Of Famous and Obscure Monsters

     In 'aster 59 (LIX) I mentioned that I would harvest my issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland with an eye toward things Lovecraftian. As I recollect, I ordered all the back issues available after starting to get FM from the newsstand. The earliest in my collection is May 1962 (no. 17), with which I'll commence.

FM 17 (May 1962)

      The letter column has a reader strongly criticizing a prior issue where editor Forrest J Ackerman had condensed John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There" (filmed as The Thing (1951)) and made it "unreadable." The letter is by a Daniel O'Bannon of St. Louis, Mo. I suspect that he became the Dan O'Bannon-born in St. Louis in 1946-who wrote Alien, etc. and directed The Resurrected (based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). There are interesting parallels between Alien and The Thing, starting with their titles and going on to the concept of being trapped in a spaceship vs. trapped in polar research station with a deadly being that uses others to nourish its offspring.

     The second part of a horror movie article by Robert Bloch ("The Clown at Midnite" [sic]) has an introduction that implies Bloch is adapting Ray Bradbury's "Black Ferris."

     Under the "Dead Letters Department" a question about the reality of wolfbane has the response that "(like Lovecraft's Necronomicon) it has gradually become incorporated into the body of weird works" (p. 45).

FM 18 (July 1962)

     There's a letter from Mike Parry; could this be the Michael Parry who edited The Rivals of Frankenstein, which included "Herbert West-Reanimator"? *** FJA reports that he went to a preview with Edmond Hamilton, whose "Pigmy Island" (published in Weird Tales) was sold for filming. The film they saw was The Amazing Colossal Man, which Hamilton preferred to The Incredible Shrinking Man.      

     Winner of a make-up contest, Val Warren, will get to appear in a movie that is being shot. "There is a large likelihood of its being the Howard Phillips Lovecraft classic about the macabre Charles Dexter Ward (The Haunted Village) or an Edgar Allan Poe property" (p. 36). The next page has a list of "Horrible (Honorable) Mentions," in which is A. Brandon Taylor III as The Outsider. The page also has a few photos, one of which is of Leslie Fish in make-up: "She's 17 and a model-'Pickman's Model,' that is, from the major horror story of the same name by H. P. Lovecraft." (This was the first time that I had heard of this story.)

     From "The Haunt Ad Dept.": "Lovecraft fan Robt. Weintraub seeks supernatural & horror books." *** A page of paperbacks for sale includes Fritz Leiber's Nights Black Agents.

     Unrelated to HPL: There's a photo of television horror host Gregory Graves of Kansas City's Shock Theater. I still remember his shtick in presenting horror movies, many of which were classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) that I saw there for the first time. The issue also had an article, "Dante's Inferno," by Joe Dante Jr., a name I would remember when I saw it in the credits as director for Piranha, a good horror movie. He has done other genre movies.

FM 19 (September 1962)

     Under "The Shape of Things Ahead," a list of coming films, there is this: "Haunted Village, first Lovecraft (the modern Poe) tale to chill the screen" (p. 10). The "Graveyard Examiner" mentions among the guests at the Ackermansion a Dennis Muren, future special effects master who would be involved in the Lovecraftian Equinox (released 1970, and with Fritz Leiber) and much bigger films. In a listing of paperbacks for sale, HPL is stated to be one of the authors in The Red Brain.

FM 20 (November 1962)

     (Unless something different is added, I'll not repeat what I've discovered about Haunted Village or Lovecraft related paperbacks.) *** An article about John Carradine is written by Roger Elwood, who would become a controversial anthologist. Two anthologies that he co-edited had Lovecraft stories. *** In his article on Ray Harryhausen, Ackerman observes that the former had created a frog-human or Akka mask based on A. Merritt's The Moon Pool. (This was an HPL favorite that is Lovecraftian before there was Lovecraft.) *** There's an ad for the LP Roddy McDowall Reads the Horror Stories of H. P. Lovecraft.

