Lovecraft and his meaning in the horror literature
H.P. Lovecraft is a name you may all have heard before somewhere. You may even know he is a horror-author who is the creator behind internet-famous beasts like Cthulhu. Despite Lovecraft himself being quite an odd figure – and famously, a racists as well – his works still hold great importance and meaning in the horror literature. But why? Why does Lovecraft still hold such an important place in the world of the horror genre, and why do his creations and ideas so vibrantly live on to this day?
Lovecraft and his particular form of horror literature was not always so popular – the big boom in interest happened posthumously. But his works are not any less significant because of that, and even during his lifetime they had inspired other authors to write macabre fantasy like his own, as they still do with authors like Neil Gaiman and Steven King having named Lovecraft as one of their big inspirations in literature.
Perhaps the special allure that Lovecraft's works seem to have in comparison to other horror literature is partly due to the universality and familiarity of the worlds he creates, making them capable of affecting any reader and drawing people to his fiction.
His fictional worlds are not only incredible creative, – enormous, varied and so detailed you can picture them vividly – but they were different to other literature because of the mundane mixed in with the fantastical. His stories do not just involve crazy, out-of-this-world figures and plots – they, at the same time, are permeated with a sense of reality and realism and are also very normal.
His fictional places (like Arkham, Massachusetts and the Miskatonic University) are detailed and realistic, but he also includes plenty of real-life locations, cities and countries. Lovecraft's horror universes are full of references to, and are described in a way that seems just like, the real world we live in. It is easy for us to imagine being in one of Lovecraft's universes, because they are just like our own. With one important difference – the addition of terrible horror and monsters. Combining reality with horror in this way makes the stories all the more terrifying, with their eerie themes of insanity befalling people who know too much, knowledge beyond that of human comprehension or capability to fathom, creepy cults and beasts. Not only can we picture the world he describes very vividly because of its realism, the horror becomes all the more real and effective when it takes place in a detailed world that seems real. Unlike other authors of horror, Lovecraft does not paint a more dramatic picture of the world, he paints it like the world actually is. The horrors in it then stick with you long after you've read the last sentence. This gives his stories a unique aesthetic and feel to them, which you can't but feel drawn to.
These bleak worlds, with no hint of hope, also gives you the experience of a true horror story. As many have noted, other horror and Gothic authors from before had written novels with horrifying motifs, but with an underlying moral and a sense of right and wrong – think of novels such as The Italian by Anne Radcliffe, The Monk by Matthew Lewis or even Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. But Lovecraft's stories took a different approach – there is often no hope for the characters and the world is bleak. True horror, to the core. This, in a lot of ways, changed the perception of what horror really could be and we can see this today by authors such as Steven King, as an example.
And he is not the only one to have been influenced. Another way that you can see the impact Lovecraft's stories have had is by the many other works that have built upon his. They have inspired many other stories and authors – his works are not a static piece of history, they are alive and evolve through modern pieces of fiction, stories, and even games. In other words, his creations still live on to this day, in different forms (and without the racism).
The bleak but realistic worlds, pessimistic realism and the scope of the ever-growing material are all factors that have contributed to his importance as a horror author today. The aesthetic of his monsters and sketches you see are also very distinctive and unlike anything else. The inspirations that have come from the stories and the creative universes that have followed are something that certainly can be enjoyed. Sometimes we need a little horror in our lives.
For some Lovecraft in your everyday life, check out decor with a Lovecraft-twist in our collection of steampunk home decor, which features macabre pieces, reminiscent of the horror-worlds Lovecraft has created.