Saturday, March 12, 2011

Revisiting Lovecraft

I guess there's a reason Brad and I started this blog.  We're two dorks who think along similar lines.  While I was writing up this little post, he posted something related

I’ve been saying, off and on for the last two years or so, that I really need to get back into reading H.P. Lovecraft.  The man is one of the most influential writers in my life, basically shaped horror fiction of the 20th century, and inspired many of my favorite films and one of my favorite roleplaying games.  But I think the last time I read anything by him was more than five years ago, when I gave the very dense The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath a skimming.  A few weeks ago, around the same time I started getting interested in running a roleplaying game again, an anthology called Cthulhu’s Reign passed before my eyes.  On a whim, I picked it up and read the first story on my way home from work.  Not bad.  And the second story.  Pretty good.  That’s all it took.  I picked up my old Del Ray edition of The Best of H.P. Lovecraft, and started reading one of his major classics I’d somehow never gotten around to, The Dunwich Horror.

And the love returned.  I started watching some movies inspired by his work, either directly or in some cases, very indirectly.  I pulled out my old Chaosium Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.  Watched some videos on YouTube, and finally got around to watching the vague adaptation of The Color Out of Space, Die Monster, Die! with  Boris Karloff.

Then yesterday, a new Barns & Noble leather bound edition of Lovecraft’s ‘Complete Fiction’ hit the shelf.  It’s a handsome volume to be sure, and it feels good hefting a monster leather bound book.  What can I say?  I picked up right where I’d left off that morning reading The Shadow Out of Time.  Man, I’m loving this.

Lovecraft’s vision of a blind, uncaring universe where the hopes and dreams of mankind are like tears in rain, and the whole of human history is the briefest of footnotes in the cosmic reckoning is such a breath of fresh air after so much human-centric horror, like ghost stories and possession tales.  The gods of Lovecraft aren’t gods at all, but beings so outside, so beyond our ability to comprehend that even the hint of truth will drive people mad.  They don’t want our worship.  They don’t want our fear.  They don’t even know we exist, and if they did, they would care like we care about gnats. 

This is hardly all I’ve got to say on the subject.  But I felt I had to say something.  I’m going to go back to The Shadow Out of Time now, and find out just what horrors our poor old professor is about to find under the deserts of deepest Australia.

If you haven’t read Lovecraft, do so.  Pick up any given anthology.  Start with some easy stories, like The Outsider, Cool Air, or Pickman’s Model.  Then try some of the bigger tales, like The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and the maybe eventually film destined At the Mountains of Madness.  Check out The Dunwich Horror, for sure.  And maybe take a taste of his more fanciful stories with The Cats of Ulthar.  It’s good stuff. 


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