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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Lovecraft: The Rats in the Walls & Other Stories

by H. P. Lovecraft 

More and more and more stories from that master of scientific horror. With it the element of the Cthulhu mythos begin to coalesce. Randolph Carter makes a re-appearance, as does the name Nyarlathotep. In my re-reading and research each of these stories I keep stumbling upon a number of shorts and films based on his work. Most of which i had never heard of. Not all are great, but they are interesting.

This was the era where Lovecraft was debating between being the gentlemen amateur writer and a seasoned professional. He never did quite make that leap completely, which is for the best. He needed to be free to write as his twisted imagination lead him, where the depths of his soul ground out the horror. A good comparison, which compounds my point, is reading The Rats in the Walls and compare that to a work-for-hire Under the Pyramid. You will see the difference.

The Rats in the Walls (originally written in 1923, first published in Weird Tales in 1924).  Continuing with his theme of the degeneration of a family line, Lovecraft perfects the story with this tale. A man, reeling from the death of his son in W.W.I., decides to return to his roots in England and restores his family home. After completion the structure is seemingly overrun by a horde of rats which come from nowhere. Some fruitful digging in his past and his basement uncovers a family history riddled with atrocities. There is one screw up here, or perhaps it’s an error of knowledge by the narrator, as it references Nyarlathotep as a being trapped in the center of the Earth quelled by two idiot piping gods. As Lovecraft fans know, this is a descriptor of Azathoth. C’est la Vie.

The Unnamable (originally written in 1923, first published in Weird Tales in 1925). Here we have the second tale of Lovecraft’s literary alter ego, Randolph Carter (just referred to as Carter here). Some have argued with me about this being the same character, but there is a direct reference to this story in The Silver Key, which is narrated by Randolph Carter, so that ends it in my mind. Set in the town of Arkham, Carter meets an old friend and, while sitting on a crumbling tomb, his friend talks about an indescribable entity is said to haunt surrounding area. His friend contends that because the creature cannot be perceived by the five senses, it becomes impossible to quantify and accurately describe, thus earning itself the term unnamable. Guess what happens next? Two films loosely based on the story have been made. One of which is provided below. I make no statement about its quality. Caveat Emptor.

The Festival (originally written in 1923, first published in Weird Tales in 1925). One of my favorite of Lovecraft shorts. Here we have Lovecraft utilizing another of his fictional towns, “witch haunted” Kingsport. The town will be mentioned over and over again in The Whisperer in Darkness, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, to name the big ones. One of Lovecraft’s typically unnamed narrators travels at Yuletide to the town to partake in some family festival held once every century. In his family’s house he reads a latin transcription of the Necronomicon handed to him by his mute waxen-faced relative who can only communicate through a stylus on a wax pad. Well the festival begins in an underground cavern, hilarity ensues, and he is brought to the brink of insanity. The author’s development and transition from amateur to professional is evident in this tale. Each detail, each action, sings with confidence and thought. This story out of all of his early ones (With perhaps the exception of The Rats in the Walls). A claymation short of the story was created by Toei animation in 2007. It is included below.

Under the Pyramid (originally written in 1923, first published in Weird Tales in 1924). This was a commissioned ghostwritten work by Lovecraft on behalf of renowned escape artist Harry Houdini. The editor of Weird Tales paid Lovecraft in advance, which is the only reason the writer took the job. After conferring with Houdini, Lovecraft surmised the story was hogwash and took some liberties with the story. It was printed under Houdini’s name until 1936. Meant to be a true tale, it describes Houdini's travel through Egypt where a group of Bedouin kidnap him during a boxing match atop The Great Pyramid of Giza. He is tied up and dropped down a deep pit. After escaping his bonds (of course) he travels long in darkness and speculates that he is under the Sphinx. Then he witness some weird stuff which was definitely made up before escaping to the real world. Definitely not Lovecraft’s best work. If you were gonna skip one of his stories, this would be the one.   

