Victor LaValle Examines Lovecraft's Long-Lasting Influence

Posted by Cybil on September 30, 2019
Celebrating Horror 2019


Victor LaValle knows his way around a scary tale or two. He's the author of the horror novels The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling as well as the graphic novel series Destroyer, which is a modern reimagining of Frankenstein’s monster, among many other books. His work has earned him numerous awards, including a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shirley Jackson Award, and an American Book Award.

In addition to creating his own creepy stories, LaValle is a connoisseur of classic horror and wrote the introduction to the just-released The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham. Here LaValle explores the long reach of Lovecraft's influence on the horror genre.



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Nothing would've shocked H.P. Lovecraft more than to hear his work classified as "classic horror."

The man labored in relative obscurity his entire writing life and died assuming his reach would extend no further than the circle of friends he'd made through his extensive letter writing. In fact, he probably reached more people through his correspondence than he did with his fiction, at least the first time it all went into print.

And yet here we are, 80 years after his death, and his work has become so thoroughly influential that he's taken his place alongside other horror writers whose last names have become brands of their own: Poe, Jackson, and King.

In the earlier days of Lovecraft's mounting influence it could be quite easy to spot his flavor. Pastiches that tried to mimic Lovecraft's prose, story lines that stuck close to the "person driven mad by arcane knowledge," or even name-dropping references to the Old Ones made famous from the Lovecraft mythos.

But I see his DNA in even more far-flung places. In writers who don't even have to explicitly state any allegiances to the old man from Providence. Instead there's something about the mood or tone or ideas that lingers.



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"The story of a frustrated film critic, and struggling mother, who discovers a frame of a secret film that draws her into a profound and troubling mystery. Creepy, smart, and brilliant."


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"Two widowers go on a fishing trip. That's really all you need to know about the plot, all I'd really want to reveal, but suffice to say this fishing trip turns into a tale of cosmic horror so big, I'm sure Lovecraft himself would tip his hat."


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"A story of a haunted house and a haunted marriage. This one plays closer to Lovecraft's sense of unreliable psyches and narrators whose sanity falls deeper and deeper into question. An unsettling, sharp piece of work."


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"A glorious, dreamlike novel about a mother, a child, and a poisoning. It reads like environmental horror mixed with the queasiest dreamlike tone. The kind of book you need to tear through and then immediately slow down and read it again."


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"This one's a bit of a cheat because it's an anthology, but it collects stories and poems by so many brilliant, talented writers that I had to include it. These horror tales show the weird and the, at times, cosmic, but filtered through perspectives Lovecraft might never have dreamed or imagined. And that's really the point of influence. It flows on past the designs of its creator and reaches those who need it most, and those who can do new things with it."




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Let's talk classic horror! What are some of your favorite old-school scares? Let's talk in the comments!

Check out complete coverage of Horror Week:
Meet the Rising Stars of Horror
Monstress' Marjorie Liu Recommends Graphic Horror Novels
50 Most Popular Horror Novels on Goodreads

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Dimitrije (last edited Sep 30, 2019 08:32AM) (new)

Dimitrije It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen King)


message 2: by C. M. (new)

C. M. Rosens is editing Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen king)"

I need to read Ligotti - currently reading Michael Cisco's "The Divinity Student" as the Weird Fiction group read for October.


message 3: by Dimitrije (new)

Dimitrije C. M. wrote: "Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen king)"

I need to read Ligotti - currently reading Michael Cisco's "Th..."


Then be sure to check out Ligotti's story "The Last Feast of the Harlequin" which he wrote in Lovecraft's honour.


message 4: by Katie (new)

Katie Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen king)"

Wow, thank you for mentioning this author. I've never heard of him and his books sound great!


message 5: by Scott (new)

Scott Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer"

And the only one who comes close to what Lovecraft was doing.


message 6: by Dimitrije (new)

Dimitrije Scott wrote: "Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer"

And the only one who comes close to what Lovecraft was doing."


Although maybe not as prolific as Lovecraft, he has his own qualities that set him apart from other authors (including Lovecraft). For example, he is extremely suggestive, and some of his stories rely on your own intellect to draw a conclusion on what exactly happened in that story. The sheer feeling of dread upon sudden realization make his stories all the more rewarding.


message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean Laird Barron's also worth a read. He's like a mix of Hemingway and Lovecraft, with none of the baggage.


message 8: by Robert (new)

Robert Mcmanus Sean wrote: "Laird Barron's also worth a read. He's like a mix of Hemingway and Lovecraft, with none of the baggage."

