Howard Phillips Lovecraft remains one of the more controversial writers of the 20th century. A fantasy and science fiction visionary, he helped create a whole new concept of horror with his weird fiction concepts. The Great Old Ones, Necronomicon, Nyarlathotep, and creatures like the Deep Ones have resonated with generations of readers. He was also personally kind of a dick with racial beliefs extreme even by his time (so much so that Robert E. Howard told him to dial it the fuck down) as well as politics we can safely say were “questionable.”
Nevertheless, his perhaps most admirable quality as a writer was the fact that he was never afraid to let alone else play with his toys. An early advocate of what we’d now call “open source” writing, he happily shared concepts and ideas with his fellow writers. There’s a reason so many unnameable horrors and weird gods appear in Robert E. Howard’s work. Also, he and Robert Bloch of Psycho fame took turns killing each other off in their stories. Howard Phillips would be delighted at the longevity of his creations and the fact that he has entertained thousands of people through things like the Call of Cthulhu tabletop games or Re-Animator movies.
Speaking as the author of the Cthulhu Armageddon books as well as participant in such anthologies as Tales of the Al-Azif and Tales of Yog-Sothoth, I thought I would share some of my favorite post-Lovecraftian fiction created by writers willing to play around with HPL’s concepts.
The Trials of Obed Marsh
by Matthew Davenport
Obed Marsh remains one of HPL’s more fascinating characters despite the fact he never appears on screen. A sea captain, he sold the entirety of his community’s souls and future to the Deep Ones in exchange for gold as well as fish. However, in any time there is economic despair, it becomes understandable when you might be willing to make a deal with the (Sea) Devil. Matthew Davenport is also the author of the Pulpy fun Andrew Doran novels but this remains my favorite of works.
The Trials of Obed Marsh
he Exciting Prequel to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth!
Innsmouth was a corrupted and fallen town, consumed by its greed and controlled by the Esoteric Order of Dagon. In 1928, the Federal Government destroyed Innsmouth and the nearby Devil Reef based on claims made by a man who had visited the town.
Four years after the mysterious disappearance of Robert Olmstead, the man who sent the FBI to Innsmouth, his closest friend has discovered new evidence into the reality of what Innsmouth truly was: He has found the Journal of Captain Obed Marsh.
The journal paints an intense scene of a vibrant town and how it takes only one man’s good intentions to pave the way to Hell itself.
Or in this case…to Y’ha-nthlei.
What can test a man so intensely as to break him from his righteous path?
Only the journal can shed light on that.
These are the Trials of Obed Marsh.
The Atrocity Archives
by Charles Stross
Combing the absolute horror of the Great Old Ones with the mundanity of being a British civil servant, even one that just happens to be a field agent and spy. The Laundry is a fantastic book that is somehow humorous, terrifying, and philosophical all at once. Bob Howard is a great character and is the only man in the world who can stand against the forces of darkness through the power of mathematics. Except, really, he knows he’s eventually going to lose and he’s mostly just trying to delay CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN for a few years at best.
The Atrocity Archives
NEVER VOLUNTEER FOR ACTIVE DUTY …Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. His world was dull and safe – but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob is up to his neck in spycraft, parallel universes, dimension-hopping terrorists, monstrous elder gods and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than a full system reboot to sort this mess out …This is the first novel in the Laundry Files.
by Peter Clines
Peter Clines and I were notably both coming up in Permuted Press when that company got bought out by people who subsequently began printing Oliver North and other Far Right authors. Abandoning ship, both of us found better deals. I was overwhelmed by how much I loved his Ex-Heroes books where superheroes fought zombies. They had their flaws but got better each book until they were cancelled. 14 is even better as our protagonists are staying at a surreal apartment building where the mysteries of what its purpose as well as horrors is an onion to unpeal.
Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches.
There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment.
Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much.
At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbour across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s. Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.
