The “Esoteric Order of Dagon”
by Ben Indick
[“The History of the EOD” originally appeared in “Scream Factory” #9 (Summer, 1992) and has been slightly revised and reprinted in “James Van Hise Presents ‘The Fantastic Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft’”. It has been reprinted here (slightly revised again), by the author’s approval]
1. In the Beginning
The Esoteric Order of Dagon! Does that title strike a familiar chord? If you are a Lovecraftian, it should. The great master of weird fiction employed it in his masterpiece "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," as the name of an order of degenerated humans who became loathsome fish-like people, and who worshipped Dagon as their god. They had their own church in the mouldering port-town of Innsmouth and gave the story's hero a frightful chase before his escape in the dazzling and unexpected climax. The tale is a masterpiece and it would later inspire a far more mundane organization, an APA (Amateur Press Association).
In spite of its unworldly name, the members of the Esoteric Order of Dagon APA-like any APA-are mere fans, quite human, in this instance imbued with a love of the genre and in particular of their inspirer, H. P. Lovecraft. APAs are, and have been for many years, established elements in Fandom. The members of an APA can number anywhere from just a few to 70 or more, sometimes all living in one area-as was once the case in Denver-more often scattered though out the country and even the world. Each contributes at least a minimum of a specified number of pages ("minac"), in individually bound magazines, known as "apazines." Some APAs staple the sheets together, as is the case with REHupa, the Robert E. Howard APA. In most cases, however, the individual apazines remain separate. Each member sends a required number of copies to an elected editor, who collates and distributes the collected packet to each member, along with his or her editorial fanzine-the "Official Organ," which lists the membership roster, the contents, dues and obligations. Quarterly publication is the general rule, but it may be more or less frequent. There are dozens of APAs and fans may belong simultaneously to several, and may even send the same apazine to each. Individual apazines may be printed, Xeroxed, hektographed, etc.; one imagines it could even be hand-written, although this laborious form of reproduction must be rare.
Before 1 converted to the magic of a computer, my apazines were mimeo-stenciled, and the typo count was high and sometimes hilarious. I corrected the more egregious errors by hand each issue. Three cheers for technology! Obviously, any form of reproduction is tolerated.
Why should there be APAS? Obviously, they represent a simple way to express oneself and have one's opinions distributed to persons of like interests. For some, it represents an opportunity to get into print when no professional outlet has expressed interest in the writer. For others it is a form of mental relaxation, being able to express opinions without concern for the exigencies of professional limitations and requirements.
Apazines may contain material by the editor and/or many authors-some of whom are even unaware of their inclusion, as the editor capriciously, but not maliciously, reprints copyrighted matter. it is, after all, on a very small scale and not for profit, and not infrequently restores to life valuable but forgotten or ignored writing or art. APAers include well-known writers as well as some who have never written a word for commercial sale. Membership rolls are subject to flux, as some quit and new members join, yet the longevity of some APAs is remarkable. Fantasy Amateur Publishing Association (FAPA) is the oldest existing APA; over fifty years old, recently celebrating its 200th Mailing. The purpose and quality of APAs vary; some are places for members to chat on any subject, whereas others may be serious, even scholarly in intent. They may even compete: in 1975 several members of REHupa, discontent with the direction of that APA formed a new one, The Hyperborean League, dedicated to the works of both Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. It attracted a small coterie but expired with its thirteenth mailing, with some of the members returning to the parent group-which, happily, commenced to prosper and remains active still.
As early as 1971, an APA dedicated to the study of the life and works of H. P. Lovecraft had been proposed, by Joe Pumilia and Bill Wallace. HPL himself, after all, had been a stalwart supporter of the concept: a member, president and editor of UAPA, the United Amateur Press Association. The proposed HPL APA did not come about at that time, but two years later Roger Bryant, an Ohio devotee, sent proposals to a number of fans, inviting them to be charter members of a group whose name, The Esoteric Order of Dagon, he chose himself. Within the course of several mailings, the parameters of the APA were enlarged to include any phase of fantasy, or-since no APA can limit its members-whatever the members might choose to write about. The borders of EOD (the acronym by which the group became known) have thus ranged far.
The initial roll of "acolytes" (as members were termed) numbered nineteen. Among them was Claire Beck, already a senior fan, but whose place in Lovecraftiana was secure, for he had printed and published the only Lovecraft book to appear during the author's lifetime. Appropriately, that book was entitled The Shadow Over Innsmouth. (Another Lovecraft story, "The Shunned House," had been printed up even earlier, by W. Paul Cook, but the sheets were not bound into book form until well after the author's death, by Arkham House.)
Other charter members of future importance in the field included Harry Morris Jr., who would later become well-known, first for his Lovecraftian fanzine Nyctalops, and later as a book illustrator using a photographic collage technique that he had developed in his apazines for EOD; Meade Frierson, whose subsequent book, H. P. L. collected articles, fiction, art and poetry which offered insights into the writer; Stuart David Schiff, who published, while still in EOD, the first book under his Whispers imprint, a volume of Lovecraft poetry, and who would later edit many anthologies for Doubleday and publish Whispers magazine, a prize-winning periodical of the weird; R. Alain Everts, whose publishing house The Strange Company would issue numerous booklets of Lovecraftiana as well as ten issues of Etchings and Odysseys; Ken Faig, Jr., Dirk W. Mosig and more.
Over the years EOD would continue to attract talented individuals, some of whom would go on to achieve fame in professional writing. The publication schedule for EOD was initially bimonthly, but such frequency proved too difficult for most, and after several mailings EOD became quarterly. It has proven to be a long lived organism which, by the beginning of 1992, was well past its 70th mailing. The size of the membership has waxed and waned, but the organization is still active in its study of Lovecraftian arcanae and other aspects of fantasy.
For one who was among those charter members (and who was without any prior knowledge of the whys and ways of APAS), those early years were heady and exciting. I had loved HPL's work for many years, and am old enough to have purchased a copy of the cornerstone Lovecraft volume, The Outsider and Others, while it was still in print! I carried it through four basic training camps in WW 11, safe within its mailing box, before shipping overseas. It was no surprise that an HPLIAPA would appeal to me! Each eagerly-awaited mailing produced fascinating new facts, premises and hypotheses. Fiction, poetry and art were common, but of most interest was the material dealing directly with Lovecraft and his work. The first mailing led off exhilaratingly with just such a piece.
It was the introduction of Dirk W. Mosig, a professor of psychology, with an intense and very unique psychological/analytical investigation of the writer he loved. And it led immediately to controversy! A neophyte to APAs and their ways, Mosig had sent copies for their opinions to several of his co-members prior to the release date of the formal mailing. However, APA material is supposed to be unseen by anyone else until actually published in the mailing.
Mosig was subsequently scolded and finally forgiven by editor Bryant, but there existed a prolonged feud-to the amusement of others. Mosig quickly became aware of the general content and quality of the mailings, and, confident of his own place in them, he no longer felt he needed prior approval. Mosig, a man of immediate and strong enthusiasms, had become a Lovecraftian when he read his first story - in a Spanish translation at that. Before long, he began collecting Lovecraftiana and acquired a massive collection. His training and insights led to a series of essays and eventually to a contract to write a biography.
However, with the 27th mailing of the APA, six years later, he abruptly resigned, never completed the biography and disposed of most of his collection. Mosig has never gone public with explanations for these decisions. He subsequently developed an existing interest in Karate. A husky yet gentle man, he achieved skill in this art and now teaches it, as well as Kobudo and Okinawan weaponry. He is currently a fully tenured professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, specializing in Eastern Psychology. He continues to write, but not of his old love-although he remains fond of Lovecraft's work. Nevertheless, his impact on the field was such that the entire run of his apazine, The Miskatonic, was reprinted in 1991 in two huge volumes by Moshassuck Press, which is run by his old fellow acolyte and Lovecraft scholar Ken Faig, Jr. The reprinted Miskatonic is a largesse of often brilliant material, no less than ten full essays, along with numerous reviews and comments which explicated his views even further.
Mosig was generous on other counts as well. In response to a lame piece of fiction I included in an early mailing of mine, he generously wrote: "One must regret you waited so long to start writing fiction." (The story appeared later in Etchings and Odysseys, due to the generosity of old friend and APAmate, publisher R. Alain Everts.)
Claire Beck's first apazine was reproduced on a heat-sensitive copier of some sort and a few years ago. looking back nostalgically through that first mailing, 1 discovered that one could simply brush off all the print from the page! Soon, all I had was a blank sheet and a small puff of dust! Fortunately, I was able to get a Xerox from Mosig, whose copy of Beck's first effort had remained intact. Beck would later respond humorously to a dilemma in which 1 found myself. 1 had sought to join First Fandom, a group of self-proclaimed "dinosaurs," consisting of fans active to some degree prior to the later 1930s. 1 was rejected on the basis that I was too young (I was already over 50!) I retorted sarcastically that 1 would form my own group, "First and a Half Fandom!" 1 discussed this in my EOD apazine, and soon afterward received from Claire a small box of neatly printed cards: "First and a Half Fandom, Pres., Ben P. Indick." (The organization of one was disbanded later when the group accepted my credentials.) Beck would remain a member of EOD for only five mailings, and he died a while later, but 1 recall him as a good-natured, sweet person, fascinated by printing.
Art has always been a part of EOD and in that first mailing Harry Morris's apazine Nocturne had several full page plates, one of which he printed in color. In addition, he made a halftone print of a drawing by my late friend E. Vernon Smith, which 1 used to illustrate my Mythos fiction "The Road to Dunwich." Smith, who had cerebral palsy, painted with the brush held in his mouth. Later he would submit occasional poems and articles to my apazine. Initially, 1 had not known what to submit to an APA, so I sent merely my story and Smith's art with no other comments. Later, learning that one includes other editorial matter-in particular comments on the mailings of the others-1 gave my magazine a name, Ibid, which it retained through all subsequent mailings, being both a pun and the title of a short story by HPL. Meanwhile, Randy Everts printed the first of what would be invaluable regular apazines reproducing original manuscripts by HPL and others, as well as essays and, frequently, beautifully printed magazines on various writers.
The original proponents of an HPL APA, Bill Wallace and Joe Pumilia, were charter members of EOD, but dropped out within several mailings. However, EOD's second mailing was distinguished by the addition of two fans who would later become well-known professional writers. Dave Drake, a soft-spoken North Carolinian, was still a practicing attorney when he joined back in 1973. Today he is too busy writing highly popular novels of science fiction and fantasy to continue practicing law. However, Drake remains active in EOD to this day. In the early days of EOD, Robert Weinberg was going for his Ph.D. in Mathematics. Although he left EOD after many mailings, his math comes in handy in his book selling business, and his early EOD attempts at fiction have blossomed into three well-received novels of fantastic adventure in the old Sax Rohmer tradition. Not all new members would become famous, but 1 remember some non-celebrities with deep feelings. A young, brash and bright Floridian, Rich Small, joined in the third mailing. He would never have the time to become famous. A half dozen mailings later, he discussed his own terminal cancer, no less brashly but nevertheless poignantly. Not long thereafter. Rich was gone. Not until J. Vernon Shea's death many years later did EOD lose a member who was still active.
In the fourth mailing, yet another writer of the future joined EOD. At that time, Chet Williamson was still active in industrial theatre, and his light-hearted Dagonzines would be a part of many mailings until his burgeoning career as a horror writer forced him out. The irrepressible Williamson engaged in a merry running feud with a most unamused Stuart Schiff, regarding an offer Schiff had made to the acolytes to buy his limited, boxed edition of Lovecraft's poems, A Winter Wish (edited by Tom Collins, another EOD member). Chet felt it was no bargain at all, merely a costlier edition, but Stuart genuinely believed he was offering the membership a beautiful edition. The book subsequently received criticism for certain liberties taken by the editor, but-ironically-the special edition sold out and is a prized item today, whereas the regular trade edition is readily and inexpensively available. The proverbial last laugh was shared, it would seem.
Meanwhile, the membership ranks were averaging 22 to 25. The reputation of EOD had, however, been growing, and the sixth mailing, in May 1974, boasted 33 acolytes. This mailing, largest up to that point, consisted of 351 pages. New members included, again, names which would later achieve positions of merit in the fantasy field. Crispin Burnham, a Kansan, didn't leave EOD until much later, when he founded Eldritch Tales, a distinguished semiprozine containing stories by many new and aspiring horror writers. Texan Clenn Lord would become the agent for the estate of Robert E. Howard and is the man who has done the most to establish Howard's name and reputation. His Dagonzine Zarfhaana frequently offered much background to Howard's stories and sales, in conjunction with aspects of the Lovecraft canon.
