Lovecraft's guiding aesthetic and philosophical principle was what he termed "cosmicism" or "cosmic horror", the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally inimical to the interests of humankind. As such, his stories express a profound indifference to human beliefs and affairs. Lovecraft is best known for his Cthulhu Mythos story cycle and the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore.
Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his lifetime, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century. According to Joyce Carol Oates, Lovecraft—as with Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th century—has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." King has even made it clear in his semi-autobiographical non-fiction book Danse Macabre that Lovecraft was responsible for his own fascination with horror and the macabre, and was the single largest figure to influence his fiction writing. His stories have also been adapted into theater, film, and have inspired an award-winning role-playing game.
Life and careerEdit
Early life Edit
Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890, at 9:00 a.m. in his family home at 194 (later 454) Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. (The house was torn down in 1961.) He was the only child of Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman of jewelry and precious metals, and Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, who could trace her ancestry in America back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. His parents married, the first marriage for both, when they were in their thirties, unusually late in life given the time period. In 1893, when Lovecraft was three, his father became acutely psychotic in a Chicago hotel room while on a business trip. The elder Lovecraft was taken back to Providence and placed in Butler Hospital, where he remained until his death in 1898. Lovecraft maintained throughout his life that his father had died in a condition of paralysis brought on by "nervous exhaustion" due to over-work, but it is now almost certain that the actual cause was paresis due to syphilis. It is unknown whether the younger Lovecraft was ever aware of the actual nature of his father's illness or its cause, although his mother likely was.
After his father's hospitalization, Lovecraft was raised by his mother, his two aunts (Lillian Delora Phillips and Annie Emeline Phillips), and his maternal grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips, an American businessman. All five resided together in the family home. Lovecraft was a prodigy, reciting poetry at the age of three and writing complete poems by six. His grandfather encouraged his reading, providing him with classics such as The Arabian Nights, Bulfinch's Age of Fable, and children's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey. His grandfather also stirred the boy's interest in the weird by telling him his own original tales of Gothic horror.
Lovecraft was frequently ill as a child, at least some of which was certainly psychosomatic, although he attributed his various ailments to physical causes only. Due to his sickly condition, he barely attended school until he was eight years old, and then was withdrawn after a year. He read voraciously during this period and became especially enamored of chemistry and astronomy. He produced several hectographed publications with a limited circulation beginning in 1899 with The Scientific Gazette. Four years later, he returned to public school at Hope High School (Rhode Island). Beginning in his early life, Lovecraft is believed to have suffered from night terrors, a rare parasomnia disorder; he believed himself to be assaulted at night by horrific "night gaunts." Much of his later work is thought to have been directly inspired by these terrors. (Indeed, Night Gaunts became the subject of a poem he wrote of the same name, in which they were personified as devil-like creatures without faces.)
His grandfather's death in 1904 greatly affected Lovecraft's life. Mismanagement of his grandfather's estate left his family in a poor financial situation and they were forced to move into much smaller accommodations at 598 (now a duplex at 598-600) Angell Street. In 1908, prior to his high school graduation, he himself claimed to have suffered what he later described as a "nervous breakdown", and consequently never received his high school diploma (although he maintained for most of his life that he did graduate). S. T. Joshi suggests in his biography of Lovecraft that a primary cause for this breakdown was his difficulty in higher mathematics, a subject needed to master to become a professional astronomer.
Lovecraft wrote some fiction as a youth but, from 1908 until 1913, his output was primarily poetry. During that time, he lived a hermit's existence, having almost no contact with anyone but his mother. This changed when he wrote a letter to The Argosy, a pulp magazine, complaining about the insipidness of the love stories of one of the publication's popular writers, Fred Jackson. The ensuing debate in the magazine's letters column caught the eye of Edward F. Daas, President of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), who invited Lovecraft to join them in 1914. The UAPA reinvigorated Lovecraft and incited him to contribute many poems and essays. In 1917, at the prodding of correspondents, he returned to fiction with more polished stories, such as "The Tomb" and "Dagon". The latter was his first professionally-published work, appearing in W. Paul Cook's The Vagrant (November, 1919) and Weird Tales in 1923. Around that time, he began to build up a huge network of correspondents. His lengthy and frequent missives would make him one of the great letter writers of the century. Among his correspondents were Robert Bloch (Psycho), Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian series).
In 1919, after suffering from hysteria and depression for a long period of time, Lovecraft's mother was committed to Butler Hospital just as her husband had been. Nevertheless, she wrote frequent letters to Lovecraft, and they remained very close until her death on May 24, 1921, the result of complications from gall bladder surgery.
Marriage and New YorkEdit
A few weeks after his mother's death, Lovecraft attended an amateur journalist convention in Boston, Massachusetts, where he met Sonia Greene. Born in 1883, she was of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry and seven years older than Lovecraft. They married in 1924, and the couple relocated to Brooklyn and moved into her apartment. Lovecraft's aunts may have been unhappy with this arrangement, as they were not fond of Lovecraft being married to a tradeswoman (Greene owned a hat shop). Initially, Lovecraft was enthralled by New York, but soon the couple were facing financial difficulties. Greene lost her hat shop and suffered poor health. Lovecraft could not find work to support them both, so his wife moved to Cleveland for employment. Lovecraft lived by himself in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn and came to dislike New York life intensely. Indeed, this daunting reality of failure to secure any work in the midst of a large immigrant population—especially irreconcilable with his opinion of himself as a privileged Anglo-Saxon—has been theorized as galvanizing his racism to the point of fear, a sentiment he sublimated in the short story "The Horror at Red Hook".
