Editor Spotlight: Betty M. Owen & Margaret Ronan

How young is too young to read H. P. Lovecraft?

Fear and horror are universal. No matter how old—or young—the audience may be. Yet weird fiction and supernatural horror have not always been universally available. From the 1920s to the 1950s, copies of Weird Tales might expect an audience of both teens and adults. Expensive hardcopy Arkham House editions were no doubt beyond the range of most teens; and the Armed Forces Editions no doubt weren’t read by anyone below recruitment age. In the 1960s and 1970s, paperback editions of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction were beginning to be available in bookstores, but these were mostly marketed toward a grown-up audience: Lin Carter included two Lovecraft collections among the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.

Yet there was a younger audience for horror fiction. Not necessarily the more sexually explicit or gruesome horrors of the shudder pulps, or the sophisticated psychological horrors like Robert Bloch’s Psycho, but there was certainly a market for spooky stories—and not stories bowdlerized or dumbed down for a younger audience either.

Enter Scholastic Book Services.

Scholastic started out in the 1920s publishing educational magazines aimed at a younger audience; as the company grew and diversified, they moved into book publishing as well, aiming affordable cheap paperbacks at a school-age audience, through book clubs and mail-order catalogs. By the mid-to-late 1960s, Scholastic began to offer original anthologies of supernatural horror fiction, mostly reprints of older material, and the number of reprint editions of individual titles suggests that they found some success.

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Betty M. Owen was a Scholastic editor whose credits include Stories of the Supernatural (1967), Nine Strange Stories (1974), Teenspell (1974), The Ghostmasters: Weird Stories by Famous Writers (1976), and StarSreak: Stories of Space (1979).

11 Great Horror Stories was the first Scholastic anthology to include a Lovecraft story, and “The Dunwich Horror” is featured prominently. Probably the first introduction to Lovecraft for many young readers.

Owen as an editor has a light touch; while she selected and arranged the contents, she had no introduction or opening remarks for the stories, so her reasoning is opaque to us. However, Lovecraft is not in bad company, front of a queue that includes Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, John Collier, and L. P. Hartley. Considering Owen would got permission from Arkham House to use “The Dunwich Horror,” and how prominent it is on the cover, we can assume that someone at Scholastic thought it was the real selling point of the book.

Among Scholastic’s associate editors was Margaret Ronan—who, before she married and took her husband’s name in 1940, was Margaret Sylvester, who as a teenager corresponded with H. P. Lovecraft. Ronan was a prolific editor and writer for Scholastic, first in their magazine Practical English and later especially prominent for her film reviews. Her work for Scholastic would include a combination of fiction anthologies and nonfiction works on macabre subjects, with titles like Astrology and Other Occult Games (1974), Hunt the Witch Down: Twelve Real Life Stories of Witches and Witchcraft (1976), Death Around the World: Strange Rites & Weird Customs (1978), House of Evil and Other Unsolved Mysteries (1978), The Dynamite Monster Hall of Fame (1978), Master of the Dead (1979), Curse of the Vampires (1979), The Dynamite Book of Ghosts and Haunted Houses (1980), and Dark and Haunted Places (1982). Yet the book Margaret Ronan is most remembered for is The Shadow over Innsmouth and Other Stories of Horror (1971).


Ronan centers her editing on her personal experience with Lovecraft, drawing forth an anecdote from his letters to her. The portrait she paints of Lovecraft is an informed one—the reference to Fritz Leiber, Lovecraft’s Selected Letters, and the repetition of the “black magic” quote suggest that Ronan was fairly current on Arkham House releases, which was the focal point of Lovecraft studies at the time—yet it is also a sympathetic, affectionate portrait:

He looked like a writer of weird sories. He was tall and gaunt, with a bony face that could have been a composite of the faces of actors Boris Karloff and Max von Sydow. But although the face might at first seem forbidding, the eyes gave away the real man inside. They were warm and friendly, interested in everything and everybody.

The choice of stories in this book is odd. “The Shadow over Innsmouth” is one of Lovecraft’s most iconic stories, but also a fairly long novella; “The Festival” is a classic alternative to the Christmas ghost story, and “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Outsider” are among Lovecraft’s best work. “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” is an odd choice, but Ronan highlights Lovecraft’s connection with Houdini in her brief foreword to the story. “In the Walls of Eryx,” co-written with Kenneth Sterling, is very outside the norm—and “The Transition of Juan Romero” is far from Lovecraft at his best, with Ronan herself noting that it is “Short, and to the point!”

We don’t know what constraints Ronan operated under in selecting these stories, or what criteria she went by; budget for licensing the stories from Arkham House or limits on pagecount are both probable. Yet for the intended audience, this isn’t a terrible selection, and at a cost of only 75¢ was very affordable: Ballantine’s The Doom That Came to Sarnath (1971) was 95¢ for 208 pages. Any kid that got a copy was getting a good deal.

WW4Scholastic continued to publish magazines, even as they continued to expand their book sales beyond book clubs and mail-order catalogues into book fairs at schools. One of their odder offerings was Weird Worlds, a pop-culture/comic magazine edited by R. L. Stine (as Bob and Jane Stine).

Weird Worlds #4 (1980) includes among its features a reprint of “The Outsiders.” Ronan is present with articles on The Omen (1976) and UFOs; whether she had any hand in getting Lovecraft into one more Scholastic publication or not is unclear…but it would have been one more chance to give a younger audience that first taste of the Old Gent.

Children’s literature, like pulp fiction, tends to be ephemeral. Kids grow out of it, childish things are put aside. Scholastic books, generally unavailable in stores, cheaply printed and bound, and hard-used by the young readers, survive only because they were sold in such vast numbers that many still turn up at garage sales and thrift shops, and are often overlooked. These books are not, for the most part, expensive collectibles…but they did play their part in spreading Lovecraft’s legacy to a new generation.

Toward these pen friends he was unfailingingly generous—not only with what little money he had, but with his time and his encouragement. Without this encouragement, many of us would never have gone on hoping and trying to be writers.
—Margaret Ronan, The Shadow over Innsmouth and Other Stories of Horror

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.

Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein uses Amazon Associate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Editor Spotlight: Interview with Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris of Starward Shadows Quarterly

We’re interested in exploring the wicked, strange places that walk the line between reality and nightmare—the alien, the absurd, and above all else, the weird.—Starward Shadows Quarterly Submissions page

In order for more diverse voices in cosmic horror, weird fiction, and Lovecraftian fiction to be published, there needs to be venues to publish those new voices. Starward Shadows Quarterly published their first issue in Fall 2021. Editor-in-Chief Erica Ciko Campbell and Associate Editor/Designer & Illustrator Desmond Rhae Harris have brought their own aesthetic and appreciation for weird fiction, sword & sorcery, fantasy, & science fiction to their endeavor, and have been kind enough to answer a few questions.

How did you get into H. P. Lovecraft and cosmic horror?

Erica Ciko Campbell: I actually started writing what I would consider very “soft” cosmic horror all the way back when I was 12 with other kids on roleplay forums online. I didn’t even realize it fell into the genre at the time, but I gravitated towards themes of the insignificance of mankind in a vast and chaotic multiverse, and my characters were almost always aliens. Since I felt like an outsider all my life, it may sound cliché, but I was really just writing about what I felt like inside—but on a cosmic scale.

As far as my introduction the immortal master of cosmic horror himself: In 10th grade, I was “loaned” a copy of The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, a collection of many of Lovecraft’s greatest stories such as “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Haunter of the Dark.” From the moment I opened it for the very first time, I was awestruck. For the first time in my life, I’d encountered someone who wrote stuff that touched on the same themes I was interested in. I’m pretty sure I read the entire thing in a couple of afternoons, in those little storage cubbies beneath the desks so the teachers wouldn’t catch me during class. From then on, I always said that Lovecraft was my favorite author of all time and space.

Desmond Rhae Harris: I actually first heard of H. P. Lovecraft when I was a teenager and saw him referenced in a “Necronomicon” that somehow made its way into the occult section in a bookstore. I cracked it open and the descriptions of Nyarlathotep sparked a strong interest in the real stories from Lovecraft himself.

…And, since my earliest memories, I stared up into the black nighttime shadows at the treeline and lost myself in the sight of the starry sky or the moon anytime I got the chance. The pale taste of space that you can get from Earth filled my guts with a deep hollowness at the uncertainty of what was out there and where everything I knew stood in comparison to the rest of the universe. It terrified me at times, so the later discovery of cosmic horror as experienced by others was extremely cathartic and held a very strong draw.

Do you feel that your gender and sexuality have shaped your understanding of Lovecraft and your approach to Lovecraftian fiction?

DRH: I do feel that way: my confusion about my sexuality and identity when I was younger made me notice how narrow of a range of demographics appeared in works from authors like Lovecraft. This struggle to find an ideal character to identify with led me to seek out more representation in literature later on.

There are so many people at all age ranges who might be more able to accept themselves for who they are if they can see demonstrations of people like them finding their place in the world. So, while I still read and enjoy H. P. Lovecraft’s work, I am acutely aware of which demographics he pays attention to (or doesn’t) and how he portrays them. And, I look for opportunities to be more inclusive while still preserving the essence of cosmic horror that Lovecraft gave us—after all, the broader the lens through which we view cosmic horror, the more complex and astonishing it can be.

ECC: When I write, I usually don’t put major emphasis on gender, orientation, etc. unless it’s a key point in the story. So I end up with a lot of Lovecraftian stories/cosmic horror with LGBTQ+ and BIPOC characters, but I wouldn’t say I make any special effort to do this: I just enjoy writing these types of characters and feel that I (and also, inadvertently, my audience) can identify with them more.

I can’t help but feel a bit excited to live in a time when every single character no longer reads as the exact same thirty-something white guy. Even as a kid I was kind of critical of this element of Lovecraft’s stories and noticed the lack of diversity: and this was before it was a hot button issue on the internet. To be blunt, I find it boring. So I would say that as an editor, I’m especially excited to see Lovecraftian submissions from female/LGBTQ/BIPOC authors, featuring characters that fall into these demographics as well (If you want a great example, you should check out The Book of Fthagn by Jamie Lackey in our first issue.) That’s not to say that I’ll pass over a story just because the author doesn’t fall into one of these demographics, of course.

What made you want to create your own ezine for cosmic horror?

ECC: I’ve always been a “lone wolf” and liked doing my own thing. If I don’t like the way other people do things, I start my own project instead. There aren’t many magazines out there publishing the same type of stuff that we intend to: New Weird, S&S, and Cyberpunk don’t often cross paths in the same publication, at least as far as I’ve seen. I wanted to create a magazine that contains the exact mix of stories that I’ve always wanted to read, because there weren’t any.

Also, I spent so much time submitting stories to magazines over the past few years that I started to wonder what it felt like to run one. I think it’s really easy for authors to put a lot of pressure on editors and to judge them (I know I’m guilty of it myself)—so I figured the best way to get a true understanding of what goes on “on the inside” was to start my own magazine and see with my own eyes.

I worked for two other magazines before starting SSQ, but I’ve never been good at taking instructions from others. I quit Novel Noctule because of this. I still read for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores sometimes, but I’m not involved in the internal workings of the editorial process at all, so it’s a totally different experience.

DRH: The most concise way that I can put it is: inspiration. Whenever I look at other ezines, I enjoy them for what they are but they also spark all kinds of ideas. What I could do differently, what I could explore next, what doors I could open, what unseen groups I could highlight. In the end, I can only tolerate so much inspiration before I have to make something out of it.

What do you want to achieve with Starward Shadows Quarterly?

ECC: This one is actually pretty simple: I want to create a place where readers can go for a while where they don’t really have to think about the problems of Earth, and where they can feel free to explore hidden worlds and fantastical ideas they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. I guess you could call it a sanctuary for all true lovers of darkness, where they don’t need to feel choked by the chains of society, and both dreams and delusions have new meaning. That’s not to say that we’ll be avoiding Earth-based stories entirely. With ones like Angel Teeth, you can’t help but stare the ugliness of our human reality dead in the eyes and smile at it.

DRH: I want people of all types to feel welcomed by every issue that we publish. I want to seek out diamonds in the rough that might otherwise have gone unpublished because of either a lack of credentials or a “touchy” demographic, because I know how it feels to be glossed over.

Aside from Lovecraft, other thematic inspirations cited for Starward Shadows Quarterly include J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. How do you handle the historical racism and colonialist tropes inherent in fantasy and sword & sorcery?

DRH: This is a tricky topic. The best I can explain it is that we always look for ways to bring fresh, modern insight on those topics, and we deliberately seek out authors who provide that. If a story doesn’t have a new, enlightened viewpoint that shatters racism and colonialism and instead falls back on addressing those grief-ridden topics in the same, tired, old ways, then we simply won’t publish the story—no matter how good it is otherwise. It isn’t enough for something to be “not that problematic.” It needs to actively counteract the social impact that previous authors have had in these difficult areas in order for us to accept it.

ECC: Like Desmond said, this is a tricky question. Personally, I believe it’s possible to write stories in both these genres that avoid these tropes entirely. In these genres there’s always going to be “the oppressed,” and then you’re going to have “the oppressors”, or you wouldn’t have much of a story: But in my opinion, the old archetypes don’t have to be carved in stone. Stories can be written from different perspectives that were unheard of back in the old days. The background characters of the past can become the heroes (or, if I’m writing it, the anti-heroes) of the future. Even if you tear down the metaphorical statues built by the founders that are tainted with archaic viewpoints and toxic worldviews, you’re left with some pretty good building blocks. It’s up to us to decide what to do with them.

Do you feel writers like Lovecraft, Tolkien, & Howard still resonate with contemporary audiences?

ECC: Oh yes, definitely. In certain corners of the internet, it seems like there’s a subset of people that latch onto one of these authors and worship them almost religiously. Everything they write seems to be an emulation. I think that thanks to mass-printed paperbacks and the unprecedented ability of the internet to spread weird fiction far and wide, these guys have more fans than ever. And many of them don’t even know or care about what the authors were like as people, and get swept away by “fandoms.”

For example, there are tons of people who aren’t aware of Lovecraft’s problematic outlook/history at all. Kind of hard to miss, if you paid attention to the stories… But perhaps they haven’t read them all. Either that, or they choose to ignore them because A) they don’t care or B) they feel the art is the only thing that matters.

On a purely thematic basis, all controversy aside: fads may come and go in the literary world, and the favor of society may shift, but the true masters will reign forever. And even if their names were erased from history, they inspired so many countless authors that they’re burned into the literary world for as long as it exists.

DRH: Absolutely! Classics are classics, after all. And, while our values as a society might have shifted over the course of time, I see no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak: I feel that we should always look for areas where we could do better, but always maintain respect for those who paved the way for us and continue to harvest inspiration from their skills so that we can give new values a timeless voice.

In fact, it’s imperative that we bridge the gap between “old and new” speculative fiction by blending modern insights with creativity and intricacy that has already withstood the test of time. By doing so, we might bridge the gap between different readers as well, and help them understand each other better.

Do you think it is important for weird fiction and fantasy to escape the shadow of Lovecraft & Tolkien? Do you think that is even possible?

DRH: One could argue that, by standing on the shoulders of giants, they might leap to a new mountain entirely—but they’re still highly unlikely to forget the giants that helped them get there. As I’m sure you gathered from my previous responses, I’m not personally concerned with escaping the shadows of previous masters or reinventing the wheel: I just want each new take on speculative fiction to bring in something fresh enough to require a good deal of active, analytical thought to trace it back to Lovecraft and Tolkien—because that means that it took a lot of active thought and creativity for the author to write the piece in the first place.

By the same coin, I think pieces that directly reference previous icons in a tongue-in-cheek manner have their own merits by playing off of something familiar and almost “breaking the fourth wall” in a sense. It’s not quite satire, but it’s not mere fanfiction either. There’s a delicate balance to be struck there, and a few people do it just right.

Another inspiration you cite is Tamsyn Muir. Are there other women/LGBTQ+ authors whose weird work you find inspirational? Any favorites?

ECC: When I was a child, I absolutely adored A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, along with all its sequels. I think these were actually my first real foray into true, far-out science fiction. I had a little Evangelion notebook where I wrote down all the poems from one of the sequel books… The one about the mitochondria. I can’t even remember the name anymore. [A Wind in the Door (1973)] Sadly, aside from Ursula K. Le Guin, no one else is really popping out in my mind. I’m not sure if this speaks to the lack of diversity in the genre, or my lack of adventurism as a reader!

DRH: I personally really like the work of C. S. Friedman, particularly Black Sun Rising.

Besides specific authors, are there any specific anthologies, ezines, magazines, or films that have inspired Starward Shadows Quarterly?

ECC: Films have actually been a massive inspiration for me over the years, arguably moreso than literature. Growing up, I was absolutely obsessed with A Clockwork Orange, Pink Floyd: The Wall, and Natural Born Killers, just to name a few. I was also a huge anime fan in my youth, and I can practically recite the entire Neon Genesis Evangelion series by heart at this point. On the Science Fiction end of things, Outlaw Star was also one of my greatest inspirations of all time and space.

Video games have been another massive inspiration for me over the years. While we were in the process of creating the magazine, I was (and still am) obsessively playing through the entire Dark Souls series. I’m awestruck with what a wonderful job the developers did at creating a bleak and sorrowful world that still somehow manages to inspire the slightest bit of hope in the end. One thing that absolutely captivates me about Dark Souls is what a great metaphor it is for depression and other mental illnesses. No matter how many times you lose and get beaten to a pulp, eventually you overcome it, and life (or undeath, in this case, I suppose) goes on.

As far as other magazines, I really admire the design and setup of both Vastarien and Cosmic Horror Monthly. I also worked for a New Weird magazine called Novel Noctule for a time, and admittedly, what I learned there inspired our “behind the scenes” processes a great deal.

DRH: You’ll never guess this, but Lord of the Rings… I think I speak for both of us when I say that we also take a huge amount of inspiration from music in genres such as dungeon synth and dark ambient. I also really enjoy the atmosphere in games like Morrowind and Oblivion, so that tends to creep in as well.

While Starward Shadows Quarterly wears its literary inspirations on its sleeve, who are the artistic inspirations?

