Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American author of fantasy and horror fiction, noted for giving horror stories a science fiction framework. Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, but his works have become quite important and influential among writers and fans of horror fiction.
Lovecraft was born on 20 August 1890 in his family home at 454 (then 194) Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. His father was Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman of jewelry and precious metals. His mother was Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, who could trace her ancestors in America back to their arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Unusual for the time, both were in their 30s when they married, and it was the first marriage for both. Howard was their only child. When Lovecraft was three his father became acutely psychotic at a hotel in Chicago, Illinois, where he was on a business trip, and was brought back to Butler Hospital in Providence, where he remained for the rest of his life. His affliction was general paresis.
Lovecraft was thereafter raised by his mother, two aunts (Lillian Delora Phillips and Annie Emeline Phillips), and his grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips, with whom they lived until his death. Lovecraft was a child prodigy, reciting poetry at age two 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 young Howard's interest in the weird by telling him original tales of Gothic horror.
Lovecraft was frequently ill as a child and was said by his biographer (L. Sprague de Camp) to have suffered from a rare disease known as poikilothermism, the result of which made him always feel cold to the touch. He attended school only sporadically but he read much. He produced several hectographed publications with a limited circulation beginning in 1899 with The Scientific Gazette.
Whipple Van Buren Phillips died in 1904, and the family was subsequently impoverished by mismanagement of his property and money. The family was forced to move down the street to 598 Angell Street, accommodations which were much smaller and less comfortable. Lovecraft was deeply affected by the loss of his home and birthplace and even contemplated suicide for a time. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1908, as a result of which he never received his high school diploma. This failure to complete his education — his hopes of ever entering Brown University dashed — nagged at him for the rest of his life, and he in fact maintained that he was a highschool graduate.
Lovecraft wrote fiction as a youth, but then set it aside for some time in favour of poetry and essays, before returning to fiction in 1917 with more polished stories such as The Tomb and Dagon. The latter was his first professionally published work, appearing in Weird Tales in 1923. Also around this time he began to build up his 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 the young Forrest J. Ackerman, Robert Bloch (Psycho) and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian series).
Lovecraft's mother also was committed to the Butler Hospital, where she died from surgical complications on May 21, 1921.
Shortly after, he attended an amateur journalist convention where he met Sonia Greene. She was Ukrainian, a Jew, and, having been born in 1883, seven years older than Lovecraft. They married in 1924, and the couple moved to the Borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Lovecraft's aunts may have been unhappy with this arrangement. Lovecraft himself rather disliked New York life. A few years later he and Greene agreed to an amicable divorce, and he returned to Providence to live with his aunts during their remaining years. Due to the unhappiness of their marriage, some biographers have speculated that Lovecraft could have been asexual.
Back in Providence Lovecraft lived in a "spacious brown Victorian wooden house" at 10 Barnes Street until 1933 (this is the address given as the home of Dr. Willett in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). The period after his return to Providence — the last decade of his life — was Lovecraft's most prolific. During this time period 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 like 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.
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 Robert E. Howard's suicide. In 1936 he was diagnosed with cancer of the intestine and he also suffered from malnutrition. He lived in constant pain until his death the following year (1937) in Providence, Rhode Island.
Lovecraft's grave in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence is occasionally marked with graffiti quoting his famous phrase from The Call of Cthulhu (Fiction) (originally from The Nameless City):
- "That is not dead which can eternal lie,
- And with strange aeons even death may die."
Lovecraft was listed along with his parents on the Phillips family monument. That was not enough for his fans, so in 1977 a group of individuals pitched in to buy him a headstone of his own. They chose a plain block of granite, 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.
