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H P Lovecraft Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, and writers who continued the tradition.

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Old 12th July 2008, 05:06 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

I realize there have been other threads on the topic, but I'm hoping this one will be a tad different....

For starters, how would you define the Mythos? Is it the books of lore in the tales; the tales themselves; stories with even a vague "Lovecraftian" feel to them that remind you of the Mythos tales? And what writers would you include as having contributed to the Mythos? What about those who influenced HPL -- are they brought into it posthumously, as Derleth seemed to do at times? What, to you, makes a tale "Mythos"....?

Part of what I'm looking for here is a debate about some of these points, and part of it is to find out what different people have read and enjoyed in this subgenre. There's a huge amount of material out there labeled "Cthulhu Mythos" -- at least enough to fill several good-sized bookcases, if not an entire wing of a library! And, frankly, this is one area in which I don't think even the Lovecraft experts can truly be dogmatic....

So... let's hear your thoughts on the subject....
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Old 12th July 2008, 10:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

I thought the Cthulhu mythos moniker applied to tales that directly made references to the stuff that HPL brought up in his stories - places, creatures, the elder gods stuff.
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Old 12th July 2008, 12:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

"places, creatures, the elder gods stuff"-sorry,but that sems kinda "noobish" a statement.
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Old 12th July 2008, 01:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

From everything I have read Lovecraft himself did not perceive his Cthulhu writings as a mythos or mythology. It appears the August Derleth developed that further and other writers followed suit.So what is the mythos? The mythos is a ongoing fictional mythology using the story lines and creatures etc created and developed by Lovecraft and his contempories. Most everything in the vein since then has been an extrapolation of the core concepts, some are very clever and some not.
I have written in the vein ( Rainfall chapbooks- Tales of the Phantom Moon or see samples on my blog), more on a Clark Ashton Smith style. There are many good authors out there and you will see lost of debate about the quality and originality of the writings. One example is Brian Lumley whom some love and others loath. I personaly find some the story lines like HellBoy by Darkhorse to be very creative, innovative and if nothing else just plain fun and enjoyable.

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Old 12th July 2008, 04:29 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

Lobo -- that's just it, and goes to what I said earlier: no one can be dogmatic about this subject, as even the experts on Lovecraft often disagree. That's why I opened this topic: to generate conversation, find out what different people think, what stories they feel particularly worthwhile, and so on....

Nurseman: I've edited your post to allow it, removing the .com -- we rather frown on self-promotion here; at least from members who have not yet established themselves (and may be here simply for that purpose). But please feel free to contribute to any discussions which look interesting, and as for your definition of the mythos: I agree, Lovecraft himself certainly never used the term, as it seems to have been invented by August Derleth in an essay; but the thing has taken on a life of its own since, therefore opening it up to such discussion (I hope)....

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Old 12th July 2008, 04:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

J.D thanks for the opportunity to post! And the editing is understandable.
I believe that the internet has allowed the "mythos" to flourish. And although many mock Lovecraft and those that have followed, well known authors like Neil Gaiman and even directors like Del Torro have used mythos elements with creativity. I think there is many other directions to go with this material by those that make the effort.
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Old 12th July 2008, 08:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

I'd agree with that; and even S. T. Joshi (who generally takes a very dim view of Mythos tales) has made favorable comments now and again where a writer used the elements or ideas particularly well, and following their own muse.

While I wouldn't say the "traditional" Mythos sort of story is played out, I do think it takes a very special touch to make it anything more than a fannish game -- enjoyable, but literarily rather lacking. Those exceptions, however, are sometimes very remarkable. (And even using the word "traditional" in connection with the Mythos, given the fact of it being quite an innovation originally, feels very odd....)

So... I'm interested in others' ideas of good tales in the subgenre, as well. While I've read a fair chunk of this stuff, there's an enormous amount I've not read, and I would imagine many here are in the same boat. Any suggestions from anyone....?
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Old 12th July 2008, 09:00 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

I've read quite a number of the Mythos stories from writers other than Lovecraft, and found them generally forgettable. The Return of the Sorcerer by Clark Ashton Smith is probably the only exception.
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Old 13th July 2008, 02:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

so whats "The Black Stone" then?I havent had a chance to read muc,except CAS and I say you cant call HIM forgetable.
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Old 13th July 2008, 03:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

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so whats "The Black Stone" then?I havent had a chance to read muc,except CAS and I say you cant call HIM forgetable.
Story by Robert E. Howard. Can be found in Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.
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Old 15th July 2008, 01:12 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

