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I can’t help but wonder what H. P. Lovecraft would have made of his continuing literary legacy and current pop culture prominence. On the one hand, I’m sure he would have been pleasantly surprised, once he got past the shock of seeing works he considered disposable pulp entertainments, or worse, stories and fragments he never intended to see the light of day, in print, thriving, and continuing to inspire readers and writers some seventy-five years after his death. After all, tales by the Gent from Providence are widely available in packages ranging from lurid-covered paperbacks and e-books to more scholarly tomes curated and introduced by well-respected author/editors like Joyce Carol Oates and Peter Straub. HPL possibly would have affected embarrassment over the scholarly attention afforded his fiction by the likes of Houellebecq, Joshi, and Price, but I’m sure he would also have felt a swell of pride over the recognition by these writers, and of his place in American letters, and his recognition as, as Fritz Leiber described him, “the Copernicus of the horror story.”

On the other hand, there is also the matter of Lovecraft’s place in popular culture. What would HPL have remarked upon discovering that his Jeffrey Combs-voiced cartoon avatar—H. P. Hatecraft—has solved mysteries alongside the Scooby-Doo gang (and a cartoon avatar of Harlan Ellison®)? Would he have been offended or amused upon seeing South Park’s Cartman team-up with Cthulhu against Justin Beiber to a My Neighbor Tortoro-inspired soundtrack? Would he have tried for a high score in Cthulhu Saves the World? Likewise, what might HPL have made of his recent cinematic legacy, from the titillating gore-fests of Stuart Gordon to the retro reconstructions of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society to the recently-aborted multi-million-dollar Guillermo del Toro adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness?

Regardless of what Lovecraft himself would have taken away from the various offshoots his fiction has inspired over the decades, a handful of simple facts remain. Today, H. P. Lovecraft is more popular than ever, and generations of new readers have discovered—and continue to discover—the fictional universe he created, and the philosophy of cosmicism he pioneered. Authors continue to draw inspiration from Lovecraft’s life and works, setting their own tales of cosmic horror, pitting scholars, dreamers, and occult investigators against terrifying cosmic indifference and the machinations of the Great Old Ones in Lovecraftian venues such as Arkham, Dunwich, and Innsmouth.

Part of the continuing appeal of Lovecraft’s universe of cosmic terror is that HPL, unlike fantasists such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, actively encouraged writers he admired or mentored to play in his creation. By doing this, HPL inadvertently created an open source fantastic universe unlike any other, ultimately grounded in the modern world, but enriched by secret histories and weird cults, and populated by ghouls, night-gaunts, and Elder Things. And while some focus only on the outlying horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos, it is Lovecraft’s overarching sense of connectedness, bridging Randolph Carter’s Dunsanian oneiric journey to Kadath and beyond with the still-shocking schlock of “Herbert West—Reanimator.” It all integrates.

But it takes more than a few unpronounceable names, moldy tomes, and tentacles to successfully write a story in the Lovecraftian mode. To succeed, an author must not only internalize Lovecraft’s materialistic meme, but must innovate, rather than imitate, recasting Grandpa Theobald’s broad creation, unmooring it from the social mores of Lovecraft’s time and truly making it their own. The tales collected in this volume—and the previous—do just that.

But now, the stars grow right, and the sleeper stirs. Welcome, readers to The Book of Cthulhu II. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

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