Saturday, February 4, 2023

William Gibson on H.P. Lovecraft

In 1981, William Gibson was three years away from publishing his award-winning first novel, Neuromancer. He had published an early story ("Fragments of a Hologram Rose") in 1977; and would have four more appear in 1981, including "Johnnie Mnemonic" and "The Gernsback Continuum." At the time, Rick Coad was publishing a fanzine entitled Space Junk, and for issue 6 (1981) Coad solicited contributions for a "Lovecraft Issue." Gibson contributed a short piece entitled "Lovecraft & Me." 

Here are some of Gibson's comments on Lovecraft, whom he read between 1962 and 1964. Most of the ellipses are in the original, though the ellipses in brackets indicate omissions by me: 

My basic advice on Lovecraft is to take your Baudelaire straight and take a pass on all that kink shit; go to the source, get yourself a good hit of Paris spleen, and ignore the nameless things that flap their dank genitals in the black and noisome alleys of the Elder Culture . . .

[. . .] Anyway, this guy's work abounds with "feminine landscapes", hillocks and mounts with holes in them, and, if you're unlucky enough to find your way down one of these things, you'll find, too late, that it's full of rats, it's all damp and icky there, the very fabric of reality breaks down, down there, and it's just a burbling, bubbling chaos, where things with big feet dance to the music of madness, all burning-churning fishy-nasty . . . 

[. . .] Today you can buy Lovecratf like candy; you don't have to send off to Sauk City for creepy little brochures. It must take a lot of the thrill away. You kids don't know what you're missing. The Golden Age of Sexual Paranoia is past, and HPL's just another taste in the wire rack at Safeway . . .

Looking back, I can see that my Lovecraft period extended from about age fourteen until sixteen, when I started to satisfy my curiosity about hillocks and mounts. After that[,] somehow, he never packed quite the same punch. Kerouac and Henry Miller had more to tell me, then, and poor old Lovecraft wandered up into the lumber-room of early adolescence and stayed there, pressing his trousers under the mattress and staring dully through a small-paned window, eating ice-cream and worrying about fish. 

I'm still looking for those rats . . . 


  1. Very much of that era, and the decades before it. There's scads of damp, dark, smelly things around to invoke and instead of these, Gibson chose to pick on half the human race.
    HPL's marriage failed for money reasons instead of sexual ones, I seem to recall. He just didn't like fish, the way I don't like eggs. I got the impression that sex was something he could do but could also do fine without--I think the technical term is "gray ace". So the misogyny here sounds more like Gibson's problem than his.

  2. Poor Lovecraft. Why does his work have to be a stage in your pscho-sexual development? Can't it just be fun? I mean, Jesus!

  3. Sounded more like it was a stage in GIbson's. I suspect he might have moved on since then, and so have I.