Of Ben

First, my sympathy goes to his family and friends. For myself, I'm both sad and angry at his passing.

I began corresponding with him circa 1997, when he wrote me, I responded, and back and forth we went, with typically much longer intervals of answering on my side. I suspect that he wrote with relative ease, unlike me. Of all the contributors to the EOD, it early seemed to me that Ben had the most realistic view of the world and how people were. His fanzine came closest to what I feel a fanzine should be: representing the personality and humor of its author, making contributions that were original and could be found nowhere else, having something of quality and interest to say, and consistently giving loc's, which acknowledges the social component of a fan culture. His comments ranged from the friendly and praising to those that had a frank bite, some of which I agreed with.

I admired the fact that he continued to read with enjoyment in the field of contemporary horror and popular mainstream literature. That theater was so much a love of his, and he was able to comment on the plays that he saw, impressed me, partly because it showed he didn't limit himself to Lovecraft fandom, and attending plays was an indicator of a cultured person. He was especially successful at book reviews, and while he appeared professionally, those that were in either Ibid or Ben's Beat (which he generously sent me) should have been welcomed by a larger audience. I suspect he could have published a number of plays, had he slighted his career in pharmacy; but that pays the bills.

Not only as a member of EOD did he tie its beginnings with the present (as S.T. has noted), but also as a fan starting in the 1930's, bringing a rich perspective and a sense of tradition. Yet the EOD goes on, minus his welcome and important presence.

I'll end with a quote from a favorite playwright of Ben's, George Bernard Shaw: "Life does not cease to be funny when someone dies, as it does not cease to be serious when people laugh."


Famous Monsters Continued: 25 & 26

FM 25 (October 1963)

In the letters column "Post Mortem" Forrest J Ackerman berates the competition monster magazine Castle of Frankenstein, which had found fault with FM. After a lengthy response he states, "But the genius behind COF shouldn't've picked on (as I believe the late HPLovecraft once called me) Effjay the Terrible" (p. 7). *** Under "Future-Tense" (coming attractions) are 4 Lovecraft films, only the first of which would soon be made, and under Poe's moniker: "Poe's Haunted Palace," "The Haunted Village (Lovecraft)," "Rats in the Wall [sic] (Lovecraft)," and "The Dunwich Horror (Lovecraft)." *** An article about Vincent Price by Roger Elwood and FJA states that his schedule includes "several works of Lovecraft" (p. 19). *** As in an earlier issue, there is mention of "Edmond Hamilton's weirtale, 'Pygmy Island,'" purchased for a possible filmization. [The story originally appeared in Weird Tales August 1930. It was reprinted in several anthologies, beginning with Switch on the Light (Selwyn and Blount, 1931), edited by Christine Campbell Thomson. Other stories in this anthology were "The Rats in the Walls" and "The Curse of Yig."] *** Under "Haunt Ads" a reader seeks issues of Weird Tales, Unknown, and Doc Savage. 


FM 26 (January 1964)

Unrelated to Lovecraft-a letter from author Tom Reamy appeared in "Post Mortem." Also in this letter column, Guy Robert Baney argues that the writings of Robert Bloch, Poe, and Lovecraft "are too short to be incorporated into a full-length film without drastic revision.Bloch & Lovecraft used detailed mythologies with their own special demons," which was fine for short stories but not motion pictures. Later on in this section when FJA discusses the "first" science fiction magazine he says that "(perhaps) sometime in 1925, '24 or '23 Weird Tales had an issue practically devoted to sci-fi." Another reader asks about A. Merritt adaptations, and Ackerman singled out a refilming of Seven Footprints to Satan. *** In "To-Marrow's Trailers" Ackerman states that American-International Pictures might be filming "The Dunwich Horror" because they "picked up a copy of a Lovecraft volume containing it from my office." (The film would not appear until 1970.) *** A. Merritt's Burn, Witch, Burn (and the picture based on it) is discussed in an article about large and small creatures. *** Among the people FJA most admires are Ray Bradbury, Virgil Finlay, Hugo Gernsback, Edgar Rice Burroughs, W. Olaf Stapledon, and H.G. Wells. He talks about the proposed revival of Unknown, with himself as editor, and another unfulfilled editing goal (pre Famous Monsters), a science fiction magazine that was to have the artwork of Virgil Finlay and Frank R. Paul. *** In a summary of the 1910 version of Frankenstein ("The Return of Frankens-ten"), there is a description of one scene where "the monster looks up and for the first time confronts his own reflection in the mirror. Appalled and horrified at his own image he flees in terror from the room" (p. 57). It sounds as if this were lifted from "The Outsider," which came years later.

