My inspirations – H.P. Lovecraft
A second installment of the occasional series about the writers who influence me.
H.P. Lovecraft is a writer who is not as well known to the general public as his work might otherwise be, despite the influence upon popular culture he has had. In terms of direct adaptations of his work, these have been rare (and of patchy quality – although I blame the, at times, inherent difficulty in adapting the source material) but his influence on those who came after has been enormous, and surprising. Horror writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker, film director John Carpenter (his remake of The Thing is very Lovecraftian) and Neil Gaiman, famous for his The Sandman comicbook, and most recently the movie adaptation of Stardust.
The Chthulhu Mythos has been referenced in many works of popular science fiction, including Doctor Who, and the philosophies behind his work can be found in stories like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
A very niche writer in his lifetime, Lovecraft’s work became “cult” after his death. His stories often describe the indescribable. A pantheon of otherworldly and alien creatures that are, to mere humans, like gods. These creatures are so far beyond the capability of the human mind to conceive that to see them is to invite madness, terror and death. You can see why I’m drawn to his work.
Although he deals in magic, mysticism and tales of arcane cults and rituals, his stories are not “supernatural” as traditionally thought of. His “gods” are unashamedly alien. His stories are like the paranormal for atheists.
Given the subject matter, the question is not so much whether I would like Lovecraft, but rather why it took me so long to discover him! I didn’t discover Lovecraft until 2005, and that was after a decade of reading the Fortean Times…
Like Edgar Allan Poe (one of Lovecraft’s inspirations, and mine), Lovecraft specialises in the short story, the form of writing I have been most comfortable with until now. Horror is not a genre I read very often (which may surprise you) but when I have read horror, I have rarely ever been “horrified”. I don’t scare easy. Horror stories don’t scare me, and only two horror films have ever creeped me out (The Exorcist and Hallowe’en, and both of those had something to do with the circumstances of watching them…)
However, Lovecraft’s story The Thing on the Doorstep brought chills up and down my spine. He is the only writer to have genuinely un-nerved me. Go check it out. But not in the dark. And not on your own…
If you have read any of The Long Watch samples I’ve posted, or even the recent little short Tube Nightmare then you can see a little bit of the influence creeping through, although I do veer more towards the avowedly supernatural. However there are some explicit Mythos references in The Long Watch (Maria’s background is steeped in Lovecraftian references).
Cthulhu fhtagn everyone!