Influence on culture
H. P. Lovecraft memorial plaque at 22 Prospect Street in Providence
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. (May 2012)
Lovecraft was relatively unknown during his own time. While his stories appeared in the pages of prominent pulp magazines such as Weird Tales (eliciting letters of outrage as often as letters of praise from regular readers), not many people knew his name. He did, however, correspond regularly with other contemporary writers such as Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth, who became good friends of his, even though they never met in person. This group of writers became known as the "Lovecraft Circle," since their writing freely borrowed elements of Lovecraft's stories, with his encouragement: the mysterious books with disturbing names, the pantheon of ancient alien entities such as Cthulhu and Azathoth, and eldritch places such as the New England town of Arkham and its Miskatonic University.
After Lovecraft's death, the Lovecraft Circle carried on. August Derleth in particular added to and expanded on Lovecraft's vision, not without controversy. While Lovecraft considered his pantheon of alien gods a mere plot device, Derleth created an entire cosmology, complete with a war between the good Elder Gods and the evil Outer Gods, such as Cthulhu and his ilk. The forces of good were supposed to have won, locking Cthulhu and others up beneath the earth, in the ocean, and so forth. Derleth's Cthulhu Mythos stories went on to associate different gods with the traditional four elements of fire, air, earth and water — an artificial constraint which required rationalizations on Derleth's part as Lovecraft himself never envisioned such a scheme.
Lovecraft's fiction has been grouped into three categories by some critics. While Lovecraft did not refer to these categories himself, he did once write: "There are my 'Poe' pieces and my 'Dunsany pieces' — but alas — where are any Lovecraft pieces?"
Lovecraft's writing, particularly the so-called Cthulhu Mythos, has influenced fiction authors including modern horror and fantasy writers. Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Alan Moore, Junji Ito, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Lumley, Caitlín R. Kiernan, William S. Burroughs, and Neil Gaiman, have cited Lovecraft as one of their primary influences. Beyond direct adaptation, Lovecraft and his stories have had a profound impact on popular culture. Some influence was direct, as he was a friend, inspiration, and correspondent to many of his contemporaries, such as August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber. Many later figures were influenced by Lovecraft's works, including author and artist Clive Barker, prolific horror writer Stephen King, Brian Keene has several novels based on the Old Gods, comics writers Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola, English author Colin Wilson, film directors John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Guillermo del Toro and artist H. R. Giger. Japan has also been significantly inspired and terrified by Lovecraft's creations and thus even entered the manga and anime media. Chiaki J. Konaka is an acknowledged disciple and has participated in Cthulhu Mythos, expanding several Japanese versions. He is an anime scriptwriter who tends to add elements of cosmicism, and is credited for spreading the influence of Lovecraft among the anime base. Along with Junji Ito, other influential manga artists have also been inspired by Lovecraft. Novelist and manga author, Hideyuki Kikuchi, incorporated a number of locations, beings and events from the works of Lovecraft into the manga Taimashin.
Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote his short story "There Are More Things" in memory of Lovecraft. Contemporary French writer Michel Houellebecq wrote a literary biography of Lovecraft called H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life. Prolific American writer Joyce Carol Oates wrote an introduction for a collection of Lovecraft stories. The Library of America published a volume of Lovecraft's work in 2005, a reversal of traditional judgment that "has been nothing so far from the accepted canon as Lovecraft." French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari refer to Lovecraft in A Thousand Plateaus, calling the short story "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" one of his masterpieces.
Lovecraft's fictional Mythos has influenced a number of musicians, especially in rock music. Most notably, the psychedelic rock band H. P. Lovecraft (who shortened their name to Lovecraft and then Love Craft in the 1970s) released the albums H. P. Lovecraft and H. P. Lovecraft II in 1967 and 1968 respectively; their songs included "The White Ship" and "At the Mountains of Madness," both titled after Lovecraft stories. The founders of their record company, Bill Traut and George Badonsky, were fans of the author and gained August Derleth's permission to use Lovecraft's name for the band. Metallica recorded a song inspired by "The Call of Cthulhu," an instrumental titled "The Call of Ktulu," and another song based on The Shadow over Innsmouth titled "The Thing That Should Not Be," and another based on Frank Belknap Long's "Hounds of Tindalos," titled "All Nightmare Long." Later, they released the song "Dream No More," which mentions the awakening of Cthulhu. Technical death metal outfit Revocation (band) frequently write songs based on Lovecraft's stories and frequently use him as inspiration in their original works.
