How to Get Your Mind Blown by H.P. Lovecraft and Alan Moore in 7 Epic Steps
Last year, I went down a Lovecraft rabbit hole where I was thinking and living in a Lovecraftian world for a few months. The guide that I am writing for these stories comes from that experience. The immersive way that I did it was extremely powerful and in my opinion was the best and most potent way to absorb these multilevel stories that are the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft combined with Providence (and its related books), the Alan Moore graphic novels which are based on Lovecraft’s life and work.
If you don’t have a few months to devote to the Lovecraft mythos you can just read the comics in the order I’ve listed below, but for the full-on Lovecraft junkie, this is a complete guide. I’ve read this series twice and it has blown my mind twice. The level of storytelling, world building and rebuilding, and the way that Moore has swirled the facts of H.P. Lovecraft’s real life and the myths of his fictional works is awe inspiring.
A few words from others to get us motivated for this epic journey:
Providence is one of Alan Moore’s most ambitious final projects… a full-on deconstruction and metacommentary on the entirety of Lovecraft’s body of work and the subtexts of racism, gynophobia and paranoia. It’s like a kind of Unified Theory of Lovecraft Stories. And the incomparable Jacen Burrows’ precise line art charts all the creepy horror and crawling chaos with unflinching exactness. -Adi Tantimedh
Providence isn’t an attempt to subvert Lovecraft’s work: it’s a meta-story that enfolds Lovecraft’s canon… It’s got some really interesting things to say about fiction and authorship and the nature of reality itself, as well as the unlikely and uncannily outsized role that a dime-novel crank like Lovecraft would have on Western culture. Moore, with his understanding of how magic works, believes that influential narratives don’t “just” happen by chance, nor are they entirely the product of their authors: they’re the projections of forces from within the Immaterial that are deliberately inserting themselves into our dimension. -Ryan Miga
For Lovecraft fans and Alan Moore fans, it seems that this trilogy of graphic novels has been pretty polarizing. If you look around the internet, there are plenty of social media threads commenting on the series and it seems people either really love it or they don’t like it at all. For me, I was already a fan of Moore, a fan of Lovecraft, a fan of history, and a fan of occult history and practice. This series really hit me in all the right places.
The thing to stress here at the beginning of the journey: The reason I wrote this guide is because a casual reading of Providence and its associated books without the deeper research suggested here is unlikely to fully impress. I honestly don’t think the full impact of these books can be understood without the level of reading/research that I’m prescribing here. Most of the negative reviews I’ve come across are from people who don’t know their Lovecraft or don’t know their Moore, or just don’t understand what Moore is attempting to do here, both as a writer and an occultist. Most people don’t care about one or more of these topics, but for those that do, and are willing to put in a bit of work, I think you will like what you find at the end of this journey. Moore has really given us an advanced level of story-telling that takes a bit of work to digest but is ultimately fulfilling in its effect, especially in the context of Lovecraft’s entire life and work. Moore did his research when creating this and we need to do ours to get the full experience.
There are up and downs. Boring parts and graphically obscene and offensive parts. Parts where it drags on and parts where you can’t put it down. If you want to get your mind blown (possibly a few times) then I suggest you put aside your other plans for the next month or so and embark on this journey into the dark and uncaring void of the weird tales of Lovecraft and the interpretation of Lovecraft’s life and work by Alan Moore.
Become familiar with Lovecraft’s complete body of weird fiction. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS) has put out a great audiobook which collects H.P. Lovecraft’s complete collection of weird prose and presents them as a superbly read and recorded production. Whether you choose physical book or audiobook format, this step is most essential as you will come to know Lovecraft through his creations and mythos.
Go deep. There are a few Lovecraft documentaries on Youtube which help to paint a more complete picture of the author himself. Having an understanding of Lovecraft, the man, helps set the stage for the context in which these stories were written. Another good reason to have this light contextual background is because when you get to the Alan Moore/Providence stage of this journey, Moore uses many facts from Lovecraft’s real life as well as modern Lovecraftian scholarship and when you understand the references, it makes the reading experience much more potent and magical.
