I have been toying with the idea of writing a fictionalized version of the life of H.P. Lovecraft. I could see somebody like Guy Pearce or Richard E. Grant playing him in the movie version.

I’m more interested in his life than I am in his fiction, for the most part. The best of his work gives me an uneasy feeling, a sense of how badly things can go awry when people fail to heed the warnings right in front of their face, but a lot of his work seems to have spawned a school of histrionic, self-pitying cartoon horror devoid of any real thrills or chills (not for me, anyway).

Lovecraft, the creator of the much-lampooned Cthulhu, seems to have initiated an empty genre; on the one hand, a pornography of violence where character development and motivation count for nothing; on the other, cheap entertainment in which the author overshadows the work itself. I’m not holding HPL responsible for these degenerate products. It just happened. It was beyond his control, and it is, in its own way, something HPL might have predicted would happen.

Stephen King and Metallica can quote him all they like, and claim to carry on his tradition, whatever that is. I think King has a few good stories and Metallica a few good songs, but both have created a lot more bad than good work (two words: bass solo). Both have coasted on their reputations and their personas, which by now seem to mean far more than the work itself.

I do think it might make for a humorous juxtaposition to have HPL meet some of his supposed spiritual heirs – the aforementioned Metallica, fellow New Englander King, various death metal and Goth bands and their greasepainted acolytes, as well as the folks responsible for all the slasher films and their legions of fans. How would events turn out when HPL, a fastidious, bespectacled, hard-working New Englander with classically repressed Victorian manners, meets a pack of disheveled, disaffected, lazy and ill-mannered louts who mope about and listen to earsplitting heavy metal? Would he be as horrified as he was when he saw all the teeming slums of immigrants in New York? Would he eventually find some common ground with them? Would it be like that Saturday Night Live skit where Bill Shatner told an audience of Trekkies to “get a life” and “move out of your parents’ basements”?

The possibilities are endless. The question is, which ones are plausible?

What follows are some notes I have been taking as I read various books on Lovecraft’s life.

(12.12.2007)

1913—HPL writes stilted, archaically worded letter of criticism to Argosy and other pulp magazines run by Frank A. Munsey. Letter attacks sentimentality of romance writer Fred Jackson, a popular and prolific author.

Web sites on Munsey call him a pioneer of the pulp magazine, which was aimed at a working-class audience. My feeling is that these mags are probably pretty high-falutin’ and literate by today’s standards of what constitutes working-class entertainment – NASCAR, Nashville, the NFL, the WWF, etc.

Some of these folks probably read Stephen King, as well as James Patterson and Robert Parker, so I don’t want to shove them all in the lumpenproletariat column. Furthermore, even though I’m tempted, I don’t want to dismiss the folks that I would like to shove in the lumpenproletariat column out of hand, either. Doing so would expose me to the risk of being shoved in the “liberal elite snob” column. But I digress.

Things to investigate in these exchanges among HPL, Jackson and Jackson’s supporters:

1. Image of unknown (HPL) taking on a giant (Jackson, if he is a giant. Munsey seems to be, based on the number of Web sites about him). David and Goliath; that’s one contrast. If HPL ever played the David role, how long did it last? Did he supersede Jackson in importance? Did he win that battle? Did he give it up eventually, ignore the whole thing and just move on? Did he come to some kind of agreement, make his peace with the Fred Jacksons of the world?

2. Another contrast is the juxtaposition of HPL’s diction in the letters he wrote to pulp magazines, and the diction of the other letter-writers and the magazines’ contributors. How wide was the gulf between them? Look at some of these mags to find out. Was it laughable? Embarrassing? Did he look like a pansy? Did anyone ever call him that? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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