Deus Ex

     Many of us criticize the ending of "The Picture in the House" because it is obviously contrived to save the narrator while giving comeuppance to the old cannibal. Lovecraft had painted himself into a corner thanks to the narration being in first-person. The teller has to survive up to the point that the story has a proper ending. Had the story been from a third-person view, the narrator could have perished, and that would have solved the fictional dysfunction.

     However, the story is not simply objectionable on the fictional level, but on a philosophical one. Even if you chalk up the resolution to convenient coincidence, the suspicion remains that actually nature or god or lightning-wielding Jupiter intervenes, saving the good and meting destruction to the wicked. This goes against the grain of Lovecraft's indifferentism, which may not have always been so indifferent.

     The actual likelihood of the scrimped ending is problematical. A thunderbolt has struck and destroyed the house, but left the narrator presumably without scathe in "a smoky solitude of blackened ruins." That is, lightning has caught the house on fire and burned it down with the unconscious narrator inside. Is he made of asbestos?

     Set in November 1896, the date of the story may derive from actual experiences of HPL. The story's narrator states he "had been travelling for some time amongst the people of the Miskatonic Valley in quest of certain genealogical data". Lovecraft recounted, "In 1896, when I was six years old, I was taken to visit in the Western Rhode Island region whence my maternal stock came" (letter quoted from I Am Providence, p. 35). Maybe the fictional narrator was visiting an area with which he had a familial association.

     HPL also could have settled on November, 1896 due to a meteorological event of a few months earlier. The rain that drove the researcher to find shelter may be a vivid memory by the six-year-old HPL of a widespread and ferocious thunderstorm. The New York Times (20 September 1896) reported on "terrific storms throughout the country early yesterday morning," including Providence, which receives its own section. "A tempest of wind, rain, and lightning passed over the city this morning, and . inflicted a large amount of damage... for a short period thunderbolts fell in various parts of the city." There was "a cloud of dense blackness" along with flooded streets, and "business was almost wholly suspended." In addition, "several dwelling houses were also hit by stray bolts." According to the Brooklyn Eagle (20 September 1896) "the darkness was so intense that lights had to be used. The lightning was very vivid and struck

several places." The storms went back up the Woonasquatucket Valley, where strikes set hay afire and killed a horse (presumably not named Hero). [1]

     I haven't discovered that Providence underwent any headline-worthy rain in November, though the Brown Daily Herald (6 November) carries the humorous sub-section title "Biologists Afraid of the Rain," explaining that a meeting of the Biological Club was postponed due to the rain.

     Maybe Lovecraft was trading on November's reputation through its literary or symbolic associations. In the opening chapter of Moby Dick, Ishmael reflects on "a damp, drizzly November in my soul." George Sterling described the month as "Sad November, lady of rain" (from the 1913 poem "The Last Days"). Providence native Sarah Helen Whitman evokes the month's mood as well as a Rhode Island glamour: "The way-side flowers had faded one by one,/ Hoar were the hills, the meadows drear and dun/... While down a glen where dark Moshassuck flows,/ With all its kindling lamps the distant city rose" ("A November Landscape").

     Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols observes November is "a period of cold and gloom; called month of the dead" (Gertrude Jobes; Scarecrow Press, 1962 [v. 2, p. 1183]). Names of the month in other cultures are grim. "The Welsh name means 'slaughter'; similarly, the Dutch used to call this month slachtmaand, since beasts were slaughtered in it, and Old English preserved the heathen variant blótmonað, 'sacrifice month'. Another Welsh term is y mis du, 'the black month'" (quoted [with variant spelling of "blótmonað"] from The Oxford Companion to the Year (Oxford University Press, 2003; p. 438). Coincidentally, no doubt, the Roman held a festival this month to Jupiter, god of the thunderbolt. [2]

     Fritz Leiber remarked Lovecraft "was fascinated by great natural catastrophes" and "it is a great pity that Lovecraft did not live to experience the unparalleled New England hurricane of 1938, when the downtown heart of his own Providence was invaded by the sea, to the accompaniment of terrific wind and downpour. What a story that would eventually have gotten out of him!" (Something About Cats, p. 292-3) Perhaps an earlier story was begot by the memory of an 1896 storm with a house-destroying thunderbolt.

     [1] Lightning need not catch a house on fire. In The Voyage of the Beagle (Chapter 3) Charles Darwin wrote about lightning strikes on a house: “Some of the effects were curious: the paper, for nearly a foot on each side of the line where the bell-wires had run, was blackened. The metal had been fused, and although the room was about fifteen feet high, the globules, dropping on the chairs and furniture, had drilled in them a chain of minute holes. A part of the wall was shattered as if by gunpowder, and the fragments had been blown off with force sufficient to dent the wall on the opposite side of the room.” Yet in the tale “smoky” and “blackened” make it pretty plain that the house has burned down.

