H.P. Lovecraft – Mythmaking, monsters, and pop-culture!
Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden, and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 20th, 1890, Howard Phillips Lovecraft is universally considered one of the best gothic authors of all time.
Subverting the laws of our reality, his main inspiration came from the opuses of Edgar Allan Poe. In fact, Lovecraft considered him a sort of deus-ex-machina of horror fiction; and declared that “whatever his limitations, Poe did that which no one ever did or could have done; and to him, we owe the modern horror-story in its final and perfected state”. In both these authors; we can clearly see how the sense of horror (and wonder as well) comes from the inner nature of humankind, and it’s as natural as breathing air or drinking water. For Lovecraft, the weird literature is strictly connected with human psychics; and this is the main reason the whole genre is not only popular for several hundreds of years, but it’s always reached remarkable heights of perfection.
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear!
In his first short story “The Alchemist”, we may experience how all of us can be easily driven into the unknown, in a savage place built by our fears; a place in which we can meet not only unconscious threats, but also ancient gods, demons, and creatures of the night like Dracula, Mr. Hyde, and many other ones… As tradition wants, the greatest novelist acquire popularity once they live in this world… Emily Dickinson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Kennedy Toole are the perfect examples of how literary geniuses can be ignored during their lifetime, and H.P. Lovecraft makes no exception; in a letter to a friend he wrote that “I have no illusions concerning the precarious status of my tales, and do not expect to become a serious competitor of my favorite weird authors. Sometimes the pain is unbearable”.
It’s only thanks to his friends August Derleth and Donald Wandrei that we can read his stories even nowadays. Soon after his disappearance; they decided to preserve the opus of the “King of the Weird Stories”. Establishing the Arkham House publishing company; they released the first collection of stories “The Outsider and Others” in 1939. Since then many other editions appeared throughout the planet; making Lovecraft one of the most important authors of the 20th Century.
H.P. Lovecraft reached the Land of the Rising Sun in the early 1940s when the short tale “The Statement of Randolph Carter” was serialized in the Hakaba Magazine.
Anyway, an incredible boost to his popularity arrived only in 1986; when the RPG Call of Cthulhu, has been released in Japan. Created by Sandy Petersen; this game is set in a darker version of our universe in which the player lives thrilling adventures not only on Earth, but also in the Dreamlands, on other planets, and also in sidereal space. Hailed by Hobby Japan as a must-have game; Call of Cthulhu became soon extremely popular among the geek communities from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
Due to this; dozens of aspiring mangaka and novelists started to create a big number of different stories based on the Cthulhu Mythos. Personalities like Kaoru Kurimoto (Guin Saga), Hideyuki Kikuchi (Vampire Hunter D), Junji Ito (Uzumaki) & Shigeru Mizuki (GeGeGe no Kitaro) have fallen under the spell of the Sleeper of R’lyeh. Despite all of these original opuses, the biggest part of Lovecraft’s writings were not available in Japan. Anyway, Ken Asamatsu – the Lovecraft’s Official Japanese Ambassador – was determined to fill the gap; by starting to translate all the books when he was a high-school student, and running a fanzine that included horror fiction, criticism, and essays.
Luckily for all of us, and thanks to the efforts of all these people; now the Great Old Ones are a band of pop-icons that left the paper to conquer our world also through toys, apparel, anime, movies, and even tokusatsu series.
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