By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Last Sunday, fans of H.P. Lovecraft gathered in Providence at the Ladd Observatory to mark the 75th anniversary of his death, as reported by The Providence Journal.
The story says that Lovecraft’s family was friends with the observatory director and Lovecraft “wanted to be an astronomer.”
Lovecraft’s love for astronomy has been well-documented. As a child, Lovecraft first developed an interest in chemistry, then astronomy. He penned many juvenile papers on astronomy, as well as handling the amateur periodicals, The Scientific Gazette and the Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy. George T. Wetzel points out that the title of the Necronomicon is probably inspired by the Astronomica by the Latin poet Manilius. Lovecraft also wrote astronomy columns for Providence’s Evening News.
Here, he is giving some advice to August Derleth:
“Good luck with Hastur – but don’t use any word sounding like ‘Betelgeuse’ to represent a primal name of that distant sun (or to represent the name used by the denizens of any of its hypothetical planets) since this name is an Arabic product of the Middle Ages, and signifies ‘the armpit (or shoulder) of the giant (or central one)’ – Ibn at Jauzah – Orion having been known as Al Jauzah to the astronomers of the Saracenic Caliphate – who did so much to advance the science.”
There is probably a parallel universe in which H.P. Lovecraft became an astronomer and probably spent the rest of his life charting stars, mayhap even becoming a teacher in this field. He might be surprised to learn his alter ego in this timeline is best known as a horror writer rather than a scientist.
More Lovecraft quotes on astronomy can be found here.