The Mind Parasites

The Lovecraft series continues with a novel and more ruminations on Lovecraft. I should add that, while the Amazon link takes you to the edition I read, Wilson scholar Gary Lachman, whose blog you’ll find on the lists of blogs I follow, wrote an introduction to a new edition.

Raw Feed (2005): The Mind Parasite, Colin Wilson, 1967.Mind Parasites

In his preface, Wilson recounts his history with H. P. Lovecraft.

His first encounter was entirely provoked by the similar title of a Lovecraft collection, The Outsider and Others with his own first work, the non-fiction The Outsider. Wilson initially found Lovecraft a sick, pessimistic recluse who weakly turned away from the world he was alienated from, taking vengeance on it in “gloomy fantasy”.

While he doesn’t come right out and say it, this seems to back up S. T. Joshi’s contention that Wilson found Lovecraft a pessimistic (Lovecraft would have said indifferent) materialist to be the polar opposite in temperament to Wilson and reacted accordingly. Wilson proceeded to put forth this view in his The Strength to Dream “in which Lovecraft figures largely.”

Later, Wilson came to see Lovecraft as one of those rare, obsessed outsiders doomed by circumstances of economics, not able to give free reign to his powers unlike more famous outsiders like Shelley, Keats, and Byron. He speculates that a financially independent Lovecraft would have given free rein to his curiosity and produced less horror and more fantasy like “The Shadow Out of Time” or “The Call of Cthulhu”. A richer Lovecraft would have had more time and energy, probably would have produced more fiction, and, if it was well received by those he respected, he would have continued to write it. Continue reading

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Miskatonic University

The Lovecraft series continues with some modern takeoffs on his fiction.

Raw Feed (2005): Miskatonic University, eds. Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Weinberg, 1996.Miskatonic University

A Letter from the President to Incoming Students“, Stefan Dziemianowicz — An attempt, in keeping with the theme of the anthology, to introduce newbies to the Arkham/Miskatonic references in H. P. Lovecraft’s works.

Kali Yuga Comes”, Tina L. Jens — For me, this story was not only marred by the gratuitous swipes at James Watt and the Reagan administration by the narrator but also her usually unfunny wisecracks. The mixing of Kali (complete with rather incongruous interludes of third-person narrative in the Kali-killing sections) with Lovecraft didn’t work very well. The use of conventional mythologies in his work was something Lovecraft usually tried to avoid. It weakened his “The Horror at Red Hook” and only the inclusion of alternate dimensions and higher mathematics caused it to work in his “The Dreams in the Witch-House”).

Teachers”, Mort Castle — This story is not a tribute to Lovecraft but a bittersweet tribute to Castle’s friend, Robert Bloch — not only a one time protégé and correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft’s but a comic writer on occasion. Upon his death, Bloch, here Robert Blake (the name he is known by in Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark”) has earned immortality and gets to join the faculty, including Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft (the other authors I didn’t recognize), in teaching man at Miskatonic University. Oddly, enough this is the second story (out of two) in the anthology which makes a contemporary political reference — here a reference to Bill Clinton lying about sex. Continue reading

The Disciples of Cthulhu

The Lovecraft series and now we’re getting into Lovecraftian authors rather than the Gentleman from Providence.

Raw Feed (2005): The Disciples of Cthulhu, ed. Edward P. Berglund, 1976.Disciples of Cthulhu

“Editor’s Foreword”, Edward P. Berglund — Brief summation of the various waves of H. P. Lovecraft imitators.

“Introduction”, Robert Bloch — Bloch talks about how the reputation of his old mentor, H. P. Lovecraft, has been on the ascendant unlike the celebrated mainstream authors of 1929 the year Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” was actually published. He talks briefly about the religion/cult of Lovecraft of which he is one of the oldest members.

The Fairground Horror”, Brain Lumley — In his biography of Lovecraft, S. T. Joshi singled out Brian Lumley as symbolizing the worst of the Lovecraft imitators. I have a fond spot for Lumley though.  After being introduced by a friend to Lumley’s first two Titus Crow books (the best ones of the series), I read all the Lovecraft fiction I could find thereby filling in the gaps from reading a lot of his short stories earlier but none of Lovecraft’s novels. However, this biter-bitten story simply seemed, with its Cthulhu idol in a carnival funhouse, a takeoff on the Hazel Heald — H. P. Lovecraft story “The Horror in the Museum“. Lumley also seems determined, as Joshi noted, to work in as many references as possible to names in Lovecraft’s work.

