SF Crowsnest is now recruiting unpaid reviewers. In the past couple of years this fine free-to-read grassroots title has offered quite a number of reviews of books related to Lovecraft’s life, letters and work.
It was a mild and damp October here in England, which has raised a bumper crop of strange fungi around Tentaclii Towers. The blog was not quite so fruitful, with a bit less activity than normal. Still, here’s my summary for the month.
In postcard pictures related to Lovecraft and his places, this month I looked at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City (where Lovecraft married Sonia); I found evocative pictures of Newport at Night; and also a few of St. Augustine sea-front including a one-off 1950s low-tide picture. Otherwise there were only small historical nuggets this month. A flick through Robert Bloch’s Once around the Bloch: an unauthorized autobiography revealed the unexpected fact that Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright had a very good sense of humour (at least, when met personally). Who knew? My post on bicycle racing in Providence discovered that the 11-13 year old “veritable bicycle centaur” Lovecraft would surely have known of the opening of a large new cycledrome, backed by the manager of the Providence Opera House. In the third instalment of my notes on Letters with Donald and Howard Wandrei I learned (among many other things) that Lovecraft did eventually see the famous surreal-horror movie Dr. Caligari, and one reel of The Golem. But too late to influence his writing. Another website took a look at the composer Scriabin and Lovecraft, and I responded by doing some digging on possible connections. I found a 1922 connection via Galpin, and various broad parallels between Lovecraft and Scriabin, but there seems to have been no influence of Scriabin’s music on Lovecraft or on “Erich Zann”.
In journals and magazines, the German Lovecraftians released a German-language double-issue Lovecrafter #9 and #10. The thriving scholarly Shima journal released a special issue on sea-monsters in English.
In books, I noted the new Theology and H.P. Lovecraft, and later also linked to a podcast with the author of one of the chapters. I also looked through all the forthcoming McFarland books and picked out those likely to appeal to Tentaclii readers. A costly academic collection The Medial Afterlives of H.P. Lovecraft: Comic, Film, Podcast, TV, Games appears to be due by early 2023.
In useful scholarly tools I discovered the Contemporary Biography Builder tool; noted a useful PDF Index Generator video on making back-of-the-book indexes from custom lists; and I spotted that the Stellarium 1.0 final/stable software has finally appeared.
Overseas, the Portuguese have a new non-fiction book on Lovecraft and the Esoteric Traditions: Influences of Cosmic Horror on Occultism. The Spanish have a new police-procedural historical Cthulhu Cult novel, El Asesinato de Robert Barlow.
In events, this month I spotted several Lovecraft + Halloween talks in New England on Lovecraft. And the French have just held their big Campus Miskatonic 2022 event.
Two ‘Lovecraft as character’ graphic novels were noted this month, both with French connections. The Monstrous Dreams of Mr. Providence has now appeared in English and at a nice price on the Kindle, and there’s a new Lovecraft in Quebec gallery exhibition in Canada and an accompanying French-language ‘BD’ graphic novel based on Lovecraft’s visits to Quebec.
In podcasts, the latest Voluminous podcast revealed not only a wholly new Lovecraft letter, but also that the S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship was once again accepting applications (the deadline has just gone). It further revealed that scanning of the newly arrived Long letters had not started at the John Hay Library, at least as of NecronomiCon 2022. The new LibriVox Ghost and Horror Collection brought new public-domain readings of “The Outsider” by Lovecraft, and “The Loved Dead” by Eddy and Lovecraft. Dark Adventure Theater announced their big December release, R.E. Howard’s Lovecraftian homage story “The Black Stone”. Nice choice, which will please both REH and HPL readers. I was also pleased to find Tolkien’s The Hobbit, unabridged and full-cast and free. A fine listen.
In movies and TV, the Portland (Oregon) edition of the Lovecraft Film Festival even took place in early October. On TV the Netflix “Pickman’s Model” TV one-off was called by The Hollwood Reporter merely “overlong and over-obvious”. This may not worry those who know the story well already, and are keen to see as much period-costume Lovecraft as possible. Though I don’t know what other problems it may have, from a Lovecraftian perspective.
Sadly several of my carefully-made products have ‘fallen flat’ in terms of much-needed Gumroad sales, and they continue to do so. Meanwhile other key income streams have recently fallen away, due to piracy and also people cutting their online spending. Things are getting a bit difficult for me, frankly. If anyone has any regular reliable monthly work I could do, which ideally pays $600+ per month, I’d greatly appreciate hearing about it please. I’m perhaps best suited to being a specialist editor and researcher/writer, and I have strong skills in Web wrangling and picture processing. Many thanks, and thanks also to my patrons on Patreon.