For this same sixth mailing, 1 included a 43 page essay, "The Children of Ahasuerus," subtitled "The Uses of Jews and Judaism in Fantastic Fiction." It was initially a very ambitious project, but I would discover there was no end to the subject, with endless books to be read carefully, and unless I were to quit working, give it full time and receive a generous grant, 1 could not do it. With the exception of a few additions, it has never gone further. My substantial page count was not unusual for EOD; most apazines averaged ten pages, but Mosig was almost always good for a thick, solid 'zine; for example, he placed 39 pages in the seventh mailing.
It was the 13th mailing, however, that would become the all-time EOD champion for bulk (1 believe FAPA has exceeded 1,000 pages at times; however, that venerable group usually has a minimum of 75 members.). EOD's lucky 13th contained 847 pages. Of these, 227 pages consisted of generous reprint by two acolytes, Scott Connors and Randy Everts, of a classic Lovecraftian lode of information, namely George Wetzel's long out of print Lovecraft Collectors Library, which had originally been a seven-volume mimeographed set. In that same mailing, Everts also contributed a 34 page wraps/bound reprint of a 1910 book about Ambrose Bierce, and Connors added his own 3 page Dagonzine.
Another of tomorrow's professionals, David C. Smith, joined in the eighth mailing, and he discussed film, HPL and offered humorous cartoons, until the novels he was writing required all his time. Today he has over sixteen novels to his credit. One cannot say that EOD was the formative ground for all these writers, but it may have kept them sharp and thinking literarily until they discovered they were ready. During these same years, many more modest but equally affable and valuable new members-male and female both-joined and sometimes left. Some tried their hands at fiction-disdainfully labeled "fanfic," and for the most part ignored by others-but the non-fiction articles and pictures were more exciting and invaluable. In the eighth mailing, Harry Morris offered a 28 page fanzine with the same illustration as front and back cover, but in stunning and different colors, and Everts contributed a valuable article on W. Paul Cook, who printed The Shunned House, with many rare photos of Cook, HPL and others. Is it any wonder a member would eagerly await each mailing?
By the ninth mailing, there were 38 members. There was much talk-pro and con (but mostly con) - about the new Lovecraft biography by L. Sprague de Camp, as though the membership felt its territory was being invaded. David E. Schultz offered several pages of photos of the home and grounds of the recently deceased August Derleth, co-founder of Arkham House, whose inspiration rescued the works of Lovecraft from burial in a moldering pulp vault. My own 37 page Ibid featured my short story, "Maeve By Moonlight," which cost me much emotional stress; it was inspired by and was a tribute to August Derleth. In the tenth mailing, May 1975, I included a little essay, "Lovecraft's Ladies," about the female characters in HPL's stories; this would become my most circulated piece. It first appeared late in 1975 in the special First World Fantasy Conference issue of the then-extant tradezine Xenophile. A few years later it appeared in Essays Lovecraftian, a T-K paperback edited by Darrell Schweitzer. Next, it was translated into Japanese and printed in a beautiful if (to me) incomprehensible collection of essays about HPL in Japan. Most recently it appeared in a new version of the book, Discovering H. P. Lovecraft from Starmont.
APAs can present not just new writings, but classic writings as well. In the 12th mailing, 1 had the honor to present a Lovecraft essay, appearing in print for the first time! It is a brief and critical self-appraisal. Anthologists, take notice! In the 13th mailing, I presented a hitherto unpublished chapter of a novel by the late science fiction writer Dr. David H. Keller.
The 14th mailing was distinguished by its welcoming of new member J. Vernon Shea, who as a young man had been one of the last of Lovecraft's correspondents. Over the years until his sudden, accidental death while still a member, Shea provided many fine issues and even contributed to others' apazines, including Mosig's and my own. EOD also welcomed a new Official Editor. Roger Bryant had stepped down and Joe Moudry, another member, was elected in his place.
