Meade Frierson III and wife Penny
Paul Berglund has asked us to recount the history behind our 1972 publication in tribute to Howard Phillips Lovecraft, called HPL. Never heard of it? Subscribers who had paid from $1.50 to $3.00 for a copy and the many contributors who received free copies were amazed when HPL arrived by mail in March-April 1972. It was self-covered, a total of 144 pages on slick 70# paper of 8.5 x 11 inch dimensions. Within the pages lurked 17 full page illustrations (plus the front and back covers) that depicted scenes from Lovecraft stories and 93 additional illustrations by 20 different artists. The artwork included a total of 36 small pieces and 5 full pages by the associate editor for art, Kansas City artist S. Herbert "Herb" Arnold. There were 19 pieces of fiction, including the opening chapter of the forthcoming Arkham House novel, The Burrowers Beneath by Brian Lumley. Its articles department, thanks to the many contacts of the enthusiastic associate editor for articles, Stuart David Schiff (whose brilliant Whispers magazine has long since eclipsed this early one-shot effort), attracted a total of 25 articles by 21 authors, including Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, E. Hoffmann Price, and Frank Belknap Long, among Lovecraft's surviving contemporaries. Finally, there were 20 poems by 13 different writers. I must now admit to my nom de computre; as Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge I had scribbled some verse for the magazine that Paul Berglund has kindly reproduced elsewhere in this issue of Nightscapes (which contains two pieces not in HPL but which August Derleth had previously published in The Arkham Collector under my own name). Near the middle of the magazine there were some letters that HPL might have received; apparently, my satire struck the funny bones of many readers -- I recall particularly rewarding feedback from Willis Conover, one of Lovecraft's youngest correspondents, who felt he recognized himself in some of the letters, and Brian Lumley.
Flashback to a bit of necessary history: we are Meade and Penny Frierson. In our late twenties with two babies, my wife and I were bored with the conventional social life of Birmingham and sought more intellectual stimulation. Thus vulnerable, we were easy prey to be inducted into amateur press associations (of the type with which Lovecraft himself had been involved). Ultimately being editor for three, founding one and contributing to as many as 13 for a short time, I began in late 1969 with the prestigious Southern Fandom Press Alliance (which, by the way, is celebrating its 200th mailing in November 1997). We started attending science fiction conventions in 1970, beginning with one where I was put in charge of a publication called The SFC Bulletin for a fledgling organization called the Southern Fandom Confederation (an office which I belatedly shed by 1983). By Labor Day of 1971 we had met and were in contact with a fair number of fan and pro writers and artists. As a consequence, our first world science fiction convention (worldcon) that weekend in Boston was not a wholly mysterious event.
It was however an event celebrated primarily in bars. The image of sf writer R.A. Lafferty practicing an Irish tradition by sitting in Penny's lap could only have occurred in a worldcon hotel bar, and I have too many witnesses for it to be the product of boozy imagination. Significantly for HPL, in that same bar I received the sage advice of one Tom Collins (the writer, not the drink). He was making a tribute to August Derleth in his fanzine, called IS. He said that to drum up interest in our proposed publication I should write him a letter in which I indicated the artwork in hand and commitments then obtained for contributions to a magazine about Lovecraft.
What magazine? More flashback: in early 1971 I had started commissioning pieces by comics artists without a thought of publication, merely personal use as decorations in the home. I asked two of them to try HPL stories and Robert L. Kline was slow to respond. I prodded and he admitted that he had penciled a piece but was unsure how to proceed. I asked him to send it, I loved it, and it became the cover as shown above. In the summer of 1971 I was thinking of a portfolio of 13 pieces and some mimeographed text by Meade and Penny as a little "zine" of tribute, just another item of our amateur press publications. I had asked Steve Fabian, Dany Frolich and Herb Arnold to try some Lovecraft story interpretations, too. Now, back to the worldcon.
