Lovecraft's Best Short Stories (Michael Ashley, editor) is being brought out by Dover. One listing shows nine titles, some of which would hardly rank as "best," such as "The Lurking Fear" and "From Beyond."
See a photo of three Lovecraftian-inspired "papertoys": Robert E. Howard's Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Robert Bloch's De Vermis Mysteriis, and Cthulhu.
I've discovered a pdf search engine. What follows are some of the results. "Howard Phillips Lovecraft: The Early Years: A Psychological Profile" by Doug Crill appeared in HunterGatheress Journal, volume 2. tinyurl.com/m8fwpv *** Read an online translation by Robin Mackay of Michel Houllebecq's H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life. tinyurl.com/fpkz7 *** A pdf of George T. Wetzel's The Lovecraft Scholar (Hobgoblin Press, 1983) has the articles "The Pseudonymous Lovecraft," "Lovecraft's Literary Executor," and "Copyright Problems of the Lovecraft Literary Estate." *** "Supplementing the Abyss-H.P. Lovecraft and E.A. Poe" (Studia Anglica Posnaniensia XXIV 1992) is by Marek Wilczynski, a professor at a Polish university. He has written for the same journal "Secret Passage Through Poe: The Transatlantic Affinities of H. P. Lovecraft and Stefan Grabinski" (January 2008), which is not available as a free pdf. *** "Howard Phillips Lovecraft et la Postmodernité" by Piermaria Chapus is a French language article in Sociétés (De Boeck Université, no. 75, 2002/1, p. 99-112).
Oscar winner for an animated short documentary, Chris Landreth is working on a fictionalized animated biography film to be called "Lovecraft."
The band Unit 7 Drain had a 2008 album title Lovecraft.
What does the Internet think of Lovecraft? If the search terms are "H.P. Lovecraft," it is 5.2% negative (22 results), 94.8% positive (404 results), and 0% don't care (0 results). If the term is just "Lovecraft," it is 3.6% negative (44 results), 96.3% positive (1,170 results), and 0.1% (1 result). So the answer is overwhelmingly positive.
This summer an adaptation by Tim Uren of "The Curse of Yig" is being put on at the Fringe Festival in Minneapolis. *** On "Unfilmable" are photos of a puppet show adaptation of "The Outsider" by Marisa Merewood.
Weird Horror Tales (Cornerstone Book Publishers, 2009) by Michael Vance and illustrated by Earl Geier contains thirteen stories "in the Lovecraft tradition!"
IDW Publishing is adapting 100 short stories by Robert Bloch into a graphic novel format.
Doesn't anything happen in Seattle? It is somewhat dumbfounding to discover that ST has made the news simply by purchasing a house. It's in the BlockShopper Seattle.
From the M.G. Lewis poem in the 1808 Tales of Terror, "The Abbot of Leiston: An Old English Tale": "No tear of compunction o'er Leiston's he'll shed,/When high on the ridge of dark Dunwich's heath/He throws a last gaze on her pinnacled head." Here is one possible source for the introduction to Lovecraft of the name "Dunwich," especially interesting since Lewis was one of the masters of the Gothic tale. There are other contenders: A Faithful Narrative of the Wonderful and Extraordinary Fits Which Mr. Tho. Spatchet (Late of Dunwich and Cookly) Was Under by Witchcraft. (1693); Dunwich: Or a Tale of the Splendid City, in Four Cantos (1828); and An Historical Account of Dunwich, Antiently a City, Now a Borough. (1754). "Dunwich" was also the title of a poem in an 1824 collection by Bernard Barton. But perhaps none of these had any influence on HPL's name choice.
Tortuous Retorts (to Mailing 146)
Ken: Based on your review of the stage production The Dreams in the Witch House, I'm satisfied that I didn't see it. I wish the title had been changed to further the distance from Lovecraft that its story already had. *** In your research on chiefly Polish names in "The Dreams in the Witch House" you may be over-nice in confining yourself to the 1930 census. Perhaps some of the names were more common in the 1900, 1910, or 1920 census when Lovecraft may have encountered and remembered them. Even more pertinent would have been to scan Rhode Island and Providence directories for these times or even earlier. *** You state that "Sonia H. Green" was a roomer in Brooklyn, 1930. However, as I pointed out (The Criticaster 51), on a 1932 ship's passenger list she is listed as "Sonia Lovecraft" and widowed. I wonder why she chose to go back to the Lovecraft surname? Her age given on the passenger list was 49. *** You congratulate the Burlesons on their 100th issue. I imagine that with all the EOD issues you have published-albeit under different names-you have surpassed 100, and perhaps you are the leading EODer in quantity.
John H.: I'm confused by your documentation. You have Derleth replying to Chester Whitehorn (page 2 of Hesperia [Spring 2009]), but your citation is "Whitehorn to Derleth: Feb 12, 1954." Shouldn't it be Derleth to Whitehorn? Nor would I agree with the word "unwisely" as it applied to Ackerman sending his interpretation of a carbon contract to Derleth; I'd say he was being forthright. It appears that Ackerman had trusted S. Fowler Wright's testimony, and Wright was wrong. However, Ackerman's IS account of the episode with Derleth shows how memory is so often self-serving, not just for Ackerman, but for any of us. *** That was an intriguing and fact-driven narration of the dispute betwixt Derleth and Ackerman. Though I feel that you are too warm a partisan of Derleth for the history to be truly objective-there might have, for example, been more naiveté on the part of Ackerman than unethical intent-"The Ackermonster and the Aug" was both enlightening and enjoyable. So, when can we expect a biography by you of Derleth and Arkham House? (I look forward to reading it.)
Ben: Typo--the name should be Wilmar H. Shiras. *** Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife has been dramatized a number of times. First was Weird Woman (1944), then Night of the Eagle (1962). This latter was the British title, the American being Burn, Witch, Burn. Why the A. Merritt title was adopted I know not. Another movie version was Witches' Brew (1980), and another is "in development." A TV series, Moment of Fear based at least one episode on the novel, if the IMDB is to be trusted.
Scott: The description "talentless hack" is an oxymoron. In my view a hack writer is someone who gets published, generally often, and paid for it. The work may be uninspired and trite, but it is good enough that money exchanged hands. This means the writer had talent. Compare this with the number of amateurs who send in manuscripts that are rejected by a professional editor. Until they prove themselves, they can rightly be judged as "talentless." *** As I've said of the "black magic" quote a few issues ago, whoever uttered it, it is reasonably descriptive of some of Lovecraft's later stories (e.g., "The Dunwich Horror"). *** Re "Derleth's hubris of putting Lovecraft's name bigger than his" on The Lurker at the Threshold: wouldn't the charge of hubris have been more appropriate if he had made his name bigger than HPL's on the cover?
Martin: Re Jorkens chiding the narrator "for getting the price of a mermaid ticket wrong"-there's an exchange in the 1950 movie Harvey-but not in the play on which it is based-that involves the sanatorium worker Wilson, nurse Kelly, and the eccentric Elwood P. Dowd who believes in a human-sized white rabbit:
Wilson: "Who's Harvey?"
Miss Kelly: "A white rabbit, six feet tall."
Wilson: "Six feet?"
Elwood P. Dowd: "Six feet three and a half inches. Now let's stick to the facts."
Re Stephen King's Under the Dome: The Simpson Movie used the same premise.
Don: Re your citing, via Bertrand Russell, proof that there is "no golden teapot somewhere in orbit around the sun." It would be harder to prove that there is no golden teapot somewhere in orbit around a sun. Infinite stars make for infinite possibilities, even if the unlikelihood of a teapot remains terrifically impossible. It is rather like the remark that x number of monkeys on x number of typewriters would in x years type out a Shakespeare sonnet. *** I suppose that "The Colour out of Space" is HPL's finest story. I first read it in a volume, The Colour out of Space and Others (Lancer Books, 1964). I remember that in 1965 I bought the volume at Pickwick Bookstore in Hollywood. I can virtually envision where it was on the book store shelf when I spotted it by The Dunwich Horror and Others (1963) from the same publisher. The pink cover had a skeleton with a veil that turned out unrelated to the contents. I can also remember that I began reading the work in an apartment in California belonging to some family acquaintance. These were (with qualifications) the good old days!