The Abominable Snowman

In the letters column of a 1959 New York Times, an Irving Glassman answers a previous inquiry about whether anyone met the abominable snowman in print before 1938. He suggests Weird Tales and "The Abominable Snow-Men of Mi-Go" (12 April).



Peter Straub has edited a two-volume collection of dark fantasy from Library of America. Volume 1 is from the nineteenth to mid twentieth century, and is entitled American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny: From Poe to the Pulps, while volume 2 is American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny: From the 1940s to Now. Bierce, HPL, Howard, Bloch, Bradbury, Ellison, King, etc. are represented in 85 stories.



A lecture, "The Horrors of Upstate: H.P. Lovecraft and Others," by Dan Harms was held in conjunction with a display about Lee Brown Coye at the Donald G. Butcher Library, Morrisville State College, NY.



Recent Hugo awards went to Elizabeth Bear's "Shoggoths in Bloom" (Best Novelette) and Weird Tales (Best Semiprozine).



The free part of the site NewsInHistorygives tantalizing clues from a search for "lovecraft." Two examples. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer for 4 July 1923, which just shows the headlined words "Amateur Writers." Did the NAPA meet there, and so HPL received mention? Also, a series of news items for 1902 in the Duluth News-Tribute deal with the estate of Winfield S. Lovecraft and the filing of a petition by its administrator, Albert A. Baker. Why a probate court in the county of St. Louis in Minnesota? Why 1902?



Will Hart has downloaded over 800 photoshe took at the H.P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference back in 1990. Were this promoted the way of certain movie posters, maybe you would find such wording as SEE members of the EOD at the conference! SEE Providence landmarks associated with Lovecraft and his fiction! SEE the home of Lovecraft's grandparents! SEE the College Hill angle from which Robert Blake first glimpsed the Starry Wisdom church! SEE annotations and Lovecraft quotes with the photos. (via Grim Blogger)



Coming from Mythopoeic Press: The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko, edited by Amy H. Sturgis and David D. Oberhelman. The essay on HPL by Marc A. Beherec is "The Racist and La Raza: H.P. Lovecraft's Aztec Mythos." Sturgis has a blog, "Redecorating Middle-Earth in Early Lovecraft: Always Halloween and Never Thanksgiving." *** His Anglophilia is examined in David Simmon's "H. P. Lovecraft and the Shadow of England" (Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations [April 2007], p. 89-104). *** Via "The Lovecraft News Network" I've learned of the master's thesis "Boot Camp for the Psyche": Inoculative Nonfiction and Pre-Memory Structures as Preemptive Trauma Mediation in Fiction and Film by Jacob M. Hodgen (Brigham Young University, 2008) One chapter addresses HPL.



Congratulations to Ben for receiving the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. *** In the short note of biography at the back of Travel Resources: An Annotated Guide (Scarecrow, 2009), it is stated of the author, Stephen Walker, that he writes a fanzine dedicated to HPL. He should not be confused with the Stephen Walker that won the 2006 World Fantasy award, who I assure you is not me.


See Cthulhu-themed ties. (via Grim Blogger).



"The Lairs of Cthulhu: Archaeology, Myth and Mystery in the Work of HP Lovecraft" is an October talk by James Holloway at Treadwell's Bookstore in London.



