Howard Himself

I have previously resisted the urge to peek behind the curtain at Lovecraft the writer, mostly because I didn’t feel qualified to discuss his history. I have read some biographical information, and some of his correspondence, but I am not an expert. I’m a fan, an enthusiast, an advocate – but not a biographer.

Still, I felt it would be a slight not to touch on some aspect of his real life, so today’s reading is a quick overview of Lovecraft’s life and work. (The article also makes clear his view on the occult and religion, which is a point I’ve had to clarify many times amongst the sort who believe the Necronomicon is real.)

Your assignment today is pure speculation. What aspect of modern culture do you think would have influenced Lovecraft if he were writing today? What contemporary scientific or cultural developments do you think would have enthralled him? Make your case in 300 words or less.

Note: The final is fast approaching. Procrastinators, take heed!

Reading: Lovecraft Profile from Fortean Times
Task: 300 words or less speculating on modern inspiration
Extra Credit: The Shunned House

About Headmistress

Sarah L. Crowder, current headmistress of Vacation Necronomicon School, was once a pupil at the prestigious Miskatonic Academy for Girls -- though she did not graduate, as the school closed under mysterious circumstances shortly before her studies were completed. She spent many years contemplating both the arcane arts and hidden dimensions of commonplace life, and now lends her talents to our little online haven for workaday scholars.
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14 Responses to Howard Himself

  1. Lynn says:

    10 am central today (yes nine minutes from when I type, sorry), Chiller network, show on Lovecraft. Husband taped so I haven’t seen it.

  2. nina says:

    The “Fortean Times” article confirms what one might have suspected: that Lovecraft wasn’t paying much attention to the outside world. I think that’s one reason he was so original: if he needed a mythology, he made it up. If he needed a language, he invented it. I seriously doubt that reading up on non-Euclidean geometry would have improved “The Dreams in the Witch-House”. Clearly Lovecraft knew that witches had familiars, but Brown Jenkin is much creepier than anything Lovecraft could have found in a reference book. We’re lucky he didn’t know more.

    This will be a short essay if I don’t think of something… Of course! The internet! Were he writing today, he’d probably be publishing netbooks and blogging his thoughts online and on Twitter. His friends would have to help him set up a Facebook account, naturally. He’d have trouble with a 144 character limit, to be sure. But his passwords would be awesome.

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  4. Headmistress says:

    @Lynn – I was out and missed your comment. Let us know how the show was…

    @Nina – Brown Jenkin still gives me a shiver. You’re right – nothing “real” could have been worse than that. Many writers have trouble with the character limit on Twitter, though – they can’t all be as deft as William Gibson. I’ve wondered, though, whether Lovecraft might be the sort to cling to a typewriter out of sheer antiquarian zealotry…?

    @Borrowind – Ah, a happy ending at last. Very nice.

    Thank you!

  5. nina says:

    Ha! I’m in Michigan with my 79-year-old father, trying to explain Facebook to him (and how it is possible that I am friends with people I’ve never met), so I can easily see Lovecraft typing away on his beloved typewriter. On the other hand, he wanted to make money, and being an internet cult phenom would eventually do it, once the movie offers started rolling in. I think he’d have young geeky acolytes who would be webmasters for his pages and ghost-writers for his Tweets.

  6. Headmistress says:

    @Nina – I know a good handful of young technically-minded people who would love to volunteer. (Incidentally, I am internet-acquainted with the gentleman who tweets as Lovecraft – @howardlovecraft – though he rarely tweets these days, he really got into the spirit of the thing for a time: “What of this modern literary work extolled by so many? ‘The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo’ is certainly a curious title.”)

  7. Resa says:

    I like to think that had Mr. Lovecraft been around a bit longer, he would have found wonderful inspiration in the UFO craze of the mid 20th century. He already started to go that way a bit, with the “Colours Out Of Space” for one example, and who knows what incredibly creepy things he might have come up with, given the proper LGM inspiration. As Nina says, he went his own way with the myths, coming up with things far creepier. What if Lovecraft had written Alien? I probably would have never slept again.

  8. Headmistress says:

    @Resa – I had wondered about UFOs, too. It’s definitely a good thing Lovecraft didn’t write Alien – then we would have to endure Giger-designed mythos creatures…shudder.

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  10. Paul says:

    I used to be a subscriber to the Fortean Times, and I have this very article to thank for introducing me to Lovecraft! I can still remember devouring the article, then immediately rereading it when I got the magazine that day. They had a special offer on some Lovecraft books as well, so I ordered my first Lovecraft that very day.

    Now I sit and look at my cuddly Cthulhu on my desk at home (not forgetting the crocheted Cthulhu on my desk at work) and wonder how I ever got on without him?

    Anyway, here are my thoughts on Howard and what might have grabbed his attention in the present day:

    http://www.paulanderson.org.uk/2011/07/vns-howard-himself/

  11. Headmistress says:

    @Paul – I still have that issue, oddly enough. It was just luck that the article was still available online.

  12. Kit says:

    If H.P. Lovecraft were writing today, where would he take his inspiration from?

    It’s tempting to draw a straight line from his themes — fear of the Other, the dangers of forbidden knowledge, and worry over polluted bloodlines — into an imaginary bibliography that includes Cthulhu-worshipping Illegals, websites that reduce viewers into gibbering horror (insert obligatory “Two Girls, One Cup” reference here), or twenty-first century fish-people.

    Tempting, but maybe a little too easy.

    Though the twenty-first century is not yet post-racial, attitudes have evolved considerably. In his lifetime, Lovecraft’s racism was a matter of degree, rather than a matter of type; his racial attitudes weren’t shocking for a man of his time. If he’d been born 100 years later, but in a similar class, he would have been brought up with entirely different racial attitudes.

    What, then would have elicited the same fears of contamination? One possibility is the ever-lurking possibility of epidemic, whether natural or as a result of bioterrorism. It’s easy to imagine Lovecraft staying in his garret, ordering supplies over the Internet and only emerging with a mask over his face.

    Though a flu pandemic could cut a massive swath through the world population and Ebola would be suitable for body horror, I imagine he would be drawn to write about one epidemic in particular. HIV, which destroys from within and is passed from one victim to the next by sex, could be a metaphor for many of the same themes that appear in Lovecraft’s work; the taint in the blood, the distrust of sexuality.

    There is one thing I don’t imagine would change. I can easily imagine that H.P. Lovecraft, hunched over his computer, corresponding with his fans and fellow writers by e-mail.

  13. Headmistress says:

    @Kit – Fascinating! I think you’re right about the disease angle. I would be more intrigued by a Lovecraftian take on HIV than all of the vampire fiction it inspired in the 80s and 90s. And I think the one thing we could all agree on is this: Lovecraft would have loved e-mail. He wouldn’t even have had the expense of stamps!

    Thank you…

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