John Pelan (1957-2021)

Author, editor, and publisher John C. Pelan, 63, died April 12, 2021 in Albuquerque NM of an apparent heart attack. He lived in Gallup NM. Pelan was a significant figure in the dark fantasy and horror field, best known for founding numerous small presses and editing anthologies.

Pelan was born July 19, 1957 in Seattle WA. In 1986 he founded Axolotl Press, publishing work by James P. Blaylock, Charles de Lint, Tim Powers, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Michael Shea, and more. In the ‘90s he began Darkside Press, bringing classics of genre fiction back to print, and Silver Salamander, an imprint devoted to modern horror that produced work by Brian Hodge, Thomas Ligotti, Elisabeth Massie, and more. He co-founded Midnight House in the ‘90s as well. While those publishers stopped operating in the early 2000s, in more recent years he ran the Dancing Tuatara imprint at Ramble House.

Pelan was a well-known anthologist, beginning with Axolotl Special 1 (1989) and continuing with International Horror Guild Award winner Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium (1996), The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique (1999), The Children of Cthulhu: Chilling New Tales Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft (2002, with Benjamin Adams), Stoker Award Winner The Darker Side: Generations of Horror (2002), Shadows Over Baker Street (2003, with Michael Reaves), A Walk on the Darkside: Visions of Horror (2004), Lost on the Darkside: Voices from the Edge of Horror (2005), Dark Arts (2006), Alone on the Darkside: Echoes from the Shadows of Horror (2006), The Century’s Best Horror Fiction 1901-1950 (2012), The Century’s Best Horror Fiction 1951-2000 (2012), and Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 (2013). He also edited the Fall 2019 issue of Weird Fiction Review for Centipede Press.

As an author, Pelan published more than 30 stories, including some in collaboration with Edward Lee. Some of his short fiction was collected in Darkness, My Old Friend (2016). His longer works include The Colour out of Darkness (1998) and two collaborations with Lee: Shifters (1998) and Family Tradition (2002). He was also a prolific essayist and reviewer. He is survived by his wife, Kathy Pelan.

9 thoughts on “John Pelan (1957-2021)

  • April 21, 2021 at 11:03 pm
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    Minor correction: date of death was April 11th.

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  • April 29, 2021 at 5:07 am
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    Oh no! I’m just seeing this. I interacted with him on the DVDVR Message Board, he had a wealth of great, often weird, stories about his work and the people he worked with. My condolences to his family.

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  • April 29, 2021 at 2:21 pm
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    I have been friends with John for over twenty years. He has always championed the small press and taught me the value of a good Scotch and a eerie story well told. I will miss him. My prayers are with his wife, Kathy, and his family.

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  • April 30, 2021 at 2:50 pm
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    John was the editor of my Ed “Strangler” Lewis book. This is a shock to me. He was always straight with me, and a highly respectable guy, both in wrestling and literature. One of my best friends. He got the book published when no one else would touch a true wrestling history book. —-Steve Yohe

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  • May 2, 2021 at 8:11 am
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    Had he recently been vaccinated?

    Dan

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    • June 6, 2021 at 8:53 am
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      What sort of stupid, Trumpy, question is that? And why was this post allowed though moderation, when posts pointing out that Pelan was a shameless con artist and thief were not?

      What possible connection could Pelan’s heart attack have had to recent vaccination, and what possible rationale could there be for allowing people politicizing science and medicine to air their ignorance on Locus?

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  • June 4, 2021 at 10:22 am
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    I suppose those of us he stole from (Cthulhuvian Singularity) will never recover our money, now.

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  • June 4, 2021 at 11:06 am
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    John was a best friend in junior high and high school. We read a lot of Lovecraft, Smith, Howard, Leiber and the like at the same time and both published fanzines at the time (John’s one shot was called “The New Acolyte”). Lost touch with him after my first couple years in college as we drifted apart. Very sorry to hear of his untimely passing!
    -Robert

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