Monday, January 31, 2011

State of Lovecraft Studies

    OK, finally Chrispy gets controversial.

    What is the state of Lovecraft studies?

    Not where you think it is.

    It has always been fueled by amateur hobbyists, and that has not changed.

    In generation 0, HPL's friends carried his life's work and story onwards from 1937 through the advent and evolution of the scientifiction age. However, those first-hand disciples (apostles?) only knew mostly what HPL knew and what he told them. And wow, was HPL ever cagey. He was classic Victorian (even though he was more of an Edwardian): He preserved the dignity of the Phillips clan - which meant no dirt, no juicy gossip, avoid newspapers like a plague. Some stuff was hid from him, and others was filtered through what I cann "the Phillips family mythology". So those heroes of the faith, Long, Wandrei, Bloch, Barlow, Smith, Derleth, and so forth built their literary career and preserved the weird tales and legend of Lovecraft.

    In generations 1 and 2 through the late 1960's, Lovecraft became a cultish figure and a cottage industry. Collectors preserved lots of godies at ever increasing price tags. Indie presses sprang up and made a few dollars, al least enough to keep the doors open. In a few cases, as with Arkham Books and maybe Necronomicon and Hippocampus, the owners were able to have a minimal salary and were full time. Otherwise, hobbyists came and went trying to preserve the weird tale, print cutting edge horror, and existed mostly in magazine and chapbook formats. They were small press runs and pretty hard to find once they wnet out of print. Finding these became easier with Ebay, but it is kind of pricey to get them. Be prepared to shell out a few thousand dollars just to collect a solid, but minimal collection. (Take it from Chrispy who has tried.)

    There are still lots of small press avenues to get Lovecraft stories, but fewer places to get historical information. Name authors, whom I certainly respect, publish maybe a hundred or so articles a year - usually in Hippocampus sponsored venues. A lot of these were referreed in the Esoteric Order of Dagon circulars. Of that total, maybe a dozen are historically revelatory and will eventually end up digetsed in a new mass paperback of Lovecraft stories as footnotes, or a decade or two from now in some new updated biography.

    Chrispy has done his best to accellerate that process with the HPL blog.

    Not only have I taken full advantage of new rapid search algorithms to do archaeology on Lovecraft and his era, but I post it. I suppose if I counted, among the 2700 posts todate at least 500 posts have absolutely new, previosuly unknown, and startling items about HPL and his family.

  • Lovecraft's school mates and neighbors were far more influential than expected.
  • Whipple Phillips business career was very robust from timber, coal, zinc, gold, granite, and iron, to gas interests, inventions, electric mail systems, irrigation, banking, real estate, and even Cuban land speculation.
  • Some names of acquaintances, birthdates and at least one marriage date was wrong in popular circulated references.
  • Expanded backgounds and biographies of many Lovecraft acquaintances.

    In addition, I receive emails that speak of other research that will soon bring new revelations.
  • New information about the lost years of Lovecraft.
  • New information on the life of Chester Munroe.
  • The location and exploration of the Great Swamp of Chepatchet.
  • Scandals involving members of the amateur journalism movement.
  • New information on John Dunn.
  • New letters from Lovecraft in 1905 and 1906.
  • New exegesis on Lovecraft's stories.

    Sadly, there is almost no means for this information to get to other fans, since there is no easy medium to disseminate it.

  • I hope that soon there will be more electronic media that will adapt to getting historical research out to Lovecraft fans. A flood of new resources is coming at scholars, and they need to take advantage of it.

    If I had my dream, it would be a collaborative encyclopeia with thousnads of researched articles on every year, and even every week of Lovecraft's life, and on every individual he ever met.

    Maybe one day!

1 comment:

Robert Olmstead said...

Why not to try a wiki mode (like wikipedia) to gather and spred informations ?



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