S. T. Joshi: An Autobiography

I, Sunand Tryambak Joshi, was born in Poona (now Pune), India, on June 22, 1958, the third and last child of Tryambak Mahadeo Joshi (1910-1994) and Padmini (Iyengar) Tryambak Joshi (b. 1927). My parents are/were professors of economics and mathematics, respectively. In the summer of 1963 they brought me and my two sisters, Ragini (b. 1952) and Nalini (b. 1955), to live in the United States; we settled in Urbana, Illinois, where my mother taught at the University of Illinois. In 1968 the family moved for a year to Indianapolis, Indiana, and the next year to Muncie, Indiana, where my parents taught at Ball State University.

At the age of thirteen I discovered the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Immediately taken with Lovecraft's evocative prose, I began both to learn more about the Providence writer and to engage in writing myself. I wrote an appalling number of short stories--mystery, horror, fantasy, and science fiction--including two short detective novels, The Ordinary People and the unfinished The Castle of Sebastian. Mercifully, both no longer exist, although some of my short stories (and poems, Gawdelpus) have been embalmed in the literary magazine I edited at my high school, Burris Laboratory School, The Forum (1974-76). One of these, "The Recurring Doom," a Lovecraftian story dating to 1974, was included by Robert M. Price in Acolytes of Cthulhu (Fedogan & Bremer, 2000). I also did a little writing on school goings-on for the local paper, The Muncie Evening Press.

When I was seventeen I decided to abandon fiction-writing and become a literary critic, and in the summer of 1975 I conceived the idea for the book that would become H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism (1980). Just prior to my graduation from Burris in 1976, I received an offer from Kent State University Press to compile a new bibliography of Lovecraft. It was largely my interest in Lovecraft that led me to choose Brown University as my undergraduate college, as I knew of Brown's rich holdings in Lovecraft's manuscripts and papers.

As my bibliographic work continued, I began unearthing dozens of works by Lovecraft that had not been known or reprinted, and in this way I compiled my first book, in collaboration with Marc A. Michaud: Lovecraft's Uncollected Prose and Poetry (Necronomicon Press, 1978). At about this time I learned of the acceptance of my critical anthology by Ohio University Press, although it would not appear until 1980; it was the first volume on Lovecraft to appear from an academic press. In 1979 I began editing the scholarly journal Lovecraft Studies for Necronomicon Press. Aside from many editions of Lovecraft's obscurer writings, I have written several scholarly works and compilations for Necronomicon Press, including Lovecraft's Library (1980; rev. ed. Hippocampus Press, 2002), An Index to the Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft (1980; rev. 1991), Selected Papers on Lovecraft (1989), and An Index to the Fiction and Poetry of H. P. Lovecraft (1992). I also edited Sonia Davis' The Private Life of H. P. Lovecraft (1985) and Donald Wandrei's Collected Poems (1988).

In 1981 my bibliography of Lovecraft was published. I also received a contract from Starmont House to write a monograph on Lovecraft for the Starmont Reader's Guides series. This was to have been written by Dirk W. Mosig, then the leading Lovecraft scholar and a tremendous influence upon my early work; but Mosig at this time was in the process of abandoning the field, so I was given the assignment. Around this time I attempted to market my translation of Maurice Lévy's Lovecraft ou du fantastique, which I had begun as early as 1976 and which was basically finished by 1978. It was, however, published only in 1988 by Wayne State University Press.

In 1982 I met James Turner, managing editor of Arkham House, and we discussed the prospect of publishing corrected editions of Lovecraft's stories. I had, since the winter of 1976-77, begun the task of collating Lovecraft's texts with surviving manuscripts and early printed appearances, and had found thousands of errors in the standard editions of his fiction, essays, and poetry. After long negotiations with Arkham House, I finally agreed to edit the new editions, and they have now appeared in four volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others (1984), At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels (1985), Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1986), and The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions (1989). These corrected texts have served as the basis for new translations into Italian, German, and Japanese.

Meanwhile, I had graduated from Brown University in 1980 (in the department of classics) and had gained a master's degree from Brown in 1982. I was accepted for a Ph.D. program at Princeton University, where I received the Paul Elmer More fellowship in classical philosophy, but left after two years there; I had come to believe that the academic arena was not where I belonged. In 1984 I obtained an editorial position with Chelsea House Publishers, a small educational publisher in New York, and worked there for the next eleven years, until the office shut down. In those years I worked closely with Harold Bloom in editing many volumes of literary criticism under his editorship. I initially lived in Jersey City, New Jersey (1984-90), then moved to Hoboken (1990-93), then, with assistance from my mother, purchased a co-op in Manhattan, where I lived from 1994 to 2001.