     [2] No one gives November any love. Poet Thomas Hood humorously inventories what the month lacks (“No sun--no moon!/No morn--no noon! [etc.]”) in “No!”.


Famous Monsters of Filmland 35 (October 1965)

     Comic and book cover artist for HPL and others, Philippe Druillet has his name under "Credits & Acknowledgments". *** First prize winner of the amateur monster movie makers contest is Madona Corben, probably the wife of Richard Corben, another Lovecraft illustrator; he drew for horror comic Creepy and sister publications of FM.



     Several EOofDers commented on "Lovecraft's Providence" by Geoffrey Pullum in The Chronicle of Higher Education blog.



     "Colberthulhu" shows celebrity Stephen Colbert's head on a mollusk's body. *** To commemorate his 122nd birthday "Cthulhu Calling: An Evening of Art Inspired by the Works of H.P. Lovecraft" will feature 12 local (Nashville) artists on 18 August (retrieved 16 August). *** Artists attest to HPL's inspiration.



     The heading is "Trans-Neptunian Planets," and the short article begins, "In these days of large telescopes and modern astronomical methods, it seems strange, says Mr. H. P. Lovecraft, that no vigorous efforts are being made to discover planets beyond the orbit of Neptune, which is now considered the outermost limit of the Solar System". Other than inserting the author's name, the Liverpool Herald newspaper (New South Wales, Australia [24 November 1906]) gives a verbatim and unattributed reprint of HPL's letter to Scientific American (25 August 1906).


Comic Books and Graphic Novels

     Alan Moore is following Neonomicon with the ten-issue series Providence. *** Creepy (no. 10) has an all Lovecraft issue. *** Space Lovecraft (Kadokawa Shoten, 1993) by Colin Wilson is apparently a graphic novel translated into Japanese.



     The online community used by educators, Second Life, is having an H. P. Lovecraft Festival from 22-30 September (retrieved 24 September).  



     Though without attribution, occasional Lovecraft quotes have appeared in Syracuse (New York) hoax letters with powder claimed to be anthrax. FBI agent Dan Capone read three HPL books looking for clues. "Some of the letters include a hand-drawn eyeball, which might be a reference to a specific Lovecraft character, Cthulhu, Capone said." While an eyeball is reminiscent of the "three-lobed burning eye," the drawing is a conventional eye.



     University of Utrecht student Derek van Santvoort has online his Master's thesis Casting Shadows out of Time: H. P. Lovecraft, His Influences and His Influence (2008); the influences are Poe, Machen, and Dunsany, while the influencees are King, Borges, and Houellebecq. *** Another Master's thesis is by Joakim Bengtsson, From Within the Abyss of the Mind: Psychological Horror in H. P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" (Blekinge Institute of Technology, 2005) *** "Inanimate Speech from Lovecraft to Zizek" (CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture [December 2011]) by Apple Z. Igrek discusses "interrelated motifs of technology, fear, social media, and abject otherness."

     *** The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2010) by Mark Payne offers several allusions to HPL. *** Look for references to At the Mountains of Madness in Antarctica in Fiction: Imaginative Narratives of the Far South (Cambridge University Press, 2012) by Elizabeth Leane. *** In Open Lovecraft, his sub-blog to Tentaclii, David Haden lists dozens of recent and not-so-recent scholarly works about HPL. His mainstream search engine for free, scholarly content--JURN--received a favorable review in the July 2012 issue of the library review journal Choice.

     *** "The Age of Lovecraft: Cosmic Horror, Posthumanism, and Popular Culture" wants scholarly articles. "This collection will consider the late 20th and early 21st century as 'The Age of Lovecraft,' a time in which his popularity, his writing, and his influence, have achieved unprecedented levels of cultural saturation. Our goal is to assemble a collection of essays that will help us assess Lovecraft's place in contemporary culture. In short, we will be asking why Lovecraft, why now?" *** Breakdown: Mind Terror in Sylvia Plath and Doris Lessing (ERIC Clearinghouse, 1974) by Marie Ahearn has a few references to Lovecraft and more to Poe.



     "If Dr. Seuss Made H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Tomb'" is another "collaboration" of the two deceased authors; the first was "The Call of Cthulhu" (see 'aster 70).



