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H.P. Lovecraft

shoggoths go slithering

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H.P. Lovecraft was a master of purple prose and of unlikely dialog; and these days, if one should encounter a reference to one of Lovecraft's creations it is more likely to inspire a chuckle than a shudder. Cthulhu has made a number of appearances in Iliad's comic strip "User Friendly", the saga of life at an Internet Service Provider; Terry Pratchett occasionally refers to the "Necrotelicomnicon"; and Neil Gaiman has transplanted Peter Cook and Dudley Moore to the evil seaside town of Innsmouth.

But in his day, H.P. Lovecraft was a master of what was then called "weird" fiction. And if the criticisms of his work have some truth to them, nevertheless his better tales have a power to them that has withstood the test of time. Above all, he knew when to leave well-enough alone: when to describe in detail and when to leave it to the reader's imagination. I'm particularly fond of The Colour out of Space, which still gives me chills.

Lovecraft has been available in a wide variety of paperback editions over the years; the canonical editions are the hardcovers published by Arkham House. The Dunwich Horror and Others is undoubtedly the best one to start with.

Arkham House Editions

The Dunwich Horror and Others
At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
The Horror in the Museum and other revisions
Stories by other authors, revised for publication (often extensively) by Lovecraft.
The Watchers out of Time
A collection of stories written by August Derleth from notes and sketches left behind by Lovecraft upon his death. Read them at your peril; like Derleth's individual contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, they simply don't measure up.
New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
Published in 1980, this is a delightful (if that's an appropriate word to use of a book intended to unsettle) collection of Lovecraftian tales written by the likes of Stephen King, T.E.D. Klein, Ramsey Campbell, and others. Klein's "Black Man with a Horn" is particularly memorable.

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