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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Horror According to Lovecraft

I've never felt an inclination to write horror. Well, except for that time I read the spaceship chapter of How To Survive A Horror Movie. Part of me really, really wants to write a space horror spoof, but it would so NOT be glorifying to God I'm not sure I can justify it, even for the funny.

Lovecraft knows horror, and his early works managed creepy crawly without even describing the creepy crawly too much. That is my biggest gripe with some of his early stuff. There's only so much "unnameable hideousness" and "indescribable horror" I can tolerate before I want him to try to describe it.

He gets more graphic in the 1920's, so I won't dwell overlong on that criticism.

Here's what's scary according to Lovecraft:

Murky water (swamps, sludge-covered oceans, bogs) that eventually erupts with corrosive smells and blobby or gigantic figures from hell.

Ancient, abandoned cities visible only in unnatural moonlight that echo with weird screams and either suggest or disgorge blobby or gigantic figures from hell.

Cellars found in old houses or ancient, abandoned cities that lead to hell and often involve glimpses of or encounters with blobby or gigantic figures.

Caverns that lead to hell and... yeah, you get the idea about the creatures, right? The blobby or disproportionally large non-human creatures made the more hideous by a small resemblance to humanity in an otherwise completely alien life form?

Stars that glow with reddish light and cause hysterical dreaming and the occasional parallel dimension traveling. 

Parallel dimensions visible in drug-induced states that reveal glimpses of hellish, other-worldly creatures that would destroy us all if they bothered to notice we're here.

Swarthy, low-browed subhumans of far-below animal intelligence who somehow manage to exist in otherwise civilized cities.

Anything that pre-dates human civilization, especially savage rites involving human sacrifice.

Funny thing. He's right about the water and the cellars/caverns, and I'm willing to give him a nod on the abandoned cities. I've never been creeped out by a star before, and I won't be trying any consciousness altering drugs stronger than a Melted Snowball, but I've gotta admit, the man knows horror. 

Thinking should I ever write that space horror story, I'll have to work a blobby giant in somewhere.


  1. Technically, Lovecraft never wrote of hell or demons. I believe he was an atheist, and instead just wrote about cosmic horrors. It's all aliens to Lovecraft. No supernatural aspect at all. In fact, his monsters aren't even necessarily "evil"--just so completely unmoved by our plight that we are like insects casually squashed beneath the sneaker of unnameable entities that exist beyond infinite human vistas :p

  2. I just wrote that post about readers interpreting writing according to their prejudices, and here I go doing it. Bad Turtle!

    Thus far in my reading, Lovecraft has not applied "Hell" in any way other than an adjective, true. His daemons, although occasionally accompanied by sulphuric odors and tending to haunt those deep cellars and underground cities already mentioned, are not otherwise associated with a religious understanding of "demons," except possibly as the things that inspired those religious understandings.

  3. I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on this article: http://mikeduran.com/2010/08/on-christian-horror-and-atheist-dread/

    "The key to the abyss in Lovecraft’s world was Science itself. It was through science that the well-spring of horror arose, and this is what captivated the minds of those who read him. Lovecraft introduced a new brand of horror that dispenced with the supernatural as an opposition to the natural order.

    In other words, for Lovecraft, horror was not antithetical to the “natural order” — the natural order was horrifying; horror was not irrational, but the byproduct of rationality. In the atheistic model, when we see our Universe for what it really is, we should be very, very afraid."

  4. I just read Mike's interview.

    I'm new to horror. Aside from horror monster movies and the Hannibal Lecter franchise, I don't generally gravitate to "scary for scary's sake."

    This is my first intro to Lovecraft, so I've been reading with a less-than-critical bent.

    I agree with Mike that the main thrust of many of Lovecraft's stories appears to be that if we truly understood the nature of the universe, we'd go mad. Most of his protagonists do that very thing after careful, rigorous study of unnatural phenomena that leads to unwelcome insights and usually the death or disappearance of a comrade.

    Since I read through my own lens, the stories that frighten me most are those I believe/understand: fear of dark, deep, watery places and/or people who do bad, unspeakable things. The ones that focus on the ultimate chaos of the universe I have, unconsciously I admit, dismissed out of hand as nonsensical and therefore not scary.

    I suspect, in years to come, when I revisit his writings (should I ever finish reading all of them - sheesh!), I'll come at it with a more analytical frame of mind. Who knows what conclusions I'll draw then.

    Right now, I'm enjoying myself. When I'm not awakened by nightmares, anyway.


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