Book Club Nominees

6 Cosmic Classics

by @Tons O’ Fun, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for August’s “A Cavalcade of Cosmic Classics!” category

One of the most influential movements in the history of horror literature was the cosmic horror movement of the early 20th century. I grew up reading and falling in love with these stories but have found that, unfortunately, most readers and writers today are only familiar with them through reputation. I want to change that just a little. 

Cover of The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith. Cover art shows some sort of wanderer or explorer holding a staff and standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out into the distance.

The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith

Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him “perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amateur philosopher, bizarre sculptor, and unmatched storyteller—simply wrote like no one else, before or since. This new collection of his very best tales and poems is selected and introduced by supernatural literature scholar S. T. Joshi and allows readers to encounter Smith’s visionary brand of fantastical, phantasmagorical worlds, each one filled with invention, terror, and a superlative sense of metaphysical wonder.


Clark Ashton Smith is the finest writer I’ve ever read. His craftsmanship is unbelievable. This collection by Penguin Classics is one of the best single collections of his work. The man was a marvel and the marvelous worlds he created have been unfortunately overshadowed by the works of his friend and contemporary, Lovecraft. He is a must-read author.

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Cover of ales of the Cthulhu Mythos (30th Anniversary Golden Collection) by H.P. Lovecraft and Others. Cover shows a monstrous otherworldly create with a tentacled head on top of a man's body emerging out of what looks like a coffin superimposed on a planet or moon.

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (30th Anniversary Golden Collection) by H.P. Lovecraft and Others

Howard Phillips Lovecraft forever changed the face of horror, fantasy, and science fiction with a remarkable series of stories as influential as the works of Poe, Tolkien, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. His chilling mythology established a gateway between the known universe and an ancient dimension of otherworldly terror, whose unspeakable denizens and monstrous landscapes – dread Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, the Plateau of Leng, the Mountains of Madness – have earned him a permanent place in the history of the macabre.

In Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, a pantheon of horror and fantasy’s finest authors pay tribute to the master of the macabre with a collection of original stories set in the fearsome Lovecraft tradition.


This collection is, in my opinion, the best collection to get someone started with The Mythos. The table of contents reads like a “who’s who” of early cosmic pulp writers, but this updated edition includes works written much later, on up into the 90’s, and encompasses the history of Lovecraft’s legacy.

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Cover of Mysteries of the Worm by Robert Bloch. Cover shows a creature with a segmented worm's body and multiple arms and legs. The creature is smiling and jumping in the air for joy. Strange otherworldly structures surround the creature. The creature has razor sharp teeth.

Mysteries of the Worm by Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch has become one with his fictional counterpart Ludvig Prinn: future generations of readers will know him as an eldritch name hovering over a body of nightmare texts. To know them will be to know him. And thus we have decided to release a new and expanded third edition of Robert Bloch’s Mysteries of the Worm. This collection contains four more Mythos tales–”The Opener of the Way”, “The Eyes of the Mummy”, “Black Bargain”, and “Philtre Tip”–not included in the first two editions. 


Robert Bloch was mainly known for writing “Psycho”, but long before he created Norman Bates, Bloch was also mentored and encouraged at a young age by Lovecraft himself. Bloch’s stories began closer in style to Lovecraft’s work but eventually he found his own voice and penned some of the best examples of cosmic horror ever written. I chose this collection because it represents his contributions admirably. 

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Cover of Don't Dream by Donald Wandrei. Cover art shows a man standing next to a giant formation shaped like a skull. Cover image is done in watercolor earth tones and very otherwordly.

Don’t Dream by Donald Wandrei

Don’t Dream gathers forty short stories, novelettes, prose poems, unpublished sketches and essays by Donald Wandrei into a single omnibus edition. Classic horror stories such as “The Painted Mirror”, previously uncollected stories, and unpublished material amply demonstrate Wandrei’s talents and versatility in the field of fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural horror.


Donald Wandrei, along with August Derleth, started Arkham House Publishing with the chief motivation of keeping Lovecraft’s name from ever dying out. It is not an exaggeration to say that without the devotion and dedication to his memory these two men had, that horror media itself would have had a very different future. Derleth’s fiction is adequate enough, but Wandrei (the much less known of the two) shows a stunning grasp of the cosmic horror concept and his prose is quite something to behold. I chose this collection because it represents the entire horror output of a sadly forgotten literary talent. 

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Cover of The 8th Golden Age of Weird Fiction MEGAPACK (Vol. 1) by Frank Belknap Long. Cover shows a tentacled menacing-looking creature with glaring eyes against a black background.

The 8th Golden Age of Weird Fiction MEGAPACK (Vol. 1) by Frank Belknap Long

Prepare yourself for macabre spectacle and contes cruel, crawling things and loathsome gods, predators from deep inside the mind of man and from far outside angled space, all brought to you by the incomparable Frank Belknap Long! 


Besides Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith, there may have been no better writer of Mythos tales than Frank Long. His work, while maintaining the same style as these two, was also ahead of its time. Long was a fantastic writer who’s inventiveness and style sometimes even eclipsed the man himself. Don’t sleep on Frank Long!

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Cover of The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell. Cover shows a black and white drawing of a lake. There are a few trees on the show and mountains or large hills in the distance, though the lake is mostly surrounded by a field. There is s tentacled creature emerging from the lake.

The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell

A collection of fantasy and horror short stories by British author J. Ramsey Campbell, who dropped the initial from his name in subsequent publications. It was released in 1964 by Arkham House in an edition of 2,009 copies and was the author’s first book. The stories are part of the Cthulhu Mythos. Campbell had originally written his introduction to be included in the book The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces under the title “Cthulhu in Britain”. However, Arkham’s editor, August Derleth, decided to use it here. The contents were reprinted with some of Campbell’s later Lovecraftian work in his 1985 collection Cold Print.


Ramsey Campbell is a pretty well known horror author, but his early Mythos contributions give great insight into his later works. I invite you to take a look at the beginnings of a titan of the industry, and see just what he learned from Lovecraft that inspired him to eventually go on to pen so many horror classics. 

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And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith. Join HOWL Society on Monday, August 23, 2021 to begin discussion!

Erik McHatton’s passion for horror literature began in grade school and can be credited to an early fascination with the “Terrific Triples” horror collections of Helen Hoke. In those books, he plumbed the depraved depths of Poe, Lovecraft, Dunsany, Bloch, Bradbury and more and was forever after put under the spell of those masters. 

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