I started reading horror by the time I was ten or so. For anyone who knows me, this probably explains much. I stumbled across my first Lovecraft story, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” by the time I was twelve, maybe thirteen. I’ve been a fan of weird fiction and cosmic horror, Lovecraft and others, ever since.
This is why The Lovecraft eZine fast became one of my all-time favorite websites. It made perfect sense, then, that my first ever interview for Blogferatu should be with the eZine’s editor, Mike Davis.
Before we start, I’d really like to thank Mike for agreeing to an interview and for taking the time to provide such thoughtful and thought provoking answers to my, admittedly, somewhat ham-fisted questions (I’d planned to end the interview with that, along with some grand, insightful summation. As you’ll see, Mike’s closing Lovecraft quote is too damn perfect).
And check out The Lovecraft eZine!
MIKE DAVIS: In January, 2011. In late 2010, I’d been sick for several years, and because of that, my business had suffered. This was our family’s sole income. My wife then got a job in another state. When we moved there, my wife told me that she wanted me to take it easy, to relax at home as much as possible. Instead, I started the eZine. I’d been thinking about doing something like that for a while, and this provided the opportunity.
I was reading a lot of cosmic horror at the time, and I thought it would be very cool to be able to publish high quality Lovecraftian fiction that was free to read. From there, it evolved into a community, a videocast/podcast, a small press, and more.
JTW: How did you first become interested in Lovecraft?
MD: I’m not, really. That is to say, I’m not much interested in Lovecraft the man. There are those who are, and that’s fine — it’s just not my thing, personally. But if you mean Lovecraftian fiction, I became interested in my early twenties. I was reading something — I don’t remember what — that quoted the line “I have seen what lies beneath—and it is not good to see” from “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” I was aware of Lovecraft, of course, but hadn’t really paid attention until then. I liked the quote, so I researched where it was from (this was way before Google, or even before the internet was ubiquitous), read the story, and liked it enough to read more of his work.
JTW: What’s your favorite Lovecraft story?
MD: He co-authored a story with R.H. Barlow titled “The Night Ocean” — that’s my favorite, but it probably doesn’t count because he’s not the sole author. In fact, I think Barlow probably wrote most of it. In addition to that story, I like “The Shadow Out of Time” a lot, and “The Call of Cthulhu.”
JTW: Least favorite?
MD: “The Colour Out of Space.”
JTW: This may be a strange question, but do you think without influences like Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and Robert W. Chambers, there may not have been an H.P. Lovecraft?
MD: Hard to say. But they definitely influenced him, as did Poe and others. His interest in astronomy obviously influenced his fiction as well. It’s hard for any thinking person to learn about the cosmos without almost immediately realizing how small we are, and how inconsequential we must be in relation to the rest of the universe.
JTW: Who do you like in terms of current Lovecraftian fiction? Who do you think is doing the best or most interesting stuff?
MD: I don’t feel there is a “best” — it’s subjective, a matter of opinion. Also, there’s straight-up “Lovecraftian” fiction (aka Mythos), and then there’s cosmic horror. With that in mind, I’ve greatly enjoyed short stories and/or novels by Brett J. Talley, Laird Barron, Nadia Bulkin, Pete Rawlik, Cody Goodfellow, Molly Tanzer, John Langan, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Ann K. Schwader, W.H. Pugmire, and others that I’m sure I’ll remember just as soon as this interview is published.
It’s not “cool” to say, but I’m not cool, so I’ll say it anyway: Stephen King has written some great cosmic horror stories, and one of his latest books, Revival, is also quite “Lovecraftian.”
JTW: Let’s switch over to film for a bit. What do you think is particularly difficult about putting Lovecraft on the screen?
MD: I’m not a filmmaker but I imagine it’s difficult to translate cosmic dread to film. But unlike some, I believe it can be done, and it has been done.
JTW: What’s your favorite Lovecraft adaptation?
MD: If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Dagon. The Whisperer in Darkness is really well done, too.
JTW: What do you consider the worst (or at least a really poorly executed) attempt at adapting Lovecraft to film?
MD: Oh, wow. There are quite a few. Just one? Maybe The Unnamable.
JTW: I love your list of what you consider Lovecraftian films and made a point to see a number of them. What’s your favorite that isn’t an actual adaptation?
MD: Thanks! I’m glad that so many enjoy it. I like The New Daughter a lot. Also Absentia.
JTW: Last question. The Lovecraft eZine is a great resource with tons of valuable stuff. Would you consider yourself a Lovecraft scholar?
MD: Oh hell, no. There are many who know more about Lovecraft than I do. I love his work, and I love cosmic horror and weird fiction, but I’m not an expert on Lovecraft. My friends Pete Rawlik and Rick Lai are, though. I’m lucky to have them on my podcast!
So I’m not a scholar or an expert, but I’m drawn to Lovecraft and cosmic horror because it speaks to a truth that many don’t accept or even consider: that the universe does not care about us. Humans aren’t important, in the grand scheme of things, and if the human race ended tomorrow, the cosmos would not even notice. There is no god looking out for us — I’ve seen too much evil to ever believe that, and perhaps even more importantly, there’s no evidence to support it.
Of course, it’s easier to believe in that which is comforting. As Lovecraft wrote: “The ignorant and the deluded are, I think, in a strange way to be envied. That which is not known of does not trouble us, while an imagined but insubstantial peril does not harm us. To know the truths behind reality is a far greater burden.”