Hobb’s End” (from Five Million Years to Earth). *** The new band Dagon, composed of “unabashed Lovecraft fanatics,” is releasing its first EP, Secrets of the Deep. *** The Tiger Lillies, the band, filmed a Berlin performance entitled “The Mountains of Madness” for DVD release (The St. Petersburg Times, 9 Sep 2005).  *** Perhaps because I recently tried to persuade a violin-maker to read “The Music of Erich Zann” I will observe that an orchestral production entitled “The Devil and the Violin” was held in October at Fairfield University and featured an HPL tale (“Zann,” presumably). *** As a balance to my preceding mention of “devil” music, some Lovecraft is being played in a church! “What the Moon Brings” is a composition for organ by Frederick Frahm that debuted in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Bellingham, WA) on 30 Oct. Frahm, who has composed hymns, describes the work as “mostly outrageous” and had accompanying narration by an actor. *** The band Nox Arcana released in 2004 Necromonicon, a “tribute” to the Cthulhu Mythos. *** There is a review of a Lovecraft-inspired album by the death metal, German band Philosopher. The first track is “Seven Hundred Steps of Slumber” and the last is “I Am Providence.”               



     Among the real rarities Necronomicon Press has for sale is a painting by HPL! It is offered for $37,500. *** There is a thoughtful interview with Arkham House artist and Howard winner Jason van Hollander available at an Italian online magazine. In talking about the success of Lovecraft in print as distinct from Lovecraft in art, he states “The eye is smaller than the imagination. The eye feeds on specific images and exactitude. The eye is cynical about images that are too challenging.” Also, he memorably defines the Grotesque as “a lyrical response to emotional discomfort.” *** This is a time sink. Through Boing Boing I found the SF Cover Explorer, where thumbnails of science fiction and some fantasy covers (such as Astounding and Weird Tales) can be enlarged with one click. The span of coverage appears to be about ninety years, though the number of covers doesn’t start picking up until the thirties.



     Saving Arkham Asylum” (Town Online, 9 September 2005) by Barbara Taormina is a news article about Lovecraft and the preservation-threatened Danvers State Hospital, which is mentioned in his work. 



     According to Julius Schwartz, after Batman’s Alfred the Butler was killed off, he was brought back thanks to a “gimmick” taken from “The Outsider.”  *** “From Beyond” is an adaptation in the collection Isolation and Illusion: Collected Short Stories, 1977-1997 (Dark Horse Comics, 2003) of artist P. Craig Russell. *** Interested in a description of Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator



     There’s an article about founder and host of the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Andrew Migliore, in the Portland Tribune (4 Oct). *** Hellboy and an early draft of Alien are among the currently 1471 movie scripts available online at ScriptCrawler www.scriptcrawler.net Parts of the draft Alien summon up At the Mountains of Madness and “The Shadow out of Time.” *** See “Oh, the Horror” (The Stranger, 15-21 Sep 2005) for background on the making of Cthulhu (from Arkham NW Productions), a gay-themed work based on “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” 



     From October to November London’s Union Theatre hosts Terror 2005! with adaptations of the Marquis de Sade, M.R. James, Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, and H.G. Wells. (For more on James, see the section, Supernatural Horror in Literature, below.) *** By this time, Seattle’s Open Circle Theater has staged H. P. Lovecraft Arkham, composed (or decomposed) of “The Shunned House,” “Cool Air,” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” A reviewer notes that among the changes, “all of the protagonists are female.”  *** San Francisco’s Primitive Screwheads (who gave us Evil Dead: Live) presented in October a stage production of Re-animator of the Dead: The Tale of Herbert West



     This year the long-established Modern Library published At the Mountains of Madness with an introduction by China Miéville. Billing itself as “the definitive edition,” it also has Supernatural Horror in Literature along with an index, and “Chronology of the Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.” *** Tales was brought out this year by Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic and is available only to members. How interesting the physiognomies of first-time listeners might become I will leave to the imagination. *** “The Horror at Red Hook” leads off the collection of Brooklyn Noir 2: The Classics (Akashic Books, 2005), though the only other story to share with the Lovecraft the clear status of a classic is “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” by Thomas Wolfe.



     One title of a Spanish language fiction collection is Vampiria: de Polidori a Lovecraft, [Vampires: From Polidori to Lovecraft] compiled by Ricardo Ibarlucia and Valeria Castello-Joubert. (However, I’ve noticed an alternative sub-title).



