Tuesday, May 01, 2012
H.P. Lovecraft
By OFW editor: Renée Miller
Published: March 14, 2012


Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s writing has left a permanent mark on speculative fiction, particularly in the subgenre of weird fiction. Lovecraft wrote with a philosophical principle—he called it “cosmicism”—in mind, believing that life is beyond human understanding, and that the universe is essentially hostile to all of humankind. Heavy shit, no?
 
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Lovecraft contacted me from the “other side,” since this week marks his death (March 15), but I’d had ten-too-many raspberry vodkas and my brain was a little slow. This horror icon, best known for Cthulhu Mythos story cycle and the Necronomicon, kind of creeps me out to be honest. But I did manage to pull myself together and slur a couple of questions his way.
 
It went something like this:
 
I’d just pulled the blanket up to my chin, preparing to sleep off the worst of the vodka spins, when a frigid breeze swept over my face.
 
“If you do not cover your feet adequately, it will pick up your scent.” His voice was tinny, but clear.
 
I thought perhaps Poe had returned, but the chill in the voice didn’t feel the same. “What will pick up my scent?”
 
He tsked. “That which cannot be mentioned, foolishly intoxicated scribe. Now, cover those abhorrent toes and let’s get on with my interrogation.”
 
Pushing the blanket over my feet—concerned that he’d picked out my biggest childhood fear—I tried to make sense of his words. “What do you want to know?”
 
“No, incompetent girl, it is what you want to know. I, H.P. Lovecraft, have come to answer your queries.”
 
Oh, lovely. I pushed the fog from my brain and tossed out the first question that came to mind. “Okay, um…did you always want to be a writer?”
 
He sighed.
 
The mattress sunk by my side, but I refused to look back. Hey, you can call me chicken when a ghost has contacted you unprovoked in the middle of the night.
 
“Does one truly choose such a vocation? When I was a young lad, I desperately wanted to become an astronomer, but higher mathematics eluded me. I shared a love of poetry with my grandfather, and a disorder that made me vulnerable to night terrors. Oh the horrors my young eyes witnessed.”
 
“Nightmares were your inspiration?”
 
“There are things which the human mind simply cannot comprehend. I witnessed these things night after night. Nightmares? Hardly seems to suffice in describing what I endured. But I believe that each individual is tested by the universe in equally horrible but vastly different ways. I met that challenge, though I suspect my sanity suffered greatly as a result.”
 
“But you penned some of the greatest speculative fiction in history. The sheer level of creepiness in your work is… inspiring to many writers.”
 
He chuckled.
 
The sound went right to my bones. Ghosts shouldn’t chuckle.
 
“Alas, the universe didn’t appreciate my stalwart efforts to meet its challenge, and it ensured that I should never benefit from my obsession. I grew poor, then poorer. I was destitute. But I continued to write.”
 
Exactly. I was warming up to him now, so I rolled over. A dark shape flickered beside me. It might have been human, but for the lack of features. “So, would you say a true writer writes regardless of publication or readers?”
 
“I do not recall saying such a thing. Speaking from personal experience, humanity desires knowledge and we scribes humor them. However, once that knowledge is gained, humanity inevitably refutes it because their minds cannot fathom it. Some things are better left a mystery and it is upon the shoulders of the informed few to determine what should be written, and what should remain unstated.”
 
Sure. Sounds right to me. I wished he’d never entered my bedroom. I also wished I’d never encountered that bottle of sweet temptation before he arrived. “What’s it like after we die?”
 
Silence.
 
“I mean, have you gone to another dimension? Is there a heaven? Hell?” I was rambling.
 
“You are a curious one, but of limited intelligence. I suspect your mixed bloodline is to blame. You appear to be of Irish descent. I must say you smell of Ireland, to be quite blunt. But I’m afraid even if you were in possession of a fine English mind, you ask things which I cannot answer. I share your universe but nothing more. We are not in control of our own fates. It is the universe that chooses what occurs after our final breath… and it is never what we imagine.”
 
Well, shit. “Your insults bring to mind some overriding themes in your writing. You were known for rather controversial statements and themes about race, religion, sex and science. You claimed Einstein’s theory of relativity threw the world into chaos, making the universe into a joke. Did you intend to create such controversy with your opinions?”
 
“An intelligent man never sets about to create controversy. It always backfires. I merely wrote my truth. This is where many scribes wander astray. The written word should never be about scandal, but speaking your truth. With the human mind—as generally limited as it is—one can’t help but offend a large percentage of the population no matter what he writes. That does not mean you must coddle or fabricate the truth. Write what is in your heart and what you know to be undeniably true. It is all that one can do.”
 
While his insult to my Irish heritage still smarted, he made sense. Sigh. “Now that you’ve passed on, I wonder if you still believe that there is no spirit world, no God?”
 
“That you will learn when your own demise comes about.”
 
He thought he was so damn wise, I couldn’t resist trying to knock him down a peg. True, he might have been brilliant at creating fear, but his writing wasn’t flawless. So I posed a question he couldn’t skirt around. “Your ability to instill fear in people with simple words is unarguable, but your overall skill in technical aspects of the craft is debatable. You rarely used dialogue and when you did, it was often awkward and unreal. You also wrote in large blocks of text, when it would have been better to break it up to improve the flow, and thus the increase impact of your words. Was this intentional?”
 
“Dialogue?” He stood.
 
I’d gone too far.
 
“My work delves into the human psyche. Spoken words cannot convey such things adequately. My characters spoke when necessary. Modern scribes would learn a thing or two about innuendo and saying just enough had they studied my work. Dialogue is often filler, fluff from the writer who is limited in vocabulary and skill.”
 
Being a scribe who loves her dialogue, I found his words, yet again, offensive. “And the blocks of text? Surely you don’t believe this made things more intense? If anything, you made it a chore to read.”
 
“I refuse to indulge my reader. If he cannot read a passage because it is too long, then he should perhaps give up on reading altogether.”
 
“I beg to differ.”
 
“You may beg whatever you please. Now The Great Old Ones are calling me back, but we are not through. I shall return. Again. Perhaps on our next meeting, you might refrain from indulging yourself.”
 
“If you’d called beforehand—”
 
But he was gone. The room still held a chill and I snuggled into my blankets. For a moment, I considered drifting off. The vodka spins had stopped—meeting a ghost is rather sobering—until my gaze fell upon the closet. The open closet. Although I’d given up that fear ages ago (okay, last year), I couldn’t close my eyes.
 
Throwing back the covers, I raced to the wall and turned on the light. I checked the hallway first to make sure that no one was watching and then the closet. Satisfied it was clear of anything but clothes, I closed the doors and moved the dresser in front of it. Hey, you have your problems. I have mine.
 
Scurrying back to bed, I pulled the blanket over my head—careful to tuck my toes inside—and tried to sleep with the light on.
 
Lovecraft chuckled from somewhere beyond my room.
 

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