A few years later, Lovecraft and his wife, still living separately, agreed to an amicable divorce, which was never fully completed. He returned to Providence to live with his aunts during their remaining years.
Return to ProvidenceEdit
Back in Providence, Lovecraft lived in a "spacious brown Victorian wooden house" at 10 Barnes Street until 1933. The same address is given as the home of Dr. Willett in Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The period after his return to Providence — the last decade of his life — was Lovecraft's most prolific. In that time he produced almost all of his best-known short stories for the leading pulp publications of the day (primarily Weird Tales), as well as longer efforts, such as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and At the Mountains of Madness. He frequently revised work for other authors and did a large amount of ghost-writing, including "The Mound", "Winged Death", "The Diary of Alonzo Typer" and for Harry Houdini "Under the Pyramids" (also known as "Imprisoned With the Pharaohs").
Despite his best writing efforts, however, he grew ever poorer. He was forced to move to smaller and meaner lodgings with his surviving aunt. He was also deeply affected by his former correspondent Robert E. Howard's suicide. In 1936, Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine, and he also suffered from malnutrition. He lived in constant pain until his death on March 15, 1937, in Providence.
In accordance with his lifelong scientific curiosity, he kept a diary of his illness until close to the moment of his death.
Lovecraft was listed along with his parents on the Phillips family monument (Template:Coord). That was not enough for his fans, so in 1977 a group of them raised the money to buy him a headstone of his own in Swan Point cemetery, on which they had inscribed Lovecraft's name, the dates of his birth and death, and the phrase "I AM PROVIDENCE", a line from one of his personal letters.
Template:Synthesis Several themes recur in Lovecraft's stories:
The central theme in most of Lovecraft's works is that of forbidden knowledge. Some critics argue that this theme is a reflection of Lovecraft's contempt of the world around him, causing him to search inwardly for knowledge and inspiration. In Lovecraft's works the search for forbidden knowledge drives many of the main characters. In most of his works this knowledge proves Promethean in nature either filling the seeker with regret from what they have learned, destroying them psychically, or completely destroying the person who holds the knowledge.
Non-human influences on humanityEdit
The beings of Lovecraft's mythos often have human (or mostly human) servants; Cthulhu, for instance, is worshipped under various names by cults amongst both the Eskimos of Greenland and voodoo circles of Louisiana, and in many other parts of the world.
These worshippers served a useful narrative purpose for Lovecraft. Many beings of the Mythos were too powerful to be defeated by human opponents, and so horrific that direct knowledge of them meant insanity for the victim. When dealing with such beings, Lovecraft needed a way to provide exposition and build tension without bringing the story to a premature end. Human followers gave him a way to reveal information about their "gods" in a diluted form, and also made it possible for his protagonists to win paltry victories. Lovecraft, like his contemporaries, envisioned "savages" as closer to the Earth, only in Lovecraft's case, this meant, so to speak, closer to Cthulhu.
Another recurring theme in Lovecraft's stories is the idea that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the stain of crimes committed by their forebears, at least if the crimes are atrocious enough. Descendants may be very far removed, both in place and in time (and, indeed, in culpability), from the act itself, and yet, from however remote the past, blood will out ("The Rats in the Walls", "The Lurking Fear", "Arthur Jermyn", "The Alchemist", "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", "The Doom that Came to Sarnath" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward").
Often in Lovecraft's works the protagonist is not in control of his own actions, or finds it impossible to change course. Many of his characters would be free from danger if they simply managed to run away; however, this possibility either never arises or is somehow curtailed by some outside force, such as in "The Colour Out of Space" and "The Dreams in the Witch House". Often his characters are subject to a compulsive influence from powerful malevolent or indifferent beings. As with the inevitability of one's ancestry, eventually even running away, or death itself, provides no safety ("The Thing on the Doorstep", "The Outsider", The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, etc.). In some cases, this doom is manifest in the entirety of humanity, and no escape is possible ("The Shadow Out of Time").
Civilization under threatEdit
Lovecraft was familiar with the work of the German conservative-revolutionary theorist Oswald Spengler, whose pessimistic thesis of the decadence of the modern West formed a crucial element in Lovecraft's overall anti-modern worldview. Spenglerian imagery of cyclical decay is present in particular in At the Mountains of Madness. S. T. Joshi, in H.P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West, places Spengler at the center of his discussion of Lovecraft's political and philosophical ideas.
Lovecraft wrote to Clark Ashton Smith in 1927: "It is my belief, and was so long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly proof on it, that our mechanical and industrial age is one of frank decadence" (see China Miéville's introduction to "At the Mountains of Madness", Modern Library Classics, 2005). Lovecraft was also acquainted with the writings of another German philosopher of decadence: Friedrich Nietzsche.
Lovecraft frequently dealt with the idea of civilization struggling against dark, primitive barbarism. In some stories this struggle is at an individual level; many of his protagonists are cultured, highly-educated men who are gradually corrupted by some obscure and feared influence.