Well,during his writing lovecraft always left insinuations and allusions here and there at almost every part of his stories-hints about the story happenings that were open for the reader to interprete.Thats the great thing about HPL :he wasn't forcing anything on his readers and the meanings of his tales were under the subjectivity of his reader-i always liked this open-ended feeling i got from his stories,i mean he edged so many directions free for the reader to explore on his own.
So in the same way i think the community that surrounded him reacted on this as well,especially after his death in 1937.It was all wide-open to expand in the first place as it was left there by Lovecraft,his legacy has dealt so many different impressions and experiences even at that fresh time that it would soon been given -depended on the person-various expansions and improvisations.Like a hard rock of strange shape and material ready to be sculpted even further to "the will of the wisher".
This is what created the "Cthulhu Mythos" in my opinion:
the multi-significance and multi-centricity of Lovecraft"s work-although it felt short ofthe sizeable production volume of other writers but with greater time-value nonetheless.........
So to me the "Cthulhu Mythos" is prettty much the effort to create a modern polytheistic universe in the cosmic-orientated way:an efferent direction of the perceptivity of things.Totallly in the opposite way of the middle-ages believes and value-system of earth's
vital central position in the universe.So it is based on Lovecraft's cosmical view of things in my opinion and it doesn't just borrow basic elements of his work.I don't know what Lovecraft would say about it if he lived today,since there are so many different ideas and adaptations possibly unworthy of Lovecraft's literaturistic tastes.J.D put a very significant issue under consideration which i don't know if others here noticed:
Was the 'Cthulhu Mythos' forming even from the days of Lovecraft's creativity period?Or was it something that was created wholly aftter his demise?Yes,the creatures/deities were created from Lovecraft,but did he have influences on the issue.Maybe,j.d can answer this more convincingly due to his heavy expertise on the matter,but a positive answer can't prove a possible Lovecraft intent of establishing a certain universe of cosmic forces and deities.At least from my minimal expertise on the matter and from what i've read i can't exact such a conclusion.Was he in such a consientious process receiving the aid from his friends like Derleth or CAS?That's of the most interest here,at least to me.So my opinion in this,is that it wasn't a Mythos in his mind!
I think,he wished to create a 'personification' of the unknown as a whole.But still an unknown impossible to specify ,the cosmical forces with unclear relations and connections between them.I think he wanted them to stay that way :a personification which was intently of extremely vague character.A personification that negates itself due to the inability of capturing the details of the very thing it describes.So i don't even believe that an alive Lovecraft today,would agree with the advancement of such a Mythos,like Cthulhu Mythos.That's just my opinion.I think ,he would wanted it faded out.I believe if he was alive,he would obscure even more the deities that he created-bringing a confusion on the whole field.
But nobody can't deny the desicive effect,this mythos had on the acknowledgement of his work,of his literature.Most people that came upon reading this great author,first had a contact with the Cthulhu Mythos,me too.I think,most of Lovecraft readers did.Without it i can't imagine his appreciation would have spread thus........So conclusively it contributed a lot more than it harmed.We owe a lot to his literaturistic cycle-Derleth,CAS and all the rest.
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Old 15th July 2008, 05:17 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

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Originally Posted by nigourath View Post
So it is based on Lovecraft's cosmical view of things in my opinion and it doesn't just borrow basic elements of his work.I don't know what Lovecraft would say about it if he lived today,since there are so many different ideas and adaptations possibly unworthy of Lovecraft's literaturistic tastes.J.D put a very significant issue under consideration which i don't know if others here noticed:
Was the 'Cthulhu Mythos' forming even from the days of Lovecraft's creativity period?Or was it something that was created wholly aftter his demise?Yes,the creatures/deities were created from Lovecraft,but did he have influences on the issue.


I think you raise a very important point here, nigourath. I really don't know how HPL would have felt about what has happened with all this since his death; but judging from his responses to stories using these ideas and elements that were done during his lifetime, while he might not have entirely approved of much of it (and those involving graphic sexuality would likely have had him imitating Vesuvius), he would have preferred the other writers go their own way in developing these themes rather than attempt imitation... save, perhaps, in the manner of some gentle spoofing. Certainly, his comments to various writers who did write things inspired by his work were often quite laudatory -- though one must ask how much of that was Lovecraft's old-fashioned courtesy, as well. Yet even in letters to others, he often expressed enthusiasm for "contributions" by other writers, and turned around and used their own creations in his own stories, such as Long's Hounds of Tindalos or Smith's Tsathoggua. Again, though, most of these (with the notable exception of Tsathoggua) were more in the way of mentions or hints, rather than extrapolations from; nonetheless, the approval seems at least implicit.

