We cannot properly speak of horror fiction without mentioning the name H.P. Lovecraft, any more than we could do so without speaking of Edgar Allan Poe, whose complete works we featured in a post yesterday. Even now, as some of Lovecraft’s really vicious attitudes have come in for much critical reappraisal, the Lovecraftian is still a dominant form. Winners of the World Fantasy Award receive a bust of the author, and dark modern masters like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates admit that Lovecraft was “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale” and “an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction.” His work, writes Salon, has influenced “everyone from the Argentinian metafictionist Jorge Luis Borges to the film director Guillermo del Toro, as well as untold number of rock bands and game designers.”
The early twentieth century author spent almost his entire life in the New England of his birth, drawing on its many oddities in obscure stories published in pulp magazines—notably the influential Weird Tales. Hypochondriac, hyper-sensitive, and reclusive in later life, Lovecraft survived on a dwindling inheritance and never achieved much recognition. But in death, he has spawned a formidable cult who immerse themselves in a universe created from references to the occult, demonology, and various mythological archetypes. However overwrought his prose, Lovecraft’s work can be situated in a long literary tradition of influence, and a Lovecraft circle continued to expand his vision of scientific and supernatural horror after his death.
Central to the Lovecraft cosmos are “The Old Ones,” a collection of powerful primordial beings, and their cult worshipers, first introduced in “The Call of Cthulhu” in 1926. At the top of the post, you can hear a dramatic reading of the story by Garrick Hagon. Just above hear a radio dramatization of “The Colour Out of Space,” which was collected in The Best American Short Stories in 1928, one of the few of Lovecraft’s works to receive such an honor in his lifetime. You’ll find much more Lovecraft read aloud on YouTube, including classic stories like “The Dunwich Horror,” “At The Mountains of Madness,” and “The Horror at Red Hook.”
Listening to Lovecraft is an excellent, as well as convenient, way to experience his work. His florid, often archaic, and melodramatic descriptions lend themselves perfectly to aural interpretations. Luckily for us, we have not one, but two audio book collections of nearly everything Lovecraft ever wrote. Just above, stream his complete public domain works, and see the Internet Archive for another audiobook set of his collected works. One of the reasons audio of Lovecraft is so plentiful is that most of his work is in the commons. SFF Audio has yet another huge collection of Lovecraft stories read aloud, downloadable as MP3s. Finally, if you somehow can’t find what you’re looking for at any of those links, you’re bound to at The World’s Largest H.P. Lovecraft Audio Links Gateway.
Should listening to Lovecraft whet your appetite for more, you may just be ready to start reading. Although Lovecraft’s fiction features what may be some of modern literature’s most dreadful monsters, the horror in his work is mostly existential, as characters confront a vast, malevolent and thoroughly alien universe that has no regard for human life whatsoever. But the persistent bleakness and doom of his vision is countered by an inexhaustibly rich imagination. In one of the opening sentences of “The Call of Cthulu,” Lovecraft writes, “the most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents,” perhaps the truest description of his own fictional cosmos. Lovecraft scholars and fans spend lifetimes sifting through his massive storehouse of weirdness. Whether you’re inclined to join them in the deep end, or just dip in a toe, you can find all of Lovecraft’s published work in various forms at the locations below.
- The Cthulhu Chick blog has a complete works of Lovecraft for Nook (ePub) and Kindle (MOBI), as well as in PDF
- Find an extensive collection of Lovecraft at the University of Adelaide’s online library, with HTML, ePub and Kindle.
- The H.P. Lovecraft Archive has a wealth of biographical information, and a huge collection of Lovecraft’s work, including his poetry, letters, journalism, literary criticism, and scientific, philosophical, and autobiographical essays. You’ll also find there articles, reviews, and other resources by foremost Lovecraft scholars like S.T. Joshi and Robert M. Price, as well as information on Lovecraftian influence in popular culture and links to further internet resources.
Given these resources, you should have no trouble becoming a Lovecraft expert by Halloween. Or, at the very least, picking out a few of his scariest stories to listen to and read aloud around a flickering jack o’ lantern or your collection of Cthulhu figurines.
Lovecraft’s works permanently reside in our twin collections: 550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free and 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices