Category Archives: H. P. Lovecraft

Another Lovecraft Birthday

Another year has passed, and it’s Lovecraft’s birthday again. (It’s also my mother-in-law’s but that’s beyond the scope of this post.) I’ve been planning a post on Lovecraft (yes, Dave H., the one we discussed at Howard Days and Armadillcon), but it’s not the right time for it. It’ll piss people off. Trust me.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was one of the most influential writers of the weird and fantastic of the 20th Century.

I was thinking the other day about my own writing, and I realized that I have written more fiction with lovecraftian themes in the last year than I have in all other years combined. No, you can’t read these stories. They haven’t been published, although not for lack of trying. Two are under consideration and one isn’t quite finished.

I’ve seen more anthologies devoted to Lovecraft’s works this year. Maybe I’m just paying more attention, but it seems like there’s not going to be a decline in interest in his works.

I will make this observation, though. I don’t see a lot of middle ground with Lovecraft these days. Among the people who are familiar with his work, and by familiar I mean have actually read his stories as opposed to hearing about them from others, people seem to either love him or hate him.

That is influence.

Happy Brithday, Farnsworth Wright

Weird Tales editorial office, l. to r., unknown, Farnsworth Wright, Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch

By the time of his death in 1940, Farnsworth Wright had become one of the most influential editors the field of the fantastic would ever see. Wright was born in 1888 on July, 29.  I would argue his influence on science fiction, fantasy, and horror has been greater than any other editor, including John W. Campbell, Dorothy McIlwraith, Fred Pohl, Ray Palmer, or Hugo Gernsback.

Yes, I realize that last sentence could be controversial, especially the inclusion of Campbell and Gernsback.  So be it.  Farnsworth Wright edited Weird Tales during what is considered to be the magazine’s golden age.  The authors he published have had a greater impact on the literature of the fantastic than those of any other editor at any time in history. Continue reading

Chicken Fried Cthulhu

Hey, folks, the Chicken Fried Cthulhu Kickstarter has 25 hours left as I write this and is still a ways from funding.  This is an anthology of southwestern flavored Cthulhu and Lovecraft themed stories.  It’s set to premiere at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio this year.

If it funds.  It’s from the same crew that brought you Skelos, and there’s an impressive lineup of authors listed, including Robert E. Howard and Joe Lansdale.  Part of the reason the goal is so high is that the editors want to pay the authors professional rates, and that takes money.

So if you’ve been thinking about pledging, please do so.  I would really like to see this project get off the ground.  I am not an author in the anthology and my only connection to the project is that I’m friends with the guys putting it together.  I just want to read the stories.

What Do H. P. Lovecraft and John W. Campbell, Jr. Have in Common?

Things From Outer SpaceThings From Outer Space
Hank Davis, ed.
Baen
mass market paperback $7.99
ebook $6.99 Amazon, $8.99 publisher’s website

This book came out at the end of August.  I’m still reading it, so this isn’t going to be a review of the whole book.  That will come after I finish reading it.  I am going to discuss John Campbell, Jr.’s classic “Who Goes There?”, which is the lead story and the inspiration for the anthology.

I’m also going to discuss H. P.. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”.  That’s not the Lovecraft story in the book, btw.  Davis chose “The Colour Out of Space”.  Probably because it fit the theme better than AtMoM.

I have read somewhere, and it was long enough ago that I don’t recall where, that Campbell may have been inspired to write “Who Goes There?” after reading “At the Mountains of Madness” in Astounding Stories in 1936.

I don’t know if this is true, but there are some strong similarities between the stories.  There are some key differences as well. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on HPL, on the Occasion of His Birth

LovecraftOther than the Dublin Ghost Story Festival (which I can’t afford to attend), there’s not a lot happening this weekend of any significance.  Which is fine, because there won’t be much to distract from observing HPL’s birthday today.  I intend to read something by him later, provided both the two-legged and four-legged people in the house will leave me alone.

I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing a few thoughts.  It’s become particularly fashionable in recent years to bash the Gentleman From Providence.  While this is nothing new, it seems to have gained momentum.

When I was younger, the most common complaint I heard was that Lovecraft’s prose was too purple.  I didn’t pay that much attention to the criticism at the time because I was more into science fiction.  It was only as my interest in fantasy began to eclipse my interest in SF that I really started getting into his work.  I’ve always found his writing to be readable.  While there is some merit to the complaints about Lovecraft’s style being outdated (which to a large degree boils down to matters of taste), they’re not a deal breaker for me.  Continue reading

In Observance of Henry S. Whitehead’s Birthday

Weird_Tales_March_1929Henry S. Whitehead was born today, March 5, in 1882.  He wrote a number of stories for Weird Tales during its early years before his untimely death in 1932.  Much of his fiction focused on the Caribbean, where he was stationed for a number of years as a minister of the Episcopal Church.  H. P. Lovecraft visited Whitehead for several weeks in 1931.  He had a great respect for Whitehead as a person and as a writer.

To mark the occasion, I read “The People of Pan”, which was first published in the March 1929 issue of Weird Tales.  The story is available in Voodoo Tales  The Ghost Stories of Henry S. WhiteheadContinue reading

Happy Birthday, Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith (8)January 13, 1893 saw the birth of Clark Ashton Smith.  Along with his friends and correspondents Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, Smith was regarded as one of the Big Three at Weird Tales during was is generally regarded as the magazine’s golden age.

