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An Inter­view with Howard P. Love­craft -As uncov­ered by Nick Mamatas

Author Nick Mamatas discovered a postcard containing an interview between Good­e­nough and Lovecraft entirely conducted on a single postcard. 


I spent about eigh­teen months in Brat­tle­boro, Ver­mont in the mid­dle of the last decade.  I learned a lot of things, mostly about myself. For one thing: Brat­tle­boro is a great small town. For another: I dis­like small towns, even the ones with more book­stores than traf­fic lights. But I did love the book­stores, espe­cially a used paper­back house called Bas­kets Bookstore/Paperback Palace.  Huge hor­ror and romance sec­tions — Sher­wood, the owner, laughed when I chris­tened the romance sec­tion “The Pink Bomb.”Most paper­backs were cheap enough to be pur­chasable by the bas­ket, which was per­fect for the long win­ter nights, but some of the items for sale were quite a bit rarer.  One day he handed me a post­card sent between H.P. Love­craft and Arthur H. Good­e­nough, an ama­teur press enthu­si­ast liv­ing near Brat­tle­boro. Good­e­nough isn’t talked about much today, but Brat­tle­boro is still full of Good­e­nough — there’s a road named for the fam­ily (or was the fam­ily named for the road?), a trash removal firm, you name it.Love­craft was acquainted with Good­e­nough, and Lovecraft’s  vis­its to Good­e­nough in Ver­mont in 1927 and 1928 are the basis of his won­der­ful nov­el­ette “The Whis­perer in Dark­ness.” After the story was pub­lished in Weird Tales, Good­e­nough sent Love­craft a con­grat­u­la­tory card, and also asked the author a cou­ple of ques­tions. Rather than respond­ing with a card or let­ter of his own, Love­craft wrote the answers in a tiny hand and then appar­ently gave the card to Vrest Orton — a book­man and even­tual founder of The Ver­mont County Store — who returned the card to Good­e­nough per­son­ally dur­ing a trip to the Green Moun­tain State. Then Good­e­nough sent the card back to Love­craft again, with follow-up ques­tions writ­ten in a nearly micro­scopic hand. I sup­pose he knew the local post­mas­ter, and was able to get the card back into the mail sys­tem with­out a prob­lem. Amaz­ingly, Love­craft man­aged to fit the answers to the ques­tions on the post­card in an even smaller hand. Sher­wood told me that he’d guessed that Love­craft used a mag­ni­fy­ing glass and a sewing nee­dle dipped in ink. Here’s an odd thing; Sher­wood had found the post­card at an estate sale. It had been pro­tected from the ele­ments because it had been used as a book­mark in a 1935 num­ber of The Rev­e­la­tor, and that num­ber was a spe­cial issue ded­i­cated to the “gothic tales” of Isak Dinesen.I bought the card and kept it with me for years — I moved to Boston, and then to Cal­i­for­nia.  Only recently have I been able to spare the time to closely exam­ine and tran­scribe the post­card. It took a few weeks. Lovecraft’s hand­writ­ing was dif­fi­cult to read in the best of times, as I learned in 2007 when writer Brian Even­son took me and my friend Geof­frey Good­win to the library at Brown Uni­ver­sity to check out some of Lovecraft’s papers. If any­thing, Goodenough’s pen­man­ship is even worse, espe­cially in the last unan­swered round of ques­tions. There are a few ink splat­ters on the post­card as well, but only one seems pur­pose­ful, as I make note of below. I took the card to work and abused my pho­to­copy and scan­ner priv­i­leges to blow up sec­tions of the card, then turn them into a series of PDFs. I then zoomed in on the PDFs as much as I could, to turn the tiny let­ters into great abstract shapes, to bet­ter see what we would call “kern­ing” if the text had been typset. To deci­pher this post­card, I not only had to read between the lines, as it were, but I had to make sure I was prop­erly read­ing between the letters.My friend Raphael is Google’s res­i­dent font expert and I showed him the PDFs. Raph’s PhD the­sis is on imag­ing and halfton­ing over at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, and he was able to use his research to cob­ble together a pro­gram to “draw” my blow-ups in a way that made the let­ters more leg­i­ble. It was still a game of refrig­er­a­tor poetry for a while, as the let­ters, words, and sen­tences the com­puter spit out barely made sense. Only after read­ing S. T. Joshi’s two-volume biog­ra­phy of Love­craft was I finally con­fi­dent in my deci­pher­ing of the card.We already know a lot of Lovecraft’s life and beliefs, which is a great part of why all of the many short sto­ries in which Love­craft is a char­ac­ter and the theme of the story is, “Every­thing Love­craft wrote about was real! Real!” are so tedious. He was a philo­soph­i­cal mate­ri­al­ist and a meta­phys­i­cal skep­tic, so of course there will be no secret cor­re­spon­dence, no occult mes­sages, in the tran­scrip­tion below.  But the post­card is inter­est­ing, and illu­mi­nat­ing, and strange, in its own way.—Nick Mamatas
read the interview here