Harry Houdini- lest we forget
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Lovecraft: Azathoth, The Lurking Fear, & other stories

by H. P. Lovecraft    

Another early collection of material as the master of horror began to manufacture the Cthulhu Mythos. As you will see here, most of his collected universe began in the Dreamlands then filtered out into the real world. Which is fine by me as his Dreamlands setting was the best work he ever accomplished in my opinion. Several movies have also been attached which have been based on his short story The Lurking Fear. And as usual, links in to the full text of the story are included at the beginning of each story. 

Hypnos (originally written in 1922, first published National Amateur in 1923). Hypnos is the Greek God or personification of sleep. This very short tale is of a man who travels into the dreamlands with a companion “the only friend I would ever have”. Similar to Ex Oblivion they use a drug to crack through the unknown horizons of sleep and learn secrets to rule the universe. Guess how it goes.

What the Moon Brings (originally written in 1922, first published in National Amateur in 1923). This is more a piece of flash fiction than an actual story. Another dream story of a man walking through an endless garden which becomes more and more disturbing. Scenes of evil urge him on, until the monsters is revealed. The story doesn't give a definite answer as to what happens to the protagonist, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines.

Azathoth (originally written in 1922, first published in Leaves in 1938). This was originally meant to be the beginning or notes for a novel which Lovecraft never completed (though there are similar themes which appears in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath). It describes how magic and imagination has been stripped from the world and how a man, who spent all day and night staring into space, manages to bridge the gulf between worlds. His mind ascends out if his body into the cosmos.

The Hound (originally written in 1922, first published in Weird Tales in 1924). At last, here is the first story to mention the queen of Lovecraft’s fictitious books, the Necronomicon. Nothing else is said beyond the name and its connection to the mad Arab Abdul Alhazard. In this case, a pair of grave robbers stumble across a jade necklace with alien shapes, which they recognize as described in the book. It evidently has some connection to a “corpse-eating cult of Leng”. They take it and bad things happen revolving around drumroll drumroll a hound.

The Lurking Fear (Originally written in 1922, first published in Home Brew January to April 1923). This was a serialized story by the same magazine which first published Herbert West: Re-Animator. As usual, we have an unnamed protagonist on the brink of a mental breakdown due to the events he is about to relate. In this case, it deals with an ancient abandoned Dutch mansion in the Catskills, an isolated family that disappeared long ago, and a series of horrific murders in recent times. I’ll let you fill in the blanks. One major plot hole exists in this tale. Why was the narrator never killed, while everyone with him was? That's never explained and that minor detail detracts from the rest of the story. The horror tale has been made into a film three times: Dark Heritage in 1989, The Lurking Fear in 1994, and Bleeders in 1997.  All of which are presented below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

                                                 Dark Heritage

                                              The Lurking Fear

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lovecraft: Herbert West: Re-Animator

by H. P. Lovecraft

 Free Online Text 

One of Lovecraft's more well known title, due mostly to the horror film of the same name and its two sequels (Bride of Re-Animator & Beyond Re-Animator). This was not a labor of love for the author, but a work-for-hire by the magazine Home Brew, which specialized in grotesque tales. In fact the editor, George Julian Houtain, told him “You can’t make them too morbid.” It was originally serialized over six issues, which is why there is a brief recap at the beginning of each section.
 In his own notes Lovecraft didn’t take the work too seriously, calling the story “manifestly inartistic”, but he got five dollars a pop, which I’m sure made up for any sting to his artistic side. And while poo-pooing the work, he worked it into the wider Cthulhu Mythos by having his latter-day Dr. Frankenstein begin his work at Miskatonic University in Arkham. While many snobs consider this to be Lovecraft’s poorest work, there is a certain charm to the story. Granted, he wrote it quickly and just for the money, but it a decent horror story and becomes even better if you view it as a parody of Shelly’s Frankenstein.
Magazine where the story was first printed

The story takes place over seventeen years as the protagonist, Herbert West, experiments with his rejuvenation serum for bringing the dead back to life. Unlike his counterpart, he isn't interested in creating new life, but bringing back the dead. The problem becomes acute when he discovers that individual parts can be reanimated independent of the main body, but can still be ordered by the brain (Don't look for a rational explanation for that one). The story is narrated by West’s assistant who follows the good doctor through the most sinister of medical schools like a deranged Dr. Watson and onto World War I, where West’s experiments the most with disembodied body parts. The character is practically non-existent, an un-personality, with no life beyond relating the actions of West. There is no moral judgements here, which could be a bit of a relief. But in reality, the character is not really needed. Like most Lovecraft’s narrators, he is simply our medium to look into the world.