     Here's an instance of what link clicking brings. From Lovecraftzine's reproduction of a letter of condolence written by HPL to the mother of writer Robert Nelson I wandered to a notice of Nelson's Sable Revery: Poems, Sketches and Letters on Douglas Anderson's Nodens Books (whose latest issue, as of October 2013, I find to be July 2012) to the blog on the fantastic Wormwoodiana. Weeks later I found that some of this had been covered by several EODers in the previous mailing.



     For his 1977 movie Providence, director Alain Resnais had his set designer Jacques Saulnier read HPL[English paraphrase of Saulnier's statement "Resnais m'a fait lire "'Lovecraft'" pour "'Providence'"].



     Band members of Black Seal have an affection for HPL. *** The Swedish Drumcode label has produced the tracks "The Color [sic] out of Space" and "Lovecraft".



     In The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny (Ohio University Press, 2012) Dylan Trigg shows particular interest in "From Beyond." Later in the book he inaccurately cites "These terrors are of older standing [etc.]" as though it were by HPL rather than recognizing the source was Charles Lamb.



     "Kerry Bolton's Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence [Counter-Currents, 2012] is a study of ten leading 20th-century literary artists-including pioneering modernists-who were sympathetic with Fascism and/or National Socialism: D. H. Lawrence, H. P. Lovecraft, Gabriele D'Annunzio..."



     From This Is Me, Jack Vance!: (Or, More Properly, This Is "I") (Subterranean Press, 2009): "My mother had catholic tastes, and among these books were fantasy novels by Robert W. Chambers, such as Tracer of Lost Persons, The King In Yellow, Maker of the Moons. There were also works by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My mother described how, about 1915 in the magazine Blue Book, there appeared the first installment of a serial called Tarzan Of The Apes. She said that this story instantly had become a fad among all of her acquaintances...

     "About three miles west of us was the town of Oakley. In the drugstore was a magazine rack, and there I came upon the Amazing Stories quarterly, edited by Hugo Gernsback, and also the Amazing Stories monthly. I subsequently discovered Weird Tales and subscribed to it. It was a banner day of the month when I ran down to the mailbox in front of Iron House School to find it there. Of the authors I read in Weird Tales I recall the names Seabury Quinn, H. P. Lovecraft, C. L. Moore, and one which I assumed to be a pseudonym: Nictzin Dyalhis... Later I learned that this had been his real name! His father, a Welshman, had been obsessed by the Aztecs, and so had given him the name Nictzin" (p. 16-17).

     At the book's end he asks "Who has been influential upon my development as a writer?" and answers "I admire C. L. Moore from the old Weird Tales magazine. As a boy I was quite affected by the prose of Clark Ashton Smith. I revere P. G. Wodehouse" (p. 188). He also names adventure writer Jeffery Farnol, Edgar Rice Burroughs, "Lord Dunsany and his delicate fairylands," and the Oz books of L. Frank Baum (p. 189).



     While there have been encyclopedias and the like about Lovecraft, one type of reference that has been missing is a quote collection. I'd have it arranged by broad subject areas. Another way is that used in "34 Strange Lovecraft Quotes" by Lynne Jamneck, who annotates miscellaneous quotes with remarks about the writer and his work.



     Of a number of stories in Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural R. G. Howarth wrote "Black magic is the commonest of these [themes], and it seems extraordinary to find one H. P. Lovecraft writing of conjurations and pacts with the Devil in contemporary New England-- machinations which were to re-people the earth with an ancient evil race of monsters that first possessed it [i.e., "The Dunwich Horror"]. But Lovecraft is here following Arthur Machen, whose 'Great God Pan' develops the same idea"  ("Ghosts and Goose Flesh," The Sydney Morning Herald [New South Wales, 26 August 1944, p 6]).



     In the fantasy Howard & Emily Lovecraft finds his love with the poet Emily Dickinson. It's at the Rochester Fringe Festival, in the city that's home of Lovecraft's paternal ancestors. *** "The Temple" and "The Call of Cthulhu" made up The H. P. Lovecraft Chronicles, a one man show by Michael Sabbaton at Salford, Greater Manchester, England. *** Austin's Hideout Theatre presents The Dark Vault, its various performers improvising on Lovecraft's imagination. *** Inspired by "The Shadow over Innsmouth," Matthew Wood's Drowning Rock is at Camden People's Theatre (in London). The same tale is performed a continent away by The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at the Academy Theatre.



     Items left out of S. T.'s 2009 H. P. Lovecraft: A Comprehensive Bibliography: Kuiskaus Pimeässä (whose translation could be The Whisperer in Darkness) (Jalava, 1989) and additional Finnish titles. Aikakone Science Fiction & Fantasia has more works by him and others. *** In the bibliography it's Hapanta 4: Hē katara with the copyright of 1979 "an apparent error"; the library catalog record, however, lists the Greek title as Hē katara, dating its copyright as 1979. The author is "C. P. Lovekrapht", perhaps a mistaken transliteration. Another Greek title is Epta paraxena diēgēmata (Ekdoseis Ōrora, 1988).

