The Dim-Post

August 21, 2015

HPL

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:59 am

It’s H P Lovecraft’s 125th birthday! He is, I think, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He’s also in many ways a genuinely terrible writer. (I have an ongoing intermittent debate with Elizabeth Knox over whether he is the worst great writer or the greatest worst writer).

Unusually he’s influenced both pulp writers (too many to name) and literary writers (Borges, Cormac McCarthy, Houellebecq, Emmanuel Carrere). The pulp writers tend to borrow the trappings of his stories: the monsters, the cults, the forbidden books, but use them in conventional ways. What makes Lovecraft’s ‘cosmic horror’ effective is the existentialism; the cosmic insignificance of humanity, and that comes across in the literary influences. The Road and Blood Meridian are deeply Lovecraftian.

If you haven’t read any of his short stories then I recommend starting with The Call of Cthulhu. 

25 Comments »

  1. You can down load his complete works free for Kindle or Nook here:
    http://arkhamarchivist.com/free-complete-lovecraft-ebook-nook-kindle/

    There are some really really long and boring stories among them but there are some absolute gems in there too. I was quite surprised to find that Lovecraft more or less invented the “family of inbred cannibal hillbillies” troupe.

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — August 21, 2015 @ 9:48 am

  2. HP appears alongside Nietzsche in the ‘Dead Authors’ podcast series, hosted by HG Wells (as played by Paul F Tompkins). The conceit of the series is that HG Wells is not only the author of ‘The Time Machine’ but also the owner of a time machine, which is then used to bring deceased authors from history into the modern world to talk about their work.

    It’s a delightfully bizarre podcast series with some of the best names in comedy today playing some of the greatest names in literary history.

    Comment by Phil — August 21, 2015 @ 9:52 am

  3. He’s also in many ways a genuinely terrible writer

    Far too fond of the word shriek. You get a lot of shrieking at the nameless horror in 19th century Blackwoods Magazine dreadfuls, which is where he probably acquired the habit from.

    Comment by Joe W — August 21, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  4. You get a lot of shrieking at the nameless horror in 19th century Blackwoods Magazine dreadfuls

    You also get a lot of shrieking at nameless horror from the Labour Party. Maybe ‘neoliberal’ is just the final step before claiming Key is Cthulhu.

    Comment by Phil — August 21, 2015 @ 11:06 am

  5. The Colour out of Space is probably his best “cosmic horror” story – the Colour comes and then after a while it goes. There’s no suggestion that it goes out of its way to be destructive or anything like that – it’s just an incomprehensible alien/natural phenomenon/thing that happens for no reason.

    Comment by Trouble Man — August 21, 2015 @ 11:06 am

  6. Fully recommend The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Definitely the scariest of the Lovecraft novels I’ve read, and would make a great movie.

    RE: Existentialism, after watching True Detective season one, I became obsessed with Matthew McConaughey’s character. I found out that the writer of True Detective had based it largely on another writer called Thomas Ligotti. Ligotti had written an “anti-natalist” book called The Conspiracy Against The Human Race. The book had some interesting ideas but wasn’t super profound or anything so I thought I would quickly forget it. Fast forward a year and I find myself thinking about it again and again. It feels like it’s planted a seed in my head that I can’t get rid of. Coincidentally it reminds me of the Lovecraftian idea that once you see the “cosmic horrors” you will eventually go nuts. (I’m not sure this counts as a recommendation….)

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — August 21, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  7. Seb. Look where you are. You are on safe ground.

    Comment by Lee Clark — August 21, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  8. Completely overrated.

    Comment by Slime Creature — August 21, 2015 @ 11:53 am

  9. His reach outside of self-identified “geek” circles is miniscule.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — August 21, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

  10. “Lovecraft more or less invented the “family of inbred cannibal hillbillies” troupe.”

    Nah, that goes back much further, at the least to Sawney Beane and the lurid accounts in the Newgate Calendar.

    Comment by Stephen J — August 21, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

  11. Nah, that goes back much further, at the least to Sawney Beane and the lurid accounts in the Newgate Calendar.

    Not to mention Defoe’s yahoos.

    Comment by Joe W — August 21, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  12. Sorry, Swift’s yahoos.

    Comment by Joe W — August 21, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  13. @Lee: I’m in Wellington, not sure that classifies as safe ground…😉

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — August 21, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

  14. Not to mention Defoe’s yahoos.

    Pfft.

    2 Kings 6:26-29

    Comment by Gregor W — August 21, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

  15. 2 Kings 6:26-29

    Bible cannibals, yes, but not throwback cannibals🙂

    Comment by Joe W — August 21, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

  16. Fully recommend The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Definitely the scariest of the Lovecraft novels I’ve read, and would make a great movie.

    It did! Dan O’Bannon’s “The Resurrected” from 1992, with Chris Sarandon as Charles Dexter Ward.

    Personally, my favourite is “The Tree on the Hill” – one of his short “madness-inducing brush with unknowable horrors” ones.

    Comment by Josh — August 21, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  17. His reach outside of self-identified “geek” circles is miniscule.

    Oh, I don’t know. John Carpenter? Alien (and Alien vs Predator even more so)? And here’s Stephen King talking about Revival

    I also wanted to use Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, but in a new fashion, if I could, stripping away Lovecraft’s high-flown language.

    http://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/989.Stephen_King

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 21, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

  18. His reach outside of self-identified “geek” circles is miniscule.

    That’s like saying the Bible is only important to Christians.

    (Still doesn’t make it his work any good.)

    Comment by Slime Creature — August 21, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

  19. Anyone who hasn’t listened to the Welcome to Nightvale podcasts should do so.

    Comment by helenalex — August 21, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

  20. @Josh: Is that movie any good though? I watched The Call of Cthulu (the black and white fairly recent version) and it wasn’t bad but I preferred the version my imagination came up with.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — August 21, 2015 @ 3:54 pm

  21. @Seb: It’s not bad – I enjoyed it. The budget isn’t immense, and it changes the setting to modern day, but otherwise stays pretty faithful to the original.

    Comment by Josh — August 21, 2015 @ 4:25 pm

  22. @helenalex

    WtNV has gone off the boil a bit… the novel, on the other hand, sounds fantastic.

    Comment by Phil — August 21, 2015 @ 6:55 pm

  23. The Shadow Over Innsmouth is another good one for HPL beginners, but my favourite for pure atmospheric horror is At The Mountains of Madness.

    Comment by Stephanie Rodgers — August 22, 2015 @ 10:08 am

  24. Wishing Lovecraft an horrific birthday, may the Great Old Ones feast upon his carcass and rend his remnants into quivering gobbets of festering pulchritude. May his wordless anguish cry eternally from the abyss of despair as all hope is extinguished and the hubris of human civilization is snuffed out by the rise of the awful ancient Lord of R’lyeh.

    Comment by ropata — August 22, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

  25. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
    PH’NGLUI MGLW’NAFH CTHULHU R’LYEH WGAH’NAGL FHTAGN

    Comment by ropata — August 22, 2015 @ 4:44 pm


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