Eldritch Tales in audio book form

I hadn’t realised that the Gollancz doorstopper collection of less well-known Lovecraft, titled Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre, now has a professional quality audio book version available.

eldritch_audio

It contains readings of a lot of the more obscure Lovecraft items, which I suspect Wayne June may never get around to recording. The items include, among others:

History of the Necronomicon
The Alchemist
A Reminiscence of Dr Samuel Johnson
Memory
Despair
Psychopompos: A Tale in Rhyme
The Nightmare Lake
Poetry and the Gods (with Anna Helen Crofts)
Ex Oblivione
The Crawling Chaos (with Winifred Virginia Jackson)
The Horror at Martin’s Beach (with Sonia H. Greene)
Hallowe’en in a Suburb
The Green Meadow (with Winifred Virginia Jackson)
Nathicana
Two Black Bottles (with Wilfred Blanch Talman)
The Last Test (with Adolphe de Castro)
The Wood
The Ancient Track
The Electric Executioner (with Adolphe de Castro)
The Trap (with Henry S. Whitehead)
In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walked
The Evil Clergyman

“Afterword”: Lovecraft in Britain, by Stephen Jones

Maps and Mapping in Children’s Literature

Call for Papers: Maps and Mapping in Children’s Literature

Literature for children and young adults is a rich source of material for the study of literary maps, one that has been largely overlooked, despite the growth in academic interest in this area of study.

Not so relevant to Lovecraft, but this call might be interesting to those researching similar genre authors, especially those in the sword-and-sorcery genre where the addition of fan-made maps have enhanced the fiction’s appeal to later generations of young teens.

There is the surveyor mapping in “The Colour Out of Space”, and one passing moment when Lovecraft follows a rough local map… “I was steering my course by the map the grocery boy had prepared” in “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. This latter probably reflects his own practice during his numerous antiquarian visits to strange towns. There are also carved wall maps in At The Mountains of Madness which are found, copied and followed. But Lovecraft’s fiction is probably more interesting for the implied idea that certain spaces could not be found, or had not yet been placed, on maps.

Gothic Spaces / Gothic Places conference

I’ve only just found out about this one: Gothic Spaces / Gothic Places at The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, England, on 25th October 2014. The academic symposium has an interesting opening paper about… “John Carter, the zealous defender of the Gothic architectural style in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British culture” and publisher of the 18th century The Gentleman’s Magazine. Another Carter to offer up as a possible inspiration for Lovecraft’s Carter, perhaps?

Lovecraft and M.R. James

A new article in The Airship suggests the influence of M.R. James on Lovecraft. Although the only evidence given is from 1935 — when Lovecraft only had “The Haunter of the Dark” left to write.

S.T. Joshi puts Lovecraft’s reading of James at 1924…

he would discover … M. R. James in 1924″ (Primary Sources, p.10)

Possibly this was his reading for Supernatural Horror in Literature, in which James was given three pages on the ghost stories.

In 1927 Lovecraft wrote to Bernard Dwyer of the inevitable doom of the ghost story, of the type that relied on traditional time-worn approaches and which lacked any background philosophy or wider ramifications…

this art will, of course, in all its phases depend upon the past; and will [therefore] grow weaker and weaker as that past and its conditions recede into the background. It will last longest in such regions as cling most tenaciously to old things and old conditions”

But it seems Lovecraft enjoyed James’s ghost stories and they became a favourite of his. In a 1931 letter (Selected Letters III, p.379) he wrote…

I make no claim to membership in the first rank of weird writers — a rank represented by Poe among the dead, & by Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Walter de la Mare, Lord Dunsany, & Montague Rhodes James among the living.”

In a 1934 letter (Selected Letters VI, p.383) Lovecraft again stated that…

My favourite authors — aside from the Graeco-Roman classics & the English poets & essayists of the 18th century — are Poe, Dunsany, Machen, Blackwood, M. R. James, Walter de la Mare, & others of that type.”

“Notes on writing weird fiction” similarly names James as a great weird writer. Though in Lovecraft’s opinion these writers, apart from Dunsany at his best, usually lacked something…

What I miss in Machen, James, Dunsany, de la Mare, Shiel, & even Blackwood & Poe, is a sense of the cosmic. … Another lack which I constantly feel is that of realism or convincing seriousness. That is, the average weird author is essentially superficial & frivolous in his purpose. He wishes merely to entertain…” (Writers of the Dark, p.14)

The 1935 letter, quoted in The Airship article linked above, does have good deal of admiration for James. Lovecraft sees him as able to keep up with the likes of Dunsany and Blackwood, and understands his conventional approach as actually giving rise to an interesting interweaving of the horrific and the mundane…

M. R. James joins the brisk, the light, & the commonplace to the weird about as well as anyone could do it — but if another tried the same method, the chances would be ten to one against him. The most valuable element in him — as a model — is his way of weaving a horror into the every-day fabric of life & history — having it grow naturally out of the myriad conditions of an ordinary environment.”

Yet 1935 is too late to establish an actual influence of James on Lovecraft’s own stories. Lovecraft’s basic themes and approaches were pretty well set by 1924, when he first encountered James. There are only two scholarly claims for a James influence listed in the H.P. Lovecraft: A Comprehensive Bibliography. These are Simon McCulloch’s “The Toad in The Study”, Ghosts & Scholars 20, 1995 (Lovecraft may have been influenced by James’s portrayal of documents and ‘forbidden knowledge’); and Ward Richard’s “In Search of the Dread Ancestor”, Lovecraft Studies 36, 1997 (the Dexter Ward character of Curwen might have been influenced by Count Magnus in the James story “Count Magus”). These claims are possible, yet James had no Lovecraft-related entry at all in the index of the recent volume Lovecraft and Influence, let alone an essay.

A Lovecraft letter also noted James’s death in 1936, though only in passing and among a list of other names of the recently deceased.

Fan scans

The University of Iowa Libraries has announced that they will scan the James L. ‘Rusty’ Hevelin Collection… “in its entirety … 10,000 science fiction fanzines will be digitized”…

Nothing on this scale has been attempted with fanzines before, and we are thrilled to be able to finally address the concern we have been hearing for years from fans and scholars, to find a way to enable them to discover exactly what these pieces contain,” says Greg Prickman, head of special collections. Once digitized, the fanzines will be incorporated into the UI Libraries’ DIY History interface, where a select number of interested fans (up to 30) will be provided with secure access to transcribe, annotate, and index the contents of the fanzines. The transcription will enable the UI Libraries to construct a full-text searchable fanzine resource, with links to authors, editors, and topics, while protecting privacy and copyright by limiting access to the full set of page images.

Opening the boxes, they also seem to be discovering some boxes full of Munsey-era proto-pulps.

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