The years and memories slip by as I examine the volumes, still with love. The old twill-tone mimeograph paper is often browned at the edges, but, happily, no more ink has fallen from the pages. In #15, there is an account of "Indickon" (thus labeled by a wag), a group of fans, many of them acolytes, who gathered at my house, with Frank and Lyda Long as guests of honor. Frank, of course, was Lovecraft's favorite correspondent, known to him as Sonny, and was very close to him during his few years in New York City. Chet Williamson, unable to be present, had sent a wonderfully humorous poem in the manner of Alexander Pope ("It grieves me, mighty INDICK, not to be/ Among your scene of May festivity;/ due to rehearsals for a damned show/ 1 must such joys unwillingly forego...") and delightfully on for three more pages. Chet was unaware at that time that his future would lie not in theatre (nor in poetry) but in fiction. 1 received later a science fiction magazine from Turkey, in Turkish, which reviewed lbid #15 and the Indickon!
In the same mailing, David Schultz, whose annotated edition of HPL's Commonplace Book would reach print some years later, analyzed Lovecraft's cycle of horror sonnets, "Fungi From Yuggoth" from the viewpoint of the jottings in that book. Schultz would leave the APA twice but return for a third go-round. Meanwhile, Dave Smith, Schiff and Weinberg had left (Weinberg would later return briefly). Bill Wallace returned, also briefly. As 1 consider these comings and goings from this later date, it is necessary to state that 1, the only acolyte to have had a magazine in each of the first 67 mailings, resigned. The decision was difficult, and 1 subsequently questioned its wisdom. 1 have joined, and quit, another APA three times, without rancor or emotion. Had 1 the time 1 might well try a fourth time. With EOD, however, it is a passionate matter, like a marriage of love, and a painful divorce. Even then 1 had the suspicion 1 would seek reconciliation!
2. Comfortable Middle-age and Crisis!
The membership remained fairly constant in the period between the 15th and 40th mailings (between 1977 and 1983), varying from 30 to 35 members, while the mailings averaged 400 pages, but there was some sense of altered purpose.
During this time frame, J. Vernon Shea offered sizable 'zines with beautiful covers. For #17, he had 63 pages, with an enormously varied contents, including articles, newspaper reprints, film reviews, and whatever struck his mind as amusing or interesting. The inexhaustible Everts reprinted a 1943 apazine containing a Lovecraft bibliography by
Francis T. Laney and William H. Evans, which had appeared in the then-young FAPA. In Ibid, 1 presented my essay on Ray Bradbury as dramatist, which, revised, would eventually reach print as a Borgo book. George Wetzel, whose pioneering Lovecraft Collectors Library had been reprinted in an earlier mailing, joined EOD himself with #19.
However, the atmosphere of EOD had changed. Lovecraft was still the patron spirit, but less frequently the subject. Humorous submissions were frequent. Everts continued generously reprinting classic material, actually including a complete bound booklet reprint of Clark Ashton Smith's important The Double Shadow. An ingratiating, literary, and sometimes mayhem-bound young woman, Bernadette Bosky, injected her own humor into each mailing. EOD had become a general APA of the weird and unusual, and would remain so despite entreaties by strict Lovecraft-philes. My own 'zines reflected this, being for the most part non-Lovecraftian, with occasional small essays. Only such stalwarts as Ken Faig and David Schultz were constant in their researching and analysis of HPL. Interestingly, there was little comment about new horror novelists, not even that rising new star Stephen King, whose first three novels appeared in 1973, 1975 and 1977. EOD's orientation had always been historical, but as the horror genre began to peak in popularity with the public, this would change.
For mailing #22, 1 presented a beautiful Dunsanian issue, with a haunting cover by David Parsons, another of my "lost artists', and an interior section by Bill Bridget with photos of a visit to Dunsany Castle; a reduced reprint of a Saturday Evening Post story; and a bibliography. It was glorious, and 1 tied it together with a few essays on the great Lord and even a passage by Yeats' EOD had the power by now to attract such gifts from interested fans. Mosig's Miskatonic had not only a fine essay by him considering Poe, Hawthorne and Lovecraft, but two essays by non-members S. T. joshi and Donald Burleson, both of whom would leave an increasingly large impression on the field, and later would officially join EOD. Joshi took to task Torn Collins for his editorial errors in Schiff's book A Winter Wish. Burleson reviewed Barton St. Arrnand's The Roots of Horror in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft.
