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   Howard Philips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was born and spent nearly his whole life in Providence, Rhode Island. During his two year marriage, however, he lived in Brooklyn, New York. Other than that, his travels outside New England were limited to a few places of historical interest to him, such as New Orleans, Charleston, Quebec, St. Augustine. He lived only a few blocks from the Brown University campus and hoped to attend Brown but had neither the grades nor the money to allow him to do so. His childhood home has been preserved but was moved from its original site to make way for Brown's List Art Center.

   He had early interests in astronomy and the amateur press, where he did all of his early (and extensive) publishing. Throughout his life he made a major part of his limited income as a freelance "story doctor" for lesser writers. Only in the early 1920s did he begin to publish professionally, and thereafter he published in Astounding Stories, Amazing Stories, Tales of Magic and Mystery, and most of all in Weird Tales. His first book was the privately printed Shadow Over Innsmouth (1936), but it was not until two years after his death, that comprehensive publication of his work began with The Outsider and Others (1939), a collection put together by two of his author friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, launching the Arkham House imprint (see link below).

   Lovecraft believed that traditional horror would no longer be effective in the scientific world of the Twentieth Century. He sought to create a new type of horror that built (very, very loosely) on science. His short story "The Color Out of Space," for instance, presented the much copied idea of something carried to Earth on a meteor that takes over human beings creating unspeakable horror. His major contribution to the genre was the idea of an unknown prehistory in which Earth was ruled by godlike beings known as the "Old Ones" or the "Elder Gods." The Old Ones were expelled from Earth before the rise of mankind but are trying to return with the help of human cults that hope to gain power thru the power of the Old Ones. These stories came to be known among Lovecraft's fans as the "Cthulu mythos," from the name of one of the Old Ones.  The "mythos" has been continued by numerous other authors  and has provided the basis for a  number of movies  -- mostly bad movies, but a few quite good.

   One of my favorite Lovecraft tales is "Pickman's Model" (1926) in which the secret behind an artist's bizarre paintings is fatally revealed. In another, "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1933), an inhabitant of a mental asylum explains that while he did fire a bullet into the head of his best friend, he is not a murderer. Other favorites are:  "The Rats in the Walls" (1923), "The Colour Out of Space"  (1927), "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" (1927), "The Dunwich Horror" (1928), and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1931).  These, and many other Lovecraft stories, are available online  at the Lovecraft Library -- see link below.