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parallaxicality
2010-Feb-08, 10:36 PM
I'm trying to write a ghost story, so I've been seriously boning up on my HP Lovecraft. One of his opening statements, from The Call of Cathulu struck me as summing up Lovecraft's world philosophy about as succinctly as possible, but it also struck me that you guys might have something to say about it. Tell me what you think.


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live in a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little, but someday the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our own frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new Dark Age.



I can't say I haven't thought similar things while alone on a dark night. It's interesting to note that Lovecraft was very keen on astronomy.

Ken G
2010-Feb-08, 11:06 PM
I think he has a point there, but he may be overlooking the way a healthy mind automatically protects itself. I don't think a healthy mind can go insane from knowledge, no matter how far from the "island" it wanders-- because it simply will not comprehend what could drive it insane. That's almost the definition of mental health-- the ability to make sense of what it can, and ignore or rationalize all the rest.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-09, 12:36 AM
... The Call of Cathulu ...That's Cthulhu.
Oh boy you're in trouble now.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-09, 01:11 AM
Yes, that's practically a religion on a science forum!

On the subject of insanity, I rather liked Joseph Heller's take in Catch-22: to maintain the appearance of sanity given what is happening around us requires insanity. I'd add that the sane ones can't pull it off, and make the rest of us so uncomfortable we have to put them away somewhere.

transreality
2010-Feb-09, 04:13 AM
It seems to match with Sagans' candle in the demon-haunted darkness...

EDG
2010-Feb-09, 05:51 AM
I think he has a point there, but he may be overlooking the way a healthy mind automatically protects itself. I don't think a healthy mind can go insane from knowledge, no matter how far from the "island" it wanders-- because it simply will not comprehend what could drive it insane. That's almost the definition of mental health-- the ability to make sense of what it can, and ignore or rationalize all the rest.

It's not so much that though. It's comprehension of what is out there that is driving Lovecraft's characters (and the many, many hapless fools- er, I mean investigators - in every Call of Cthulhu RPG ever played) insane.

What they don't grasp goes harmlessly over their heads. It's what they DO get a grip on that flays the sanity from their feeble minds. It's the realisation that there are these loathesome, squamous, timeless, cyclopean, immortal, (insert obscure adjective here), things out there that we are but ants to, and that our hitherto nice, sheltered, "humans are top-dog or important" worldview is a complete fallacy that breaks the characters' minds.

Maybe you haven't read much of HPL's stuff - if you haven't, I'd suggest giving it a go, then you'll know where he's coming from.

Though to the OP... I don't think Lovecraft works that well as inspiration for ghost stories. You want something like Casting the Runes (http://www.amazon.com/Casting-Stories-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0192837737) by MR James if you want ghost stories from that era. IIRC MR James was actually an influence on Lovecraft too.

EDG
2010-Feb-09, 05:57 AM
That's Cthulhu.
Oh boy you're in trouble now.

Grant Hutchison

Nah, it's Hastur you've got to watch out for....

Oops. Now I've done it!

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-09, 06:19 AM
That's Cthulhu.
Oh boy you're in trouble now.

Grant Hutchison

I can't believe I did that.


loathesome, squamous, timeless, cyclopean, immortal, (insert obscure adjective here),

eldritch, charnal, demoniac, noisome...

Ken G
2010-Feb-09, 02:48 PM
Maybe you haven't read much of HPL's stuff - if you haven't, I'd suggest giving it a go, then you'll know where he's coming from.I haven't read any at all, though I'll grant it captures people's imaginations. Still, I see those elements as metaphors for things we already all live with and know about. We know that life appears where it can, not where it should. We know that we will face struggles, some difficult, some futile. We know that death awaits in a thousand ways, most quite unpleasant. Yet we maintain an optimistic attitude all the same, just because it is the mentally healthy thing to do. What does Lovecraft have going on in his world that we don't have in ours?

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 05:05 PM
I haven't read any at all, though I'll grant it captures people's imaginations. Still, I see those elements as metaphors for things we already all live with and know about. We know that life appears where it can, not where it should. We know that we will face struggles, some difficult, some futile. We know that death awaits in a thousand ways, most quite unpleasant. Yet we maintain an optimistic attitude all the same, just because it is the mentally healthy thing to do. What does Lovecraft have going on in his world that we don't have in ours?

He had issues.

Not all insanities were passively aquired through shock and self awareness. Some races, notebly the Lloigor and the Cthonians, communicate telepathically, emphasis on pathology. (Neither are remotely humanoid or humane) Humans standing between actively communicating Lloigor and to a lesser extent, Cthonians, tend to have things happen to thier minds very much analogous to computers getting X-rayed. Bits get flipped.

Humans exposed for over a year tend to be irreversably damaged. Mentally they start becoming classically "orc-like", violent, quarrelsome, never comfortable. Sadism and cruelty developes in even normal men and women. "Pecular" cults spring up among people who normally wouldn't consider such activity.

Sadly, the cults are often attached to other entities that exist in that millieu, who will show up if properly entreated. This in no way helps the situation. At least relative to you and I. Necromancy? Pshaw! Child's play on the evil scale, compared to algemancy. Coming across the leavings of those ceremonies isn't good for the inner well being either.

And that's just them standing around and chatting. Add to all that the Lloigor tend to dislike humans intensely, but won't go out of their way to kill them. You pretty much have to trespass on them. Appalacia and the remote parts of Scotland have known colonies of Lloigor.

I think there may be a colony of Cthonians in northern California between Lake Berryessa and the ocean. At least close enough to the surface to affect people. The geological history of the area bears out this hypothethis well. Then you have those towns were people tear down all the signs leading to their towns. And if you drive in by mistake everybody on the the street goes indoors and the cafe closes mid-day.

South of me, in Pacifica, you have those "people" who are associates of the Deep Ones. They're not sane mainly because most of them are hybrids. (Human + X does not equal human, if X is a non-zero term.) Often becoming more and more "other" as they mature. Almost all converting entirely by thier mid forties.

Some of them have astounding longevity for material creatures and they grow through out their lives. Life spans on the order of 2 million years are not uncommon for members of that race, and the two oldest members of their respective genders, Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, may have been born in the late Cretaceous. They don't think much of us humans.

Then you have the malevolent stuff. In the outer gulfs of space. Enities only partially made of normal matter. Those things you don't even want to mess with. A characteristic of most creatures of the outer gulfs are exagerated teeth and claws, similar to deep sea creatures. They tend to retain these features even if posessed of great intellect and or no long comsume material nutrients. Intellectivores and creatures than can remotely drain the energy given off by the ATP reaction in living cells are not uncommon. The first being a specialized subset of the former.

Para, if you think you are having issues you may want to consult somebody who knows a thing or two about the subject. Do you need to know how to ward windows and doors? Look up how to make an "Elder sign". Even small ones are effective. The best (most effective) ones are made with either serpentine or soap stone.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-09, 05:18 PM
BigDon is a bigger expert on Lovecraft than me!

I mostly focus on the negative stuff when it comes to Lovecraft. Racism, his ideas on degenerates, "sins of the father" type stuff.

All the rest of that does sound quite interesting, though. I need to read more.

EDG
2010-Feb-09, 05:41 PM
What does Lovecraft have going on in his world that we don't have in ours?

Alien gods, and unpleasant sorcery for one. The unknown is something very much to be feared in his world.

He's very nihilistic - humanity are completely insignificant in HPL's universe. We are not the first intelligent race to live on Earth - others came here from elsewhere and llived here millions of years ago before they too were destroyed by the horrors of the universe. Some - like Cthulhu himself - still remain on Earth, sleeping in hidden cities and twisting the dreams of the humans above.

It's all known as the "Cthulhu Mythos", and there's a lot of it (built on later by Derleth and other writers). You can start here if you want to read about it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos . There's a rather complete timeline here too: http://www.dracandros.com/Jebgarg/Nidoking/cthuchrono.htm


Hastur is my favourite Great Old One - the whole Carcosa/Hali myth is alien horror at its best IMO. The King In Yellow by R.W. Chambers (I think?) is a good read, and I had the good fortune to act in a version of the play itself, which was great fun. Colours Out of Space and the Hounds of Tindalos are probably my favourite beasties.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-09, 05:46 PM
What does Lovecraft have going on in his world that we don't have in ours?

Old Ones.

Deep Ones.

Elder Gods.

Rituals that can mate with Elder Gods and bear their children.

Aliens that will abduct you for their experiments, and kind of love brains.

A dream world that a Byakhee would take you to.

A mad doctor that can reanimate dead tissue with a single injection, that ends up creating a new race, seemingly using tissue from lizards.

The Yellow King, Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Yog Sothoth, Shub Niggurath, but I'm just repeating myself here.

Pretty much everything in every story he's written. Ever.

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 05:58 PM
BigDon is a bigger expert on Lovecraft than me!

I mostly focus on the negative stuff when it comes to Lovecraft. Racism, his ideas on degenerates, "sins of the father" type stuff.

All the rest of that does sound quite interesting, though. I need to read more.

Where was he particularly racist, particularly for 1920? One character in one story, Rats in the Walls had a black cat named Niggarman but that's the extent of any direct racial insensitivety I recall.

Most of his "degenerates" were Deep One/human hybrids or Creatures of the outer gulfs/human hybrids. The "sins of the fathers" theme was old ship captains cross breeding with them and performing human sacrifice in exchange for gold, magic and the power to do great harm to thier rivals. Up to and encluding weather control and major earthquakes. That starts to excede "the pursuit of happiness" umbrella most actual degenerates shelter under in the United States. (:))

This isn't counting that fact that the Deep Ones seek to hasten the awakening of Great Cthulu. That will mean the extinction on the human race by the way.

Then you have the Whateleys of Dunwich, Mass. Father and daughter who were powerful sorcerers and two "grandsons". One of whom took after his father a lot more than his twin brother. Not Deep Ones this time, but creatures of the Outer Gulfs. Those goings on would qualify as degeneracy by most definitions, (if not out and out tenticle hentai).

And the dogs will know you reflects the fact that most hybrids with COTOG's freak out dogs and horses. That thing from The Ring is a classic human/COTOG hydrid. European sorcerors were famous for decevieving others into hydridizing with these things in exchange for the usual stuff.

Now what was your issue with Lovecraft? Sounds like you were reading reviews by non objective readers who went in looking for a fight.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-09, 06:01 PM
That's what I find so interesting, and why I thought it might be fun to discuss with you guys. All you astro buffs here seem to have a deep affection for the unknown; you see it not as something to fear but as something to embrace. Lovecraft was an astronomy buff too, but the exact opposite seems to have happened to him. As one documentary I heard on Youtube put it, the darkness and cold of space seeped into his soul. I find it curious that someone with such a pathological fear of the unknown (and his racism was obviously a part of that) would be attracted to astronomy.

And it's difficult to see stories like "Shadow Over Innsmouth", with its tale of subhuman crossbreeding and misegination, or "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family", about a tribe of sentient, human-breeding African gorillas, as anything other than racist parables.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-09, 06:09 PM
Where was he particularly racist, particularly for 1920?

Herbert West: Reanimator, the depiction of the black boxer, and his views on immigration in Horror at Red Hook. Also a poem, where he basically states that "niggers" were a race of animals.

Also, he was actually exceptional for his time period. While most people in his time period were separatists, he was a white supremist; I'll let this (http://everything2.com/title/On+the+Creation+of+Niggers) explain.

While he did have a Jewish wife (which I'm sure someone will use to argue a case), he often made rants against the Jews straight to her. It's like he never even realized her ancestry.


Now what was your issue with Lovecraft? Sounds like you were reading reviews by non objective readers who went in looking for a fight.

Yes, yes, and it sounds like you're not being objective and trying to ignore things that go against your beloved author... blah blah blah.

Let's avoid discussing personal motivations, shall we?

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 06:11 PM
Para, I resume we posted at the same time?

Jesus, the man was telling stories. You get on me for calling Hienlein a fascist, saying I misunderstood him. Maybeso, but I'm going to envoke the same argument here in Lovecraft's defense.

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 06:13 PM
I've never heard of your entry before Sol. It seems rather unique given the volumne of his writing.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-09, 06:15 PM
I've never heard of your entry before Sol. It seems rather unique given the volumne of his writing.

Some stuff stuck. Some stuff didn't. His personal views were in place and affected his work. Para pointed out the interpretations of his work that seem to disagree with your own, but is shared by more than just us two.

You say he was just telling stories, but it is not unusual for stories to be an outlet for someone's personal beliefs. I happen to know more about the man; you seem to not. So that's "my issue", I guess; I happen to have access to knowledge you did not.

I will admit you have a deeper understanding of the workings of the Cthulhu Mythos, and I laud you for that, but that doesn't negate what I've stated.

And I will say that the depiction of the black boxer in Herbert West was quite blatant.

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 06:17 PM
Some stuff stuck. Some stuff didn't. His personal views were in place and affected his work.

You say he was just telling stories, but it is not unusual for stories to be an outlet for someone's personal beliefs. I happen to know more about the man; you seem to not. So that's "my issue", I guess; I happen to have access to knowledge you did not.

I will admit you have a deeper understanding of the workings of the Cthulhu Mythos, and I laud you for that, but that doesn't negate what I've stated.

A man can't react to :silenced: he doesn't know.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-09, 06:20 PM
Well, that's kind of why I'm interested in that part of Lovecraft. It's the bit very few people talk about. :)

Still, the content of his stories are quite potent, even with that knowledge. No one's perfect, after all, and he was overall quite harmless.

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 06:26 PM
Well, that's kind of why I'm interested in that part of Lovecraft. It's the bit very few people talk about. :)

Still, the content of his stories are quite potent, even with that knowledge. No one's perfect, after all, and he was overall quite harmless.

Okay, peace. Real life is complicated enough without getting in a twist over dead fantacists.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-09, 06:29 PM
What does Lovecraft have going on in his world that we don't have in ours?Others have provided replies to this, but I think it's summarized in a splendid Lovecraftian adjective that parallaxicality and EDG_ didn't list: nefandous. Some things in Lovecraft's universe are simply unspeakably evil, and therefore fall into the category of That Which Man Is Not Meant To Know.

Grant Hutchison

BigDon
2010-Feb-09, 06:40 PM
I will admit you have a deeper understanding of the workings of the Cthulhu Mythos, and I laud you for that, but that doesn't negate what I've stated.

I could tell you stories that would turn you white...

I'd even relate some if the OP wouldn't consider it a highjack.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-09, 08:34 PM
I could tell you stories that would turn you white...

I'd even relate some if the OP wouldn't consider it a highjack.

And I knew what you were Not Meant to Know about Lovecraft. :D

You're welcome to PM me if they would.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-09, 09:52 PM
I wouldn't mind. This thread's gone a bit off topic already.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-09, 10:28 PM
For anyone wanting to get into Lovecraft (or to renew acquaintance) I strongly recommend the Penguin Modern Classics releases from a few years ago. They include extensive footnotes by S.T. Joshi, probably the best-known and best Lovecraft scholar. The notes are very accessible, and point out links (and occasional contradictions) between stories. Some of the contradictions are quite amusing, including the wildly different locations of Leng.

Joshi is pretty much unflinching about the quite significant racism aspect. (It is ironic that Lovecraft would have regarded Joshi as subhuman!)

The books are The Call of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories, The Thing on the Doorstep AOWS, and The Dreams in the Witch House AOWS.

Celestial Mechanic
2010-Feb-10, 06:15 AM
{Snip!} eldritch, charnal, demoniac, noisome...
I've always thought the Dungeons and Dragons should have a magical weapon named the Eldritch Cleaver! :lol:

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 08:41 AM
Lovecraft was an astronomy buff too, but the exact opposite seems to have happened to him. As one documentary I heard on Youtube put it, the darkness and cold of space seeped into his soul.But that's exactly what I'm talking about. We have that in our universe, yet the mentally healthy are not driven insane by it (consider Douglas Adams' "Infinite Perspective Vortex" machine). We are separated by over 30 magnitudes of size from ourselves to the largest scales we can talk about, and another 30 plus magnitudes to the smallest scales we can talk about. We are either spectacularly insignificant specks in comparison, or vastly humongous behemoths. It is not that our universe does not contain such elements of mind-wrenching horror, it is that our minds are immune to it by nature-- we simply have no comprehension of what this means, and so we carry on in pleasant obliviousness.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 08:51 AM
Some things in Lovecraft's universe are simply unspeakably evil, and therefore fall into the category of That Which Man Is Not Meant To Know.
There's plenty of that in this world too. We simply avoid that which we are not meant to know, until that moment just before becoming a murder victim, or just after seeing our child step in front of a car. I don't find anything about semi-corporal space aliens who can eat my brain to be scarier than looking into the eyes of a person who intends to kill me, or watching everything I wanted to leave behind me in this world taken away in one inexplicable moment (I'm not saying I've experienced these things, but we all do know they are out there). From what I've heard so far, H.P. wasn't hardly even trying!

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-10, 09:23 AM
But that's exactly what I'm talking about. We have that in our universe, yet the mentally healthy are not driven insane by it (consider Douglas Adams' "Infinite Perspective Vortex" machine). We are separated by over 30 magnitudes of size from ourselves to the largest scales we can talk about, and another 30 plus magnitudes to the smallest scales we can talk about. We are either spectacularly insignificant specks in comparison, or vastly humongous behemoths. It is not that our universe does not contain such elements of mind-wrenching horror, it is that our minds are immune to it by nature-- we simply have no comprehension of what this means, and so we carry on in pleasant obliviousness.

I can accept that I'm a "spectacularly insignificant speck" without going insane. I just don't think about it all the time, because there's stuff to do and it really isn't all that significant to me. Why should it be, after all?

I'm pretty sure the less than "mentally healthy" don't all obsess about "being giants" or "insignificant specks" either. Mental illness is more complicated than that.

EDG
2010-Feb-10, 09:31 AM
From what I've heard so far, H.P. wasn't hardly even trying!

Seriously. Read some of his stories, then you'll get a grip on where he was coming from. AFAIK they're actually all in the public domain so you can read them online.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-10, 09:44 AM
There's plenty of that in this world too.

Um, no. Not Lovecraft-style evil.


We simply avoid that which we are not meant to know, until that moment just before becoming a murder victim, or just after seeing our child step in front of a car. I don't find anything about semi-corporal space aliens who can eat my brain to be scarier than looking into the eyes of a person who intends to kill me, or watching everything I wanted to leave behind me in this world taken away in one inexplicable moment (I'm not saying I've experienced these things, but we all do know they are out there).

This all is irrelevant to Lovecraft. That's not what he was writing about. His writings were ultimately more cosmic in nature.

Gillianren
2010-Feb-10, 09:53 AM
I'm pretty sure the less than "mentally healthy" don't all obsess about "being giants" or "insignificant specks" either. Mental illness is more complicated than that.

I can't speak for all, but there are moments where the latter thought is pretty oppressive. The former is called "delusions of grandeur"!

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 10:01 AM
There's plenty of that in this world too. We simply avoid that which we are not meant to know ...I'm having trouble seeing relevance. In Lovecraft's fictional world (the source of the OP quote), there is Forbidden Knowledge, which does Drive Men Mad, and which they are nevertheless driven to seek out. Lovecraft's fictional logic is the logic of nightmares. One might as well protest that no sensible group of teenagers would split up in order to explore the abandoned insane asylum more thoroughly ...

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 02:57 PM
I can accept that I'm a "spectacularly insignificant speck" without going insane. I just don't think about it all the time, because there's stuff to do and it really isn't all that significant to me. A classic example of how mentally healthy Catch-22-esque selective insanity works. (For anyone who hasn't read the book or seen the movie, the "catch" is that in times of war, a soldier who wants to get out of service by virtue of being insane has to be quite sane.)


I'm pretty sure the less than "mentally healthy" don't all obsess about "being giants" or "insignificant specks" either.But the logic doesn't follow. If someone exhibits a lack of mental health, it does not follow that they cannot exhibit any element of mental health.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 03:14 PM
I'm having trouble seeing relevance. In Lovecraft's fictional world (the source of the OP quote), there is Forbidden Knowledge, which does Drive Men Mad, and which they are nevertheless driven to seek out. Lovecraft's fictional logic is the logic of nightmares. One might as well protest that no sensible group of teenagers would split up in order to explore the abandoned insane asylum more thoroughly ...
I'm saying that I don't think his logic is fictional at all-- it sounds to me like he is talking about mental illness of a rather garden variety kind. To me, the evil he talks about seems quite similar to evils we have right here, where we live on an island of mental health, an island that involves a great deal of sheltering our minds from what could, and in some sense should, drive us insane (a central theme of Catch-22). That's an element of mental health, one does not need to create an imaginary world to find that feature, unless that world is merely an allegory for our own. Along with that basic ability to ignore and rationalize, we also have a curiosity that urges us to explore beyond the island, which comes with it the promise of discovery but also the danger of what Adams jokingly calls Infinite Perspective. I'll bet H.P. doesn't think nefandousness is fantasy, and Adams knows the truth behind his jokes as well (he had an astonishing capability to go from absurd humor to deadly seriousness in the turn of a page).

Noclevername
2010-Feb-10, 05:16 PM
I could tell you stories that would turn you white...


Too late, I've been indoors all winter.

mike alexander
2010-Feb-10, 05:29 PM
Reminds my of Asimov's short story "Breeds There a Man...", where Ralson must fight the barriers placed in his mind to finish the force-field generator before he is compelled to commit suicide.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 05:37 PM
I'm saying that I don't think his logic is fictional at all-- Hang on. You asked what Lovecraft has in his universe that we don't have in ours. You've received a list of more or less eldritch entities, of which his fictional characters actively seek knowledge, knowing that such knowledge may drive them insane.
Unless your local lending library checks out the Necronomicon frequently, then you've had your answer. There's fictional stuff in Lovecraft's universe that isn't in ours. It calls to his characters and then makes them mad.

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-10, 05:40 PM
Unless your local lending library checks out the Necronomicon frequently, then you've had your answer.
I think I have that one on my shelves somewhere, though I rather suspect it's an expurgated version:)

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 05:46 PM
I think I have that one on my shelves somewhere, though I rather suspect it's an expurgated version:)Wormius' 900-page Latin translation occasionally stirs and mutters to itself, if in the original binding. The abridged English paperback edition is quite silent, I find.

Grant Hutchison

EDG
2010-Feb-10, 05:53 PM
The irony is that Ken is exactly the kind of person whose mind would shatter if actually faced with a Cthulhoid entity :). Those folks are usually the ones who swan about saying "bah, nothing can faze me, everything's understandable and sensible and logical" and then collapse in gibbering heaps as everything they thought they knew is torn away by things from beyond our time and space.

I'd guess the 'logical' response would be "but there's no such thing as 'beyond time and space'", but that's the point. In HPL's world, there is. ;)

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-10, 06:18 PM
Whereas I'd be more likely to go "Hmmm, that's interesting, I wonder how that works?"? :D

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-10, 06:29 PM
The irony is that Ken is exactly the kind of person whose mind would shatter if actually faced with a Cthulhoid entity :). Those folks are usually the ones who swan about saying "bah, nothing can faze me, everything's understandable and sensible and logical" and then collapse in gibbering heaps as everything they thought they knew is torn away by things from beyond our time and space.

I'd guess the 'logical' response would be "but there's no such thing as 'beyond time and space'", but that's the point. In HPL's world, there is. ;)

I don't think Ken's saying that. I think he's saying that the sheer empty, cold, dark meaningless gargantuanness of the universe itself is a horror beyond human comprehension, and yet people can deal with it without going insane. I think that, as dear Douglas pointed out, we deal with it by ignoring it, and if we ever really did see ourselves in relation to the universe we WOULD go crazy.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 06:31 PM
Hang on. You asked what Lovecraft has in his universe that we don't have in ours. You've received a list of more or less eldritch entities, of which his fictional characters actively seek knowledge, knowing that such knowledge may drive them insane.Right, all of which sounds just like our world to me (minus the "eldritch" part, but that's a minor detail-- it can be viewed as allegory, or one can even take a more literal view that we use eldritch concepts all the time and just don't label them as such.)