With the 26th mailing, Bernadette Bosky became Official Editor. An enthusiastic college student with eyes on a master's degree in English, she felt she could handle the task. Bosky wrote poetry and stories and flirted outrageously and ingratiatingly. It gave a new meaning to an APA. The 26th mailing was equal to its predecessors, with a fair amount of material on HPL. The 27th mailing was distinguished by Harry Morris' superb contribution, a portfolio of signed prints by himself and Dennis Tiani, some in color, some b/w, and two on dazzling silver mylar. Shea continued issuing 70+ page issues of his Outre, in which nearly anything of the unusual, fantastic and outrageous might be found, and Everts offered such outstanding Lovecraft writings as the long and observant essay "Charleston," along with reprints of magazines on HPL.
Bosky's stewardship was short, however. Personal problems and the press of her work forced her to put her OE duties on a back burner. The mailing was not sent out on time and EOD appeared to have died an early death. However, in mid-October, 1980, a full quarter late, Mollie Werba, a relatively new acolyte, wrote the membership that Bosky had "appointed" her "acting OE" (Bernadette would, however, remain an acolyte for some time). Mollie's action saved the APA, and she was subsequently elected OE. Mollie's interest in Lovecraftiana was belated, but when Donald Burleson, a young professor of English, as well as a serious HPL scholar, joined in the 33rd mailing, the two became friendly. EOD would later celebrate the marriage of these two acolytes. HPL, who was married for three brief years (possibly an eternity to him) before he escaped from the horrors of New York City to his beloved Providence, must have lifted a sardonic eyebrow to see himself playing Cupid!
The first real King fan for EOD was Larry Baker, who in 1980 and the 29th mailing reprinted a newspaper review of King's The Dead Zone, and in the 31st devoted much space to reprints of articles and reviews on him. In the latter mailing, 1 printed a short screenplay 1 wrote based on a King short story, "I Know What You Need." Taking artistic license for dramatic purposes, 1 "improved" on the original. Hollywood has failed to take notice.
Artwork continued to be an important element of each mailing. Michael Roden joined for a period and his mini-comix, while not Lovecraftian, were a very attractive treat; he left for a place in the burgeoning mini-comic field. Ibid was privileged to present a series of highly detailed portraits by Pennsylvanian fan Pat McCormick, of Machen, King, Dahl, Hemingway and others. Meanwhile, of major importance, S. T. Joshi joined in the 32nd mailing. He would become the unquestioned authority on Lovecraft, in and out of EOD, especially after Mosig had left in the 27th mailing.
Of the 33rd mailing's 358 pages, 75 were Shea's. It was his final Outri. He died in early 1981. Shea was universally liked, and it was impossible to replace him, but Robert M. Price joined in #36 and for the several years, before he moved and became too busy, he included his Lovecraftian magazine Crypt of Cthulhu in mailings, sometimes more than one issue per mailing! However, he published, more frequently than did EOD and one was forced to buy the missing numbers! He left with the 43rd mailing. The APA was still alive, but like a middle-aged individual it had perhaps lost some of its initial spark. There were still surprises: on three occasions entire newspapers have been included. Twice full paperback books were included.
The membership continued to average around 30, but the amount of contents was dropping. Contentiousness bubbled up in #49 as Mollie's OE-ship was questioned, primarily for her not trying to enforce greater attention to HPL. The acolytes who responded supported the hard-working OE, but the 50th anniversary mailing attracted only 143 pages from only 15 acolytes. Two valued members left in that period, Chet Williamson with #45 and Harry Morris with #52. The process of attrition continued, and by the end of 1987 there were less than 20 members and mailings ran less than 100 pages. Mollie announced she would not run for OE and S. T. Joshi was elected.
3. A Return to the Basics but An Uncertain Future
Joshi's first act was to change the name of the Official Organ from "The Cry of the Cricket," instituted at the beginning by Roger Bryant, to "Nuclear Chaos," signifying a change of direction. A gentlemanly person, more acerbic in print than in person, he stated he would not and could not enforce a restrictive editorial policy but would actively encourage a return to roots and more attention to Lovecraft. He gained several new members, including the Michauds (of Necronomicon Press) and A. Langley Searles, the distinguished scholar and publisher of Fantasy Commentator, which he included in mailings along with a Dagonzine of his own. Nevertheless, the ranks diminished to 16 by the 67th mailing. With this mailing, 1, too, resigned from my beloved APA. Had it come to seem predictable? Was the Lovecraftian research down to nit picking? Above all, was it by now dull, and the work merely routine, my own included?
