Monday, August 27, 2012

Dipping into Derleth

I became an obsess'd Lovecraft fanboy in 1973 or 1974, at which time things were really changing in Lovecraft land.  Derleth's death, on July 4m 1971, had changed a lot of things.  Now I don't know how much of what I "learned" about Derleth in those early years of Lovecraftian activity were true.  There was a camp who insisted on painting Derleth as a villain.  It was claimed that Derleth had no legal rights to the Works of H. P. Lovecraft.  It was said that he thought of the entire Cthulhu Mythos as a thing owned and copyrighted by Arkham House and that if anyone tried to write Mythos fiction without his permission he would sue.  The famous "black magic" quote ("All of my stories, unconnected as they may be, are based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practising black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take possession of this earth again.") with which Derleth began his Introduction to Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Arkham House 1969) was held up as spurious, and Derleth was unable to shew anyone the original Lovecraft source for the quote.  Augie's paramount crime was that he affixed Lovecraft's name to the byline of the posthumous collaborations. stories that were written by Derleth after Lovecraft's death.

So why wou'd I want to honor such a dude by writing a book in his memory, featuring weird fiction inspir'd by his oeuvre?  Because it was August Derleth, through books he wrote, edited and published, who gave me the deep ache of desire to become, myself, a weird fiction writer.  I knew that I had initially read the so-called collaborations with my mind poison'd by everyone telling me how bad they are, that they were complete ripoffs of Lovecraft's superior and original Works.  Last year I picked my copy of The Survivor and Others (Arkham House 1957) to reread ye tales in there and see if they were in fact as bad as I was told they were.

While I was in the E.O.D. apa. John Haefele was contributing his research on Derleth to the mailings, and I found it all extremely fascinating.  And then John's brilliant wee book was published:
I have read the book a number of times and I admire it absolutely.  Last week John sent me ye doc for his next book, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the 'Cthulhu Mythos', for which John has asked me to write a wee preface, and the book is so magnificent that it has reawakened as potent aesthetic flame my desire, which I've had for two years now, to write an entire book inspir'd by Derleth's weird fiction.  I saw the book as being filled with Mythos tales and straight horror yarns, and I'd have a sonnet sequence about ghosts (spectral tales were beloved by Augie and he wrote some fine ones).  I had a taste of working on this book when I wrote the title novelette for my next-to-be-publish'd book, The Strange Dark One--Tales of Nyarlathotep (Miskatonic River Press, October 2012).  "The Strange Dark One" novelette is a semi-sequel to Derleth's "The Dweller in Darkness."

[Stephen E. Fabian's wonderful illustration for "The Dwellers in Darkness," from IN LOVECRAFT'S SHADOW: THE CTHULHU MYTHOS STORIES OF AUGUST DERLETH (Mycroft & Moran 1998)]

So.  I am beginning, after two years of thinking about it, to write my Derleth book.  It will be a book of homage, to the writer, editor and publisher who, more than any other, inspired me to become a writer when I was a young man in the early 1970's.  I plan on having gobs of eldritch fun in writing it!  I've decided to base the first story on the jacket art, by Richard Taylor, for Augie's The Mask of Cthulhu.

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoyed Derleth's writings because they are fun to read, of course he was not Lovecraft but I always enjoyed his work anyway. Nobody ever told me they were bad, until I watched your vlog.LOL. I am glad that you are rereading his stuff and writing stories based on them.