• Joseph Mulak

Lovecraft Adaptions: You Can Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

I happened to find an article online discussing why games need to fall out of love with Lovecraft. The article was written by Sam Greer and puts forth two arguments:

  1. Lovecraft was racist, misogynistic, and homophobic.

  2. Lovecraft has been adapted so many times it has become boring.

Before I get started, I want to make a few things clear:

Greer's article dealt specifically with video games. When I talk about adaptions, I'm referring to any adaptation of Lovecraft's work. Games, films, comics, etc.

Also, I am not here to make any attempt to deny or excuse Lovecraft's bigotry. Many have and continue to do this. Yes, Lovecraft was a bigot. This is undeniable. I am not here to to make excuses like he was a product of his time, he changed his opinions later in life, etc. He was a bigot and there is no excusing that.

Now, allow me to address the second argument first. Perhaps Greer finds Lovecraft boring, and that's fine. But she is trying to make a subjective statement into an objective one. I'm sure there are others who find repeated uses of Lovecraftian monsters boring. However, there are still many who do not. The popularity of Lovecraftian adaptations to this day should be proof enough of that. Greer is welcome to her opinion on the matter but she does not speak for all of us. I don't consider myself a gamer, but I do enjoy playing point and click adventure games and there have been some decent ones based on Lovecraft's work. Gibbous and Chronicle of Innsmouth spring to mind.

As for the first argument, which is that Lovecraft was a racist, misogynistic, homophobe...yes, he certainly was. Greer will get no argument from me on that. However, I will argue that this exactly why we need adaptations of the man's work.

His character flaws aside, Lovecraft's influence on the horror genre is undeniable. Many famous people have been influenced by his work. Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, John Carpenter, and Guillermo Del Toro to name a few. While authors like Campbell, Lumley, and even Bloch haven't adapted Lovecraft per se, they have written stories based on Lovecraft's mythos. There are many anthologies containing these works and most are worth the read. Even Edward Lee has written novellas and novels based in the universe created by Lovecraft. Some are even sequels to Lovecraft's stories.

On top of that there have been numerous films either based on Lovecraft's work or that are direct adaptations. Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness is definitely inspired by Lovecraft. Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth was influenced by Lovecraft and, though I have no idea if this is still a possibility, but he's been trying to get an adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness off the ground for several years now. And Let's not forget Stuart Gordon's many adaptations: Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, Dagon, and the Masters of Horror episode H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch-House.

Then we have the video game adaptations. Chronicle of Innsmouth (and the soon to be released sequel Chronicle of Innsmouth: At the Mountains of Madness), Call of Cthulhu, Shadow of the Comet, Prisoner of Ice, The Lurking Horror, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Anchordhead, etc.

Why do I mention all these adaptations. Because they give us the best of H.P. Lovecraft and leave out the worst of him. We can still have our Lovecraftian monsters without the bigotry. Because even though Lovecraft was a terrible human being, the majority of those adapting his work are not.

And this why I love the fact that his work continues to be adapted and that people allow his influence to shine through in their work. For those of us who still love the mythos he created, this is good news indeed.

© 2021 Joseph Mulak