There’s a new special issue of the scholarly open-access journal Shima, on sea and water-monsters. I also note that the earlier Vol. 15 No. 2, and Vol. 12 No. 2, were on mermaids.
A new novel about Lovecraft’s friend Robert Barlow, El Asesinato de Robert Barlow (The Assassination of Robert Barlow, 2022), by Veronica Evers and available now in Spanish. It appears to be a murder-mystery police-procedural novel, set in the 1950s or perhaps into the early 60s in Mexico. A Lovecraftian homage, apparently. My translation and digest of the blurb…
Some years after Robert Barlow’s death, the historian Galo finds an unknown manuscript. It is a prequel to “The Call of Cthulhu”. This, he thinks, contains hidden keys relating to Cthulhu. Simultaneously, there is another and related mysterious death. Detective Acosta will not leave the cases unsolved, and he uncovers a whirlwind of old stories and unknown parts of Barlow’s life. He even has talks with William Burroughs and other beatniks, and discovers that his crumbling old Mexico City harbours some very dark places…
I can’t find out much more about it, and the dates are a little uncertain (Burroughs was in Mexico City in the early 1950s for five years, I recall, and so the tale may stretch into the early 1960s if the detective is pursuing the trail some years later?). There’s a YouTube recording of the author at a literary festival, though that may just be a reading rather than a Q&A. YouTube can offer no transcript to translate.
Apparently the “old Mexico City” was very different from the “new Mexico City”, and the author tries to evoke the latter. So I assume a lot of vintage local colour is involved, and I’d guess the author is also a knowledgeable citizen of the city. Level of gay content, and the angle it take on that… unknown. But it’s not being tagged as a gay novel.
No sign that Lovecraft appears in the book as a character, though if I was writing such a novel I’d at least have a cameo. Perhaps via a letter between Barlow and Burroughs that recalled the Lovecraft he had known.
S.T. Joshi’s blog has updated. He now has just 12 volumes in which the table of contents still need to be identified, for his forthcoming Horror Fiction Index. This book will give the TOCs for all known single-author weird / macabre / horror story collections. In fact he may only need 11 more. Since I had already emailed him the TOCs, back in August, for…
PHILIPPA PEARCE. At the River-Gates and Other Stories of the Supernatural. London: Puffin, 1996.
After some research I found it to be a child-sized “60 pence” (about $1) pocket-money ‘taster’ paperback, from the children’s division of Penguin. There were many sold in this format here in the UK in the late 1990s, being the publisher’s experiment in the popularisation of reading. Only 54 pages in paperback with pulpy paper. It had three stories which were taken from the larger collection The Shadow-Cage and Other Supernatural Tales. The title and back-cover blurb as seen on eBay, combined, enabled my identification of the three stories inside.
PHILIPPA PEARCE. At the River-Gates: And Other Supernatural Stories. London: Puffin, 1996.
1. “At the River-Gates”.
2. “The Shadow Cage”.
3. “Her Father’s Attic”.
I’ve re-sent the information to S.T. Presumably it got lost in the shuffle of an August break.
Lovecraftians are well aware that Newport, Rhode Island, was one of the master’s favourite local places. Many will also recall that this old coastal town was only readily and affordably accessible to him by occasional passenger-boat, especially when discounted day-trip tickets were on offer. Though as you can see from this map from the same era, there was a back automobile road to it from the north. But presumably he found the boat preferable to taking a series of stuffy summer buses and juddering trams from Providence. Possibly the big bridge seen on the map also charged a toll.
So far as I recall he always departed the town at the end of the day. Mythos writers may spot an opportunity in that fact, for a new story explaining why spending a night in Newport might be a fearsome thing. I’ve found some ‘night in Newport’ visual prompts for such a story.
This is quite possibly a dusk view that Lovecraft knew, seen from the stern as the passenger boat eased from the passenger docks at Newport Harbour and ran out past the Goat Island light. In some instances, the cheaper boat he favoured went back later than the more expensive one. In the picture one can see the rounded sterns of two docked passenger boats, beyond Goat Island Light.
Above is the same view but in a fine early silhouette picture. I recall he did at least once visit the town in winter, so an evening departure might well have displayed such a scene. The lights seen on the right are of docked passenger boats, rather than the town rising behind them.
Here are a few others of Newport by (painted-in) moonlight…
And finally a delightful card which some Lovecraftian RPG artist will surely want as a picture-reference, though it is not of Newport.
