From The WEIRD Bookshelf: An Interview with Wilum “Hopfrog” Pugmire

Weird Tales interview with Wilum (not Willum! wink wink) Pugmire.

This week’s featured WEIRD Bookshelf author is that most Lovecraftian of Lovecraftians, Mr. Wilum (not Willum) “Hopfrog” Pugmire!

For those few of you who are not acquainted with Mr. Pugmire you are in for a treat. Mr. Pugmire’s writing has been described none than, respected Lovecraft scholar and editor, Mr. S.T. Joshi as “richly evocative” with a “distinct homoerotic theme or undercurrent that is neither gratuitous nor inconsistent but rather genuine and often central to characterization and storytelling. Author Laird Barron has stated that Mr. Pugmire is “an important figure in the fields of modern horror and the weird”.

Mr. Pugmire has published dozens of stories and prose poems. Enough to fill 16 collections of his work. Mr. Pugmire’s stories have appeared in Weird Tales, The Year’s Best Horror Stories, The Book of Cthulhu, The Weird Fiction Review, The Children of Cthulhu and countless other anthologies and magazines. Mr. Pugmire’s latest collection of tales “Bohemians of Sesqua Valley” was published a few months ago, coinciding with this years NecronomiCON in Providence. It’s a great privilege and joy to present this interview with Mr. Pugmire.

You can visit Mr. Pugmire HERE
Mr. Pugmire’s Amazon Author’s page is HERE

Thank you so very much, Mr. Pugmire, for consenting to this small
interview. I truly appreciate you finding the time.

How did you discover weird fiction and Weird Tales in general? And do you believe that the traditional weird tale is still relevant in today’s world which has become weirder than any of us has ever probably imagined?

As a kid I was a horror film fanatic and published a wee film fanzine, for which I got Robert Bloch to write a tribute to Forry Ackerman. When I went to Ireland to serve my mission for the Mormon church, I wasn’t allowed to go see horror films. Bob was still corresponding with me, and so I began to buy his novels and anthologies in which Bob was one of many writers. Many of the stories had originally been published in WT, and in some of the introductions to the anthologies Weird Tales was mentioned as the place where Bloch, Derleth, Lovecraft & co were first published.

Weird fiction became my keen obsession, and upon returning to the States I began to correspond with other authors who had written for WT; and then I began to collect Arkham House books, and read Lin Carter’s book on the Mythos, wherein the legend of WT and its classic writings was the one of the main themes.

I believe the traditional weird tale is quite relevant today, and that the entire school of genre writing that oozed from Weird Tales echoes in some of the work of today’s finest writers. My own fiction strives to be in the traditional mode, however degenerate some aspects of it may be in regard to my sexuality and such. Traditional weird fiction, as found in the Arkham House books that were published when Derleth lived, was the elixir that I drank as a budding genre artist. I often approach a story idea with the intent of writing in the “Weird Tales tradition.” I soaked up the magazine’s early history and aura when I was a kid. I used to visit H. Warner Munn every weekend, and he shewed me his collection of WT and loaned me the letters he received from editor Farnsworth Wright. All of this has utterly affected the way I approach writing.
Is it more intimidating or flattering to be considered one of the two living writers truly worthy of being heirs to Edgar Allan and H.P. Lovecraft? And is this something you are conscious of while writing?
It is both intimidating and flattering to be considered one of those writers worthy of being heirs to HPL and Poe. It also seems a bit absurd, because however much I love writing weird fiction, I rarely think highly of what I’ve done. My work seems a curious blend of fanboy fanaticism and a serious attempt to create beautiful prose. My imagination is very adolescent, and my prose style strives for utter sophistication. It is indeed a conscious decision, to write stories that pay homage to Lovecraft — that is the guiding death-light of my art; but it has never been my intention to “write like Lovecraft,” and I protest that I do not. My voice is the voice of Henry James and Oscar Wilde as much as it is the voice of H. P. Lovecraft. I often do things that I know are unprofessional, such as when I wrote my own version of Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear” for the new issue of Fungi. I had such fun with that, but part of the fun was being a kid who was doing something that seemed so unprofessional, writing one’s own version of another writer’s work, yet striving to make the work one’s own. I wanted that story to read like a work that one would have found in an old issue of Weird Tales, in the old school tradition. To have my work compared not only to Lovecraft’s but also to the work of a genius like Thomas Ligotti – ooo, honey!  Unreal.

