Sunday, February 20, 2011

When Sherlock Holmes first met H.P. Lovecraft

This episode of Book Scribbles is a bit more on the personal side than some of the other entries thus far presented.  It starts a long time ago, more than thirty years now, when the small press world was much different it is now, long before computers became our overlords. Back then, all fanzines were printed and sent through the mails, each reflecting some hopeful publisher's/writer's vision, and with readerships ranging from the micro (a dozen or less) to the more-or-less macro (a hundred or more). Without computers, editors depended upon word of mouth as well as listings in publications like Scavengers Newsletter for not only submissions but readership.

One of the more unique of the fanzines was called The Holmesian Federation, a journal devoted to fans of both Sherlock Holmes and e (then) defunct science fiction TV series Star Trek.If I remember correctly, I think I heard of The Holmesian Federation  though Scavengers Newsletter or a letter from a one-time correspondent. I wrote a letter to the editor, Signe Landon, and asked a story might be considered if it mixed Sherlock Holmes, not with Star Trek, but with H.P. Lovecraft. The idea was okayed.

The story, "The Adventure of the Ancient Gods", appeared in issue 4 of The Holmesian Federation. The little fanzine was not much different than hundreds of others being published at the time, and the only thing that really set it apart from other Star Trek 'zines (of which there were so many that it constituted almost a sub-genre of its own) was that it mixed the two literary universes -- Star Trek and Conan Doyle.

The editor like the story, but I never really was sure how it went over with the 'zines readership, but at least it stood out from the other stories in issue 4 simply because of the odd mix. To me, it seemed an obvious joining, mainly because both Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes were higher interests to me than Star Trek -- after all, it had been a long time since it had appeared on television, and, really, I don't know that there was anyone around who thought, even in their wildest dreams, that Star Trek, in any form, would ever return to the small screen, though there were rumors of a theatrical film. So, it was published, there it was, and there the story died...or so I thought.

Several years after "The Adventure of the Ancient Gods" had first seen print, an editor who published one of my other stories happened to mention that Gary Lovisi, a writer living in Brooklyn, was something of a fan of mine and would I contact him about that odd little story which had appeared long ago in The Holmesian Federation #4. I did write him, we exchanged several letters, and the story was published as a chapbook under the title Sherlock Holmes in the Adventure of the Ancient Gods. One curiosity about this first edition was the misspelling of my surname on the cover by the artist who designed title and byline as calligraphy. Gary was very apologetic about the mistake, but I took it in stride, since anyone with a surname like mine is just asking for trouble. The mistake was corrected when Gary later published a second, then third, edition. Oddly, it made the first edition something of a collectors item among people who worry about such errors. Gary's company, Gryphon Books can be found at

Later on, writer and literary critic, Peter Cannon, wrote a book called Pulptime, which told a story about a meeting between Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft. It was hailed as the first story of its kind...until some other people pointed out the prior publication of "The Adventure of the Ancient Gods." It was a small joy to me, but in this world, you just have to be happy with whatever joys you can. When "The Adventure of the Ancient Gods" was recently included in a German-language anthology, the seminal nature of the story was mentioned in the advertising and I wrote, small joys.
German anthology containing "Sherlock Holmes und die alten Götter"

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