Today is the 80th anniversary of H.P. Lovecraft’s death.
I think I read all of the Gentleman’s stories, multiple times, and I liked them quite a bit.
I discovered HPL in high school, when I was reading all the fantasy and SF and horror (but not much horror) I could lay my hands on. Then I re-read it while in university, back when all of a sudden HPL was starting to make the news, to be critically appreciated. And I still read some of his better stories now and then, for nostalgia’s sake.
Now, according to a sort of scientific study I did with my old friend Fabrizio, the Lovecraftian reader’s evolution goes through three phases:
- Phase 1 – enthusiasm: when you first discover the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, you are blown away. The Call of Cthulhu, The Color Out of Space, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time, At the Mountains of Madness… The ideas, the sense of dread, the cosmic perspective… Blown. Away.
- Phase 2: embarrassment: then you go through the stories a second or a third time and you start to notice the racism and misogyny, and all the other problems. You discover other stories too, less widely known, maybe a few juvenile efforts from HPL and they are, well… not so hot. And the names, and the kids that only know HPL through comics and heavy metal records… So, OK, it’s embarrassing.
- Phase 3: appreciation: some don’t get to this phase. They drop HPL and feel shame for the fact that they ever spent some time with such a horrible human being. But if you make it to phase three, then you learn to put things in perspective. And yes, Lovecraft was a racist, and he had some real issues on a number of things but those issues and those defects fueled and informed an approach to supernatural horror that changed the field forever. And some stories are damn cool.
I am now pleasantly settled in Phase Three.
Do I want to grow up and be like Lovecraft? Hell, no!
Do I want to write like him? No, not really.
Do his writings cast their shadow on what I write? Yes.
It’s been eighty years since he’s gone, but Grandfather Theobaldus is still with us.
And as for cool stories, in my opinion, no Lovecraft story is cooler than The Temple.
Because “The Temple” has all the elements of a great horror story, spiked with Lovecraft’s fear of the unknown, and it also has a great sense of humour, which is something that is not often remembered about the Solitary from Providence. It’s a scary story that makes you chuckle. A lot.
So here it goes.