Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Imaginary H.P. Lovecraft postcard

I was almost fooled.

Author Nick Mamatas recently posted an article titled "Brattleboro Days, Yuggoth Nights" on the website of a publication called The Revelator.1

In it, Mamatas discusses the above-pictured H.P. Lovecraft postcard that came into his possession a few years ago...
"But I did love the [Brat­tle­boro] book­stores, espe­cially a used paper­back house called Bas­kets Bookstore/Paperback Palace. ... One day [Sher­wood, the owner] handed me a post­card sent between H.P. Love­craft and Arthur H. Good­e­nough, an ama­teur press enthu­si­ast liv­ing near Brat­tle­boro. ... Sher­wood had found the post­card at an estate sale. It had been pro­tected from the ele­ments because it had been used as a book­mark in a 1935 num­ber of The Rev­e­la­tor, and that num­ber was a spe­cial issue ded­i­cated to the 'gothic tales' of Isak Dinesen. I bought the card and kept it with me for years."
Now, there are a half-dozen red flags in the above excerpt, especially in retrospect. But if you're operating under the assumption that Mamatas is writing a piece of non-fiction, it all seems possible.

Mamatas, in a wonderful piece of writing, goes on to describe how the postcard represents a back-and-forth conversation2 — with increasingly tiny writing — between Goodenough and Lovecraft, and how he spent years trying to transcribe all of the scribblings. He concludes the piece with a transcription of the entire postcard.

The article went viral. Most notably, it was picked up by Boing Boing, which published an article titled "Interview-by-postcard that HP Lovecraft filled in with a sewing needle dipped in ink and a magnifying glass" on Sunday.

I was going to tout The Revelator piece here, too, as an example of a wonderful item found tucked away inside a book. One of the coolest things ever found inside a book, in my mind!

But, in performing my due diligence, I went to Mamatas' website and then made my way to his LiveJournal, where he reveled in the attention his piece of fiction has received:
"The piece was a popular one: it got tweeted around a bit, and even Fine Books & Collections shared the link in its twitter feed. Then one of the guys from Lovecraft Ezine Facebooked it and it started showing up all over the place. Germans, even!

"And then today, it got BoingBoinged. Clearly, I had to come clean. I had to explain everything, before the sorts of nerds who spend their days arguing on bulletin boards about nubs and ink and fountain pens and shit came after me. And I did, I did, I wrote to Cory and admitted everything, like a craven animal, like a naked beggar crawling in the filth of the gutters!"

And so that led to Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow appending the following to his posting:
"Update: The joke's on me. Nick Mamatas sez, 'Thanks for the ink, but I should tell you that my piece in The Revelator is fiction. The "From the Vaults" feature of the magazine is always a fiction that purports to be a true story or interview connected with the largely imaginary history of The Revelator itself.'"
And so there you have it. The Lovecraft postcard is very cool. And clearly a labor of love by whoever the artist was who created it. But it's a work of fiction.

I tweeted at Mamatas: "Here's the rub: Wonderful things like that ARE found inside old books every day, if people would just look. Still, well played sir."

So, who knows, maybe there is a REAL H.P. Lovecraft postcard floating other there somewhere, waiting to reveal another facet of the Cthulhu mythos. So check those old books, folks!

1. The Revelator describes itself thusly, which is the first clue that should keep your guard up when reading it: "THE REVELATOR was first pub­lished in 1876 and has been pub­lished ever since then in a vari­ety of for­mats. Broad­sheet. News­pa­per. Eight-tracks and cas­settes. Mono and stereo. Some­times free. Some­times in expen­sive lim­ited edi­tions. But what­ever its for­mat, THE REVELATOR has always been the first place to look to for a no-holds barred approach to the truth and damn the con­se­quences. It was in THE REVELATOR, in fact in its very first issue, that one found an eye-witness account of the North­field bank rob­bery. It was in THE REVELATOR that the first authen­ti­cated pho­tographs of the Thun­der­bird, the Unk­te­hila, and the giant squid appeared. And it was THE REVELATOR that first pub­lished the unex­pur­gated Water­gate tran­scripts."
2. Using the same postcard more than once reminds me of this story of relatives who sent the same Christmas card back and forth for 17 years.

1 comment:

  1. I have 1911 post marked DONNER
    HPL to CAS - anyone know a ball park
    value for this item - looks similar to
    above in writing style and signed HPL
    thank U