Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cosmic Filth: Robert E. Howard's View of Evil

[This essay originally appeared in the third issue of The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies, April 1993. Copyright 1993 by Necronomicon Press. I have made a few slight changes for this appearance.]

It is frequently observed that Robert E. Howard's heroic fantasies possess a quality that is "larger than life." John D. Clark has duly noted that, "Howard was writing of another Earth than this one -- one painted in brighter colors and on a grander scale." (quoted in the introduction to Conan the Freebooter, p. 13). L. Sprague de Camp later added that, "In such a world, gleaming cities raise their shining spires against the stars; sorcerers cast sinister spells from subterranean lairs; baleful spirits stalk crumbling ruins; primeval monsters crash through jungle thickets..." (Introduction to Conan the Warrior, p. 9) Such observations, made by uncritical fans, are correct as far as they go, but fail to do justice to the complexity of Howard's work.

Howard was a visionary whose imagination led him to rework elements of the oldest type of story into contemporary popular fiction. But, growing up in the years following the First World War, he was also the product of a cynical, disillusioned era. He endeavored to temper his fanciful subject matter with a gritty, hard-boiled realism (see Knight, in The Dark Barbarian, p. 45). The most realistic aspect of his fiction is his characterization. His rugged protagonists, though formidable fighting men, are portrayed as fallible human beings. Some, like Conan, are motivated by their natural appetites and a form of enlightened self-interest. Others, like Kull and Solomon Kane, are driven by more intricate psychological impulses.

It was Howard's natural inclination to view life as a vivid yin/yang dichotomy, seeing it in terms of light/dark, good/evil, life/death and so on. As an intelligent adult, however, he was aware that real life requires one to trudge through a quagmire of moral ambiguities and gray areas. No one is all good or all bad; even Hitler had a dog. In Howard's writings, therefore, both his heroes and villains are portrayed realistically, rather than as cardboard stereotypes. Yet as an artist, Howard felt moved to deal with "evil" as an abstraction.

Howard's method for portraying Evil with a capital "E" was to remove it from the confines of the human heart and externalize it. Since he was writing fantasy, he could utilize monsters, demons, and alien beings. All of these entities could be portrayed as evil in a way that human beings were not. This was in keeping with Howard's portrayal of a world built "on a grander scale" than the real one. Consider the scene from "Xuthal of the Dusk" in which the winsome heroine Natala is assualted by the monster, Thog:

A dark tentacle-like member slid about her body, and she screamed at the
touch of it on her naked flesh. It was neither warm nor cold, rough nor
smooth; it was like nothing that had ever touched her before, and at its caress
she knew such fear and shame as she had never dreamed of. All the
obscenity and salacious infamy spawned in the muck of the abysmal pits of Life
seemed to drown her in seas of cosmic filth. And in that instant she knew
that whatever form of life this thing represented it was not a beast.
(Weird Tales, September 1933, 290)

"Cosmic filth" is a term that Howard her applies to evil viewed as an independent, external reality, rather than a mere human attribute. He uses the identical phrase in The Hour of the Dragon, during the sequence in which Conan meets the woman Akivasha beneath the tombs of Stygia. A legendary immortal temptress, Akivasha is exposed as a repellent vampire whom Conan shuns:

...[T]hrough his fear ran the sickening revulsion of his discovery. The
legend of Akivasha was so old, and among the evil tales told of her ran a thread
of beauty and idealism, of everlasting youth. To so many dreamers and
poets and lovers she was not alone the evil princess of Stygian legend, but the
symbol of eternal youth and beauty, shining forever in some far realm of the
gods. And this was the hideous reality. This foul perversion was the
truth of that everlasting life. Through his physical revulsion ran the
sense of a shattered dream of man's idolatry, its glittering gold proved slime
and cosmic filth... (The Hour of the Dragon 220-221).

It is interesting to note that Akivasha is already depicted in legend as an evil woman. As a mere human, however, her alleged misdeeds just add spice to the story, allowing artists to romanticize her as a femme fatale. But as a vampire, an inhuman monster, she is deemed an abomination, by her very existence an offense to all that's good.