FM 24 (August 1963)

     (I missed issues 21 and 22, and reviewed 23 in my previous 'aster.) "Fang Mail" has a letter about a Robert Bloch article from a Sam Thorpe that includes FJA's brief bolded interpolation: "If I may paraphrase Lovecrest (son of Lovecraft?): Sex & Gore Do Not A Good Terrifying Movie Make."

     Coming attractions are in "Tomb-morrows Movies," among them "The Haunted Palace, Edgar Allan Poe pic produced & directed by Roger the Gore Man." Yet we know that this was the adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, even though it sported the Poe poem for its title. Was this a title change from The Haunted Village (see above)? Later in the article, under the sub-heading "Things to Come" (p. 13) is "The Dunwich Horror from the classic Lovecraftale of the same name. Rats in the Wall [sic]-HPLovecraft, The Haunted Village ('Weird Shadow over Innsmouth')-HPL." So does The Haunted Village refer to an intended adaptation of Ward or to "Innsmouth"?

     "The Amazing Ackermonster" by Paul Linden is an interview of Forry at his home. One page contains two photos of him and wall hangings. The first caption describing what these are reads in part: "a concept of Olaf Stapledon's Odd John copied by Albert Nuetzell, an Edd Cartier original black-&-white illustration (the doll) from Unknown magazine, a multi-color metallic brontosaurus redrawn by Albert Nuetzell from Frank R. Paul's original concept in Science & Invention magazine for A. Merritt's serialized novel The Metal Emperor . and a portion of a pastel cover [January 1938] for an ancient Weird Tales drawn by Margaret Brundage" (p. 29).  Here was the first time I had seen a cover from this magazine, heard the name of Margaret Brundage, and perhaps the first I had seen the Weird Tales name in print. The name of Merritt and others was also unfamiliar to me. The other photo shows "copies of Virgil Finlay work by Nuetzell, for, respectively, A. Merritt's "Snake Mother" & The Face in the Abyss." There is also an "original Edd Cartier illustration from Unknown."

     A mystery photo-a regular feature whose idea is to guess the name of the film from which it comes-is supplied by Philippe Druillet, French comic artist who has done Lovecraft covers. *** Under "Hidden Horrors" there's a photo from the 1923 The Brass Bottle. The article begins "The year was 1923. Weird Tales magazine was first published that year" (p. 77).



     Artist John Coulthart has collected comments by Lovecraft about various artists and provided samples of theses artists' works.



     An annual conference for graduate students in the humanities-"(dis)junctions 2009: Brave New Worlds"-has among its proposals one about world-building in horror literature and film (examples given are of fictional locales by King and HPL) and another about existential and anti-world themes in the same areas (a comment by Houellebecq about HPL is used as a springboard).


Comic Books

     Issues of Atomic Robot feature HPL and his creations.



     In the book Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow (Desert Island Books, 1998), Bernard Davies, cofounder of the British Dracula Society, wrote there was a "myth, first put forth by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, that [Bram] Stoker got into such a muddle writing Dracula that he eventually found an American ghost-writer to finish it for him. An admirer of Dracula, he unashamedly used its first four chapters for a whole section of his own book, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." (Quoted from "IV. The Writing of Dracula," Bram Stoker's Dracula, A Documentary Volume, part of Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 304 [Gale, 2005], p. 167-255; in Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online.)



      HPL makes it to the list of "The Top 20 Greatest Horror Writers of All Time" by Tim Janson. He is number 1. (Stephen King is no. 2, Richard Matheson is no. 3, and Edgar Allan Poe is no. 4.)