Background of Lovecraft's work
Much of Lovecraft's work was directly inspired by his nightmares, and it is perhaps this direct insight into the subconscious and its symbolism that helps to account for their continuing resonance and popularity. All these interests naturally led to his deep affection for the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who heavily influenced his earliest macabre stories and writing style. Lovecraft's discovery of the stories of Lord Dunsany moved his writing in a new direction, resulting in a series of imitative fantasies in a "Dreamlands" setting. It was probably the influence of Arthur Machen, with his carefully constructed tales concerning the survival of ancient evil, and his mystic beliefs in hidden mysteries which lay behind reality, that finally helped inspire Lovecraft to find his own voice from 1923 onwards. 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 mankind, and which are hinted at in aeon-old myths and legends. The strangeness of the mythos' style may have been influenced, and was certainly foreshadowed, by the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. The term 'Cthulhu Mythos' was coined by Lovecraft's correspondent and fellow author, August Derleth, after Lovecraft's death; Lovecraft referred to his artificial mythology as "Yog-Sothothery". His stories created one of the most influential plot devices in all of horror: the Necronomicon, the secret grimoire written by the mad ArabAbdul Alhazred. The resonance and strength of the Mythos concept have led some to believe that Lovecraft had based it on actual myth, and faux editions of the Necronomicon have also been published over the years.
His prose is somewhat antiquarian. He was fond of heavy use of unfamiliar adjectives such as "eldritch", "rugose", "noisome", "squamous", and "cyclopean", and of attempts to transcribe dialect speech which have been criticized as inaccurate. His works also featured British English (he was an admitted Anglophile), and he sometimes made use of anachronistic spellings, such as "compleat/complete" and "lanthorn/lantern".
Lovecraft was a prolific letter writer, inscribing multiple pages to his group of correspondents in small longhand. 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 that 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. In his view, the 19th century, particularly the Victorian era, was a "mistake".
Survey of the work
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 are 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.
Lovecraft's poetry is collected in The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft, while much of his juvenilia, various essays on philosophical, political and literary topics, antiquarian travelogues, and other things, can be found in Miscellaneous Writings. Also, 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.
Lovecraft had three very distinct categories of fiction in which he wrote during his life. Although the groups' stories were often written in overlapping time periods with the other groups, there were still periods where almost all of Lovecraft's writings could be categorized in one of the below mentioned groups. It should be noted that these distinctions have been drawn by others and not by Lovecraft himself.
It might also be noted that some critics see little difference between the Dream-Cycle and the Mythos, often pointing to the recurring Necronomicon and subsequent 'gods'. A frequently given explanation is that the Dream-Cycle belongs more to the genre of fantasy, while the Mythos is science fiction.
Despite the fact that Lovecraft is mostly known for his works of weird fiction, the bulk of Lovecraft's writing mainly consists of voluminous letters about a variety of topics, from weird fiction and art criticism to politics and history. S. T. Joshi estimates that Lovecraft wrote about 87,500 letters from 1912 until his death in 1937 — one famous letter from November 9, 1929 to Woodburn Harris being 70 pages in length.
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 responsible for the enormous number of letters Lovecraft produced.
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 four publishing houses that have released letters from Lovecraft — Arkham House with its five-volume edition Selected Letters being the most prominent. 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.) and Necronomicon Press (Letters to Samuel Loveman and Vincent Starrett et al).
There is no little controversy over the copyright status of many of Lovecraft's works, especially his later works. All works published in the US before 1923 are public domain. However, there is some disagreement over who exactly owns or owned the copyrights and whether the copyrights for the majority of Lovecraft's works published post-1923 - including such prominent pieces as The Call of Cthulhu and At the Mountains of Madness - have now expired.
Questions center over whether copyrights for Lovecraft's works were ever renewed under the terms of the USACopyright Act of 1976 for works created prior to January 11978. If Lovecraft's work had been renewed they would be eligible for protection for 75-95 years after the author's death according to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. This means the copyrights would not expire on some of Lovecraft's works until 2019 at the earliest, providing that no further laws extend the periods of copyrights within the USA. Similarly, the European UnionDirective on harmonising the term of copyright protection of 1993 extended the copyrights to 70 years after the author's death.
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.
However, prominent Lovecraft scholar 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 descendents, 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.
According to Peter Ruber's (the current editor of Arkham House) essay, The Un-Demonizing of August Derleth, certain letters obtained in June 1998 detail the Derleth-Wandrei acquisition of Lovecraft's estate. It is unclear whether these letters contradict Joshi's views on Lovecraft's copyrights.
It is also worth noting that 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, Dungeons & Dragons, included in one of its earlier suppliments a section on the Cthulhu Mythos; they were forced to remove this from later editions because of Chaosium's trademark.
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. By "wide citation" he hoped to give his works an "air of verisimilitude" and 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 References to the Cthulhu Mythos).
