The old gentleman from Providence

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#1
That's right, I'm talking about HP Lovecraft.


Relatively obscure and definitely ill-paid in his lifetime, HPL crafted a mythos, and a whole new brand of cosmic horror that has cast a long, dark shadow over the entire horror genre, from movies to literature. His vision has been spun out into RPGs, rock songs and at least one stuffed toy.

While some find his prose style thick and obtuse, others are willing to wade through the mists for a glimpse at a truly colossal conception of horror. HPL was a skeptic and an atheist - he saw the world as essentially empty of inherent meaning. In the midst of this empty world he posited creatures from beyond the stellar void, with powers and aims so far beyond our comprehension that they seem like terrible gods to us. It's a haunting world view, and one that continues to give me delicious thrills of terror whenever I re-visit HPL's stories.

Are there any other HPL fans out here? What do you like most about his works and what are your favourite stories?

Cthulhu phtagn!!!
 

Incognito

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#2
Isn't it "Cthulhu fhtagn"?

Hooray! Lovecraft again! (I think there's an earlier thread, but this is as good a place as any - much better title as well. :) ).

Yes - devoured his anthologies when I was about 18 - a Christmas present. (I also got "Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms" at the same time - now whenever I hear the haunting melodies of "Ride across the River" and "Man's too Strong" I think of "Dunwich Horror" and the "Colour out of Space" respectively. :) ).

Because I read Lovecraft when young, in those days when I read for fun and the acclumulation of knowledge, I can't comment on his technical aspects.

But I did quite love his constant brooding feeling of those New England woods. I love the distance in time to his stories as well - the 19th century feel to a lot of it really adds to the haunting atmosphere.

"The Color out of Space" is my all time favourite horror story. The fact that none of the characters is able to comprehend what it is that is happening to them - let alone face and defeat it - makes this a superb horror story. The horror is simply that - a fearful unknown that cannot be conquered. There's no big gnarly monsters - just a disturbing uncertainly. Superb work.

His mythos tales overall were often very absorbing - his actual story "Call of Cthulhu" I find a little disappointing - but giants of the theme include “The Dunwich Horror” and “Haunter of the Dark”. Lots of the smaller stories were very good as well – there’s one I can’t recall the title of that relates to a German U-boat (I think) that makes a pass over Ryl'yeh (sp??).

So many good ones, actually - often wondered how much "The Thing on the Dorrstep" related to his mother.

Used to play the "Call of Cthulhu" RPG abou the same time - it actually got me reading the writing - so
 
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#3
I think the story about the German ship is called The White Ship. Ithink it's R'lyeh, and yes, it's 'cthulhu fhtagn'.

Ok, that's out of the way.


I suspect 'The thing...' also relates to HPL's own oddly conceived and short-lived marriage, but I can't recall details right now.

I'd like to share a rather interesting quote from a letter HPL once wrote, it kind of sums up a lot abut his attitudes and a bit of why he wrote the way he wrote:

HPL on HPL:

That's the kind of guy I am - a cynic and materialist with classical and traditional tastes; fond of the past and its relics and ways, and convinced that the only pursuit worthy of a man of sense in a purposeless cosmos is the pursuit of tasteful and intelligent pleasure as promoted by a vivid mental and imaginative life. Because I believe in no absolute values, I accept the aesthetic values of the past as the only available points of reference - the only workable relative values - in a universe otherwise bewildering and unsatisfying.
 
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#4
I really haven't read much Lovecraft. I really should, I think.

Intersting that you mention him now. I just finished reading a book about cults and new religions in American history, and one of the things the author talks about is the fact that although Lovecraft was such a materialist, cynic, and skeptic, there were groups that built their belief systems around his Cthulhu mythos. In fact, he wrote quite a bit about how science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction have influenced the cult movements in the States over the years. And, of course, how the influence has been mutual, with fiction being influenced by cult movements as well.

If any of you are interested in this sort of thing, the book is Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History, by Philip Jenkins. It was published in 2000.
 

Incognito

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#5
Lovecraft was in the perculiar position of being quiet housebound - I forget the condition's name - but he effectively could not properly regulate his body's temperature.

This left him tapped in his home most of the time, where he'd feed onhis library. I strongly suspect that his repetitive image of someone rtapped alone ni their room at night, staring out to some horror in the night, is a very real extrapolation of his own miserable experiences.

I also strongly suspect - and will argue for the sake of debate, if nothing else :) - that he felt imprisoned by his mother to some degree - she being his only real key to the world. "The Thing On the Doorstep" relates explicitly about a young man, trapped in his house, who attempts a dangerous alchemical experiment to swap bodies with his oppressive mother. A window into his emotional mind, perhaps?

Was he actually married, though? I don't remember that - though it is at least 10 years since I was reading his work.

Lovecraft also served as a nice doorway to other writers - I distinctly made the effort to read some his influences - Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Machen, and Ambrose Bierce.
 
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#6
Yes, I've come across a lot of mystical societies who accept the Cthulhu Mythos as true, and the Necronomicon as a real grimoire. I would like to make a lot of sarcastic remarks about them but I guess that's the way faith works. It definitley defies reason!

Ironic that an atheist could spawn a whole new belief system, however fringe!

