the Lovecraft Circle

December 4, 2019

Lovecraft’s work was kept alive not just in the stories he told, but in the growing shared universe that was created in his wake. August Derleth, Lin Carter, Donald Wandrei, and many others promoted and reprinted Lovecraft even as they contributed to a flourishing corpus of tales inspired by his writings. Lovecraft’s coalescing legend was foundational in the creation of the publishing company Arkham House, and grew beyond that as more writers discovered his work, its variegated offspring, and the laudatory missives of the Lovecraft Circle. In those early years, not only was Lovecraft’s work being gathered and codified, it was explicitly put forth as a storyworld that could be reworked and imitated, one with greater depths and literary potential than its pulp beginnings could contain.

It is this conceit, this intertwined shift in both reading protocols and in textual refashioning, that elevates the Lovecraftian corpus to a more significant and interpretable level. His stories are no longer “mere” pulp or obscure, tortured prose; they are rich in fantastical possibility and contain themes that are construed as uncomplicated, powerful,  and reproducible, simplified in the Mythos by Derleth and able to be reused as individual creators saw fit. “Cthulhu Mythos” became a shorthand not just for such borrowings but for a discrete subgenre of horror/fantasy fusion literature that expanded over time.

John H. Stevens
The Improbable, Inevitable Domestication of the Great Old Ones: HP Lovecraft’s Iconic Influence on 21st-Century Fantastic Literature and Culture