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The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos Hardcover – November 30, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0978991180 ISBN-10: 0978991184 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Mythos Books LLC; First edition (November 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978991184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978991180
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Cthulhu Mythos-the myth pattern spun from the alien entities, forbidden books, and haunted New England towns of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction-is a popular fiction phenomenon that has inspired thousand of horror tales from fans and professionals writing under Lovecraft's spell since the 1920s. In this opinionated but entertaining study, the world's foremost Lovecraft scholar closely scrutinizes the Mythos and finds much to criticize. Separating out as the "Lovecraft Mythos" the stories in which Lovecraft developed his unique mythology, Joshi (H.P. Lovecraft: A Life) sees a distinct difference from the Cthulhu Mythos as practiced by most other writers, primarily in the absence of a cosmic perspective that gives the fictional horrors intellectual weight and gravity. Joshi lays the blame for the Mythos reducing Lovecraft's work to its most superficial aspects on Lovecraft's disciple August Derleth, who misinterpreted the intent of his mentor's work and created the template from which most Mythos fiction ever since has been struck. Though written for the small subculture of horror enthusiasts who will find its arguments provocative, this volume nevertheless offers cogent analyses of hundreds of horror stories that constitute an essential reading list for further study.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Joshi divides his highly opinionated (and justifiably so) study into nine chapters. The first three deal with the Lovecraft Mythos an already well-defined term in Lovecraft studies which applies to the works of the (frankly inimitable) Providence writer himself, and his invented pseudomythology of gods, books, and sites which, to a greater or lesser degree, crop up across the whole of his oeuvre. The next two chapters cover Contemporaries (that is, contemporaries of Lovecraft): Long, Bloch, Wandrei, as well as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Henry Kuttner, and Fritz Lieber. There follows a chapter on The Derleth Mythos, which critically examines Derleth s fatally flawed conception of the Lovecraft Mythos, and a chapter titled Interregnum, which interrogates works by writers such as Colin Wilson and Ramsey Campbell that preceded Lin Carter s study. The final two chapters, The Scholarly Revolution and Recrudescence, deal in short compass but with remarkable insight with the thirty-odd years of Cthulhu Mythos fiction that have appeared since the early 1970s, taking us up to 2008 with commentary on Mythos works of writers such as Richard L. Tierney, Thomas Ligotti, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Brian Lumley, Wilum Pugmire, Donald Tyson, and others. n his introduction, Joshi makes no bones about his expectation that written work attempting to continue Lovecraft s legacy should be possessed of intrinsic literary merits, making clear that his study will seek to distinguish between the scope of Lovecraft s achievement and what others have written in imitation of or homage to him. Joshi notes the tendency for literary neophytes to produce work of vastly variable quality, which often amounts to no more than a tepid rewriting of Lovecraft s own stories, stories that usually lack the cosmic perspective so central to Lovecraft s own views. In the chapters dealing with Lovecraft s own work, many perspicacious comments highlight aspects of tales that many of us have read, and read about, many times over; one of the delights of Joshi s criticism is that he continually re-evaluates the tales in the light of all current scholarly knowledge. Nor does he always assent to popular interpretations of them, making novel suggestions such as that the monster seen by the narrator of Dagon is not the object of worship, but one of the worshippers. The volume is valuable for Joshi s accumulated new insights into Lovecraft s work alone, and his assessment along the way of various opinions expressed by other Lovecraft scholars ranging from, inter alia, Will Murray through David E. Schultz to Robert M. Price. But of course the bulk of the study is given over to elaborations of the Mythos by other hands. While of necessity many story plots must be recounted, the joy of Joshi s retellings is his contextualisation of them, as he discusses how a given author developed his or her contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, and the critical appraisal of the literary merits (or otherwise) of each tale. The discussions of the stories of Long, Bloch, Lieber, and Kuttner are particularly enjoyable, as Joshi interweaves his unparalleled knowledge of publishing minutiae and timelines, the derivation of terms and entities, and the relation of information from Lovecraft s letters, to the literary cross-fertilisation that went on between Lovecraft and his fellow Weird Tales writers. The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos provides a rewarding, enjoyable, and cogent analysis of a literary phenomenon of modern literature. This entertaining and important study ought to find a place not only on the shelves of every serious reader of Lovecraft, but in the humanities and specialist fantasy collections of university libraries. --Lovecraft Annual 2009 - Leigh Blackmore

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
Cthulhu Mythos fiction!
Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, Esq.
I, on the other hand, just like a well written yarn in the genre.
Matthew T. Carpenter
Wonderfully complete bibliography and detailed index.
Michael Valdivielso

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Matthew T. Carpenter on January 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
ST Joshi is one of the foremost Lovecraftian scholars of this generation, author of perhaps the definitive biography and when he explores the phenomenon that HPL's fiction has become, it merits our attention. I must say I usually read Cthulhu mythos fiction and not critical comment, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was so absorbed I set everything else aside to finish it.

