Saturday, February 11, 2012


As far as I’m concerned, not to be. By name anyway. Recently I posted a comment in Facebook concerning the name, that it was creation of August Derleth, that I reject the name, and prefer the term Lovecraftian Horror instead.

This little commentary here is to set the record straight on my comments and my view of Derleth and his contribution to the Lovecraftian Horror Canon.

Now, I’m sure somewhere along the line I’ve read Derleth’s reasons for choosing the term, but I’m not a fanatic enough fan to dissect everything everyone has ever written about Lovecraftian Horror and its contributors, and remember everything for the point of discussion and argumentation. It really doesn’t matter.

As I noted in Facebook, Cthulhu is just one of many GOOs (they’re not gods, they’re aliens). Derleth’s creation could have taken on any number of forms…ie., Azathoth Mythos, Nyarlathotep Mythos, Shub Niggurath Mythos, etc., but it became the Cthulhu Muthos instead. Too me, that’s centralizing the character of Cthulhu far too much than need be. I wonder, if not for Derleth’s term, would the character of Cthulhu be as popular as he/it is today?

Another point of Derleth’s I disagree with, and that is the good vs evil fight between the GOOs and the Elder Gods. We might just want to throw in the idea of elementals as well since it fits into the same scheme.

The elementals? Yes, air, fire, earth, and water, and equating various beasties with each. Sure, I understand that in a socio-cultural context of primitive human beings, they would look to forces of nature to explain things they didn’t understand or feared. But modern humanity (can I use that term?) would have been able to differentiate. Ithaqua wouldn’t have been associated with air, nor Cthulhu or Dagon with water, etc.

The good vs evil conflict? It supposedly parallels the Christian Mythos, but that had never been Lovecraft’s point. The GOOs and Old Ones, etc., were suppose to be beyond the comprehension of humanity, something so above, beyond, and apart from any concept we could come up with and still be wrong. They are big bug-eyed monsters with an agenda all their own, stomping on us when we happened to get in their way, or use us for their own inexplicable ends, or use us simply as food. Cut and dry. No good guys, no bad guys, just us and BEMs.

This brings me to the end of this discourse…am I anti-Derleth as so many seem to be, and so many vehemently so? No, not at all. I’ve said on many occasions that when I write Lovecraftian Horror, I write it for the fun of it, the entertainment value. And although I may disagree with Derleth on the term Cthulhu Mythos and the good vs evil concept, etc., Derleth’s written contribution has entertained me. In fact, THE LURKER AT THE THRESHHOLD, mostly written by Derleth based on a short idea that Lovecraft had left behind, remains one of my favorite Lovecraftian Horror stories/novels to this day.


  1. I don't disagree regarding the elementals, the poor match to the Christian mythos, etc., but I can do some handwaving justification for continuing to use "Cthulhu Mythos". One definition of "mythos" is "A story or set of stories relevant to or having a significant truth or meaning for a particular culture, religion, society, or other group." (Wiktionary -- it was handy). The CM is indeed a set of stories having meaning for a particular group, both within the universe of the stories and to the readership. Cthulhu gets prominence because he is the high priest of the GOOs and, like Jesus to Christians, is the intermediary between the gods (aliens) above him and the servitors below. Every story in Christianity is not about Christ, so every CM story doesn't have to be about Cthulhu.

    It's also possible to look at Derleth's characters take on the Mythos as just their take, not as ultimate truth. If Shrewsbury believed in the elemental theory, fine, but why do we need to? HPL intentionally provided inconsistent info about the GOOs. Why should we trust his disciples' info any more? Lin Carter claimed the "elemental" correspondence was the work of the Comte d'Erlette. That works for me.

    When Derleth is paying attention, he writes well. When he's consciously doing hackwork, it's hackwork. His Mythos stories are along the spectrum between the two. I love the first 2/3rds of LURKER, but Derleth phoned in the work for the last third.

  2. Chris, I agree concerning the term "Mythos," in fact the entire canon that refer to as Lovecraftian Horror could be termed Lovecraftian Mythos (but I've used the term "horror" for so long, it comes without thinking, pavlov's dog syndrome I suppose).

    Concerning, I still consider Cthulhu as just another GOO, High Priest or Not. It/he may be a cental figure, but that's irrelevant to me. Personal choice.

    Derleth, yes, I do enjoy his contributions, but again, for entertainment value. I haven't read THRESHOLD in years. For that matter, I haven't read LOVECRAFT in years. Any disgreements I find with Derleth I can overlook while reading for the fun of it. I tend not to be overtly critical or analytical about Lovecraftian Horror. There are others far more familiar with the works and adept at critical analysis than I.

    And lastly, many thanks for the comments! Sometimes I come here, see absolutely no comments to anything, and wonder if anyone is even reading this blog!

  3. Chris, one other thing, that's an interesting idea, Derleth's characters expressing their take on their experiences. Question is, was that intentional or not? I've never seen any discussion as such, then again, as I've noted, I'm certainly not one for critical analysis of this canon. All I've ever seen in argumentation is that Derleth's change was intentional, perhaps unknowningly (or knowingly) misguided, still, intentional.

    And Carter's explanation is certainly an easy and convenient way to explain it away. Not saying that's right or wrong. But you're right, it works.

  4. I never bought into Derleth's elementals or good vs. evil take on the "Mythos" either. I can forgive him almost anything though, since I greatly enjoy many of his non-lovecraftian pulp stories and he did us all a huge favor by starting up "Arkham House". And no matter how he tried to control "Lovecraftian" fiction he didn't seem to cause any lasting harm.