In 1986 I decided to form a companion magazine to Lovecraft Studies that would focus on other significant writers of weird fiction. Studies in Weird Fiction took some time in establishing itself, but eventually began appearing twice a year. In the spring of 1991 it was decided to form another magazine devoted exclusively to the reviewing of new works in the field. Necrofile: The Review of Horror Fiction, coedited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, Michael A. Morrison, and myself, was a quarterly journal that appeared regularly until 1999.

In 1987 my interest in weird fiction had expanded to include many writers who had influenced Lovecraft, and I accepted an offer by Darrell Schweitzer to write lengthy articles on Arthur Machen and Lord Dunsany for critical anthologies to be published by Starmont House. In this way I came to write The Weird Tale (1990), a theoretical study that I regard as my greatest work aside from my biography of Lovecraft. Shortly thereafter I wrote a monograph on the detective writer John Dickson Carr (published in 1990) as well as the philosophical study, H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West (Starmont House, 1990). In 1989 I became involved in the preparations for the H. P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference, held at Brown University on August 18-20, 1990. I edited a volume of conference papers published in 1991 by Necronomicon Press, and contributed to a special issue on Lovecraft of Books at Brown (1995). With David E. Schultz, I edited an anthology of original essays on Lovecraft to commemorate the centennial, An Epicure in the Terrible (1991).

Since 1990 I have worked closely with Schultz in an effort to transfer every word written by Lovecraft into electronic form. Many thousands of pages of stories, essays, poetry, and letters have been transcribed, and Schultz and I have edited several annotated volumes of Lovecraft's letters for Necronomicon Press. I have continued my interests in other weird writers, having compiled (with Darrell Schweitzer) a bibliography of Lord Dunsany (1993) and written a critical study of Dunsany (1995) as well as The Modern Weird Tale (2001), a study of weird fiction from the 1950s to the present. I have written entirely new study of Lovecraft to replace my Reader's Guide; it appeared in 1996 under the title (not of my choosing) A Subtler Magick: The Life and Work of H. P. Lovecraft. I have also taken great interest in the modern British writer Ramsey Campbell. I assisted in assembling a bibliography of his work (1995), and have written the first full-length monograph on him, Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction (2001).

From 1993 to 1995 I devoted most of my time to the writing of an exhaustive biography of Lovecraft. H. P. Lovecraft: A Life appeared from Necronomicon Press in 1996, where it received wide notice as a standard work; Joyce Carol Oates wrote a long and favorable review of it in the New York Review of Books (October 31, 1996), and it received the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association and the British Fantasy Award. A radically abridged and recast version, entitled A Dreamer and a Visionary: H. P. Lovecraft in His Time, appeared from Liverpool University Press in 2001.

I continue to prepare editions of Lovecraft's works. Miscellaneous Writings (Arkham House 1995) is a compilation of Lovecraft's best essays. I have also assembled a volume of Lovecraft's collected poetry, The Ancient Track. This was to have been published by Necronomicon Press, but that firm's collapse in 1999 caused the book to be delayed, and it was finally issued in 2001 by Night Shade Books. My Annotated H. P. Lovecraft appeared from Dell in 1997, and More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft appeared in 1999, although I annotated only one story in that volume ("Herbert West--Re-animator"), the rest of the work having been done by Peter Cannon. By this time I was already preparing annotated editions of Lovecraft for Penguin. Two have appeared--The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1999) and The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001), and a third, The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (2004), is forthcoming.

With David E. Schultz, I edited Lord of a Visible World, Lovecraft's "autobiography in letters," for Ohio University Press (2000). Schultz and I are editing numerous annotated editions of Lovecraft's letters for Night Shade and Hippocampus Press. I am also editing a five-volume annotated edition of Lovecraft's Collected Essays for Hippocampus Press.

In a major departure from my usual critical work, I assembled a large anthology, Documents of American Prejudice, a comprehensive collection of American racist writings, with introduction, headnotes, and extensive bibliography. The volume appeared from Basic Books in 1999. Somewhat along the same lines, and perhaps in part derived from my interest in Lovecraft's strong arguments in support of atheism, I have compiled the anthology Atheism: A Reader (2000) and the polemical anti-religious work, God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong (2003).

