Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Random Thread: July 2015

Catwings writes:

H. P. Lovecraft; quite easily considered to be one of the most brilliant and creative horror and mystery writers of all time. His morbidly fascinating universes, brilliant characters and creatures, and suspenseful display within will cause any reader to be instantly captivated into a new world.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on the 20th of August, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island, to Winfield Scott Lovecraft and Sarah Susan Phillips. When Lovecraft was only three years old, his father was admitted into a psychiatric hospital, where he died of “general paralysis of the insane,” leaving his son in care of his mother and his two aunts, who constantly kept him away from much of society while also frequently tormenting him, claiming that he was ugly.

Lovecraft learned to read at the young age of four, and began to read mainly into mythology and folklore. His grandfather introduced him to most of these things, from which many of the author’s stunning tales originated. As Lovecraft matured, he found that he preferred the company of adults rather than children his own age. His reserved nature lead him to create his own worlds with his writing, rather than playing games with others.

At the age of fifteen, Lovecraft published his first horror story, “The Beast in the Cave.” By 1914, he had submitted a series of articles to the Amateur Press Association, as well as many newspapers, ranging from stories on philosophy to the occult. It was not until 1917 that the young author began to seriously consider writing for a living. He and his family had been forced to move from his birthplace due to severe financial issues. (Later, he was to spend much of his life poor, living on as little as fifteen dollars per week.) His mother’s health diminished from there, until she was taken to stay at the Butler Hospital in 1919, until she died in 1921.

On March 3rd, 1924, Lovecraft betrothed Sonia H. Greene, however their new life proved too much for him after only two years, and they went their separate ways. The urban life in New York was not to the author’s taste, and his extreme distaste for the city became inspiration for the story, The Horror at Red Hook. After the divorce, Lovecraft returned to his birthplace in Rhode Island, and stayed in the house of his surviving aunt, Anne Phillips Gamwell, while still traveling frequently to visit other parts of the country, including historical expeditions to New England. He remained in his home state for the rest of his life.

Following his return to the state, Lovecraft focused much more on his writing, working at night while sleeping during the day, his windows and shutters always closed. During the winters, he spent even less time out of his home due to a pathological fear of temperatures under 70 F. It is said that he once went outside in 30 degree weather and immediately collapsed, needing medical resuscitation. He also displayed an aversion to the sea and was known for undernourishment. He was also a sufferer of very lucid nightmares, having gone through them almost every night of his life. During his childhood, he was mainly visited in his dreams by things which he called “The Night Gaunts,” and described as being faceless with bat wings. These creatures would carry him to strange landscapes mainly consisting of towering mountain peaks. It was during these dreamscape explorations that many of his most powerful scenes originated – often transferred to paper in a manner described as “automatic writing,” as was the case with his prose poem, “Nyarlathotep.” In a letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, dated December 4, 1921, he writes:

“Nyarlathotep is a nightmare — an actual phantasm of my own, with the first paragraph written before I fully awaked. I have been feeling execrably of late — whole weeks have passed without relief from headache and dizziness, and for a long time three hours was my utmost limit for continuous work … Added to my steady ills was an unaccustomed ocular trouble which prevented me from reading fine print — a curious tugging of nerves and muscles which rather startled me during the weeks it persisted. Amidst this gloom came the nightmare of nightmares — the most realistic and horrible I have experienced since the age often — whose stark hideousness and ghastly oppressiveness I could but feebly mirror in my written phantasy… As I was drawn into the abyss I emitted a resounding shriek … and the picture ceased. I was in great pain — forehead pounding and ears ringing — but I had only one automatic impulse — to write, and preserve the atmosphere of unparalleled fright; and before I knew it I had pulled on the light and was scribbling desperately. Of what I was writing I had very little idea, and after a time I desisted and bathed my head. When fully awake I remembered all the incidents but had lost the exquisite thrill of fear — the actual sensation of the presence of the hideous unknown. Looking at what I had written I was astonished by its coherence. It comprises the first paragraph of the enclosed manuscript, only three words having been changed.”

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