The Blagger's Guide To... HP Lovecraft

Happy deathday to the father of modern horror

*This Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Howard Phillips Lovecraft – better known to his legion of fans as HP. He was born on 20 August, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, and was a sickly, lonesome child who was badly affected by the death of his father. He suffered acute night terrors and developed an interest in astronomy, two disparate threads that came together when he began writing the type of "cosmic horror" fiction with which his name has become synonymous, largely through the pulp Weird Tales magazine in the 1920s. He lived with his mother until her death in 1921, when he briefly married.

*Lovecraft is regarded more as a writer of ideas than a dazzling wordsmith. One reader apparently wrote to the magazine Astounding Stories, which published his novel At the Mountains of Madness (one of only three full-length Lovecraft works) in 1931: "Are you in such dire straits that you must print this kind of drivel?" The French novelist Michel Houellebecq admitted in his otherwise glowing 2005 biography, Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life: "'There is something not really literary about Lovecraft's work." Famous fans of the man who they say invented modern horror, however, include Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and Jorge Luis Borges.

*Lovecraft developed what later became known as the Cthulhu Mythos, set around his fictional New England towns including Dunwich, Innsmouth and Arkham. He envisaged a cosmic war between the Elder Gods and the Great Old Ones such as dread Cthulhu, a slimy, tentacled, winged giant. He also created the Necronomicon – a fictional grimoire that many people since have believed to be real.

*Complaints of clunky writing pale against the other accusation regularly levelled at Lovecraft – that of racism. Lovecraft scholar Bruce Lord said: "Early apologists viewed Lovecraft's racism as an unimportant element that occasionally surfaced in the background of his literature; today it is viewed as a key element in understanding Lovecraft's fiction and the nature of the world he created with it." Biographer S T Joshi added: "I find Lovecraft's racism disappointing not merely because he expressed it so frequently ... but because this was one area where he refused to modify his thinking in the light of new evidence."

*Lovecraft makes the leap into fiction himself, becoming a character in several other books. Most recently, the writer Bruce Brown has penned two graphic novels for children, featuring a young Howard Lovecraft getting embroiled in Cthulhoid adventures – The Frozen Kingdom (2010) and The Undersea Kingdom (to be published in early April), both from Arcana Studios. HP appears in Ray Bradbury's story "The Exiles", Richard A Lupoff's Lovecraft's Book, and an Image Comics series, "The Strange Adventures of HP Lovecraft".

*Lovecraft might be more of a household name today had the Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro's plan for a $150m 3D adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, starring Tom Cruise, not hit the buffers last year over studio concerns about the classification it would receive. Other Lovecraft adaptations which have made it to the big screen include The Haunted Palace (1963), based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the 1985 schlock-horror Re-Animator, based very loosely on Herbert West – Reanimator and two recent movies lovingly made by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...