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To provide an example of my question, consider how certain beings are carried over to different authors. Hastur was made by Ambrose Bierce, and referenced by Lovecraft, and used by August Derleth. In each reference the being is somewhat different.

For a story I'm working on, I have noted relative similarity between a being I've been working on and a being in the Cthulhu Mythos, one referenced mainly by Lin Carter, Scott Aniolowski, Lovecraft, and E. Hoffman Price.

I wanted to know if identifying the two creations as the same being would infringe too far into the territory of its original creator. I would not be claiming it as my own and nobody else's, for it already has a certain name, and by using that name I hope to maintain that it was not my original idea. I would consider it expanding on something that already existed, but was described in little.

  • I think you need to be much more clear about what you are afraid of being accused of. If you are simply asking what we think is too far, that is merely an opinion and as such would be off topic here. If you are asking whether a specific act contravenes a specific standard, that is an answerable question. But as it stands, it is not clear what specific standard you are asking about. – user16226 Feb 3 '17 at 3:51
  • @MarkBaker If I were to use the name of a scantly described being from their fiction for a being from my fiction, who coincidentally shares the scantly mentioned traits of their being, would I be plagiarizing? – Den Éna Faskómilos Feb 3 '17 at 3:58
  • Then can you edit your question and its tags to make it clear that you are asking a plagiarism question? – user16226 Feb 3 '17 at 4:18
  • I love lovecraft – Featherball Feb 3 '17 at 17:23
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According to this article, all of the H.P. Lovecraft's writings which were published during his lifetime are now in the public domain. As such, there should be no legal/copyright issues arising from your use of that material.

Whether derivative works are guilty of plagiarism, is a bigger question and the internet is full of carefully worded, non-legally-binding (i.e. IMHO) articles on the subject. Here is a good example of one of those.

I would personally build upon the "proper citation" aspect of fair use, if I wanted to reference a Cthulhu creature in something I wrote. I would make sure that the reader knows where the idea for the creature came from. In a fictional setting, how I handled it would be based on the answer to the following question?

Did H.P. Lovecraft live and publish books in my fictional universe?

If he did, then I would have one of my characters be an H.P. Lovecraft fan and have him exclaim upon first encounter with an Old God (or more survivably, an Old God's minion), "Hey, that reminds me of something from one of my favorite books by H.P. Lovecraft!"

If Lovecraft did not exist in my fictional universe, then since I was borrowing one of his creations, I would borrow all of his creations. That means that every character and event from his writing would somehow be a true event (or psychotic person's raving) in my universe's history. Now, a journal by Francis Wayland Thurston, (the narrator of The Call of Cthulhu) would find its way into one of my character's hands. In this case, my making an honest attempt to give proper attribution will hopefully be enough to keep the plagiarism police, flamers and critics away from my door. (Sort of like leaving an I.O.U. in place of the $20 you stole out of Dad's wallet. It may still be stealing, but the chance of getting punished for it is greatly reduced.)

The last point I would offer on this subject is the need to make your work additive to the whole of Lovecraft's world. Don't just borrow his characters and creatures for an uneventful stroll. That is worse than plagiarism. It's boring! Do something creative with these borrowed creations. Reveal something blood chilling about their eldritch nature, or about humanity's origins in relation to the Old Gods, or about how our new technology stacks up against their old lore.

Don't just write another H.P. Lovecraft story. Build upon Lovecraft's world!

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  • I planned on using a being called Q'yth-az, called the Crystalloid Intellect, as the central deity of a Greek mystery. They would know it as Koios, the god of intellect, and revere it as the keeper of the world's knowledge. – Den Éna Faskómilos Feb 5 '17 at 1:41
  • All I know about that being is that it lives on a lightless planet called Mthura, and that it can travel by crystal growth, or infecting living things. Is my idea acceptable, or is that taking it too far? – Den Éna Faskómilos Feb 5 '17 at 1:42
  • I'm not the guardian of Lovecraft's legacy, so don't ask me for permission. But the particular being which you have chosen raises some interesting additional issues. From the Wiki on Cthulhu Dieties, it appears that Q'yth-az was added to the mythos by Scott D. Aniolowski in an Arkham House compendium which was published in 1994. That means it could possibly be under copyright. In any case, the polite way to handle this would be to ask the original author and publisher for permission. Mail Mr. Aniolowski a letter via Arkham House. – Henry Taylor Feb 5 '17 at 3:40
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If you feel uncomfortable with the similarity and think that you are stealing, then you are stealing.

It does not matter whether what you do is legal or not, you will always feel less of a man for not coming up with your own idea.

Do whatever it takes that you can honestly feel proud of yourself instead of a failure and hack.

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