Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft (most famously known for the cthulhu mythos) are two of my all time favorite authors. They are similar in the sense that they are both extremely famous horror writers who are widely acknowledged as masters of their craft and legends in the horror genre. However, it occurred to me the other day that the similarity ends there. Within the horror genre, they are at absolute opposite ends of the spectrum.
Mr. King’s genius is in capturing the “every man”. He is so good at capturing a slice of life, painting a picture that is so ordinary, that you’re absolutely sure it could be you. The horror is that it could happen, really honest to god could happen, and close to home too. When you read a Stephen King story, you kind of feel like the story was written by a nice guy, a friend of yours, to whom you can relate.
Lovecraft is the opposite. Somehow he’s able to capture something so awesome and alien that your mind shudders to comprehend it. Lovecraft’s horror relies on a sense of majesty, a sense of wonder. The horror is that it’s so big and alien that there’s absolutely nothing you could do about it. In fact, there’s nothing anyone could do. Lovecraft doesn’t disrupt suburban “every man” utopia by bringing the story into your home, he destroys your home, the world, and everything in it. When you read an H.P. Lovecraft story, you kind of feel like the story was written by an alien in human skin, or, best case scenario, a strangely lucid lunatic.
King’s heroes are every men as well, the duty usually falling to kids, housewives, or middle-aged, small town sheriffs. Lovecraft has no heroes. In a Lovecraft story, you’re the hero if you survive, period (with or without sanity intact). That’s really the best you can hope for.
So both are frightening for their own, very different reasons and I wonder if anybody enjoys both ends of the spectrum as much as I do?
I guess the take away is that the horror genre is as wide and deep as the tentacle of great H’chtelegoth himself.
6 thoughts on “Stephen King vs. H.P. Lovecraft”
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Very interesting analysis, and spot on. I would add that King makes frequent use of humor, which is absent form Lovecraft work.
Lets also not forget the exorbitant use of racism and sexism in Lovecraftian works.
That is fair. HP Lovecraft employs the most blatantly racist rhetoric I have ever seen in writing. You are absolutely right to point that out.
I think if I were writing this post now I would write it very differently; it is amazing to me how many hits this brief little piece still gets 8 years later!
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