"There are certain queer timesand occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own."--Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind."--Lovecraft, "The Defence Remains Open!"


I Am Providence (2)

      Maybe S.T. is correct that the poem with the elephantine title-- "The Members of the Men's Club of the First Universalist Church of Providence, R.I., to Its President, About to Leave for Florida, on Account of His Health"-- shows HPL was a member. Among alternatives are that he ghost wrote it or wrote it as a non-member (or non-participating member), perhaps at the urging of his mother. *** That he wrote a series of poems whose "one clear thematic link is racism" (p. 137) suggests that something was going on in his early twenties that hardened him into this attitude. *** A beginning "In" makes an ungrammatical sentence "In the only extant issue. (p. 139). *** A letter by Lovecraft was "discovered only recently" (p.141); but this appears to have been no more "recent" than the 1990s. *** Among magazine writers HPL praises is a William Tillinghast Eldridge, another possible source for the name of Tillinghast ("From Beyond").



     Thanks to the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society a Lovecraft show, Dead and Dreaming, will be held at the Paradigm Gallery (via Tentaclii).  *** Harold Arthur McNeill has applied his talent to Lovecraftian sculpture, bookbinding, painting, and graphic, as this site shows. *** Cthulhu appears on pumpkin carvings.


Comic Books and Graphic Novels

     Jason Thompson wants to raise money to cover printing costs for his take on The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. He has adapted it once already and had a movie version (via io9). Thompson has done an article about the Cthulhu Mythos and Japan (see 'aster 63, 2010). *** A British Fantasy Award has gone to Self Made Hero's adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness. Among the nominees it bested was Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' Neonomicon. *** Forthcoming Infestation 2 (IDW) is to have the Old Ones attack humanity. Its writer is Duane Swierczynski and its artist is David Messina.



     The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny (Ohio University Press, 2012) by Dylan Trigg includes HPL, among others. *** Delivered as a paper by Rachel Mizsei Ward at the International Gothic Association Conference in 2011 was Plushies, My Little Cthulhu and Chibithulu: The Transformation of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu from Horrific Body to Cute Body. Repeat to yourself: "IT'S only a toy." *** There are a few allusions to him in both Bernice Murphy's The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and London Gothic: Place, Space and the Gothic Imagination (Continuum International Publishers, 2010), edited by Lawrence Phillips and Anne Witchard.

     *** Amazon lists this book on its site: Writers from Rhode Island, Including H. P. Lovecraft [followed by other writer names] (Hephaestus Books, 2011). *** On her blog Amy Sturgis has links to her essays, a tribute, and a discussion about the Olde Gent. *** The beta text of the third edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is online.



     Lovecraft has lent his name to a (defunct) cider company. To balance this out, The Lovecraft is a horror-themed tea shop in Portland, Oregon. The latter drink would have been more to his taste.                            


     According to the Providence Journal, the Rhode Island School of Design has assigned The Case of Charles Dexter Ward to incoming freshmen.



     Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon (Hippocampus Press, 2009) by Dan Clore has thousands of words, along with their etymologies, from A. Merritt, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, et al.



     The most overdue book of the Wellington (New Zealand) Library is The Dunwich Horror and Others (Arkham House, 1963). Checked out on 12 February 1988, it is still lurking out there.



     For a free download of Walking with Cthulhu : H.P. Lovecraft as Psychogeographer, New York City 1924-26 visit Tentaclii.



     National Public Radio has the results of its Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey, where over 60,000 listeners voted. No HPL, though a collection of Howard's Conan made it as number 68 (via SF Signal).



     HPL and others are featured on the covers of all Avon Fantasy Readers.



     Film Threat interviews Sean Branney, David Robertson, and Andrew Leman about their new The Whisperer in Darkness, filmed as though it were in the 1930's. Their retro-silent The Call of Cthulhu (2005) remains the most successful adaptation of a Lovecraft story. *** An alternate title for Ian Nathan's Alien Vault might be Everything You Wanted to Know About Alien (but Were Afraid to Ask). An io9 review of it states that the "[Dan] O'Bannon and [Ron] Shusett's version of the script was much more Lovecraftian." *** In October Lovecraft's Visions at the Seattle Art Museum showed films and artwork, and had a talk by S.T.

     *** An idle question--did the Thing kill HPL? Universal released a prequel to The Thing this October, while it passed on funding of Guillermo del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness the previous February. With two works so similar, they chose the one that was cheaper and had a track record (1951 and 1982). Also, del Toro talks both about HPL as well as the movie Mimic at Den of Geek. *** Organizer of the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Aaron Vanek provides background views. Relevant links are also available.