In such stories, the "curse" is often a hereditary one, either because of interbreeding with non-humans (e.g., "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" (1920), "The Shadow over Innsmouth" (1931) or through direct magical influence (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). Physical and mental degradation often come together; this theme of 'tainted blood' may represent concerns relating to Lovecraft's own family history, particularly the death of his father due to what Lovecraft must have suspected to be a syphilitic disorder.
In other tales, an entire society is threatened by barbarism. Sometimes the barbarism comes as an external threat, with a civilized race destroyed in war (e.g., "Polaris"). Sometimes, an isolated pocket of humanity falls into decadence and atavism of its own accord (e.g., "The Lurking Fear"). But most often, such stories involve a civilized culture being gradually undermined by a malevolent underclass influenced by inhuman forces.
There is a lack of analysis as to whether England's gradual loss of prominence and related conflicts (Boer War, India, World War I) had an influence on Lovecraft's worldview. It is likely that the "roaring twenties" left Lovecraft disillusioned as he was still obscure and struggling with the basic necessities of daily life, combined with seeing non-European immigrants in New York City.
Race, ethnicity, and classEdit
Racism is the most controversial aspect of Lovecraft’s works which “does not endear Lovecraft to the modern reader” and comes across through many disparaging remarks against the various non-Anglo-Saxon races and cultures within his work. Lovecraft did not seem to hold all White people in high regard, but rather he held English people and people of English descent above all others. While his racist perspective is undeniable, some critics argue that it does not necessarily detract from his ability to create compelling philosophical worlds which have inspired many artists and readers. In his writings and personal life he argued for a strong color line for the purpose of preserving race and culture. These arguments occurred either through direct statements against different races in his work and personal correspondence, or allegorically in his work using non-human races. Reading Lovecraft's work, his racial attitude was seen as more cultural than biological, showing sympathy to others who assimilated into the western culture and even marrying a Jew whom he viewed as "well assimilated". While Lovecraft's racial attitude has been seen as directly influenced by the time, a reflection of the New England society he grew up in, this racism appeared stronger than the popular viewpoints held at that time. Some researchers note that his views failed to change in the face of increased scientific and social change of that time which invalidated many of his strongly held views.
Risks of a scientific eraEdit
At the turn of the 20th century, man's increased reliance upon science was both opening new worlds and solidifying the manners by which he could understand them. Lovecraft portrays this potential for a growing gap of man's understanding of the universe as a potential for horror. Most notably in "The Colour Out of Space", the inability of science to comprehend a contaminated meteorite leads to horror.
In a letter to James F. Morton in 1923, Lovecraft specifically points to Einstein's theory on relativity as throwing the world into chaos and making the cosmos a jest. And in a 1929 letter to Woodburn Harris, he speculates that technological comforts risk the collapse of science. Indeed, at a time when men viewed science as limitless and powerful, Lovecraft imagined alternative potential and fearful outcomes. In "The Call of Cthulhu", Lovecraft's characters encounter architecture which is "abnormal, non-Euclidian, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours". Non-Euclidean geometry is the mathematical language and background of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and Lovecraft references it repeatedly in exploring alien archeology.
Lovecraft's works are ruled by several distinct pantheons of deities who are either indifferent or actively hostile to humanity. Several, particularly those of the Cthulhu Mythos, indulge upon alternate mythic human origins in contrast to those found in the creation stories of existing religions, expanding on a natural world view. Protagonist characters are usually educated men, citing scientific and rationalist evidence to support their non-faith. Herbert West–Reanimator, reflects on the atheism common within academic circles. Also in The Silver Key the character Randolph Carter attempts after losing access to dreams to seek solace in religion, specifically Congregationalism, but does not find it and ultimately loses faith.
Lovecraft himself adopted the stance of atheism early in his life. In 1932 he wrote in a letter to Robert E. Howard: "All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist."
Influences on LovecraftEdit
Some of Lovecraft's work was inspired by nightmares of his own. As he studied many scientific advances of biology, astronomy, geology, and physics, Lovecraft was more and more confounded and fueled his skepticism on humanity. His interest started from his childhood days when his grandfather would tell him Gothic horror stories. The influence of Arthur Machen, with his carefully constructed tales concerning the survival of ancient evil into modern times in an otherwise realistic world and his beliefs in hidden mysteries which lay behind reality, looms large.
Lovecraft was also influenced by authors such as Gertrude Barrows Bennett (who, writing as Francis Stevens, impressed Lovecraft enough that he publicly praised her stories and eventually "emulated Bennett's earlier style and themes"), Oswald Spengler, Robert W. Chambers (writer of The King in Yellow, of whom Lovecraft wrote in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith: "Chambers is like Rupert Hughes and a few other fallen Titans — equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them").
The biggest influence was Edgar Allan Poe. Lovecraft had many similarities with Poe; they both lost their fathers at a young age, loved poetry, and used archaisms (language pertaining to an earlier generation) in their writing. They both went against the contemporary styles and created their own worlds of fantasy.
Furthermore, Lovecraft's discovery of the stories of Lord Dunsany with their pantheon of mighty gods existing in dreamlike outer realms, moved his writing in a new direction, resulting in a series of imitative fantasies in a 'Dreamlands' setting.
