Welcome to the thirteenth installment of my “Author of the Week”! These articles focus on Weird Fiction and/or Lovecraftian authors that I think more readers should know about. If you have suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This week’s author is Gary Myers. I asked Gary five questions:
MD: Please tell us about yourself—as much or as little as you’d like to say.
GM: Like so many of Lovecraft’s monsters, I am a survival of another age. I wrote my first Cthulhu Mythos story at the end of the 1960’s when I was sixteen. It was purchased and published by August Derleth of Arkham House, and reprinted by Lin Carter in a volume of the celebrated Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series. My first collection, The House of the Worm, was brought out by Arkham House a few years later, and I have traded on it ever since. This history is dealt with in more detail in the long interview I did with Jason Thompson a year or so ago. Since that interview is readily accessible on the Lovecraft eZine site, I won’t rehash it here. I will say that I have always enjoyed the Lovecraft school of fantasy writing, a school which I stretch to include people like Lord Dunsany, a major influence on Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith, one of his more important colleagues and friends. My own stories cleave closely to the models these men set, so closely that most of them could fairly be called pastiches. But when it is approached with the proper love and devotion, even the lowly pastiche can aspire to be more than a total waste of time. I like to think so, anyway.
MD: How and why did you begin writing?
GM: This goes back to my fannish roots. What is fan fiction but a way for the writer (and sometimes the reader) to immerse himself a little deeper in the world of his fandom? It was certainly that for me. In the early 1960’s I was an avid viewer of the monster and science fiction movies that were then getting a lot of television play, so I tried to write stories modeled on those movies. A couple of years later I was enthralled by Creepy and Eerie, black-and-white horror comic magazines from the publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland, so I tried to write stories modeled after Archie Goodwin’s scripts. By the time I discovered the Lovecraft school, my M. O. was well established. And after August Derleth bought my first story, there was simply no turning back.
MD: What is it about Lovecraftian horror and Weird Fiction that appeals to you?
GM: That is the Big Question, isn’t it? It is interesting to be asked it now, since I have just had to answer it for myself as part of another project. Here is the answer I came up with. Some of us have never felt quite at home in the world. The people around us cannot understand us, and we cannot understand them. We do not care about them or their relationships. We have no part in them anyway. Other people are a source of pain, and we are better off without them. It is so much easier to retreat to our room and explore the world at second-hand, through books or the internet. And then something happens. Our explorations lead us to H. P. Lovecraft, and the world changes forever. He also is not interested in people or relationships. He is only interested in ideas. But what ideas! Did you ever suspect that your neighbors were monsters disguised as men? Here is a writer who suspects it too. Did you sense that your civilization or your world was balanced on the edge of ruin? Here is a writer who confirms it. And he, like you, cannot quite decide whether he sees that coming ruin as a tragedy or a triumph. Lovecraft holds his Outsider’s mirror up to us as no other writer has, and thus he appeals to us as no other writer can. I apologize for the purple prose, but that is the risk you run when you interview third-rate writers.
MD: Which of your books do you recommend that readers begin with?
GM: There is no easy answer to that question. It really depends on the readers’ taste. Those who enjoy more fantastical stuff, like Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Dunsany’s Pegana or Smith’s Hyperborea or Zothique, might find something to please them in The Country of the Worm. Those who like their Cthulhuism and Yog-Sothothery in more familiar settings might prefer to give Dark Wisdom a try. The jury is still out on Gray Magic.
MD: Would you list your books, and any stories available in anthologies?
GM: My “legitimate” books are The House of the Worm (Arkham House, 1975) and Dark Wisdom (Mythos Books, 2007). These are out of print in their original editions, but their contents have been subsumed into my self-published books: The Country of the Worm: Excursions Beyond the Wall of Sleep; Dark Wisdom: Tales of the Old Ones; and Gray Magic: An Episode of Eibon. About a third of my anthology appearances are still in print: “Understudy” in Tales Out of Innsmouth (Chaosium, 1999); “The Keeper of the Flame” in The New Lovecraft Circle (Ballantine, 2004); “Horror Show” in The Tsathoggua Cycle (Chaosium, 2005); “The Snout in the Alcove” in The Nyarlathotep Cycle (Chaosium, 2006); and “The Tower of Mormoroth” in Worlds of Cthulhu (Fedogan & Bremer, 2012). And of course I appear online with “The Mouth of God” in The Lovecraft eZine #29.
MD: Thanks to Gary for answering my questions!
(Previous “Authors of the Week”: Richard Gavin, Molly Tanzer, William Holloway, Brian Hodge, Elizabeth Bear, Don Webb, Nathan Ballingrud, Stephen Mark Rainey, Scott Jäeger, John Claude Smith, Livia Llewellyn, Daniel Mills.)
Mr Myers, your stories are head and shoulders above most Mythos writers. I have your House of the Worm, and have just bought a second copy to give as a present this Christmas to someone who has only read one of your stories and loved it to bits. Your merging of the Dreamlands and the Mythos is seemless.
Believe me, Ben, that is not the only Christmas present you have given this year. (And my wife tells me I don’t know how to take a complement!) Thanks!
Thanks, Grant! When Mike asked me to do this interview, I thought it might sell a couple of books. I never suspected how the real payoff would come: in the comments of readers like you and Wilum. Thanks again to you both!
Thanks, Wilum! Praise from the praiseworthy is praise indeed. But please don’t worry about my disrespecting my own stories. I really am my own number-one fan. I’m just embarrassed to show it.
Mr. Myers, the best of your stories… meaning pretty much all of them… are marvels of clarity, simplicity and brevity that somehow seem elaborate and ornate because you choose exactly the right word, and exactly the right number of words in each one. I can’t imagine how much effort you must put into these polished gems.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and history, which definitely strike a familiar chord to many of us weird fiction fans. And thank you for assembling your “collected works” since they have been very hard to track down across many anthologies and fanzines. I hope that the mood to write returns to you often enough that there will someday soon be quite a few more to be “collected”.
Very cool indeed, as I was just last week dipping once again into Gary’s self-published book, THE COUNTRY OF THE WORM, one of the very finest collections of Lovecraftian fiction ever publish’d! I have been captivated with this author’s work since first reading his Arkham House book so many decades gone–& I was thrill’d to take that wee hardcover to the Lovecraft Film Festival and have it sign’d! I had no idea that Augie publish’d Gary’s first story when the author was but 16 years of age–which reminds one of others, Ramsey Campbell and Derleth himself, who began their writing lives at such an early age. Those early stories from the Arkham House book continue to contain a very special alchemy, of original approach and authentic genius, that makes them so readable still, however much the author may shrug them off as early work. If you have not read the fiction of Gary Myers, get thee to Amazon! Ia!!