Love him or hate him, most people have strong responses to H.P. Lovecraft.
“Who?” I hear some of you asking. Well, there is always his entry on That Wiki if you are so inclined. But here is the short version: H.P. Lovecraft was a writer who published mainly short fiction in magazines like Weird Tales back in the early decades of the 20th century. His work emphasizes themes of “cosmic” horror, with his human protagonists often dwarfed and left feeling somewhat at sea – if not utterly broken and insane – by the forces of a vast, uncaring universe.
The prose is purple, the subject matter curious and strange. Some people are put off by the abundance of words like “eldritch,” “squamous,” or “cyclopean,” some decry his racist tendencies – these are viable criticisms, certainly, though I have always been of the opinion that I should do my best to make allowances for the social mores of other times and places.
The thing is, though, that Lovecraft’s influence has spread pretty widely. During his lifetime he kept up a lively correspondence with a number of other writers whose names may be familiar to you, including Robert E. Howard and Robert Bloch, and his influence can be felt from time to time in their works. He’s also inspired a number of movies, most of them pretty awful – but not all! – at least two different tabletop roleplaying games, board games, collectible card games, and much more.
Perhaps you are curious about Lovecraft, but aren’t sure if you’re up for snuggling in with his entire canon. Or perhaps you’re already a Lovecraft fan and would like to delve a little more into the works. Or perhaps you just like podcasts – hey, it happens.
In any event, for anyone in any of these categories I’d like to recommend the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. In it, filmmakers Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer work their way through the Lovecraft oeuvre in chronological order, typically choosing one story at a time. Extracts are read (usually by a “guest star,” frequently Andrew Leman of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society but also including such online Lovecraftian luminaries as Paul of Cthulhu from Yog-Sothoth.com.) And there is discussion, often simply between the two hosts but occasionally bringing in other contributors such as Kenneth Hite (whose book Cthulhu 101 is an excellent and very funny little beginner’s guide to things Mythos.)
The podcast is often fascinating, frequently witty, and combines the deep affection of the true fan for its subject matter with sly pokes at some of Lovecraft’s foibles – it is extraordinary how often, for instance, his protagonists faint, and we might as well all have a bit of a chuckle over it. It’s well-produced, too, with solid sound quality and pleasingly moody ambient music underscoring the story segments and some portions of the discussion.
The podcast is on a temporary hiatus at the moment, but is, I believe, due back next week. You can, however, listen to their epic three-part breakdown of “The Call of Cthulhu” – or go all the way back to the beginning of the podcast and get caught up.
(If you like it, you can subscribe through iTunes, too!)