The Elder Ice
by David Hambling
Despite the popularity of the Call of Cthulhu games, there’s a surprising lack of Lovecraftian detective fiction out there. You’d think the company would have been marketing books like TSR had been fantasy in the Eighties and Nineties. The Harry Stubbs series, starting with the Elder Ice, is as close to it as I’ve found. A WW1 British boxer, he is always coming within a hair’s breadth of destruction at the Mythos’ hands but avoids enough of it to keep his sanity and life. For the most part.
About The Elder Ice
Lovecraftian weird fiction set in 1920s London.
In this atmospheric novella, ex-boxer Harry Stubbs is on the trail of a mysterious legacy. A polar explorer has died, leaving huge debts and hints of a priceless find. His informants seem to be talking in riddles, and Harry soon finds he isn’t the only one on the trail — and what he’s looking for is as lethal as it is valuable. The key to the enigma lies in an ancient Arabian book and it leads to something stranger and more horrifying than Harry could ever imagine.
Harry may not be an educated man, but he has an open mind, the bulldog persistence and a piledriver punch — all vital for survival when you’re boxing the darkest of shadows.
The story of mystery and horror draws on HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and is inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s incredible real-life adventures.
The Burrowers Beneath
by Brian Lumley
The Titus Crow series is one of the biggest influences in my writing career because it is such an incredibly batshit crazy series. A Sherlock Holmes and Watsonian pair of occultists, Titus Crow and his assistant Henri de Marigny start with a war against a new Great Old One sending monstrous sandworm-esque monsters around the world to hunt them. Then it goes from there. I love this book and think its the Masks of Nyaralthotep literary equivalent I always needed.
the Borrowers Underneath
The Titus Crow novels are adventure horror, full of acts of nobility and heroism, featuring travel to exotic locations and alternate planes of existence as Titus Crow and his faithful companion and record-keeper fight the gathering forces of darkness wherever they arise. The menaces are the infamous and deadly Elder Gods of the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Chthulu and his dark minions are bent on ruling the earth–or destroying it. A few puny humans cannot possibly stand against these otherworldly evil gods, yet time after time, Titus Crow defeats the monsters and drives them back into the dark from whence they came. Volume One contains two full novels, The Burrowers Beneath and The Transition of Titus Crow.
The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor Lavalle
Victor LaValle has a complicated relationship with HPL, being a man of color who loved the writings of the author but felt excluded by his world. Adapting The Horror of Red Hook, Victor LaValle tells the story of a (not very good) jazz musician who finds himself immersed in a complicated occult conspiracy with the police, an eccentric millionaire, plus unlimited power to a man who might be able to overthrow a corrupt power structure.
About The Ballad of Black Tom
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.
Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.
A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?
by Matt Ruff
Probably the most famous book on this, Lovecraft Country has already been adapted into a series by HBO that (sadly) only lasted one season. The story of a family of motorist guide writers who find themselves invited to a millionaire occultist’s home only to become involved in a series of fascinating encounters with the supernaturals. The book is, in my opinion,better than the series as well as significantly lighter. Which is impressive given how dark the book can be at times.
About Lovecraft Country
Now an HBO® Series from J.J. Abrams (Executive Producer of Westworld), Misha Green (Creator of Underground) and Jordan Peele (Director of Get Out)
The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.
A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.
The Litany of Earth
by Ruthanna Emrys
The top recommendation here is by Tor reviewer, Ruthanna Emrys. An interesting interpretation of HPL’s world from a reversed position. Basically, the Deep Ones and their human families were put in internment camps as of The Shadow of Innsmouth but released after WW2. Aphra Marsh is one of the few survivors and is struggling to reintegrate into American society. Dealing with a cult of white people who have misinterpreted her people’s religion, it sets up the excellent Innsmouth Legacy books. It is available for free on the Tor site: https://www.tor.com/2014/05/14/the-litany-of-earth-ruthanna-emrys/
About The Litany of Earth
The state took Aphra away from Innsmouth. They took her history, her home, her family, her god. They tried to take the sea. Now, years later, when she is just beginning to rebuild a life, an agent of that government intrudes on her life again, with an offer she wishes she could refuse. “The Litany of Earth” is a dark fantasy story inspired by the Lovecraft mythos.