Go deeper. Become familiar with the author himself through an analysis of some of his 1910s/20s/30s letters to his many correspondences. I recommend listening to a few episodes (if not all) of the HPLHS podcast Voluminous, where they read Lovecraft’s letters and analyze them with historical context and connections.
This is especially useful for getting an detailed understanding about Lovecraft’s worldview and the grandiose and archaic way in which he writes about himself and his subjects. It also helps you understand who Lovecraft’s inner circle of collaborators and writing friends are, which is also referenced in Moore’s work.
You have now read all of Lovecraft’s works, learned a bit about him through documentaries and his letters. Now for Phase 2: The Lovecraft-related works of Alan Moore. If you aren’t familiar with Alan Moore as a writer and occultist, it’s probably best to get acquainted before delving into his creation. This documentary helps to do that and explains Moore’s transition from celebrated comic book author to magician-writer. I think this detail is important because part of this journey involves understanding how Moore builds his fictional worlds as magical constructs. There are also interviews on YouTube (here and here) that Moore has given about working on Providence which give us more insight into what went into the research and creation process of Providence and related books.
Begin Moore’s graphic novels. The story spans three titles: The Courtyard (2003), Neonomicon (2010), and Providence (2015). It’s logical (and normal) to read the comics in publishing order but I have come up with an alternate order that I think is a bit more powerful in its sequence and storytelling:
- Providence Vol. 1–10
- Providence Vol. 11 … but stop on page 28 😁
- The Courtyard Vol. 1–2
- Neonomicon Vol. 1–4
- Providence Vol. 11 pg. 29–36
- Providence Vol. 12! THE EPIC FINALE
It wouldn’t hurt to revisit related Lovecraft stories as you read the comics (if you’re already getting a bit fuzzy), but that can come later as well.
After you finish this journey, you might realize (like I did) that the experience was so epic that you want to ride the roller coaster again. If this happens to you, I recommend going through the graphic novels a second time with an in-depth guide which you can find here:
- Providence Starts Here
- Neonomicon Starts Here
- The Courtyard also has a guide but it’s in book form. I haven’t bought it or read it but that’s here
Read one issue of the graphic novel, and then read one blog-guide. Optionally, also read the related Lovecraft stories for each issue. I think this step is essential for it is unlikely that anyone can recognize and process all the subtle story elements that Moore has layered into his books the first time around. Facts in the Case is an amazing bit of decoding and analysis work that enables non-Lovecraftian scholars to pick up on all the historical and mythos-related clues in the narrative. Using it as a guide alongside a second reading of Providence, etc. allows the reader to have a deeper immersion into the world that Moore and Lovecraft have created.
If you get this far and you still haven’t had enough, go even deeper down the rabbit hole. (This is where I’m currently at) Read S.T. Joshi’s biography of Lovecraft, I Am Providence. It’s over 1600 pages long. It’s IN-DEPTH. Realize that you didn’t actually know anything about the life and works of Lovecraft. Read each Lovecraft story again as you go through the biography and now you will understand the context of each story as you fully digest them. Then read the Moore books again. Get lost in the abyss. It was never a rabbit hole, it was a portal through time and space where your mind and reality melt and warp. Where will it take you now, time traveler?
“The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.”
― H. P. Lovecraft
About the Author
Justin K Prim is not a Lovecraft scholar or a Moore scholar but he does appreciate both of them immensely. Justin is an American lapidary and gemologist living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. He is currently working on a book about the history of American gemstone cutting which has a strong focus on events in the 1920s and ‘30s, which nicely overlaps the life of unrelated but interesting author Howard Philips Lovecraft. Justin works as a Lapidary Instructor as well as writing articles, producing videos, and giving talks about gem cutting history.