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Leliel
2012-06-13, 09:03 PM
The "What is the appeal of the Great Old Ones" on RPGnet thread got me thinking-if what is really terrifying about modern Lovecraftian horror is encountering or being corrupted into something that is essentially the antithesis of human, what happens when you remove that aspect and look at it through the lens of the time and place it formed in: the xenophobic climate of the Victorian era, where everything different was a Bad Thing (tm), and which is now viewed as the shallow and bigoted lens it is.

In other words, encountering or transforming into something other than human, but not an antithesis, just foreign-the truths you found have fundamentally altered your viewpoint and you no longer have a mind understandable by people around you, but you don't hate them or view them as expendable. You just happen to be a representative of the Creepy Guy Down The Block phenomenon, the foreigner rather than the invader.

Posthuman, not inhuman. And probably very lonely. One could easily see this as another form of horror, that of increasing isolation from the world around you in order to combat a threat, and returning unable to truly relate to people except in the abstract, and the fact that some of them are convinced that because you're not like them, you're evil. It's almost enough to make one summon an Outer God himself just so he can have someone to talk to.

So, what's your ideas for examining the motives and the viewpoint that creates Cosmic Horror in the first place?

Man on Fire
2012-06-13, 09:15 PM
I think that it was sort of done in internet series Atop The Fourth Wall. More in spoiler:


Main character, Linkara, finaly faces the threat of all-powerful Entity (real name Missing Number, it's complicated) who had absorbed everyone on Earth and he has no way to stop. In the end this exchange happens:

Missing№: Then welcome to my glory, hyuuumaaaan...
Linkara: Uhh, before I become one with your glory, there is just one thing... a question.
Missing№: You may speak.
Linkara: After I'm consumed by you, what're you going to do next?
Missing№: I will spread throughout this universe until it and I are the same-till it and I are the same. From there, I shall do as I have always done: I shall travel from universe to universe and they shall become extensions of my being, simultaneously piece and whole. Every star, every cosmos, every dimension, all things living and dead shall become meee... No empty space, no limit, nothing existing except for me. Existence shall become solely defined by me because I am existence!
Linkara: Oh, and then what're you going to do?
Missing№: What.
Linkara: I was just curious what you intend to do after you finish your goal...
Missing№:(confused) I... will exist. Everything will be me.
Linkara: Yes, yes we know that part, but what are you going to do? You will exist, ''neato!'' What're you going to do to pass the time? You will have absorbed -everything-, and I do mean everything. You will not just be the only being in the universe, you will be the universe! So... whaddaya gonna do -as- the universe? Will you create things? Well I suppose you wouldn't because creating something would mean it was different from you, and you'd just -reabsorb- it back in anyways... So again, I ask: what are you going to do once you've completed your goal?
Missing№: Existence is... existence is... important part...
Linkara: Yes, but why do you want that goal?
Missing№: Everything should... and must... be me... everything should and must be me.
Linkara: And when everything is you, what are you going to do next!? What is your purpose once your purpose has been fulfilled?! What will be your meaning when you have made the ultimate achievement?! Is 'existing' just an end it itself? Well that can't be it because you're already existing, and therefore already fulfilling that part of it!
(Visual Effects of Awesome ensue as he walks around Missing№/90's Kid)
Linkara: "So go ahead and create your kingdom of the Never-Should! Let the Glitch be everything, the distortion the reality! Become everything there is down to the tiniest particle until you are literally existence itself! In the end, you'll still have the same damned problem: that's there is no challenge left- No Heaven to aspire to, and no Hell to avoid. You will live forever, alone as everything, and existence itself shall be your prison! All experiences will be a part of you; all possibilities will have been considered and completed. Every life-form, every molecule, every single Should and Never-Should and it will have all been done. Everything will be you, and everything will be meaningless. And when you do become existence ó when the definition of existence equals Missing№ ó you will scream your shrill hiss and let it vibrate along the totality of your being, When the lie of your existence is laid bare, because there is simply nothing else for you to do!
Missing№: You are... confusing me... You are attempting a deception!
Linkara: Me? Deceive an Outer God? I sincerely doubt that.
Missing№: You-you... I must continue! You-you... shall become-
Both: A part of me/you!
Linkara: Yeah, yeah, yeah except it doesn't matter! In the end, you'll still be there; alone in the darkness of mere being- forever! What it all boils down to is that you are no more significant than a single pixel on a screen-
Missing№: SILENCE! (Linkara is thrown to the floor by a glitch blast)
Missing№: (begins pacing the room) Existence is purpose, but purpose defines existence, but existence defines purpose, but purpose defines existence... If purpose is not solution, then examine what cannot be known through existence then examine what cannot be known through existence then examine- Solution to equation... non-existence?
Linkara: You're an Outer God, yes?
Missing№: Correct.
Linkara: You are beyond good and evil; a being more complex and grand and terrible than anything that ever has existed or ever will exist...
Missing№: Ye-yes-es-yeess...
Linkara: Then... I submit a question to you, Outer God. A possibility to explore.
Missing№: Declare it.
Linkara: What happens to an Outer God when it dies?
Missing№: *Slasher Smile* I will find out...

And I think it nails down how to deconstruct lovecraftian horror - point out that existence of those eldritch abominations is as pointless as existence of humanity.


This is what I consider a deconstruction - taking what Lovecraft belived in beyond what was done with it to logical conclusion.

Dr.Epic
2012-06-13, 09:18 PM
You can't deconstruct cosmic horror. Cosmic horror deconstructs you.:smallwink:

1dominator
2012-06-13, 09:24 PM
You can't deconstruct cosmic horror. Cosmic horror deconstructs you.:smallwink:

That. The whole scary part of that concept was that you CANNOT deconstruct it, no more than you can comprehend it. Immersion in that genere requires you to suspend your pretensions and demands that everything in existence should be comprehensible by your mind. It requires you to imagine something beyond comprehension whose true nature you can barely glimpse. Of course most people are far to wise (pretentious and self aggrandizing) to actually be able to do this. Or so it seems to me.

Lateral
2012-06-13, 09:36 PM
That. The whole scary part of that concept was that you CANNOT deconstruct it, no more than you can comprehend it. Immersion in that genere requires you to suspend your pretensions and demands that everything in existence should be comprehensible by your mind. It requires you to imagine something beyond comprehension whose true nature you can barely glimpse. Of course most people are far to wise (pretentious and self aggrandizing) to actually be able to do this. Or so it seems to me.