In retrospect and reconsideration, some of these concerns were due simply to the changes in the nature of fandom in the many years since EOD's founding. The era of the 1970s was a rich and exciting one for fanzine activity, in a sense the culmination of a fan movement beginning nearly a half century earlier. It began changing to a semi-professional status by the 1980s, with fanzines giving way to semipro zines which were more handsomely produced and dedicated to certain levels of writing-but inevitably losing some of the friendship and enthusiasm of the amateur period. The thrill of discovery inherent in the earlier EOD years could not be regained, and the vast array of material available today precluded it in any event.
If EOD were to survive, then it had to continue doing what it could do better than those venues where sales were the primary consideration. The "nit-picking-i.e., discussions of HPL's stylistic conventions, influences of friends, living and dead writers, as well as research into his familial forebears-all would ultimately be of value. Joshi worked on a patience principle, encouraging scholarly minutiae while being tolerant toward other aspects of an APA: discussion of other aspects of fantasy and even the altogether unfunctional but sociable "natter" and 'emcees," the latter being the "mailing comments" on the contributions of other members. He even included essays of his own on other aspects of the weird tale.
1 realized this, when after several years away, 1 contributed a "guest mini-issue" to the 76th mailing. Joshi kindly sent me the mailing, and 1 was gratified to note that the membership had climbed again, to 23, with a satisfactory page count. With a solid core of Lovecraft researchers and scholars, including Donald Burleson, Kenneth W. Faig Jr., Steve Mariconda, R. Alain Everts, Clenn Lord and the newly returned David E. Schultz, all working on both professional and amateur levels, the APA could fulfill its original premises still.
Having submitted that brief "guest issue" to the 76th mailing, it was impossible for me to remain away. 1 rejoined with the 77th, in January 1992, received a gracious welcome from ST, and am determined to remain forever. If that is too strong a term, then, say, for the next 50 years. Acolytes have a way of "coming home" and in time 1 expect to see other stalwarts back. 1 was able to pick up all the back mailings, so it is just as though 1 had never been away. Appropriately, since we usually number our "Dagonzines", 1 numbered mine "71-77", neatly pretending 1 was sending in a multi-zine, and bringing it up to date in one fell swoop.
Time has rolled by and although ST has occasionally suggested someone consider becoming Official Editor, no one has volunteered. Keeping the directorial position occupied by an involved, active person is a problem for any organization, no less with APAS. There is a good deal of work involved, and little glory in a non-profit group. Mailings must be collated, packaged and lugged (despite considerable USPO, and mailed out. And on time. weight) to the too. Otherwise letters, phone call s and e-mail complaints ensue. ST's record is exemplary. Careful records must be kept. Reminders to members delinquent with dues or minac are required, and such facts must be noted each mailing in the Official Organ. ST is tougher on the former than the latter, apprehensive lest he lose members. No Roger Bryant, he! 0Es of other APAs are decidedly less tolerant of no-show members. There is the constant need to seek out new members, which converts an OE into a salesman at conventions. Finally, accounts must be balanced and maintained. After all this, the OE himself is free to attend to his own work. In STs case, this is usually a dozen or so books and twice as many articles he is juggling simultaneously with all his three hands. He has shrugged good-naturedly and assumed the burden. The annual membership dues is still modest, although about seven times what it was in 1973, when it was $2.00 for six bimonthly mailings. 1 just wonder, how low was postage then! Most APAs charge about the same now, $15 per annum currently, all for postage and expenses. The labor itself is for love.