     HPL's writing is in the literature section of film director Federico Fellini's library, some of which is on exhibition in the apartment building where his parents lived. *** There's a John Carpenter interview on a dvd (Strange Aeons: The Thing on the Doorstep). The director calls Lovecraft's work "compelling" and reveals that he tried to get "The Colour out of Space" made into a television miniseries, but couldn't get anyone interested. He also says that his acquaintance with HPL came through the landmark anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. Carpenter's father read him its two stories ("The Rats in the Walls" and "The Dunwich Horror"), and Carpenter particularly remembers how his father dramatized the devolution scene (""Why shouldn't rats eat a de la Poer" etc.) in "Rats." I guess that could scare a kid.


     Seattle's Science Fiction Museum has a very slight Lovecraft presence. There's a "Howard" on display, though noted only as the World Fantasy award. A brief display about Virgil Finlay explains that HPL wrote a poem to the artist. Incidentally, Finlay was a native of Rochester, New York, where a number of Lovecrafts lived.



     Musician Patti Smith owns some HPL letters. *** The Italian band Goad has an album, The Wood-Dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft. Its tracks are named in part after his poems and other writings.


      A story in Nocturnes (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004) by John Connolly features boarding school teachers with the names of Lovecraft, Dickens, James, and Poe. 



     This creation has lent its name to a magazine, Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema. The title may be influenced by a director of a film called Necronomicon, Jesus Franco, a legend among sleaze film buffs.



     Parodies using Lovecraftian themes are alive and well. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society presents "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" as filtered through the story of "The Shadow over Innsmouth," popular enough to be in different visual versions. My favorite is available at "Roberson's Interminable Ramble"; and another is on Youtube. *** And this parody of medical ads presents a remedy called "Elder Sign."



     HPL's At the Mountains of Madness and his Cthulhu stories are mentioned in 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die (Universe Publishing, 2006).



     Poe and Lovecraft were to read their works at New York's Vagabond Theater on Friday the thirteenth (February).



     At least as early as 2004 works by HPL had been translated into Chinese, e.g., Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. *** There are online Russian translationsof Govard F. Lavkraft plus the short story collection of Ogest Derlet's The Survivor and Others.



     Wisconsin's governor by proclamation made 24 February August Derleth Dayfor the 100th anniversary of the author's birth. Prairie du Sac and Sauk City post offices were tp have Derleth postmarks on all mail for that day. *** 355 book covers of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds are online. In various languages, they range in dates from 1898 to 2008. It would be pleasant to see something similar for Lovecraft covers. *** In a French language obituary, C. S. Lewis is compared with Poe, Wells, and Lovecraft. It adds that like Poe and Lovecraft he had an extraordinary gift for creating a fantastic atmosphere (The Irish Times, 20 December 1963). *** In reviewing the imaginative film Coraline, Roger Ebert states that its director's "approach would be suited to films for grown-ups adapted from material like stories by August Derleth or Stephen King."


     Canadian writer Esther Rochon commented that while other teenage girls were taken with movie stars and musicians, "she was taken with the imagination and sensitivity of Lovecraft to her," which is further outlined in an article in Lovecraft Studies (Fall 1986) (quoted from Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 251 [Gale Group, 2002], p. 226; in Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online.) *** Another Canadian writer of science fiction, Daniel Sernine, cites him as an influence. *** Donald E. Lawler writes that the prologue to Theodore Sturgeon's "Killdozer!" has a "mythos, derived from Lovecraft and A. Merritt, of the prehuman race whose technology produced this particular type of Frankenstein's monster-a sentient, destructive cloud of electrons" (quoted from Twentieth-Century American Science-Fiction Writers, a volume in the series Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 8 [Gale Research, 1981], p. 154; in Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online). It seems to me that I read this story before I was familiar with HPL, but as I remember, it wasn't at all Lovecraftian, although exciting. *** Jeffrey Thomas interviews W. H. Pugmire. *** A science fiction fan from an early age, Terry Pratchett "developed an ambition to follow in the footsteps of heroes such as HG Wells and HP Lovecraft" (Donald Clarke, The Irish Times, 9 January 2009). *** There's an obituary of editor Kalju Kirde in the February 2009 issue of Locus. It is written by science fiction critic and anthologist Franz Rottensteiner, who spoke of Kirde's "lifelong love" (I'm quoting from memory) for HPL. Though Kirde was Estonian, I believe all his editing was in German. (A few years ago I visited an Estonian public library where I found several of HPL's works translated into that language, though I know not the translator.) *** The recent death of J. G. Ballard brought forth the remark from Bruce Sterling that Ballard and HPL were among the few great science fiction writers. Both created "the same intensely visionary world," though Ballard wrote much better and was a better artist.