Unless your local lending library checks out the Necronomicon frequently, then you've had your answer. There's fictional stuff in Lovecraft's universe that isn't in ours. It calls to his characters and then makes them mad.
That potential exists in our world too, minus the "fiction", except for the safety mechanisms our brains employ. I'm saying that I'm not seeing the fundamental difference between non-fiction and fiction that others are suggesting-- the details are fictional, but people are framing it in a much more fundamental light that basically says Lovecraft has a world where one could say "the truth? You can't handle the truth", and I'm saying, that complaint gets used a lot in our own world too. It sounds more like allegory to me, than like something so fundamentally different-- there's just a thinner veil in his case, which I suspect is rather the point. (Most fantasy writers are not really creating a completely different world, but more like our world through the looking glass, to borrow a phrase. From what has been said about him on here, H.P. sounds no different, just a lot darker.)

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-10, 06:32 PM
Well, you can think that all you want, KenG. It's your choice.

Don't expect your literary view to become mainstream.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 06:37 PM
The irony is that Ken is exactly the kind of person whose mind would shatter if actually faced with a Cthulhoid entity :). Those folks are usually the ones who swan about saying "bah, nothing can faze me, everything's understandable and sensible and logical" and then collapse in gibbering heaps as everything they thought they knew is torn away by things from beyond our time and space.

I'd guess the 'logical' response would be "but there's no such thing as 'beyond time and space'", but that's the point. In HPL's world, there is.But you are missing my point completely. What I'm saying is that everything you are saying is true about our world! Your very assumptions that we live in a logical world that has space and time, and H.P. creates a world where logic fails and space and time are illusions, fully demonstrates my point about how a mentally healthy mind deludes itself, for its own protection, into believing things that are of course complete fantasy. Lovecraft's world is not the fantasy here, that's the irony.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-10, 06:39 PM
Right, Lovecraft's world isn't the fantasy here. There's really a sleeping octopus/dragon/humanoid thing deep in the oceans. There's really a place called R'lyeh. There's really Colours out of Space that will drain you of life. There's really a mad scientist called Herbert West that reanimates dead tissue...

Oh, wait, no. Those are "just allegories", so ergo it's nonfiction. :rolleyes:

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 06:40 PM
Right, all of which sounds just like our world to me (minus the "eldritch" part, but that's a minor detail-- it can be viewed as allegory, or one can even take a more literal view that we use eldritch concepts all the time and just don't label them as such.)So, in essence, I am free to maintain that my ex-flatmate Steve's socks were indeed unspeakably evil, and I only retained my sanity by ignoring their full horror.
I see ...

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-Feb-10, 06:50 PM
Right, all of which sounds just like our world to me (minus the "eldritch" part, but that's a minor detail-- it can be viewed as allegory, or one can even take a more literal view that we use eldritch concepts all the time and just don't label them as such.)

It would be a pretty perverse view. "Eldritch" is a major detail. The warping of my mind is purely biochemical. The things with which we have a hard time contending are the product of real spacetime. It is possible to look upon the marvels of the universe with awe and not go mad. One cannot gaze on the Elder Gods in the same way.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 07:01 PM
Well, you can think that all you want, KenG. It's your choice.

Don't expect your literary view to become mainstream.Hold on, you think it is not a mainstream view that fantasy writers are still basically writing about our world, just through a kind of looking glass? You think Lewis Carrol's Wonderland was not an ode to absurdity featuring characters from his own life, C. S. Lewis' Narnia was not about Christianity, J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth was not about World War II, H. P. Lovelock's Cthulthoid world was not about the fear and lure of the unknown, Herbert's Dune was not about the geopolitics of religion, science, and wealth vying for control of the world's natural resources, or that Asimov, Heinlein, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. did not use fantasy settings to make very real points about our own world? Because I thought it was perfectly mainstream to view the topics in these books as not simply inspiration to break out of writer's block, but rather driving forces in the motivations behind the stories. It surprises me to find it is an ATM view of literature that even fiction writers have a point to make!

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 07:07 PM
So, in essence, I am free to maintain that my ex-flatmate Steve's socks were indeed unspeakably evil, and I only retained my sanity by ignoring their full horror.
I see ...
Straw man-- let's start by defining evil. I presume you would agree that evil requires intent, so I hardly think socks could qualify. Do we find evil intent in our own world? Hmmm. Nothing that would eat someone's brain just because they don't like them. No, that would never happen in our world, only in an imaginary "unspeakably" evil world.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 07:24 PM
Straw man-- No, not at all. I was just extending your blithe redefinition of "unspeakable evil" a little, for my own perverse ends.
Of course redefinition lets you say that anything you want is just like anything else you want. The Analogy of the Socks was my way of saying I just don't buy your redefinition. There is a difference between the banal evil we encounter (or fear to encounter) in our daily lives, and the unspeakable evil of Lovecraft's fiction.

Grant Hutchison

mike alexander
2010-Feb-10, 07:33 PM
Philip Dick cruised a similar course in his story "Faith of Our Fathers". I wonder if Lovecraft influenced him directly or indirectly.

No spoilers, but that is one creepy story. Also very good.

Gillianren
2010-Feb-10, 07:57 PM
No, not at all. I was just extending your blithe redefinition of "unspeakable evil" a little, for my own perverse ends.
Of course redefinition lets you say that anything you want is just like anything else you want. The Analogy of the Socks was my way of saying I just don't buy your redefinition. There is a difference between the banal evil we encounter (or fear to encounter) in our daily lives, and the unspeakable evil of Lovecraft's fiction.

Not to mention that the Wonders of the Universe aren't evil by either definition. Being beyond the capability of a human mind to comprehend and being evil are quite different.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-10, 08:04 PM
Lovecraft's monsters were not really what we would call evil either.


Free and wild, and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside, and all shouting and killing and revelling in joy.... All the Earth [flaming] with a Holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

Here's Call of Cthulu in online audio

http://www.youtube.com/watch?playnext=1&playnext_from=TL&videos=Vsbt-1Wk_lw&v=r-E9P-bxTYs

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-10, 08:58 PM
You think Lewis Carrol's Wonderland was not an ode to absurdity featuring characters from his own life,
I do, I think it was an ode to his love of puns, logical puzzles and little girls.


J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth was not about World War II,
It definitely wasn't, by explicit statement by Tolkien himself.
Apart from everything else, large amounts of the story was developed well before WWII.


or that Asimov, Heinlein, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. did not use fantasy settings to make very real points about our own world?
I can't remember much fantasy from Asimov and Heinlein and one of the central features of SF is to comment on current themes so nothing new there.
Vonnegut disclaims writing SF/Fantasy and instead claims to write mainstream stories commenting on the world so that's nothing new either.

Basically you missed the target with about half your examples.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 09:30 PM
The Analogy of the Socks was my way of saying I just don't buy your redefinition.Then your brain should be able to say in real words why you think that. If you don't think Lovelock is making connections with his own experiences in this world to create an alternate, more distant, and more comfortable place to confront them, then just say why you think that.

There is a difference between the banal evil we encounter (or fear to encounter) in our daily lives, and the unspeakable evil of Lovecraft's fiction.
So you keep saying, but so far, I see being described all the same evils I've seen on planet Earth, whose very unspeakability is one of the reasons we have fiction.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 09:32 PM
Not to mention that the Wonders of the Universe aren't evil by either definition. Being beyond the capability of a human mind to comprehend and being evil are quite different.The fact that I cannot tell if you mean the "wonders" of Lovelock's universe, or our own, is also part of the point I'm making.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 09:39 PM
I do, I think it was an ode to his love of puns, logical puzzles and little girls.
All drawn from experience right here.


It definitely wasn't, by explicit statement by Tolkien himself.
Apart from everything else, large amounts of the story was developed well before WWII.
And apart from all that, the book is obviously inspired by the concept of world war, not at all an alien notion to Tolkien in that time period. More drawing from our own world.


I can't remember much fantasy from Asimov and Heinlein and one of the central features of SF is to comment on current themes so nothing new there.Precisely my point.

Vonnegut disclaims writing SF/Fantasy and instead claims to write mainstream stories commenting on the world so that's nothing new either.
That just means Vonnegut understands how fiction is often used, which is also what I'm saying-- the debate here seems to be about, outside of some bizarre views of what constitutes a "mainstream" view of the genre of literary fiction, what Lovelock used fiction for.

Basically you missed the target with about half your examples.Actually, every case you claim was a "miss" is actually right on target with what I'm saying. So let me ask you this:
1) True or false, one of the primary purposes of fiction writing is to address themes and issues from our own world in a safer, less controversial, and more arms-length perspective.
2) True or false, fantasy writing is just fiction writing times two, if you will.
3) True or false, Lovecraft is a fiction writer in that same tradition, a tradition that spans from Dickens to Twain to Rand to Bradbury to.... how much time do you have?

Do people on this forum really think fantasy literature is something completely different from fiction literature, and that any suggestion that fantasy themes are real-world themes, even with that darkest example Lovecraft, is an "against the mainstream" perspective?

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-10, 09:41 PM
Ken G, you've twice referred to the author as Lovelock. You're not confusing him with the Gaia hypothesis man, are you?

Regarding the difference between the real universe and HPL's world... As I see it, it's the difference between being threatened by a terrorist and being threatened by a Romero zombie. I have no idea how I'd feel if a terrorist was trying to kill me, but in my imagined version of events, the zombie would be more frightening because of what it is, even though it would probably pose less of a threat.

Ken G
2010-Feb-10, 09:48 PM
Ken G, you've twice referred to the author as Lovelock. You're not confusing him with the Gaia hypothesis man, are you?Nope, just a Freudian slip. It's easy to get the fantasy writers mixed up.


Regarding the difference between the real universe and HPL's world... As I see it, it's the difference between being threatened by a terrorist and being threatened by a Romero zombie.Right, and that right there is the difference between non-fiction and fiction, and one of the primary reasons that we have fiction in the first place.


I have no idea how I'd feel if a terrorist was trying to kill me, but in my imagined version of events, the zombie would be more frightening because of what it is, even though it would probably pose less of a threat.But that's also my point-- I think this is untrue. We flock to movies about zombies, but turn off the news about terrorists, precisely because the zombies are much safer, not more dangerous, for our minds to contemplate.

I see it as the same reason we go to movies that make us cry-- they provide a safer place to confront things that are just too painful in the real version.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-10, 09:50 PM
And apart from all that, the book is obviously inspired by the concept of world war, not at all an alien notion to Tolkien in that time period. More drawing from our own world.
Right, you obviously think you know more about what the story is about than Tolkien, I think you've made your level of thinking clear here, this is not a discussion or an argument, this is you repeatedly stating your position regardless of what anyone else says.
I for one finds this a waste of time.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-10, 09:55 PM
1) True or false, one of the primary purposes of fiction writing is to address themes and issues from our own world in a safer, less controversial, and more arms-length perspective.
I would say it is a purpose of writing. I think it is a little overstated, though. While certainly all (or nearly all) fiction has the requirement that the reader can relate to it, it's not unusual for the author's intention to be to create a wholly imaginary world.

On a related note, I get tired of the claim made by some commentators who obviously think they are being clever when they say, "All science fiction is about the present day."

Gillianren
2010-Feb-10, 09:58 PM
Right, and that right there is the difference between non-fiction and fiction, and one of the primary reasons that we have fiction in the first place.

So I can't write fiction about being held hostage by terrorists? What an absurd notion.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-10, 10:04 PM
We flock to movies about zombies, but turn off the news about terrorists, precisely because the zombies are much safer, not more dangerous, for our minds to contemplate.
In trying to make your point, you are now comparing fantasy fiction with reality rather than comparing fantasy fiction with non-fantasy fiction.

People flock to movies about terrorists too. Adaptations of Clancy and Ludlum, and 24, are hugely popular.

Zombies represent a violation of the natural order in a way that terrorists don't. It is that dimension that gives them the greater scare-appeal, to me at least.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 10:23 PM
Then your brain should be able to say in real words why you think that.Yes, my brain already did. Several times. As have other brains contributing to this thread. But everything we say seems to arrive at your ears sounding like "socks". So I recognize futility.

I'm left just wondering if you're sensing any trickle of unease about this discussion, given your admission that you've read no Lovecraft, and your recent difficulty in even remembering his name. Any doubts on that front?

Grant Hutchison

EDG
2010-Feb-10, 10:23 PM
3) True or false, Lovecraft is a fiction writer in that same tradition, a tradition that spans from Dickens to Twain to Rand to Bradbury to.... how much time do you have?

Seriously, you're spending all this time arguing about an author whose works that - as you admitted yourself - you haven't even read. How can you even begin to question his motivations or reasons for writing or the 'sensibility' of his universe when you haven't read anything he's written?

Do some actual research on the subject being discussed and then come back here and discuss it, instead of just arguing from ignorance for the sake of it.

mike alexander
2010-Feb-10, 10:42 PM
I think that for most authors a primary purpose of fiction writing is helping to pay the rent.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-10, 10:49 PM
I think that for most authors a primary purpose of fiction writing is helping to pay the rent.Unfortunately, that didn't work out for Lovecraft.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 02:48 AM
Right, you obviously think you know more about what the story is about than Tolkien, I think you've made your level of thinking clear here, this is not a discussion or an argument, this is you repeatedly stating your position regardless of what anyone else says.What is so hard about simply looking at the words I write? I claimed I know more about the story than Tolkein? That's a ridiculous claim, you are wasting your own time, I have nothing to do with it.

What I actually said is that Tolkien's story is quite obviously strongly influenced by the two world wars that coincided with the time frame of its writing. To imagine those two cataclysmic world wars were not a key influence on that story is what is absurd here, not my claims about it. Apparently, you feel that those two cataclysmic events in our own world were just used by Tolkien as story ideas. He could have invented a totally different world without world wars in it, but he thought, what the heck, it's so much fun to have a hundred million people dying at each others hands in our world, why not throw one in his.

Or not. Maybe it was something he felt was important enough, from our world, to want to grapple with, in his. Not so unusual for fiction writers, don't you think? Or is fantasy so different?

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 02:57 AM
I would say it is a purpose of writing. I think it is a little overstated, though. While certainly all (or nearly all) fiction has the requirement that the reader can relate to it, it's not unusual for the author's intention to be to create a wholly imaginary world.So Tolkien created a wholly imaginary world, and just threw an evil overlord and a world war into it, because he lacked creativity? Not because we see that exact theme play out countless times in our own world, at terrific cost in tragedy? That doesn't underpin the whole drama of that story? Or Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books created a wholly imaginary world, and the themes of guilt and betrayal were thrown in for sheer happenstance dramatic effect but not because of their importance in his own life? The great writers always have something to say about our world. That's why they write. Fantasy doesn't change that, it's just another genre that authors can use if it suits them. Is that such a controversial claim?


On a related note, I get tired of the claim made by some commentators who obviously think they are being clever when they say, "All science fiction is about the present day."Now that might be overstated, be thankful I said no such thing. Still, I see their point-- the very fact that we have commentators in the first place should tell us something. Why would anyone feel the need to comment on some completely made up world anyway?

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 03:51 AM
Right, you obviously think you know more about what the story is about than Tolkien, I think you've made your level of thinking clear here, this is not a discussion or an argument, this is you repeatedly stating your position regardless of what anyone else says.
I for one finds this a waste of time.

Yeah, that's what I thought a while back, but I've not really wanted to voice it out loud.

Either way, I've given up on this thread.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 04:40 AM
Do some actual research on the subject being discussed and then come back here and discuss it, instead of just arguing from ignorance for the sake of it.Arguing from ignorance you think? I maintain that virtually everyone on this thread has suffered a momentary loss of reason. All this hullaballoo, all this rancor and accusation, has stemmed from three extremely natural assertions I made:
1) A normal part of mental health is the ability to be able to screen out a vast amount of what is unpleasant, complex, mind-boggling, or frightening,
2) Lovecraft is most likely no different from any of the great fiction or fantasy writers, who are all basically writing about our world but in a genre that works by creating a distance from our world, and
3) A primary motivator in fiction writing is commenting on our world, and fantasy is just fiction "times two."

Now, none of those propositions strike me as even being a tiny bit controversial, yet on this crazy thread, they are non-mainstream, or overstated, or ignorant! The one that seems to have caused the largest apoplexy seems to be #2, my comments on Lovecraft. Apparently the objection centers on the fact that I have not read Lovecraft, as if Lovecraft was vastly different from the host of fiction and fantasy writers of note that he is part of. So I had to wonder if somehow I was mistaken that Lovecraft was doing commentary on our own world, and I decided to look him up on Wiki. I can't say I was at all surprised to find statements about him like these:

"Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien."

Human minds. Life. "The universe"-- our universe. See? And:

"His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism."

Last I checked, these are human themes from the human world. So much for the non-"mainstream" assertion #2 of mine above. Even Lovecraft's own words make it perfectly clear that Lovecraft was interested in humans in our own world, placed into his, from the OP:

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

The real human mind, in our world. It's perfectly obvious Lovecraft's writings are commenting on our world, hello! My appalling addition to his own statements, after I said he "had a point", was merely that the "mercy" is no coincidence, it is a cornerstone of mental health and powerful mental defense mechanisms. And everyone threw a rod over it! No, they say, Lovecraft is just a twisted guy dreaming up an alternate world that is not meant to represent or be compared with our world in any way. And I'm the one who needs to do some research on the topic?

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 04:45 AM
I'm left just wondering if you're sensing any trickle of unease about this discussion, given your admission that you've read no Lovecraft, and your recent difficulty in even remembering his name. Any doubts on that front?
After reading the Wiki on him, nope. Perhaps you should read it, and rethink the "unease" on this thread. The man was obviously doing commentary on our world, just as I suspected.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 04:50 AM
I don't think Ken's saying that. I think he's saying that the sheer empty, cold, dark meaningless gargantuanness of the universe itself is a horror beyond human comprehension, and yet people can deal with it without going insane. I think that, as dear Douglas pointed out, we deal with it by ignoring it, and if we ever really did see ourselves in relation to the universe we WOULD go crazy.Right, and Lovecraft himself clearly agrees with that too, from your OP quote. Why is everyone else on this thread so deeply in denial that Lovecraft is commenting on the real human condition just as it stands in our world? I'm frankly pretty mystified, am I guilty of some kind of uncomfortable sacrilege against Lovecraft fans? It's like they don't want to know what he was trying to say with his fantasy works!

Gillianren
2010-Feb-11, 06:06 AM
1) A normal part of mental health is the ability to be able to screen out a vast amount of what is unpleasant, complex, mind-boggling, or frightening . . . .

I'd say it's part of our "make-a-human" kit. As established, I am mentally ill, pretty badly so, and I can mostly do that, too. It isn't What's Out There that's driving me mad. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the truth may be out there, but the terrors are inside your head.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 06:25 AM
I'd say it's part of our "make-a-human" kit. As established, I am mentally ill, pretty badly so, and I can mostly do that, too. It isn't What's Out There that's driving me mad. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the truth may be out there, but the terrors are inside your head.And I wouldn't make light of your tribulations, as I'm sure it's harrowing to have one's mind turn on itself, or at least not be considered its own ally. I for one know what it's like to feel panic for no reason at all. There are many places terrors can come from, they can be purely metabolic, or they can be from invented thoughts, or they can be from very real facts. These are hard to tell apart for the person immersed in them. The defense mechanism is the ability to buffer all three of these sources. It seems that Lovecraft focused primarily on the second of the three, but that doesn't mean he didn't have the clear intention of using that as a device to address the last of the three.

I think it's pretty clear he did, not from reading him, but just from looking at what motivates most writers, especially influential ones on the literary frontiers. Commentators on his work seem to vindicate that view. Could this just be hard for some of his fans to accept, because they are employing exactly the fear-buffering device of believing that it's all meant to be a made-up world with no connection to ours, that the mind-wrenching breakdowns in comfortable logic are not intended to be allegorical? That would certainly be ironic-- the very same mental health defenses that Lovecraft challenges would seem to be the reason his message cannot be heard.

EDG
2010-Feb-11, 06:48 AM
Arguing from ignorance you think?

Have you read Lovecraft's work? Yes or no. You've already said that you haven't.

You can assert all you like about HPL and his motivations, but it is painfully clear you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when it comes to this subject. And now you're claiming that everyone else is wrong and you're right, about a subject that you know nothing about.

You can wrap your arguments in as much pretention as you like. You're just wasting everyone's time here though, and I'm done wasting my time on you as well.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 07:47 AM
You can assert all you like about HPL and his motivations, but it is painfully clear you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when it comes to this subject. And now you're claiming that everyone else is wrong and you're right, about a subject that you know nothing about.Interesting stance. You asked me to do some research, which I did, and it completely vindicated essentially everything I said. But you ignore this fact, choosing instead to harp on the fact that what I say has to be wrong, even if it's right, because I haven't read Lovecraft. You do not point out a single thing I said and suggest any flaws, you merely claim I must be wrong because people who read Lovecraft can't see what I'm saying. Maybe they just didn't think about it that way, has that ever occured to you? Anyway, the Wiki article is painfully clear about the issue of Lovecraft's social, philosophical, and scientific commentary, so I really don't see what you are objecting to here.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-11, 08:02 AM
I would say it is a purpose of writing. I think it is a little overstated, though. While certainly all (or nearly all) fiction has the requirement that the reader can relate to it, it's not unusual for the author's intention to be to create a wholly imaginary world.

So Tolkien created a wholly imaginary world, and just threw an evil overlord and a world war into it, because he lacked creativity? Not because we see that exact theme play out countless times in our own world, at terrific cost in tragedy? That doesn't underpin the whole drama of that story? Or Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books created a wholly imaginary world, and the themes of guilt and betrayal were thrown in for sheer happenstance dramatic effect but not because of their importance in his own life?
Huh? I said, "It's not unusual," not "All fantasy is 100% removed from the real world."

Furthermore, just because elements of the real world are often carried over into the fantasy world, it doesn't automatically follow that the fantasy is about the real world. (Note that "doesn't automatically follow" - I am not saying it doesn't happen.) An example that springs to mind is the work of Diana Wynne Jones.

And as an aside, Tolkien briefly describes how the plot of Lord of the Rings would have changed if he'd intended it to be an allegory of WWII.




On a related note, I get tired of the claim made by some commentators who obviously think they are being clever when they say, "All science fiction is about the present day."
Now that might be overstated, be thankful I said no such thing.
Nor did I suggest you had. (This thread is not as full of accusations as you seem to think.)


Still, I see their point-- the very fact that we have commentators in the first place should tell us something. Why would anyone feel the need to comment on some completely made up world anyway?
So that the reader can relate to it.

Some science fiction is metaphor, and some is satire. But there also exists many examples of SF whose prime purpose is to speculate about life in the future and life on other planets. Heck, one could argue that most SF contains a mix of all three. But it doesn't follow that the primary purpose is to comment on the real world.

The problem, Ken, is that you've come on here asserting facts about an author you don't know, and gone on to ignore evidence that doesn't fit your assertions. Ignoring the "eldrich" from Lovecraft is like ignoring the "mystery" from Christie. And I've gotta go or I'll miss the train - oh how the real world impinges on my life. ;)

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-11, 08:49 AM
After reading the Wiki on him, nope. Perhaps you should read it, and rethink the "unease" on this thread. The man was obviously doing commentary on our world, just as I suspected.Well, I've heard of "Wiki science", but never Wiki lit crit. I do believe you've invented a new area of human endeavour.
I still insist that everything Lovecraft wrote is a transparent allegory for bad fashion choices and poor personal hygiene. There's no point in reading his stuff: you've just got to look at a one-paragraph biography to see that this is obviously so. Anything that looks like it might not be about clothing in general and socks in particular is simply an allegory that others don't have the perspicacity to penetrate: their minds are clouded by too much actual reading of actual words written by the actual author.

Grant Hutchison

tusenfem
2010-Feb-11, 12:47 PM
Ken G, I think you have made your point here in this thread.
Why not let the others, who have read Lovecraft, discuss it amongst themselves.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 01:12 PM
God. Lovecraft fans could give the people of Innsmouth a run for their money in the hospitality stakes.

marsbug
2010-Feb-11, 01:40 PM
It's not so much that though. It's comprehension of what is out there that is driving Lovecraft's characters (and the many, many hapless fools- er, I mean investigators - in every Call of Cthulhu RPG ever played) insane.

What they don't grasp goes harmlessly over their heads. It's what they DO get a grip on that flays the sanity from their feeble minds. It's the realisation that there are these loathesome, squamous, timeless, cyclopean, immortal, (insert obscure adjective here), things out there that we are but ants to, and that our hitherto nice, sheltered, "humans are top-dog or important" worldview is a complete fallacy that breaks the characters' minds.



Please pardon me if I am taking some concepts below with a bit of poetic liscence, but we are talking about fiction, and things that could go into stories.

