Allen Mackey

How did you get involved with the Cthulhu Mythos?

I started out, primarily, as a science fiction fan. The first thing I ever bought as "science fiction" was the August 1955 issue of If, Worlds of Science Fiction, featuring "Bleedback" by Winston Marks. In reading everything I could get my hands on in the school libraries, I know I read all of the Groff Conklin anthologies, so I must have read Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" in his Omnibus of Science Fiction (1952), but, apparently, it didn't make much of an impression at the time. What did make an impression was reading Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" in Derleth's Strange Ports of Call (1948/49). In 1958, I bought the first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, which brought me closer to the horror field. It was later that same year that I found Cry Horror! by H.P. Lovecraft (Avon Books), with his "The Call of Cthulhu" therein. The seeds of creation had been planted! I read everything by Lovecraft that I could get my hands on.

But then there were no more Lovecraft Mythos stories! And then I received a flyer for an amateur magazine entitled Anubis in mid-1966. I bought a copy and therein were more Mythos stories. I did not think they were such great stuff, but they were about the Cthulhu Mythos. And, I thought that I could do better. I decided to formulate a study and index of the Cthulhu Mythos so that I could be conscientious about the Mythos information that I used in my own stories. And I advertised for help in the February 1969 issue of Fantasy Collector. The only help I received was from a fan on the west coast who provided me with all of the Mythos-related stories of Clark Ashton Smith. And then in the July 1969 issue, appeared the advertisement for A Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos, compiled by Robert Weinberg. Needless to say, I immediately sent for two (!) copies. Bob listed ninety stories in the first RGttCM. When I contacted Bob, my working list was at 170 items, which included stories, poems, and essays, along with marginal and related stories.

Things just sort of snowballed from there!

Who are your favorite authors -- professional and amateur -- in the Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos field?

My favorite professional authors in the Mythos field are H.P. Lovecraft (naturally), Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Lin Carter, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Walter C. DeBill Jr., and Richard L. Tierney.

My favorite amateur authors in the Mythos field are Walter C. DeBill Jr., Robert M. Price, Richard L. Tierney, Jerry Baker, and W.H. Pugmire.

You will probably notice that DeBill and Tierney are on both lists. I had read almost all of their work when it was still unpublished and since then some has seen publication in the small press and some has seen publication in the professional press.

How would you describe and evaluate the fan Mythos boom in the late sixties and early seventies?

I don't know if you could really say that there was a fan Mythos boom or not. You couldn't open just any fanzine and find a Mythos story therein. But, anyway, . . .

Almost without any fanfare, except for the flyer announcing its emergence, Anubis dropped onto the scene in late 1966. Therein were a few choice tidbits, nibbling around about the Mythos. Nothing spectacular, except for the "Leaves from the Necronomicon" by Phillippe Druillet, a French artist. The magazine lasted three issues before dropping into obscurity. And the fourth issue was planned as a special Clark Ashton Smith issue. (CAS would not receive a fanzine devoted completely to him until Nyctalops # 8 in 1972.) With better writers it might have lasted longer. As it was, there was not enough interest to sustain it. It was just too early! I've seen some of the crudzines that were released in the seventies, and they were even worse overall than Anubis.

Robert Weinberg released A Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos in 1969, which sold miserably (even though I bought two copies). It listed 90 stories. Still too early.

David Sutton in England did somewhat better when he published Bibliotheca: H.P. Lovecraft in July of 1971. Unfortunately, there wasn't any fiction therein, but a good deal of criticism and checklists and whatnot about Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. Randy Everts reprinted this in 1977 for two amateur press associations which he was in at the time.

Due to my having a couple of items in the previously mentioned booklet put out by David Sutton, Eddy C. Bertin suggested that Harry O. Morris Jr. send me a copy of the first issue of his fanzine Nyctalops, dated May 1970. This first issue was really amateurish, but did show some promise, even though it was mimeographed. Although Nyctalops was to be devoted to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the feature article in that issue was on the works of Clark Ashton Smith! I had hopes that succeeding issues would meet the publisher's expectations. Harry succeeding even beyond those expectations, making Nyctalops into a fanzine that other fanzine editor's would try to emulate.

If we want to talk about a fan Mythos boom, we should correctly start with the advent of Nyctalops, although there was no fiction published until the fourth issue.

And then, in the spring of 1972, Meade and Penny Frierson published their one-shot appreciation, HPL. There was HPL criticism, articles on the Cthulhu Mythos, Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraftian fiction and poetry, and more artwork than you could find in any art portfolio being published today. The fiction was above average to excellent, including the first chapter of Brian Lumley's The Burrowers Beneath (before its official publication). And Meade even had some copies bound in hard covers!

