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Kris Strife
2009-04-16, 02:58 AM
I've been reading his stories lately, Call of Cthulu, The Reanimator, Rats in the Walls, The Shadow out of Time and the Dunwhich Horror to name a few, and to be honest, I don't find them all that scary.

I read them in the wee hours of the morning, right before I go to bed, sitting under a ladder with black cats walking around me as I spill salt on a broken mirror and nothing except salty cat hair on the upholstry. Am I doing something wrong?

Innis Cabal
2009-04-16, 03:15 AM
I'd go so far to say not only is his stuff not scary, but completly over rated as far as horror goes.

magellan
2009-04-16, 03:18 AM
Think about it: If it wasn't for lovecraft we would not have any cosmic horrors! Not even a tiny slightly incomprehensible noncaringverymuch being that defies physics only a little.

thubby
2009-04-16, 03:19 AM
i believe it is called the Seinfeld effect?
for its time it was spectacular, and has become the framework formant other works. just like the original ford is a hulking metal deathtrap by today's standards, lovecraftian horror seems simple or unrefined.

Bhu
2009-04-16, 03:35 AM
Lovecraft's idea of horror is a bit different. Look past all the extra adjectives and the tentacles. The idea behind his stories is that you don't go insane because you see tentacle monsters. You go insane because they make you realize the truth. The truth being that everything you know is a lie. That your race is an insignificant happenstance of chance, and your existence is devoid of meaning. You were born by pure chance, and you'll die just as meaninglessly. Your not special, or chosen, or even good. You'll be forgotten, and replaced by someone else who will in turn be just as devoid of meaning as you, and be replaced just as easily. Your race is insignificant despite believing itself to be the center of the universe, and will eventually be wiped out at the whim of another race equally as insignificant in the scheme of things, or because a being so powerful that he doesn't even realize your there (in the same way we don't realize microbes are covering us) accidentally steps on you. The world isn't evil, it's indifferent, and simply doesn't care. If there are any gods they definitely aren't on your side, assuming they even realize your there. And the minute they want to do something and do realize you're in the way they'll just sweep you aside into oblivion.

It's horror for atheists. There is no God who can save you when the time comes, because the God that does exist didn't make you, and could care less about you. He might even want to eat your soul for no better treason than you being lower on the food chain, and you're present. You can't even fight back, because the rules that the universe works by aren't understood by or even visible to you. Even the monstrous races that worship the Old Ones don't really understand them, and are guilty of the same hubris humanity has: That they're special, and that their life has meaning in a universe of blind chaos. It's pretty depressing to realize that nothing you do will allow you to win, and that no accomplishment you can make will be of any value.

Neo
2009-04-16, 03:38 AM
I think want most people find scary about Lovecraft stuff is more the idea than the writing, which is acknowledges to be bad.

Mainly cos Lovecraft himself for some strange reason preferred to write in almost 19th century english, which is why it probably doesn't come across that well.

Mostly you also have to remember that horror has had about 80 years of building and improving since then, and writing styles change.

I believe his writing was the idea that created Cosmicism, as described above.

Kris Strife
2009-04-16, 03:38 AM
I see whats supposed to be scary and I can picture the beings (at least the parts of them with Euclidean geometry), it just seems like it the reveals are anticlimatic and come before the tension is done building up. The fact that the protaganist tends to be in a mad scramble for the reveal doesnt help either.

Bhu
2009-04-16, 03:42 AM
Part of that is the limitations of writing for pulp magazines. The stories had to be short, and you had to crap them out by the boatload to make money writing for them (which he was unwilling to do). He might have did better working in a different medium, but there really wasn't one at the time.

tomaO2
2009-04-16, 03:46 AM
Lovecraft? Nah, he's not scary at all.

Think about it. If his work was really terrifying, would anyone have started merchandicing his work with the Cutethulhu (http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/81337) line of dolls?

I think not. :smalltongue:

PS. Any fan of Cthulhus seriously needs to watch this flash animation.

Bhu
2009-04-16, 03:53 AM
There's also a musical based on his work.

Sad but true.

bosssmiley
2009-04-16, 04:04 AM
Think about it: If it wasn't for lovecraft we would not have any cosmic horrors! Not even a tiny slightly incomprehensible noncaringverymuch being that defies physics only a little.

Arthur Conan Doyle, William Hope Hodgeson, Robert Chambers, Richard Shaver, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G.Wells and Mary Shelley called. They said "Errr, excuse me?" :smallconfused:


I think want most people find scary about Lovecraft stuff is more the idea than the writing, which is acknowledges to be bad. Mainly cos Lovecraft himself for some strange reason preferred to write in almost 19th century english, which is why it probably doesn't come across that well.

Exactly. You could perhaps think of Lovecraft in terms of deliberate literary archaism. Look at early 19th century Gothic novels like "Castle of Otranto" or "The Monk" (or even Dunsany's later "Gods of Pegana"), and you'll see from whence H.P.'s florid and high-flown use of language derived.

'Good bad writing' I've seen it called.

Jibar
2009-04-16, 04:18 AM
There's also a musical based on his work.

Sad but true.

Have you heard the opening number though?
It's hilarious.

Aidan305
2009-04-16, 04:28 AM
Have you heard the opening number though?
It's hilarious.

On the other hand...
On the other hand...
On the other hand... THE OTHER HAND IS A TENTACLE!

Killer Angel
2009-04-16, 04:45 AM
Well, I find "Moby ****" tremendously boring; nevertheless, it's a classic and I don't deny his value (even from a simple historical PoW).
Lovercraft's works are the same thing: sometimes they are poorly written, and certainly they became old in a very bad way. No, they are no more scary, but they contributed greatly in expanding the borders of horror.

Starscream
2009-04-16, 04:51 AM
Granted, his stuff is pretty tame by today's standards. I personally never found the books Dracula or Frankenstein, or the works of Poe to be very frightening either.

Though, years ago I read Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" and found it pretty horrific. Probably because I was so young, but the image of people going mad and slowly rotting away while still alive was some pretty effective Nightmare Fuel for my ten year old brain.

magellan
2009-04-16, 05:01 AM
Arthur Conan Doyle, William Hope Hodgeson, Robert Chambers, Richard Shaver, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G.Wells and Mary Shelley called. They said "Errr, excuse me?" :smallconfused: .

Could be a semantics problem with the word cosmic horror.

Ascension
2009-04-16, 05:15 AM
I've been reading his stories lately, Call of Cthulu, The Reanimator, Rats in the Walls, The Shadow out of Time and the Dunwhich Horror to name a few, and to be honest, I don't find them all that scary.

I read them in the wee hours of the morning, right before I go to bed, sitting under a ladder with black cats walking around me as I spill salt on a broken mirror and nothing except salty cat hair on the upholstry. Am I doing something wrong?

I think some of it's just taste and mindset. You mentioned The Rats in the Walls, for example... of what Lovecraft I've read I think it's his best and most frightening. A lot of his work suffers from various things... the deeply ingrained racism, the overreliance on telling us that things are horrible versus showing us the horror, the fact that most of it has been parodied into oblivion in recent times... but I think that at the core of it he had some very good and very horrifying ideas... they're just kind of hard to see through all the other stuff.


There's also a musical based on his work.

Sad but true.

I continue to hold the opinion that there should be a musical version of everything.

EVERYTHING.


'Good bad writing' I've seen it called.

I love it, personally. I have a tendency to do it myself when writing fantasy. Why shouldn't prose be purple? :smallbiggrin:

kamikasei
2009-04-16, 05:37 AM
I think some of it's just taste and mindset. ...but I think that at the core of it he had some very good and very horrifying ideas... they're just kind of hard to see through all the other stuff.

Another part of it, I think, is that he personally (not just people of his time) was scared stiff by stuff that... isn't... that scary. It just isn't. The fact that a building is old seemed to freak him right out. Hills gave him heart attacks. "Abnormality" in general seemed to be horrifying to him simply for existing.

So some of his stories hit the mark reasonably well - "Rats in the Walls", "The Color out of Space", "The Shadow out of Time" I liked... but many leave you cold not because the writing is bad (others do fail for that reason) but because Lovecraft himself was a weird dude with phobias it's hard to relate to.

thubby
2009-04-16, 05:43 AM
I continue to hold the opinion that there should be a musical version of everything.