It is also interesting to contrast Howard's portrayal of non-human entities with that of his colleague, H. P. Lovecraft. In 1927, Lovecraft explained the premise of his fiction to Weird Tales editor, Farnsworth Wright:

...Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human
laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast
cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which
the human form -- and the local human passions and conditions and standards --
are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the
essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must
forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate,
and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind,
have any existence at all. (emphasis added; H. P. Lovecraft, Selected
Letters II
, 150)

Lovecraft depicted non-human entities such as Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu as acting upon totally alien motives that we humans could not even begin to comprehend. Humanity is threatened simply because it is in the way. The Great Old Ones bear no actual ill will, and presumably are not even capable of it. Any malevolence on their part is only the subjective impression of Lovecraft's human narrators.

Howard, on the other hand, postulated alien super-beings fully capable of both good and evil. A race of such beings is described in "Queen of the Black Coast":

Cast in the mold of humanity, they were distinctly not men. They were
winged and of heroic proportions; not a branch on the mysterious stalk of
evolution that culminated in man, but the ripe blossom of an alien tree,
seperate and apart from that stalk. Aside from their wings, they resembled
man only as man in his highest form resembles the great apes. In
spiritual, esthetic and intellectual development, they were superior to man as
man is superior to the gorilla... (Weird Tales, May 1934, 542-543)

Tragedy befalls this race due primarily to an environmental calamity that poisons their water:

...In adapting themselves to the changing conditions, they had sunk far below
their original level. But the lethal waters altered them even more
horribly, from generation to more bestial generation. They who had been
winged gods became pinioned demons, with all that remained of their ancestors'
vast knowledge distorted and perverted and twisted into ghastly paths. As
they had risen higher than mankind might dream, so they sank lower than man's
maddest nightmares reach...(543)

Unlike Lovecraft, Howard did not regard evil as a local phenomenon; that is, unique to humanity. Lovecraft's view may seem less subjective, but Howard's view should be considered at least as plausible. Both good and evil are actually byproducts of intelligence. Thus hurricanes, disease, and man-eating tigers cannot be evil because, lacking self-awareness, they make no rational choices. They just do what they do. On the other hand, humans and other intelligent life-forms, if there are any, choose deliberate courses of action due to certain specific motives. The potential for good and evil is there. And if some non-human entity exceeds humanity in terms of physical strength and/or intelligence, it may possess a greater capacity for good and evil as well.

Since Howard's fiction frequently involves some dramatic conflict between one of his heroes and the inhuman, it is mainly the latter's capacity for evil that he was concerned with. As Howard viewed it, humanity definitely did not have the last word as far as evil was concerned.


Howard's great parable concerning evil may be the Conan story, "The Pool of the Black One." This is one of his most underrated works; so much so that Marc Cerasini and I overlooked it in our Starmont Reader's Guide. In recent re-readings, however, I've noted a thematic richness worthy of examination at some length.

"The Pool of the Black One" recounts how Conan joins the crew of the pirate ship, Wastrel, and the Wastrel's voyage to a remote island in unknown seas, inhabited by demonic inhuman giants. All the action of the story transpires on either the ship or the island; this is the only tale in the series not set on the vast Hyborian supercontinent. The human society we are introduced to on the ship stands in contrast to the inhuman evil of the island dwellers.

Conan first boards the Wastrel, not at some port as might be expected, but while it is already at sea, by swimming to it from a sinking boat. We are told that the ship is "far beyond the sight of land." (The Pool of the Black One 15) Nowhere in the course of the story does the ship pass within sight of known lands or encounter any other vessel. This is because Howard wishes to portray the Wastrel as a self-contained little world.

From the minute Conan climbs aboard ship, as the story opens, the reader is made acutely aware that he has entered a miniature society with it own conventions and unwritten laws. Since not even Conan can defeat an entire ship full of bloodthristy pirates, his survival depends on his ability to favorably influence the captain and crew. As in the novels of James Clavell, knowledge of people and society is the key to survival.

