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H.P. Lovecraft, Author, Is Dead

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Blood on the Mors
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« on: May 03, 2015, 01:32:21 am »

 The defining feature of Cosmicism is not evil, as is the case with Gothic horror, but the utter insignificance of man. As the current trend of “sexy supernatural” fiction demonstrates, there is an allure to being desired, even when your suitor is of a supernatural, even malevolent ilk. But Lovecraft gave his readers no such solace. His existential universe is one in which no one and nothing cares about us one way or the other, where the only “gods” are beings of a scale we mortals cannot readily process. Cthulhu rises from the deep not to attack the ship but for reasons unfathomable to the minds of men, and the captain is little more than an innocent bystander, able to neither control nor assimilate his fate.

The pantheon of indifferent gods created by HPL and others eventually became known as the “Cthulhu Mythos.” Members of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of HPL contemporaries that included Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian) and the poet and writer Clark Ashton Smith, jointly developed this canon, writing tales set in this shared universe well beyond Lovecraft’s death.

Although the Cthulhu Mythos is considered Lovecraft’s creation, many of the stories, creatures, and ideas found therein were contributed by others. But it was Lovecraft who codified the essential features of this shared universe, one in which mankind is inconsequential to cosmic forces of unfathomable power.

 

    In his autobiographies, which he wrote up to the day before he was admitted to the hospital last month, he related the importance to his life of the fairy tales and classical tales he read when but six years of age.

I was introduced to H.P. Lovecraft in the late 1989, when a friend loaned me his tattered copy of Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. I found it nearly impossible to read, with its antiquated language and eddying plots, but was eventually able to complete “The Rats in the Walls,” one of the shorter and more straightforward stories. I read a few more entries in the volume before devouring “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” in a single sitting, a story that remains a favorite to this day.

I did not realize it at the time, but public interest in the author had been steadily building over the course of the decade. After 40 years of being virtually ignored, a confluence of events and trends served to increase awareness of H.P.’s writings in the ’80s, and spawned a new generation of devotees to the his distinctive brand of cosmic horror.

As explained to me by S.T. Joshi, author of I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft and a preeminent scholar on the life and works of the writer, the stage for this revival of interest was set by a growing critical recognition of Lovecraft’s work: “In the 1970s, Lovecraft scholars began addressing his work with unprecedented insight. A number of books about HPL came out around this time; in 1984-86, Arkham House published three volumes of my corrected editions of HPL’s tales, based on my examination of his manuscripts and early printed texts. This led eventually to the publication of my three annotated editions with Penguin Classics (1999-2004), which led directly to the publication of HPL’s Tales (2005) by the Library of America, officially establishing Lovecraft in the canon of American literature.”

Meanwhile, horror was taking off in popular books and movies; 1986 saw the publication of the 1,000-plus-page It by Stephen King, who attributed much of his interest in the macabre to Lovecraft. While the Cthulhu Mythos never featured prominently in King’s novels, It is generally regarded as his most Lovecraftian work. King’s declaration of Lovecraft as “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale” is found on the jacket of nearly every compendium of Lovecraft “best of” volumes.

Around this same time religious groups, the Moral Majority among them, were whipping the nation into a frenzy over the insidious influence of Satanism, which was supposedly poisoning every element of civic life. Though there is a chicken-and-egg argument to be made here: Were the hysterical warnings of rampant occultism a response to, or a cause of, the growing interest in the supernatural? Either way, interest in the Dark Arts had found a home in the Me Decade. In 1985, HPL hit the big screen with the Re-Animator, loosely based on Lovecraft’s “Herbert West—Reanimator.” Two years later, Infocom, makers of the game Zork, even released a Lovecraftian text adventure called “The Lurking Horror.”

Though nothing in the ’80s made more people aware of Lovecraft than the “The Call of Cthulhu” role-playing game.
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