There are vast, apalling, powerfull, things out there. They are totally indifferent to not just humanity, but life itself. Is cthulu any more frightening than the destructive power, and indifferent randomness, of a gamma ray burst?

The power of the sun is immense beyond anything humans could comprehend, and is almost certain to bring searing, world-ending fire to the earth, in the fullness of time.

The great red spot of jupiter is as big as worlds, self-organized for at least as long as some human civilisations, mercilessly preys on storms bigger than most earth hurricanes to sustain itself, and engages in titanic and terminal struggles with it's brother superstorms to dominate the region of jupiter it resides in. It would shred a human with the minutest fragment of its power, without even giving them the dignity of intending to.

These things are not alive, but they are real, mysterious, and terrifying if you devote some thought to them, and try to comprehend them. And yet people do every day and remain sane. I think you just have to approach them with the mentality of : 'we're nothing to these forces- I've just got to deal with that'.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 02:23 PM
Huh? I said, "It's not unusual," not "All fantasy is 100% removed from the real world."
Well, we're not talking about any author who sat down and made up a story, we're talking about H.P. Lovecraft, a prolific author on a frontier of a whole new genre. And the question I have for you is quite simple, as I'm not allowed to insert opinions based on facts about him because I haven't read his books:
True or false: you think H.P. Lovecraft was strongly motivated in his writing, indeed, the raison d'etre of his writing, was to struggle with issues he had about the world you and I live in, and to express his opinions about the nature of that world, in response to what he saw as unworkable or flimsy views on same that prevailed in his time?

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 02:29 PM
God. Lovecraft fans could give the people of Innsmouth a run for their money in the hospitality stakes.

This has nothing to do with whether or not I'm a fan of Lovecraft. I just dislike assertions grounded in ignorance that the arguer insists on pushing, even if it doesn't stand up to scrutiny of those familiar with the material; this is true of Lovecraft's works, conspiracy theories, or any other kind of similar argument. Even if authors ground their material based in the real world (which Ken G insists is always the case, even when there's ground for disagreements), the vast majority of Lovecraft's work is too fantastic to "just be an allegory".

And in fact, given the history of Ken G's posts, I know that no length of debate will go anywhere with him.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 02:40 PM
There are vast, apalling, powerfull, things out there. They are totally indifferent to not just humanity, but life itself. Is cthulu any more frightening than the destructive power, and indifferent randomness, of a gamma ray burst?Exactly. Gosh I hope you've read Lovecraft, or you're going to catch it.



These things are not alive, but they are real, mysterious, and terrifying if you devote some thought to them, and try to comprehend them. And yet people do every day and remain sane. I think you just have to approach them with the mentality of : 'we're nothing to these forces- I've just got to deal with that'.Yes, and I called that an example of basic mental health. Nobody except parallaxicality, and Lovecraft himself, seemed to agree.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 02:49 PM
Is it just me, or has Tusenfem gone ignored?

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 03:03 PM
Well, I've heard of "Wiki science", but never Wiki lit crit. I do believe you've invented a new area of human endeavour.
I still insist that everything Lovecraft wrote is a transparent allegory for bad fashion choices and poor personal hygiene. There's no point in reading his stuff: you've just got to look at a one-paragraph biography to see that this is obviously so. Anything that looks like it might not be about clothing in general and socks in particular is simply an allegory that others don't have the perspicacity to penetrate: their minds are clouded by too much actual reading of actual words written by the actual author.

Grant Hutchison

As I am no longer allowed to comment, I can only cite other sources from people who, presumably, have read his "actual words." Draw your own conclusions about whether Lovecraft was using his fantastical world to make very clear and direct comments about our world. These are all from the Wiki on Lovecraft and Cosmicism (a philosophy he developed and promoted in his writings), so you can discount them as being from Wiki if you like but I suggest you consider them:


Beginning in his early life, Lovecraft is believed to have suffered from night terrors, a rare parasomnia disorder; he believed himself to be assaulted at night by horrific "night gaunts." Much of his later work is thought to have been directly inspired by these terrors.

Another inspiration came from a totally different kind of source; the scientific progresses at the time in such wide areas as biology, astronomy, geology and physics, all contributed to make the human race seem even more insignificant, powerless and doomed in a materialistic and mechanical universe, and was a major contributor to the ideas that later would be known as cosmicism, and which gave further support to his atheism.

Cosmicism is the literary philosophy developed and used by the American writer H. P. Lovecraft in his weird fiction.[1] Lovecraft was a writer of philosophically intense horror stories that involve occult phenomena like astral possession and alien miscegenation, and the themes of his fiction over time contributed to the development of this philosophy.

Perhaps the most prominent theme in cosmicism is the utter insignificance of humanity. Lovecraft believed that "the human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. And what human beings do is just as free of sense as the free motion of elementary particles."

Lovecraft's cosmicism was a result of his complete disdain for all things religious, his feeling of humanity's existential helplessness in the face of what he called the "infinite spaces" opened up by scientific thought, and his belief that humanity was fundamentally at the mercy of the vastness and emptiness of the cosmos.[3] In his fictional works, these ideas are often explored humorously ("Herbert West: Reanimator," 1922), through fantastic dreamlike narratives ("The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath," 1927), or through his well-known "Cthulhu Mythos" ("The Call of Cthulhu," 1928, and others).

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 03:07 PM
Is it just me, or has Tusenfem gone ignored?Actually, I have now restricted my comments to what other people, presumably people who have read Lovecraft, have been saying. It all seems perfectly apropos to the OP, and might actually have something to say about Lovecraft's purposes (all this time he was trying to tell you something about our world, using his. He spawned an "ism", for heaven's sake. Oops, that does sound like an opinion, please disregard it, I haven't read Lovecraft).

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 03:10 PM
:rolleyes:

Wiki seems to deal with a lot more than just what you said.

marsbug
2010-Feb-11, 03:12 PM
I've only read a little, I've learned more about it from reading this thread than from my own reading.

The idea that a person sees something that is a violation of what they consider to be the natural order of the universe ( a skyscraper sized creature with a beard of tentacles and flappy wings for example ), and go 'mad' is fine with me. I've seen it happen. Not Cthulu (!), people going temporarily or permanantely loopy because the had to accept something that didn't mesh with what they thought the natural order of things was. Finding out the girl you're in love with, and consider yourself meant to be with, would rather go out with the local bully can unhinge some people; 'she's so sweet and charming, we're perfect for each other it's nonsense that she'd see anything in that thug'. Followed by gratuitous violence directed at passers by. A cult leaders 'prophecy' failing to come true has been known to trigger hullicinations and conversations with gods in devout followers. Cthulu is not required, for some people the little circle of light is very small indeed.

Lovecraft lived during the british empire, and was probably raised to believe that man was gods supreme creation, and britain was the greatest civilization of mankind. He probably mixed with people who based their identity on those ideas, even if he didn't hold them himself. The idea that not just Britain but humanity itself was insignificant was probably one he could easily imagine driving his contempories insane.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 03:14 PM
Not Cthulu (!), people going temporarily or permanantely loopy because the had to accept something that didn't mesh with what they thought the natural order of things was. Finding out the girl you're in love with, and consider yourself meant to be with, would rather go out with the local bully can unhinge some people; 'she's so sweet and charming, we're perfect for each other it's nonsense that she'd see anything in that thug'. Followed by gratuitous violence directed at passers by.

Uhm, oooooookay.

I'd argue that if this would drive someone insane, there was something wrong with them in the first place.


Lovecraft lived during the british empire, and was probably raised to believe that man was gods supreme creation, and britain was the greatest civilization of mankind.
He was a fan of English culture, yes.

(Since someone quoted my unedited post, I'm editing what I said back in):


I refer again to this (http://everything2.com/user/Sol+Invictus/writeups/On+the+Creation+of+Niggers). Or, heck, even this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft).

His ideas were often based on Eugenics, but the "British Superiority" thing seems totally left field, unless you're just talking fear of miscegenation. For one, he lived in the US, not Britain, and was born in Rhode Island.

However, the idea of eugenics was not just around in Britain or Germany; it was floating around everywhere at that point, even in China (who were wanting to use it to argue against the Manchu rulers, to an extent; eventually they discarded Eugenics)

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-11, 03:19 PM
And in fact, given the history of Ken G's posts, I know that no length of debate will go anywhere with him.This isn't actually so. :) I can recall a couple of (long!) threads in which I've turned Ken's opinion around, and a couple more in which we have agreed on intermediate positions, although failed to align on the main point.
But there's no hope of rapprochement if the fundamental argument relies on allegory: everything that Lovecraft writes can of course be interpreted as an allegory for something else, as opposed to its literal content. (I just read a book in which Shakespeare's plays are reinterpreted as an allegory for the Copernican world-view, for instance.) Ken is in the awkward position of being unable to offer the copious quotations that such arguments-by-allegory would seem to require, but seems undaunted.

<Shrug.> One of the nice things about BAUT is that there's always something else interesting to do.

Grant Hutchison

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 03:21 PM
Fair enough. I've never seen it myself, probably because I don't like watching paint dry either, but okay.

marsbug
2010-Feb-11, 03:47 PM
Uhm, oooooookay.

I'd argue that if this would drive someone insane, there was something wrong with them in the first place.



I refer again to this (http://everything2.com/user/Sol+Invictus/writeups/On+the+Creation+of+Niggers). Or, heck, even this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft).

His ideas were often based on Eugenics, but the "British Superiority" thing seems totally left field, unless you're just talking fear of miscegenation. For one, he lived in the US, not Britain, and was born in Rhode Island.

However, the idea of eugenics was not just around in Britain or Germany; it was floating around everywhere at that point, even in China (who were wanting to use it to argue against the Manchu rulers, to an extent; eventually they discarded Eugenics)

Second bit first soluslupus:
Ok I got his nationality wrong. Point is that his idea of what induced madness (from what I've read here) was trying to accept a truth or happening that didn't fit into a persons view of 'the natural order'. That is perfectly possible if a person would rather deny reality than change their view of it.

First bit second: I think 'there is something wrong' with everyone. Everyone has neurosis, it's an accepted part of the human condition. In some people they can be triggered easily to cause irrational behavoir, like accepting something they consider utterly incomprehensible to be real. So I'm drawing a parralel between the two and saying:
Perhaps lovecraft wrote the idea that human minds cannot accept some aspects of reality without going mad, because he felt that he could not accept some aspects of reality without going mad. But thats just his view, so in his books humanity was unfairly written as being too weak to take reality because he felt that he was! ;)

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 03:48 PM
I edited my post. :o

I read it through in detail, and saw that he was a fan of 18th century English culture.

But I think it's more evidence that people are commenting on what they think Lovecraft thought and didn't think, without being familiar with the man himself.


First bit second: I think 'there is something wrong' with everyone. Everyone has neurosis, it's an accepted part of the human condition. In some people they can be triggered easily to cause irrational behavoir, like accepting something they consider utterly incomprehensible to be real. So I'm drawing a parralel between the two and saying: P

Is this an accepted mainstream view in psychology, or just a personal view?

I may dismiss something as silly off the bat, but I don't gibber and lash out at people around me randomly. The human psyche doesn't work like that.



Perhaps lovecraft wrote the idea that human minds cannot accept some aspects of reality without going mad, because he felt that he could not accept some aspects of his reality without going mad. But thats just his view, so in his books humanity was written as being too weak to take reality because he felt that he was!

Sort of. He wrote himself into one story, in a rather obvious way, and he was the guy who led a scientific expedition to get rid of an evil invisible tentacle-god through rituals in The Dunwich Horror.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 03:48 PM
Lovecraft was an Anglophile who viewed British civilisation as the highest in the world and American civilisation as merely a corrupt offshoot. Therefore he saw the best parts of America as those that were closest in form to England (ie New England)

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 03:56 PM
Yes, that is true.

EDG
2010-Feb-11, 04:34 PM
Please pardon me if I am taking some concepts below with a bit of poetic liscence, but we are talking about fiction, and things that could go into stories.

There are vast, apalling, powerfull, things out there. They are totally indifferent to not just humanity, but life itself. Is cthulu any more frightening than the destructive power, and indifferent randomness, of a gamma ray burst?

The power of the sun is immense beyond anything humans could comprehend, and is almost certain to bring searing, world-ending fire to the earth, in the fullness of time.

The great red spot of jupiter is as big as worlds, self-organized for at least as long as some human civilisations, mercilessly preys on storms bigger than most earth hurricanes to sustain itself, and engages in titanic and terminal struggles with it's brother superstorms to dominate the region of jupiter it resides in. It would shred a human with the minutest fragment of its power, without even giving them the dignity of intending to.

These things are not alive, but they are real, mysterious, and terrifying if you devote some thought to them, and try to comprehend them. And yet people do every day and remain sane. I think you just have to approach them with the mentality of : 'we're nothing to these forces- I've just got to deal with that'.

All that you mentioned is what I'd call "awe-inspiring" - but that's not the stuff that's sanity-rending in HPL's universe.

We're talking about ordinary people dealing with ancient god-like beings some to whom we are utterly insignificant, and others (like Nyarlathotep) to whom we are merely playthings. We're talking about beasts who hunt people across time and space, and who materialise from any angled surface (in the stories, the victim of the Hounds of Tindalos hid himself away in his room and rounded every corner he could find... and still got taken because he missed a tiny crack). We're talking about sentient colours who come from space to suck all the fluids out of a body and corrupt the environment. And all of this in the context of the 1930s, when space travel was still far away and the universe was even more unknowable than it is today.

Imagine if everything we know about the universe today was a lie, and the reality was that old gods were real, walked the stars, extinguished them on a whim, and toyed with (or annihilated) lifeforms whenever they felt like it. (Some of us at least) pride ourselves on our ingenuity and rationality, and our knowledge of the laws of nature, imagine if that's all swept away. I don't think many of us here would really just say "huh"... the implications of that change would be catastrophic for our worldview.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 04:42 PM
I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim
Where they roll in their horror unheeded
Without knowledge, or lustre, or name.

I don't think you need to invoke squishy dark gods to find that stanza disturbing.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 04:45 PM
Yet Lovecraft does write preponderously on "squishy dark gods" and other monsters, as well as a dream world. Also, invisible gods. And gods that women have sex with (The Dunwich Horror, again) to bear monstrous children.

I'm pretty sure you can't mate with a gamma ray.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 04:51 PM
So? That doesn't mean that can't be seen metaphorically. Why is that an issue? Is no fantasy supposed to be taken metaphorically?

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 04:57 PM
I just think that there's more to it than just one giant metaphor.

Yes, he included things in his worldview in his stories, including miscegenation. This doesn't mean that Innsmouth was just a giant "Our Race is Superior" metaphor... it was a bit more complicated than that.

But if you think it's just 100% metaphor, then Herbert West is probably as anti-science as you get. Or maybe Lovecraft's religious, and the issue is a "lack of soul". Which do you think?

There was ideas that influenced his stories when it came to his idea of the Cosmos. But I find it hard to believe that he spent all that time and effort coming up with Cthulhu and the surrounding mythos just to say, "The Cosmos is creepy". I think that classical religion also factors into his stories, as many of his "gods" seem to be distorted gods you see in other mythologies (Shub Niggurath seems to represent fertility gods and goddesses, for instance).

There's just too much to his stories for it to just be one particular metaphor.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 05:12 PM
No, but "the cosmos is creepy" is certainly a driving theme in Lovecraft's work. And ideas of racial degradation, inferiority and miscegenation are found throughout Lovecraft's work, even in his descriptions of the "miserable half-castes" who worship Cthulu. Innsmouth is just the most obvious example. Lovrcraft was an atheist, and so I doubt he really cared about soul, but, it seems to me, he was just as scathing of scientific arrogance as he was of religious certainty.

Ken G
2010-Feb-11, 05:12 PM
I don't think you need to invoke squishy dark gods to find that stanza disturbing.Thank you for being a voice of reason. You seem to have read a lot of his stuff and know a lot about him, and it is, after all, your thread. So would you say it is fair to observe that Lovecraft was a man whose own life was basically one wall-to-wall horror, and his writing was an effort to come to terms with his own experiences in this world? Would you suppose he was motivated also by a feeling that he had something to say about our world, and wanted to say it, just framed in his own imaginary one as a kind of literary device? Would it be fair to say that he essentially invented the horror genre to accomplish this, because he had a kind of morbid curiosity about horror, in our world, and felt that others would too? Would it be fair to say that he used the imaginary world as a device for obtaining distance from what is too stark, too appalling, and too painful to account for directly? Or is that all just me making things up, no different from imagining that he was really writing about socks?

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-11, 05:15 PM
Wow. Okay.

Yeah, I guess I haven't read any of Lovecraft's work at all. Nope. Because I don't agree with Ken G.

I'm stepping away from this thread. And from Ken G, permanently.

Yes, yes, I know this doesn't make me "the voice of reason". Oh well.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 05:17 PM
we're having a discussion Solus. People take opposing views in discussions. Sometimes we never agree. But we each give our own perspectives. That's how discussions work.



Thank you for being a voice of reason. You seem to have read a lot of his stuff and know a lot about him, and it is, after all, your thread. So would you say it is fair to observe that Lovecraft was a man whose own life was basically one wall-to-wall horror, and his writing was an effort to come to terms with his own experiences in this world? Would you suppose he was motivated also by a feeling that he had something to say about our world, and wanted to say it, just framed in his own imaginary one as a kind of literary device? Would it be fair to say that he essentially invented the horror genre to accomplish this, because he had a kind of morbid curiosity about horror, in our world, and felt that others would too? Would it be fair to say that he used the imaginary world as a device for obtaining distance from what is too stark, too appalling, and too painful to account for directly? Or is that all just me making things up, no different from imagining that he was really writing about socks?

Well I don't know. What I know of him I gleaned from a BBC biography on youtube

1 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WC3yA0OCuk), 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6Z8ybDytlo&feature=related), 3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ucv_cP7lKuc&feature=related), 4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7cZHooVfX4&feature=related)

He does seem to have led a very solitary, neurotic existence, and given that, it's hard not to see this story (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE0sB1VIm3s) as autobiographical.

Grey
2010-Feb-11, 05:24 PM
One might as well protest that no sensible group of teenagers would split up in order to explore the abandoned insane asylum more thoroughly ...Just like many people, my friends and I have bemoaned the idiocy of the people in horror movies. However, two of my friends have acknowledged that they can't criticize anymore. You see, they were driving along a country road, and saw two zombies in a nearby field. They drove by at first, but then a mile or so later, not sure they could believe what they had seen, they turned around and drove back. Then, when they didn't see the zombies, they got out of the car, and started walking through the field looking for them.

Of course, it turned out that they were just two guys who had watched Evil Dead or some such with their girlfriends the night before, and had dressed up as zombies in order to frighten said girlfriends. But they had to acknowledge that, if life had been like a horror movie, they had acted in exactly the way that was most likely to get their brains eaten, in spite of being otherwise sensible people. :)

marsbug
2010-Feb-11, 05:26 PM
I edited my post. :o

I read it through in detail, and saw that he was a fan of 18th century English culture.

[QUOTE=SolusLupus;1679100]I edited my post. :o

I read it through in detail, and saw that he was a fan of 18th century English culture.

But I think it's more evidence that people are commenting on what they think Lovecraft thought and didn't think, without being familiar with the man himself.

Fair point, I'm extrapolating what I know of how people react to things they find truly unacceptable, plus what I know of culture at the time Lovecraft lived, and from there I'm speculating. I'll read some more of his books, but I cannot 'know the man' without a time machine. So we could be forever at logger heads there.



Is this an accepted mainstream view in psychology, or just a personal view?

The 'neurosis are a part of the ordinary human condition' bit is, at least according to one psychiatric counsellor I've spoken with.


I may dismiss something as silly off the bat, but I don't gibber and lash out at people around me randomly. The human psyche doesn't work like that.

Yours doesn't, and maybe the majority of peoples doesn't, but based on my personal experiance some people can appear at worst mildly eccentric for years and then explode into gibbering (yes the man in question actually gibbered and tried to pull his pants down while crying and shouting) and random violence over some seemingly tiny thing.


Imagine if everything we know about the universe today was a lie, and the reality was that old gods were real, walked the stars, extinguished them on a whim, and toyed with (or annihilated) lifeforms whenever they felt like it. (Some of us at least) pride ourselves on our ingenuity and rationality, and our knowledge of the laws of nature, imagine if that's all swept away. I don't think many of us here would really just say "huh"... the implications of that change would be catastrophic for our worldview.

You wouldn't say 'huh' but the result needen't be insanity and death either. As a scientist, finding out that everything we think we know about the universe is wrong, and I suspect a lot of it is, would be an exciting challenge.


To take your examples EDG:
If a predator can come at you from any angled surface then the challenging questions are; why angles? Any particular type, any particlular combination of materials? How sharp does the angle have to be to be called an angle, an internal circumference of a meter, a micron, an angstrom?If I spray the entire room with a quick setting polymer which, being composed of tangles of long chain molecules, is made entirely from tangles of curves down to the smallest level of matter, is that enough to keep them out? Or are the angles between atoms enough for them to use? In that case why do they only appear from macroscopically visible angles and not from any surface?

EDIT: this may sound bit flip, but what happens if I decide to put fear into them, smack the first one to emerge with a crowbar, drench myself in it's blood and the next one out finds me eating it's entrails with my teeth and fingernails? I have had some very vivid nightmares. As far as I can remember my response to all the really bad ones has been to go back to sleep, confront and beat them, and sleep soundly.

Put me in front of a perfectly comprehensible avalanche and I'll weep with fear, but utter unknowns have never bothered me for some reason. END EDIT

If an intelligent colour is after me to suck my fluids I can try to discover; What motivates the fluid sucking? Is it a nescecity, or a sport? If it needs fluid then what does it get from it, and does it need to by my fluid, or can I distract it with a more tempting target? If it is sport ' a hunt' does it have to follow any rules to avoid censure by its peers? If I can work out those rules I might find something to my advantage.

If these things are observed to follow certain behavoirs then they are following sets of rules, evidence of a higher natural order. If I can accept that then I can learn about these new rules, and seek an advantage. If I fail then I can leave records, and maybe help someone else to decipher the rules and gain and advantage.

Most of the creatures described are finite. They have limits, and so can be thwarted or even killed. Cthulu got sucked back down into the deeps in mountains of madness because someone drove a boat into his head, leaving him temporarily immobile.

And if there is no natural order at all then I'm not confined by it either, and can meet them on equal terms.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-11, 05:43 PM
I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim
Where they roll in their horror unheeded
Without knowledge, or lustre, or name.
I don't think you need to invoke squishy dark gods to find that stanza disturbing.
Everything about this is personification. The universe yawns, the planets themselves are in an aimless state of horror.

As such it's very different from the universe we know.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-11, 05:49 PM
Chasms yawn. That doesn't make them animate. I think you could see that as an expression of the meaninglessness of the universe, that modern science had stripped away the comforting deistic solar universe and replaced it with a universe in which we humans were completely insignificant, where there was nothing but endless wastes of dark, cold and deadly space. It just depends on how you see it. Some are comfortable with a meaningless universe. Some are not. Lovecraft may have been an atheist, but I don't think he liked the meaningless universe presented to him.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-11, 06:03 PM
Just like many people, my friends and I have bemoaned the idiocy of the people in horror movies. However, two of my friends have acknowledged that they can't criticize anymore. You see, they were driving along a country road, and saw two zombies in a nearby field. They drove by at first, but then a mile or so later, not sure they could believe what they had seen, they turned around and drove back. Then, when they didn't see the zombies, they got out of the car, and started walking through the field looking for them.

Of course, it turned out that they were just two guys who had watched Evil Dead or some such with their girlfriends the night before, and had dressed up as zombies in order to frighten said girlfriends. But they had to acknowledge that, if life had been like a horror movie, they had acted in exactly the way that was most likely to get their brains eaten, in spite of being otherwise sensible people. :)On the other hand, people have been known to flee screaming when they happen upon a Zombie Walk (http://www.zombiewalk.com/forum/index.php) unexpectedly. A couple of thousand "zombies" lurching through the town centre will do that to a person.

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-11, 06:39 PM
Chasms yawn.
I don't think they do. I don't think mountains are lonely or storms are angry either; they are personifications used so often that the cliches have stuck.

tusenfem
2010-Feb-11, 07:07 PM
Actually, I have now restricted my comments to what other people, presumably people who have read Lovecraft, have been saying. It all seems perfectly apropos to the OP, and might actually have something to say about Lovecraft's purposes (all this time he was trying to tell you something about our world, using his. He spawned an "ism", for heaven's sake. Oops, that does sound like an opinion, please disregard it, I haven't read Lovecraft).


