Coining it

The Republic of Palau, the Pacific island-chain nation, has issued a new pure-silver 20 dollar coin commemorating H.P. Lovecraft. I assume it’s real currency that might buy you ⅔’s of a ginger-beer on one of their beautiful atoll beaches.

But isn’t little Palau supposed to be beneath the rising waves by now, like R’lyeh? Nope. Despite many claims heard in the media, none of the Pacific atoll islands with people on them are shrinking.

Incidentally, looking up the spelling of R’lyeh via search shows that Google doesn’t know what it is when slightly mis-spelled. Bing / DuckDuckGo (the Duck is Bing) does, suggesting Microsoft may now have a wider semantic lookup than Google Search.

The Paterson Museum

Lovecraft’s friend James F. Morton here describes his Paterson Museum, for the April 1933 issue of Hobbies: the Magazine for Collectors.

There’s nothing here about his collection of glow-in-the-dark minerals, known about from other sources. Though we do learn here, for the first time, that “cave minerals” had a special display. And we get a general feel for that the place was like in size and scope, after some five years under his care.

New book: The Occult and the Sciences in Modern Britain

An open-access review of Physics and Psychics: The Occult and the Sciences in Modern Britain. “Modern” here meaning early modernity, from the 1870s through to the 1930s…

On the whole we cannot see the turn to psychical research as a momentary lapse of reason on the part of late Victorian physicists. [And] we should not be embarrassed or surprised by the interest that leading physicists had in the occult.

Studi Lovecraftiani No. 21

A new issue of the Italian language Lovecraft journal Studi Lovecraftiani No. 21 (Autumn 2022) is now available. Contents in Italian include…

* A long and detailed article titled “Collecting Lovecraft”, a guide for connoisseurs and collectors looking for the rarest and most sought-after editions, as well as those more difficult to find.

* An articulate essay on the role played by music in HPL’s works.

* An essay on the pseudobiblia of Sutter Cane. [Cane being the fictional novelist in John Carpenter’s movie In The Mouth of Madness.]

* An in-depth study of Jean Robin’s book, H.P. Lovecraft et le secret des adorateurs du Serpent (2017). [Robin appears to be a stylish writer who is well known in French occult circles, in the tradition of Rene Guenon. Title translates as ‘H.P. Lovecraft and the Secret of the Serpent Worshipers’, which appears to claim to be non-fiction.]

* The second and last part of an essay on the “abstraction of corporeality” in the fiction of HPL.

* Unpublished works by the master, newly in Italian. Notes on “Medusa’s Coil” with Zelia Bishop, and the poem [known in Italian as] “A Pan”.

* A detailed review of Joshi’s HPL biography I Am Providence, recently available in Italian.

* News of the latest releases at the international level.

* Two new Lovecraftian stories by contemporary writers.

Podcast: Providence pals interviewed

Thanks to Gregory for letting me know about a new podcast. For Henrik Moller’s 150th podcast last week, he interviewed (in English) living members of the ‘Providence pals’…

The first wave of serious Lovecraft scholars started out in the 1970s. [In the U.S.] They called themselves ‘The Providence pals’. This is the story of how they helped Lovecraft to become recognised as a serious literary author [at a crucial time].

Another Lovecraft-as-character story

While searching for an audio reading of de Camp’s 1938 non-fiction “Language for Time Travelers” (there doesn’t appear to be one), I discovered another Lovecraft-as-character story. In the 2005 collection Years in the Making: The Time-Travel Stories of L. Sprague de Camp, there is the story “Balsamo’s Mirror” (1976), which has Lovecraft as a very recognisable though un-named character.

In this 1930s tale an MIT university undergraduate named Willy and his friend Lovecraft wax lyrical about the virtues of the 18th century.

He [Lovecraft] wanted America to rejoin the British Empire; I was for splendid isolation. We argued history. He was devoted to the eighteenth century; I thought that men wearing wigs over good heads of hair looked silly.

They get lost in some dark back-alleys along Providence’s waterfront and thereby encounter the curious storefront of a Madame Nosi, mystic. The impoverished Lovecraft is reluctant to enter, but the affluent Willy offers to pay whatever her fee is. For a hefty $20 she offers a trip into what is claimed to be ‘the mirror of Nostradamus’, which apparently allowed the old seer to travel in time and actually see the future. The pair use it to visit the eighteenth-century, but unfortunately they find themselves in the form of humble rural yeomen (farm workers), rather than writers and wits in the London coffee-houses. Adventure ensues.

It’s not Nabakov, but it tells an amusing tale and must have been written interestingly close to the date of de Camp’s Lovecraft biography. It can be found in the Archive.org scan of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, June 1976.

As for his “Language for Time Travelers”, I’ve also discovered that Willy Ley produced a similar essay titled “Geography for Time-travellers”, just a year later. Apparently this takes a high level view, in terms of what the Earth would have looked like to space-visitors in orbit during past ages and aeons. C.M. Korbluth followed in similar vein with his essay “Time Travel and the Law”. All three essays can be found collected in good book form in the Martin Greenberg edited collection Coming Attractions (1957), which unfortunately is not on Archive.org. Though all the articles collected had first appeared in the pulps, and so the additional two can probably be found there with a little sleuthing.

de Camp as a popular science historian

Brian Kunde has a useful look at the science writing of the Lovecraft biographer L. Sprague de Camp, as part of a review of his The Heroic Age of American Invention. Others include…

The Story of Science in America.

The Great Monkey Trial (the trial that Lovecraft sometimes refers to).

Darwin and His Great Discovery.

Great Cities of the Ancient World.

The Evolution of Naval Weapons (for the U.S. government, as a course textbook).

The Ape-Man Within.

He was working alongside Sagan and Asimov, in the popular science / debunking superstition field.

Earlier, in Astounding (July 1938), his non-fiction “Language for Time Travelers” surveyed the difficulties a time traveller would encounter with pronunciation, semantics and vowel shifts. Put together with his “non-fiction radio scripts for Voice of America”, if extant, could there be a public domain audiobook there for someone to tackle?