As well as a rather lavish hardback collection of his work – HP Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction, published by Barnes & Noble last year – there's a whole host (deconsecrated, presumably) of projects that are either explicitly or implicitly Lovecraftian in their approach in the bookshops and, indeed, on the big screen right now.
In the last couple of days I've read two new graphic novel adaptations of Lovecraft's work from publisher Self Made Hero: The Lovecraft Anthology Volume II and INJ Culbard's elegant adaptation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. Then there's also Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's ongoing series Fatale, a comic-book merger of Lovecraft and Dashiell Hammett. And, saving the biggest for last, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's current metahorror comedy hit The Cabin In The Woods – with all its talk of the Old Ancient Gods – is tapping into purely Lovecraftian tropes (even if it does rather blow it by the last image reveal of said gods being both bathetic and very un-Lovecraftian. That and the fact that, for a horror movie, it wasn't very scary).
Lovecraft, who was raised and died in Providence, Rhode Island, had little faith in his own writing. During his later years he didn't even think they deserved to be gathered up in book form. Suffice to say there are any number of Lovecraft collections currently in your local Waterstones. It's tempting perhaps to see something very timely in this current revival. We are living at a time of economic austerity when our powerlessness – at both individual and governmental level – has never been so obvious to us. It's a notion that echoes through Lovecraft's stories, albeit the writer's concerns tend to the slightly more cosmic.
As Michel Houlbecq says of him: "Few beings have ever been so impregnated, pierced to the core, by the conviction of the absolute futility of human aspiration."
In Lovecraft's fiction humanity lives in blissful ignorance of the horrors that surround it. And when those horrors – the Great Old Ones of his Cthulhu pseudomyth – are revealed ... Well, it ain't good. "We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far," Lovecraft writes at the beginning of his story The Call Of Cthulhu. "The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
Which, frankly, sounds a bit like the Eurozone, with added cosmic monsters thrown in, doesn't it?
Of course, the truth is Lovecraft's cosmic visions have been seeping into our culture since his death in 1937. You can see his influence in the work of Stephen King and Ramsay Campbell and, in many ways, he's a touchstone for the "new weird", that 21st-century mash-up of science fiction, horror and fantasy that floated to the surface in the wake of China Mieville's first book Perdido Street Station. (Both Mieville and Lovecraft are big on tentacles).
These days he's even on the Penguin Classics list. He's part of the canon.
Which shouldn't blind us to the fact that Lovecraft is a problematic writer. It's not just the sometime fusty aroma of his prose, but the fact that his ideas about race in America were, quite frankly, repellently maggoty. China Mieville has described Lovecraft's story The Horror At Red Hook as a "fever dream of prejudice". When I first read him as a teenager I didn't pick up on this particularly but now it's difficult to miss. Disgust animates many of his stories. And it's impossible for that not to stain your reading of them.
And yet his belief in humanity's cosmic insignificance still seems fresh and convincingly "other". It's his gift to horror fiction and it's why he matters. That and tentacles.