Tag Archives: lovecraft

Four things you didn’t know about H.P. Lovecraft


Last week, Bedford + Bowery ran a piece I wrote about H.P. Lovecraft.  In particular, the article–which you can read here–contains four observations that I feel are too frequently ignored in conversations about the writer’s troublingly nativist worldviews.

My article was a reaction to a string of recent pieces by Laura Miller, Phenderson Djeli Clark, and others that I thought unfairly characterized Lovecraft fans as unwilling to acknowledge the writer’s early prejudices.  In my article, I tried to make the case that– to the contrary– Lovecraft fans are very aware of (and, frankly, troubled by) the Old Gent’s views.  I also pointed out–as, somehow, nobody else had bothered to– that Lovecraft’s views demonstrably changed as he aged.  By the end of his life, Lovecraft was a Roosevelt-supporting socialist who regretted his former opinions and gave no evidence of being a prejudiced person.

You can read the article and decide if you agree with me or not.

Anyhow, there was one item to which length did not allow me to respond.  And that was the excellent “‘Don’t mention the war.’ Some Thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft and Race” by David Nickle.  In this piece– which is worth your time to read– Nickle shares his experiences with the reluctance (or even recalcitrance) of Lovecraft fans to discuss the author’s prejudices at horror conventions.

I would like to, here (what else are blogs for?), say what I could not fit into my B+B piece.  And that is this: I believe Mr. Nickle when he says that Lovecraft fans have, repeatedly, declined to spend panels at horror cons talking about HPL’s bigotries.  But I disagree with his apparent conclusion that this is because the fans are somehow “in denial.”  I posit instead that fans don’t want to talk about that topic because it’s boring.

I’m not surprised that most of HPL’s fans would rather spend a panel talking about any number of the author’s majestic and monstrous creations than the xenophobia in his early personal correspondence. But being bored by something is not the same as disagreeing with it, or refusing to accept that it is true.

I conjecture that if Lovecraft fans were given the choice of either a panel about HPL’s prejudices or a panel about, say, stamp collecting, they’d choose the Lovecraft’s prejudices panel every time.  It’s hard to conclude things from how people act in situations like horror cons where there is lots and lots of fun to be had.

Happy Birthday HPL!

Today is H P Lovecraft’s 120th birthday! 

HPL is my favorite writer, and is generally regarded as the most important horror and weird fiction author of the 20th Century.  He never wrote about zombies by name, but several of his stories feature zombielike creatures (my favorite is “Pickman’s Model“) and his work is bursting with exotic cults, native swamp rituals, and other elements that are obviously influenced by the zombie folklore of his day.

So, how ought one to commemorate Lovecraft’s birthday?  I have a few suggestions based on my readings of his biography and letters:

  • Eschew fiber, fruit, and vegetables of  any kind.  Lovecraft’s diet was terrifying.  His typical menu (as he often described it in letters to friends) was: “Breakfast: A donut.  Lunch: A piece of cheese.  Dinner: Tinned meat from a can.”  And that was all he ate.  (It’s no wonder that he died of intestinal cancer in his 40’s.)  So make like HPL and stick to meat, cheese, and white flour for the day. 
  • Be less racist.  Over the course of his life, HPL went from being very incredibly racist to not racist at all.  Celebrate this by being less racist yourself.
  • Mooch!!!  Lovecraft was almost as talented a moocher as he was a writer.  He more or less never worked a day in his entire adult life.  Lovecraft lived off his parents, then his wife (who ran a hat shop), and then off of elderly aunts and relatives until he died.  (In the documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, Peter Straub identifies this as HPL’s greatest personal failing.  But I think Straub ought to stop and also appreciate the breathtaking  degree of mooching acumen it took for Lovecraft to pull this off.)  So make like HPL and try to live off of others whenever possible today. 

    "I'm the greatest horror writer of the 20th Century... so it'd be cool if I crashed on your couch for a month or two, right?"
  • Write a letter to a friend.  Lovecraft was an incredible epistolarian, writing several letters a day for most of his life.  The communication this created made HPL a kind of nexus  for the horror and fantasy writers who were his friends and associates.  So commemorate HPL by writing a letter or an email to your buds.

    "Also, I brought my cat."

The adventure of the Miskatonic University lapel pin

My pin

My favorite writer of all time is H.P. Lovecraft.   He wrote wonderful horror stories, science-fiction stories, poems, and at least one story about zombie-like creatures coming out of graveyards to feed on the living.

I am also a sucker for Lovecraft-related merch.  I have an Arkham, MA sticker on my car, and a Miskatonic University sweatshirt I sometimes wear.  Anyhow, the other day I purchased a Miskatonic University lapel-pin over the internet.  It arrived a little over a week ago, and I started wearing it on my lapel.

Since then, in the course of my travels in-and-around the city of Chicago, several people have stopped me and commented on it.  Their comments can be summarized thusly:

1 Person – “Oh hey.  Miskatonic University.  Cool!”

7 People – “Go Michigan!”/”Go Wolverines!”

And actually, one of the people in the latter group (I met him at a conference in the Loop) was an employee of the University of Michigan.

Alas, the adventure continues…