Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A "Slightly" Disturbed Writer

Today I read a few stories by Howard Phillips Lovecraft (better known as H.P. Lovecraft) whom some consider to be the equal of Poe in chilling tales. If you do not know about him, he was born in 1890 to a once prominent, but now badly declined New England family. He was sickly and (supposedly) homely and was essentially an outcast. He died in 1937. He was an absolute atheist who took his atheism to its logical conclusion - There is no hope for humanity, either individually or collectively. Individuals die and by one way or another, humanity will one day be extinct. Who knows if this philosophy caused his marginal mental state or if his philosophy was caused by his mental state? What is noteworthy about his writing is its despair. It permeates his writings. His universe was peopled by beings far more advanced than humans, who saw us as nuisances, food sources or other less than thrilling uses. His writings include super-powerful aliens, such as Cthulhu, Hastur or terrible books such as the dreaded Necronomicon (which does not exist, so some enterprising individuals had to write and publish it!)

I do not find his writing particularly chilling or frightening, but I find it disturbing in another way. I find the despair and hopelessness that permeats most of his writing to be morbidly fascinating. My favority quote by him is from the poem, The Fungi from Yuggoth where he says

Destroying what he chanced to make in play
The idiot Chaos blew earth's dust away.

That, in his mind is human destiny.

If you never read any of his works you can find them at this site. Four very short stories that I suggest to those who have never read him would be Ex Oblivione, Nyarlathotep, The Quest of Iranon and What the Moon Brings. These short stories will let you see inside the mind of brilliant but only border-line sane mind.

More about him and works can be found here.

His works have never been made into a major motion picture, though some poor quality (and slightly pornographic) versions have been made produced by Director Stuart Gordon. The only one of these that I can even half-way recommend is Dagon (which is misnamed - it is actually based on the story The Shadow Over Innsmouth.) My recommendation comes with severe reservations. Most are simply pornography loosely based on Lovecraft's writing, which is odd because most of his writings are free of sex.

I bring him up because writers such as Stephen King name him as inspiration. Movies such as Alien are strongly Lovecraftian in their style. What influenced him, now influences much of our entertainment industry. Plus he is interesting to read, especially if you take his mindset into account.


Blogger armed_and_christian said...

Yes, he was very disturbed, but you know I love HPL's stuff. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society has recently released a movie based on Call of Cthulhu that was done in the style of movies from Lovecraft's time (B/W and silent). It is well done and very enjoyable. They also have some really cool fonts and LARP props.

To my knowledge, Lovecraft and Nietzsche were the only atheists who truly lived out their philosophy--and both died madmen.

Poe's work is definitely more chilling (probably because so much of his evil was from the actions of man and HPL's was from abstract, unbelievable aliens), but HPL had vocabulary down to an art form. If you read much Lovecraft, make sure you have a large English lexicon close at hand.

9:59 PM  

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