When I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington last November, the first thing I did was write about all the great discoveries I made in the Dealer’s Room.
I’m not just talking about rare and wonderful old books (although those were pretty damn cool, too.) I mean the smorgasbord of small press publishers who’d come from far and wide to display an incredible bevy of treasures, piled high on table after table after table. Seriously, it was like walking through Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, except air conditioned and with decent carpeting.
One of the great discoveries I made was Hippocampus Press, a small publisher founded by Derrick Hussey in New York City in 1999. Their table was groaning under the weight of dozens of fabulous collections, horror anthologies, entertaining and informative journals, and stranger and more marvelous things. They specialize in classic horror and science fiction, with an “emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s,” as well as critical studies of folks like Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Hope Hodgson.
I brought home a copy of their 2014 Simon Strantzas collection, Burnt Black Suns, and told you about it here. Today I’d like to take a few moments to re-create what it was like to stand in front of the Hippocampus table and take in their extraordinary output, the product of over a decade of tireless dedication to classic weird tales (and great cover design.)
There were over 40 sellers in the Dealer’s Room, and I visited them all. I couldn’t afford to buy from everyone, but when I found a publisher I liked — and I liked Hippocampus very much — I didn’t leave their table with without at least one book. I was very tempted by Clint Smith’s Ghouljaw and Other Stories and also John Langan’s acclaimed new collection The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies. But it was Adam Nevill’s quote on the back of Burnt Black Suns that sealed the deal: “Strantzas casts far into time and space to find the alien, and what comes back wriggling inside his net is ghastly.”
[Click on any of the images to embiggen.]
Hippocampus had a staggering amount of books on their table — more than I could take in without bringing over a recliner and spending a few hours blocking the aisle. Some of those that stuck in my mind were Wade German’s weird poetry collection Dreams from a Black Nebula, and Lovecraft scholar Kenneth W. Faig’s collection of Lovecraft-related short fiction, Lovecraft’s Pillow and Other Strange Stories.
Hippocampus hasn’t been resting since returning from the show — one of their more recent releases is James Robert Smith’s debut short fiction collection A Confederacy of Horrors, just published in January with a delightfully gruesome cover by Pete von Sholly.
If you’re a Lovecraft fan, Hippocampus is your go-to press. In fact, when I first wrote about discovering them back in November, BG blogger James McGlothlin commented
Not very familiar with Hippocampus Press!?! Lovecraft-blasphemy! A very excellent publisher, and at the forefront all things Lovecraftian and weird – new and old.
He’s right about that. One of their more intriguing offerings is S.T. Joshi’s massive two-volume set I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft, the comprehensive biography of perhaps the greatest horror writer of the 20th Century. Although I admit I was more drawn towards Frankyn Searight’s collection of Innsmouth stories, Lair of the Dreamer: A Cthulhu Mythos Omnibus, a 308-page tome which gathers the stories he’s been writing since the mid-seventies — including his unpublished Mythos novel Lair of the Dreamer. And if you’re a fan of Frank Belknap Long’s famous Mythos tale “The Hounds of Tindalos,” I urge you to have a look at Robert M. Price’s anthology The Tindalos Cycle, which collects the Cthulhu Mythos tales that inspired and built upon Long’s classic short story.
Hippocampus Press brings a lot of scholarship to the genre, with books like Dim-Remembered Stories: A Critical Study of R. H. Barlow, which examines the life and work of Lovecraft’s literary executor Robert Hayward Barlow (1918-1951). In addition to shining a light on the more obscure writers in the genre, they also showcase much better know authors, in titles like Ramsey Campbell’s Inconsequential Tales, a collection of previously uncollected and unpublished short stories, and Incredible Adventures by Algernon Blackwood, part of Hippocampus’ Lovecraft Library. Here’s what Lovecraft said about this collection:
In the volume titled Incredible Adventures occur some of the finest tales which the author has yet produced, leading the fancy to wild rites on nocturnal hills, to secret and terrible aspects lurking behind stolid scenes, and to unimaginable vaults of mystery below the sands and pyramids of Egypt; all with a serious finesse and delicacy that convince where a cruder or lighter treatment would merely amuse. Some of these accounts are hardly stories at all, but rather studies in elusive impressions and half-remembered snatches of dream. Plot is everywhere negligible, and atmosphere reigns untrammelled.
Incredible Adventures contains four novellas and a short story.
As it turns out, I’m not a complete newcomer to Hippocampus Press after all. As I searched through their catalog I discovered they were the folks behind The Shadow out of Time: The Corrected Text, the definitive version of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft story. I purchased a copy a decade ago. Working from Lovecraft’s handwritten manuscript, the editors have corrected hundreds of serious errors, including errors in paragraphing, omissions and mistranscriptions of many words and passages, and incorrect punctuation. If you’re a true Lovecraft fan, this is the best way to appreciate this magnificently cosmic horror story exactly as it was originally written.
Hippocampus Press doesn’t just publish books. They also produce a number of journals — and you know how much I love magazines. The first issue of S. T. Joshi’s journal of weird poetry, Spectral Realms, was released on July 15, 2014; the second arrived on January 31 of this year. At 140 and 160 pages respectively, both are closer to books than regular magazines. Dead Reckonings is their semi-annual review of horror literature; it is edited by June M. Pulliam and Tony Fonseca. Issues are 90+ pages and priced at $7.50; 16 have been published so far. Finally, Lovecraft Annual, edited by S. T. Joshi and containing new scholarship on H. P. Lovecraft, is published once a year; there have been eight issues so far.
Lovecraft isn’t the only master of the weird tale to get the deluxe treatment. William Hope Hodgson: Voices from the Borderland is a 328-page collection of reviews and essays by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Ellery Queen, S. T. Joshi, Mark Valentine and Leigh Blackmore, and others.
Hippocampus doesn’t just spend their time combing the crumbling pages of pulp magazines. They also pay attention to the best in contemporary weird fiction — for example, with Michael Aronovitz’s debut collection Seven Deadly Pleasures (2009), and Joseph S. Pulver’s third short story collection, Portraits of Ruin (2012).
I think the thing I like most about Hippocampus Press is the continued feeling of discovery I get pouring over their titles. These are folks with excellent taste who have spent many years researching, gathering, editing and publishing neglected and forgotten work from long-lost and more recent masters of weird horror. They deserve your support, and if you see even a single title that’s piqued your interest on this page, I hope you’ll check out their full catalog (more than 150 book titles!) here.
I’ve showcased six publishers who displayed their products at the World Fantasy Convention and Worldcon so far:
Twenty Years of Smart Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Tachyon Publications Catalog
Bringing Neglected Classics Back Into Print: The Horror Catalog of Valancourt Books
The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press
Embrace the Odd: The Fantasy Catalog of ChiZine Publications
The Recent Best: The Fantasy Catalog of Prime Books
The Wonders of Fairwood Press