Sonntag, 27. Mai 2012

The Lancer Lovecraft editions

The Lancer Lovecrafts: An Author’s Pick!
(Or Purple Edged Eldritch Horror!)

Hey folks,
     Being the self confessed publicity whore that I am, when it comes to this blog that is, I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase the readership. So my newest brilliant idea was to write all the famous writers, artists and editors who I have access to and asked them if they have fond memories of any particular horror anthologies from 50s, 60s or 70s. I even promised to only moderately exploit their kindness my not mentioning their names. And so far several have been very kind and answered. The great Chet Williamson even went out of his way to tell me that he didn’t mind having his name dropped! So here it is……..

How’s that for impressive! 

Anyways, Mr. Williamson replied that he greatly enjoyed, among several others, the H. P.Lovecraft editions published by Lancer Books. Yes, the folks who gave us the famous Robert E. Howard               " Conan" paperbacks with the iconic Frank Frazetta covers and the controversial editorship of L. Sprague DeCamp and Lin Carter. Those people who gave us paperbacks with purple dyed edges were also the first folks to bring out successful HPL paperbacks. There were a few before, but the Lancers were responsible for introducing HPL to masses of paperback readers. Now if only they had done this for Clark Ashton Smith. To my knowledge there were 3 volumes. They were “The Dunwich Horror”, “The Colour out of Space” and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Since I only own the first two they’ll be the only ones covered today.
If you are reading this blog then I’m pretty sure that you know all about HPL and the “Cthulhu Mythos”. But I’ll go over it real quick just to play it safe in case some of you actually have no idea about what I’m writing about.
So here’s the “Cliff Notes” Lovecraft……

HPL was a reclusive man from Providence Rhode Island who wrote wonderful stories for “Weird Tales” magazine. He invented his own mythology, which forms the backdrop to many of his stories, dealing with a group of ancient powerful god like beings who used to rule the earth gazillions of years ago. They got banished to dimensions unknown and to this day and they, with the help of cultists and human/frog-fish men hybrids, are still trying to come back. Most of these SF Horror tales take place in and around New England. These were written as contemporary stories at the time which gives them a really nifty retro 1920s/1930s groove. Most of Mr. Lovecraft’s protagonists usually ended up dead, insane, mutated or some combination of the 3. They also liked to write journal entries while being eaten alive by unspeakable horrors from other dimensions. Mr. Lovecraft’s stories and life have been psychoanalyzed to death so we won’t go into it here. Mr. Lovecraft has a bazillion imitators since he allowed other writers to add to and to use the already existing pantheon of beings he created for his stories. Mr. Lovecraft liked the words “eldritch” and "batrachian" quite a bit. In Mr. Lovecraft’s universe there were lots of very old books full of forbidden prehistoric lore which were contantly kept under lock and key in big European libraries, but which every inbred hillbilly wizard seemed to have a copy of.  Mr. Lovecraft, who died sick and poor, is now a multi million dollar industry today.

Now back to the books.
I can’t begin to describe how much I love ALL of Mr. Lovecraft’s stories. My first introduction to HPL was through the “Scholastic Book club” and then the post “Lin Carter”/ pre “Michael Whelan”, “John Holmes” editions from the early7middle 1970s.

 They aren’t for everyone and have, sadly, almost become clichéd jokes thanks to critical over emphasis on his writing style and his odd themes and monsters being used for humor. The abundance ofCthulhu references in modern culture  has dulled the over all impact of Mr. Lovecraft's stores and “Cthulhu Plush Toys" hasn’t helped matters either. “Cthulhu” even makes guest appearances on “South Park”. So we have millons of people who know his monsters, but not nearly enough people who actualy know his writings. I find this sad. If you didn’t discovery him as a kid, then I don’t think you could get into him as an adult. Lovecraft was an avid amateur astronomer and (I think) atheist who was fascinated by, at the time, new theories on the immensity and age of the universe. So he didn’t bother writing about ghosts and vampires. He wrote about an immense, unknowable universe that was, if not hostile, then at least totally indifferent to humanity. Great stuff,, which was, for it’s time, totally mind blowing and groundbreaking. I love this stuff so much!! 

(This time I mean it…)
Now back to the books.
 With quickie synopses. 
                                    My copies.

The Dunwich Horror
Lancer Books. March 1969. Second edition.
     H. P. Lovecraft and His Work by August Derleth
  In the Vault
    (I steal from dead people!)
 Pickman's Model
     (You are what you pose. or Children shouldn't eat (with) dead things.)
 The Rats in the Walls
     (A  moving plea for Veganism.)
 The Music of Erich Zann
     (Crazy old man makes crazier music for the Spheres.)
The Haunter of the Dark
     (Don’t break into old abandoned churches in the Polish part of town.Don't even bother, just move on down the bloch. .)
 The Dunwich Horror
    (If your crazy daddy fixes you up on a blind date with an extra-dimensional monster   god then for god’s sake take a pack of Trojans along!)
 The Thing on the Doorstep
    (Transgender fishman-hybrid necrophilia honeymoon. Kinda.)

The Colour Out of Space and Others.
Lancer Books. March 1969. Third edition

The Colour out of Space
(Don’t drink the shiny water!)

The Picture in the House
(You eats what you is.)

The Call of Cthulhu
(Don’t answer!!!)

Cool Air
(Without proper refrigeration (dead) things tend to spoil quickly.)

The Whisperer in Darkness
(There’s  fungi lobstermen from Pluto in them thar hills!)

The Terrible Old Man
(Yeah, go ahead and break into the weird old guys house.)

The Shadow Out of Time
(Proves that Cthulhu will not return during mans tenure on this planet!)

These two volumes are more or less an “HPL’s Greatest Hits”. They are a breakdown of “Arkam House’s”  “The Dunwich Horror and Others”. For some stupid reason both “The Outsider” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth” have been omitted. Even though these are a “best of” collection”, they neglect his earlier stuff that is just as good (in my opinion).
As far as the covers go, these are pretty pedestrian. What was coming a few years later from Lin Carter’s “Adult Fantasy Series” from Ballantine would blow these out of the water and set new standards for “Lovecraftian” cover art. All in all though, you have to give Lancer credit for making these available for a mass public and for helping make HPL a household name. At least in better houses that is.

Original Arkham House contents:
  1. H. P. Lovecraft and His Work by August Derleth
  2. In the Vault
  3. Pickman's Model
  4. The Rats in the Walls
  5. The Outsider
  6. The Colour out of Space
  7. The Music of Erich Zann
  8. The Haunter of the Dark
  9. The Picture in the House
  10. The Call of Cthulhu
  11. The Dunwich Horror
  12. Cool Air
  13. The Whisperer in Darkness
  14. The Terrible Old Man
  15. The Thing on the Doorstep
  16. The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  17. The Shadow Out of Time
Well, that's it for this weeks installment.
Thank you very much for stopping by.
And thank you very much Mr. Williamson!

What's that? There's something breaking through the barrier! It's! Unspeakable!  Tentacles are reaching across tying to draw me through!! Must type faster! Help! Must use the spell! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!!!!! ARRRGHHH!!!!!!!!! SLURP!!!! Nom! Nom! nom! Thud!

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