DRH: Oh wow, well, I could go on for more hours than anyone wants about this, so I’ll just give you a list of highlights: Michael Whelan, Philippe Caza, Lady Frieda Harris, H. R. Giger, Zdzisław Beksiński, Austin Osman Spare, Vincent Van Gogh, Alphonse Mucha, Bruce Pennington, and Frank Frazetta.

ECC: I really like the art of Michael Whelan, the guy who did the covers for the Elric series, along with countless others. Zdzisław Beksiński also immediately came to mind. Once upon a time, a former member of one of the most legendary proto-black metal bands of all time told me that my own artwork reminded him of Austin Osman Spare, so I suppose he makes the list as well.

Your submissions guidelines specifically call for works by neurodivergent and disabled authors. Do you feel weird fiction in general does a poor job of representing such voices?

ECC: Actually, yes. I feel that too often, the neurodivergence ends up being the “horror” or the punchline of the story. The same goes for disability. I feel there are too many stories about neurodivergent/disabled people and not enough by them, if that makes sense—and it should come as no surprise that most of these aforementioned stories are written by neurotypical people who see a life of disability as the ultimate horror.

DRH: I do feel that speculative and weird fiction do tend to follow the troughs previously dug for them by cisgendered male authors. Obviously, that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of authors within that demographic that fully deserve the pedestal that they’ve been given. But I’ve always felt a burning desire to raise equal pedestals for other demographics: Pedestals reserved for others who match previous and current authors in skill, not in demographic.

Just a side note: I’m afraid that, sometimes, the label of “weird” sometimes also causes a lot of the very authors we seek to slink back and hide a bit: not everyone is comfortable wearing an alternative or underrepresented label like a shroud. Not everyone wants to feel like a “freak who joined the circus” thanks to a lot of the stigma that still clings to the idea of being different. So, hopefully, I’m not creating a catch-22. However, I do feel that speculative/weird fiction as a whole tends to passively allow neurodivergent and disabled voices to go unheard, and I want to actively call those voices to a place where they’ll feel welcome, whether it be as authors or as readers.

Based on your submissions, do you feel there is a lot of diversity in the folks writing weird fiction these days?

ECC: Unfortunately—and it’s hard to tell from a single submissions period, but I’ll try my best—it still in some ways seems to be an “old boys club.” I can say with confidence that we received more submissions from cis guys than any other demographic. Now I want to stress there’s nothing wrong with this. We’ve published several of them, in fact, and will continue to welcome them with open arms along with everyone else. But even though we specifically called for disabled and neurodivergent authors, we didn’t get submissions from a ton of them.

One genre that’s especially lacking in diversity, I’ve noticed, is Sword and Sorcery. Finding a good Sword and Planet story by a female author honestly felt like fishing out a single pearl in a sea of marbles. We barely received any S&S/S&P from anyone but cis guys, which I hope in the future will change.

Another trend I noticed was that guys lean towards “harder” SF stuff and body horror, while women seemed more likely to send fantasy or psychological stuff. Of course, there were a few awesome ladies that sent hardcore body horror that made everything else in the inbox seem pale—but unfortunately that’s not exactly the type of thing we’re going for with the magazine, as cool as it is.

I must say, I feel that the published Weird Fiction sphere feels very “curated” after digging through our inbox. The subs were definitely not in line with what I see out there in the world published. I think editors are doing a careful job selecting work by underrepresented groups, and making sure not to gloss them over like they might have in the past.

DRH: …I wish I had a different answer to give you, but: not so much. There’s more diversity than there used to be, certainly, and that’s wonderful. However, I do still have to put in a deliberate effort to find authors from underrepresented demographics within the ocean of slush. (If you fall under a marginalized demographic, take this as an active call! I’d love to read what you have to say.)

From an editorial perspective, how do you handle issues of prejudice & discrimination in the submissions you receive?

DRH: At the risk of seeming blunt or harsh: If a submission contains enough content that I don’t even feel comfortable reading, let alone publishing, I simply auto-reject. I tend to ramble (in case anyone missed that) so I can’t afford the time to give personal feedback if something surpasses a certain threshold of “not at all what I’m looking for.” It’s too overwhelming.

But if a piece is creative and promising enough to maintain its “spark” despite any discriminatory/prejudiced language or themes, I’m happy to reach out to the author and discuss the matter with them. I’ll point out how it could be interpreted, ask if that’s how they meant for it to come off, and offer them the opportunity for an R&R. After all, if someone is open to the idea of learning and growing as a modern author, I’m thrilled to play a part in helping them to do that.

ECC: There were a few situations where we received a story where it genuinely seemed like the author didn’t realize what they were writing could be perceived as offensive. In these cases, if I felt they were well-intentioned but naïve, I gently explained why we couldn’t publish it. However, if something was written on purpose with the intent to shock or come across as offensive, we usually just sent them a form rejection. Right out of the gate I decided I wasn’t going to engage with trolls—especially the ones who know exactly what they’re doing. Why give them the sick satisfaction?

As speculative fiction writers, artists, and editors, you have both worked in the trenches of weird fiction websites and ezines for a few years. Have you faced discrimination for your gender or sexuality in that context?

ECC: Recently, I had a really weird experience where I submitted a story to a certain venue, and it was quickly accepted with much enthusiasm. However, somehow, the editor seemed to have missed the fact that the main character was trans. (It certainly wasn’t the focal point of the story, so I guess it makes sense it went over his head: I always try to present characters as just “people” so maybe this time I did too good of a job, ha). But anyways, as soon as he found out, he started acting kind of weird, and basically tried to delicately tiptoe out of the contract.

All discrimination aside, the same guy was also incredibly hurtful and rude to me during the prolonged illness of a family member after approaching me for some totally unrelated writing event, so he may have just been a jerk.

But all-in-all, my experiences haven’t been so bad. Overall people have been pretty courteous, honestly. I can’t really comment definitively on whether or not my gender has worked for or against me, because if I’ve been rejected on that basis, it’s been kept behind the scenes.

DRH: Unfortunately, yes, I have. There has been more than one seemingly-promising opportunity that went dark after my LGBTQ+ status came to light, and I’ll admit that it can be very disheartening. There was even a situation where I was asked/welcomed to volunteer my voice as a marginalized demographic, only to have the project fall through after the creator moved on and found more “convenient” replacements. Things like that suck. They always have, and they always will—but, at the end of the day, they only reinforce the conviction that I’m doing the right thing by working on a publication that actively seeks to welcome and elevate authors who may have experienced similar things.

As a medium, how do you think ezines like Starward Shadows Quarterly compare with older media like Weird Tales? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

ECC: Weird Tales has an old, dedicated audience who might not even be that tech savvy. People are always going to follow it just for the name, and the fact that Lovecraft was published in it back in the day. It could be owned by a team of purple canaries and certain people would still rave about Weird Tales. Also, it’s basically impossible to get into this thing without already being established. I remember following their submissions a year or two ago, and they took a grand total of one unsolicited submission from a pool of 500 to 1,000 authors. So basically it’s an invite-only old boys club that, in my opinion, isn’t really offering anything revolutionary or even new.

This probably sounds like a stab, but I don’t mean it that way: I feel the same way about plenty of other big-name magazines that invite the same big-name authors again and again. For lack of a better word, it’s boring. At Starward Shadows, we promise to give new voices a chance instead of creating an echo chamber for the same old ones. (Not like we could afford the big names anyway! Ha!)

But at the end of the day, I think this makes us a lot more relatable. The average up-and-coming author stands about as much of a chance at getting into Weird Tales as a street urchin does at becoming the Emperor of the Galaxy, so hopefully they’ll dream of getting into Starward Shadows instead.

DRH: I don’t really have much to say about this other than that we hope to bring in all kinds of fresh content that Weird Tales doesn’t offer.

The tagline for Starward Shadows Quarterly is “The Speculative Fiction Ezine Where The Stars Are Always Right.” Do you think that the stars have always been right for diverse cosmic horror fiction? Or has something changed?

DRH: Oh boy, this is a loaded question. Erica and I actually banter back and forth on a very regular basis over whether the stars are “right” for something or not. I say that the stars are ever changing, and that the constant chaos and change of the universe mean that there’s a point of opportunity for just about anything. In fact, one could say that the stars have always been right for diversity since it’s always been present—humanity’s social confines have been the problem.

I would, however, say that the “cultural stars” are now more favorable towards diversity within cosmic horror fiction than they used to be during, say, Lovecraft’s day. I do think that society has shifted towards a place of greater awareness of marginalized demographics—I shudder to think of the life of secrecy and fear that I’d have had to live mere decades ago. And hopefully, with future issues, we can continue to make the stars even better for those who can relate to a statement like that.

ECC: Oh, they never are. It’s an inside joke, really. If you sit around waiting for the stars to be right, your life and the entire world will pass you by. Whether the stars are right or not, this is the time you were born in, so it’s the only chance you’ll ever have to write cosmic horror.

All jokes aside, I think we can all agree on one thing: In the past, the stars definitely weren’t aligned for anybody that didn’t fit the mold. But this isn’t a problem unique to cosmic horror. And sadly, to this day, things haven’t changed as much as they should have. We can’t fix the world, but we can promise to give you a chance that others wouldn’t if you send us your greatest cosmic horror piece, no matter who you are or where you come from.

What do you see as the future of Lovecraftian fiction and cosmic horror?

ECC: I think the universe, and the future of cosmic horror, is a circle. In other words, everything old is new again. The past and the present will slowly integrate in a way that Lovecraft himself probably never would have imagined. New authors will continue to be inspired by his work, but slowly, the trickle of new material flowing into the Mythos will become a waterfall: So the authors of the future will have a lot more to work with than we do in this generation. If we do a good job, that is.

I wonder what he’d think about it, really. Maybe if the universe really is a circle, the stars will finally be right someday in the far future of the distant past, and I can ask him.

DRH: Oh, everything. As social dynamics and culture have changed to become more accepting, and as scientific discoveries have progressed, so many doors have been opened. In online spaces you find people exchanging incredible, inspiring, and horrifying ideas at a rate that never used to be possible. I think that all these things will contribute to cosmic horror becoming more intricate and well known than ever before—perhaps too well known…

Thank you Erica and Desmond for answering these questions, and for a chance to pick your brains about the state of weird fiction, and a look at the inner workings of Starward Shadows Quarterly.

Starward Shadows Quartery can be found online at https://starwardshadows.com/ and you can follow them on twitter at https://twitter.com/StarwardShadows.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Lois H. Gresh

I started writing weird SF as a child because I wanted to read stories featuring female protagonists, and I couldn’t find anything. I grew up on a diet of my father’s classic hard SF novels and my mother’s thrillers. The women in the classic SF novels were cardboard characters who served coffee and spooned nutrient broth over blobs in fish tanks, and the thriller heroes were always men.

Modern weird fiction, including the mythos subgenre, must expand to include viewpoints beyond the classic stereotypes. If it doesn’t expand, it will die.

Innsmouth Nightmares is incredibly strong. A lot of the stories are some of the best I’ve read in the field. New twists, new perspectives, and yes, stories with female points of view.

In general, weird fiction has blossomed into a more literary realm. It’s a beautiful field for experimentation, not only in terms of style and structure, but also for exploring concepts such as pain, suffering, kindness, fear, empathy (or lack of it), greed, arrogance, etc., and one of my favorites, the anthropomorphic absurdities we cast on the world around us.
—Lois H. Gresh, Interview: Lois H. Gresh by Lisa Morton (Nov 2019)

There have been many anthologies centered around Innsmouth, the dilapidated colony of outsiders perched on the edge of Massachusetts, where the Manuxet River pours into the Atlantic Ocean, and where the natives swim out to Devil’s Reef on moonlit nights. Over the decades, dozens of authors have expanded off Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” and a handful of editors have sought to collect them.

Lois H. Gresh is the first woman to edit an Innsmouth anthology. She had the experience, being a Mythos writer strongly familiar with the existing body of Innsmouth lore, and she had the vision:

This is the book of my dreams. I’ve always been fond of Innsmouth. Directly over my desk, a painting of Innsmouth hangs on an old hook left by the former inhabitants of my house. I spend most of my life at this desk, so Innsmouth is always with me. There’s something very appealing about the tottering village and its shambling denizens, the cults, the dreariness, the turbulence of the sea, and Devil Reef.

When I proposed this anthology to Pete Crowther at PS Publishing, I told him that I wanted to produce a book brimming with extraordinary Innsmouth stories. I wanted to produce a book that I would never grow tired of reading, a book that I would read every now and then for the rest of my life. I think I succeeded.

I requested stories from all the top writers in the weird genre. I desperately wanted Ramsey Campbell, but alas, Pete had Ramsey squirreled away writing a trilogy of Lovecraftian novels, so Ramsey was a bit tanked out to pen a short Innsmouth tale. Almost everyone else in this book—all the writers of weird fiction that readers go ape over. Given my obsession with Innsmouth, I was sorely tempted to add a story, but in the end, decided it would be poor form to write a story for an anthology of which I’m editor.
—Lois H. Gresh, Introduction in Innsmouth Nightmares vii

Innsmouth Nightmares (2015, PS Publishing) contains a solid mix of authors, and perhaps more importantly, a solid mix of stories. In assessing any Innsmouth anthology, it’s difficult not to compare it with every other Innsmouth anthology, from Robert M. Price’s The Innsmouth Cycle (1998) and Tales Out of Innsmouth (1999); Stephen Jones’ Shadows Over Innsmouth (1994), Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth (2005), and Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth (2013); Ran Cartwright’s Innsmouth Tales (2015)…and other, more obscure collections.

The vision of the editor influences a collection, what they choose to print isn’t decided just by what the writers turn in or what they can get the rights to (hopefully), but what the editor hoped to achieve. Price’s anthology The Innsmouth Cycle, for example, is unsurprisingly backwards-looking. The purpose of the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu Fiction line was in large part to reprint Mythos material that had been out of print like “Shadow Over Innsmouth” (1942) by Virginia Anderson, to draw aside the curtain a little and look at where the Mythos had come from, rather than push the edges of what it might be or where it might go.

Most Innsmouth anthologies, however, don’t have any focus other than Innsmouth itself. Editors don’t go out of their way to collect bad stories, or to exclude women authors, but there’s usually very little distinction between the individual volumes. If you took the cover of Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth and slipped it on a copy of Tales Out of Innsmouth, few readers would be able to distinguish any difference in terms of content. There’s never been an Innsmouth anthology that focused on the diaspora after the 1928 raid; there’s never been an all-women or feminist Innsmouth anthology, or a global Innsmouth anthology that looks at different Deep One colonies around the world. It’s amazing that one story has spawned over half a dozen anthologies (not to mention full-blown novels), but it’s hard to say if there’s been many really good Innsmouth anthologies.

In that respect, Lois H. Gresh and Innsmouth Nightmares stands apart from the rest in part because of a specific aim for a greater diversity among the writers—and this isn’t some token effort. With Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, Lisa Morton, and Nancy Morton women make up a full 20% of the book, which is above average for a Mythos anthology. W. H. Pugmire is represented to good effect, as is Lavie Tidhar. Beyond that, many of the writers are stretching Innsmouth stories in new styles, new directions, far and away from the pastiches which normally fill so many Innsmouth anthologies. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “Deeppunk” or make up any other silly name for it, Gresh’s editorial voice is full of enthusiasm. Optimism. These are Innsmouth stories which, by and large, look to the future of what Innsmouth fiction could be, more than what it was and has been.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed editing it. If you like tales about Innsmouth, you’re in for a real treat.
—Lois H. Gresh, Introduction in Innsmouth Nightmares x

Was the market ready for future? It’s hard to say. The hardback and paperbacks for Innsmouth Nightmares are long sold out; I can’t even find the ebook for sale. Several of the stories have been reprinted in anthologies, author’s collections, and other places, but it seems likely that this particular anthology is a black pearl, and readers will have to dive into the deep waters of the secondhand and collectors markets if they want a copy.

Innsmouth Nightmares is Lois H. Gresh’s most notable Lovecraftian credit as an editor, but she also edited Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk! (2013, PS Publishing), which is not a Mythos anthology per se, but several of the stories therein contain Mythos monsters.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Interview with Lynne Jamneck

Why a collection of contemporary Lovecraftian stories written by women? The evidence for answering this question is there for anyone to see; simply review the Table of Contents from Lovecraftian-inspired anthologies over the past number of years (and there are many) and it becomes evident that the bulk of contributions published in these collections were written by men. Here, some draw what seems to them an obvious conclusion—women simply don’t write Lovecraftian fiction. Of course, anyone who has consistently read both Lovecraftian and horror fiction in general will know that this is not the case.
—Lynne Jamneck, introduction to Dreams from the Witch House (2015) v-vi

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (1969, Arkham House), the very first anthology specifically dedicated to the Cthulhu Mythos, featured no stories by women. Nor did The Disciples of Cthulhu (1976, DAW), New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (1980, Arkham House), or many subsequent anthologies of Mythos fiction. While female authors, poets, editors, and artists have been far from absent from Lovecraftian fiction, their voices have not been equally heard by readers. The overall under-representation of women in Mythos anthologies over several decades must be understood to appreciate the background against which Lynne Jamneck was working when she was putting together one of the first all-women Mythos anthologies in 2015.

Dreams from the Witch House (Dark Regions Press) hit shelves the same year as two other Mythos anthologies of fiction by female authors: She Walks in Shadows (Innsmouth Free Press) and Cassilda’s Song (Chaosium). These three anthologies share few authors in common, testament to the number of talented women writing in the Mythos…and, perhaps, a notice to the editors of male-dominated Mythos anthologies that keep filling book after book with the same old names: there are women Mythos writers out there. Good ones. Why not publish them? 

Gothic Lovecraft (2016, Cycatrix Press) was co-edited by Lynne Jamneck & S. T. Joshi. This limited-edition anthology shares several of the female writers with Dreams from the Witch House, and is one of the better gender-balanced Lovecraftian anthologies, before considering its interesting theme and what the various authors do with it. The combination of talent and editorial insight makes for a solid Mythos anthology.

Lynne Jamneck has been kind enough to answer questions about herself as a Lovecraftian writer, and her experience as a Mythos editor on Dreams from the Witch House and Gothic Lovecraft:

How did you get into Lovecraft and the Mythos?

