Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lovecraft's Legacy (1965) A Lovecraft Reference

From: The Supernatural, Douglas Hill & Pat Williams, p.13, Signet New American Library, 1965.
After the turn of the century the peak of the craze for horror fiction leveled off, though there remained a demand for it among the reading public. New names were cropping up - names that are today acknowledged as the modern (rather than Gothic) masters of horror. America's H P. Lovecraft dominated the genre with the incredible mythology he created (monsters of ancient evil released on this world by dabblers in forbidden arts) and with the disciples and imitators he gathered. In Britain, M. R. James produced his handful of perfectly constructed ghost stories, which became classics almost overnight, while that strange individual Arthur Machen gained fame more slowly with his unique visions of the macabre. (In the end his popular fame is due to an accident: he wrote a story during World War I about angelic hosts assisting the British forces; the people and the soldiers, hungry for a miracle, seized upon the idea and insisted that it had really happened - that the soldiers had seen the "Angels of Mons" with their own eyes.)

Often the great literary men would make excursions into horror fiction and the supernatural-among them Dickens, Kipling, Walter de la Mare, Henry James and D. H. Lawrence. Perhaps it is partly due to their presence in the field that the supernatural story has retained its relatively prominent place on our bookshelves. But another reason is that the modem horror story (with certain modifications that usually offend traditionalist lovers of Gothic) forms an important branch of "fantasy and science fiction" - which, in the realm of popular fiction, now ranks second only to the detective story. Science fantasy today owes much to the imagination of H. G. Wells-but it is not all interplanetary strife, time traveling, and similar technological marvels. Much of it owes a debt to Poe as well. For instance, one of the most acclaimed masters of this sub-genre is the American writer Ray Bradbury, whose unique poetic style embraces spaceships and the future on the one hand (The Martian Chronicles) and witches, vampires, and magic on the other (October Country). Similarly, August Derleth (also American) is at once an indefatigable antholigizer of the spaceship type of Science Fiction and a leading disciple of H. P. Lovecraft.
From the book: Images of a 1952 seance captured by camera.

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