Around the same time, Harry Morris and I put out our fiction magazine, From Beyond the Dark Gateway, which lasted four issues. Some of the fiction was kind of hokey, but the one thing I enjoyed is reading a writer's first efforts because he or she felt that I would give them an honest shake at FBtDG.

I guess I should mention a few other items that occurred around this time. George Record formed a club of devotees to the Weird Tales writers called The Dark Brotherhood in 1971. It did not last very long, but it did put us in contact with each other.

Bill Wallace and Joe Pumilia sent out flyers, also in 1971, for an H.P. Lovecraft amateur press association (apa). It didn't seem to get off the ground, until Roger Bryant took it under his wing and coordinated and produced the first mailing of the Esoteric Order of Dagon apa (EOD) in June of 1973. Therein appeared a vast plethora of material, not all of it relating to Lovecraft and the other WT writers. But there was Mythos fiction therein, and poetry, and essays, and artwork. Two years later, The Hyperborean League apa (THL) produced their first mailing. THL was devoted to the work of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. It was eventually absorbed into the Robert E. Howard united press association, which had started in 1972. Randy Everts wanted to see a more serious approach to an apa devoted to Lovecraft and produced the first mailing of The Howard Phillips Lovecraft apa (also known as the Necronomicon) in March of 1976. It lasted about ten years.

Who are the more important writers from that era?

Instead of just important writers, I would have to include various other people in the list, as publishers, critics, what-have-you. Richard L. Tierney (for circulating his manuscripts), Walter C. DeBill Jr. (for his own mythos), Crispin Burnham (for Eldritch Tales), Alan D. Gullette (for Ambrosia), Eric Carlson/Jack Koblas/Randy Everts (for Etchings and Odysseys), Bill Wallace/Joe Pumilia (for the seeds for EODapa), Roger Bryant (for carrying through with EOD), George Record (for Dark Brotherhood), Harry O. Morris Jr. (for Nyctalops), and Dirk W. Mosig (for his critical insights).

The Disciples of Cthulhu is one of the greatest Mythos anthologies ever. How did you come to assemble such a monumental work?

At the time (1976), Disciples was only the second anthology that was all Mythos, the other being Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos from Arkham House. There have been many since then. From contacting the writers for information for the second edition RGttCM, I knew what material was available that had not been published or accepted for publication. Plus there were a number of writers that I wanted to see in the anthology. Besides the authors represented in this anthology, stories were also solicited from (but not all received) from F.C. Adams, A.A. Attanasio, John Pocsik, J. Vernon Shea, Donald J. Walsh Jr., Robert Weinberg, Joseph F. Pumilia, Robert J. Borski, and T.C. Rypel. Works that didn't make it into the final draft were "The Still Ones" by Adams, "Glimpses" by Attanasio (Gerald W. Page got his contract for Nameless Places from Arkham House before I got mine, so I lost his story that he lead his anthology off with!), "The Dark of the Haunter" by Pocsik, "Dead Giveaway" by Shea, and "Dead Thing in a Deserted Theater" by Rypel.

How would you compare Disciples with other genre anthologies?

I hadn't bought a lot of genre anthologies back in the early seventies, except from Arkham House. So the only way I can say how well the anthology did is to say that all of my correspondents were jubilant about it and it received good reviews in the fan press. Unfortunately, there weren't enough hardcore fans to support it and it never even earned back the full advance against royalties. But it did appear in translation in Germany (two volumes) and France (an abridged version). And the Campbell story was nominated for a Nebula Award. Apparently a lot of Mythos fans remember it for when queried about the quality of it by Chaosium for possible reprint, they have said, "Yes! Reprint it!" Chaosium bought a one-year option on it and it should be out in January of 1996.

How many other publications have you been involved with?

Before I get into the publications that I have been connected with, in one way or another, let me go back to the beginning. When Harry Morris asked the readership of Nyctalops if they would care to see an occasional Cthulhu Mythos story, I sent him my comments on what he should be looking for, not only from a fiction standpoint, but from the standpoint of utilizing the Cthulhu Mythos information. Harry wrote back and asked me to become the fiction editor. (I edited seven stories for seven issues and was co-editor on poetry.) We received so many submissions that we decided to start a separate fiction publication and From Beyond the Dark Gateway came into being. (I edited 41 stories for the four issues and Harry edited the poetry.) I had read The Winds of Zarr by Richard L. Tierney in manuscript and convinced Harry to publish it under the auspices of the Silver Scarab Press.