Locations featured in Lovecraft stories
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.
- McInnis, John L. (1975). H.P. Lovecraft: The maze and the minotaur. (Doctoral dissertation, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge).
- From Arkham House
- Definitive versions with corrected texts by S.T. Joshi:
- At the Mountains of Madness, and Other Novels (7th corrected printing), S. T. Joshi (ed.), 1985. ISBN 0-870-54038-6.
- Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, S. T. Joshi (ed.), 1987. ISBN 0-870-54039-4..
- The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing), S. T. Joshi (ed.), 1984. ISBN 0-870-54037-8.
- The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions, S.T. Joshi (ed.), 1989. ISBN 0-87054-040-8.
- Miscellaneous Writings (ISBN 0870541684)
- Definitive versions with corrected texts by S.T. Joshi:
- From Ballantine/Del Rey:
- From Night Shade Books:
- From Hippocampus Press:
Films based (generally very loosely) on specific Lovecraft works (partial list only; see Lovecraft's IMDB entry for a more complete selection):
- Cool Air (1998), Adaptation by Bryan Moore starring Jack Donner (IMDb entry)
- The Curse (1987) Adaptation of "The Colour out of Space" (IMDb entry)
- Dagon (2001), based less on Lovecraft's story of the same name as on The Shadow over Innsmouth (IMDb entry)
- Die, Monster, Die! (1965) (another adaptation of "The Colour out of Space") (IMDb entry)
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), an animated adaptation of the book by the same name (Official Site) (IMDb entry)
- The Dunwich Horror (1970) (IMDb entry)
- From Beyond (1986) (IMDb entry)
- The Haunted Palace (1963), an adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (IMDb entry)
- Necronomicon (1994) Three short films based on his stories (The Rats in the Walls, Cool Air, The Whisperer in Darkness) (IMDb entry) Curiously, this film depicts Lovecraft himself stealing the Necronomicon from some sort of religious order.
- Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998), Excellent Lovecraft sampler. Show on Bravo!IMDb entry
- Re-Animator (1985) Comedic adaptation of "Herbert West, the Re-Animator" which had two sequels (IMDb entry)
- The Resurrected (1992) Adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (IMDb entry)
- Rough Magik (2000), BBC pilot for a Call of Cthulhu show ala "X-Files" starring Paul Darrow (Available on DVD)
- The Call of Cthulhu (2005) Highly faithful adaptation of the short story; B/W, silent film, short film (IMDb entry: Available on DVD)
- Il mistero di Lovecraft - Road To L. (2005), feature film mockumentary based on a diary which states that Lovecraft was in Italy in 1926 (Official Site) (available on DVD here) (IMDb entry)
- The Call of Cthulhu (Broadcast in Tasmania, on Lovecraft's 100th birthday)
- Jeffrey Combs reads Herbert West—Reanimator (Audio book CD by Beyond Books/Lurker Films)
- At the Mountains of Madness (Atlanta Radio Theater Company, www.artc.org)
- The Dunwich Horror (Atlanta Radio Theater Company, www.artc.org)
- The Rats in the Walls (Atlanta Radio Theater Company, www.artc.org)
- The Shadow Over Innsmouth (Atlanta Radio Theater Company, www.artc.org)
Lovecraft's influence in popular culture
- Main article: Lovecraftian horror
Beyond direct adaptation, Lovecraft and his stories have had a profound (if sometimes indirect and unnoticed) impact on popular culture, and has been praised by many modern writers of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Much of his influence is secondary, as he was a friend, inspiration, and correspondent to many authors who would gain fame through their creations. He was a friend of Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard; Robert Bloch, author of Psycho; and Frank Belknap Long, Lovecraft's biographer and contributor to the Mythos.
Many later creators of horror writing and films show influences from Lovecraft, including Clive Barker, H. R. Giger and John Carpenter. Others, notably Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Neil Gaiman, Fred Chappell, Stephen King, Alan Moore, and Brian Lumley, have written stories that are explicitly set in the same "universe" as Lovecraft's original stories. Videogames like Eternal Darkness show a great amount of influence from his work; others, like Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, are directly based on his job. Lovecraft pastiches are common. For more examples of specific references to and uses of the Mythos in popular culture, see References to the Cthulhu Mythos.
