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Arkham House

Entry updated 9 April 2023. Tagged: Publisher.

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US Small Press founded in Sauk City, Wisconsin, by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei in order to produce a collection of H P Lovecraft's stories, The Outsider and Others (coll 1939). Although this was not initially a success, the imprint continued (Derleth bought out Wandrei in 1943) and published a variety of weird, fantasy and horror collections by Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith and many others, later including original stories and novels; it produced the first books of Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber and A E van Vogt. By the mid-1940s it was becoming a legend, and an example to other small presses. In 1948-1949 it published a magazine, The Arkham Sampler. Lovecraft remained a main interest of the company, but after Derleth's death in 1971, Arkham House (later under Jim Turner) began to change direction, publishing among other things some excellent collections by sf writers (sf previously having been a rather minor part of the company's output). These were not conservative choices: they included books from the cutting edge of sf by, for example, Greg Bear, Michael Bishop, John Kessel and Joanna Russ. Arkham House remains a power in sf publishing, with books like Gravity's Angels (coll 1991) by Michael Swanwick; and with the memorial and definitive Her Smoke Rose up Forever (coll 1990) Arkham House did for James Tiptree Jr what half a century earlier it had done for Lovecraft and Smith. Its early Lovecraft and Smith collections are among the most valuable collectors' items in the field.

Three useful books about Arkham House are Thirty Years of Arkham House 1939-1969 (1970) by August Derleth, Horrors and Unpleasantries: A Bibliographical History and Collectors' Guide to Arkham House (1983; exp vt The Arkham House Companion 1989) by Sheldon Jaffery and Sixty Years of Arkham House (1999) by S T Joshi. The Graphic Novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (graph 1989) by Grant Morrison (writer) and Dave McKean (artist), published by DC Comics, is a sort of tribute.

After Turner's departure in 1996 to run his own Golden Gryphon Press, Peter Ruber became editor and Arkham House returned to its policy of publishing older writers, including Robert Bloch, Nelson S Bond, and older material by Lovecraft and Smith. It published its last title in 2010. [PN/MJE/GF/DRL]

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