From Dam Nor to T'yog

Excerpts from 'An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia'
By PHILIP EIL  |  August 21, 2013

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The star of NecronomiCon Providence is, of course, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. But unless some seriously freaky Lovecraftian stuff takes place this weekend, H.P., himself, will not actually show up.

This means that the walking, talking, breathing star of the convention will be a man named S.T. Joshi: prolific literary scholar and critic; editor of countless Lovecraft collections; author of the definitive Lovecraft biography, I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft; and NecronomiCon’s “Revered Scholar.”

Joshi will be ubiquitous during the convention. He’s scheduled to appear on more than 15 hours’ worth of panels (from “History of Lovecraft Literary Criticism” to “Lovecraft’s Essays and Poetry” to “Weird and Fantastic Poetry”) and he’ll co-deliver the convention’s keynote address at First Baptist Church alongside Providence Mayor Angel Taveras on Thursday, August 22.

For the sake of those who won’t be attending his “Intro to HPL” panel on Friday morning, he was kind enough to grant us permission to quote selections from his An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, published by Hippocampus Press and co-written with David E. Schultz.

Some of the entries have been edited and condensed.

“Beast in the Cave, The” | Juvenile story (2500 words); first draft written in the spring of 1904; final draft completed April 21, 1905. . . A man slowly realizes that he is lost in Mammoth Cave and may never be found. He wavers between resignation at his fate and a desire for self-preservation; but when he begins shouting to call attention to himself, he summons not the guide who had led his tour group but a shambling beast whom he cannot see in the blackness of the cave but can only hear. In attempting to protect himself from the creature he hurls rocks at it and appears to have fatally injured it. Fleeing from the scene, he comes upon the guide and leads him back to the site of his encounter with the beast. The “beast” turns out to be a man who has been lost in the cave for years. HPL notes that he spent “days boning at the library” (i.e., the Providence Public Library) in researching the locale of the tale, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Bor, Dam | In “Collapsing Cosmoses,” an operator of a “cosmoscope” who sees a dangerous enemy approaching the planet from outer space.

Briden, William | In “The Call of Cthulhu,” a sailor on the crew of the Emma who, seeing Cthulhu, goes mad and later dies.

Death Diary | HPL’s so-called death diary (written January 1-March 11, 1937) is mentioned in his obituary in The New York Times: “As he neared the end of his life, he turned his scholarly interest to a study of his own physical condition and daily wrote minutely of his case for his physician’s assistance. His clinical notes ended only when he could no longer hold a pencil.” The diary does not survive.

“Despair” | Poem (40 lines in 5 stanzas); written c. February 19, 1919. First published in Pine Cones (June 1919).

A brooding, pessimistic poem speaking of “Sweet Oblivion” to be found “beyond the groans and grating/Of abhorrent Life.” HPL notes that the poem was written in response to the illness of his mother, who had suffered a nervous breakdown and would soon be transferred to Butler Hospital, where she would die two years later.

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