Lynne Jamneck: I can’t actually remember. I know that no-one came to me and said here’s someone you should be reading. All things considered, it was probably the result of discovering Stephen King as a teenager, and likely after reading King’s Danse Macabre. I’m sure he mentions Lovecraft in that as an influence and/or talks about him in some context. But I also didn’t immediately go out and look for Lovecraft’s writing. But it’s a name that, once you’ve seen it a few times in print, it sticks, you know?

Do you feel that being you (female, queer, non-American) has shaped your understanding of Lovecraft and approach to the Mythos?

LJ: Difficult to say, but probably, at least to a degree. Definitely the cultural and race aspects of both Lovecraft and his work. Having lived in South Africa during Apartheid and then through the country’s democratization has unquestionably shaped my perspective of the Other, including myself as Other. Funny though, I’ve never particularly found Lovecraft’s lack of female protagonists something that specifically put me off his work. There’s often overlap of the human experience regardless of gender. Maybe it’s because from a young age I’ve had to imagine my own experience, as queer, within the contexts of others due to a lack of representation. It’s more of a curiosity – in the same situations, how would women react to Lovecraftian terror? How do they experience it? 

Besides being an editor, you’ve written a good bit of Lovecraftian fiction yourself. What draws you to write it?

LJ: The lack of closure. I hate writing stories with resolved endings. It bothers me. I do it to annoy people who ignore the realities of life.

What made you decide to edit two anthologies of Mythos fiction?

LJ: With Dreams from the Witch House, it was definitely with the aim of exploring the female approach and reaction to cosmic horror, more so than because I wanted to make a point about including only women based on gender… Does that make sense? Maybe it’s the same thing. And it was an opportunity to work with writers who I believed would be able to present this in a unique manner, while at the same time possibly discovering writers I was unaware of and providing them with an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue. Gothic Lovecraft happened because of several fortuitous opportunities all connecting at the same time. It was an opportunity to explore the more lurid nature of Lovecraft’s universe and its echoes in the style of Gothic horror.

Were there any barriers to editing and publishing an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction written solely by women?

LJ: Not at all, at least not from Chris Morey at Dark Regions Press, who I initially approached with the idea. There were a few grumbles about people not being able to submit because they were male, which I didn’t pay much attention to, considering that male writers still seem to represent the larger percentage of authors included in horror anthologies.

You wrote in the introduction to Dreams from the Witch House “Perhaps it is simply that women write the Lovecraftian differently than many of their male counterparts traditionally have.” Do you think this is true historically—that writers like Joanna Russ and Ann K. Schwader have brought their own understanding to Lovecraftian fiction?

LJ: Definitely. This links back to what I mentioned previously about reaction and response to cosmic horror, to that sense of awe (in the traditional sense of the word) one experiences when confronted by something your mind can barely make sense of. It’s a curious combination of attraction and being repelled all at once. I know I’m generalizing, but I think there is definitely a difference in terms of how women would deal with such circumstances compared to men, at least based on the cosmic horror I’ve read. It’s interesting; the female perspective often comes across as more accepting of cosmic inevitability…there often appears to be some kind of recognition… It’s difficult to pinpoint.

Dreams from the Witch House, She Walks In Shadows, and Cassilda’s Song, all came out at about the same time in 2015. Were you aware these other anthologies of Mythos fiction were in the works while you were editing Dreams?

LJ: Only at a peripheral level, primarily from mentions in conversations with others. I knew that Witch House would have a different sensibility so I didn’t engage in comparisons. 

The first printing of Dreams contained “The Genesis Mausoleum”—which had been plagiarised from Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Seed from the Sepulchre.” How did you discover the plagiarism? How did you handle it?

LJ: If I recall, someone who had read an advance copy told me but by then it was too late to remove it from the first print. I was livid. I made sure to let as many publishers as possible know about what the individual had done because I didn’t want any other editor to have to experience the same thing. It’s deplorable. There’s absolutely no excuse. 

You partnered with S. T. Joshi to edit Gothic Lovecraft. How would you describe your working relationship? What did both of you bring to the task?

LJ: S.T. is an extremely generous co-editor. I think we played off one another well. His knowledge and scholarship on Lovecraft is very broad. In turn, I wrote my MA in English Literature on Lovecraft and Poe (ten years ago, yikes!), which provided a good foundation for us to work from. From my end, I probably brought a bit more of a modern approach to some of Lovecraft’s ideas, informed by a queer/female perspective.

Both Dreams from the Witch House and Gothic Lovecraft contain a mix of well-known Lovecraftian authors and some that are less well known. Did you have specific writers in mind when starting both projects?

LJ: Yes. As I noted above, I knew from the outset that I wanted to work with Joyce Carol Oates (I’m always surprised to learn how few people realize Lovecraft is an influence in a decent amount of her work), Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gemma Files, Sonya Taaffe, Karen Heuler, and Lois Gresh because their work signified the sensibility I had in mind for the anthology.  Once I approached these authors, small but important signposts occurred in our conversations that directed me to additional writers (apart from those who submitted during the open call) and, well, the magic just happened.

Did you achieve what you wanted with Dreams from the Witch House?

LJ: Overall, yes. My aim was to collect and present stories that imbued readers with a sense of dread and unease not only while reading it, but that would linger and reoccur in the mind at unexpected moments. That’s what cosmic horror is to me. The inescapable.

Do you feel the Mythos scene has changed since Dreams and Gothic Lovecraft came out?

LJ: It’s difficult to comment on the scene as a whole and admittedly, I tend to seek out Lovecraftian/cosmic fiction that is less obvious in terms of using the typical Lovecraftian conventions/settings/monsters. There definitely still is a generous degree of retreading. I tend to look for fiction that, while recalling Lovecraft, presents the notion of cosmic horror in a new way; that doesn’t need Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep to instill the sense that we are atomic specks on a small rock in a very, very big universe we still know precious little about.  

In your thesis, “Tekeli-li! Disturbing Language in Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft” you talk about how the shoggoths have appropriated the word (‘tekeli-li) of the Elder Things—do you think writers today appropriate Lovecraft and his Mythos?

LJ: Absolutely, some more successfully than others. Among the rehashes there are fantastic narratives like Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country that appropriates the mythos in the best way possible, all the while remaining quintessentially ‘Lovecraftian’, to produce a story that is super relevant today, right now. These and other stories (e.g., The Fisherman by John Langan) is the kind of legacy that Lovecraft’s work has, in its best form, evolved into today. 

While editors don’t play favorites—what’s your favorite story from Dreams and why?

LJ: Why do you do this to me! Sneaky-sneaky. I’ll meet you half-way and give you a story I love for a specific reason. I knew right away, after finishing “The Body Electric” by Lucy Brady that I wanted to include it in the anthology. The story is a super-great mesh of the Old and New coming together in a way that I found extremely relevant to a mainstream, modern cosmic horror sensibility. I find the idea of something cosmically threatening meshing with computer code more than a little bit unsettling, for reasons that should be 100% obvious. 

Thank you Lynne Jamneck for answering these questions, and I hope we see more from you in the future.

Aside from editorial laurels, Lynne Jamneck is a Lovecraftian writer in her own right with stories such as “The Paramount Importance of Pictures” (2006), “Azif” (2011), “In Bloom” (2016), “Oude Gouden” (2017), “We All Speak Black” (2018), and a scholar whose thesis “Tekeli-li! Disturbing Language in Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft” was published in Lovecraft Annual #6 (2012).

Dreams from the Witch House may be purchased direct from the publisher.

Gothic Lovecraft may also be purchased direct from the publisher.

Lynne Jamneck’s other works may be purchased through her Amazon author page.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Interview with Carrie Cuinn

I’ll admit that when I first put out the call for submissions, Cthulhurotica seemed to most people like it would be a collection of literary tentacle porn. I got stories that introduced a lovely setting but spent the next two thousand words having sex all over it. I got writers who wanted to take a gory horror story they’d written for something else, slap “Innsmouth” over the town’s “Welcome to . . .” sign, and call it Lovecraftian. I got potential readers telling me they couldn’t imagine “Lovecraft” and “Erotica” in the same sentence, and never (ever!) wanted to see my book in print.
—Carrie Cuinn, introduction to Cthulhurotica (2010) 5

The arrival of Cthulhurotica (2010, Dagan Books) shook a few foundations. The Cthulhu Mythos was no stranger to erotic fiction; individual stories and novels had appeared sporadically since at least The Erotic Spectacles (1971), and there are numerous examples of pornographic comics and erotic artwork dealing with the Mythos. Collected works had been attempted, The Shub-Niggurath Cycle (1994) and Eldritch Blue: Love & Sex in the Cthulhu Mythos (2004, Lindsfarne Press). Cthulhu Sex magazine (1998-2006) had a provacative title, though it had little actual Cthulhu sex in its pages.

What set Cthulhurotica apart from the rest was a matter of approach. It was not the staid combination of sexually explicit (and mostly heterosexual) pastiche where pieces were buttressed by explanations and analysis, not an exercise in gross-out gore or cheap titillation along the lines of the Hot Blood series. Cthulhurotica is sex-positive erotic fiction which runs the gamut from Mythos-flavored sex comedy to erotic Lovecraftian horror; the writers and their point of view characters run the spectrum of gender and sexuality. Such diversity in a Mythos anthology was, and to a degree is, atypical. 

The compilation and publishing of Cthulhurotica is testament to the hard work and vision of editor Carrie Cuinn. Since she is best able to speak as to her motivations and how Cthulhurotica came about, she has been kind enough to answer some questions about herself as a Mythos writer and her experience editing Cthulhurotica:

How did you get into Lovecraft and the Mythos?

Carrie Cuinn: I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. My mom loved horror and we both loved the library; I was probably too young when I started reading Stephen King, but by the time I was in middle school I was spending hours in the stacks each week, looking for new (to me) writers. I found Lovecraft and from there Derleth and Bloch and Howard and then into pulp fiction magazines which got me into science fiction… His stories helped introduce me to the greater world of genre fiction that still captivates me today.

How do you feel that being you (female, bisexual, deaf, a mother) has shaped your understanding of Lovecraft and approach to the Mythos?

CC: The most obvious thing that struck me as a kid was seeing all the ways I wasn’t in Lovecraft’s stories. Even in classic science fiction stories where “men were men” and women were mostly decorative, there were a few characters I could identify with. Heinlein has a ton of flaws and his female characters aren’t usually well-rounded, but at least he seemed to actually like women, you know? Lovecraft saw a very specific type of straight white male as the protagonist for his stories, usually reacting to both cosmic horror and the horror of living in a world where immigrants had jobs and women had opinions. I didn’t get the impression he would have considered me anything other than background scenery, if he noticed me at all.

As I got older, it only got worse: if I’d been quiet, straight, unhappily married but mostly consigned to keeping my head down and doing housework, Lovecraft might have only considered me ugly and useless. Everything I ended up being as an adult? I’d have been a minor monster in his eyes. But like so many readers who grow up not seeing themselves in the books they read, I had to learn to appreciate fiction in pieces, knowing if I stuck to only Lovecraft’s interpretation there wouldn’t be a place for me there.

What made you decide to edit an anthology of Mythos fiction?

CC: I wanted more of Lovecraft’s kind of fiction, where humans react to the immensity of finding out the unimaginable was both real and uncaring, but without the racism and misogyny. I wanted what he started, just more of the world he built, not less. Luckily, in addition to being a writer I was also a big gamer. I started playing D&D in 6th grade and fell in love. It was a different kind of storytelling, where you could make a place for yourself no matter who you were. Being yourself wasn’t subversive, it was encouraged. That was the point of role-playing games! You decide who you are within the structure of that fictional universe.

When I was about 19, I got a chance to play Call of Cthulhu with some friends. Finally, I could see people like me considering the possibilities of a Mythos with us in it. If Innsmouth were a real place, of course there’d be complex and interesting women living there. Queer people and people of color would be living their lives, working, struggling, loving, and being a part of the community. They’d all have to be affected by the monstrous events taking place around them too. I wanted to tell their stories.

Why focus on sex and sexuality in the Mythos, though?

CC: I thought about doing something like this anthology for about 15 years. I’d previously worked on an erotic fiction magazine when I was living in San Francisco, and I’d even drawn up an outline for a collection of Mythos-related fiction as an author, but the feedback I got wasn’t encouraging. I wanted to write stories where sex was good, everyone enjoyed themselves, and the characters were both a) adults, and b) fully consenting. For some reason, guys I knew who considered themselves hardcore Lovecraft fans didn’t want to see those kinds of stories… I put the idea aside, but I never forgot it.

If we all deserve a chance to exist in the world—which seems obvious to me but is still a point of contention for too many folks—then we also all deserve a chance to be healthy and happy. I get that it’s an appropriate topic for exploration in horror and that’s fine with me but sex is a nuanced part of many people’s lives; if it’s only a punishment, or an act of horror, for the women and queer people in your stories, then the story isn’t really inclusive. I wanted to see it alongside the horror, instead of only victimizing people.

What made you think the world was ready for Cthulhurotica? Do you think it found an audience?

CC: Fast forward to 2010, and I’d just started writing fiction again after a lot of changes in my life. I went to college, had my son, moved across the country. I joined Twitter, and found myself in this community of writers who were starting to explore the overlap between sex and horror in interesting ways. I even wrote for an anthology of zombie sex stories. There was still far too much straight-male-fantasy sexual violence, and a lot of the really intriguing ideas were reduced to joking tweets, but at least the field was expanding. Readers were looking for new perspectives. Suddenly this idea I’d had forever seemed possible. So I jumped on it.

Initially people treated Cthulhurotica like a bit of a joke too—it was even featured on Geek & Sundry’s Vaginal Fantasy show, which mostly reviewed books they thought (from the cover and description) would be ridiculous. Instead, they actually liked a lot of the stories, and readers took it from there.

Did you do any research and reading into previous works like Eldritch Blue: Love & Sex in the Cthulhu Mythos or Cthulhu Sex Magazine before starting your own anthology?

CC: I looked into both of those, and a whole lot of fanfiction. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. It turns out that before Cthulhurotica, when time you put “sex” and “Mythos” together, you usually got stories of (at best) straight men saving white women from monsters and then getting sex, or (far too often) monsters raping women. That wasn’t my idea of a good time.

I know we all have different tastes when it comes to a complex idea like erotica, so I didn’t want to replace those works, and I’m not suggesting there’s nothing of value in what came before Cthulhurotica. I wanted to give readers more options.

Cthulhurotica has a relatively high percentage of female authors, some of the stories include homosexual or bisexual views, and most of the authors were relatively unknown. As an editor, did you specifically seek out different voices than typical for Mythos anthologies at this time?

CC: The goal of the anthology was to show the Mythos through the lens of those who were left out of the original. This meant actively seeking stories where the women were strong and useful and good, queer people and people of color weren’t the monsters but the protagonists. And of course, satisfying sex, because we all deserve that. I was open to submissions from any author, but as it happens, most of the writers who understood what I was looking for were women. 

Was it difficult to find writers and stories that struck the right tone of Lovecraftian erotic horror or did you have more submissions than you could use?

CC: It was definitely harder than I expected. At least 90% of the submissions misunderstood “erotica” as simply “sex.” Erotica certainly includes all kinds of sex acts, but the goal of it is to excite you into imagining that sort of fun for yourself. Simply putting sex on the page doesn’t make it erotica. I said over and over again in the submission guidelines, in interviews, that I wanted stories where the characters involved were enjoying what they were doing, and still, most writers gave me horrifying sexual violence, almost always inflicted on women. Some writers would take my notes on their first rejection, reply to tell me how wrong I was to reject them, and then send me a second story which had the exact same problems.

It’s hard not to generalize when you’re looking at an inbox full of the same story told over and over again, by authors who were self-described straight white guys, but after a while you realize the worst offenders either genuinely couldn’t see why their story was outside the submission guidelines, or they were getting off on forcing me to read something they knew I didn’t want. That whole experience, which didn’t get any better when I started reading for the sequel, is largely why there wasn’t a Cthulhurotica 2.

Did the anthology achieve what you wanted it to? Is there anything you regret about the book or the process?

CC: I’m proud of the fact that I even got this book published, honestly. It exists in the world now, in the Mythos, and no one can take that away from us. 

Where it fell short of my hopes has more to do with my inexperience than anything else. This was my first anthology as an editor, and there were definitely people who preyed on that. I got a lot of bad advice from someone passing themselves off as an industry pro (including ridiculous things like “never spend more than $50 on a cover” which I’m very glad I ignored). There was no particular author I was hoping to get, but there are one or two pieces I regret including. I felt pressure to take work I didn’t love in order to hit a minimum word count, and to include stories that fell outside of my scope to “appeal to a wider audience.” I think it detracted from the overall anthology slightly, and confused some readers about what we were trying to do. 

I learned so much from the few years I spent in small press publishing, and even though it wasn’t all good, Cthulhurotica is the reason I had those opportunities. People still ask me about it, and years later, I’m still glad I did it.

Cover art for Cthulhurotica by Oliver Wetter

Do you feel the Mythos fiction scene has changed since Cthulhurotica came out?

CC: Not really. There were a few more creative anthologies trying to push the envelope in different ways, but they were all small-press publications. (She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles might be the best of these.) And I think you’re more likely to find bylines by authors who aren’t men now, which was not very common before 2010, but that’s again due to Moreno-Garcia as much (if not more) as it is because of me. When you look at recent anthologies by Chaosium and PS Publishing for example, they’re more in line with past collections. Which isn’t a criticism, especially since I’ve written stories for both those companies that are among my best-reviewed and favorite pieces! But the edges of the scene are still mostly defined by individual authors and editors.

Unfortunately, Lovecraft appeals to exactly the same sort of people who gatekeep video games and comic books, and every time we make progress, they double down on the hate. There’s a lot of push back about the idea of making the Mythos more inclusive; too many self-described “Lovecraft scholars” who actively look for anything outside of their limited preferences to attack it. It’s sad when a big creative idea like the Mythos loses some of its potential to people who never learned to share as a child, but despite them, writers were breaking off pieces of it for themselves long before me and will continue to do so. We just don’t always call it “Mythos” anymore, even if all the moving parts look the same.

Thank you Carrie Cuinn answering these questions, and for the look behind the curtain.