EVERYTHING.


the only problem with that is that whoever chose the music would likely be immediately killed by their significant other.

Satyr
2009-04-16, 05:51 AM
The scariest things in Lovecraft's stories is the blatant racism. The writing is just bad (and not just "not up to high literature bad" but really bad) and while some of the basic ideas are actually quite interesting, the implementation of these ideas is so bad that it becomes involuntarily funny - and not only the writing style. There are some hilarious stupid ideas within the texts.


There's also a musical based on his work.

Sometimes it seems as if there is a musical based on everything today. Lovecraft is at least funny (even though that was not his intentions). But Anne Frank: The Musical? Not so much.

Obrysii
2009-04-16, 06:18 AM
From my perspective, Lovecraftian Horror is not the "leap out at you" sort of horror that most movies are.

It's that unsettling feeling that something is out there - it's the same sort of horror that Cloverfield employed during the first part. That there is something - some creature - roaming, and that we are not but a speck of dust to the cosmos.

Ascension
2009-04-16, 06:22 AM
Another part of it, I think, is that he personally (not just people of his time) was scared stiff by stuff that... isn't... that scary. It just isn't. The fact that a building is old seemed to freak him right out. Hills gave him heart attacks. "Abnormality" in general seemed to be horrifying to him simply for existing.

Oh, right, I meant to mention that, actually. For example, his fear of the ocean, fish, seafood, and everything related is a major factor in a good bit of his more famous work, but it's also pretty laughable.

UltraDude
2009-04-16, 10:26 AM
From my perspective, Lovecraftian Horror is not the "leap out at you" sort of horror that most movies are.

It's that unsettling feeling that something is out there - it's the same sort of horror that Cloverfield employed during the first part. That there is something - some creature - roaming, and that we are not but a speck of dust to the cosmos.

I've found that this is precisely the problem - the idea of being an insignificant speck of random chance, that just happened to be on some random rock somewhere in the universe that could be splattered by some random space monster at any time... doesn't scare me. I mean, even looking at it from a totally non-spiritual/religious perspective... I just come up with a big "so what?" and go on with my day.

Plus, like others said, Lovecraft was probably too crazy to write effective horror. When a trout is terrifying to you, there's gonna be a liiiitle bit of a disconnect between you and the audience.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-16, 12:16 PM
Even if they aren't necessarily frightening, I would say that they have some pretty high concepts. Higher than his own ability to explain in some cases. And if alienation doesn't terrify you, then you haven't experienced it.

Being dark, and disturbed myself, I can kind of relate. I can also put myself in the situations he's describing. A lot of it is deeply visual stuff. And I know a lot of my nightmares tend to be filled with extremely detailed visual information.

And I know I for one could never hope to recount how deeply terrifying some of those were.

The writing is bad, but if you look past it there really are pretty powerful ideas. Which may or may not be scary. Not everyone is frightened by the same things.

Jibar
2009-04-16, 12:46 PM
Oh, right, I meant to mention that, actually. For example, his fear of the ocean, fish, seafood, and everything related is a major factor in a good bit of his more famous work, but it's also pretty laughable.

Thanks a bunch dude.

Thrud
2009-04-16, 01:03 PM
O.K. so he was a rampant anti-semite, kind of a crappy writer, and far too self important. However, if you can get past that he really did have some pretty disturbing rather cererbral horror.

For the most part you never really even get close to the true monsters. Most of it happens in the minds of the characters and you get to watch them slowly go mad as they realize the truth that everything they had never even really admitted they believed in at some fundamental level (Heaven, afterlife, angels, Good winning in the end) was ultimately false. There are no happy endings, good does not triumph over evil, and in the end the only thing we have to look forwards to is the end of everything as the Old Ones return to destroy everything.

How can that not be truly horrific? You just have to get past the somewhat poor implementation.

FatJose
2009-04-16, 01:05 PM
I find the ideas of Lovecraft unsettling. Then again, I'm afraid of the ocean. Not, "Aaaah!!!" afraid. I can go to the beach. I've lived near beaches. I like to swim. If I just sit down and stare at the ocean, though...if I actually think about the ocean in a deep manner then yes, it's unsettling. A dark void, an abyss, cold and alone, Everywhere you look, its just more void and shadows in the distance. People die swimming all the time because of things they don't even see until it's too late. Sudden whirlpools, for instance. Have you people seen the Barrel-eye fish? Damn, the ocean is a scary place. Personally, I wonder why we care so much about outer-space when we haven't even learned all the mysteries of this planet. Most of this world is still in shadow. There are Horrors in the ocean that can outclass any cheesy monster in movies and they don't even need to be actually harmful, they even could be completely benign and friendly.
http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2006/12/images/061222-giant-squid.jpg
http://www.bountyfishing.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/breakthechain-carp.jpg
http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/freaky%20fish.jpg
The Ocean - "No really, monsters live down here." (http://www.who-sucks.com/animals/real-life-sea-monsters-24-bizarre-creatures-of-the-deep)

I feel like I would like Lovecraft's work, only because those concepts of cosmic horror I find unsettling and creepy but...I've read his descriptions of the people of the world he finds....unsavory and they are leaps and bounds more horrifying than the actual descriptions of the monsters.

Edit: Sorry, Jibar. :smalleek: Also, don't click on that link...

Jibar
2009-04-16, 01:07 PM
Speaking of utter fears and what not, could you please spoiler those pictures?

Satyr
2009-04-16, 01:39 PM
For the most part you never really even get close to the true monsters.

If you want to get close to the monster, go to the next mirror. There is no more horrible creature out there.


Most of it happens in the minds of the characters and you get to watch them slowly go mad as they realize the truth that everything they had never even really admitted they believed in at some fundamental level (Heaven, afterlife, angels, Good winning in the end) was ultimately false. There are no happy endings, good does not triumph over evil, and in the end the only thing we have to look forwards to is the end of everything as the Old Ones return to destroy everything.

Good doesn't triumph over evil in the real world as well. That isn't scary; in many cases, that's not even newsworthy. And for the better part of the twentieth century, many, many people were utterly convinced that humanity doesn't any elder horrors to wipe itself out. In addition, Lovecraft's protagonists/narrators are somewhat wusses who are terrified by completely harmless stuff what massively cheapens the terrifying impact of the true horrors. I mean, how serious can I take the narrator's panic attacks when he is unsettled by albino penguins?

Thrud
2009-04-16, 02:14 PM
If you want to get close to the monster, go to the next mirror. There is no more horrible creature out there.

Heh, my favorite T-Shirt is simply a black shirt that says 'Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups'.

:smallbiggrin:


Good doesn't triumph over evil in the real world as well. That isn't scary; in many cases, that's not even newsworthy. And for the better part of the twentieth century, many, many people were utterly convinced that humanity doesn't any elder horrors to wipe itself out. In addition, Lovecraft's protagonists/narrators are somewhat wusses who are terrified by completely harmless stuff what massively cheapens the terrifying impact of the true horrors. I mean, how serious can I take the narrator's panic attacks when he is unsettled by albino penguins?

That is part of what makes it so scary though. The fact that in the real world good doesn't triumph over evil. Yet usually in stories it does. So it gives us an added layer of 'realism' as it were to build the horrifying 'truth' on top of. But yes, like I said he has poor implementation (actually, there is a 4 letter word I would usually use to describe the quality of his implementation, but this forum is rather strict on the use of that particular word) so often the actual level of horror is lost. I can usually get past that, though, to enjoy the intent.

You are correct, though, that you should have to make allowances for an author in order to actually enjoy his work. In fact I usually don't. I honestly don't know why I am willing to with Lovecraft.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-16, 04:36 PM
You are correct, though, that you should have to make allowances for an author in order to actually enjoy his work. In fact I usually don't. I honestly don't know why I am willing to with Lovecraft.

Because beneath everything, there are great stories there with a style that is not really found in anything else.

Apparently, as time passed, Lovecraft's prejudices seemed to weaken. The antisemitism decreased in his works after he married a jewish woman for instance.

I suspect that had he lived longer, his writing would have gotten better. And not have been weighed down by so much baggage.

Canadian
2009-04-16, 05:24 PM
I've been reading his stories lately, Call of Cthulu, The Reanimator, Rats in the Walls, The Shadow out of Time and the Dunwhich Horror to name a few, and to be honest, I don't find them all that scary.

