There are few names as influential to the horror genre as H.P. Lovecraft, particularly given his relatively scant output and short life. His blend of weird and speculative fiction, gothic horror, and dark fantasy has terrified and enthralled readers in near equal measure for decades. Despite his broad-ranging influence and status as perhaps the most influential author of horror fiction of the twentieth century, engaging with the works of Lovecraft can feel like a daunting task. Despite the length of most of his works– Lovecraft primarily wrote short fiction or novellas– the worlds and mythologies Lovecraft created were dense affairs. His writings steeped in speculative sci-fi, weird fiction, and Lovecraft’s own literary philosophy: Cosmicism.
The idea of Cosmicism, a literary style and philosophy developed by Lovecraft, is the central underlying theme of all of his work. Cosmicism posits the insignificance of man in relation to the universe. In much of Lovecraft’s fiction, his protagonists are forced to face up to the triviality of their existence on a grand cosmic scale, and realize that there are creatures in the cosmos vastly more intelligent and powerful than humanity. It is a bleak and unforgiving view, but one that is central to the horror of Lovecraft.
So, where do you step into this unrelenting world of haunting atmosphere, existential horror, and creeping dread? Lovecraft’s works are generally split into two distinct cycles: The Cthulhu Mythos and The Dream Cycle. The Cthulhu Mythos is largely synonymous with Lovecraft and deals primarily with protagonists forced to confront the cosmic horrors that have shaped the earth and still lurk, often dormant, in its darker reaches. The Dream Cycle is more fantastical, telling stories of an otherworldly dreamscape but are nonetheless bleak and horrifying. I’ve pulled together the list below to get you started in each.