US writer and poet; a highly influential author who fused the horror and science fiction genres, he created what came to be known as the Cthulhu Mythos.
H P Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where he lived almost all of his life. A sickly child, he was frequently kept out of school by his mother, but he read avidly, and from an early age he developed a taste for the works of horror writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and m r james. His family life was a troubled one; his father died in an insane asylum when Lovecraft was only 5 years old, and his doting but eccentric mother told him he was a little girl and dressed him as one until he was 6. She would later die in the same asylum as had his father. In 1908, after two and a half years of high school, Lovecraft suffered a nervous collapse and left without graduating.
As a young man, he supported himself by editing and correcting the texts of other writers, and by ghost-writing, and continued to do so for the rest of his life. His first professionally published work was the short story Dagon, which appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1923. From then on, he was a regular contributor to the magazine, and his body of work consists mainly of the 60 or so stories which were published in it. Although he was not a prolific writer, and had a limited readership during his lifetime, his work later earned him a cult following as a master of modern horror. He died in 1937, but in 1939, two young fans of his work, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, established a publishing imprint called Arkham House (named after the fictional town of Arkham, based on Lovecraft’s own home town of Providence, in which many of his tales are set) to publish a posthumous collection of his stories, The Outsider and Others.
In a unique fusion of horror and science fiction, Lovecraft created what came to be known as the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ (the term was coined by Derleth after Lovecraft’s death) in the short stories which he wrote mostly during the last decade of his life. In this pseudo-mythological framework, he postulates a powerful and ancient race of alien and extra-dimensional beings called the Old Ones who inhabited the earth long before mankind; hideous and terrible beyond belief, these creatures are hinted at in age-old myths and legends, and are still worshipped by deranged human cults. They are led by the monstrous Cthulhu, who lives in hibernation in the sunken city of R’yleh, but who will awake and bring the Old Ones back ‘when the stars are right’ and wreak havoc on the Earth. Within these short stories, Lovecraft created one of the most influential plot devices in all of horror – the necronomicon, a secret book of magic supposedly written by a mad Arabian sorcerer called Abdul Alhazred.
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