With his every word and movement, Conan displays consummate skill in influencing others without pandering to them. When he recognizes the captain, Zaporavo, "It touched the captain's grim vanity that the man should know him." (15) Conan is allowed to join the crew after asserting that a ship can always use another good sailor --"Zaporavo scowled, knowing the truth of that assertion...He did not like the man; yet the fellow had given him no provocation. His manner was not insolent, though rather more confident than Zaporavo liked to see." (18)

"Without hesitation but without haste," Conan descends to the deck to meet the crew that awaits him. "They were eager for the time-honored sport of baiting the stranger. Here he would be tested and his future status in the crew decided." Conan knows exactly what to expect: "There was a certain code about these things. If he had attacked the captain, the whole crew would have been at his throat, but they would give him a fair chance against the one selected to push the brawl." (18-19)

Conan kills his antagonist with a single blow of his fist, then offers his friendship to the rest of the crew. This judicious application of carrot-and-stick gains him immediate acceptance. Conan's work has just begun, however, as his ambition is already set on deposing Zaporavo, taking command of the Wastrel, and, incidentally, appropriating the captain's sultry mistress, Sancha. He begins to lay the groundwork for his eventual takeover.

...He mixed with the crew, lived and made merry as
they did. He proved himself a skilled sailor, and by far the strongest man any
of them had ever seen. He did the work of three men, and was always the first to
spring to any heavy or dangerous task. His mates began to rely upon him...The
crew instinctively looked toward him as the leader of the forecastle...

The Wastrel is a microcosm representative of any subculture where one advances through internal politics, be it a government inner circle, military hierarchy, corporation, high society, biker gang, or high school clique. Howard's use of a pirate ship for a metaphor for such a subculture may seem ironic, but hardly inappropriate.

As Conan ingratiates himself with the crew, Zaporavo orders the Wastrel to head far into the unknown reaches of the Western Ocean. The captain has embarked on a secret quest, consulting old charts and ancient tomes. He is described, in terms reminiscent of Ahab, as striding the deck "day and night in gloomy majesty." (24) Howard briefly but effectively delineates his character as "harsh, taciturn, gloomy...engrossed with his broodings, which had become blacker and grimmer as the years crawled by, and with his vague, grandiose dreams; and with the girl whose possession was a bitter pleasure, just as all his pleasures were." (23)

The "girl," Sancha, is also briefly shown to be a character of some depth. Having been abducted by pirates, she, "who had been the spoiled and petted daughter of the Duke of Kordava, learned what it was to be a buccaneer's plaything, and because she was supple enough to bend without breaking, and because she was supple enough to bend without breaking, and because she was young and vibrant with life, she came to find pleasure in the existence." (23-24) Though unabashedly presented as a sex-toy, she is portrayed as having makde the best of the situation. Sancha is adaptable, resilient; a survivor. Like Conan, she plays the hand she's been dealt to best advantage.

After a lengthy voyage, the Wastrel makes landfall at a lush, tropical island. The crew goes ashore to gather provisions. Zaporavo, trusting no one, heads inland alone to search for the hidden treasure he believes to be there. He is followed by Conan, who seizes the moment to make his move.

Conan challenges Zaporavo, and they duel. Though a formidable swordsman, the captain is no match for Conan and is quickly slain. Confident of his superior ability, Conan's main concern is, once again, with politics:

Conan did not underrate his dominance of the crew. But he had not gained the right, through battle and foray, to challenge the captain to a duel to the death. In these empty seas there had been no opportunity for him to prove himself according to Freebooter law. The crew would stand solidly against him if he attacked the chieftan openly. But he knew that if he killed Zaporavo without their knowledge, the leaderless crew would not be likely to be swayed by loyalty to a dead man. In such wolfpacks only the living counted. (31-33)

There is as much attention paid to political considerations in "The Pool of the Black One" as in any of the tales where Conan appears as king of Aquilonia. However, the minute Zaporavo falls dead, the focus of the story abruptly shifts from human desire and ambition to inhuman depravity. In our Reader's Guide, Marc Cerasini and I cited examples of how Howard reworked elements of the New Testament Gospels into "A Witch Shall Be Born." In "The Pool of the Black One," Howard alludes frequently to the Old Testament.

The instant Conan looks up from the body of his foe, he spies in the distance a sinister inhuman figure, taller than any man, bearing away a human captive. He begins to pursue it, unaware of events transpiring while he was stalking Zaporavo.

