Recently, I got a chance to converse with Bobby Derie. He is an avid researcher in the field of Lovecraftian lore and some of its psychological effects. He has published a book entitled, Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos. I am happy that we had a chance to exchange some ideas and vibe a bit. We appreciate the time that he has taken to answer a few questions.
Warlock Asylum: After coming into knowledge of your work, I must say that I am deeply impressed! It seems that you have been at the helm of your interests and research for quite some time. However, for our readers who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe yourself? Who is Bobby Derie?
Bobby Derie: Slave to a cubicle by day, by night I write to save what little is left of my soul…at the moment that means keeping up my weekly fiction blog at http://the-unpublishable.com and my ongoing Lovecraft scholarship source http://wikithulhu.com. Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos is my first published non-fiction work.
Warlock Asylum: How were you introduced to the work of H. P. Lovecraft?
Bobby Derie: My dad gave me a copy of the first Del Ray anthology when I was about nine, and when I was a little older I had the chance to raid his shelves for the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu editions…you could say that reading The Dunwich Cycle and The Shub-Niggurath Cycle as a teenager left its mark.
Warlock Asylum: Some people say that Lovecraft’s work was fueled by a sort of weird insanity. Others are of the opinion that he was in some sort of subliminal communion with otherworldly entities. I once read in some material by Donald Tyson that Lovecraft did in fact attempt magic as a youth. What is your opinion in regards to such things?
Bobby Derie: There is some truth to the notion that the shadow of mental illness hung over Lovecraft for much of his life; his father died in an asylum, his mother suffered from mental illness, and Lovecraft himself had a sort of breakdown as a teenager which prevented him from finishing high school. You can definitely see examples in his work of the horrors of heredity – where an individual is born with some inherent fault or repellent aspect which, being biological, is impossible for them to change or avoid – which may echo some of his own feelings.
With regard to Lovecraft as a magician – aside from playing as a pagan in his youth, Lovecraft was a fairly staunch materialist, with no belief in the occult (and actively worked against belief in the supernatural at times). That said, so much of his work is suffused with elements of the occult, that many people have considered him a secret or unconscious adept – during his own lifetime at least two correspondents truly believed he possessed true occult knowledge, which he masqueraded as fiction, the most famous of which is William Lumley. Kenneth Grant was, I think, the first person to put into print the idea that Lovecraft was unconsciously tapping in to some oneiric current; Donald Tyson is simply one of the latest, although he does put an interesting spin on it…suggesting that Lovecraft’s chaste life unwittingly followed an ascetic path that triggered his kundalini.
Bobby Derie: I sort of fell into it backwards; my earliest efforts were an effort to organize and expand on what I was reading at the time, and by chance that led to an opportunity to do some freelance work for the Shadowrun role-playing game.
Warlock Asylum: H. P. Lovecraft, The Cthulhu Mythos, and other related material, has become a source of influence for film, music, role-playing games, and even magic. In your own opinion, how is it that Lovecraft has been able to transcend simple fiction and create a culture of its own?
Bobby Derie: I think the essence of it is the appeal of a shared universe. Back in the days of Weird Tales, it was incredibly unique to have different stories by as many authors each referencing aspects of the same bizarre, novel mythology; this was back in the days when trying to publish Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes or Buck Rogers fan-fiction would get you sued (which is why they pretty much only appeared in Tijuana bibles during the era). When you create an open framework like that, it expands the possibility space tremendously and really excites the imagination; people start reading the stories more deeply than they might otherwise because they want to catch the connections and see the bigger picture. Today it’s all a bit of fun with NecronomiCox dildos and plush Cthulhu slippers, but you’d never have gotten that far if the Mythos had not been so open and inviting to both readers and writers for such a long time.
Warlock Asylum: Aside from the pure literary work of the Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraftian fiction, exists the popular Simon Necronomicon and its initiatory structure. The grimoire, which is highly controversial, has led to the merged magic of Sumer with some Lovecraftian archetypes. How do you feel about such works and their perspective chance of reaching gnosis through such?
Bobby Derie: I view the Lovecraftian occult as essentially a parallel development to the fiction; there’s some crossover where later stories influence occult writers and vice versa, but for the most part they have very similar beginnings and then take off in different directions. Whether you believe in the occult or not, if you approach it from that perspective a couple conclusions tend to pop out: there is a demand for the Lovecraftian occult (be it a pseudo-Necronomicon or ritual invocation of the Great Old Ones or what have you), there are individuals that will supply that demand, and there are individuals that will incorporate that material into their belief system.
