MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY: Parallel universes, lurking monsters, and the void

“You see them? You see them? You see the things that float and flop about you and through you every moment of your life? You see the creatures that form what men call the pure air and the blue sky? Have I not succeeded in breaking down the barrier; have I not shewn you worlds that no other living men have seen?” – H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond

Lovecraft was certainly a complicated figure. He died at the age of 46 in Providence, Rhode Island, where he had spent most of his life aside from some years in our own Brooklyn, New York, which he hated and exacerbated his racism. His family had a history of psychosis and he, himself, was an ill child and sickly adult. It is rumored that he was gay and, despite being married, was perhaps indifferent to sex at most. He wrote prolifically and never saw success, critically or financially, during his lifetime. Knowing this about Lovecraft informs a deep understanding of the dark horror, reclusion, and fear of the other that is the heart of his work. In his book H.P. LOVECRAFT Against the World, Against Life Michel Houellebecq qualifies Lovecraft as having an “absolute hatred of the world in general, aggravated by an aversion to the modern world in particular.” His strange relationship to the world manifests itself vividly into his stories, twisting and turning into a terrifying monstrous form…and there’s nothing to do about it.

The tenor of his writing is pervasive even when it’s subversive and his influence is as far reaching as the tentacles of Cthulu or the Great “Old Ones.” In many ways, Lovecraft’s tales are more accessible than the man to whom he will always be compared, Edgar Allan Poe. Or at the very least they seem more fun to tackle for filmmakers, television writers (The Twilight Zone) and, these days, video game makers. From the classic to the camp with some expected inclusions (Buckaroo Banzai?), Miskatonic University provides a cross-section of Lovecraft’s influence and shows us how deeply entrenched this idea of other worlds is still today.