Your style, or maybe it’s better to say your “voice” is distinctly Lovecraftian and yet uniquely your own. Is this something that took years to evolve or was it there from the very beginning?
    I strive for a “literary” voice, wishing to create works that are Literary Art. This became my supreme aesthetic obsession after I discovered Henry James, who was also obsessed with writing as an art form. When we read Lovecraft’s letters, we see that he, too, considered good writing a form of art. Part of literature’s spell, for me, is the beauty of the writing; and to strive for such beauty, I think, helps to shape one’s own individual style and voice. It’s an extremely non-commercial attitude, although some of our finest writers such as Laird Barron and Caitlin R. Kiernan have achieved success and sell many books. Part of the striving for excellence in writing also comes from the shame I feel when reading my early work, and wanting to improve my writing, to become more professional. That’s the main reason I am forever rewriting my early tales.
And now for one pretentious philosophical question stolen from Voltaire. If Mr. Lovecraft did not exist, would it be necessary to invent Him? Do you see a need for such visions and stories in our world?
   We could never have invented Lovecraft, because he is so utterly unique. Have you noticed how the current crop of critics and “scholars” online approach HPL? They say such absurd things as “he is our most popular good/bad writer,” or they overemphasize his racism. No one would invent HPL as he was, they would all be trying to edit his peculiarities or alter his core being. He was, as it has been written, his own most fantastic invention. Lovecraft’s brilliant imagination has never been duplicated, and the world has indeed benefited by his originality, by the power of that awesome imagination. I would not be a writer today, I am certain, if Lovecraft had not existed.

Regarding your wonderful “SesquaValley” in the Northwest. Is it based on an actual earthly local or is it purely a place that sadly doesn’t have any mundane parallel but should?

Sesqua Valley is based on Snoqualmie Valley and the town of North Bend, which also served as the inspiration for Twin Peaks. My aunt and her family live in North Bend, and I used to spend two weeks of every summer there as a kid. The twin-peaked mountain, MountSi, always beguiled me, potently and strangely. When I began to seriously write weird fiction, I remembered that Derleth advised Ramsey Campbell to invent his own Lovecraftian locality, a region based on one with which he was familiar. So I knew instantly that North Bend would serve as my own version of Dunwich and Innsmouth. The valley has served me very well, and I love returning to it and discovering more and more of its wondrous secrets.

    Your newest collection, “Bohemians of Sesqua Valley”, was released late last summer just in time for the NecronomiCON 2013 in Providence by your publisher “Arcane Wisdom” on the Kindle platform. What can you tell us about this newest collection of “Valley” novelettes?

    Bohemians came as a surprise. I became so excited about NecronomiCon Providence that I felt this keen ache to write a new book that would celebrate the convention. Also, I wanted to explore writing stories of length, and write a book of novelettes. I love writing at length, although my buddy S. T. Joshi is often rather critical of my longer narratives and prefers my shorter pieces (although he did published one of my best novelettes in his anthology, BLACK WINGS).”  

I wanted, with this book, to write my “definitive” tale of Shub-Niggurath,” and another touching on night-gaunts. I wanted a Night-gaunt on the jacket. I also wanted to explore the emotional realm of my most popular character, Simon Gregory Williams, and his relationship with the valley’s mysterious poet, William Davis Manly. And I wanted to write a book that was Lovecraftian to the core. I had a great time writing that book, and Arcane Wisdom brought it out in such a handsome hardcover edition. I keep hoping they’ll do a pb edition, but I think Kindle is the way of the future and thus replacing paperbacks.

  And before we go is there anything that you want to share with your
  readers and fans? What do we have to look forward to in the future? 
     I am in a very curious phase regarding future writing. I’ve had seven books published in the past three years, and my feeling is “enough is enough.” I am looking for a real job, full-time employment, and that will cut down on my writing time. I’m just not in the mood to work on any new collections, although I have just finished working on a book of tales with my buddy David Barker, Spectres of Lovecraftian Horror, and that will see print in hardcover in Spring. For the next few years I’ll concentrate on writing for a few anthologies, or for magazines and journals who seek me out for Lovecraftian yarns. At the moment, I’d rather read than write. I’d also like to return to doing my regular vignettes for the Lovecraft eZine, but at the moment I am feeling less than inspired and just want to rest. However, I am one of those creatures who need to write, and I will always return to it when inspiration hits, until ye happy day o’ Death.

A portrait of the artist as a young man.

    In closing, I want to thank once again for taking the time from your busy writing schedule to participate in this small interview. It’s been an honour and a genuine pleasure for me. So thank you Mr. Pugmire and I wish you all the success in the world with your upcoming endeavours!


H.P. Lovecraft, Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, W.H. Pugmire, Weird Tales, Bohemians of Sesqua Valley, S.T. Joshi, Laird Barron, Horror, Forry Ackerman, Robert Bloch, Interview, Author Interview 

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