Lovecraftianesque

I’ve been reading a lot of Lovecraft lately.

And by “reading,” I mean “downloaded an audio book of narrations of all his public domain works.” Despite its claims to be his “complete” work and the only one authorized by Lovecraft’s estate, it’s still missing some stuff (Shadow Over Innsmouth is conspicuously absent, for instance), but after twenty-plus hours of listening to his stuff, I think I’m ready to take a break regardless. I don’t even particularly like his stuff; his narrative devices of relaying events to a reader by means of a narrator recounting events of something they’d heard of happening to someone else exsanguinates his stories of all immediacy and tension. The events in The Color Out of Space would be horrific and terrifying to witness, but they’re relayed to us third hand by the narrator who wasn’t even there, which renders them remote and dispassionate. Obviously, some allowances are made for the fact that this was the state of horror fiction the better part of a century ago. The lurid nightmares that populate today’s market would undoubtedly never have seen the light of day in Lovecraft’s time for their graphic content.

It’s only in adulthood and with the benefit of hindsight that I recognize the length of Lovecraft’s shadow over things I was reading as a teenager. I wasn’t even aware of what Cthulhu was until maybe ’98 (though I did remember his appearance in The Real Ghostbusters, I had no idea it was anything other than the usual monster of the week). But I read a lot of horror short story anthologies, and there were quite a few in there that seemed to emulate the format of a learned early 20th century man attempting a logical and scientific approach to supernatural phenomenon with endless, bloviating sentences, though perhaps without such liberal use of the word “demoniac.” Lovecraft occupies a similar niche to Tolkien for me, insofar that they are titans of genre whose actual work I just don’t much care for. I have long known the broad strokes of his work and the influence it’s had, but I never had the patience to actually read much of it.

But I can rattle a few works of Lovecraftian fiction off the top of my head that I absolutely love. In the Mouth of Madness remains a favorite movie of mine (as much for playing to my infatuation with the notion of reality by consensus as anything else), I loved the mythos of the Dead Space series before the third game blew its chance to clear things up and underperformed expectations to the point that it killed the franchise, and Bloodborne? The shit of nightmares. Ironically, that’s a movie and some video games with nothing of the written word actually springing to mind as something I particularly enjoyed. In all probability something of the sort must exist, I just can’t think of it. Lovecraft’s concepts are those things that are potentially terrifying, but just don’t resonate with me on the written page, it seems.

Immersing myself in all things Lovecraft these past few weeks has provided a few moments of “blue car syndrome.” Oh, Cthulhu has long since firmly entrenched himself in the popular culture, and things like shoggoths perhaps to a lesser extent, but the Great Race of Yith was hitherto unknown to me, and no sooner do I finish up with The Shadow Out of Time then I randomly find a depiction of Yithians in something completely unrelated that I was engaged with. Not that I would claim that my previous lack of exposure as evidence that the Yith are particularly obscure creatures from Lovecraft’s bestiary, but I certainly never would have recognized them as such.

And surely this all reflects rather poorly on me, I would imagine. Someone trying to fashion themselves as an author of speculative fiction who’s never before read a significant portion of the sci-fi and horror canon? Can’t think of much that screams “rank amateur” much more than that. Fortunately for me, my blog languishes in total obscurity, and there are none to witness my shame.

–Mike