     *** Fata Morgana (Meulenhoff, 1980) has a Dutch translation of "The Cats of Ulthar". *** Numbered from 1 to 9, the Japanese title Kutourū is attributed to "H.P. Ravukurafuto". Another Japanese work, Neko ni kansuru kyōfu shōsetsu (1984), contains a collection of cat stories by such writers as HPL, Saki, Bloch, and Derleth.

     *** The Czech anthology Půlnoční stíny: Antologie světových a českých horrorů (Knižní podnikatelský klub, 1991) includes "The Outsider" and "The Colour out of Space". *** Dziedzictwo Lovecrafta: w hołdzie twórcy horroru (Rebis, 1992) is a Polish translation of Lovecraft's Legacy (T. Doherty Associates, 1990). *** Also available online, the Romanian Monstrul din prag (Editura Vremea, 2007) contains a number of translated tales.



     In "Writer Food from A to Z" HPL's letter is "I" for "Italian Spaghetti".



     For kids nine and up Quirk Books is releasing Tales from Lovecraft Middle School, no. 1:Professor Gargoyle by Charles Gilman. *** In Catalan, Lovecraft, Lovecraft! (Edicions 62, 1981) by Ofèlia Dracs appears to be a work of fiction.



     You have to like the recent movie Premium Rush for it having the villain use the phony name of "Forrest J Ackerman." *** Alfred Hitchcock is being portrayed in two recent movies, one of which is pegged to the making of Psycho, based on the Robert Bloch novel.


Call him Mist(er) Quinn

     In an interview at a 1963 Washington, DC con Seabury Quinn is typoed: "I remember some forty years ago I wrote a werewolf story called 'The Phantom Foghouse' (The Proceedings: DISCON edited by Dick Eney [Advent, 1965], p. 104).


For the 159th

     Martin (Aurora Borealis): Your weather has been a lot of rain and little sun, whereas mine has been the reverse. Too bad the weathers can't be combined. *** The dilemma you face of the NecronomiCon coinciding with your brother's wedding reminds me of the story where a golfer suddenly stops playing and takes off his cap as a funeral procession passes. When praised by a friend for his courtesy, he responds, "We were married for 40 years." In your case, blood may be thicker than fandom.

     John (Hesperia): August Derleth was magnanimous in his publicizing of HPL at every opportunity. While the cynical could ascribe his motive to promoting Arkham House, it seems to me he would have done it regardless.

     T. E. (The Cosmicomicon): Re "'The Collect Call of Cathulhu'" . is the first introduction of Cthulhu to the small screen". That honor is preempted by the 1971 Night Gallery episode "Professor Peabody's Last Lecture," which mentions various "gods," Arkham, and the Necronomicon. (It can be seen for free online, as via Youtube.) Before that, mention of Cthulhu Mythos deities appeared in the 1965 television movie Dark Intruder. And I like to think there may be some television reference preceding it. *** Dark Delicacies is the first horror book store I've heard about. Mystery and science fiction boutique stores, yes, but not dark fantasy, with its smaller readership.

     Scott (Continuity): You state that it is sad that Clark Ashton Smith has been lost in Lovecraft's shadow; which means, I suppose, that HPL has received attention for writing in an area that Smith too succeeded at with his unique talent. Maybe Smith's lack of recognition can be chalked to the inscrutability of taste. If Lovecraft had not existed, is it any more likely that Smith would be appreciated and celebrated? I suggest that Smith's writing is caviar for the general--too specialized and recherché. Instead of obscuring Smith, maybe an interest in Lovecraft will more likely lead fans to discover him.


Before ATMOM

     In the 1930's HPL could write about monstrous mountains that existed in Antarctica in part because much of it was a white blank. Russell Owen wrote in 1931 "Unexplored regions vary greatly in extent. Some are very small; one, the Antarctic, is a whole continent, explored in only one comparatively small segment and along the coast." ("Unknown Lands Still Beckon the Explorer," New York Times [1 March])


Flowery Speech

     "And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad."--Arthur Machen


     "The eye reads omens where it goes,

     And speaks all languages the rose."--Ralph Waldo Emerson






Thanks for reading the 3,266 words of issue 74 of The Criticaster (Hallowe'en 2012, Esoteric Order of Dagon mailing 160) by Steve Walker. In Times New Roman font, size 12. Re-edited for the Net 30 October 2013 as The Limbonaut (no 45).