If you’re a dedicated horror fan — or even if you’re not — you’ve likely heard of Cthulhu or the Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft’s two most famous creations. But there’s so much more to know about this odd author and his work. So you can either head to your local library and look up a book, or you can visit the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences store in the Arcade on Westminster Street (story on page XX) to overdose on the bizarre. Simple choice, right?
Run by the arch-director of the Lovecraft Arts and Sciences Council, Niels-Viggo Hobbs, the store is a reflection of the passion Lovecraft fans have for his weird work. More than a mere shopkeep of the bizarre, Hobbs and his cult are also responsible for the upcoming NecronomiCon Providence. I sat down with the man behind the cult convention to learn its mysterious origins.
“It started a few years ago,” says the arch-director. “There are so many Lovecraft things happening around the world, and none of them were happening in Providence except for a few small events. I noticed the Lovecraft convention in Phoenix and the long-standing film festival in Portland, Oregon, that has rooted itself nicely on the West Coast. It seemed a shame that there was nothing happening on the East Coast, much less in Providence. And Providence is such a cool, fun town that people should be coming here. So that was the main impetus for NecronomiCon.”
Pete Larrivee: How did you get into Lovecraft?
Niels-Viggo Hobbs: I happened upon a story when I was a kid, and it stuck in the back of my head a little bit. I never read anything more for a long time until I was in my late teens and I watched some of the cheesy Lovecraft movies that are out there, played some Lovecraft roleplaying games based on his stories and heard bands playing that were Lovecraft inspired. Within a year or so I noticed so many sources were reminding me of this guy Lovecraft, so I started reading more of his stories.
PL: Do you have a favorite story?
N-VH: There’s probably a half-dozen or so that stand out as really great stories, most of the classics are classics for very good reason. At the Mountains of Madness is a phenomenal science fiction story. Call of Cthulhu is an amazing, 25-page synopsis of him at his best. A lot of people have one single story that they point to — Pickman’s Model is one — but I can’t say that I have a favorite. And, of course, on the flipside, plenty stand out to me as not so good that I probably won’t ever read again. But once he perfected his craft, his stories were really good.
PL: What do you look for in a Lovecraftian story?
N-VH: For a truly Lovecraftian story, one that he sort of defined, you need the development of atmosphere over action, and that’s almost a quote from Lovecraft. Like, developing the story so that you feel like you’re reading someone’s manuscript, monograph or diaries where you get the local background, the histories and the architecture. For some people, that’s a turnoff, but for me, it immerses me that much more into the story, and gives it much more depth and atmosphere. On top of that, he developed this cosmic mythology based around incredibly powerful aliens, and potentially completely indifferent ancient god-like creatures. Those are the kinds of things that stand out for me — atmosphere and the huge, universe-expanding mythology.
Authors who subscribe to being Lovecraftian don’t necessarily need to follow that. A lot of them subscribe to the mythology, doing a story about Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep, but I think what makes good weird fiction is that great blending of genres — science fiction, fantasy and horror — and coming up with something really unique. I think that most of the great authors these days are striking off on their own, opening their own paths to very unusual styles of writing that I think Lovecraft would have been appalled by.
PL: What is your goal with NecronomiCon Providence?
N-VH: The big goal is to focus this global think about Lovecraft on Providence, without diminishing the things happening in other places that appreciate Lovecraft, weird fiction and weird art. To at least root that in Providence and to have Providence associated with Lovecraft will allow the city to be known globally as a unique place that gave birth to Lovecraft. The people who came to the last NecronomiCon came from all over the world and left thinking amazing things about Providence. I consider that the biggest victory.
If you’re attending NecronomiCon, don’t forget to check out the books and games vendors in the RI Convention Center, the HP Lovecraft walking tour around College Hill, bus tours, panels and discussions, game tables at the Biltmore, performances, podcasts, LARPing, the Eldritch Ball on Friday night and more. This event roams all over downtown Providence, so visit the website when planning your experience: necronomicon-providence.com.
If you get to only one event, make it the Lovecraft kickoff party on Thursday, August 20 at 7pm, at the Façade Lot on Weybosset Street. You’ll experience bands and performances by Alec Redfearn and the Eyesores and Big Nazo. The strange, hooded figures in the shadows have partnered with Narragansett beer, which will provide Lovecraft Honey Ale, the last of a secret stash once thought lost to antiquity, and the currently available Innsmouth Old Ale, part of a series of brews made to honor the works of Lovecraft.
Note: Any resulting madness, contact with Outsiders, visions of apocalyptic horror or physical transmutations are not the result of the beer or the music, and you should seek help from the nearest Miskatonic University Occult Specialist.
NecronomiCon takes place August 20 – 23 at various locations throughout Providence. For tickets and scheduling information, visit necronomicon-providence.com.