I'm in between blog major blog posts right now, but I thought I'd highlight another very timely essay of H.P. Lovecraft's, in which he discusses superstition in times of trouble. This can be found in the excellent collection of Lovecraft's philosophical essays, and excerpts appear below the fold. The essay appeared in the magazine Conservative 4, No. 1 (July 1918), pp. 4-5.
Archive for the 'Lovecraft' category
I would be seriously remiss if I didn't mention that today is the birthday of one of the great horror/scifi actors, Ron Perlman! He's been involved with so many cool projects it's hard to do them all justice: He's probably most well-known these days for his portrayal of Hellboy (and his upcoming portrayal in the sequel, Hellboy II : The Golden Army). The earliest role I had seen him play was the sinister hunchback Salvatore in the excellent murder mystery The Name of the Rose. One of his longest-running roles was as 'The Beast' in the 1980s Beauty and the Beast television series. He's played a vampire mercenary in Blade II and a demonic sheriff in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's Desperation. His deep, authoritative voice has earned him many voice-over roles playing, amongst others, Hellboy, Conan, Clayface (a Batman villain), Jax-Ur (a phantom zone criminal), and The Incredible Hulk.
The future looks pretty bright for Perlman, as well: besides his starring role in the next Hellboy film, he is slated to voice-over Conan in the excellent animated version of Red Nails, which promises to be one of the truest adaptations ever made of the barbarian. The most intriguing bit of news is that he is rumored to have a part in an upcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness! Normally, I would be horrified to see anyone trying to adapt this story to the screen, but the director is Guillermo del Toro, and if anyone can adapt it properly, he can.
In any case, happy birthday to Ron Perlman, and best of luck for his future endeavors!
I was browsing through H.P. Lovecraft's writings again, in particular his collected philosophical works, and came across an interesting essay: "Time and Space", printed in Conservative 4, No. 1 (July 1918). Though extremely flowery and poetic, the essay does justice to both Lovecraft's fiction and science as a whole, as I discuss below. The text, and some commentary, below the fold...
"Psychic detectives" are very much in vogue again on television these days. Shows such as Medium and Ghost Whisperer try and entertain viewers with psychic-types attempting to solve crimes and right past wrongs using their supernatural abilities.
The idea of a professional supernatural stalker in fiction is much older, though, and can be traced back to the mid-1800s. I recently decided to go on a "psychic detective" reading binge, and below the fold I summarize a bit of the history of the concept and rate the skills of the various investigators...
Most people are hopefully aware of the very strong religious right movement to incorporate creationism (the belief that God created the world and everything in it in its present form) in science classes as valid topic of study alongside evolution (the reality that all living species evolved from 'lower' forms of life, and continue to evolve over timescales almost incomprehensible). This dishonest movement, now referred to as 'intelligent design' or ID to get past the religion ban in classrooms, has no evidence in its favor and consists almost entirely of negative arguments ("You can't explain that? Then God did it!"). The biology website Pharyngula, written by PZ Myers, is a good place to get the latest scoop on creationist nonsense. And these things have potentially catastrophic consequences: a Presidential candidate, for instance, is on the record as saying he doesn't believe in evolution, and has other ideas that are far out of the mainstream of reality.
Leafing through the collected science essays of H.P. Lovecraft (hey, that's what I do for kicks), one finds that similar problems have been around before.
I'm planning to write little posts highlighting the works of a lot of the true masters of horror fiction, including a bit about them and what I consider to be their most enjoyable yarns. One aspect that I will address is the main 'theme' of the author's work, and I wanted to say a few words about what I mean by that.
In all of creative writing, authors tend to have settings, topics, or metaphors that appeal to them and which they return to again and again. The one place I don't usually hear this discussed is in the genre of horror fiction, perhaps because horror is generally considered to be a 'low' form of writing. Such 'themes' of a writer can be very insightful, both in understanding the author himself and the times he lived in as well as in understanding what makes certain authors' fiction effective.
To consider a few illustrative examples, which we'll no doubt return to in detail:
My thesis advisor has often lamented the rise of email in society, mainly because the electronic correspondence isn't as permanent as the written letter, and lots of interesting historical anecdotes can get lost.
I delved into one of these recently while reading H.P. Lovecraft's letters. Lovecraft was, in many ways, a 'dream citizen' for scientists. He had an active interest in all branches of science and attended popular lectures on many subjects. He also vigorously defended science against the encroachment of pseudoscience on one occasion (more on this in another post).
The particular letter which I want to describe is dated May 9, 1936 to James F. Morton:
Here I dig up yet another letter from HPL, to E. Hoffmann Price, from 1936:
Glad you found the Mts. of Madness readable. That was my attempt to pin down the vague feelings regarding the lethal, desolate white south which have haunted me ever since I was ten years old. It was written in 1931 -- and its hostile reception by Wright and others to whom it was shown probably did more than anything else to end my effective fictional career.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) is one of the most influential horror authors people have never heard of. He was a direct inspiration to most of the leading horror voices of this generation, including Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell.