"What do you do for a living?" - it's a question I always dread. Running the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society it's... just, well, it's not easy to explain. Our jobs here are weird and multiform, hopelessly specific, and fantastically obscure. Even after decades of practice, I find my best answer often elicits a confused stare from the person who made the faux pas of asking about my job. However, if I'm at a Southern California grocery store, all bets are off.
So today I was a Trader Joe's buying my groceries and making small talk with the bagger and checker. After inviting me to join them at the Harry Potter thing at Universal Studios, the bagger asked me what I do. I used my shortest answer: I'm a producer. He asked what I make and I said lately we've been making a lot of old fashioned style radio plays. He found that interesting and asked if we did things like horror stories. "Why, yes," I replied. He asked if they were like H.P. Lovecraft stories. "They are very much like that, in fact we only produce Lovecraft stories," I replied. I explained that our company is the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I pointed to my Gilman House Lounge t-shirt that I was wearing as an example of the kind of thing we make.
He told me I was the second guy to come in today wearing one of those shirts. "Seriously? I replied. I mean, we don't sell all that many Gilman House shirts and two dudes wearing them to the same Trader Joe's on the same day seemed to strain credulity. But he was very sure of the fact and was very excited to learn that the HPLHS now has a retail presence here in Los Angeles (more on that in a future post). He was going to be headed to our neighborhood later in the week and was eager to check out our store.
That was pretty strange. But stranger still is the fact that this sort of thing happens with alarming regularity to me at Los Angeles grocery stores. I must hasten to point out though, it does NOT happen at other kinds of stores. Liquor stores, gas stations, hardware stores... never. Grocery stores - all the time. In fact Scott the Cheese Guy at my local Whole Foods is a pretty serious Lovecraft fan and he rushed up to talk to me since I was wearing a Call of Cthulhu shirt. But Scott has nothing on Steve the Wine Guy at that same Whole Foods who is such an HPLHS fan that he once told me in case of a fire at his house, he'd instructed his wife to first rescue his wok, then his CD of The Dunwich Horror and finally his children. I hastened to point out we have more copies of The Dunwich Horror and I'm hoping he's revised his priorities in his wife's rescue plan. Steve feels very strongly that the HPLHS should start producing Lovecraftian tiki shirts. But I digress...
So yes, what we do at the HPLHS is odd and obscure. And odds are if you're here reading our store's blog page, you're a member of what might often feel like an obscure fan community if not a full-blown secret society. But, my regular grocery store Lovecraft encounters remind me that we are part of a every growing community of folks who enjoy the works of HPL and who take delight in finding others with similar interests. Wear your Lovecraft t-shirt to the grocery store.
Among HPL's most enduring creations there's Great Cthulhu, the forbidden Necronomicon, there's nameless cults and blasphemies from beyond time and space. But really, my favorite is Miskatonic. Conjured up in Lovecraft's imagination, Miskatonic is perhaps the most joyful of Lovecraft's creations. A mix of Brown University and Harvard, relocated in a fictionalized version of Salem, Miskatonic is the perfect institution of higher learning for those of us inclined to the macabre, the obscure and the horrific.
Miskatonic is the kind of place that mounts fantastic expeditions to unknown regions of the Antarctic or Australia's Great Sandy Desert. It's the kind of place where librarians keep the keys to the most interesting book on stout chains they wear around their necks. It's the kind of place that would admit young Herbert West and promote him to physician when the typhoid epidemic became too severe. It's folklorists professors confront alien horrors in Vermont. It's graduate students become frozen snacks for Elder Horrors in the polar waste. It imparts the kind of forbidden knowledge that set young Walter Gilman on his doomed academic journey. Yep, I want to go to Miskatonic.
Don't get me wrong, I had a fun undergraduate education. At the University of Colorado I studied mesoamerican archeology. I learned to read and write the hieroglyphic language of Ancient Egypt. I did an independent study course in Renaissance Hermeticism. For a state university - it was pretty cool, and I was just a Theatre major. Then I went on to graduate school at CalArts which was challenging, bizarre and scary in completely different ways. I loved getting an education - but some part of me will always yearn to have attended Miskatonic.
The HPLHS has produced innumerable Miskatonic projects over the years. We sing about it in A Shoggoth on the Roof. We filmed it in The Whisperer in Darkness. We've made it's hoodies, t-shirts, coffee mugs, course books and diplomas. We've written its academic monographs. Recently we've even gone so far as to create letterman's hoodies for dear old MU. Why? Well, it turns out there's a bunch of you that seem to feel the same way that we do about our faux alma mater. All of us take delight in that leap of imagination that lets us ask: what if I had gone there? What would I have studied? Would I be able to deploy my esoteric knowledge for good like a Henry Armitage? Or would my education have opened my mind to terrifying vistas of reality as to bring about my doom? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep enrolling in their Continuing Ed. classes.
If you poke around our store, you'll see an awful lot of our products have nothing but five star reviews. You'll read the enthusiastic endorsements of fans who enjoy the bizarre things we create. And it may seem a little suspect that you don't see many posts decrying things we make as being mediocre or worse.
We don't edit or delete bad reviews from our site. We're fortunate that our business is made by Lovecraft fans for Lovecraft fans and on the whole, people seem to take a lot of pleasure in what we make. Of course reviews tend to be written by customers who are either very happy with what they've purchased or who are very unhappy. In browsing customer reviews on Amazon or Yelp! you'll usually see a stream of ecstatic reviews punctuated by the occasional post of outrage or despair. The stronger one feels about a product - either in the positive or the negative - the more likely one is to go to the trouble to post a review.
