Edited and Published by Edward P. Berglund
Interview with Edward P. Berglund
The Down and Dirty
Edward P. Berglunds site, The Readers Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos (RGttCm for short), is one of the landmark web sites for Cthulhu and Lovecraft fans worldwide. This site has it all, but is especially known for its comprehensive and 99% complete list of all stories available about the Mythos. I say 99% because someone is always out there writing a new one (probably Michael Minnis), and theres just no way Paul (the P. in his name that he prefers, though a stint in the Marine Corp tagged him with Edward forever) can keep up with that. But he does a good job trying, and does an even better job keeping us informed on what is available out there in the world of fiction.
Nightscapes, Pauls other site, is a showcase for Mythos material by professional and new writers alike. Some may consider Nightscapes competition of the NetherReal, though in the world of the Internet competitor may not be the right word for it. Co-conspirator would probably be a better description. However you name it, Nightscapes is well worth the visit.
Awards are numerous for both sites, most notably RGttCm's 1997 Mythos On-Line award as Best Non-Fanzine and for Best Artwork for a Website. Nightscape won second place for best Fanzine for the same year. Winner of the 1997 Mythos Web On-Line award and the NetherReals own Shining Trapezohedron, Nightscapes will catapult you headlong into the land of terror-filled nightmares which are the trademark of the Cthulhu Mythos.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul for the NetherReal, finding out first hand what makes his sites and his own work so interesting. What I found out was a bit surprising, especially when you realize just how far back Eds history in the world of the Mythos really goes.
NR: Tell us a little about yourself.
EB: I was born in Vallejo, California, on October 28, 1942. I was raised in Oregon, Washington, California, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. I joined the US Marine Corps in 1960. I never was a "grunt," but I have worked as a disbursing clerk, construction draftsman, interrogator-translator, intelligence analyst, and intelligence chief. I retired from the Marines and was placed on the retired list January 1, 1991. I then proceeded to get Associate of Applied Science Degrees in Paralegal Technology and Business Computer Programming from the local community college. I formed my own business as an independent paralegal in November 1992, doing business as Tarheel Paralegal Services.
As an editor of non-professional Mythos material, I edited seven stories for seven issues of Nyctalops (and was co-editor on poetry), four issues of From Beyond the Dark Gateway, The Winds of Zarr by Richard L. Tierney (published by the Silver Scarab Press), one issue of Spoor Anthology, co-edited Dark Messenger Reader, edited 29 stories and poems in eight issues of Eldritch Tales, one story in Fantasy Crossroads, two stories in Etchings and Odysseys, and two stories and a narrative poem in Threshold of Fantasy. I also edited the following, which were never published: Spawn of the Unknown, Grampa Frogmarsh's Weird Tale Anthology (co-editor), The Eldritch Fantaisiste, two issues of Eldritch Phantasy, and Perilous Legacies by Walter C. DeBill, Jr. (under two different publishers!).
NR: How long have you been following the works of Lovecraft.
EB: I started out, primarily, as a science fiction fan in 1955. I read everything I could get my hands on in the school libraries. I know I read all of the Groff Conklin anthologies, so I must have read Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" in his Omnibus of Science Fiction (1952), but, apparently, it didn't make much of an impression at the time. What did make an impression was reading Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness in Derleth's Strange Ports of Call (1948/49). And later that same year I found Cry Horror! by H.P. Lovecraft (Avon Books), with his The Call of Cthulhu therein. Then I was hooked! I suppose that it is still the science fictional element in the Mythos stories that I enjoy the most, rather than the outright horror stories.
NR: What affect has Lovecraft had on your work.
EB: I think the biggest effect Lovecraft's writing has had on my own work is his use of background elements to create verisimilitude that "willing suspension of disbelief" the science fiction fans talk about. Most of the Mythos tales being written today utilize HPL's background elements in their own stories. I seemed to have gone slightly askew due to August Derleth's suggestion to Ramsey Campbell that he create his own milieu for his Mythos stories. Thus was born my towns of O'Khymer and Rose City, Oregon, and the University of Nyingtove. I created my own books and beasties and what-have-you, but I have used Lovecraft's creations occasionally, either by myself or in collaboration.
NR: Let's get on with your works. Why did you start Reader's Guide? When? How?
EB: Are we talking about the bibliography or the website? First off, I didn't start the Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos. Robert Weinberg self-published the first edition of the bibliography in mimeograph back in 1969. It contained the first appearances of approximately 90 professionally published Mythos stories. I did all of the work on the second edition, published by the Silver Scarab Press of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1974. Although I gave Bob the chance to veto the items listed therein, there were two main reasons why his name was retained in the byline: first, he did the first edition, and second, I didn't want to write an introduction so I asked him to update his original one.
