August Derleth (1909 1971) was an American writer of historical fiction, science fiction and detective stories, and Promoted Fanboy of H. P. Lovecraft as well as Arthur Conan Doyle. Derleth is mainly credited with founding Arkham House, which published many of Lovecraft's stories in book form (something Lovecraft himself had dreamed of, although it never really succeed in his lifetime), and popularizing the Cthulhu Mythos, but Derleth is also a very controversial figure when it comes to his handling of Lovecraft's works and literary memory. Many Lovecraft fans acknowledge that he probably saved Lovecraft's universe and the Cthulhu Mythos from fading into nigh-total obscurity, but just as many have accused him of Running the Asylum following the years of Lovecraft's death, and claims that he at best misunderstood the themes in Lovecraft's stories, and at worst that he has perverted them and damaged the general public's understanding of them.
Most of this conflict probably stems from the great difference in the two men's faith. Where Lovecraft was an atheist and quite The Cynic, Derleth was a very religious Catholic. Where Lovecraft's universe was indifferent, unsafe, and, at times, directly hostile to mankind, and above everything, beyond their comprehension and concepts of morality, in Derleth's view humans were special and deeply involved in the eternal struggle between good and evil, and where Lovecraft was always nervous about his work never being good enough or worth reading, Derleth once infamously wrote of himself, "I write very swiftly, from 750,000 to a million words yearly, very little of it pulp material" - which by itself illustrates the gulf in attitudes between the men, especially following Lovecraft's passing.
Another very controversial and contested change Derleth promoted to the Cthulhu Mythos, was a system where each of the Elder Gods were attached to an elemental force. This led to some debate, as for example, Cthulhu, who in Derleth's system was associated with water, when water, in Call of Cthulhu, was described as the one of the only things that could weaken his powers and force him into hibernation. Others have pointed out that the categorization has made sense, considering Cthulhu's octopoid appearance, and his aquatic servitors. Also, The Dunwich Horror mentions that Cthulhu is trapped because of being sealed inside his tower, not because of water itself. More troublesome is why Azathoth would be considered an Earth elemental.
For examples of the specific tropes used in his Lovecraftian stories, see the article for his novel The Trail of Cthulhu.
Derleth also created the Solar Pons stories based around a Captain Ersatz of Sherlock Holmes. Some of them make reference to Derleth's Lovecraftian writings. Along with these, Derleth also is known for his Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew.
Works by August Derleth with their own pages include:
Other works by August Derleth contain examples of:
- Kansas City Shuffle: The short-short story, "A Battle Over the Teacups". An elderly Chinese dignitary traveling on a train is accosted by a warlord who wants him dead. The dignitary offers tea, and openly adds a sweetener to his own cup. Then his niece (who is traveling with him) drops a tray and while the warlord is distracted, the dignitary clumsily pours something into the warlord's cup. The warlord insists that they trade cups before drinking. The dignitary objects, but finally acquiesces, and they trade cups and drink. The warlord is found dead in his compartment the next day — the "sweetener" was the poison, and the "poison" was simple sugar. By insisting on the cup trade, the warlord gave himself the poisoned cup.