Cthulhurotica may be published online; you can follow Carrie Cuinn at https://carriecuinn.com/

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Linda Lovecraft

While at boarding school I discovered science-fiction and horror fandom and began corresponding with various other young enthusiasts including Ramsey Campbell. I decided to publish my own fanzine, which I called Cthulhu (I’d stumbled upon Lovecraft in an old Avon horror anthology when I was about 10.) This turned out to be a real underground publication because I was instantly forbidden use of the school’s printing and photocopying facilities for such an offensive project […] Somehow, Calvin Beck, the publisher of Castle of Frankenstein magazine in America, got hold of a copy of Cthulhu and reprinted some of the reviews and news items. […] Cal also announced that he’d appointed me the magazine’s “European Editor” (and had already described me as such in the mag!) How could I say no? […]
—”The Kiss of the Devil,” Pulpmania #1 (2006), 51

In 1976 Corgi Books in the United Kingdom released The Devil’s Kisses, a paperback collection of erotic horror stories. This proved successful enough that the next year they released a further collection, More Devil’s Kisses, also in paperback, but no further volumes were issued in the series. The nominal editor for both was “Linda Lovecraft”—a pseudonym adopted by horror editor Michel Parry solely for this project.

Parry had achieved success as an anthologist with the Mayflower Book of Black Magic series (6 volumes between 1974 and 1977); these were cheap paperback horror collections which were thematic descendants of the Not at Night series assembled by editor Christine Campbell Thomson. When Pulpmania asked him about the origin of Devil’s Kisses, Parry explained:

The idea was mine. Over the years I’d read a number of stories with a surprisingly suggestive subtext, and it seemed to me a viable commercial proposition to collect them together. Patrick Janson-Smith was by then the editor at Corgi and approved the idea right away. In a sense it was a continuation of the Mayflower series, but pushing the envelope further. It seemed innovative at the time, but now, of course, the erotic horror story has become an established sub-genre with various editors and publishers specialising in this kind of fiction. (ibid, 55)

TDKThe Devil’s Kisses consisted of 11 stories, nine of them reprints—including pulp stories from Weird Tales contemporary with H. P. Lovecraft, such as C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau” (Nov 1933), and Mindret Lord’s “Naked Lady” (Sep 1934). Two original stories were published in the volume for the first time, including Ramsey Campbell’s “The Other Woman.”

None of these are stories of the Cthulhu Mythos, although “Shambleau” certainly falls under the category of “Lovecraftian.” The stories are rarely sexually explicit, being much more suggestive and titillating than pornographic. A solid collection but one with a narrow focus. In the introduction, “Linda Lovecraft” noted, after describing the Devil’s penis:

Even with accessories like this, Satan found he simply didn’t have time to personally attend to all the dirty work his diabolic mind dreamt up (we can’t blame him, of course; he was just doing his job.) So he began to share his work-load with lesser devils and demons. One of their chief errands was to enter into the bodies of innocent young virgins and nuns and put them up to all kinds of unladylike activities of the kind shown in The ExorcistThis sort of devilry was so successful that eventually Satan had to organize a special team of demons specializing in the pleasant tasks of seduction and possession. He called these demons his succubi and incubi.
The Devil’s Kisses 5

The introduction’s focus on medieval Christian demonology, and The Exorcist (1973) all fit in with the idea of The Devil’s Kisses as an expansion of The Mayflower Book of Black Magic seriesand, to an extent, the popular series of Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult, a paperback collection of classic horror which ran to 45 books from 1974 to 1977. Even the name is suggestive of the osculum infame, the kiss of shame with which witches supposedly greeted the Devil at Sabbats. And The Devil’s Kisses sold enough books to merit another entry in the series:

The first Devil’s Kisses anthology proved successful enough for a second volume to be commissioned. This was also initially successful, but then someone apparently complained to Scotland Yard about one of the stories, “Magic Show” by Chris Miller. I’d found this story in The National Lampoon, a glossy magazine of collegiate, mostly gross humour (miller went on to write National Lampoon’s Animal House and other gross-out comedies). The story concerns an entertainer who subverts a children’s party in unexpected ways. It’s very over-the-top and too ridiculous to be taken seriously for an instant. […] Scotland Yard warned Corgi that they might be liable to prosecution. Publishers always consult their lawyers and lawyers always embrace a “Worst case Scenario” to cover themselves. Result: the book was withdrawn and pulped.
—”The Kiss of the Devil,” Pulpmania #1 (2006), 56


The contents of More Devil’s Kisses are slightly more interesting than the first volume. While still predominantly reprints, there are four original stories, including “Loveman’s Comeback” by Ramsey Campbell, which isn’t strictly a Mythos story, but definitely adjacent to Lovecraftian interests. None of the others are Lovecraft-related.

To end things with a bang we finish with Chris Miller’s “The Magic Show” and a party. Admittedly it’s more of a children’s party than a stag party but things really start to swing once Dr. Fun takes charge of the games and shows the kids a new trick or two… A lot of people have told me that “Boxed In,” Chris Miller’s story in The Devil’s Kisses, is the most shocking story they have ever read. After they’ve read this new party-piece by Chris, “Boxed In” will be the second most shocking story the have ever read.
More Devil’s Kisses 13

“The Magic Show” by Chris Miller, which is what gained this book its infamy and ultimately killed the promising series, is exactly as Parry described it—ribald gross-out sexual humor, an over-the-top bit of jocular prose that combines touches of pedophilia, drug use, and a donkey show. Only explicit in parts, the story is transgressive and ribald but not exactly masturbation fodder (I hope). It’s hard to think of this kind of story being published today, but it’s possible to see Parry trying to one-up The Devil’s Kisses and overshooting the mark.

David Drake, whose story “Smokie Joe” also appears in More Devil’s Kisses, gave a slightly different take on events surrounding the publication, recalling:

I recall Michel saying that he’d wondered if he was going to have to appear in court in drag and blond wig after the raid. […] no sooner had the book hit the newsstands than the police impounded all copies on an obscenity complaint and briefly locked up the in-house editor. The charges were dropped when the publisher (Corgi) pulped the whole edition. Because the matter didn’t go to trial, there’s no certainty as to which precise matters were the subject of the complaint. The best bet is that the Chris Miller piece had caused the problem, but that was a reprint from a magazine which had been sold in Britain without objection. The only other evidence is that when the book was brought out in Germany, two stories were dropped; Miller’s and “Smokie Joe.”
Night & Demons (2013), 70-71

Parry, being closer to the source of things, almost certainly is correct in pointing to “The Magic Show” as the primary offender, but it’s possible that they took no chances with the German translation.

Which does raise the question: if none of these stories have anything to do with the Cthulhu Mythos, what’s with the name “Linda Lovecraft”?

I used the name “Linda Lovecraft” for the Devil’s Kisses anthologies: an obvious fusion of the names of porn star Linda Lovelace and writer H. P. Lovecraft. I was very surprised later on to discover an American comic devoted to the erotic exploits of Linda Lovecraft! […] With The Devil’s Kisses, I took the notion of using a pen-name a step further by writing the introduction in the persona of the putative editor. As “Linda Lovecraft” I was free to make outrageous jokes and puns and be as flippant as I pleased. In effect the introduction became as much a piece of fiction as any of the stories in the collection, and possibly a more convincing fiction. Ideally, I would have liked to have extended this deception further by hiring an actress to “be” Linda Lovecraft and go out and promote the book and do signings and the like. needless to say, Corgi’s promotional budget (if there was one) didn’t extend to such surreal endeavours!
—”The Kiss of the Devil,” Pulpmania #1 (2006), 56-57

Pornographic actress Linda Lovelace gained widespread fame in the 1970s for the films Deep Throat (1972) and The Confessions of Linda Lovelace (1974); Lovecraft was gaining popularity in the late-60s and early 70s with releases by Victor Gollancz and Panther in the UK. The other “Linda Lovecraft” was the creation of comic writer/artist Mike Vosburg, and premiered in the pages of the semi-pro comic magazine Star*Reach #3 (1975); in an interview with Vosburg in the Star*Reach Companion (2013), he gives essentially the same etymology for the name as Parry, both writers having arrived at it by coincidence (70-71). Vosburg would rebrand and relaunch the character as Lori Lovecraft in series and graphic novels of her own. Some sources appear to confuse the inspiration for Parry’s pseudonym with the owner of the Lovecraft sex shop, which formerly operated in London in the 1970s.

Parry’s persona as Linda Lovecraft was a bit thin; the copyright notices for the books cite both Linda and Michel Parry, but the German translations Teuflische Küsse (1978) and Zehn Teufelsküsse (1978) do not attempt to continue the deception. The idea of hiring a female actor for personal appearances recalls the Scottish weird author William Sharp, who engaged in such practices to disguise his pseudonym Fiona Macleod…and likewise recalls deceptions by authors of Cthulhu Mythos fiction including Carol Grey (Robert A. W. Lowndes), Sally Theobald (Robert M. Price), and Justine Geoffrey (Scott R. Jones).

There is a certain irony in considering these “female impersonators” with ties to Lovecraftian fiction, given the widespread idea of female writers needing to take on male pseudonyms to publish—James Tiptree Jr. (Alice B. Sheldon) being one example; for another, after her marriage Catherine Lucille Moore often wrote and collaborated with her husband Henry Kuttner, with the works mostly published under his name or a shared pseudonym such as Lewis Padgett.

The same pressures did not exist for Parry, Lowndes, Price, or Jones. For Price and Jones, the pseudonym served a purpose in the context of the Lovecraftian work; the assumption of the identity was of a piece with the fiction. For Parry, the name and persona became a convenient draw for the books—the name evoking at a glance both sex and horror, even as the personality was evocative of classic horror host Vampira and similar horror hosts.

While ultimately little more than a footnote to those interested in Lovecraftian fiction, it’s worth pointing out that while “Linda Lovecraft” was only nominally connected with H. P. Lovecraft—literally in name only—under his own name, Parry included a number of Lovecraft’s stories in other anthologies he edited throughout the 1970s, and so contributed to the general spread of Lovecraftian fiction…and occasional references to it have popped up in odd places. Simon R. Green in his novel The Bride Wore Black Leather (2012), for instance, references “The Linda Lovecraft Library of Spiritual Erotica.”

One final piece of advice before I go…whatever you do, don’t read this book alone at night. Make sure you have someone with you, someone you like. try reading the book together with the lights turned low. The stories are much more effective that way. If the atmosphere is right, I promise you they’ll scare the pants off the men and give the ladies the willies…

Love and Kisses,


—Michel Parry, More Devil’s Kisses 13

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Christine Campbell Thomson

The ‘Not at Night’ series was originally conceived by its editor on the top of a bus one evening when it became clear that a money maker was needed for the firm of Selwyn & Blount, the original publishers. It was one of those brilliant ideas that grew and grew over a period of some ten or eleven years ending with an Omnibus voluming containing the pick of the stories (in the opinion of the editor) and the War, which put a final end to its existence. During its long and honourable life over a quarter of a million copies were sold and the little 2/- volumes were seen in the stalls of almost every railway station, as well as in the bookshops.
—Christine Campbell Thomson, introduction to Not At Night (1960)

During the interwar period, American pulps became increasingly popular, both at home and abroad, being exported to Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries—but were largely seen as disposable fiction. Very few stories in the pulps were republished in anthologies between hardcovers. Which makes Christine Campbell Thomson’s decision in 1925 to edit and publish a collection of horror fiction, much of it culled from the pages of Weird Tales, all the more innovative.

What’s more, the book was a success. Not At Night (1925) reportedly was republished ten times in the next three years, spawned ten direct sequels, at least one imitator, an omnibus, and even had a brief paperback reprint revival in the 1960s and 70s. It was the first hardback publication for the fiction of many Weird Tales writers, and the list of those published within its pages includes H. P. Lovecraft and many in his circle of correspondence, notably Frank Belknap Long, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Henry S. Whitehead, and Seabury Quinn.

Christine Campbell Thomson herself was an author, editor, and literary agent. In 1924 she had been agent to Oscar Cook, and shepherded his memoir Borneo: Steal of Hearts (1924) to great success; they were married a month after its release. Cook held a controlling interest in the publishing firm of Selwyn & Blount, and Thomson was working for that company when she hit on the idea of a cheap collection of horror stories, mostly reprints, aimed at the bustling book-stall market. As she told it:

The first book, Not At Night, came out in October, 1925—a tremendously exciting moment! For the idea had been conceived on the top of a bus (they were open-decked buses in those days) just as it pulled away from its Oxford Circus stop about six o’clock one evening. I was on that bus with the then Director of Selwyn & Blount, Ltd. He was, I remember, lamenting, like every other publisher, that he waned something new and couldn’t find it…and something popular. I believe that he claims the bright moment when Not at Night took birth, but I think that it was a case of two minds on the same thought at the same moment—at any rate, I know that I am responsible for the title of the Series!

The price of the projected book was a matter of fierce argument. Finally we agreed upon two shillings in the belief that Not at Night would be the kind of book that a man would buy at a railway-bookstall, throwing down a single coin and running for his train. We wanted, above all, to produce books that would be within the reach of a very large number of people….

The jacket for this first volume (and for many of the later ones), was designed by that clever advertising-agent, Betty Prentis, who was then working as a freelance artist under her trade-name Eliza Pyke. It was “Eliza”, with her sense of dramatic colour, who contributed not a little toward a “brighter bookstalls” movement!

Publication-day dawned and we held our hands in trepidation. Were we backing a wrong horse? Within a week we knew that we were on the right one. Not At Night was launched and we daringly planned a second and a third to follow in the ensuing years. For originally this was a one-book scheme. The popularity of the Series never waned, and it became a matter of pride to make each subsequent volume equal the quality of the previous one; for—in our modest opinion—it was impossible to surpass it!
—Christine Campbell Thomson, introduction to Not At Night Omnibus (1936) 9-10

Thomson wrote little more than this on the Not At Night series; there are no introductions to the original volumes except the omnibus, and her memoir I Am A Literary Agent (1951) while full of fascinating anecdotes, leaves off most of her time as an editor at Selwyn & Blount. However, a fairly extensive correspondence regarding the series (and their appearances therein) survives from Lovecraft and his contemporaries, giving us a unique opportunity to see what they thought about their book appearances, in their own words, and a hint at some of what was happening behind the scenes.

Not At Night (1925) & More Not At Night (1926)


The first two Not at Night volumes were comprised primarily of stories from Weird Tales in 1925 and 1926—quite literally hot off the press—and include two stories by Lovecraft’s friend and Mythos originator Frank Belknap Long, one by August Derleth, and the first Jules de Grandin episode from Seabury Quinn. Lovecraft was not present in these volumes, and appears to have been generally ignorant of their existence: while popular in the United Kingdom, the books were not imported into the United States in large numbers.

By the way—Long has had two stories of his reprinted from Weird Tales in British anthologies of weird fiction. “Death Waters” appears in “Not At Night”, & “The Sea-Thing” in “More Not At Night”. These collections, he tells me, he’s only just received copies himself) are very good, & I shall ask him for the loan of them.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 11 Mar 1927, Essential Solitude1.74

The two collections containing Long’s tales are called, respectively, “Not At Night” & “More Not At Night”. As soon as I ascertain the publisher I’ll let you know.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 16 Mar 1927, ES1.75

As a mark of their debt to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, whose agent in London Charles Lovell apparently provided the materials for these and subsequent volumes in the series, Thomson included a dedication in More Not at Night and several subsequent volumes:

The Editor desires to record her acknowledgements to Weird Tales by whose kind permission these stories are reprinted.

You’ll Need A Night Light (1927)


The third Not At Night volume was the first hardback publication of a Lovecraft Mythos story: “The Horror at Red Hook.” The book also marks the appearance of stories from Thomson (under the name Flavia Richardson) and her husband Oscar Cook; both had submitted and published their work in Weird Tales.

A third pleasure is given me by the news of Red Hook’s anthological reprinting; and I’d like to see the book if you can get me a copy later on. I can most emphatically and advantageously use any royalties, be they ever so humble, which may chance to trickle in from Mr. Lovell. I’ve been meaning to ask Belknap whether he obtained anything for the two stories reprinted in previous issues.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Farnsworth Wright, 16 July 1927, Selected Letters 2.155, Lovecraft Annual 8.11

I also learn to my great pleasure that the British “Not at Night” anthology which reprinted two of Belknap’s tales has used one of mine—”Red Hook”—in its third issue. This will bring enough of a royalty to keep me in postage stamps if Belknap’s experience by any criterion.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 26 July 1927, ES1.100

I’ve forgotten the name of the British firm that issues the “Not at Night” anthologies, but Wright could tell you quickly enough. It’s like an average publisher to choose a writer’s worst tale for particular preference. “Red Hook” was so poor that I hesitated in sending it to Wright in the first place, but he thought it was one of my best!
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 4 Aug 1927, ES1.101-102

I have never tried my luck with the British market, but I believe I will later take advantage of your much-appreciated suggestion. No—I have patronised no agents in England, although I am told that Weird Tales’s London representative systematically endeavours to re-market all the contents of that dubious congeries of mediocrity on the other side. As a result of this arrangement, they tell me that one of my poorest printed effusions—”The Horror at Red Hook”—is about to be reprinted in the latest number of the Selwyn & Blount “Not At Night” anthology—an institution which has already used two stories by Frank Belknap Long.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Vincent Starrett, 23 Aug 1927, Letters to Maurice W. Moe 523

At Cook’s I saw the two “Not at Night” anthologies, & asked the name of the publishers. It is Selwyn & Blount.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 5 Sep 1927, ES1.104

Anthologies, by the way, are right in my line. I’ve just received the 3d. of the Selwyn & Blount “Not at Night” series with my “Horror at Red Hook” as the last story in the book. This is my first—if not my last—appearance between cloth covers.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, 19 Dec 1927, Mysteries of Time & Spirit 195-196, SL2.211

I duly received the Selwyn and Blount anthology which you forwarded. Not half bad! My first appearance between cloth covers, save for prefaces to two books of other people’s poetry which I’ve edited. I note that their illiterate proofreader copies the misprinted punctuation of the Latin quotation—the comma after tali which so lacerated my heart in Weird Tales.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Farnsworth Wright, 22 Dec 1927, SL2.212, LA8.16

You’ll Need A Night Light is not technically Lovecraft’s first appearance in hardcover, since he had previously had material appear in The Poetical Works of Johnathan E. Hoag (1926) and White Fire (1927), both tributes and collections of work of notable amateur journalists that Lovecraft had edited, but it was his first fiction appearance in an anthology. While happy to be in the anthology and pleased at the idea of royalties, Lovecraft’s estimation of the book’s literary value was low:

Your inclusion in the last “Not at Night” volume also gave me great pleasure, but you should have been there before with “The Outsider” or one of your more important tales than “The Horror at Red Hook.”
—Donald Wandrei to H. P. Lovecraft, 15 Jan 1928, MTS 199

As for that ‘Not at Night’—that’s a mere lowbrow hash of absolutely no taste or significance. Aesthetically speaking, it doesn’t exist.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, 20 Jan 1928, MTS 202

In fact, a hallmark of the Not At Night series under Thomson’s editorship was going for the grue, so to speak. She often picked not the best of the stories from Weird Tales, but some of the most vivid and visceral, such as Eli Colter’s “The Last Horror” and Seabury Quinn’s “The House of Horror”—a far cry from Lovecraft’s preferred aesthetic, but the readers ate it up.