Another inspiration came from a totally different kind of source; the scientific progress at the time in such diverse areas as biology, astronomy, geology, and physics, all contributed to make Lovecraft see the human race seem even more insignificant, powerless, and doomed in a materialistic and mechanical universe. Lovecraft's materialist views led his fiction to espouse his philosophical views; his fiction therefore consists of a stance or worldview which may be termed cosmicism. Lovecraft was a keen amateur astronomer from his youth, often visiting the Ladd Observatory in Providence, and penning numerous astronomical articles for local newspapers. His astronomical telescope is now housed in the rooms of the August Derleth Society.
This took on a dark tone with the creation of what is today often called the Cthulhu Mythos, a pantheon of alien extra-dimensional deities and horrors which predate humanity, and which are hinted at in aeon-old myths and legends. The term "Cthulhu Mythos" was coined by Lovecraft's correspondent and fellow author, August Derleth, after Lovecraft's death; Lovecraft jocularly referred to his artificial mythology as "Yog-Sothothery".
Lovecraft considered himself a man best suited to the early 18th century. His writing style, especially in his many letters, owes much to Augustan British writers of the Enlightenment like Joseph Addison and Jonathan Swift.
He also cited Algernon Blackwood as an influence, quoting The Centaur in the head paragraph of The Call of Cthulhu. He also declares Blackwood's "The Willows" to be the single best piece of weird fiction ever written.
Among the books found in his library (as evidenced in Lovecraft's Library by S. T. Joshi) was "The Seven Who Were Hanged" by Leonid Andreyev and "A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder" by James De Mille.
Lovecraft's style has often been criticised by unsympathetic critics, yet scholars such as S. T. Joshi have shown that Lovecraft consciously utilised a variety of literary devices to form a unique style of his own - these include conscious archaism, prose-poetic techniques combined with essay-form techniques, alliteration, anaphora, crescendo, transferred epithet, metaphor, symbolism and colloquialism.
Lovecraft's influence on cultureEdit
- Main article: Lovecraftian horror
Lovecraft was relatively unknown during his own time. While his stories appeared in the pages of prominent pulp magazines such as Weird Tales (eliciting letters of outrage as often as letters of praise from regular readers of the magazines), not many people knew his name. He did, however, correspond regularly with other contemporary writers, such as Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth, people who became good friends of his, even though they never met in person. This group of writers became known as the "Lovecraft Circle", since they all freely borrowed elements of Lovecraft's stories – the mysterious books with disturbing names, the pantheon of ancient alien entities, such as Cthulhu and Azathoth, and eldritch places, such as the New England town of Arkham and its Miskatonic University – for use in their own works (with Lovecraft's blessing and encouragement).
After Lovecraft's death, the Lovecraft Circle carried on. August Derleth in particular added to and expanded on Lovecraft's vision. However, Derleth's contributions have been controversial to say the least; while Lovecraft never considered his pantheon of alien gods more than a mere plot device, Derleth created an entire cosmology, complete with a war between the 'good' "Elder Gods" and the 'evil' "Outer Gods" (such as Cthulhu and his ilk), which the 'good' Gods were supposed to have won, locking Cthulhu and others up beneath the earth, in the ocean etc. Derleth's Cthulhu Mythos stories went on to associate different gods with the traditional four elements of fire, air, earth and water - an artificial constraint which required justificatory contortions on Derleth's part since Lovecraft himself never envisioned such a scheme.
Lovecraft's fiction has been grouped into three categories by some critics. While Lovecraft did not refer to these categories himself, he did once write, "There are my 'Poe' pieces and my 'Dunsany pieces' – but alas – where are any Lovecraft pieces?"
- Macabre stories (approximately 1905–1920)
- Dream Cycle stories (approximately 1920–1927)
- Cthulhu Mythos/Lovecraft Mythos stories (approximately 1925–1935)
H. P. Lovecraft is now noted as significant figure in 20th century horror fiction. His writing, particularly the so-called "Cthulhu Mythos", has influenced fiction authors worldwide, and Lovecraftian elements can be found in novels, films, movies, music, video games, comic books (e.g. the use of Arkham Insane Asylum in The Batman comic book series), and even cartoons. Many modern horror and fantasy writers, including Stephen King, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Alan Moore, Junji Ito, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Lumley, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Neil Gaiman, have cited Lovecraft as one of their primary influences. Beyond direct adaptation, Lovecraft and his stories have had a profound impact on popular culture and have been praised by many modern writers. Some influence was direct, as he was a friend, inspiration, and correspondent to many of his contemporaries, such as August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber. Many later figures were influenced by Lovecraft's works, including author and artist Clive Barker, prolific horror writer Stephen King, comics writers Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola, film directors John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, and Guillermo Del Toro, horror manga artist Junji Ito, and artist H. R. Giger.
Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote his short story "There Are More Things" in memory of Lovecraft. Contemporary French writer Michel Houellebecq wrote a literary biography of Lovecraft called H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life. Prolific American writer Joyce Carol Oates wrote an introduction for a collection of Lovecraft stories. The Library of America published a volume of Lovecraft's work in 2005, essentially declaring him a canonical American writer. French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari made reference to Lovecraft in A Thousand Plateaus and called the short story Through the Gates of the Silver Key one of his masterpieces.