The problem with that, though, is that writers are human. It's impossible for someone to create something "beyond comprehension," exactly because it'd be beyond comprehension. For that to be possible, the writer would have to create something they themselves couldn't understand, but that still has a logic behind it- without any logic, it's simply nonsensical chaos, and (rather ironically) that's something that people can understand quite easily. Really, the only way to have something be 'beyond comprehension' is for the reader to willingly say "this is beyond comprehension, and not for mere mortal minds to understand" rather than "this makes no sense." There's really very little way of describing that in text, only various ways of saying it, so it boils down to suspension of disbelief.

Yanagi
2012-06-13, 09:41 PM
A big part of cosmic horror is contradiction of scientific optimism.

The latter is that belief/aspiration that man is in control of his destiny because of his studies and because of "progress." Lovecraftian horror basically stomps all over that notion by observing that the universe could be beyond comprehension. The "Elder Things" of Lovecraft were initially just being beyond the understanding of man, with no metaphysical or deific aspect. The other side of the same coin is that Lovecraftian horrors were apathetic to humanity...that the anthropocentrism of the human standpoint was irrelevant in the larger picture of the universe. A clear demonstration of this was that way that biological,ly the mythos's creatures evoke molluscs and piscines (and more generally, undersea creatures) rather than more humanlike animal.

Another big theme is the fragility of humanity and civilization--that our moral and intellectual cultivation is actually a thin skin atop selfish and base urges. This tied in with the previous theme in that, when faced with the incomprehensible, people tend to either outright go mad or lapse back into a superstitious, appease-the-volcano mindset. Again, this was a slap to the prevailing zeitgeist that Man was refining itself and moving ever upward in ethics and cultivation.

[Sadly, it has to be noted that for Lovecraft himself, this second theme often incorporated a lot of racism...the genre as a whole, however, has not followed him in this.]

darkblade
2012-06-13, 09:46 PM
Well pretty much everything Lovecraft wrote was inspired by some combination of his hatreds for Women, Foreigners and seafood. So the fear of "the other" is ever so much more noticeable but it's not just Cosmic Horror that has this problem. Most every horror based around a monster is in some fashion representative of an aspect of humanity we are ashamed of or do not understand.

Frankenstien is representative of our fear of unrestrained science.

The various vampires are different mirrors into human sexuality of the time they were written.

Zombies are the will of the masses often either consumerism or communism.

Etcetera and so forth.

Leliel
2012-06-13, 09:48 PM
The problem with that, though, is that writers are human. It's impossible for someone to create something "beyond comprehension," exactly because it'd be beyond comprehension. For that to be possible, the writer would have to create something they themselves couldn't understand, but that still has a logic behind it- without any logic, it's simply nonsensical chaos, and (rather ironically) that's something that people can understand quite easily. Really, the only way to have something be 'beyond comprehension' is for the reader to willingly say "this is beyond comprehension, and not for mere mortal minds to understand" rather than "this makes no sense." There's really very little way of describing that in text, only various ways of saying it, so it boils down to suspension of disbelief.

Exactly.

All fiction requires an attitude, and Cosmic Horror contains an attitude which can be taken apart.

And contrary to what people who beat themselves over the head with CoC believe, ultimately the original Lovecraft verse was, when you look at it from a modern perspective, Not Scary In And Of Itself.

Eldritch Skies is an RPG all about this-take the original books, advance the setting by a tech level or two, and then proceed to show that Lovecraft's belief that the scientific method itself would doom us was...rather misinformed.

In his books, the universe doesn't care about us, but it isn't going to kill us, just ignore us.

Which is why I lose my temper with people who seem to think the universe itself is scary, devoid of any actual setting of the mood or theme. "Durr, SAN mechanics make game better". Not unless there's a risk mechanic instead of the result of a basic system that you will encounter, it doesn't. "Duh, people go insane from reading philosophy." ...How? It's a book, doesn't mean I buy any of it. Lovecraft's protagonists don't go insane from the revelation, they suffer extreme trauma and shattering of their POV that causes them to despair-and as shown in the Dunwich Horror, it doesn't always happen. Frankly, these people ruin Lovecraft by missing the point by about a mile. Really, the only benefit to their existence is showing one of his themes exactly-that humanity's ego far exceeds its actual importance, thinking that the universe daring to not notice us is it being passive-aggressive.

Again-to take a genre apart, all you need is to deconstruct the attitude.

Man on Fire
2012-06-13, 09:57 PM
Well pretty much everything Lovecraft wrote was inspired by some combination of his hatreds for Women, Foreigners and seafood. So the fear of "the other" is ever so much more noticeable but it's not just Cosmic Horror that has this problem.

Congratulations, you win an arward for man talking about something he obviously has no understanding of whatsoever.

First, Lovecraft wrote 3 stories featuring sea, drop in the sea in all his bibliography, people who bring it down to evil coming from the sea and tentacles have no idea what they're talking about. And it seriously pisses me off when people like you just come in, see Cthulhu and think all Lovecraft gave us are that damn stupid tentacles, thank you very @#$%ing much!

Second:

"...all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large."

How's that fitting in your "hate of women, foreginers and seafood" theory?

Science Officer
2012-06-13, 10:05 PM
Was Cosmic Horror really formed in the Victorian era? At the tail end, perhaps, if you can find a few predecessors of Lovecraft.

So which are you asking, ways to deconstruct Cosmic Horror? or ways to examine what created it in the first place? (or are those the same thing and I am misunderstanding?)

If it's the latter, I think you've got a good tack. But I don't understand "Posthuman, not inhuman". Your description sounds quite inhuman(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inhuman).
Anyways, I think I see where you're going. I'd recommend Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist short stories (though that might be taking "posthuman" a little literally). Swarm, and Spider Rose gave me a very cosmic-horror vibe.

But if I had to find the motives and viewpoints for Cosmic Horror, I'd say it had three features:

-Cosmic Indifference
"We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far." - H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
The Pale Blue Dot played for horror. Or something like the Total Perspective Vortex from H2G2. A nihilistic, existential horror brought about from realising humanity's place in the universe.
-Human Powerlessness
(hate to break the pattern, but couldn't find a quote for this)
Ever had a dream where you were falling and you tried to stop yourself, flap your arms, grab on to something, anything? The only thing worse than knowing your fate is knowing you are powerless to alter it.
-Faulty Reality
"What would your feelings be, seriously, if your cat or your dog began to talk to you, and to dispute with you in human accents? You would be overwhelmed with horror. I am sure of it. And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grow before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning?" - Arthur Machen, The white people
So you've learned something new and horrible, you are weak and powerless before it, and now you learn that everything you thought you knew was wrong. This might either be some supernatural effect, or the delusions of a warped mind. How can you separate waking life from dreams, if you have seen the impossible occur?
This might be something non-physical, as you suggest. A change of perspective or morality.