Gruesome Cargoes (1928)


The fourth Not At Night volume consisted primarily of original stories and reprints from Hutchinson’s Mystery-Story Magazine and Ghost Stories, rather than reprints from Weird Tales. The volume’s publication apparently coincided, more or less, with some financial difficulty at Selwyn & Blount, which led directly to their acquisition by another British publishing company, Hutchinson’s, with which Oscar Cook had some association (his stories appeared in several of their magazines). Selwyn & Blount were maintained as an imprint or associated company, and continued to produce the Not At Night series.

As for the “Not at Night” anthologies—your mention of the Asbury book coincides with special timeliness with a note just received from Weird Tales’ London agent. Selwyn & Blount have failed, & no royalties can be paid their authors before next March. Another company has taken over the sale of the remaining books—but I fancy that the new “Gruesome Cargoes” will end the series unless this Asbury person finds a way to take over its good-will.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 5 Oct 1928, ES1.160

So “Gruesome Cargoes” isn’t taken from W.T.! Maybe they wouldn’t have failed if they’d stuck to their good old source! Home you get some royalties from the defunct S & B in the end.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 17 Oct 1928, ES1.165

The Asbury that Lovecraft mentions involves the other Not at Night book published in 1928…and one not edited by Christine Campbell Thomson or published by Selwyn & Blount.

Not at Night! (1928)


In 1928, the American publishing firm of Macy-Masius produced their own Not at Night! volume, edited by Herbert Asbury and with contents drawn from the first three books of the British Not at Night series. This volume was apparently unauthorized—whether the publishers knowingly violated copyright law or there was a misunderstanding regarding the license to use certain stories from Weird Tales is not entirely clear, although based on the disclaimer at the front of the book the publishers appear entirely ignorant of the original provenance of the stories in an American pulp magazine:

These stories were originally printed in England in “Weird Tales,” and were selected and arranged for the English edition  by Christine Campbell Thomson.

Asbury’s introduction underlines his basic ignorance of Weird Tales:

And a whole new school of writers has arisen to contribute to the scores of magazines in this country and England which specialize in tales of horror and the occult. All of these periodicals appear to be enormously successful, and their number is rapidly increasing. […] Most of the authors represented in this collection appear to be comparatively unknown in this country (Seabury Quinn is the only one whose work I have ever seen before), and scholars and critics will look in vain for evidences of the skill and erudition displayed by such masters of the horror story as Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce and Algernon Blackwood. But any such comparison would be manifestly unfair, for the only criteria applied in selecting these tales from the many which were available were shock and gruesomeness.
—Herbert Asbury, introduction to Not at Night! (1928) 10-11

Seabury Quinn was also regularly published in Real Detective, where Asbury likely read him. The book republishes Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook,” in addition to stories from Ausut Derleth and Frank Belknap Long. Its appearance caused consternation, and a legal challenge from Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, and Macy-Massius withdrew it from the stands.

I am indeed interested to hear of the proposed action regarding Not at Night, and certainly hope the matter can be properly straightened out. It seems rather a tangle—I never heard of this Jeffries before; but was told last September by the agent Lovell that a certain Hutchinson and Co. had bought the edition of the book containing Red Hook, and that I would receive from them such royalties as would have been due me from the late lamented Selwyn and Blount. At that time nothing was said of any other sale of rights, British or American. I fancied that Macy-Massius might have later bought the rights from Hutchinson—and bought the rights to the earlier books from the receiver of the deceased corporation—but in any case it seemed to me that something was due the various authors represented.

As to including me in the list of plaintiffs—I suppose it’s all right so long as there is positively no obligation for expense on my part in case of defeat. My financial stress is such that I am absolutely unable to incur any possible outgo or assessment beyond the barest necessities; so that, unsportsmanlike though it may seem, I cannot afford to gamble on any but a “sure thing”—sure, that is, not to involve loss. If, however, the guarantee of non-assessment on your part is to be taken literally as covering all possible expenses both principal and incidental, I suppose it would be foolish not to stand behind the action and reap whatever royalties might be due me in case of victory. I certainly need all such things that human ingenuity can collect.

Therefore—it being understood that I am in no position to share in the burthens of defeat—you may act for me if you wish; though I doubt if my profits will amount to very much in case of victory. I will pass on your letter to Little Belknap, and fancy he will extend similar authorisation.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Farnsworth Wright, 15 Feb 1929, SL2.260-261, LA8.20

No—I didn’t notice the “Not at Night” advertisement you mention. Bold plagiarism of titles—but I suppose it’s a different anthology. I must look it up.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 27 Sep 1928, ES1.159

This will be my second appearance between cloth covers, one other anthology having used a tale of mine a year ago.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Elizabeth Toldridge, 20 Nov 1928, Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge & Anne Tillery Renshaw 22 SL2.253-254

It rather tickled me to see this Herbert Asbury claiming editorship of a book which he merely took as he found it—but maybe he changed the punctuation in some of the tales. I suppose “Red Hook” must be in it—& if so, I am wondering if I ought to get any royalties. Maybe I’ll write the London agent Lovell & see.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, Dec 1928, ES1.169

Residual current honours are purely anthological. I believe I last winter appris’d you, that my “Horror at Red Hook” had been included in the British weird anthology “Not at Night”—published by the now unhappily deceased London firm of Selwyn & Blount. Well, Sir, that anthology has just been republished in America, (Macy-Masius, $2.00) & I am still in it.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Maurice W. Moe, 13 Dec 1928, LMM 196

This fame business would be rather expensive if it were followed up—O’Brien’s book $2.50, the Asbury “Not at Night” perhaps $2.00, & the O. Henry thing I don’t know how much! […] I’ve just wondered, though, if Long & I oughtn’t to get some royalties from the Asbury affair. We kept our book rights, & Selwyn & Blount have either paid or promised a legitimate return—even posthumously. How come this Asbury person git so much fo’ nuffin’? But then—Gawd knows I’m no business man. Your account of the new “Not at Night” sounds very attractive, & I may yet fall for it. The copies to be autographed have not yet come, but I’m prepared for quick action when they do. Asbury’s geographical mistakes are somewhat amusing. Really, I’ll have to emigrate to the States if there’s a chance of getting well known over there some day! Beastly fog, this—I can hardly see St. Paul’s dome from my Bloomsbury upper window as I write!
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 14 Dec 1928, ES1.170

I thought the appearance of the volume delightful, but did not care much for Asbury’s slighting reference to the artistic & scholastic merit of the contents. I was tempted to answer his slur about scholarship by pointing out that his own lordly erudition was not sufficient to detect & delete the mispunctuation which destroys the sense of the quotation from Delrio—the comma after tali which the British anthologist stupidly copied from the original misprint in Weird Tales. I’m not sure yet wether or not I’ll buy the book. Belknap has put in an order for a used copy at the nearest Womrath Library—since they sell books rather cheap after withdrawing them from circulation.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 26 Dec 1928, ES1.173

Yeah—that Asbury goof sure gives a dirty dig in his praefatio. And then, after jeerin’ at bum scholarship, he goes & retains the misprinted punctuation in my Delrio quote!
—H. P. Lovecraft to James F. Morton, 26 Dec 1928, Letters to James F. Morton 171

It was interesting to hear of your new professor’s acquaintance with “Not At Night”—& flattering to learn his opinion of “Red Hook.” I can’t like that yarn at all, myself, & wouldn’t be inclined to place it first even in the Asbury compilation.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 1 Feb 1929, ES1.180

Wright is going to sue Macy-Masius for printing (under an invalid contract) the contents of “Not at Night”, & wants Long & me to let him include us among the complainants. I think I’ll let him—I surely wouldn’t mind some extra royalty!
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 15 Feb 1929, ES1.184

As for Wright’s lawsuit—I suppose the rights sold to Selwyn & Blount were British rights only, so that reprinting in the U.S. is illegal. Wright said something about a defective & unauthorised contract which Macy-Masius had made with somebody named Jeffries—but I couldn’t quite get the drift of the situation, since the explanation seemed to assume my possession of information which in truth was never given to me. However, I wish Wright luck, & hope that Belknap & I can get something out of it. Too bad you relinquished all rights on those older tales of yours which are represented.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 25 Feb 1929, ES1.185

By coincidence, I have also just received as a gift a copy of the Asbury “Not at Night” volume.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 20 Aug 1929, ES1.208

Herbert Asbury edited the pirated American “Not at Night” anthology (containing my “Horror at Red Hook”) which Macy-Masius withdrew from the market rather than pay royalty or damages to Weird Tales.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Carl Ferdinand Strauch, 5 Nov 1931, LJVS 302

By Daylight Only (1929)


Lovecraft’s third anthology appearance was “Pickman’s Model” in By Daylight Only, which also included stories by H. Warner Munn and August Derleth. Whether for cost or other reasons, Thomson had returned to reprinting the “best” (or at least, most grisly) Weird Tales had to offer. It also appears to have used a simplified royalty system, offering a lump sum payment to writers (probably minus an agent fee) rather than residuals based on sales.

Also, [Wright] says that the successors of the late Selwyn & Blount are going to issue another anthology of W.T. stuff, & intend to include “Pickman’s Model.”
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 2 Aug 1929, ES1.206

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the new Not at Night annual had a goodly quota of your material. I trust that I may get a free copy, as I did of the issue containing “Red Hook”.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 13 Aug 1929, ES1.207

Did you get “By Daylight Only” free, or did you have to buy it? I haven’t seen a copy, & had no idea it was out, although Wright lately sent me a cheque for $21.25 to cover “Pickman’s Model.” Where does one get it? I’d sort of like to own it, since I’m represented therein.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 15 Dec 1929, ES1.236

I’d like the address of the place you got “By Daylight Only” if you have it conveniently at hand. I’m too broke to buy it now, but sooner or later I’d relish its presence on my shelves. […] Too bad you let Wright have all rights on “The Tenant”.  Got $21.50 for the use of “Pickman’s Model”—the arrangement in this case being one outright payment instead of the dribbling royalty system used in connexion with the earlier “Not at Nights”.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 22 Dec 1929, ES1.238

If I get “By Daylight Only” it will probably be from the Argus—whose catalogues have reached me regularly for many years. What is their price? Not much more, I imagine, than the ultimate cost when ordered from England, if all the duties & incidentals be counted in. Munn—represented by “the Chain”—tells me he has a copy; & I am asking him whether or not he had to pay for it.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 27 Dec 1929, ES1.239

I’ll probably purchase “By Daylight Only” from the Argus. It ought to be worth a dollar & a quarter!
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, Jan 1930, ES1.243

Switch On The Light! (1931)


While at this point considered an “annual” tradition, the tides of publishing mean schedules sometimes slip. So it is that there appears to have been no new Not at Night volume published in 1930, but two volumes in 1931. The first of these, Switch on the Light! includes Lovecraft’s  “The Rats in the Walls” (which had recently been republished in Weird Tales, and led to his correspondence with Robert E. Howard) as well as one of his stories ghost-written for revision client Zealia Brown Reed Bishop, “The Curse of Yig.” August Derleth and Frank Belknap Long are also both present.

Belknap’s Visitor from Egypt & my Rats in the Walls will appear in the new British “Not at Night” anthology.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, Nov 1930, Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill 269

This reminds me that your “Pacer” will be companioned in the “Not at Night” anthology by Belknap’s “Visitor from Egypt” & my own “Rats in the Walls”—the remuneration for each of which seems to be the same as yours.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 21 Nov 1930, ES1.287

Glad the new “Not at Night” is a decent specimen of its kind. I shall wait till the publishers send me a copy. Shall be very glad to see your “Pacer” between cloth covers, & hope you will be equally well represented in whatever 1931 volume the firm may publish.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 29 May 1931, ES1.344

Why don’t I publish my things in book form? Because no publisher wants to buy them for that purpose! […] Stories of mine in anthologies, aside from “Red Hook” & “Cthulhu”, are “Pickman’s Model” (Not at Night, London 1929) & “The Rats in the Walls” (“ “ 1930).
—H. P. Lovecraft to J. Vernon Shea, 19 Jul 1931, Letters to J. Vernon Shea 21

M R James, the Not at Nights, &c., were all most enthusiastically welcome.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 3 Aug 1931, ES1.354

I’ll wait a while before buying the Rat-containing Not at Night—for it seems to me they did send me a belated copy once. Moreover, they very definitely promised me a copy of the present anthology this spring. Same with Belknap—who has received none so far.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 9 Oct 1931, ES1.393

In 1930 Wright reprinted [“The Rats in the Walls”] in W T, & in 1931 it was included in the British “Not at Night” anthology.
—H. P. Lovecraft to F. Lee Baldwin, 16 May 1934, Letters to F. Lee Baldwin 87

Hope your mother will be able to get you the Not-at-Night with the Rats.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert Bloch, Sep 1934, LRBO 112

At this point, the success of the Not At Night series may have inspired similar efforts in America—less blatant that Macy-Masius’ volume, but strongly indicative. Weird Tales attempted to publish a reprint anthology of its own, The Moon Terror & Other Stories (1927), which performed poorly, still being advertized for sale into the 1940s. More successful was Beware After Dark (1929), edited by T. Everett Harré and including Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”, and another possible influence is Creeps by Night (1931), edited by Dashiell Hammett and including Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann.” In the 1930s, Weird Tales author E. Hoffmann Price also tried to get a Weird Tales anthology published, without success. Lovecraft mentions these briefly:

I’d be glad enough to have them use “Pickman’s Model”, which was included in the British “Not at Night” series, but has not seen book publication in America.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 12 Sep 1931, A Means to Freedom 1.213

I’m very glad that “Pickman’s Model” has been used in a British publication, and will gladder when it appears in American covers.
—Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Oct 1931, MF1.228, Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard 2.269

My “Call of Cthulhu” is in “Beware After Dark”, edited by T. Everett Harre & published by the Macaulay co., & the British “Not at Night” collections (published annually) usually include me among their contents.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Carl Ferdinand Strauch, 10 Oct 1931, LJVS 299-300

At Dead of Night (1931)


Nothing by Lovecraft appeared in At Dead of Night, though it had a story (“Passing of a God”) from his friend, correspondent, and collaborator Henry S. Whitehead. Lovecraft and his associates were still struggling to get copies.

At Dead of Night, the new Selwyn & Blount anthology, has come; it has Prince Borgia’s Mass, and is a lousy collection. I was glad to see Passing of a God here, however.
—August Derleth to H. P. Lovecraft, 15 Jan 1932, ES2.442

Thanks for the Not at Night information—my order goes to the Argus in this mail. But I do think Charles Lovell was a damn cheap sport not to send us free copies after promising to do so last May. Is there anything by our gang in the latest number?
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 27 Jan 1932, ES2.444

Thus all the “Not at Nights” have done their reprinting directly from W.T. without any notification of the respective authors.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 2 Feb 1932, ES2.447

I am informed by the Argus that the stock of “Switch on the Light” is exhausted, but that a fresh lot is due within a week. Therefore they are retaining my dollar & promising as early delivery as possible. I doubt if I’ll get the current annual.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 2 Feb 1932, ES2.448

The Argus had not yet sent my Not at Night, but I presume they will not forget to do so when it comes in. Sorry you aren’t being paid for your story in the latest issue. I believe you said there is nothing of mine in this one.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 25 Feb 1932, ES2.458

Grim Death (1932)


The eighth entry in the series saw the first hardcover publication of the fiction of Texas pulpster Robert E. Howard, with his Cthulhu Mythos tale “The Black Stone.” Howard had been corresponding with Lovecraft for two years at this point, and had turned his hand to a few pieces of Mythos fiction, but this was the first Mythos story written by someone other than Lovecraft to appear in book form.

No—I fancy the gang aren’t represented at all in the new “Not at Night”, for nobody’s been notified, & cheques usually precede publication.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 28 Oct 1932, ES2.506

Glad the new Not at Night has “The Black Stone”—but it isn’t a volume I’d like to buy.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, Nov 1932, ES2.513

(N. B. I suppose you know that your “Black Stone” is in the new “Not at Night” anthology.)
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 7 Nov 1932, MF1.463

Don’t spare the new “Not at Night” from your library if you have any conceivable use for it—though of course I’ll be glad to have it if it is a question of Grandpa or the ash-dump! When I said I was glad Howard’s story was included, that was from a personal rather than a literary angle—for I concede that our Master of Massacre has by no means escaped from the crude & the conventional, despite the undeniable power of some of his suggestions of a monstrous & unhallowed antiquity.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 12 Nov 1932, ES2.523

I shall greet both of the volumes you mention with profound gratitude. Those “Not at Nights” are surely growing into an ambitious five-foot shelf of mediocrity!
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 19 Nov 1932, ES2.525

No, I didn’t know my “Black Stone” had landed in the “Not At Night” anthology.
—Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Dec 1932, MF1.494, CL2.497

By the way, could you give me the address of the “Not at Night” people?
—Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Dec 1932, MF1.510, CL2.581

So you didn’t know “The Black Stone” had landed in the “Not at Night” anthology? That’s odd, for you ought to have received a small cheque from Charles Lovell (W.T.’s London agent) for the reprint rights. Better ask Wright about it. The address of the “Not at Night” firm is as follows: Selwyn & Blount, Paternoster House, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4., Eng.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 21 Jan 1933, MF2.524

Glad you liked “The Black Stone.” It appeared in the British Not at Night anthology for 1932. Yes, I wrote the verses attributed to “Justin Geoffrey.” Glad you liked them.
—Robert E. Howard to Emil Petaja, 6 Mar 1935, CL3.304

Lovecraft’s general derision of the contents is not without some justification; most of the contents of the anthologies have rested in obscurity, though some like Howard’s “The Black Stone” and Dr. David H. Keller’s “The Thing in the Cellar” have gone on to be regarded as classics. Issues of payment, notification of authors, and copies of the work continued to plague the Weird Tales gang, for whom anthology appearances were still a novelty.

