Lovecraft Circle

Sooner or later while reading H.P. Lovecraft you will come across names like August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard. You might even see a few books that say they had been written by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. You will probably start wondering who the hell some of these people are and how they are related to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. So to answer those questions I have put together this section.

August William Derleth
February 24, 1909 – July 4, 1971

We will start things off with the most famous (or perhaps most infamous) of the Lovecraft Circle. August Derleth. Derleth, was one of the young correspondents and friends of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft even paid homage to Derleth when he wrote of “le Comte d’Erlette” who was the French aristocrat and fictional author of Cultes des Goules, the name was inspired by the ancestral form of August Derleth’s family name.

When Lovecraft died in 1937, Derleth along with Donald Wandrei assembled a collection of Lovecraft’s stories and attempted to find a publisher for them. When they were unable to find anyone interested in the work they founded Arkham House publishing in 1939 to print the work themselves. Among many other things Derleth is also responsible for coming up with the term of “Cthulhu Mythos” which is a kind of umbrella term used by many people when talking about the different “Lovecraftian” monsters. Thus it should go without saying that Lovecraft’s work was saved from literary obscurity in large part to the work of August Derleth and Arkham House.

So why is it that the man who helped make Lovecraft famous is so unpopular with many Lovecraft fans? There are a number of reasons for this however I think the biggest problem that Lovecraft fans have with August Derleth is the fact that many people feel he used Lovecraft’s name to publish his own work. Following Lovecraft’s death, Derleth wrote a number of stories based on fragments and notes left by Lovecraft. These were published under the byline “H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth”, with Derleth going so far as calling himself a “posthumous collaborator”. It is also believed that many of these stories were wrote entirely by Derleth and then published using Lovecraft’s name to help with selling his work.

Another reason is that Derleth’s own writing emphasized the struggle between good and evil, which were more in line with his own Christian views. This was in stark contrast with Lovecraft’s depiction of an amoral universe. Derleth also treated Lovecraft’s Old Ones as representatives of elemental forces, creating new entities to flesh out these ideas. Many of Derleth’s in the “Cthulhu Mythos” were very different from what Lovecraft himself would have approved of.

But what about Lovecraft encouraging other writers to take his ideas and run with them? Would Lovecraft have approved of Derleth’s ideas? We will never know what the man himself would have thought of his creations being used as examples of good and evil or primal forces. I personally think he would have supported the idea but disliked the writing. As for being “posthumous collaborator” I don’t think Lovecraft would have been very happy with this comment. Lovecraft was very particular about what he wrote and what he liked. I don’t think he would have appreciated having his name associated with writing that was not up to his standards. But that’s just my opinion…

Regardless of what you or I personally feel about August Derleth no one can deny that with him the world may never have been given the chance to enjoy the works of H.P. Lovecraft. If that means he gets to put his name next to Lovecraft’s on a book cover then perhaps that’s a small price to pay.

 

Clark Ashton Smith
January 13, 1893 – August 14, 1961

Smith was a poet, artist and writer who is best known for his contributions to Wierd Tales magazine around the same time that Lovecraft was writing and contributing as well. The publication of Ebony and Crystal in 1922 was followed by a fan letter from H. P. Lovecraft, which was the beginning of fifteen years of friendship and correspondence.

Like Lovecraft Smith was not very well off during his life. Unlike Lovecraft however Smith did find work doing other things such as picking fruit and wood cutting.

Smith wrote most of his weird fiction and Cthulhu Mythos stories, partially inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Creatures of his invention include Aforgomon, Rlim-Shaikorth, Mordiggian, Tsathoggua, the wizard Eibon, and various others. In an homage to his friend, Lovecraft referred in some of his stories to a great dark wizard, “Klarkash-Ton.”

Smith’s stories form several cycles, called after the lands in which they are set: Averoigne, Hyperborea, Mars, Poseidonis, Xiccarph, Zothique. Stories set in Zothique belong to the Dying Earth subgenre.

Many of Smith’s stories were published in six hardcover volumes by August Derleth under his Arkham House imprint. Some of them were also collected as Lost Worlds Vols 1 and 2.

 

Robert Bloch
April 5, 1917 – September 23, 1994

bloch “Despite my ghoulish reputation, I really have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk,”

Best known as the writer of Psycho, Robert Bloch was one of the youngest members of the Lovecraft Circle. As an avid fan of Weird Tales and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, a young Bloch wrote a fan letter to H.P.L. in 1933 and the two soon began to correspond on a regular basis. Not long after Bloch would begin to correspond with other members of the Lovecraft Circle such as Smith and Derleth.

Bloch’s early stories were very strongly influenced by Lovecraft. A number of his tales were set in the world of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Bloch should also be credited with the invention of several Mythos texts such as De Vermis Mysteriis and Cultes des Goules.

Perhaps the ultimate honor bestowed upon a young Bloch was to have Lovecraft use a thinly veiled likeness of himself used as the character Robert Blake in the story The Haunter of the Dark. 

After Lovecraft’s death (which effected Bloch deeply) he began to explore different styles of writing. His later works would include, crime dramas, fantasy, science-fiction as well as horror. He would go on to win a Bram Stoker Award a Hugo and a World Fantasy Award. But the roots of his career began by emulating Lovecraft.

 

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Published on August 13, 2010 at 8:41 PM  Leave a Comment  

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