We're incredibly honored that HPLHS customers share their thoughts with other prospective customers. Some of our products are quite expensive and one has good cause to deliberate before taking the plunge. We hope that heartfelt endorsements of others' experiences with these products will help bolster your confidence. We work hard to ensure every product we make is of excellent quality. And we work hard to ensure that every transaction with the HPLHS meets our exceeds our customers' expectations. And if something goes wrong or is not up to snuff, we do whatever we can to remedy the situation.
So we hope you'll have fun looking through the array of weird stuff we sell and reading the opinions of our those who have ordered them. And know that we're happy to add your voice to our chorus of customer comments, whatever you may have to say.
Since we started silk screening t-shirts in house some ten years or so ago, we've been sourcing most of our garments from a company called American Apparel. We liked them as they offered excellent quality garments, were local to us here in Southern California, and they took a pronounced stand to ensure their products were made in sweat-shop free conditions. As you probably know, producers of garments have engaged in a global "race to the bottom" as manufacturers have scoured the globe to find the cheapest sources of labor imaginable. And while everyone likes a bargain, we were not comfortable with the notion of buying garments which might have been made under dubious conditions in Cambodia or Honduras. It was felt good to be supporting a local business where we could drive to the factory and pick up our orders.
Changes in the apparel industry battered our old friend American Apparel and they went through bankruptcy proceedings and continued to make shirts and hoodies. But last week, American Apparel was bought out by their Canadian rival Gildan. These kinds of things happen in business from time to time. But we were sad to see the new owner's first move was to close down American Apparel's production facilities, immediately fire 2,400 workers and start closing down a retail chain of more than 100 stores. Globalization is a real thing and the consequences of a global economy hit home today. We're heartbroken for the workers who have been making the garments we've been selling to you for all these years.
The HPLHS is now hard at work trying to find the best supplier we can for our garments. We're looking for another producer who protects its workers and is environmentally responsible. We're looking for outstanding quality, and of course we want to keep our garments as affordable as possible for you. It's a tricky set of criteria. But that's our job and we hope to meet new partners and perhaps find some great new garments to incorporate into our family of Lovecraftian garments.
Wishing all of you the best possible 2017 and beyond.
The HPLHS is going to be operating with a skeleton crew for the first week or so of the new year, and while skeletons do have their uses, they are not known for speedy packaging and/or shipment. We will endeavor to make them go as quickly as possible, but you may experience a slight delivery delay on any orders placed in the earliest weeks of January. We hope you can forgive us and we look forward to the return of the fully-fleshed shoggoths in a short time.
It's the time of year in the USA when the holiday sales season starts. From our Thanksgiving holiday through the new year, it's a time of gift giving and, as a result, a time for shopping. We're of two minds on this phenomenon. First, if it really is a time of year to count one's blessings and show the people you love that you love them, then we encourage people to truly do that. It's not about the giving of gifts - it's about the demonstration of love and respect, kindness and generosity of spirit. A true gift is not a thing - it's an action that makes its recipient feel. It can be the smallest of actions which changes the trajectory of someone's day. It can be a bowl of homemade soup or ten dollars for the homeless person on the corner. It can be a heartfelt and unexpected hug. Ultimately the gift is the part of yourself which you're willing to give to bring joy to another.
And yet, we live in America, in a culture where actual wrapped presents are... well, it's just how Christmas is done. And on top of that, the HPLHS is a small business, and we stay in business by selling some of those gifts that will be given. A third of our business (we hope) for the entire year will happen in the last week of November and the first two weeks of December. And as a tiny business in a ridiculously niche market, we are so incredibly grateful to our customers that they bring us their business and share the weird stuff we make with others. All of which is to say, you don't have to buy gifts, but if you are going to buy a gift, we're very appreciative if you get one from us.
Lovecraft painted mankind as an irrelevant speck whirling through the vast infinity of an uncaring universe. And, in a glorious irony, he also loved Christmas. His contradictions are among his most charming personality traits. But regardless of what wintry holiday you may celebrate, or whether you merely cower before the Great Old Ones, we hope you and yours meet the end of 2016 with a generosity of spirit, unfettered kindness, and genuine love for one and other. - SB
After talking about it for years, thinking about it for years and working on it for years, we're very pleased to have unveiled a whole new website for the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Our old site, which began in the early days of the Internet sixteen years ago, was built on the fly. Like the famed Winchester Mystery House, we added onto it over the years, creating new wings, attics, basements, doors to nowhere and the like. The net itself and how people use it has changed a lot over those years. The HPLHS has changed a lot too.
Back in 2000, we were still principally a group of Live Action Role Playing gamers who had created our own unique system of Lovecraftian gaming called Cthulhu Lives. But as the years have moved on, our focus has moved away from gaming to and the Society's principal endeavor is the creation of Lovecraftian entertainments. Around 2001 we produced a mockumentary film, A Shoggoth on the Roof, and that started us down a path which has led to where we are today: producing motion pictures, audio projects, books, CDs and much, much more.
So, our new site is our effort to better represent who we are these days and where we're heading in the future. It's also an effort to better serve you with a site that's friendly to tablets, phones and other mi-go technologies used to access the web. We're still converting a lot of our old content from the old site into the format of the new site, so if you don't see something you like from the old site, please check back in with us.
Ultimately, our web presence is about interfacing with you, people who enjoy the works of H.P. Lovecraft. We hope you like the changes. If you have any comments or suggestions for us, by all means, let us know.
Beloved Friends and Valued Customers,
If you haven’t heard, U.S. postal rates are going up on January 17 by as much as 21.6%. International rates will be more affected than domestic rates, but since we do all of our shipping with the U.S. Postal service, this rate hike will impact most of our customers. If you’re considering making an HPLHS order and want to save a few bucks on shipping, now is the time to strike. Please know we don’t set our shipping rates — the U.S. government does. We wish we could send you great Lovecraftian products for even less.