Happy Death Day, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937)
On this day, the 15th of March 2012, it is 75 years ago that a gentleman lovingly called “Grandpa” (a term he used himself) or simply “HPL” (which he also used himself) died from cancer and kidney failure. In 1937 no one would have dreamed that the Dreamer from Providence taking his last breath at Jane Brown Memorial Hospital, a pulp writer of (let’s be honest here) almost no fame, would in the future be hailed as one of the absolute giants in the field of weird fiction — and one who almost single-handedly shaped a new future for horror.
HPL himself would be amazed, no doubt. Even he — who had such a vivid imagination, and such a keen mind — couldn’t imagine being famous all around the globe. No, he is not a “household name,” obviously, but his influence has seeped into mainstream culture in ways uncountable, and one can actually meet a person once in a while who has at least heard of him.
And people keep reading his stories — and his letters — and his essays (originally mainly published in amateur magazines) — and biographies about his life.
And people keep writing stories inspired by him as well as the Cthulhu Mythos genre (not HPL’s own idea as such, but yeah, let’s for a moment say it too originates from him, without debating the issue;-)) — and even more people actually keep reading those stories.
How many writers can brag about that, eh?
Admittedly, there’s been published a lot of so-called Cthulhu Mythos stories that are not — to put it diplomatically — of the best quality. But on the other hand, some are of an amazing quality. In fact, the present (the 2000s) seems to witness a resurgence of quality stories. It’s uncanny how many, really.
All thanks to a man who, all in all, lived a quiet (if not as reclusive as legend would have it) life more than 75 years ago.
Personally I first encountered him in the late 1980s — thanks to the Chaosium roleplaying game The Call of Cthulhu. And I was so fascinated (who wouldn’t be?) by the underlying, bleak universe (not to mention the cool sanity system, hehe), and decided to read the source. I first read a Danish translation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and at the time it really got a hold on me. My love for that story has since faded a little (I see things in it here and there that makes me understand why HPL himself were dissatisfied with it, and I am sure he would have preferred to edit it quite much — for the better — before publication; but of course he had no saying in the matter, since it happened after he died). After that followed a score of his short stories (I think the very first here was “The Lurking Fear,” which, for all its faults, I still find charming).
The rest, as they say, is history.
And here I am today — not only writing stories inspired by him and his ideas (in my way), but I can also thank him for the people around the world that I have gotten to know; we share the same passion. And it is also thanks to him that I started my own small press, publishing books that are either Lovecraftian or Cthulhu Mythos in nature — even scholarship about it.
And I am only one among… Who knows how many, really?
Happy Death Day, Grandpa. You’re more alive than ever.