A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos

John D. Haefele
John D. Haefele. H. Harksen (www.hharksenproductions.com), $59.99 (392p) ISBN 978-87-994994-5-8
Reviewed on: 05/13/2013
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Lovecraft purists have long groused about August Derleth's contributions to the Lovecraft-themed subgenre that he dubbed the "Cthulhu Mythos," but Haefele (August Derleth Redux) rises to his defense in this meticulous, scholarly riposte to Derleth's critics. Breaking Derleth's mythos work down into three phases, Haefele shows how, in the first phase, Lovecraft encouraged Derleth and other contemporaries to borrow concepts and characters from his fiction for their own mythos tales. He makes a case for Derleth continuing in this vein in the second phase, which comprises the mythos tales Derleth wrote after Lovecraft's death—many of which, critics complain, distort the underlying intention of Lovecraft's own work by reducing its cosmicism to horror fiction's traditional good-versus-evil dichotomy. His argument is less persuasive for the third phase, when Derleth began producing "posthumous collaborations" under his and Lovecraft's bylines, in large part to prop up the finances of Arkham House, the publishing imprint Derleth created to keep Lovecraft's work in print. For the most part, Haefele avoids addressing Derleth's efforts to discourage writers not picked by him from contributing to the mythos—an attitude that was contrary to Lovecraft's more inclusive sharing of his creation with others. Regardless, Haefele cites abundant secondary sources to support his arguments, and in many cases turns the words of Derleth's sharpest critics back against them. This book does not resolve the controversy over Derleth and his handling of the mythos, but it does present its key issues from a different and often enlightening perspective. (June)
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