Monday, August 3, 2009

Discovering H. P. Lovecraft, (Wildside Press), by Darrell Schweitzer

Do you know the difference between true Lovecraftian fiction and “Derlethian” fiction? Are you aware many of the Lovecraftian tales reproduced on the Internet may not be complete, accurate renditions of his original works? Also – how much does Lovecraft borrow from other ancient cultures and religions, most notably Egyptian, to craft his otherworldly pantheon? And, if a Yuggoth lived in upstate New York and you encountered it, would you know what do; better yet...would you even care?

Depending on your answers to the above questions, (and how willing you are to risk the inevitable madness that comes from probing questions of the dark unknown), “Discovering H. P. Lovecraft” is the forbidden tome for you. A collection of essays edited by author and former editor of Weird Tales Magazine, Darrell Schweitzer, this is an excellent, in-depth, insightful but user friendly reader that will acquaint fans of speculative fiction with one its most notable founders, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. With essays from Schweitzer himself to Robert Bloch, Lin Carter and the esteemed S. T. Joshi, this collection is a necessity for those wishing to further educate themselves in the career, beliefs, and philosophies of Lovecraft.

Perhaps the most useful essays are “Some Thoughts on Lovecraft”, by Arthur Jean Cox, “Genesis of the Cthulhu Mythos” by George Wetzel and “The Derleth Mythos”, by Richard L. Tierney. The last two of those are perhaps the best essays in the collection, because the former deals with how Lovecraft may have created his pantheon by drawing heavily from ancient Egyptian lore, and the latter perhaps the best essay overall, simply because it highlights something not necessarily well known to the casual Lovecraft reader; the marked difference between Lovecraft's vision and the themes that friend and colleague August Derleth (noted author and founder of Arkham House Books), injected into the Mythos after Lovecraft's passing.

“Character Gullibility in Weird Fiction; or Isn't Yuggoth Somewhere In Upstate New York”, by editor Darrell Schweitzer is by far the most humorous essay in the collection but deeply insightful, also. Here Schweitzer ponders on how gullible weird fiction protagonists should be, and if they should “figure out” their plights too quickly or not. He also wonders if modern Lovecraftian storytellers allow their heroes to wallow in madness long enough before coming to their solutions. A good reference for those wishing to add their own myths to the Lovecraftian tradition.

Interested in Lovecraft and want to know more? Bothered by strange sounds at night, coming from the pond near your house, and wondering what that thing your weird uncle mumbles when he's asleep in the armchair - Ph'nglui mglw'nafh C'thulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! - means? Discover H.P. Lovecraft today.

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