Leigh: I wonder why HPL did not destroy the maligned "The Transition of Juan Romero"; or conversely, what caused him to destroy works of-or was it before?-that period. The story appears to have a number of undeveloped elements that leave an unsatisfied taste in the mouth. Was "Huitzilopochtli" a name introduced "as a touch of exotic strangeness"? Or was it, in the words of Pooh-Bah, "merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative"? *** The story seems to have one of Lovecraft's unreliable narrators, since witnesses dispute the events. *** I disagree with several of your arguments. While I guess the word "throbbing" could be courtesy of Poe, the evidence is far too insubstantial. This may not be much of a rebut, but I can offer a bit more about the story's excessive vagueness. Lovecraft did use vague allusions in At the Mountains of Madness, "The Thing on the Doorstep," etc. In these instances the allusions are lagniappe, adding a bit more atmosphere; yet the works could get along without them. However, the vagueness is the story in "The Transition of Juan Romero." It's an incomplete narrative that tantalizes but never fulfills expectations. I'd compare it with "Nyarlathotep," which also never jells, but is more successful, perhaps as a dream experience is successful, if inconclusive. At that, the narrator of "Juan Romero" suggests the experience might have been "a mere dream."
Juha-Matti: I can shed light on one correction in the TLS to Loveman. You have, including the bracket: "I went to Paterson to [?board] James Ferdinand in his lair"; going by the context I suggest that the bracketed word should be "beard," as in the catch phrase "beard the lion in his den." As for the ALS: perhaps "Writer is a ridiculous institution" should be, again by the context, "Winter is a ridiculous institution"; yet it is singular to refer to winter as an institution. And in "take on Old Gentleman's advice" the word "on" should be "an."
Machen and Lovecraft
In "Novel of the White Powder" there may be some parallels to Lovecraft's sentiments, and this intrigues at least me. To wit:
Machen: ". it serves to conceal much that it is better should not be known generally."
Lovecraft: "it was decided that such secrets are not good for mankind." ("The Rats in the Walls")
Machen: ".the human trinity dissolved, and the worm which never dies, that which lies sleeping within us all."
Lovecraft: ". instructs the very worm that gnaws." ("The Festival")
Hundreds of Years
The months of January and February of 2009 are remarkable for the hundred year intervals they commemorate. August Derleth was born in February in 1909. One hundred years before that Edgar Allan Poe was born in January, and in February came the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, on the same day. Darwin's idea of evolution was an influence on HPL's writing. I suspect that it came through the mediation of Ernst Haeckel. S.T. alludes to Hackel a few times in the Life, but his approach is that of Haeckel and philosophy rather than biology or evolution. I suspect that it was through Haeckel that HPL principally learned about the latter subject.
According to Wikipedia, in 1868 Haeckel wrote a German language bestseller that gave his version of Darwinian evolution. This was translated in 1876 as The History of Creation and went through many editions until 1926. It stated that human evolution went through 22 stages, the 21st being the "missing link" between apes and humans. (N.B.: Eighteenth Men was as far as W. Olaf Stapledon dared speculate in his Last and First Men.) Haeckel was also a defender of scientific racism, which showed that some people were more equal than other people. He would have supplied HPL with the ammunition or justification or corroboration for his own view.
How did this play out in his fiction? I will trace the thread in order of composition.
In "The Beast in the Cave" (1905) there's an encounter with a snow-white thing, comparable to an ape. The revelation at the end is "the strange beast of the unfathomed cave, was, or had at one time been a MAN!!!" The devolution is due to the environment rather than genetics.
"The Picture in the House" (1919) can squeak into this conversation. Cannibalism is identified with more primitive people, as in the butcher shop picture. The old man of the story has retained his human form, unlike the characters in the other stories. "But for his horrible unkemptness the man would have been as distinguished-looking as he was impressive." The source of his atavism seems not so much environmental as an inheritance of the "dark furtive traits from the prehistoric depths of their cold Northern heritage."
"Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" (1920) is the most extended treatment of the theme of evolution-or more correctly devolution-in the fiction. Here the horror is brought on by genetics rather than environment. The culprit in the narrator's hybrid bloodline is a white ape, an incarnation of the "missing link," with the ape side more favored, I gather. An explorer discovers the remains of a city and speculates that "things that might have sprung up after the great apes had overrun the dying city." Later it is stated that the creatures are a "white ape of some unknown species . and infinitely nearer mankind." Simian-like characteristics are found in descendants of the Jermyn family; one, for example, has "a kind of reputation for feats of strength and climbing." If not written by Lovecraft, this story could have been taken as a raw satire, perhaps on the order of-was it an Aldous Huxley novel?, where I seem to recall that one of the characters is actually an ape/human hybrid. "Jermyn" has notable parallels with "The Rats in the Walls."