All About 144

Fred: Edward Foster's labeling the ghost story as "a sub literary genre" may be taken two ways. It may be that the word "sub" means "inferior"; or as a specialized form of the supernatural, as science fiction is a sub-genre of fantasy. *** Despite Lovecraft's commitment to "art for art's sake" he submitted his writing to patently commercial concerns, such as Weird Tales and Amazing Stories. The outlets that do subscribe to this dicta are the small presses, the various university reviews (The Antioch Review and its ilk). Yet HPL never submitted to these, I suppose in part because they would have looked askance on the subject and story-telling aspect of his writing. *** It is an interesting point you make about the parallel betwixt Lovecraft's "gods" and the god status assigned to Spaniards by MesoAmericans.

David D.: I enjoyed that affecting account of your introduction to fantasy and August Derleth.

Graeme: It appears you don't enjoy reading Lovecraft literary criticism (Burleson, Waugh). Maybe you might enjoy some literary criticism (totally unrelated to HPL) entitled Studies in Classic American Literature and written by D. H. Lawrence. It's a fun read.

T.R.: It's intriguing to compare my personal experiences with others who have made a Lovecraftian tour of Providence. It is certainly an emotional experience. Like you I have also had sore feet from walking about. Maybe this influenced your typo: "the city had groan up."

Don (and Mollie): Re your debating my "What constitutes real science is open to debate," which I believe was in response to what you termed real science: You address this in other ways than ones I would have preferred.  I'll offer one perspective that you ignore; some persons consider that there are two categories of science, hard and soft. The former (chemistry, physics, etc.) is heavily centered on quantitative data, whereas this is more marginal to psychology, sociology, etc. Because of this, there is a view that the latter are not among the real sciences. You, apparently, don't agree with this, nor acknowledge this disagreement. In responding to me you have gone down the avenue of observing that astrology and creationism are not real science. However, I would go further. I would say that these, plus psychic studies, your own ufoology, etc. are not science. (I'd call each a belief system.) *** Re your disagreement with my statement that even if you are a mathematician you are not an expert in mathematical history. As you acknowledge, mathematics has a lot of niches (topology, geometry, algebra, numbers theory, etc.). One can be an expert in one area, but without much (or any) knowledge about another. This would include a history of math. I'd be willing to bet that I could ask a mathematician-or any scientist-about the history of his or her field, and the best the majority could do is give generalities, which would hardly qualify them as an expert; and they might know less than an interested layman. *** As for the merits of living in caves-some people have no choice, so close are they sunk in poverty (and based on some shanties I've seen, caves are preferable) ; others find them snug and economical (shelter, constant temperature); still others see caves as an environmentally benevolent alternative. *** Thus endeth my chiding rebuttals (?).

Martin: Thanks for providing the enticing photo of your Lovecraft collection. You have a superb eye for detail. Your article on textual differences in the Eddy works reminds me that I wish you could be hired by some of these publishers-from Arkham House to Dark Shade Books-to get the text right before the editions are offered for sale. *** De Camp's grouping of multiple references under a single note is not unique; it has the virtue of reducing the clutter of foot or endnote numbers in the text. However, it can lead to confusion when you are unsure which part of the text is referenced by which citation. Unfortunately, the note situation has gotten worse. I believe that in recent years I've come across "scholarly" books that have omitted foot or endnotes and bibliographies (so that you have to trust the author's data), while others omit the notes but at least leave the bibliography, so the reader would have to consult the latter to find corroboration-but which title?

