Today marks the 123rd birthday of H. P. Lovecraft, a man whose work has stood the test of time, and has inspired multiple generations of writers, filmmakers, artists and musicians. We asked some fellow Bizarros for their favourite stories or other works inspired by Lovecraft’s own, and came up with the following:
Ross E. Lockhart, editor of two Lovecraft-inspired anthologies, says:
For me, it’s “The Festival,” Lovecraft’s tale of holiday cheer, family gatherings, and a “Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him” that never fails to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. And HPL’s description of the procession–“They were not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings; but something I cannot and must not recall. They flopped limply along, half with their webbed feet and half with their membranous wings; and as they reached the throng of celebrants the cowled figures seized and mounted them, and rode off one by one along the reaches of that unlighted river, into pits and galleries of panic where poison springs feed frightful and undiscoverable cataracts.”–is one of the most Bizarro moments in the history of weird fiction.
You can find the story in full (and free) here.
And on that note, bizarro horror artist Nick Gucker drew a creature inspired by that very story!
NBAS author Andrew Wayne Adams says:
My favourite Lovecraft-inspired movie is In the Mouth of Madness. Sutter Cane is probably THE main reason I grew up wanting to be a writer. I wanted my thoughts to control reality, just like his (with the ultimate goal of destroying reality by imploding it with an incomprehensible “beyond”). Also, I used to put this movie on while I slept, and did this almost every night for years.
Here’s a fun clip from the movie featuring a crazed man with an axe.
By Gabino Iglesias
Every writer wants to make Stephen King money. They might not tell you, but they do. However, if you ask those that really care about writing amazing stuff, those that want their words to keep on living way after they’ve abandoned this overturned piss pot of a world, you’ll learn that many of them care about something no money can buy: reaching the point where their last name becomes an adjective. And when it comes to defining a writing style with a last name, there’s no one bigger than Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
Unlike my previous Strange Scribe columns, I won’t waste time here giving you small details about Lovecraft because, if you’re reading this, you know at least the basics. The man born on August 20, 1890, in a house on Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island, would’ve been 123 years old today. However, what matters most is what he created while he was alive, what happened to it after he died, and the nuanced relationships we all have with his work. No, this is not about his biography or a list of stories; I’m here to tell you about My Lovecraft. Also, I’m here to tell you about The Unholy Trinity.
This morning I learned that noir maestro Elmore Leonard had died. I remembered my first winter in Austin. It was 2008 and I was cold, lonely, broke, and cooped up with Tom Wolfe, Umberto Eco, and Elmore Leonard novels. However, I couldn’t remember which Leonard novel I read first. In contrast, I clearly my first HPL book, and that came many years before.
I was fourteen and hooked on horror. Lovecraft was a name I’d stumbled upon here and there, so when I found a copy of The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre (you know, the one from Del Rey with the John Jude Palencar art on the cover) on sale, I spent my hard-earned money on it. I went home and started reading the first story, The Call of Cthulhu:
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
The same thing that happened to countless readers before and that will continue to happen to numerous readers for eons to come happened to me that day: the way I looked at fiction changed. I was blown away. I had a new favorite author and his name was H.P. Lovecraft. I read and reread Pickman’s Model, The Rats in the Walls, The Dunwich Horror, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Colour Out of Space, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Then I needed more. The next bookstore visit was a quest for more Lovecraft and I came home with Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft.
The Doom That Came to Sarnath became an immediate favorite. The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath proved to me no one could ever write like the master. The Other Gods, Nyarlathotep, The Thing on the Doorstep: fucking wow. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Music of Erich Zann, The Nameless City: they took a chunk of my sanity. The Statement of Randolph Carter…I want to be a writer.
Years later I was hiking in a rainforest with my girlfriend of the time and Lovecraft joined us. We stopped to eat something and a few minutes later found ourselves surrounded by dozens of feral cats. In a crazy nerd moment that only I enjoyed (that’s why she’s an ex!), I rummaged through my backpack and pulled out my dogeared copy of Dreams of Terror and Death. I stood amongst the cats and read The Cats of Ulthar out loud. When I was done, I realized Lovecraft is The Unholy Trinity.
The Unholy Trinity? Yes, he’s three in one. There’s Howard Phillips Lovecraft the historical figure, the author who lived, wrote, died, and left behind his stories, his crazy cosmogony, his mind-blowing Mythos. Then there’s the Lovecraft we all talk about and discuss, the one many authors pay homage to while other talentless hacks shamelessly imitate, the one on t-shirts and posters and Facebook pages and movies and conventions, the writer we study, analyze, critique, call a genius, a racist, a whacko, a master. Then, last but perhaps most important to each of us, is our own personal Lovecraft, the one we can’t help but consider a friend because we’ve spent countless hours with his words, the one we want to share while simultaneously being very protective and defensive of, the one who’s dead but with whom we have forged a deep personal relationship. See? The Unholy Trinity.
Anthologies, role playing games, podcasts, art, websites, movies, songs: you name it, HPL has inspired it. And then there’s Lovecraftian fiction and the plethora of authors who have delved in it (not to mention heated debates on the role of August Derleth in the mythos). There will always be arguments about the superiority of one narrative over another and discussions about the originality of his work. Some will forever worship Cthulhu while some of us have a special place in our hearts for Dagon. Some will read a few stories and call it quits while others will strive to become the next S.T. Joshi. Some will never write a Lovecraftian story and some will spend all their time trying to become the next W.H. Pugmire. However, one thing is clear and undebatable: Lovecraft is now much bigger than his stories and his reach keeps expanding like Cthulhu’s tentacles when he wakes up from a long nap.
