In case the birthday alert on your smartphone failed to remind you, Thursday is the 125th birthday of H.P. Lovecraft, the acknowledged father of supernatural horror fiction. Since he was born and raised in Providence, an estimated 2,000 Lovecraft lovers are making a pilgrimage to the city for NecronomiCon Providence, a four-day tribute to his writing.
Citywide festivities are planned to commemorate Lovecraft’s 1890 birthday, celebrating his short life — he died at 46 — and his unique genre of “Weird Fiction,” a blend of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Providence is described in such minute detail in his work that “the places are almost characters unto themselves,” said Niels Hobbs, director of NecronomiCon Providence, which runs Aug. 20-23.
A recurring theme in Lovecraft’s stories is built around the mythology of fictional ancient gods like Cthulhu, who are so horrifying that mankind can’t even grasp what they are.
“The concept is that humanity is a small speck in the universe, filled with these forces of vast gods who don’t really care, in a vast, uncaring universe,” said Hobbs. “Most of his stories don’t really have happy endings.”
Lovecraft’s dense and flowery writing style strikes some as outdated in the minimalist, Twitter-obsessed universe. The Guardian newspaper has called it “lumpen and info-dumpy prose.” But his work is more popular than ever, judging from the action-packed schedule in Providence.
The lineup includes academic talks, theater and film inspired by Lovecraft, walking tours of “Hoary” Providence, and social events such as the dreaded Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast.
The Galleries of the Providence Art Club will host Ars Necronomica through Sept. 4. The show highlights the work of 21 artists from around the world inspired by Lovecraft’s work, including that of prominent British illustrator John Coulthart, who is artist guest of honor at the exhibition.
Lovecraft died of colon cancer in 1937, but his fanbase keeps growing. Many writers have proclaimed Lovecraft an influence on their work. Stephen King’s 2014 novel, “Revival,” was born, in part, from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythology. Neil Gaiman wrote a short story called “I Cthulhu.” Guillermo del Toro told the New Yorker in 2011 that he’d considered adapting Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” for the big screen.
In his day, however, Lovecraft lived in poverty and without the popularity his work would find years later. “He was a classic starving artist,” said Hobbs. “His sense of cuisine was eating baked beans out of a can.”
Baked beans, however, will not be served at NecronomiCon, he noted. “We thought about serving baked beans, But most of us thought we should avoid that level of immersion.”
Linda Matchan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.