Lovecraft's "universe" is so distinctive that he is an eponym for strange creatures and settings. Lovecraftian horror may mean a story that references the Mythos, or that is simply too bizarre to be classified as normal horror. Examples include beings with hideous and completely unnatural features (innumerable sets of eyes, far too many limbs) or architecture or geography of inhuman or alien design (such as the city of R'lyeh, which makes exclusive use of curves in its architecture). Lovecraftian horror stands in contrast to the predominantly humanoid and anthropomorphic designs in mainstream horror and mythology.
Race, Class, and Sex
The racist, classist and sexist themes in much of Lovecraft's writing evoke strong reactions in many modern readers. Lovecraft was an avowed Anglophile, and may have held English culture to be the pinnacle of civilization, with the descendants of the English in America as something of a second-class offshoot, and everyone else below them (see, for example, his poem "An American to Mother England). Lovecraft's writing showed a distinct disinclination towards mixing with other ethnic groups, reverence for birth-issued social status, and a preference for traditional social roles for women.
Racial, ethnic, class, and sexual stereotypes are frequently encountered in Lovecraft's work. A typical example of this sentiment is found in the name of the black cat "Nigger-Man" in his tale The Rats in the Walls, which was actually the name he gave to his real-life cat. The narrator in "The Rats in the Walls" expresses sentiments which could be considered hostile towards Jews (although several of Lovecraft's closer friends and correspondents were Jewish), Italians, and Poles. Racist views can also be found in his poetry, particularly in On the Creation of Niggers, and New England Fallen (both 1912).
Contemporary critics have decried Lovecraft's presumed white supremicism, particularly in the treatment of immigrants and African-Americans. However, Lovecraft does not spare even northern European ethnic groups from his onslaught of negative ethnic stereotyping. The degenerate descendants of Dutch immigrants in the Catskill Mountains, "who correspond exactly to the decadent element of white trash in the South," (Beyond the Wall of Sleep, 1919) are common targets. The Temple presents a stereotypical arrogant and coldly murderous Prussian aristocrat U-boat captain from World War I who makes frequent references to his "iron German will," supremely rational Prussian mental powers, and the insignificance of human life compared to the need to glorify the Fatherland.
Perhaps the best example of his classist views can be found in the short story Cool Air (1926): the (presumably Anglo-Saxon) narrator speaks disparagingly of the poor Hispanics of his neighborhood, but he worshipfully respects the wealthy and aristocratic Spaniard Dr. Muñoz, "a man of birth, cultivation, and discrimination."
Lovecraft drew upon the history of his own ethnic group for the environment of much of his work, and his love for Anglo-Saxon history and culture is often-times repeated in his work (such as King Kuranes' nostalgia for England in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath). Characteristically, this history is viewed sardonically.
A major Lovecraftian theme is the individual who finds that his lineage is accursed or interbred with a non-human strain. Important examples are Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (1920), The Rats in the Walls (1923), and The Shadow over Innsmouth (1931). This theme 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.
Lovecraft expressed racist and ethnocentric beliefs in his personal correspondence and he gave a thorough summary of his views on race and culture in a letter to J. Vernon Shea written September 25, 1933. This letter, 648, can be found in the book Selected Letters IV published by Arkham House.
Women in Lovecraft's fiction are rare, and the few leading female characters in his stories often turn out to be agents of some evil, alien force. Paradoxically, Lovecraft married a Jewish woman of Ukrainian ancestry, Sonia Greene. The marriage failed, and some commentators believe that the cause may have been shame felt by Lovecraft over his wife being essentially the breadwinner.
While the unapologetic frankness with which Lovecraft reveals his beliefs on race, class, and sex can often seem quite shocking to the early 21st century reader, the modern reader must bear in mind that these attitudes were not at all unusual during Lovecraft's lifetime. The eugenics movement, for example, was quite mainstream in the United States and most of Europe before World War II, to the point where harsh eugenics policies were actually written into the law in many states. Racial segregation was still legally enforced throughout much of the United States. Very many prominent and powerful individuals in these times openly avowed attitudes similar to or even harsher than Lovecraft's.
In the past few decades, the quantity of books about Lovecraft has increased considerably. Also, Lovecraft's stories themselves have enjoyed a veritable publishing renaissance in recent years. The titles mentioned below are a small sampling.
