Today is H.P. Lovecraft’s 123rd birthday. Earlier this year in Seattle, Wilum “Hopfrog” Pugmire, who writes Lovecraft-inspired fiction collected in such volumes as The Fungal Stain and Other Dreams, showed his friend S.T. Joshi, the world’s leading Lovecraft scholar, a copy of John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos, a critical study that takes issue with Joshi’s negative assessment of August Derleth (1909-1971), the founder of Arkham House who did much to promote Lovecraft and his work after his death in 1937. (See PW’s Web exclusive review.) At the time, Joshi only glanced at the volume, which includes a preface by Pugmire, who calls it the “finest [book about the Mythos] I have ever read.”
This summer, while on a vacation in northern Europe, Joshi met the publisher of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos, Henrik Harksen, in Copenhagen. Harksen gave him a copy—“a welcome gift,” Joshi notes in his blog entry for July 24, “in spite of the fact that it appears to kick my butt on nearly every page.” Joshi reviews the book in full in an entry for July 30. Toward the end, he notes that “genial W.H. Pugmire, in his preface, now also vaunts Derleth’s Mythos tales, but no one takes him seriously as a critic.”
This Thursday I will be traveling to Providence, R.I., for NecronomiCon 2013, the most important gathering of Lovecraft scholars and fans in years. Heading the list of notable participants is Joshi, billed as “our Revered Scholar.” Alas, Haefele, who “is married and lives in a home visited often by grandchildren and governed by black cat Spooker who tolerates a dog named Lucy,” according to his author bio on the flap of A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, is not listed among the attendees. Too bad. I like to think that any face-to-face debate between the two over the merits of August Derleth would have ended in warm acknowledgment of their mutual love of cats, of which species Lovecraft himself was inordinately fond.