I’ve been a fan of HP Lovecraft’s fiction and perhaps more importantly of adaptations of his fiction since grade school. This probably goes a long way towards explaining the quirks in my personality. Regardless of his effect on my psychology, his effect on my writing has been profound. And I’m not the only one he’s touched. I recently received a copy of Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions by Guillermo del Toro. It’s not surprising that del Toro was also influenced by Lovecraft, to the point that he has a life sized and very lifelike statue of the author in one of his libraries.
In that first sentence up there you may notice that I put supreme importance on the adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. There are countless movies, books, games, and graphic novels that have used either his mythology or his direct writings as a jumping off point. If anyone has influenced my writing more than Lovecraft, it’s writers like Brian Lumley, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. Without the founder of the Cthulu mythos, we arguably wouldn’t have those three gents as we know them.
The impact of an artist on the world goes far beyond just the first generation of writers and readers they inspire. I can only hope that the style that I’m honing will cause future Metallicas to write music taking my lines of prose. If there’s an artist like HR Giger who takes my works and gives it three literal dimensions I would be absolutely tickled even though I, like H.P., wouldn’t likely be around to see it. And that’s even more impressive. The man died at the tender age of forty-six. He’s been dead for just over seventy five years, and he continues to inspire creators.
I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. I did a little digging and the breadth and depth of what HP Lovecraft wrote is staggering. In addition to his short fiction and novels, he wrote a staggering amount of poetry. He also has a large body of non-fiction work in the form of letters, scientific and philosophical articles, and editorials. I likely haven’t read even one percent of everything he produced in his lifetime. When you’re as smart and/or as prolific as he was, there’s bound to be something in there worth thinking about.
The other, and to me even more interesting, thing about HP Lovecraft is that he was typically published in pulps. His writing was far from popular in his own day. He received rejections because his works were often seen as controversial, and I suspect because they were in many cases very non-traditional. As a writer who struggles to make my career take off, I take some comfort in knowing that, even if that never happens, we as writers can attain varying degrees of immortality through our work.
So how did HP Lovecraft impact my writing?
One of the things I appreciate most in the Cthulu mythos is that evil is often inexplicable and ultimate. Bad things happen in his worlds and the human beings that they happen to are tossed around like bowling pins. They lose their lives or their sanity or both in confronting the evil. I love playing around with Big Evil in my stories. It will often use human beings as pawns, much like in Lovecraft’s works. The important thing for me and the thing that stands out, perhaps more in those works influenced by him, is that no matter how dark things get or how high the odds are stacked against them the heroes of the story fight to their last breath. They may not always win, and even if they do the victory may be small or temporary, but they strive.
His heroes and mine also have a few things in common. The men and women in my stories are usually very much the products of our modern times. They don’t believe that there are things hiding behind the surface of the world that want to, can, and will eat their souls. They barely want to acknowledge the mundane “evils” of our present world, much less the ancient and perhaps unknowable evils that exist on its fringes. The supernatural conflicts that occur in my stories remove that choice from them. The heroes must look upon the face of that evil and change or die. The evil presence and the magic it uses in my stories are also often of a primitive and visceral nature.
Don’t get me wrong. As a person he may have been absolutely horrid, or perhaps just a product of his time. I don’t know. He certainly had views on women, people of other races, and religion that I vigorously disagree with. I am not and will not defend those things. The measure of a great artist transcends these things in my mind though. I don’t have to admire an artist as a person in order to appreciate the art and its impact. Whatever you think about him and the more controversial aspects of his life, I don’t think you can deny that the impact of HP Lovecraft’s thoughts and writings will echo through our culture for decades to come.
About Scott Roche:
Some creatures feed on blood and revel in the screams of their prey. Scott Roche craves only caffeine and the clacking of keys. He pays his bills doing the grunt work no one else wants to take, bringing dead electronics back to life and working arcane wonders with software. His true passion is hammering out words that become anything from tales that terrify to futuristic worlds of wonder. All that and turning three children into a private mercenary army make for a life filled with adventure.