This is Bristol, which sits on the same coast but is some miles above Newport. Lovecraft visited Bristol in 1933 during a long visit by Morton…
we walked south to Bristol, another quaint 18th century seaport.
When Moe’s son visited with his car in 1935, Lovecraft showed him…
the quaint little seaports down both sides of Narragansett Bay – Warren & Bristol on the east shore
Lovecraft also appears to have passed through as a venturesome eleven year-old in late 1900, since that was when the new electric trains first went to Warren and Bristol and Fall River. It appears to have been winter, judging by the “delightfully witty poem” (Joshi) that Lovecraft wrote based on the journey…
One winter’s morn, when all man kind did shiver, / I took a train, directed toward Fall-River.
The new-fangled “monstrous car” (i.e. train carriage) appears to run on electrickery rather than steam, and quickly turns into a train disaster as it ceases to run. Thus Lovecraft alights and cadges a ride in the frozen twilight, from a…
willing yokel with an ox-drawn cart
…and thus he presumably reaches and passes through Bristol. He spends the night in Fall-River, and returns the next day by the safer and more reliable route of a boat journey back to Providence. The poem is “H. Lovecraft’s Attempted Journey” (1901). It seems he did actually take the trip, and the imaginative poem was likely his comic evocation on the delays and problems encountered on the first run of the new service.
Bristol obliquely appears in his story “High House” as Bristol Highlands, this being a bright new coastal resort development where the professor later takes a placid summer-house. Presumably located on the heights above Bristol.
Overall, I get the vague impression that Bristol was too “quaint” and placid for Lovecraft’s tastes, and perhaps had been overly gentrified and made twee and touristy.
A new Kickstarter hardback, showcasing what appears to be a personal collection of vintage macabre and strange poster art, 1862-1973 and said to be photographed from originals. 140 pages. It’s currently funded.
I wonder if there’s a gap in the market for a similar book that focuses only on vintage pre-1995 posters and substantial flyers that relate to Lovecraft and ‘Lovecraft inspired’? Though, admittedly, such material would still be in copyright. Still, one could put out a call for submissions, from those willing to dig into their archives in order to see their old work in such a book.
More on theology and Lovecraft, in a new podcast “H.P. Lovecraft, Idolatry, and Theology: An Interview with Dr. Alex Thompson” on YouTube. This relates to a chapter in the book I posted about in mid October.
The Hollywood Reporter finds the new and just-released Netflix anthology series uneven, further finding…
[Lovecraft’s] “Pickman’s Model” overlong and over-obvious [while] “Dreams in the Witch House” is the “story of a man (Rupert Grint, not bad at all) trying to reconnect with his long-deceased sister, [and] is the only episode that actually looks cheap.
The only other review I can find is an early one from Pfangirl, who enjoyed “Witch House” as…
over-the-top supernatural fun, though it sadly strips out Lovecraft’s cosmic terror in favour of fairy tale elements
So it sounds like it’s only a ‘very loosely based on’ Lovecraft’ adaptation, despite the name. Still… the lush, “long” and period-costume “Pickman’s Model” might be worth a look, at least judging by a couple of screenshots…
Last week The Scriabin Club had a stab at “Connecting Scriabin, Roerich and Lovecraft”….
At the Scriabin Club we also use [Roerich] paintings for the exact reason of philosophical parallels to the spirit of Scriabin.
Roerich I knew, since he was Lovecraft’s favourite contemporary gallery artist. Lovecraft often visited his gallery in New York City, though so far as I know never conversed with the artist.
The name Scriabin (1872-1915) was new to me, so I did a bit of research. Turns out he was a pre-communist mystic Russian composer who was enamoured — like Roerich and Lovecraft — with the idea of high and remote mountains and their esoteric denizens.
Relatively famous in his time, he visited the East Coast of America circa 1907. So the seventeen year old Lovecraft might have read press reports of the visit. Perhaps even read of his ideas about synesthetic art. But would not have heard the music, since the first radio symphony broadcasts were then still 15 years away in the USA.
Turns out Scriabin was a pioneer of the synesthetic aesthetic, including performances with a light-projecting ‘colour piano’. He was also influenced by ideas drawn from theosophy. Both of which somewhat align him with Lovecraft. But he’s now equally well remembered for composing darker and darker dissonant music toward the end of his life, including one darkly un-nerving ‘Black Mass’ piece (1912). This was never made public and attempted to enact a sort of effective “musical occultism”. One can encounter musicological writers comparing his late dark works with Lovecraft’s work, though it sounds to me that he was channelling the sordid earth-bound Crowley-esque sex rituals of the era. Rather than cosmic coldness and non-human outside-ness and aloofness.
