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In 1928, a young man, Conan creator Robert E. Howard, wrote a fan letter to Weird Tales magazine praising H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” which had recently appeared in the magazine’s pages. Howard described the story as “a masterpiece,” which he was “sure will live as one of the highest achievements in literature.”

Since then, countless young men and women have discovered the Cthulhu Mythos cycle, and have come to the same conclusion. These stories, interlinked tales of tentacles, madness, and terror created by Lovecraft, but expanded upon by his contemporaries and correspondents—the so-called “Lovecraft Circle”—are more than just simple supernatural tales, they are literature, of the highest order, with complex themes (sanity’s fragility, existential angst, questionable parentage, fate, decadence, detachment, and deterioration, to name a few), precise writing style, intricate, layered storytelling… and monsters. Some of the best known monsters in modern fiction.

Lovecraft’s impeccable storytelling—often filtered through his collaborators and “disciples”—has inspired many to pen their own Mythos tales, and the Cthulhu Mythos story cycle has taken on a convoluted, cyclopean life of its own, as further posthumous collaborations continue to expand the scope, scale, and ultimate interpretation of what is perhaps the most diverse shared fictional universe ever created.

Today, the Cthulhu Mythos cycle includes tales by some of the most prodigious writers of the twentieth century… and so far, some of the most astounding writers of the twenty-first century as well. Mythos fiction has become one of the major cultural memes of our era—everybody knows what Cthulhu looks like, even if they haven’t read Lovecraft. And it would seem that Cthulhu and his minions are everywhere, not just books and short fiction (especially online short fiction), but represented in music, toys, audio dramas, feature films, comics, and games (video and otherwise).

My personal discovery of the Cthulhu Mythos came in 1980, maybe early 1981. I received the Dungeons and Dragons cyclopedia, Deities and Demigods, which included a section—excised from later printings—detailing the Cthulhu Mythos pantheon. Erol Otus’s intricate pen-and-ink renditions of the strange alien beings of the Lovecraftian pantheon—particularly the shambling shoggoth, mysterious Mi-Go, and elegant member of the Great Race—astounded me, inspiring me to seek out the fictions on which such strange images were based. I asked around, and a friend pressed a book into my hands, telling me I had to read T. E. D. Klein’s “Black Man with a Horn.” The story scared the hell out of me, but I devoured it, and wanted more.

“Black Man with a Horn” introduced me to the larger world of Mythos fiction, driving me to spend the next thirty years delving into and exploring the Mythos cycle in all its permutations, leading me to read authors like David Drake, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, and, yes, even H. P. Lovecraft. It was also my introduction to John Coltrane. So it is my honor and privilege to include not just that story, but twenty-six other tales of Lovecraftian fantasy and horror—by many of the greatest names in Mythos fiction—in The Book of Cthulhu. A hand-picked selection representing the best post-Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos literature, all in one place. Could this mean that the stars are finally right? Are we on the cusp of a Lovecraftian renaissance, or is dread R’Lyeh about to rise out of the Pacific Ocean?

Welcome, readers, to The Book of Cthulhu. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!

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