Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bloch, Robert

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(1917-1994) US writer, best-known for psychological and supernatural Horror, much of which has been dramatized for radio, cinema and tv. His earliest work was heavily influenced by the H P Lovecraft school, and he wrote a number of ornate Contes Cruels which qualify as fantasies, including "Black Lotus" (1935), "The Mandarin's Canaries" (1938) and – in collaboration with Henry Kuttner – "The Black Kiss" (1937); the last was later retitled as the title story of Sea-Kissed (coll 1945 chap). Many of the stories he published in Strange Stories in 1939 as Tarleton Fiske are similar horror/fantasy hybrids. All of his pure fantasies are comedies.

RB modelled "A Good Knight's Work" (1942) and its sequel "The Eager Dragon" (1943) on the work of Damon Runyon (1884-1946), and "Nursemaid to Nightmares" (1942) and its sequel "Black Barter" (1943) on the works of Thorne Smith. These four stories were collected in Dragons and Nightmares (coll 1969), the second pair having earlier been run together as "Mr Margate's Mermaid" (1955) in Imaginative Tales. Imaginative Tales also reprinted "The Devil with You" (Fantastic Adventures 1950) as "Black Magic Holiday" (1955) and published two further novellas in the Thorne Smith mould: "The Miracle of Roland Weems" (1955) and "The Big Binge" (1955; reprinted as It's All in Your Mind 1971); its companion Magazine, Imagination had earlier published the similar "Hell's Angel" (1951). A pun-laden series of anecdotal short stories (Fantastic Adventures 1942-1946) was collected as Lost in Time and Space with Lefty Feep (coll 1987). This work proved far less commercial than RB's horror (the books cited were all issued by small presses), and his writings in this ebullient vein became increasingly infrequent, although he won a Hugo Award for "That Hell-Bound Train" (F&SF September 1958; all reprints vt "The Hell-Bound Train") not long before his thriller Psycho (1959) secured his reputation via Alfred Hitchcock's celebrated movie adaptation Psycho (1960).

Later weird stories by RB which embody significant fantasy elements – sometimes casually mingled with sf elements – include "All on a Golden Afternoon" (1956), "The Funnel of God" (1960) and "The World-Timer" (1960). The Lovecraftian stories collected in The Mysteries of the Worm: All the Cthulhu Mythos Stories (coll 1981; rev exp 1993) are mostly rather slapdash shockers, but Strange Eons (1979) rounds off the series with a more wholehearted futuristic fantasy. The Jekyll Legacy (1990) with Andre Norton is a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic moral fantasy. A useful collection of RB's early fiction is The Early Fears (omni 1994), which combines the contents of The Opener of the Way (coll 1945; vt in 2 vols as The Opener of the Way and House of the Hatchet 1976 UK) and Pleasant Dreams – Nightmares (coll 1960; cut vt Nightmares 1961; rev Pleasant Dreams 1979) with three new stories and an introduction by the author.

Among RB's screenplay credits are The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), The Night Walker (1965), The Skull (1965), based on his short story "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade", Torture Garden (1967), The Deadly Bees (1967), The House that Dripped Blood (1970), Asylum (1972; vt House of Crazies), The Cat Creature (1973 tvm), The Dead Don't Die (1974 tvm) and The Amazing Captain Nemo (1978), recut from the tv mini-series The Return of Captain Nemo. [BS]

other works: Terror in the Night and Other Stories (coll 1958); Blood Runs Cold (coll 1961; cut 1963 UK); Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (coll 1962; vt The House of the Hatchet and Other Tales of Horror 1965 UK); More Nightmares (coll 1962); Horror-7 (coll 1963); Bogey Men (coll 1963); Tales in a Jugular Vein (coll 1965); The Skull of the Marquis de Sade (coll 1965), whose title story was filmed as The Skull (1965 UK); Chamber of Horrors (coll 1966); The Living Demons (coll 1967); Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow (coll 1971); The King of Terrors (coll 1977); Cold Chills (coll 1977); The Best of Robert Bloch (coll 1977); Out of the Mouths of Graves (coll 1978); Such Stuff as Screams Are Made Of (coll 1979); Out of My Head (coll 1986); Midnight Pleasures (coll 1987); The Selected Stories of Robert Bloch (coll 1988 3 vols: #1 Final Reckonings vt The Complete Stories of Robert Bloch Vol 1: Final Reckonings 1990; #2 Bitter Ends; #3 Last Rites); Fear and Trembling (coll 1989).

further reading: Once Around the Bloch (1993), autobiography.

Robert Bloch


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.