Friday, September 20, 2013

THE VARIORUM LOVECRAFT &C



In this year's issue's of LOVECRAFT ANNUAL, S. T. Joshi has an article entitled "Excised Passages from 'The Thing on the Doorstep,'" in which he writes: "In my proposed multi-volume edition of The Variorum Lovecraft, which could begin publication as early as next year, I hope to present all the relevant textual variants for all the stories that Lovecraft wrote over his short literary career.  One phase of that project may include the printing of passages from handwritten or typed manuscripts (chiefly the former) that were excised as Lovecraft was writing the story or as he performed a subsequent revision of it."  Yesterday S. T. sent me an fretful email, distress'd because he realised that he has never examined the original WEIRD TALES text of "Dagon," and he wondered if he could borrow the first volume of THE WEIRD WRITINGS OF H. P. LOVECRAFT ( Girasol Collectables Inc, 2010), two handsome hardcover volumes in which all of Lovecraft's writings that were published in WT (tales, poems, letters) are printed in facsimile, including all of the original artwork.  (These wonderful volumes are still available and may be order'd from the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society for $175.  www.cthulhulives.org

So this morning I took the first volume, and as we sat to chat for a few minutes, S. T. sheepishly mention'd that he might want to borrow the second volume as well.  Duh--I shou'd have thought to take both of them to him this morning.  I admit that I am extremely excited about The Variorum Lovecraft, to be publish'd by Hippocampus Press in four volumes.  S. T. shew'd me some of his files for this new extensive edition of Lovecraft's fiction, and they are amazing--huge chunks of writing found in ye original MSS. that Lovecraft crossed out, &c &c.  The first volume will probably cover the stories from "The Beast in the Cave" to "The Festival," and will probably be publish'd next year.  I asked this morning if there will be a hardcover edition, & S. T. was uncertain.  I stress'd that there really MUST be a limited hardcover edition, and I feel that, because it is Lovecraft, such an edition will easily sell out.  S. T. has continued to think about and work on Lovecraft's texts over the decades, and he has made amendments that will appear for the first and only time in The Variorum Lovecraft, bringing the texts closer, S. T. feels, to how Lovecraft wou'd want them preserved.  So these four volumes will have textual differences from the Arkham House, Penguin Classics and The Library of America editions.

I cannot get enough of Lovecraft's poetry & prose, and I thrill at ye idea of new editions.  I am drooling at ye mouth over ye forthcoming The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft that Leslie S. Klinger has edited for W. W. Norton.  I saw Leslie at NecronomiCon, and he mention's that the book (publish'd in folio size) will be as huge as a telephone book, and it will contain all of the original art that illustrated Lovecraft's works in Weird Tales.  Because I am forever returning to Lovecraft, to study his prose and continually learn from his genius, I desire different editions of the stories; & I have a special fondness for annotated editions.  I have much to look forward to.

 I finally got a close look at S. T.'s Robert Bloch award--in ye photo to ye right presented to him by Niels Hobbs, Esq.  The award is shaped as ye box in which lurks ye Shining Trapezohedron from "The Haunter of the Dark"; & with ye flip of a wee switch, the crazily angled stone lights up to reveal, at its center, a three-lobed burning eye!!  Ia!!  I will, at year's end. begin work on a new book, In Dark of Providence, in which all of the stories will take place entirely or partially in Providence.  The book will be publish'd by Hippocampus Press, in ye summer of 2015 so as to coincide with ye next NecronomiCon.  S. T. will be working with me as ye book's editor, and that will ensure no dreck--and correct grammar.  S. T. has been lecturing me on my grammar, & I confess it is difficult to stop my habit of adding "of" after the word all.  It just feels natural to write "all of Lovecraft's fiction thrills me" rather than, correctly, "all Lovecraft's fiction thrills me."  S. T. is obsess'd about correcting bad grammar, so lessons will be learn'd!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Black Winged Ones



"...the killing had been done by Black Winged Ones which had come to them from their immemorial meeting-place in the haunted wood."  The Call of Cthulhu.

And again: "Mankind was not absolutely alone among the conscious things of earth, for shapes came out of the dark to visit the faithful few.  But these were not the Great Old Ones.  No man had ever seen the Old Ones.  The carven idol was great Cthulhu, but none might say whether or not the others were precisely like him."

