The following autobiographical essay was written in 2012, but remained unpublished until now. I’m posting it on my blog to more or less explain my sudden reemergence as a horror author. From what I hear, many authors have taken a similar path from “literary” author to “horror” author. The great Joseph S. Pulver is but one example. To me, it’s all one thing – writing the best fiction and poetry I can. Given enough free time for creative activities, I can see myself continuing to write both “literary” and “genre” work.
I’ve written poetry and fiction for most of my life, first publishing in little magazines in the late 1960s. I write both “literary fiction” and horror fiction. Between 1985 and about 1998, I focused on horror fiction, producing around 80 horror stories. About half of those were published in small press magazines. Early in my career as a horror writer, I decided I wanted to create what I considered good Lovecraftian fiction. By that I mean not necessarily overt Cthulhu Mythos fiction, although some of my tales incorporate Mythos elements, but stories informed by Lovecraft’s example: stories that shared Lovecraft’s vision of a hostile, mechanistic universe where mankind is insignificant in the vastness of infinite time and space, and where humanity is under constant threat of incursions by malign forces from “outside.” I’ve read Lovecraft since my college days (I have an M.A. in English from California State University at Long Beach) and have long regarded him as a master stylist and literary artist. Some of my early experimental fiction was inspired by Lovecraft stories, but I didn’t become serious about following in his footsteps as a writer until the mid-1980s.
When the horror market collapsed in the early 1990s, I slowed down in my writing of horror fiction, largely because there were few places to submit work. However, I never lost my interest in Lovecraftian fiction, and continued to write a story now and then, but didn’t send out these later works, and eventually I lost touch with the horror scene, including the writers, editors and publications.
Earlier this year (2012), I attended the Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, and was extremely delighted to meet two of my old friends from my Lovecraftian days, Wilum Pugmire and Robert Price. The experience of the festival in general and the enthusiasm and passion for Lovecraft on the part of authors such as Pugmire and Price rekindled my own interest in Lovecraftian fiction, and I decided to return to actively writing and publishing in the horror field. I wrote my first new Lovecraftian short story in several years late this summer (2012).
Horror and dark fantasy magazines where I published in the ’80s and ’90s (or where I had work accepted, in the case of magazines that folded before my work saw print) include Fungi, Tekeli-Li!, Cthulhu Codex, Death Realm, Sozoryoku, Realms of Fantasy, EIP Journal, Noctulpa, The End, The Sorcerer’s Apprentices, Project Mars!, Make Mine Mars, My Restless Soul, The Sterling Web, Virgin Meat, Surrealist Oregon, Blizzard Rambler, Sticky Bookshelf, World of HPL, Black Lotus, Ancient Nights, Dream Scene Magazine, Gas, The Horror Show (my story “Red Paint” was anthologized in The Definitive Best of The Horror Show), Bone-Chilling Tales, Grue, Elegia, Night Mountains, Thumbscrew, Mythos Tales & Others, Cosmic Visions (an ezine), Cacodemonia, and Tales of Lovecraftian Horror.
In addition to writing, I edited and published three different Lovecraftian journals during the 1980s and 1990s. These include the first two issues of the fiction magazine Midnight Shambler. (later resurrected by Robert M. Price under whose editorship I contributed a column), a small personal-zine, Ye Olde Lemurian, that ran for many issues, later morphing into my column in Price’s Midnight Shambler, and a one-off tribute magazine, The 100th Lovecrafter, published on the occasion of HPL’s 100th birthday.
I am fairly well known as a widely published small press poet and short story writer. I’ve been published in dozens of small press chapbooks since the 1970s., and my work has appeared in little magazines and literary anthologies in the U. S. and Europe, both in English and in translation. In recent years, Bill Robert’s Bottle of Smoke Press has published much of my non-genre literary work, such as the short fiction collection, Stories From The Brink (2002), and the collection, Lunch Hour Poems (2004). In 2009, Bottle Of Smoke published David Barker: A Bibliography, an annotated listing of my primary publications, and in 2011 Bottle of Smoke published my experimental literary novel, Death At The Flea Circus, written in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A new literary novel, Stella Vero, Our Lady of the Tunnels, has been accepted by Bottle of Smoke Press for future publication.
While several collections of my mainstream poetry and short fiction have been published by small press publishers, I’ve never had a collection of my horror fiction published (as of 2012.) Having a collection of Lovecraftian work in print remains a dream of mine.
The above essay was written just as I was returning to the Horror Lit scene. I have been far more successful in breaking back into print as a Lovecraftian author than I could have hoped for. I’ve had stories and poems published in such magazines as Fungi, Spectral Realms, and Cyaegha, and in 2014, Dark Renaissance Books published a Lovecraftian novella, The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal, that I co-wrote with the esteemed master of weird fiction, W. H. Pugmire. A second collaboration with Wilum Pugmire, the short story collection In the Gulfs of Dream & Other Lovecraftian Tales, will be released by Dark Renaissance Books in the Spring of 2015. Pugmire and I are now at work on a collaborative novel set in H. P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, also for Dark Renaissance Books. I’m having a fantastic time as a horror author, and have surpassed any goals I might have set for myself back in the 1980s.
– David Barker, March 2015.