An interview with Joseph Nanni, director of Casting Call of Cthulhu, was done by Lovecraft News Network at lovecraftnewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/08/lnn-interviews-joseph-nanni-from.html


The artist Synoiz's track, "The Esoteric Order of Dagon," was a week in the top spot of the Experimental channel. *** Alex Perkolup of Cheer-Accident likes both Lovecraft and Weird Tales writers.



According to blogger Joshua Zelinsky the book with a skeptical outlook, The Supernatural A-Z (Headline, 1995) by James Randi, accepts the Necronomicon as an actual grimoire.



Those who would like to see a graph showing Lovecraft's popularity through the decades might gander at Google Trends, putting in the term "lovecraft." This can be broken down into decades, years, and months. Spikes are often related to reviews of Arkham House volumes.



A short obituary for Donald M. Grant has appeared under the title "Death of a Legend-Mr. Donald M. Grant."



From a summary of Laurence Manning's "Caverns of Horror": "But as was the case with Randolph Carter, Smithers comes to a bad end, and his friends at the phone terminal hear his final moments" (p. 275, Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years : A Complete Coverage of the Genre Magazines Amazing, Astounding, Wonder, and Others from 1926 Through 1936 [Kent State University Press, 1998] by Everett Franklin Bleiler and Richard Bleiler). Randolph Carter has been confused with Harley Warren.



In 1948 the Harvard Crimson reported a group of ghost lovers had such activities as studying the work of Blackwood, Lovecraft, and Lord Dunsany.



Dustin Engstrom and Ron Sandahl have converted The Case of Charles Dexter Ward into Madness out of Time for Open Circle Theater, the Seattle company's 8th adaptation of HPL. Its run will be over by the time this is read (even if you're a fast reader).



Two travel books for the horror aficionado are Creepy Crawls: A Horror Fiend's Travel Guide by Leon Marcelo (Santa Monica Press, 2006) and Shadows Over New England by David Goudsward and Scott T. Goudsward (BearManor Media, 2008).



At SF Signal authors were asked to describe "Books That Hold Special Places in Our Hearts and On Our Shelves." Kij Johnson speaks at length of her affection for a paperback edition (with the Gervasio Gallardo cover) of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and later John C. Wright mentions it. John Shirley speaks of a Poe, Howard, and Lovecraft phase, among others. Scott Cupp-former Ofian-mentions Leiber's Two Sought Adventure, Wellman's Who Fears the Devil?, etc. (Wellman was also mentioned by Jeremiah Tolbert.) David Drake is another participant. James Lovegrove speaks exclusively of Conan volumes. *** The Globe Gazette interviews Richard Tierney. *** Known as the "Lovecraft of Quillota," Chilean science fiction writer Sergio Meier Frei has died at the age of 43. It also appears that he perpetrated a hoax Lovecraft translation. *** "What if (H.P.) Lovecraft and Austen sat down and wrote a book together?" asked Ben H. Winters, and in answer wrote Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. *** The Monstrumologist(Simon & Schuster, 2009) by Rick Yancey is for grades 9-12 and concerns a scientist who studies monsters in nineteenth-century New England. The portrayed setting "possesses a Lovecraftian logic and hints at its own deeply satisfying mythos" (Booklist). *** Congratulations to John Haefele for his Lest We Forget: August Derleth on the Subject of H. P. Lovecraft: A Chronology (Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2009). *** There is a call for papers to be presented at a proposed session about Robert E. Howard that will be held at the Popular Culture Association in 2010 (St. Louis).


At the Mountains of Madness

In German the novel is translated as Berge des Wahnsinns, which leads me to quote Carl Zuckmayer in The Devil's General, where a character observes: "I envy you Germans your word 'Wahnsinn'-the mad sense. It's a poet's word, almost a holy word."


Robert Barbour Johnson

Several months ago I was contacted by Joshua Buhs wanting to learn the contents of R. Alain Everts' publication about Robert Barbour Johnson, as he had seen a reference to this author in my online version of the 'aster. I sent him the information, and later he notified me that he had written a biography of Johnson. To Lovecraftians Johnson is best known for the "Pickman's Model" inspired "Far Below."