EDIT: Entirely agree that most of what Lovecraft wrote is not scary. I like it mostly as "Dark Science Fantasy" maybe you could call it. Or weird fiction.

darkblade
2012-06-13, 10:20 PM
First, Lovecraft wrote 3 stories featuring sea, drop in the sea in all his bibliography, people who bring it down to evil coming from the sea and tentacles have no idea what they're talking about. And it seriously pisses me off when people like you just come in, see Cthulhu and think all Lovecraft gave us are that damn stupid tentacles, thank you very @#$%ing much!

The seafood part was a joke. I am aware most of his works had little to nothing to do with the sea. While it is debatable how much of it was intentionally put in the stories he wrote, he himself was said to be incredibly sexist and racist even for his time.

The most evident towards this was the twist of the story "Medusa's Coil" where he plays the fact that a character is of colour to be as mind breaking a revelation as anything from his cosmic horror stories.

Beyond that most every character who is already connected to the inhuman monsters before the main characters stumbled upon them tended to be considered mentally inferior and before the horror is revealed it is often blamed on their racial background.

Man on Fire
2012-06-13, 10:27 PM
The seafood part was a joke. I am aware most of his works had little to nothing to do with the sea.

Well thank you for pissing me off with those stupid jokes.


While it is debatable how much of it was intentionally put in the stories he wrote, he himself was said to be incredibly sexist and racist even for his time.

The most evident towards this was the twist of the story "Medusa's Coil" where he plays the fact that a character is of colour to be as mind breaking a revelation as anything from his cosmic horror stories.

Yeah, he was racist. So what? His stories are based on much more than just racism, a lot of them doesn't feature any sort of racial subtext. The guy wasn't perfect, I'm fisrt to say he was a jerk, but to disregard his works just because in some of them his flaws are reflected? That's just petty.


Beyond that most every character who is already connected to the inhuman monsters before the main characters stumbled upon them tended to be considered mentally inferior and before the horror is revealed it is often blamed on their racial background.

Except that a lot of people connected to the horrors before protagonist stumbled upon them were said to be well-regarded and geniuses and most of them were white. Hell, I cannot name a single black antagonist in his works, if villain had a name, he was white (except for Black Pharaoh, but his skin wasn't that kind of black, it was like an ametyst).

Science Officer
2012-06-13, 10:29 PM
The most evident towards this was the twist of the story "Medusa's Coil" where he plays the fact that a character is of colour to be as mind breaking a revelation as anything from his cosmic horror stories.


Oh yeah, Medusa's Coil is a funny one. Other the course of the story we learn that:
1. Atlantean's settled Africa after that island fell.
2. That character was actually descended from Antlanteans (or was she actually just thousands of years old? I forget)
And then, presented as though it were a mind-blowing revelation when it is not, in fact, a revelation at all,
3. That character is thus descended from Africans.

It seems I have misunderstood the position of both conversants here, so I'll withdraw my piece.

Man on Fire
2012-06-13, 10:33 PM
It seems I have misunderstood the position of both conversants here, so I'll withdraw my piece.

No, your piece was on topic, it's us two who went off the rails.

TheLaughingMan
2012-06-13, 10:34 PM
As controversial as it would be, you could deconstruct (reconstruct?) Lovecraft by way of August Derleth:

1. There is a system to all of this, even if we can't quite grasp it all.

2. Humanity can do something to save themselves, if admittedly not much.

3. Not everyone goes bonkers.

darkblade
2012-06-13, 10:37 PM
Well thank you for pissing me off with those stupid jokes.

I'm sorry the joke upset you. It was just meant to be a little light humour.




Yeah, he was racist. So what? His stories are based on much more than just racism, a lot of them doesn't feature any sort of racial subtext. The guy wasn't perfect, I'm first to say he was a jerk, but to disregard his works just because in some of them his flaws are reflected? That's just petty.

What gave you the impression I was disregarding his works because of his racism? I was just saying that it was a very large part of where his stories seem to have come from (regardless of what an author may say no story comes from a single idea or concept, it is usually many ideas combined into a larger whole) and to say they weren't racist is doing them a disservice.

I quite like some of Lovecraft's works and would suggest most anyone with any interest in horror or fantasy to read them despite his personal issues.

Tvtyrant
2012-06-13, 10:43 PM
Really, the only benefit to their existence is showing one of his themes exactly-that humanity's ego far exceeds its actual importance, thinking that the universe daring to not notice us is it being passive-aggressive.[/rant]
Did you really mean to say that individuals who express this interpretation are worthless? Because it sure looks that way.

WalkingTarget
2012-06-13, 10:46 PM
Oh yeah, Medusa's Coil is a funny one. Other the course of the story we learn that:
1. Atlantean's settled Africa after that island fell.
2. That character was actually descended from Antlanteans (or was she actually just thousands of years old? I forget)
And then, presented as though it were a mind-blowing revelation when it is not, in fact, a revelation at all,
3. That character is thus descended from Africans.

It seems I have misunderstood the position of both conversants here, so I'll withdraw my piece.

It's also one of the stories that he "wrote" as part of the revision business that he ran to pay the bills. I don't know the background of that story in particular, but it wasn't all necessarily his own ideas/work - some/all of these plot points may be what Ms. Bishop specified.

(not saying that the man didn't hold some racist beliefs, but I think that his "revision" work is less demonstrative than his own work since they're not all his own input)

Man on Fire
2012-06-13, 10:52 PM
I'm sorry the joke upset you. It was just meant to be a little light humour.

Sorry, I saw so many idiots claiming things like that a waste of paper like Gyo is Lovecraftian horror because monsters come from the sea that I get pissed at mere suggestion of degrading Lovecraft to "sea monsters".


What gave you the impression I was disregarding his works because of his racism?

Everythign else you said.


I was just saying that it was a very large part of where his stories seem to have come from (regardless of what an author may say no story comes from a single idea or concept, it is usually many ideas combined into a larger whole) and to say they weren't racist is doing them a disservice.

I'm not saying they weren't, I'm just saying that not all of them were.

Leliel
2012-06-13, 10:57 PM
Did you really mean to say that individuals who express this interpretation are worthless? Because it sure looks that way.

No, I'm saying they're boring and not scary.

I really hate how people seem to treat the genre itself as if it is the summation of all fears, when in fact it depends on the writing as much as anything.

Just going "LOOK CTHULHU" does not make him scary. Unfortunately, the people I was ranting about do not seem to understand this. Precisely the reason why the writer of the Old Ones' state in d20 was unhappy about it, because it creates the idea that Cthulhu is just another monster, albeit one that can't be killed.