He has also been a significant influence on speculative realism, a recent continental philosophy movement, with admirers from Graham Harman (who has connected the cognitive style of Husserl to Lovecraft and has developed what he describes as "weird realism") to Iranian writer Reza Negarestani.
In music, examples of Lovecraftian influence include the psychedelic rock band H. P. Lovecraft (who shortened their name to Lovecraft and then Love Craft in the 1970s) who released the H. P. Lovecraft and H. P. Lovecraft II albums in 1967 and 1968 respectively; the metal band Metallica who recorded a song inspired by "The Call of Cthulhu", an instrumental entitled "The Call of Ktulu", a song based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth titled "The Thing That Should Not Be", and a song based on Frank Belknap Long's "The Hounds of Tindalos", titled "All Nightmare Long"; Black Sabbath's "Behind the Wall of Sleep", which appeared on their 1970 debut album and is based on Lovecraft's short story "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"; The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets whose entire repertoire is Lovecraft-based; The Mountain Goats song called "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" on their 2008 album Heretic Pride; black metal band Nehëmah has songs inspired by Lovecraft including "Creeping Chaos", "The Great Old Ones", "Dead But Dreaming in the Eternal Icy Waste", and "The Elder Gods Awakening" on their 2004 album Requiem Tenebrae; melodic death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder also has produced several songs based on the Cthulhu Mythos, "Throne of Lunacy" and "Thy Horror Cosmic"; progressive metal band Dream Theater's song "The Dark Eternal Night" is based on the story "Nyarlathotep" by Lovecraft; Morbid Angel also features songs that uses the Mythos; Mark E Smith, lead singer of The Fall, is a known fan of Lovecraft's work, and the song "Spectre Vs Rector", a ghost story, contains the lyric "Yog Sothoth rape me lord"; and UK anarcho-punk band Rudimentary Peni make repeated references in their song titles, lyrics and artwork, including the album Cacophony, all 30 songs of which are inspired by the life and writings of Lovecraft. In the Iron Maiden album Live After Death, the band mascot, Eddie, is rising from a grave, where can be read "H.P. Lovecraft" and a quote from the The Nameless City: "That is not dead which can eternal lie yet with strange aeons even death may die.".
The Lovecraftian world has also made its mark on gaming. Chaosium first made its mark as a publisher of games based on Lovecraft's Mythos. The role-playing game Call of Cthulhu has been in print for 30 years (currently in its sixth major edition) and has garnered consistent praise for the high quality of its campaign and adventure supplements. Two collectible card games are Mythos and Call of Cthulhu, the Living Card Game. In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game an archetype, the Arcana Force, are based on his works. Several computer horror adventure games are influenced heavily by Lovecraft such as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Shadowman, Alone in the Dark, Chzo Mythos, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Dead Space, "Splatterhouse" "Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder", "Darkness Within 2: The Dark Lineage", and the Penumbra series. Blizzard's World of Warcraft has several references to Lovecraft, such as the boss C'thun and the boss Yogg-Saron. All of these bosses in Warcraft are labeled "Old Gods". The first-person shooter Quake also references Lovecraft - even having a boss called the Shub-Niggurath. Also, whilst not always Lovecraft based at their essence, references to his work are common in other games such as Fallout 3, Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, and Blood.
Lovecraft as a character in fiction Edit
Aside from his thinly-veiled appearance in Robert Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars", Lovecraft continues to be used as a character in supernatural fiction. Examples include:
- Bradbury, Ray: In an early version of the story "The Exiles", published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Volume 1 No. 2 (Winter-Spring 1950), and later to become part of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, Bradbury uses Lovecraft as a character, making a brief (600-word) appearance, eating ice cream in front of a fire and complaining about how cold he is. The passage was excised from all subsequent versions of the story.
- Lupoff, Richard A.: Lovecraft's Book (1985)
- Barbour, David and Richard Raleigh. Shadows Bend (2000)
- Cannon, Peter. The Lovecraft Chronicles (2004)
Survey of the workEdit
For most of the 20th century, the definitive editions (specifically At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, The Dunwich Horror and Others, and The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions) of his prose fiction were published by Arkham House, a publisher originally started with the intent of publishing the work of Lovecraft, but which has since published a considerable amount of other literature as well. Penguin Classics has at present issued three volumes of Lovecraft's works: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, and most recently The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories. They collect the standard texts as edited by S. T. Joshi, most of which were available in the Arkham House editions, with the exception of the restored text of "The Shadow Out of Time" from The Dreams in the Witch House, which had been previously released by small-press publisher Hippocampus Press. In 2005 the prestigious Library of America canonized Lovecraft with a volume of his stories edited by Peter Straub, and Random House's Modern Library line have issued the "definitive edition" of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (also including "Supernatural Horror in Literature").
Lovecraft's poetry is collected in The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft (Night Shade Books, 2001), while much of his juvenilia, various essays on philosophical, political and literary topics, antiquarian travelogues, and other things, can be found in Miscellaneous Writings (Arkham House, 1989). Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature", first published in 1927, is a historical survey of horror literature available with endnotes as The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature.
