Illustration of Lovecraft by the amazing Cortney Skinner.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born 124 years ago today. I’m sure a lot of other things happened, too, but for the moment I want to focus on that. Why? Because as a direct result of that simple fact I have found hours and hours of entertainment in my life.
In addition to reading Lovecraft’s works—ranging from non-fiction to fantasy, science fiction and horror—I have also read and watched and been entertained by volume of works that were heavily influenced by the man.
I’m not going to give a history of Lovecraft here. There’s plenty to be found along those lines, and most of it was written by people with a far deeper knowledge of his life than I have. Instead I want to focus, just for a moment, on his far-ranging influence. If you want a quick one, check this out.
Currently the Internet Movie Database—arguably the definitive site about people in the business of making movies and television shows—has H.P. Lovecraft listed with 134 separate credits as a writer. In this case the credits are primarily because of works based on his long history of writing. Those are movies taken directly from his stories. A serious argument could be made for additional movies and shows inspired by his works instead of taken directly from the same. He even has conventions based on his life, his work and his influences. in both Providence Rhode Island and Florida.
One of my personal favorite movies, The Creature From The Black Lagoon is, I feel, very heavily influenced by Lovecraft’s “A Shadow Over Innsmouth.” “In The Mouth Of Madness” is not directly drawn from the tales that Lovecraft told, but anyone who denies the very substantial influence has not been paying attention. And another recently brought to my attention is the deeply disturbing movie “Event Horizon.” There are more, including several that lifted only the names of his creations to add to the titles of movies in the hopes that the name alone could somehow save the deeply flawed and effectively crappy films that were made—Two words for you, “Cthulhu Mansion (1992).” On a lighter and better note you have as an example “The Collect Call of Cthulhu” and episode of “The Real Ghostbusters,” which pays loving homage to a number of the man’s tales. Several episodes of the show, produced by J. Michael Straczynski, had heavy Lovecraft influence.
If you then factor in other writers who’ve been influenced by Lovecraft—a staggering number and I can’t clarify that enough—or the writers who have written stories using the creations that Lovecraft and his peers created, heavy influence of the man expands like a mushroom cloud on the horizon. Animated shorts, novels, short stories, novellas, comic books based on his works, based on the man himself (He has actually been a character in at least a dozen stories and books that I know of), influenced by his tales, made with loving affection for the oddities he created and for his eccentric and slightly intoxicating use of the English language. Stephen King’s “I Know What You Need,” “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “Crouch End,” and a few others are very heavily influenced by Lovecraft. I need to say that I tend to think most of the stories influenced are proper homages, by the way and not pastiches. There is a difference. There have most certainly been a great number of attempts to duplicate Lovecraft’s unique style. There have also been a blistering number of failures in that effort.
I am guilty of multiple short stories and two novels based however loosely on his works. With Charles R. Rutledge I wrote BLIND SHADOWS, a crime novel with a heavy supernatural influence flavored by Lovecraft. My novel DEEPER is a direct sequel to THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, which is one of my personal favorite stories by one of my personal favorite authors. Between Lovecraft’s novella and novel there is also a short story I wrote called “A Place Where There Is Peace.” There have been at least three full collections of short stories by an amazing array of writers and edited by Stephen Jones (SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH, WEIRD SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH and WEIRDER SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH that lend credit to the power of one single novella by the man. And more novels, novellas and short stories besides.
Lovecraft may not be the most influential author in genre fiction, but he is most certainly one of them. There are people who make pilgrimages to see places where he lived and to visit his tombstone. I’m among them and I know a lot of others. A lot. Seriously. A lot. No exaggeration. Might even be an understatement. A LOT.
124 years ago H. P. Lovecraft was born into this world. This simple fact makes me smile every time I think about it. He did amazing things in his time and his influence in the literature of the fantastic does not diminish, but rather grows every year.
Happy birthday, Mr. Lovecraft.
Lovecraft lived here.
Charles R. Rutledge, me (and a half dozen others) all stood around to get pictures at that famous place where he wrote so many amazing stories.
I wrote the book. The amazing Alan M. Clark did the awesome cover.