Also, I hate the egotism that goes into the "passive-aggressive" universe phenomenon I was talking about. Some people just don't seem to understand "uncaring" and "malevolent" are not the same thing. At all.

Oh yes, and the grimdark. I like grimdark as much as the next Warhammer 40K fan, but I've met a person who was personally offended by a take on Lovecraft that wasn't inherently Call of Cthulhu grimdark.

When I pointed out that the "everyone is doomed in the Mythos" interpretation only showed up after Derleth in CoC, I got flamed about how much badwrongfun I was having.

WalkingTarget
2012-06-13, 11:06 PM
When I pointed out that the "everyone is doomed in the Mythos" interpretation only showed up after Derleth in CoC, I got flamed about how much badwrongfun I was having.

Oh, gods, this.

I don't know how many times I've seen people talking about how the world is supposed to end when Azathoth wakes up - when Lovecraft, as far as I can find, never mentions that he's asleep (or any number of other strange "facts" about Lovecraftian creations that everybody seems to "know").

I am glad that Derleth kept HPL in popular consciousness, but I just wish he hadn't written all of those "posthumous collaborations" and slapped HPL's name on them in big letters - they just confuse everything.

Bhu
2012-06-13, 11:15 PM
cosmic horror essentially boils down to the following:

The truth doesn't set you free.

Lord Raziere
2012-06-13, 11:59 PM
The "What is the appeal of the Great Old Ones" on RPGnet thread got me thinking-if what is really terrifying about modern Lovecraftian horror is encountering or being corrupted into something that is essentially the antithesis of human, what happens when you remove that aspect and look at it through the lens of the time and place it formed in: the xenophobic climate of the Victorian era, where everything different was a Bad Thing (tm), and which is now viewed as the shallow and bigoted lens it is.

In other words, encountering or transforming into something other than human, but not an antithesis, just foreign-the truths you found have fundamentally altered your viewpoint and you no longer have a mind understandable by people around you, but you don't hate them or view them as expendable. You just happen to be a representative of the Creepy Guy Down The Block phenomenon, the foreigner rather than the invader.

Posthuman, not inhuman. And probably very lonely. One could easily see this as another form of horror, that of increasing isolation from the world around you in order to combat a threat, and returning unable to truly relate to people except in the abstract, and the fact that some of them are convinced that because you're not like them, you're evil. It's almost enough to make one summon an Outer God himself just so he can have someone to talk to.

So, what's your ideas for examining the motives and the viewpoint that creates Cosmic Horror in the first place?

Simple.

Take an Eldritch Abomination, and put them in a human body/viewpoint/scale.

Now watch them totally freak out. Why do I suddenly have emotions!? What is this thing you call Food!?!? What do these Feet things do!?!?! I can't understand anything you aliens call a normal life! Now I'm experiencing this totally foreign thing called doubt and uncertainty!!

Remember: we are as alien to them, as they are alien to us. The Cosmic Horrors, therefore are afraid of our lives. Imagine that all of humanity are one of those deadly african bees that can kill you. Now imagine that somehow you shrink and become one of those bees. Wouldn't you be scared the heck out of being a bug living among ugly bugs, living in a way that makes absolutely no sense to you? with appendages that you never used, with a sight that you never saw through? and that now other humans look like big threatening titans to your bee-brain even though you remember being one of those titans?

or you can deconstruct Cosmic Horror in another way, by making it actually that the Cosmic HorrorsÖ.aren't really horrors at all. They are actually trying to communicate with us so that they can make everything better, but they don't get our form of communication, so they keep trying different ways but they keep making people go insane by accident because the information is in the wrong format, and that people start developing counter-measures through science to battle against them, thinking its an alien invasion, and when the war against the cosmic people ends, they finally figure out a way to communicate and figure out that it was all just a big misunderstanding of cosmic proportions.

GolemsVoice
2012-06-14, 05:12 AM
Well, yeah, Lovecraft's stories were scary TO HIM, but most of them aren't, either because we have a different mindset, or live in a different time. But I'd argue that Lovecraft can be scary, too. Being chased by freaky fishmen through a forlorn town? Scary! Watching your family being eaten alive by some unknown alien force while everything you own slowly goes crazy around you? Scary as HELL!

But yes, Lovecraft's stories were very personal stories, filled with his thoughts, fears and beliefs, among which racism and the general fear of the other was a strong element.

And yes, I agree that Lovecraft's creatures are not inherently scarier than anything else. Although you have to take into account that his works are set in the real world, so finding out there's an entire race of semi-humans living beneath the earth eating the dead, or that there's a race of undying, sorcerous fishmen that come to breed/rape humans, that's going to give you something to think about, and would make many people recoil in (initial) horror.


Posthuman, not inhuman. And probably very lonely. One could easily see this as another form of horror, that of increasing isolation from the world around you in order to combat a threat, and returning unable to truly relate to people except in the abstract, and the fact that some of them are convinced that because you're not like them, you're evil.

Lovecraft did that himself, actually. In "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", in the end, the protagonist turns into one of the Deep Ones, and although he's horriied before the transformation, afterwards he's happy to join his family in the depths below.

Man on Fire
2012-06-14, 05:59 AM
Well, yeah, Lovecraft's stories were scary TO HIM, but most of them aren't, either because we have a different mindset, or live in a different time.

The fact that his stories inspire writers to this day and just about how many of his stories are listed here (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/NightmareFuel/HPLovecraft) proves that yes, he is scary. Different mindset, different live and different time doesn't change the universal nature of his horrors and I would argue they even become scarier with time - humanity's complete lack of importance becomes more apparent the more we know about the Universe and people still fear the unknown as they always did. Despite technological and cultural progress, we still are naked monkeys with evolutionary programmed set of things that terrifies us, things that were programmed into us millions of years before Lovecraft and belive me, if all that progress we had until his time, the birth of civilsation and all, didn't changed us, that blink of time from evolutional perspective that happened since then won't either. Lovecraft's stories are good to teach us humility, make us realize bloody Universe doesn't revolve around us.

Lord Raziere
2012-06-14, 06:24 AM
Aye, pride cometh before the fall.

and if you want examples of what happens when humanity doesn't have something to keep them humble, just take a look around. Odds are there is some form of media where humanity is too prideful or something and causes something to go ploin-shaped in some way, from the oldest myths to one of the newest, most recent things in fantasy. A good sense of perspective is always needed to live life, and I guess Lovecrafts works provide that in a sense.