I read them in the wee hours of the morning, right before I go to bed, sitting under a ladder with black cats walking around me as I spill salt on a broken mirror and nothing except salty cat hair on the upholstry. Am I doing something wrong?

Not scary? Compared to what? Can you name a book you did find scary so we can have some basis for comparison?

warty goblin
2009-04-16, 06:38 PM
I think scary is really missing the point of Lovecraft. He's writing horror not terror, and the two are very different emotions. I've read a decent amount of Lovecraft, and the only story of his that actually frightened me was Dreams in the Witching House- in part because I've done non Euclidian geometry and it's just about as much of a headscrew as he describes. There were fewer demonic sacrifices in my class though...not saying the didn't happen at all mind you though...

There's plenty of horror though. The concept that humanity is essentially irrelevant and the closest things there are to gods would at best notice us as a form of tasty snack is not a particularly comforting one. I wouldn't describe it as terrifying per say, but certainly horrifying when one realizes both the vast incomprehensibility of the universe, and how fortunate we are that we percieve so little of its true nature. It manages to be the both the refutation of scientific naturalism (the universe is explainable, and doing so can help humanity) and most religion (the big dude in the sky likes us!) at the same time, something which doesn't even seem like it should be possible.

turkishproverb
2009-04-16, 08:41 PM
Because beneath everything, there are great stories there with a style that is not really found in anything else.

Apparently, as time passed, Lovecraft's prejudices seemed to weaken. The antisemitism decreased in his works after he married a jewish woman for instance.

I suspect that had he lived longer, his writing would have gotten better. And not have been weighed down by so much baggage.

*sigh*

Every Lovecraft thread I have to explain this.

Look, Lovecraft wasn't the flaming racist he is usually claimed to be.

Yes, he was racist, but it was amplified by his desire to describe the "otherness" of things within his work, and his love for british culture. It was about making everything "different" feel wrong, and this is what created the image.

He was a staunch anglofile, and at the time culture was so closely tied to race in the public mind that it further exacerbated the problem.

Because of this though, you can find images as horrifying of his white trash as of his characters of other races, and a few non-white characters that come across quite well.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-16, 09:08 PM
Well, for what it's worth I accept that racism was a part of the times. Not really fair to judge too harshly the values of the past with modern ones.

Graymayre
2009-04-16, 09:49 PM
Think about it: If it wasn't for lovecraft we would not have any cosmic horrors! Not even a tiny slightly incomprehensible noncaringverymuch being that defies physics only a little.


Arthur Conan Doyle, William Hope Hodgeson, Robert Chambers, Richard Shaver, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G.Wells and Mary Shelley called. They said "Errr, excuse me?" :smallconfused:


I lol'd :smallbiggrin:



A cookie to whoever knows what I'm lol'ing about.

Rutskarn
2009-04-16, 10:44 PM
I can honestly say that I've never been scared by a book. Than again, my reading list is pretty lightweight, so there you go.

Most movies don't do it for me, either. Some of the only ones that have weren't even really supposed to be that scary.

Kris Strife
2009-04-16, 11:06 PM
Not scary? Compared to what? Can you name a book you did find scary so we can have some basis for comparison?

Compared to anything, ever. I've found some of Robert E. Howard's (You want to talk about racism?) work to be more frightening.

Honestly, its hard for me to be frightened of some impersonal force of nature that will kill us just because ame with out warning. Its like being afraid of a tornado or a tsunami.

warty goblin
2009-04-16, 11:12 PM
Compared to anything, ever. I've found some of Robert E. Howard's (You want to talk about racism?) work to be more frightening.

Honestly, its hard for me to be frightened of some impersonal force of nature that will kill us just because ame with out warning. Its like being afraid of a tornado or a tsunami.

You don't live in the central U.S. I take it? Because annihilation by impersonal forces brought about by conditions in the sky isn't exactly an uncommon occurance around here.

So from now on, I'm calling it "Going to the Great Old Ones Shelter" and the "Cluthu Siren."

Kris Strife
2009-04-16, 11:19 PM
Nope. I've lived in Georgia and South Carolina. We not only get tornados, but hurricanes too.

Aquillion
2009-04-17, 12:56 AM
One thing you have to understand is that Lovecraft is very much a period writer.

When he was writing, the idea that humans were an immeasurably tiny and unimportant part of a cold, uncaring, much larger universe was new and terrifying to most people; he was writing in the era when scientific thought first started to really have widespread impact on the popular consciousness.

Nowadays, almost everyone has been at least exposed to it (whether they accept it or not), so his writing doesn't have the same impact it once did.

Colmarr
2009-04-17, 01:01 AM
Personally, I think inevitability is terrifying. If that's what Lovecraft's about (I haven't read his work), then that's a good start.

Take Nicolas Cage's latest movie, "Knowing":

The knowledge that all life on earth was going to be extinguished violently and painfully within 24 hours and that there was nothing you could do about would probably paralyse me.

FoE
2009-04-17, 01:24 AM
While we're on the subject, have you fellow blind sheep heard the good news about Cthulhu?

Perhaps some of you would like to read this informative booklet on the futility of existence and the unspeakable horrors that will consume all life on this planet?

http://www.fredvanlente.com/cthulhutract/pages/index.html

Admit that you are a semi-evolved ape thing mercifully ignorant of the sanity-blasting truths of the greater cosmos! ABANDON HOPE TODAY!

Ascension
2009-04-17, 01:26 AM
Thanks a bunch dude.


Speaking of utter fears and what not, could you please spoiler those pictures?

Umm... I take it you actually do have a phobia of sea creatures?

Sorry. I really didn't mean to offend anyone, I just didn't think that was a common problem.

I myself am deathly afraid of dogs, so I know how it can be to be terrified of something incredibly common.

Satyr
2009-04-17, 01:57 AM
By reading this thread I got the impression that Lovecraft is actually a genuine tragic figure.
He had an impressive, in parts novel idea of an own mythology, with all the implications and hopelessness that probably have looked scary to him. And despite he had all these ideas and concepts in his mind, his complete lack of writing skills made it almost impossible to formulate this fears and impressions.
I found little as frustrating as being unable to verbalize an idea I have into words. The knowledge that you have a contribution or even a solution to an issue and being unable to utter it is just awful, with the aftertaste of stupidity and helplessness. And this is pretty much how H.P.'s writing career was like. Poor guy.

FoE
2009-04-17, 02:17 AM
By reading this thread I got the impression that Lovecraft is actually a genuine tragic figure.
He had an impressive, in parts novel idea of an own mythology, with all the implications and hopelessness that probably have looked scary to him. And despite he had all these ideas and concepts in his mind, his complete lack of writing skills made it almost impossible to formulate this fears and impressions.
I found little as frustrating as being unable to verbalize an idea I have into words. The knowledge that you have a contribution or even a solution to an issue and being unable to utter it is just awful, with the aftertaste of stupidity and helplessness. And this is pretty much how H.P.'s writing career was like. Poor guy.

You make it sound like he wrote the Eye of Argon. His prose was antiquated even for its time and he had some very unfortunate ideas about ethnicity (let's face it, he was a racist), but his work wasn't unreadable.

JellyPooga
2009-04-17, 02:29 AM
Gah! Lovecraft was scary. His writing was intentionally archaic for the time, but that contributed to the horror aspect of it. Almost a century of scientific discovery, advances in the media arts, increases in the average level of education and several wars (including a world war) later we don't have the same idea of what is scary anymore. When you've seen your buddies leg blown off by a mine, existential dread just isn't on the top of your 'gives me the willies' list. When you've seen Alien, the Mi-Go aren't so unusual.

If you don't find Lovecraft scary, then you probably don't appreciate any other classic works for anything other than their contribution to more recent literature. I, personally, find Lovecraft scary because I put myself in a mindset where I forget my modern education and the modern films I've seen and books I've read. I cast myself back to the period when he was writing and read it for what it's supposed to be. I do the same with everything I read; I read goth novels thinking like a goth (though I'm not one myself), I read childrens books thinking like a child (though I'm 24), I read Plato without judging by the standards of Nietchze (at least, I did the first time...I've since cotrasted and compared). I find Dracula terrifying, Frankenstein deeply moving and Herodotus an amazing account of history. Read by modern standards they are none of these things but by the standards of their time, that is what they are supposed to be and what they are.

