“The Life and Literary Influence of H.P. Lovecraft”, a public talk on 11th March 2015 at Brown University Library, by Leslie S. Klinger (Annotated Lovecraft).
If you can read Italian, the Italian ‘Project Aphorism’ aims to compile a complete list of aphorisms found in Lovecraft’s Italian translations. Here’s an approximate translation of the blurb…
CONTENT — New research to promote sharing ideas on the thought of HPL as a man, writer and thinker, further increasing the circularity of experience / contacts between magazine, experts and readers. The course aims to collect in an agile book the APHORISMS contained in the correspondence, in fiction, non-fiction of Lovecraft.
HOW TO ENTER — Are you a fan of HPL? Want to be a STAR of literary research? Now you can. How? Any fan can “adopt” a text of Lovecraft, [and] move in search of aphorisms through the reading of texts. You should reference your found quotations to the text of an Italian edition. And add more precise data: title of the story, the book / anthology from which the quotation is taken, publisher, year of publication, the translator. We will consider only complete reports on a Lovecraft work.
Scotland now has a Masters degree course in Comics Studies, the first in the UK.
S.T. Joshi reports in his blog that publisher Scarecrow Press / Rowman & Littlefield has cancelled its Studies in Supernatural Literature series. The short series had produced very nicely designed case bound hardbacks and also Kindle ebooks, both at high prices. Which aimed them at the academic library market rather than fan-scholars. Perhaps a better marketing strategy would have been nice £50 hardbacks for libraries and tenured academics, plus a much cheaper Kindle ebook version for the fans at £6.99.
* Lovecraft and Influence: His Predecessors and Successors (my review)
* Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury: Spectral Journeys
* Disorders of Magnitude: A Survey of Dark Fantasy
* Journeys into Darkness: Critical Essays on Gothic Horror
* Lord Dunsany: A Comprehensive Bibliography
* Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Modern Master of Horror
Joshi reports that they’ll pop in one more before the series dies, and it’s of interest to Lovecraftians… “an anthology of essays on Weird Tales [magazine] edited by Jeffrey Shanks”. Which sounds worth having in a Lovecraft library.
Joshi also reports that “David E. Schultz’s long-awaited annotated edition of Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth” is expected in time for NecronomiCon 2015, with 200 pages of annotations.
Michael Dirda has a level-headed review of recent Lovecraft books, in The Times Literary Supplement. Currently the article is free, though it may slip behind the TLS paywall in the future.
In the commentary on “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” [in Klinger’s Annotated], one looks in vain for any mention of Robert W. Chambers’s “The Harbour-Master” (part of In Search of the Unknown), the story from which Lovecraft borrowed a central element of his plot. In short, the knowledgeable Lovecraftian is likely to feel that Klinger has done admirable work, but could have probed more deeply.”
I think I have to agree with Klinger for omitting mention of this speculative and tenuous source. Lovecraft knew of the story from as early as 1927, indicated by his opening a letter to F.B. Long (6th July 1927) with…
In November 1928 Lovecraft wrote to Farnsworth Wright, of a friend’s proposed anthology…
I am suggesting that he use … Harbour-Master.”
In a letter to F.B. Long of 17th October 1930…
Speaking of literature … Little Augie Derleth [has shipped] me a gratuitous batch of his bibliothecal discards [including] Chamber’s In Search of the Unknown (God! The Harbour Master!!!)”
This latter was the re-written version of the story, for the anthology In Search of the Unknown (1904). In I Am Providence, Joshi implies this 1930 date was the date from which an influence on “Innsmouth” might be traced, which is congruent with the 1931 date for “Innsmouth”. But the earlier letters I note above suggest a prior date of summer 1927, and thus Lovecraft’s comment of “God! The Harbour Master!!!” does not necessarily imply that he had seized the book from Derleth’s box and had only just then finished reading the story. He may have simply been remembering his reading of it from circa 1927 or earlier.
