anyone who is acquainted with Lovecraft scholarship or has read any of your
fiction or poetry, will know you are a fan of H. P. Lovecraft. How did you first
happen upon the Old Gent?
me it was "The Shadow out of Time" in Wollheim's Viking Portable
Novels of Science. I was fifteen and had been into science fiction heavily
for some three years but my reaction was, "Oh, no, this is too
much!" But HPL took root and eventually "Shadow" and Mountains
of Madness became my two favorites. Later, while feverishly searching out
any and every HPL story I could, I realized I'd already read two of them at age
eleven --- "Rats in the Walls" and "Dunwich Horror" in the
great Wise & Frazer anthology. At the time I'd been disappointed because
there were no conventional ghosts in the stories, and I hadn't even noted the
author's name. I wasn't ready; I needed a second chance. Luckily I got it.
you ever tried your hand at any Cthulhu Mythos fiction?
Tierney: I've never done a
purely Mythos piece, though most of my stuff contains Mythos references and
tie-ins; even so, for the most part I've felt obliged to change some names
slightly --- "Primal Gods" for "Elder Gods", for instance,
or "Shupnikkurat" as a Mesopotamian-sounding substitute for
"Shub-Niggurath". There is an old 10,000-worder I did called
"The Howler in the Dark" --- it's a gothic creepy-castle piece set in
Scotland. It mentions Azathoth and the Necronomicon, and quotes from the
your greatest contribution to Lovecraft research, and actually one of the most
pivotal contributions anyone has made to the better understanding of the
Mythos, is your brief essay "The Derleth Mythos". In it you clearly
separate the ideas of Lovecraft from the later elaborations of August Derleth.
How would you sum up the difference between the two versions of the Mythos?
outlook on the universe seems trite compared to Lovecraft's. The two outlooks
could be somewhat harmonized by remembering that Derleth's is probably that
which most humans would take when confronted with the realization that monstrous
beings exist, whereas Lovecraft's later tales come close to explaining those
beings' actual nature. I've never found anything in HPL's stories or letters to
indicate that he intended to convey a "good vs. evil" cosmic outlook.
To humans, "evil" is what hurts and "good" is what feels
good, and my impression is that HPL granted no ultimate significance to this;
Godzilla and Cthulhu are "good" or "evil" in human eyes
according to whether they are bailing us out or gobbling us up. Derleth often
quoted a letter to justify his non-Lovecraftian stance, and maybe that letter
does exist somewhere in the cobwebbed vaults of the Wisconsin Historical
Society, but so far no one but Derleth seems to have seen it.
Actually I've enjoyed the Derleth
efforts very much, even if they are irritatingly sloppy at times (e.g.,
"Something in Wood", in which the protagonist immediately sounds out
alien, prehuman hieroglyphs as if they were in a familiar alphabet!). Whenever
I've hauled the Mythos into a story I've retained most of the Derlethian
additions and premises. Of course, I do think some of Derleth's Mythos tales
were definitely unaesthetic. In fact, they may be the worst things he ever
wrote. He was very good when it came to haunted houses and spooky rustic
settings, and some of his traditional ghost stories are excellent. But he never
caught the poetry, the reverberating cosmic thunder sensed afar off, that
Lovecraft did, and his attempts at it flopped dismally. When in "The Return
of Hastur" an Elder God swoops down to hurl Hastur back to the Hyades, it
reminds me of nothing so much as Popeye socking the giant octopus into the wide
do you account for a writer of Derleth's talent producing stories like that?
himself had no high opinion of them. As he once explained it to me, he felt he
was writing these stories for an audience of half-wits, namely the Weird
Tales readership, and therefore took no pains with them. I believe he was
sincere --- his HPL "pastiches" testify to it. He made so many really
gross errors of fact (like confusing the Pleiades with the Hyades, R'lyeh with
the island of the Deep Ones "off Ponape", etc.) that I think he really
was writing those stories in a hurry. I'm currently re-reading The Trail of
Cthulhu for the first time in many years, and the stories are as bad as I
remember. Dr. Shrewsbury comes off sounding like a pompous and brain-damaged
Sherlock Holmes. Evidently Derleth had no knack for imitating Lovecraft to start
with (save for some of the rural natural settings) and tried on top of that to
dash off his Lovecraftians at the same speed as the tales he was good at.
Lovecraft himself composed his tales very painstakingly, and then was never
quite satisfied with the results. Considering all that, Derleth's
"pastiches" are about what we'd expect.
so far we've been quizzing you on matters Lovecraftian, most readers will be
well aware of several other projects of yours, such as the "Red Sonja"
series of novels, coauthored with David C. Smith for Ace Books. Any clues as to
just how much of each Red Sonja book is Tierney's and how much is Smith's?
Tierney: No one could ever
unravel Dave's work from mine. We'd toss ideas back and forth and come up with a
basic plot. Then Dave would rattle off a first draft as fast as he could. I'd
revise this to suit myself, often rewriting extensive sections, sometimes
changing the plot line altogether. The time involved worked out surprisingly
close to 50/50, Dave and I spending about two months apiece per novel.
The final product was my
responsibility, save for Ace's goofs and tamperings, which are all too frequent.
If you've read Sonja #1 you may have noticed certain scuzzy expletives of a
twentieth century flavor, e.g., "assholes" on p. 216 and "Get
fucked" on p. 217, and maybe others. I'd like to inform you that these were
interpolated by the editors at Ace. Dave Smith and I had nothing to do with it.
Folks are going to think that Dave and I share Karl Edward Wagner's view that
foul twentieth century anachronisms are O.K. in Sword-&-Sorcery fiction.
Anyway, I'm glad to say that Sonja #6 is the last. I've enjoyed writing them but
I think half a dozen is quite enough.
the way, speaking of co-authorship, you've had the chance to undertake some, as
we say in Lovecraftian circles, "posthumous collaborations" with
Robert E. Howard, filling out some of his fragmentary manuscripts for
publication by Donald M. Grant. I confess I couldn't detect the seam in
"The Slave Princess", but something always struck me funny about
"The Temple of Abomination", where Cormac Mac Art runs into a bunch of
Shoggoths and star-headed Old Ones!
the Zebra edition of Tigers of the Sea, Howard's portion ends in the
second paragraph of page 209 with "Cormac smiled fiercely." Mine
begins with "For the moment . . ." Thus, as you can see, I'm the one
who hauled in all the Mythos elements! As for Howard's "The Slave
Princess", it's pretty straightforward: REH wrote the first six chapters;!
wrote the last two.
interest in both Howard and Lovecraft shows through in your fascinating group of
"Simon of Gitta" tales wherein you adapt the Gnostic heresiarch Simon
Magus as a Sword-&-Sorcery hero.
Tierney: Doing the Simon series
required some research into Gnosticism. All these tales combine Gnosticism and
other first-century elements with overtones of the Hyborian Age and the Cthulhu
Mythos. Incidentally, I originally pictured Simon as he was played by Jack
Palance in The Silver Chalice. However, it's been so many years since
I've seen that film that my memory has slipped. I think I now visualize Simon as
someone about halfway between Jack and the Marvel Comics version of Conan.
Crypt: That's O.K., since
Palance looks like he was drawn by John Buscema!