Tuesday, August 6, 2013

And Now To Summarize…

Since last May, The R’lyeh Tribune has discussed various examples of Lovecraft’s shorter fiction, and some of their subsequent adaptations to movies, television and graphic novels.  For the most part, the focus has been on his earlier, less well known stories.  In these are found the beginnings of ideas, themes, characters and a world view that are more fully developed in his later works.  This brief, initial exploration has identified a few things that are very striking about Lovecraft’s creations, which also include his attempts to create a stable personality and sense of self.

1.  Lovecraft’s writing is full of contradictions.  What he says about himself to others in his letters is inconsistent with the content of his poetry and fiction.  He is an avowed atheist who makes frequent reference to biblical passages, whose terrifying “Old Ones” are manifested through religious ritual, and whose settings often include churches and graveyards.  He is officially a materialist, and yet his metaphysics of the dream world holds that dreams are as real as so-called reality, and probably more so.   In life, he felt that he was superior to the rabble and especially to ethnic, racial and religious minorities. Yet he considered himself feeble, frequently incapacitated, physically ugly, and a failure.

2.  He remains popular and influential nearly 100 years after his death, despite having so little in common with his readers.  For much of his life he did not work, was not interested in women, and was a “gentleman” in a country that usually lampoons such affectations.  By some standards he was not even a particularly good writer.  His stories lack dialogue, characterization, plot—Lovecraft himself freely admitted that he was best at setting and mood, but little else.  Yet he was able to conceptualize what is truly and supernaturally horrifying and influence various types of horror entertainment by contributing a vocabulary of settings, creatures and mythologies.

3.  In his poetry, fiction and correspondence, Lovecraft leaves behind a remarkable psycho-emotional record of his fears and disappointments.  He carefully documented his struggles with depression and sanity following his grandfather’s death, the subsequent loss of the family fortune, and his inability to succeed as an adult or as a writer in a challenging period of history.  He conducted himself as if he were a devout Puritan, yet had no hope or belief in a salvation.  Near the end of his life he was still trying to resolve the contradictions in his life and find a purpose—even an identity—for himself.

Going forward, H.P. Lovecraft’s work will remain a focus of The R’lyeh Tribune, but attention will shift outwards to explore the circle of writers Lovecraft attracted and how they laid the groundwork for the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” that followed soon after his death.  It may also be interesting to go backward as well, and explore authors who preceded Lovecraft in the late 19th and very early 20th century, what Joshua Glenn of HiLo Books calls “Radium Age Science Fiction”.

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