Given his stature in the field, it’s a little surprising how brief his career as a writer of fiction was.  Most of his fiction was written between 1929 and 1934.  Smith’s first literary love was poetry.  He also worked as an artist.  Clark Ashton Smith was never able to completely support himself through his artistic endeavors, and he frequently did manual labor around his hometown of Auburn, California.

Smith’s fiction is not for the week of vocabulary.  He wrote several story cycles that take place in exotic imaginary lands in prehistory or on other planets.  Smith’s Collected Fantasies is back in print in paperback and electronic editions.  (Click the individual titles for links to electronic versions.)

Hearing Whispers Out of the Dust

IMG_3384Whispers Out of the Dust
David J. West
ebook $3.99, paperback $14.99

Take the Mormon settlement of the West, mix in some M. R. James and H. Russell Wakefield, throw in a healthy serving of H. P. Lovecraft and a dash of Robert E. Howard, stir in Native American lore, bake in the desert heat and wash down with a lake formed by a damn, and what you’re likely to come up with something that resembles Whispers Out of the Dust.

David J. West has begun to build a body of work in the subgenre known as the weird western, and his most recent book is a solid addition to the field.  It’s also one of his most ambitious projects to date.  (And I absolutely love that cover.)

St. Thomas, Nevada was settled by Mormon pioneers, but the area had been home to the Anasazi and other tribes long before.  The Mormons, many of them anyway, moved away when they discovered they were in Nevada rather than Utah and Nevada wanted to collect several years of back taxes.  Still, the town survived until the Hoover Dam was built, and the waters of Lake Mead covered it up.

That much is historical fact.  What David does is add a dose of fantasy which he blends so smoothly that you find yourself believing things you know can’t really be so.   (At least you don’t think so.)  The footnotes (endnotes, really) certainly add to the feeling of verisimilitude. David includes a number of photos he’s taken, which give you an idea of what the area looks like. Continue reading

A Review of Apotheosis

apotheosisApotheosis
Jason Andrew, ed.
Simian Publishing
ebook $4.99 print $19.95

Okay, I’ve been putting off writing this review, but it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone and get it done.  A few weeks ago, one of the contributors to this anthology, someone I’ve known for a while and consider a friend, asked me for a review.  Since said contributor didn’t have access to a review copy, I went ahead and bought one.  The theme of a world after the Elder Gods return has been done before in other anthologies, but I’ve never gotten around to reading any of them.  It sounded intriguing.

Either I didn’t think things through, or I simply wasn’t the target audience for this anthology.  The stories fell into three categories basically:  those I liked, those I had no strong reaction to, and those I absolutely didn’t like.  For me to like an anthology, most of the stories need to be in the first category.  I didn’t find most of the stories to be to my liking, a condition that became more true the deeper I got into the book.  I read it straight through over several days, which may have been part of the problem.  I’ve been reading (and in my own fiction, writing) some pretty dark stuff lately; I could use a break.  I suspect there are some stories I would have liked better if I’d read them separately from the others and mixed with other types of fiction.

Now an anthology that deals with the world after the Elder Gods return isn’t going to be filled with sweetness and light.  H. P. Lovecraft made that clear.  But too many of the stories struck me as unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to other unpleasant people.  There wasn’t a lot of hope in many of the stories, and I think that was the problem I had with so much of the book.  (Please note, there were a couple of stories with hopeful endings that didn’t work for me for other reasons.)  But even if the odds are astronomically against the characters/humanity, I like there to be some element of not-giving-up.

So I debated on whether to even write the review.  I don’t like writing bad reviews.  My goal is not to trash someone’s work.  I’ll point out flaws, but if I just don’t like something, or in the case of an anthology, don’t like most of the stories, I prefer to just read and review something else.  But I had promised a review.

So here it is.  I’m going to highlight the stories that worked for me.  But I want to say a couple of things first.  All of the stories are of professional level as far as the writing is concerned.  The authors included in this book know how to write.  Some of the best writers are the ones who wrote stories I didn’t like.  After all, they got a strong reaction from me.  While a particular story may not have been my cup of tea, some of the authors whose works made me want to go for the brain bleach are authors who I would be willing to read again.  Because if they can get as strong a reaction from me in a positive way as they did a negative reaction, then that’s a story I’m going to want to read. Continue reading

Take a Trip into A Lonely and Curious Country

unnamed-2A Lonely and Curious Country
Matthew Carpenter, ed.
Ulthar Press
Trade Paper, 234 p., $16.95

As Matthew Carpenter points out in his introduction, Lovecraftian fiction has become a mainstay of the fantastic and weird fiction genres, with some of the best-written stories being published on a regular basis.  A Lonely and Curious Country is no exception.  (Mr. Carpenter didn’t say that, I did.)

The seventeen stories here are perfect examples of what’s going on in the admittedly large subfield of Lovecraftian fiction.  They are disturbing, horrifying, Lovecraftian.  In some the Lovecraftian element is quite prominent; in others, you don’t realize you’re in Lovecraft country until you’ve almost finished.  I’m not going to try to give a one or two sentence summary of each one.  Rather I’m going to focus on the ones that stood out to me.  YMMV.  One other thing before I start discussing the stories.  Of the eighteen authors, I had only heard of three of them prior to reading this book (Webb, Price, and McNamee).  There are a lot of good writers out there that I need to keep up with. Continue reading