Lovecraft, The Most Influential Horror And Sci-fi Writer

Howard Phillip Lovecraft (1890-1937) is one of the most important authors of the horror genre. The way he mixed terror with science fiction (extra-terrestrials, travels to other times and dimensions) turned him into one of the most influential writers of this genre, and he's one of the most read and quoted during generations.

His life was always filled with misfortune. He was born on August 20th, 1890 in Providence (Rhode Island). When Lovecraft was 3 years old, his father, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, was interned in a psychiatric hospital, where he was confined until he died.
So Howard was educated by his mother, 2 of his aunts, and his grandfather.

Lovecraft's mother put all her frustrations on his son. She was a very neurotic woman, and very possessive, that put strange ideas in her son's mind, telling that he was very ugly, that the others will hurt him, and that the best that he could do was to not get too far from her to avoid those problems. She also transmitted him racist ideas. And she turned him into a lonely, fearful, and introverted boy, and over all that, with a strong dependence from his mother.

But Lovecraft was a brilliant being. When he was 2 years old, he recited poetry, and at 3 he already know how to read. At 7, he started to write his first stories.

The book that impressed him most in his first years was "One Thousand And One Nights" (that was also the favorite book of Lord Byron). He read it when he was five. Under the influence of this book, during his first years he used a pseudonym "Abdul Alhazred", the same that he used years later for the character of the Necronomicon.
As a curiosity, Alhazred is an anagram: "All has read".

The first work of Lovecraft that has arrived till our days is "The Poem of Ulysses", that he wrote when he was seven years old.

Soon, he was captivated by the fiction genre. His grandfather told him stories of Gothic horror, and Lovecraft soon felt trapped by this genre.

Lovecraft was a very sickly child, so he went very little to school, always being mainly self-taught. When he was 8 years old, he mastered science, specially chemistry and astronomy.
At 9, he already was a writer in an amateur magazine, and also in the astronomy magazine of Rhode Island.

In his studies in Rhode Island, he wrote a monthly column of astronomy in a newspaper, and did many journalism works.

In 1904 his grandfather died and the familiar economy worsened. They moved from their luxurious Victorian mansion to a much more modest new home. This depressed Lovecraft very much, specially leaving far away the old library where he passed all his childhood. He even thought in committing suicide.

Four years later he suffered a nervous breakdown. His difficulties with maths prevented him from going to the University of Brown and becoming an astronomer. This, that may seem a minor problem, supposed a constant humiliation in his mind for all his life. He couldn't ever go to pick up his graduation diploma.

During this phase of his life in which he was dominated by depression, he rarely went out of his house, and lived confined, more and more subdued to his mother.

But there was a happening that broke this confinement. When he was reading a magazine ("Argosy"), he found a love story written by Fred Jackson, and decided to make a letter with a poem attacking Jackson. A big controversy arose between detractors and defenders of Jackson.
Finally, Lovecraft ended becoming member of the "United Amateur Press Association", an association of amateur writers that published their own works. And published 13 numbers of his own amateur magazine.
Lovecraft managed to become the President of the National Amateur Press Association. And with a new optimism he recovered his love for writing fiction.

In 1923, he appeared in the popular magazine "Weird Tales". He contacted with many other collaborators, writers that had a constant communication by mail that left more than 80,000 letters written. One of his friends was Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan The Barbarian.

His mother fell ill, and was interned in a psychiatric hospital, the same one that saw the last days of Lovecraft's father. After a operation, she died. Lovecraft was 31 years old.

Lovecraft was ruined, so he started to work as a copy editor for other writers. In a journalists meeting, he met the woman that was his future wife: Sonia Greene.
Sonia was a merchant that had a hat shot, and worked in the United Amateur Press Association.

But her health started to be worse and lost her hats shop. Lovecraft did not find any job. She moved to Cleveland trying to improve their situation, and Lovecraft stayed in Brooklyn, and soon asked her to divorce.

He returned to Providence, and wrote incessantly. From this stage, he left us works like "The Call Of Cthulhu". He also promoted the works of other writers, and was interested in Politics. One of his aunts dies and he moves to the house of his other aunt.

Their economical problems continued. He fell ill of cancer and died. He was buried in the family vault of his grandfather.

Lovecraft died without seeing any of his books published. His stories were scattered all over an endless list of magazines, and lived without knowing the enormous success that he had years after his own death. And without knowing that he will become one of the most influential science fiction and terror authors in History.

-Emma Alvarez-

© 2008 by Emma Alvarez. Link to this post without copying the text.

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Valandil said...

I love your posts, and this one is not the exception.

I've read a couple of HP's books and I really like the way he describes the feelings and the relations among the characters (and, of course, the terrifying monsters!).

Keep doin' this great job.

Emma Alvarez said...

Thanks Valandil,

When I write about someone I try to capture the essence of the character. I appreciate that you have noticed it.

Anonymous said...


I can feel the chill
In the Autumn air,
In the the deeper darkness
Of my own shadow,
Which lurks just out of sight,
So very close behind me.

Sorry. Lovecraft gets me in these moods.

Loved your article. I'm a big fan of the works of the Gentleman from Providence. I'm becoming a fan of your posts as well.

You might wish to take a look at this interesting work entitled:
Night Gaunts - An Entertainment based on the Life and Writings of H.P. Lovecraft, by Brett Rutherford.

Lovely and moody - just like the month of October.

Link to it here:

Ciao! Iä, Shub-Niggurath!

Emma Alvarez said...

Thank you very much Anonymous. I love the poem that you sent in that link. And... :)

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die."
-H.P. Lovecraft-

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