“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” – Howard Phillips Lovecraft. By now most of horror fans have heard of HP Lovecraft, or have in some way been introduced to his work.
One of the most influential figures in horror, his work can be noticed in movies, books, video games and music. He developed the literary philosophy known as cosmicism which is based around the insignificance of human life in the grand scheme of things. It speaks about the universe and how vastly larger and scarier it is compared to what we think. Full of horrific creatures to whom we are nothing more than a tiny speck, well maybe a tiny speck of dust to a tiny speck of dust. All the human morals, values and all our greatest achievements are all meaningless in the grand scheme of things. A philosophy which was somewhat influenced by Lovecraft’s negative views on religion.
Gaining inspiration from his love of astronomy, his horrific night terrors and unfortunately slightly by his racism and xenophobia, Lovecraft would end up inspiring the fictional world that would later be known as “The Cthulhu myhtos” with the name deriving from Cthulhu, his most famous creature. His work is full of monstrous entities much like Cthulhu. Creatures which would make people go insane just by looking at them. Unlike other horror sub-genres where the monsters are terrifying unstoppable creatures that are out to kill us all and wreak havoc on our world, the entities of the Cthulhu mythos are so beyond human comprehension that even understanding their motives and intentions is an impossible task. This often leads many of Lovecraft’s protagonists to be driven to insanity at the end of his stories. Most of the “Cthulhu mythos” was created after his death. His loyal followers gathered all his work and added to it to create his “pantheon” of gods and monsters. This ended up sort of misguiding people from what actually his work was supposed to mean. Creating family trees and giving them humanly traits took away from the essence of his work. His creatures are not good or evil, they do not follow the same rules that we do. They were simply a “plot device” or so to speak. Even we the readers were not supposed to understand them let alone categorize them. It is best put with his own words: “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.”
Some of his most notable stories include “The call of Cthulhu”, “The color out of space”, “At the mountains of madness” and “The whisperer in darkness” along with some of my favorites like “Nyarlathotep” and “Herbert West – Reanimator” some of which I will be covering in future posts.
Lovecraft’s unique world combined with his complex writing style succeeded in drawing in readers long after his death. When you read his work it feels like reading something written by a scholar thanks to his superb writing style. And even though Lovecraft the person can be seen as a distasteful person his world is rich, ever expanding magical and horrific, a world that would go on and inspire people like Stephen King, Thomas Ligotti, Neil Gaiman, Robert Bloch artists like Metallica, Black sabbath, Iron Maiden and many more. His influence can also be seen in film and television. Most notably in films like “The thing”, “Alien”, “Evil dead”, “In the mouth of madness”, “Hellboy” and shows like “Stranger things”, “True detective” and of course “Ash vs evil dead”. He has built a legacy that will continue living on long after his death, a legacy that has surely cemented him as one of the biggest names not just in horror but in fiction in general.