Back on the beach, the pirate crew has been gathering and eating a strange golden fruit. This causes them to fall, one by one, into a deep slumber. Sancha has been ordered to remain aboard ship, but decides to disobey. She strips off her clothing and swims to shore "naked as Eve." (28) No tantalizing the reader with gossamer veils or metal breastplates here; Howard has his heroine go about stark naked for the rest of the story. Nor is she any more self-conscious about her nudity than Eve. With the Eden-like descriptions of the island, the dangerous (though not actually forbidden) fruit, and the explicit reference to Eve, Howard is resetting the stage for a Biblical confrontation with Evil.

As Sancha follows the path inland taken by Conan and Zaporavo, Conan trails the inhuman giant to a strange green citadel whose architecture is described as possessing "a mad symmetry, a system alien to human sanity." (38) Conan decides to investigate, having been "bitten by the worm of curiosity" (36) much like Adam himself.

After cautiously entering the citadel, Conan investigates a series of open courtyards. Looking over a wall, he spies a group of black giants:

...These creatures were black and naked, made like
men, but the least of them, standing upright, would have towered head and
shoulders above the tall pirate. They were rangy rather than massive, but were
finely formed, with no suggestion of deformity or abnormality, save as their
great height was abnormal. But even at that distance Conan sensed the basic
diabolism of their features... Conan mentally termed the creatures black men,
for lack of a better term; instinctively he knew these tall ebony beings were
not men, as he understood the term. (39)

Howard takes care to portray these black giants as distinct from any black race of humans, indeed any race of humans. In some respects the black giants resemble the menacing Tsalalians in Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. It is therefore easy to conclude, as Leslie Fiedler does with Poe, that these beings represent a Southerner's most paranoid fears of the Negro. Howard, however, was perfectly able to tackle the theme of racial strife head-on, in stories such as "Black Canaan." In the present tale he is not concerned with the petty squabbles of black men and white men; he is endeavoring to portray a symbolic blackness against which the sins of all humanity pale in comparison.

To make his point, Howard splatters us with cosmic filth in a powerful passage worth quoting in its entirety. Conan watches the blacks gather about a small mysterious pool rimmed with jade. They bring forth the captive seen earlier, the youngest sailor from the Wastrel, who has been stripped naked:

...The blacks nodded and gestured to one another,
but did not seem to speak -- vocally, at least. One, squatting on his haunches
before the cringing boy, held a pipe-like thing in his hand. This he set to his
lips, and apparantly blew, though Conan heard no sound. But the Zingaran youth
heard or felt, and cringed. He quivered and writhed as if in agony; a regularity
became evident in the twitching of his limbs, which became rhythmic. The
twitching became a violent jerking, the jerking regular movements. The youth
began to dance, as cobras dance by compulsion to the tune of the faquir's fife.
There was naught of zest or joyful abandon in that dance. There was indeed
abandon that was awful to see, but it was not joyful. It was as if the mute tune
of the pipes grasped the boy's inmost soul with salacious fingers and with
brutal torture wrung from it every involuntary expression of secret passion. It
was a convulsion of obscenity, a spasm of lasciviousness -- an exudation of
secret hungers framed by compulsion: desire without pleasure, pain mated awfully
to lust. It was like watching a soul stripped naked, and all its dark and
unmentionable secrets laid bare.

Conan glared frozen with repulsion and shaken with
nausea. Himself as cleanly elemental as a timber wolf, he was yet not ignorant
of the perverse secrets of rotting civilizations. He had roamed the streets of
Zamora, and known the women of Shadizar the Wicked. But he sensed here a cosmic
vileness transcending mere human degeneracy -- a perverse branch on the tree of
Life, developed along lines outside human comprehension. It was not at the
agonized contortions and posturing of the wretched boy that he was shocked, but
at the cosmic obscenity of these beings which could drag to light the abysmal
secrets that sleep in the human soul, and find pleasure in the brazen flaunting
of such things as should not be hinted at, even in restless nightmares.