Although Lovecraft is known mostly for his works of weird fiction, the bulk of his writing consists of voluminous letters about a variety of topics, from weird fiction and art criticism to politics and history.
He sometimes dated his letters 200 years before the current date, which would have put the writing back in U.S. colonial times, before the American Revolution (a war which offended his Anglophilia). He explained that he thought that the 18th and 20th centuries were the "best"; the former being a period of noble grace, and the latter a century of science.
Lovecraft was not a very active letter-writer in youth. In 1931 he admitted: "In youth I scarcely did any letter-writing — thanking anybody for a present was so much of an ordeal that I would rather have written a two hundred fifty-line pastoral or a twenty-page treatise on the rings of Saturn." (SL 3.369–70). The initial interest in letters stemmed from his correspondence with his cousin Phillips Gamwell but even more important was his involvement in the amateur journalism movement, which was initially responsible for the enormous number of letters Lovecraft produced.
Despite his light letter-writing in youth, in later life his correspondence was so voluminous that it has been estimated that he may have written around 30,000 letters to various correspondents, a figure which places him second only to Voltaire as an epistolarian. Lovecraft's later correspondence is primarily to fellow weird fiction writers, rather than to the amateur journalist friends of his earlier years.
Lovecraft clearly states that his contact to numerous different people through letter-writing was one of the main factors in broadening his view of the world: "I found myself opened up to dozens of points of view which would otherwise never have occurred to me. My understanding and sympathies were enlarged, and many of my social, political, and economic views were modified as a consequence of increased knowledge." (SL 4.389).
Today there are five publishing houses that have released letters from Lovecraft, most prominently Arkham House with its five-volume edition Selected Letters. (Those volumes, however, severely abridge the letters they contain). Other publishers are Hippocampus Press (Letters to Alfred Galpin et al.), Night Shade Books (Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei et al..), Necronomicon Press (Letters to Samuel Loveman and Vincent Starrett et al.), and University of Tampa Press (O Fortunate Floridian: H. P. Lovecraft's Letters to R. H. Barlow). S.T. Joshi is supervising an ongoing series of volumes collecting Lovecraft's unabridged letters to particular correspondents.
Ohio University Press also published "Lord of a Visible World — An Autobiography in Letters" in 2000 which presents his letters according to themes, such as adolescence and travel. It was edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz.
There is controversy over the copyright status of many of Lovecraft's works, especially his later works. Lovecraft had specified that the young R. H. Barlow would serve as executor of his literary estate, but these instructions had not been incorporated into his will. Nevertheless his surviving aunt carried out his expressed wishes, and Barlow was given charge of the massive and complex literary estate upon Lovecraft's death.
Barlow deposited the bulk of the papers, including the voluminous correspondence, with the John Hay Library, and attempted to organize and maintain Lovecraft's other writing. August Derleth, an older and more established writer than Barlow, vied for control of the literary estate. One result of these conflicts was the legal confusion over who owned what copyrights.
All works published before 1923 are public domain in the U.S. However, there is some disagreement over who exactly owns or owned the copyrights and whether the copyrights apply to the majority of Lovecraft's works published post-1923.
Questions center over whether copyrights for Lovecraft's works were ever renewed under the terms of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 for works created prior to January 1, 1978. The problem comes from the fact that before the Copyright Act of 1976 the number of years a work was copyrighted in the U.S. was based on publication rather than life of the author plus a certain number of years and that it was good for only 28 years. After that point, a new copyright had to be filed, and any work that did not have its copyright renewed fell back into the public domain. The Copyright Act of 1976 retroactively extended this renewal period for all works to a period of 47 years and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added another 20 years to that, for a total of 95 years from publication. If the works were renewed, the copyrights would still be valid in the United States.
The European Union Directive on harmonising the term of copyright protection of 1993 extended the copyrights to 70 years after the author's death. So, all works of Lovecraft published during his lifetime, became public domain in all 27 European Union countries on 1 January 2008. In those Berne Convention countries who have implemented only the minimum copyright period, copyright expires 50 years after the author's death.
Lovecraft protégés and part owners of Arkham House, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, often claimed copyrights over Lovecraft's works. On October 9, 1947, Derleth purchased all rights to Weird Tales. However, since April 1926 at the latest, Lovecraft had reserved all second printing rights to stories published in Weird Tales. Hence, Weird Tales may only have owned the rights to at most six of Lovecraft's tales. Again, even if Derleth did obtain the copyrights to Lovecraft's tales, no evidence as yet has been found that the copyrights were renewed.
S. T. Joshi concludes in his biography, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, that Derleth's claims are "almost certainly fictitious" and that most of Lovecraft's works published in the amateur press are most likely now in the public domain. The copyright for Lovecraft's works would have been inherited by the only surviving heir of his 1912 will: Lovecraft's aunt, Annie Gamwell. Gamwell herself perished in 1941 and the copyrights then passed to her remaining descendants, Ethel Phillips Morrish and Edna Lewis. Morrish and Lewis then signed a document, sometimes referred to as the Morrish-Lewis gift, permitting Arkham House to republish Lovecraft's works but retaining the copyrights for themselves. Searches of the Library of Congress have failed to find any evidence that these copyrights were then renewed after the 28-year period and, hence, it is likely that these works are now in the public domain.
