A couple weeks back, I spent a day at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon. It was a three day event, Friday through Saturday, May 11 – 13, 2012, held at the Hollywood Theater in Portland, Oregon. Although I live only an hour’s drive from Portland and have known of the Festival since the first one was planned years ago, this is the first time I’ve attended. Why? Because I never had the money for a ticket, and gas is expensive, and — the real reason — I’m a stick in the mud who seldom leaves town. However, this year a friend generously invited me, bought me a ticket, and offered to drive, so I went, and it was fucking amazing.
The most amazing part was meeting two people I’d had literary dealings with in the 1980s when I began writing and publishing horror. One of these is Wilum H. Pugmire, an artist of the highest caliber who writes finely crafted short stories. I published at least one, possibly two pieces by Wilum in magazines I edited back then. I had, as I remember it, three Lovecraftian publications: Midnight Shambler, Ye Olde Lemurian, and The Hundredth Lovecrafter, and it was in one or more of these that I published Wilum. It’s been years since I last looked at these magazines, and I no longer recall the details. Anyway, I always had huge respect for Wilum. His work was very evocative, extremely sensual, and it had a strong Lovecraftian flavor. He was (and is) one of the best writers working in the tradition of Lovecraft. I was thrilled when I learned he would be reading the day we attended, on Saturday. I decided I would try to meet him, if possible.
The second person I wanted to meet who was also scheduled to be there that day was Robert E. Price, the renowned editor of many respected Lovecraftian publications. It was he who resurrected Midnight Shambler when it folded after my third (?) issue as editor and he went on to publish many more issues. I couldn’t believe my luck, that both of these men who have been so significant in my life in horror would be there that day.
The first event we attended was the Author readings. We were late and missed Jay Lake entirely, coming in half way through Jeff Burk’s fun reading. We witnessed all of Wilum Pugmire’s reading, and it was incredible. He read several short pieces, most or all of them prose poems. After the first one, I whispered to my friend “You can see why I published him — he’s great!” I forget the titles of what he read, but the one that had the strongest impact on me was a melancholy prose poem about visiting H. P. Lovecraft’s grave.
(Correction: I asked Wilum about this and he said “Do you know, I don’t think I HAVE written a piece about visiting Lovecraft’s grave. I think you must be remember, from my reading, a portion of something called “Letters from an Old Gent,” in which I have Lovecraft visiting his father’s grave. It may be found in my new book from Hippocampus Press, UNCOMMON PLACES. The piece is a collection of prose-poems in the form of semi-letters that HPL may have written to friends and lovers.”)
He followed that with some very poignant comments about what Lovecraft meant to him personally as a writer, and said that — due to his poor health — this might be the last year he attended the Festival. Afterwards, as he was leaving the auditorium, I was bold enough to approach him and introduce myself, saying “I don’t know if you remember me, but I think I published you many years ago.” He did remember me, and gave me a very warm welcome, hugging me. He seemed genuinely moved to meet me, and it was mutual. I introduced my friend, and then, not wanting to tire Wilum or take up too much of his time, we left Pugmire alone. Later, I saw him from a distance talking to fans in the vendor area in the lobby, and took a couple of paparrazzi style photos, thinking he probably wouldn’t mind. And a bit after that, as my friend and I were sitting outside the cafe next door, we spotted Wilum sitting on a bench by himself outside the theater, enjoying the sunny afternoon. I took another photo, unable to resist, although I felt I was pushing the limits of what was acceptable, and limited it to only one shot.
Back inside, we spotted a man sitting on a bench in the vendor area of the upstairs lobby. “Is that Robert Price?” my friend asked. “Yes, I think it might be.” Again, bolder than I usually am, I went up and introduced myself, and he too was very friendly and gracious, and he remembered me and my publications. I was doubly stoked, meeting both Pugmire and Price, and getting a warm reception from both of them.
The rest of the day and evening was fantastic: two good horror films, two great author panels. It was any Lovecraftian’s definition of heaven. Perhaps best of all was just being in the same building with a couple hundred people, all of whom love and respect H. P. Lovecraft, his writings and his ideas. It was very inspiring, and made me very glad I’d gotten out of my shell and attended.
I hope to go again next year.