The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 1

Michael O. Varhola

Many years ago, by virtue of the fact that I am a writer and perhaps more importantly an editor, I acquired the ability to pretty reliably tell the gender of an author simply by reading one or two paragraphs of his or her work. This ability is not infallible, and if someone carefully chose selections meant to mislead me or was even for some reason conscious of their gender while writing then my success rate would certainly be diminished to some extent. With regard to something like a newspaper article or any other general-purpose written material, however, I can use this skill with accuracy well beyond 90 percent.

Within the past few years, I learned that I could also pretty much tell not just the gender of a writer but their sexual orientation as well. This struck me most palpably when I was watching the critically-acclaimed film The Hours, the script for which I could immediately tell was written by a gay man.

To a large extent, this ability functions automatically and subconsciously and developed without any deliberate effort on my part. In order to hone this skill and take it past a certain level, however, I had to figure out just what details in a specific work I was responding to that allowed me to determine the pertinent traits of its writer. The Hours, once again, provides a fairly straightforward example and can be analyzed pretty easily. In short, its primary focus is on feminine angst, something straight men are generally not just unconcerned with but actually oblivious to, but deals with it in a rather unsympathetic way uncharacteristic of how another woman would likely address it. And Michael Cunningham, author of the novel upon which the movie is based, is, in fact, openly gay.

A few Christmases ago, my wife gave me a comprehensive compilation of the works of horror author Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), arranged in chronological order, and I resolved to read or re-read the entire body of his work (see "Re-Reading Lovecraft"). I read the majority of Lovecraft's stories when I was in high school and college and, while I have periodically read or re-read some of them in the decades since, have not done so in a way that would allow me to perceive interconnecting themes or patterns. As I began to work my way through the entire body of his stories from the perspective of a trained writer and editor, however, I began to pick up on things that I previously had not. And one of the most significant things that struck me was that I was reading the works of someone who was clearly gay.

This is not a completely new suggestion and, over the years, many people have expressed their own opinions that Lovecraft might have been gay. In most cases, however, the people making such suggestions either cannot articulate their basis for them or do not bother to do so or, more commonly, try to glean evidence from what is known of Lovecraft's life to support the case for homosexuality. I have, however, come to believe that Lovecraft was gay based not on the activities of his life — which I cannot observe firsthand and therefore cannot be certain of — but rather on an analysis of his writings — which I, and anyone else who is interested, have full recourse to examine.

Suffice it to say, for a number of reasons I have been apprehensive about publicly discussing this revelation, primarily because of concern over the negative backlash I believe might somewhat deservedly result if I were not able to adequately support my contentions (and this was the main motivation for presenting my thesis in this article). A great many people enjoy Lovecraft's works — and many of them want to like even his second-rate works enough that they are willing to make excuses for them — but it would seem that a large proportion of them believe that they would not be able to do so if they were to acknowledge the author's homosexuality. 

Parts 2, 3, and 4 of "The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name" will follow in turn every three or four days and both be hotlinked here and appear on the d-Infinity homepage. 

The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 2

The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 3

The Lovecraft That Dare Not Speak Its Name — Part 4