At the conclusion of the obscene spectacle, the boy is thrust headfirst into the pool by his torturer. Conan does not see what happens next because he is almost spotted by the black giants and hastily conceals himself. After the blacks leave the courtyard, Conan, seeing no trace of the drowned boy, approaches the pool. Peering into its depths, he realizes that it is nothing natural: "--he was aware of a dizziness as he looked down, much as if he wer looking into an abyss. He was puzzled by his ability to see the bottom; but it lay beneath his gaze, impossibly remote, illusive, shadowy, yet visible." (44-45)

The walls surrounding the courtyard are carved into shelves which are decorated with thousands of tiny, disturbingly lifelike figurines. Conan recognizes the figurines as representatives of sailors of various races, including human blacks. Some of the races he cannot identify; presumably they predate the peoples with which he is familiar. When he spots a statue of the dead boy, he realizes that the figures are the countless mariners who have attempted to cross the ocean throughout the ages, only to be slain and transformed into trophies by the giants. The normally stoic and fearless Conan breaks out in a cold sweat, "shaken to his soul's foundations." (45)

Though stunned, Conan is jolted to awareness by a woman's screams; one of the giants has captured Sancha and is bearing her towards the castle. In a ferocious attack, Conan kills the monster by running his sword through its groin. The rescued Sancha makes the intriguing comment, "[S]urely this is hell and that was the devil." (50) The Judeo-Christian reference seems out of place in a prehistoric fantasy world where people believe in numerous gods and demons. Thematically, however, it makes perfect sense. Note that the story's title refers to "the Black One" even though there is an entire group of them.

Hearing Sancha's comment about hell and the devil, Conan remarks, "Then hell needs a new devil." (50) Confronted with inhuman evil, Conan is prepared to act. The rest of the giants have captured the pirate crew, helpless in drugged sleep after eating the fruit, and are bringing them to the castle. Conan's daring plan involves creating a diversion that will allow Sancha to rouse the sleeping pirates.

Striking swiftly and suddenly, Conan slays several more giants and leads the others off on a wild, desperate chase. Meanwhile, Sancha awakens and rearms the pirates. They arrive in time to rescue Conan just as the remaining giants have him cornered. What follows is one of the fiercest, bloodiest battles in the Conan series. The gore flies as the swords of the pirates are pitted against the talons of the black giants. Clearly, Howards simple solution to the problem of evil is the physical destruction of whatever's evil.

The battle costs the lives of many of the pirates, but in the end all the black giants are slain, except for the leader. He is pursued back to the pool, but before Conan can kill him, the monster leaps into the air and is eveloped by the waters of the pool, which rush upward like a geyser. The geyser becomes a giant water-spout shooting skyward, threatening to fall into a giant torrent that will engulf and destroy the pirates.

Conan, Sancha, and the pirate crew flee back towards the beach, even as the torrent starts to flow out of the citadel, following them across the island. In a bizarre and horrific sequence, the water from the pool actually pursues them as though possessed of an evil intelligence. It chases them to the beach and beyond, flowing out into the shallows in a clearly identifiable stream as the pirates row their boats back to the ship. Conan and the others are safe only back on the Wastrel, representing their own world and society. Asthe crew hastily gets the ship underway, we are told that the deadly stream from the pool finally stops "only an oar's length from the Wastrel's keel." (77)

The story ends with the ship out of danger and Conan declaring, "To the devil with empty seas! We're bound for waters where the seaports are fat, and the merchant ships are crammed with plunder!" (78) This serves to remind us that, although they've defeated a form of ultimate evil, the Wastrel crew is still just a bunch of grubby pirates. Granted, Conan will restrain them somewhat --no rape, no killing men after they surrender, etc.-- but both he and they are outlaws nonetheless. So what does it all mean?


As a parable of good and evil, "The Pool of the Black One" is somewhat reminiscent of Moby Dick, or, rather, would be if Ishmael had killed Ahab, taken over the Pequod, and destroyed Moby Dick. Both take place on a ship at sea and involve an eccentric captain's quest. Moby Dick is haunted throughout by the title figure, the enigmatic white whale. Likewise, in "The Pool of the Black One," the most enigmatic element of the story is the pool itself. It is the central image evoked in the story's title, yet it meaning is nebulous rather than precise, making it a fluid image in more ways than one.

Pools, when they appear in dreams or works of art, are often viewed as representing the unconscious. (In this particular case, the pool in the story owes its presence to the author's unconcious; it seems doubtful that Howard consciously regarded it as anything more than an unusual supernatural menace.) The unconscious is something the Devil is frequently depicted as being skilled in manipulating: "The idle mind is the Devil's playground." The diabolic black ones utilize the pool in their handiwork, in which they "drag to light the abysmal secrets that sleep in the unfathomed darkness of the human soul." (42)

At the story's climax, however, the pool is revealed as a greater and more deadly evil than the black ones themselves. Possibly it represents something like original sin, a source of evil that taints mankind. Water is the source of all life; stagnant water, often found in a pond or pool, can be a source of pestilence. According to Christianity, man is pursued everywhere he goes by inate original sin. In "The Pool of the Black One," Conan and his companions are chased back to the Wastrel by the pool. The Wastrel represents their society. Any society, even one of cutthroats and pirates, has rules and conventions that inhibit the free reign of evil.

