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HP Lovecraft and His Work

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  • Pietro_Mercurios
    replied
    Still thinking about writing a piece. One big case of writer's block.

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  • Octo Seven
    replied
    Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post

    I suppose if I ever re-read "At the Mountains of Madness" I'll be wondering if and how this current of Lovecraft's thought manifests in his treatment of those alien scholars whose slaves ruined everything.
    Never even thought about the Shoggoths/Old Ones in that way, interesting and disturbing. I wonder if it was deliberate or subconscious allegory.

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  • krakenten
    replied
    There was a lot of pro-Confederate sympathy in America about that time. the Cavaliers of Dixie were romantic figures, and that attitude carried through into the sixties-watch a few John Ford westerns, and see how the Wounded Eagles of the South were portrayed.

    Small matter, it's done now. A lot of the anger in the North came when southern blacks came North and began to compete for jobs, because of the massive casualties of the war and from outright xenophobia. The white,urban worker loathed anyone they didn't grow up with. Just like that town I grew up in, where all social bonds were formed in High School, and that was that.

    Lovecraft had many faults as a writer, his racism was one of the lesser ones

    Say what you will, HPL is a major writer-he hit a special note. He might have been forgotten, save that gamers adopted him-Cthulhu is such a convenient personification of Evil-now he's here to stay.

    Machen gave us Deep Dendo, the Mao Games and those wicked Voorish domes. MR James put the story that inspired Curse of the Demon("Casting the Runes') before us, and we shuddered. Chambers wrote a few good ones, then went back to amusing shopgirls.

    Still seems like HPL has the staying power-and the gall to lift ideas. He was free with his inventions-which made them even stronger.

    Will ye, or nil ye HPL has left a footprint. There are many other authors I admire(foremost among 'em Diana Gabaldon!), and many wonderful traditions.

    I still go back to HPL.

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  • Heresiologist
    replied
    Sorry, got called away when I had meant to add to Octo's speculations about Lovecraft's youth.

    As a bonus for krakenten I'll refer to a line from Lovecraft's poem De Triumpho Naturae (but sorry, mate, it's a racist line):
    Against God's will the Yankee freed the slave
    Add that to other similar sentiments, my earlier comment about the "On the Creation of...," then consider how his family is usually portrayed as seriously old guard conservatives, and my highly conjectural conclusion is he grew up among a bunch of emancipation proclamation revanchists.

    I suppose if I ever re-read "At the Mountains of Madness" I'll be wondering if and how this current of Lovecraft's thought manifests in his treatment of those alien scholars whose slaves ruined everything.
    Last edited by Heresiologist; 05-17-2015, 10:16 AM.

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  • krakenten
    replied
    Yet another afterthought-getting lost.

    In many HPL stories, and tales based on his work, people get lost and find themselves going in circles or somehow doubling back on themselves.

    Lovecraft is said to have a fear of being lost, dating from his childhood. I feel for the guy, because it happens to me all too frequently(GPS is a good thing!)

    And every time, I think of how authentic that description of the experience is-just a few weeks ago I went for a walk in a part of the city I don't know at all, and spent two hours circling and backtracking, growing ever more frantic-then I passed a spot I'd been by several times, realized it was about a mile from my house and proceeded to make a grateful return.

    My dog enjoyed it, I didn't.

    I've also noticed that when lost, your opinion of others slips and some rather dark and bigoted thoughts will emerge-I'm not alone, read Flannery O'Conner's 'The Artificial Nigger' which subtly illustrates the roots of racism in fear,frustration and self-pity.

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  • krakenten
    replied
    I grew up in a strange little town much like the ones HPL wrote of(York could have been Arkham, Red Lion was a version of Innesmouth) The Hex Murder of 1929 happened in York Co. and the supernatural is a commonplace belief. It was worse when I was a kid.

    To call the place insular would be generous-the town had been a Klan hotbed before WWII(mostly concerned with Catholics and Jews), there were a lot of secrets there. Nasty ones.

    Most of the population was factory hands, with farmers in the rural area. The cigar business, furniture factories and defense industries had made a number of millionaires-it was once the richest small town in America-who did not share the wealth.

    For years, there was a brain-drain, as the brighter kids went off to college and never returned.

    I know what HPL went through.

    No deviation was permitted there, if you strayed(as I did, by liking scifi) you were an outcast, stupid and a queer. Being beaten up often and commonly mocked. No use telling the adults, they always made it worse.

    I hid in books. Not easy, the town had no library, except at the high school. There were no book stores, only paperbacks from the drug store.

    I lived there for a while, helping my Mom as she slipped away, and found the place depopulated. There were still bullies, though-but not as many, and not as powerful.

    My point? HPL presented a pretty good portrait of dysfunctional America before the sixties shook things up a bit. He used imaginary monsters in place of the Communists and Other Races, perhaps unconciously , in place of the largely imaginary menaces to the USA in his time,which continued into the fifties.

    I find the world that HPL presented quite natural(did I mention that York Co. also contains Toad Road and the Seven Gates to Hell?) I sort of grew up there.

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  • Michael Moorcock
    replied
    True.

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  • SeeDoubleYou
    replied
    Shut-in by oppression or infirmity, that can definitely make you into a bully. i.e. loss of social-finesse and sensitivity.
    Last edited by SeeDoubleYou; 05-16-2015, 11:31 PM.

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  • Heresiologist
    replied
    Ah. Thanks for the clarification, Octo.

    Though it's more conventional to accept Lovecraft was a sickly child, can't say as I know of anything that goes against your understanding of Lovecraft's childhood and early youth. It does indeed seem a notably sheltered life.

    I find your speculations interesting and don't think they sound far-fetched.
    Last edited by Heresiologist; 05-16-2015, 11:13 PM.

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  • Octo Seven
    replied
    Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
    Some great points so far, but I think the notion that Lovecraft was a reclusive shut-in is more mythology than fact.
    .
    Those trips to visit friends occurred later in his life though, after he set up a circle of correspondents within the world of amateur fiction. I feel he was a shut-in in the sense of spending his entire youth housebound, he didn't even go to school for very long as his overprotective mother pulled him out citing his 'nervous condition'. There's an account of his mother chastising one of his aunts for holding his hand as he was 'too fragile' and his wrist might break. Given that kind of behavior it's probably safe to assume she led him to believe the world was a very scary and dangerous place and he was a very vulnerable little creature. I get the impression he was probably perfectly healthy but his mother had some kind of Munchhausen by proxy, possibly born out of the grief of losing her husband. That's just my speculation of course. I also don't want to sound like I'm blaming his mom for his failings, god knows what kind of life she had, being a woman of that time.

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  • Heresiologist
    replied
    Some great points so far, but I think the notion that Lovecraft was a reclusive shut-in is more mythology than fact. He traveled fairly often and fairly extensively along the US's eastern seaboard. And he had a diverse and large number of friends, at least one of whom had a reputation as a crusader against racial prejudice.

    When it comes to gleaning why he thought the way he did, I think his poem "On the Creation of [racist term deleted]" (the one at the heart of the recent World Fantasy Award controversy) is quite revealing, seeing as he wrote it when he was 6 or so. I just don't think there's much chance he came up with it all on his own. Rather, I think it tells me a lot about the household he was raised in.

    Beyond that...

    I don't think he was a pulp fiction hack. He had literary aspirations and, far as I can tell, looked down on a lot of pulp writing.

    Though I do believe he had his sad and bitter moments, I think wholly characterizing him as those things is unfair.

    For myself his work does not inspire alienation or fear or unease. Mostly it was just a congeries of intriguing vistas and interesting creatures. If the Call of Cthulhu RPG hadn't come out, I'd probably have just read some of his fiction and moved on (and stuck with Howard and Ashton Smith). Though Mike's associating him with crypto-fascists in "Starship Stormtroopers" did rouse a lot of curiosity about the charge.

    I'd like to see a Lovecraft quote where he declares himself a science fiction author, or anything close to it, as it seems to run counter to much of what he says in "Notes on Writing Weird Fiction."

    And yet again I reiterate that going on about his racism isn't about excoriating a dead man. It's mainly about understanding authorial intent and how this important aspect of his worldview informed his work. Because for me, it doesn't add to his work, but detracts -- and I think he had talent and intelligence enough that he didn't need racism to be able to write what he did. I haven't read any of his early works in ages, but I still think "Shadow Over Innsmouth" is readily seen as a metaphor for the one drop rule, that the subtext is race-mixing. Note that I don't think these are the only ways to see it, just one way; but likely a way that Lovecraft intended.
    Last edited by Heresiologist; 05-16-2015, 11:12 PM.