      The Lovecraft Engine is an olio of adjectives and nouns that work as a parody version of Lovecraftian prose. 


     The H. P. Lovecraft Studies Weblog  unfortunately appears to be dead, since the second and last post is dated 24 July 2004.                                    



     Wikipedia states that the number “420" is a euphemism for cannabis, and offers one possible origin from “In the Walls of Eryx.” The incriminating sentences are “When I did get wholly clear I looked at my watch and was astonished to find that the time was only 4:20. Though eternities had seemed to pass, the whole experience could have consumed little more than a half‑hour.” This argument is squeekily tenuous and just unlikely.



     In Pueblo, Col. a monthly book discussion group has formed to discuss his works, starting with At the Mountains of Madness.


Bibliography and Publishing

“The Pictorial Bibliography is a chronological listing of all works written by and about H. P. Lovecraft from 1915 to the present, published in separate book or pamphlet form, including all variant reprints, in English and in foreign language translations.” *** Tales from the Vault is a collection of material about the pulps in Canada.  This includes an article on the Canadian Uncanny Tales, plus covers from it and other pulps.


Against the World, Against Life

     The Houellebecq work is reviewed by Justin Taylor (whose essay about “The Call of Cthulhu” I mentioned last issue) in an online publication, Counterpunch.


“The Shunned House”

     In an article on the real shunned house (the Stephen Harris House of Benefit Street, Providence), mentalist and mind reader Rory Raven tells about a researcher who discovered that at one time next door to the house was Dr. Bates's Electropathic Sanatorium, resulting in the gratuitous speculation that HPL may have visited there during the interval (1908-1913) when the little known about him was that he had health difficulties. 


Supernatural Horror in Literature

     For those who want to read in full what M.R. James thought of Lovecraft and Supernatural Horror in Literature, a letter with commentary is printed. James gives Samuel Loveman licks also.


Influence and Allusions

     Here is some background on up and coming novelist Michael Cunningham (The Hours, Specimen Days), who notes “I'd like to do something with genre stories.” The article continues, “He was thinking ghost stories, thrillers, science fiction, the kind he'd gobbled up when he was young, when he loved Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft” (Weekend Standard, 20-21 August 2005). *** Author of Shadows Bend, Heinz Insu Fenkl has an article, “The Mermaid” (Vocabula Bound Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 1) that briefly refers to the movie Dagon. *** A review of books about Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick are the subject of an article by Anthony Miller, “Masters of Unreality” (Los Angeles City Beat, 8 Sep 05), which also briefly looks at a collection of short stories by China Miéville. *** Darn, but I thought I had mentioned this in an earlier issue: the late Hugh B. Cave published the voodoo novel, The Mountains of Madness (Cemetery Dance, 2004). *** Thomas Ligotti was interviewed for Hallowee’en, 2004, by Fantastic Metropolis. *** So what happens when the feckless Lovecraft reviewer Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) interviews Michel Houellebecq on the English translation of his H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life? Find out from Nick Mamatas’ article.  (I discovered this article via a World Fantasy nominee, Mumpsimus. He has a link to an interesting take on the Library of America entry, Tales, that is both informed and mis-informed. Plus, I like his reference to “decades of defensive literary criticism surrounding Lovecraft.”



     One Edgar Allan Poe site is Knowing Poe.  



     At the 2005 DragonCon Peter S. Beagle said that two of his biggest influences were Mel Brooks and Lord Dunsany. *** A look through the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections will reveal material about August Derleth. For example, do a keyword search for his name at The University of Wisconsin site and you find an article in Wisconsin Alumnus (vol. 48, no.10, Jul-Aug 1947, p.12-13).


Mailing Replies 128

     John G.: Thank you for the explanation about The Call of Cthulhu role-playing game and Delta Green, and how they change the Lovecraftian universe. You are right that gunplay is a crutch for certain readers and are a way to cut the Gordian knot of plot but weaken the mystery. I didn’t know about Alan Dean Foster’s Lovecraft connection. According to Biblio.com “in 1968, he sold his first fictional work, a long H. P. Lovecraft‑inspired story called ‘The Horror of the Beach.’" Cinescape.com quotes him in 2002: “I’ve long been a fan of Lovecraft,” and it adds, “In fact, Foster’s first short story sale was a Lovecraftian letter bought by August Derleth.” The story was “Some Notes Concerning a Green Box.” *** However, Robert Bloch didn’t literally start with Lovecraft pastiches, though he had them early in his career; his first published story was “The Feast in the Abbey.”