Linda: It was pleasant to read how your appreciation of HPL's outdoor exploration led you to rekindle your own peregrinations. However, I hope that this is more than just feasting on endorphins. *** HPL was quite a human "bean."

John H.: You twice use the word "diffidence" (lacking confidence) when I think you mean "deference" (allowing to take precedence). *** Hesperia would have benefitted if you had interspersed Graeme's views with your own counter-arguments. It would have greatly improved the clarity and added interest by making it seem more like a debate. As it was, I had a little ado in determining to what point you were responding. *** You say that Arkham House had "a customer base that in most cases knew exactly what was going on" (my italics) when it came to the collaborations. Where is your evidence? In Derleth's Some Notes on H. P. Lovecraft (Arkham House, 1959), under "The Myths" is sub-section four, "That many of Lovecraft's manuscripts were lost" (p. viii). This is an example that the customer base didn't know what was going on. Another is furnished by the chapter "The Unfinished Manuscripts," which begins "The frequent reference to 'unfinished manuscripts' in such books as The Survivor and Others and The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces have given many readers the idea that Lovecraft left many 'unfinished' stories" (p. ix). Derleth's statements lead me to conclude that a significant proportion of the Arkham House customer base incorrectly believed that Derleth's collaborative efforts were much less than was actually the case; that they believed Lovecraft left unfinished stories-not notes, notions, or outlines-and it was these that Derleth completed rather than composed.

Ken: What was Arthur Fredlund's transgression? It may have been some sort of turpitude—-sexual precocity, drinking, smoking, or language.

Scott: Your account of the HPL film festival was very enjoyable. I don't grasp the humor of why a change of Stan Sargent's first name could have qualified him to drive a bus. That CA Smith "was not at all fond of biographers" is a sentiment observed by an Alexander Pope contemporary, John Arbuthnot: "Biography is one of the new terrors of death." *** I know less about Smith than I do about HPL and REH, and that reminiscence by his friend was welcome. All three of the gents have an unreality to them as human beings. *** Your point that I'm faulting Guillermo del Toro (in Hellboy) for, in effect, being faithful to Mike Mignola's vision is on target (someone at my place of work made a similar observation). If I had considered del Toro only in terms of other of his films, I'd have been relatively happy that he intended to film At the Mountains of Madness. However, in Hellboy I felt that there was an opportunity to present a mythos presence and a sense of atmosphere-which was introduced only to be scotched by the wisecracking attitude of Hellboy, thereby dashing what I hoped for. There was a nose-thumbing at the Lovecraftian world, and I wish that it could have been omitted altogether.

     *** I'm responsible for leading you into an error. I wrote "Curtis Harrington" when I should have written "Curtis Hanson" (scripter of The Dunwich Horror and director of LA Confidential, etc.). As a result of your comments I've watched the former's Night Tide, which I've heard about for a long time. It's a moody art film that is ambivalent about being supernatural. It belongs in an off-beat category and not a fantasy one. *** I saw The Last Wave on TV decades ago and was not taken, as you are, with its Lovecraftian qualities. As with Night Tide, I'll watch it as a result of your recommendation.

     You and I disagree about the potency of Edmund Wilson's judgment on HPL's acceptability. You write "Before 'Tales of the Marvellous and Ridiculous [1945],' HPL was mentioned fairly frequently in academic publications, at least for a recently deceased writer for the pulps. After Wilson, this largely ceased." Please cite these academic publications (titles such as The New Yorker or The Saturday Review of Literature wouldn't qualify). Perusing a few sections of S.T.'s H.P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft Criticism (how I wish it had been arranged chronologically), I've found only American Literature (1940; a book review by T. O. Mabbott) and Kenyon Review (1945), which probably came out around the same time as the Wilson article. For the next several decades HPL seldom received mention in academic articles. The cause for this, I'd say, had little to do with Wilson, who didn't write for academics; that they would allow a New Yorker article to determine their literary appreciation is not probable to me. As one of them, professor Mabbott's written opinion would have more sway, and he approved of HPL.

