A Microinterview with ST Joshi

At the age of seventeen, S. T. Joshi started his professional career by researching and compiling critiques of H. P. Lovecraft, which culminated in a bibliography published by Kent State University Press.

Joshi is now seen as the unofficial curator of Lovecraft’s life and works, having edited definitive editions of his fiction for Penguin Books and released all of his correspondence.

In addition, Joshi is a scholar of H. L. Mencken and Ambrose Bierce and has advanced his scholarship without the help of an academic institution or a PhD. Fritz Swanson had a microinterview with him.

In Part I of an interview with S. T. Joshi, we hear his thoughts on his work.

As the guardian for three of America’s renowned cynics: Mencken, Bierce, and Lovecraft, do you yourself harbor an aversion to humanity?

S.T. JOSHI contends he is not certain if the three authors in question were misanthropes, with Lovecraft declaring himself as an “indifferentist”. He suggests if any misanthropy exists in him, it is likely from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, not from Mencken, Bierce, or Lovecraft.

He outlines that hatred is too taxing and he’d rather be occupied with other activities than to go around despising people.

While he confesses to a mild and fleeting disdain for human folly and duplicity, he states he is not a “humanist” as the philosophy advocates love of the human race, something he struggles to comprehend.

He does, however, recognize the importance of certain aspects of civilization, mainly artistic and intellectual aspects, which are exclusive to a few, but which would not be possible without the human race as a whole.

In Part II of our microinterview, we are speaking with S. T. Joshi.

The inquirer wants to know more about the mythos that H.P. Lovecraft was attempting to create through his work. Was the content “fiction” as we typically think of it, or something else?

S.T. JOSHI suggests that Lovecraft was influenced by Poe in his decision to write stories that seemed to be so true that they could be confused with genuine treatises or confessions.

An example of this is “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Statement of Randolph Carter”. Poe believed that stories should begin with an essay-like introduction in order to make them appear more authentic rather than fabricated.

Lovecraft, however, took this idea to a whole new level. One example of this is the opening lines of “Berenice” which reads “Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform”.


The way you write has a vintage feel that evokes a sense of timeless power.

How much of your scholarly style is an intentional aesthetic like that found in Lovecraft’s stories? Was Lovecraft’s affinity for scholarly language just a fondness for how it sounded? Do you share that same appreciation?

S.T. Joshi has been striving for decades to eliminate the “Lovecraftian” quality of his own writing. As a teenager, he drafted fiction, using Lovecraft as his model, and wrote hundreds of stories that unwittingly parodied the author’s dense, antiquated language.

When he began writing criticism, he adopted the same style, but soon realized it would not be taken seriously as a literary scholar.

He has read extensively in the literature of the period between 1880 and 1940, and thus finds himself inadvertently replicating the language and prose of that era.

Joshi despises the jargon-laden prose of most academicians; he believes criticism can be expressed in an ordinary, straightforward mode that does not necessitate an abundance of technical terms only understood by a limited number of people.

His analysis has always been directed to a broader public, not just a select group of English professors.

In the fourth installment of our series, we talked to S.T. Joshi about his work.

Do current authors of character-oriented fiction draw upon Lovecraftian influence, or merely borrow the motifs of his work on occasion?

The “cosmic horror” which Lovecraft is renowned for is not a universal trait among authors, yet there have been multiple figures in the last few decades who have managed to achieve this style while still maintaining their own individual vision.

One of the leading horror writers of the current generation, Ramsey Campbell, illustrated this with his stories (“Cold Print,” “The Franklyn Paragraphs”) and novels ( Midnight Sun , The Darkest Part of the Woods ) that are clearly inspired by Lovecraft yet still possess Campbell’s own flavor. Thomas Ligotti, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Laird Barron have also blended the idea of cosmicism with their own literary sensibilities to great effect.

What kind of unintended consequences has the work of Lovecraft had on the contemporary aesthetic?

So far, Lovecraft’s work hasn’t been received outside of horror, fantasy, and science fiction; but it does appear sporadically in places.

It’s said that Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day has strong influences from Lovecraft (I’m unable to confirm this as I haven’t read it). Similarly, Umberto Eco’s Foucault ‘s Pendulum also contains elements of Lovecraft.

Thomas Ligotti, a prominent horror author (who has been absent for a few years), has composed a philosophical work

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (2010), which makes use of Lovecraft’s fiction and philosophy to support the idea that consciousness is a natural evil and that we should all end our lives.

In the fifth installment of the series, S. T. Joshi was interviewed about a variety of topics.

The non-academic, amateur scholars tend to be greatly attracted to Lovecraft’s works. Is this a beneficial or a potentially detrimental element in the field of Lovecraftian studies?

S.T. JOSHI claims to fit the definition of an “amateur scholar” or, as is now the more popular term, an independent scholar. It is likely this status appeals to those interested in Lovecraft due to his own standing as a literary and cultural outsider.

While some of the work done by such individuals may be flawed, many of them have the benefit of being well-versed in the genres in which Lovecraft worked and can therefore approach his work from an informed perspective.

The academic world’s neglect of Lovecraft in the years following his death can be attributed to a range of causes, such as academics looking down on his presence in pulp magazines.

The unpopularity of his style in comparison to the minimalism of Hemingway, and the lack of appreciation for his extravagance in depicting supernatural happenings compared to the polite ghost stories of the Victorian era and the social realism present in mainstream literature.

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