Hoi and Jeff discuss Elder Signs, Lovecraftian gaming, and summoning spells in August Derleth’s “The Lurker at the Threshold” with special guest Jon Hook.
Given H.P. Lovecraft’s omnipresence today, it’s easy to forget that he had largely faded out of reading public’s mind within a few years of his death in 1937. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei did their best to keep Lovecraft in print by founding the small press Arkham House in 1939, but the publishing house’s output for its first 20 years was mostly limited to high quality hardcovers in short print runs.
Arkham House was often on tenuous financial footing from its very founding, but the snowballing revival of interest in Lovecraft’s Weird Tales compatriot Robert E. Howard in the 1960s seems to have also raised Lovecraft’s visibility. Arkham House seized the opportunity by releasing three newly re-edited omnibus volumes of Lovecraft’s fiction, The Dunwich Horror & Others (1963, revised 1985), At the Mountains of Madness & Other Novels (1964, revised 1986), and Dagon & Other Macabre Tales (1965, revised 1986) and then licensing the stories for paperback publication.
At the Mountains of Madness & Other Tales of Terror (Beagle/Ballantine Books, 1971) was a slimmed-down version of the Arkham House hardcover and featured the novel At the Mountains of Madness and the short stories “The Shunned House”, “Dreams in the Witch-House”, and “The Statement of Randolph Carter”.
The stark and surreal cover painting of Brown Jenkin from the 1973-1974 Ballantine printings is by British artist John Holmes (not *that* John Holmes by the way, nor Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set author John Eric Holmes either, although the latter did write about Cthulhu/Lovecraft in Dragon magazine issues # 12 & # 16):
Gary Gygax didn’t include any monsters drawn directly from Lovecraft’s stories in Dungeons & Dragons, but the yellow mold that first appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons rules would have been right at home in the cellar of “The Shunned House”, as would the various other jellies, molds, oozes, puddings, and slimes. The undeniably Lovecraftian mind flayers made their first appearance a couple of years later in Eldritch Wizardry (1976) and are now iconic D&D monsters.
James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz included a Cthulhu Mythos chapter in Deities & Demigods (1980). The Elder Things and Shoggoths from At the Mountains of Madness received full write-ups as well as magnificently ooky Erol Otus illustrations. Although TSR believed that Lovecraft’s fiction was in the public domain, their West Coast rivals Chaosium had secured a license from Arkham House to produce games based on the Cthulhu Mythos. This combined with Chaosium’s license from Michael Moorcock to publish an Elric of Melniboné RPG lead TSR to remove the Cthulhu Mythos and Melnibonéan sections from the third printing onwards of Deities & Demigods. As a result, the first two printings of Deities & Demigods are now highly sought after collector’s items.
Virtually all of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings published in his lifetime are in the public domain. Probably the best online repository of his work can be found here:
Having said that, the current Penguin Classics trade paperback collections are worth looking at since they feature all of Lovecraft’s solo fiction in corrected manuscripts, as well as introductions and very informative notes by leading Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi:
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1999)
This collection includes “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and is available here:
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)
The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001)
At the Mountains of Madness can be found in this volume, which is available here:
The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (trade paperback)
The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (2004)
“The Shunned House” and “The Dreams in the Witch House” are both found in this collection, available here:
The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)
You could also consider either of the following two options if you want Lovecraft’s complete solo fiction in a handsome one-volume hardcover:
Call of Cthulhu remains the gold standard of Lovecraftian and indeed mystery and horror gaming. A free PDF version of the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules can be found here and more information about the game line can be found here.
Beyond the Mountains of Madness is an epic CoC campaign following up on At the Mountains of Madness (RPGNow affiliate link)
Christmas in Kingsport includes Bob Brinkman’s CoC scenario “Silent Night” (RPGNow affiliate link)
Halloween Horror Returns! includes Bob Brinkman’s CoC scenario “Hope” (RPGNow affiliate link)
Bonus Art Gallery!:
The landscapes and structures in At the Mountains of Madness are likened several “the strange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich”, many of which can be found in the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City:
And last but not least, Virgil Finlay’s illustration for “The Shunned House” in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales is a minor masterpiece:
If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.
The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.
And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.