     According to The Morning Oregonian (19 December 1902) the comic opera Foxy Quilter has one character named Lovecraft and another named Sherlock, with both apparently played by the same actor. Ironically, about this time HPL was avidly reading Sherlock Holmes stories and running the Providence Detective Agency.



     Op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd quotes "The Outsider" to show how some Democrats view the Tea Party.



      For some macabre October events, the Bangor Museum and History Center will have the reading of a short story by him. *** David McWilliam reads from "The Shadow over Innsmouth" at the 34th Lancaster Literature Festival (in England).



     H.P. Lovecraft: Exhumed, Roasted by Trunk Space (of Phoenix, Arizona) is a roast that includes storytelling, dance, and music. *** The Canadian Play Festival is featuring the Lovecraft-inspired Monstrous Invisible by Stephen Near. *** As in the previous year, Unbound Productions is bringing out "The Unnameable" along with Charles Dickens' "The Chimes" and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." In 2009 the company brought out Howard's "Pigeons from Hell."  *** The UCLA Daily Bruin reports Wicked Lit is "a theater event that stages adaptations of classic literary works of horror or suspense at the Mountain View Cemetery." Among the adaptations are "The Alchemist," Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," and James' "Casting the Runes." *** Buffalo's Alt Theatre presents Ravings IV: Two Trios of Terror, which consists of "From Beyond," "The Beast in the Cave," "What the Moon Brings," "The Picture in the House," "The Music of Erich Zann," and Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." The focus, says one reviewer, is on the author's words.



     Curiously (or maybe not) the book Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life (2011) omits mention of HPL, though Samuel Loveman appears courtesy of his association with Hart Crane. *** In the Las Vegas CityLife blog Scott Dickensheets interviews Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas about their The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Nightmare (Dark Horse Books, 2011), which has a fictional Hunter S. Thompson.

     *** Novelist Colson Whitehead has stated HPL was one of the influences that made him want to be a writer. *** "The Call of Cthulhu" has been crossed with Dr. Seuss by DrFaustusAU. *** A review of Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist's Harbor (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011) compares it with "The Shadow over Innsmouth."


Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

     On Charlie Rose I caught part of an interview with Guillermo del Toro about his Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (which he co-wrote & co-produced and in effect willed into being). One excerpt from the film showed a man walking through a circle of mushrooms. Del Toro explained that this was a violation of a fairy circle and called to mind the work of Arthur Machen; so of course I had to see the film (where Machen also gets mention by a librarian). Also, the previous owner of the cursed house bears the name of "Blackwood," while there is also, I think, a Lovecraft reference, for the house is in Rhode Island.

     So long as the movie hints of the little folk, there's a special atmosphere, but when the creatures--call them homunculi--emerge and actively do their mischief, it's a whole 'nother ballgame, as action moves to the fore, and called to mind a raft of influences--the Twilight Zone episode "The Invaders" (a lone woman has to fend off tiny spacemen), Gremlins, Poltergeist. On that level it was pretty good.

     I remember the original poorly, just one scene, where the heroine is roped and pulled toward an underground area where the things dwelled; still, that was spooky.

     However (spoiler territory) I disliked the ending. The girlfriend is pulled into the furnace opening whence the creatures emerge up from their underground lair. If this had been closer to real life, the boyfriend would have reacted by either crawling in to rescue her, gotten the police, or dropped in poison or an explosive. But this is movieland, so instead he and his daughter walk away and presumably allow the creatures to attack the next family that will move into the house.

     The movie inspired me to re-read, after many years, David H. Keller's classic "The Thing in the Cellar." However, this time by the close of the story I thought that the father should have been booked for child abuse.


155 Words

    Ken (EOD Letter): My librarian heart is jealous that you were able to publish a discovery of a dummy example (Journal of Antarctic Archeology and Protolinguistics) at one time used in that venerable reference work, Ulrich's Periodical Directory. *** In the 1980's I had a Cthulhu license plate--sort of. In Missouri, only 6 letters were available, so I had to spell it "Cthuhu." One day while I was driving down the road, another car pulled alongside me and shouted out a question about the meaning of the plate. So at 40 mph I shouted back, briefly, that it came from the writing of HPL. I hope they understood. *** Congratulations on your Moshassuck Press collection, Lovecraft's Pillow and Other Strange Stories. One of them, "The Squirrel Pond," was in the first full mailing I received when I joined the EOD, circa 1986.

     Phillip (The Poetaster): Your new title, The Poetaster, shares a resemblance to my The Criticaster. In your case, I hope it would be more accurate to call it The Poet, the "aster" ending suggestive of a poet manqué. *** Re Winfield Townley Scott's "To scare is a slim purpose in poetry." Even were I to grant this, I question how easy it is to write a successful poem in this vein. Or, to give a different rebuttal, it seems equally valid that "to soothe is a slim purpose in poetry."

     Thomas (The Arkham Archivist): Some of us enjoy "unnecessary nostalgia." You do make an interesting point about the difficulty of gripping ragged pages. As for HPL's use of "shew" for "show" &c, I suppose many of us have become desensitized to his spelling and see it as more authentic and closer to the author's intent.

     Mark (Wraiths of Winnemucca): My objection to Ursula K. Le Guin's review of the de Camp Lovecraft did not have to do with her disgruntlement about "shoddy work" but with her disrespect to HPL the human being. There is a kind of kinship with it and the attitude of people who a few hundred years in the past went to asylums to be entertained by the inmates. (Then there are those who relish judging Howard by his suicide, finding it the be-all and end-all of this writer. Then what about Hemingway?)

     Don and Mollie (The Morgan and Rice Gazette): The objection with prophesying the end of the world is that should you be proved right, you cannot say, "I told you so."

     John (Hesperia): Good luck on your in-the-future publications. You are ambitious! *** Typo in Derleth citation: "Arkham House Faces Its Eight [sic] Year." *** Your discussion of Curwen's soul being in some way connected with the portrait jostled me into thinking about the use of paintings in "Pickman's Model." There is purposeful confusion between the representation and the thing itself: "Those accursed faces, that leered and slavered out of the canvas with the very breath of life! By God, man, I verily believe they were alive! That nauseous wizard had waked the fires of hell in pigment, and his brush had been a nightmare-spawning wand." So in a sense the portrait carried the breath--the "soul"--of Curwen, though painted by someone else. *** Suggesting to Mark that EODers oughtn't be exposed to letters of Derleth (in this case, circa 1934) is making assumptions I cannot agree about. Different members have different interests.

     Chris (Hackles): The Lost City of Z was a good, if not great, story; I'd have awarded it a B+. I first heard of Percy Fawcett's disappearance around 1960, from one of my all-time favorite books, On the Track of Unknown Animals (by Bernard Heuvelsman). Like others who have disappeared (e.g., Amelia Earhart) his fate prompts restless speculation and could serve as inspiration to those who want to write him into a Lovecraft story.

     Juha-Matti (The Nonconformist): Re "we begin to approach the centennial of his death"--26 years in the future does not seem a "begin to approach." *** Estimating the number of his letters has been an inchoate project of mine. Some issues are: what constitutes a letter--a private missive sent to an individual or a group of individuals? Letters to editors (e.g., Providence Journal, Weird Tales)? Business and hobby (i.e., APA) correspondence? At least postcards are unambiguous. It is certainly more interesting to claim that HPL wrote a lot of letters, and the estimate is rather like that of the fisherman about the size of the one that got away. Were I to pluck a number out of the air, it would be 30,000, and that might be over the top.

     *** I think that it is possible to get a handle on the number of letters he wrote. For example, the pace of correspondence varied between persons. Compare his most frequent correspondents with the one or two-shots. Determine the number of correspondents throughout his life. Average the number of times written to the majority of correspondents and the amount of time it would take to write a typical letter. Also keep in mind the amount of time he could devote to letter-writing, and the fact that the longer letters took up more time. You mentioned such interruptions as travel. To that must be added the routine tasks of a day, health and family issues, social visits, re-vision work and, of course, fiction writing. *** Unfortunately, here and there is a typo. For example, the citation for the private collection postcard by HPL is "October 24, 1993."

     Leigh (Mantichore): The S. T. letter offers intriguing sidelights about the condition of Lovecraft research and the persons involved back in 1983. I remember that year, which in some ways was not that long ago--and yet.. *** I commented on that flawed but good-natured essay by Angela Carter in 'aster 29 (April 2000). Thanks for reprinting it ("The Hidden Child"). *** Skeptic that I am, the Paul R. Michaud news article seemed a mixture of reportage and bogus-osity.

     S. T. (What is Anything?): When you can find only defects and no merit in any of the 1971-1990 bestselling horror writers examined, the fault lies with you. Your writing at times seems as though it were critically slumming--call it "ivory towerism"; or méprise; or the Edmund Wilson complex.  Like the latter, you have a prescriptive view that in general is not appropriate for an examination of these horror authors. You do not try to understand or extrapolate on the worth of their popular fiction, which would have made for a far more interesting article than the tirade that it is.

     All others: read, chiefly enjoyed, but not commented upon because I had nothing relevant or entertaining to say.





Thanks for reading the 2865 words of the 70th issue of The Criticaster (Hallowe'en 2011, mailing 156 for the Esoteric Order of Dagon) by Steve Walker. Eventually published online as The Limbonaut (no 41).