I implore people to read, watch or understand things for what they are, not what they expect them to be.

Satyr
2009-04-17, 02:48 AM
I don't know the Eye of Argon, but had always the impression that this was one book whose badness was so exagerated that it became common knowledge without people actually reading it, similar to Uwe Boll's movies or FATAL. This badness becomes larger than life through legend creation.

Lovecraft's works however, are read. I have read Lovecraft. And it is horrible to read. Apart from preferences and personal taste, Lovecraft couldn't write. It is not a question of contemporary writing styles, because those are always based on conventions. Lovecraft's stories are still bad when compared to earlier styles. Just take a look on Poe's stories, which were written half a century earlier (and as far as I know Lovecraft tried to copy Poe's style) and which are still written with a higher standard in mind; compare the texts to a contemporary author of Lovecraft, for example Hemingway, and wonder about the huge gap in quality (and I don't like Hemingway that much, but I refuse to let my subjective preferences blur the regard of the objective quality of the books).

If you discuss books, try to look beyond your personal preferences. A book isn't good because you, as an individual person, likes it; neither is a book bad, because you didn't like it. There is nothing wrong with liking a bad book, or feeling complete revulsion towards a good book, but it is necessary to understand that personal preferences and overall quality of fiction are two mostly unrelated categories. Let's face it: The basic idea of "I like it, therefore it is good" or "I hate it, therefore it is bad" is presumptious and terribly egocentric.

FoE
2009-04-17, 03:31 AM
I don't know the Eye of Argon, but had always the impression that this was one book whose badness was so exagerated that it became common knowledge without people actually reading it, similar to Uwe Boll's movies or FATAL. This badness becomes larger than life through legend creation.

No. It is that bad.


I have read Lovecraft. And it is horrible to read. Apart from preferences and personal taste, Lovecraft couldn't write. It is not a question of contemporary writing styles, because those are always based on conventions.


If you discuss books, try to look beyond your personal preferences. A book isn't good because you, as an individual person, likes it; neither is a book bad, because you didn't like it. There is nothing wrong with liking a bad book, or feeling complete revulsion towards a good book, but it is necessary to understand that personal preferences and overall quality of fiction are two mostly unrelated categories. Let's face it: The basic idea of "I like it, therefore it is good" or "I hate it, therefore it is bad" is presumptious and terribly egocentric.

"While I may like or dislike a work, that does not mean that a work is with or without merit simply because it meshes, or rather does not mesh, with my personal preferences."

"That said, Lovecraft was a terrible writer because I say so."

And with that, I withdraw from this debate. Good night.

Closet_Skeleton
2009-04-17, 03:55 AM
Heh, my favorite T-Shirt is simply a black shirt that says 'Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups'.

:smallbiggrin:

lol, I have that one too, except mine's biege-green (I know that isn't the real colour).

Kris Strife
2009-04-17, 05:44 AM
Jelly, dont assume. I loved reading Robert E Howard's Conan and Kull stories. I enjoy reading Poe and Frakenstein was moving. Dracula was a little Blah because so much of it was written like letters or diary entries, but I still got a reaction from it. Heck, I read Shakespear for the hell of it. Lovecraft is entertaining and the style is fine, its just not scary. If the end is going to come and I cant stop it, why worry, you know?

golentan
2009-04-17, 06:29 AM
The thing is that lovecraft doesn't scare me. If there are ineffable horrors, we need to build faster to run, or figure out ways to functionally kill them. They're dependent on the stars? Let's set off some supernovae, see what happens.

As for the world being uncaring and inimical, I accepted that long ago. I'm going to keep doing as much good as I can and passing it down. It's in the hopes that 5 trillion years from now when the last living creature is huddling under the light of the last star, as it burns itself out and the universe freezes over, he will look back and say "We had a good run. I wouldn't change it."

I don't care if I'm aware of it, or if I'm less than worm food. I want those to be the last words. Because if people were are and will be happy, I can rest easy regardless of any other fact. Good probably won't win in the end, but we'll never know if it taps the mat in the first round.

Illiterate Scribe
2009-04-17, 06:34 AM
M.R. James called.

He wants the title of 'most terrifying horror author of the 1900-1939 period' back.

Pandabear
2009-04-17, 08:01 AM
I've read just about every Lovecraft book there is, including those he wrote with others, and though I found some a bit flat in writing, I confess I enjoyed most of them.. The immersion must hook into you, or else it's a tough time getting the intended 'scare'.. Take 'The Shadow out of time' for example and try to put yourself in the place of the protagonist.. while it wasn't hard to guess the entire point of the story, the way it was built up was in my opinion, awesome.. There was also this other book of which I forgot the title, but it was about a guy that got obsessed with a church he kept seeing from his bedroom window.. he explores it, and later when he falls asleep in his own bed, he awakes in a place at the top of the church where he knows there is a malevolent presence.. that was quite some reason for excitement for me I must say.. other examples would be another book where a society recycled its executed prisoners as machines, or yet another where a guy gets trapped in a crypt with his own badly made coffins, and he has to climb his way out, by building a set of stairs out of them, now and then being inconvenienced by a lid that can't hold his weight.. funny on one hand, but imagine you actually find yourself in a similar situation sometime.. :smalltongue:

bibliophile
2009-04-17, 09:54 AM
By reading this thread I got the impression that Lovecraft is actually a genuine tragic figure.
He had an impressive, in parts novel idea of an own mythology, with all the implications and hopelessness that probably have looked scary to him. And despite he had all these ideas and concepts in his mind, his complete lack of writing skills made it almost impossible to formulate this fears and impressions.
I found little as frustrating as being unable to verbalize an idea I have into words. The knowledge that you have a contribution or even a solution to an issue and being unable to utter it is just awful, with the aftertaste of stupidity and helplessness. And this is pretty much how H.P.'s writing career was like. Poor guy.

One of Lovecraft's main ideas is the unimaginability of the cosmic horror. His characters are driven mad in part because they cannot imagine the full extant of what they are seeing implies. Can you blame someone for failing to describe the indescribable?



If you want to get close to the monster, go to the next mirror. There is no more horrible creature out there.

Good doesn't triumph over evil in the real world as well. That isn't scary; in many cases, that's not even newsworthy.


Look in the mirror, go ahead. What you see has the potential to be the most evil thing on earth, rivaling Joseph Fritzl. What you see also has the potential to be good, putting William "Brother Bill" Tomes Jr to shame. You have free will; the choice is yours.

Good doesn't triumph over evil in the real world as well. What, ever? Do my chances of beating a nice guy at ping-pong go up if I kick a puppy beforehand?

Thrud
2009-04-17, 11:29 AM
Good doesn't triumph over evil in the real world as well. What, ever? Do my chances of beating a nice guy at ping-pong go up if I kick a puppy beforehand?

Damn you, you made me spew tea on my monitor.

:smallbiggrin:

chiasaur11
2009-04-17, 11:36 AM
While we're on the subject, have you fellow blind sheep heard the good news about Cthulhu?

Perhaps some of you would like to read this informative booklet on the futility of existence and the unspeakable horrors that will consume all life on this planet?

http://www.fredvanlente.com/cthulhutract/pages/index.html

Admit that you are a semi-evolved ape thing mercifully ignorant of the sanity-blasting truths of the greater cosmos! ABANDON HOPE TODAY!


I thought so too, until I read some of the author's other work.

Have you heard the good news about Aaron Stack?

He's a robot!

Scylfing
2009-04-17, 12:34 PM
While we're on the subject, have you fellow blind sheep heard the good news about Cthulhu?

Perhaps some of you would like to read this informative booklet on the futility of existence and the unspeakable horrors that will consume all life on this planet?

http://www.fredvanlente.com/cthulhutract/pages/index.html

Admit that you are a semi-evolved ape thing mercifully ignorant of the sanity-blasting truths of the greater cosmos! ABANDON HOPE TODAY!

Hey get in line pal, if you think that you're going to be eaten first you've got another thing comin'.

:smallbiggrin:

TheBST
2009-04-17, 01:04 PM
Sentence by sentence, Lovecraft's a crappy writer with a few good ideas, but give geeks like us a new mythology and we'll love you forever. The 'scariness' of a story is as subjective as how funny a joke is.

Plus, how scary can monster be if it's, essentially, a massive octopus from beyond the stars?

