Any truly significant "Mythos" stories after "Shadow Out of Time"?


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
I'm rereading At the Mountains of Madness. It strikes me that, next to this, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and that late story, The Shadow Out of Time, Lovecraft wrote no indispensable stories. They may be entertaining, but next to these they are, manifestly, not important. One might wonder if Lovecraft hadn't pretty much exhausted for himself the value of what we casually call the Cthulhu Mythos.

He died. People have gone on writing Mythos stories -- to call them that for convenience's sake -- and these may be intriguing, entertaining, or perhaps even charming. I'm saying that Lovecraft set a very high bar for the serious weird tale with Mountains and the two Shadow stories by late in his life, and his remaining output suggests that he wouldn't have written Mythos stories worthy to stand with them had he lived to write for another 25 years. I'm further suggesting that those heights haven't -- so far as I [note well the qualification] am aware -- been reached any time since. The Mythos then may be regarded, in a sense, as far as a serious literary phenomenon is concerned, as a thing of the 1920s-30s, at least as regards the pinnacle of achievement.

I'm throwing this out for discussion and debate if it seems worthwhile.

The analogy might be with, say, baroque music. A composer today could still compose a very agreeable work that in every performable way sounded like a baroque work. But no one expects him or her to write something that adds significantly to what Bach achieved.

I'm not sure of that, Extollager. HPL's movement was from Gothic horror to Gothic fantasy to Gothic weird to Gothic s.f., and if he hadn't died he might have pursued further s.f. implications of what he'd already created. Do we have an idea of how much his late production was curtailed by illness versus loss of creativity? Had he thoroughly emptied that well, or was he simply too ill to continue? (Maybe he'd have gone realist: The Shambler in the Gray Flannel Suit? The Man with the Golden Tentacle? The Elder God and the Sea?)

As for Mythos stories ala Lovecraft, there are some fine variations on his approaches, but how strictly are you defining Mythos stories? If narrowly, then probably not. If more broadly, the work of Laird Barron and Caitlin Kiernan (not to mention writers I'm less familiar with like Wm. Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, Joseph Pulver, and others) have certainly taken their course based in some part on their reading of HPL. Perhaps not a direct line of descent, but touching on the main body of his work.

Also, your discounting of his other stories may be reasonable in looking at HPL's body of work, but The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, "Herbert West, Reanimator" and "The Horror of Red Hook" have had a surprisingly strong influence on later creators.

Randy M.
My intention was to focus on the Lovecraft work that was of real literary value; work that gives us that special poetic quality that he narrowed in on in his mature fiction. This isn't to say that there aren't people who like the other stuff and have been influenced by it or have imitated it. But if "Herbert West" dropped out of existence, we could still get anything we like in it, from other pulp horror. Wouldn't you agree? But, on the other hand, if At the Mountains of Madness and several other late stories ceased to exist, what really could take their place?

It's like with Peake's Gormenghast. If it disappeared, there'd be nothing that would do, in its place. We could go on adding examples of such things -- Le Guin's initial Earthsea books, Lewis's space trilogy, Blackwood's "Willows" and "Wendigo," etc. There are things taht remind us of them, and there may be things that imitate them, but they themselves have a special quality that's not simply due to our affectionate memories of our first encounters with them.

As regards Lovecraft and the Mythos: just yesterday I reread Fred Chappell's "The Adder." What a lot of fun -- and a real creepiness, too. But It's not "indispensable." Is anything "indispensable" (if that's not too vague to be of use to anyone but myself) in the Mythose since Lovecraft;s own contributions? I'm not saying there might not be plenty that some readers could and do read with enjoyment. But when I revisit the handful of Lovecraft's stories that I've mentioned, there is a sense that they are in a class by themselves.

Or: are they?

That's my question.