The film is substantially different. Set in the 1980’s, it centers on West’s work in university where he teams up with Dean Cain who begins working on his serum only to run into problems with arrogant Dr. Carl Hill. Things go crazy, animals are killed then brought back, yadda yadda yadda, leading to one of the most disturbing sex scenes ever filmed. The entire thing has a tongue-in-cheek flair to it, which takes the edge off the horror in my opinion, but then I suppose an over-the-top idea like this story. Both the original and sequel film are presented below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.


                                             Bride of Re-Animator

   For more fun try Across the Wounded Galaxy by Rex Hurst


Monday, June 11, 2018

Lovecraft: The Other Gods, The Music of Erich Zann, & Other Stories

by H. P. Lovecraft

Some more collection of the master of horror’s work. There has been some debate about his prehistoric and Dreamlands works and which stories exactly fit into which category, as they sometimes overlap in their geography. For example, it mentions certain events in Polaris (set in the very distant past), but also is a direct sequel to The Cats of Ulthar which is definitely a Dreamland setting. The answer is both. One area converged with the other in the mythic dawn of humanity and then split off. I have nothing Lovecraft wrote to support this, but it sounds good.
Once again, all of these are collected in reasonably priced formats or for free in the I have provided in each title. 

The Quest of Iranon (originally written in 1921, first published in Galleon in 1935). Another fanciful tale, set in the same prehistoric world as Sarnath (of  the Fame), which is roughly 24,000 BCE. Here we have a golden haired minstrel who is searching for the lost city of Aira, where he was a prince. The journey takes decades over which the minstrel never ages, until he comes full circle and learns a horrible truth. One that strips away his illusions and his age. Later in life, Lovecraft dismissed this tale, but it has a certain antique charm to it. They simply just don’t write fantasy like this anymore.

The Moon-Bog (originally written in 1921, first published in Weird Tales in 1926) This was a work for hire story which was written quickly and meant to be an after dinner story for a meeting of amateur journalists. It deals with an Irish-American made good who buys his ancestral castle and begins to drain the surrounding bog only to awaken an ancient evil. Some may be confused by the seemingly weird Greek elements in the story, but this actually comes from authentic Irish folklore about an invasion around 1200 BCE, all of whom died in a plague.

The Outsider (originally written in 1921, first published in Weird Tales in 1926). For this Lovecraft went back to Poe for inspiration. This is one of his most popular horror shorts and the most reprinted one. While I gave to admit it is a good twist on a standard gothic tale, and it is well written, it isn't what I read Lovecraft for. That is, it doesn't really add to the Mythos, except near the end where the narrator mentions the ghouls (who flit back and forth between the Dreamlands and waking world) and a certain Pharaoh who will pop up again in The Haunter in the Dark.

The Other Gods (originally written in 1921, first published in Fantasy Fan in 1933). Another tale from the Dream Cycle. The protagonist from The Cats of Ulthar returns and becomes the apprentice to a priest who delves into the Pnakotic Manuscripts (writings which predates mankind). The pair climb to a forbidden peak where the God's are said to rest and play. There bad things happen. The incident is brought up again in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Additionally. Kadath is mentioned here for the first time. This story was adapted into an animated short in 2006.

