The uniqueness of H.P. Lovecraft was his ability to explore the Unseen – the Beyond if you will. He was a man who understood one vital thing: We are all doomed if whatever is out there in space discovers us. Or if whatever lies in deathlike slumber at the heart of the Abyss should ever awaken, what hope might we have in escape?
It was a darkly pessimistic view for a deathly pessimistic century. One torn by two world wars, when Man no longer had to rely on rocks, blades or bullets to kill his brother. Man cracked open the Atom and by science could now turn the planet into a neon-glowing apocalypse.
Hopelessness was a way of life for many, and out of this century – almost ordained from it – Lovecraft gave voice to horrors beyond any human ability to cope with.
Yes, there were many before him who made a path through the dimension of fear, but he single-handedly reshaped the dark realm, firmly establishing the modern-day horror tale. So influential is Lovecraft’s contributions to the genre that we now use the term “Loveraftian” to describe something that strikes glaring similarities to the expert Mythos he invented. An entire sub-genre exists now thanks to him.
Alien. The Thing. The Fly. The Mist. The Void. The Gates of Hell. Evil Dead. Re-Animator. The Fog.
These are a few movies with the Lovecraftian influence on them.
Video games like Dead Space, Bloodborne, Quake, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Skyrim: Dragon Born all have the Mythos touch upon them.
5. Stephen King
Stephen King himself – a man of such colossal influence over the vast region of the written world – has humbly admitted that had there been no Lovecraft, there certainly would never have been any room for a Stephen King.
And that’s an aspect of Lovecraft’s career I find fascinating. Not only did he invent an entirely new – and seemingly never-ending – sub-genre, but he also gave many aspiring writers their own voices to be heard. Had he not, our world would have been robbed of some very much needed chilling classics. As we’ve already learned, we might not have had Stephen King otherwise.
That means we would not have a Pet Sematary to explore or Pennywise to fear! How dreadful!
Stephen King’s short story Jerusalem’s Lot shares many familiar hints and tones similar to Lovecraft’s. In Needful Things, King takes the liberty to mention Yog Sothoth, a hellish entity straight out of the Mythos.
4. Robert Bloch
Among the Lovecraft circle – as they were favorably called (pen pals and loyal fans of his dawning creativity) – was young Robert Bloch. A writer whose name may not be easily recognized among even diehard genre fans, but his work is highly praised. Chiefly because Bloch managed to scare and chill the very master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, with his little novel Psycho.
Hitchcock would admit, “Psycho all came from Robert Bloch’s book.” Let sink in. Psycho, a movie that pretty much birthed and solidified the slasher genre, would never have happened had it not been for the encouraging friendship Bloch had with Lovecraft.
We have Lovecraft to thank – in part – for Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Mad Man Marz, Ghostface, and certainly Norman Bates.
3. Robert E. Howard
Another young writer who lent his brilliant talents to the expansion of the Mythos was Robert E. Howard – a personal favorite of mine, I must admit. His own Mythos contributions are searing as heated steel hammered upon the blacksmith’s anvil.
With his definitive crimson savagery, Howard hollows out the conscience of the human heart and reveals the black-rot festering in the decayed pulp. If you read but only one of his Mythos tales, I strongly recommend The Black Stone, the story of an explorer set out to test the local legends of an onyx monolith and the gruesome cult that was rumored to have formed around it.
Robert E. Howard also gave birth to his own sub-genre in the field of fantasy: Swords and Sorcery, a sub-genre that went on to inspire Dungeons and Dragons and countless other gaming platforms. The two most beloved heroes of Howard’s antediluvian world of brute strength and bizarre mysticism are Red Sonja and the unconquered Conan of Hyperboria.
2. Mike Mignola
Going outside of the Lovecraft Circle now, we find a humble and quiet comic book artist known for his incredibly unique style of art. His name is Mike Mignola, and his creation is the one and only Hellboy.
Who doesn’t love Big Red? Cigar chomping and good-natured Hellboy has fought demons and evils that are spawned straight out of the ether of the Mythos.
Seeds of Destruction is a great place to start for anyone needing a Hellboy vs the Mythos fix.
1. Brian Lumley
It would be nothing short of an offense if I ended this list without mentioning a personal favorite of mine – Brian Lumley. Among the expanded Mythos very few have contributed more to the grizzly tales of Ancient Evil than Mr. Lumley. In my library alone there are three volumes of the Cthulhu Mythos composed entirely by him.
Not only does Lumley offer some brilliant additions to the Mythos, but he’s also given fans a gripping fantasy saga about a paranormal scholar with the gift to travel between dimensions, pass into other worlds, and is opposed by Ancient Powers straight out of the pages of Lovecraft. That hero is Titus Crow.
Now for me, I read Lumley for one series in particular – Necroscope. This is my unrivaled favorite – FAVORITE – vampire story! A blood-stained saga of vampires spawned from the vile seed of Satan himself right after he was hurled from the grace of God.
These creatures of the night are not romantic, but the demonic manifestation of carnal lusts and cruelest murder. The series begins on Earth but takes the reader across the cosmos to the very world of the Vampyr themselves.
The vampire strain is a parasitic and spiritual curse that latches itself to the spinal cord of its host and grows along the nerves, stretching and spreading until infesting the entirety of its victim until only a brief and mocking glimmer of the original host is recognized.
Still, though this is an original work by Brian Lumley, even here he can’t help but nod to his mentor and include several aspects of the beloved Mythos.
“Since reading Lumley’s Necroscope series, I know that vampires really do exist!” – H.R. Giger.
Lovecraft’s influence remains never-ending. So when you walk that well-worn path of Fear and enter the mist-shrouded forests, look for the signs of eldritch horrors seeping through reality. Take heed that you yourself are not transformed by the vile presence of Yog Sothoth or the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.
Travel well, dear reader. You know you’ll find me walking among the tombs here, paying respect to those who have given us so much to admire.