Chaosium, publishers of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, have a trademark on the phrase "The Call of Cthulhu" for use in game products. Another RPG publisher, TSR, Inc., original publisher of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, included in one of that game's earlier supplements, Deities & Demigods (originally published in 1980 and later renamed to "Legends & Lore"), a section on the Cthulhu Mythos; TSR, Inc. later agreed to remove this section at Chaosium's request.
Regardless of the legal disagreements surrounding Lovecraft's works, Lovecraft himself was extremely generous with his own works and actively encouraged others to borrow ideas from his stories, particularly with regard to his Cthulhu mythos. He actively encouraged other writers to reference his creations, such as the Necronomicon, Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth. After his death, many writers have contributed stories and enriched the shared mythology of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as making numerous references to his work. (See Cthulhu Mythos in popular culture.)
Locations featured in Lovecraft storiesEdit
Lovecraft drew extensively from his native New England for settings in his fiction. Numerous real historical locations are mentioned, and several fictional New England locations make frequent appearances. (See Lovecraft Country.)
- Pascoag, Rhode Island in The Horror at Red Hook
- Chepachet, Rhode Island in The Horror at Red Hook
- Gainesville, Florida in The Statement of Randolph Carter
- Binger in Caddo County, Oklahoma (The Mound)
- Copp's Hill, Boston, Massachusetts
- Red Line (MBTA)
- Pawtuxet (now Cranston, Rhode Island)
- Newburyport, Massachusetts
- Ipswich, Massachusetts
- Dunedin, New Zealand
- Bolton, Massachusetts
- Salem, Massachusetts
- Brattleboro, Vermont
- Albany, New York
- Many locations within his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, including the (then purportedly haunted) Halsey House, Prospect Terrace and Brown University's John Hay Library and John Carter Brown Library.
- Danvers State Hospital, in Danvers, Massachusetts, which is largely believed to have served as inspiration for the infamous Arkham sanatorium from "The Thing on the Doorstep".
- Catskill Mountains, New York
- New York City, New York
- Kilderry, Ireland
- New Orleans, Louisiana, in "The Call of Cthulhu", including a mention of Tulane University.
- Newport, Rhode Island
- Miskatonic University in the fictional Arkham, Massachusetts
- Dunwich, Massachusetts
- Innsmouth, Massachusetts
- Kingsport, Massachusetts
- Aylesbury, Massachusetts
- Martin's Beach
- The Miskatonic River
- The fictional Central University Library at the real University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to Lovecraft there is a copy of the Necronomicon here, but the University of Buenos Aires never had a central library.
- Main article: H. P. Lovecraft bibliography
- The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H. P. Lovecraft (ISBN 978-1-84728-776-2), written by Gary Hill.
- Lovecraft: Disturbing the Universe (ISBN 0-8131-1728-3), by Donald R. Burleson, PhD, a longtime scholar on Lovecraft and acquaintance of S. T. Joshi, is probably the only book analyzing Lovecraft's literature from a deconstructionist standpoint. University Press of Kentucky, November 1990.
- The Gentleman From Angell Street: Memories of H. P. Lovecraft ( ISBN 978-0-9701699-1-4), written by Muriel and C. M. Eddy, Jr. is a collection of personal remembrances and anecdotes from two of Lovecraft's closest friends in Providence. The Eddys were fellow writers, and Mr. Eddy was a frequent contributor to Weird Tales.
- Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos (ISBN 0-586-04166-4), written by Lin Carter in 1972, is a survey of Lovecraft's work (along with that of other members of the Lovecraft Circle) with considerable information on his life.
- The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos by S. T. Joshi (Mythos Books, 2008) is the first full-length critical study since Lin Carter's to examine the development of Lovecraft's Mythos and its outworking in the oeuvres of various modern writers.
- The first full-length biography was Lovecraft: a Biography (ISBN 0-345-25115-6), written by L. Sprague de Camp; published in 1975, it is now out of print.
- Frank Belknap Long's Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside (Arkham House, 1975, ISBN 0-87054-068-8) presents a more personal look at Lovecraft's life, combining reminiscence, biography and literary criticism. Long was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft, as well as a fellow fantasist who wrote a number of Lovecraft-influenced Cthulhu Mythos stories (including The Hounds of Tindalos).
- A newer, more extensive biography is H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (ISBN 0-940884-88-7) written by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi. An alternative is Joshi's abridged A Dreamer & A Visionary: H. P. Lovecraft in His Time (ISBN 0-85323-946-0). An unabridged reprint in two volumes of Joshi's biography, newly retitled I Am Providence:", was published in 2010 by Hippocampus Press.
- An English translation of Michel Houellebecq's H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (ISBN 1-932416-18-8) was published by Believer Books in 2005.
- Other significant Lovecraft-related works are An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia by Joshi and David S. Schulz; Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue (a meticulous listing of many of the books in Lovecraft's now scattered library), by Joshi; Lovecraft at Last, an account by Willis Conover of his teenage correspondence with Lovecraft; Joshi's A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft.
- Andrew Migliore and John Strysik's Lurker in the Lobby: The Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft and Charles P. Mitchell's The Complete H. P. Lovecraft Filmography both discuss films containing Lovecraftian elements.
