Derrick Hussey and Hippocampus Press received the 2011 HWA Specialty Press of the Year Award.
1. How would you describe Hippocampus Press?
We are a small press specializing in the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and their circle. Each member of our team brings their experience and enthusiasm to the projects we undertake, motivated primarily by our own taste in horror and literature.
2. Tell us about how Hippocampus Press came into existence.
Hippocampus Press was conceived to fill the gap created when Necronomicon Press more or less stopped its activities in the late 1990s. At that time, I was working at an academic publisher in Manhattan, and was already involved in horror publishing through my membership in the Esoteric Order of Dagon amateur press association. I had gotten to know S. T. Joshi personally, as we both lived in New York City at that time. Over dinner one night, S. T. suggested that if I were to start a small press, he’d supply me with a steady stream of worthy projects to publish, and he’s been more than true to his word. Since that first dinner, of course, Hippocampus has grown tremendously from that initial concept into a business with over 100 titles to our credit. Through it all, S.T has remained a close and trusted friend and advisor.
3. What most attracts you to publishing in the horror genre?
I started in because I became aware there were books I wanted to read and to own, but they didn’t exist. I’d have to publish them myself. My own taste in horror has largely driven Hippocampus Press; I figured there must be others out there like me, and there are. I was surprised at the significant number of people who share the same taste. Who knew! Admittedly, my taste can lean toward the obscure: when I hear a proposal for a monograph on Lovecraft associate Robert H. Barlow, or a bio-bibliography of early horror publisher W. Paul Cook, I say, wow, that’s definitely Hippocampus Press material! So you can see we’re not shooting for the mainstream with all of our titles. Also, since we started branching out from Lovecraft and his peers into what I call our “living authors” line, it’s been sheer joy to find new work that really resonates with me. I’m grateful that there are authors working now who pique my interest, and getting their work out to Hippocampus readers has become very important to me. I’m a big supporter of their work.
4. What new projects are you working on now?
We have dozens of projects in the pipeline, enough to keep us busy for years, and more opportunities keep presenting themselves. Some of the very latest ones, which we have high hopes to publish soon, include a first collection from Jason Brock, a monograph on Lovecraft’s travels in the Merrimack Valley, and S. T. Joshi’s first Mythos novel, “The Assaults of Chaos”. One of our overarching projects is to publish the complete letters of Lovecraft, which will fill over twenty volumes. For the rest of 2012 our biggest project is a three volume set of the complete poetry of George Sterling, Clark Ashton Smith’s mentor. It’s one of our most significant undertakings. The great California literary historian Kevin Starr has agreed to write the preface, which lends this release an appropriate gravitas.
5. What advice would you share with new horror writers? What do you think are the biggest challenges they face?
Be true to your vision and get connected. I’d say it’s important for a new writer to get connected with his peers, share ideas and get feedback. There’s a really vibrant professional horror community out there made up of working authors, editors and publishers, so there’s no reason to work in a vacuum. The new generation is just amazing at networking via the internet, and I try to take a page from their book, with social media and so on. But speaking personally, nothing is as energizing as real-world contact with one’s fellow horror enthusiasts. Conventions, readings and plain ordinary whoopee parties are some of the high points of a life in horror.
I’d imagine one of the biggest challenges is to get something original published when there seems to be a bigger commercial market right now for reworkings of hackneyed old monsters. This applies both in mainstream horror and also in subsets like Lovecraftian horror where there’s a currently big trend toward pastiche — got tentacles? But good, truly original work can find a home on the printed page, and good writing can happen within established motifs, if that’s where one feels drawn to. For example, John Langan has done some outstanding work in the zombie milieu. And there are plenty of other examples.
6. What are three of your favorite horror stories?
Off the top of my head, I’ll pick “The Repairer of Reputations” by Robert W. Chambers, “Bulldozer” by Laird Barron and something by Lovecraft. How about “The Haunter of the Dark”? That’s a pretty good one.
7. What’s your favorite Halloween memory or tradition?
Halloween around here is a great occasion because it’s my anniversary with a very special lady.