Ken G, as you are apparently an expert on explaining stuff that you have not read, I am not surprised you did not read my comment well, and made your own interpretation.

What I meant was back out of the discussion, you have made your point, time and time and time and time again, whilst leaning on simplistic literary insights and the greatest-wonder-of-the-world Wikipedia.

If your intention now it just to copy and paste whatever other people say about Lovecraft, then you might run into some time in which you might have the opportunity to read Lovecraft.

EDG
2010-Feb-11, 07:12 PM
To take your examples EDG:
If a predator can come at you from any angled surface then the challenging questions are; why angles? Any particular type, any particlular combination of materials? How sharp does the angle have to be to be called an angle, an internal circumference of a meter, a micron, an angstrom?If I spray the entire room with a quick setting polymer which, being composed of tangles of long chain molecules, is made entirely from tangles of curves down to the smallest level of matter, is that enough to keep them out? Or are the angles between atoms enough for them to use? In that case why do they only appear from macroscopically visible angles and not from any surface?

Uh, I would be trying to get away from every single angled surface I could, like the guy in the story. The last thing I'm going to do is think "hm, I wonder if molecules have angles?". After all, we're talking about a freakin' MONSTER that can appear at random from any angled surface anywhere.

It's really easy to talk about things and say "oh, I'd be perfectly rational if that happened". The reality is that the vast majority of us would be living in abject terror like anyone else would in that situation. You probably won't have time to think rationally or plan or consider possibilities and calmly in such situations, because you have no idea when or where it's going to appear next. You'd be completely paranoid of anything with corners, which would certainly give the appearance (to others) of being crazy.

Maybe you'd get lucky and find a way to defeat the beasties, but frankly it's unlikely. Reality doesn't work like the movies do. And either way, I bet you'd be terrified of corners for the rest of your life.


EDIT: this may sound bit flip, but what happens if I decide to put fear into them, smack the first one to emerge with a crowbar, drench myself in it's blood and the next one out finds me eating it's entrails with my teeth and fingernails? I have had some very vivid nightmares. As far as I can remember my response to all the really bad ones has been to go back to sleep, confront and beat them, and sleep soundly.

Nightmares can't kill you. And HPL's beasties certainly don't fear humans. While one can possibly fend off or defeat the smaller beasties like Bhyakees, Nightgaunts, Dimensional Shamblers and Deep Ones, one is certainly toast when faced with the likes of Cthulhu, Hastur, Y'Golonac, or Azazoth (heck, Azazoth could take out the entire solar system with random thrashing and not even notice it).

The cardinal rule in the Call of Cthulhu RPG is that it's generally "we came, we saw, we got eaten/squished/absorbed/went completely insane/ran away screaming". Fighting more often than not just gets you killed spectacularly rapidly.

EDG
2010-Feb-11, 07:27 PM
Everything about this is personification. The universe yawns, the planets themselves are in an aimless state of horror.

As such it's very different from the universe we know.

Not really. We just de-sensitise ourselves to our insignificance. Most people don't, however.

mike alexander
2010-Feb-11, 07:37 PM
Don't you have to accept an author's premise as the price of admission to a story? After all, Cordwainer Smith had his insanity-inducing Dragons out in the dark between the stars. And Asimov had the simple experience of darkness (and the feeling of insignificance produced by the Stars) sufficient to drive an entire civilization mad.

Everyone will react differently to a given situation. As an example, I look at a photograph of someone standing on some rock outcropping looking down into the Grand Canyon and it gives me the shudders. The idea of actually doing it (or more likely someone holding me extremely firmly and taking me to such a precipice) might just drive me off my rocker, or kill me. My fear of heights is completely irrational and also completely real. Likewise, Lovecraft's cosmos is profoundly irrational; for some it can be quite disturbing.

EDG
2010-Feb-11, 08:09 PM
Likewise, Lovecraft's cosmos is profoundly irrational; for some it can be quite disturbing.

I think HPL's cosmos is actually quite rational... it just doesn't follow our nice, standard scientific logic. And more to the point, even though we could eventually comprehend the horrors of his universe, the point remains that they are fickle and unpredictable - Azazoth could destroy the galaxy or even the universe on a mad whim, Cthulhu could just decide to wake up and eradicate humanity, the Flying Polyps could break free from their prisons and destroy us all like they did the great race of Yith, etc.

So even knowing what's out there doesn't really help. The key to long-term survival in HPL's universe is to get the heck out of the way when any of this stuff happens and hope it doesn't follow you.

ngc3314
2010-Feb-11, 08:14 PM
It's all known as the "Cthulhu Mythos", and there's a lot of it (built on later by Derleth and other writers). You can start here if you want to read about it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos . There's a rather complete timeline here too: http://www.dracandros.com/Jebgarg/Nidoking/cthuchrono.htm


Oh, my. I linked among some timelines and found one that included a Mythos story I wrote for a fanzine while in high school. This fact qualifies as eldritch.

Gillianren
2010-Feb-11, 08:21 PM
There are many places terrors can come from, they can be purely metabolic, or they can be from invented thoughts, or they can be from very real facts. These are hard to tell apart for the person immersed in them.


The 'neurosis are a part of the ordinary human condition' bit is, at least according to one psychiatric counsellor I've spoken with.

Can people, in addition to not making proclamations about books they haven't read, stop making proclamations from ignorance about mental illness? Yes, everything has something a bit off about them. However, the severity about which we're speaking is by definition abnormal. Anyone driven to actual gibbering is so far removed from "normal" that they shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence. They may have seemed normal before, but it's not as though anyone is capable of just kind of snapping in that fashion. There's a long way between the occasional panic attack and the kind of madness applicable to Lovecraft characters after dealing with the horrors in the stories.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-12, 06:17 AM
we're having a discussion Solus. People take opposing views in discussions. Sometimes we never agree. But we each give our own perspectives. That's how discussions work.
Actually, it's customary in a discussion to hear what the other person is saying. That aspect has been sadly missing from Ken G's side.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 07:57 AM
Actually, it's customary in a discussion to hear what the other person is saying. That aspect has been sadly missing from Ken G's side.

The pity of it is, it's an interesting topic. But instead of exploring it, I think people are feeling compelled to defend their interpretation rather than consider others, and as a result are answering points they think they can negate, and ignoring points they can't. (How can planets that roll "in their horror" not be personifications?)

Perhaps we could get back to exploring. I'll pose a few questions and give my own answers. I'd be interested in others' answers, and additional questions.

1. Is Lovecraft's work autobiographical?

Some of the time, certainly. Someone has already cited "The Outsider", I think. And in any case, most authors draw on their own experience.

2. Does his work contain metaphors?

Probably. His fear and loathing of miscegenation is reflected in his human/alien hybrids. And I read somewhere that Freud would have a field day with some of his imagery, despite Lovecraft himself dismissing Freud in one of his stories.

3. Is his entire body of work "merely" a metaphor for the real world?

No, I really don't think it is. Even if his pantheon represent cosmic forces that he believes to exist, there is no one-to-one correlation between, say, Cthulhu and a specific real-world issue.

In general, I would say that whereas metaphor can add spice to a dish, a dish consisting entirely of that spice would be unpalatable. (Some episodes of Buffy spring to mind.)

J Riff
2010-Feb-12, 08:13 AM
HPL without mentioning other pulp-era writers like Hodgson, Howard, the Gnome Press writers and others. It was progressive horror for it's time and characterized by much shorter writings, HPL did not waste words, and he was an excellent writer has anyone mentioned that ? ) His stuff can grab you and 20 pages later a lot has happened.
The old English style lends authenticity to world that no longer exists, but which fragments of still did exist , near the beginning of the previous century.
Clark Ashton Smith uses archaic English even more dramatically than HPL and his writing is equally OUT there with a slightly more modern take than HPL and a total unpredictability that makes it funny somehow.
Difficult to look at this stuff in modern context ...HPL was paranoic, various drugs were about, there's a lot of fanatical collectors with stories, but I think he survives and his characters are carried on by other writers because he was a great wordsmith himself.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-12, 08:19 AM
I think HPL's cosmos is actually quite rational... it just doesn't follow our nice, standard scientific logic. And more to the point, even though we could eventually comprehend the horrors of his universe, the point remains that they are fickle and unpredictable - Azazoth could destroy the galaxy or even the universe on a mad whim, Cthulhu could just decide to wake up and eradicate humanity, the Flying Polyps could break free from their prisons and destroy us all like they did the great race of Yith, etc.

So even knowing what's out there doesn't really help. The key to long-term survival in HPL's universe is to get the heck out of the way when any of this stuff happens and hope it doesn't follow you.

Actually, I think that one main theme to his stories is that ultimately, there is no "key to long-term survival". Humanity could (and probably will) be wiped out, and while there's ways to keep those that would back (namely certain rituals for the Old Ones), ultimately there is not a lot of hope. Even survival of the individual is rarely available (that hound will find some corner somewhere to take you...)

The key to not dying right away is generally not meddling in and studying what you shouldn't, and even then, what exists always will; just that with study, comes knowledge that it exists.

parallaxicality
2010-Feb-12, 08:32 AM
The pity of it is, it's an interesting topic. But instead of exploring it, I think people are feeling compelled to defend their interpretation rather than consider others, and as a result are answering points they think they can negate, and ignoring points they can't. (How can planets that roll "in their horror" not be personifications?)

Perhaps we could get back to exploring. I'll pose a few questions and give my own answers. I'd be interested in others' answers, and additional questions.

1. Is Lovecraft's work autobiographical?

Some of the time, certainly. Someone has already cited "The Outsider", I think. And in any case, most authors draw on their own experience.

2. Does his work contain metaphors?

Probably. His fear and loathing of miscegenation is reflected in his human/alien hybrids. And I read somewhere that Freud would have a field day with some of his imagery, despite Lovecraft himself dismissing Freud in one of his stories.

3. Is his entire body of work "merely" a metaphor for the real world?

No, I really don't think it is. Even if his pantheon represent cosmic forces that he believes to exist, there is no one-to-one correlation between, say, Cthulhu and a specific real-world issue.

In general, I would say that whereas metaphor can add spice to a dish, a dish consisting entirely of that spice would be unpalatable. (Some episodes of Buffy spring to mind.)

There are however a few points that I think have been glossed over in the fight.

Ken's original point was whether the real world was scarier than squishy things with tentacles. This is a debatable point. You could argue that, within the confines of Lovecraft's fictional universe, squishy things with tentacles are given the power to terrify beyond all reason, but that's a bit of a cop out really. The problem with Lovecraft, and arguably the reason he has proven so difficult to film, is that the actual terrors he presents are nothing compared to the cosmic terrors he implies, and that implied cosmic terror is just as true of our own universe as it is of his.

Second point: leaving straight metaphor aside, is it possible to glean Lovecraft's views on the real universe from the way it is presented in his fantasy? Yes, I think it is, and I think Lovecraft's views on the universe, and on science in particular, are ably demonstrated by the quote I put at the start of this thread.

J Riff
2010-Feb-12, 08:33 AM
Not to blather on, but I have read all the HPL, several times probably, as well as the others I mentioned, you can't separate HPL from his comtemporaries, he was only slightly weirder. A very weird other-dimensional read is William Hodgsons' House on the Borderland. Hodgson died in the trenches in the 1st war.
This era of weird fiction connects back to hollow earth, lost race, and other pre-sciFi categories, and there's quite a lot of it out there. Detailed maps of the hollow earth, flights to other planets, this is pre pulp writing and it is wildly unstructured, usually nutbar fun stuff.
But HPL could somehow take you with him when he went to the old graveyard, and found the hole and the tunnel...you'd go in there with him, and -

NooOOOAi^!!______________________-----

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-12, 08:35 AM
Come to think of it, I would be interested in reading his rivals' works. Is there a comprehensive list?

J Riff
2010-Feb-12, 09:14 AM
All the pulp writers of the era. Some of the early SciFi writers were in there, Robert Bloch. R E Howard was another eccentric, Conan, Soloman Kane and a lot of other stuff, he is revered much as Lovecraft is. Donald Wandrei etEtc
Look up any sizeable antiquarian bookdealer who specializes in weird fiction. They really did call it 'weird' at the time.. the same word that was later banned in the formation of the comics code.
There should be long lists of obscure stuff. It's interesting to notice when things like Dinosaurs, spacecraft and other things 1st appear in fiction. Lovecraft was not afraid to write about other dimensions, or asteroid monsters or other fairly advanced stuff ,for his time. That he was able to pull it off at all is proof that he was a great writer or else the drugs were very good indeed. )
What is so amazing to me, sometimes, is that many of the things people still wonder about today, in re: the Universe, dimensional concepts, time travel, aliens, - these people were actively exploring almost a hundred years ago.
Here's a typical catalogue http://www.bookbill.com/matcat.html

marsbug
2010-Feb-12, 11:25 AM
Firstly, Gillianren I apologise for speaking from ignorance. The point I wished to make was that 'madness' is not an on-off thing, and no one should be making the claim that 'I'm 100% sane'. So when someone becomes a gibbering wreck because of something they saw, in our world or in HPLs, I would assume that they had a real, hidden, problem anyway. Not that what they saw was somehow horrible beyond human comprehension.


Uh, I would be trying to get away from every single angled surface I could, like the guy in the story. The last thing I'm going to do is think "hm, I wonder if molecules have angles?". After all, we're talking about a freakin' MONSTER that can appear at random from any angled surface anywhere.

It's really easy to talk about things and say "oh, I'd be perfectly rational if that happened". The reality is that the vast majority of us would be living in abject terror like anyone else would in that situation. You probably won't have time to think rationally or plan or consider possibilities and calmly in such situations, because you have no idea when or where it's going to appear next. You'd be completely paranoid of anything with corners, which would certainly give the appearance (to others) of being crazy.

Maybe you'd get lucky and find a way to defeat the beasties, but frankly it's unlikely. Reality doesn't work like the movies do. And either way, I bet you'd be terrified of corners for the rest of your life. .

And you'd be right on all counts, at least until knowledge of attacks by such monsters started to get around. When it did a concerted effort to understand them, by people not under immediate threat (People in bulletproof glass bubbles I guess), could analyse what was known, develop responses and pass those on to people who were under threat. And if these attacks are vanishingly rare there'd be no point worrying about them, anymore than walking down the road afraid of lightning strikes!




Nightmares can't kill you. And HPL's beasties certainly don't fear humans. While one can possibly fend off or defeat the smaller beasties like Bhyakees, Nightgaunts, Dimensional Shamblers and Deep Ones, one is certainly toast when faced with the likes of Cthulhu, Hastur, Y'Golonac, or Azazoth (heck, Azazoth could take out the entire solar system with random thrashing and not even notice it).

The cardinal rule in the Call of Cthulhu RPG is that it's generally "we came, we saw, we got eaten/squished/absorbed/went completely insane/ran away screaming". Fighting more often than not just gets you killed spectacularly rapidly.

If some of the smaller ones can be fended off by individuals then presumably some of the bigger ones could be countered by a concerted effort by humanity as a whole. The ones that could smash the solar system with a random thrashing... well there's no point worrying about that a lot, anymore than worrying about an asteroid hitting your home town.

HPLs beasties don't fear humans, perhaps because they never meet humans who know what they are facing and are ready to deal with them. Because humanity is at the bottom of HPLs food chain when they are ignorant of how the universe really operates, doesn't mean things would stay that way once knowledge of these creatures got about.


Actually, I think that one main theme to his stories is that ultimately, there is no "key to long-term survival". Humanity could (and probably will) be wiped out, and while there's ways to keep those that would back (namely certain rituals for the Old Ones), ultimately there is not a lot of hope. Even survival of the individual is rarely available (that hound will find some corner somewhere to take you...).

So that is much like our world then? Looking through our planets history, sooner or later the survival rate for every species and individual drops to zero.


The key to not dying right away is generally not meddling in and studying what you shouldn't, and even then, what exists always will; just that with study, comes knowledge that it exists.

I think thats what has actually gotten my goat about this, the idea that 'there are things man is not meant to know, that will drive us mad if we try to comprehend', that underpins these books. There are surely things we are not yet ready to accept, and knowledge that would be terrifying in the wrong hands, but knowledge is not itself an enemy. In HPL world getting knowledge about the real universe, and learning to accept it as fast as possible, would be the only hope of survival. Slim though that hope would be.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-12, 11:55 AM
So that is much like our world then? Looking through our planets history, sooner or later the survival rate for every species and individual drops to zero.Irrelevant. I wasn't making comparisons to the real world at all.

And we have no data point for heavy tech-using species.


I think thats what has actually gotten my goat about this, the idea that 'there are things man is not meant to know, that will drive us mad if we try to comprehend', that underpins these books. There are surely things we are not yet ready to accept, and knowledge that would be terrifying in the wrong hands, but knowledge is not itself an enemy. In HPL world getting knowledge about the real universe, and learning to accept it as fast as possible, would be the only hope of survival. Slim though that hope would be.

In HPL's world, you cannot assimilate the information without going mad. So, yeah, you're pretty much screwed.

If you're looking for hope and heroes that save the day, Lovecraft isn't the kind of author for you. Though The Dunwich Horror comes close, what three Miskatonic students driving the monster back with a ritual, but it only works for so long.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-12, 11:59 AM
1. Is Lovecraft's work autobiographical?

Some of the time, certainly. Someone has already cited "The Outsider", I think. And in any case, most authors draw on their own experience.I also think the "logic of nightmares" I mentioned earlier is Lovecraft's evocation of his own experience with night terrors. (Anyone here ever had a true night terror? I've had one, and I don't recommend them.) Lovecraft evokes that unreasoning horror very well, but places it in the real world: his universe contains real entities that are able to elicit the stuff that only occurs in nightmares in "our" Universe.


2. Does his work contain metaphors?

Probably. His fear and loathing of miscegenation is reflected in his human/alien hybrids. And I read somewhere that Freud would have a field day with some of his imagery, despite Lovecraft himself dismissing Freud in one of his stories.I'm also sure that the unease of Lovecraft (and others) about the oddness of relativity and QM leaked into the Cthulhu Mythos, consciously or unconsciously, and has relevance to the OP quote.


3. Is his entire body of work "merely" a metaphor for the real world?

No, I really don't think it is. Even if his pantheon represent cosmic forces that he believes to exist, there is no one-to-one correlation between, say, Cthulhu and a specific real-world issue.

In general, I would say that whereas metaphor can add spice to a dish, a dish consisting entirely of that spice would be unpalatable. (Some episodes of Buffy spring to mind.)Yes: as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Most often, a work of fiction is just about the characters and events it portrays. The fact that there must be some connection to the real world somewhere in a fantasy, in order to engage the reader's understanding and sympathy, doesn't mean that the entire content of the story maps directly to the real world. Indeed, if one wants to contend that the entire body of work of an author contains nothing but metaphor, then that would require a thick volume of careful textual analysis.

Grant Hutchison

marsbug
2010-Feb-12, 12:24 PM
Irrelevant. I wasn't making comparisons to the real world at all.

And we have no data point for heavy tech-using species.

I disagree with the first, in both this world and HPLs there is no hope of survival over the long-term. I'll grant that in our world species with high technology may be an exception.




In HPL's world, you cannot assimilate the information without going mad. So, yeah, you're pretty much screwed.

If you're looking for hope and heroes that save the day, Lovecraft isn't the kind of author for you. Though The Dunwich Horror comes close, what three Miskatonic students driving the monster back with a ritual, but it only works for so long.

No I'm not much taken by the idea of these books. I'm the kind of guy who pauses horror movies so i can fact check the plot and work out a way to survive! The real world is amoral and dark enough to depress me, I doubt I'd enjoy reading HPL.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-12, 12:29 PM
I disagree with the first, in both this world and HPLs there is no hope of survival over the long-term. I'll grant that in our world species with high technology may be an exception.I don't quite understand what you're disagreeing with, but okay.

marsbug
2010-Feb-12, 12:49 PM
I lost track of what you were saying was irrelevant, and had to read back through the thread to refresh my memory. My mistake:silenced:

If in HPL world there are pieces of knowledge which the act of learning will drive any human insane, and those pieces of knowledge are the same pieces that tell you information on the real universe, then I'd probably read the entire book thinking 'how comes the human race survived past leaving africa?'.

Still i'm curious now (probably a bad thing in HPL world), so I'll probably give HPL another go.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-12, 12:52 PM
Because what we understand on Earth is one thing. When he talks about insanity, it's mainly about the cosmic gods and extra dimensional beings that make up the cosmos. Seeing a new land for the first time (like the New World) wouldn't cause you insanity, but summoning an Old One would!

The Necronomicon is the base "explains everything about the universe", really.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 03:34 PM
Ken's original point was whether the real world was scarier than squishy things with tentacles. This is a debatable point. You could argue that, within the confines of Lovecraft's fictional universe, squishy things with tentacles are given the power to terrify beyond all reason, but that's a bit of a cop out really. The problem with Lovecraft, and arguably the reason he has proven so difficult to film, is that the actual terrors he presents are nothing compared to the cosmic terrors he implies, and that implied cosmic terror is just as true of our own universe as it is of his.
As I mentioned on the old BA board, I was attacked by an octopus back in 2004. It didn't scare me. This is irrelevant to the discussion, but I thought I'd share it again.

More seriously, interesting point, particularly the "difficult to film" issue - certainly, I cannot offhand think of any film which was true to the books and effective. (I remember being terrified by The Shuttered Room when I was a child, but it barely resembled the story.)

But comparing the real universe with HPL's is like comparing an earthquake with a mass murderer. Both are very dangerous, and either one might kill you, but there's no malevolence behind the earthquake - or, indeed, a quasar, or the Great Red Spot of Jupiter.

(Going off on a brief tangent, one could argue that the entities of the mythos were as likely to be indifferent as malevolent, and were perhaps the more scary for that reason. Which makes me think of the Borg at their most effective - the scariest thing about them was the way they ignored you!)


Second point: leaving straight metaphor aside, is it possible to glean Lovecraft's views on the real universe from the way it is presented in his fantasy? Yes, I think it is, and I think Lovecraft's views on the universe, and on science in particular, are ably demonstrated by the quote I put at the start of this thread.

This is perhaps an assumption too far. Authors of fiction and fantasy do not have to believe what they write. The late Marion Zimmer Bradley upset a lot of fans because she revealed that she didn't believe in the philosophy, magic or whatever it was that underlay her Mists of Avalon insomnia-cures.

I would guess that HPL's beliefs and writings are more closely linked than those of MZB, but I wouldn't assume it.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-12, 03:41 PM
Authors of fiction and fantasy do not have to believe what they write.
I like Niven's way of saying that.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-12, 03:50 PM
I like Niven's way of saying that.:D
I seriously considered quoting him earlier in this thread. Can one receive an infraction for channelling someone else's ad hom? I think one probably can.

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 04:06 PM
I also think the "logic of nightmares" I mentioned earlier is Lovecraft's evocation of his own experience with night terrors. (Anyone here ever had a true night terror? I've had one, and I don't recommend them.) Lovecraft evokes that unreasoning horror very well, but places it in the real world: his universe contains real entities that are able to elicit the stuff that only occurs in nightmares in "our" Universe.
Agreed.

As to your question, I knew someone who was prone to night terrors. She enjoyed horror, but tended to avoid it as it brought them on.

I'm not sure if I've had them or not. I've had the usual nightmares often enough, but occasionally I've awoken in an intense state of fear following a very brief dream about something not at all scary, such as an old ornament or toy lying on the floor near the stairs.


I'm also sure that the unease of Lovecraft (and others) about the oddness of relativity and QM leaked into the Cthulhu Mythos, consciously or unconsciously, and has relevance to the OP quote.
I think there are some references here and there - tho' quite what's so scary about (say) the twins paradox is beyond me!


Yes: as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Most often, a work of fiction is just about the characters and events it portrays. The fact that there must be some connection to the real world somewhere in a fantasy, in order to engage the reader's understanding and sympathy, doesn't mean that the entire content of the story maps directly to the real world. Indeed, if one wants to contend that the entire body of work of an author contains nothing but metaphor, then that would require a thick volume of careful textual analysis.
Well put.

On a related note, referring again to the statement that "all science fiction is about the present day", I have to wonder about the popularity of, say, Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Why is everybody so fascinated by 1942? Equivalent things could be said about Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, The City and the Stars and so on. Certainly there are some SF stories that are specifically about the time they were written, but the ones everyone likes decades later tend to be about eternal (or at least long-term) concerns such as love, mortality and so on. The same is true of much of fantasy, and there lies much of its appeal.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 04:08 PM
I like Niven's way of saying that.

