The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This collection by perhaps the greatest twentieth century writer of horror fiction was assembled by his fellow fantasy writer, August Derleth, and reissued with a new introduction by T. E. D. Klein in 1986. The stories originally appeared in print between 1917 and 1936. After H. P. Lovecraft’s death in 1937, Derleth and his collaborator, Donald Wandrei, wanted to assemble and present in permanent form some of Lovecraft’s work that had appeared in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales. Lovecraft had often written of the strange research occurring in the library of Arkham University. Derleth and Wandrei therefore chose the name Arkham House for the publishing firm that produced this collection and also saved from oblivion the work of many other horror and fantasy writers.

The typical Lovecraft protagonist finds a shocking and terrifying reality other than the normal that unhinges him, destroys him, or changes his life for the worse. He (the protagonists in this collection are exclusively male) sometimes stumbles over the evidence of another, frightening world, as does the main character of the title story, “Dagon” (1917). After having his ship torpedoed by a German submarine, he finds himself stranded in a strange land with temples dedicated to Dagon, the fish-god. That discovery is unsettling enough, but then the shipwrecked sailor sees fishlike monsters who worship Dagon. Now insane, he tells the story from a San Francisco hospital; hearing...

(The entire section is 494 words.)