It’s time for another monthly summary. Here in the UK the delightful sunny Maytime weather vanished for nearly all of the month. To be replaced by a typically English cool and ‘moist’ June. This ‘settled in’ and offered many a misty and mizzling dawn, attenuating away into a grey distance. 15,000 words were launched into this grey aether from Tentaclii Towers, opening with the popular post “Lovecraft’s bloody fingerprint”. In which a new partly-unpublished postcard from Lovecraft was noted and a fingerprint spotted on it. Despite the resulting big boost in traffic, my Patreon is still at only 16 people, though they kindly give $51 a month.
I’m pleased to report that a little bit of the Patreon helped me to bag a very cheap first-edition hardback of the de Camp Lovecraft biography, having previously only had the Gollancz ebook reprint which appeared on Amazon a few years ago. The 1975 hardback is said to have 20,000 more words than all later editions, and also has scholarly endnotes which pinpoint which letter or source he used. A bonus is that despite its price it isn’t a mauled-about ex-library copy. It’s in rather nice crisp condition in un-yellowed mylar wrapper, with only a corner-clipped dust-jacket to indicate it was probably once in a remaindered bookstore in the late 1970s. It’s a fat book, but despite my ‘small letter-box, block-of-flats’ delivery hurdle I was able to get the book via a hassle-free route.
This month my blog noted many books newly published or new-in-ebook included Frank Belknap’s Long memoir Dreamer on the Nightside in ebook via Amazon, Joshi’s expanded Weird Fiction in the Later 20th Century, and precise details of what’s in Joshi’s new The H. P. Lovecraft Cat Book. Plus a rich crop of new journal-books such as Windy City Pulp Stories #19, Lovecraftian Proceedings #3, Dead Reckonings #25, and the new Lovecraft issue of the academic journal Brumal. I also posted advance news of reprints such as 1991’s H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World. In the archives, I found a free scan of Index To The Verse In Weird Tales, plus a rare on-the-spot article by someone who met the bookseller Irvin Binkin (who saved so much Lovecraft material in the early 1970s) and had visited his final bookstore.
Various scholarly items and notes were posted here, including calls, an essay contest and research fellowship opportunities for 2020. Three more items were found and added to the Open Lovecraft page.
Several items of Lovecraft comics news appeared here. I’m now editing a monthly publication for comics-makers, as well as Digital Art Live magazine, so my interest in the better type of comic is higher than usual. I’ll be interviewing comics-makers for the new publication, so please comment and suggest names of non-gore comics makers you may know. We’re especially interested in people who use digital workflows, possibly involving 3D models.
Various art scans were posted, plus the call for the Ars Necronomica art-show to be staged at NecronomiCon 2019 later this year. A big Beardsley show at the Tate in London was noted, as was the release of the major Lovecraftian videogame The Sinking City.
I instituted a new regular themed post here: “Kittee Tuesday”. This will feature artistry involving fantasy, sci-fi and horror cats, and these will often be forlorn kittees I’ve rescued from the stygian blackness of forgotten archives.
In music and audio, noted items included the CD Sonnets of the Midnight Hours; the release of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre’s The Lurking Fear; Graham Plowman’s Lovecraftian classical music; and Lovecraft’s Murray Ewing’s retro sci-fi soundtrack album, Future City. Also linked where a couple of podcast episodes, and the first of the Howard Day videos.
My post “Whose work is entering the public domain in 2020?” was, I hope, a useful post for readers who are also publishers or artists.
My archival investigations led me into Lovecraft’s Red Hook, and I discovered that the real demographics of the place fitted those that Lovecraft described. In all but one respect. Having one of his protagonists in the story be Irish, he thus switched the Irish in the Red Hook population to ‘Spanish’ in his introductory scene-setting. Otherwise, Lovecraft’s Norwegians, Syrians and others were not figments of his overheated imagination, as some have claimed. Maps and pictures of the area were uncovered, and this post was followed by the 1,700-word Patreon-only post “Lovecraft and The Cult of the Peacock Angel”. That was on the topic of Lovecraft’s use of the Yazidis in the story “Red Hook”, and the surrounding historical context in the 1920s.
Other new discoveries this month were the address of the store where Lovecraft concluded his epic hunt for a cheap suit, after his clothes were stolen, and the location of a photo of the store interior (though not the photo itself). I also found a 1933 photo of a “biggest selection in the city” “50,000 magazines” store on Fulton St., Brooklyn — I can’t imagine this place was unknown to the Lovecraft Circle. If just one of the Circle had spotted it, then he would have told all the others.
New historic pictures made inside the Ladd Observatory were also noted, found over on the Observatory’s blog.
More importantly, in terms of influence Lovecraft’s major stories, I discovered that the Cloisters had been a significant antiquarian site for Lovecraft while in New York. This post led to a similar finding to that of my Yazidis essay, namely that mainstream academic scholarship was narrowing the scope that Lovecraft had for reader-friendly stories of devil-worshippers and the medieval gothic, and thus that ‘the times’ were pushing him to be radically more inventive by 1925/26. “Cthulhu” was a response not only to modernism, or to the new scientific discoveries, but also to strong and sudden shifts in ethnographic and medieval scholarship in the mid 1920s.
Password-protected Patreon-only posts, this month, were:
* “Lovecraft and The Cult of the Peacock Angel” (Lovecraft’s use of the Yazidis in “Red Hook”, and surrounding historical context in the 1920s).
* The Plot Genie (on a ‘plot-writing machine’).
* My Patrons on Patreon will also find a large printable version of “H.P.L. in N.Y.C.” (showing Lovecraft in Puritan garb, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background), on the Patreon blog.
Giving just $1 a month both supports Tentaclii, and also gets you access to posts like these. You can also support my work simply by telling your friends about Tentaclii, especially if you know them to be generous with their Patreon account! There must surely be some people out there with a stash of $13k bitcoins in their wallet, and who are thus feeling just a bit more generous than usual.
Martin A said:
The Barnes & Noble reprint of de Camp’s HPL biography (1997? 1996? I don’t have it available here) also seems to be complete. Interestingly enough, the typeface occasionally changes in this edition, so that I suspect that there are revisions in the text (for example, where de Camp discusses “History of the Necronomicon” — I suspect that this paragraph has been updated with the new publication information for the Shepherd edition of the booklet, but I don’t have access to the 1st ed. so I haven’t been able to check).
However, if you expect de Camp to pinpoint his sources you will be disappointed. In every note, there are a handful of references (instead of the usual “1 quote = 1 note = 1 source”), and unless you actually have access to them it is usually quite often impossible to figure out where LSdC got any given piece of information. And occasionally he drops a claim for which there are NO sources at all, as when he claims that HPL originally intended to use “Cthulhul” but dropped the final l. Where did this claim come from? Nobody knows.
David Haden said:
Thanks for the information on the later Barnes and Noble 1996 edition, as that may be useful to readers who can’t find a cheap copy of the de Camp original hardback and who won’t be satisfied with the abridged ebook. Although, judging by a quick look around, the Barnes and Noble seems to have much the same prices as the 1975 original hardback.
>”However, if you expect de Camp to pinpoint his sources you will be disappointed.”
Oh yes, I was already well aware of his limitations and that he’s not going to be footnoting everything, or the book would have needed another companion volume just to hold the notes. But I was happy to see the 28 pages of close-packed Notes at the end of book, and by ‘pinpointing’ I meant that in these notes he appears to state which letter and date he got something from. Those notes, and the substantial extra word-count, make it it worth having for me. But I take your point that it could then be quite some work to track down exactly where one might find the referenced letter in print in 2019. But I’m anticipating a day in the future when we have a keyword search tool that will search across the entire collection of all Lovecraft’s letters and essays.
>”occasionally he drops a claim for which there are NO sources at all, as when he claims that HPL originally intended to use “Cthulhul” but dropped the final l. Where did this claim come from? Nobody knows.”
Yes, I assume he was operating partly within a framework or oral culture where a lot of people were still alive, and he had been talking with them and jotting down notes. If he taped interviews, I wonder if the reels or full transcripts still exist in the archives?
Martin A said:
I think you are missing my point. My point was not that it would be “be quite some work to track down exactly where one might find the referenced letter in print in 2019” — that is actually quite easy since so many of them ARE in print.
My point was that LSdC does NOT state “exactly which letter and date he got something from”. Oh sure, it’s in the reference, but because he usually has three or four different sources mixed up willy-nilly in the reference, it is well-nigh impossible to tell which source belongs to the quote you are interested in and which source belongs to just some random nugget of information that was included in the running text. Do not make the mistake of believing that just because a numbered reference is put immediately after the quote, the reference contains only the source of that quote. Oh no.
1) Find a quote.
2) Find the reference number.
2) Look it up in the back.
3) Now, in the reference you will usually find 3-4 sources listed. Which one of them refers to the quote you wanted to check? In order to find this out, you actually have to look up the sources themselves — THAT was my point.
And my favourite: Let’s say you find three sources in the reference, two of which are to letters and one of which is a personal comment to LSdC. You manage to look up the letters because they have been published, and can then conclude that the letters are the sources of two quotes in the text (one of which is not even near the note reference number, but hey, you found it anyway!). Then what does the personal comment refer to? There is no quote in the text that could give you a clue — what information in the text was given in a personal comment to LSdC?
So, in short, LSdC only pretends to give clear references, while actually doing nothing of the sort. This is just one of the reasons why this book has not aged well. It is interesting to see where biographical research on HPL was standing in the 70s, but LSdC is not a reliable authority on the subject.
David Haden said:
OK right, well… of course I haven’t actually started reading it in this form yet, only perused its form briefly. I’ve only ever read it in the ebook re-issue, on a Kindle. But I’ll certainly keep this in mind, as I start to re-read it in its expanded form.