The Accidental Teen Book, Vol 3: Two Past Masters Edition!

“…between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars…”

…and hither to this came…The Accidental Teen Book!

So our latest installment of ATB is not any particular book, but rather two legendary authors, and not even all that accidental, considering that we’re heading back to long before anyone ever thought about writing books just for teens.’  And yet these two gentlemen, and their work, are always great to keep in mind for when that particular teen comes along.’  They are, after all, the progenitors of both modern horror fiction, and the heroic sword-and-sorcery tale.’  I speak, of course, of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

Contemporaries and friends, Lovecraft and Howard published the bulk of their work in the 1920’s and early 1930’s in the pantheon of magazines dedicated to what, at the time, was called ‘Weird Fiction.”  Both were relatively unknown during their careers, and often critically maligned early on.’  But each ended up exerting a huge influence, not only on other writers, but the breadth of popular culture to this day.

Lovecraft’s stories are mostly in the vein of ‘cosmic horror,’ and his greatest contribution is the creation of the ‘Cthulhu Mythos,’an interconnected cycle of stories and legends concerning ancient and evil alien gods and their continuing influence on humanity.’  Nearly every horror author I can think of has, at some point, touched on this mythos – and that includes a number of YA authors! (Anthony Horowitz’ ‘Gatekeepers’and Derek Landy’s ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’leap to mind, and Darren Shan’s ‘Demonata’series contains a number of Lovecraftian elements.)

Howard, of course, is most famous for creating one of fantasy literature’s most beloved and enduring characters: Conan the Cimmerian.’  Along with his other characters Kull the Conqueror and Bran Mak Morn, he pretty much invented the genre of heroic fantasy.’  No adorable hobbits here, no nancy elves prancing about – just blood, battle, swords and the occasional wench!’  But Howard also wrote in nearly every other genre, from adventure to historical fiction, all of it great.’  I’m particulary partial to the pistol-slinging Puritan adventurer, Solomon Kane (soon to be a major motion picture. yay!).

While both authors could be a bit bawdy, it’s 1920’s bawdy, and pretty tame by our standards.’  The one warning I will issue, however, is to be prepared for both author’s casual racism.’  It’s not exactly horrifying, but more eye-rolling and groan-inducing, indicitave mostly of two pretentious WASP’s in the America of their day.

If you can swing it, I highly recommend keeping some of these author’s work around your teen collection (and if you can’t, bug the crap out of the adult department and make them buy ’em!!).’  Penguin classics has published Lovecraft’s best work in three volumes, and Del Rey recently published all of Howard’s work in a number of beautiful trade editions.

Enjoy (and watch out for those Stygian wizards!)

About Ken Petrilli

I'm the Teen Services Librarian at the New Rochelle Public Library in New Rochelle, NY, and I'm currently co-convenor for YALSA's Intellectual Freedom Interest Group and Chair for the Baker & Taylor Conference Grant Jury. When I'm not being a librarian I'm being a heavy metal guitar player, a hopeless otaku and a general all-around pop-culture junkie.
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