You may associate the name H.P. Lovecraft with the stuff of nightmares. After all, this legendary writer left behind a horror legacy that spawned an entire subgenre bearing his name.
Even if you've never read a single one of Lovecraft's stories, you have definitely seen his influence, whether in other stories, books, TV shows, and movies. But who was the writer behind the tales of monsters and the men who went mad fighting them? Here are 4 terrifying facts about one the most famous American horror authors. Read at your own risk!
1. Lovecraft was obsessed with death from a young age
When Lovecraft was just 3 years old, his father experienced a psychological breakdown which eventually led to his confinement in an asylum. Because of this, Lovecraft moved in with his mother's family, but soon after his grandmother died.
Both these events colored Lovecraft's early years and led to a life-long obsession with death and madness. He feared a mental breakdown of his own and experienced anxiety and agoraphobia (a fear of public places). While this did lead to Lovecraft isolating himself somewhat, he also poured his energy into reading a lot of horror fiction.
2. He gained an audience through pulp fiction zines
Lovecraft was very active in the pulp fiction community and began to gain a readership when his stories started to get published periodically in a zine called Weird Tales. This was one of the most popular zines at the time, and published other sci-fi greats like Ray Bradbury.
Even then, his writing was considered very niche and he actually popularized his own subgenre of 'Weird' fiction (partially inspired by the zine Weird Tales' influence on his work).
3. He died penniless and unknown
Anyone who loves to read, write, or watch speculative and horror fiction these days is intimately familiar with the name Lovecraft. Horror greats like Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro are inspired by his work, and Lovecraft's monsters have woven their way into modern pop culture and—following the naming of a prehistoric sea cucumber after his iconic creature the Cthulhu—even the science world!
Unfortunately, Lovecraft never experienced any of this acclaim in his lifetime, nor did he live to see his name transformed into the definitive horror subgenre called Lovecraftian Horror. He died penniless and relatively unknown in 1937 at the age of 46.
4. Lovecraft was racist, and it shows in his work
While very beloved for his cosmic horror and lasting influence on the overall genre, Lovecraft was actually a pretty terrible human being in real life. You could argue that his racists views were 'typical' of the time he lived in (late 1800s/early 1900s), but Lovecraft was a loud, very opinionated, horribly racists man of the variety who admired Hitler and wrote xenophobic and anti-BIPOC themes into his work.
For very clear reasons this is often a point of conflict for those who continue to be inspired by him and love his work today. One particularly fresh take on Lovecraft which seems to thumb a nose at his racists views (and brilliantly so!), is HBO's new Lovecraft Country. This show features a majority Black cast on the hunt for the type of monsters Lovecraft would be proud of. Stick it out until the end of the trailer for a glimpse of a Lovecraftian favorite!
What do you think? Can we still enjoy Lovecraft's writing and the horror legacy he left behind in spite of his racism? Is this a case of separating the man from his art?
Share your thoughts below in the comments section!