One of my favorite authors at the moment
is H.P. Lovecraft, and I've been recommending him to anyone and
everyone who reads and/or loves horror.
What makes reading Lovecraft so great
So much started with him. He's
regarded as the most influential horror writer, more so than Poe (who
is over-rated as far as I'm concerned, now that I've read a lot of his
material). Lovecraft's work is what got Stephen King
writing, among others. I see his influence on Clive Barker as
well. When you read his stuff, you'll see where so much other
stuff in horror and science fiction originated, only you didn't know
who originated it. This guy
was years ahead of his time.
problem for the attention-deficient. It's all short
stories or long stories, only three works that could be characterized
as novellas, depending on where
your cut-off is. It's very
straight-forward story-telling that is very, very easy to get into.
descriptions. No one is more famous for his colorful
language than Lovecraft. As one author described it
(paraphrasing), "No author works harder to describe how impossible it
is to describe something." His vocabulary alone is worth the
price of admission. (See also my page on H.P. Lovecraft's favorite words.)
night. Lovecraft serves up monsters, and they're the best, most
memorable monsters in
all of literature,
science. Granted, Lovecraft was writing in the first part
last century, so don't expect anything too sophisticated.
There's no biotech or computer science. However, his
stories are grounded in a scientific approach that puts the
superstitious fumblings of today's protagonists to shame. There
isn't the usual mumbo-jumbo nonsense about the supernatural. The
ordered, and the characters are thinking people who go to
libraries. I abhor stories that fall back on magic and other
cop-outs, and it's refreshing to read an author who never resorts to
such cheap and
clichéd devices just to advance a narrative.
He has a
universe. If you grew up reading comic books and loving
they inter-connected across, say, the Marvel Universe, then you will
enjoy the connections throughout Lovecraft's works and beyond (i.e., he
allowed and even encouraged contemporary authors to extend his universe
by using his creations in their works). The whole thing taken
collectively is usually referred to as the "Cthulu mythos." Many
features make regular appearances throughout his works, such as
Miskatonic University and his infamous Necromicon as well as several of
introduction to Lovecraft
encounter with a Lovecraft story was, naturally, after midnight.
was renovating our new house at the time. We hadn't moved into it
yet, just a few boxes downstairs, and the place was otherwise
abandoned. I like to paint late at night because I know I won't
be interrupted, and I'll put on my iPod with some music or podcasts or
an audio book. That night I started Lovecraft's "The Dunwich
I was captivated. I just kept
painting for almost three hours, long after I should have finished and
gone to bed, but the story wasn't even halfway through as I completed
first coat. Instead, I went back and started a second coat
immediately. It was latex and this was late summer, so it didn't
hurt anything; the
first areas I painted were almost completely dry by the time I doubled
the start. I had done
the entire stairway and the hall at the top twice over, and I still
to the end of the recording. I couldn't bring myself
to pause the story for later, so I ended up staying up late
listening to it to completion long after the second coat was complete
and the brushes were cleaned and put away.
Apparently I'm not the only one to be
swept up with Lovecraft in a big way. People really connect with
him the way they do with few other writers. In addition to his
influence on some very famous authors (such as those mentioned above
Gaiman as well), there are numerous bands who have used his work as a
or at least inspiration for their music (see this page for a listing). I'd
heard Lovecraft's name for years and vaguely knew about his influence,
only just recently got into his work. And now I can't stop until
I've read everything all the way through at least once.
said, he's very easy to read, and it's all so short that you don't feel
like you're making a huge commitment, so almost anything is good, but
these are some choice works if you don't already have something in mind:
The Dunwich Horror.
one that got me started, and I think it showcases his best
of Cthulhu. Perhaps his best-known story, at least
because it prominently features his most famous creation.
Lurking Fear. My most recent favorite. Just plain
good story-telling here.
The Shadow over Innsmouth.
world and secret histories.
Herbert West, Reanimator.
A Frankensteinian story that
was the basis of the popular Reanimator
Beyond the Wall of Sleep.
Mind-blowing cosmic horror.
At the Mountains of Madness.
will hopefully someday get a film adaptation
worthy of the work.
Supernatural Horror in Literature.
of the elements within it.
Note: I always recomment Lovecraft
guardedly. He once wrote in a letter, "There are my 'Poe' pieces
and my 'Dunsany' pieces—but alas—where are my Lovecraft pieces?"
I think the above are some of his best "Lovecraft"
Poe stories are
from his earliest period. They're smaller and more focused.
Dunsany works are generally rather
spawling in scope and are best categorized as fantasy. However,
the stories that are firmly in the Cthulhu Mythos are rightly his most
popular. They represent him at his best.
go from here
The bookstore. There are
numerous collections of Lovecraft stories, so you can always start with
any one of those. However, if you want everything (solo)* all in
voluminous package, Barnes & Noble have his complete (solo) fiction
There are also annotated editions of that
collect usually twenty storie at a time. I discuss a selection of
these that amounts to a nearly complete collection on my page about
acquiring a Lovecraft library.
*There are plenty other works that are
collaborations, ghostwritten pieces, or stories re-written by
Lovecraft. These are not collected in this volume, but the
aforementioned "library" page gives details about where best to get
collections on the
BN website for a very
reasonable price. It would be hard to pass up one of these if
thing or you just want a copy for reference.
the web. Not sure you're ready to commit? Very
nearly all of
Lovecraft's fiction can be found around the web if you want to sample a
bit or throw it onto a portable device. See this site, for
versions. As stated above, I have a series of audio
collections of a lot of his stuff, which have been awesome. My
first listen was from a multi-volume collection of stories of various
lengths read by Wayne
June, a case in which the reader was perfect paired with the
material. Additionally, there are many free readings around
the web of Lovecraft's more popular works. Many of these can be
found at Librivox.
Additionally, there are plenty recordings (both my amateurs and
uploaded recordings by professionals) on YouTube. For a good
example, see this
preference: The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. If you're new to
Lovecraft and want to get the most out of your introduction to the
author, this is probably the volume to get. The annotations help
new readers accommodate to Lovecraft's sometimes original language and
his use of words that were even then antiquarian and archaic (to use
two of his own favorite words). There is also a lot of context in
the annotations both from history in general (e.g., "The Rats in the
Walls" draws from events surrounding the ancestors of the family at the
center of the story) as well as from Lovecraft's own life and literary
influences. The annotations are also on each page rather than at
the back of the book, so there's no flipping back and forth.
Finally, this volume contains four of his best stories, and they
represent a good cross-section of his work as well as all falling high
on my list of essential Lovecraft reading:
in the Walls
The Colour Out of Space
The Dunwich Horror
At the Mountains of Madness