Lovecraft has also influenced gaming, despite having hated games during his lifetime. Chaosium's tabletop role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, released in 1981 and currently in its seventh major edition, was one of the first games to draw heavily from Lovecraft. Novel to the game was the Lovecraft-inspired insanity mechanic, which allowed for player characters to go insane from contact with cosmic horrors. This mechanic would go on to make appearance in subsequent table top and video games.
1987 saw the release of one of the first Lovecraftian board games, Arkham Horror, which sold extremely well, and since 2004 is still in print from Fantasy Flight Games.
Though few subsequent Lovecraftian board games were released annually between 1987 and 2014, the years after 2014 saw a surge in the number of Lovecraftian board games, possibly because of the entry of Lovecraft's work into the public domain combined with a revival of interest in board games.
Few video games are direct adaptations of Lovecraft's works, but many video games have been inspired or heavily influenced by Lovecraft.
The massively-multiplayer online game World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment has continually revealed more of the origin story of the game's playable world to the players, most of which very closely mirrors Lovecraft's work or Derleth's expansion onto the author's original content. Horror games especially can incorporate Cthulthean terrors, despite the conflict between "act-and-prevail" nature of video games and the cosmic hopelessness of Lovecraftian horror.
Besides employing Cthulthean antagonists, games that invoke Lovecraftian horror have used mechanics such as insanity effects, or even fourth wall breaking effects that suggest to players that something has gone wrong with their game consoles.
Lovecraft as a fictional character
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. (June 2019)
Aside from his appearance in Robert Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars", Lovecraft continues to be used as a character in supernatural fiction. He makes a brief appearance in an early version of Ray Bradbury's "The Exiles". Lovecraft and some associates are included at length in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975). Lovecraft makes an appearance as a rotting corpse in The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont, a novel with fictionalized versions of a number of period writers. John Shirley's story When Death Wakes Me To Myself offers a tale of a therapy patient slowly remembering a former incarnation when he was H. P. Lovecraft. German writer Wolfgang Hohlbein used H. P. Lovecraft as a main character in his pulp fiction series Der Hexer (The Wizard), which is mainly based on the Cthulhu Mythos, even though the plot takes place before Lovecraft was born.
Other notable works with Lovecraft as a character include Richard Lupoff's Lovecraft's Book (1985), Cast a Deadly Spell (1991), H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon (1993), Witch Hunt (1994), Out of Mind: The Stories of H. P. Lovecraft (1998), Stargate SG-1: Roswell (2007), and Alan Moore's comic Providence (2015–17). Lovecraft also appears in the Season 6, Episode 21 episode "Let it Bleed" of the TV show Supernatural. A satirical version of Lovecraft named "H. P. Hatecraft" appeared as a recurring character on the Cartoon Network television series Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. A character based on Lovecraft also appears in the visual novel Shikkoku no Sharnoth: What a Beautiful Tomorrow, under the name "Howard Phillips" (or "Mr. Howard" to most of the main characters). Another character based on Lovecraft appears in Afterlife with Archie. He appears as a minor character in Brian Clevinger's comic book series Atomic Robo, as an acquaintance and fellow-scientist of Nikola Tesla, having been driven insane by his involvement in the Tunguska event which exposed him to the hidden horrors of the wider universe. He is eventually killed when his body becomes host to an extradimensional being infecting the timestream. Lovecraft is a central plot element, as well as a character in Paul La Farge's 2017 novel, The Night Ocean. In the Japanese manga and anime Bungo Stray Dogs there is a character known as Howard Phillips Lovecraft who, like other characters in the series, is named after great literates. His power, "The Great Old Ones" pays homage to his classic short story, "The Call of Cthulhu," which grants him the ability of transforming himself into an octopus-like monster resembling Cthulhu.