The Music of Erich Zann (originally written in 1921, first published in National Amateur in 1922). A student takes a cheap room near an old man who plays to viol all night to keep the monsters away. If you know Lovecraft you must have heard of this story. I have never been quite clear though whether the gables of the old man’s apartment looked into another dimension, like a hole in space, or if it was the music and it's odd notes that opened the gates. Considering the end, I lean towards the former but as the street itself disappears and no one seems to remember it.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep, The Nameless City & other stories

by H. P. Lovecraft

In this collection you can see the literary voice of Lovecraft nearly fully formed. He has almost fully formed his worlds and unspeakable villains, those crawling from without to claim the world for themselves.
While the Cthulhu Mythos was created by H. P. Lovecraft, he was not the only one to participate in it. Many authors, even at the time Lovecraft was creating it, used the supernatural elements of his stories in their own tales. And Lovecraft used other’s works as well. For instance, Lovecraft popularized the character of The King in Yellow, but he didn’t create it. The King was the product of the mind of Robert W. Chambers
Once again, all of these are collected in reasonably priced formats or for free in the links attached to each title. 
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (originally written in 1920, first published in Weird Tales in 1924 under the title The White Ape). This story recalls the degeneration and eventual ruin of a family over the course of six generations, which is a theme Lovecraft uses again in the The Shadow over Innsmouth. Here, there is a sinister Darwinian feature that causes the destruction of man and family. While the ending is telegraphed early on, what stands out here is the technical aspect of the writing, while there are still some Poe-esque atmosphere building, the overall report feels like an actual piece of technical writing, which is what made Lovecraft’s work stand out.
Young H. P. Lovecraft
Celephais (originally written in 1920, first published in Rainbow in 1922) Part of Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, this is about a man from English landed gentry who becomes obsessed with finding a city from his dreams as a child. He succeeds, becomes it's king, but it costs him dear. This story is a perfect demonstration of Lovecraft’s marvelous ability for description and atmosphere.  The city and it's king appear again in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. This story also demonstrates, in my absolutely humble opinion, that Lovecraft’s work is better in the third person than the first. This story also is the first mention of both the Plateau of Leng and the town of Innsmouth.

From Beyond (originally written in 1920, first published in Fantasy Fan in 1934). This story introduces a theme which Lovecraft will later (and much better) explore in The Color Out of Space and The Dreams of the Witch House, that is the idea of horror which exist just outside of the human perception. Here the protagonist describes an encounter with a scientist named Crawford Tillinghast (whose relatives will be minor characters in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). The scientist has created an electronic device that emits a resonance wave, which stimulates an affected person's pineal gland, thereby allowing them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. However interesting, the story is marred by the overly-frantic and stupidly revenge fueled antagonist Tillinghast.

Nyarlathotep (originally written in 1929, first published in United Amateur in 1920). He is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. In this story he wanders the Earth, seemingly gathering legions of followers, the narrator of the story among them, through his demonstrations of strange and either magical or super-science instruments. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and gain visions of the Nyarlathotep’s conquering of the world for unnamed deities, or the world’s destruction, or both. He will eventually become an important antagonist in various stories (on this world and the Dream Cycle) and is mentioned in many others. Eventually he is revealed as an avatar of the Outer Gods (Alien deities, locked outside of the universe, or at the center of it). As he is the messenger for the Outer Gods he is the only one who has a passable human personality, the others are too alien for us to understand. Nyarlathotep is evil, capable and reveals a mocking contempt for his masters.

The Picture in the House (Originally written in 1920, first published in National Amateur in 1921). This tale holds a special place in my heart as it was my first exposure to H. P. Lovecraft story and it really put the hook in me. It also marks a pair of firsts in the Mythos as the town of Arkham and Miskatonic University are introduced. It also marks a departure for the author as he began to look at his native New England more and more for inspiration in his stories, throwing away the standard gothic locals of Poe. The story revolves around an academic becoming lost in the backwoods of New England and taken refuge in the ramshackle house of an old man who has extended his life to over a century through foul means (again, a standard motiff for Lovecraft). The buildup in the story is exquisite, a perfect play for a horror short.

Ex Obilivone (originally written in 1920, first published in The United Amateur in 1921) A very short (also flash fiction) prose poem, that sets the tone for his Dream Cycle. A character prefers his dreams, the wonderful country, to his own life, but finds one gate locked forever. He eventually finds a drug that allow the gate to open, only to find it leads to oblivion, which he readily embraces. This tale comes from Lovecraft’s reading the work of dismal philosopher and buzz kill Arthur Schopenhauer.

Sweet Ermengarde: Or, the Heart of a Country Girl (originally written in 1921 under the pen name Percey Simple, first published in Beyond the Wall of Sleep in 1943) This is a rare parody by Lovecraft's and was never printed in his lifetime, possibly due to his lack of interest in it after finishing work on it. It is a take on the standard Horatio Alger implausible rags-to-riches genre where a country girl must strike it rich or lose the family far. The cynical and mean-spirited ending reveals Lovecraft’s attitude towards this popular literature.

The Nameless City (originally written in 1921, first published in Fanciful Tales in 1936). Many consider this the first Cthulhu Mythos story due to the presentation of the mad poet Abdul Alhazred (not yet identified as the author of the infamous Necronomicon), but I have to disagree. To me, that honor goes to Dagon as it was the first story to present an ancient destructive deity and a lost, possibly dead, race of non-humans.
However this story does show the shaping of the Mythos into a unified system. The story gives us the famous couplet
"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons, even death may die."
The story deals with a nameless protagonist’s journey to a nameless city (shocker) in the desert which predates any known civilization. It was so old that the city was originally a costal one until the water’s receded. It is mentioned in connection with the ancient city of Sarnath (the one with the Doom) and it's place in the world beyond. The protagonist of course discovers that the city is far from dead and its inhabitants far from human.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Lovecraft: The Doom that Came to Sarnath & Other Stories

by H.P Lovecraft

In this next collection of short stories we begin to see the development of what will eventually become the Cthulhu Mythos. It is interesting to note that H. P. Lovecraft did not create the term, but was coined by August Derelith and Donald Wandrei after they founded Arkham House to keep Lovecraft’s work in circulation and to expand on the mythos.

As usual, the book presented here is a cheap edition of the work, but each story is in the public domain and is available on the link provided in each title. I just like to have an actual book in my hand which I why I waste money on stuff I could get for nothing.

The Transition of Juan Romero: (Originally written in 1919, first published in Marginalia in 1944). This story was disowned by the author himself as not worthy for publication and was discovered among his papers after his death. It is easy to see why Lovecraft hated it. There is not much to the story. It is your typical dated tale of did something supernatural happen or was it just a dream of the narrator, with a hint at the end that something from beyond had happened. It is one of his poorer works and I nearly forgot the plot ten minutes after I had finished it.
H. P. Lovecraft

The White Ship: (originally written in 1919, first published in United Amateur in 1919) Here we see Lord Dunsay’s influence beginning to creep into Lovecraft’s work. The setting of this story will eventually culminate in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (my favorite of his works). The author begins to play with fantasy elements and eventually will combine fantasy and horror. This story is similar to Idle Days of Yann by Dunsay but adds a bit more depth. It is the story of a lighthouse keeper who walks across moonbeams and sails to fantastical lands on a mystical white ship.

The Street (Originally written in 1919, first published in Wolverine in 1920) This story relates the development of a street from it's origins, in pioneer times, up to the “present” in the nineteen teens. He discusses the turnover of street from one group to another and how these changes are viewed as scary by each side. To the ignorant, the mention of terrorist groups and foreigners here might seem like foresight to the fears of Islamic terrorism, but is in fact a reflection of the Anarchy terrorist cells and Communist groups being imported from Eastern Europe (who did commit several bombings  and murders) at the time when it was written. Some claim it is proof that the author is racist, but I disagree. It's simply proof that he read and believed a lot of yellow journalism.

The Doom that Came to Sarnath (Originally written in 1919, first published in Scot in 1920). In this tale, like The White Ship, we see the foundation of Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle. It is an alternate dimension which can only be accessed via our dreams and is where his fantasy stories take place. Lovecraft, always looking for the practical even in fantasy, saw the dreamy element in these stories and incorporated them into his larger, more grounded work.  This connects many of his previous stories which had a dream element. The story deals with the city of Sarnath founded by men over 10,000 years ago, who destroyed an older city founded by a race that emigrated from the moon. After 10 millennia they dead take their vengeance. It's your standard return from the grave for revenge story only on a larger scale. Much of the story details the splendor of the city.

