A couple of new tomes arrived from PS Publishing, and they look wonderful. I really enjoyed Schweitzer anthology Cthulhu's Reign, so I am looking forward to this one. And who could pass on a trip to the Lovecraft Museum?
I had intended to write my first post about Charles Stross’s "Colder War", but I am still working on it. So instead I have chosen Richard A. Lupoff’s "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone - March 15, 2337", fromTales of the Cthulhu Mythos, by H.P. Lovecraft & Divers Hands, published by Arkham House, 1990. First a bit of my history with this title. When I decided to collect Lovecraft I began by purchasing the collections,Dagon,The Dunwich Horror, andAt the the Mountains of Madness, which had been revised in the mid 1980’s by S.T. Joshi for Arkham House, I believe I ordered this book at the same time. A further aside, this was when purchasing books required actual correspondence with paper and stamps, and I want to say I found April Derleth very helpful and a real pleasure to deal with, and the Arkham House staff still are.
I do remember that when I first read this collection I really disliked the Lupoff story and did not finish it. At the time my mental image of a Lovecraft story involved a somewhat naive narrator who inherits or otherwise encounters a forbidden tome (there are so many, with such large print runs), has somewhat bizarre dreams, and finds a family tree with some interesting side shoots. So the stories by Derleth, Long, Block, Kutter etc. were more to my taste. However, my vision of what constitutes a good “Lovecraft” story has expanded over the years, thanks to some really inventive authors.
Re-reading the Lupoff story recently, I was really impressed by his ability to weave Lovecraftian elements into such a modern feeling SF story. Even though it was initially published in the anthology Chrysalis 1, edited by Roy Torgeson, in 1977, the SF elements still felt fairly modern to me. However I still dislike the Jeffrey K. Potter illustrations and cringe every time I see his work on yet another release by one of my favourite writers, James Blaylock.
Lupoff's work has been described as recursive and relying heavily on pastiche. His novel Lovecraft’s Book, also published by Arkham House is a historical novel involving Lovecraft and fascists, and he has written a novel Circumpolar based on the idea of a hollow earth. Another Countersolar is considered an early example of steampunk. James Turner the editor of the anthology offered the following assessment of "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone" in his introduction."In this brilliant narrative Lupoff managed to include not only the requisite Mythos terminology but also the essential ambience of cosmic wonder and then additionally has re-created some of the mind-blasting excitement of the original Mythos Stories."
But on to our story, the year is 2337 and the spaceship Khons is travelling from Pluto to a Planet X located at the edge of the solar system. Aboard are three human cyborgs, Gomati of Khmeric Gondwanaland, Njord Freyr of the Laddino Imperium, and the commander Shoten Binayakya whose place of origin is unknown. Planet X, or Yuggoth as Gomati names it, is a large red gas giant with numerous moons including the twin moons Thog and Thok. The decision is made to land on Thog as there are obvious ruins from a past civilization. The story of the trip is interspersed with accounts of the rise of the Laddino Imperium and Khmeric Gondwanalan. Despite the unusual setting and characters, Lupoff has captured the cosmic span of some of Lovecraft’s best passages from stories like "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Shadow out of Time", and the "Whisperer in Darkness" from which we get the original description of Yuggoth. For in the "Whisperer in Darkness" Yuggoth will be the first destination for the Mi-Go carrying the character Akeley’s disembodied brain housed within a metal cylinder,
“ It is a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system... There are mighty cities on Yuggoth—great tiers of terraced towers built of black stone like the specimen I tried to send you. That came from Yuggoth. The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need no light. They have other subtler senses, and put no windows in their great houses and temples. Light even hurts and hampers and confuses them for it does not exist at all in the black cosmos outside time and space where they came from originally. To visit Yuggoth would drive any weak man mad—yet I am going there. The black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges—things built by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the beings came to Yuggoth from the ultimate voids—ought to be enough to make any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane long enough to tell what he has seen.”
from “The Whisperer in Darkness", H.P. Lovecraft p.259
And Lupoff has all the elements, strangely lit cyclopean ruins, the rise and fall of empires, a vast cosmic scale, and enough other references to the mythos to keep any Lovecraft fan happy.