Dervag
2009-04-17, 02:00 PM
I think want most people find scary about Lovecraft stuff is more the idea than the writing, which is acknowledges to be bad.

Mainly cos Lovecraft himself for some strange reason preferred to write in almost 19th century english, which is why it probably doesn't come across that well.Eighteenth century, not nineteenth. At least, not late nineteenth; the Victorians didn't necessarily write like that either.
_________


I find the ideas of Lovecraft unsettling. Then again, I'm afraid of the ocean. Not, "Aaaah!!!" afraid. I can go to the beach. I've lived near beaches. I like to swim. If I just sit down and stare at the ocean, though...if I actually think about the ocean in a deep manner then yes, it's unsettling. A dark void, an abyss, cold and alone, Everywhere you look, its just more void and shadows in the distance. People die swimming all the time because of things they don't even see until it's too late. Sudden whirlpools, for instance. Have you people seen the Barrel-eye fish? Damn, the ocean is a scary place. Personally, I wonder why we care so much about outer-space when we haven't even learned all the mysteries of this planet. Most of this world is still in shadow.Because in space, everything we do happens on our terms, in an important sense. We carry our own environments with us, and we understand the forces at work.

Oh, and nobody can really sneak up on you. That's always a comforting thought.
______


If you want to get close to the monster, go to the next mirror. There is no more horrible creature out there.The reason Lovecraft is scary is that even when you know how horrible people can be, there are still things out there which are so much scarier and so much more capable of creating chaos and destruction that they are transcendently far beyond us.

It's not even a question of "good doesn't triumph." The point of Lovecraft is that evil doesn't triumph either. Good and evil on the human level are like black ants versus red ants*; the struggle may seem all-consuming to the combatants, but isn't even slightly important when viewed from the level the universe really operates on.

So in a Lovecraftian context, whether we blow ourselves up with these little "nukes" we're so impressed with, or if Cthulhu wakes up before we get around to it and reacts to our presence with the extra-dimensional equivalent of a can of Raid, doesn't matter. The stuff that matters is far over our heads, and far beyond the realms our minds can even wrap themselves around.

*To borrow a very good expression from Watchmen.
______


Gah! Lovecraft was scary. His writing was intentionally archaic for the time, but that contributed to the horror aspect of it. Almost a century of scientific discovery, advances in the media arts, increases in the average level of education and several wars (including a world war) later we don't have the same idea of what is scary anymore. When you've seen your buddies leg blown off by a mine, existential dread just isn't on the top of your 'gives me the willies' list. When you've seen Alien, the Mi-Go aren't so unusual.Lovecraft was writing for the generation that went through the First World War- and at least for Western Europe, the collective experience of World War One was if anything more horrific than that of World War Two. Certainly for the soldiers who were directly involved.
______


The thing is that lovecraft doesn't scare me. If there are ineffable horrors, we need to build faster to run, or figure out ways to functionally kill them. They're dependent on the stars? Let's set off some supernovae, see what happens.That's the point of the exercise- you can't. It's a biological limit. Just as amoebas are incapable of scheming to destroy humanity and succeeding (they lack the intelligence to design the tools they'd need, and the physical strength to use them), humanity is incapable of scheming to kill Cthulhu. And Cthulhu is in turn incapable of scheming to destroy the real Powers that Be in the Lovecraftian mythos.


As for the world being uncaring and inimical, I accepted that long ago. I'm going to keep doing as much good as I can and passing it down. It's in the hopes that 5 trillion years from now when the last living creature is huddling under the light of the last star, as it burns itself out and the universe freezes over, he will look back and say "We had a good run. I wouldn't change it."

I don't care if I'm aware of it, or if I'm less than worm food. I want those to be the last words. Because if people were are and will be happy, I can rest easy regardless of any other fact. Good probably won't win in the end, but we'll never know if it taps the mat in the first round.And again, that misses the point. Which is that it really isn't up to you (or your entire species) what the future of the universe looks like, any more than it's up to the coelecanths or the yeasts. The real intelligences are powerful enough to annihilate you on a whim. By their standards, our (literally, yours and mine) wild fantasies of travelling between the stars on fusion rockets and constructing things like Dyson spheres are laughable, because that doesn't even come close to what real high technology looks like.

Imagine if a bunch of tiny goldfish in a pond, through elaborate scheming and cooperation, gathered up enough twigs and algae and stuff to build a little rover-on-wheels. Something that could just barely roll out of the water, keep the fish inside alive for a few minutes, and trundle over to the next pond. To beings with the minds and resources of small fish, that would be an incredible achievement... but to us, it would be a subject for comedy. We could kick those "colony ships" apart at will, and no matter how many puddles the fish colonized, they'd still exist only on our sufferance. We might even wipe them out without even realizing we'd done it, for reasons the fish would never understand.

To the truly significant beings of a Lovecraftian setting, we're the goldfish.

WalkingTarget
2009-04-17, 02:09 PM
Sentence by sentence, Lovecraft's a crappy writer with a few good ideas, but give geeks like us a new mythology and we'll love you forever. The 'scariness' of a story is as subjective as how funny a joke is.

Plus, how scary can monster be if it's, essentially, a massive octopus from beyond the stars?

I'm in agreement with TheBST here. I personally enjoy Lovecraft, but have to spread out my reading because of his overly-florid neo-Georgian preferences in writing style. The ideas though, there's something to think about. Lovecraft was rarely "scary" for me, but I was always brought into a Lovecraft mood when reading his stuff which is much more subtle than fear.

The monsters themselves usually aren't scary, the important part is the implications about the cosmos in general that goes along with them.

Edit, RE: all the stuff that Dervag said - as usual, he says things more eloquently than I could.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-17, 02:40 PM
Cthulhu is not scary because he's an octopus from space.

Cthulhu is scary because he's a gigantic octopus from space, so old and vast that we our existence is insignificant compared to it. It is so far beyond us, that LOOKING at it makes you go insane. (Some versions of Cthulhu are extra dimensional, we're not supposed to see those extra dimensions)

As a freaky weird looking thing, not that scary. Mind you I have seen a few scary looking Cthulhu depictions.


As to Lovecraft being tragic... well look at it this way. A large degree of what he wrote was from his own nightmares. That's bad enough, but combine that with his general poverty and a host of other issues? That's got to eat away at you a lot. I suspect Lovecraft may not have written too many "heroic" protagonists who overcome obstacles (I understand there are a few mind you), is because he personally had never really won. There are heroes in the world, but the average human being is not capable of heroism. We are weak, cowardly, rotten little things with a few a bit better than that. They however are weighed down by everyone else. If Cthulhu woke up tomorow, it is probable we would kill anyone who tried to put him back to sleep before they even got a chance to fail miserably in their attempts.

And I mean the guy killed himself. That's usually a pretty good indicator of tragedy.


That being said... all the great artists are weird. And a lot of them were dark, and deeply disturbed. It's where really powerful art comes from. And while a lot of his writing is bad, it's still powerful.

turkishproverb
2009-04-17, 02:46 PM
Devrag, I grow to like you more and more as you prove so good at explaining my opinions. :smallwink:

WalkingTarget
2009-04-17, 02:54 PM
And I mean the guy killed himself. That's usually a pretty good indicator of tragedy.

Err...

Were you referring to Lovecraft here? He died, quite painfully, from intestinal cancer after living in poverty for most of his adult life. Robert Howard (the guy who wrote the original Conan stories) was a friend of his who did commit suicide, though.

His life was quite tragic, though. Joshi's biography of Lovecraft was excellent.

T-O-E
2009-04-17, 02:55 PM
A large degree of what he wrote was from his own nightmares.

I wonder if he ever thought about writing a story about a trout.

Stormthorn
2009-04-17, 03:05 PM
Arthur Conan Doyle, William Hope Hodgeson, Robert Chambers, Richard Shaver, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G.Wells and Mary Shelley called. They said "Errr, excuse me?" :smallconfused:



Well, they might look :smallconfused: but i doubt they are calling to comment. If they are its to ask why your attributing HP Lovecrafts style to them. They would like to not be sued for violating his creative rights.

Gothic Horror and Cosmic Horror are two differnet things.



While i agree that he isnt "scary" i dont think 99% of any writing is scary in that way. The only work of his that really creeped me out was Colour Out Of Space.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-17, 03:07 PM
Err...

