121 years ago… think about that. Howard Philip Lovecraft was born in 1890 and we are celebrating his 121st birthday today, August 20th, 2011. I consider how many of my youngest brother’s friends were probably born in 1990 and are turning 21. Only a number of them may have herad the name “Lovecraft,” but I guarantee a majority of them have heard the names “Cthulhu” and/or “The Necronomicon.”
Lovecraft changed popular writing just as surely as other great “genre” authors have. His use of the “weird and unknown” was influetial, as was Poe’s gothic sensiblities and Wells’ unchecked science. We can easily place him among his friends Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and his disciple, Robert Bloch. And yet, only one other horror author has managed to achieve what Lovecraft has with his legacy – Bram Stoker.
Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” has taken on truly mythic porportions. With his fictional character based partly on historical fact, the lines have come to blur over the decades since the novel was first published. Here in the 21st century, the average person can no longer tell you the division between fact and fiction, and Dracula has reached into every aspect of our culture. I am not speaking of vampires, I am speaking directly about “Dracula,” the creation of one particular author.
While Lovecraft’s creations may have yet to saturate themselves into household names, you’d be facing a challenge if you were to attempt to find someone who hadn’t heard of The Necronomicon – and didn’t believe it was a real book! With his deliberate lack of structure, much of the lore surrounding his works have taken on a life of its own and people have come to unsettling conclusions concerning the names Yog-Sothoth, Dagon, Azathoth and Hastur. On the opposite side of that coin, you can purchase the great incarnation of cosmic insanity as an adorable green plushly marketed as “My Lil’ Cthulhu.”
Even if we ignore the games, the books, the toys, the tee shirts and the other merchandise, we have to agree on a startling revelation – there are people who mistakenly believe Lovecraft’s fiction to be true! Of course, we Lovecraft fans find this wonderful and do little do persuade them otherwise. The mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred wrote the great book of the dead, The Necronomicon? Yes, watch out! The blind, idiot god Azathoth has sent his emmisary, Nyarlathotep, down to find a way that he can escape? Obviously! In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming and after strange aeons even death may die? I have no idea what that means, but you’re screwed!
But there was so much more to Lovecraft and his work. It was the poetic, antiquated way he strung sentences together, the way he created atmospheric tension out of so very little, the way he twisted mundane events into epic scenes where the fate of the universe hung in the balance. Besides his innovative works like “At The Mountains Of Madness,” “The Call Of Cthulhu,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “Pickman’s Model,” “The Color Out Of Space” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” there is the classical horror of “The Music of Erich Zann,” the nightmarishly beautiful prose of “Azathoth,” the grand fantasy of “The Dream Quest Of The Unknown Kadath,” and the sheer dark brilliance of “The Dreams In The Witch House.”
So I urge you, go read some Lovecraft. Go discover for yourself why this author is still influencing new writers today. Go find out why his work is so unique that it has captivated the fears and imaginations of multiple generations. Go…
Or I’ll get Dagon’s fish cult to eat you.