However, I'd tend to agree that Lovecraft's "lost control" of the concept rather early on... say as early even as Long's "The Space-Eaters" which, despite some magnificent concepts and passages, as a whole is a rather awkward and clumsy tale. However, I don't think he actually wanted to control the conception of this shared fictional universe; he seemed to enjoy the air of genuine folkloric traditions created by the mere fact that so many writers were using these elements in their work, often in quite different ways... mythopoesis in action, as it were.

On the subject of so many mythos tales being "forgettable" -- yes, a lot of the more formulaic are. However, the mythos has come a long way, and there have been quite a few writers who, while remaining quite true in their own way to Lovecraft and his vision, have taken their own paths with the material, and produced some very good tales: Fritz Leiber, Ramsey Campbell (with his later work), T. E. D. Klein (whose "Black Man with a Horn" is, despite some serious geographic flaws, a very memorable tale indeed); Karl Edward Wagner; Colin Wilson, Robert Bloch (again, more with his later work, though even his early work has some very interesting takes on the material)... to name only a handful. (Brian Lumley does tend to polarize people on this; I both see flaws in his work, and enjoy much of his work. For one thing, I think people overlook the tongue-in-cheek nature of much of it, even when he's at his most serious....)

So I'll ask again: for those who have found some of the writings about the mythos of interest, what were some of those you would recommend; what were some you enjoyed, and why...
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Old 22nd July 2008, 09:19 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

Nin-I was speaking to Teresa and that was a rhetorical question.

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I think you raise a very important point here, nigourath. I really don't know how HPL would have felt about what has happened with all this since his death; but judging from his responses to stories using these ideas and elements that were done during his lifetime, while he might not have entirely approved of much of it (and those involving graphic sexuality would likely have had him imitating Vesuvius), he would have preferred the other writers go their own way in developing these themes rather than attempt imitation... save, perhaps, in the manner of some gentle spoofing. Certainly, his comments to various writers who did write things inspired by his work were often quite laudatory -- though one must ask how much of that was Lovecraft's old-fashioned courtesy, as well. Yet even in letters to others, he often expressed enthusiasm for "contributions" by other writers, and turned around and used their own creations in his own stories, such as Long's Hounds of Tindalos or Smith's Tsathoggua. Again, though, most of these (with the notable exception of Tsathoggua) were more in the way of mentions or hints, rather than extrapolations from; nonetheless, the approval seems at least implicit.
Well,my idea when I said how I doubt heŽd aprove of SOME things done with his work.
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Old 28th July 2008, 08:23 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

I think the term mythos, or mythology, used in regards to Lovecraft is simply a reflection of how his original tales have influenced and been built upon by the literary zeitgeist. A mythology is not a singular creation. It is, rather, a set of stories from a particular culture that have shaped and been shaped by a set of beliefs, morals, ideas, thoughts, understandings, and desires of said culture. If we look at the "mythos" sub-genre as the culture, it is clear to see how and why they Lovecraftian mythology exists today. Note that these don't have to be simple pastiche, but, rather, the mythos tales can take all shapes and forms.

Lovecraft built a foundation that as resonated with popular culture, and thus he set the wheels in motion for a series of stories that continue to be relevant even after his death.
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Old 14th March 2010, 10:15 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: What IS "The Cthulhu Mythos"?

It's strange. Why do I consider "The Horror in the Museum" Mythos to the core, and "Medusa's Coil" not a Mythos tale (despite its mention of Clooloo, Shub-Niggurath, R'lyeh, &c)? In The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos, S. T. separates the "Lovecraft Mythos" from the Cthulhu Mythos; and yet that division is not easy, and part of why S. T. calls "The Dunwich Horror" one of HPL's "artistic failures" is, I think, because of its Mythos elements. My joke about "The Horror in the Museum" is that it's the most purely Derlethian Cthulhu Mythos tale written by Lovecraft.

It's weird. I was engaged in my first reading of The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos while I was working on Weird Inhabitants of Sesqua Valley, and S. T.'s book got me excited about being a Mythos writer exactly as Lin Carter's A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos did in the early 1970s. I remember, when I began to outline "Into the Depths of Dreams and Madness," I was certain the story would be totally Mythos. Indeed, I set out, with that book, to have it my most Mythos-oriented book ever. But it ain't. I have elements of the Mythos therein, especially, I suppose, in "One Last Theft" -- but the book "feels" more like one that is obsess'd with H. P. Lovecraft rather than ye Cthulhu Mythos. It makes me wonder if I am able to write what I think of as a purely Mythos tale.

I plan on discussing this with other Mythos writers at MythosCon, a gathering of writer's who identify as writers in the Cthulhu Mythos genre.
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