Wednesday, September 17, 2014

THE VARIORUM LOVECRAFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edited by S. T. Joshi
1,600 pages in three volumes
Limited edition: 500 sets only
November 2014


In the 1980's, S. T. Joshi prepared revised editions of H. P. Lovecraft's stories for Arkham House.  Basing his work on consultation of manuscripts, early publications, and other sources, Joshi corrected thousands or errors in the existing texts of Lovecraft's fiction, allowing readers to appreciate the stories as Lovecraft originally wrote them.

In the thirty years that have followed, Joshi has continued to do research on the textual accuracy of Lovecraft's stories, and this comprehensive new edition is the result.  For the first time, students and scholars of Lovecraft can see at a glance all the variants in all relevant appearances of a story--manuscript, first publication in magazines, and first book publications.  The result is an illuminating record of the textual history of the tales, along with how Lovecraft significantly revised his stories after initial publication.

Along the way, Joshi has made small but significant revisions to his earlier corrected texts.  He has determined, for example, that Lovecraft slightly revised some stories when a reprint of them was scheduled in Weird Tales, and he has altered some readings in light of a better understanding of Lovecraft's customary linguistic usages.

The result is the definitive text of Lovecraft's fiction--an edition that suspersedes all those that preceded it and should endure as the standard text of Lovecraft's stories for many years.

[Volume 1]
In this first volume, Lovecraft's earliest stories are printed in chronological order by date of writing.  Included are such early triumphs as "Dagon" and "The Outsider," along with the many tales Lovecraft wrote under the inspiration of Lord Dunsany.  The celebrated "Herbert West--Reanimator" and "The Rats in the Walls" show Lovecraft experimenting with longer narratives--a tendency that will culminate in the novelettes and novellas of his final decade of writing.

[Volume 2]
In this second volume, the tales that Lovecraft wrote immediately after returning to his native Providence, R. I., from two years of "exile" in New York, are presented.  The landmark tale "The Call of Cthulhu" was only the tip of the iceberg of a flood of stories he wrote in 1926-27, which include the two short novels The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.  "The Colour out of Space" is a pioneering tale that initiates Lovecraft's distinctive melding of horror and science fiction, while "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Whisperer in Darkness" are rich novellas simultaneously evoking terrors from outer space and the brooding darkness of the New England backwoods.

[Volume 3]
In this final volume, the tales of Lovecraft's final years are presented.  The Antarctic novella At the Mountains of Madness is perhaps Lovecraft's most finished work, a superb fusion of weirdness and science fiction that he referred to as "cosmicism."  "The Shadow over Innsmouth" is a chilling evocation of the terrors inherent in a lonely New England backwater, while "The Thing on the Doorstep" and "The Haunter of the Dark" feature physical horrors with cosmic implications.  "The Shadow out of Time" is the culmination of Lovecraft's portrayal of the vast vistas of space and time--his signature contribution to literature.

S. T. Joshi is a leading Lovecraft scholar and author of H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West (1990), I am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2010), Lovecraft and a World in Transition (2014), and other critical and biographical works.  He has also done significant research on such writers as Lord Dunsany, Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, and Ramsey Campbell.

will be published in celebration of the 125th anniversary of
H. P. Lovecraft's birth.

Editor S. T. Joshi presents all the relevant textual variants from all the stories
that Lovecraft wrote over his short literary career.

The first three volumes, available in November 2014 exclusively as a set,
collect all of Lovecraft's canonical tales.  
A fourth volume, 
H. P. Lovecraft's Revisions and Collaborations: A Variorum Edition,
is scheduled to appear in 2015 and will be offered for sale disparately.

features Smythe-sewn signatures and illustrated dust wrappers, with each copy individually shrink-wrapped.  All Hippocampus Press limited editions are printed on 60# offset paper,
acid free and elemental chlorine free.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monstrous Aftermath

I don't seem to be able to get far into any new thing I begin.  It's not writer's block but rather a deep-rooted apathy toward work, I think.  Laziness and lack of inspiration.  Of course, it is ill-timed, as I want to have a new book out from Hippocampus Press.  Thus I've been gathering some things that have not been collected in any book of mine, and I think they will help round out a wee collection of about 60,000 words--still a very short book, but large enough.  I have decided I want to call this book Monstrous Aftermath, a title I was gong to use for my proposed second book from Centipede Press.  "Monstrous aftermath" is from Lovecraft's sonnet, "The Howler," in Fungi from Yuggoth (where the word "monstrous" occurs frequently).  Because the main portion of the new book is my revised/expanded version of "Some Unknown Gulf of Night," a work entirely inspir'd by Lovecraft's sonnet cycle, I wanted the book's title to reflect those sonnets.  I plan on writing one new story of 3,000 words or so, entitled "Monstrous Aftermath," that will also be inspired by E'ch-Pi-El's sonnet cycle.  Thus far, the Contents I envision for this new book is thus:

