FJA and FM

     When did I first encounter the name of H.P. Lovecraft? Maybe it was 1963 or 1964. In those days I made models, chiefly military-ships, planes, armored  vehicles, all by Revell (I had standards). Aurora came out with a collection of monsters, and I started making those. The first was Frankenstein's monster. At the bottom of the box was a coupon for a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland. I sent off for a sample issue.

     It arrived, the June 1963 cover showing a portrait of the Amazing Colossal Man disfigured by his accident. I don't know what my immediate reaction to the contents were-probably deep delight, for I went on to buy the magazine up to the 1970's and get all available back issues.

     The magazine offered me an introduction and connection to the world of modern fantasy-the movie-makers, the writers, the fans. Maybe it was here that I first heard of Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, H. P. Lovecraft, Weird Tales, and many more that would make a significant contribution to my life. Despite their physical absence, they were the ones that I chose for my company.

     The editor of FM was Forrest J Ackerman, collector and fan extraordinary and even (as I was to learn later) Lovecraft correspondent. The spirit and essence of the magazine, he was the generous source for many vintage stills and for affectionate articles of movie nostalgia, though the present was not neglected.

    The magazine was filled with his puns, such as "Horrorwood, Karloffornia." As a fellow punster, I defend the pun. It shows an alert mind that is sensitive to the nuances of language (FJA also knew Esperanto). Puns are by nature creative and, whether for good or ill, have a mischievous character. While they may produce groans, they can provide entertainment.

     FJA supplied more than puns. He had knowledge and an enthusiasm for the genre. In recently re-reading an issue after several decades I was taken by two other qualities. His was an amiable attitude in whatever he wrote, and whatever the age of his audience, he treated them with respect. There was no looking down at any individual, but accepting each for who he or she was; a quality to be admired.

     In many of his obituaries there was mention of FM and some of its well-known readers, such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, as though this validated its accomplishments. FM was important not because of the eventual prominence of a few readers but because of the many who read it and enjoyed it and were informed and became part of an invisible community of fans. A formative influence of my teenage years, it evokes fond memories for me.

     I never personally met him. During my several visits to Los Angeles I was not able to visit the permanent open house he held for fans who wanted to see his legendary collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, the greatest in the world. I did hear him speak at a World Horror Con where I also walked by him as he was seated at a desk.

     During the annual broadcast of the Academy Awards, there is a segment dedicated to those who have died the preceding year. Though I don't expect it, FJA's inclusion would be appropriate as editor, collector, and archetypal fan.


     Due to its historic significance for me, I intend to look at this issue (no. 23), and highlight its references to Lovecraft and other matters. Under the article "Now Fear This" (p. 10-17) is an announcement (p. 17) of new productions or films awaiting release. One is The Haunted Palace, though without allusion to Lovecraft or Poe. The article ends on the same page with this: "Howard Phillips Lovecraft's Rats in the Walls joins The Dunwich Horror and The Haunted Village ('Weird Shadow Over Innsmouth') as future horror fare being prepared by American-International." This may have been the first time I came across the Lovecraft name. I was partly thrilled by the name "Lovecraft" rather incongruously connected with the evocative Rats in the Walls.

     Another article, "Calling Dr. Caligari" by Robert Bloch (p. 22-26), introduced me to this author and his critical look at horror films of the past. It includes a list of 15 movie scenes of "pure horror." On pages 44-45 is "Frankenstein--1910," a discussion of an early Frankenstein movie and a reproduction of the cover from The Edison Kinetogram (March 15, 1910) with a view of the monster. The article subtitle "50 Year Search Ends in FM Triumph!" leads to the conclusion that this was a discovery of Ackerman along with motion picture historian Clark Wilkinson. The monster portrait (of actor Charles Ogle) has since become well-known through various publications. Maybe FM was the first and the discoverer.

     My favorite article in the issue was "Son of Kong" (part 3; p. 46-53), which was about monster animator Ray Harryhausen. A fan of dinosaurs since early childhood, I avidly read about the animation of these and other monsters. I recall with pleasure my earliest exposure to Harryhausen's work in The Animal World (1956), where I saw on the big screen ceratosaurus, brontosaurus (as it was known then) and similar beasts. Ray Bradbury is mentioned in the article, perhaps one of the first times I came across this name.

     Another initiation for me was the "Clubs & Fanzines" section in the "Graveyard Examiner" where I discovered the actual existence of fanzines. There were even pictures of two, Horrors of the Screen and Kaleidoscope. In another feature, "Hidden Horrors" has a photograph from 7 [Seven] Footprints to Satan, whose author A. Merritt "saw it & is reported to have wept" (p. 76).

