10+ years after
Art. There good and not so good, mistakes, genius and near misses. Art. Some bleed to make it. Art. Magus. Poem. Reminder. Rooftop ascent into air. September leaves in the wind. Art in the form of a book, that’s in the reader’s hands. Their heart, delights glued to every corner or tilted toward another latitude, decides . . .
A room . . .
Alone . . .
Nine months in the dark [for the 1st draft].
Nothing new for a writer, right? I was NOT a writer and never considered writing [anything—not once!] when I began Nightmare’s Disciple. It started as a way to learn how the word processor on the new computer worked. I got sick of AAAAAA BBBBBB CC . . . Typed a sentence, then another . . . I had a couple of pages done and a friend asked what IT was. I shrugged. He said it ain’t half bad. I was shocked, he only likes Mann and Ford Maddox Ford. Asked, so what are you doing w/ this?
No clue! Just messin’ around.
But I wondered.
I figured I’d see if I could get to pg 5 and see what was there . . .
Page 5 led to page 7 and so on . . .
As a Columbo fan I wanted to see the crime 1st and go from there. And I’d been reading a lot of serial killer things (thanks, Bob Bloch – you scared the hell out of me as a kid and I never left).
So my game w/ myself began. That’s all ND was, a game to amuse myself. I sat there and said, hey, Brian Lumley, I love you, so yer in. And Lin Carter, boy, you were fun, so yer in here too. Yep, the fan’s game. Heat a cauldron, start dropping things you love in the brew. Eye of Tsathoggua, tail of Nyarlathotep . . . It was a big pot. I loved LotR and DUNE, love big thick novels, so that’s what I set my sights on. Make it a whole wide world. Drop a Stephen King everyman [my cop] in the [Mythos] soup and see if he can swim. Lovecraft’s world and the Mythos [Cthulhu, or Lovecraftian – you pick the name] are big things, 70 years on, a ton of writers, lots of new beasties and books, BIG! There’s tee-shirts and bumpers tickers, fan films and Innsmouth shot glasses and cuddly Cthulhu plushies—BIG!! Some say every Mythos thing there is (and the kitchen sink) is in ND. At one point in the 2nd draft I figured they would say that, so I put in TWO sinks and a bathroom drain. Yeah, I was ridin’ my Mythos hobby-horse HARD(!!!) . . . Sitting all by yourself as winter rages outside the door, it’s fun gallopin’ along.
Music is my heroin of choice, so I put a lot of it in there, too. Made up tons of it. You have Cthulhu shot glasses, you have to have a Cthulhu symphony, maybe some Chaugnar Faugn Lieder, and a rockin’ Tsathoggua jam or 6! !!
Was just playin’.
More than anything I wanted some great writer [James Sallis or Shane Stevens] to write this book so the reader in me could get lost in it, but there wasn’t one around . . . So I continued typing . . . A few really good sentences came out . . . And I was having fun . . . Never had a guitar, so this became mine. I sat in my room and my fingers bled.
And I finished it. Looked at it. Didn’t know what else to do . . . I now had a revised draft of this monster done and wondered what the hell to do w/ it. Saw a classified ad [in the back of a mag] for the NecronomiCON in Salem, Mass. Thought WTH? A Lovecraft convention? WOW! I had heard about this guy, Bob Price, Mythos/Lovecraftian editor-supreme, figured he was the go-to guy. Thought I’d go see if he’d look at it and tell me if it had any merit. Really thought he’d say, pack up yer tent and get the hell out of town, and stay out. So I went to the con, looked at every guest badge until I found the one that said, Robert M. Price. That’s my guy! I began to follow him. Stalk, really.
I followed him room to room, sat and listened to what he had to say. Liked what I heard.
Next afternoon in a hallway between panels I stopped him, said hi, I’m blah-blah and I wrote this Lovecraftian novel and will you look at it, etc. Showed him a page of the book w/ his name on it. He laughed and said he’d read it.
I gave him the book, he said, I’m busy, I’ll let you know . . .
Went home. 11 months passed. Figured he threw it out. Cursed me when he did. OK, I got the message it was junk and I should shut up . . . Then he called me.
Asked me if I wanted to hear the introduction to my book.
Well, seems he’d read it and loved it [“Couldn’t put it down!”] and contacted his publisher telling them, WE MUST publish this. Lynn Willis at Chaosium was crazy as a shithouse rat and said OK.
Over the phone that morning Bob read me the intro 3 times.
I was high! !! And was sure there were some crazies walkin’ around – Bob and Lynn were the ring-leaders. Man, they had to be! !!
But Bob’s HC of the intro came in the mail and calls from Lynn and e-mails began. In 11 days I had a contract in my hand.
Talked to Lynn on the phone, I wanted Bob to edit it. Lynn said no. The novel was fine as is. I wanted to say no, it needs work, but what did I know. It was his money and he liked it as is. I signed the contract . . .
Typeset ND came in at 400 pages, so no intro from Bob due to page count considerations. SHIT! !! But I framed it and hung it on the wall. Read it a hundred times, and a hundred after that. You would, too!
Book came out. I got to go to Bob’s house [for a Kalem Klub! !!] and meet other writers, real writers! Loved it! Kept getting invited back, damn right, I went!
Would I have loved to have had an editor for the very 1st thing I ever wrote? YESSSSSSSSSSSSS! Didn’t. Was I stupid to let ND come out w/out an editor’s eye and hand going through it? Perhaps, but you play the hand you’re dealt. Glad I did! !! Damn glad.
It was fun to write and great to see it get published. Brian Lumley, a hero of mine, praised it. BRIAN LUMLEY! !! And I got to spend a lot of time w/ Bob! We became best friends! !! Got to meet tons of great writers – Stan Sargent! Michael Cisco! Gary Myers! Laird Barron! Michael Shea, Wilum Pugmire, & BRIAN LUMLEY! !! (You got something bad to say about Brian stick it, unless you care to see blood have its season! !!)
Would I do it differently now? Yep. Blood Will Have Its Season and SIN & ashes show where I’ve gone. Harder. Faster. Paint it NOIR and weave in the poetics. But ND is what it is. I’m proud of it—if you had an imperfect child you’d still love him or her and ND is my child. Does it have warts? Might? Could I have gone back and revised it? Could have. But I don’t like that. Zappa redid the drums in WOIIFTM, sounded like shit. ND came out the way it came out and that’s how it stands. Time and readers will decide what to make of it. Most, so far, like it. Some love it, a few hate it. But there’s people out there who hate To Kill A Mockingbird, so not even a genius can please everyone. I’m certainly no genius, so I’ll take the heat. You want a better Lovecraftian serial killer book, go write the damn thing.
I still believe ND was a good idea, and a good editor would have improved it. Water under the bridge. But ND opened doors and I would not trade the gifts I discovered on the other side for anything.
There is one addition to ND, Bob Price’s Introduction. I’m delighted it is in here now where it belongs. And I’m delighted to see my first work in the hands of readers again. I hope you enjoy it!! !
All my bEastly best! !!
Berlin, Germany OCT 2010