H.P. Lovecraft of Providence, Rhode Island, the author of such works as “The Dunwich Horror” and “Fungi from Yoggoth,” is the object of a small but tenacious cult. It would be fun for anyone allergic to cultism to go through Lovecraft’s work selecting a nosegay of fungi, collecting bigotries and infelicities, perhaps enlisting a computer to determine how many times he used the word “eldritch.” Fun, but far too easy. One could quote almost at random. Lovecraft was an exceptionally, almost impeccably, bad writer. He was not even originally bad. He imitated the worst bits of Poe quote accurately, but his efforts to catch Dunsany’s sonorous rhythms show an ear of solid tin. Derivative, inept, and callow, his tales can satisfy only those who believe that a capital letter, some words, and a full stop make a sentence.
But Lovecraft’s feebleness gave his writing its one strength: his tales can be frightening. Read late at night and alone, they give the genuine chill. The house creaks: the cat stares fixedly at something about three feet tall which you cannot quite see, there behind the armchair. Is there, perhaps, a webfooted person in the basement?
Also reprinted are short reviews of four SF novels from the 30 July 1976 issue where she says (about The Stochastic Man) Robert Silverberg is “a superpro … probably the most intelligent science fiction writer in America,” and (about The Space Machine) Christopher Priest “is a versatile, autonomous writer from whom we can expect nothing expectable.”