It was great to finally read _Harry O. Morris - Artist Portfolio_ from Centipede Press. Flipping through the lush images that take up most of the 320 pages, you can journey through the strangeness that has characterized the long career of this remarkable artist. I am really lucky to have known Harry from way back when. We first met in Albuquerque in the mid-1970s. At that time, Harry’s friend and fellow artist, Leslie Hall, was working in the same office as my father. Leslie was a frequent visitor to our house and noticed that I was a rabid reader of science fiction. He recommended J.G. Ballard and loaned me a copy of the anthology,_ Terminal Beach_. This was a cool discovery for me, around the age of 13, when I suddenly became aware of the difference between New Wave science fiction writers and the various space opera and Campbellian authors that I had been reading. Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place, and I had a whole new appreciation of books by Spinrad, Moorcock, M. John Harrison, and Samuel R. Delany. Not only did I re-read Driftglass, with a whole new kind of poetic awareness, but I shortly devoured all of Ballard’s books, and soon found that Van Vogt no longer satisfied in the way that R. A. Lafferty, Roger Zelazny, and Stanislaw Lem did. So in this friendly context, I took more interest in the peculiar artwork of Leslie Hall, and his friend and collaborator, Harry O. Morris, who had both been working with the techniques of Max Ernst and Wilfried Sätty, pushing the surrealistic and horror aspects of those methods as far as they could go. At that time, I enjoyed being peripherally involved in Leslie’s art projects: cutting out old engraved plates from books with X-acto knives and moving the pieces of unrelated images around to create surrealist collages. Some of the images that Leslie came up with were published in limited edition portfolios by Harry O. Morris, including a set from 1982 called, Inclement Weather. Hanging around with Leslie Hall, soon resulted in meeting Harry O. Morris, who had been working on similar art projects. That is when I first found out about his Lovecraftian zine, Nyctalops, which is now considered a classic. I admired Harry from the start. Here was a fellow who clearly didn’t really “fit in” with the rest of society, and yet he had his own print shop and typesetting operation, and was creating some really astonishing and interesting art. Here was someone who I could talk to about the Franju film, _Yeux sans Visage_ [Eyes Without a Face], and who not only knew the film, but knew the horror of it, on a deeply personal level.
Who was R.T. Gault? As the editor of numerous websites on a range of subjects from literature to magic and the occult, Gault’s work became a magnet to seekers of esoteric literature. Gault’s essays and photographic galleries on the Tarot, Arthur Machen, and the Order of the Golden Dawn were extensions of his most ambitious work entitled Absolute Elsewhere, which was nothing less than a master list of all the visionary, esoteric and fringe works published in America during the second half of the 20th Century. Although extensive, Gault’s bibliography is not exhaustive — the works he selected and arranged in a year-by-year chronology and in order of their appearance — were carefully chosen and arranged. When viewed in sequence, the works capture an intriguing hidden history of American letters. Like a spider weaving an invisible web, Gault created a tapestry of strange, mind-bending, and mystical ideas, at once recognizable to those who have read the books being cited, and at the same time serving as a guide for newcomers. But who was R.T. Gault, anyway? No sooner had I become a casual addict of his website, Absolute Elsewhere, did the site vanish. After months of digging, I could find no information about R.T. Gault, and more than a year elapsed before I discovered that Gault was desceased. At that time, my attempts to find someone who knew R.T. Gault were fruitless, leading only to an obscure reference to Centaur Books and Comics in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Eventually, I decided to post my reconstruction of the _Absolute Elsewhere_ website, which I launched on New Year’s day 2010. Subsequently, I began to receive enthusiastic thank you emails from readers who had lost track of Absolute Elsewhere and were happy to see it back online. One of these messages came from Karen Price, who was married to R.T. Gault. It was a great to finally have a tangible lead to the mysterious editor of Absolute Elsewhere! Even better, Karen graciously agreed to conduct a wide-ranging interview on the Life and Times of R.T. Gault, which you can listen to or download here: an interview with Karen Price (May 2012) [37:37] http://www.yunchtime.net/podcast/KarenPrice_20120524.mp3 Richard Thomas Gault was known to most of his friends as “Ditch” Gault. He grew up around Indiana, Pennsylvania where his father, Thomas Gower Gault, was a Professor, and also served as Chair of the Geography Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Ditch Gault was a true rennaissance man, surrounded by books, and he was an eternal student, having racked up college courses on every subject in the humanities for more than a decade without ever having earned a degree in any subject. In the 60s he was an enthusiastic member of the counter-culture at the University, and became obsessed with politics.