In any case, there is no real evidence for direct influence on “Innsmouth” other than that: i) it was obviously well regarded by Lovecraft, and ii) the monster in “The Harbour-Master” is a sort of lone hybrid eel-man…
At that moment, to my amazement, I saw that the boat had stopped entirely, although the sail was full and the small pennant fluttered from the mast-head. Something, too, was tugging at the rudder, twisting and jerking it […] a sudden wave seemed to toss on deck and leave there, wet and flapping — a man with round, fixed, fishy eyes, and soft, slaty skin. But the horror of the thing were the two gills that swelled and relaxed spasmodically, emitting a rasping, purring sound — two gasping, blood-red gills, all fluted and scolloped and distended. […] The harbor-master had gathered himself into a wet lump, squatting motionless in the bows under the mast; his lidless eyes were phosphorescent, like the eyes of living codfish. […] the next I knew the harbor-master ran at me like a colossal rat […] his limbs seemed soft and boneless; he had no nails, no teeth, and he bounced and thumped and flapped and splashed like a fish, while I rained blows on him with the boat-hook that sounded like blows on a football. And all the while his gills were blowing out and frothing, and purring, and his lidless eyes looked into mine …”
But human-animal hybrids (centaurs, fauns, mermaids, werewolves etc) are not at all uncommon in weird literature, and there are scattered fish-men and frog-men to be found in folklore (a book from the era of Lovecraft’s youth, on the Indian folklore of Yosemite, led with a primal creation story of the Frog-man who helps Coyote-man to create the earth). So I think Klinger was probably right to omit a claim for “The Harbour-Master” as a source for “Innsmouth”. One might equally plausibly suggest that Lovecraft was inspired by the title of the Poe story “Hop-Frog” (1849), in which a deformed dwarf is forced by his physique to hop like a frog…
Hop-Frog could only get along by a sort of interjectional gait — something between a leap and a wriggle”
Nor were frog-men and similar hybrids absent in early weird fiction. What about the tiara-wearing frog-women and frog-men in Merritt’s book-length version of The Moon Pool (1919, reprinted Amazing Stories May-July 1927). A novel which we know that Lovecraft read, and disliked in favour of the original short story…
a gigantic frog — A WOMAN frog, head helmeted with carapace of shell around which a fillet of brilliant yellow jewels shone; enormous round eyes of blue circled with a broad iris of green; monstrous body of banded orange and white girdled with strand upon strand of the flashing yellow gems; six feet high if an inch, and with one webbed paw of its short, powerfully muscled forelegs resting upon the white shoulder of the golden-eyed girl! […] The gigantic eyes of the frog-woman took us all in — unwinkingly. Little glints of phosphorescence shone out within the metallic green of the outer iris ring. She stood upright, her great legs bowed; the monstrous slit of a mouth slightly open, revealing a row of white teeth sharp and pointed as lancets; the paw resting on the girl’s shoulder, half covering its silken surface, and from its five webbed digits long yellow claws of polished horn glistened against the delicate texture of the flesh.”
And through the portal marched, two by two, incredible, nightmare figures — frog-men, giants, taller by nearly a yard than even tall O’Keefe! Their enormous saucer eyes were irised by wide bands of green-flecked red, in which the phosphorescence flickered. Their long muzzles, lips half open in monstrous grin, held rows of glistening, slender, lancet sharp fangs. Over the glaring eyes arose a horny helmet, a carapace of black and orange scales, studded with foot-long lance-headed horns. […] The webbed hands and feet ended in yellow, spade-shaped claws. […] And then, quietly, through their ranks came — a girl! Behind her, enormous pouch at his throat swelling in and out menacingly, in one paw a treelike, spike-studded mace, a frog-man, huger than any of the others, guarding. But of him I caught but a fleeting, involuntary impression — all my gaze was for her.”
Or Victor Rousseau’s “The Sea-Demons” (All-Story, January 1916) in which invisible sea creatures living off the Shetland Islands, with a hive mind, plan to invade the land.
Lovecraft letter (14th February 1928) up for auction…
the only use of [political and cultural] opinions & convictions, or ideas of good & evil, in poetry, is to get the poet emotionally excited enough to sing at the required pitch of ecstasy. If he can sing thus without the added stimuli — as Keats did — so much the better.”
Lovecraft grew up in age when a boy could have a complete chemistry laboratory in the cellar. For it he could acquire all sorts of hazardous chemicals, and from it he could pour all sorts of gaseous fumaroles, without causing a SWAT team to camp out on his front lawn…
I would give my mother and grandfather no peace till they had fitted me up a chemical laboratory in the basement of our home and there I dabbled in reagents and precipitates from March 1899 onwards, ploughing feverishly through such chemical primers as The Young Chemist” (Selected Letters II, p.109)
As a boy Lovecraft even had a small nuclear device. The cultural expectation that intelligent boys would safely play with home chemistry laboratories, and could even handle a few pinches of radioactive matter continued even into the 1950s. When a $50 toy chemistry kit could still come stocked with four different types of real uranium…
My essay on “The Colour out of Space”, in my book Historical Context 2 goes into more detail about the what Lovecraft could have known about radioactivity.
News of a new official Conan RPG, Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of. August 2015 from Modiphius Entertainment, and steered by a bevy of Howard experts.
This is CONAN roleplaying as Robert E. Howard wrote it – savage pulp adventure battling ancient horrors in the Hyborian Age! We plan to bring the game right back to its roots, focusing on the original stories by Robert E. Howard. The game will use the 2D20 system … but tweaked to give it that feeling of sword & sorcery”
It appears to be the fourth try at a Conan tabletop RPG since 1984.