The second edition contained a chronological listing by publication dates, an alphabetical listing of titles of stories, an alphabetical listing by authors, a series listing, alphabetical listings by author of nonfiction, parodies, and poetry, and an alphabetical listings by title of books, pamphlets, brochures, etc. (English and non-English publications). The whole things was held together by the author listing, which gave cross-references to the series, nonfiction, parody, poetry, and book listings. This second edition ran 88 pages in length.
In order to update from Bob's original edition, I contacted everyone that was still alive that had done anything dealing with the Cthulhu Mythos, so the listings also include mentions of items that were unpublished, in progress, and projected. (And some of these have still never appeared or been written!)
Now comes the eventual third edition, which will add in gaming materials, artwork, music, movies, and what-have-you. The last time I updated the manuscript, which was around mid-1996, I had over a thousand pages of data.
The reason that the manuscript hasn't been updated since then is because I started the website in February of 1997. The main purpose was to be able to let people who were involved in Mythos creations know that I was looking for information about their work. And then I started putting some of the listings on line. Recently I realized that having the listings in 50K chunks made it unwieldy for updating. In the current update, there are 82 individual pages in the listings.
I plan on putting all of the new data that I have acquired through mail and email into the third edition manuscript. I would like to find a publisher that would put it out in hardcover. On the Internet is fine, but I still like the idea of holding a bibliography in my hand. In looking at one listing, something will occur to me and I'll be off looking somewhere else. On the Internet, I could get lost very quickly (unless I took a lot of notes!). If I an unable to find a publisher for this monster (!), I have been thinking of putting it on a CD-ROM with a web browser. Mike Ashley's The Supernatural Index, which covers anthologies, is a hardbound bibliography that sells for $105.00 retail. Not every Cthulhu Mythos fan is able to afford a buy like that. If I find a print publisher, I will probably try and retain the electronic rights, since a CD-ROM would be more affordable . . . maybe.
NR: I noticed that little blurb about being the unofficial custodian on your home page. What's that all about?
EB: I had contacted Lin Carter about his work in the Cthulhu Mythos and had sent him a copy of the second edition of the Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos. In the process of telling me about his works that had not been published yet, were in progress of being written, or were projected as future stories -- this was after he had written Lovecraft: A Look Behind the "Cthulhu Mythos" and he had started writing his excerpts from the Necronomicon -- he made the comment which was quoted on my index page: ". . . you are more or less the informal and unofficial custodial historian and bibliographer of the Mythos, in lieu of anyone else, . . ." At the time I was the only one who was working the Cthulhu Mythos bibliographically. I must say that Lin Carter remembered his roots -- he was once a fan himself, whereas some other professional writers who were once fans themselves would rather not be bothered by inquiries from fans. (Makes you wonder who they thought was reading their work, huh?)
NR: With all that work already, why did you start Nightscapes?
EB: My intent with Nightscapes was to provide a place for the creators of Cthulhu Mythos material to showcase their material, be it prose, poetry, artwork, what-have-you. I intended to have a minimum of 50,000 words of fiction per issue (though the first issue was kind of skimpy), and whatever else came my way was pure bonus. As an electronic magazine, it is akin to the old paper fanzines that I edited back in the 1970's same purpose. The added benefit to myself is that I get to read the efforts of others before theyre published. Some of these efforts are kind of rough, but you'd be surprised the gems you can find once you get rid of the rough edges.
NR: When did you begin (publishing Nightscapes)?
EB: The first issue of Nightscapes went online on June 27, 1997, hosted by my website, Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos (which went online the previous February). Nightscapes # 11 just went online and # 12 is half-full, fiction-wise. All of the previous issues are still accessible online.
NR: What is your ultimate goal for Nightscapes?
EB: Nightscapes seems to fulfill a niche on the Internet for those people with a hunger for things Mythosian. As long as it continues to fill this niche, I'll keep putting it online. Besides, I still get to read all those Mythos stories before they're published! Sometimes I will reprint a Mythos story that has appeared elsewhere on the Internet, but it is to the writer's advantage for me to do so. Some of these stories are published on personal home pages that don't receive much traffic because they are personal home pages. The Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos, as host for Nightscapes, has had over 35,000 visits since its inception almost two and a half years ago.
NR: Some folks (including myself) are uncomfortable at best with the way certain authors have taken the original concept of Lovecraft's work from darkness to the plateau of good versus evil (for every evil god there is a good one). What is your opinion on this?