So now that you know about The Unholy Trinity, join me, brothers and sisters, and celebrate Lovecraft’s birthday by reading his work and screaming at the top of your lungs the statement, the prayer we all know so well: Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias
Deep in the shadowy reaches of the Appalachian Mountains lurk secrets so terrible it was not meant that men should know them. Foul abominations lie in wait, locked away in the in-between spaces Euclid dared not contemplate, aching to return to a world which once belonged to them, and one day will be in their grasp again…
The CastIron Carousel seeks funding to stage an H.P. Lovecraft-themed marionette play entitled THE DOOM THAT CAME TO FIDDLE CREAK in Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2013. The audience will enjoy a fully realized marionette theater experience: a curtain will open revealing a magic window into a stage populated by intricately articulated marionettes animated by near-invisible strings. There will be a dazzling array of special effects that will delight and astonish the audience.
Many more details at their Kickstarter page: The Doom That Came to Fiddle Creak. You don’t have to be in Portland to get in on the fun. A $20 donation will snag you a DVD of the show and for $10 you can download it.
Although the Kickstarter has now reached its $10,000 goal, there are still stretch goals to meet. The more money the CastIron Carousel gets, the better show they can create, and the more places they can tour: Seattle, Vancouver, California, the east coast…the sky’s the limit!
By Adam Bolivar
Last year while sifting through the digital detritus of the world wide web, I happened upon this little gem:
The writer of the article speculates that the true location of H. P. Lovecraft’s haunted village of Dunwich was inspired by the area around Shutesbury, Massachusetts, which has many features in common with the ones mentioned in “The Dunwich Horror.” Being a native of Massachusetts myself (I currently reside in Portland, Oregon), I was quite familiar with the locations mentioned in the article. Indeed, I had recently visited my friend Dave in Shutesbury, and the woods behind his house struck me as so Lovecraftian, I was inspired to write a short story called “The Time Eater,” which was later published in the Lovecraft eZine. During my visit Dave had also showed me a house in nearby Leverett, where, according to the house’s owner, H. P. Lovecraft had once stayed. I pored over various biographies of the legendary weird fiction writer, but could find no mention of a stay in Leverett—although he had toured the general region in the company of his friend H. Warner Munn in the summer of 1928, just before writing “The Dunwich Horror.” Could whoever had lived in that house have been a friend of Munn’s? Could the master of tentacular horror really have stayed there back in ’28?
I wrote to Dave and showed him the article. A fellow Lovecraftian, he was as intrigued by it as I was, and soon paid a visit to the Temenos retreat in Shutesbury, the location of Mt. Mineral—the modern name for the “Horse Hill” mentioned in the article. Astonishingly, Temenos was only a stone’s throw from the house in Leverett. Upon Dave’s second visit to Temenos, he met with the caretaker, who had summoned a council meeting (I kid you not!) during which one of the old council members spoke up to say that he knew of some standing stones near Mt. Mineral, now toppled, but clearly once arranged in a circular shape! Could Mt. Mineral be the inspiration for Sentinel Hill in “The Dunwich Horror?” I was putting two and two together and it was adding up to Cthulhu. Flush with cash from a recent writing job, I wasted no time in booking a flight back east.
Upon my arrival, our first task was to track down the house’s owner and try to verify his claim that HPL had stayed there. A little gumshoeing turned up the owner’s phone number in a local white pages. We called him and left a message on his answering machine asking him to call us back. Dave had also learned another tidbit from a friend who had rented the house (the one who’d first heard the story from the owner): Lovecraft had said that Leverett reminded him of the “cold nothingness of space.” It definitely sounded like something Grandpa would say. The house itself was suitably creepy: dark and perched atop a high hill. It dated from 1790.
The big day came when I took my quest to Temenos itself, accompanied by a merry band of adventurers: Dave, his friend Steve, and our mutual friends Jay and Sue, who photographed the journey. Temenos was certainly not lacking in interesting features: we found an old Indian stone chamber built into a hill, a Buddhist shrine and a curious stone carving of some kind of god, which had mysterious origins.
At the site of the retreat itself was a water pump that dispensed the famous mineral water that gave Mt. Mineral its name—water once prized by Boston Brahmins and the New York elite, who flocked there for spa treatments in the 1800s. A local named Ephraim Pratt was said to have lived to 116 years drinking that water, with a life spanning from the colonial 17th century to an independent America in the early 19th. Could he have been the inspiration for the centuries-spanning Ephraim Waite in “The Thing on the Doorstep?” I tried the water myself; it was ghastly and tasted of sulphur. As for the stone circle, alas, we found nothing definite. There were certainly a lot of large stones around Mt. Mineral, arranged in strange formations by the glaciers that had plowed through that region 18,000 years ago. At one point I became lost in the woods and stumbled upon a secluded copse that appeared to be bounded by a series of stones. Had they been arranged deliberately? Maybe. But by whom?
I must end my weird tale without a satisfying conclusion, despite so many tantalizing clues that this place provided the inspiration for Dunwich, at least in part. We never did hear back from the owner of the house in Leverett, and Dave has yet to meet the “old council member” who knows the location of the toppled stone circle. One day I may go back. Or if not me, perhaps some other intrepid dream-quester will venture into dark woods of Shutesbury, Massachusetts and discover the true location of “The Dunwich Horror.” Maybe it will be you, if you dare…
Pictures courtesy of NewmanImage.
A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Adam Bolivar has lived in New Orleans, Berkeley, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. He is a prolific marionette playwright, and has written nine plays performed by the Scratch Brothers’ Prestodigital Phantasmagoria and the CastIron Carousel. His fictional works have appeared in Nameless Magazine, the Lovecraft eZine, and in anthologies published by Eraserhead Press and Chaosium.