After the revolution he appears to have been subject to relentless character-assassination by the Soviet communists, to the extent that in the 1925-1945 period many dupes in the West thought that Scriabin had been both insane and deeply depraved. He did run with a satanist and occultist crowd, and was more than eccentric in his old age, which aided the propaganda. His reputation in the West means it’s doubtful Lovecraft heard his music on the U.S. or British radio in the 1930s (he could access some British broadcasts from Providence).
But by the 1960s Scriabin appears to have been rehabilitated by the Soviet regime, and airbrushed to make him seem a harbinger of revolution. Perhaps even (my guess) a herald of Russian cosmicism. Since his “Poem of Ecstasy” music was broadcast as the space pioneer Yuri Gagarin circled the earth in his space capsule. Yes, at the moment of its highest triumph the Evil Empire broadcast… the music of a composer who many in the West still thought of as a satanist.
I’ve found a direct link with Lovecraft, via his young musical friend Galpin. In 1959 Galpin recorded his memories of Lovecraft, including… “of that time we spent in Cleveland” back in August 1922…
At the time, my [musical] tastes could be summed up in a kind of mystical and sensual Wagnerism — I loved the works of Wagner, ‘Tristan and Isolde’, and I appreciated Scriabin also very much…
So it’s then quite possible that Galpin had acquired some Scriabin scores. Though not gramophone recordings of Scriabin, which don’t appear to have existed at that date. There are some apparently rather un-inspiring early piano-rolls, but the earliest popular Scriabin recording I can find is “Prometheus: the poem of fire” / “Poem of Ecstasy” (1932, HMV). By the 1940s there was a cottage-industry in issuing Scriabin recordings in the U.S., and one could get some 50 or more discs. But that was after Lovecraft’s time.
So “Prometheus: the poem of fire” may indicate the sort of thing that Galpin liked in 1922. Though it’s doubtful Lovecraft heard it, except perhaps as some piano-playing from a paper score one night in Cleveland. Even then he would not have been tapping his toe and clicking his fingers to it. Popular ‘show-tunes’ it is not.
So, to conclude. There are broad comparisons to be made (synesthesia, interest in theosophy and the satanist occult, dark and even demonic music, love of remote mountains) and Lovecraft may even have recalled Galpin enthusing about Scriabin when they met back in 1922. But there is no mention of Scriabin in the index of the latest edition of the Galpin letters.
From Portugal, the new ebook Lovecraft e as Tradicoes Esotericas: Influencias do Horror Cosmico no Ocultismo (trans: ‘Lovecraft and the Esoteric Traditions: Influences of Cosmic Horror on Occultism’). In Portuguese.
Here’s my translation of the TOC…
Preface (Dennis P. Quinn Ph.D., Professor and Department Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, California)
1. The Cold and Dark Vast of the Cosmos
2. Lovecraft: Posthumous Member of the Counterculture
3. From Abnegation to Cosmic Pessimism
4. The Dark Essence of the Cthulhu Mythos
5. The Occult Tradition and its Marks in Lovecraft
6. Cults of Cthulhu, its Fans and Devotees
7. The Culture of Fans as a Creative Microcosm
8. The Cult Still Lives…
“The Festival” (annotated)
135 pages, September 2022.
I can’t get the cover-artist name, but it’s nice work. I also like the retro mid-1980s thrift-shop feel it has.
The other book is still forthcoming. Due soon-ish is The Medial Afterlives of H.P. Lovecraft: Comic, Film, Podcast, TV, Games, with Amazon wobbling between late December 2022 / early 2023. It’s one of those academic… now, I was going to say “£80 tomes”. But the standard list-price for such things seems to have now jumped to £120 (roughly $140).
So… it’s one of those invitation-only academic £120 tomes, of the sort that can trap some good academic work in inaccessible volumes.
Discusses a wide array of medial forms, from film and TV to comics, podcasts, and video and board games.
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture series. Despite the price, the academic salaries involved, and leftist hand-wringing about academic labour… they’ve used a raw and very obviously AI-generated image for the cover.
There’s a raft of ‘Halloween New England’ events this season, and one is “H.P. Lovecraft in New England with S.T. Joshi” at the Bridgeport Public Library. S.T. manifests virtually on 26th October 2022, rather than in person.