- Lovecraft's prose fiction has been published numerous times. The corrected texts were released by Arkham House in the 1980s, and many other collections of his stories have appeared, including Ballantine Books editions and three popular Del Rey editions. The three collections published by Penguin, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, and The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories, incorporate the modifications made in the corrected texts as well as the annotations provided by Joshi.
- Lovecraft's ghost-written works are compiled in The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions, edited again by Joshi.
- Some of Lovecraft's writings are annotated with footnotes or endnotes. In addition to the Penguin editions mentioned above and The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature, Joshi has produced The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft as well as More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, both of which are footnoted extensively.
- An Epicure in the Terrible (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991), edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi is an anthology of 13 essays on Lovecraft (excluding Joshi's lengthy introduction)on the centennial of Lovecraft's birth. The essays are arranged into 3 sections; Biographical, Thematic Studies and Comparative and Genre Studies. The authors include S. T. Joshi, Kenneth W. Faig, Jr, Jason C. Eckhardt, Will Murray, Donald R. Burleson, Peter Cannon, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Steven J. Mariconda, David E. Schultz, Robert H. Waugh, Robert M. Price, R. Boerem, Norman R. Gatford and Barton Levi St. Armand.
- “H. P. Lovecraft: Alone in Space,” chapter 3 in Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry by S. T. Joshi (Sydney: P’rea Press, 2008: ISBN 978-0-9804625-3-1 (pbk) and ISBN 978-0-9804625-4-8 (hbk)), discusses some of Lovecraft's weird poetry.
- The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko edited by Amy H. Sturgis and David D. Oberhelman (Mythopoeic Press, 2009: ISBN 978-1887726122).
- Poole, W. Scott. Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-60258-314-6.
- Anderson, James Arthur. Out of the Shadows: a structuralist approach to understanding the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (The Milford Series, Popular Writers of Today, Vol. 75 Wildside Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-80953-002-1 A close reading of Lovecraft's fiction.
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ Don G. Smith, H. P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture, 2005, ISBN 0-7864-2091-X,page 85, "Lovecraft never had much good to say about families either"
- ↑ Template:Cite journal
- ↑ King quoted on front cover of 1982 paperback edition of The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre published by Del Rey Books with introduction by Robert Bloch. Other sources quote King as calling this judgement of Lovecraft "undeniable" or "beyond doubt."
- ↑ Template:Cite journal
- ↑ http://www.librosgratisweb.com/pdf/king-stephen/danse-macabre.pdf Pg 63
- ↑ S. T. Joshi, "A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft", Wildside Press (1996), p 14.
- ↑ Template:Cite book
- ↑ This situation is closely paralleled in the semi-autobiographical "He", as noted by Michel Houellebecq in 'H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, Michel Houellebecq
- ↑ 
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Template:Cite book
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Template:Cite book
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- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Template:Cite book
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- ↑ S. T. Joshi, H.P. Lovecraft: Decline of the West, (Starmont Studies in Literary Criticism, No. 37), Borgo Pr, 1991, ISBN 978-1-55742-208-8.
- ↑ Joshi, S. T. (1996). A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft. Wildside Press LLC, p. 38. ISBN 1880448610
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 Template:Cite book
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Template:Cite book
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Template:Cite book
- ↑ David Punter, (1996), The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day, Vol. I, 'Modern Gothic", p. 40.
- ↑ Template:Cite book
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 27.2 Template:Cite book
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- ↑ Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu", p. 151.
- ↑ H.P. Lovecraft Letter to Robert E. Howard (August 16, 1932), in Selected Letters 1932-1934 (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1976), p.57."
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ Letter to Elizabeth Toldridge, March 8, 1929, quoted in Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos
- ↑ Giger, Hansruedi (2005): Necronomicon I & II. Erftstadt: Area.
- ↑ Template:Cite web
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- ↑ Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Felix (translated by Brian Massumi). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, p. 240, 539
- ↑ On the jacket blurb of Graham Harman's "Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy": "“As Hölderlin was to Martin Heidegger and Mallarmé to Jacques Derrida, so is H.P. Lovecraft to the Speculative Realist philosophers."
- ↑ Robin Mackay drew a comparison between Reza Negarestani's work and that of Graham Harman in the introduction of Collapse iv: "Reading the persistent poring of phenomenological description over its object against Lovecraft’s circumlocutory evocations of the unspeakable, Harman discovers – like Negarestani – that ‘real objects taunt us with endless withdrawal’." Collapse iv (2008 Robert Makay ed).
- ↑ http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/011699.html
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ Template:Cite book
- ↑ How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work- U.S. Copyright Office
- ↑ Copyright Basics by Terry Carroll 1994
- ↑ William Johns, 'Lovecraft Copyright', archived at http://phantasmal.sourceforge.net/Innsmouth/LovecraftCopyright.html
- Extract from H P Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life by Michel Houellebecq
- "H.P. Lovecraft's Afterlife" by John J. Miller of the Wall Street Journal
- Template:IMDb name
- The H.P. Lovecraft Archive
- Template:Isfdb name
- "H.P. Lovecraft" by S. T. Joshi
- The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon
- The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society
- A Virtual Walking Tour of Lovecraft's Providence
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