     I'll offer one alternative narrative for his neglect. He wrote in an under-appreciated genre for pulp magazines where the stories (says Wilson) "ought to have been left," a view shared by another critic, Harry T. Moore (as August Derleth observes). Such subscription to a literary caste system is why Lovecraft had difficulty in cracking the academic market. It was the gradual acceptance of genre and pulp fiction by the academics that eventually pulled him into respectability. In 1959 Extrapolation became the first journal to publish academic work on science fiction and fantasy; in the late 1960's the Popular Culture Association was founded in part as a reaction against a stodgy academia; Science Fiction Studies began in 1973. HPL was one of the beneficiaries of this re-adjustment of literary values.

     If Wilson did succeed in barring Lovecraft from any publication, it was simply from the New Yorker, where it took forty-five years for him to be mentioned again in those pages.

     *** I agree that the "black magic" quote may not be directly from the pen of HPL, and it is possible it is not a paraphrase. However, it does (as I said) have an accuracy in describing some of HPL's writing, such as "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Call of Cthulhu." And the practice of "black magic" does figure in other stories (notably The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). Perhaps we have different definitions of magic. I would say, to adapt Clausewitz, magic is the continuation of technology by other means.

     *** It is unclear if the letter that you reprint of HPL to Farnese is a reproduction of an original typescript or a transcription by you or someone else.


I at Last Catch Up; or, Mailing 145

Ken: Unlike you, I wouldn't admit "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" to the one volume of the fiction-it's HPL muffled. "Under the Pyramids" has a far better claim, being entirely in HPL's hand. However, admitting "only the texts traditionally considered Lovecraft's" is not, to my mind, a good guide, for tradition may very well be flawed. *** I thought someone had circulated in an EOD zine the Sam Loveman ad requesting a response from Sonia; or did I see it online? *** Putting "Supernatural Horror in Literature" in a volume of his fiction is appropriate, for it gives an appreciation of his work by providing a context with other writers. Perhaps it should begin the volume, and be in effect an introduction to the fiction. *** I cannot find evidence of a 3rd edition of H. P. Lovecraft: A Life. What seems to me to exist is a reprint with a new introduction, since a new edition suggests updated textual material. But I may be pedantic in this view.    

     *** How is it known that he did not sign and file a divorce degree? That one is missing does not mean it doesn't exist (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence). *** You observe that if the works are in the public domain, there will be a greater flourishing of his writing. In my opinion HPL has achieved recognition in part because of the ambiguity of his copyrights. Fans and publishers have assumed that they could publish or adapt his work with impunity, and this has led to so many readers being introduced to it. Had there been strong copyright protection of his writing, he would not have so soon achieved the eminence he has. Perhaps his popularity and ubiquity has speeded his literary legitimization.

     *** I too remember with fondness the arrival of the cardboard mailers with the Arkham House label and my enthusiasm in opening them and finding within the book or books that I ordered. This would have begun a year later than your experience, in 1965. Before an arrival there was the pleasure of perusing the Arkham catalog and deciding what I wanted, savoring the descriptions and looking forward to the books that were to be published.

David D.: Re your omission in making mailing comments because you fly off the handle too easily—if you write things hot, you can edit them cold, which is how some creative artists operate. After the divine afflatus has flown, then comes the time to be a sober workman on what one has accomplished. *** The conte cruel "The Copper Bowl" was written by George Fielding Eliot and appeared in Weird Tales for December 1928. I read the short in a paperback anthology, The Pan Book of Horror Stories. A number of stories, as I recall, didn't appeal to me.