Edgar Allan Poe

The Edgar Allan Poe Digital Archive "was launched to accompany the 2009 Poe Bicentennial exhibition, 'From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe,' a joint venture of the Ransom Center and the Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia." Find Poe manuscripts, letters, books, Poe-ana, etc.



Ken: For what plausible reason would HPL purposely mislead Sonia about a divorce? He was inviting scandal if Sonia were to re-marry (as she did). It seems an alternative could be that he mislead lawyer Albert A. Baker to cover the "stigma" of being divorced. *** The level of detail in your zine can be daunting and it is not designed for the person with a casual interest in HPL, but the serious type of fan. *** There are parts of a book online called Triple Murder: The Crimes Committed by Celia Rose. Since the poisonings-not in Providence, but in Pleasant Valley, Ohio-took place in 1896, HPL would have been around six when he listened to the conversation.

Martin: Re "the De Camp method of annotating"-if we're thinking of the same thing-putting citations in groups-then I've seen it before, and I find it useful. What I dislike are non-fiction books with quotes that lack all citations and sometimes just a small bibliography. How can you check the facts of the author? *** Thanks for clarifying the allusion to Sargent as bus driver. The name from the Innsmouth story had totally slipped through my mental fingers.

T.R.: Re: "are you saying that careful writing is a waste because readers are too stupid to know the difference?" and "I suppose if a writer were great enough, it would be petty to criticize a clock chiming in ancient Rome" la Shakespeare. Let me point out there is a difference between stupidity and ignorance, and careful writing need not be a blind adherence to facts in the matter of fiction. While I believe it is better to have a right rather than wrong fact, if the reader doesn't recognize it and the story is not affected by it, other than annoying the pedant and perhaps a few others, what difference does it make? There is something called verisimilitude, which is used to convince by contrivances besides facts. And when you admit that greatness of an author (e.g., Shakespeare) constitutes an exception to your criticism, I'd ask why, as well as wondering at what point does a writer become "great." I suppose you don't consider HPL a "great" writer. *** Re: statistics and "where to draw the line of 'acceptable' risk. Again, not a matter of interpretation." This is a matter of interpretation, as the very word "acceptable" makes clear, a subjective term. When the same statistics can be used by opposing viewpoints, each to make a point, then the statistics become tools for interpretation. Re "And why assume a group that does not participate in polls represent the entire population?" And why not assume this? *** Thanks for the cooling sun clarification.

Don: The words that make up the term U(nidentified) F(lying) O(bject) are misleading. The abbreviation is used to popularly mean the equivalent of a flying saucer, and so it is "identified." Whether the thing actually flies is also suspect. Decades ago I recall looking up in the sky and seeing a gleaming, unidentified thing-that shortly I discovered was the reflection from a street lamp of part of a television antenna against the night sky. The UFO was not flying, but fixed. As for "object," the term is acceptable so long as it doesn't assume something that is concrete versus the reflection of a thing, a gas, etc. One may certainly quantify aspects of UFO research, can apply scientific methodology, but in the end one cannot prove that a thing is other than unidentified; or if identified, something that is known and unexceptional (e.g., weather balloon). *** As for the list of 20 fictionalists, poets, and dramatists that I would take with me to a desert island as my exclusive reading company:

Christopher Marlowe

William Shakespeare

John Milton

John Keats

Alfred Tennyson

Walter de la Mare

Charles Dickens

Herman Melville

Mark Twain

Guy de Maupassant

Thomas Hardy

Arthur Conan Doyle


Isaac Babel

Booth Tarkington

James Joyce

H. P. Lovecraft

J. R. R. Tolkien

Raymond Chandler

Jack Vance

John H.: According to you, in 1944/45 "The first of the two Bart House paperbacks [The Weird Shadow over Innsmouth, and Other Stories of the Supernatural] was the only other Lovecraft book in print" (the other being Beyond the Wall of Sleep). Actually, 1944 saw the publication of Marginalia, while in 1945 was Best Supernatural Stories, The Lurker at the Threshold, Supernatural Horror in Literature, and The Dunwich Horror and Other Weird Tales. *** Re the excerpt from "To all Friends of Howard Phillips Lovecraft." You date it as "ca. early 1938." The Brown catalog for "To all Friends and Fans of the Late Howard Phillips Lovecraft" has a note for this title that runs "Mimeographed flyer from Derleth and Donald Wandrei (June 1939)." *** The mention of Walt Daugherty in association with Lovecraft letters reminds me that he appeared as a contributor to Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland. I wonder what became of the de Castro letters.