I'd like to take up the debate on 'The Thing..' but it'll have to wait until the weekend. I'm off to a nearby town for a friend's wedding and won't have time to burrow through my HPl references until I come back on saturday.

He was married though. it was a spur-of-the-moment thing and didnt really last.I'll have to get back on that one later, too.

Till then, cthulhu fhtagn!!!
 

Incognito

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#7
Yes, Necronomicon...hopefully no one buys too much into that. :)

Did you ever watch the "Real Ghostbusters" cartoon? Once had Cthulhu on - his Dark Young were running around New York sewers - so I grabbed the video and recorded. :)

Yah yah Cthulhu fhtagn!
 

dwndrgn

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#8
Well, I haven't read any Lovecraft but due to this thread I answered correctly a question on Jeopardy! Woo hoo! Thanks guys for educating me. One of my silly ambitions is to be a contestant on this show. I've tried out twice (my goodness is it difficult!) and have yet to make it. By the time I get on though, they may have a senior's show for me
.
 

dwndrgn

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#10
It gave his first two initials, HP and then described an author known for horror stories or something like that. I probably got it from the initials but it's nice to know the knowledge has been snuck into my head!
 
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#14
Heh. And who ever said reading HPL wouldnnt help you get ahead in life? :D

BTW, the story abt the German submarine captain is called The temple, not The White Ship. Sorry.

ALso, I re-read 'Doorstep' and I think we're both right.

I can't recall the details of HPL's marriage right now, so I'll post about that later when I have the book with me.
 

Brian G Turner

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#15
Do you think we should compare notes on some of his other stories?

How about "At the Mountains of Madness"? Good story, if a little overlong. Would make a good modern film, though.
 

Foxbat

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#16
Just thought I'd stick my oar in :D
Whilst not being a great lover or reader of the horror genre, I have read one or two Lovecraft stories in the past.
It seems to me that, while his prose was not the most accomplished in the world, he has had a pervasive influence on many writers. Take, for example, Nigel Kneale (creator of Quatermass amongst other things). I don't know if he was influenced by HP or not but I certainly get the impression that he was (check out The Stone Tape - TV play about a house which eventually reveals an ancient and malevolent force that bears a distinct resemblance to Lovecraft).
It just seems such a pity that some writers seem to remain anonymous to the world in general - and yet leave a distinct and indelible mark on that world.
 
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#17
Indeed.


I've always thought 'Mountans' would make a great movie. it has the most visually compelling locale of all HPL's stories, and all that meandering about in caves , not to mention the aerial scenes, would make for some awesome eye-kicks.

Apparently, HPL was inspired by two things for this tale - Poe's 'Hans Pfaal' which this is a sort of sequel to, and Russian artist Nicholas Roerich's paintings of the Himalayas, both of which are referenced in the story, by the way.

OK, here are the details on that marriage of HPL's I've been talking about : she was calld Sonia Haft Greene, and they met 1921, shortly after HPL's mother's death, at an amateur journalist's convention in Boston. They seemed to have a lot in common, and finaly decided to marry in 1924. Their marriage was short-lived though - financial problems and HPL's family's discomfort with Sonia (who was a Russian Jew and several years his senior) seemed to lead to them being estranged, if not officially divorced. Sfter only ten months of living together, HPL moved into a single room in Brooklyn, as his wife left to seek employment in the Midwest; she thereafter returned only intermittently to New York.

Actually, the events do seem to parallel those in 'Doorstep' - the death of Derby's mother, his feeling of relief and the sudden unexpected courtship and marriage. However, it would seem that the story is as much a reflection of HPL's mixed feelings towards his mother as it is a rather bitter look back at his marital fiasco. In the story, Derby's bride Asenath who is actually posessed by her father's spirit, attempts to posess Derby. In the end, Derby is destroyed, but the narrator manages to thwart Asenath's evil designs. Perhaps for HPL, his marriage was as claustrophobic as his realtionship with his mother?

Anyway, we'll never really know, I guess.


Its interesting, by the way, how many of HPL's protagonists reflect his own character- withdrawn, bookish and frugal.

The Colour out of Space is one of my favourites, too, by the way - that atmosphere of cryptic, unrelenting horror is one of his finest achievements.
 

Incognito

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#18
Sincere thanks for that information, knivesout - I simply don't remember anything about his being married, but it brings "Thing..." so much closer to perspective.
 

retroauro

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#19
"That is not dead, which can eternal lie...
Yet with strange eons, even death may die."

I ll put in my two bits worth about Lovecraft.Hes an amazing writer and Pickmans model along with the the rats in the walls are my fav stories.And heres some trivia,The Necromicon is not a Lovecraft invention .There is actually a book called the Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred and that is where the idea of the Outer Ones is derived from. You can actually buy an English translation off Amazon for 8 bucks :) .


Cthulhu fhtagn
 
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#20
Heh, sorry. Any Necronomicon you may have bought is a hoax.

Consider:

There was no mention of this grimoire anywhere in the esocteric literature PRIOR to HPL's tales

HPL himself quite clearly says it is an invention

Some of the Necronomicons around have even been avowed as hoaxes by their creators, after the fact

I'd get into more details, but here's a cool link :

http://www.necfiles.org/dialogue.htm
 

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