Were you referring to Lovecraft here? He died, quite painfully, from intestinal cancer after living in poverty for most of his adult life. Robert Howard (the guy who wrote the original Conan stories) was a friend of his who did commit suicide, though.

His life was quite tragic, though. Joshi's biography of Lovecraft was excellent.

Really? I'm sure I read he committed suicide. Maybe it was one of those things wikipedia got wrong.

Stormthorn
2009-04-17, 03:12 PM
Look, Lovecraft wasn't the flaming racist he is usually claimed to be.

Yes, he was racist, but it was amplified by his desire to describe the "otherness" of things within his work, and his love for british culture. It was about making everything "different" feel wrong, and this is what created the image.

I dont know about that. I read some story of his where a street becomes animate and kills all the non-whites because of how "filthy" they where or whatever.

That said, he lived in a racist time so i wont hold it over his head.


Really? I'm sure I read he committed suicide. Maybe it was one of those things wikipedia got wrong.

No, wikipedia says he died of cancer.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-17, 03:42 PM
No, wikipedia says he died of cancer.

Well, it says that now, but it could have been edited. Also could have somewhere else. Or I just got a wrong idea with no basis.

Stormthorn
2009-04-17, 03:47 PM
Well, it says that now, but it could have been edited. Also could have somewhere else. Or I just got a wrong idea with no basis.

Right before it says how he died it mentions someone elses suicide effecting him. I dont know about you, but thats the type of mistake im likely to make in my speed-reading sessions.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-17, 03:56 PM
Well... that kind of changes things... still too bad he died so young. But at least it's not depressing as because "life ground him down".

WalkingTarget
2009-04-17, 04:05 PM
I dont know about that. I read some story of his where a street becomes animate and kills all the non-whites because of how "filthy" they where or whatever.

That said, he lived in a racist time so i wont hold it over his head.

Here's what I understand on the matter. Lovecraft believed that in order for a society to have any kind of self-identity, the members had to have a sense of common history/culture. He did not think that a "melting pot" mentality would work. This meant that he would have preferred that America would be primarily WASPish. His time living in New York, where he lived in close proximity to the poorer populations of immigrant Poles, Italians, etc. did not help his opinions on this matter.

This mindset is not one that is terribly popular these days, but it's no more objectively right or wrong than the alternative. It's exclusionary, which makes it non-PC, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it'd be better or worse. This particular mental block he had eased a lot over time (after all, the only relationship he ever had was with a Ukrainian Jewish woman).

However, he also was convinced early on that certain "races" were genuinely "inferior" biologically, and even though race theory was pretty much abandoned by the scientific community in his lifetime he still clung to that where he was quick to adapt to other advances in the sciences. It's a black mark on his record that he remained prejudiced, but I think it's possible to enjoy his writing in spite of that.

TheBST
2009-04-17, 04:23 PM
There are heroes in the world, but the average human being is not capable of heroism. We are weak, cowardly, rotten little things with a few a bit better than that. They however are weighed down by everyone else. If Cthulhu woke up tomorow, it is probable we would kill anyone who tried to put him back to sleep before they even got a chance to fail miserably in their attempts.


So, part of the appeal of Lovecraft is that he presents a cold and indifferent universe were human beings are not only insignificant and despicable, but also living on the verge of complete destruction either by natural or supernatural forces or their own capacity for madness and depravity?

Sounds like glorified misanthropy to me.


It's a black mark on his record that he remained prejudiced, but I think it's possible to enjoy his writing in spite of that.

Maybe on a comedic level. I think I recall reading somewhere that Lovecraft once wrote a story were the final, terrifying twist was that a character turned out to be a black woman. *DUN DUN DUUNNNNNNN*

golentan
2009-04-17, 04:27 PM
@dervag: I realize we're the amoebas in the lovecraft universe. Now tell me: when have you ever seen an amoeba give up? And I seem to recall that by biomass they outweigh humans. When I said "supernovae, see what happens" it has a low chance of success. I realize and am okay with this, but it's still worth trying. And the fact they don't notice us helps our chances if we can spread out far enough.

Amoebas kill hundreds of people every year. In fairly horrible ways. And single celled organisms have made their "more evolved" cousins extinct before, mostly through releasing chemicals into the air/water. I'm not saying it's easy, or that we'll win, in the long run, or that the universe cares, or that anything will ever turn out okay ever. I'm saying I want to keep trying. It's striving that's important, trying to make things okay. I already exist solely on the whims of more powerful beings, and everything I have (my life, my health, my sanity, my friends) can be taken away before I can blink. SO WHAT? If with my dying breath (or my last breath before they strip me of what I consider important) I can look back and say "It was and will be worth it," I'm done. I'm good. I do not ask for more. No happy ending, no afterlife, nada. Ship me off to oblivion, or torture me beyond recognizability, it matters not.

For the record, I love lovecraft's work. I just think it doesn't speak to me as horror. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist? Because it's about having that sliver of a fraction of a percent of hope, not seeing that hope fulfilled. It's about striving in the face of impossible odds for something that the universe is completely uncaring about, in the hope that some day that might change, knowing full well it won't. I'm not giving up before I'm incapable of doing anything else, at which point I'm no longer me and I have ceased to care about that person.

WalkingTarget
2009-04-17, 04:32 PM
Maybe on a comedic level. I think I recall reading somewhere that Lovecraft once wrote a story were the final, terrifying twist was that a character turned out to be a black woman. *DUN DUN DUUNNNNNNN*

That was a product from his "day job" working as a revisionist/ghost writer. I haven't read any of those stories except the one he wrote for Harry Houdini ("Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"), but from what I understand virtually none of those stories were really worth reading anyway (the Houdini one being one exception at least). Sure he wrote it, but that's not from the body of work that's interesting.

Muz
2009-04-17, 04:35 PM
I tend to find Lovecraft's stories more interesting than horrifying. That said, there's one part from "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" that's always stuck with me.
The protagonist (or a figure in a journal the protagonist has found, it's been a while) talks of the lower levels of a necromancer's home where there are dark pits holding creatures that have no way to get out, have been howlingly starving for decades, and have no way to die. :smalleek:
I couldn't help but imagine being cursed with their fate myself, and the thought scared the crap out of me.

...Er, figuratively speaking. :smallsmile:

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-17, 05:10 PM
So, part of the appeal of Lovecraft is that he presents a cold and indifferent universe were human beings are not only insignificant and despicable, but also living on the verge of complete destruction either by natural or supernatural forces or their own capacity for madness and depravity?

Sounds like glorified misanthropy to me.

Not sure how to take that. Largely because it's pretty overtly misanthropic, which is not wrong.

Dervag
2009-04-17, 05:49 PM
@dervag: I realize we're the amoebas in the lovecraft universe. Now tell me: when have you ever seen an amoeba give up? And I seem to recall that by biomass they outweigh humans. When I said "supernovae, see what happens" it has a low chance of success. I realize and am okay with this, but it's still worth trying. And the fact they don't notice us helps our chances if we can spread out far enough.

Amoebas kill hundreds of people every year. In fairly horrible ways. And single celled organisms have made their "more evolved" cousins extinct before, mostly through releasing chemicals into the air/water. I'm not saying it's easy, or that we'll win, in the long run, or that the universe cares, or that anything will ever turn out okay ever. I'm saying I want to keep trying. It's striving that's important, trying to make things okay. I already exist solely on the whims of more powerful beings, and everything I have (my life, my health, my sanity, my friends) can be taken away before I can blink. SO WHAT? If with my dying breath (or my last breath before they strip me of what I consider important) I can look back and say "It was and will be worth it," I'm done. I'm good. I do not ask for more. No happy ending, no afterlife, nada. Ship me off to oblivion, or torture me beyond recognizability, it matters not.

For the record, I love lovecraft's work. I just think it doesn't speak to me as horror. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist? Because it's about having that sliver of a fraction of a percent of hope, not seeing that hope fulfilled. It's about striving in the face of impossible odds for something that the universe is completely uncaring about, in the hope that some day that might change, knowing full well it won't. I'm not giving up before I'm incapable of doing anything else, at which point I'm no longer me and I have ceased to care about that person.I think you've just got this little core of inner dauntlessness. It's probably a good thing to have, but it means that the piece of you Lovecraft is supposed to speak to effectively isn't really there. For most of us, the idea that everything we do or think about, even the big grandiose impressive stuff, is as trivial as the "goldfish colony rover" can shake us pretty hard.