William (if I'm "Steven" then you're "William"): We have two distinct perceptions about the new Barnes and Noble collection of Lovecraft fiction: to you it represents another opportunity or market for presenting him to readers and the chance to read new introductions to his stories; whereas for me a new anthology is unneeded re-packaging, adding nothing fresh, but contributing to market saturation and Lovecraft inflation. Both views are valid. *** I was recently in Seattle and was impressed by how much HPL and associates got shelf space devoted to them in the university's bookstore-probably the most I've ever seen.

Scott B.: Congratulations on your published and to-be-published essays, and welcome back to the EOD. *** There's a difference between acquiring books and reading books; if the latter activity is most important, you have the opportunity to borrow a book from a library. I'd guess that $35 is nearer the cheaper end for an academic title. The price of $100 for a hardcover of 250 pages is by no means uncommon. *** Upon reflection I recall no experience of a teacher or other sneering at my interest in HPL when I discovered him in high school, though it was not an interest that I shared, probably as a defense; he was and remains a very personal love and obsession. However paranoid it was, I felt that the establishment would be hostile. Nor was it only the establishment, for I remember reading, probably in the mid-seventies, that at science fiction conventions Lovecraft fans felt themselves as a put-upon minority. *** Other than your omission of the subjects discussed at the New Paltz conference, your enjoyable account was informative.

T.R.: Re Lovecraft's use of science, you state that "All I did was measure Lovecraft by his own standards, not mine." If you validate his standards as credible or reliable, his harsh judgments about his stories must also be taken seriously, which time has shown us to be wrong. Therefore, I think that it is relevant that few readers would catch his scientific errors. I agree that he was successful in presenting scientific facts (fudged as they occasionally may be) and art together. *** The same statistics may be used to support opposing arguments-it is a matter of interpretation. When they are not collected or used for some biased end, they have a much higher reputation. It is curious that in spite of the unreliability of eyewitness evidence, this remains successful in a court room. Perhaps one reason is that the majority of people believe more in sense data-the eyewitness-than the abstract (e.g., numeric figures). Re "There is popular self-righteous opinion that people who don't participate in a poll don't deserve to be counted anyway so they don't matter." I would drop the "self-righteous" adjective and state that there is a view that those who participate in polls represent proportionally the entire population, and in that sense the uncounted "don't matter." *** Your statements about a cooling sun (which appeared in Smith's "Phoenix") confused me. According to you "the idea that the sun was cooling and contracting was out of date even when Lovecraft was writing about it"; but later you write "it would be impossible for the sun to somehow cool . in any kind of human time scale," which suggests that the premise of a cooling sun is correct, even if it took trillions of years.

Martin: With you helming the corrections for a Lovecraft reprint (H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction), it must take the lead as the most perfectly proofed edition of a Lovecraft work in existence. What a meticulously herculean and miraculous effort you've accomplished. *** Re the error from "Memory": "out of deep treasure-vaults write poison serpents"-maybe they were writing poison pen letters (and please note, serpents are venomous and not poisonous, perhaps unless you ate them). *** Re "The Picture in the House" correction, I'm uncertain about the proper grammatical use of the dash ("on ye-As ye love] on ye- As ye love"). The "on ye" marks the end of a sentence, even if it is spoken in a broken or interrupted way, so I would have put in a period. Or the words may be part of a single sentence, i.e., "on ye-as ye love". *** Re "Under the Pyramids," you have "crowned citadel and background] crowned citadel_background". In this instance I disagree with the correction. The longer part of the "corrected" sentence would read ".magnificence which included not only remote and glittering Cairo with its crowned citadel background of gold-violet hills." The use of "crowned citadel" as an adjectival phrase makes less sense and has less elegance than its usage as adjective (crowned) + noun (citadel): "crowned citadel and background of gold-violet hills." *** It is counter-logical that an item "published in a ladies' magazine doesn't mean it was aimed at ladies." However, I bow to your contention that it is a fact.