     Ben: The back cover is a charmer–the dapper frog, a rendition by Lee Brown Coye of Hugh B. Cave. I first read him back in the late fifties, in Boy’s Life–where at best the mystery fiction that he wrote was Gothic lite; it only promised a vague macabre quality, without delivering. *** Although Hippocampus may collect the poems of  Clark Ashton Smith, I won’t be a buyer, for I wish he had stuck to prose (yet I do own Arkham’s Selected Poems). And even if I’ve seen but little of his drawings and sculpture, the little was enough. *** The Night Shade Books sale that you mentioned a year ago doesn’t exist now. I was going to buy their new The Ghost Pirates for $35, saw that they wanted to add $6 shipping and handling, so instead I went to Amazon and found it for $23.10; I added Lovecraft’s Tales and–because the shipment was over $25–didn’t have to pay shipping and handling! While I wish NSB well, business is business. *** You show an enjoyment of imaginary countries, both with One Hundred Years of Solitude and Islandia, which I read 10% through before I gave up from boredom.

     Las Burlesons: So, Don, how do you propose to “remove ... most of the Middle East” to deal with terrorism? There is no way that I can think of. We live in a world of dominos, and what we do elsewhere sets in motion consequences, the more radical the act the more radical the consequences that eventually reach the doer. *** To hear you and Roswell-debunker Karl T. Pflock (an erstwhile UFO believer) battle it out over Roswell sounds like it would have been very entertaining. *** To skip ahead briefly to the current (131) mailing: congratulations on getting to teach again mathematics; that should make your job more agreeable. *** Mollie, if you heard correctly that S. T. said “that there really wasn’t much more to be written about HPL, that it had all been done more or less,” then there would need not be articles written about, nor a journal dedicated to, the Old Gent, for he would lack literary stay-ability. *** I wish I could find some evidence substantiating your memory of Orson Welles on television reading “The Rats in the Walls.” Wow! Maybe your memory has played you false–in 1945 Ronald Colman did a dramatization of “The Dunwich Horror” on the radio show Suspense, in which Welles was also a star of several programs. There is a guide to all the episodes of Suspense (1942-1962), see  *** I smiled at your “Lovecraft’s Christmas,” a parody of “The Christmas Song.”

     Jim: Your list of musical compositions performed with the play Dracula fascinated me. A favorite piece of mine is from Swan Lake because (perhaps) I have heard it accompanying a number of Universal horror movies of the thirties, including Dracula.         

     Ben S.: While potentially an interesting article, your comparison of Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long–what one thought of the other–lacked analysis and was too much a scrapbook of allusions from both authors as well as a few critics.

     S.T.: Do you regard your World Supernatural Literature as an heir or an addition to Bleiler’s Guide to Supernatural Fiction? Either way, your entries made for enlightening reading and nudged me to look deeper into some authors. *** Re your poetry entry–you are in the minority so far as calling Clark Ashton Smith “the greatest weird poet of all time.” What I have read of Smith as a poet discourages me from reading more. From your discussion you omitted the poetry of Ray Bradbury. *** You note (without a smile) that The Frozen Pirate was one of those novels so popular to be issued in a “pirated” edition.

     Alan: “The Quest of the Brazen Flame” was an enjoyable story. I hope that you find a publisher. The poem “Carven Faces” was quite good, especially its rhythm.

     David: Yep, we’ve reached the end of the road so far as Lovecraft’s writings go, save the letters. That seems to turn out to be true for any long-established cult or canonical writer–their writing, regardless of quality, is re-animated for publication. Some of the publications will go out of print, so they are not necessarily guaranteed accessibility. To dream a little, techniques are being developed to read a manuscript’s pentimento, so eventually what HPL erased or scratched out could make an interesting cottage industry for variant readings. I suppose it is sad to reach an end to Lovecraft’s writings, but you should also have a sense of accomplishment that you’ve done it. Congratulations.

     Derrick: I enjoyed your potted Rheinhart Kleiner biography. Now for a bit of fitting things together. You note that Kleiner was a hiker and Lovecraft would go on some outings. Both were members of the Blue Pencil Club. You also note that by September 1929 Kleiner “was editor of The Rambler, the official organ of the Paterson Ramblers Club, to which many of the BPC members belonged.” In my Criticaster 29 I quoted Chris Zeller in Trail Walker (September-October 1998): “Possibly the most famous person to hike with the Ramblers was the science fiction author H.P. Lovecraft, who mentions an outing with the Club in a diary entry from the mid‑20's.” As I said then, I don’t know where that diary entry is. *** An improvement to your reprint of the Kleiner poems would have been larger TYPE.

