Friday, August 21, 2015

Writers Born Today - H.P. Lovecraft

It's the birthday of H.P. Lovecraft, born August 20th 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island. When he died, he was virtually unknown. Only a few of his stories had been published. Yet today he is recognized as one of the most influential writers of modern times. He knew and befriended many great authors of early science fiction and horror, including August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard. They became known as The Lovecraft Circle, due to Lovecraft's influence on their writing. He corresponded with dozens of writers and edited countless stories without taking credit. Stephen King said he was "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale," and credited Lovecraft with King's interest in horror and the macabre.

As a writer of horror Lovecraft was a genius, and coined the phrase known by even non-Lovecraft fans, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

His health was frail for most of his life. As a result he did not graduate from high school. But he studied on his own and was well read in science and astronomy. He was generous with his editorial assistance to fellow writers, but his own contributions to magazines such as Weird Tales brought him little money. By the time he died of cancer in 1937 he was broke.

After his death, August Derleth worked to maintain Lovecraft's reputation and increase interest among readers. Derleth even started a publishing company named Arkham House (named after a setting in Lovecraft's stories) with the express purpose of publishing Lovecraft's work. His fans bought him a tombstone in his home town of Providence. And in 2005, the Library of America honored him by publishing an edition of his stories, H.P. Lovecraft: Tales.

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