Cover by Virgil Finlay
Robert Bloch was born on April 5, 1917 and died on September 23, 1994.
His short story “That Hell-Bound Train” won the Hugo Award in 1959, and he won the Bram Stoker Award for his non-fiction book Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorized Autobiography, for his collection The Early Fears, and his novelette “The Scent of Vinegar.” His screenplay for the film Psycho, based on his novel, received the Edgar Allan Poe Award.
Bloch was the Guest of Honor for each of the three Toronto Worldcons, Torcon I in 1948, Torcon II in 1973, and posthumously for Torcon 3 in 2003. He also received a Special Worldcon Committee Award in 1984. Bloch was named a Grandmaster by the World Horror Con and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention. He has also received the Big Heart Award, the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and a Forry Award.
“The Fane of the Black Pharoah” was first published in Weird Tales in the December 1937 issue, edited by Farnsworth Wright. Donald Wollheim reprinted it a decade later in the Avon Fantasy Reader, No. 5, 1947 and Bloch included it in his Lovecraftian collection Mysteries of the Worm. Robert M. Price included it in two Lovecraft anthologies: Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos, from Fedogan & Bremer, and The Nyarlathotep Cycle: The God of a Thousand Forms, from Chaosium. In 1983 it was translated into French.
Although “The Fane of the Black Pharoah” is a story in the Cthulhu mythos, mentioning both Nyarlathotep and the Necronomicon, it does not suffer from the overwriting so endemic to authors who took up Lovecraft’s mantle. Bloch describes the retirement of Captain Cartaret, who developed an interest in ancient history and legends during his time in the army and is trying to learn what he can about the mysterious and lost Pharoah Nephren-Ka.
While the story lacks purple prose, it also lacks action. Most of it relates the research Cartaret has already conducted, as well as information imparted to him by a mysterious visitor who claims to be a priest of Nephren-Ka, despite the millennia which separates the pharaoh from Cartaret. Eventually however, Cartaret is guided to the hidden catacombs beneath Cairo when Nephren-Ka’s prophetic hieroglyphs are located.
The story comes to a satisfying, although not necessarily conclusive ending, one which has remained with me since I first read the story in the 1980s.
Reprint reviewed in the collection Mysteries of the Worm, by Robert Bloch, Chaosium, 1993.
Steven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Busines at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.