Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Breaking News: H.P. Lovecraft invented 2012!

Its official! As regular readers of the Fortean Times are probably aware, a boffin over at the University of Kansas (and one of those pesky anthropologists to boot) has proven categorically that H.P. Lovecraft invented 2012. Blimey! Almost as controversial as Jeremy Clarkson's claim that Isembard Kingdom Brunel built the world!

Sensationalism - and Clarkson's vulgarly unreconstructed colonialist rhetoric (at least we know what he spends with his time thinking about when not advocating the shooting of rioters and their families) - aside, the latest edition of FT includes an interesting article by anthropologist/archaeologist John Hoopes of the University of Texas exploring the origins of 2012 apocalypticism, the blame of which is in part laid at Lovecraft's door. The crux of the matter lies, it seems, in the fact that Mayanist archaeologist Michael Coe(who inadvertantly helped foster the 2012 myth) is also a massive Lovecraft fan. To this Hoopes adds that Lovecraft's work also contributed elements of cyclical catastrophism to the mix.

I'm initially sceptical that these two points together demonstrate a significant influence upon 2012 mythology on the part of HPL. Indeed, a problem I've regularly encountered in my own research is the plausibility of establishing anything even vaguely resembling a causal link (except where explicitly stated, as in the works of Kenneth Grant) between the literature of the weird and and contemporary oc/culture. Added to which, apocalyptic themes are not uniquely Lovecraftian, but have manifested historically in a number of contexts (Norman Cohn's Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come offers a good historical overview of the matter). I suspect that both homegrown Christian millenarianism and Theosophical recensions of Hindu temporal mythographies (as Hoopes himself recognises) have as much to do with 2012 as does Lovecraft. In addition to which, genuine Lovecraftian elements seem to be absent from much of the 2012 apocalypticism I've been aware of (mainly that of the vapid type spawned from the smug, self-gratified maws of New Age white-lighters...).

In this interview from August 2011, Hoopes elaborates somewhat, and mentions he is working on a book on the matter which I await with eager anticipation. Even if a causal link between Lovecraft and 2012 is questionable, I have no doubt that Hoopes' book will prove a significant contribution to the growing literature demonstrating the wide cultural influence of H.P.L. who, perhaps moreso than Brunel, could truely be said to have invented the modern world.

Apologies, by the way, for the long leave of absence. In the post Xmas doldrums, we at the Ghooric Zone have been drifting listlessly through strange realms of black horror - a matter to be rectified as normal service is (hopefully) resumed...