Edgar Allen Poe
(January 19-1809 - October 7, 1849)
Like H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe was appreciated most after he was dead. He is one of the very first in America to practice the writing of short stories and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre, as well as science fiction. He made barely any money off his writings, although they were constant.
He was born to two actors. His father abandoned them and his mother died when he was young. He was taken in by a family named Allen, although they never adopted him (hence the use of both surnames). He tried college, but had no money. He tried the Army and then West Point as a cadet, but couldn't handle it, and so arranged to be courtmartialed on purpose. He then started his writing career by penning a set of poems that, when published, was only credited to 'a Bostonian'. Not an auspicious start, but geniuses seemed to live difficult, and short, lives. Estranged from his foster father (the mother had died), he continued to write for whomever would publish him, and actually acted as a literary critic for others. In 1835 he secretly married his 13 year old cousin (Sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis, doesn't it?) but it wasn't until ten years later that he published a poem that was even then considered successful - The Raven - for which he was paid a whopping $9.
He wrote what was then called 'Gothic' stories because that is what sold the best, even back then, people loved to read horror stories. He wrote other types of stories also, even humor, but it was the Gothic stuff for which we all remember him.
|Wife Virginia Poe|
Other than writing and criticizing others, he also loved cryptography. He had placed a notice of his abilities in a Philadelphia paper inviting submissions of ciphers, which he proceeded to solve. It is said that his knowledge of cryptology was based on his analytical abilities, the same that made him a good writer of detective stories. So how is it that his stories can get so mucked up?
Well, since the popular opinion (and that's all it was) was that he was a demented, depressed genius his stories are considered to be the work of a demented mind, and what was usually straight up horror becomes either diluted or twisted or, worse, updated to fit the world of today. Consider the new movie (sorry John Cusack) that portrays Edgar as being a detective himself, having to solve the mystery of who is murdering in the style of his stories. Nice, but wouldn't have happened. Or The Tomb (didn't get to see Vincent Price do that one from 1964, I saw the sorry remake of 2009, reviewed 8/4/12). You'd think they'd be a little more careful with classic works, but like Wes Craven once said, 'Stories are watered down for a quick sell.' Amen.