Randal: I wish that photo in the Ackermansion of the book spines had been larger and more focused. As it is, I can just make out a few titles.

John N.: In comparing Howard's "The Hyborian Age" with At the Mountains of Madness you have indirectly struck upon one reason I have a problem with the novel; it's much more a story designed for pseudohistorical background and exposition rather than dramatization. Fritz Leiber said something along the same lines. *** I'd question that a 1930 Weird Tales story of dinosaurs hatching from an egg in modern times had any more impact on AtMoM than something like Wells' "Aepyornis Island" or The Lost World. *** Your quote from the novel does not support your assertion that "man has evolved from" the Old Ones. Rather almost the contrary is stated elsewhere in the novel-i.e., "Elder Things supposed to have created all earth life as jest or mistake." The Old Ones had the role of creators and were not an earlier stage of human evolution.

Leigh: I am glad that in naming your story "By Their Fruit" you resisted the far more peremptory and commercial title "Buy Their Fruit."

S.T.: You state that Poe believed "the idea that some given word might 'indirectly' lead to the preconceived end . to the ultimate effect." This seems to anticipate T.S. Eliot's "objective correlative," where a thing symbolically represents a formula for a particular emotion.

Linda: I chuckled over your admitting that you have never been able to make it through At the Mountains of Madness. One reason why it's a challenge-as I said above-is the lack of dramatization and almost pedantic history lesson that the characters experience in the underground city. *** I notice that you use the royal we-e.g., "our minds"-whereas it is closer to the truth to say "I" with the understanding that you believe you are speaking for a significant majority.

David S.: Scarecrow's publisher guidelines for bibliographies are undoubtedly less geared toward a college professor or assistant than toward librarians, who are the major buyers for bibliographies, which may be consulted by academics. There may be scholars who buy the books outright, in which case they are doing lots of research on the topics.



      Several issues back I presented a dream list of directors who in an alternate reality might direct stories by HPL. For those who thought my list outlandish or whimsical, I present the following, which has a name not on my list: there is a credible rumor that a 2009 graphic novel entitled The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft (by Mac Carter and Jeff Blitz) is being developed at Universal for A-lister Ron Howard. Since he has done several light fantasies plus The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, the genre must appeal to him. Who knew that behind his wholesome character Opie (The Andy Griffith Show) might be a surreptitious HPL reader?

     From what I can gather, the story is hardly Lovecraftian, beyond the superficial, so even if it got made, it wouldn't be the real thing, however entertaining it might otherwise be. Now if director Howard bore the first name of Robert E., that'd be a different story.


Words, Words, Words

     Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (Oxford University Press, 2007) edited by Jeffrey Prucher quotes Lovecraft in several entries. For example, he is the first citation under "sense of wonder" (from "Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction"), "imaginative fiction" (a 1914 letter to All-Story Weekly), and "posthuman" (from 1936, "The Shadow out of Time"). Missing from the dictionary are the phrases "things man was not meant to know" and "phenomenon as hero."

     Several other Weird Tales writers are quoted in the volume, among them Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, and Ray Bradbury; but no Robert E. Howard. If I might add a slight digression, I've found that the origin of "little green man" appeared first in a 1946 Weird Tales story by an H. Lawlor.

     Brave New Words is modeled on The Oxford English Dictionary, the leading source on the historical development and usage of the English language. Among its words are "Poesque" and "Tolkienian." I've sent in a request to add "Lovecraftian," and the earliest citation that I've found in print is from a 1967 catalog record for Colin Wilson's The Mind Parasites (Oneiric Press, 1967). A note describes it as "A novel in the Lovecraftian manner." But I suspect that I've seen "Lovecraftian" used earlier, as from the 1940's. Does anybody know?


Thanks for reading the 60th issue of The Criticaster (April 2009, mailing 146) by Steve Walker. Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 31).