H.P. Lovecraft was miserable during his life. He never felt good about himself or anything he accomplished. He died early and that spared him a long life of self-loathing and bad health.
However, during his short life, he wrote some of the most memorable horror fiction of all time, inspiring legions of writers whose ranks continue to grow today. He liked to write about things with tentacles, about bizarre religious rites carried out by human priests who worship aliens, strange inter-breedings between humans and white apes, and so on.
Not a fun guy, but an unforgettable writer.
H.P.’s Strange Reality
Lovecraft’s stories revolved around the premise that the reality we know is thinly held together. Behind everything we know lie horrors that would drive us insane if we even glimpsed them. The mythology gets very long and winding throughout his many stories, but here’s the gist:
Long before Earth was populated by humans, it was inhabited by ancient Gods and monsters. A few of them stuck around and might be living at the bottom of the ocean, among the glaciers of the Arctic, or in fishing villages on the Eastern coast of the United States.
Many of the tales involve an academic or a reporter going to investigate the doing of a cult and winding up making a terrible discovery.
1. The Call of Cthulhu
This might be the most famous of Lovecraft’s stories, and it might be my favorite. It involves a sea-going expedition that doesn’t go so well. This story led to what is called The Chtulhu Mythos, which essentially refers to the connected ongoing threads between much of his writing.
The final image is as good as it gets.
2. At The Mountains of Madness
An exploration of mountains in Antarctica reveals that something nasty happened to the previous band of adventurers. As they try to figure out what happened, they stumble onto a hidden and ancient and massive city where strange things have happened and are apparently still going on.
Again, this story ends with a terrible, squishy bang. I love it.
3. The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Like much of Shirley Jackson’s best short fiction, Lovecraft’s stories often center on strangers poking around towns full of citizens who don’t like nosy strangers. Innsmouth is a fishing village full of people that don’t act the way decent folk should.
The imagery in this story is so vivid that it will have you smelling fish.
If you enjoy these two stories, you’ll be safe with about 90% of what Lovecraft wrote. I have to be in a certain mood to want to read his stories. Thankfully, I’m not in that mood too often. But when I am, there’s nothing better.
The poor guy was a true original who never got to see how far his work would reach.
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