Robert M. Price turned sixty-five years old today. He’s done plenty to be proud of and he’s got more cool stuff on deck for the future. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
Price burst onto the Cthulhu Mythos/weird fiction/pulp scene in 1981 when he launched Cryptic Publications and its flagship title, Crypt of Cthulhu. For those who don’t know the history, the late ‘70s was a little bit of a low ebb for things Mythosian and Lovecraftian. Arkham House, after the death of August Derleth, had veered away from the Mythos fiction that had been its bread and butter. Basically no new Lovecraft editions were out. Then came 1981…and something eldritch was in the air. Del Rey was just starting to put out new HPL editions, replete with gorgeous Michael Whelan covers. Chaosium released its first edition of Call of Cthulhu. Bob Price was right there, doing his part to push the Lovecraft Renaissance forward. Not a follower, but a leader.
Crypt of Cthulhu wasn’t some staid and turgid academic journal—despite RMP having a Phd. in theology. It was a platform for serious Mythos/HPL scholarship, but it didn’t take itself too seriously. Check out Crypt of Cthulhu #11 right here. Alongside serious, weighty articles from HPL/Mythos scholars like Peter Cannon and Will Murray, you have fun features like “Crypt-o-Clulu-Gram” (a puzzle) and “Fun Guys From Yuggoth”. RMP was having a great time and saw no reason to keep things cosmically blasphemous on every page. As he put it, Crypt of Cthulhu was "a bizarre miscegenation; half Lovecraft Studies rip-off, half humor magazine, a 'pulp thriller and theological journal’.”
I would think that Bob had a little less fun in the very early days of Crypt when he was doing the whole thing as a one man operation. However, the quality of Crypt of Cthulhu led many Lovecraftian worthies to his Cryptic door in short order. Over the next hundred-plus issues, he would publish articles from heavy hitters like Richard L. Tierney, Dirk Mosig, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Donald R. Burleson, Marc Cerasini, Edward P. Berglund and others. The high-end talent wasn’t just limited to the literary side of the equation, either. The mighty Stephen Fabian contributed numerous covers to the magazine, as did Allen Koszowski and even Richard Corben. Crypt of Cthulhu was to Mythos fanzines what Amra was to sword and sorcery fanzines: the best combination of art and scholarship that the field has yet seen.
In the early 1990s, RMP’s reputation as a Mythos scholar and editor was well-established. Chaosium came to Bob to spearhead their “Cthulhu Library” series of anthologies tracing the literary history of various Mythos beings. He promptly put together The Hastur Cycle and his legendary run of Chaosium anthologies had begun.
This is where I come in. While I’d heard of Mr. Price and had seen a couple of ads for Cryptic chapbooks, I’d been too busy with school, helping start a comic shop and playing in bands to take that final step and order something. My comic shop buddy—he sold RPGs as well—alerted me to the new Chaosium books. After some quick research, I said, “Grab me a copy.” The Hastur Cycle blew me away. Price’s knowledge of the relevant literature and criticism was encyclopedic. His background in theology gave him a unique insight regarding various aspects of the Mythos. I called my buddy—we lived a hundred miles apart by that time—and said, “Buy every Chaosium book by Price that shows up in the catalog.” I wasn’t disappointed, though my friend did buy me a couple other Chaosium anthos edited by people not named “Robert M. Price” and I was not impressed.
Chaosium went through some turbulence in the early twenty-first century and things got outta whack in regard to further RMP anthologies. Sad times. Bob ended up publishing some of his anthologies originally intended for Chaosium through other publishing houses. I recommend those.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Mr. Price’s contributions to Robert E. Howard scholarship. Most of his attention has been lavished on the Mythos/horror facets of REH’s oeuvre and it’s mighty insightful, on the whole. I was rereading his Nameless Cults (Chaosium) about a year ago. It was kind of humbling. Several of the ideas and “insights” that I had come to think of as my own…were actually straight from RMP. I’d internalized them so thoroughly—I probably read Nameless Cults ten times in the first decade after I bought it—that I’d forgotten from whence they first came. A whole post could be written on RMP and REH, but I’ll suffice it for now by saying you should check out this entry for Cryptic Publications at Howard Works.
With Bob being a fan of Howard, it should be no great shock to learn that he’s also a longtime fan of sword and sorcery in general. RMP was publishing Richard Tierney’s S&S tales of Simon of Gitta back in the ‘80s. He has even co-written a tale of Simon with Tierney and written a solo story of the Gittan as well. In addition, as the literary executor of Lin Carter’s estate, he’s quite ably continued the saga of Thongor. I think his Thongor is just as good as Lin’s, to be honest. Finally, RMP spearheaded and edited The Mighty Warriors, a new anthology in what I see as the first wave of a Sword and Sorcery Renaissance.
Besides holding the flame of S&S aloft, Bob has been putting out new issues of Crypt of Cthulhu as well as editing his new venue for Mythos fiction, Eldritch Tales. Check ‘em out and support cool stuff.