Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beware the Ides of Lovecraft!

On this day, 75 years ago, Howard Phillips Lovecraft died.

You should care.

You should care even though H. P. Lovecraft only wrote three novellas and sixty some odd short stories.  Certainly you should care because of the quality of that work, but also because of his reach and influence.

Some of the scope of that influence is easily seen, easily felt.  Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, was a friend and correspondent.  Another Robert - Robert Bloch, of Psycho fame?  One of the many authors Lovecraft would, throughout his short life, go out of his way to encourage.

But other parts of his reach are less easily seen because they extend those 75 years from his contemporaries to us - from Ray Bradbury to Joyce Carol Oates to Stephen King.

To Alan Moore and Clive Barker.

To Neil Gaiman.

Then his influence branches out, uncoils - from writing to music.  Black Sabbath?  Iron Maiden?  Metallica?  Of course.

From music to the cinema - to Ridley Scott.  John Carpenter.  Guillermo Del Toro.

From the movie screen tentacles alight on the shoulders of artists - the surrealist H. R. Giger, the incredible sculptor Bryan Moore.  From Moore it writhes, wriggles back to the written word.  To Jorge Luis Borges.  Borges writing a short story in Lovecraft's memory.

From Borges to Michel Houellebecq.  Houellebecq - best known as a literary provocateur - would pen a Lovecraft biography before writing the novels that would bring such acclaim, such derision.  And if you don't think the stretch from Conan the Barbarian to the Elementary Particles is anything short of extraordinary, I'll buy you a drink.

I mean, I'll buy you a drink anyway, but still.

The words, though?  Always go back to the words.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.  --H. P. Lovecraft.

It's cold and rainy where I am tonight.  Perfect Lovecraft weather.  I'm going to pour myself some whiskey (even though the master wouldn't approve) and pick out a story of his I haven't read in forever.   Maybe The Lurking Fear, The Shunned House, or The Shadow Out of Time.

The Whisperer in Darkness.

The Thing on the Doorstep.

At the Mountains of Madness.

Can you feel it, just through the mention of those titles?  A certain creeping - something?  A vague discomfort.  The feeling that you're not alone, you're never alone.  Always there's a presence.  A presence - Just.  Out.  Of.  Reach.

Lovecraft was a fiend when it came to his personal correspondence.  His letters number in the thousands.  In one, he quotes a line from the Life of St. Anthony.  The speaker is Satan, and Satan dared to say, 'I am the power of God and I am Providence, what dost thou wish that I shall give thee?'

You'll find those words on Lovecraft's grave - in Providence, Rhode Island, of course.  He's buried where he lived, where he died.  So here's to Lovecraft.  He gave us words, and he was providence.

H. P. Lovecraft

August 20th, 1890 - March 15th, 1937

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