"I saw that they were dwarfed, deformed hairy devils or apes-monstrous and diabolic caricatures of the monkey tribe." This was how the narrator from "The Lurking Fear" (1922) described the morlockian underground dwellers, the Martenses, probably the result of a "degenerate squatter population." In the nature vs. nurture debate, I suspect that nature shows itself the winner in this instance. The Martenses have a "queer hereditary dissimilarity of eyes," and there was probably something in their background to take the path that they did. They become isolated and intermarry with a "numerous menial class." Likewise, "many of the crowded family degenerated." They have an "unclean, animal aspect," no doubt from inbreeding. Here may be a variation on the Darwinian theme. The idea of reversion or atavism has been mixed with the consequence of inbreeding.
The greatest story to use the theme-and imho the greatest of all Gothic horror short stories-is "The Rats in the Walls" (1923). The evidence of devolution is abundant. The ghostly (?) rats and the cats are different representations of the narrator's beast kinship, and they have an implied psychic link with the narrator, who eventually succumbs to his surroundings and reverts to ancestral appetites. It appears that environment is the key influence on heredity, but this is not consistent. One learns that "Temperament rather than ancestry was evidently the basis of this cult, for it was entered by several who married into the family." Yet the narrator states of the remains of the penned beings that "some of the skeleton things must have descended as quadrupeds through the last twenty or more generations." This would be the result of their captivity. It is unclear if the narrator's change at the end is brought on chiefly by environment or heredity. One imagines that had he remained in America or had he not accompanied his companions into the twilit grotto, there would have been no change in his fortunes. Yet the proximity of Norrys and the place acted as a trigger; since it affected him, heredity must have also played a role. To put it in more classical terms, the twilit grotto acted as the full moon to de la Poer's werewolf-for "Rats" is a combination of the haunted house and werewolf motifs, though submerged into an evolutionary netherland through Lovecraft's genius.
In the underground the world becomes bones and skeletons, the principal evidence for evolution, but exaggerated almost into parody. In particular there are skulls, which show "utter idiocy, cretinism, or primitive semi-apedom." The language also identifies congenital disorders with throwbacks. In the grotto prehistory and history are as jumbled together as the bones, but it is the former that concerns us. A reference to the skulls of both Piltdown man-now known as a fraud-and a gorilla serve as time markers for the evolution from ape to human.
Devolution is most originally dramatized through a backward journey via language, to the time of grunts "Ungl unl... rrlh ... chchch..." The subject of the development of human speech continues to draw speculation to this day.
Besides-or even instead of-Darwin, the scientist being referenced here may be Lamarck, who had a theory about the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This is the transmission of features from generation to generation. Since some of de la Poer's ancestors were cannibals, this influence was in his blood. (On the other hand HPL may have known that the concept had been largely discredited by the early twentieth century.)
The theme of evolution becomes more tangential after this story, as though Lovecraft had satisfied himself that he had said his say. In "Pickman's Model" (1926) one character is familiar with "the biological or evolutionary significance of this or that mental or physical symptom" and finds that Pickman was not human. More vividly put by Pickman, he is supposed to be "a sort of monster bound down the toboggan of reverse evolution." Yet I think that this is not an example of devolution, of returning to the ape a la "Arthur Jermyn," but of hybridity with an alien life form, the ghouls. In this way "Pickman's Model" is, in more than a single sense, a transitional story that leads to Wilbur Whateley and the Innsmouth folk. I'll even go so far to say that the motif finds itself in the captive minds of the Great Race-human minds in inhuman (but not subhuman) bodies. (Incidentally, the horror for Arthur Jermyn is the self-discovery of what he is, but for Pickman the horror originates from someone who has accepted what he is; both are ostracized by society.)
At the Mountains of Madness (1931) makes reference to evolution (the "human race we know had shambled out of apedom" and there is "a shambling, primitive mammal, used sometimes for food and sometimes as an amusing buffoon by the land dwellers, whose vaguely simian and human foreshadowings were unmistakable"). This, and I suppose the idea of life's creation are the prominent nods to evolution.