Keep On The Light (1933)


Robert E. Howard returned again for the ninth entry in the Not At Night series, with the Mythos-related story “Worms of the Earth.” This volume also included Clark Ashton Smith’s first anthology appearance with “The Isle of the Torturers” set in Zothique, and Whitehead returned with “The Chadbourne Episode.” Other Weird Tales notables a little outside the Lovecraft circle included in this volume are Hugh B. Cave and Mary Elizabeth Counselman.

Selwyn and Blount, London publishers, who bring out a yearly anthology of weird tales under the title of Not at Night, have recently selected “The Isle of the Torturers” for inclusion in their next collection.
—Clark Ashton Smith to Ray & Margaret St. Clair, 23 May 1933, Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith 208

[…] a few of my things have been printed in anthologies, hence may be obtainable if one is willing to lay out the price of a whole book for each story. […] “The Rats in the Walls” is in “Switch on the Light” (one of the Selwyn & Blount “Not at Night” series published in London & probably obtainable for a dollar each through the Argus Book Shop of Chicago). Other tales of mine in Selwyn & Blount anthologies are “The Horror at Red Hook” in “You’ll Need a Night Light”, & “Pickman’s Model” in “By Daylight Only”.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert Bloch, 22 April 1933, Letters to Robert Bloch 19

I understand that “Worms of the Earth” is to appear in the “Not at Night” series. I’ve been laying off to get the book that published my “Black Stone” but haven’t ever got around to it.
—Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Sep 1933, MF2.634, CL3.108

I am delighted to hear that “Worms of the Earth” will appear in the new “Not at Night”. With “The Black Stone” last year, you are surely becoming quite a fixture!
—H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 2 Nov 1933, MF2.655

I have, by the way, ordered […] the [Christine Campbell] Thomson anthology, Keep on the Light, which contains my yearn, The Isle of the Torturers. These have not yet arrived.
—Clark Ashton Smith to H. P. Lovecraft, Jan 1934, DS 522, SLCAS 247

And by the way—let me congratulate you on the inclusion of “The Isle of the Torturers” in the latest “Not at Night.”
—H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 11 Feb 1934, DS 524

I received also the new Not at Night anthology, Keep on the Light, and was struck by the immense superiority of the items taken from Weird tales, over others which, I presume, are by British authors. Howard’s Worms of the earth and Whitehead’s The Chadbourne Episode were the leaders.
—Clark Ashton Smith to H. P. Lovecraft, Mar 1934, DS 535, SLCAS 251

I can loan you The Green Round and the new Not at Night, if you have not yet seen them.
—Clark Ashton Smith to H. P. Lovecraft, Mar 1934, DS 537

The new Not at Night sounds good, although “The Chadbourne Episode” is by no means good Canevin’s best. I don’t believe I’ll bother you to lend that, since I’ve probably read everything in it that’s any good. Your “Isle of the Torturers” & Two-Gun Bob’s “Worms of the Earth” are undoubtedly the headliners.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 9 Mar 1934, DS 538-539

Where do you get your Not at Night anthologies? I’ve been trying to locate a firm that handles them, but without success.
—Robert E. Howard to Clark Ashton Smith, Mar 1934, CL3.199

Glad you’ve got ahead of Lavell with the 1934 Not at Night. Is the 1933 one any good? I believe it contains Klarkash-Ton’s “Isle of the Torturers”.
—H. P. Lovecraft to August Derleth, 11 Mar 1934, ES2.626

Thanks very much for the tip on the Argus House. I ordered the Not at Night books I wanted, but they were out of them, and had to send to England for them. I haven’t yet received them.
—Robert E. Howard to Clark Ashton Smith, 21 May 1934, CL3.208

As a note, the list of books in Robert E. Howard’s library at the time of his death does not include any of the Not At Night series, so presumably he was unable to acquire them by mail order.

Terror By Night (1934)


The Horror in the Museum” was another of Lovecraft’s revision tales, ghostwritten for Hazel Heald, who became much-lauded in Weird Tales; it became the second of Lovecraft’s revisions to see print in a Not At Night volume. The other notable stories from the Lovecraft circle were Robert E. Howard’s Conan story “Rogues in the House”—the first Conan story to see publication in book form—and August Derleth’s “The Metronome.”

Yes—a number of tales nominally by others have had my hand behind them “the Curse of Yig” was reprinted in the S & B (London) “Not at Night” anthology some years ago, & “The Horror in the Museum” is scheduled for such reprinting this year.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Duane W. Rimel, 13 Apr 1934, LFLB 167

And, before I forget to mention it, Wright did another of his right-about-faces and took The Metronome, English rights to which you will remember I previously sold to the Not at Night series.
—August Derleth to H. P. Lovecraft, 15 Jun 1934, ES2.644

I haven’t yet gotten a copy of the Terror by Night, but intend to shortly.
—Robert E. Howard to August Derleth, Oct 1934, CL3.255

I liked your story in the Not at Night Anthology. I was rather surprized that the book didn’t include one of Lovecraft’s stories. Any anthology of weird fiction should include his work
—Robert E. Howard to August Derleth, 11 Dec 1934, CL3.258

Nightmare By Daylight (1936)


The eleventh and last of the regular series holds nothing of particular interest for fans of the Mythos; like Grusome Cargoes, the contents are mostly original rather than drawn from Weird Tales, with the exception of the reprint of David H. Keller’s “The Dead Woman.”

For example—it develops that he turned down Keller’s splendidly realistic story of insanity, “The Dead Woman”, which Schwartz later used & which has been reprinted in the latest British “Not at Night”.—H. P. Lovecraft to Duane W. Rimel, 22 Dec 1934, LFLB 242

We can only guess at why Christine Campbell Thomson chose to go with original stories over more Weird Tales reprints once again; the pulp fiction had been a staple of the series since the beginning and probably contributed to its overall success. Even Lovecraft noted that inclusion had almost become a tradition:

I have never made efforts to market stories in England, but several have been reprinted in anthologies there. There is a weird anthology series—”Not at Night”—appearing every year in London, & several of my tales have been in that.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Henry Kuttner, 12 Mar 1936, Letters to C. L. Moore 235

Not At Night Omnibus (1937)


The end of the Not At Night era came in a massive, somewhat more expensive omnibus edition. Here at last Thomson broke her usual editorial silence to offer an introduction, and our only real insight into her editorial process:

Choosing the stories for this and the previous eleven volumes had been a fascinating business, and has not dulled one’s appreciation of the macabre. It has been interesting, too, to see how the horror-story, as such, has developed during the last ten years. From the first, I set myself against “literature”; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something more high-brow there was plenty. And I think our courage in meeting a requirement of this sort has done much towards getting rid of the politely watered “thriller.”

In choosing the stories for the present omnibus I have been guided by three things: first, that no author should be represented more than twice, in fairness to others; second, that the stories should as far as possible be evenly picked from the eleven preceding volumes of the Series, and third, that the type of story should be both mixed and representative.

This Not at Night Omnibus has been a dream of my own for some time now, but it could not come true until there were a certain number of individual volumes from which to select material. I only hope that most readers will like at least a large proportion of what I have chosen, and that no one will imagine that non-inclusion is any disparagement of quality. And if you like this collection and have not yet read the previous volumes, may I add that they are all still available for those who want them?
—Christine Campbell Thomson, introduction to Not At Night Omnibus 10

As it happens, Thomson knowingly or unknowingly broke her own rule, because she included three stories by Lovecraft: “Pickman’s Model” under his own name, “The Curse of Yig” as by Zealia Brown Reed, and “The Horror in the Museum” as by Hazel Heald. Lovecraft did not live to enjoy the irony; he died on 15 March 1937, and never saw the book in print.

My “Pickman’s Model” is going to be reprinted again—in England, in a “Not at Night” omnibus.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Willis Conover, 4 Dec 1936, LRBO 406

“Pickman’s Model” is to be reprinted again—this time in a “Not at Night Omnibus” to be published in London next spring.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Wilson Shepherd, 15 Dec 1936, LRBO 366

“Pickman’s Model” is to be printed again—this time in a “Not at Night” omnibus to be published in London next spring.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Duane W. Rimel, 20 Dec 1936, LFLB 341

One small item to the good (the modest extent of precisely £1 sterling) is the prospective reprinting of “Pickman’s Model” in British “Not at Night Omnibus” to be issued next spring. I hope they use the real text, & not the emasculated one with the “Oh, gracious me!” ending which Wright put over on me in the recent reprint.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 5 Feb 1937, DS 663

Wright informs me that Pickman’s Model is about to be reprinted again—in a Special coronation Omnibus of the Not at Night series. The material reward will be only £1 sterling—but it will gratify me to be connected in any way with the enthronement of our new Sovereign. God Save the King!
—H. P. Lovecraft to James F. Morton, March 1937, LJFM 400, SL5.432

Christine Campbell Thomson divorced Oscar Cook in 1937 or 1938; whether this is coincidental to the ending of the series or if the end of the personal relationship carried over into the business side of publishing, or if as she maintained the beginning of World War II in 1939 is responsible, is unknowable. All we can say is that while Thomson and Lovecraft’s views on weird fiction were polar opposites, there is no doubt that her inclusion of Lovecraft & other Weird Tales writers in the popular series brought them to the attention of a wider and more appreciative audience:

Osmond Robb writes from Edinburgh, Scotland: “Just a short appreciation of your magazine, which has given me many hours of delightfully blood-curling enjoyment. My first acquaintance with the work of your star authors was made not through the medium of WT itself but via the famous Not at Night series of carefully selected reprint shockers, published in England, many of which were from your magazine. Eli Colter—Seabury Quinn—H. P. Lovecraft—these names were strange to me when I encountered them in the pages of the little red books with the gruesome titles, By Daylight Only, Not at Night, Grim Death, etc. I must confess that then, as now, the unvarnished blood-and-thunders which sought to revolt the reader by nauseous details of putrefaction and slimy abomination left me cold. I wanted other-worldly horror, the chill dread of what may lie beyond the farthest outposts of our cognizance, not the cheap revulsion of rotting cadavers. This eery, authentic thrill the late lamented H. P. L. provided, and the first story I ever read by this exquisite literary craftsman established me as one of his fans. The Horror at Red Hook, with its muttering crones, its vile incantations and its final glimpse into the shadows of an all-too-realistic inferno sent shivers up and down my spine. Since that date I have never been disappointed by a Lovecraft story.
Weird Tales, Nov 1938

Not At Night (1960), More Not At Night (1961), & Still Not At Night (1962)

In the 1960s, the Not at Night series received a brief resurrection in the form of three paperbacks. The contents of the three volumes were not identical to the 1925 and 1926 books of the same title, but selected from the corpus of Not At Night stories, with the addition of brief introductions by Thomson, who wrote:

Now the publishers of Arrow Books have had the brilliant idea of staging a ‘comeback’ with an ‘Arrow’ Not at Night; the stories in it have again been selected by the original editor, Christine Campbell Thomson, and she confidently believes that they will be as popular now as then. It is illuminating and comforting to find how many stories that might have been considered old-fashioned have stood the test of approximately thirty years—more than a generation—and read as well now as they did then. In this collection an attempt has been made to cover all types of the stories used from the scientific experimental to the period ghost and the plain horror.

To re-read the old books has been wonderful and in some ways a sentimental experience akin to having a grandchild and this little volume foes to the world with the belief that the modern readers will be as pleasantly terrified as were those who originally bought each issue.
—Christine Campbell Thomson, introduction to Not At Night (1960)

Among the old favorites was “The Curse of Yig” by Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop.

Before the first volume of the Arrow ‘Not at Night’ was officially on sale, the publishers were asking for a second. Nothing, of course, could be a more fitting tribute to the quality of the good old stories nor more pleasing to the editor.

Here, then, is the second collection from those long-ago favourites. Again, it has been a selection that proved difficult owing to the quality and claims of so many rivals. But the choice has been made on a basis of trying to find something for everyone; from the supernatural to the natural; from the realms of the gorgeous East to the modest homes of the Middle West of America. Here you have a collection which is honestly believed to be as good as the first one.
—Christine Campbell Thomson, introduction to More Not At Night (1961)

This second volume had nothing by Lovecraft in it, though it included Robert E. Howard’s “Rogues in the House.” Still Not At Night contains no material from Lovecraft. It is tempting to think the reason for the exclusion may have more to do with Arkham House’s effective control of the Lovecraft estate and copyrights and efforts to reprint Lovecraft in paperback than Thomson deciding, after so many years, that she simply didn’t care to reprint any more of his stories.

The series had one final revival, in the form of two reprints under different titles and covers: More Not At Night (1961) was republished as Never At Night (1972), and Still Not At Night (1962) was reprinted as Only By Daylight (1972). Horror writer Ramsey Campbell, who was a young teenager when the Arrow reprints first hit the stands, later recalled:

It was in my very early teens, perhaps even earlier, that I bought a paperback of one of Christine Campbell Thomson’s Not at Night anthologies and found it dismally unsatisfactory, not in lacking gruesomeness—the book was a trough of that—but in the utter absence of good prose. I later encountered Thomson’s boast ‘From the first, I set my face against literature’ but believe me, I didn’t need to be told. Her influence was apparent in the increasingly pornographic and decreasingly literate Pan Books of Horror Stories before Steve Jones and David Sutton rescued them from their downward trend, and her regrettable tradition may be seen in a more recent teeming of writers bent on outdoing each other in disgustingness.
Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction 4

Which brings us around, finally, to the weird editorial legacy of Christine Campbell Thomson. As an anthologist, there is no doubt that she was a sound businessperson, and her literary instincts were aimed squarely at providing the public with cheap collections of gore and grue, as affordably as she could. The covers were garish and eye-catching, the construction of the books often relatively shabby, though at least some of the printings used good paper. She constructed a product, and did so as economically as possible; of the 178 stories in the Not At Night series, 100 were reprints from Weird Tales, several were written by Thomson or her husband, and others still were reprints from other pulps or British magazines. Very little of the contents were original, and those were the books which appeared at the two points the series floundered, in 1928 and 1936.

We never get a sense of Thomson’s appreciation or lack thereof for individual writers: she had no direct contact with them and does not appear to have played favorites, publishing women as well as men, tales of supernatural fiction as well as weird terror or science fiction. Even the Weird Tales authors never really mention her: their focus is entirely on the product, seeing their name in print in hardcover was a kind of magic, the thing that happened so seldom in the pulps.

Yet as materialistic as Thomson’s aims might have been, and as pointed as her focus was in providing a product for the masses, whatever else she accomplished with the Not At Night series she succeeded in two things: bringing Lovecraft & co. to the attention of a wider audience than Weird Tales, and helping to establish the financial viability of the pulp reprint and standalone horror anthology. While these things might have happened on their own, Thomson’s editorial success at Not At Night is undeniable, if only for the number of “firsts” she managed to publish over those eleven books in the initial series.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Dorothy McIlwraith, Mary Gnaedinger, & Cele Goldsmith Lalli

The impact of female editors of pulp magazines is not always acknowledged, and this is especially true when considering the legacy of H. P. Lovecraft and Mythos fiction. Three of these women stand out: Dorothy McIlwraith, the editor of Weird Tales (1940-1954); Mary Gnaedinger, editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1939-1953); and Cele Goldsmith Lalli, editor of Fantastic (1958-1965). Together, these three women would essentially bridge the gap, accounting for most Mythos magazine fiction that was published between 1940 and 1965.

Dorothy McIlwraith

McIlwraith, Dorothy-Photograph
Dorothy McIlwraith

After his death on 15 March 1937, Lovecraft’s literary legacy continued in Weird Tales, which had been the home to most of his professional fiction and continued to be the mainstay of his most devoted fans. Editor Farnsworth Wright published at least one Lovecraft item, be it a story or verse, in nearly every issue for the next three years—including collaborations with Hazel Heald and Zealia Bishop, stories which Wright had previously rejected, and material from amateur publications.

In late 1938, Weird Tales was sold to William Delaney, owner of Short Stories, Inc. and publisher of the successful Short Stories pulp magazine, which was edited by Dorothy McIlwraith, a Canadian woman of Scottish descent. (What About Dorothy McIlwraith?) The Weird Tales offices were moved to New York City in November of that year, with editor Farnsworth Wright moving his family from Chicago for the transition. Beginning with the December 1938 issue, Weird Tales officially listed its offices in New York. Robert Weinberg claimed that McIlwraith was made associate editor of Weird Tales at this point, but if so she was never listed as such in the magazine itself. (The Weird Tales Story 6)

Farnsworth Wright had been suffering from progressive Parkinson’s disease for years, and the finances for Weird Tales continued to worsen. In part this may have been due to the death of prominent writers like Henry S. Whitehead (1932), Robert E. Howard (1936), and H. P. Lovecraft (1937), but it was also due in part to new competition. While Weird Tales had been the predominant purveyor of fantastic fiction in the pulp field since its inception in 1923, outlasting rivals such as Ghost Stories (1926-1932), Tales of Magic and Mystery (1927-1928), and Strange Tales (1931-1933), but in 1939 several strong competitors emerged, including Strange Stories (1939-1941), Unknown (1939-1943), Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1939-1953), Fantastic Adventures (1939-1953), Planet Stories (1939-1955), and Startling Stories (1939-1955).