The Silence of Erika Zann”, James Wade — Certainly not written in H. P. Lovecraft’s style and not using any elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, this story doesn’t really work. Basically, it’s about the daughter of Erich Zann, as in Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann“, encountering an extra-dimensional entity called to Earth by the strange properties of her psychedelic rock music (the story is set in a psychedelic club in San Francisco). The combination of too-explicit prose with, paradoxically, too vague of an explanation, doesn’t work. Continue reading

H. P. Lovecraft: A Life

The Lovecraft series continues with a look at S. T. Joshi’s biography of that writer.

Joshi has expanded this 708 page book into 1,200 pages with the updated edition called I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m going to do my wrists a favor, when I do, and get the kindle edition.

Raw Feed (2005): H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, S. T. Joshi, 1996, 2004.H P Lovecraft A Life

Joshi is such a concise writer that it would do little good to sum up all the points of interest in this book’s 655 pages of text, and some it, expectedly, repeats Joshi’s H. P. Lovecraft and H. P. Lovecraft:  The Decline of the West. Since Joshi sums up all of Lovecraft’s fiction including some of his most important revisions, I think this book comes about as close as you can get to a one volume introduction to Lovecraft without reading his work.

He gives brief summaries of Lovecraft’s most important correspondents and professional contacts, the magazines he published in, and other matters related to Lovecraft’s interests, life, and times.

Granted, some of this gets a bit far afield.

Is it really necessary to give a summary of Antarctic exploration when mentioning Lovecraft’s interest in it even though it is, of course, relevant to his “At the Mountains of Madness“?

Still, I learned a lot about Lovecraft. Continue reading

H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West

The Lovecraft series continues with a long look at a title S. T. Joshi still considers one of his most important works on Lovecraft.

For those who want something else of mine touching on some of the themes of this book, check out my review of Lovecraft’s Letters to James Morton.

Raw Feed (2005): H. P. Lovecraft:  The Decline of the West, S. T. Joshi, 1990.H P Lovecraft

This was a fascinating, illuminating book.

It is not that Lovecraft’s individual ethics, philosophical notions of materialism, politics, and notions of aesthetics were that unique. It is the combination that was somewhat unique and, most importantly — as Joshi convincingly shows — how those views consistently show up in his fiction.

In the first half of the book, Joshi documents (mostly through Lovecraft’s voluminous correspondence) the development of Lovecraft’s philosophy and how it was influenced by others — philosophers ancient and modern and science.

Lovecraft, descendant of a wealthy New England family that, in his childhood, fell on hard times, was a lifelong aristocrat. Always suspicious of democracy, Joshi shows how he moved from notions of an aristocracy of birth to (with relapses expressed in his letters and often involving race) an aristocracy of intellect. Thus he moved from a sentimental “royalist” (of course America has no official royalty but Anglophiliac Lovecraft earlier expressed, in his associated love for 18th Century England and Colonial America, a love of English royalty — or, at least, Queen Anne) and Republican to an advocate of “fascistic socialism” and voter for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Continue reading

H. P. Lovecraft

Another day and another day without a new review.

However, I’ll continue the Lovecraft series.

We’re done with Lovecraft’s fiction and moving into books about Lovecraft.

Raw Feed (2005): H. P. Lovecraft, S. T. Joshi, 1982.H P Lovecraft

I paged through this book for 21 years without actually reading it, before this, cover to cover (as well as looking through other Joshi writings on Lovecraft), so there wasn’t a lot here that I found new.

Still, I found some stuff new and interesting.

Concerning particular stories, Joshi makes the intriguing claim that Rome-loving Lovecraft was inspired by Constantine taking the treasures of the Western Empire to Constantinople when he had the Old Ones of “At the Mountains of Madness” stock, in their declining phase, their capital city in the Antarctic with treasures from their other cities. Furthermore, Joshi makes the claim (and I shall have to pay attention next time I read it) that “The Haunter of the Dark” is, like “The Thing on the Doorstep“, a tale of psychic possession. Continue reading

“The Diary of Alonzo Typer”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Diary of Alonzo Typer”, William Lumley [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1935.hm

This is a Cthulhu Mythos story primarily, according to S. T. Joshi, written by Lovecraft. It is another story that mentions Shub-Niggurath.