     The magazine concluded with a section of ads. For example, there's a photo of the record LP album "Roddy McDowall Reads the Horror Stories of H. P. Lovecraft." The ad copy reads in part "Two complete horror tales of the master story teller, 'The Outsider' and 'The Hound'. Both appeared in Weird Tales Magazine, and both stories became instant classics" (p. 81). Other albums have readings of Poe and Bradbury.

     Four pages had capsule summaries describing paperbacks along with images of their covers. Some books are mentioned, but not their authors--Burn Witch Burn and Shadows with Eyes (Fritz Leiber; but he is named elsewhere for Nights Black Agents); and More Nighmares (though he is acknowledged in Nightmares) and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (both by Bloch). The name of Arthur Machen is listed as one of the authors in Ghost and Things.

     Yet it is the name of H. P. Lovecraft that appears the most frequently, and often in a laudatory way. Survivor and Others comes with this copy: "The last 7 stories of the great master craftsman of the unknown. Two novelettes and 5 stories which give you an overall look at the macabre world of Lovecraft [-] the fantasies, New England horrors, the Cthulku [sic] Mythos. A treasure of the supernatural" (p. 90). The same ad would be repeated a few pages on. HPL is also noted as one of the authors in the anthology Twisted. A repackaging of several stories from Creeps by Night, Dashiell Hammett's The Red Brain describes itself as having "'master of weird tales' John Collier, the great H. P. Lovecraft, and many other famous writers."

     With all the repetition of Lovecraft's name in this book section and earlier in Famous Monsters, it is to be little wondered that I was primed to seek out and enjoy this writer. And FJA may be thanked for this. 


Robert W. Chambers

     Seeing what contemporaries say about an author is interesting. Around 1905 William Patten wrote in an introduction (in the anthology Short Story Classics (American)) to a short story by Robert W. Chambers: "His 'King in Yellow,' published in 1893, struck an absolutely new and original note in fiction. Like the aim of the best work in pictorial art, its purpose was not so much to 'tell a story' as to present, as it were, a color scheme--a fantasy vibrant with imaginative quality, that would leave a definite impression on the aesthetic sense of the reader long after the specific characters and events of the novel had faded from his mind."



     In Japan "The Picture in the House", "The Dunwich Horror", and "The Festival" have been done with miniatures in a type of animation called ga-nime. The DVD is available through Toei Animation.



     Future Past: Worlds That Never Were (Underwood Books, 2008) by Virgil Finlay is due out. Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison offer tributes. *** A pendant for sale has a portrait of HPL on the front and a quote from "The Outsider" on the reverse.



     Performed live by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at Dragon*Con 2004, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" can be heard in five parts.


Comic Books and Graphic Novels

     A humorous look at his childhood, El Joven Lovecraft (Young Lovecraft) is a webcomic written by José Oliver and drawn by Bart Torres. It has been published by the Spanish Diabolo.



     Arkham Philippines held their Cthulhufest 2008 in November.



     Eric Hoefler has a 22 page essay: "Lovecraft Rising: Tracing the Growth of Scholarship on Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1990-2004." *** "Kosmisk fasa locker" appeared in the Swedish language Svenska Dagbladet (26 Oct 2008).



     Fashion designer Pamela Mayer enjoys HPL's stories.



     There's a drawing (by HPL?) of his 10 Barnes layout.



     The magazine Arkham Tales has reached its final issue.



     Talking about his pet project of At the Mountains of Madness, director Guillermo Del Toro notes that as part of an arrangement Universal would finance research and develop special effects. He suggested that the new technology should be called the Howard.


     Tyranny is a Finnish duo whose music reminds a blogger of Lovecraft and associates.



     In the Light of You (Bleak House Books, 2008) by Nathan Singer has a skinhead leader with the last name of Lovecraft.



     Listen to S.T. discuss HPL on a segment broadcast by KUAR (FM 89.1).



     Ramsey Campbell is interviewed at "Blogging the Muse." *** Don Webb has an analysis of HPL's fiction, "Why Lovecraft Still Matters." *** S.T. is interviewed by the online journal Fruitless Recursion. *** David S. Goyer, screenwriter of The Dark Knight, Dark City, The Puppet Masters, etc., is "a big fan" of HPL.


     This year marks the bi-centennial of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, and there are a number of events to mark this occasion.


     The three DVD set of Houdini: The Movie Star (Kino International, 2008) includes all of the magician's surviving films as an actor, plus more. *** Two letters from Houdini to C.M. Eddy leads Chris Perridas to talk about both men and HPL. *** Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo" has been turned into a play.