Added to these woes, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia began cracking down on nude covers on the newstands; while aimed at the weird terror or “shudder” pulps, the ban also caught Weird Tales, which had been using nudes from Chicago artist Margaret Brundage for the cover, to both fan appreciation and consternation. In addition, Brundage was unable to move to New York and found shipping her delicate pastels economically unfeasible—especially when publisher Bill Delaney cut payment rates for artists. (Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage 32) Delany also tried other changes to reduce costs and increase sales:

Delaney was more concerned than Henneberger or Cornelius in turning the pulp into a paying, profit-making proposition. His first idea was to increase the page count from 128 to 160 pages. He also used a cheaper quality of paper, making the issue look even thicker than before. The first of these thick issues appeared in February 1939. However, the idea did not catch on and sales dropped steadily. Another of Delaney’s ideas was to cut rates, both to artists and authors. the policy showed as quality quickly dropped. In another effort to boost sales, the size was cut to 128 pages in September 1939 and the price was dropped to 15 cents. The magazine still did not sell. (The Weird Tales Story 6)

In January 1940, Farnsworth Wright left Weird Tales; the magazine by this point had gone to a bimonthly schedule, and his final issue as editor was March of that year. While some sources claim Wright retired or resigned, firsthand accounts suggest he was fired:

I am no longer connected with Weird TalesMiss McIlwraith has taken over the editorship. The publisher was losing too heavily, and he figured that the elimination of my salary would help to cut down the deficit.
—Farnsworth Wright to Virgil Finlay, 17 Jan 1940, BOK 66
The magazine has two stories and four poems of mine (accepted by Farnsworth Wright) still unpublished, but I think seriously of withdrawing these, even though I need the money like hell and am not likely to find another market for these particular items. Wright was let out by the publishers to cut down expenses, and W.T. is now being edited by a woman, who also edits Strange Stories. [sic] It is to be hoped that Wright will soon secure another editorship, or perhaps even start a rival magazine himself. In the meanwhile, W.T.‘s best contributors are sticking with him, in the belief that he has had a raw deal.
—Clark Ashton Smith to Margaret St. Clair, 22 Feb 1940, Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith 328
Wright was cold-bloodedly fired from Weird Tales, because of circulation drop. It’s being carried on by McIlwraith. Wright is hit pretty hard, and our gang has pledged to boycott the mag. If Wright succeeds in getting another publisher interested in backing a new weird mag, we’ll submit only to him. It’s all we can do for one of the best and most liked editors in our field. With Wellman, Kuttner, Hamilton, Quinn, Williamson, and others not submitting to Weird, I’m thinking McIlwraith will have to print blank pages.
—Otto Binder to Jack Darrow, 10 Mar 1940, The Thing’s Incredible! The Secret Origin of Weird Tales 219
When he was dismissed because of physical disabilities, many of the younger contributors to W.T. emoted all over the place, and waged a campaign to boycott the magazine. I did not join in this piece of juvenile idiocy. To expect a publisher to retain an editor incapable of coming to work was unrealism beyond the norm, even for youth! Finally, Wright’s successor, Dorothy McIlwraith, certainly was not responsible for his having been relieved of duty.  As editor of Short Stories, her position was far more important than was the editorship of W.T.  All she could gain was extra work, a bonus of headaches. Why penalize her by depriving her of desirable contributors?
None of these loyal nit-wits realize that the publisher scrapped Wright’s long established editorial policies, and told Dorothy what to do, and how to do it. As an employee, she had to obey orders, or, bail out. Anyone who ever knew the magazine business was aware that her leading magazine, Short Stories, was for a readership far more discriminating and mature than that of the W.T. fanciers.
Price, Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers & Others 112
After Wright left WEIRD TALES (banished into outer space, is the way he wrote me about it), I happened to be in New York. I found out that he was living out at Jackson Heights, so I went out to see him, and was always glad I did, for he died only a few weeks later.
Edmond Hamilton, “He That Hath Words,” Deeper Than You Think #2, Jul 1968, 12

Farnsworth Wright died on 12 June 1940. Dorothy McIlwraith took up the editorship with the May 1940 issue of Weird Tales, while simultaneously editing Short Stories, and would remain at the helm of both until Delaney sold the business in 1954. Assisting her was Lamont Buchanan, credited as the associate editor and referred to as the art editor.

Having inherited a magazine that was bleeding readers and in the shadow of Wright’s departure, McIlwraith’s tenure in what turned out to be Weird Tales’ waning days is often overlooked or mischaracterized. Robert Weinberg’s comments echo those of many critics down the years:

As an editor, Ms. McIlwraith was a competent craftsman but was not on the same level as Farnsworth Wright. She was a veteran pulp editor and handled the magazine as best she could. Her biggest trouble was that she was not as familiar with weird fiction as her predecessor. Another problem was that her ideas on what Weird Tales should be were somewhat narrower in scope than the beliefs Wright worked by. A publisher who did not let her run the magazine with as free a hand was no help. She did the best she could. (The Weird Tales Story 43)

This is damning with faint praise; while Wright was a personable and intelligent editor, he was also notoriously indecisive, rejecting some of the best work of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and other writers; and Weird Tales under his watch was often characterized by wide variety as Wright chased the readers in the next pulp over with planetary science fiction by Edmond Hamilton & Otis Adelbert Kline, shudder pulps or detective pulps with Seabury Quinn, Robert E. Howard’s bloody historical adventures, hero pulps with Paul Ernst’s abominable Doctor Satan seriesand that leaves out such ambitious botches as The Moon Terror and Other Stories (1927), Oriental Stories/The Magic Carpet Magazine (1930-1934), the short-lived third pulp Strange Stories (c.1930), and Wright’s Shakespeare Library (1935), all of which ultimately failed and drew resources away from Weird Tales.

McIlwraith & Delaney faced a crowded market, and yet they were still paying the lowest rate of the fantasy pulps, 1 cent per word. Changes were made: the popular “Weird Tales Reprint” feature which Wright had instituted was dropped, as were serials, with the magazine promising “All Stories Complete” and “All Stories NewNo Reprints.” McIlwraith convinced several of her most prominent authors at Short Stories to submit material for Weird Tales, including H. Bedford Jones, “The King of the Pulps.”  While she couldn’t always afford to keep them, Weird Tales under McIlwraith’s direction continued to use the talents of some of the greatest artists and writers of the 40s and 50s: Ray Bradbury, Greye Le Spina, Robert Bloch, Margaret St. Clair, Manly Wade Wellman, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Joseph Payne Brennan, Robert Barbour Johnson, Fritz Leiber, Virgil Finlay, Hannes Bok, and Kelly Freas, to name a few.

One valid criticism of McIlwraith’s tenure is general failure to engage with writers, artists, or fans on the same level as Wright. Under her editorship, the letter-column “The Eyrie” ceased to be a fan-forum, but a place where authors could expand on the background of their stories. In its place was started “The Weird Tales Club”those who wrote in received a free membership card and had their names and addresses posted and encouraged to write to each other, but there was no apparent effort to generate an official fan club newsletter or real organization. Remembrances of McIlwraith are far fewer and less personal. Still, not all commentary on McIlwraith is negative:

But a magazine can’t survive by living off the past. It has to grow and change, like a living thing. Dorothy McIlwraith’s Weird tales did grow and change in several ways. there was a subtle difference in the whole attitude of the magazine.  […] If anything, the new editor was more artistically minded than her predecessor. The glaringly trashy covers (imitative of the more successful sex and sadism pulps like Terror Tales and Horror Stories) and occasionally godawful formula story, which Wright seemed to regard as good business practices, disappeared.
Darrel Schweitzer, “What About Dorothy McIlwraith?” in WT50: A Tribute to Weird Tales 95
Actually, I think she’s been far too neglected; I can’t dismiss anyone who published Bradbury, Sturgeon, Brown and other top talents. And I think she would have published more, had she been given the budget to compete with Unknown Worlds, F&SF and the other comparable markets. But that lousy 1 cent a wordand sometimes bimonthly publicationinduced few writers to remain in WT once better rates were obtainable elsewhere.
Robert Bloch, The Robert Bloch Companion 33

While McIlwraith courted new and old authors, and was restricted in reprints for the first few years by policy, Lovecraft and the nascent Cthulhu Mythos were far from neglectedbut there was a shortage of material. Lovecraft & Robert E. Howard were dead and with most of their Mythos-fiction already published in Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith largely alienated from fiction-writing (although he would contribute “The Enchantress of Sylaire” (Jul 1941), “The Master of the Crabs” (Mar 1948), and”Morthylla” (May 1953)), and after Lovecraft’s death few of his immediate circle such as Frank Belknap Long, Henry Kuttner, or Robert Bloch seemed interested in continuing the shared mythology…but there was August Derleth.

We plan to use “The Sandwin Compact” in the next issue which will be made upthat is, November, published September first
Dorothy McIlwraith to August Derleth, 25 June 1940, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 131

Arkham House, founded by August Derleth & Howard Wandrei after the death of Lovecraft explicitly to publish his fiction, had done just that in 1939 with The Outsider & Othersand much of their catalog for the next ten years would include reprints of stories that had first appeared in Weird Tales, and Arkham House would take out full-page advertisements in the pulp for their books. Derleth, a tireless promoter of Lovecraft’s work and a frequent contributor to the magazine as a writer, began to develop a series of original Mythos fiction in the magazine, beginning with “The Sandwin Compact” (Jan 1941) and “Beyond the Threshold” (Sep 1941).

Derleth had also become the de facto literary executor of Lovecraft’s fiction, and as material was uncovered that had not previously appeared in Weird Tales, sold it to McIlwraith for Weird Tales; this included “The Mound” by Zealia Bishop & H. P. Lovecraft (Jan 1941), The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (May & Jul 1941), “The Shadow over Innsmouth” (Jan 1942, with its classic illustration by Hannes Bok), and “Herbert WestReanimator” by H. P. Lovecraft (May, July, Sep, Nov 1942; Sep, Nov 1943). The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was also uncovered from Lovecraft’s files during this period, but if Derleth offered it to McIlwraith, she turned it downas she did sword & sorcery fiction like Fritz Leiber’s “Fahfrd & Grey Mouser” series, which appeared in Unknown.

Wartime paper rationing and lackluster sales still hit hard, however. Weird Tales dropped to 112 pages in 1943, and the ban on reprints was dropped; Lovecraft’s “Fungi from Yuggoth” sonnets would be reprinted (May 1944; Jan, Sep 1946; Jan, Mar 1947), as well as “The City” (Jul 1950), “The Horror at Red Hook” (Mar 1952), and “Hallowe’en in a Suburb” by H. P. Lovecraft (Sep 1952). Eager for a new attraction, McIlwraith also looked for a series character from a promising regular:

John Thunstone first appeared in 1943, after Wright retired as editor of Weird Tales and was succeeded by Dorothy McIlwraith. She and her associate, Lamont Buchanan, sat down with me for several careful discussions of how Thunstone might act and look, and what he might find to do.
Manly Wade Wellman, foreword to Lonely Vigils xi

Wellman’s occult detective was a success, and he would tip his hat to Lovecraft by including the Necronomicon in the Thunstone story “Letters of Cold Fire” (May 1944)the same issue where the page count was reduced to 96 pagesThe success of Lovecraft’s fiction and Derleth’s pastiches apparently encouraged McIlwraith and Derleth to mine this vein a little deeper:

I too have had a good many letters through the Arkham House clientele, if they respond as well to ‘The Dweller in Darkness’ I’ll no doubt have to do other stories in the same Lovecraftian veinthough I’ll wait for the green light from you before going ahead.”
August Derleth to Dorothy McIlwraith, 3 Feb 1944, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 140

McIlwraith published “The Trail of Cthulhu” (Mar 1944), “The Dweller in Darkness” (Nov 1944), and “The Watcher from the Sky” (Jul 1945). In the September, the world war ended with the use of atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a science fiction weapon from the pulps becoming a terrible and deadly reality at last.

Derleth also took advantage of the new reprint feature by agenting weird stories from English authors like William Hope Hodgson that Arkham House was publishing. With Derleth’s regular contributions (sometimes published under the pseudonym Stephen Grendon), reprint material he was supplying, and his original Mythos fiction, something had to give…and did:

Sorry I forgot to mention The Lurker on [sic] the Threshold. I just don’t see how we could manage it for Weird. I don’t feel serials in an every other month magazine are good, anyway, and such long installments are out for the duration[because] of the paper restrictions.
Dorothy McIlwraith to August Derleth, 17 Jan 1945, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 191
We have Grendon’s “Mr. George,” “The Hog” by Hodgson as well as several other novelettes from other sources […] and now you send along “Boyd”…Frankly, we like this Cthulhu the least of all our problem material, so it would seem logical to pass it up for Weird Tales
Dorothy McIlwraith to August Derleth, 30 July 1946, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 151

The Lurker at the Threshold was the first of Derleth’s “posthumous collaborations” with Lovecraft, although it was written almost entirely by Derleth, based around two brief fragments of Lovecraft; Arkham House later published the book the same year. McIlwraith also rejected the first submission of “The Testament of Claiborne Boyd,” part of the series that Derleth would collect as the stitch-up novel The Trail of Cthulhu. These decisions, as much as anything, show that McIlwraith was not simply cashing in on Lovecraft or the Mythos.

What did happen is that someone not connected with Derleth or Lovecraft tried their hand at pastiche. McIlwraith published C. Hall Thompson‘s “Spawn of the Green Abyss” (Nov 1946) and “The Will of Claude Asher” (Jul 1947), probably seeing them as no more than superior Lovecraft pastiches. Derleth, who felt Lovecraft’s work belonged to Arkham House, responded:

Yes, I know of C. Hall Thompson. He borrowed flagrantly from HPL’s work, and we stopped it by writing to his editors pointing out his invasion of prorpietary interests, though we would probably have given him the green signal to go ahead if he had submitted his work to us first. this he did not do; so it had to stop.
August Derleth to Ramsey Campbell, 6 Aug 1964, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 267-268

No more pastiches were published by Thompson in Weird Tales. Whether she believed Derleth’s legal bluster or simply didn’t wish to alienate such a regular contributor and advertiser is unclear, but there are signs that Weird Tales was still in financial trouble. With the September 1947 issue, WT raised the price from 15 to 20 cents per issue, while retaining the reduced page count. Three more of Derleth’s tales appeared in the following years: “Something in Wood” (Mar 1948), “The Whippoorwills in the Hills” (Sep 1948), and the formerly-rejected “The Testament of Clairborne Boyd” (Mar 1949). With the next issue, May 1949, the price was increased again to 25 cents per issue. Derleth would manage to land more stories: “Something From Out There” (Jan 1951), “The Keeper of the Key” (May 1951), “The Black Island” (Jan 1952), which featured the use of atomic weapons against Cthulhu.

Derleth was the most prominent Mythos writer in Weird Tales during McIlwraith’s editorship, but arguably the best one was Robert Bloch, who published the third in his triptych with Lovecraft, “The Shadow from the Steeple” (Sep 1950), and the highly acclaimed “Notebook Found In A Deserted House” (May 1951). Among the reprints, McIlwraith chose Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone” (Nov 1953).

In September 1953, adapting to market pressure, Weird Tales became a digest. McIlwraith apparently asked Derleth for more Mythos/Lovecraftian material, probably in a last-ditch effort to spur readership. He responded with “posthumous collaborations” that Derleth had written based on some fragment of Lovecraft’s text or ideas in his commonplace book:

You already have “The Survivor,” which I hope can appear in the July or September issue. Three others are now ready

“Wentworth’s Day,” at 4500 words
“The Gable Window,” at 7500 words
“The Peabody Heritage,” at 7500 words
There will be at least two moreor enough for an entire year of Weird Tales. And we might be able to turn up more thereafter, if the use of them has any noticeable effect on the sales of the magazine.
August Derleth to Dorothy McIlwraith, 24 Feb 1954 A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 211

“The Survivor” appeared in the July 1954 issue, the last of the Derleth Mythos contributions. She wrote to him:

I have here: “The Gable Window,” “The Ancestor,” “Wentworth’s Day,” “The Peabody Heritage,” “Hallowe’en for Mr. Faulkner,” also “The Seal of R’lyeh.” It might be that whoever takes over WT might see the value of the Lovecraft tie-in, but I don’t know…
Dororthy McIlwraith to August Derleth, 15 Nov 1954, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 212, 219

Weird Tales folded with the September 1954 issue; both it and Short Stories were sold, and McIlwraith moved on. The various Derleth Mythos stories would see print elsewhere, and be collected and printed in book form. So too, Arkham House would collect and publish many stories and authors from McIlwraith’s period of editorship during the following decades.

We do not have any extensive memoirs from McIlwraith, and most of what she has written about weird fiction are restricted to editorial comments in “The Eyrie”but in 1954 she weighed in on H. P. Lovecraft and Weird Tales:

Although the first all-science-fiction magazine did not appear until 1926, Weird Tales magazine with its very first issue inaugurated a policy of devoting some portion of its contents to science fiction and has continued that policy from March of 1923 to date. There was always some conflict between those readers who wanted more space devoted to straight weird material—i.e., fantasy—as opposed to those who would have preferred additional science fiction. The man who helped reconcile those two elements was H. P. Lovecraft, who in his own popular fashion blended weird and horror elements into a credible scientific background to come up with a combination which satisfied all readers. Lovecraft influenced a great many of the younger writers […]
Dorothy McIlwraith, Editor’s Choice in Science Fiction 185

She was not wrong, especially on the final point.

In evaluating Dorothy McIlwraith’s role with regard to Lovecraft and the Mythos, it is difficult not to consider the symbiotic role played by Derleth and Arkham House in the pulp’s final 14 years. While many of its stories were selected for reprint in anthologies long before this was the norm for science fiction, Weird Tales never issued a successful anthology of its own materialArkham House largely fulfilled that role during McIlwraith’s time. By the same token, Weird Tales was exactly the market that Arkham House & August Derleth needed. Without McIlwraith, it seems unlikely that Derleth would have written Trail of CthulhuMask of Cthulhu, or many of his posthumous collaborationsand whatever else may be thought of those works, as well as those of Bloch, Wellman, and Thompson, they helped keep the memory of Lovecraft alive for a new generation of readers.

But in this, Dorothy McIlwraith was not alone…

Mary Gnaedinger

Mary Gnaedinger

The Munsey Company practically invented the pulp magazine, with highly successful titles like Argosy going back to the turn of the century. With this large stock of stories, in 1939 they launched Famous Fantastic Mysteries primarily as a title to reprint them. The editor selected was Mary Gnaedinger, who also edited Fantastic Novels (1940-1941) and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine (1949-1950).

