Yesterday would have been H.P. Lovecrafts 120th birthday. He would have been astonished at the influence his horror stories have had. And even more astonished, and probably deeply disturbed, at the few people who take his work seriously (I'll be covering the influence of Lovecraft in the modern occult world in my 'Sorcerers and Storytellers' presentation at Worldcon, and truth be told I find of it pretty alarming too).
It is tempting to consider how he would react to the internet and fandom. He spent a lot of time writing to his various horror writer friends especially, and a lot of seemed to be a forerunner early fandom, which in turn seemed to be an early experiment with the social mechanisms that have exploded with the internet.
Of course, he was also an insane racist, a crazy racist even by the standards of his own era, so a black president would probably make his head explode. So he'd probably be a Tea Partier today or something. Probably for the best we are spared the spectacle.
Hmmm... now I want to write a story in which a crazy racist blogger inciting racist violence turns out to be H.P. Lovecrafts head in a Mi-Go brain jar.....
Which just goes to show how wonderfully inspiring mad old Howards stories can still be. I think the trick is that his unique brand of horror was based not just on dark fantasy and myth (ghosts, vampires and such) but features so many idea that are much more science fictional, aliens and other dimensions and the cold horror of a universe that is both vast and uncaring and often incomprehensible. Lovecraft's version of horror was not just about our irrational past, but taught us that science has plenty of its own horrors to reveal. He caught on the fundamental, and frightening, idea that just because something is theoretically explainable by some future science does not mean that it is comprehensible, or palatable, to the limited human mind. And for showing us that screaming horror is fully compatible with a scientific worldview, we must thank him.
Plus he taught me words like squamous, glabrous, and rugose. Long may he continue to inspire.