     Scott: I’ve never seen Horror Hotel–I remember that decades ago Forrest J Ackerman referred to the film’s Lovecraftian atmosphere. *** We agree about the wonderfulness of “The Call of Cthulhu” trailer. *** I doubt if there is much of a Lovecraft readership who cares one way or the other about August Derleth. He is a precious subject for only highly motivated afficionados. *** From how you define “paralogical dimensionality,” then the king of this quality must be William Blake, many of whose symbols are inscrutable.


Son of MR 128: Fantasy Commentator

     Re the Fritz Leiber issue. Before I commence I will note one site dedicated to Leiber ; that a list of Leiberana is available online; while Gary William Crawford of Gothic Press has Fritz Leiber: A Database.  Also, good luck in trying to find a comprehensive collection of his horror stories. The best bet appears to be The Black Gondolier (2003). *** One thing more. A news item (“Remains of Old Ship Found in San Francisco,” 6 Sep 2005)  records that a Gold Rush-era sailing ship has been discovered at a downtown construction project; and a rail tunnel goes through the hull of another ship, The Rome. What a story SF resident Leiber could’ve made of that, especially given his interest in Rome (he read the Graves’ Claudius books a number of times).

     Benjamin S. (co-editor): Readers will automatically recognize as gems the better Leiber stories? I wish. *** In looking at the acknowledgments (for which I imagine that you are responsible), I see that the Bruce Byfield article is said to appear in the April 1977 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction, but within it there are many post 1977 references. Of likely explanations, either the year is a typo or the article has been updated. *** Other typos bedeck various essays. My favorite is Byfield’s reference to “Catholic hook clubs,” which opens a lot of punning possibilities. *** The essays would have been more effective if they had been placed in a pre-determined order, perhaps classed by subject, such as the essays that dealt with the horror stories, those with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, etc.

     Michael E. Stamm: I dare say that you exaggerate when you state that for decades it was a rare science fiction or fantasy anthology that lacked a Leiber story. It’s a shame that you are unable to appreciate Lovecraft and feel compelled to make a number of invidious comparisons betwixt him and Leiber (e.g., “a Lovecraftian tale that outdoes Lovecraft”). Since critics in other fields follow this convention of comparison, I will address this by suggesting that somewhere, some person may have an aunt–make that a maiden aunt–and he claims that this aunt is a better writer than Shakespeare, putting forth various arguments. While I doubt the truth of it, this person does have a right to this opinion about the superiority of the maiden aunt over Shakespeare. And some will claim Leiber is a better writer than Lovecraft, out-Lovecrafting him. That’s assuming that the two occupy the same competitive niche. I don’t think so; they can be appreciated separately. However, keep to your maiden aunt theory–maybe you’ll even get support from the aunt.  Your article is worth something for its capsule summaries, but not for its criticism.  

     John Howard: Although this is the first time I have seen annotations to a story without the story being present, I can still glean most of the value from the facts supplied.

     Stefan Dziemianowicz: I have pointed out in my ‘aster (40) that “The Thing on the Doorstep” influenced both Conjure, Wife and The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich, and now you have supplied me with a third example in the short story “The Dead Man.” It will, however, take more to convince me about the  interpretations you offer beyond the numerical tap cues. However, your explanation about “glub ... glub ... glub-glub” as an attempt by Derby to issue his familiar greeting is inspired! *** Your closing sentence that bad writers mimic their influences remind me that T. S. Eliot said lousy poets borrow, great ones steal.

     Justin Leiber: I note that your father’s stage name, Francis Lathrop, was the name of an artist (1849-1909). Coincidence? One of Lathrop’s works is the Shakespeare-suggestive 

Desdemona’s House. *** According to you “the great problem about magic is the lack of replicability.” But magic is replicable. Put in your eye of newt, etc., say the right incantation, and if you have skill, the results are forthcoming, just like any yeoman scientist. *** You pose the rhetorical question “Why is chaos horrifying, since it may in its chanciness turn out well for us as commonly as ill?” Chaos is everything and nothing, and once the human mind recognizes the good (or ill) it ceases to be chaos; remember, chaos is not outcome.

