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Olin & Uris Libraries

Olin: Open until 9pm
Uris: Open until 5pm

The G. P. Serviss-H. P. Lovecraft Connection

A practitioner of “cosmic horror” and originator the Cthulhu Mythos – a literary mythology in which ancient, multi-dimensional entities menace humankind, in itself the foundation for a literary subgenre of horror fiction – Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an amateur astronomer who often incorporated that knowledge into his fiction. In his 1919 short story, “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” Lovecraft acknowledged Serviss by name and quoted a passage from his Astronomy with the Naked Eye to rationalize a plot element in the tale:

“Lest you think me a biased witness, another pen must add this final testimony, which may perhaps supply the climax you expect. I will quote the following account of the star Nova Persei verbatim from the pages of that eminent astronomical authority, Professor Garrett P. Serviss:

On February 22, 1901, a marvelous new star was discovered by Doctor Anderson of Edinburgh, not very far from Algol. No star had been visible at that point before. Within twenty-four hours the stranger had become so bright that it outshone Capella. In a week or two it had visibly faded, and in the course of a few months it was hardly discernible with the naked eye.

This passage ends the story, drawing a thin but precisely directed bridge between fiction and fact.