Lovecraft, a Biography, written by L. Sprague de Camp, published in 1975, and now out of print, was Lovecraft's first full-length biography. Frank Belknap Long's Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Night Side (Arkham House, 1975) 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, written by Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. It was for a long time out of print, but has recently been republished by Necronomicon Press, with a new afterword by the author. Used copies of the first edition are rare. An adequate alternative is Joshi's abridged A Dreamer & A Visionary: H. P. Lovecraft in His Time. Most recently, an English translation of Michel Houellebecq's HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life was published by Believer Books in 2005.
Other significant Lovecraft-related works are An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia (informative but expensive) and Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue (a meticulous listing of many of the books in Lovecraft's now scattered library), both by Joshi, and also Lovecraft at Last, an account by Willis Conover of his teenage correspondence with Lovecraft. For those interested in studying in detail Lovecraft's writings and philosophy, Joshi's A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft is useful both for the analysis it provides and for the thorough bibliography appended to it. Andrew Migliore and John Strysik's Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H.P. Lovecraft and Charles P. Mitchell's The Complete H. P. Lovecraft Filmography are both practicable for their discussion of films containing Lovecraftian elements (see Adaptations, below).
Lovecraft's prose fiction has been published numerous times, but, even after the "corrected texts" were released by Arkham House in the 1980s, many non-definitive collections of his stories have appeared, including Ballantine Books editions and, also, three popular Del Rey editions, which nonetheless have interesting introductions. The two collections published by Penguin, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories and The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, incorporate the modifications made in the corrected texts.
Many readers, when they first encounter Lovecraft's works, find his writing style difficult to read — owing, no doubt, to his fondness for adjectives, long paragraphs, and archaic diction. This characteristic style differs greatly from the fashion standards in literature of the early 21st century. Also, Lovecraft's early 20th century perspective yielded references in his works to objects and ideas that may be unfamiliar to modern readers. Some of Lovecraft's writings, however, 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.
Lastly, The Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft presents an excellent and extensive study of Lovecraft's use of language, which further reveals the depth of his writings.
Original Wiki source: Wikipedia
Weird Tales, February 1928. The Call of Cthulhu's first appearance in print.The short stories of H.P. Lovecraft have always been personal favorites of mine. Ever since I read "The Call of Cthulhu" for the first time as a teenager, I have been hooked on Lovecraft's particular brand of supernatural fiction and the sense of cosmic horror his characters evoke.
February marked the 85th anniversary of the 1928 edition of the pulp magazine Weird Tales in which the "The Call of Cthulhu" first appeared in print.
"The Call of Cthulhu," along with other stories by Lovecraft, provided a nucleus of characters, settings, themes and plot devices that other authors would use in their own works of fiction. This nucleus has since grown into an entire shared universe. Since Lovecraft's death, hundreds of Lovecraft inspired authors have contributed to what is now called "The Cthulhu Mythos."
For those of you who are unfamiliar with story, "The Call of Cthulhu" details the events described in a manuscript left by the late Francis Wayland Thurston. This manuscript tells a tale of horror and intrigue in which Francis stumbles across a mysterious box belonging to his late granduncle, a renowned anthropologist. The box contained his uncle's research into a series of bizarre events surrounding what he called the "Cthulhu Cult." Francis' investigation into his granduncle's findings leads him to discover a horrific correlation of events involving ancient cult rituals, human sacrifice, horrific cosmic entities, strange visions, unknown monstrosities, and an evil winged deity lurking in an ancient city beneath the sea. "The Call of Cthulhu" is one of many tales by Lovecraft that depict a universe in which humans unknowingly exist alongside a variety of unseen deities, monstrosities and supernatural phenomenon. Those inquisitive and unlucky few who manage to catch a glimpse of these cosmic horrors rarely escape with their lives and even less with their sanity.
A 1934 sketch by H.P. Lovecraft depicting the sculpture of Cthulhu featured in "The Call of Cthulhu".The term "Cthulhu Mythos" was coined by writer and Lovecraft contemporary, August Derleth. Derleth wrote several works heavily inspired by Lovecraft and used the term to denote tales that utilized Lovecraft's unique pseudo-mythology.
