Someone in the Dark (1941)

This is the 1941 collection Someone in the Dark, by August Derleth, published by his own Arkham House. He is arguably the reason you know the name H.P. Lovecraft. He and his colleague, weird fiction author Donald Wandrei, founded Arkham House to preserve their late friend’s literary legacy. (That they maybe, probably, strong-armed the right to do so out of Lovecraft’s appointed agent, the teen writer Robert Barlow, is a story for another day.) No Arkham House probably means no Call of Cthulhu RPG, no Cthulhu plushies, no Cthulhu board games, no Cthulhu nothin’. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I leave to you to decide.

This is Derleth’s first collection and the second book Arkham House put out. He occupies a contentious spot in the history of the Cthulhu Mythos – a term he coined. Many argue that his writing was not weird enough to match the work of Lovecraft and his efforts to popularize the Mythos watered it down and demystified it. Some folks are still angry that Derleth completed many of Lovecraft’s unfinished works.

I don’t disagree, but I also don’t mind. The Call of Cthulhu RPG, firmly a Derlethian project in terms of systematizing things that should be left unknowable, did more damage to the cosmic horror of Lovecraft than Derleth ever did and I still love CoC. I like Derleth’s writing, too. He’s more conventional, but dude could write, make no mistake.

Derleth’s popularity as a writer is the key to Lovecraft’s enduring effect on pop culture. The reason this was the second book Arkham House published after The Outsider, Lovecraft’s first collection, was that Derleth knew it would sell. Derleth kept Arkham House going on the back of sales of books he wrote and anthologies he edited.

Derleth is a complicated guy, who did right by some writers and screwed over others, but the man dedicated a large portion of his career to preserving, however he could, the legacy of his dead friend. I think that’s something special.

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