That said, I think you've got the right attitude. I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm saying that Lovecraft is scary because he describes a universe in which you are wrong. It sails right by you because (if you've described yourself accurately) you are constitutionally unable to consider being wrong about this.

doliest
2009-04-17, 08:02 PM
I never understood people's dislike of lovecraft due to the racist elements, but then I never let things deter me from a good story. As for lovecraft he's like any number of people who created a genre. The work seems old today, but it's still good and you have to give that whole creating a genre credit. As for scary I've found the storys scary in different amounts. My favorite was the one with the twist being that the guy's family is descended from an ape.

Jorkens
2009-04-17, 08:04 PM
M.R. James called.

He wants the title of 'most terrifying horror author of the 1900-1939 period' back.
M R James is a really great writer but seems to have been mostly stuck on rewriting essentially the same two fairly unambitious short stories, from what I've read. Whereas Lovecraft had ideas and ambition in spades but had an unfortunate habit of describing anything that was a bit hard to describe as 'indescribable'.

If the two of them formed some sort of gestalt you'd have the greatest horror writer of all time.

Kris Strife
2009-04-18, 04:26 AM
I've read Color out of Space and yes, that one was rather creepy. Not only the effects, but that there was still something there.

It also makes me want to get a diving expedition over to New England... And read the Necronomicon to see what it says.

Honestly, the fact that Cthulu, typically considered the worst of the Eldritch Horrors actually on Earth can be beat by hitting him with a boat, or Wrestled to Death by Steve Irwin (Which I believe to be 100% cannon), kind of ruins the effect.

Bhu
2009-04-18, 04:30 AM
M R James is a really great writer but seems to have been mostly stuck on rewriting essentially the same two fairly unambitious short stories, from what I've read. Whereas Lovecraft had ideas and ambition in spades but had an unfortunate habit of describing anything that was a bit hard to describe as 'indescribable'.

If the two of them formed some sort of gestalt you'd have the greatest horror writer of all time.

Well, most of the beings he mentioned were supposed to be alien horrors difficult or impossible for us to imagine. If describing them were easy, or perhaps possible, they aren't really so alien as to be unimaginable :smalltongue:

Salt_Crow
2009-04-18, 05:52 AM
"But it's not scary at all!" some people may say, but if I were to look at more frightening ones I could always turn to Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe if I felt fancy.

Lovecraft's novels and creations are not supposed to be directly horror-inducing with gruesome details or simply by being some sort of nigh-indestructable horror that some creatures of modern conceptions are.

They're different, weird and 'inconceivable', which is what gives Lovecraft's creations (and others in line with them) that unique name that they deserve- Cthlhu mythos.

Creatures most alien in that even physical 'defeat' means nothing- Cthulhu continues to exist, material or not. Its true horror lies in that humans ultimately do not have neither control nor true understanding over what's happening. Sometimes the true horrors behind what the protagonists have experienced are revealed (as is in 'the Shadow over Innsmouth') sometimes they're not (the Music of Erich Zann).

Personally I love the concept that humans are nothing better than the dust motes in the scheme of vast universe that surrounds us- the central theme of Cthulhu mythos.

Yeah, maybe it's just that I'm a Lovecraft fanboy XD I admit that.

Illiterate Scribe
2009-04-18, 06:07 AM
M R James is a really great writer but seems to have been mostly stuck on rewriting essentially the same two fairly unambitious short stories, from what I've read. Whereas Lovecraft had ideas and ambition in spades but had an unfortunate habit of describing anything that was a bit hard to describe as 'indescribable'.

See what you mean, but I don't think that's much of a problem. The short story genre doesn't need much originality when you're taking the stories individually, one a night, for entertainment.


Well, most of the beings he mentioned were supposed to be alien horrors difficult or impossible for us to imagine. If describing them were easy, or perhaps possible, they aren't really so alien as to be unimaginable.

Anyone can write a book saying 'lol, these things are terrifying, and just take my word on it'. It's certainly possible to evoke palpable dread about an uncertain, almost metaphysical horror - take Mark Z. Danielewski, who manages to create some sort of alien, terrifying 'presence' without ever directly describing, but Lovecraft just isn't too good at it, IMO.

Dervag/Golentan - while you may see amoebas as infinitely below us, remember that they pre-existed us, will probably outlast us, and that you're carrying 100 trillion around with you in you're intestines alone. Life works at a much more symbiotic level than you'd think - not hierarchies but webs, and that sort of thing.


I think you've just got this little core of inner dauntlessness. It's probably a good thing to have, but it means that the piece of you Lovecraft is supposed to speak to effectively isn't really there. For most of us, the idea that everything we do or think about, even the big grandiose impressive stuff, is as trivial as the "goldfish colony rover" can shake us pretty hard.

That said, I think you've got the right attitude. I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm saying that Lovecraft is scary because he describes a universe in which you are wrong. It sails right by you because (if you've described yourself accurately) you are constitutionally unable to consider being wrong about this.

I think the problem with Lovecraft is that he doesn't show this satisfactorily ('this object was so maddening and demonstrative of our insignificant presence in the universe that I went mad' isn't great writing), merely tells it to us, and makes us accept it.

Finally, I still laugh at some of his misappropriations of language. Oh, this ancient city is cyclopean! This dry stone wall is driving me mad! Oh no, this monster is non-Euclidean! The parallel liiiiiiiines!

Jibar
2009-04-18, 06:26 AM
Umm... I take it you actually do have a phobia of sea creatures?

Sorry. I really didn't mean to offend anyone, I just didn't think that was a common problem.

I myself am deathly afraid of dogs, so I know how it can be to be terrified of something incredibly common.

Don't worry about it. I've had nothing but jokes about it most my life, but apparently it isn't that uncommon a phobia.

GolemsVoice
2009-04-18, 07:16 AM
I will refrain from commenting on Lovecraft being scary, for fear of triggering my massive reservoir of NERDRAGE, for I LOVE Lovecraft and have read almost all of his works and a fair deal of literature about him.

But, what do you say to his non-horror stories, for example, the dream-cycle, especially Dream-Quest, Celephais and Iranon's Quest? I find these stories, Dream-Quest in particular, to be deeply moving. When I read this, I felt it touch a deep longing in me, and I also felt that Lovecraft must have had this longing all the time, dreaming of places that where so much more beautiful than the ugly world he experienced. (More beautiful, that is, when he didn't dream of horrors beyond sanity, which is another point that fascinates me about him.) Dream-Quest made me feel connected to Lovecraft in a strange way that was really exciting. In these stories he describes a world of fantastic wonder, but not in a magical-fairyland style, but in his very own and unique way, touched all the time by something weird, and with a vague sense of outer horror to it all.
In all his stories, Lovecraft is a writer who gets much better (gets good in the first place?) if you immerse yourself fully in his protagonists viewpoint. and the mind behind these stories. Even while I write this, I have in my mind wonderful images of Carter wandering the cold desert surrounding Kadath, or him dreaming of an ancient city which he is forever forbidden from. On the other hand, there are images of a vast, strange city, whose geometry just doesn't fit, and vistas of forsaken streets and decaying buildings inhabited by fishmen beneath a full moon. Just think about this, and try to really get a mental image. This is what Lovecraft really is. To me, he is a very evocative writer, brilliantly maintaining horror or beauty. Lovecraft said about himself that he did not want a moment of terror, but rather a consistent atmosphere. And, in his better stories, he achieves that aim very good.

Lovecraft was a man who, as he himself confessed, did not write for the broad public, which he thought, as he laid out in one of his many letters, to be not the type for his stories (it seems he was right?), but for a very small group of sensitive few. He was a gentleman-writer, and he didn't write for money. That would, to him, not be right. He wrote to write, and felt no urge to tailor his stories to the needs of anyone, instead writing what really interested, moved and frightened him. The emphasis here is him. He never wanted to frighten anyone else, he just wanted to show what frightened him. A mistake he maybe made was to think that others where frightened by the same things as he was.
Imagine him, still young, still unexperienced with life, forced to make a living in the dirty underbelly of the moloch that was New York. There, he, the superior white gentleman had to compete with dirty immigrants and filthy, uneducated whites. He never had a chance, but this revelation struck him deeply, and those successful, though badly educated immigrants frightened him. They genuinely frightened him, because he was terrified in this new environment. That doesn't do away with all his racism, and I myself find "Horror at Red Hook" to be both repulsive and ridiculous (come on, fear of red brick buildings?), but it at least brings an insight to what moved him to write in this way.