1.) "Within Your Unholy Pit of Shoggoths" (1,750 words)
2.) "Your Weighing of My Heart" (1,325 words)
3.) "A Shadow of Thy Own Design" (not yet written; hoping it to be around 3,000 words)
4.) "The Tomb of Oscar Wilde" (1,600 words)
5.) "An Ecstasy of Fear" (11,600 words)
6.) "Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes" (1,680 words)
7.) "Beyond the Wakeful Senses" (1,800 words)
8.) "Half Lost in Shadow" (2,670 words)
9.) "Circular Bones (sequence of three sonnets)
10.) "Jester of Yellow Day" (1,130 words)
11.) "This Splendor of the Goat" (10,900 words)
12.) "Monstrous Aftermath" (2,425 words)
13.) "An Element of Nightmare" (3,630 words)
14.) "Some Unknown Gulf of Night" (40,000 words)

That's a little over 20,000 words not including "Gulf".  So, all in all, a book of about 60,000 words total.   And I have a hankering to write one more new wee thing, to bring story count to 13--my favourite number.  Still a short book, but long enough for one that is overtly poetic and decadent.  It wou'd be cool if the book cou'd be publish'd in time for NecronomiCon 2015--but that may be unrealistic.  We shall see.  I've added two longish novelettes that were in Bohemians of Sesqua Valley, and I think they will go well with the shorter pieces.  I haven't included "A Quest of Dream" from that book because Laird Barron is reprinting it in Year's Best Weird Fiction.  All in all, this new book will be an excellent representation of my new writing from ye past few years.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reality or No?

"The imaginative writer devotes himself to art in its most essential sense."  --H. P. Lovecraft (Collected Essays 5, pg. 47).

H. P. Lovecraft consider'd ye writing of weird fiction an art form and saw himself as a literary artist.  His use of the word "art" to describe his genre and his participation in it is everywhere in his correspondence.  In the group of essays that have been publish'd as In Defense of Dagon, Lovecraft's views on supernatural fiction as art are part of his main focus.  The essay is available in Volume 5 of Lovecraft's Collected Essays (Hippocampus Press 2006--still available for $20 in its soft cover edition), where we find this well-known statement:

"I could not write about 'ordinary people' because I am not in the least interested in them.  Without interest there can be no art."

One aspect of Lovecraft's art that fascinates me more and more is his blending of reality and dream, of what is real with what is hallucination.  As S. T. Joshi has pointed out, very few of what are known as Lovecraft's "dream cycle" tales are actually set in any kind of dreamland.  The classic tale of this kind is "The Outsider," the plot of which defies logic, and which some critics have suggested is a dream narrative.  Yet that story is an obvious and outrageous example, and there are others where the borderland between real and unreal is expressed with superb subtlety.

In "The Statement of Randolph Carter," something very real seems to have happened to Carter's friend, Harley Warren, so that the authorities have grown alarmed and bring Carter in for questioning.  Yet what do we make of this:  "You say to me that there is nothing in the swamp or near it in which could form the setting of that frightful episode.  I reply that I know nothing beyond what I saw.  Vision or nightmare it may have been--vision or nightmare I fervently hope it was--yet it is all that my mind retains of what took place in those shocking hours after we left the sight of men."  Perhaps there are any number of "explanations."  Perhaps the occult studies of Harley Warren, or the book that he carried with him on that fateful night, alerted him to the secret location of this unknown antique necropolis.

"The place was an ancient cemetery; so ancient that I trembled at the manifold signs of immemorial years.  It was in a deep, damp hollow, overgrown with rank grass, moss, and curious creeping weeds, and filled with a vague stench which my idle fancy associated absurdly with rotting stone."

This seems a solid description of a place visited; and yet so skillful is Lovecraft's art that he places into it the word "fancy," which may cause us to pause and reconsider the veracity of the visit, of the mind that holds the memory of this realm.  

A similar spectral realm is described in "The Music of Erich Zann."  For most of my adulthood I have considered this a story set in reality, a very weird reality but solid nonetheless.  We have no reason to doubt that the narrator actual dwells in the haunted house in a street in France, that the fellow he meets performs in an actual band somewhere in an actual city.  And yet the story's opening paragraph should have alerted me to something queer, something illogical:

"I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d'Auseil.  These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change.  I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place; and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d'Auseil.  But despite all I have done it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann."

What can this possibly mean?  How can a street vanish--unless it never existed in the first place?  Was the story based on a dream of Lovecraft's?  Here is a rather long quote from a letter to Frank Belknap Long, 8 February 1922 (text from Selected Letters I, pages 166/67):

"I enclose two stories you have not previously seen.  One is the long-promised Randolph Carter, and the other is my latest.  Please return both.  The 'Carter' thing is an actual dream, with Loveman and myself as characters.  He is 'Warren' and I am 'Carter'.  I dreamed that we stood in a strange and terrible graveyard in a swamp, and that we bore peculiar instruments.  Then we opened a grave--and the things told in the story happened.  I woke up transfixed with terror, and immediately wrote the story.   . . . Erich Zann I wrote only recently.  It has horror--the horror of the grotesque and visionary--but it does not 'grip' like Randolph Carter.  It is not, as a whole, a dream, though I have dreamt of steep streets like the Rue d'Auseil."