The concept of original sin first appears in the Bible in the New Testament, specifically Paul's letter to the Romans where Paul speaks of it in reference to redemption through Christ. Howard, however, would have associated original sin with the Fall depicted in Genesis. The serpent is identified with Satan in the much later Book of Revelations, but Howard would have assumed that they were always regarded as one and the same. To him and to most of us, his parable in "The Pool of the Black One" would have a distinctly Old Testament flavor.

Whether or not we consider it symbolic of original sin, the pool is a more potent, concentrated form of evil than the black ones. Yet the black ones utilize it in accordance with their wishes. This indicates the element of free will. One cannot avoid doing evil altogether, but one can choose to follow an evil path. One can draw water from the pool.

The precise manner in which the black ones use the pool is most interesting: they use it to reduce human beings to mere objects. In Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia explores the ways in which artists throughout the course of western civilization objectify human subjects in their work, emphasizing the attributes they consider important. One result of this is the complaint of feminists that pornography depicts women as "sex objects." To Paglia, however, objectification is not necessarily a bad thing, for to objectify something is also to conceptualize it. Thus the artist bestows symbolic significance on some heroic figure. The downside of objectification is exemplified by the fetishist who fixates on women's shoes, as representations of women, to the exclusion of actual women.

When the black ones immerse their captives in the pool, they quite literally objectify them. However, they are not creating monuments or icons. Instead, they are reducing their victims to tiny trophies. Contrary to the philosophy of decadents like De Sade and Crowley who play at being wicked, immersion in evil does not enhance human stature, but diminishes it.

All told, then, Conan did well to destroy the black ones, but is his achievement merely negative? That is, did he just destroy something evil that threatened him, or did he actually accomplish something good by doing so?

For out answer, we must turn back to the beginning of the story. Howard provided a heading for "The Pool of the Black One," consisting of a brief verse commemorating all the mariners who have sailed into the uncharted Western Ocean at the rim of the known world --never to return. On most maps of the Hyborian world, the "Isle of the Black Ones" is not depicted as terribly remote from the main continent. However, in the story itself, it takes the Wastrel "many weary weeks" (25) to reach it. Clearly, the actual location of the island is far out in the middle of the vast ocean.

In the black ones' citadel, Conan discovers the tiny statues that are remnants of ill-fated sailors, and they number in the "thousands." They represent all races of men, and appear to date back many centuries. One concludes that virtually every ship attempting to cross the ocean, perhaps due to trade winds and the need for fresh provisions, makes landfall on the island. The crews are then captured by the black ones.

But now that Conan and his men have killed all the black ones, future explorers may be able to cross the ocean unimpeded and explore other continents. In destroying a race of evil monsters, Conan has removed a roadblock to human progress.

At the end of the story, Conan seems unaware of the potential ramifications of his deeds. Like all of Howard's heroes, he is a fallible human being who does things for his own personal reasons. But by pitting them against mostrous inhuman evil, Howard ensures that the best in his human heroes can be brought out.


Robert E. Howard works cited:

Conan the Freebooter (Lancer, 1968)

Conan the Warrior (Lancer, 1967)

The Hour of the Dragon (Putnam, 1977)

The Pool of the Black One (Grant, 1986)

"Queen of the Black Coast": Weird Tales, May 1934

"Xuthal of the Dusk": Weird Tales, September 1933

Other works cited:

Don Herron, ed., The Dark Barbarian (Greenwood Press, 1984); essay by George Knight, "Robert E. Howard: Hard-Boiled Heroic Fantasist," pp. 117-134.

H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters, Vol. II (Arkham House, 1968)


Rusty Burke, Robert M. Price, and Marc Cerasini all contributed valuable insights to this article, but should not be considered responsible for any misinterpretation I have made of them.

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