John D. Haefele’s “A Further Look Behind S.T. Joshi’s Review”

“I now see that John Haefele,” S.T. Joshi observes on his blog for August 31, “has written an angry response to my review of his Look at the Derleth Mythos [sic, since Joshi gets the title wrong].”

Really? Angry?

Anyone who cares to read my response from August 22 can clearly discern it is not “angry.” All you have to do is read it.

But can anyone say the same about Joshi’s disturbingly angry review of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos, posted July 30, 2013?

I was personally disappointed to see Joshi descend to the level of ad hominem attack he uses, but I cannot say that it came as a real surprise, either. He has a certain sort of fame for this type of abusive assault. In a collection of his past reviews titled Classics & Contemporaries, released by Hippocampus Press in 2009, Joshi acknowledges how noted science fiction, fantasy, and horror editor and anthologist Ellen Datlow “deemed me ‘the nastiest reviewer in the field’ (her emphasis)” — you’ll find that quote on page 10.

Right there in a lucid moment, indicating that he is well aware that he goes overboard with his assaults, Joshi concedes that he has edited some of the pieces for C&C: “I have indeed amended some of my harsher reviews to eliminate what I now see were cheap shots, needless insults, and blundering attempts at humor.”

When Joshi writes on his blog, “Haefele cannot be surprised at the tone of my review,” he is quite correct. Disappointment, yes. Not surprise.

“I am sorry the book didn’t have an index,” Joshi writes, because “I suspect I am mentioned more frequently than either Lovecraft or even Derleth.” With this bald statement, Joshi seeks to temper his earlier rant: “I did not focus on this issue in my review because I wanted to keep the focus on Lovecraft and Derleth, not Joshi and Haefele.”

The name Joshi appears in my book 335 times — often positively, always politely.

The name Derleth appears 2,152 times, because the book is about August Derleth.

The name Lovecraft appears 2,436 times, because the book is about H. P. Lovecraft, in my opinion indisputably the greatest Mythos writer, no one else coming remotely close.

You’re welcome to do the math.

In my rebuttal of the review, I pointed out how Joshi had seen and commented on various drafts of my book as they appeared in the Esoteric Order of Dagon, an amateur press association devoted to Lovecraft Studies — the contents of my book shouldn’t have surprised Joshi any more than his diatribe against it surprised me. After all, Joshi has been the Official Editor of that organization for over thirty years. His response is simply this: “It is a well-known fact that constraints on my time prevent me from actually reading any of the contributions to the EOD.”

Really? He hasn’t read a single page in any of the journals for over thirty years? Or is it only twenty? Or ten? Did he start ignoring the contents last month, or the month before?

If we are to believe this, let Joshi first explain how in Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos — published by Mythos Books in 2008 (four-plus years before my book saw print!) — he is able to incorporate a direct quote from my early installment of “A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos” into a line of his that appears there: “Whether we think of [Lovecraft’s] evolving pseudomythological references as merely a kind of joke (as John D. Haefele does when, somewhat misleadingly, he maintains that ‘neither Lovecraft nor Derleth took the Cthulhu Mythos very seriously’….”

Read that reference on page 15 — and then look up the citation for it in the “Notes” on page 290, where you will find the necessary information about its first appearance in “Hesperia 14, No. 2 (Summer 2007): 8 (Esoteric Order of Dagon mailing 139).”

Lovecraft fans may have noticed that my name appears on the cover of the most recent issue of Lovecraft Annual, another magazine edited by Joshi (my essays and reviews have seen print in various magazines he edits, which I admit anyone reading his review of Derleth Mythos might find difficult to believe). Mere days after receiving my EOD journal for this year’s Spring mailing, Joshi sought permission to use my essay “Reappraising Lovecraft’s ‘The Haunter of the Dark.’” If he doesn’t have time to read anything in the EOD mailings, it baffles me how he happened to notice that essay — it wasn’t the only item in that issue of Hesperia, in fact it was buried toward the back following an article about books published by Ben Abramson under a nondescript title, “One Fundamental Lore (cont.).”

No, Joshi couldn’t possibly have read my journal, could he? Or does he admit to blindly accepting essays for his?

In his review Joshi argues that my book is more “one-sided than the critics he is seeking to refute.” So sure is he of this, that when he discovers I include Derleth’s September 1944 letter to the fanzine Shangri L’Affaires (“Now here is news that may electrify some fans. Among the mss. left by the late great H. P. Lovecraft was the complete outline of a novel, together with some fragments of that novel. I have begun to write it; it will be published as a collaboration, for such actually it is, very likely both in curtailed form in a magazine, and as a book . . . Its title for the present is The Lurker at the Threshold, and it has a number of construction similarities, as might be expected, coming from HPL, to The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”), he insinuates I “unwittingly” provide “ammunition to the opposition by unearthing a damning statement.”