I was thinking about Niven earlier, as a matter of fact. But I can't remember what he said. Can you enlighten me, or does it, as Grant suggests, involve infractions?

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 04:19 PM
Replying to J Riff - there's some very enjoyable fiction written in HPL's time. I discovered Clark Ashton Smith in the late 70s because I found a remaindered copy of Out of Space and Time in Woolworth's going for 40p. I loved it for its prose, imagery and atmosphere, and still like him more than HPL.

I think Robert E. Howard is in danger of being overlooked because everyone thinks he just did Conan and a handful of other stuff, but some of his weird fiction is a delight. William Hope Hodgson can hit the spot too - I recently listened to an abridged reading of House on the Borderland, which was very good, although I have not yet brought myself to read much beyond the first chapter of The Night Land.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-12, 04:29 PM
The problem with Lovecraft, and arguably the reason he has proven so difficult to film, is that the actual terrors he presents are nothing compared to the cosmic terrors he implies, and that implied cosmic terror is just as true of our own universe as it is of his. One could argue that, but I don't think Lovecraft would agree. :)
Lovecraft certainly cultivated this style of "implicit horror". He was a great admirer of Hodgson, who also worked through hints and implications, and Lovecraft wrote about this technique (specifically with regard to Hodgson) in his essay "Supernatural horror in literature":
Few can equal him in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and insignificant details ...One would therefore have to argue that, in a non-fiction work, Lovecraft wrote "monstrous besieging entities" as shorthand for the working out of indifferent cosmic events in our Universe. That would be rather odd. Isn't it more likely that he meant "monstrous besieging entities" to be understood as just plain old fictional monsters?

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-12, 04:51 PM
I was thinking about Niven earlier, as a matter of fact. But I can't remember what he said. Can you enlighten me, or does it, as Grant suggests, involve infractions?
Quoting from memory, so likely not quite correct: "There's a technical term for people who confuse the opinion of a character in a book with that of the author.
The term is 'idiot'."

EDG
2010-Feb-12, 05:08 PM
If some of the smaller ones can be fended off by individuals then presumably some of the bigger ones could be countered by a concerted effort by humanity as a whole. The ones that could smash the solar system with a random thrashing... well there's no point worrying about that a lot, anymore than worrying about an asteroid hitting your home town.

HPLs beasties don't fear humans, perhaps because they never meet humans who know what they are facing and are ready to deal with them. Because humanity is at the bottom of HPLs food chain when they are ignorant of how the universe really operates, doesn't mean things would stay that way once knowledge of these creatures got about.

The Elder Things were the "men" of a bygone era (see Mountains of Madness) and they got squished by the horrors they created/unleashed (shoggoths). And I would say that the Elder Things knew a lot more about the lovecraftian universe than humans do.

And another aspect of the mythos is the idea that humans would ultimately become the horrors that lurked in the cosmos. That eventually we'd cast aside our morality and sanity (at least, what we'd call 'sanity' today) and go gleefully cavorting in the dark, walking the stars as if we were gods. Sort of like a transhumanism gone bad (the Cthulhutech RPG explores that somewhat).



In HPL world getting knowledge about the real universe, and learning to accept it as fast as possible, would be the only hope of survival. Slim though that hope would be.

Gaining knowledge about the mythos generally costs sanity.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 05:15 PM
Quoting from memory, so likely not quite correct: "There's a technical term for people who confuse the opinion of a character in a book with that of the author.
The term is 'idiot'."

Thanks for that! I remember it now that you've reminded me.

Of course, the author and the character may share an opinion, but one should not assume they do without a compelling reason.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-12, 06:19 PM
The Elder Things were the "men" of a bygone era (see Mountains of Madness) and they got squished by the horrors they created/unleashed (shoggoths). And I would say that the Elder Things knew a lot more about the lovecraftian universe than humans do.

I never finished that particular book.

I'm reading it now here:

http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/

Gillianren
2010-Feb-12, 06:32 PM
Firstly, Gillianren I apologise for speaking from ignorance. The point I wished to make was that 'madness' is not an on-off thing, and no one should be making the claim that 'I'm 100% sane'. So when someone becomes a gibbering wreck because of something they saw, in our world or in HPLs, I would assume that they had a real, hidden, problem anyway. Not that what they saw was somehow horrible beyond human comprehension.

Leaving aside that "sane" and "mentally healthy" are generally two different things, my understanding is that, in Lovecraft, you can go from completely mentally healthy to a gibbering wreck in the turning of a page. However, I won't argue the point, as--confession time!--I haven't actually read Lovecraft, either. I haven't even played Call of Cthulhu.


Of course, the author and the character may share an opinion, but one should not assume they do without a compelling reason.

Like they're the hero in an Ayn Rand novel?

In my own work, what's fun is to sometimes give an opinion of mine to a villain. Or something I really don't believe to a hero. Just to mess with potential lit crits' minds.

Ken G
2010-Feb-12, 08:42 PM
As the discussion has clearly turned from talking about Lovecraft, to talking about ad homs and quotes by Niven and general literary criticism issues, I hope I will not be going against the moderator's injunction by mentioning two clearly true things and then stepping out again:
1) just because a writer expresses an opinion in his/her fiction work does not mean it is not their own opinion either, and
2) it is actually pretty easy to figure out when the expressed opinion is the author's own (please google "cosmicism" for an example).

Gillianren
2010-Feb-12, 08:43 PM
2) it is actually pretty easy to figure out when the expressed opinion is the author's own.

You don't read much lit crit, do you?

Ken G
2010-Feb-12, 09:23 PM
Well in regard to that direct question, I presume you mean that it is not always easy to tell what is the author's opinion. That is certainly true. Nevertheless, there is a corollary to that too: it is not always hard either.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 09:27 PM
Well in regard to that direct question, I presume you mean that it is not always easy to tell what is the author's opinion. That is certainly true. Nevertheless, there is a corollary to that too: it is not always hard either.

Are you familiar with the word "evasion"?

Ken G
2010-Feb-12, 09:34 PM
Yes, it means addressing an argument that a particular author wrote a whole bunch of stuff that so clearly evinced a particular philosophy that that philosophy became associated with his name, with the objection that you cannot always assume an author agrees with the opinions he is depicting. That's evasion. But it's all right, I obviously cannot convince you that Lovecraft's night terrors, nervous breakdowns, fascination with fear, and the death of both of his insane parents, should [edit] be taken as evidence that the world he depicted was not so very dissimilar from the way he looked at our own world. What's it to me, I cannot convince you, so I won't try any longer.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 09:39 PM
So you're still expressing your expert opinion about an author you haven't read?

Sheesh, this discussion became interesting when you weren't around.

Ken G
2010-Feb-12, 09:54 PM
Are we working at cross purposes? I'm not trying to hijack the thread with claims that I have some special insight into Lovecraft. The OP of this thread is about Lovecraft's philosophies, specifically about science. That directly relates to cosmicism, and how it is evinced in his stories. You know a lot more about those stories than I, I only know what was in this thread (which is quite a lot). How can you talk about his philosophies if you aren't allowed to look at connections between his personal experience and the way he developed his fantasy world? He wrote a lot of letters too, maybe someone knows something about that. We all bring to the table some new information and insights-- did you know the stuff about his personal life that I am mentioning here? Do you think there could be a connection between that and his stories, that might be used to find some connections between the world he made up and the one he lived in? Does that angle help us understand the man's actual philosophies about our own world? That's not a hijack.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-12, 10:08 PM
I'd be more than happy to read your posts if they took the form of inquiry and discussion. It's just that they tend to look like assertions, jibes and put-downs.

I know you are an extremely intelligent man, Ken. And at the same time, for all that I've been reading Lovecraft since 1980, I don't know Lovecraft the person beyond a BBC documentary from many years ago and S.T. Joshi's notes in the books I mentioned earlier. I am primarily interested in him as a source of entertainment, but I am curious about where he is coming from.

So please consider the possibility that you are coming across as confrontational about a subject that doesn't need to be treated in that way at all. Your opinions might be better received then, and might even convince people. I don't claim to know it all.

marsbug
2010-Feb-12, 10:09 PM
The Elder Things were the "men" of a bygone era (see Mountains of Madness) and they got squished by the horrors they created/unleashed (shoggoths). And I would say that the Elder Things knew a lot more about the lovecraftian universe than humans do.

And another aspect of the mythos is the idea that humans would ultimately become the horrors that lurked in the cosmos. That eventually we'd cast aside our morality and sanity (at least, what we'd call 'sanity' today) and go gleefully cavorting in the dark, walking the stars as if we were gods. Sort of like a transhumanism gone bad (the Cthulhutech RPG explores that somewhat).

Gaining knowledge about the mythos generally costs sanity.

I can understand that, it's exactly what I meant by my 'what if I coat myself in their blood to frighten them' comment. If the universe consists only of amoral monsters killing each other then the only logical course of action is to become the deadliest, most feared monster!

I read 'call of cthulu' ealier today, and I'm about halfway through mountaisn of madness.

Thoughts on call of cthulu (spoilers):

Theres definately a racist tone here, but it's coming from the character narrating, so doesn't have to mean anything about lovecraft. The cult of cthulu is creepy, the island which contains him is bizarre, fascinating and creepy, but Cthulu himself was a bit of an anti climax! After the build up of this dream controlling, space-geometry warping super being I was expecting something with a bit more intelligence and subtlety. But Cthulu rushes the sailors like an angry guard dog! A couple collapse from shock, three are got by cthulu,one falls off a rock, the last two get into their boat, and when Cthulu follows they're able to simply turn and ram him! He doesn't die, but is badly hurt enough that he can't pursue, and is pulled back into the deeps.

So he doesn't seem terribly bright (why give the ship a chance to ram him when he could smash it with one claw,or drive the crew insane with a thought?), and is at least vulnerable enough to physical injury to be badly inconvenienced by simple brute-force violence.

Only one person was sent mad by the sight of Cthulu, and that was by the sight of cthulu following through the water, when they thought the boat would let them escape. Given the immense level of stress he must have been under that seems fairly natural.

The great old ones are shaping up to be much better bad guys so far: ferocious, highly intelligent, and I can sympathise wih them; they were woken up in a desolate wasteland, millions of years from home, by an attacking pack of bizzare, angry quadropeds. They fought them off only to find the creatures that controlled the quadropeds had taken one of them while they were asleep and vivisected him! I can understand them atacking the humans camp, they must have been frightened, furious and feeling utterly alone. And I like the image of one of them trying to figure out how to open a tin can of food and ending up breaking it open by brute strength!

I'm looking forward to finding out what a shoggoth is now.

Ken G
2010-Feb-12, 11:03 PM
I'd be more than happy to read your posts if they took the form of inquiry and discussion. It's just that they tend to look like assertions, jibes and put-downs.Well I'll wager I'm quite far outnumbered in the "put-down" category on this thread, but I take your point-- perhaps my tone was a bit assertive for someone not knowledgeable about Lovecraft. I have no desire to seem confrontational in any kind of personal way-- I see the ideas as being in confrontation, and the truth kind of shakes out of the fray. But I won't try to control the tone of the discussion, I'm happy with a perfectly amicable discussion from this point on.

If we can reset the clock here, all I was really trying to say is that grant hutchison characterized the logic in Lovecraft's stories as the "logic of nightmares", which sounds like it is not intended to be taken seriously as a comment on our world. This is a very important issue if we are to address the question in the OP and whether or not we can get insight into his philosophies about our world by looking at his stories and his life-- to what extent does Lovecraft's mythical world mimic aspects of our own, and to what extent is it just pure fancy? In answer to that question, his autobiographical stories, poems, and statements quoted by parallaxicality, may have something to say, along with the facts of his life which are pretty staggering: bouts with insanity, death of two insane parents, night terrors, constant malnutrition, and a fascination for poking his curiosity into large dark voids, almost like a moth to the flame of horror. It just sounds a lot like his characters, which is the crossing point from his world to ours-- that's all I'm saying.

marsbug
2010-Feb-12, 11:57 PM
I just finished 'at the mountains of madness'. (spoilers ahead)


Poor old ones! The main character certainly found room for empathy with them. Concievably biological or chemical weapons might work on a shoggoth, but even the old one surviors never got a chance to understand what they were up against.

A much more satisfying read than call of cthulu; setting up the old ones as the villians then switching to the shoggoths at the last moment was a good twist, though I suspected something like it was coming. It was too easy to empathise for the old ones, 'men of a distant era', from the start.

I'd say neither of todays reads was devoid of heroes or hope; Cthulu was defeated (temporarily) by one brave guy in a steam boat, though he payed a high price for it. The shoggoths were terrible adversaries, but at least Dyer got away to warn the world of their existence. Even the old ones were heroic in their doomed mission to get home, after their terrifying and tragic (for the human expedition that stumbled on them) antarctic awakening.

The message I got from these was that the universe contains terrifying things, but that even creatures as small as humans and old ones can keep their little circle of light going a little longer. And in a universe of terrible monsters destroying each other for incomprehensible reasons, what other meaningfull victory can be had?

Thanks for convincing me these were worthtrying, I'll try to find time for some more!
It's not that far removed from our reality;we live in a universe of aweseome, terrifying forces, and yet we manage to get by and keep our sanity day to day. What other meaningfull victory can we hope for?

EDG
2010-Feb-13, 01:09 AM
Cthulu was defeated (temporarily) by one brave guy in a steam boat, though he payed a high price for it.

The old RPG adage is that you can nuke Cthulhu, but he'll only just reform and now he'll be radioactive too.

The point really is that nobody ever "wins" against the Mythos. It can be beaten back or staved off for a while so there may be small little victories, but it's always going to be there.

Definitely check out more stories... Nyarlathotep is the Great Old One who generally has the most interest in humanity (as playthings, at least) - Haunter of the Dark is one of my favourite HPL stories, as are The Rats in the Walls (a non-specific mythos story, but darn creepy) and Shadow out of Time (about the Great Race of Yith).

Gillianren
2010-Feb-13, 03:20 AM
Well in regard to that direct question, I presume you mean that it is not always easy to tell what is the author's opinion. That is certainly true. Nevertheless, there is a corollary to that too: it is not always hard either.

I mean that, if you read lit crit, someone is always questioning what the author's opinion is. Probably even Ayn Rand's. (I suppose it's at least possible that it was all a con game on her part!) Often, they become mainstream opinions, even when that opinion is blatantly contradicted by what the author actually said on the subject. It may well seem obvious what Lovecraft's views are; as I said, I don't know. However, the reason I don't know is that I haven't read the work. Unless you have, which you haven't, how can you know how obvious or not-obvious it is within the text?

Ken G
2010-Feb-13, 06:22 AM
I mean that, if you read lit crit, someone is always questioning what the author's opinion is. Probably even Ayn Rand's. (I suppose it's at least possible that it was all a con game on her part!) Sure, it's possible. Yet courses are taught on her philosophies and how they play out in her books, because there's a supposition that she had a purpose for writing them that might behoove us to examine. The question in the OP here is, what can we say about Lovecraft's philosophies about science, knowledge, and humanity's resulting power over its world (or lack thereof), and whether he uses his stories to express those philosophies. If so, then his invented world is a stage on which to let those ideas and opinions play out. If not, then it's all just pulp fiction. It seems to me a lot of people knowledgeable about his stories have expressed, in rather blunt terms, the latter view, and I'm somewhat puzzled as to why they would take that seemingly unusual stance for such a (posthumously) influential writer. Can reading his stories really put one in a position to reject the possibility that there is a philosophy there meant to pertain to our world? Was Orwell's Animal Farm really about some talking pigs, and only those who have actually read it could realize that?

Unless you have, which you haven't, how can you know how obvious or not-obvious it is within the text?It cannot be known, either by reading or by not reading. Better to read, no doubt. But either way, opinions can be formed from quotes like in the OP, and descriptions given about his works, and facts about his life, all of which are in this thread. The facts are emerging-- what is the conclusion we reach? For example, can we say that cosmicism was Lovecraft's own philosophy, or just a philosophy he inspired that he did not himself ascribe to? Would he have been content simply to inspire RPG games (which would already surprise him, I imagine, given how little known he was when alive), or was he actually trying to tell us something? I thought that's what the OP was about, so let's start with the basic question here-- was that OP quote meant to be something that holds in his invented world, just a flight of fancy if you will, or was it lifted intact from our own?

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-13, 09:02 AM
Was Orwell's Animal Farm really about some talking pigs, and only those who have actually read it could realize that?
The thing is, it's pretty obvious to anyone familiar with the work that the animals and situations in Animal Farm map fairly directly onto historical characters and situations. Animal Farm is an allegory, and I don't think Orwell ever suggested otherwise. Whereas there's no suggestion that Yog-Sothoth represents Kaiser Wilhelm, or anything like that.


Would he have been content simply to inspire RPG games (which would already surprise him, I imagine, given how little known he was when alive), or was he actually trying to tell us something?
Leaving aside that RPG games didn't exist then, I think the answer is yes. He encouraged others to use his creations in their stories, and AFAIK he didn't put constraints on this. The aforementioned Clark Ashton Smith was a major contributor, and although he's often mentioned in the same sentence as HPL, he's a very different writer - his writing was as likely to be exotic as horrific.

Now why would someone farm out their creations? The answer, I think, is to broaden the fictional universe.

The great thing about the mythos is that you don't have to read it all in a single massive block, and you're not limited to a single author (though personally I think the closer you are to Lovecraft and his immediate circle, the better).

I've more to say, but I'll leave it until I've checked out cosmicism.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-13, 04:47 PM
Okay, I've read a couple of articles about cosmicism.

I'm guessing it probably was HPL's philosophy; either that, or it was one that he felt worked best for his stories. This philosophy formed the arena in which the stories were set, and the reader was invited to buy into it at least for the duration of the read. (As Mike Alexander pointed out, it was the price of entry.)

He may have believed the universe was uncaring - most atheists do - and given that he regarded ET life as likely, he clearly believed there was nothing to stop powerful aliens from doing whatever they liked.

I don't really see how the stories were about this philosophy. As has been mentioned, most stories - especially pulp stories - are about their characters and the situations they find themselves in.

And I find myself thinking, what was the question again?

Ken G
2010-Feb-13, 04:53 PM
Whereas there's no suggestion that Yog-Sothoth represents Kaiser Wilhelm, or anything like that.
Yes I agree, I haven't suggested there are direct connections like that, as even if I'd read the stories no one would have any reason to believe a direct allegory like that. My question was merely around to what extent is his mythical world just a creation of imagination, for fun and profit if you will, versus the extent to which it was a concerted effort to express and work through various powerful and oppressive themes from our own world and his experiences in it. The OP quote framed the possibility that the statement he was making there was about science in our world, even though the quote comes from the fantasy world. How does one successfully navigate the crossing of that line?


Leaving aside that RPG games didn't exist then, I think the answer is yes. He encouraged others to use his creations in their stories, and AFAIK he didn't put constraints on this. The aforementioned Clark Ashton Smith was a major contributor, and although he's often mentioned in the same sentence as HPL, he's a very different writer - his writing was as likely to be exotic as horrific.It does seem like they had quite a circle of writers going there, and HPL was, for some reason (loneliness?), an extremly prolific writer of letters. So I agree he wanted to connect with others, and perhaps he would have been happy to know that he eventually did succeed in doing that. But was he also evincing a philosophy? It couldn't really be considered a philosophy of how to be happy or some such thing, but maybe he felt that he was being a truth-teller, even when the truth is stark and nipping at the edges of our protections against insanity. If so, it's an amusing irony-- using a fantasy world to tell hard truths about our own? And if you felt you knew a truth that others might be better off not knowing, why share it, except as a warning to stop trying? I just think there are a lot of fascinating questions about this author that the OP opens up, even if we restrict to his opinions about science and the loftiness of human knowledge. Isn't it interesting to take a second look at that, against the backdrop of today's "theories of everything", etc.?


Now why would someone farm out their creations? The answer, I think, is to broaden the fictional universe.
I can agree there too, he wanted to broaden his fiction. But can we wonder why? Was it an entertainment mission, or did he think he had a hard message to tell? Did being a writer who could control events give him some comfort in a real world where he could seem to control so little? (He couldn't find a regular paycheck, and he wasn't even able to live in the same city as his wife, and they eventually divorced.) That's sheer speculation, but these are the kinds of questions that can be considered if one takes a different look at his writing than just a fantasy realm, and it seems like parallaxicality has that intent.


The great thing about the mythos is that you don't have to read it all in a single massive block, and you're not limited to a single author (though personally I think the closer you are to Lovecraft and his immediate circle, the better).And it's interesting to me how strongly this mythos apparently endures (this thread bears witness to that), despite all the far more recent efforts to generate competing ones (we even have blockbuster special effects involving nazgul and Sith and so on). I wonder if anyone is planning 3D Call of Cthulhu? Psychiatry would boom.


I've more to say, but I'll leave it until I've checked out cosmicism.I found it strangely hard to find good web references on it, perhaps you'll have more luck. The Wiki seems quite knowledgeable about it, but some on here have expressed skepticism about its reliability, though I'm not sure why-- even in areas where I'm personally knowledgeable I find the Wikis are excellent. My big question about cosmicism is if HPL had the intent of spreading that philosophy, in response to what he felt were overly idealistic and wishful alternatives of his day, and used his writing as a vehicle to do that. I don't suggest that was his primary reason for writing, I would guess his personal needs to wrestle with those themes, and his fascination for horror and the unknown, would be the natural drivers there, but throwing in some personal philosophy would hardly be unheard of among fiction writers.

Gillianren
2010-Feb-13, 07:04 PM
Sure, it's possible. Yet courses are taught on her philosophies and how they play out in her books, because there's a supposition that she had a purpose for writing them that might behoove us to examine. The question in the OP here is, what can we say about Lovecraft's philosophies about science, knowledge, and humanity's resulting power over its world (or lack thereof), and whether he uses his stories to express those philosophies. If so, then his invented world is a stage on which to let those ideas and opinions play out. If not, then it's all just pulp fiction. It seems to me a lot of people knowledgeable about his stories have expressed, in rather blunt terms, the latter view, and I'm somewhat puzzled as to why they would take that seemingly unusual stance for such a (posthumously) influential writer. Can reading his stories really put one in a position to reject the possibility that there is a philosophy there meant to pertain to our world? Was Orwell's Animal Farm really about some talking pigs, and only those who have actually read it could realize that?

You missed my point; you've been doing that a lot. Comes of trimming most of what I say, I guess.

I don't happen to think, myself, that Ayn Rand was playing an elaborate con game. That is not an intelligent assessment. (I've only read one book of hers. It was a long time ago. I don't care. I'm never reading anything else of hers.) That doesn't mean there aren't people who won't make that assessment--yes, and of Animal Farm, too. However, "it's all pulp fiction" is a poor analysis. For one thing, some of the twentieth century's best-known stories were originally pulp fiction, and I'm really inclined to doubt that Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler had any deep psychological purpose, though possibly there was some genuine projection of their own attitudes towards women, at least, in their worlds.

The larger issue is that it doesn't have to be all one thing or the other. Yes. Ayn Rand wanted you to buy into her peculiar philosophy in its entirety. One of the reasons you can tell this is that she had characters go on for pages about it. On the other end of the spectrum, there are books which haven't a thought in their pages, like the romance novels my mother reads. There's essentially a script for those things, because you can't expect any two writers to bring the same philosophy to things--see the Marvel Civil War series--but it's not out of any deep psychological reason. It's pure standardization. The formula is what sells.

However, most fiction falls somewhere between. Frankenstein can be seen to be a polemic about the evils of science, but the author's own words seem to contradict that, and maybe it's about the nature of humanity, or what it means to be human. Or maybe it's just science fiction with no meaning intended. It isn't all one or the other, though.


It cannot be known, either by reading or by not reading. Better to read, no doubt. But either way, opinions can be formed from quotes like in the OP, and descriptions given about his works, and facts about his life, all of which are in this thread. The facts are emerging-- what is the conclusion we reach? For example, can we say that cosmicism was Lovecraft's own philosophy, or just a philosophy he inspired that he did not himself ascribe to? Would he have been content simply to inspire RPG games (which would already surprise him, I imagine, given how little known he was when alive), or was he actually trying to tell us something? I thought that's what the OP was about, so let's start with the basic question here-- was that OP quote meant to be something that holds in his invented world, just a flight of fancy if you will, or was it lifted intact from our own?