8. Given a choice, trick? Or treat?
Since founding Hippocampus Press in 1999, DERRICK HUSSEY has worked on a great many projects, Lovecraftian and otherwise. He is a graduate of Colgate University, where he received maximum fluoride protection and a Bachelor of Arts degree. Born at an early age in northern New Jersey, he currently resides in New York City, where he has enlisted his very tolerant fiancée Anastasia to assist in all aspects of running Hippocampus. In addition to small press publishing he works in substance abuse counseling, is a live music aficionado and a cinema enthusiast.
I sat in the Days Between the Years. Darkness whispered to the corpses in the palm of my hand . . . and I planned my escape.
I am not a learned man. I am an escape artist. Was when I started.
Poor. Hungry. Inner-city caught, small—walled in, all men are. Here in the grey rain they are. Mired with learning disabilities I took the route I could afford and held the most appeal, or coulda been no option is the only option. The poor care not, an open door is an open door.
Books were my road. Thinking is the best way to travel for a needy—grasping—dreamer and I took to it.
I learned to read and feed the dreams in comic books. Loved superheroes; Dr. Strange and Batman, Thor and Captain America. The boat of Dr. Strange and Thor sailed to long ago and far away, I stood watch in the crow’s nest, saw Huginn and Muninn’s wings chart the weight. Strained to see Out There too.
At eight the public library became my haunt of choice. Books. Shark at a chum convention my primary diet became the ingestion of animals, dinosaurs, robots, cowboys, birds—wings to escape, and Vikings. At 11 I upped the ante, discovered novels. Thick, deep, whole worlds you could make a meal of. Characters and color, journeys that lead outta here. DUNE, LotR. Holmes as a single volume of intrigue and wonder. Five volumes of Lankhmar, two in Cora-monde, three in Gormenghast. Melniboné. Callisto—lot of places Lin Carter and his company of flashing swordsmen stormed. Dumas and Dumas and Dumas. 14–16 my love affair deepened; words are pure China White and I had a Jones. Fowles. Fowles. Slipped in Lolita and some pale fire. Hesse—‘I felt my fate drawing me on . . .’
For madmen only; had my hand raised, pick me, pick me! I could escape further. Get more deeply lost. And I did travel.
Words. As horse, and canoe or pirate ship, and airship or jet.
Words—in my glutting mandibles, under my skin. Mountains I hoarded like some dragon of old. Built my castle walls of books.
New books—a night gallery full, new words, new vistas. Each to escape the grey. Wanted to find a nice city to live in.
Collections. Anthologies. Visions of speculation and impregnable daring-do, save the day or lose. Didn’t matter.
And a darkness crept in.
The face was masked in the grubby linen that had once served as the loincloth. The fabric had been wound and rewound over the head, as elegantly as mummy wrappings, as tautly as the dressing of
a head trauma victim. The eyes were clearly visible and were a vibrant electric blue that practically illuminated the forest. The mouth and the nose were swathed.
As the shape stepped nearer, Colin could see the fabric that was stretched across the mouth pulsing in and out like a tiny heart as the creature drew breath in and out.
She was soon near enough for him to touch her, but Colin dared not. He recognized the liver spots and moles that darkened the pale flesh like dollops of sludge. Yes, the shrivelled wood-skin was indeed familiar to him. The couple simply stood, as innocent as the primal betrothed marvelling at their Garden.
But Colin’s Eve swiftly departed. She began to run, stealthy as a frightened doe.
He set off after her. No longer concerned about his pursuers finding him, Colin called out to the woman, called out to her by using Beverly’s name. Her passage through the starlit mire was a
graceful, noiseless cascade; the antithesis to his stumbling, sloshing maraud.
Then all at once she stopped and turned about to face him. She raised her arms and Colin did the same, feeling himself growing erect at the possibility of her touch.
With stigmata hands the figure clawed the loincloth from her head. The mask unravelled and sank into the swamp. Colin was at last able to see what it was he had been chasing.