I’ve perused Mr. H.P. Lovecraft since before his works were readily available in the Fantasy/Fiction. I have compiled works of his from the mid-90’s, and I’ve loved it since I first picked up his book. His body of work encompasses three phases of his life, with a “Poe cycle”, a “Dream cycle”, and a “Cthulhu cycle.” As a passive researcher (I think we all are), I’ve found his insights, inspirations, and unique style of Weird fantasy worming its way into many aspects of the entertainment industry. And this makes me happy.
Lovecraft, the man, was a hermit of sorts. He shied away from people, was self-educated, read books more than talked. He was stalwart in his application of the scientific method, didn’t believe in God, fought his own inner demons concerning his connection with humanity. He was very racist, and an anglophile, and wary of the harnessing of electric current.
Lovecraft, the writer, was a priest, a prophet, a shaman. He dreamed great dreams, then wrote them down. His studies wavered between the quantum and the drug-induced. Like Milton who came before him, Lovecraft fought to find words to explain the intangible. He also fought to understand what made people different from other people, taking Darwinism to a twisted end. His Poe cycle incorporated Lovecraft’s fascination of the poet known most for writing “The Raven” and “The Telltale Heart.” While Poe believed in strong single-sitting stories, Lovecraft wrote longer and longer pieces, eventually branching out into other inspired areas Poe wouldn’t touch. His dream cycle brought all the highly symbolic subconscious thought to the page, where he spoke of gods and planes of existence shared by no other living soul. Lovecraft yearned to escape to those dream-places, wishing on some level to touch the great expanses of his mind and wholly incorporate himself there. His final cycle, the Cthulhu cycle, focused on great sleeping gods that were chained to the universe and ultimately had little interest in people. He developed this, I feel, as a way to find peace with not being able to transubstantiate himself elsewhere, while alive. These great gods were possibly, psychologically, an extension of his thought process toward humanity, as a whole. Ultimately unimportant, in the great scheme.
A few things he created, and a few places where his work can be seen:
- Sole creator of the Necronomicon, a prop used in many a horror movie.
- Inspired Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods.
- Possibly inspired Peter Pan.
- Possibly inspired any number of fantasy novels incorporating travel through a portal to another place, including Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and Neil Stephenson’s Anatheme.
- Weird Fiction is attributed mostly to him, although he wasn’t the only pioneer.
- American Gothic grew out of his, and several others’, work.
- The Hellboy comic strip, and subsequent movies, incorporated creatures Lovecraft originally penned.
Movies have been incorporating aspects of this for a very long time–indeed, Lovecraft found inspiration for such creatures through previous writings such as Revelation and many a seafaring story. Unfortunately most people miss the meaning behind his later works: people are ultimately insignificant, and truly have no lasting place in the universe, and know so little about it they are blind to just about everything important.
Which is fine. That notion doesn’t sell well on the big screen, in the book world, and just about anywhere but art. His ideas keep growing, though, and while most horror/fantasy seems to be weakening and on its way off the main stage, Lovecraft continues to grow in popularity.
Yet his writing is dry, sterile, nearly surgical in its application. His style is bereft of human elements most people nowadays strive to exhibit. If nothing else, it’s an exhibition of oddities he experienced, or wished to experience. This was a questioning mind so bent on understanding the truth of himself, and the larger world inside his subconscious, he changed his reality to fit. The result was a relativistic cognitive dissonance so great the (social) writer seemed vastly different than the writing. A true Jekyll/Hyde.
Oddly enough, most people know about him and few have read much of him. I find this unfortunate. He’s a tough read, with his books chock full of complex words with complex meanings (or made-up words with complex meanings), but as with any traditionalist, I’ll always be for reading the source material over the interpretation.
Expect more mainstream fantasy to grow out of this man’s large body of work.