But then you always have those people who look up into the sky, into the millions and millions of stars and think to themselves: Wow, so many stars! and I'm more significant than every single one of them cause I'm a unique individual who can think. Stars cannot think, so I'm better than stars.

Mordar
2012-06-14, 05:53 PM
So, what's your ideas for examining the motives and the viewpoint that creates Cosmic Horror in the first place?

I'm a fan of Lovecraft insofar as I affiliate him with the C'thulhu mythos and the stories, books and games that I very much loved as a youth in the 80s. To temporarily derail (based on some previous comments), we always played the RPG with the glimmer of hope, or at least sufficient hope for the investigators that it wasn't GRIMDARK, not everyone was destined for the looney bin...much more that it was an investigation into the deepest, darkest unknown at its most superficial level (not an oxymoron, I promise!) where it bumps up against the "normal" world.

The Cosmic Horror - or at least the big mind-breaking scary - of the stories and games was always predicated on two things: (1) Yup, we're pretty tiny and insignificant, and (2) Many things we believe uniformly to be true are not. Now that I write this, I believe #1 is simply a subset of #2.

Imagine how you would feel if you awoke and went outside and discovered a beautiful sunny, cloudless day...and the sky was green. Not pre-dawn greenish-blue, but uniformly green. You *knew* it was going to be blue, because it's always blue. Suddenly it is not. Minimally, one would worry. If everyone else around you acted as if nothing were amiss, though, you might well panic (at best) or enter the mental state indicated by a 2d10 roll on the temporary insanities chart because your absolute truth and certainty were just shattered. Alternatively, you might rationally assess the situation and look for the truth behind what shifted your perception of the sky's color from blue to purple. Of course, if you have enough of these changes, even the most rational person would be reduced...

That's how I view the terror/insanity presented in many of the Mythos stories. What you knew to be certain fact, or at least incredibly fixed belief, suddenly and unambiguously is shown to not be true. On a much smaller scale we see that with people in everyday situations - loyalty betrayed causes a psychotic break, your team loses the game you were sure they would win by a landslide and you're consumed with rage, and so forth. Now make it a belief related to your very underpinnings and its bound to screw with your head.

Maybe one of my favorite examples is from the Simpsons - Homer creates a time machine from a toaster and visits potential future after future until he finds a family situation better than he could hope for...only there are no doughnuts. Unable to cope with this, Homer flees in abject horror, desperate to find a place that matches his worldview. Fortunately for him, it is a malleable situation. That is cosmic horror to me, wrapped up in a nifty 5 minute cartoon segment.

- M

An Enemy Spy
2012-06-15, 07:54 PM
Simple.

Take an Eldritch Abomination, and put them in a human body/viewpoint/scale.

Now watch them totally freak out. Why do I suddenly have emotions!? What is this thing you call Food!?!? What do these Feet things do!?!?! I can't understand anything you aliens call a normal life! Now I'm experiencing this totally foreign thing called doubt and uncertainty!!

So Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time then?

Lord Raziere
2012-06-15, 09:16 PM
So Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time then?

What. Oh right.

Maybe. Except not comedy.

And make it so that the cosmic horror while experiencing things from such a perspective, still does not truly understand humanity or their situation. They are still an outsider. They still feel like an outsider. That no matter how hard they try, they don't still don't quite "get" being humanity, and that they never quite adjust to their situation, that even the most basic of things around them are strange things that they don't know how to control.
and that furthermore, sometimes they forget. Sometimes they start walking up walls or forget to display any emotion for a day before these things that constantly follow them (they call themselves "friends" but such beings don't understand what a friend is) remind them to do so, and sometimes they comply, sometimes they don't and go on to turn off their morality as well and kill people because they said something in a wrong way, all the while hating the forms of communication they have, thinking them crude and full of lies. Before their "friends" come around again and remind them to turn their morality back on.
All the while they are completely alone, only seeing friends as aliens she sees more often than others. Completely, truly alone in a universe they can never truly get used to. Alone in that the cosmic horror knows everyone ELSE has a soul, but they themselves don't. They know they don't fit within this universe or its rules. That while their presence isn't wrong, it is too different and alien to truly be accepted, even within a human guise. That they still yearn for the incomprehensible place that they came from and still work to go back to, for it was a place that they understood.

Dragonus45
2012-06-16, 10:14 AM
As controversial as it would be, you could deconstruct (reconstruct?) Lovecraft by way of August Derleth:

1. There is a system to all of this, even if we can't quite grasp it all.

2. Humanity can do something to save themselves, if admittedly not much.

3. Not everyone goes bonkers.


Have you ever heard of cthulutech. It boils down to a rather simple overall plot. Mankind has a scientist who reads an ancient book and goes bunkers, but not before making blueprints for "something". A close colluege finishes the work, building a black hole engine that produces infinite energy. Mankind expands to the stars, then the migou say bigger that and start a war with us after stealing the technology and failing to kill us off with with a black skinned clone race (they joined us). Along the way mankind awakens narlyhotep (my phone won't spell that at all) and he starts to turn everyone into cultists. Then the deep ones start to take back Europe. It's really I giant cluster#$%* that humanity is losing despite all our advancement. It's a beautifully bleak giant robot on eldritch abomination action horror game. There are also options for playing as ground troops, investigators in a city, and all other sorts of things. It still keeps the mythos roots with a really well done sanity system. I personally think the strongest reconstruction is the presence of trained therapists. Who so somerhing. Jokes aside its a look at a world where humanity steps onto the galactic stage in a small capacity and finds itself in a fight beyond all that it has learned. But humanity doesn't let that stop it from doing what humanity does best in a cosmic horror reconstruction, it perserveres. Also its interesting to note the motivations of the horrors. They fear us, we built something the Migou couldn't, we started to colonize there solar system. We stopped being test subjects, jumped out of the pitri dish startled them. In Lovecraftian horror that just doesn't happen. The creatures involved are "beyond" that sort of thing.

Posted from my tiny phone so if it makes no sense I'm sorry.

irenicObserver
2012-06-19, 10:25 PM
I'm reminded of Stephen King's short story, where an astronaut was infected by an alien spore and it grew into eyes all over his body. This thing could not comprehend our reality, it saw a corkscrew as geometrically impossible. It found everything so hideous and disgusting it made his body kill and destroy as much as possible.

Then there's SCP-682, the Hard-To-Kill Lizard. A horror so disgusted with everything that it's only desire is to kill anything and everything.Cosmis Horror Stories never did it for me. The universe doesn't revolve around people? It'd be ethnocentric to believe otherwise. What you thought you knew turns out to be wrong? It's jarring but preemptively realizing that things can go either way really helps, especially if you don't know why something is a certain way and not the other.
Outside of these tropes for cosmic horror, I understand Lovecraft has an in depth description of creating horror in one of his books which I shall proceed to read.

