31 Days of Halloween: Day 10 “Pre-Lovecraft”

hp_lovecraft~post by Joe T.

H.P. Lovecraft, in his seminal essay on horror fiction, Supernatural Horror In Literature, devoted space to many of his favorite contemporary or near-contemporary writers. These writers, perhaps due to their now association with Mr. Lovecraft, remain in print to this day. Here is a small sampling of some of the authors represented in the essay, ones whom, from the appearance of blasphemous books to hidden races just outside of our ken, have had a more direct influence on the writings of Lovecraft himself.

order hereAncient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories by Algernon Blackwood

Blackwood was a master of atmosphere, and his supernatural stories turn on the awesome power of the natural world and its vast, unknowable mysteries. H.P. Lovecraft was extremely influenced by Blackwood and many of Lovecraft’s short stories are extrapolations of things that Blackwood set-up himself. This particular collection includes his two most famous stories: “The Willows” and “The Wendigo.”

order hereThe King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

Imagine a book so horrific that its very existence causes a miasma of despair spread over the earth. A book of such compelling evil that merely knowing the location of a copy insures that you will want to possess it, hold it, and read it. Imagine a book so monstrous that actually reading a copy will drive you to madness, to homicidal mania, to suicide. Curious? Chambers’ classical horror fantasy is about such a book – and the people whose lives it left in ruins.   ~ review by Raul

order hereThe White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen.

This book was the February selection for The Nightmare Factory Book Club, and Machen is a favorite of mine. His story, “The Great God Pan” served as an inspiration for Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” In fact, in a letter to Frank Belknap Long, he wrote that “…there is in Machen an ecstasy of fear that all other living men are too obtuse or timid to capture, and that even Poe failed to envisage in all its starkest abnormality. As you say, he is greater than our Eddie in ability to suggest the unutterable; tho’ I cannot call him so great as an artist generally, since his narration lacks the relentless force and unified impressiveness which make any work of Poe one concentrated delirium. About Machen as an essayist I know absolutely nothing—but I ask no more of him than to have written The Three Imposters.”

order hereThe Ghost Pirates and Others by William Hope Hodgson

I’ve been meaning to read Hodgson for over a couple of decades now, yet I still haven’t managed to squeeze him in. Hopefully, we’ll get to him sometime soon in The Nightmare Factory Book Club.

Until then, here’s H.P. Lovecraft writing about Hodgson in his essay Supernatural Horror In Literature:

“Of rather uneven stylistic quality, but vast occasional power in its suggestion of lurking worlds and beings behind the ordinary surface of life, is the work of William Hope Hodgson, known today far less than it deserves to be. Despite a tendency toward conventionally sentimental conceptions of the universe, and of man’s relation to it and to his fellows, Mr. Hodgson is perhaps second only to Algernon Blackwood in his serious treatment of unreality. Few can equal him in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and insignificant details, or in conveying feelings of the spectral and the abnormal in connexion with regions or buildings.

The Ghost Pirates (1909)… is a powerful account of a doomed and haunted ship on its last voyage, and of the terrible sea-devils (of quasi-human aspect, and perhaps the spirits of bygone buccaneers) that besiege it and finally drag it down to an unknown fate. With its command of maritime knowledge, and its clever selection of hints and incidents suggestive of latent horrors in Nature, this book at times reaches enviable peaks of power.”

order hereCount Magnus and Other Ghost Stories by M.R. James

M.R. James is an author of whom I’ve only read maybe one or two stories by, but those stories left quite an impression on me. A master of the ghost story, his influence can be felt in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, the chronically out of print Robert Aikman, and even some of the stories by Neil Gaiman. I hope to eventually get to this collection of his work for The Nightmare Factory Book Club.

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