Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937), better known as H.P. Lovecraft, was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction. H.P. Lovecraft wrote an article in 1933, entitled, “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” in which he explains his writing process. Released into Creative Commons, we proudly reprint it for you.
The story and life of Howard Phillips Lovecraft began on August 20, 1890. Lovecraft was born in Rhode Island to parents, Winfield and Sarah Lovecraft. His father, a traveling salesperson, passed away early in his youth due to illness. Lovecraft was raised by his mother, his two aunts (Lillian Delora Phillips and Annie Emeline Phillips), and his maternal grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips. All five lived together in the family home.
His father’s death played an important role on his upbringing. At age two, Lovecraft was reciting poetry; by age three Lovecraft was learning to read; and by age seven, he was writing stories. As a young boy, Lovecraft described his life as solitary and sickly. He suffered from ongoing mental illness and night terrors. His school attendance was infrequent, so he took to reading and studying on his own.
At age five, Lovecraft had taken on the story of the “Arabian Nights.” He enjoyed mythology and characters of mythological creation. One of his earliest works was a spinoff of “The Odyssey,” called “The poem of Ulysses.” This is a rewording work in core rhyming canto.
Lovecraft enjoyed writing and reading about Mystical and Gothic tales. He nurtured a “weird interest” to such readings. His grandfather fostered his bizarre curiosity, and Lovecraft developed a hunger for “peculiar narratives.”
When his grandfather passed away in 1904, both he and his mother were forced to move from his parent’s extravagant home into a smaller abode due to financial constraints. The loss of his birth home overwhelmed Lovecraft that he contemplated suicide by drowning himself in the Barrington River. His love for learning and writing helped him subdue his suicidal thoughts during this time.
Prior to graduating from high school, Lovecraft suffered a nervous and psychological breakdown that caused him to leave school without a diploma. Lovecraft felt great shame later in life for not graduating high school, regardless of his future successes as a writer.
For five years until 1913, Lovecraft lived the life of a hermit; he did little towards advancing his interests in writing. His feelings of loneliness and emptiness made him rely more on his mother. His mother herself, still grieving the loss of her husband, established a love-hate relationship with Lovecraft. After a time of seclusion, Lovecraft materialized on society in a weird way. He became involved with the magazines of “pulp elegance.” One day he wrote a letter to The Argosy, a pulp magazine, complaining about the triteness of the love stories written by one of the publication’s most beloved writers, Fred Jackson.
The magazine published several of Lovecraft’s critical letters in an ongoing column. Lovecraft became a conqueror of sort to the United Amateur Press
Association (UAPA). The President of the UAPA, impressed by Lovecraft’s ongoing disputes with Fred Jackson, invited him to join the Association. Once a member of the UAPA, Lovecraft wrote several collections of stories, poems and essays.
Lovecraft later became the copyreader of the UAPA and served a brief term as President of the NAPA (National Amateur Press Association). His involvement in these Associations helped him come out of reclusiveness and renew his passion for writing.
Through the years to come, Lovecraft’s notable experiences in life, like the loss of his mother and his constant bouts with depression, strengthened his skills as a writer of “weird fiction.” He derived his stories of weird fiction from themes of horror and fantasy. His key plot elements involved speaking of apparitions and gruesome tales. Some of his greatest works included the gothic novel, “The Call of Cthulhu” and the horror novella, “At the Mountains of Madness.” Although Lovecraft wrote stories of horror, fantasy and science fiction, his forte was writing weird fiction, a subgenre of speculative fiction.
Lovecraft passed away in 1937 from intestinal cancer. His colleagues published a collection of his works, entitled, “The Outsider and Others.” The volume of stories is named for Lovecraft’s short story, “The Outsider,” which dealt with themes of loneliness, the abhuman, and the afterlife.
Cover Artwork by Allison Tomazin