Today is the 122nd anniversary of the birth of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the twentieth century’s most influential horror writer.
Lovecraft lived in Providence, Rhode Island, where he wrote wild stories filled with ancestral curses, alien gods, and forbidden books of magic for the pulp magazines. His essential vision – that humanity is only a small blip of rationality and civilization in a vast, alien, unknowable cosmos – comes through strongly in stories such as “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Whisperer in Darkness,” and “The Shadow out of Time.” (You can find all of these in the collection Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre.)
The most fantastic creation of H. P. Lovecraft was, according to one biographer, Lovecraft himself. A high school dropout, Lovecraft was widely read on many of the scientific topics and pressing issues of the day. His dreams were spectacular in nature, yet he remained a rationalist. He had one short unsuccessful marriage, but he maintained friendships with many writers and artists across the country through his correspondence. He loved cats, hated seafood, and indulged himself in long nocturnal rambles seeking out Colonial architecture and weird settings.
Lovecraft died in 1937, but generations of authors, artists, directors, and other creators went on to read, appreciate, imitate, and find inspiration in Lovecraft’s work. His dark vision of the universe has only become more relevant in our times of scientific wonder and global uncertainty. If you’ve watched Psycho, Buffy or The Thing, or if you’ve read Stephen King, Michael Chabon, or Hellboy, you have touched upon the legacy of the master from Providence.
Dan Harms is a librarian and author on the topics of Lovecraft and occultism. His latest works include the e-book version of the Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia and the Experimentum Potens Magna, a 19th century book of magic. Read more at his blog, Papers Falling from an Attic Window.