EB: To start off with, as a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, there is no such thing as a bad Mythos story. (Maybe a badly written Mythos story.) The playing off of good versus evil is completely antithetical to Lovecraft's philosophy as a mechanistic materialist. These creatures encountered in Mythos stories appear bigger than life, but they are just that creatures, although alien to our solar system or even our dimension. They can only be conceived of as gods when man has to rationalize their existence to protect his own sanity. Some writers may be uncomfortable with the fact that an alien being can be beyond our meager understanding and subconsciously need to justify the alien's place in their scheme of things, through either religious upbringing or a need for everything to have a place and to be in that place and nowhere else. What Lovecraft wrote in his Mythos stories wasn't just horror, but science fiction horror. (It hasn't been too long since alchemy was considered a science.)
NR: Which modern day Mythosian author do you find holds the most promise?
EB: The newest in the professional ranks would have to be Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., with his novel Nightmare's Disciple from Chaosium Books. Sure, he throws around a lot of the Mythos elements during conversation between characters, but he makes sure that you realize that these Mythos readers didn't really think the Mythos was real anyway. And as an added benefit, he knows how to tell a story with pacing and enough suspense to keep you reading.
From the non-professional ranks, there are several that I look forward to seeing their future works in professional print. James Ambuehl, once he finally establishes his own "voice" and writes his stories as if his readers know nothing whatsoever about the Mythos. Michael Minnis puts his new stories on his web page so fast I can't keep up. (Does he have a life?) At this rate it won't be long until he comes up with truly original plots to hang his ideas upon. Ron Shiflet, who writes his Mythos stories in a Texas milieu. And then there are our British friends, Ian Davey, Laurence J. Cornford, Peter A. Worthy, and Peter F. Guenther their ideas always seem to come out of left field to American readers; and why didn't we see these ideas before?
NR: Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors out there?
EB: Every aspiring writer, whether consciously or subconsciously, starts out writing pastiches of those writers they admire. (There are exceptions, of course.) The biggest word of wisdom that I could give would be to write! And write some more! And keep on writing! The initial efforts may not be that great, but the more you write, the more you tend to slough off things that don't fit with your own nature. In other words, you tend to find your own "voice" the way you put words together to form sentences, to form paragraphs, to form stories. If you have the writing "bug" and persistence (and a little talent doesn't hurt), your unique way of telling a story will find its way to the surface.
And don't be put off by criticism. Constructive criticism should be looked at objectively. Little things like starting almost every sentence with the same pronoun or using archaic words like "eldritch" or using the same or similar nouns in adjoining sentences all of these really stand out when the reader of your work is a sight-reader. To those of us who subvocalize, it isn't that noticeable.
Occasionally you will run into destructive criticism. My advice is your story is your baby, but don't try to defend it to its death! The destructive critic probably couldn't write their way out of a paper bag if they tried, or they don't know anything about writing in the first place. But everyone is a reader! Close friends are not good critics, especially if they are not interested in horror stories in the first place. Just remember, especially if somebody else put your story on the Internet, or it was published in somebody else's fanzine or small press magazine, the editor liked it enough to present it to his audience.
So let's get to it, what is the real worth of the site. Since this is a review of two sites, one housed within the other, I'll try to address both. Let me summarize that these sites are as much a must to any serious Lovecraft fan as the H.P. Lovecraft Archives, though each carries little quirks that we all share in one way or another.
Accessibility. Never had a problem getting into the site, if anyone has, let me know. The site is always available.
Aesthetics. Here's where each of the two sites differ a bit. Reader's
Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos, while housing a wealth of information within its
directories, remains the more docile of the pair. Some of the pages are well planned in
design and layout, colors that blend and complement and graphics that enthrall. Other
pages are more on the line of simplistic, though this doesn't distract from the wealth of
information contained within.
Nightscapes, on the other hand, is a well planned, well thought out site full of eye candy that dazzles and entraps. The graphics, done as a joint effort by Corey Whitworth (in the early issues) and James Kracht, are stunning.
Content. Content? Do I need to really talk about this? Want to find out all the stories every written about the Mythos? Want to read good fiction? Go here. Period.
Quality. See Content.
Navigation. Navigation is easy, though every once in a while you find a reliance on graphic links without text tags that could be a bit of a problem when you have your graphics turned off or you're using a text browser. (I really can't say much about this, I have a habit of doing this myself from time to time.)
Grammar and Spelling. See Content.
I had this idea to list what the best places to see are on the site, but every time I go there, I find something new and get side-tracked. Want to know where all the on-line stories are, or what sites are up, etc., etc.? Do I need say more. Just go there...believe me. Would I lie to you?
Bottom line, go to the site (after you're done here, of course) and visit often. Reader's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos and Nightscapes are indeed two great assets to Lovecraft fans everywhere.