H.P. Lovecraft was never popular during his lifetime and died virtually unknown in 1937. Was he the last sci-fi writer to die unknown, only to become famous in later years? If not, who was the last one?

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    This will depend strongly on exactly how you define "influential" and "unknown". – Rand al'Thor Jan 22 at 9:51
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    @Randal'Thor - Far too vague to be answered sensibly. Even the example in the question is debatable. Lovecraft was certainly less popular pre-death, but he wasn't an 'unknown author'. He had a wide circle of acquaintances and almost everything he wrote in his lifetime was successfully published before he died. – Valorum Jan 22 at 11:08
  • I want to say Ray Bradbury, as almost no one talked about his death back in 2012 : none of the movies adaptations, nothing about him on TV, and even his books weren't reedited as "integrals". But I guess it's just me being bitter as he was one of my favorite writer back then. – Lyzvaleska Jan 22 at 12:57
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    Bradbury was hugely popular in his own lifetime. He had bestselling books, a popular magazine with his name on the title and am anthology TV shows named after him and everything. I'm not sure how you could class him as "unknown". – Valorum Jan 22 at 13:26
  • An Argumetn could be made for Avrum Davidson. He was surely much less well-known adn much less popular at the time of his death than he was at the peak of his fame, perhaps 20myears before. – David Siegel Jan 23 at 3:17

Given sufficiently tenuous definitions of "unknown" and "influential", I can mention Philip K. Dick. He lived in relative poverty as a science fiction author, and died March 2nd 1982 which is before the first film adaptation of one of his novels was released. That was Blade Runner, on June 25th 1982.

Now clearly PKD was known and respected within the SF community, having already won the Hugo in 1963 for his 1962 novel, The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. But he was unknown outside that community and posthumously influential on American (and broader) popular culture and particularly mainstream movie culture, so I think he qualifies.

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    I'm not sure you could describe a bestselling author with multiple awards and dozens of published works as "unknown". Certainly he became more recognised posthumously but that's very far from being basically invisible to the public (in a way that, for example, Van Gogh was) – Valorum Jan 22 at 14:54
  • @valorum I am sure, “Given sufficiently tenuous definitions of "unknown" and "influential"” ;-) – Graham Lee Jan 22 at 15:09

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