The Statement of Randolph Carter (Originally written in 1919, first published in Vagrant 1920) This story introduces the only recurring character in the Cthulhu Mythos, Randolph Carter. He acts as a literary stand-in for the author, similar as to how Simon Iff was for Aleister Crowley. This story deals with the standard Lovecraft theme man’s curiosity leads to insanity and death, while offering a glimpse of the unknown. The statement is being given to the police.

The Terrible Old Man (Originally written in 1920, first published in Tryout in 1920). This simple story of an old man who somehow traps people's souls in glass bottles with lead weights, introduces one of Lovecraft’s New England locals for madness, Kingsport. We see more of Dunsay’s literary style for magic slipping in, despite the modern setting. This character will return in The Strange High House in the Mist, and will be seen to similar characteristic to several other of Lovecraft’s villainous characters. There are those who claim that since the last names of the crooks in this story are Italian and Polish that the entire story is racist. I don’t see it. If a simple name change makes it not racist, then maybe it was simply confirmation bias in first place.

The Tree (Originally written in 1920, first published in Tryout in 1921) A different story for the author. It's a style done after the ancient Greek myths, taking place in that era on a hill where Pan liked to frolic. It deals with two rival artists and friends each working on a statue of Tyche (Goddess of Luck). One them dies and a tree is planted in his grave. The plant grows to incredible heights until blah blah blah. It’s a rather predictable, if well written tale.

The Cats of Ulthar (Originally written in 1920, first published in Tryout in 1920) This story and land is folded into his Dream Cycle and deals with a fantastic revenge tale of the cats in the city of Ulthar ganging up and eating an evil couple that abuses the species. This results in a law forbidding people from harming cats. This place is mentioned in several other dream tales. Like many Lovecraft stories it is a standard revenge tale, but one that is eventually developed more in this writing.

The Temple (Originally written in 1920, first published in Weird Tales in 1925) The idea of the sunken city with non-human worshipers is standard Lovecraft. Here we have a German U-boat troubled by madness and supernatural forces finding an occupied ancient Temple in WWII. Not much detail is given, but it is implied that the temple is connected to either Dagon and the Deep Ones, or is in fact R’lyeh itself and this visitation is responsible for Cthulhu’s rise in Call of Cthulhu.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Lovecraft: The Tomb, Dagon, & Other Stories

by H. P. Lovecraft

My New Years reading resolution, which I vow instead of an actual resolution as I will actually complete this goal, was to read the entire body of work by that master of horror and science fiction, H. P. Lovecraft. I also pledged to read them in order that he wrote each piece (not always easy to determine) so I could track his growth as a writer and the development of the Cthulhu Mythos. As such the books that I’m promote at the beginning of each installment isn’t necessarily the one I’m reading from, but they are most cost effective volumes of Lovecraft’s work that I can find. Also, if you don’t care about a bound book, most of these stories are in the public domain and are easily viewed by the link in each title. Enjoy.

The Beast in the Cave: (Originally written in 1905, first published in Vagrant magazine in 1918) This is a rather simplistic tale about a man who becomes lost in Mammoth Cave in Kansas and encounters a blind albino beast. It’s a good starter story for a young author, written in High School, and the reader can see him eschewing even from the start the traditional forms of horror and folding the genre into a naturalistic approach. A case might be made that this story is a prelude to the film, The Descent.

H. P. Lovecraft

The Alchemist: (originally written in 1908, first published in United Amateur in 1916). The first of his stories ever published, in this and the next tale you can see the influence of his youthful literary idol, Edgar Allen Poe. It deals with a nobleman, last of his line, whose family had a curse put on it by an ancient alchemist. In reality, this is a very dated work and was probably so even when first published. The ending is telegraphed by the story’s second page with something that could barely be called a twist. While the writing style is verbose, even purple at times, you can see the development of the writer in this work, using his idol for inspiration. Thankfully, he moved away from this style to develop his own voice.