There are points of interest in this.  When Lovecraft says that the story is not, in whole, a dream, he must be referencing it against "The Statement of Randolph Carter," a story that is entirely based on a dream.  But what doies HPL mean when he says of "The Music of Erich Zann" that it contains the horror of the grotesque and "visionary"?  Who has the vision?  Is it the narrator, who peeps out the window of Zann's room and envisions a realm of cosmic nightmare?  What is the hallucination in this story--the entire tale and its setting, or that moment of looking out a window and seeing "...only the blackness of space illimitable; unimagined space alive with motion and music, and having no semblance to anything on earth"?

Of all of Lovecraft's works, At the Mountains of Madness has always seemed to me one of the stories set absolutely in the land of the real.  Mention f myth is brought into the tale, but everything witnessed is absolutely real.  So I was rather staggered, this morning, while re-reading volume one of Essential Solitude, to find this is a letter of 1931:

"Now as to the end of the thing--of course I am not satisfied myself, but I am very oddly unable to decide whether more or less definiteness is needed.  Remember Arthur Gordon Pym.  In my tale the shoggoth provides a concrete & tangible climax--& what I wished to add was merely a vague hint of further spiritual horrors--as Poe hinted with his white bird screaming 'Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!"  I wanted to leave the actuality of the glimpse very unsettled, so that it might easily pass off as an hallucination.  Possibly I ought to have left it vaguer still--& then again I had an idea that the thing ought to be developed at full length--perhaps as a sequel to the present thing, or perhaps as an expansion of that thing to full book length . . ."

The more I study Lovecraft's work and life as an artist, the more I am impress'd by his serious approach to Literary Art, to the workings of his mind, and to the execution of his excellent fiction.  He is indeed a classic of American Literature, deservedly so.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Charles Dexter Ward

oy, old age........
I am at page 410 of Lovecraft and a World in Transition, and as I devour'd the marvelous essay on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, I ask'd myself, "Why have I never seen this essay before??!!"  Reading the essay made me ache to begin a new reading of the novel, and so I got out me hardcover of the annotated edition from University of Tampa Press -- and, of course, this essay that I had "never read before" is the Afterword of that book, & I have read it more than once.

I remember watching the 1992 film version, The Resurrected, and thinking that Chris Sarandon as Curwen was a stunning portrayal--and it occur'd to me that part of the power of his performance came from the fact that it was true to the character as Lovecraft wrote it.  This helps to confirm my belief that Lovecraft was indeed capable of creating memorable characters, people that stay within one's imagination and are effective as story props.  Lovecraft's characters are, in fact, perfect for the part they play in the story; any elaboration of them in an attempt to bring them more to life wou'd have been an artistic error.  We need not know more about Erich Zann to be moved by the mystery of his existence, that existence wherein he seems to exist half in the real world and half in dream.  Indeed, "The Music of Erich Zann" is one of those fabulous tales that leave one questioning--was it real, or a dream?  Does this fantastic street and the house of nightmare where the story takes place historical fact, or is the entire story a confused retelling of what was naught but dream?  And what a seductive dream--for although the narrator flees the realm in terror, he is soon consum'd with trying to relocate, to return to nightmare.

Some clueless twat at alt.horror.cthulhu, who obviously has no understanding of Lovecraft, wrote "Lovecraft wrote simple prose, albeit in a depressed, possibly mentally infirm, mien--he never contemplated the deviant evolution which followed.  Fans and mimics changing the tenor of his stories which were written for money with which to pay rent and buy food."  Everything in that statement is stupidly false, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is but one example of why.   The story, Lovecraft's lengthiest work, was not written for money, was never polished and submitted to a publisher, and is written in a gorgeous style that is anything but "simple."  I imagine Lovecraft wrote for the reason I write--we are compelled to do so.  We are, first and foremost, writers, and to write is our existence.  There is next to no money in it.  This short novel is one of the many pieces that HPL compos'd after returning to Providence from two years in New York, and he thought so little of it that he couldn't be bothered to type and submit it to publishers, even though they asked him for something longer than short stories.  We are lucky that Grandpa didn't ultimately destroy the manuscript, as he destroy'd so may other experiments that he consider'd failures.  

The novel pulls me into it, each time I return to it.  I was so temp[ted to read it in the ARC I received of The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, where it is amply illustrated and annotated by editor Les Klinger; but I decided I wanted to wait and read the novel in the actual hardcover edition of Klinger's book, so I am re-reading the hardcover from U of Tampa Press.  I am always struck by the hints concerning Yog-Sothoth and black magick.  That Ward is a novel of black magick cannot be deny'd, containing a similar kind of alchemy to that found in "The Dunwich Horror."  This is ageless magick, spawn'd Outside mortal time & space, incomprehensible and fatal to humankind.  Whatever Yog-Sothoth is, he/it is absolutely not a mere alien from outer space (indeed, none of Lovecraft's daemons or monsters can be so simply defined, they are far too  original and contain aspects of Outsideness that are more than "cosmic").  

Ah me--how I wish sometimes that I was an actual scholar, so that I cou'd explain with precision why The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a great work of art.  I can express only my passion for it, as a fan.  Happily, there are others who understand why Lovecraft is excellent Literature.