There’s nothing quite like the overwhelmingly frightening realization that there are more things unknown in our universe than there are things known. There’s nothing as affecting as the times where we sit alone, quietly in the dark, and begin to wonder about all the irrational, nameless, strange and ancient forces that must surely influence our short-lived existence. And, of course, there’s no better time to shed light on those dark truths than now, this first week of October.
Let the investigation begin, then, with the horror, fantasy and science fiction writer, H.P. Lovecraft. But first, let me set the stage for you.
We here at Biff Bam Pop! are big fans of the month of October. Long time readers of this site will remember that over the last two years we’ve published short, Halloween-inspired comics under the title Biff Bam Boo.
Interesting, in each year of those publications, H.P. Lovecraft, the famed author of twentieth-century cosmic horror fiction, was well represented. You see, his influence has grown immeasurably since his death in 1937, aged 46. So much so that two stories from those eight comics, “Cellar Door” and “Oblation”, directly draw inspiration from his mighty canon. (If you haven’t done so already, go (or go back) and read (or re-read) Biff Bam Boo – and get into the spirit of the month.)
I can’t say that I’m intimate with much of H.P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre of writings – not like some of the other contributors here at Biff Bam Pop! Still, I am aware of his large influence on the various books and comics I’ve read and the film and television programs I’ve seen. Part of the title of this particular column for instance, “There Are More Things” is borrowed from a Jorge Luis Borges short story, a posthumous tribute to Lovecraft, who died impoverished and without literary respect in Providence, Rhode Island.
In fact, that specific Borges short story was one of my early encounters with Lovecraft, a tale of improbable architecture, madness, doom and other worldly beings – all themes that Lovecraft investigated in his many writings.
I first became aware of Lovecraft via the cover painting by artist Michael Whelan to his oft-published book, At the Mountains Of Madness – an old, worn, 1971 Del Rey softcover that seemed to constantly stare out menacingly from the shelves at my high school library. It was always there, day after day, month after month, year after year, sitting intently, always catching my half-gaze. No one had ever checked it out and I would often wonder: how could a book look so worn having never been read?
It’s that kind of question that drives a Lovecraft story. Don’t ask questions that you don’t really want answers to.
I never did read At the Mountains of Madness. I never allowed that book’s unspoken, malevolent promise into my own reality but I know people who did. Fans of horror fiction around the world have been profoundly changed after reading the novella.
The cover and the title have stayed with me, haunting me all these years.
H.P. Lovecraft, with his indomitable imagination and cosmic philosophy about existence: that it is both unknowable and apathetic to humanity, is probably best known for creating a mythos of ancient beings and ancient languages at once celestial in their scale and horrifying to the human soul. Since his death, the author has gone on to be a primary influence on many masters of the horror, fantasy, science fiction and entirely weird genre of pop culture including fiction, film, art, music, board, video and role-playing games – in both story elements and imagery.
Writers such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore have all given respectful affirmations to Lovecraft’s legacy. King has even used the name of the oft-employed Lovecraftian character, Randolph Carter, in some of his own works including Under the Dome and even as a base anagram in “Roland of Gilead”, a name all readers of King’s The Dark Tower series of novels will recognize. British comic book writer Moore, on the other hand, wrote his two sets of stories, The Courtyard and Neonomicon (recently reviewed here by Biff Bam Pop! contributor, David Ward) as a tribute to Lovecraft, using plot elements borrowed from the American author’s Cthulhu mythos and Necronomicon fictional grimoire.
Film has seen the same sort of Lovecraft reverence. Director John Carpenter gave homage to the author in 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness and even 1982’s cult classic, The Thing, can be said to share imagery with Lovecraft’s tales of cosmic terror. The acclaimed filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro, too, has long wanted/threatened to bring that old Del Ray paperback, At The Mountains of Madness, to the big screen. Perhaps that particular story will find it’s way into my reality yet.
So then, all of this week, the writers of Biff Bam Pop!, influenced in varying degrees by H.P. Lovecraft, will give tribute to the man who gave the world unknowable terror and squid-like-ancient-gods-who-will-one-day-return-to-rule-us-all. Yeah, you’ll see.
There are more things unknown than known. Over the next five days, we’ll tell you all about them – and hope you enjoy “Lovecraft Week” as much as we will!