When was the last time you read H.P. Lovecraft’s 1921 story “The Outsider“? Have you ever? Let me tell you, it’s a rare dark pleasure.
Written when Lovecraft was 31, the story is one of the high points of his early work when the influences of Poe and Dunsany were still strongly in evidence. It is made particularly interesting by the autobiographical sub-text under the overt horrific surface. Lovecraft was a lonely child, brought up by elderly relatives and reading voraciously in his grandfather’s library of 18th and early-19th century books. After years of solitary introspection, he then broke out of his shell and saw moonlight, as it were, when the amateur press (the fanzine or blog culture of the 1910s) put him into contact with like-minded people. Part of the enduring appeal of “The Outsider” is that it is at heart a story about growing up, recognising that you are different, an outsider – and then finding your community of outsiders. “Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile.”
Earlier this summer, Norm Sherman of the Drabblecast podcast tweeted an invitation to suggest Lovecraft stories for audio production. I suggested “The Outsider”, and I got my wish! For a beautifully Gothic reading and production of the story by the multi-talented Mr. Sherman, hie thee to the Drabblecast. I for one just set up a monthly donation from the Paypal account where my ScienceBlogs earnings reside.