If I am in fact as “one-sided” as Joshi would have you believe, I could have easily excluded that quote. No one stood over me, making me use it in the book.

I’m glad Joshi found it such a pleasant surprise.

Of course, in my EOD zine Hesperia No. 53 (2009), I discuss — quite wittingly, thank you — this piece in all of its aspects. I presented it and shared it with the major Lovecraftian scholars in the EOD — which would have included Joshi, if he had read that issue.

Joshi’s review seems to be slipshod and careless. Perhaps he is taking on more than he adequately can deal with, as in these examples:

He brings up Dirk W. Mosig, who “long ago pointed out (and which Haefele fails even to address), the fact that Cthulhu is imprisoned in his underwater city of R’lyeh.”

I do address this — and Mosig, too — on page 252 of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos.

Joshi asks, “Why does Haefele, in his otherwise exhaustive treatment, remain stonily silent about ‘The Ancestor’?”

But wait a moment, I don’t — I demonstrate Derleth himself did not consider “The Ancestor” a Mythos story — on page 147.

(Extra! Neither did Derleth put “Wentworth’s Day” or “The Peabody Heritage” into the Mythos. Neither do I, but I painstakingly do explain the reason they are outside of the purview of the book. On page 152, if you still have any reason to doubt my truthfulness.)

Joshi stubbornly argues Derleth concealed for a lifetime the fact Lovecraft never coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos”: “Haefele comes back with the assertion that, in an article published thirty-two years later (‘The Cthulhu Mythos,’ 1969), Derleth finally admitted that ‘Lovecraft never so designated it.’”

In his white-hot haste, Joshi must have missed where I said on page 58, “‘A Note on the Cthulhu Mythos’ is … derived straight from H.P.L.: A Memoir, utilizing material Derleth first set down for chapter 3, ‘The Work,’ representing his only serious look at the Mythos”.

Because Derleth said it there in A Memoir, on page 69, written in 1944 (published in 1945) less than eight years after Lovecraft’s death: “As I have pointed out elsewhere, Lovecraft’s concept of the Cthulhu Mythos (which was not his name for it)” — not in 1969.

Joshi also missed things I admit I did not state outright. The possibility there could be up to four — but needing only one to validate my theory — non-extant letters that Lovecraft wrote to Farnese in the origins of the Black Magic Quote debate, stems straight from Joshi’s own remark in I Am Providence, on pages 1056-57, establishing the “degree to which gentlemanly courtesy … governed [Lovecraft’s] actions, so that a letter received required a response.”

In his more recent post, Joshi does say, “I have never been shy in declaring that … [Haefele] is an able critic,” except for my “distortion of both Lovecraft’s and Derleth’s work in making his implausible case that Derleth somehow legitimately carried on Lovecraft’s pseudomythology.” Under that heading, Joshi complains in the review that I “obfuscate” the “plain fact” Lovecraft doesn’t refer in the fiction to Hastur as a god, against Derleth’s claim “Hastur was part of the ‘roster of the Great Old Ones as they were originally conceived.’”

In fact, nowhere do I address that claim specifically.

(Extra! But I will here, right now, and the one plain fact I see is that, when he explains the genesis of “The Return of Hastur” in The Mask of Cthulhu, Derleth reports how Lovecraft read its “opening pages and the outline of my proposed development, and in consequence made several suggestions which were enthusiastically incorporated into the story”. This attests to a degree of Lovecraft’s involvement, for which additional — if circumstantial — corroborating evidence exists in extant correspondence.)

(What Joshi personally obfuscates are findings which suggest Lovecraft incorporated much more than Derleth’s Tcho-Tcho’s into his work.)

In any event, all anyone who is curious about the subject need do is read the book.

Not surprisingly, Joshi’s so-called review and follow-up blog speak mostly about Joshi. It is not enough that he is, after August Derleth, one of the two individuals largely responsible for Lovecraft’s wonderful reputation today (praise for this richly deserved); he must rewrite history and be the only one.

Joshi tells himself and believes he is telling the world, “August Derleth is now an irrelevance in the study of H. P. Lovecraft.”

I doubt any literary historian, Lovecraft fan, or independent Lovecraft scholar, can accept this as the truth.

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