But you're missing the largest piece without the source material. It happens to be true that, the one time I wrote a paper for someone else, it was on a movie I had not yet seen. (Psycho, as it happens.) I knew some about it, and I knew some about the director, and I'd seen a couple of his other movies and a couple of clips from the movie in question. It was a good paper, though I don't have a copy of it, and I got a B. But any paper I'd write now would be a better paper, because I could back my assumptions with more information. Most of the one I actually wrote was based on about the level of information you seem to have on Lovecraft.

Was he trying to tell us something? Maybe. Possibly reading the material would give some perspective on that. However, what you're mostly doing is reading the lit crit and expecting it to stand in for the original research. I did that, and that's why the paper I wrote didn't get an A. Looking back, I can see the mistakes I made in it.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-13, 09:37 PM
If so, it's an amusing irony-- using a fantasy world to tell hard truths about our own? And if you felt you knew a truth that others might be better off not knowing, why share it, except as a warning to stop trying? I just think there are a lot of fascinating questions about this author that the OP opens up, even if we restrict to his opinions about science and the loftiness of human knowledge. Isn't it interesting to take a second look at that, against the backdrop of today's "theories of everything", etc.?
I like these thoughts - especially how HPL would have coped with a TOE, which would probably be anathema, judging by the OP quote.

Of course, there's nothing unusual about using a fantasy world to comment on our world, but if that intention takes precedence over plain ol' storytelling, one has to be very skillful to avoid making it boring at best, patronising at worst. Orwell was a skillful author...


I can agree there too, he wanted to broaden his fiction. But can we wonder why? Was it an entertainment mission, or did he think he had a hard message to tell? Did being a writer who could control events give him some comfort in a real world where he could seem to control so little? (He couldn't find a regular paycheck, and he wasn't even able to live in the same city as his wife, and they eventually divorced.) That's sheer speculation, but these are the kinds of questions that can be considered if one takes a different look at his writing than just a fantasy realm, and it seems like parallaxicality has that intent.

It's difficult to overstate the motivation for simply telling stories. To create something unlike anything that's ever been written before. To open a fiction magazine and see your name in it, and an accompanying illustration made by a skilled artist who didn't merely read it, he actually visualised it and made his vision real - something quite different to your original concept but equally valid. To walk into a bookshop and see several copies of the novel you wrote on a shelf.

For some people this is merely a means to an end - to foist some political (or perhaps philosophical) view on their readers. Some even make that appealing in its own right. But I suspect HPL simply liked telling stories, and his personal take on the universe is what gave them the darkness they required.

And it's interesting to me how strongly this mythos apparently endures (this thread bears witness to that), despite all the far more recent efforts to generate competing ones (we even have blockbuster special effects involving nazgul and Sith and so on). I wonder if anyone is planning 3D Call of Cthulhu? Psychiatry would boom.

Ken G
2010-Feb-14, 02:03 AM
Yes, I don't doubt he loved to spin a yarn, and just from what has been said about his stories in this thread, it's pretty clear he had a fascination with sheer horror. Given his personal life, it certainly sounds like there was a kind of "moth to a flame" character to his storytelling-- like he was somehow compelled to go to exactly the places that he must have feared the most (how could anyone whose parents both died insane, and who had serious mental illness issues himself, not fear the edge of sanity?). It just sounds so much like the characters that have been described, who are drawn to investigate what they might be better off running from. I'll bet he would like the kind of story where a vampire hunter goes looking for the Count wearing a necklace of garlic, only to face that horrible moment when the vampire laughs at the garlic and says "you've been reading too many vampire myths." Is that HPL's view of science in general?

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-14, 02:12 AM
Ken, why don't you check out my Poor Analogies thread? ;)

I don't really get how you can go from the comedy vampire hunter scene to "Is that HPL's view of science in general?" Okay, I can see how someone can put too much faith in science and suffer for it at an unexpected moment, but examples do not spring to mind.

Then again, it's very late.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-14, 11:17 AM
Perhaps a careful reading of Lovecraft's own thoughts on Supernatural horror in literature (http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm) might illuminate this thread? He's very clear on the mechanics of constructing a threatening fantasy world.

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-14, 12:32 PM
Perhaps a careful reading of Lovecraft's own thoughts on Supernatural horror in literature (http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm) might illuminate this thread? He's very clear on the mechanics of constructing a threatening fantasy world.

Grant Hutchison

Argh! I'm supposed to be doing an Open University assignment; now you've got me browsing through that wonderful article again instead.

Clark Ashton Smith wrote an interesting piece in defence of fantasy, which slightly echoed the first part of the Lovecraft article. I can't find it on the net, but it's in the Fantasy Masterworks collection of his stories.

Ken: Looking again at your last posting, it seems very surprising to me that you show so much interest in Lovecraft yet don't appear to want to read the stories. Is this really the case?

showboat
2010-Feb-14, 11:34 PM
http://www.physorg.com/news185027522.html

{Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors."] Not a good zombie plot as a zombie might not attack.

http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm

[The prevalence and depth of the mediĉval horror-spirit in Europe, intensified by the dark despair which waves of pestilence brought, may be fairly gauged by the grotesque carvings slyly introduced into much of the finest later Gothic ecclesiastical work of the time; the dĉmoniac gargoyles of Notre Dame and Mont St. Michel being among the most famous specimens. And throughout the period, it must be remembered, there existed amongst educated and uneducated alike a most unquestioning faith in every form of the supernatural; from the gentlest doctrines of Christianity to the most monstrous morbidities of witchcraft and black magic. It was from no empty background that the Renaissance magicians and alchemists -- Nostradamus, Trithemius, Dr. John Dee, Robert Fludd, and the like -- were born.}

A horror is born, but too stupid to be the antichrist so a demon as a way of propaganda.}

In this fertile soil were nourished types and characters of sombre myth and legend which persist in weird literature to this day, more or less disguised or altered by modern technique.]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Lovecraft%27s_Shadow

[My favorite:

The Whippoorwills in the Hills]
Which was made for TV.

Who was the actress?

Typecasted forever, Not Barbara Steel. [Black Sunday, a hammer production movie which I Liked as attracive]

showboat
2010-Feb-14, 11:52 PM
Clark Ashton Smith I like too.But back when I was a hippie at 20.

Micheal Shea is my favorite [Nift the lean which is auguemently better than Jack Vance as far as more as possible demonic biology]] but impossible as making a movie].

Starship trooper might be a plot but invanding hell from a earth mine that broke through.

showboat
2010-Feb-15, 01:33 AM
Got the wronf story, but as a correction.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dunwich_Horror

{actually this-[Born circa 1878, Lavinia Whateley is the daughter of Old Whateley and a mother who met an "unexplained death by violence" when Lavinia was 12. She is described as a

somewhat deformed, unattractive albino woman...a lone creature given to wandering amidst thunderstorms in the hills and trying to read the great odorous books which her father had inherited through two centuries of Whateleys.... She had never been to school, but was filled with disjointed scraps of ancient lore that Old Whateley had taught her.... Isolated among strange influences, Lavinia was fond of wild and grandiose day-dreams and singular occupations.

Elsewhere, she is called "slatternly [and] crinkly-haired".

In 1913, she gave birth to Wilbur Whately by an unknown father. On Halloween night in 1926, she disappeared under mysterious circumstances.]
----------------------------------------------------------

Should see what I have picked up in bars when drunk.

Where I remember the Whip as the one i don't know, maybe hearing too many whipporwills in the woods.

But The_Dunwich_Horrorwas made into a TV movie.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-15, 02:37 AM
Innsmouth was featured in a movie called Dagon (although it wasn't really "true to form" in every way, it was about the closest you can get to Lovecraft in a modern film, outside of that Cthulhu film by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society!)

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 06:01 AM
I don't really get how you can go from the comedy vampire hunter scene to "Is that HPL's view of science in general?" Okay, I can see how someone can put too much faith in science and suffer for it at an unexpected moment, but examples do not spring to mind.The example I had in mind was the quote from the OP. Why is that quote not part of our discussion here? I thought it made it clear that HPL felt people of his era, and no doubt our own as well, were putting way too much faith in science. Do we not tend to treat science like it is our ticket to longevity (it's done pretty well there), happiness (got your Ipad yet?), and path to all wisdom (that "theory of everything" is just around the corner...)? Yet the OP quote tells a wholly different story. Few have tried to answer my question there: should we take that quote, being as it was uttered in his fantasy world, as a product purely of that world, or did HPL intend it as a statement about our own?

Gillianren
2010-Feb-15, 06:02 AM
Should we take that quote, in total isolation from everything else he ever said, as the be-all and end-all of Lovecraft's philosophy?

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-15, 06:23 AM
What's with the obsession with the OP? The conversation has evolved and moved on. Other data points have been brought up -- including a whole frikkin' essay written by the man himself about the very subject under discussion!

showboat
2010-Feb-15, 07:33 AM
I used to live in New Hampshire[a state near to his], after Lovecrafts time[20 years], but still there were crumbling old houses, deserted fishing ports and maybe still are as harsh winter there.

Maybe He was like Stephan King, a commentary, on small town Disintergration.

With Lovecraft it was a suble genetic thing and looking at his picture I can easyly believe the [shadow over innsport froggy problem] thing but with King, its a cat and mouse game with a monster [claws out]against the town people[who King must really dislike.]

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-15, 07:41 AM
Stephen King was primarily about small town disintegration? I was unaware of this.

I'll let Gillian handle this one. She's even more of a fan of King than I am.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-15, 07:53 AM
Strange, I've always read King as being basically sympathetic towards regular people.

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 08:12 AM
Perhaps a careful reading of Lovecraft's own thoughts on Supernatural horror in literature (http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm) might illuminate this thread? He's very clear on the mechanics of constructing a threatening fantasy world.Yes, that is quite an exhaustive treatise on the history and key elements of that genre (as well as a platform to express his own opinions and favorites)! He is clearly a keen and analytical thinker, with definite and studied purpose behind his writing. What is less clear, because the article is not really about that, is what personal philosophies he projects into his writing, and whether they are endemic to the art form or more of his own spin. And, in the direction of the OP, it is clear that he respects the way science has shed light on what was previously unknown, even to the point of placing much of the blame of resistance to scientific discovery on instinct rather than intellect, but he also feels that humans will always have a fascination toward the fear of the unknown-- he doesn't seem to think science would ever banish that attribute no matter how far it advances.

He also clearly puts down tales that are primarily designed to advance some sort of social agenda, as it seems to him to be untrue to the art form of "weird tales", yet he does not at all rule out injecting them with a kind of philosophy that is true to that form. This is the part where I wish there was more direct reference, all I could find came out in these tidbits:

" it has fallen to the lot of the darker and more maleficent side of cosmic mystery to figure chiefly in our popular supernatural folklore."

There he seems to say that weird tales have a role as a kind of counterbalance to fairy tales and religious ecstasy-- the "cosmic mystery" he is referring to is our cosmos, I think he is saying that there is a truth in our universe that is not told by the happy tales where good triumphs and evil is banished. This reference to the "untold side" of our own universe comes out again here:

"..men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse."

It is certainly an example of what grant hutchison called "the logic of nightmares", but I see in these quotes a feeling that this logic is not a logic that goes completely away when we wake up. It seems more like dreams as entry points to where the conscious mind is interdicted from going, rather than illusions that only appear when our minds are not working at full lucidity.

In this quote, he again refers to things going on at the "rim" of our own universe:

"The one test of the really weird is simply this -- whether of not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers; a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe's utmost rim."

So it looks to me like he certainly views the horror genre as a kind of pure art form with very definite characteristics and a very definite lure for (at least a minority of) the general public, but I still get a pretty clear sense that he feels it is not purely a flight of fancy, but rather that it is a legitimate venue for telling the darker parts of the story of the human condition in this vast and mysterious universe, our universe. It's not the part of the story that we always want to know about, yet we are drawn to it anyway, and that's what seems to fascinate him the most.

What would be nice would be to see similarly extensive analyses done by him on the subject of cosmicism and philosophies placed in contrast with the eminently logical and orderly views of science and religion, more along the lines of the OP quote.

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 08:20 AM
Ken: Looking again at your last posting, it seems very surprising to me that you show so much interest in Lovecraft yet don't appear to want to read the stories. Is this really the case?To be honest, I'm more fascinated by the man and his purposes for selecting that genre, than I am reading the genre itself, but I'm convinced it's among the best of its kind and I'm sure I'll read some of his stories at some point. What he has to say about his stories, and direct quotes he makes about why he writes them, are actually of greater interest to me. I'm more interested in what makes Lovecraft tick than what makes Cthulhu tick, and since the opinion has been expressed in this thread that only a naive reader would think one could get at the former by reading the latter (recall Niven), it would be ironic for them to claim that would be my best avenue.

Gillianren
2010-Feb-15, 10:09 AM
Strange, I've always read King as being basically sympathetic towards regular people.

With exceptions, of course. One of the characters in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a blistering piece of snark about a certain type of "regular person," but since it is, in this case, the regular person who hit Stephen King with his van and nearly killed him, that's perhaps forgivable. When he read said person's statement about the accident, though, King recognized in him one of his own characters.

If you really read King, there is an obvious respect in it for intelligent people. It is, with few exceptions, the intelligent people who solve the problems. When it isn't, it's either Magic Children or . . . how to put this . . . Magic Mentally Different (retarded, autistic, etc.) People. It is very possible to be too smart for your own good, but that's usually a side effect of caring more about learning for its own sake than learning about the rules of your particular universe. When your dead cat comes back from the pet cemetery not quite right, all your book-larnin' and your doctorin' ain't going to make it no better for your dead kid, in short.

Now. I do not know this because Stephen King has told me so, in or out of the story, though he has done both. I know this because within the books, this is an ongoing pattern. It's possible, though unlikely, that Stephen King doesn't actually respect smart people at all--from all accounts, it would make getting along with his brother pretty challenging. However, when you're writing, there are certainly little quirks you have to work very hard to overcome. And that's even assuming you know they're there. Knowing about the person only gets you so far.

You shouldn't trust that Stephen King believes what Trashy or Leland Gaunt or even Gordy LaChance says; that's foolish. Especially given that only the last is anything approaching someone Stephen King likely feels he is; he himself appears as a character in The Dark Tower, and I wouldn't assume everything King-the-character says is what King-the-Man believes. However, examination of his writing does suggest certain things about King-the-Man. For example, he is a great believer in hope. One rather assumes that helped, after the accident.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-15, 03:20 PM
I'm more interested in what makes Lovecraft tick than what makes Cthulhu tick, and since the opinion has been expressed in this thread that only a naive reader would think one could get at the former by reading the latter (recall Niven), it would be ironic for them to claim that would be my best avenue.
This is an oversimplification of the Niven quote.

If author John Smith writes a novel from the sympathetic viewpoint of a diamond thief, it would be foolish to suppose, merely on the strength of that, that John Smith is (or wants to be) a diamond thief. That is what the Niven quote is saying.

However, if after reading several novels by John Smith, you notice that the various criminals in his books always end up the victims of their own nefarious schemes, then you might be able to infer that John Smith has a fondness for poetic justice.

And if you go on to read an interview with John Smith in which he says, "Alas, it never happens like that in real life," then you might infer that his writing is motivated by a longing for poetic justice which he believes does not exist.

In short, you'll get a lot more insight into what makes an author tick if you read his fiction than if you merely rely on peripheral material.

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 03:47 PM
If author John Smith writes a novel from the sympathetic viewpoint of a diamond thief, it would be foolish to suppose, merely on the strength of that, that John Smith is (or wants to be) a diamond thief. That is what the Niven quote is saying.
It's pretty obvious what Niven meant, the question is what the people in this thread meant by referring to the quote. Personally, I was already aware of the point Niven makes, what is in dispute is its relevance to this discussion.



However, if after reading several novels by John Smith, you notice that the various criminals in his books always end up the victims of their own nefarious schemes, then you might be able to infer that John Smith has a fondness for poetic justice.And if you read several novels by HPL where a foolish reliance on the power of knowledge and rational thought to triumph over ignorance and the unknown ends badly for the protagonist, do you eventually conclude that HPL himself had a skepticism toward that power?


And if you go on to read an interview with John Smith in which he says, "Alas, it never happens like that in real life," then you might infer that his writing is motivated by a longing for poetic justice which he believes does not exist.Yes, and in this thread, we have the words of HPL in the OP quote.


In short, you'll get a lot more insight into what makes an author tick if you read his fiction than if you merely rely on peripheral material.True enough, I don't dispute that. Indeed, that's why I'm asking the people who have read him extensively to answer a simple question: Do you think that the OP quote, which was set in his fictional world, is intended to apply only to that fictional world, or do you think it is intended to apply to ours?

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-15, 04:03 PM
I'm more interested in what makes Lovecraft tick than what makes Cthulhu tick, and since the opinion has been expressed in this thread that only a naive reader would think one could get at the former by reading the latter (recall Niven), it would be ironic for them to claim that would be my best avenue.


This is an oversimplification of the Niven quote. [...]


Personally, I was already aware of the point Niven makes, what is in dispute is its relevance to this discussion.

If you were, then why'd you make the first statement?

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-15, 04:56 PM
Indeed, that's why I'm asking the people who have read him extensively to answer a simple question: Do you think that the OP quote, which was set in his fictional world, is intended to apply only to that fictional world, or do you think it is intended to apply to ours?I think it reflects Lovecraft's "cosmicist" view of our Universe, but the way in which inevitable horror is predicted is a deliberate fictional trope.
One of the things I take from reading Lovecraft's essay on supernatural horror is that he was a careful and thoughtful craftsman, and he is very clear about the the use of completely fictional constructions to achieve the desired effect on the reader.

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-15, 05:44 PM
Do you think that the OP quote, which was set in his fictional world, is intended to apply only to that fictional world, or do you think it is intended to apply to ours?
I thought that had been answered. Repeatedly.

Anyway, my answer: I don't know, and I don't think it is possible to say one way or another merely from reading the fiction. There is a lot of insight into how HPL ticks that you can get from reading his fiction, but as far as I can see, these insights do not include the answer to this question. People who have read his work more extensively than I have, or more recently, might disagree.

If pressed, I would say that I think it is more likely than not that he did believe it, simply because the idea was sustained throughout so much of his writing.

But as I mentioned before, Marion Zimmer Bradley maintained a philosophy throughout her Mists of Avalon series that she did not believe in.

EDG
2010-Feb-15, 08:24 PM
I think it reflects Lovecraft's "cosmicist" view of our Universe

Did HPL come up with this 'cosmicist' label himself, or did other people come up with it afterwards?

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 08:32 PM
I think it reflects Lovecraft's "cosmicist" view of our Universe, but the way in which inevitable horror is predicted is a deliberate fictional trope.Excellent, then we have an example of a "fictional trope" that is also telling us something about his view of our world. I don't believe I ever claimed anything more (I merely did not express my point terribly well).

Now, I realize that why he chose to write in that genre involves a lot more than choosing a medium for expressing a philosophy! He clearly loved that genre, was fascinated by it, and both read and wrote widely in it. We'd have to travel deep into his psyche to figure out why, I was merely interested in what he was trying to say about our world, and what ways it resonates with the very real elements of our own world that have the capacity to cause insanity in people whose natural defenses to it are overwhelmed. To not see that parallel with his characters would be to imagine a surprisingly wide barrier between his imagined world and our own.

Put differently, this all gets to a very interesting question, which was really motivating my initial comments: why does a fantasy writer choose to instill his/her fantasy realm with the particular attributes they do, when they can clearly furnish it with any attributes (which is one of the beauties of fantasy)? You're saying he wants to resonate with something in the reader, and he wants to be true to a genre he values greatly. That all seems perfectly true. But to me, it falls short of an even more relevant truth for this thread: he wants his realm to reflect a truth that is a hard truth to hear about our own realm. In short, he wants his realm to, as you put it, reflect cosmicism. That is actually all I'm saying, and I feel that the evidence for it, in terms of his quotes, details of his life, and what others have said about the details of his stories, all support that. That also seemed to be the element that parallaxicality was interested in which motivated the thread.


One of the things I take from reading Lovecraft's essay on supernatural horror is that he was a careful and thoughtful craftsman, and he is very clear about the the use of completely fictional constructions to achieve the desired effect on the reader.
I wonder what your definition of "completely fictional" is? Do you simply mean that there is no one-to-one and identifiable correspondence between his characters and real people, or do you also mean that there is not any intention for his characters to face anything that could be viewed as a concealed representation of experiences that we all face and need to work through at times in our own world? Because I'm only interested in the latter issue-- how fantasy stories represent the working through of experiences that happen in the real world, but from the "safe distance" of a purely fantasy setting. It's like when my kids are watching fantasy, and ask me in a frightened voice, "is there any such thing as monsters?", and I reassuringly reply, "no, there's no such things as monsters", knowing perfectly well that I'm lying about the one thing that actually matters about monsters.

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 08:41 PM
Anyway, my answer: I don't know, and I don't think it is possible to say one way or another merely from reading the fiction. There is a lot of insight into how HPL ticks that you can get from reading his fiction, but as far as I can see, these insights do not include the answer to this question. People who have read his work more extensively than I have, or more recently, might disagree.
Anyone might disagree. The question is, do they have a good reason to? If we dig deeper into this than you can do just by reading him (which you yourself agree is not enough), what do we find? About the best source for doing that I could find was Wikipedia, but using it as a source was discredited. Grant found a more direct source, and I identified the three places where I saw overlap with this question. The OP adds a lot too. It would be great to have additional sources as well.

If pressed, I would say that I think it is more likely than not that he did believe it, simply because the idea was sustained throughout so much of his writing.Well that sounds like a perfectly natural conclusion to me.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Feb-15, 09:05 PM
If we dig deeper into this than you can do just by reading him (which you yourself agree is not enough), what do we find?
And I'm curious about why one would bother to put so much effort into guessing the motivation of someone who lived (and died) so long ago.


Well that sounds like a perfectly natural conclusion to me.
And it sounds as if you're still being very selective about which points you're considering. I'd add more, but I don't think that anything else I have to say will count as a cherry that you'll want to pick. I think I'll call it a day here.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-15, 09:08 PM
And it sounds as if you're still being very selective about which points you're considering. I'd add more, but I don't think that anything else I have to say will count as a cherry that you'll want to pick. I think I'll call it a day here.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Gillianren
2010-Feb-15, 09:22 PM
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Ditto. Especially given how my explanations go unnoticed.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-15, 09:44 PM
Excellent, then we have an example of a "fictional trope" that is also telling us something about his view of our world. I don't believe I ever claimed anything more (I merely did not express my point terribly well). You claimed that you could see nothing in Lovecraft's universe that wasn't also in ours, and dismissed a series of egregious counter-examples by deploying the "metaphor card". But there are many story elements in Lovecraft's universe that are not in ours: many, many. So to prove your point you would need to identify all these fictional entities as being metaphors for something in the real world, which I see you're still trying to do above. Yet Lovecraft's reflections on the stylistics of his genre show that he sometimes just put stuff in for effect. What these ficitional tropes tell us about Lovecraft's "view of our world" is that he knew some stuff that people like to read about.


... very real elements of our own world that have the capacity to cause insanity in people whose natural defenses to it are overwhelmed.You have something of a Victorian view of "insanity", going on there. Last time I looked, there was little evidence of anyone ever having been "driven insane" by external phenomena. In fact, as I've already said, the idea that there is a kind of knowledge that can drive us mad is one of the Lovecraftian tropes which shake his fictional world free from our world.


I wonder what your definition of "completely fictional" is?You have it, above: I mean "stuff that's just put in for effect". Those elements that make a story engaging for the reader, with no overt or covert, conscious or subconscious, agenda on the part of the author except to entertain.
That's what most writers do, most of the time. Lovecraft's writing about his trade shows that he appreciated and used this simple furniture of story telling. Sometimes a Thing In The Attic is just a Thing In The Attic.

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-15, 10:00 PM
Sometimes a Thing In The Attic is just a Thing In The Attic.
And the reason it's there is just to be scary, because scary is entertaining.

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 10:30 PM
And I'm curious about why one would bother to put so much effort into guessing the motivation of someone who lived (and died) so long ago.
In large part because that's what the OP is about, is it not? And it certainly isn't "guessing", we have compiled quite a lot of actual information in this thread, from many sources. Furthermore, no one on this thread seems to think the OP quote is not a clear and sincere expression of HPL's own personal philosophy about our own world. So why is everyone dancing around this question so much? I have no idea why it is suddenly so naive or simplistic to actually step out and adopt the perspective the HPL had something to say about our world, and used the horror genre to say it. He may have even felt that very statement was endemic to the horror genre.

