Found on the Net: W.H. Pugmire and the Case of the Wikipedia Deletion

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A few days ago, a rumbling unsettled the Lovecraftian community as news spread that the Wikipedia entry of author W.H. Pugmire was in danger of being deleted. While the entry could use some revising and condensing, the reasons for the deletion are misguided, at best. Here is why it is on the chopping block:

Pugmire has no major publication credits

“Pugmire’s literary output seems to have been almost entirely short stories and poems, most of them published in small-press magazines and anthologies aimed at Lovecraft enthusiasts.”

First of all, this seems to indicate that a writer who only produces short stories and poems is not worthy of having a Wikipedia entry. You know, like those hacks, Poe and Lovecraft.

“Having a handful of stories published in anthologies that contain works by truly notable writers – as opposed to the bulk of this writer’s corpus, which appears mainly in small fandom editions – does not establish notability.”

Second, there is an assumption that Pugmire has been published only in amateur magazines and anthologies. However, Pugmire has been published in books by Doubleday, Roc, Tor, Prime Books, and Night Shade Books. He shares tables of content with Neil Gaiman, Ramsay Campbell and Laird Barron.

It is not unusual for a short story writer to begin a career writing for small presses and move to bigger ones. Pugmire has had work in very small fanzines and in larger, respected genre magazines such as Weird Tales (“The House of Idiot Children,” 2009). In fact, it’s even less unusual for a writer to have lots of small publications when said writer has a strong indie streak, as does Pugmire, who, by the way, appears in the 2012 HWA Bram Stoker Reading List.

Pugmire is friends with people who could vouch for his notability, like S.T. Joshi

“S.T. Joshi’s testimony might be probative, if he hadn’t appeared in videos such as this one:

The Lovecraftian community is small and people get to know each other. However, this is true of many sub-genres and genres, and does not mean the expertise of Joshi should be dismissed. Writers, editors and publishers in the horror community often interact with each other. There are writing groups and associations, such as SFWA and HWA, which allow people to connect and, yes, sometimes become friends.

“The story in the DAW anthology was edited by a friend of Pugmire’s, Karl Edward Wagner.”

Once again, this ignores the fact that writers, editors and publishers interact with each other, and establish business and personal relationships. This does not mean they cannot provide objective criticism or validate someone’s credentials. Nor does it mean their work appeared in an anthology due to tokenism.

Pugmire writes fan fiction

“I would be the first to admit the subject’s notability, if ‘notability’ in Wikipedia parlance meant ‘notable to a subset of fan fiction enthusiasts….’If articles such as this one are allowed to stand, then what is next? Un-deletable pages devoted to the most popular authors of Harry Potter or Twilight fan fiction?”

The assumption here is that Lovecraftian stories are all by default fan fiction. However, using another author’s original ideas or characters does not mean that a work is automatically fan fiction. The fan fiction denomination is applied to work that is not professionally published. That is why we do not consider Wide Sargasso Sea (inspired by Jane Eyre) fan fiction, but classify it as a work of literature that won the WH Smith Literary Award in 1967.

In the case of Lovecraft, the fan fiction denomination seems even more ill-applied, as Lovecraft encouraged people to share his characters and ideas. This is why we have terms such as ‘Lovecraft Circle.’ Lovecraftian fiction has been expanded upon for decades. Alan Moore (Neonomicon), Charles Stross (“A Colder War”) and Neil Gaiman (“A Study in Emerald”) have riffed on Lovecraft. “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear was the winner of the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

It is easy to see that Lovecraftian fan fiction – unlike, say, Star Trek stories – crossed from the realm of fan fiction into acceptable literary output a long time ago, due in great part to the collaborative ethos of Lovecraftian writers.

The fact that Pugmire writes Lovecraftian-inspired stories does not make him a fan fiction writer, any more than Kim Newman is a fan fiction author due to his Anno Dracula series. Nor does it make Pugmire a bad writer, which is what the comparison with Harry Potter or Twilight fan fiction seems to be aiming at.

Pugmire is not reviewed/known by major publications

“Not only must the subject be considered notable by those outside fandom, and outside his personal circle of friends and admirers, but he also must be considered notable by those outside the publishing industry, e.g., by critics and reviewers in major, reputable publications.”

Pugmire is actually known by reviewers and critics in the speculative fiction field. Editor Ellen Datlow mentions two of his collections in her summation of The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4:

The Tangled Muse by Wilum Pugmire (Centipede Press) is a beautiful work of art…Gathered Dusk and Others (Dark Regions Press) includes eighteen stories, four new.”

Pugmire’s work has also been reviewed at Asimov’s and other important genre publications.

The conclusion

W.H. Pugmire is a speculative fiction writer, with a long trajectory, who has been published in both small and large presses. He is particularly well-known among Lovecraft fans, although his name is not uncommon in horror circles. He is notable enough to deserve a Wikipedia entry. After all, Bella Swann has one. Does a fictional character deserve one more than a flesh-and-blood writer?

About me

Before people start crying bias, I’ll say I have published stories by W.H. Pugmire (the latest appears in Fungi, where he shares a table of contents with Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas and Lavie Tidhar, among others). I am not a close friend of Pugmire, although I do know him. In fact, I first saw him in person last year at the Lovecraft Film Festival, where he was a guest.

As for who the hell am I, I am a writer, editor and I also own a micro-press (Innsmouth Free Press). On occasion, I am asked to provide background or commentary about speculative fiction stuff, such as a few weeks ago when the BBC was doing a story on cover artwork. My fiction appears in a bunch of places, some of them speculative like Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing, and some literary magazines like the Canadian Exile Quarterly. I blog a lot. I’m not a crazy cat-lady who is writing this just because Wilum is her best-bud, but as someone who knows the genre and is worried Pugmire’s entry is being dismissed for all the wrong reasons.