Lovecraft would encourage others to build upon the fictional universes he created. As a result, the Cthulhu Mythos began as the work of a few Lovecraft contemporaries and admirers but has since grown into a shared universe in which hundreds of authors have contributed. Authors use themes, characters, locations, plot devices and stylistic components from Lovecraft's stories to create their own literary works and expand upon Lovecraft's original tales.
Authors who have written works in the Cthulhu Mythos include Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard , Brian Lumley, Alan Moore and T.E.D. Klein.
H.P. Lovecraft's fictional account of the history of his most famous invention.Some of these characters, locations and plot devices might be known to those unfamiliar with the work of H.P. Lovecraft. The Necronomicon; a fictional spellbook featured prominently in Lovecraft's tales, has made appearances in several popular works. The Necronomicon was featured as a main plot device of the Evil Dead film series and provided the namesake for H.R. Giger's first major published compendium of images. In fact, several authors have been inspired to attempt to write an actual "Necronomicon."
Lovecraft's fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts was the inspiration for the Arkham Asylum, a fictional asylum for the criminally insane, featured in the DC comics universe. Also, many of you may have seen the three part episode of South Park in which Cthulhu is awoken from his slumber in the depths of R'yleh by a failed attempt to contain the "DP" oil spill.
Furthermore, there have been film adaptations (of varying quality) of a number of Lovecraft tales including "The Call of Cthulhu," "From Beyond," "The Dunwich Horror," "The Dreams in the Witch House" and the humorously gory '80s adaptation of "Herbert West-Reanimator."
Countless musicians have been inspired by Lovecraft. Lovecraft inspired songs include Metallica's "Call of Ktulu" and Black Sabbath's "Behind the Wall of Sleep." Composer Larry Sitsky composed music based on the Lovecraft tale "The Music of Erich Zann."
Lovecraft would often borrow from other author's work as well. In his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, Lovecraft discusses authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Machen and Lord Dunsany as having profound influence on his work. "The Dunwich Horror" takes its inspiration from "The Great God Pan" by Arthur Machen, the vocalization "Tekeli-li" from "At the Mountains of Madness" was taken from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" and the cosmic entity "Tsathoggua" which has been mentioned in several Lovecraft tales, is actually the creation of Lovecraft contemporary and mythos contributor Clark Ashton Smith.
Eighty five years ago, "The Call of Cthulhu" was first published. It would provide the namesake for a mythos in which hundreds of authors have participated and thousands of stories have been written. To this day writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers continue to find inspiration in Lovecraft's unique brand of supernatural fiction. Just like Cthulhu's ability to communicate strange visions to poets and artists, Lovecraft's stories strike a chord in the minds of the artistic.
Despite H.P. Lovecraft's early death at the age of 46, his general reclusiveness, atypical upbringing, fragile constitution and lack of notoriety during his lifetime, his body of work has grown significantly in popularity and influence. Just remember to think "Lovecraft" the next time you happen to catch a rerun of The X-Files or the Twilight Zone in which humanity is depicted as little more than helpless against malign alien influences just waiting for their moment to strike.
Select Bibliography H.P. Lovecraft Titles
Tales (Library of America. 2005) - A collection of Lovecraft's most famous short stories and novellas. This is a great place to start for those unfamiliar with the author's work.
Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft (Gollancz. 2008) - A beautiful commemorative edition containing most of H.P. Lovecraft's short stories and novellas including all of his major works.
The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft (Dell. 1997) - Several Lovecraft tales of length with annotations.
More Annotated H.P. Lovecraft (Dell. 1999) - Several shorter Tales with annotations.
Tales of H.P. Lovecraft: Major Works (Ecco Press. 1997) - A collection of essential Lovecraft tales. A great place to start.
The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death (Ballantine Books. 1995) - A collection of stories by Lovecraft that belong to his Dream Cycle. Lovecraft's dream cycle is another major fictional universe in which he commonly set his tales.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Books. 1999) - His most famous short tales.
The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Books. 2001) More well known tales including a few of his longer stories.
Xue se chuan shuo (Xin shi jie chu ban she. 2005) - A collection of Lovecraft tales translated into Chinese.
Narrativa Completa / Vol 1 (Valdemar. 2005) - A sizeable collection of Lovecraft's stories translated into Spanish.