Lovecraft uses his typical device of telling the story via the diary of a man who has a fatal encounter with an entity from another dimension in a sinister old house.

 

More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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“Out of the Aeons”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “Out of the Aeons”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1933.hm

In a sense, this story is a reworking of Lovecraft’s own “The Call of Cthulhu”.

It deals with the rising of an island out of the Pacific and ruins on it intimating at a worldwide cult devoted to the ancient diety Ghatanothoa.

Both stories are related via papers found in the effects of dead men and intimate that others have died at the hands of the cult.

However, this story does not feature “The Call of Cthulhu”’s sweep of ideas.

There are no artists and psychics picking up strange visions in their work and dreams.

The story is much more limited in geographical scope. (I believe that, at least for the environs of Earth, “The Call of Cthulhu” has Lovecraft’s most dispersed settings.)

The story’s largest flaw is a plot, full of too many details and names which began to strike one as silly unlike Lovecraft’s more disciplined efforts under his own name, involving T’yog the High-Priest of Shub-Niggurath who meets a bad end when he climbs a mountain top to confront the Dark God Ghatanothoa. (The end, where his brain is revealed to be still living in a seemingly mummified body, is predictable but then so are a lot of Lovecraft endings.)

Lovecraft not only references Clark Ashton Smith in a mention of Averoigne, France (setting of a cycle of Smith stories), but his earlier Randolph Carter cycle since Randolph Carter is mentioned in the guise of Swami Chandraputra and so is De Marigny (the dates do link up to Lovecraft’s “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (finished earlier in 1933).

It’s middle grade Lovecraft.

 

More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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“The Horror in the Museum”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Horror in the Museum”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1932.hm

In paging through his biography of Lovecraft, I see that S. T. Joshi regards this story as so bad that it has to be a parody of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

I’m not sure I agree it’s a parody.

It certainly does have an overwrought flavor in parts, mostly because the artist and Shub-Niggurath worshiper (the actual form of the god is retrieved from Alaska) is just plain vicious and insane sounding. Most Lovecraft “villains”, like Herbert West are after power or immortality or knowledge. Rogers just gets mad when Stephen Jones doubts his stories or that the odd, macabre figures in the “adult” section of his wax museum are preserved bodies and not sculptures.

Because of his less than convincing lack of motivation, I found him a weak villain. Mostly this story reminded me of other Lovecraft works and other authors and other types of stories.

Orabona, Rogers assistant, is reminiscent of Surama in the Lovecraft-de Castro collaboration of “The Last Test”.  The whole setup of Jones spending a night in the museum and becoming unhinged even before he sees gods walking about reminded me of “Monsieur Redoux’s Phantasms” by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (though, given Villiers’ spotty history of English translations, I’m not sure Lovecraft read this particular story though he mentions Villiers in his 1927 Supernatural Horror in Literature) with its protagonist finding horror after hours (albeit psychological horror) in a wax museum.

Then, of course, there’s the whole idea of wax statutes being preserved bodies and not creations from scratch. I don’t know how far that idea goes back in horror fiction.

This is the first place I’ve heard of the glass plant models of Blatschka (as Lovecraft spells it) aka Leopold Blaschka. I looked them up online. They look quite remarkable.

 

More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

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“The Man of Stone”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Man of Stone”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This story seemed awfully familiar to me like I had read it before, but I can’t remember when.  [I read in 1996 in the anthology New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any notes on the stories, but it’s a worthy historical anthology covering women writers from Francis Stevens to Nancy Kress.]

It might seem familiar because, essentially, it’s a biter-bitten tale of the sort that goes back to at least The Canterbury Tales (perhaps I read a version of this in Boccacio’s Decameron Nights). Anyway, the cruel, jealous sorcerer who plots the poisoning of his wife and a sculptor via a potion that literally petrifies them gets a dose of the same medicine.

The only really Lovecraftian touches are certain occult tomes (The Book of Eibon) and some mentions of Cthulhu deities.

More reviews of Lovecraft related titles are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.