Man on Fire
2012-06-19, 10:37 PM
The universe doesn't revolve around people? It'd be ethnocentric to believe otherwise.

Newsflash: Humans are ethocentric and thinks they are special, see basically most of science fiction - Star Trek and Babylon 5, human faboyism in Warhammer 40k (especially when YOUR SPIRITUAL LIEGE (http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Matt_Ward) (warning, it's a link to 4chan-related wiki) is concerned), Marvel and DC Comics and loads of books. We belive that we are here to accomplish something, that the world is our playground, that we may take, that we will bring utopia. As I said before, Lovecraft is good to kick our ego where it hurts.

And as for somebody who doesn't like Cosmic Horror, you sure has an avatar from cosmic horror story.

irenicObserver
2012-06-20, 08:37 AM
Hmm, I don't recall ever explicitly saying I do not like them? The pathos Lovecraft used is just lost on me.

Why do I get the sense you are being hostile? Are you flamed on right now? Is that it? I'm asking because you are Man on Fire :p

Avilan the Grey
2012-06-20, 08:46 AM
Lovecraft is good to kick our ego where it hurts.

Not really. As I have said before, humanity has already done a lot of the things he insisted would drive us insane. And also, as I have said, the concept of being insignificant is grasped very well by many many humans. Virtually everyone that works with geology or especially astronomy has long since come to terms with it, for one thing.

Raimun
2012-06-20, 11:44 AM
I'd say Cthulhu would have to die a meaningless death. Perhaps akin to falling over and hitting his head or smoking in bed.

People would witness this and see how meaningless even the lives of the great old ones are. The universe doesn't care even about Cthulhu... one way or another.

Malacode
2012-06-20, 12:48 PM
And also, as I have said, the concept of being insignificant is grasped very well by many many humans. Virtually everyone that works with geology or especially astronomy has long since come to terms with it, for one thing.

Intellectually, yes, as a species we are coming to terms with our relative size and significance. Grasping that on an intuitive, emotional level takes a long time. The characters in these stories have that intuitive understanding thrust upon them, with no time to come to terms with it. However well you know the effect you will have on the universe as a whole (Read: None at all), there's still the comforting bubble of things you do influence and have control over. Suddenly having that comforting bubble popped is indeed going to be damaging.

Man on Fire
2012-06-20, 01:24 PM
Not really. As I have said before, humanity has already done a lot of the things he insisted would drive us insane. And also, as I have said, the concept of being insignificant is grasped very well by many many humans. Virtually everyone that works with geology or especially astronomy has long since come to terms with it, for one thing.

Malacode already said the most important part. I'll just add to it that this concept is grasped by only relatively small group of people who got specific education and even they might accept it intelectually, but not emotionally.

As whole humanity still belives that we are center of the Universe, that we're special and everything is there for us. See human behavior all the time, how we just take from the world like it belongs to us. See our fiction where we potray ourselves as super awesome, best there are and aliens as just some sort of humanoids. Lovecraft gives us something better - aliens who actually are alien and potrayal of our race that is much closer to truth.

And the fact that people still make works inspired by him and that people are scared of both his stories and his ideas. If what you're saying is true and Lovecraft was only product of his times, stories inspired by his works shouldn't be popular as current people would find those motives nothing but silly. meanwhile many horror mangas from Japan that use them are popular but nationial and worldwhide - Devilman, Berserk, Uzumaki, Hellstar Remina, Bokurano, Narutaru, to name some. Slender Man and his buddies have entire online cult following. John Carpenter made entire trilogy based on Lovecraftian motives. Not to mention loads of following writers, including the likes of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, who use concepts Lovecraft gave us, popularity of Cthulhu games....If humanity would really outgrew Lovecraft, those things wouldn't be popular, meanwhile they scare people using the same devices as his stories.


Hmm, I don't recall ever explicitly saying I do not like them?

Your previous post, first sentence:

Cosmis Horror Stories never did it for me.

I'm quite confused how I was supposed to take it if not that you don't like Cosmic Horror Stories.


Why do I get the sense you are being hostile?

Sorry, didn't wanted to sound like I am.

irenicObserver
2012-06-20, 06:14 PM
Newsflash: Humans are ethocentric and thinks they are special, see basically most of science fiction - Star Trek and Babylon 5, human faboyism in Warhammer 40k (especially when YOUR SPIRITUAL LIEGE (http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Matt_Ward) (warning, it's a link to 4chan-related wiki) is concerned), Marvel and DC Comics and loads of books. We belive that we are here to accomplish something, that the world is our playground, that we may take, that we will bring utopia. As I said before, Lovecraft is good to kick our ego where it hurts.

And as for somebody who doesn't like Cosmic Horror, you sure has an avatar from cosmic horror story.
Just to be clear, not being taken in by an authors pathos is different from not liking something. Unless I word for word say I don't I'm relatively neutral. I enjoy Homestuck for different reasons than I would enjoy C'thulhu. It's why I made that statement, I know what I said, you didn't know what I meant. That was rather passive-aggressive of you :annoyed:

I feel like you are being hostile possibly-maybe because I feel like you are rudely defending your tastes because I do not appear to share them?

I would like to remind people that this thread is not exclusively about Lovecraft, however iconic his works may be. One can egress from his works if need be.

Man on Fire
2012-06-20, 07:26 PM
Just to be clear, not being taken in by an authors pathos is different from not liking something. Unless I word for word say I don't I'm relatively neutral. I enjoy Homestuck for different reasons than I would enjoy C'thulhu. It's why I made that statement, I know what I said, you didn't know what I meant. That was rather passive-aggressive of you :annoyed:

I feel like you are being hostile possibly-maybe because I feel like you are rudely defending your tastes because I do not appear to share them?

I just disagree with your argument for why you don't find it scare and the way you wrote it, that implies you find being ethnocentric to be something unusual, while most of humanity doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of not being the center of the world both on international and cosmic (as seen in fiction) scale. Aside from that, I have nothing against you - I'm not attaking you or your opinion, just your arguments.


I would like to remind people that this thread is not exclusively about Lovecraft, however iconic his works may be. One can egress from his works if need be.

And where that's coming from? We mention other cosmic horrors all the time. I even bought up Homestruck, despite I don't know anything about it.

Lord Raziere
2012-06-20, 08:19 PM
I would like to remind people that this thread is not exclusively about Lovecraft, however iconic his works may be. One can egress from his works if need be.