     Mike Barrett: That’s an enlightening article on the Lankhmarians, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I hope that the footnote editor doesn’t live in Newhon, for if he were to be punished for his mistakes of having several footnotes out of order and omitting another, it would not be pretty to watch. Though I have read several Swords paperbacks, this part of Leiber’s oeurvre is not especially appealing (nor do I favor the similar Jack Vance fantasy world, though I admire and appreciate his science fiction). Maybe this sword and sorcery is too “smart,” too self-consciously satiric, and does not take Newhon seriously.

     Curtis Scott Shumaker: In your essay on The Demons of the Upper Air you supply a fine, ironic Leiber line: “Ghosts are we, but with skeletons of steel.”

     S. T.: The problem with hunting down resemblances to Lovecraft stories in Leiber’s is the heightened possibilities of red herrings, especially when “some of the borrowings are very slight.” Moreover, if HPL used the phrase “adventurous expectancy” in a letter to Leiber, where is the letter. Are there unpublished letters written by HPL to Leiber? My memory and/or my interpretation is poor, for I will say (without re-reading it) that “The Hill and the Hole” should not be labeled as “cosmicism.” I place “A Bit of the Dark World” as Leiber’s best work in its mining from the same place as Lovecraft’s creation of cosmic awe and dread. *** I recall that earlier in this volume somebody mentioned that “The Terror from the Depths” had been written early in Leiber’s career, and if true, then the invitation by Edward Paul Berglund to write the story for The Disciples of Cthulhu (1976) may mean that this was a re-write. *** When you observe that “Leiber was one of the few writers of the ‘Lovecraft Circle’ to have fully assimilated the Lovecraft influence,” you fail to name the other few of this enchanted circle. Bloch? Howard? Smith?

     Curtis Scott Shumaker (again): Jung sounds as though he fully used creative license in his theories about the Anima and the Shadow. Using these ideas, you find “threads of connection” between several Leiber stories, but for me they are unproved.

     Justin Leiber (again): Though I read “Adept’s Gambit” a few years back, your summation makes me think of “The Thing on the Doorstep,” for you mention an “evil young man ... sending his sister out under his mental control.” *** I find myself skimming your contribution. Doubtless I’ve a mind not designed to read the philosophical, though philosophers need not have a license for literature criticism. Also, your omitting of references to HPL suggests a blind spot in your thinking.

     John Howard: I see that your essay is also available online (as is “Annotations to Our Lady of Darkness”).I like the phrase that a Lovecraft character was “the passive and often accidental victim of objectivity.” Through your essay I find that yet again (in Our Lady of Darkness) Leiber references “The Thing on the Doorstep.” *** I would have liked to have seen not just the similarities between Lovecraft and Leiber, but what was uniquely Lovecraftian that inspired Leiber. For example, “the bringing of apparently dead and hidden things to life” can be found in Frankenstein and its supernatural progeny, not only Lovecraft. *** Leiber’s “greatest stories date from the 1970s”! My exclamation is my reaction, and I will leave it (leave ‘er) at that.

     John Langan: Though it is full of spoilers for someone like myself who has not read The Wanderer, your article makes me want to read the book. *** Your view that a mention of W. Olaf Stapledon in The Wanderer  is “a nod” to Lovecraft could be turned around to suggest that mention of Lovecraft in other Leiber works is “a nod” to Stapledon, if one were so inclined to argue. You have fitted your facts to your interpretation. *** As I was reading your discussion of hyperspace/chaos I thought of Milton’s Paradise Lost–and lo! I find that you reference it in an endnote.

     John Howard (“In Smoke...”): It is darn annoying that there are neither quotes nor font shifts to designate when you are quoting from Leiber. Your discussion of many Leiber stories are too short to be satisfying. *** (“Addition of a Second Narrative”): Your references to a British edition of Our Lady of Darkness shows the need for one that is standard or canonical, which doesn’t yet exist. However, it would have been better to have used the first edition, unless there was a later, corrected one. I imagine that you didn’t have it available. The result is the limited use of your comparison, which is unfortunate. The same problem bedevils other contributions to the volume, all of whom seem to use British editions.

     Ro Pardoe, John Howard, et al. (“Annotations to Our Lady of Darkness”): Where is your evidence that Clark Ashton Smith’s The Star-Treader and Other Poems influenced Jack London’s The Star Rover?




This has been the 46th issue of The Criticaster (Hallowe’en 2005, mailing 132) by Stephen Walker . Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 17).