What are these Black Winged Ones who meet the acolytes of Cthulhu in ye haunted wood?  I don't think that they are night-gaunts.  Could they be related to the winged things mention'd in "The Festival," which one assumes are black because they are described thus:  "They were not altogether crows, nor moles, not buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats..."  Daniel Harms' The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia does not mention them (I met Daniel in Providence, when he came to buy a copy of Weird Inhabitants of Sesqua Valley).  I am curious about all of this because the story I am now writing, for Black Wings III, is a semi-sequel to "The Call of Cthulhu," and I want to mention these murderous Black Winged Ones as they appear to my narrator in dream.  I love that Lovecraft mentions these supernatural beasts; for too often some commentators want to stress that such tales as "The Call of Cthulhu" are cosmic but not supernatural--and that is nonsense.  The intense stress on dreams, the fiendish Black Winged Ones, and "There were legends of a hidden lake unglimpsed by mortal sight, in which dwelt a huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes; and squatters whispered that bat-winged devils flew up out of caverns in inner earth to worship it at midnight"--all of these make it crystal clear that "The Call of Cthulhu" is first and foremost a horror story.

But what are they, these Black Winged Ones?  Did they drift through space & time with Cthulhu when he first secured a foothold on our planet?  Were they among the nameless things that built R'lyeh in honor of their great and dreadful lord?  I love that there are so many things in Lovecraft, hinted and unexplain'd, that stir the imagination and haunt the soul.  Ia!  Yog-Sothoth.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Memories on a Sad Day


I am still, over one decade later, traumatized by the terror attack on Manhattan on this day in 2001.  This is the day when I simply cannot watch the news, or my favourite shows on MSNBC (Martin Bashir and Rachel Maddow), because I don't want to look at footage of the tragedy.  To any reading who suffered family loss on that day, I send my love and prayers to ye; I cannot imagine the personal pain this day brings you.  So, although I am--mentally, emotionally--still a victim of that terrorist attack on the wonderful souls of my country, I try to counter it by concentrating on the good, the joyful, the beautiful things of life.  For me, the huge source of happiness is my life as a Lovecraftian.  It is a passion that has rewarded me with intense happiness for decades, and will continue to do so for my remainder of days.  And the root of that intense happiness is those others, those beloved fans of Lovecraft, who share this passion with me, especially S. T. Joshi.  I cannot express deeply enough how utterly blessed I feel to have S. T. living here in Seattle, that I can spend personal time with him on a regular basis.  It's like some awesome miracle.  And the pure pleasure of being a writer of Lovecraftian weird fiction is to have such loyal and delicious fans--my fans are great, and I adore them.

One of the coolest sources of Lovecraftian joy is that awesome journal edited by Robert M. Price, CRYPT OF CTHULHU.  I am pictur'd above with my horde of issues.  I return to these magazines time and time again: for ye pure pleasure of reading once more my favourites among ye articles, or just dipping into the memories that some of those articles supply.  Crypt has never been replaced, and I sorely miss it.  It was entertaining, edifying, brilliant.  Reading those issues helped to mold me as an author.
I am pictur'd, at left, reading from Crypt #57, from an article by David E. Schultz entitled "In a Sequester'd Churchyard."  In this article, David relates how Lovecraft enjoy'd taking friends to St. John's churchyard, just below Benefit Street; and the article reprints the acrostic sonnets that HPL and his chums wrote while haunting that churchyard and sitting on its tombs.  Also included are sonnets written in memory of Poe by others who had not visited ye churchyard, such as Henry Kuttner and Maurince W. Moe.  This charming article is one to which I constantly return, and I felt a keen desire to read from it in St. John's on the opening day of NecronomiCon, during a poetic picnic that I shared with a Kickstarter group.  We also ventur'd to pen our own acrostic sonnet to Poe, but didn't finish ye task--and I have yet to return to the poem & complete it--but I will.  The church in ye background is not in use, and is in a state of decay, which seems sad yet, somehow, fitting for those of us who enjoy morbid moods.

This picnic was a wonderful way for me to begin the convention, because my group of Lovecraftian souls were so pleasant, so fun to be with.  That our picnic ended with a thunderstorm and heavy rainfall, through which we stagger'd on our way back to ye Biltmore Hotel, was delightful for me.  By ye time I got back to ye Biltmore, I was dripping like some nameless thing on a doorstep.  I have never walk'd through such a torrential downpour!  And I'm from Seattle!