I was still inundated with submissions, so I started shopping around, looking for other publishers. Fred Adams had published Spoor Anthology. He agreed to let me guest-edit a second volume (nine stories and one poem). I was co-editor with Crispin Burnham on his Dark Messenger Reader (nine stories), and DMR's successor, Eldritch Tales has contained 29 stories and poems in eight of its issues which were first submitted to me. I placed two stories with Starspeak, for which I was listed as associate editor. (The second issue was never published.) I placed one story with Fantasy Crossroads, two with Etchings and Odysseys, and two stories and a narrative poem with Threshold of Fantasy. You might say that I was becoming an amateur agent!

And then there are the publications that died aborning: Insight Publications in Northern Ireland agreed to publish a one-shot called Spawn of the Unknown. If sales were good enough they were going to launch The Innsmouth Reader, with myself editing the fiction. There was Grampa Frogmarsh's Weird Tale Anthology from Wilum Pugmire. When Gregory Nicoll decided to drop the Lovecraftian project called The Eldritch Fantaisiste (being done by Stellar Z Productions), I offered to take it over. Stellar Z became Eidolon Press and they agreed to an all-fiction magazine to be called Eldritch Phantasy. And I also placed a collection with Eidolon, Perilous Legacies by Walter C. Debill Jr. Eldritch Phantasy # 1, under the auspices of The Strange Company, got as far as correcting the proofs!

Quite a few of your stories deal with various aspects of the occult -- how much did you study the subject?

I have never actively studied the occult. I have been a fan of horror movies and horror novels and have read Fate magazine off and on since I was in my teens. (Recently acquired a large collection, for which I am missing around a hundred issues out of 550 published.) So anything appearing in my stories that relates to the occult, is memories of how someone else did it floating up to the surface of my conscious mind for my immediate usage. I have been told that I have a great ability for "visualizing" a scene with words, so maybe how I describe a particular scene would give someone the impression that I really knew what I was talking about. I guess I know just enough that I don't make any big mistakes in my writing!

What do you think of the "Lovecraftian" occult books and fanzines that have appeared in the last few years?

I find it kind of funny that someone can read Lovecraft and come up with the impression that he believed in the occult, which is the furthest thing from the truth. "But HPL really knew what he was talking about! It's all true, I know!" Come on, guys! If you want to start your own religion, create your own gods!

Now there are some items out there that are written from the standpoint that the Cthulhu Mythos is real, but their writers have their tongues set firmly in their cheeks. "We're playing a game here. We know it and you know it. Let's have a great time at it."

From one extreme to the other, with examples of everything in between. It continues unabated.

Out of your stories, which do you like best? [And why]

I can't really point to just one story and say that is the one that I like best. There are several that I like for various reasons.

"The Feaster from the Stars" was the first Mythos story I attempted and, by the time it was finished, it was the longest thing I had written up to that time. If it had not been so long, it would have appeared in Meade Frierson's HPL; it would have appeared in an anthology edited by Jerry Page. But it finally wound up in Space and Time from Gordon Linzner.

"Wings in the Night" was the hardest story I had attempted, due to using another writer's format. Walt Debill had written a story or two in which he used a mosaic format. This entails taking the original story (from start to finish) and overlay it with pieces of information from various sources to give in verisimilitude. Very hard to do, but I was satisfied with the outcome.

"Shadow Love" is a novel that I am currently working on. The first draft was written over a period of one month -- one to one-and-a-half hours each week day. Interest is still high and I hope to find a publisher for it.

"Lovecraftianisms" and "Consciousness" were attempts at using stream-of- consciousness writing, but focussing on the end result. They probably don't fit the definition of a prose poem, but that's what I call them. A correspondent suggested that I write a series of them that would convey a complete story, but I don't know if I could get back into the emotional peak that I was at when these were conceived.

"The Sand Castle" is another favorite, not only from the efforts to describe something that could not happen, but it was also the first Mythos story of mine that was linked with the ocean.

What can you tell me about the background of your fictional Nyingtove niversity and other Mythos inventions, like the city of O'Khymer, Sorcerie de Demonologie, and Yomagn'tho?

I was raised off and on in Winston, Oregon, and, even though I would never move back there, there is still a place in my heart for this town. It was where I first discovered science fiction and writing. In writing "The Feaster from the Stars" it was natural to use someplace that I could emotionally relate to. O'Khymer came about after seeing Lovecraft's comment about Wandrei's O'Mecca ("The Hand of the O'Mecca") sounding like an Irish Arab. The University of Nyingtove - I think I was trying for a bit of English flavor with that particular name.

So, basically, O'Khymer, Oregon corresponds to Winston, Oregon, and the surrounding towns correspond to the actual surrounding towns. I wanted to make up my own apparatus in the Cthulhu Mythos without resorting to using someone else's. As it turns out, I have since then used others creations.

