The following letter is from Carrol Runyon, an old friend of Lin Carter. They pretty much began their writing careers together, and Poke has some real insight into Lin's character.
Did you know that Lin Carter created the first Necronomicon hoax? He had artistically drafted several pages of arcane script and symbols on parchment paper, carefully antiquing his folios until they appeared to be "mouldering with age". At an early New York sci-fi convention he whispered to some gullible fen that he had "the real thing", swore them to secrecy and let them have a peek. (Some years later Lin's friend, L. Sprague de Camp, expanded on the same idea and produced a fake Necronomicon text in cryptic "Duriac" that repeated itself every 8 pages. (I've seen that book!--Ken)(The urge to fake the Necronomicon is almost irresistible. When I was a cataloger for Phoenix Public Library in the early 80's, and they first went to an online, computerized catalog, I introduced a phony record for the Necronomicon by Al-Hazrad, Abdul, complete with a note saying the original text was in Arabic with English translation on alternate pages. People asked for that book for years, but never found it!--Ken)
During Lin's early days in New York, while he was writing his Burroughsian Thongor of Lemuria novels, he supported himself by operating his own perambulating one-man lending library service. With a knapsack full of books he would climb the towers of Manhattan making deliveries and pickups from his clients in corporate offices. The publication of Thongor and a job writing ad copy improved his position. With tremendous energy and enthusiasm, he went on to produce literally scores of novels in the genres he loved: fantasy and science fiction.
Lin and I corresponded often over the years. I wrote adventure stories for ARGOSY and spy novels for PYRAMID. When I finally tried my hand at fantasy, Lin was my mentor.
Much of Lin's work has been criticised as having been too simplistic and obviously derived from previous models. In my opinion such criticism is unjustified. Lin, like one of his favorite authors L. Frank Baum, was a child at heart. He wrote much of his fiction from this core of innocence. His romantic soul was nurtured on Olive Beaupre Miller's Book House for Children, Baum's Oz books, Burroughs' Tarzan and Mars stories, Lanier's King Arthur and the Jon Hall/Maria Montez Arabian Nights film fantasies of the 1940's. As a teenager, he devoured the fiction of Lovecraft, Smith, Howard, Dunsany, and Merritt.
Lin Carter was a modern Lord Byron, lame, diminutive in stature, and yet larger than life--a man whose work exemplified the most profound principal of magick : that there is no limit to the creative vision and power of the human imagination. He was truly a Grand Master.
He was also my early advisor in occult studies, recommending such hoary tomes as the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon.
Now, to the point: after a hiatus of some 20 years, my Lodge (O.T.A.) is going to revive our journal THE SEVENTH RAY. As editor I plan to run my own memorium to Lin with reproductions of the covers of the two booklets mentioned above, along with several antecdotes for my fond memories of "The Grand Master". [This publication is just out--availabe for $9.95 postpaid from O.T.A.--visit their website to order it. It's a handsomely published booklet of 117 pages containing magick, fiction, biography, poetry, and magical bibliography, full of unique and interesting material. A somewhat longer version of Mr. Runyon's aritlce appears in it. My thanks for his kind permission to rearrange and publish some of that material here.--Ken, 2/26/99]
Let's keep in touch. Check out our website and leave a message. Order of the Temple of Astarte
BTW, I've adopted Lin's favorite sign-off:
(Ken speaking again: It is evident from reading Lin's books that he had more than a theoretical familiarity with the Forces of Magick and Paganism in America, and I am not surprised to find that one of his old friends has risen to high rank in a mystic order. The OTA link is included for those who dare to venture off the beaten path and explore real Magick!)
I was Lin Carter’s friend during the last years of his life and knew him very well. Over the years, I have checked the Internet for anything on him but found only a few references, usually related to his Conan writings. I hadn’t looked in a long time, so I was pleased to find your site last month. I always felt bad that nothing was done to properly mark Lin’s passing. On the first anniversary of his death, I wrote to the New York Times Book Review in an attempt to commemorate the day, but the letter was never published.
I met Lin in late ’83 or early ’84 when he moved into the apartment across the hall from me. The evening of the day he moved in, he knocked on my door and asked what time it was. That was Lin. When we introduced ourselves, I asked if he was THE Lin Carter and he was honestly flattered and even more so when I showed him my bookshelf. I had none of his science fiction or sword and sorcery work, but I did have his TOLKIEN: A LOOK BEHIND THE LORD OF THE RINGS and IMAGINARY WORLDS as well as most of the books he edited for Ian Ballantine under the Adult Fantasy imprint.
We became friends, good friends. He was “Boss” and I was “Pard.” At that time, he was working on FOUND WANTING, and DOWN TO A SUNLESS SEA was just being published. We enjoyed many evenings together talking, and drinking. We went to a local movie to see Conan the Barbarian when it opened, and when we saw 2010, he told me about his friendship with Arthur Clarke.
I never cared that much for his fantasy writing. I admired him more as a scholar of fantasy literature. His work on Tolkien was, I believe, the first major critical study on the Lord of the Rings and his introductions to the volumes in the Adult Fantasy series are informed, erudite, and demonstrate the range of his knowledge. He was an extremely important figure in the renaissance of fantasy literature, a role for which he has not been given proper credit.
