H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, although often overlooked for his Cthulhu Mythos, is a huge entity in many of the fictional works of this "master of the macabre". Although considered by some to be part of the Cthulhu Mythos, the Dream Cycle itself could be regarded as a separate mythos because of its consistent use of places and characters.
The cycle is set in the Dreamlands, which is distinguished by the following elements:
- A unique pantheon comprised of Earth's gods, known as the Great Ones, and the Other Gods
- A consistent milieu, including the Enchanted Wood, Ulthar, and Celephaïs
- Recurring characters such as Randolph Carter, Richard Upton Pickman, and King Kuranes
It should be noted that earlier stories in the Dream Cycle, such as "The Cats of Ulthar" and "The Doom that Came to Sarnath", are told as though they occurred in the real waking world. These stories are included in the Dream Cycle primarily because they contain locations and characters that are referenced in the context of dreams in later stories, such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Some of Lovecraft's stories, such as "Polaris", are structured similar to Dream Cycle tales, yet seem to be set in the real world, making classification of Lovecraft's stories difficult.
Randolph Carter is perhaps the most frequently encountered character in the cycle, appearing in one form or another in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926), "The Silver Key" (1929), "Through The Gates of the Silver Key" (1934), "The Unnamable" (1925), and "The Statement of Randolph Carter" (1920). It is a theory that Carter is in fact one of Lovecraft's alter egos because he shares similar ideals and, like Lovecraft, suffers persistent nightmares. Additionally it is revealed in "The Unnamable" that Carter is an author of short stories that seem to be quite similar to Lovecraft's own work.
Some writers of Cthulhu Mythos stories have written them as pastiches of Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. Gary Myers and Brian Lumley have written the most numerous sequels to the cycle, though their styles are very different from Lovecraft. All of Myers' sequels are brief, atmospheric short stories that are usually very dark in tone. Myers often imitates the style of Lord Dunsany, who strongly influenced Lovecraft's Dream Cycle tales. Lumley's pastiches, however, which consist of both novels and short stories, are traditional sword and sorcery tales. They are adventurous and often humorous and, unlike the stories of Myers, are usually quite light and whimsical.
Stories and novels
- The Cats of Ulthar (1920)
- The Doom that Came to Sarnath (1920)
- Celephaïs (1920)
- Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926)
- The Silver Key (1926)
- The Other Gods (1933)
- Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1932-33)
- Hero of Dreams (Lumley, 1986)
- Ship of Dreams (Lumley, 1986)
- Mad Moon of Dreams (Lumley, 1987)
- Iced on Aran (Lumley, 1990)