After a boozy day in the bar, what happened the next morning? Steve Fabian was at my hotel door (I am not kidding -- it was room 1313) holding a gorgeous piece of art depicting the beginning of "The Whisperer in Darkness," the first piece in his commission of three pieces. It was so good that it had to be in a better publication than I had been thinking about; it had to be part of that grander tribute that Tom Collins was urging.
What about articles and fiction for this grander tribute? In September 1971 there were none. Who did I know? I had addresses of Southern fans, including that of Manly Wade Wellman -- how about reprinting a Cthulhu Mythos story by him? Permission was granted for "The Terrible Parchment." I had addresses for Weirdbook and Macabre -- and found Paul Ganley and Joseph Payne Brennan receptive to the idea. But who would put me in contact with HPL's friends like J. Vernon Shea, Frank Belknap Long, Galpin, Talman, etc. I thought of my 3 years' correspondence with Stuart Schiff -- would he be able to help? Yes, and most willingly. He would interview Long, loan some Coye artwork, write to E. Hoffmann Price, Robert Bloch, Lin Carter, and Fritz Leiber for us. Welcome, Associate Editor -- Articles.
I wrote to Victor Boruta, publisher of Tamlacht and this led directly to a story by his co-editor Al Attanasio. J. Ramsey Campbell was contacted November 7 courtesy of J. Vernon Shea, whose address I believe Paul Ganley supplied along with Scott Home. Bill Crawford was later still, Dec. 6, on a recommendation from Gerry de la Ree who also supplied addresses for Corwin Stickney and was negative about Talman and Loveman as interested parties, saving me 16 cents.
L. Sprague de Camp was the earliest professional writer victim of my solicitations. He was on his way into the hospital and could only supply a poem. Walt DeBill was another contact through Harry Morris' Nyctalops -- he offered a poem and ended up with a swell short story in December. Gerry de la Ree had read Joe Pumilia's blurb in the Esoteric Order of Dagon newsletter and sent in a piece on Ivan Funderburgh as an item of associational interest. To Paul Ganley I owe addresses of George Wetzel (2 articles, 2 stories), Darrell Schweitzer (1 story), Janet Fox (too busy), Glenn Lord and Wm. Scott Home, as well as a poem and story from Paul himself. Scott Home not only offered two stories, with time only to revise one, but I expressed interest in some ideas in one of his letters and these (and more) he converted into a fine article displaying the breadth of his knowledge of the field of weird.
John Jacob was another December contact who had to track down a story he had submitted to another publisher because after some correspondence we decided that it was the most appropriate. It was January before it arrived and in fact the announced pub date of January with distribution on August Derleth's birthday in February didn't make much sense since Tom Collins' IS # 4 was a Derleth tribute. Randy Kirsch, now Everts, was brought in by a tip from Joe Pumilia as to his researches. The first letter was in November. We got the Cole article and the promise of an article on HPL's last days (which never arrived) and unpublished photos (likewise) -- well, such things happen. John McInnis wrote in response to a conversation with Bill Guy who agreed to alert Mississippians and supplied small artwork. Clay Fourrier responded to an appeal through now-Hollywood-writer Bob Crais, both of Louisiana. Not only did Joe Pumilia present a short story but quite late in the game his partner in free lancing, Bill Wallace, furnished not only a review but found time for a story as well (this was the most encouraging part of the project, initially a plea of no time and yet eventual cooperation).
Emil Petaja was the last to squeeze in and his comments on HPL and Hannes Bok could not be mentioned on the table of contents page but appear under Miscellaney, as does Underground Comix (Rip Off Press) artist Jaxon who sent in via Richard Corben the splash page of his story "The Hound" from Skull # 4. Back in October, I had sent an SFC Bulletin to a new member, John Sellers, a high school student in Auburn, Ala. I received a story from him and was working on revising it when I received another which did not need revision at all. It was one of the few pieces which I sent to an artist, in this case, Denis Tiani, for a particular illustration pursuant to Denis' offer. Tiani then produced one piece but became involved in giving Harry Morris some art for Nyctalops # 6. Let me pause here to make a point. I never considered more than a one-shot, even when the material I wanted to present grew and grew -- I felt that the regular publications in this field, Nyctalops, Weirdbook, Dark Brotherhood Journal, and later Whispers, should be supported and I would not deprive them of any material even though some of the writers wanted to renege on these publications to furnish something for HPL.
