Introduction by Boyd White

For collectors and scholars of weird fiction, Arkham House needs no introduction. Established in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei in order to rescue the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft from obscurity, Arkham House secured not only Lovecraft’s literary legacy but also those of Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard. Along with landmark collections by Weird Tales’ “Big Three,” Arkham House published the first books by Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, and Robert Bloch, earning a pre-eminent place in the history of American fantastic fiction. Derleth and Wandrei also introduced US audiences to the work of significant British authors of supernatural fiction, including William Hope Hodgson, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Marjorie Bowen, and H. R. Wakefield. Towards the end of his career, Derleth’s mentoring of younger writers, particularly Ramsey Campbell, helped usher in a more sophisticated age for horror fiction in terms of psychological and cultural depth. In addition, Arkham House has served as the template for dozens of specialty presses for almost eighty years, including Dark Harvest, Ash-Tree Press, Golden Gryphon Press, Cemetery Dance, Subterranean Press, and Tartarus Press. Without Arkham House, the entire landscape of fantastic fiction would be significantly impoverished.

Lloyd Currey’s Arkham House and Mycroft & Moran catalog provides the perfect entry point for exploring the rich legacy of the most important specialty press in the history of American publishing. All of Arkham House’s seminal publications are represented, including signed or inscribed copes of Robert Bloch’s The Opener of the Way (1945), Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival (1946), Fritz Leiber’s Night’s Black Agents (1947), and Ramsey Campbell’s Demons by Daylight (1973), as well as beautiful copies of H. P Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others (1939), Clark Ashton’s Smith’s Out of Space and Time (1942), and Robert E. Howard’s Skull-Face and Others (1946). Lloyd’s listings also include a significant number of Arkham House titles rarely found signed or inscribed, such as H. R. Wakefield’s The Clock Strikes Twelve (1946), L. P. Hartley’s The Travelling Grave and Other Stories (1948), Zelia Bishop’s The Curse of Yig (1953), and John Metcalfe’s The Feasting Dead (1954). In fact, one of Lloyd’s most impressive offerings is a superb association copy of August Derleth’s first collection of short fiction, Someone in the Dark (1941), inscribed to M. P. Shiel. 

As Lloyd’s listings indicate, from the beginning Arkham House published interesting, important works of weird fiction by women writers. Evangeline Walton’s Witch House (1945), an excellent neo-gothic, has the distinction of being the first full-length novel that Arkham House published. Cynthia Asquith’s This Mortal Coil (1947) has the similar distinction of being the first collection by a female author that the publisher issued, the only book of original short stories by the noted editor of such classic horror anthologies as The Ghost Book (1927) and When Churchyards Yawn (1931). Other works of supernatural fiction by women writers included in Lloyd’s catalog are Greye La Spina’s Invaders from the Dark (1960), Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s Collected Ghost Stories (1974), Marjorie Bowen’s Kecksies and Other Twilight Tales (1976), Mary Elizabeth Counselman’s Half in Shadow (1978), Elizabeth Walter’s In the Mist and Other Uncanny Encounters (1979), and Tanith Lee’s Dreams of Dark and Light: The Great Short Fiction of Tanith Lee (1986).

Not surprisingly, Arkham House’s enormous achievements in the realm of weird fiction have often overshadowed its contributions to science fiction. Thankfully, Lloyd’s catalog remedies this oversight by including Arkham House’s most singular efforts in this genre, starting with A. E. Van Vogt’s first novel Slan (1946), an acknowledged classic of science fiction’s golden age originally serialized in John W. Campbell, Jr.’s Astounding Science Fiction. While Derleth and Wandrei published very little science fiction during their tenure, James Turner, Arkham House’s managing editor from 1975 until 1996, shifted Arkham House’s focus to cutting edge speculative fiction, publishing the first short story collections by a number of key authors, including Michael Bishop’s Blooded on Arachne (1981), Greg Bear’s The Wind from a Burning Woman (1983), Lucius Shepard’s The Jaguar Hunter (1987), Bruce Sterling’s Crystal Express (1989), and Mary Rosenblum’s Synthesis and Other Virtual Realities (1996). Lloyd’s listings of Arkham House’s science fiction titles also includes two cornerstone collections of feminist speculative fiction, Joanna Russ’ The Zanzibar Cat (1983) and James Tiptree, Jr.’s (Alice B. Sheldon) Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (1990). A posthumously published career retrospective, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever ranks as one of Arkham House’s most significant publications, gathering together numerous Hugo- and  Nebula-Award-winning works, such as “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” Houston, Houston, Do You Read?,” “Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death,” and “The Screwfly Solution.”

In addition, Lloyd has included a number of titles published by Arkham House under the Mycroft & Moran imprint, which Derleth created in order to publish his Sherlock Holmes pastiches featuring Solar Pons, as well as occult detective stories, such as Seabury Quinn’s The Phantom-Fighter (1966), featuring Jules de Grandin, and Margery Lawrence’s Number Seven Queer Street (1969), featuring Miles Pennoyer.

Arkham House and Mycroft & Moran is a strong reminder of Arkham House’s pre-eminence in the field of specialty presses and genre fiction. Collectors and readers who only know Arkham House as a publisher of weird and supernatural fiction are in for some pleasant surprises.