Yea wellÖforgive me for bringing it up, butÖ.Exalted might be a good deconstruction of cosmic horror. All the inhuman titans of the cosmos are either imprisoned, dead, off doing their own thing or sleeping, people like the gods and humans won because said cosmic horrors cannot think flexibly like humans, while all the alien cosmic horrors from chaos can't really win because they are too irrational and can't stand the stability of humanity's world. This is most obvious in Infernals, where the people recruited by said cosmic alien horrors were recruited precisely because they do not think like cosmic alien horrors and are actually free to do as they please.

However humanity at large still fears these things, cause the only reason these horrors were beaten was because humanity got some godly super-soldiers made to fight them.

irenicObserver
2012-06-20, 09:14 PM
I just disagree with your argument for why you don't find it scare and the way you wrote it, that implies you find being ethnocentric to be something unusual, while most of humanity doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of not being the center of the world both on international and cosmic (as seen in fiction) scale. Aside from that, I have nothing against you - I'm not attaking you or your opinion, just your arguments.

Okay, first this is rather a rather convoluted read :smallyuk: It's a run-on sentence that suggests you had little time to write it. I'll give you leeway on that.

You see the thing is I never actually made an argument. The funny thing is you did do exactly what you just said you didn't. That is to say you attempted to argue down my opinion, it can't be anything but an attack. My subjective belief; doesn't that seem a little rude and arrogant to you? The difference between an argument and an opinion is the former is an attempt to convince someone of something whereas the latter is a subjective belief: Which one did I do in the post that started this mess? What you basically did was, "well how you feel is wrong and here's why" :mad:

I simply opined how I felt about the Cosmic Horror Genre, something this thread is about. It's pointlessrude and arrogant to come in here attempting to argue someone else's opinions down. I don't appreciate your fan myopia.

Dragonus45
2012-06-20, 10:24 PM
Honestly I just want to point something out, Devilman, Berserk, Uzumaki, Hellstar Remina, Bokurano, Narutaru

None of those I struck are cosmic horror in the Lovecraftian sense. Berserk, Hellstar Remina, and to a degree Bokurano stand is straight defiance of the idea. Berserk especially since its whole plot is about one determined man upturning the idea of causality through the power of sheer willpower rage. Narutaru is strange and depressing in a really weird and brutal way but its not lovecraftian cosmic horror.

That said the problem with Lovecraft and his horror is that its binary, either you get it or you don't. Some people inherently believe that mankind will eventually overcome any obstacle. Personally i like the Conan stories that are considered canon, by Lovecraft himself, within the mythos. Some people think mankind has the power to change our own destinies. Even if only in a personal sense. Some people believe that mankind is truly insignificant, and stands no chance in a contest against the cosmic powers if the galaxy. It really can be a one or the other thing, and the farther we move ahead and learn the more we learn the more reinforced both sides get. That said certain writers can make anything scary, and when Lovecraft was "on" he could be scary. I feel the same way about several Stephen King stories even though I'm not all that intimidated by the pathos of Lovecraft. Even when they scare me they do it more for as a result of the skill of the writer than from the inherent horror of the concept.

Man on Fire
2012-06-24, 04:30 PM
Honestly I just want to point something out, Devilman, Berserk, Uzumaki, Hellstar Remina, Bokurano, Narutaru

None of those I struck are cosmic horror in the Lovecraftian sense. Berserk, Hellstar Remina, and to a degree Bokurano stand is straight defiance of the idea. Berserk especially since its whole plot is about one determined man upturning the idea of causality through the power of sheer willpower rage. Narutaru is strange and depressing in a really weird and brutal way but its not lovecraftian cosmic horror.

Sorry, but I cannot imagine how somebody might look on Hellstar Remina and say it's in straight defiance of Lovecraftian ideas. It's about Planet From Hell killing humanity, who cannot stop it in any way. Its Lovecraftian both in style and in themes, even if it's ridiculous in places.

Devilman has similiar themes, especially at the end, when humanity just doesn't matter in the conflict anymore and especially when you take revelations from AMON into consideration.

Bokurano really does well to embody the feelings Lovecraft clearly had, abotu humanity's lack of impotance on grand cosmic scale. Nothing that happens does defy that. Of course I'm talking about the manga, anime has sadly attempted to give the show villains, which just didn't worked.

Berserk - on one level you are right. On the other....guts haven't accomplished anything yet. Over 300 chapters and all he did was to kill some Apostles, which even God Hand admits doesn't matter in long run. As far as we are Guts determination haven't yet really contributted to their defeat and while I'm sure it will in the future, it is possible he might never trurly defeat them.

the_druid_droid
2012-06-27, 01:51 AM
Ok, itís late and Iím tired, but Iíll try to articulate this as best I can.

First, the disclaimers - Iím a Lovecraft fanboy; I canít really contest that. When I discovered his work, I found stories like Iíd never read before and got totally sucked in. Iím also a scientist; like, itís actually my job and I really enjoy it and I get paid to do it. I say this now because a little later Iíll be saying things that might sound like criticisms of both these things. They arenít, not really, but I figure I should get this out first to answer anyone who only reads the first half of my post and then wants to argue with my worldview.

So hereís the confession - Iíve read pretty much everything HPL wrote (posthumous Ďcollaborationsí with Derleth notwithstanding) and I have almost never been scared by any of them. At least, not if by scared you mean the feeling we usually associate with horror movies, haunted houses and the like. At the same time, I find his stories extremely interesting, and I believe the term Ďhorrorí certainly still applies to them, for reasons Iíll get to in a bit.

See, there are two things to keep in mind about Lovecraft when you discuss his cosmic horror; the first is that he kept up with the scientific and progressive (note that by progressive here I mean the philosophy of European thinkers like Freud and Nietzsche, and not movements like racial equality or womenís rights) trends of his day. The second, and often-neglected point is that he was a dreamer. I shouldnít have to argue this second point, he says as much in his own correspondence and if you look for it even a little bit, it drips from his prose, too.

I think itís pretty clear that HPLís first trait (the scientific stuff) is something that tends to lead toward a view of an impersonal universe governed by a prosaic series of natural, immutable laws. Quite frankly, itís a cosmology doesnít have much mystique. Beauty of a certain kind, yes, but itís not quite the same as the allure of the unknown. The essential problem is that this sort of universe doesnít really have much place for dreamers, who are drawn to mystique like moths to a flame.

This is where my point comes in - HPLís Ďcosmic horrorí is actually a type of grotesquerie. Itís an alternate universe where even though things are big and impersonal and the laws of science are largely respected, there are still whole classes of things and entities that we are totally unfamiliar with. To put it another way, if you try to inject gods and fairies and the like into a mostly-science-respecting cosmology, you get out dholes and ghouls, Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep. I believe fairly strongly that Lovecraft tried to make a world where the imagination could run free and still not envisage half the worst things out there, while keeping one hand firmly on the horrors of isolation and insignificance that scientific breakthroughs were beginning to suggest to the public at large.

