While it would be possible to write a dozen or more blogs on different aspects of his life and work, I wanted to look at the legacy of a man whose accomplishments would only be fully appreciated after his death in 1937. Before then, his stories were largely overlooked because they appeared in the cheap pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s. It was the frequent contact he shared with his circle of fellow writers, including younger authors Robert Bloch and August Darleth, that would see them preserve his short stories and novels and ensure their future wide availability.
This led his work to have a huge impact on modern popular culture, including everything from films to computer games, whilst serving to inspire some of the most accomplished writers' earliest forays into horror fiction. U.S. author Stephen King has spoken of how his own experience of reading a HP Lovecraft paperback all the way back in 1960 was pivotal in sparking his own career, while British writer Ramsey Campbell, in the introduction to Dark Companions, his collection of short stories published in 1982, admitted that the first book he wrote as an eleven-year-old boy was built upon a collection of tales by Lovecraft.
It is perhaps his creation of a fictional universe to which other authors would later contribute, enrich and be inspired to replicate, which would have the most pronounced and lasting impact. The Cthuluh Mythos provided him with a fertile breeding ground to create a wave of monstrous creations, including ancient, malevolent deities which once ruled the earth. More broadly, its science fiction element helped pave the way for the transformation of the Gothic genre into modern horror fiction.
Perhaps here, we find the principal reason why his storytelling continues to resonate so powerfully. For it represented the unveiling of a new, dark imagining of the cosmos: one which, crucially, does not care one jot for humanity’s existence.
And isn’t that the most frightening prospect of all?
Sources: HP Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (London: Penguin Books, 1999); HP Lovecraft: The man who haunted horror fans, BBC News Magazine, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17472580