What Started YOU On Lovecraft?

I just moved from Iowa, in the midwest United States, to Texas, which is of course in the south.  I’m originally from Texas, and I was looking forward to warm winters and no snow.  Imagine my surprise at the ice storms this week and the snow storm last night!  Once again here in Texas, it’s a snow day.  So for those of you who, like me, have a little extra free time on your hands today, I’d like to start a conversation thread:

What started YOU on reading Lovecraft and Lovecraftian horror?  And what do you enjoy most about it?

I’ll respond to the question as well, after a few of you have started us off.  The floor is yours — just comment below!

18 responses to “What Started YOU On Lovecraft?

  1. I believe it was the standard boxed edition of Dungeons & Dragons with a suggested reading books in the back of the rulebook.

    If I remember correctly, ‘The Doom that Came to Sarnath’ was listed. The Del Reys had just stared coming out. On a chance, I grabbed it, and eventually had them all. Moved from the fantasy to the horror (e.g.; “The Lurking Fear”) to the mythos.

    I’m not sure what hooked me. Maybe just the alien concepts of horror. I’d never read horror presented in that way. Also, the stories were often set in Massachusetts (towns fictional or otherwise) and Providence and seeing as how I’m from MA, they gave me extra chills.

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  2. Reading Ambrose Bierce in High School lead me to read Algernon Blackwood and EA Poe. I had heard of Lovecraft but had’nt intentionally read any of his works (a short story or two in anthologies) until watching Stuart Gordons Re-Animator and From Beyond films. Then I realized I really had to read Lovecraft, which lead to reading his Supernatural Horror in Literature, which lead me to Machen, M.W. Wellman, W.H. Hodgson, R.W. Chambers, Dunsany, C.A. Smith and the like. Hooked for life. Ia! Ia!

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  3. To follow up with what do I enjoy most? It’s changed over the years, At first it was the unexpected turn of the tale and the horrible creatures, then I got more into his writing style, word choices and mood. Which lead to the pursuit of the reoccurring names and locations within the pantheon of tales. Now the appeal is his version of cosmic dread, insignificance of man and the existential and nihilist messages throughout his tales that ring true in my perspectives in life. I must admit, I still dig all the creatures, a lot.

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  4. I was a Mormon missionary in Northern Ireland and had been an obsessed horror film fan, had published my own film fanzines in high school, for which Robert Bloch wrote a tribute to Forry Ackerman. Wasn’t allowed to go to horror films as a missionary, so to get my horror fix I began to buy Bloch’s novels and collections and anthologies that included him among many other writers. Discovered that “The Haunter of the Dark” was dedicated to him and that made Lovecraft of prime interest. Got back to the States and discovered Arkham House and became Lovecraftian to the core and began to publish my Lovecraft fanzine and try my hand at writing Mythos fiction. The more I write Lovecraftian horror, the more I want to write it.

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  5. Fifth grade. 1987. I got a copy of the novelization of Ghostbusters. It mentioned books Egon checked out as a child from his local library. Among titles like “The Mating Habits of Fungus”, the Necronomicon was also mentioned. I didn’t recognize the name and did some digging around and research, and found a copy of the Avon Books black paperback version. It had a big essay as part of the introduction on Lovecraft and his work, trying to make a connection with Aleister Crowley. I was fascinated, read the whole thing cover to cover, and ended up out at my apartment complex’s pool while a summer storm was gathering, sinking myself to the bottom and pretending to be Cthulhu. I started seeking out and reading everything I could. I think when I was about 18 I had managed to read everything extant (of course, with some being much better than others…one can’t compare The Music of Erich Zann with Red Hook). I also sought out movies, even those that were only pastiches (H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, In the Mouth of Madness, etc). I was also always writing (I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was six), so I went through a period in my late teens where every story was full of “cyclopean pillars” and “indescribable horrors”, complete with protagonists who write their journals or confessions right up to, and sometimes past, the moment of of their own death/madness/transformation. I grew out of the imitation, but it definitely marked my style, but later influences did so as well.

    What do I enjoy most…well, I enjoy that what made me the creepy weirdo when I was growing up in southern Texas now has plushie dolls, a musical, and has appeared on South Park. Within the works themselves, I think what has always impacted me the most was the Dream Cycle. I know, many people think his Dunsany-influenced work to be both derivative and meandering compared to the Cthulhu Mythos works. Some have even accused them of being inherently plotless. But I love them, perhaps because while the Mythos describes a universe we are afraid is true, the Dream Cycle presents a world we hope is true.

    What part of Texas are you from, Dear Editor? I grew up in Victoria and Austin.

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  6. Like Willum I got into HPL via Robert Bloch. When I began publishing fanzines the first interview I got to do (via mail) was with Bloch, and as I learned more about him I found out about his early stories and his friendship with HPL. That sent me to read Lovecraft’s stories and I’ve been hooked ever since, spending much of my literary time in Lovecraft’s Mythos – “the finest world of fantasy I know,” as Bloch put it in a eulogy for HPL.

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  7. I started building my library in my mid 20’s and thought I ought to have something from a weird writer I had heard mentioned a time or two, so I bought the Science Fiction Book Club edition “Black Sea’s of Infinity” and devoured it.

    I never considered myself a fan of the horror genre until I read Lovecraft.