Mailing 143

     Scott: Though it was great to read the Lovecraft letters, I found the Derleth to Smith letter of most interest. AD was right about HPL vacillating in his judgment about the merits of various tales. I would've liked some clarity about the groupings of works that HPL assigned, according to Derleth. Maybe the groupings exist somewhere, but I don't recall if I've ever seen them.

     Fred: Your mention that you and your spouse were photoed on either side of a Continental Divide marker reminds me of the couple in Greenwich, England who had a photograph of themselves kneeled down on either side of the Prime Meridian line as they kissed it.

     Ben: Re your endorsement of the statement "all terrorists are Muslims"--this suggests that you believe the IRA (in Ireland), Tamil Tigers (in Sri Lanka), etc. are not terrorist groups since they aren't run by Muslims.

     Sean: A convenient source for checking the validity of rumors is, where the University of Kentucky example that you mention is.

     T.R.: Where I thought you were going with your short article about the influence of "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" you didn't. Here's the point I thought that you were going to make: the poem's sing-song effect, rhyme scheme, and star-as-subject is repeated in the "Polaris" poem. Compare:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky!


Other stars anon shall rise

To the axis of the skies;

Stars that soothe and stars that bless

With a sweet forgetfulness:

I wonder how well the Lovecraft words would fit the "Twinkle" melody? *** Congratulations on your appearance in Lovecraft Annual no. 2.

     Henrik: You speak of religion and religious people in your discussion of existentialism. Let me be nit-picky and suggest that religion is a methodized way of dealing with higher powers and is not the same as spirituality--a feeling that is connected with transcendence. It is with this latter that HPL can be associated.

     John N.: I pre-ordered the de Camp Lovecraft, and when it arrived, I was excited. It is the only non-fiction book that I began reading from front to back without flipping through pages beforehand to see what might come. Like other Lovecraftians, I was dissatisfied with de Camp's judgmental attitude, wherein he didn't accept HPL for who he was but tried to fit him into a de Campian mold. Looking back, I believe that on occasion he came up with a valid perception that S.T.'s H.P. Lovecraft left out. For example, when de Camp faulted HPL for his rationalizing, he was on target.

     Juha-Matti: This is a helpful compendium of Lovecraft's judgments on his stories. You quote HPL, "I quit writing fiction in 1908, despairing of my ability to shape anything with the grace of a Poe." Wasn't that the year that began the period when little is known about him? There is a hint here of depression at the realization that attainments fall far short of aspirations. Also, there is an incorrect citation for "The Quest of Iranon," given as "KL.202"-this should be SL1.128.

     Don and Mollie: I can't speak to your statement that HPL made a "linguistic gaffe" by following "Abdul" with "Al" as being redundant--other than observing that there are numerous Arabic names that follow this convention.

     John H.: Re "A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos." I suggest that you can strengthen (and lengthen) your analysis by including a study of Derleth's non-Mythos supernatural fiction and, indeed, Derleth himself. If Derleth has a Christian spin on the Mythos, it would seem that such a pattern would have been apparent in his other weird fiction. If it is not there, then that, possibly, either enervates your position or gives you an opportunity to examine the discrepancy. One difference between the two authors which you don't overlook is that HPL was interested in creating shadows of monsters whereas Derleth wanted the monsters on stage. One result is that the more one sees a monster, the less awesome it becomes. *** Someone has noted the irony that the sales of Library of America's Lovecraft volume helped fund the production of its Edmund Wilson collection. Lovecraft has surpassed Wilson in the literary pantheon. I suspect that had Wilson written an article praising HPL, the former's reputation would now be a few notches higher today than what it is; that Wilson might have seemed more of a visionary in his criticism. The degree to which he hindered the acceptance of HPL is unresolvable. I question if he had any clout among the fans of popular fiction to whom HPL owes his climb in recognition. *** One point I made about the "black magic" quote is that it caught for the most part an actual reflection of some Lovecraft stories, even if it didn't come word-for-word out of Lovecraft's mind.

     Derrick: Though I had briefly considered Clint Eastwood as a director of an HPL adaptation for my whimsical article, I had dismissed him because of the apparently obvious incongruity. However, having seen Changeling--which title reminded me of "Pickman's Model"--I consider this director more seriously as a contender. That movie does take place in the realistically evoked 1920's and 30's, and it certainly has a Gothic sensibility. With this in mind, I would pick Eastwood to direct The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which like Changeling has a sense of place and the themes of mistaken identity and madness. (Considering Eastwood's age, he could have read the pulp Weird Tales, when he was growing up, though of course there is no evidence in this; and his first acting gig was in the horror movie Revenge of the Creature.) In addition, I've read that Changeling's scriptwriter, J. Michael Straczynski, is an HPL fan. 

Thanks for reading the 59th issue of The Criticaster (February 2009, mailing 145) by Stephen Walker. Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 30).