To draw up the threads: HPL is ingenious in sounding variations on the theme of (d)evolution in his fiction. "The Beast in the Cave" suggests man's form (compared to "an anthropoid ape") reverts due to environmental circumstances.
The evidence for the old man's atavism in "The Picture in the House" is thin. It is only a suggestion that he is channeling primitive instincts. (Whether he also has supernatural longevity others may consider.)
"Arthur Jermyn" posits a race of ape/humans who intermarry with humans. Evolution is seen in terms of hybridity.
The Martenses of "The Lurking Fear" devolve in almost an opposite way from Arthur Jermyn. In the former the cause is inbreeding (abetted by mental aberrations), while in the latter it is, so to speak, outbreeding.
"The Rats in the Walls" comes closest to dramatizing devolution. Heredity and environment work in tandem to bring de la Pore to his moment of revelation, and this takes place among a physical manifestation of evolutionary artifacts (bones, skulls, burial mounds, etc.). It's a place that an archaeologist or paleo-anthropologist would visit in their nightmares.
"Pickman's Model" uses the evolutionary idea less to suggest a reversion to the primitive than to the alien.
At the Mountains of Madness has references to it only as part of the much bigger picture of the Great Old Ones. By then evolution as a theme for Lovecraft's horror works has receded from his creative conscious, perhaps in part because the alien hybrid has supplanted it.
It's tempting to hunt for evolutionary connections to other Lovecraft related authors. For example, there may be a hint of man's reversion in Arthur Machen's "The Novel of the Black Seal" (the boy whose body pushes out a tentacle) and "The Novel of the White Powder" (a descent into a kind of protoplasmic mass). Yet Machen's mysticism is an odd companion for evolutionary science, though he observes "Omnia exeunt in mysterium, which means, I take it, that every branch of human knowledge if traced up to its source and final principles vanishes into mystery."
Browne Popular Culture Library, Science Fiction, Fantasy & Related Collections (Bowling Green State University) Pulp magazine holdings come with extensive or complete runs of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Tales of Magic and Mystery, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Weird Tales, etc. There are nearly 4,500 fanzines, and a Sheldon R. Jaffrey Collection includes his Arkham House bibliography.
Coslet Collection (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Among its 15,000 fanzines are long runs of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) mailings and a nearly complete set of the publication of R. H. Barlow's Dragonfly Press. UMBC also has a pulp collection (Weird Tales, Amazing, Thrilling Wonder Stories, etc.).
H.P. Lovecraft Collection (Northern Illinois University) Acquired in the late 1960s, "the collection consists of Lovecraft's fiction writing, letters, poems, scientific articles, pulp magazine stories, books about Lovecraft, collections of Lovecraft stories, titles of books known to have lived in Lovecraft's personal library, and a few miscellaneous items, including several manuscript letters."
The J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature (University of California, Riverside) There's are some Lovecraft-related fanzines. Colin Wilson is one of the writers whose manuscripts are here.
The [Judith] Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy (Toronto Public Library) There are pulps, etc.
M. Horvat Collection of Science Fiction Fanzines (University of Iowa) One of the titles is "Dramatizing Lovecraft" by Ben Indick.
The Maison d'Ailleurs is a Swiss "Museum of Science Fiction, Utopia and Extraordinary Journeys" Although I couldn't find much about what is in its collection, it has in the past had a Lovecraft exhibit, and one of its web pages features an Astounding cover for At the Mountains of Madness.
Paskow Science Fiction Collection (Temple University) "In 1986, with the gift of the book collection of Roger Knuth and his interest in Lovecraft and Howard, fantasy was added to the collecting canon." Fanzines are included, and among author manuscripts are those by Stanley Weinbaum.
Roland Bounds Science Fiction Collection(University of Delaware) Pulp literature is included, but there appears to be little Lovecraft, based on my few searches.
Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection (Michigan State University)
The Science Fiction Foundation Collection Home Page (University of Liverpool).
An appreciative article by Carlo Rotella on this favorite writer has appeared in the New York Times Magazine (19 July 2009). tinyurl.com/nhbpbe
Thanks for reading the 61st issue of The Criticaster (summer 2009, mailing 147) by SWalker. Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 32).