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 10:43 PM
Ditto. Especially given how my explanations go unnoticed.What explanation has gone unnoticed? I've seen that you are saying you cannot always tell what an author is trying to say. Yes, I know this. So you look at the stories, and the letters, and the writings, and the personal life, and you form an opinion. You express that opinion, so that if others have a different one they can bring actual evidence to bear on the question. But so far, every single person on this thread seems to feel the OP is indeed an expression of his personal philosophy, which would make it eminently clear that he used his stories to express it as well. Yet I'm being "selective" for saying that there is indeed a great deal of evidence to support that contention?

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-15, 10:52 PM
And the reason it's there is just to be scary, because scary is entertaining.And Lovecraft's particular style of scary", which he cultivated and admired, was a creeping unease, in which the reader often knew exactly what was going on some time before the author articulated it in so many words: sometimes in the last sentence of the story.
If Lovecraft's intention was to communicate cosmic horror, the full revelation of which would make men mad, it was an odd way of going about it.

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-15, 11:00 PM
Furthermore, no one on this thread seems to think the OP quote is not a clear and sincere expression of HPL's own personal philosophy about our own world.Oh, come on. I said quite clearly that I did not believe it to be a clear and sincere expression of HPL's own personal philosophy about our own world. I said it reflected his own view, but contained a deliberate overstatement for dramatic effect.


So why is everyone dancing around this question so much? I have no idea why it is suddenly so naive or simplistic to actually step out and adopt the perspective the HPL had something to say about our world, and used the horror genre to say it. He may have even felt that very statement was endemic to the horror genre.We seem to have sneaked rather far from your original contention that Lovecraft's fictional universe contains nothing that isn't also present in our own, which is what I (and others) objected to. We argued against a categorical declaration on your part.
Now it seems that (all along?) your only message is the mild and unexceptional statement that authors occasionally write something that reflects their own thinking about the world. Is that where you want to stand, now?

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 11:17 PM
You claimed that you could see nothing in Lovecraft's universe that wasn't also in ours, and dismissed a series of egregious counter-examples by deploying the "metaphor card". Well I don't want this to be about what I said when, I admit I did not make my points clearly. I certainly always knew that there were going to be characters in those stories who were not in the real world. I was speaking metaphorically about what was in his world. parallaxicality understood what I meant completely, but it is clear enough from others' reactions that I did not say it well. What my question about what he had in his world that we did not have in ours was actually just about insanity, failure of reason to triumph over primal powers, helplessness against nature, ambivalence or hostility to humans, and all that juxtaposed against human hubris that our powers of intellect will somehow triumph over these forces. Which of those is not in our world, is what I was asking.

So to prove your point you would need to identify all these fictional entities as being metaphors for something in the real world, which I see you're still trying to do above.If I led you think I was making such a silly argument, that everything was a direct metaphor, then I certainly did express myself badly. What I was talking about, and still am, has to do with the OP, his views about science and knowledge in general, in relation to a world containing all the things I just listed above. Yes his world exaggerates these points, but exaggeration for effect is hardly something exceptional in fantasy fiction.


Yet Lovecraft's reflections on the stylistics of his genre show that he sometimes just put stuff in for effect.I'm sure he did that all the time, much as anyone else who ever put pen to paper. If I led you to think I was claiming otherwise, then I made my points badly indeed.
You have something of a Victorian view of "insanity", going on there. Last time I looked, there was little evidence of anyone ever having been "driven insane" by external phenomena.Well, the issue is really what Lovecraft, in 1900 or so, thought caused insanity, such as how his words describe it in the OP. And he's not completely wrong, there are certainly forms of mental illness that stem from a form of knowledge we are Not Meant to Know, such as rape, incest, up-close murderous intent, grisly gore, fear of imminent death over an extended period of time, etc. If a soldier is driven to mental illness by being in a state of potentially imminent death for weeks at a time, can we not say they were driven to it by some form of forbidden knowledge? After all, we are in a sense in a state of potentially imminent death for our whole lives, but if the level of threat is low enough, we can successfully ignore it, just like HPL describes in the OP quote. If that threat raises too high, we cannot ignore it, robbing us of that same "mercifulness" that HPL refers to, and this can indeed create a condition connected with insanity even if modern diagnoses can navigate various subclasses of mental imbalance (it's not mindless insanity I grant you, but again, exaggeration is an allowed element of that genre).


In fact, as I've already said, the idea that there is a kind of knowledge that can drive us mad is one of the Lovecraftian tropes which shake his fictional world free from our world.Ah, but that statement brings us right back to the OP quote. If you are really maintaining that HPL viewed that as something that separated his world from ours, then clearly, that OP quote could not have represented something he felt was true about our world. It would have to have been a condition he cooked up purely for his fantasy world, a literary device only. So we still have the crucial question-- is that quote a statement of his personal philosophy about our world, or isn't it? Was he really worried our path will lead us inexorably back to a kind of Dark Ages, or wasn't he? All I've done is assert the stance that we have lots of evidence for taking him quite literally in that quote. Where is the evidence we should not? All I hear is "you can't know that." All right, I grant you, I cannot know it, but please read the title of the thread.

Sometimes a Thing In The Attic is just a Thing In The Attic.
Of course I know this, but there isn't a thread about "Lovecraft on Science" that focuses on what he put in for dramatic effect. We are trying to evince his philosophies and attitudes about science and the power of knowledge-- do we have something to go on there, or is it all just creepy stories?

Ken G
2010-Feb-15, 11:37 PM
Oh, come on. I said quite clearly that I did not believe it to be a clear and sincere expression of HPL's own personal philosophy about our own world. I said it reflected his own view, but contained a deliberate overstatement for dramatic effect.Then I misunderstood you. So let's try to examine more carefully what elements are intended to apply to our world. How about the Dark Ages part? Is Lovecraft saying we are in danger of that, or isn't he? How about the mercifulness of the human mind's inability to correlate all the truths around it? Does he mean humans like you and me, or just the humans in his make believe world? Do we need more data to form an opinion?


We seem to have sneaked rather far from your original contention that Lovecraft's fictional universe contains nothing that isn't also present in our own, which is what I (and others) objected to. And as I've stated, only parallaxicality understood what I was actually saying there. I've tried to clarify it here.


We argued against a categorical declaration on your part.I suppose I cannot complain for I used the words, but I never thought anyone would take them so literally.

Now it seems that (all along?) your only message is the mild and unexceptional statement that authors occasionally write something that reflects their own thinking about the world. Is that where you want to stand, now?
Hardly, let me summarize what I've been saying all this time, with some evolution based on the information that has surfaced. I'm saying that HPL apparently held to a philosophy that is widely attributed to him. I did not know it had a name, but I do now: cosmicism, the idea that humans are a fairly insigificant part of a largely meaningless and hostile universe, that gives up its secrets grudgingly, and where knowledge is no protection from its harsher realities. I'm saying that HPL put all these elements so clearly and starkly in his fictional universe, not just as a way to jazz the reader, but because he felt it was an honest depiction of the truth about our own reality, in opposition to fairy tales and religious doctrines of a benevolent universe where doing good things was a promise of eternal happiness. He seemed to feel that the rose-colored stories already had plenty of play, and the "lot" of telling this other truth fell onto the horror genre. So ultimately, his participation in that genre was to participate in telling that truth, that "other side of the story." And that "other side" was relevant to harsh truths about our world, albeit exaggerated for effect, and placed at a "safe distance" for our perusal (the safe distance I mean is the difference between a creepy feeling of excitement and genuine terror). I also indicated the places in that long resource that you found, where he seemed to be saying that the horror genre was a vehicle for doing just this. Thus, I would argue that he was talking about "we humans" in the OP, and he did fear a future Dark Ages, to avoid discovering the truths of cosmicism. Ironically, he was helping to bring us into contact with such discoveries, which I find the most fascinating element of all.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-15, 11:51 PM
On that happy note (and given that I've already stated my position on Lovecraft's fiction and "cosmicism"), I'll bow out.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 01:49 AM
Don't bow out yet-- there is more data we need to inspect! I decided to look up Joshi, an expert on Lovecraft. His analysis is quite interesting and relevant. For example, for brevity, I'd like to introduce this direct quote from Joshi:
"More important, Lovecraft came to believe that any viable literary work – even fiction and poetry – -must derive from a sound and accurate view of the universe. While being entirely opposed to literary didacticism, he sensed that his own work at least was the unconscious embodiment of his metaphysical and ethical thought."
The link is http://www.themodernword.com/SCRIPTorium/lovecraft.html, a good read. Another quote from that link:
"...and, more important, to fashion a coherent philosophy that served as the fountainhead for his entire literary work. "
And, in relation to quantum indeterminism, Joshi says about HPL:
"I do not know how well Lovecraft really came to terms with indeterminacy. The point is, however, that he continued to wrestle with these questions with a tenacity few non-philosophers have exhibited. "
It certainly seems that Joshi's opinion was that HPL was indeed a deeply philosophical person, who without a doubt included his philosophies in a central way into the fabric of his weird tales. It's a fascinating collision of different views that come together in this man, and to simply interpret his stories as being written "just to be scary" is certainly not in agreement with Joshi's opinions.

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 02:14 AM
Wow, Joshi goes on, making the point even clearer. He he explains an HPL quote:

This statement – emphasizing the fundamental amorality of his fictional cosmos – was made in conjunction with the resubmittal of "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926) to Weird Tales; and there can hardly be a doubt that that tale marks a watershed in Lovecraft's work, although perhaps not exactly in the way many think. To be sure, it marks the debut of Lovecraft's convoluted pseudomythology, dubbed by August Derleth the "Cthulhu Mythos"; but in truth it reveals that Lovecraft has taken not merely the world but the cosmos for his backdrop. The cosmicism that became so distinctive a feature of his later fiction was observable only tangentially in his work prior to 1926, even though it had been an aesthetic goal from the beginning; as early as 1921 Lovecraft had written:

I could not write about "ordinary people" because I am not in the least interested in them. Without interest there can be no art. Man's relations to man do not captivate my fancy. It is man's relations to the cosmos – to the unknown – which alone arouses in me the spark of creative imagination. The humanocentric pose is impossible to me, for I cannot acquire the primitive myopia which magnifies the earth and ignores the background. (In Defence of Dagon [1921])

My bold, obviously. Now, either Joshi is under the same delusion as me, or Lovecraft's universe was much more closely aligned with our own than this thread has so far avowed.

EDG
2010-Feb-16, 03:44 AM
Last time I looked, there was little evidence of anyone ever having been "driven insane" by external phenomena.

What are things like Shellshock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Isn't that essentially people being driven insane by external trauma?

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-16, 04:21 AM
You're missing that insane doesn't cover all mental illnesses.

Incidentally, shellshock and ptsd is the same, just different names from different wars.

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 07:36 AM
Getting past who said what when, I would characterize Joshi's sentiments on HPL as essentially saying that both camps in the above debate had a point: the fictional world of HPL does have things ours doesn't, they have what HPL himself called supplements to the laws of nature, things that are outside the laws of physics as we know them, which therefore creates an illusion that they are against the laws, which is unsettling. But at the same time he (HPL) was quite clear that they could not really be against the laws that we do know, and I think he must have felt that would make the genre less genuine and less visceral. It seemed important to him that what was in his stories could be in our world, they were not untrue to it, as he saw it. The things outside the laws made the stories "weird" and spine-tingling, but having anything against the laws would make it impossible, which I think would make it both less scary, and less relevant.

What's more, I got the very clear sense (from Joshi, who was privy to HPL's letters that we are not) that HPL did not just believe fervently in these principles because it made for scarier stories, he really felt that to do otherwise would not be telling the truth. In other words, he did feel that he had something true to say about our world, and the message was important because it was true, not because it was nice or soothing or a good thing to know. He felt the genre had to tell the truth, either because it was more scary or more significant or both, and the truth it told was about our world-- not so much what is known about our world, but what is unknown about it, and what the ramifications are that it is unknown. It was very definitely cosmicist literature, and purposefully so.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-16, 11:28 AM
Don't bow out yet-- there is more data we need to inspect! I decided to look up Joshi, an expert on Lovecraft.I think probably several of us are acquainted with Joshi already. I certainly haven't seen anyone on this thread write anything that contradicts Joshi.
The vigorous opposition you received was to the suggestion that Lovecraft's work was only an exposition of his philosophy, and that it only contained references to the real world. He'd have been a much worse writer if that were so. He set out to write scary stories of a particular kind, and he had great command of the mechanics of doing that task.
I believe it was Joshi who pointed out the elaborate ends Lovecraft went to in order to stitch the unreal elements of his plots to our world: the invention of the Miskatonic University and the detailed back story for the Necronomicon, for instance. That's great slight of hand on his part (I believe he invented that particular trick, at least in its elaborate form), but it (again!) demonstrates how he was conscious that he was placing elements into his stories which had no analogy in the real world.

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-16, 11:53 AM
What are things like Shellshock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Isn't that essentially people being driven insane by external trauma?If I recall correctly PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder.
"Insanity" isn't a medical diagnosis, but doctors can testify that people meet the criteria for an insanity defence under law. This requires "total alienation of reason": that is, the person has no idea what he's doing, or that his actions are completely divorced from the outside world.
One might, I suppose, enter an insanity defence if someone suffering from PTSD had injured or killed another during a flashback and while disorientated by sleep (or the lack thereof). That might be deemed "temporary insanity" (or some equivalent) by the courts. But in general people with PTSD have a clear grasp on who they are, what they're doing, and how they interact with the real world. They're not "insane" in either popular or legal parlance, and they don't fall into the category that doctors would confine to "insane asylums" in Lovecroft's day: those with full-blown psychoses.

A professor of psychiatry once told me (and I have no reason to disbelieve him) that "driven mad by horror" was a literary invention of the Victorians novelists. It became a standard plot element to discover unfortunate folk gibbering under mysterious circumstances: a way of creating a supernatural mystery while reducing the witness testimony. Conan Doyle subverted this nicely in The Adventure of the Devil's Foot: the gibbering folk are discovered, but the resolution is mundane (though exotic) rather than supernatural.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 03:50 PM
The vigorous opposition you received was to the suggestion that Lovecraft's work was only an exposition of his philosophy, and that it only contained references to the real world. Well of course I never said any such thing. Ask yourself why you felt the need to insert the word "only" above-- did I ever use that word? As I explained, when I asked what he had that we did not, I was never referring to specific characters or places, it is perfectly obvious he made those up. It's fantasy, for heaven's sake! My interest was always in what HPL was saying about our world using his world, and as such, it had to be a world that contained many of the same elements as our world, it had to be a stage on which could play out his philosophies about our world. What was important about his world had to be the same things that are important in ours, albeit exaggerated and taken to the distance of fantasy. If it sounded like I was ever claiming that was the only thing that it was, it was just poorly expressed by me, and resulted in "target fixation." I cannot possibly see why you would ever think I would claim, without even reading it, that that was the "only thing" he was doing!


That's great slight of hand on his part (I believe he invented that particular trick, at least in its elaborate form), but it (again!) demonstrates how he was conscious that he was placing elements into his stories which had no analogy in the real world.
And again, I never claimed that there were not specific things in his stories that had no analogy-- how could I possibly make such a claim, I was going purely on the glimpse into his philosophies I got from the OP and the other posts. You took me quite literally, but the literal meaning I felt was obviously absurd, and did not need to be argued against. The OPer understood completely, if you look at his posts, but I do not pass off the blame for being unclear, I obviously did not express myself well. The tone was also certainly abrupt, which did not serve it well, it was just an effort to shake out some of the cobwebs.

Remember, when I made the remarks that I felt HPL was trying to tell us things about our world, and express his philosophies about our world, and create a world that was separated by the distance of fantasy but still a faithful recreation of the basic truths of our world, I did not know about his awful bouts with insanity in his own experience, I did not know about cosmicism as a philosophy he espoused, and I did not know about Joshi's conclusions about HPL as being driven by a central philosophical engine. Discovering all these things, in the course of the thread, merely underscored my initial assessment, even as it predicated a need for some evolution, naturally. So it merely served to increase my dismay over how completely wrongly I was being heard by everyone other than the OPer.

The bottom line is, who cares who was right when, our issue is, does one address HPL stories just as scary tales about things in the attic that are just things in the attic, or is one missing something quite important by not recognizing the deep philosophical tapestry, and relevance to our world thereby, that underpins those tales. Is looking for that meaningful tapestry, that raison d'etre behind that nightmare logic, just elevating socks to some imagined importance, or is it a prevailing element of HPL's legacy as a writer that informs and imbues his stories with their relevance to the progress of our attempts to breach the unknown? Shall we view HPL as a stopover for some escapist reading in between our efforts to propel our knowledge about our universe, or shall we include his admonitions and "gut checks" along with that effort? That is also what I think the OPer was driving at by interpreting the OP quote as a statement about our world, and I was trying to get there also, just by not expressing my aims terribly well.

In short, I believe there is a valid perspective that places HPL as a voice of truth in a world that to some degree had embraced, to the point of stupefaction, a series of what he saw as pretty lies. He hated pretense, especially romanticized pretense, and I think he saw pretense in science (that we would someday conquer the unknown), and he saw pretense in religion (that the universe was benevolent to and made for humans). That a key aim of his was to shatter pretense and make-believe, and bring us back to a cold hard truth about our world, is an extremely important irony considering that he used as his vehicle weird tales of fantasy and horror. I do not say he chose that vehicle solely for that reason, he experimented with poetry and also wrote lots of letters, but he seemed to be most fascinated by weird tales, for whatever reason. His work can certainly be appreciated without interpreting it as a philosophical effort, but I do not think it can be fully appreciated without it. Indeed, it's the only element I can at the moment appreciate, having not yet tasted those spine-tingling elements.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-16, 05:33 PM
The point at which the wheels came off for you was, in my opinion, when you were presented with a list of literary inventions of Lovecraft's, and you responded:
Right, all of which sounds just like our world to me (minus the "eldritch" part, but that's a minor detail-- it can be viewed as allegory, or one can even take a more literal view that we use eldritch concepts all the time and just don't label them as such.)"Eldritch" is a minor detail? All of Lovecraft's inventions sound like the real world?
There are people here who write fiction themselves, and/or who have some experience (perhaps even training) in the mechanics of fiction writing. They can see how Lovecraft's inventiveness works to engage the reader, and can appreciate how difficult an act it is to pull off as well as he (sometimes) did.
For such people, it's simply insulting to dismiss the evident technique and inventiveness, and rather tedious to suggest that Lovecraft was simply ringing changes on his rather simplistic "philosophy".
No-one imagined that you'd failed to realize he made stuff up; but I think they did rather resent that you dismissed his skill at making up the outré and the eldritch, while never having read anything he wrote. Perhaps there are even others who, like me, think that Lovecraft's "philosophy" is one of the least interesting things he produced.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 07:13 PM
The point at which the wheels came of for you was, in my opinion, when you were presented with a list of literary inventions of Lovecraft's, and you responded:"Eldritch" is a minor detail? All of Lovecraft's inventions sound like the real world?Yes, in my view, the eldritch elements are a minor detail in terms of the message he is making about our world. If they were not, then his world could not have anything to say about ours, the worlds would be too different. This is also what I feel HPL himself meant when he described those eldritch details as supplements to our reality, rather than a different reality, and consider how that theme resonates in this HPL quote from Joshi:
"Now 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."
The key question to ask here is, which cosmos-at-large is he talking about here? I think the answer is unequivocal: our own. This is the intersection with cosmicism-- he did not invent a world where cosmicism prevails, he lived in that world, and told stories about it, but those stories were certainly "supplemented" to give them the power and effect he so valued in the weird-tale genre. Without those eldritch elements, the stories would be banal, whereas with them, they take us to a new realm of shock and awe-- but nevertheless a realm that is a device to say powerful things about our realm, not just tingle our spines. It had to be true to our world as it ventured outward into the unknown, our unknown, is how I would sum it up, and I think Joshi agrees with that. That's the element I thought I saw in that OP quote and the way people were describing his stories.

Now, one could still argue that this tempered realism is also just a device to create better horror, and I'm sure HPL felt it was important to the genre to have realism in every department except the central break from the rules as we know them, but I also think Joshi is quite clear that he feels HPL did not just do it for the purposes of creeping people out, he also did it because he really felt he was delivering a painful but important truth about our world. He was saying that the rules as we know them are not really the rules, they are just the intersection of the rules with our own naivete and hubris. That's a theme that centers squarely on our own realm, so for example when people said in the thread that HPL's world wasn't ours because we have time and space and he doesn't, my reaction was, what makes you think we have time and space in our world? I think that's exactly what HPL's point would be-- time and space are romanticized, we give them comforting properties that we cannot really know they have. (Perhaps he had heard of the Planck scale, he certainly knew a lot of relativity and quantum mechanics.)

Of course, the eldritch elements are not a minor detail when it comes to the spine-tingling fiction, which is never what I was talking about, nor was it ever what the OP was about. I agree with you that this is the key point of disconnect, the point where the "target fixation" first appeared-- we veered off on completely different paths about what we were even talking about from that point onward.

For such people, it's simply insulting to dismiss the evident technique and inventiveness, and rather tedious to suggest that Lovecraft was simply ringing changes on his rather simplistic "philosophy".Right, which is certainly why I never said any such thing. I actually have read some fiction, this is not an alien concept to me. My point was merely as I have expressed it above-- HPL's universe was our universe, just supplemented by that which gave it its dramatic power, and also what allowed him to make the point he was making. Joshi is quite clear on that core philosophical engine that was driving him, perhaps from insights from his letters. I certainly never said that all he wanted to do was edify our brains, and never scare the pants off us, I said that he used scaring the pants off us as a device that resonated with his core philosophy. I think he must have seen that resonance with the whole horror genre, which may be why he loved it so much and chose it as his own venue.


No-one imagined that you'd failed to realize he made stuff up; but I think they did rather resent that you dismissed his skill at making up the outré and the eldritch, while never having read anything he wrote.Yes, I agree that was exactly where the "target fixation" appeared-- somehow the idea emerged that I was criticizing HPL! I must take the blame for unclear phrasing, I thought my intention would be intepreted (as parallaxicality did), but there's never any guarantee one's words will be heard correctly if they are badly chosen (especially bad was saying he was "not even trying", that was never intended to be anything but pure hyperbole for emphasis-- a dangerous tool in intellectual debate).

In fact, critiquing HPL is quite the opposite of what I was doing-- I view it as a far lesser skill to craft a scary story than to be able to make it relevant to the human progress, or lack thereof, in its assault on the unknown. But to do the latter, the stories have to be about our world (where again, "about" is taken to refer to a kind of exaggerated or allegorical version of our world, but still relevant to our world, and perhaps simply saying "relevant to" is less likely to be misheard), for if we can say that every "supplement" breaks his world from its contact with ours, then nothing that proceeds from those supplements could ever be relevant to our own knowledge of our own world. We could then simply escape the "logic of nightmares" simply by waking up, or putting the book down, but I think HPL was trying to tell us a truth that he did not think we would thank him for telling, a truth that did not go away when we put the book down, but nevertheless a truth we needed to hear just because it was the truth, as he saw it.


Perhaps there are even others who, like me, think that Lovecraft's "philosophy" is one of the least interesting things he produced.And you are certainly welcome to have that opinion, but it's not what the thread was about, if we allow the OP to define a thread. What's more, even someone who is not impressed with his philosophy can still frame his work in the context of what influence that philosophy had, or will have-- remember, much of what he was doing was a reaction against romanticism and religion. Does his fiction have a place in the general movement that brings us today to the likes of Weinberg and Dawkins? I certainly think it does, even if HPL himself never had a large enough following to be an important figure in that trend.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-16, 07:29 PM
Perhaps there are even others who, like me, think that Lovecraft's "philosophy" is one of the least interesting things he produced.And you are certainly welcome to have that opinion, but it's not what the thread was about.I disagree. This thread started because parallaxicality is writing a ghost story, and (as a matter arising) invited comments on a quotation relevant to Lovecraft's philosophy.