I love these photos of our picnic there.  This churchyard has a magical aura for me, and to see these photos of our little group there charm me intensely.  I first visited the churchyard in October of 2007, when my friends Maryanne and Greg took me on a three-week tour of New England and new York.  By nameless coincidence, S. T. Joshi was in Providence that week, doing work at John Hay Library on ye forthcoming volumes of Clark Ashton Smith's poetry that were publish'd in three beautiful volumes by Hippocampus Press.  Joshi led us from the churchyard on an exhausting walking tour of Lovecraftian sites.  He gets so excited when leading these tours that he cannot help but rush along ye lanes of College Hill, and for we who are antient antique things, it is a challenge to keep up with him.  He still, to this day, gets so excited when in Providence, discussing E'ch-Pi-El.  Here he one of my favourite photos of S. T. in such a state of excitement.

And here is another shot, of S. T. in a moment of enthrall'd Lovecraftian story-telling as he stands before ye neglected edifice of the church.  It's cool, isn't it, the way that our love for H. P. Lovecraft triggers a kind of adolescent enthrallment in us no matter how hoary we grow with age?  I am still such a fanboy, as S. T. has pointed out in an introductory note he has written for the special forthcoming Pugmire tribute issue of the Lovecraft eZine (to be publish'd in November).  I embarrass myself constantly, when at conventions, when on panels, at how I crow to everyone that I am still and will always remain a super-excited & obsess'd HPL fanboy.  But how could I not be?  Lovecraft, and my obsession with him, has blessed me with the best things in my life to-day, good friends, good books, and my cherish'd existence as a writer of Lovecraftian weird fiction.  I'm a lucky guy!



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

1971


It was on this day, September 4th, in 1971 that I left for my mission in Ireland for the Mormon church.  It seems another lifetime to me nigh.  I remember, just before leaving, seeing on the news a report of the troubles, the violence in Northern Ireland (where I spent most of my mission), and thinking, "Holy crap, I'm going there?"  But it was in Ireland that I became a writer of weird fiction.  I was discouraged from going to see horror films, my passion at that youthful time.  Robert Bloch was a pen pal, and I decided to substitute reading horror fiction for horror films, beginning with the novels of Bloch; & then I began to hunt for horror anthologies in which Bob was one of many writers.  This served as my introduction to Derleth, Jacobi, REH, and so many others.  It was in Northern Ireland that I bought my first edition of the tales of H. P. Lovecraft.  And it was there that I began to write my own stuff and submit it to American magazines.  I remember how thrilled I was when a very poor early story, "Whispering Wires," sold to SPACE & TIME.

Gawd, I got homesick.  I was never a really spiritual guy, and walking day after day and knocking on doors trying to preach religion in Ireland was hard work, and frustrating because so few people were interested.  Finally I got so homesick that I faked that I was suffering from poor lungs due to the chimney smoke in Ireland.  Instead of sending me home, I was sent to the Arizona/Las Vegas mission, to dry out.  I was a very strange missionary, for sure.  I took my plastic vampire fangs with me, and would wear them at times wehen knocking on doors.

This is a photo of how I would sometimes dress on my off-day in Vegas.  It's one of the photos of me that Forry published in FAMOUS MONSTERS.  All the other Elders would be having fun playing baseball or whatever, and I would sit in the bleachers (is that what they're called) dressed like this.  Finally my mission president put a stop to it, as well as asking me if I was homosexual.  I confess'd that I had those feelings but that I had never "done anything."  Some of my companions guessed that I was gay, as I recently found out when my companion from Vegas, Ron, came to visit me.  It was the first time we had seen each other in 40 years.  Being a closeted gay missionary was no fun.  Being in the closet is a soul-crusher; but when you are surrounded by a group of other guys your own age, all of whom seem "normal," it makes a young queer feel mighty lonely and malformed.  I love that we now have so many positive gay role models for young gay kids.

To have gone from being an LDS missionary to looking like I do in ye photo to ye right has been a weird trip, to say the least.  I've always enjoy'd dressing weird, but it was when I became a punk rocker in 1981 that I was able to be as extreme as I wanted to be and not have to explain "why" when people asked.  "There is no 'why,' I'm just being me."  I think I'm getting a bit weary with dressing up--maybe it's just part of growing old.  But I certainly had fun with it.  I enjoy getting on YouTube and looking utterly bizarre and acting like a fool.  It's such an innocent form of decadence.