This duality of approach is reflected in his characters as well. The ones that adjust well to their newly-discovered world are those most receptive to the idea of a cosmos where the bottomís fallen out and things out there are simultaneously empty and teeming. See, for example, protagonists in Beyond the Wall of Sleep and Dreams in the Witch House for partial examples. On the other hand, those who canít accept the alien nature of this new universe, unknown and uncaring beyond even scienceís comforting nihilism, are the ones most likely to come unhinged or go outright mad. In short, they canít handle the imaginative freedom that the existence of certain Elder things opens up.

To summarize - thereís a duality present in Ďcosmic horrorí that doesnít seem to get brought out much in discussions like these, the fact that while it does try to reduce manís scale in the cosmos and frighten him with the ideas of insignificance and otherness, thereís also a big component of imaginative freedom that comes from merely having things like the Old Ones somewhere out there. Even if science can tell us the laws that make the universe work in HPLís world, it canít tell us what lurks beneath the surface, just waiting to gobble up (or make a deal with) the dreamer willing to expand his horizons and put his life and sanity at risk. Itís actually that duality and my own fascination with it that kept me coming back to HPL, despite flaws in his prose and despite his derogatory attitudes toward minorities and women. Thereís a kernel in there of a really fascinating alternate universe, and I think thatís ultimately some part of what draws in everyone who Ďgetsí Lovecraft and really enjoys his work.

Winter_Wolf
2012-06-27, 04:24 AM
I skimmed, so I know it's been hit on at least once: cosmic horror is about forcing humanity to realize that we are less than tiny little pustules in the universe, less than grains of sand or dust.

In the Grand Scheme, humanity as a whole is nothing, worthless, and the universe isn't out to get us anymore than we are out to get the piece of dirt that we carelessly trod upon. There is no benevolent Superbeing looking out for humanity's interests, we will not be saved from whatever (to our perception) horrible fate awaits us, and no one and no thing will mourn the passing of our race, our planet, or our galaxy.

TL;DR version: Cosmic horror is the irrevocable realization that You Are Nothing and You Don't Matter At All. Apparently that scares a lot of people to even consider as a hypothetical.

Man on Fire
2012-06-27, 08:04 AM
Ok, itís late and Iím tired, but Iíll try to articulate this as best I can.

First, the disclaimers - Iím a Lovecraft fanboy; I canít really contest that. When I discovered his work, I found stories like Iíd never read before and got totally sucked in. Iím also a scientist; like, itís actually my job and I really enjoy it and I get paid to do it. I say this now because a little later Iíll be saying things that might sound like criticisms of both these things. They arenít, not really, but I figure I should get this out first to answer anyone who only reads the first half of my post and then wants to argue with my worldview.

So hereís the confession - Iíve read pretty much everything HPL wrote (posthumous Ďcollaborationsí with Derleth notwithstanding) and I have almost never been scared by any of them. At least, not if by scared you mean the feeling we usually associate with horror movies, haunted houses and the like. At the same time, I find his stories extremely interesting, and I believe the term Ďhorrorí certainly still applies to them, for reasons Iíll get to in a bit.

See, there are two things to keep in mind about Lovecraft when you discuss his cosmic horror; the first is that he kept up with the scientific and progressive (note that by progressive here I mean the philosophy of European thinkers like Freud and Nietzsche, and not movements like racial equality or womenís rights) trends of his day. The second, and often-neglected point is that he was a dreamer. I shouldnít have to argue this second point, he says as much in his own correspondence and if you look for it even a little bit, it drips from his prose, too.

I think itís pretty clear that HPLís first trait (the scientific stuff) is something that tends to lead toward a view of an impersonal universe governed by a prosaic series of natural, immutable laws. Quite frankly, itís a cosmology doesnít have much mystique. Beauty of a certain kind, yes, but itís not quite the same as the allure of the unknown. The essential problem is that this sort of universe doesnít really have much place for dreamers, who are drawn to mystique like moths to a flame.

This is where my point comes in - HPLís Ďcosmic horrorí is actually a type of grotesquerie. Itís an alternate universe where even though things are big and impersonal and the laws of science are largely respected, there are still whole classes of things and entities that we are totally unfamiliar with. To put it another way, if you try to inject gods and fairies and the like into a mostly-science-respecting cosmology, you get out dholes and ghouls, Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep. I believe fairly strongly that Lovecraft tried to make a world where the imagination could run free and still not envisage half the worst things out there, while keeping one hand firmly on the horrors of isolation and insignificance that scientific breakthroughs were beginning to suggest to the public at large.

This duality of approach is reflected in his characters as well. The ones that adjust well to their newly-discovered world are those most receptive to the idea of a cosmos where the bottomís fallen out and things out there are simultaneously empty and teeming. See, for example, protagonists in Beyond the Wall of Sleep and Dreams in the Witch House for partial examples. On the other hand, those who canít accept the alien nature of this new universe, unknown and uncaring beyond even scienceís comforting nihilism, are the ones most likely to come unhinged or go outright mad. In short, they canít handle the imaginative freedom that the existence of certain Elder things opens up.

To summarize - thereís a duality present in Ďcosmic horrorí that doesnít seem to get brought out much in discussions like these, the fact that while it does try to reduce manís scale in the cosmos and frighten him with the ideas of insignificance and otherness, thereís also a big component of imaginative freedom that comes from merely having things like the Old Ones somewhere out there. Even if science can tell us the laws that make the universe work in HPLís world, it canít tell us what lurks beneath the surface, just waiting to gobble up (or make a deal with) the dreamer willing to expand his horizons and put his life and sanity at risk. Itís actually that duality and my own fascination with it that kept me coming back to HPL, despite flaws in his prose and despite his derogatory attitudes toward minorities and women. Thereís a kernel in there of a really fascinating alternate universe, and I think thatís ultimately some part of what draws in everyone who Ďgetsí Lovecraft and really enjoys his work.

Bravo for this essay. Reading Lovecraft's more "dreamy" stories I can really see your point - it's quit present in Dream Quest For Unknown Kadath for one example.

the_druid_droid
2012-06-27, 08:11 PM
Actually, now that I think about it, there was one thing associated with Lovecraft that nearly broke my brain.

This Anime (http://www.crunchyroll.com/nyarko-san-another-crawling-chaos)

(Warning: Extremely, eye-rollingly goofy)