Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s profound influence can be seen in nearly every artistic medium, horror or otherwise. From graphic novels to video games, horror novels and films, there have been multiple adaptations of his work. There are also countless pieces that are based on, influenced by, and deal with his many themes and concepts. Progressive ideas such as cosmicism and deep time are now associated with being integral principles of Lovecraft’s work so that when his contemporaries deal with the same concepts, they are said to be employing “Lovecraftian” ideals. Lovecraftian, in its basic sense, refers to a type of horror fiction that focuses on the unknown instead of gore. Although some of Lovecraft’s stories contain gore, his main focus was dealing with his characters’ states of mind. His stories are written with a first person perspective, allowing the reader insight into the character’s state of mind and often the deterioration of the mind. Detachment is also a central theme in Lovecraft’s work. The heroes in his stories are typically advanced thinkers, scholarly types, but also loners in the sense that they seek isolation above socialization.
All accounts of Lovecraft confirm that he was a sheltered child, attached to his mother. Once his father died of syphilis, his relationship with his mother became more complicated. Perhaps it was her fear of losing the boy as well that led her to viciously attack his self-esteem. She reportedly called him hideous and ugly, forcing him to lock himself away in the attic of their house on Angell Street. This is where he began to imagine macabre stories of freakish, monstrous, grotesque creatures who hide and lurk in the shadows.
He became an Indifferentist, believing that things much older than mankind, older than Earth, are looking down upon us with indifference. His work was a departure from the traditional gothic horror and dealt more with a maligned world where the creatures don’t really care about humans. He created gods on earth – creatures that would haunt and terrorize the humans that Lovecraft despised so much. These characters were his self manifestation, his desires, him.
Through astronomy, he learned the boundlessness of the universe and the insignificance of man. Cosmicism is a philosophy that asserts there is no divine being in the universe, no God. Humans are merely insignificant specs existing inconsequentially in a vast, boundless galaxy. The insignificance of the human race can be proven through the theory of deep time, the idea that there existed a time before man. Man is self-involved and self-centered; only egotism exists. Therefore, a concept such as deep time may be hard to come to terms with. This can be illustrated by looking at a scene from the 1990s TV show “Growing Pains.” During the sequence, Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron) pretends to be sick and stays home from school. Everything is going swimmingly until, while watching an episode of “Gilligan’s Island,” Mike hears the school bus outside. He becomes incensed with the idea that school, or life, has continued without him, which is a real turning point in the character’s life. The fear that the world doesn’t start and stop at your convenience (to quote Walter Sobchak) can be quite demoralizing. But not for Lovecraft. He pointed to Man’s potential inability to exist in the infinite spaces that science opens up, the large emptiness of the cosmos to which Man is as insignificant as dust. Lovecraft’s feelings that human beings are not the most important of beings on the planet, what’s called anti-anthropocentrism, is a central theme in all of his work. It is believed that he held an overall disdain and mistrust of people in general. This misanthropy can be seen not only in his creative work, but also in many of his personal correspondences with friends and family members.
These themes are worth noting if only for the uncanny parallels to Lovecraft’s life. Like most writers he wrote what he knew, drawing from his own experience to create, and most likely escape to, an imaginary world.
Truly studied horrorphiles are all students of Lovecraft, whether they know it or not. They are all tiny specs, creating art under his divine guidance. After all, he was Providence.