The Tomb:  (Originally written 1917, first published in Vagrant in 1922) Again, you can see the roots of Poe working its way into Lovecraft’s style. Even more so here than in the previous short story. It is an ambiguous tale of madness or supernatural possession (perhaps both), where a young man becomes obsessed with a family tomb from two centuries earlier (the 18th, which was Lovecraft’s favorite era of writing) and sees visions of life back in the day, or did he? Lovecraft’s almost trying too hard here, many of the sentences are unnecessarily verbose. “It was mid-summer when the alchemy of Nature transmutes the sylvan landscape to one vivid and almost homogenous mass of green.” See what I mean? He has yet to come into his own voice.

Dagon: (Originally written in 1917, first published in Weird Tales in 1923). In this story, we have what can be considered the first step in the development of the Cthulhu Mythos. In many ways it is a precursor to The Call of Cthulhu, in here we have a landmass risen from the sea, a giant monster of unknown origin, an ancient non-human sentient race on the Earth, and the narrator’s struggle with sanity (the lasting effect Poe had on Lovecraft’s work). This story eventually ties into The Shadow over Innsmouth (at least in my opinion). Here we see the writer starting to come into himself.
A Reminiscence of Dr.Samuel Johnson: (First published in United Amateur in 1917 under the pen name Humphrey Littlewit, Esq.) This is a rare comical piece from Lovecraft. It is written, rather well, in the style of the famous Dr. Johnson. It pokes fun at various historical figures and at the man himself, as well as reflecting on Lovecraft’s own pretentions. It’s a fun story, especially if you’ve read Dr. Johnson, but probably not what you were looking for if you pick up a Lovecraft story.

Polaris: (Originally written in 1918, first published in Philosopher in 1920). This is one of his better short pieces, steeped in the developing mythos, and deals with an aspect he would explore later with The Great Race of Yith (The Shadow Out of Time), in psychic time travel. The action revolved around a man, a guard standing watch for an oncoming enemy, whose mind is thrown twenty six thousand years into the future (to 1917) into a distant ancestor. The character is desperate to get back to aid his people, but is powerless. The Pnakotic Manuscripts, the first of Lovecraft’s arcane texts, are introduced in this story. They are texts which predate mankind, written in part or whole by The Great Race or the Elder Things.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep (Written in 1918, first published in Pine Cones in 1919). This is an anticipation of several other stories in Lovecraft’s line, dealing with the themes of a consciousness being transported through sleep and alien possession of the unwary human. This will be developed much more in The Shadow Out of Time. Lovecraft also begins to add science fiction elements into his horror. Here we have a not-so bright backwoods man from the Catskill Mountains, being seized by “attacks” where he becomes another person and demands to leap into the sky.

Lovecraft is not shy about defaming “white trash” as he calls it. “One of those strange, repellent scions of a primitive colonial peasant stock whose isolation for nearly three centuries in the hilly fastness of a little-traveled countryside has caused them to sink to a kind of barbaric degeneracy, rather than advance with their more fortunately placed brethren of the thickly settled districts.” Mind you, Lovecraft had never been to the Catskills before writing this. I’m aware that the low nature of this character is meant to be a foil for the being encountered later on, but it still is harsher a description than I expected.

An intern hooks a device up to the man’s head, so that the doctor could experience the other man’s dreams. What he discovers is probably the most spiritual (in a non-denominational sense) of human existence for Lovecraft. A rare ray of hope.
Beyond the Wall of Sleep

Memory: (Originally written 1919, first published in United Co-operative in that same year). A piece of flash fiction- barely a page long. This story takes place in the ancient valley of Nis, in moss-overrun stone ruins filled with relics of the deep past and things "without name". These crumbling blocks of monolithic stone now serve only for grey toads and snakes to nest under. Interspersed in the ruins are large trees that are home to little apes. There is a sort of plot and bit of nater between a Genie and a Daemon.

Old Bugs: (Originally written in 1919, first published by Arkham House in The Shuttered Room and Other Stories in 1959). This was a private story and a joke between Lovecraft and his friend Alfred Galpin. It was not meant for publication. Lovecraft was a lifetime teetotaler and on the eve of prohibition his friend suggested that he would like to try a drink just to see what it was like. It is a sardonic tale of a young man, like his friend, whose life is ruined due to taking just that one drink. Apparently at the end of the original manuscript Lovecraft had written, “Now will you be good?”

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.