Happy Birthday, H.P.!
Has there been a bigger influence on horror and science fiction writers than Howard Phillips Lovecraft? Born August 20, 1890, Lovecraft turns 122 today. He has influenced contemporary authors Stephen King, Caitlin Kiernan, Bentley Little, Joe Lansdale, and Neil Gaiman. His dark fiction has inspired movie directors John Carpenter and Guillermo Del Toro. Lovecraft's own influences were Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Walter de la Mare, M.R. James, and Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories he started reading at age eight.
Lovecraft made a name for himself by writing stories for Weird Tales. His cult following is traced to the 60 stories for this magazine that created the Cthulhu Mythos, which believes that in ancient times Earth was inhabited by fish-like beings called the Old Ones (first mentioned in "The Call of Cthulhu") who worshiped Cthulhu, an anthropomorphic creature that communicates with insane and/or creative people and who will emerge from his underwater prison R'lyeh to rule over Earth again.
Lovecraft's passion in life was writing; he was a prolific writer of short stories and poems, and an estimated 30,000 letters. His novellas include The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and At the Mountains of Madness. Some of his most beloved short stories are "Shadow Over Innsmouth," "Dunwich Horror," "The Colour Out of Space," and "The Rats in the Walls." Lovecraft's champion after his death was August Derleth, a friend and writer who started Arkham House publishing in 1939 to keep Lovecraft's work from sinking into obscurity. Lovecraft is more popular today than he was when he was writing, influencing scores of new writers and having homage paid to him and his Cthulhu Mythos with books, graphic novels, games, film, albums, and a musical.
H.P. Lovecraft died March 15, 1937 in Providence, Rhode Island, of cancer of the small intestine.