James Wade was an early contributor -- I had loved his "A Darker Shadow Over Innsmouth" in Derleth's The Arkham Collector and he was responsive to my inquiries. Material came in in bits and pieces, first, "My Life with the Greatest Old One," then the cookbook bit, then "Yuggoth" and finally "The Silence of Erika Zann"; this last story was still making the rounds of publishers and we were in a space bind and therefore it doesn't appear. Darrell Schweitzer was contacted early, responded quite late offering a parody before coming up with the story we included.
The amazing part of the project was the spread of interest -- the mailbox bulged. Of course, some of the bulges were due to gigantic long articles and stories. We could easily have published a zine of twice the size with the material offered, suitable good material. As it was, with 65% reduction we crammed a lot of words per page and in fact printed Scott Home's 9800-word short story on 6 pages with art.
Walter Shedlofsky's poems I had seen in The Arkham Collector and Dick Tierney was contacted about November 19 and we had a good correspondence touching on many things and resulting in a couple of articles. George Wetzel, as noted in HPL, dropped out of fandom after being fairly active in the early fifties. Paul Ganley stirred him up and one of the ideas I had was to make accessible some of the research relegated to the out-of-print amateur journals. Ganley gave me a copy of the SSR Publication with the Cthulhu Mythos story and George pieced together a revision incorporating other out-of-print material. Paul Ganley had started George's fictional output again -- the two stories included are not
particularly Lovecraftian in their theme, altogether different in fact, but Wetzel finds the inspiration for them in HPL so ... I thought that Colin Wilson was quite cooperative even though he would not write anything new -- he did spend some time getting Scott Meredith to get me carbons on his new book, Order of Assassins, from which Penny excerpted the portions relevant to HPL.
So we had some subscriptions and made the initial mailing and then waited and waited. Ads in the newspaper of the science fiction community Locus, good reviews, word of mouth and media coverage (by way of a then-popular tabloid on comics and movies called The Monster Times) spread the word swiftly in the summer of 1972, and the first printing of 35 numbered hardbounds and 1000 self-covered volumes was sold out by summers' end. In September 1972, 500 copies of a 2nd printing were ordered, since the printer would only hold the plates for 6 months. These do not qualify as a 2nd edition, just as second printing because the only changes were two removals: the $3.00 on the top of page 2 and the note at the bottom of page 3 as to the 1000 limited print run.
We have reacquired a few mint copies of each printing from the estates of my relatives who had bought some. To check out these and our other used books, including many Arkhams, visit http://www.bibliofind.com/friers on.html and click on our search page. We offer email or toll-free order-placing and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The fun continued when feedback and additional art, articles, poems, and stories were incorporated into our mimeographed zines called The HPL Supplement No.1 (October 1972), 64 pages of lavish praise, No. 2 (early 1973), 56 pages less of praise and more of omitted material, and finally much later No. 3 (now all out-of-print). By then, Whispers was up and running by Stuart D. Schiff, and Herb Arnold was producing dust jackets for Arkham House and horror comics. Meade & Penny Frierson continued many mimeographed publications, in particular revising those on the topic of Science Fiction on Radio up to 1976. Last year, 20 years later, we expanded it to a professionally-printed 194 pages, and Science Fiction on Radio: A Revised Look at 1950-1975 became the first publication under our A.F.A.B. press imprint. There is more about these publications and a reference to our newest commercial page offering artwork from HPL and assorted goodies on our personal pages, http://www.bham.net/users/frierson and http://www.wwisp.com/~afab.
Created: October 21, 1997; Updated: August 9, 2004