In recent years my attention has turned to other writers, most notably Ambrose Bierce, George Sterling, and the California literary circle of which they were a part. I am attempting, with Schultz, to transcribe every word of Bierce's voluminous journalism into electronic texts for eventual publication in a critical edition. Schultz and I have assembled the first comprehensive bibliography of Bierce's work (1999), along with such collections of his work as A Sole Survivor: Bits of Autobiography (1998), The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary (2000), Collected Fables (2000), The Fall of the Republic and Other Political Satires (2000), and A Much Misunderstood Man: Selected Letters (2003). Schultz, Lawrence I. Berkove, and I are now at work on a comprehensive edition of Bierce's short fiction, to be published by University of Tennessee Press in 3 volumes.

My work on Bierce and George Sterling led to an interest in H. L. Mencken. I assembled a collection of the letters between Sterling and Mencken (2001) as a means of enhancing Sterling's reputation, but now I am pursuing Mencken on his own and appear to have emerged as a leading Mencken scholar. I regularly attend meetings of the Mencken Society, of which I am a member, and I spoke at the meeting in September 2001. I have assembled such collections of Mencken's little-known writings as H. L. Mencken on American Literature (2002), H. L. Mencken on Religion (2002), and Mencken's America (2004).

My work on Mencken has led to an interest in politics, and I wrote a treatise entitled The Angry Right: Why Conservatives Keep Getting It Wrong, published in September 2006 by Prometheus Books. In conjunction with the publicity for that book, I appeared on Al Franken's radio show as it was touring the East Coast in the fall of 2006. Prometheus has also issued my anthology, In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women (2006), a kind of follow-up to Documents of American Prejudice. Prometheus has also published my Agnostic Reader (2007), a companion to my Atheism: A Reader. I also edited Mark Twain's What Is Man? and Other Irreverent Writings (Prometheus, 2009) and Icons of Unbelief (Greenwood Press, 2009).

But my interest in literature remains strong, and I fulfilled a long-deferred dream by working with David E. Schultz on a three-volume edition of the complete poetry of Clark Ashton Smith, published by Hippocampus Press in 200708. My work on Lord Dunsany continues, and I was pleased to issue a substantial collection, In the Land of Time and Other Fantasy Tales (Penguin, 2004), favourably reviewed by Ursula K. Le Guin in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. I have also edited a three-volume edition of The Complete Jorkens (Night Shade, 2004-05). I was pleased to be asked by Penguin to prepare an annotated edition of M. R. James's complete ghost stories; it was published in two volumes as Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories (2005) and The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Ghost Stories (2006). Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia, edited with Stefan Dziemianowicz, was published in late 2005 by Greenwood Press in 3 volumes, and Icons of Horror and the Supernatural was published by Greenwood in 2 volumes. I also edited a large anthology, American Supernatural Tales (2007), for Penguin. In terms of my work on Lovecraft, I have now coedited (with Schultz) the collected letters of Lovecraft and August Derleth (Hippocampus Press, 2008; 2 vols.) and Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (Hippocampus Press, 2009). The latter may already be out of print, but may be reprinted soon in paperback. My treatise, The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos (Mythos Books, 2008), appears to have aroused some discussion, as was its purpose.

On a personal note, I may mention that I married Leslie G. Boba on September 1, 2001. We have known each other since 1983, when we met at a summer school program at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. Shortly after our marriage I moved from New York City to Seattle, where we remained until June 2005. At that time we moved to Moravia, a small town in upstate New York, near Ithaca and Cornell University. We remained there for three years, but various factors impelled us to return to Seattle, which we did in September 2008. For some time we lived with my mother-in-law, a fine old lady of the old school who will turn 90 in March 2010. We divorced on December 17, 2010.

My Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos has unexpectedly led me to promote what I believe to be good Cthulhu Mythos writing. My Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (2010) was well received, and the publisher, Pete Crowther of PS Publishing, has declared his willingness to publish a new anthology every 18 to 24 months. (A Black Wings II is due to be released in March 2012.) I briefly worked with Perilous Press on a series of original Mythos writings, the New Millennium Mythos, and am now working with Arcane Wisdom (an imprint of Bloodletting Press) on a Modern Mythos Library. Along the way, I have found much merit in the Mythos work of such writers as Michael Shea, W. H. Pugmire, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Laird Barron, who have become my friends and colleagues. Most surprisingly of all, I have myself written a Mythos novel, The Assaults of Chaos, with Lovecraft as the central character.

I still hope to publish some major, multivolume projects in the future. I am approaching the completion of a two-volume history of supernatural fiction, titled Unutterable Horror, that will appear from PS Publishing in late 2011 and late 2012. After that, I may undertake a multivolume history of atheism. I still hope to find a publisher for a two- or three-volume edition of Ambrose Bierce’s collected letters. And, of course, the task of editing Lovecraft’s letters continues—a project that may run to 25 or more volumes.

You can see a gallery of personal photos.