I've already, despite my disclaimer, said more than I intended, and the reader may forgive my unstructered rambling, but I couldn't remain silent.

comicshorse
2009-04-18, 09:12 AM
Posted by Illiterate Scribe

ancient city is cyclopean! This dry stone wall is driving me mad
Actually incorrect, Cyclopean is a style of architecture associated with the Mycenaean civilization. While it did involve the use of no mortar its primary characteristic is the huge size of the boulders used. Its name deriving from the belief that only Cyclops had the strength required to move such huge boulders.

Posted by Kris Strife

Honestly, the fact that Cthulu, typically considered the worst of the Eldritch Horrors actually on Earth can be beat by hitting him with a boat, or Wrestled to Death by Steve Irwin (Which I believe to be 100% cannon), kind of ruins the effect.

For the first one he wasn't beaten just temporarily inconvenienced by being rammed by a steam launch at full speed ( and even then its suggested that as he has emerged at the wrong time he has severely weakened)

And no I'm pretty sure being Wrestled to Death by Steve Irwin is NOT cannon ( though it is really funny)

Stormthorn
2009-04-19, 12:25 AM
Cyclopean is a style of architecture associated with the Mycenaean civilization.

If you want to get technical he might just be using it in its "common" meaning: Huge.

That seems more likely.

Dervag
2009-04-19, 01:46 AM
Honestly, the fact that Cthulu, typically considered the worst of the Eldritch Horrors actually on Earth can be beat by hitting him with a boat,This was a few minutes after he woke up from being dead for tens of millions of years, and it stopped him for a few minutes.


Dervag/Golentan - while you may see amoebas as infinitely below us, remember that they pre-existed us, will probably outlast us, and that you're carrying 100 trillion around with you in you're intestines alone. Life works at a much more symbiotic level than you'd think - not hierarchies but webs, and that sort of thing.That's true but irrelevant to my argument. What I'm getting at is that cognitively, human behavior transcends that of amoebas. And that amoebas, common as they are and important as they may be to the world's ecology, are pretty much just along for the ride when it comes to humans' daily business. If we decide that a given population of amoebas needs to die, they can't fight back. If we decided to nuke our own planet into a billiard ball for some reason, the amoebas would be in a lot of trouble with no way to avoid the trouble by their own actions. We might even destroy amoebas completely by accident without knowing or caring that we've done it. We can study them at will using whatever means we consider appropriate. And so on.

There's a tremendous power differential there. Even if humans do not have infinite power over amoebas, the abilities humans have are such that no number of amoebas could possibly match them, and amoebas have no power to actively resist human actions.

P.S. Nitpick: Given the number of cells in the human body, if I were carrying a hundred trillion of them around, I'd be nothing but a big pile of amoebas. Also, amoebas aren't symbiotes in humans; having a bunch of amoebas in your intestines gives you amoebic dysentery.

The Tygre
2009-04-19, 12:37 PM
I will refrain from commenting on Lovecraft being scary, for fear of triggering my massive reservoir of NERDRAGE, for I LOVE Lovecraft and have read almost all of his works and a fair deal of literature about him.

But, what do you say to his non-horror stories, for example, the dream-cycle, especially Dream-Quest, Celephais and Iranon's Quest? I find these stories, Dream-Quest in particular, to be deeply moving. When I read this, I felt it touch a deep longing in me, and I also felt that Lovecraft must have had this longing all the time, dreaming of places that where so much more beautiful than the ugly world he experienced. (More beautiful, that is, when he didn't dream of horrors beyond sanity, which is another point that fascinates me about him.) Dream-Quest made me feel connected to Lovecraft in a strange way that was really exciting. In these stories he describes a world of fantastic wonder, but not in a magical-fairyland style, but in his very own and unique way, touched all the time by something weird, and with a vague sense of outer horror to it all.
In all his stories, Lovecraft is a writer who gets much better (gets good in the first place?) if you immerse yourself fully in his protagonists viewpoint. and the mind behind these stories. Even while I write this, I have in my mind wonderful images of Carter wandering the cold desert surrounding Kadath, or him dreaming of an ancient city which he is forever forbidden from. On the other hand, there are images of a vast, strange city, whose geometry just doesn't fit, and vistas of forsaken streets and decaying buildings inhabited by fishmen beneath a full moon. Just think about this, and try to really get a mental image. This is what Lovecraft really is. To me, he is a very evocative writer, brilliantly maintaining horror or beauty. Lovecraft said about himself that he did not want a moment of terror, but rather a consistent atmosphere. And, in his better stories, he achieves that aim very good.

Lovecraft was a man who, as he himself confessed, did not write for the broad public, which he thought, as he laid out in one of his many letters, to be not the type for his stories (it seems he was right?), but for a very small group of sensitive few. He was a gentleman-writer, and he didn't write for money. That would, to him, not be right. He wrote to write, and felt no urge to tailor his stories to the needs of anyone, instead writing what really interested, moved and frightened him. The emphasis here is him. He never wanted to frighten anyone else, he just wanted to show what frightened him. A mistake he maybe made was to think that others where frightened by the same things as he was.
Imagine him, still young, still unexperienced with life, forced to make a living in the dirty underbelly of the moloch that was New York. There, he, the superior white gentleman had to compete with dirty immigrants and filthy, uneducated whites. He never had a chance, but this revelation struck him deeply, and those successful, though badly educated immigrants frightened him. They genuinely frightened him, because he was terrified in this new environment. That doesn't do away with all his racism, and I myself find "Horror at Red Hook" to be both repulsive and ridiculous (come on, fear of red brick buildings?), but it at least brings an insight to what moved him to write in this way.

I've already, despite my disclaimer, said more than I intended, and the reader may forgive my unstructered rambling, but I couldn't remain silent.

Thank you. The fact is, I have found Lovecraft to be genuinely terrifying in spots. The Rats in the Wall stands out in particular for me. The fact is, the man knew how to pitch atmosphere. And while I do agree that he was rather long-winded in segments, only helped to heighten the sense of what was going on in his story. Like Golem said, you have to immerse yourself in the stories, which is why so many of them are in first person. Furthermore, even if you are not scared by Lovecraft, that does not deny the fact that his stories, indeed, the whole Mythos, is excellent reading for the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and even Mystery genres. The truth is, Lovecraft did help revolutionize the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, or at least shake it up a little. Maybe not on the same scale as say, Tolkien, but still. To this day, the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath remains one of my favorite stories of all time.

GolemsVoice
2009-04-19, 03:35 PM
The problem I can see many people having with Lovecraft is that he is very special, in every aspect of his writing. He decided to adopt a writing style so unlike that of a modern age, he decided to write of creatures and horrors so unlike any of the normal gothic horrors or penny dreadfuls of his time, and his writign was heavily influenced by what he himself felt like. All those points make him a difficult author to read, and I can understand anyone who says that these elements are not what he likes to read, but I would not call him a bad author. After all, if you like or dislike him, he did leave a major imprint on the horror and fantasy genre, which says something

So, maybe a difficult and hard-to-like-author, but in no way a bad one.

Xuincherguixe
2009-04-19, 10:50 PM
I would actually say that Lovecraft was probably even more influential than Tolkien, if less known.

Salt_Crow
2009-04-19, 11:36 PM
I would actually say that Lovecraft was probably even more influential than Tolkien, if less known.

Nah... that'd be stretching things a bit I think :smalltongue:

Stormthorn
2009-04-21, 12:02 AM
Depends upon how much you like Stephen King.

Bhu
2009-04-21, 04:40 AM
Depends upon how much you like Stephen King.

or Neil Gaiman

or a few dozen other writers

GolemsVoice
2009-04-21, 11:01 AM
I think Lovecraft IS influential, and very much so, but on a much smaller field than Tolkien. Tolkien revitalized and popularized the fantasy genre, essentialy starting the genre as we know it today (just look at the number of fantasy trilogies we have today). Lovecraft influenced a lot of writers, but perhaps more subtly, and on a smaller spectrum.
But I do agree that ovecraft's influence isn't given as much credit as it perhaps should be given.