Bravo to Mythos Books, a wonderfully enterprising small press which usually publishes trade paperbacks. Only recently have they given us hard covers, including the comprehensive collection of Lovecraftian pastiches by Robert Price (the irony here is just sickening!) and The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos by Mr. Joshi. It is a gorgeous hardcover with 308 pages, 281 of which are the text. I noted a few typos, mostly letter/symbol substitution, for example, = for `. List price is $40 but there is a heavy discount to $26.40 on Amazon. Jason C. Eckhardt provided the cover art, a very effective depiction of perhaps the Mountains of Madness; I believe Mr. Eckhardt has done some covers for Call of Cthulhu gaming supplements and some fanzines.

Mr. Joshi starts the book by discussing why an exploration of the HPL phenomenon is worthwhile, how perhaps no other set of fictional creations has been so widely disseminated and used by so many other authors or artists in so many formats and media. He discusses what he thinks are the essential features that Lovecraft developed in his fiction, a Lovecraftian mythos as it were, as a vehicle for conveying his musings on the world.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, Esq. on March 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a professional Cthulhu Mythos author, I have an undying interest in this particular genre. Thirty years ago, Lin Carter's LOVECRAFT: A LOOK BEHIND THE CTHULHU MYTHOS got me hooked on reading and writing Mythos fiction. Carter's book was naive and filled with errors. Joshi's new book is intelligent and informed. He is extremely opinionated, and I disagree with him on some of what he writes, especially about Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" being an artistic failure. But for a clear, concise history and discussion of the Mythos as a literary genre, this book is fantastic -- the best of its kind, and as far as I can tell the ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND currently available. We have listings of Mythos fiction, but no real discussion of the authors and their works. Reading this book has filled me with renewed determination to hone my skills and write many more tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, stories that pay authentic homage to H. P. Lovecraft without merely ripping off his ideas. If you have any interest in the Cthulhu Mythos, this is the book for you. As an introduction to the stories, it is unsurpassed. It will lead you to the best books in this weird fiction tradition.

I return to this book again and again -- just as I continually reread Lin Carter's far less impressive (but just as fun) book on the Mythos. S. T. divides the Mythos into those tales written by H. P. Lovecraft (which he calls the Lovecraft Mythos) and those written by others, called the Cthulhu Mythos. It must be remembered that, although the Mythos as we have it now came about hugely from tales that were written after Lovecraft's death, that he was alive when this kind of tale was beginning to be penned by the young men who adored his fiction then as we do now.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James Parrott on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As previouly stated in other reviews, Joshi can be quite opinionated, though one doesn't necessarily have to agree with him to come away with an abundance of knowledge regarding whatever subject has been chosen for discussion. Such is the case with 'The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos'.
The author lets it be known which Mythos writers he has shunned, and this can sometimes be taxing on one's quest for understanding. The tone flows between scholarly treatise and opinionated discourse.

Overall, Joshi provides a fairly thorough overview of Mythos history, and gives at least a few lines of space to the core of Mythos fictional output, past and present.

This is a book that may very well provide the Mythos story hunter with new directions in which to pursue imaginative discovery. It is, indeed, inspiring in some sections.

Regarding the physical book itself...the general peruser may find it to be a tad overpriced, but titles from small publishers have small print runs, which comes at a greater cost. It is a sturdy hardback, with nicely rendered cover art.
There are so many great writing talents contributing to the Mythos, and many of them would likely not see much print otherwise, so it is important for us readers/customers to support to those deserving small press publishers such as Mythos books. Books such as this would not be available without them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author does what the book title suggests, follows the development of the Cthulhu Mythos in all its early glory and later decline. But in doing so he gives us a wonderful list of books and authors we may search out and enjoy. True, he does get emotional and puts blame on the decline where he feels it should go - mostly on the head, or hands, of August Derleth - but this is just a sign of a good author who feels strongly about the subject he is writing about. Believe what he says or not, the book will become a source for understanding the foundation of the Mythos, and understanding how it changed, was added to, twisted, and may be reborn. Wonderfully complete bibliography and detailed index.
May I also suggest The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft And Extraterrestial Pop Culture?
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