Laurence: In your mention of R. Murray Gilchrist's serialized future war novel Under the British Banner I wish you had given citation information-the magazine in which it appeared and the year of publication. In looking for information about him online I discovered that one of Gilchrist's novels had an intriguing title: Weird Wedlock (1913). Along with your discussion of a Robert Louis Stevenson short, that was an interesting glimpse into literary history.

David D.: Re personal books in Wellman's library. I've recently been reading about Henry Fairfield Osborn (head of the American Museum of Natural History during HPL's time) and evolution. His views about race were very close to HPL's, showing that scientific men can accept the same errors of belief. A History of Land Mammals in the Western Hemisphere by William B. Scott was one of the first books I ever checked out from my college library (which also served as a public library) when I was a young teen.

Fred: Re the only bookstore workers familiar with Lovecraft being in their sixties. I'm surprised how (wildly?) popular Lovecraft is among teenagers and beyond. A look at blogs and websites shows this. Dorothea: the apocryphal story of finding "bear bells" in a bear's stomach reminds me of the fine documentary Grizzly Man, a real account of a bear attacking and eating humans, though the story is actually a biography of a man obsessed with bears. You've done a good bit of play-going.

Sean: Circa 1970 I read Frankenstein, and save for a passage ("I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open.") I didn't regard this as a work of horror, so I cannot agree "that the Frankenstein film doesn't do the book justice." The film is Gothic horror and the book is slightly.

Gavin: Dunsany's Wag, the dog, was also the title of an unrelated movie.

John N.: As I observed in 'aster 51, Lovecraft and Shaver's "deros" were alluded to in the horror film Marebito.

Leigh: The correct citation for the title by Marshall B. Tymn is Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide (R.R. Bowker, 1981).

S.T.: In mentioning D.H. Lawrence's "torrid love affair with Frieda von Richthoften Weekley" you omit that she was married. Her scholarly husband, Ernest Weekley, wrote such wordy works as A Concise Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, a copy of which I possess.

Scott: Re the reprint of a Wandrei story from Minnesota Quarterly. I have some copies of this publication with Wandrei fantasies. It came via one of my professors, who I had when an undergraduate. Upon his death in the seventies, his stuff was sold, and some of it came my way. I figure that he was a classmate of Wandrei, and a poem of his shares an issue with a Wandrei story. Among clippings he had collected was one related to Edmund Wilson on HPL.

John G.: You begin a review with the sentence "Daniel Harms' The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia book is, for the most part, useless" and you begin the last paragraph with "Which is not to say that the Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia is useless. Far from it." Based on the in-between part, I'd say it appears quite useful. What do you think?

Juha-Matti: Thanks for more HPL letters. What are their provenance? Your own collection? From online? An archive where they're housed? And do you transcribe them personally? As a suggestion, you might wish to add page numbers to your zine. Also, I would've preferred the endnotes to have been footnotes, a common wish of mine. *** I wonder if the undeciphered word before "van Twiller's" (Talman letter) could be a Dutch honorific. Shouldn't the second Talman letter that begins "You people has better" be "You people had better"? The unattributed quotation by Frank Belknap Long of "green and serpent haunted sea" may be from James Elroy Flecker's "The Gates of Damascus" and goes (according to my online source) "The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent-haunted sea." Typo in postcard to Howard Wandrei-"has Donald has."


     The bride is asleep on a bed of worms.-Ibsen


Thanks for reading the 62nd issue of The Criticaster (Hallowe'en 2009, mailing 148) by Steve W. Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 33).