Lin did things to excess. When he had money, he spent it generously. When he had none, he’d come around asking for some, but always paid it back. He drank too much and he smoked too much. I was flattered when he asked me to be his guest at a dinner meeting of the notorious Trapdoor Spiders. While I spent a pleasant evening with Isaac Asimov and other members of the group, Lin held forth as that night’s host. I remember afterwards walking with him from the restaurant on 46th Street up Eighth Avenue, holding on to his arm, trying to keep him on a straight path.
Lin suffered from emphysema as result of years of smoking, but in 1984 he developed a growth on his upper lip. Eventually, it spread into his upper jaw and palate and finally he had to undergo radical surgery that left his face severely disfigured. When I took him to University Hospital in Newark, he smoked his last cigarette (He smoked Raleighs.) while waiting to be admitted. Over the next few years he would be moved to the veterans’ hospitals in East Orange and at Kingsbridge in the Bronx. When he was home it was difficult. He had to have oxygen most of the time and he found it difficult to care for himself. He continued to drink (Baileys Irish Cream and peppermint schnapps) and made life intolerable for the caregivers who visited him regularly.
Throughout, Lin continued to work and books were
CALLIPYGIA, DRAGONROUGE, HORROR WEARS BLUE. Near the
end, he returned to
the OZ stories he had loved as a child. He’d send me
out to the local rare
book dealer to find old editions of OZ books, and he
was writing stories
based on some of the OZ characters. He was also
writing poetry. He began
what he called Carter’s Book of Beasts, short,
humorous, Ogden Nash-ish
ditties describing various animals that took his fancy.
He’d slip these
under my door and I’d come home or wake in the morning
and find them. One
morning in the autumn before he died, the following
poem was slipped under my door:
A damp and restless wind whines ‘round the eaves
And prowls through rustling drifts of scarlet leaves.
Above, a gaunt moon grins through misty wrack,
Tangled and caught in branches bare and black.
Here in the darkness of my lonely room
One weeping candle struggles ‘gainst the gloom.
In the uneasy light I bend to look
Through the unwholesome pages of my Book.
That sound! That gust! My flame dies to a spark,
Goes out, and leaves me helpless in the dark.
Is that the wind? – I fumble for a match –
Or phantom fingers groping at the latch?
On an evening in February 1988, I returned home to find a message on my answering machine from a doctor at the vets’ hospital in East Orange. Lin had died that day. He had been alone.
Almost all of Lin’s books are out of print now. Interest in his brand of fantasy has waned probably because it is not “sophisticated” enough for today’s audience. But he deserves recognition from the generation that has grown up reading the likes of Terry Brooks and others, and from those authors who have benefited from the renewed interest in the fantasy genre that Lin initiated thirty years ago.
Montclair, New Jersey
March 6, 1999
(This mini-essay is quoted from Gahan Wilson's Books Column in column in the December, 1999. To read the whole article, please buy the magazine.)
Way back in the fabled sixties and seventies . . . many magical things occurred. The country simmered with a variety of rebellions ranging from mercilessly deadly to butterfly gentle; tie-dyed young folk wandered off from the old proven ways in droves, several men who would have probably led this country in drastically different directions than it has taken were bloodily slaughtered in full view of the press; and Lin Carter-- an eclectic author of many pleasingly bizarre novels and short stories--managed to persuade Ian and Betty Ballantine, the founding publishers of Ballantine Books, to let him create and superintend a new division of the firm to be called Adult Fantasy.
The task to which Carter set himself and which he fabulously fulfilled was to track down and get back into circulation as many as possible of the very best of those glorious and legendary works of imagination which had long since gone out of print and become hopelessly unavailable to all but the most determined and pocket-heavy collectors of obscure wonders.
These paperbacks still exist, though growing yellowish of page and frayed of cover, but since Ballantine was generous in their printings, they may still be located at perfectly reasonable prices to those willing to haunt the dealers' rooms at strange conventions, or contact book dealers specializing in hard-to-get volumes. . . .
I strongly recommend that you instigate a search since Carter's rescue efforts . . . did not lead to a general reprinting by other publishers of such towering giants as James Branch Cabell, E. R. Eddison, William Morris and the like. . . .
Now . . . many years after Lin Carter's heroic and downright historical series, dear old Ballantine Books has decided to launch what it is pleased to call Del Rey Impact which is (and I quote from their flyer) a new imprint] dedicated to re-introducing seminal classics of fantasy and science fiction that have inspired a generation or more of readers and writers." They intend to bring out one a month for starters and then go to a bimonthly basis through 2000.
The only small complaint I have is that nowhere in their flyer, nor in the first book's quotes and cover blurbs is the name Lin Carter so much as mentioned. I must admit that this strikes me as being a little disrespectful and perhaps even a touch ungrateful.
End of quote from Wilson. However, those of us who remember what Lin did for fantasy fiction agree with Gahan whole-heartedly, and if it could somehow be done, would like to remind the new editors at Ballantine/Random House that a little courtesy and respect wouldn't hurt them any.
If Lin Carter changed or affected your life, and
you would like to write a brief tribute to him, please
get in touch with me the way Mark did, and your words
could wind up on this page also.
Ken . . . 4/24/200
Read more tributes to Lin Carter.