In this subworld of fan activity, APAs are characterized by camaraderie, major discussion and pleasant trivia as well. To complement those which are theme-inspired, other APAs exist merely as large round robin chit-chat groups, coffee clubs by mail (or even by computer) as it were. The Star Trek field has its own APAS. Fine Print devotees have theirs. 1 know of at least one whose purpose is to discuss sexual matters and sex in literature and film. There may even be a group, in Australia, 1 am told, with our very name! This may be hearsay, but 1 have myself been a member of one other Lovecraftian APA. In 1975, Randy Everts, already active in EOD, wanted an HPL group which would be exclusively devoted to the Old Gentleman. His avowed intention was to accumulate the best contributions from this new APA and publish them in book form. He invited several EOD Acolytes (without disturbing his own position or that of others within EOD) as well as outsiders of like interest to join The Howard Phillips Lovecraft Amateur Press Association, yclept the Necronomicon. The APA never exceeded a few dozen writer and artist members, but it achieved a very high quality and even beauty. Everts, a graduate student at the time, characteristically was generous with reprints of valuable Lovecraft material, as well as printing the contributions of some of the members. Everts’ APA was always subject to lengthy delays between mailings, necessitated by the editor's scholastic and business efforts, and it finally and abruptly vanished without notice, then or since, after its twenty-eighth mailing in 1987. The book compilation has yet to appear. Wistful and very patient members, aware of Mr. Everts' vagaries, will not be surprised to discover the long-awaited 29th mailing in their mailboxes, business as usual, one day.
EOD has been more than camaraderie and trivia. It can stand proudly as a beacon of scholarship and art. Lovecraft research is now an industry, and EOD has been in its forefront, beginning with the trailblazing psychological insights of Dirk Mosig, continuing down to S. T. Joshi, and his brilliant biographical writing. On two occasions it has been influential in erecting physical memorials to Lovecraft. First, in placing a suitable grave marker over his hitherto unmarked family plot site. This was thanks to the efforts of Mosig. More recently, an appropriate memorial to HPL was placed before the library on the campus of Brown University, a labor initiated by Joshi. In addition, when Frank Long, dearest friend of Lovecraft's, died several years ago, and not long afterward, his widow, Lyda Long, followed, his remains were rescued from an unfortunate and erroneous interment in Potter's Field and properly buried. Subsequently, the ashes of Mrs. Long were distributed according to her last expressed wishes. Several EOD members, past and present, attended to this. Such generous labor has also been characterized by members of REHupa, in maintaining sites in Texas associated with Robert E. Howard, their namesake.
In Sept. 1997, the EOD celebrated its 100th mailing. Of the 26 members, only half submitted mailings, but they totaled 271 pages. Within a year the hallowed APA was celebrating its twenty-fifth year, in July of 1998. The busy and harassed OE failed to notice the anniversary until a belated month or two, but the several members who have been along since the first issue can smile like the Senior Fans they are and wish it well for another quarter century.
Many are still here, not yet ready for quietus or
beatification. Scott Connors completed a military career and promptly returned
to the fold, specializing in Clark Ashton Smith. David Drake, busily writing
novels, still contributes his two pages and occasionally four. Ken Faig is
dependable for solid zines every mailing. Glenn Lord, Ken Neily, Randy Everts,
Dave Schultz and myself are present regularly, along with others. However, the
newer members are making themselves felt. Scholarly work appears from Doug
Anderson, John Haefele, Steve Walker and Langley Searles, a veteran editor, but
new to EOD, who contributes his distinguished Fantasy Commentator on
publication. However, more far-out are the publications of Ben Szumskyj, who
has, in addition to his printed zines, begun an Internet EOD website, where
more current matter may be posted and discussed. John Goodrich, Alan Gullette
and Todd Fischer dare to be fresh and outrageous.
EOD lives, with the promise of something new to say and a different way of saying it. We veterans recall the anticipation and excitement of a new mailing, the sense of something new, the hodgepodge of printing styles - mimeograph, spirit-ink hektograph, letterpress, prehistoric Xerox, everything but hand-written! Today it is much neater, more formal, sometimes elaborate. It does not matter. Every mailing has interest. If it appears to lack excitement, well, perhaps new members will find, and supply, that. The life and works of the Gentleman From Providence will always be newly interpreted d according to current thinking, and one can only ponder, not without pleasure, what it will be at that time!
BEN INDICK BIOGRAPHY:
Published two Borgo books, Bradbury the Dramatist, and Geo. Alec Effinger, From Entropy to Budayeen. Short fiction in three Barnes and Noble books. Numerous articles of commentary on SF and Fantasy writers in Starmont, Borgo, T-K Graphics, three Underwood-Miller books, The Stephen King Newsletter, Science-Fiction Studies, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, etc. Several plays have won competitions and been performed. Member of HWA, First Fandom, Dramatists Guild, Shaw Society, EOD and FAPA.