Horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, best known for Cthulhu, an octopus-faced cosmic entity, has long inspired obsessive fandom and his short stories, in the hundred years since they were first published, have influenced a wide range of figures, including William Burroughs, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, the makers of the Alien movies and the game Dungeons & Dragons, to name but a few. In Lovecraft’s cosmology, the human mind is incapable of comprehending the full psychic horror of reality and either must take refuge on a placid island of ignorance or be swept up in the black seas of infinity. Paul La Farge’s new novel, The Night Ocean, traces Lovecraft’s unusual friendship with a 16-year-old fan: the poet Robert Barlow, who Lovecraft followed to Florida, where they collaborated on a single story, the last work of fiction that either of them wrote before Lovecraft’s death and Barlow’s own tragic end.
In this episode, we also ask you to take the hand of “The Oldest Person in Town,” as—he, she, they—die and die and die again. Edgar Oliver, beloved for his monologues on The Moth Podcast, performs this short fiction from Kevin Moffett.
In our final segment, Yuri Herrera, author most recently of Kingdom Cons, and Lisa Dillman, translator of his novels, delve into noir in their collaborative meta-review of our show.
The excerpts from Lovecraft’s stories in this episode were performed by Omar Metwally, whose voice you may recognize from his television roles in Mr. Robot and The Affair.
Produced by Matt Frassica.