Gnaedinger and McIlwraith were technically rivals, but since Weird Tales initially offered no reprints and Famous Fantastic Mysteries no original material, they seemed at least at first more complementary than anythingat least to contemporary eyes. FFM, however, paid better, so Gnaedinger was able to snatch away Virgil Finlay, one of the finest artists working in the pulps. She was also much more attentive to the growing science fiction and fantasy fandom, and catered the content of the magazine to the stories they wanted to read, republishing many now-classic works by Robert W. Chambers, A. Merritt, Arthur Machen, Ray Cummings…and even Weird Tales regulars.

Lovecraft was not initially on the menu; though Gnaedinger managed to reprint “The Colour Out of Space” (Oct 1941), supplemented with the poem “For H. P. Lovecraft” by Robert A. Lowndes. In 1943, Munsey sold Famous Fantastic Mysteries to All-Fiction Field, who retained Gnaedinger as editor and loosened her restrictions, allowing her to publish more original material. (Sisters of Tomorrow 293) Gnaedinger took advantage of this by making arrangements with Arkham House, with whom she had some dealings, to reprint some of Lovecraft’s fiction:

The Lurker on [sic] the Threshold is an excellent fantastic story, but I regret to say that we have decided it is too specialized for the ordinary readers who undoubtedly form a large cross-section of our public. A great part of the story is written for the initiated fantasy fan, and cutting would spoil it. Not that I think you would want to see it cut.
Mary Gnaedinger to Derleth, 6 Feb 1945, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos 191

Ironically, this was the same general rejection that McIlwraith had given Derleth when he pitched the idea of serializing The Lurker at the Threshold in Weird Tales. However, Gnaedinger was open to reprinting shorter works, and so in due course Famous Fantastic Mysteries hosted “The Outsider” (Jun 1950), “The Music of Erich Zann” (Mar 1951), and “Pickman’s Model” (Dec 1951), all “Published by permission of Arkham House.”

Fan-scholars and poets like Virginia “Nanek” Anderson also made their appearance in FFM. Two pieces in particular stand out: “Masters of Fantasy: Howard Phillips Lovecraft – The Outsider” (Aug 1947) and “Masters of Fantasy: Arthur Machen: Inspirator of Lovecraft” (Dec 1948); while credited as to Neil Austin, it has been suggested these pieces were actually written by arch-fan Forrest J. Ackermann.

There is a little mystery to the Famous Fantastic Mystery reprints, with the main one being: Why FFM? In 1941, Weird Tales wasn’t publishing reprints, so the reprint of “The Colour Out of Space” isn’t exactly cutting into their market; but in the 1950s it seems unusual that Derleth would offer reprints to FFM when Weird Tales was an open marketunless either McIlwraith had already turned him down, or Gnaedinger offered more money. Either seems a likely possibility, but the details to the deal have not come to light.

Near the end of its run, Gnaedinger also published a few works by Robert E. Howard with connections to the Mythos, notably “Skull-Face” (Dec 1952)whose villain Kathulos was once feverishly debated to have a connection to Cthulhu by the fans of Weird Talesand “Worms of the Earth” (Jun 1953), which appeared in the final issue.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries folded the year before Weird Tales; while it had a good 14-year run, the pulp market was largely collapsing in on itself, competing both with comic books and the burgeoning paperback, which offered another cheap way to reprint fiction. Mary Gnaedinger continued to keep in close touch with fans, and while she may have published little original Mythos fiction, she was a sensitive barometer to what the fans wantedand strove to give it to them. In the early 1950s, that was more Lovecraft.

Cele Goldsmith Lalli

Science fiction magazines weathered the collapse of the pulps a little better than most, and writers that had cut their teeth at Weird Tales and Unknown would go on to find success in the 60s with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, and Analog Science Fiction and Fact (which evolved from Astounding). It was in this Cold War/Space Race atmosphere that Cele Goldsmith (later Cele Goldsmith Lalli) became editor of both Amazing Stories and its companion Fantastic from 1958-1965, when the magazines were sold.

Cele Goldsmith combined the approaches of both McIlwraith and Gnaedinger: she listened to the fans, and she was willing to give them both original fiction and classic reprints. In the May 1960 issue of Fantastic she republished “The Challenge From Beyond”, but paired it with fan-scholar Sam Moskowitz’ essay “A Study in Horror: The Eerie Life of H. P. Lovecraft.” Two years later, she published Derleth’s posthumous collaboration “The Shadow out of Space” (Dec 1962), which had appeared a few years earlier in the Arkham House volume The Survivor and Others (1957), which volume contained Derleth’s posthumous collaborations from Weird Tales.

Finally, in Goldsmith published two new Mythos stories, and from an author that wasn’t part of the Arkham House stablealthough if Derleth ever caused a stink about it like C. Hall Thompson, it has never come to light. The stories were “The Dunstable Horror” (Apr 1964) and “The Crib of Hell” (May 1965), both by “Arthur Pendragon”thought to possibly be the pen-name of well-known Fantastic contributor Arthur Porges. While it was still rare for Mythos fiction to be published outside the aegis of Arkham House, Derleth could not police every magazine forever.

Arthur Porges (left) & Cele Goldsmith Lalli (right)

What these three women accomplished, from 1939-1965, was essentially to help keep the Mythos alive in the pulps. Because of the controlling nature that Arkham House had on Lovecraft’s material, and Derleth’s production of additional Mythos material, a sizable amount of what they published came from Derleth or went through himbut not all of it. These editors held authority over their own magazines, and while they might pay Derleth for a story, what they published was ultimately their own decision. What we get, in their magazines, are the inklings of original Mythos material outside of what August Derleth approved to be printed, and this in professional magazines, not just the fanzines.

Maybe that is a small thing, in the great scheme of the universe. None of these editors appear to have been particular devotees of Lovecraft or the Mythos…but neither were they ignorant of it. They knew their business, and Lovecraft and the writers he inspired was a part of that.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: W. H. Pugmire

It is a strange and curious fact that I found myself as an author and Lovecraftian only after I began to live the punk rock lifestyle. Before then I had a sense of being different, but it wasn’t until I stuck that pin in my ear and shaved off some of my hair that I began to truly feel like The Outsider. […] I mentioned Lovecraft in the early issues of Punk Lust, and was delighted when I’d go to local gigs and people would come up to me and shout with drunken fervor, “Ia! The Crawling Chaos!” This was way back in the days before Lovecraft became a game. People who knew of him had gained this occult knowledge by reading Lovecraft’s fiction. […] And now we have a most wonderful occurrence: punk kids are growing  up to become remarkable horror authors, often blending  punk with their macabre fiction. This is only natural for those of us who portray our personal lives and loves in our horror fiction.
—W. H. Pugmire, “Lustcraft” in Tales of Lovecraftian Horror #4

Following the death of August Derleth in 1971, the Mythos slowly opened up to a new and more diverse set of writers. During the 1970s and ’80s, the largest development of the Mythos and Lovecraftian fiction outside of Arkham House occurred in small-press magazines—cheaply printed paper pamphlets, mostly written by and for amateur fandom. Amateur press associations such as the Esoteric Order of Dagon (EOD) would compile magazines for mass-mailings, allowing wider dissemination of new poems, short fiction, and articles about Lovecraft and the Mythos to be disseminated outside of the editorial control of any one publisher.

Many Mythos writers would be featured prominently in magazines, including Brian McNaughton, Robert M. Price, Stanley C. Sargent, and Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire—a queer punk writer, editor, and poet, the self-styled Queen of Eldritch Horror, whose magazine credits include Midnight Fantasies (1973–76), Old Bones (1975-1976), Queer Madness (1980-1981), Visions from Khroyd’hon (1976), and Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (1987–99). In Tales, Pugmire described a forward-looking approach to Lovecraft and his fiction:

Lovecraftian horror is my obsession. When nothing else can cure bordeom, I need only turn to one of countless books or magazines, and suddenly my gloom is gone. And when I’m feeling very bold, I try my hand at writing my own. […] And yet, when I decided to finally try to edit a magazine of Lovecraftian fiction, I discovered that I was a bit uncertain as to just what I was looking for as an editor. I found that I was unable to describe what I meant by “Lovecraftian horror.” I knew that I did not want trendy Cthulhu Mythos fiction. I am not anti-Mythos; but I hate the way it has usurped other forms of Lovecraftian horror.
—W. H. Pugmire, “Lovecraftian Horror” in Tales of Lovecraftian Horror #1

At the time, considerable Mythos fiction was being published in ‘zines like Crypt of Cthulhu (1981-2001, 2017- ) and Chronicles of the Cthulhu Codex (1985-2000), as well as the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu Fiction anthologies beginning with The Hastur Cycle (1993). It was a period of reprinting long out-of-print favorites, of re-discovering and re-publishing the original text of Lovecraft’s stories, and endless pastiches, sequels, prequels, and original works tying into the Mythos of various levels of quality and originality. It is to this outpouring of Cthulhuiana that Pugmire speaks:

The Mythos has been overused, and most of the newer tales bore me, be they by fans or pros. I find very few of them truly “Lovecraftian,” seeming more like the kind of thing Derleth was wont to write. I have no intention of publishing Cthulhu Mythos stories in TOLH. The small press has the delicious ability to act as an alternative to what is trendy, popular, and commercial. It is this alternative side of Lovecraftian horror that I hope to present. (ibid)

The small press publishing during Tales of Lovecraftian Horror’s run is a far cry from the desktop publishing and print-on-demand world of today, which led to the explosion of Mythos anthologies in the late 2000s and 2010s headed by editors like Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles of Innsmouth Free Press, and far and away from the mass-market anthologies produced by Ellen Datlow and Paula Guran, or Joyce Carol Oates for the literary and academic market. It was a more punk enterprise, full of DIY energy and freedom to experiment, and Pugmire wanted to focus on more than just tentacled beasties and moldy grimoires that aped the outward tropes of the Mythos but missed the essence:

Lovecraftian horror conveys mood, atmosphere, and situations that were dear to H. P. Lovecraft and are evident in his own spectral and cosmic fiction. […] Just as Lovecraft scholarship is growing, so too should Lovecraftian fiction go forward, becoming much more than it has been. Instead of writing formula stories, we can use Lovecraftian themes as a foundation on which to try to build our own unique fiction. […] A good Lovecraftian tale should, I feel, express things that move us to profound emotions. Using HPL’s fiction, his dreams as they are recorded in his published letters, we can find inspiration for our own tales of dread. Writing horror fiction  is not an attempt to escape from reality, rather, as it was with Lovecraft, it is an expression of those aspects of reality that move us creatively, as artists. And as humans. (ibid)

Pugmire’s influence as an editor in the first three issues is often overlooked. Tales of Lovecraftian Horror published Thomas Ligotti, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Ann K. Schwader, and other noteworthy writers; the second issue published Robert M. Price’s episode of “Herbert West—Reanimated,” which has gone on to spawn a weird and convoluted continuity that is still being continued today by Peter Rawlik and others in books like Legacy of the Reanimator (2015) and Reanimatrix (2016).

In part, this may be because the series was published by Cryptic Publications, with the assistance and guidance of Price—and lapsed after the third issue, only to be reanimated in 1996 with Price as editor, though he assured readers that Pugmire was still the guiding spirit (and associate editor). That spirit was always one that sought individuality. Pugmire would write his own corner of the Mythos with his Sesqua Valley tales and others but as an editor, he wanted his fellow writers to go beyond Lovecraft, not be restricted by him. In one editorial Pugmire recalled:

While editing the early issues of this magazine, I received a submission froma bloke who, in his letter of introduction, expressed his desire to become “the new Lovecraft.” I find this utterly absurd. There will never be another Lovecraft, because HPL was absolutely and unively himself. Let us strive with our horror fiction to be ourselves, to write the tales that only we can tell. We may fall short of our goal, but at least we have made an honest effort, rather than being content to mimic a boring Mythos formula that is void of any hint of Lovecraftian ambience.  Listen to the fear that haunts your soul and sears your throbbing brain. then you will truly write fiction that expresses authentic respect for our beloved Grandpa Theobald.
—W. H. Pugmire, “Lustcraft” in Tales of Lovecraftian Horror #5

Some Lovecraftian fiction today certainly echoes Pugmire’s sentiments. Anthologies like Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth partake of Lovecraft without being slavishly devoted to his Mythos—and in general, there seems to be fairly wide appeal to the idea that originality and quality of writing mean more than trying to write after Lovecraft (or Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, etc.). Pastiche still has its place, but Pugmire was one of the voices that called for writers to move beyond that…and to really emphasize that what is important about Lovecraft is not the person of Cthulhu or the use of the Necronomicon, but simply that Lovecraft was original. The artificial mythology that Lovecraft and his contemporaries created strikes a chord in readers, even today because it is different from the hoary tales of gods and demigods, heroes and fables in Bullfinch’s Mythology.

Pugmire saw in Lovecraft something that spoke to him, and that spoke to others:

Other punk kids are joining the throng. […] They have oddly-colored hair and pierced faces; they listen to death metal and goth rock; they are avid fans of H. P. Lovecraft. Our ranks are growing, and our voices will be heard. Our horror fiction will wear within its soul our punk rock angst. Our fiction, like our music, will be the voice of the Outsider.
—W. H. Pugmire, “Lustcraft” in Tales of Lovecraftian Horror #4

Wilum H. Pugmire passed away on 26 March 2019. We will not see his like again.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Editor Spotlight: Joyce Carol Oates

When I was eleven or twelve years old, I discovered H. P. Lovecraft in the Lockport Public Library, in upstate New York—the collection of Lovecraft stories was large and unwieldy with a distinctive font, which I can “see” vividly if I shut my eyes. The stories that riveted me immediately were “The Rats in the Walls” and “The Dunwich Horror.” At once I fell under the Lovecraftian spell—subsequently I have reprinted Lovecraft tales in anthologies of “literary” stories in the hope of breaking down the artificial barriers and unfortunate prejudices between genres.
—Joyce Carol Oates, Lovecraft Unbound 

H. P. Lovecraft took time to find his place in the American canon. He died practically in poverty, his work published in pulp magazines, amateur journals, and fanzines. The few attempts at publishing his fiction in hardback were marred by failure. Literary recognition and mass popularity would not come for decades. It was a slow process, and many editors, scholars, fans, and writers helped along the way.

Joyce Carol Oates is the one who crowned him The King of the Weird in a review of S. T. Joshi’s 1996 biography H. P. Lovecraft: A Life.

As an editor, Oates has curated several works featuring Lovecrafts works: American Gothic Tales (1996), Tales of H. P. Lovecraft (1997), Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers (1998), and The Oxford Book of American Short Stories 2nd Ed. (2013). These works are not exceptional from a strictly bibliographic point of view: there are no lost fragments published for the first time, no rarities reprinted after years or decades. What makes them special is the custody that Lovecraft keeps: Oates puts him on the page between Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner, sharing space with Edith Wharton and Shirley Jackson. Oates put Lovecraft among the great voices of American fiction.

If there is a single gothic-grotestque writer of the American twentieth century to be compared with Poe, it is H. P. Lovecraft, born in 1890. […] Long a revered cult figure to admirers of “weird fiction” (Lovecraft’s own, somewhat deprecatory term for his art), Lovecraft is associated with crude, obsessive, rawly sensationalist and overwrought prose in the service of naming the unnameable. […] Lovecraft’s influence upon twentieth-century horror writers has been incalculable, and in certain quarters he is prized for the very traits (lurid excess, overstatement, fantastical and repetitive contrivance) for which, in more “literary” quarters, he is despised. The gothic imagination melds the sacred and the profane in startling and original ways, suggesting its close kinship with the religious imagination […] Lovecraft is a hybrid of the traditional gothic and “science fiction” but his temperament is clearly gothic. his “science” is never future-oriented but a mystic’s minute, compulsive scrutinizing of the inner self or soul.
—Joyce Carol Oates, American Gothic Fiction, 6-7

Her choice for the volume was “The Outsider”, which is closer to Poe than Ray Bradbury in the blend of gothic and science fiction. For Oates, Lovecraft is the transition point in the American Gothic, the fulcrum point at which she tips from “gothic” writers to “just writers” (ibid., 7). Weird fiction is where genres break down, but the gothic vision retains power and influence.

In 1997, Oates curated Tales of H. P. Lovecraft, selecting a collection from his major works and adding an introduction (a slightly edited version of her review of S. T. Joshi’s biography). Taking up her previous cue, Oates approach in the Lovecraft is to present Lovecraft as a writer of the American Gothic, fused with science fiction—but also focuses on his life, dreams (“night-gaunts”), use of setting (“like photographs just perceptibly blurred”), fascination with time, the few women in his stories, and the interconnections between his tales. Her brief survey is told in expressive language and with the occasional wry observation; for “The Dreams in the Witch House”:

Lovecraft seems to have taken for granted that Salem “witches” existed, not considering if perhaps they were simply victims of others’ malevolent misuse of power.
—Joyce Carol Oates, Tales of H. P. Lovecraft ix

Lovecraft wasn’t exactly forgotten in 1997; Ballantine, Carroll & Graf, Creation Press, and Dell were all bringing his work out in affordable trade paperback editions, and many of their books would go through multiple printings. What Oates brought to the table was herself: a respected literary writer who didn’t stoop to praise genre fiction, a person who could appreciate Lovecraft for his merits—and encourage readers to appreciate him too.

Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers (1998) brought Lovecraft into the classroom; drawing on her seminars at Princeton, Oates presented the text and notes for dozens of influential stories, including H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls.” If her previous efforts presented Lovecraft as a part of the American tradition, this was to make him part of the American syllabus. “Rats” would also feature in the second edition of The Oxford Book of American Short Stories (2013); Oates had edited the first edition of this work in 1992 without including Lovecraft, but she added him to the updated edition, with an abbreviated set of notes that observed:

In 2005 the Library of America issue H. P. Lovecraft, a selection of Lovecraft’s tales, giving the outcast writer, in effect, the imprimatur of American classic. By this time Lovecraft’s weird tales had found a wide and enthusiastic readership of a kind the luckless author could hardly have envisioned during his lifetime.
—Joyce Carol Oates, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories 2nd Ed. 297

Unlike Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, & Paula R. Stiles, the importance of Joyce Carol Oates as an editor is not in publishing collections of Mythos stories or discovering new Mythos writers, but in helping to propagate Lovecraft outside weird fiction fandom—in her lifetime she had participated in the process that brought him into the greater awareness not only of literary academia but the general audience for American fiction.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).