August Derleth
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: About Josh, Fantasy, HiLo Heroes, Literature, Uncanny

Virgil Finlay illustration for an August Derleth story

In the early and mid-1930s, AUGUST DERLETH (1909-71) of Sauk City, Wisc., worked assiduously at two types of writing: a sprawling regionalist-naturalist saga-in-progress (memorializing life in Wisconsin) which would win him a middlebrow Guggenheim Fellowship in ’38; and supernatural stories, which he sold to the lowbrow magazine Weird Tales. (A fanboys’ fanboy, he used his Fellowship money to bind his vast collection of comic strips like Little Nemo in Slumberland, which he took pains to distinguish from “adventure strips for morons.”) In 1939, Derleth cofounded Arkham House, in order to bring the supernatural and science fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, with whom Derleth had corresponded for years, as well as Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, A.E. Coppard, and others, out of the pulps and into hardcover. It was Derleth who coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos” to describe the fictional universe limned in stories by Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and others; he also contributed stories to the Mythos, rather to the dismay of Cthulhu exegetes (like yours truly) who feel that Derleth’s implicitly Christian Good vs. Evil themes don’t jibe with Lovecraft’s Order vs. Chaos worldview. NB: Derleth also wrote a remarkable meta-fictional series about British detective Solar Pons, a 1920s-era rival of Sherlock Holmes who tangles with Fu Manchu and other pulp characters.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Plastic Bertrand.

READ MORE about members of the Partisans Generation (1904-13).

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Joshua Glenn is a cultural and brand semiotician, and co-principal of the agency SEMIOVOX LLC. He is editor and publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age sci-fi paperback imprint HILOBOOKS. He is author of (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY (2008) and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY (2011), and editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY (2007) and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (2012). With Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Tony Leone, Josh produced the popular family activities guides UNBORED (2012), UNBORED GAMES (2014), and UNBORED ADVENTURE (2015), not to mention two UNBORED activity kits from MindWare. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons.