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RUE MORGUE #11: The Weird World of H.P. Lovecraft

Launched in 1997 by Rodrigo Gudiño, RUE MORGUE is the world’s leading horror in culture and entertainment brand, spearheaded by its multiple award-winning magazine, RUE MORGUE and RUE MORGUE DIGITAL; RUE MORGUE TV specialty horror channel; RUE MORGUE LIBRARY book series; RUE MORGUE PRESENTS FRIGHTMARE IN THE FALLS horror expo and RUE MORGUE PRESENTS CINEMACABRE MOVIE NIGHTS monthly film series.

MARRS Media Inc.
6 Issues

in this issue

4 min

THE STRANGE AND UNIQUE INDIVIDUALITY OF HOWARD PHILLIPS LOVECRAFT HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE FIELD OF HORROR FICTION: that of a cosmic outsider, out of space and out of time. Much mystery, mystification and myth is woven around his name, and a legend larger than life makes him seem at the same time familiar and a total stranger. Can we really define a man who loathed this world so strongly that most of his existence was devoted to dreams – of the past, of alien worlds and of Earth’s imminent destruction? The best position for understanding Lovecraft may lie in that which is unnameable, which looms from beyond, in the realm of Hypnos beyond the wall of sleep, locked away with a silver key. Can we glimpse the outline of…

9 min
a lifetime of nightmares: a timeline of lovecraft

H.P. LOVECRAFT’S LIFE WAS NOT EVENTFUL IN ANY USUAL SENSE. HE WAS NOT A BIG-GAME HUNTER, DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN ANY WARS, HAD NO GREAT LOVE AFFAIRS, AND DID NOT TRAVEL MUCH OUTSIDE OF HIS NOOK OF THE WORLD. Like most horror writers, he lived mostly inside, in his imagination and dreams. And yet, those were certainly fuelled and shaped by his background. HPL was born into a moderately well-to-do family that went bankrupt after his grandfather’s death, when Howard was fourteen. His father ended up in an asylum when the boy was only three, and died there when he was eight; his mother ended her life in the same asylum when he was 31. Small wonder, then, that fears related to the legacy of one’s ancestors (both familial and racial)…

4 min
a brave new world of gods and monsters: views of cosmicism

LOVECRAFT IS SOMETIMES LAZILY LUMPED TOGETHER WITH OTHER “PULP” WRITERS, BUT ONE OF THE KEY ELEMENTS THAT MAKES HIM STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD IS THAT ALL OF HIS WRITINGS WERE BASED ON A VERY CLEAR AND DEVELOPED WORLDVIEW. Yes, the man whose name many know only from video games, heavy metal songs and lurid comics actually had a real philosophy behind his writings. And one of its key building blocks was his cosmic perspective, or cosmicism, which he summarized in this letter to Farnsworth Wright, Weird Tales editor, dated 5 July 1927: Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in…

4 min
amatory phenomena: views on gender and sex

MUCH HAS BEEN MADE OF THE FACT THAT WOMEN ARE PRACTICALLY NONEXISTENT IN LOVECRAFT’S FICTION. The single (sort of) exception to this rule is Asenath Waite from “The Thing on the Doorstep,” a young woman revealed at the end of the story to have been just a vessel bearing the spirit of her evil wizard father. Therefore, one could claim that there is a female body present, but not a female character. When femininity is alluded to in Lovecraft’s tales, it is usually linked with female reproductive power (e.g. the feeble-minded Lavinia Whateley in “The Dunwich Horror” who bears the monstrous offspring of Yog-Sothoth) or with soul-shattering witchcraft (e.g. Keziah Mason, the old witch from “Dreams in the Witch-House”). There are no affectionate mothers or sisters, no loving wives or…

5 min
shapeless forms of organic entity: views on race

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL AND PROBLEMATIC ASPECT OF LOVECRAFT’S LEGACY IS RELATED TO HIS RACIAL VIEWS. To put it bluntly, he considered the white man to be the apex of humanity while the black race (not only Afro-Americans but, even more, those in Africa and Australia) was, for him, barely above the level of apes. Lovecraft was not openly racist, but he privately held views which were widespread in his day and age, especially in New England, where the predominantly white population felt threatened by the upsurge of immigrants from around the world. This threat is reflected in his minor, practically worthless early short story “The Street“(1920), which laments the “forgotten lore of nobler, departed centuries; of sturdy colonial tenants and dewy rose-gardens in the moonlight,” now overshadowed by the new horror:…

9 min
leave your humanity at the threshold: poetics of the weird tale

“THE OLDEST AND STRONGEST EMOTION OF MANKIND IS FEAR, AND THE OLDEST AND STRONGEST KIND OF FEAR IS FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN.” Thus wrote Lovecraft in his celebrated essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” adding: “These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form.” This oft-quoted statement provides the psychological and anthropological background for fear’s universal impact and for relevance of its artistic treatment. This insight, however, is only one among those which constitute Lovecraft’s concept of “the weird tale” (his preferred term for what we call horror fiction today). Lovecraft’s unique approach to horror is the direct outcome of his world view, sketched in the previous chapters, especially the cosmic vision that…