By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Tomorrow is Lovecraft’s birthday. More than a hundred years after his birth, the writer’s stories are surprisingly popular. So popular, in fact, that Lovecraft himself has become a character. Most recently, he appeared in an episode of Supernatural, the TV show, but although this may be his most mainstream exposure, Lovecraft is by now the protagonist of plenty of tales.
His debut occurred in Robert Bloch’s “The Shambler from the Stars”, though one might argue this doesn’t count because Bloch does not refer to his friend by name. Nevertheless, it’s quite obviously a friendly nudge to the writer, who was Bloch’s buddy.
A rose by any other name is Sutter Cane from In the Mouth of Madness. The whole movie is a nod to Lovecraft and Stephen King (and King, after all, draws deeply from Lovecraft in some of his early works), and best-selling novelist Sutter Cane is a crossbreed between Lovecraft and King.
Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft has little to do with the Lovecraft we know, but is still worth mentioning because he stars in a very Lovecraftian, noirish little film called Cast A Deadly Spell. It’s hard to find it these days (It was filmed by HBO) but worth a watch.
But now for the authentic item: Lovecraft as Lovecraft. First of all there is Lovecraft’s Book by Richard Lupoff, which is – despite what you might expect, since this was published by the venerable Arkham House in 1985 – not a horror story but an espionage thriller.
Pulptime (full title: Pulptime: Being a singular adventure of Sherlock Holmes, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Kalem Club, as if narrated by Frank Belknap Long, Jr.) by P.H. Canon has Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft and Houdini teaming up to solve a mystery. Houdini and Lovecraft did have a real-life connection: Lovecraft was a ghost writer for a Houdini story. Canon is also the author of Scream for Jeeves!: H.P. Lovecraft Meets P.G. Wodehouse. The title says it all.
A more recent novel, The Lovecraft Chronicles, imagines Lovecraft’s life if he had been a succesful writer. He even makes it to Hollywood, has a more dynamic love life, and he does not die in the 30s. Once again, this is the curious case of a book which defies expectations – no horror in it – to focus on an imaginative exercise of ‘What if?’.
Shadows Bend plays it a bit more pulpy, with weird authors Lovecraft, Howard and Ashton Smith fighting the Old Ones (Howard and Lovecraft never met in real life, but corresponded, and Lovecraft wrote to a ton of other writers).
On film, Lovecraft appeared – more as an Indiana Jones kind of character than the Gentleman from Providence – in the anthology movie, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, back in 1993 and was played by Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator).
The Spanish movie La Sombra Prohibida also included Lovecraft as a character. Though not directly based on Lovecraft’s stories, it draws from his universe to tell the story of a woman who travels to an old mansion in the Spanish countryside, the Valdemar House, where odd things have happened through the years.
Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft explores the relationship between Lovecraft and his stories. The writer himself appears in the film.
Recently, Lovecraft teemed up with another famous horror writer to fight for good. Poe & Phillips is a comic book series, published by Arcana, and developed by the Spanish duo of Jaime Roman Collado and Miguel Hernandez Cedillo. It unites Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe as paranormal investigators working together a case.
Young Lovecraft is a story about, yes, Lovecraft as a child, meeting, talking and dealing with all the creatures from his stories. The series appears online and is the work of Spaniards José Oliver and Bartolo Torres (What do they put in the water in Spain?). The collected strips have been released in English translation by KettleDrummer Books.
Another comic book that has a child Lovecraft as a protagonist is Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom by Bruce Brown and Renzo Podesta. An Arcana title released in 2010, it is being followed by Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom, about the further adventures of little Lovecraft.
That’s it for my recollection of Lovecraft the character. What are some Lovecraft appearances I missed?