If you have a look at the “about me” page, you’ll see I promised to use this blog as a shameless promotional vehicle. Of course, I meant for it to be a shameless promotional vehicle for me, but as it so happens, I have a lot friends and colleagues who are doing all kinds of awesome things I really want to talk about. So, I’m spreading the shameless promotion around, starting with Simon Berman, my friend and a former colleague at Privateer Press, who is doing something super fucking rad. He’s taking his unnatural love for all things H.P. Lovecraft and turning it into a tangible artifact of lunatic obsession via the occult magic of Kickstarter. The project is called The Book of Starry Wisdom, and I recently spoke with Simon about how this must-have book for fans of Howard Phillips Lovecraft came to be.
1) So I hear you got yourself a Kickstarter campaign. Tell us all about it.
My entire life is being consumed by the eldritch forces of social media summoned in support of my project, The Book of Starry Wisdom. I’m a tremendous fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, and this book is a direct result of that obsession. When I first encountered Lovecraft’s stories as a teenager, I was captivated by his description of hoary tomes of forbidden knowledge. I was always a little disappointed that the only way to read his stories was in the form of cheap paperbacks. This was the early 90s, and while I loved those old Del Rey editions with Michael Whelan’s fantastic cover art, I always wanted something more substantial.
The Book of Starry Wisdom is my pet project, a way to collect Lovecraft’s specifically Cthulhu-related stories in the kind of portentous book they deserve. The heart of the book are those three stories, “Dagon,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” I’ve arranged to have the stories fully illustrated and bound in a faux-leather, hardcover edition accompanied by essays that relate to the original stories. I want this to be a book that looks awesome on your bookshelf, whether it’s in your living room or your ancient and forbidden library.
2) What’s the significance of the title The Book of Starry Wisdom?
It’s a reference from Lovecraft’s story “The Haunter of the Dark.” While the original reference is to a cult worshiping Nyarlathotep, I felt it was evocative of one of the pillars of the Cthulhu Mythos, namely that of the Stars Coming Right. I wanted this collection to have a title that felt immersive, like something that might be used by a real cult. This sort of gentle breaking of the fourth wall is a major theme of the entire project.
3) There are some really talented writers involved on this project, including Orrin Grey, whom I’ve interviewed on this very blog. Tell us a bit about the writers and what they’re contributing.
I selected my writers with great care. All of them are talented authors or game writers of note. Frankly, I was spoiled for choice given how many stellar and often award-winning writers I’m lucky enough to call colleagues. One thing I wanted to ensure was a diversity of perspective. In addition to seasoned horror writers like Orrin Grey—who has submitted a brilliant and twisted essay exploring Cartesian philosophy, Lovecraft, and the films of John Carpenter—but also people like the poet Bryan Thao Worra, a Laotian poet of note and a huge fan of Lovecraft. All of the essayists were instructed to examine some aspect of the three Cthulhu stories and then shed light on them in some new way. As well, I requested they not write anything like literary criticism. I want the volume to be totally immersive, so all of the essays treat the stories as if they are non-fiction, or, at least, not entirely fictional in origin. My deepest hope is that a copy ends up in a Salvation Army used books bin in twenty years and scares the living shit out of some teenager who happens to buy it on a whim.
4) You’re also working with a very talented artist, Valerie Heron. Tell us about her contributions to The Book of Starry Wisdom.
I originally became acquainted with Herron’s work about a year ago. She had illustrated t-shirts for Pacific NorthWEIRD and Rifftrax, and through the small world of the internet I realized we had a number of people in common. I was starting to plan The Book of Starry Wisdom in earnest this past spring, even though it had been kicking around in my head for a couple of years. Having looked at Valerie’s deific artwork in the pagan community, I knew she’d be an excellent choice for this project. Aside from her obvious skill as a fine artist, I recognized that she also had an understanding of occult principals and symbolism that would lend itself well to the immersive qualities I wanted in my book. Herron is producing thirteen interior illustrations as well as other prints exclusive to the Kickstarter. I’m incredibly excited at what she’s been drawing, I think it’s going to be a fantastic-looking book.
5) I know this isn’t your first go-around running a Kickstarter campaign. What experience do you have with crowdfunding?
That’s correct. About two years ago I was one of the principal architects and managers for the WARMACHINE: Tactics Kickstarter. It was highly successful, and I learned many lessons that I think are scaling down well to my current project. I’ve also run some smaller crowdfunding projects for local artist Tom Dewar and his Supercharger Press Kickstarter, as well as managing the ongoing Patreon for artist Eiza Gauger’s Problem Glyphs project.
6) Who are the people who fucking need to run over to Kickstarter and back The Book of Starry Wisdom right this very second? (I mean, besides aggressively nerdy, oft-rejected writer types like myself.)
Those who have heard the Call. Those who wish to be blinded by the revelations of the new dark age. The mad, the dead, and the Damned. Ia! Ia!
Simon Berman is a writer and the social marketing manager at Privateer Press where he has contributed to the award-winning games WARMACHINE, HORDES, and the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game. He lives in Seattle and in his spare time attends to the whims of his fat and bitter cat, Chud.