"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die."
-- H.P. Lovecraft
CHARACTERS (In order of appearance)
DANIEL UPTON: The narrator. Late 30’s / early 40’s. Educated upper middle class New England tradesman. Rational, tolerant, tactful.
EDWARD PICKMAN DERBY: Daniel’s best friend. Early to mid-30’s. Sheltered, inexperienced, submissive, nervous.
SARAH UPTON: Daniel’s wife. Mid to late 30’s. A political suffragette. Willful, opinionated, objective.
MR. DERBY: Edward’s father. Late 60’s. Wealthy retired businessman. Traditional, stubborn, set in his ways.
ASENATH WAITE: Mid to late 20’s. Folklorist and scholar from Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Dark, headstrong, secretive, sardonic.
PLACE: The sitting room of the Upton house in Arkham, Massachusetts.
TIME: 1910’s to 1920’s
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ForewordHoward Philips Lovecraft is a name that isn’t recognized as often as it should be. His work and style have become a cult phenomenon among sci-fi and horror fans with a taste for the unknown, but his influence reaches beyond the esoteric circles where his name is commonplace. His integral position in the history of literature is perhaps the reason for his relative obscurity. Lovecraft stands between the classic greats like Edgar Alan Poe and Lord Dunsany, and the modern greats like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman—a bridge between the centuries. Lovecraft drew from Poe’s mastery of terror: fear of the gruesome and the macabre, and nurtured that terror on the fruits of a new century. In essence he was an author of science fiction who wrote like an author of horror—making him a pioneer of "weird fiction". Stephen King called Lovecraft "the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."
The twentieth century brought a close to the age of terrestrial mystery: the Earth’s face had been completely mapped and only a few zones of unexplored surface remained. But mankind had then only begun to delve into new realms of extra and sub terrestrial ambiguity: the abyssal depths of the unlighted ocean, the infinite reaches of outer space, the very laws of reality. Of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Lovecraft drew only fear that it would throw the earth into chaos and uncover cosmic secrets that would throw humanity’s place in the universe into maddening insignificance.
Lovecraft wrote his stories on the foundation of one of mankind’s deepest ingrained fears: fear of the unknown. Though perhaps overshadowed at the time by the then present fear of war, his work still evokes the Promethean terror on which it was written. Amidst the immeasurable bulk of things that we as a civilization do not know, Lovecraft reminds us that "there are black zones of shadow close to our daily paths." and none of his stories come closer than The Thing on the Doorstep.
The majority of Lovecraft’s work is generally irregular in form, rarely set in present tense and almost always told from the perspective of a witness, or a survivor, or someone who has pieced together a terrible secret—as is the case with Lovecraft’s most celebrated work: The Call of Cthulhu. This unorthodox form has made his work difficult to adapt into other mediums. There have only been a handful of low budget films made from his fiction, though his influence has inspired the works of Guillermo del Toro, Stephen King, and many others time and time again.
I chose to adapt The Thing on the Doorstep, not only because it was one of the easier of Lovecraft’s works to translate, but because it is my very favorite of his stories. It captivates me because the eldritch horror depicted therein comes closer to every day society than any other tale of his—and because of this, the final revelation is made even more shocking. The first time I read The Thing on the Doorstep, the last sentence gave me chills. I wanted to bring as much of Lovecraft’s voice to my adaptation as I could, and tried to maintain the narrative form. Many of the words and passages I have taken directly from the original story. I did not want to write a play based on Lovecraft’s work, I did not want to write a play based on Lovecraft’s life, I wanted to tell the story that Lovecraft wrote. My hope is that the audience will feel the hairs on their neck stand up at the same points in the story that mine did when I read it for the first time—I hope they feel the same chills when Daniel Upton speaks his final line.
- Isaiah Max Plovnick