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  8. I first read Lovecraft in a suitably ancient, mouldering book of classic horror & supernatural tales when I was about 8. It contained 2 Lovecraft stories, Edgar Allen Poe, Alegernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Saki, Le Fanu, so on and so forth. So, the first of Lovecraft’s stories I read were The Dunwich Horror & Rats in the Walls. Haven’t looked back since & am now engaged in a PhD & concentrating on 3 of his novellas – The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness & The Shadow out of Time.
    & the time between when I was 8 & now is considerable!
    Afterthought – I envy you your snow, dear Editor – drought & heat here.

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  9. My personal introduction to Lovecraft came at the age of nine, when my older sister had just purchased the AD&D guide Deities and Demigods. I got to the chapter devoted to the Cthulhu Mythos, immediately fixating upon the stylized illustration of the titular god. I’ve been obsessed with cephalopods since I was a toddler, and here was a deity I wanted to read more about. Pretty much anything predatory with tentacles and a big brain does it for me. I read that chapter, and the other thing that blew my nine-year-old mind was the notion that in Lovecraft’s vision of the universe, all the gods are malevolent, and the most man can hope for in the vast cosmos is indifference. This idea has given me comfort ever since, as I think it roughly corresponds to our actual position in reality. I followed my early discovery by obsessively reading and rereading Lovecraft’s entire canon, then joyfully discovering others shared my obsession, in the scientific world, in literary circles, and across the wide spectrum of pop culture. I can’t say that HPL started me as a writer – that would have been the first successful lie I ever got away with as a child – but I can say that I’m forever in Lovecraft’s debt.

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  10. 1970 for me. I’d just read the novelization of 2001, and the guy in my local shop thrust a collection of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS and other stories at me, telling me “You’ll like this.” I read it in one sitting then immediately moved on to the others wherever I could find them,

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  11. I got into Lovecraft straight from Call of Cthulhu, different from the rest of these commenters. I came to college and got into a roleplaying group, where they offered a Call of Cthulhu game and one of my old friends had told me how great it was and how I should play it. I didn’t know anything about Lovecraft or even what the game was about at the time, just that all my friends were playing it. My Keeper has lent me a book full of Lovecraft stories, and I’ve read a few online, but I stand steadfast in that to get the full experience you have to play Call of Cthulhu. It’s a great interactive way to learn about Lovecraft, and people who tend to enjoy his stories also tend to be the kind of people that would enjoy or be good at roleplaying.

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  12. My first exposure to H.P. came when I was quite young. My grade school would have a book sale from Scholastic where you would order out of a catalog and the books would come to the class room. It was a big deal and my mom would let me order once in a while ( we were poor.) O ordered an anthology and The Dunwich Horror was a part of it. I tried to read it once or twice and then it clicked. Ever since then this has been my favorite Lovecraft tale.

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  13. Wow. What a great bunch of comments. I’ve been suffering a particularly rough couple of days from my chronic illness, so I haven’t been able to comment as I would have liked; I will comment in detail later tonight. But Neal, to answer your question: I was born in a suburb of Fort Worth; when I was 6, my family moved to Iowa. I spent summers down here, then moved back to Texas for 5 years after I graduated from high school in 1988. Due to coincidence, my wife’s sister’s family lives in a small town about 45 minutes SE of Dallas, so I’m back in the same area now (we are very close to them, and my wife got a great job down here recently).

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  14. I can’t remember if I first heard about HPL through the films or his books, but around the age of 15 I bought one of the anthologies that had “At the Mountains of Madness” and several other stories. I was instantly mesmerised by Lovecraft’s writing style and by the concepts and creatures of the mythos. I began seeking out as many of his stories as I could find, and the more I read the deeper my appreciation for his works developed.

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  15. Unlike a lot of people, I did not discover Lovecraft until I was an adult (if 20 years old can be considered adult), even though I have always been a voracious reader. Funny thing, though: What got me interested in HPL was a quote I read from one of his stories: “I have seen what lies beneath, and it is not good to see.” I thought, what a great quote — I’ve got to find out more. And that’s what started it all for me.

    What I enjoy most? Several things: First, Erich wrote above: “the other thing that blew my nine-year-old mind was the notion that in Lovecraft’s vision of the universe, all the gods are malevolent, and the most man can hope for in the vast cosmos is indifference. This idea has given me comfort ever since, as I think it roughly corresponds to our actual position in reality.” — And I agree with that. I find comfort in that and I cannot really articulate why (though it might have something to do with the extreme abusive christian cult I was forced to grow up in). I also enjoy stories a lot where the main character is searching after forbidden knowledge.

    Most of all, I enjoy stories about the world not being as it seems on the surface.

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  16. I also came to Lovecraft relatively late, because even though I had heard of Lovecraft and even had a college roommate who was a big fan, I wasn’t that interested in horror fiction beyond Poe. It wasn’t until after I graduated that a friend handed me a copy of Del Ray’s Best of H.P. Lovecraft and told me I should give it a shot. I figured I’d start with the shortest story, “The Picture in the House,” which just blew me away. I was hooked from that point.

    As to what I enjoy most, well, I have to admit it can be hard to pick one thing. First of all, I think Lovecraft was just a brilliant writer. Yes, it is possible to pick up awkward phrases in his literature, but I feel that for each poor phrase there’s at least three or four brilliant ones–not to mention his talent at structuring a horror story. The philosophy of cosmic dread is also vital, though, and I have to agree with Erich in how HPL’s fiction makes man’s insignificance a comforting thing.

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