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  • SeeDoubleYou
    replied
    Just disenchanted with the easy-out, but it's-a-fair-cop; if you take his life and then take his work, you can draw a straight line, I'm not denying that.
    However, I think as we change as a world this view of him will include more of his totality and be a bit more compassionate (as with all other "mad" geniuses).

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  • krakenten
    replied
    Octo, you hit the nail on the head!

    I wish we could get past deploring HPL's racism, and examine the poetry a nd prose he produced. Some of the technique and finesse he used raises his body of work above the level of the ordinary pulp fiction hack.

    That Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith(among others) took inspiration from HPL-which favor he returned- should speak of the quality of his vision.

    These guys plundered Poe, Machen, Bierce, Hodgeson and many others to set up a sort of shared universe, a concept that added much to the fiction(and made it seem real, too!).

    The ol' boy bein' tetched was an asset, as well.

    In an earlier post, when I stated that HPL invented the weird of today, I was gravely in error, as Donelly's ''Atlantis'' and Churchward's "Mu" certainly set that ball rolling. Churchward was very fond of making bald(and innacurate) statements, such as, "I have a knife which I believe to be the oldest knife in the world....". There's an illustration, and one can plainly see that the specimen is a rather common Tibetan utility knife-but such were uncommon in the West at the time.

    To write such works, three things are needed, a few facts, some arrant speculation and some 'ball-face lies''. Any inconvenient facts are omitted, or distorted. Outright humbugs are treated as fact.

    Ever hear of 'the restless coffins of Barbados? There's a photo of the now disused vault on line-looks to me that the tomb would fill with water in the rains, which would float the very thin lead coffins and allow them to become displaced. This possibility is never mentioned, and the local newspaper never mentioned the incident.

    Seems that an awful lot of weirdness happens far from the publications that report same.

    It also tends to be reported a decade or more afterwards. Just imagine!

    News stories with an odd slant can be doctored into very spooky stuff.

    And so we have HPL, a sad and bitter man, turning out scary stories at a few cents per word.

    Pray, have some pity?

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  • Octo Seven
    replied
    Originally posted by SeeDoubleYou View Post
    ; isn't this more excuses for the alienation and fear that his work brings out? !
    I don't think they're excuses, just actual facts of his life. Interpret from them what you will. I feel HPL was terrified of change of any kind and this was due to the loss of his parents to insanity and eventually death. This is why the core theme of his work is fear of the unknown and fear of the inconceivable not to mention madness being a recurring theme in many of his works. He clung to the idea of being a British gentlemen and the 'old ways' as a desperate attempt to cling to the emotional stability, financial promise and familiarity of his early youth, before his family lost everything. There is no excuse or justification for racism but there is always psychology and it is interesting to try and glean why people think the way they do, especially when they hold unwarranted prejudices. Being a shut-in with little life experiwence, HPL had overly romantic ideas about his race, he read too much and lived too little in a time of great social and political change.

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  • krakenten
    replied
    And that about sums it up!

    As for myself, I concentrate on the stories I loved when I was young, oh, they all had faults(ERB's tales were downright crazy, but I love them still.) Doyle's creations are masterful, but quite unlikely. Verne's 'science' was shaky at best(a cannonball to the Moon, a MANNED cannonball?) and H.G. Welles was often over the top. Still, dreams are made of these.

    Like comparing a Western film to the actual business of running a ranch, much of the romance is lost.

    Today, some authors(and very good ones)still produce 'space opera' set in the raygun gothic universe. For me, it's spoiled, because I know it will never be.

    With the recent developments in physics, HPL looks less absurd. What science there is is quite dated, now, whole thing needs a makeover, really.

    HPL still has the power to make us uneasy!

    (and you are quite right about the hidden humor-the film version of Herbert West is very funny indeed-("Is he dead?"......."Not any more!")

    And on a happy note, airship fanciers can envy me the sight of an enormous aerostat, nearly 250 ft. long that I can see every day. Of late, blimps are plentiful here in Baltimore during the summer and fall, but this aerostat harks to the days of the great Zeppelins. Quite a sight!

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