A number of Talossans are fans of the “weird fiction” of H. P. Lovecraft, which occupies a bizarrely non-Euclidean space at the intersection of the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. A few of his short stories have been translated into el glheþ Talossan, and a group of citizens organised a session of a play-by-mail Lovecraftian roleplaying game. The most famous of Lovecraft’s stories are the ones built on the “Cthulhu Mythos”—a fictional universe involving themes of forbidden knowledge and the insignificance of human affairs in the face of cosmic horrors from unimaginable depths of space and time, named for a tentacle-faced member of Lovecraft’s pantheon. But the importance of the Greater Talossan Area to Lovecraft’s career and the development of the Cthulhu Mythos has not been widely appreciated.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1890, into an old but declining New England family. He was sickly as a child and a marginal student, who seemed to have little in the way of academic or employment prospects after leaving high school (without graduating). He spent a few years after high school writing writing poetry for his own enjoyment and articles on astronomy for local newspapers (he was too bad at math in school to pursue astronomy on any higher level). Always a voracious reader, in 1913 he sent a series of letters to the editors of the pulp magazine The Argosy criticising some of the stories run in that publication.
These letters caught the attention of Milwaukeean Edward Daas, who wrote to Lovecraft in 1914 and invited him to join the United Amateur Press Association (of which Daas was the president). The UAPA was an association of amateur journalists that offered a forum to provide feedback on each other’s writing and contribute to each other’s’ self-published journals. It published a journal of its own, The United Amateur, which provided updates and commentary on its members’ publications and occasionally featured members’ poems and stories.
Lovecraft accepted the invitation from Daas, and it changed the course of his life. The contacts he made through the UAPA gave him the confidence to pursue creative writing as a vocation and provided a network of correspondents that supported and encouraged his endeavours. His first published story, “The Alchemist”, appeared in The United Amateur (of which he eventually became editor) in 1916. Thereafter, he began selling his stories to pulp magazines such as Weird Tales and Astounding Stories. This is how Lovecraft himself described Daas’ invitation and its impact on him:
In 1914, when the kindly hand of amateurdom was first extended to me, I was as close to the state of vegetation as any animal well can be... With the advent of the United I obtained a renewal to live; a renewed sense of existence as other than a superfluous weight; and found a sphere in which I could feel that my efforts were not wholly futile. For the first time I could imagine that my clumsy gropings after art were a little more than faint cries lost in the unlistening world.
Through the UAPA, Lovecraft made the acquaintance of Maurice Moe, a high school English teacher in Appleton, Wisconsin (about 100 miles north of Talossa) and later at West Division High School in Transmanawegan Milwaukee. Moe was an officer of the association, like Daas, and engaged in extensive correspondence with Lovecraft over the years as well as meeting him in person twice. Lovecraft based the character of Joel Manton in his story “The Unnamable” on Moe.
Moe introduced Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, a promising student of his in Appleton. Along with Ohian Samuel Loveman, the four of them formed the Gallomo (from GALpin, LOveman/LOvecraft, and Moe) letter-writing circle. Galpin later introduced Lovecraft to (con:t sür 8) (con:t da 2) Clark Ashton Smith, who inspired the dark wizard “Klarkash-Ton” mentioned in a few of Lovecraft’s stories and who introduced Lovecraft to Minnesota author Donald Wandrei. Galpin would become a professor of Italian and French at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was stationed in Sardinia with the U.S. Army during World War II.
In a 1919 letter to Galpin and Moe, Lovecraft described a vivid dream he had had about himself and Loveman exploring a New England graveyard in the middle of the night. That account became the basis of the story “The Statement of Randolph Carter”. The characters of Randolph Carter (who represented Lovecraft himself) and Harley Warren from this story appear in many of his later stories as well. In 2012, “The Statement of Randolph Carter” became the first Lovecraft story to be translated into Talossan.