The extremely curious H.P. Lovecraft would have turned 122 years old today were he granted some manner of mysterious power sustaining him to this day. Lovecraft…he was weird guy. Mentally and emotionally disturbed, according to what literature and documentaries will tell you, and if we’re going to put his big cards on the table, kind of a xenophobe (but that was more of a cultural affect than anything else). But man, when he mustered up the courage and self-esteem for writing, he could really crank out a chilling story that did not seem hokey in the slightest.
Lovecraft is one of my favorite writers.
Part of that is that he is a contemporary to Edgar Allan Poe, another massive favorite of mine (I own his collected works and everything even). Lovecraft is essentially Poe if Poe had written about other-worldly monsters. But that’s not what drove me to Lovecraft in the first place. Months before Guillermo del Toro’s first Hellboy film, decided to read the original Hellboy comics as written/drawn by Mike Mignola, which set off a dark and rich explosion in my brain. Like that purple-flavored freezie when your tongue is drying for a sweet and cool treat. It was dark, pulpy, gothic, and rich in literary and creative influence. In the collected volumes, in his notes, Mignola made reference to many works of fiction that inspired his book’s story and appearance, one of which was Lovecraft. That was obvious, it was all over the place. Pursuing my enthusiasm through one of it’s natural extension, I eventually looked up Lovecraft and his works, picking up “At the Mountains of Madness” as well as “The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories” .
Characters in Lovecraft’s stories are under siege by an entire universe. These creatures that man has never conceived of before. They are emissaries to an entire race of beings man has never met before, so when a character meets one of these, he meets an entire dimension’s worth of inhabitants. Surely such a weighty burden is multiplied many times over when the horrors met in Lovecraft’s riting have sinister motivations.
Many of his texts are available in free e-book collection due to a slew of expired copyrights. And even though his tales exist somewhat of a shared universe, they are fairly self-contained, enough so that new readers could jump into his works almost anywhere and read wherever their interests took them.
For the casual reader entertaining the idea of pursuing Lovecraft’s work a bit, I might suggest “Call of Cthulhu” or my personal favorite, the extended tale that is “At the Mountains of Madness” an epic story that climbs a mountain of tension as much as it dives into a well of fear (readers may also recall my occasional griping that Guillermo del Toro has yet to meet a movie studio willing to commit to funding and producing his vision for this text, which has been his lifelong dream). A bunch of his stories can actually be read online here.
So, Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft; your underworlds and otherworlds seeped into your realm’s known universe like you literary influence has seeped into the creative culture that currently exists in this universe. All the best to you.