When you look at the various Necronomicons, you can decipher the underlying intent fairly easily – the Hay Necronomicon was a well-intentioned hoax, the Simon Necronomicon intended to be more serious, Tyson’s Necronomicon series a practical pop-occult set for beginnings, Asenath Waite’s Necronomicon Gnosis a dedicated effort at synthesizing material from these different traditions. But after it is published, and the Peter Levendas and Kenneth Grants and Donald Tysons of the world get their little royalty checks, it’s regular people that pick those books up and read them and begin to expand on and work with them – and why not? I may be learning a little bit more toward Phil Hine here, but just because we know the Simon Necronomicon isn’t “the” Necronomicon which Lovecraft wrote about, doesn’t make it any less valid than any other book of magic or ritual.
Warlock Asylum: I would like to congratulate you on your recent release the book, Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos. Thanks for the mention in the book as well. How did this work come about?
Bobby Derie: I was in the last year of graduate school, and combing the University library for material – there is seldom anything as satisfying as going through a really big library – and the idea came into my head to do a monograph on sex in the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft. I hadn’t read much about it at that point, and figured it would be fairly quick and easy to write about. Well, a bit of digging disabused that notion – I was far from the first to write about sex and the Cthulhu Mythos. What struck me, as I was picking up sources and going through Lovecraft’s letters, however, was how little that the scholars were talking to each other on the subject – plenty of people had written on sex and the Mythos, but no-one apparently wanted to put the pieces together or do a systemic analysis. So, I sat down, drew up an outline, and started to collect sources and write….18 months later, I had the first draft of Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos. It was a monstrous, bloated manuscript at over 400 pages, desperately in want of an editor, festooned with many footnotes, and I had no idea who would consider publishing it. S. T. Joshi was kind enough to look at it, and gave some judicious advice on cutting it down to a publishable size (which I took religiously; first drafts are meant for cutting), and recommended it to Hippocampus Press for publishing. It’s still not perfect, but I’m glad to have the beast in print at last.
Warlock Asylum: Now this may sound a bit funny, but it must cross our minds that if Lovecraft has been able to influence so many aspects of human life, then it must be possible that the Cthulhu Mythos may one day, in fact, describe an actual sexual fetish. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?
Bobby Derie: It almost already does. For many people, simply saying “Cthulhu” and “sex” in the same sentence brings to mind tentacle erotica or tentacle fetish play, most often as depicted in Japanese erotic anime and manga. The truth is a bit weirder, and I go into it in more depth in the book – both the tentacles in weird fiction as we know them today and the tentacle sex in Japanese adult comics and animated work share some of the same literary and artistic predecessors – and by association, continue to have a relatively close association and impact on pop culture today, with artifacts like tentacle sex toys from Bad Dragon or Whipspider Rubberworks.
Warlock Asylum: One of the most-respected forms of art today is Japanese manga. Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos also goes into the relationship between Japanese manga, anime, and Lovecraft fiction. Can you give us just a brief overview of this?
Bobby Derie: Japanese translations of Lovecraft’s fiction were being published in Japan at least since the 1940s, but didn’t particularly “take off” in the popular imagination until the Japanese version of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game hit in the 1980s; at that point you can see dozens of direct and discreet references to Lovecraft and the Mythos in any number of games, light novels, anime, and manga, some of which were oriented toward adults with sex and nudity. Penetrative tentacle sex also arose around the same time, an innovation of mangaka Toshio Maeda to circumvent censorship, and because it worked it became a relatively popular trope in the Japanese visual idiom – and a very idiosyncratic one when Japanese anime and manga began to crossover to the West. The Mythos is still very popular in Japan today, as evidenced by the success of Haiyore! Nyaruko-san and the like, but the sexual element is hard to judge from America, if only because relatively so little material makes its way into translation, and that which does come across – like Mystery of the Necronomicon – isn’t particularly representative.
Warlock Asylum: Well, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions and share some of your insights with us. What final words would you like to share with our readers?
Bobby Derie: I’ve long been of the opinion that books are better when they’re shared, and having hunted down obscure stuff like the Book of the Forgotten Ones and New Flesh Palladium, I hate for that effort to go to waste. So for anyone interested in the section of the book on Sex & the Lovecraftian Occult, you can read an early draft for free here: https://app.box.com/s/enfevecr5c5s521jvrgw
Categories: Art of Ninzuwu, Bobby Derie, book release, book reviews, books, cthulhu, cthulhu mythos, Dan Harms, Dollars of Dagon, Donald Tyson, Fiction, H. P. Lovecraft, Interviews, Japanese manga, Lovecraft, Necronomicon, occult, occult books, occult writers, Papers in the Attic, sex, Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos, Simon Necronomicon, The Unspeakable Oath, Toshio Maeda