I think suggesting that Lovecraft's effectiveness as a writer owes little to his philosophy and much to his craftsmanship is of direct relevance to the OP. To put it more directly: "If you want to write an effective ghost story, pay attention to Lovecraft's writings on the mechanics of story telling, rather than his philosophy." Supernatural horror in literature (http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm) is a good place to start.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 08:43 PM
I disagree. This thread started because parallaxicality is writing a ghost story, and (as a matter arising) invited comments on a quotation relevant to Lovecraft's philosophy.
Nevertheless, he did so invite. Perhaps I was mistaken when I interpreted your remark that you are personally not interested in HPL's philosophy as a criticism of others' efforts to probe that philosophy. It is easy to interpret your general tenor in this thread as that of discounting efforts to explore HPL's philosophy because you are not interested in it, and being therefore quick to interpret statements pertaining to that philosophy as instead being meant as critiques of his fiction-writing skills-- an area that you are interested in. Perhaps that was why you were having trouble seeing "relevance." We find that we were both simply fixing on the targets of our own personal interests.
I think suggesting that Lovecraft's effectiveness as a writer owes little to his philosophy and much to his craftsmanship is of direct relevance to the OP. Then say it. It certainly doesn't disagree with anything I said, nor should be framed in those terms, it would merely be a parallel direction for the thread. I see that as the whole problem here-- the thread played out along two parallel threads, a few trying to discuss what we could infer about what must have been the man's personal agenda on science and philosophy, while most others preferring to divorce the craftsmanship of the horror from that agenda, with a pretty sizable rift in between creating tremendous opportunities for miscommunication.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-16, 09:01 PM
Perhaps I was mistaken when I interpreted your remark that you are personally not interested in HPL's philosophy as a criticism of others' efforts to probe that philosophy.You were mistaken. I said that I found Lovecraft's philosophy to be "one of the least interesting things he produced".
I think this is one of the least coherent threads I've ever participated in on BAUT, which is not to say it lacks all coherence: just that BAUT frequently does better.



I think suggesting that Lovecraft's effectiveness as a writer owes little to his philosophy and much to his craftsmanship is of direct relevance to the OP.Then say it.Been saying it.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-16, 10:30 PM
I can't recall you saying that even once, frankly. Instead, I recall many posts objecting to efforts to understand any kind of message about our world that could be embedded in his, such as when you said:

I'm having trouble seeing relevance. In Lovecraft's fictional world (the source of the OP quote), there is Forbidden Knowledge, which does Drive Men Mad, and which they are nevertheless driven to seek out. Lovecraft's fictional logic is the logic of nightmares. One might as well protest that no sensible group of teenagers would split up in order to explore the abandoned insane asylum more thoroughly ...
The "relevance" that you could not see was in regard to That Which Man is Not Meant to Know, and you stressed the word "fictional", as if any effort to interpret a serious philosophy on Lovecraft's part was on a par to imagining that his art was about socks. However, it is now clear that the idea that there can be truths that are too harsh for the human mind to be able to know, is practically a central tenet of cosmicism, a philosophy that I think by now has been conclusively demonstrated was quite devotedly and purposefully pursued by Lovecraft in his art. I wonder if you still cannot see the relevance to the OP, after I've described the parallel rift that opened up around it. What particularly disturbed me in the thread was how everyone seemed to feign a kind of disdain for trying to interpret the motivations of the author, as if this was a naive pursuit that had nothing to do with appreciation of the work itself. It all seemed very disingenuous (they had no difficulty concluding HPL was a racist, but none of them had ever heard of cosmicism nor seemed willing to entertain the thought that his stories might have been actively promoting a view about human knowledge in our own world). I think the Joshi article completely destructed those feigned objections-- there is simply no way that one can really appreciate what Lovecraft's stories represent if one does not see behind them the constant and beating heart of telling a truth (as he saw it) about our own world, and there is nothing "incoherent" whatever about that realization.

showboat
2010-Feb-16, 11:42 PM
I think that
got it right in his book the [The plant] and movie for a change.

Corporate exectitives run afoul of a satanist.

At least a happy ending.

The movies [stephan king ] they can't catch any humor and always go for shock like a alien invasion[dream catcher is the best and most forgotten[aliens]]

If make a movie at least use a character voice [overvoice as a dialiog between himself.
as the unfortunate actors as stressed turned into aliens or dead,how much cost on a movie is that.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-16, 11:44 PM
I can't recall you saying that even once, frankly.Most recently here:
For such people, it's simply insulting to dismiss the evident technique and inventiveness, and rather tedious to suggest that Lovecraft was simply ringing changes on his rather simplistic "philosophy".But the theme runs throughout this thread, every time people pushed back vigorously in response to your efforts to highlight the philosophy at the expense of the artistry.


The "relevance" that you could not see was in regard to That Which Man is Not Meant to Know, and you stressed the word "fictional", as if any effort to interpret a serious philosophy on Lovecraft's part was on a par to imagining that his art was about socks.
However, it is now clear that the idea that there can be truths that are too harsh for the human mind to be able to know, is practically a central tenet of cosmicism ...Whereas in Lovecraft's fiction, these truths are moderately readily accessible to those who are knowledgeable or unfortunate, and they drive people to gibbering madness on a regular basis. He created fictional entities, and their effectiveness as such is a result of Lovecraft's skill with the nuts and bolts of fiction. They would be uselessly unfocussed and intensely dreary if they were simply a restatement of Lovecraft's vague "cosmicism".


What particularly disturbed me in the thread was how everyone seemed to feign a kind of disdain for trying to interpret the motivations of the author, as if this was a naive pursuit that had nothing to do with appreciation of the work itself. It all seemed very disingenuous ...Try reading the thread again, imagining that everyone else actually already knows about Lovecraft's philosophy (I think there can be few Lovecraft fans who don't have some awareness of it). Further imagine that they're growing impatient with the way you seem to brush aside every aspect of his story-telling except his philosophy, and imagine that some are genuinely passionate about how stories are constructed. So they're not really particularly interested in your ideas about philosophy right now, thank you, because they would like to address what seems to be a huge and fundamental gap in your appreciation and understanding of Lovecraft's writing.
That's how it played out from where I sit.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-17, 12:01 AM
Most recently here:I already told you that had nothing to do with what I was saying. My point in asking you to show me where you said that was to point out that your posts were more about refusing to accept that Lovecraft was making a point about our world than to say you did not find that point to be an important part of your own appreciation of him.


But the theme runs throughout this thread, every time people pushed back vigorously in response to your efforts to highlight the philosophy at the expense of the artistry.Again, I never did anything "at the expense of" any artistry, I pointed out that it sounded like Lovecraft's fictional world had important parallels to ours, and for a reason, and I tried to investigate that reason. That has nothing at all to do with how he crafted his tales, a topic I was quite obviously unable to comment on, nor did I intend to comment on it in the least way. I merely said, it sounded to me like he was trying to use his world to tell us something about ours, an observation I think is completely vindicated by Joshi.

They would be uselessly unfocussed and intensely dreary if they were simply a restatement of Lovecraft's vague "cosmicism".Of course, I said the same a few posts back (I said they'd be "mundane", which I believe is a similar tenor to dreary). He chose horror for a reason-- he liked it, and he was very good at it. But it was still a vehicle to express himself, and he was very serious about that expression-- he felt he had a truth to tell, and it was the "lot" (his word) of the horror genre to tell that truth.


Try reading the thread again, imagining that everyone else actually already knows about Lovecraft's philosophy (I think there can be few Lovecraft fans who don't have some awareness of it).Try reading the thread again with the idea that the general feeling was that things in the attic were "just things in the attic", and any attempt to imagine that Lovecraft had a message was like imagining the message was about your roommate's socks. That's how it played out from where I sit. But like I said, there was quite a rift of fixated targets there.

showboat
2010-Feb-17, 12:11 AM
Well demons believe in reincarntion, as preditors.

So not anything as too chaos as to beating the drum in a circle[the gods] as chaos tootle the musical instrument .

showboat
2010-Feb-17, 01:11 AM
Nasty movie made from the plot. which I can't remember.

But the actor was excellant.


I just like zombie movies,

Alot more relaxing.

And as a production as a movie.

Barabino
2010-Feb-17, 07:02 AM
I mostly focus on the negative stuff when it comes to Lovecraft. Racism, his ideas on degenerates, "sins of the father" type stuff.



Some right-wing extremists are in love with HPL and they think he was a magick master of some sort...

Ken G
2010-Feb-17, 08:12 AM
Which is ironic, as HPL himself seemed to have a very low opinion of cult worship of all kinds. He seemed like such a lover of truth (judging from what was said about him and from his quotations), even in situations where the truth was somewhat awful. His version of the truth just couldn't necessarily escape the errors of his day, like eugenics.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-17, 06:49 PM
I already told you that had nothing to do with what I was saying.No, it had something to do with what I was saying. Indeed, it was a response to a question of yours about what I was saying.

But since you'd quite evidently prefer this to be about what you are saying, I'll leave you to it. This has been little more than a monologue, punctuated by occasional interruptions, for some time now anyway.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Feb-17, 09:53 PM
Then I shall summarize the monologue, as few seem to want to try to add to it or even address the general issue in the OP in any way at all. It seems quite clear from the sources in this thread that Lovecraft was a deeply intelligent and philosophical person, who felt he knew truths about our world that most people around him seemed loathe to accept, preferring instead to embrace what he would label as romanticist or religious untruths that were soothing or comforting or generally protective of their own psyches, but not the actual truths of our cosmos. What's more, he clearly felt that the "lot" of the horror genre was to right those scales, and tell a truth that was not being told elsewhere. That truth was a truth about our real world, not just his fictional one, and it was the beating heart of essentially all his stories, by his own admission. The Joshi link lays this all out in much greater detail, and I tried to explain how I reached these conclusions from the data.

Of course, none of that denies that Lovecraft was a master practitioner of the horror genre, none if it claims that the above was "all" that he was doing, nor that it was his sole motivator for doing it, nor that we should expect a one-to-one specific mapping from everything in his world to a person or event in ours. However, to not recognize the importance of that motivator is to not fully appreciate Lovecraft, pure and simple, and I can reach that logical conclusion without claiming to appreciate him myself (not having read his stories, only about the man himself). All the same, there exists a parallel track for discussing his work purely from the standpoint of the technical craft of horror writing, which was the sole tack that most seemed to wish to follow, other than the posts of the OPer, and a brief excursion into his racist tendencies.

Now, if everyone on this thread already knew about that truth-telling mission, and their pointed denials of same in the thread were simply misunderstood, then it would indeed all be an incoherent waste of their time. If they did not know that, and can admit so at least privately, then it was neither a waste nor incoherent-- merely a response to the question in the OP about what were Lovecraft's views on the cold hard facts of science and the limitations of human knowledge in general. To me, he makes science seem like a harsh mistress indeed, and I see a similar vein running through modern cosmicists like Dawkins and Weinberg. Even if I don't personally agree with the viewpoint, I think it is an important trend in 21st century thought on science, and there's Lovecraft, right in the thick of its formative days.

SolusLupus
2010-Feb-17, 10:26 PM
To me, he makes science seem like a harsh mistress indeed, and I see a similar vein running through modern cosmicists like Dawkins and Weinberg.

Lolwut


No, I'm not even going to ask.

tusenfem
2010-Feb-18, 10:44 AM
Then I shall summarize the monologue, as few seem to want to try to add to it or even address the general issue in the OP in any way at all.



Okay, and that would be enough then, as apparently the rest of the members of this thread do not want to discuss your philosophical interpretation of the OP. Consider this your last message in this thread.

J Riff
2010-Feb-19, 08:20 AM
Lovecraft, and others like C.A. Smith, were noted as groundbreakers of their time. HPL was a Horror writer, in popular, but not hugely popular, pulp mags, and many other authors emulated his style. It, he doesn't analyse well IMHO, as SciFi or in fact anything too conscious at all. He was an intense and unique author, well worth reading today.
When Steven King appeared...well did you notice how books got fat all of a sudden, right around that time ? 300-500 pages, up from 200 or so on average. King is writing for a huge modern mainstream audience that NEEDS everything spelled out clearly. HPL and other 'weird' fictioneers were, well...weird and not mainstream at all.
The King phenomena irked a lot of horror fans, as he systematically re-wrote all the standard plots. Personally, I enjoyed his first books but by the time of..I forget which one, but halfway through the book I suddenly saw the ending, in absolute detail.
The earlier stuff was...creepier somehow, not formulaic, not written for a demographically defined target audience.
Hodgsons tales of sea terror are similar, somehow. Horrific things living in the Sargasso Sea or other uncharted regions.
The real difference is, this early weird stuff was written in a time when there was still mystery in places like Africa, or remote places in the world which we know all about today. There was always lingering fear because one didn't know if it could be real. HPL talks about this in several of his works, the olde world..the things that could no longer exist, simply because no-one believed in them anymore ! So there is sadness too, in the passing of mystery from our lives as we move into the techno age of satellite images of every inch of our planet.
As a child I envisioned Africa as a dark mysterious place, where innumerable strange forgotten creatures and horrifying deities could still lurk !
Well that's over now. )

Spoons
2010-Feb-19, 08:31 AM
Well then, parallaxicality, in summary, if you want people to know what you really think and what your intentions were when writing your book you might want to make it patently clear in the foreward or somthing like that.

On the other hand, if you enjoy watching people spin in circles you could have a lot of fun being vague or just plain silent about your intentions.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-19, 02:52 PM
On the other hand, if you enjoy watching people spin in circles you could have a lot of fun being vague or just plain silent about your intentions.Lovecraft certainly wrote quite a lot about what he thought fantasy and horror writing should do and how it could best do it.
But of course the game of lit crit is to "identify" new themes, or old themes in new places. So (as you say) the less the author writes about his/her specific intentions in particular stories, the more scope there is to play this game. I think it's no great secret that Joshi is a cosmicism-spotter, for instance. And, given my mention of "logic of nightmares" earlier, it seems likely that I'll look for Lovecraft's so-called "oneiric objectivism". To some extent the full lit crit game can only get underway when the author is decently dead and can't express any pesky opinions about what was really meant by a certain passage.

(Illustrative personal anecdote. One of the few bits of fan mail I've ever received for my writing came from someone who told me with great enthusiasm that my subtextual references to The Hunting of the Snark added a whole new subversive layer to a particular story. I had to confess I'd never read The Hunting of the Snark. :lol:)

Grant Hutchison

Spoons
2010-Feb-20, 12:00 AM
I have never read Lovecraft, so although this thread has stirred some interesting discussion in places I have avoided posting in it, until now, and I think this thread has been all the better for it. :D

But now I'm interested, and would like to know more. Grant, if I do a search under your name will I find any of your work, or do you use a pen name? (I promise not to produce a poorly written article on how it represents your views on monarchism or something else)

Apologies for the sideways step in this thread, though it seems it's somewhat winding down anyway.

grant hutchison
2010-Feb-20, 12:53 AM
Grant, if I do a search under your name will I find any of your work ...You will. But you'll also find a lot of stuff by people who aren't me.

Grant Hutchison

showboat
2010-Feb-20, 10:29 PM
Lovecraft, and others like C.A. Smith, were noted as groundbreakers of their time. HPL was a Horror writer, in popular, but not hugely popular, pulp mags, and many other authors emulated his style. It, he doesn't analyse well IMHO, as SciFi or in fact anything too conscious at all. He was an intense and unique author, well worth reading today.
When Steven King appeared...well did you notice how books got fat all of a sudden, right around that time ? 300-500 pages, up from 200 or so on average. King is writing for a huge modern mainstream audience that NEEDS everything spelled out clearly. HPL and other 'weird' fictioneers were, well...weird and not mainstream at all.
The King phenomena irked a lot of horror fans, as he systematically re-wrote all the standard plots. Personally, I enjoyed his first books but by the time of..I forget which one, but halfway through the book I suddenly saw the ending, in absolute detail.
The earlier stuff was...creepier somehow, not formulaic, not written for a demographically defined target audience.
Hodgsons tales of sea terror are similar, somehow. Horrific things living in the Sargasso Sea or other uncharted regions.
The real difference is, this early weird stuff was written in a time when there was still mystery in places like Africa, or remote places in the world which we know all about today. There was always lingering fear because one didn't know if it could be real. HPL talks about this in several of his works, the olde world..the things that could no longer exist, simply because no-one believed in them anymore ! So there is sadness too, in the passing of mystery from our lives as we move into the techno age of satellite images of every inch of our planet.
As a child I envisioned Africa as a dark mysterious place, where innumerable strange forgotten creatures and horrifying deities could still lurk !
Well that's over now. )

---- -----------------
Hodgsons tales of sea terror are similar, somehow. Horrific things living in the Sargasso Sea or other uncharted regions.
---------------------------------------------------

Well put, and a good read for a pot head student[20 years]at time of the Vietnam war as relaxation..

The best where the [unicorn books at the time by the publisher by people that thought it belonged published into a classic genera.]

I enjoyed ny hashish [poisoned]dreams and read them while a real horror of war past by me [college][nondrafted]and enjoyed every second and a better person for it.

SolusLupus
2010-Mar-11, 05:40 PM
Just gonna practice some Thread Voodoo here.

I thought this was an interesting find:

http://www.jrbooksonline.com/HTML-docs/The_Racial_World-view_of_H_P_%20Lovecraft_2.htm

For the quote most lulz-worthy:


At heart I despise the aesthete and prefer the warrior -- I am essentially a Teuton and barbarian; a Xanthochoric Nordic from the damp forests of Germany or Scandinavia, and kin to the giant chalk-white conquerors of the cursed, effeminate Celts. [The common blood shared by all Aryan peoples -- Baltic, Germanic, Slavic or Celtic -- was not understood by Mr.Lovecraft; thus his derogatory statements made towards the Slav and Celt.] I am a son of Odin and brother to Hengist and Horsa...Grr...Give me a drink of hot blood with Celtic foes skull as a beaker! Rule, Britannia...GOD SAVE THE KING!

This part in particular surprised the heck out of me:



...Kleiner proceeded to lead us into the slums; with "Chinatown" as an ulterior objective. My gawdwhat a filthy dump! I thought Providence had slums, and antique Bostonium as well; but damn me if I ever saw anything like the sprawling sty-atmosphere of N.Y.s lower East Side. We walked -- at my suggestion -- in the middle of the street, for contact with the denizens, spilled out of their bulging brick kennels as if by a spawning beyond the capacity of the places, was not by any means to be sought. At times, though, we struck peculiarly deserted areasthese swine have instinctive swarming movements, no doubt, which no ordinary biologist can fathom. Gawd knows what they are -- ... -- a <Censored> mess of stewing mongrel flesh without intellect, repellent to the eye, nose, and imagination would to heaven a kindly gust of cyanogen could asphyxiate the whole gigantic abortion, end the misery, and clean out the place. [H.P.L. advocates ethnic cleansing as a legitimate means of ridding the world of human pollution. And, in a beautiful way at that.] The streets, even in the centre, are filthy with old papers and vegetable debris -- probably the street-cleaners dislike to soil their white uniforms by visiting such infernos.

Gillianren
2010-Mar-11, 06:45 PM
I find it amusing that he thought it was possible to be British of any sort and only have Nordic ancestry. There's someone who didn't get the concept.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Mar-11, 06:57 PM
I find it amusing that he thought it was possible to be British of any sort and only have Nordic ancestry. There's someone who didn't get the concept.

Which is surprising, because foaming-at-the-mouth racists are usually well informed.

vonmazur
2010-Mar-11, 07:10 PM
"I think there may be a colony of Cthonians in northern California between Lake Berryessa and the ocean. At least close enough to the surface to affect people. The geological history of the area bears out this hypothethis well. Then you have those towns were people tear down all the signs leading to their towns. And if you drive in by mistake everybody on the the street goes indoors and the cafe closes mid-day." BigDon......

Don: Nice to tell me now! I lived at Travis AFB 1957-63, I went fishing at Lake Berryessa many times....I wondered what was up with that area, especially to the west!! After all, when I lived there, Napa was famous not for wine, but the "Nut House" located there....Vacaville was just for the prison system, but Napa was for the real ones!! Driven mad by the Cthonian influence---Maybe this explains the Zodiac Killings too....

Dale

Gillianren
2010-Mar-11, 08:13 PM
Which is surprising, because foaming-at-the-mouth racists are usually well informed.

Doesn't make it less funny!

Paul Beardsley
2010-Mar-11, 10:12 PM
Doesn't make it less funny!

Indeed. Just in case there was any misunderstanding, my quip was an attempt at being dry - it wasn't a jibe at you.

Gillianren
2010-Mar-11, 11:52 PM
I know.

For what it's worth, by the way, the next book on my pile is a Lovecraft collection, so I'll be able to argue more intelligently on the subject.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Mar-12, 12:30 AM
I suspect you already read some of them, but just in case you didn't, Gaiman wrote a couple of nice short Lovecraft pastiches Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar and Only the End of the World Again (Smoke and Mirrors) and a Lovecraft/Holmes pastiche A Study in Emerald (Fragile things) as well as the short story I Cthulhu (http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Short_Stories/I_Cthulhu).

Gillianren
2010-Mar-12, 01:03 AM
There's also Stephen King's "Crouch End."

SolusLupus
2010-Mar-12, 05:04 AM
Can someone please explain to me what the heck the bolded is in reference to?


Nothing must disturb my undiluted Englishry -- God Save The King! I am naturally a Nordic -- a chalk-white, bulky Teuton of the Scandinavian or North-German forests -- a Vikinga berserk killer -- a predatory rover of Hengist and Horsa -- a conqueror of Celts and mongrels and founders of Empires -- a son of the thunders and the arctic winds, and brother to the frosts and the auroras -- a drinker of foemen's blood from new picked skulls -- a friend of the mountain buzzards and feeder of seacoast vultures -- a blond beast of eternal snows and frozen oceans -- a prayer to Odin and Thor and Woden and Alfadur, the raucous shouter of Niffelheim -- a comrade of the wolves, and rider of nightmares -- aye -- I speak truly -- for was I not born with yellow hair and Blue eyes -- the latter not turning dark till I was nearly two, and the former lasting till I was over five? Ho, for the hunting and fishing in Valhalla! Who knows..? The Phillipses come from the borderlands of Wales, that mystic Machenian land. May there not be in them some trace of blood from some Roman prepraetor of Britannia Secunda, whose capital was Isca Silurum with its walls, its noble amphitheatre, its Etruscan-columned Temple of Diana, its Pons Saturni, its tessellated pavements, its inscriptions of the Septimii Severi, its Via Nympharum and Via Julia,...Io triumphe! S.P.Q.R.!!...Yes, Sonny, the Mediterranean world isn't so bad when when one goes back to Pelasgic times and takes the Graeco-Roman races! After all, I have dark hair and eyes now, no matter what I used to have; and it is quite as good to be a sanguinary Roman consul as a Norse pirate. Long live the Pantheon! Vivat M. Agrippa! By being a Roman, I can quite logically prove a good grandfather to such as my small boys Belnapius and Alfredus ...Latins all! But as a classical and ancient Latin, I enjoy cheese, which was a leading feature of the Graeco-Roman diet. Therein our souls are separated by the impassable gulf of the Dark Ages, O Francisco Borgia, Prince of Arsenic-Sharks and Stilletto hounds!

Arsenic-Sharks? Bwah?

I'm just throwing this out there, but that sounds like he's talking about assassins and the like. That would make sense. Still, that kind of came out of nowhere.

parallaxicality
2010-Mar-12, 06:44 AM
Well, the Borgias were an Italian family famous for assassinating people with arsenic and stilettos (long, thin daggers). I think that's what he's referring to, though it could have been better-worded.


There's also Stephen King's "Crouch End."

My favourite ever Stephen King story was a Lovecraft homage he did called "Jerusalem's Lot" (the prequel to "'Salem's Lot"), in his short story collection, "Night Shift".

Gillianren
2010-Mar-12, 07:34 AM
Well, the Borgias were an Italian family famous for assassinating people with arsenic and stilettos (long, thin daggers). I think that's what he's referring to, though it could have been better-worded.

The "shark" bit is a little odd, but yeah. You try telling anyone these days anything about the Borgias but the murder thing!


My favourite ever Stephen King story was a Lovecraft homage he did called "Jerusalem's Lot" (the prequel to "'Salem's Lot"), in his short story collection, "Night Shift".

It's not my favourite, but having spent the evening reading Lovecraft, I can definitely see the similarities.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Mar-12, 11:14 AM
...a prayer to Odin and Thor and Woden and Alfadur...and in his ranting he missed that Odin and Woden is the same:D


for was I not born with yellow hair and Blue eyes -- the latter not turning dark till I was nearly two, and the former lasting till I was over five?
Rather common development for people with dark hair and brown eyes I think, I went through the same.