I believe that you were in the U.S. Marine Corps when you compiled the second edition of the Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos with Robert Weinberg; how did you find the time to work on the reference book and your fiction?

I first raised my hand and was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on April 6, 1960. That was inactive service while I was awaiting to go to boot camp on June 20, 1960. I was transferred to the retired list on January 1, 1991. In between those two dates, I was a disbursing clerk (handling pay records) for four years, a construction draftsman for two years, an interrogator-translator for twelve years (Laotian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Arabic -- none of which I know now!), an intelligence analyst for seven years, and an intelligence chief for five years.

As you can see, I was never a "grunt." Unless I was in the field, I basically had an eight-hour-a-day job. This left time for my many interests, such as compiling the second edition of the Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos. Gathering the material together was not too much of a chore. What took time was contacting everyone who had done something with the Mythos that was still living. At that time, it was all typed on a typewriter. Whenever a page got too cluttered with notes and additions and changes, I'd retype it. I retyped the whole manuscript before sending it to Harry Morris.

It also helps to have an understanding wife, who is sympathetic and has somewhat of an idea of what makes you tick. At least she knows you're not blowing your money in the bars, but she does wonder where you're going to put all the books, magazines, and fanzines.

Although the majority of my writing -- and all of the Mythos stories -- has been for non-payment, my wife has been very supportive of my writing. In fact, a week doesn't go by without her asking if I've done anything on my novel, "Shadow Love." (Yes, I'm working on it!) And one can write anywhere at anytime, as long as he has the materials to work on and a little uninterrupted time.

Can you tell the readers about the new expanded edition of the Guide that you are working on? How could someone contact you to have their Cthulhu Mythos related material listed?

The 3rd edition of the Guide stands at about 968 pages in manuscript. It has been reformatted from the 2nd edition and will cover fiction, adaptations, round robins, pseudofactual material, series, nonfiction, parodies, poetry, artwork, games, miscellaneous, and books/pamphlets, whether published, unpublished, in progress, or projected.

I am presently trying to get letters out to update information and get information from new writers to add to the listings. The main problem is finding current addresses. So I would be greatly appreciative of anyone who has done anything in the world of the Cthulhu Mythos if they would contact me about their work. And if they know the addresses of anyone else working in the Cthulhu Mythos, those addresses would be more than welcome also.

Lin Carter once said that I was "... more or less the informal and unofficial custodial historian and bibliographer of the Mythos, in lieu of anyone else ..." As a result, I try to get copies of everything published and unpublished. I haven't contacted them yet, but I plan on donating my Cthulhu Mythos files to the H.P. Lovecraft Collection at the John Hay Library, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Do you have any new editorial projects in the works?

Let's see, what is there in the works? Oh, yes, a revised edition of The Disciples of Cthulhu anthology to be published by Chaosium in January 1996. I had queried Carroll & Graf about doing a Cthulhu Mythos reprint anthology, but they never responded.

I've mentioned to several people that I doubt if I will ever do a 4th edition of the Guide. But for my own enjoyment, I will probably keep up with it nonetheless. I do have other projects that have lain dormant for years that I would like to complete, such as Checklist of the Fiction Magazines in the United States and Series Paperbacks: The New Pulps. I don't think I do any projects that are small.

But before anything else, I have to get the manuscript for TDoC to Chaosium and I want to finish my novel.

Closing words?

As I said above, I'll let someone else take on the 4th edition of the RGTTCM (as long as I get a free copy). Chris Jarocha-Ernst is doing a magnificent job of providing a checklist of fiction and poetry (with place of first publication only) and indexing the Mythos elements from them. This is to be published by Pagan Publishing. I provided Chris with 98 pages of information, consisting of additional information on 776 items (of a total of 1,330 items in the version which I had seen) and added 577 items in his bibliography. And it is still nowhere near complete! It seems that every day I learn of something else that should be included. My inclusion of stories in the fiction listing for RGTTCM is not as liberal as Chris's. But, then again, we are not working on the same project.

Even on a labor of love, any project will take a lot of time. And just about when you are near completion, you will hear of something similar, but too much time has been invested to just chuck the whole thing. (I know of several people that have done the latter thing. As a result, we have lost their unique viewpoint on how to do such a project.) But any project of this magnitude, each individual will do it to their own standards, which comes back to how much time do they want to invest.

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© 1997-2004 Edward P. Berglund
"Interview": © 1997 Allen Mackey. All rights reserved.

Created: February 21, 1997; Current Update: August 12, 2004