El Horror De Dunwich (Libros del Zorro Rojo. 2008) - A spanish translation of The Dunwich Horror
Der Poet des Grauens (Corian-Verlag. 1983) - Contains German translations of several tales, a letter and an essay by Lovecraft in addition to several essays about Lovecraft.
Select Bibliography of Cthulhu Mythos Works
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Arkham House, 1969) - This is an essential collection of early mythos stories collected by August Derleth. This collection contains tales from early mythos writers beginning with H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" and includes tales by Robert E. Howard (Creator of Conan the Barbarian), Brian Lumley, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, and August Derleth himself. The introduction discussing the Cthulhu Mythos by Derleth makes this collection a great place to start.
New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Arkham House. 1980) - A collection of cthulhu mythos tales by contemporary authors includes Stephen King, Brian Lumley and Frank Belknap Long.
Cthulhu's Reign (DAW Books. 2010) - A collection of recent mythos tales that take place after "The Call of Cthulhu" and address his return.
The Children of Cthulhu (Ballantine Pub. 2002) - A collection of 21 new tales belonging to the Cthulhu Mythos written by contemporary authors. The introduction discusses the development of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Cthulhu Tales Omnibus: Madness (Boom Studios, 2011) - A collection of short comics based on the cthulhu mythos originally published in single magazine form. Several of these comics are quite humorous including one which features a Lovecraft inspired reality tv house show in which one of the cast members turns into cthulhu and proves to be a formidable contestant.
Lairs of the Hidden Gods Series
A four volume collection containing Lovecraft inspired short stories written by Japanese authors. Each volume also contains essays on Lovecraft and his influence. (Kurodahan Press, 2005)
Critical works, reference materials and collections of essays about Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos
A Cthulhu Mythos Bibliography and Concordance (Armitage House, 1999) - Contains more than 2600 works cited by author including short stories, novels, poetry and selected correspondence and a detailed concordance of mythos terms which cite all stories that refer to a given topic. Also include a separate index of titles.
Black Forbidden Things: Cryptical Secrets from the "Crypt of Cthulhu" (Sarmont House. 1992) - Contains essays on Lovecraft related topics.
Lovecraft Studies (Necronomicon Press) - A biannual publication of critical essays and other Lovecraft related material. NYPL has number 26 to number 35.
Colavito, Jason. The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture (Prometheus Books, 2005) Jason Colavito discusses the influence Lovecraft has had on the popular interest in extraterrestrials and ancient aliens.
Joshi, S.T. and David E Schultz. An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. (Greenwood Press. 2001)
Schnabel, William. Lovecraft: Histoire d'un Gentleman Raciste. (La Clef d'Argent. 2003) - A critical work that discusses Lovecraft's views on race. In French.
Shreffler, Philip A. The H.P. Lovecraft Companion (Greenwood Press. 1977) - Includes a concordance of characters and plot summarys of all Lovecrafts's stories.
Smith, Don G. H.P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture: The Works and Their Adaptations in Film, Television, Comics, Music and Games. - Provides lists of Lovecraft adaptations in various formats.
Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters (Ohio University Press. 2000) - A collection of Lovecraft's correspondence arranged and edited to form an autobiography of the man. Edited by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz
Conover, Willis and H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft at Last. (Cooper Square Press. 2002). Originally published in 1975, This biography is composed of correspondence between H. P. Lovecraft and Willis Conover from 1936 -1937. Conover was 12 at the time and provides a candid, informal and warm image of the author during the last years of a his life.
De Camp, L. Sprauge. H.P Lovecraft: A Biography (Doubleday. 1975) - The earliest major independent biography of Lovecraft. Discusses Lovecraft in detail and his highly critical at points.
Long, Frank Belknap - Howard Philip Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside (Arkham House. 1975) - A early biography of Lovecraft written by his longtime friend Frank Belknap Long.
Items of Interest in NYPL Special Collections
The Horror At Red Hook (1925) - In NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division, This manuscript was written August 2, 1925 on verso of miscellaneous letters addressed to the author.
Beyond the Wall of Sleep (Wolfgang Buchta. 2007) - In NYPL's Spencer Collection Illustrated, designed and printed by Wolfgang Buchta. The text is from Arkham House Publisher's edition of Lovecraft's short story and reproducted from Buchta's hand lettering.