“Yuggoth itself hung directly overhead, obscenely bloated and oblate, its surface filling the heavens, looking as if it were about to crash shockingly upon Khons and the three explorers, and all the time pulsing, pulsing, pulsing like an atrocious heart, throbbing, throbbing."
As I mentioned above one of the things I love most about Lovecraft is the great empire building passages in the stories from his later years like "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Shadow out of Time", and "The Whisperer in Darkness" and his attempt to depict fantastic dreamlike alien landscapes. I have always felt that it was unfortunate that Lovecraft had become so discouraged with his lack of success just when he had found his own voice free of the influence of Poe, Dunsany and others, and that he seems to have written little fiction in his last few years.
Lupoff has not only an extensive knowledge of the mythos but also the imagination and ability necessary to weave it into a story that is very much his own. For many years my favourite non-HPL Yuggoth story was "The Mine on Yuggoth" from Ramsey Campbell’s Inhabitants of the Lake, but I think it has been usurped. I do still like the Campbell story and hope to have several posts on his work in the future.
Does the world need another Lovecraft blog, probably not but here we go. I was first introduced to HPL by a school chum in grade 8 or 9. He also introduced me to Louie L’Amour at the same time but that was another journey. I must have waxed enthusiastic because that Christmas my mother gave me the Ballantine edition of Lurker on the Threshold with the funky Murray Winkleman cover, which sadly, I no longer have. Thus I meet August Derleth and his sometimes confusing collaborations/contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos and entered the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the man who launched a thousand pastiches. (Not to mention Cthulhu slippers, etc.) For many years I did not move beyond a few second hand collections. Then one day my wife and I were at a SF convention. My wife bought me the 5 volume Arkham House edition of The Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft for my birthday and I purchased their edition of The Rim of The Unknown, by Frank Belknap Long, with the beautiful Herb Arnold dust jacket, and my serious collecting days had begun.
I am not a huge fan of current horror. I prefer the writers so beloved of Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature and those chosen by August Derleth for publication by Arkham House. (At this point I want to go on record, and say Thomas Liggotti has written many wonderful stories.) I also find some of the current Lovecraft pastiches are not to my taste, but I have found more than enough that I enjoy, to read and discuss. I do not consider Lovecraft to be a great writer/stylist. He could be far too stilted, contrived, derivative, and downright silly. But he took mankind, and his readers out of our comfortable earth-centric horror themes and introduced us to cosmic horror and our place in the universe. The sometimes creaky apparatus of the Cthulhu Mythos has inspired generations of wonderful writers who have chosen to follow in the steps of the master and I have happily tagged along. One of the things I love about Lovecraft, as you could probably guess from my site name and the quotes on the right hand side, is the importance of the dreams that pervade so much of his life and work.
Some of the most interesting comments I have heard about Lovecraft’s work are by Alan Moore and can be found at the following link.
For a general overview of Lovecraft and his work , I recommend a documentary on YouTube called Fear of The Unknown, participants include Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, S.T Joshi, Caitlan R. Kiernen and John Carpenter.
This blog will focus on my thoughts on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, his circle of friends, other Arkham House writers and the numerous pastiches that have been and continue to be produced based on all aspects of Lovecraft’s work. I do not consider my posts reviews, I do not bring any great literary knowledge or critical approach to what I read. Nor am I conversant with the vast amount of Lovecraft scholarship available. I would rather read the stories. My impetus for this blog? Ratty in the Wind in the Willows liked messing around in boats, I like messing around in books.
Howard Philips Lovecraft was a racist and a number of his stories, poems and letters reflect this, it appears that the World Fantasy Awards will discontinue awarding a bust of Lovecraft to winners of the award because of his racist views.
I cannot claim to know if he was only a product of the time he lived in, I suspect it was more than that, he was certainly more vocal in his views than many of his contemporaries. Some have suggested that he moderated his views as he aged but the views expressed in some of his letters from 1934, three years before his death, do not seem to indicate any great change in his feelings on race; and inferior versus superior stock as far as I can see.