31 Days of Halloween: Day 11 “H.P. Lovecraft”

~post by Joe

H.P. Lovecraft may well be the most important writer of horror fiction of the 20th century. Taking the strands of American and British weird tales and weaving them together into a braid of his own making, Lovecraft managed to create a genre and a singular vision that is influencing authors to this very day. Everyone from Borges to Stephen King, from Umberto Eco to Mark Danielewski, has been unable to avoid Lovecraft’s malignant touch.

Writing in an archaic style that purposefully runs screaming in an opposite direction from the clipped sentences and the slang of his contemporaries Ernest Hemingway and Dashiell Hammett, Lovecraft created blasphemous books and alien deities that served both as constructions of sheer terror and reflections of his atheistic, scientific materialist philosophy. A man who lived a life of strange contradictions: a proud racist of fine Yankee stock whose wife was Jewish, and someone who couldn’t survive outside his home of Providence, Rhode Island yet boasted a wide circle of friends all across the country with whom he wrote letters that bore a higher word count than the stories he would publish.

I’ve loved H.P. Lovecraft since I first purchased the book Survivor And Others by him and August Derleth from a book sale run by the nuns of my church. I was 14 and hooked. I’ve been reading Lovecraft and the works of his acolytes ever since.

Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre

“After devouring the aforementioned Survivor and Other Stories, I picked up this one. This book was the first collection of tales written solely by Lovecraft himself. Featuring an introduction by Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho who, as a teenager, corresponded with Lovecraft and a contributor of many stories featuring the Cthulhu Mythos, of all the various permutations of collections of stories, this is the best introduction to the world of H.P. Lovecraft.  “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Rats In The Walls,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and practically every other story you need to understand this enigmatic writer is packed between covers featuring the art of Michael Whelan.”  (Joe)

At The Mountains of Madness

“Not included in the above collection, richly atmospheric, Lovecraft’s account of the Miskatonic University’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic is a clever scientific pastiche. Nothing like a geology professor trying to describe strat that does not correspond to the familiar nor a biologist describing fauna that should not exist. Even though this story was written in the ‘30s, it wasn’t until the ‘50s that the Russians discovered a vast mountain range buried under miles of ice in the Antarctic. Prescient? Perhaps. There’s been talk of drilling to explore the Gamburstevs; I would advise against that since things did not go so well for Professor Lake and his party.”  (Raul)

 Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft

“If the influence of Arthur Machen and Robert W. Chambers is seen most prominently in the stories that have come to be labeled as Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos,” it is in his earlier stories that we see the work of Lord Dunsany play a pivotal role. Here Lovecraft is dealing with the inner landscape of dreams where kingdoms such as Kadath and Sarnath may rise and fall all during the hours which we sleep. Creepy and oddly poetic, these are the stories that marked the beginnings of Lovecraft’s mature period and have influenced Thomas Ligotti, Brian Lumley, and the The Fear Institute, the most recent Johannes Cabal book by Jonathan Howard.  Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman, this is good book to continue your dive into horror.”  (Joe)

 Watchers Out Of Time (with August Derleth)

“Billed as a collaboration between Lovecraft and August Derleth (co-founder of Arkham House and the man who almost single-handedly kept Lovecraft’s name alive in the ‘40s and ‘50s), these stories are controversial and generally disregarded by the more purist of fans. Yes, Derleth was fashioning stories where all Lovecraft contributed was but a one sentence germ of an idea. Yes, Derleth used Lovecraft’s name to sell what, for all intents and purposes, was his own creations. And yes, these stories are not as good as the bulk of Lovecraft’s writing. But amongst these stories are the ones that introduced me to the work of Lovecraft. The aforementioned Survivor and Others is contained in its entirety. “The Survivor” and “The Gable Window” are both great pastiches of Lovecraft’s work. And “The Ancestor” is both a delightful story reminiscent of “From Beyond” and fantastic tribute to forgotten talesmith Leonard Cline’s The Dark Chamber. So ignore the naysayers (S.T. Joshi, I’m looking at you) and enjoy this collection of stories that pretty much created the Cthulhu industry as we know it.”   (Joe)

“John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Tales who originally published the novella, later wrote the story “Who Goes There?” Set in Antarctica, it clearly shows the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and was later twice made into a feature film: The Thing From Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982).”  (Joe)

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