Joseph Payne Brennan
– 1990) was an American writer
and horror fiction
, and also a poet
. Brennan's first professional sale came in December 1940 with the publication of the poem, "When Snow Is Hung", which appeared in the Christian Science Monitor
Home Forum, and he continued writing poetry up until the time of his death in January of 1990.
As a horror writer, Brennan started out writing stories for Weird Tales
in 1952 and then began publishing his own magazine Macabre
. Several of his short stories concern an occult detective
named Lucius Leffing. His 1959 collection Nine Horrors and a Dream
, with classic stories like "Slime" and "Canavan's Back Yard", is celebrated in an essay by Stephen Gallagher
in the book Horror: 100 Best Books
, edited by Stephen Jones (author)
and Kim Newman
Notable work and modern influence
Brennan's stories, though scarce and mostly out-of-print today, are widely considered by horror fiction enthusiasts to be classics. His best-known story, "Slime", follows a protoplasmic life form as it ascends from its home deep within the ocean and begins to prey upon coastal residents of a small New England town. Not only has this story been re-published more than any other Brennan story, many modern horror authors seem to have borrowed heavily from it, authors such as Dean Koontz in his novel Phantoms, which features a remarkably similar creature, and Stephen King in his short novellette The Raft, which also features a blob-like, water-dwelling organism.
Probably the book that borrows most heavily from "Slime", possibly to the point of plagiarism, is Night of the Black Horror (1962) by Victor Norwood (U.K., 1920 - 1983). This is a novel-length work; but for its first few chapters, the events and many of the descriptions parallel Brennan's work almost paragraph by paragraph, although the precise wording is often changed. After that it follows its own plot-line, separate from Brennan's work.
Another work featuring a similar creature is Slimer (1983) by Harry Adam Knight (a pseudonym for John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle). In this case, a group of four people are stranded on an abandoned oil rig where scientific experiments appear to have taken place, creating the blob-like creature that can consume people, whose personalities continue to remain alive inside it. This creature can change shape, and appear as any person it has consumed - which, while borrowing a similar type of creature from "Slime", goes well beyond the scope of the earlier work.
Another acclaimed story by Brennan, "Canavan's Back Yard", deals with a weedy back yard that seems small and unremarkable from the outside, but quickly becomes so large for anyone unfortunate to venture in there that they soon get lost and may never find their way out.
Almost all of Brennan's work takes place in or around New England. He often goes to great lengths describing vast stretches of forest, scenery, small towns, and so on. His characters are often seclusive, and stick to these desolate places.
Renowned horror author Stephen King has stated in his introduction to the Brennan anthology The Shapes Of Midnight that Brennan was a huge influence on his career and style as a writer.
- Heart of Earth (Prairie City, Illinois: The Decker Press, 1950)
- ESSENCE (New Haven, Connecticut: The Author. 1950 - 1977, 47 issues, I - XLVII )
- A Select Bibliography of H. P. Lovecraft (N.P.: The Author, 1952)
- H. P. Lovecraft: A Bibliography (Washington, D.C.: Biblio Press, 1952)
- The Humming Stair (Denver, Colorado: Big Mountain Press, 1953)
- H. P. Lovecraft: An Evaluation (New Haven, Connecticut: Macabre House, 1955)
- MACABRE (New Haven, Connecticut: The Author. 1957 - 1976, 23 issues, I - XXIII )
- 20,000 Feet Over History (American Airlines, 1958)
- Nine Horrors and a Dream (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1958)
- The Dark Returners (New Haven, Connecticut: Macabre House, 1959)
- The Wind of Time (Place of Hawks, Sauk City, Wisconsin: Hawk & Whippoorwill Press, 1961)
- Scream at Midnight (New Haven, Connecticut: Macabre House, 1963)
- Nightmare Need (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1964)
- A Sheaf of Snow Poems (Hamden, Connecticut: Pendulum Press, 1973)
- The Casebook of Lucius Leffing (New Haven, Connecticut: Macabre House, 1973)
- Stories of Darkness and Dread (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1973)
- Death Poems (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Pilot Press Books, 1974)
- Edges of Night (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Pilot Press Books, 1974)
- The Chronicles of Lucius Leffing (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M. Grant, 1977)
- As Evening Advances (Huntsville, Alabama: Crystal Visions Press, 1978)
- Webs of Time (New Haven, Connecticut: Macabre House, 1979)
- Act of Providence (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M. Grant, 1979)
- The Shapes of Midnight (New York, New York: Berkley Books, 1980)
- Creep to Death (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M. Grant, 1981)
- Evil Always Ends (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M. Grant, 1982)
- Sixty Selected Poems (Amherst, New York: The New Establishment Press, 1985)
- The Borders Just Beyond (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M. Grant, 1986)
- Look Back on Laurel Hills (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Jwindz Publishing, 1989)
- The Adventures of Lucius Leffing (Hampton Falls, New Hampshire: Donald M. Grant, 1990)