Don't know him yet, but you hit the proper touchstones.


message 9: by Sean (new)

Sean Robert wrote: "Sean wrote: "Laird Barron's also worth a read. He's like a mix of Hemingway and Lovecraft, with none of the baggage."

Don't know him yet, but you hit the proper touchstones."


He's so good.


message 10: by Brent (new)

Brent Claflin Sean wrote: "Laird Barron's also worth a read. He's like a mix of Hemingway and Lovecraft, with none of the baggage."

Yeah I really loved The Croning!


message 11: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Steele John Hornor Jacobs is my favorite living author. Check out “Southern Gods” & “The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky”
Also, if you desire some terrific Lycanthropic stories, check out Nicholas Peakero’s “Wolfman”, Alfred H. Bill’s “Wolf In The Garden”, and H. Warner Munn’s “The Werewolf of Ponkert”.
Gregory Lamberson also wrote some great wolf lore worth mentioning.


message 12: by Lianne (new)

Lianne Burwell A couple other fairly recent Lovecraft style books that I've read are In the Shadow of Spindrift House and Meddling Kids.

The second one particularly hit my buttons by doing Lovecraft crossed with Scooby Doo and Enid Blyton's Famous Five series of children's books. Loved it.


message 13: by Char (new)

Char Patrick wrote: "John Hornor Jacobs is my favorite living author. Check out “Southern Gods” & “The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky”
Also, if you desire some terrific Lycanthropic stories, check out Nicholas Peakero’s “Wol..."


Yass. Also: A Lush and Seething Hell


message 14: by Artur (new)

Artur Lins Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen King)"

I didn't even know about Ligotti's existence. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to look after his works.


message 15: by Nelson (new)

Nelson I have read 15 of these and I’m currently reading the one called. Alice. This one starts out really crazy.


Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You C. M. wrote: "Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen king)"

I need to read Ligotti - currently reading Michael Cisco's "Th..."


i love Ligotti! Laird Barron is another fave... i find Cisco extremely dense and quite hard to read, as his style makes following the plot quite problematic...


message 17: by Gordon (last edited Oct 03, 2019 09:06AM) (new)

Gordon Hackman Also add to this list Caitlin R. Kiernan. Her novels and short stories draw heavily from Lovecraft's influence but have her own voice as well. Her writing is great. Tales of Pain and Wonder is a great short story collection, and a good short novel is The Dry Salvages. I also enjoyed the sequence of novels that begins with Threshold, and continues through Low Red Moon and Daughter of Hounds.


message 18: by A (new)

A P Dimitrije wrote: "It's a shame nobody mentions Thomas Ligotti, probably the best contemporary horror writer (alongside Stephen King)"

That's so crazy to me to.


message 19: by Randy (new)

Randy Money LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom is pretty good. And I second Gordon about, Caitlín R. Kiernan:
The Drowning Girl
The Red Tree
Agents of Dreamland

There's also John Langan:
House of Windows
The Fisherman


message 20: by M. R. (new)

M. R. Kessell I’ve recently discovered Ramsey Campbell, an English horror writer influenced by Lovecraft. Does anyone else read his stuff?


message 21: by Randy (last edited Oct 04, 2019 01:47PM) (new)

Randy Money I've enjoyed a lot of what I've read by Campbell, short stories as well as a few novels. If you're looking for HPL related work by Campbell,
Cold Print
Midnight Sun
The Grin of the Dark

Cold Print is a story collection, the initial stories from Campbell's teen years and so rather rough. The later stories starting with the title story are all quite good.

Midnight Sun is a very good novel that some say channels Arthur Machen more than HPL, but still has that sense of cosmic awe that Lovecraft strove for.

The Grin of the Dark is excellent, I think, though other readers' statements indicate it may elicit love/hate reactions. It's one of the most Lovecraftian novels I've come across and I found the ending unsettling.


message 22: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Conlon I enthusiastically second Ramsey Campbell, maybe my favorite living horror writer. In addition to the novels listed by Randy (Grin of the Dark in particular) I would add his wonderful collection of specifically Lovecraftian stories, Visions from Brichester.


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