Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

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Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Minchandre » Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:56 am UTC

So, earlier today, I encountered this, a parody of "Fiddler on the Roof" as seen through the Cthulhu mythos. The opening number, "Tentacles", may be found here (you can order the entire score for $14 here).

Well, anyway, it got me thinking about Lovecraft's works, and I naturally sought validation by looking for people on the Internet who might agree with me.

Personally, I find that Lovecraft has some incredibly interesting ideas, but his writing is a little...well, it's a little like he was trying to pastiche early Victorian English authors (what do you mean, that's pretty much what he was?...oh.)

What are other people's opinions? Good writer, bad writer; cool ideas, freaky stuff? Favorite stories (mine is "Pickman's Model")?

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby SilentSigil » Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:38 am UTC

*edit*

Oops. Wrong message.

Okay, I've just read Mountains of Madness and a few other short stories by Lovecraft, and I was a little disappointed... His ideas create an amazing creepy feeling, that crawly sensation in the back of your head as your reptilian brain goes 'yeah, I remember that, it was really scary...' In this sense, his creations are unique, as his brand of scary shite is unique...

but his writing itself was dissapointing (<- mispelled) to me, truthfully. After reading Mervyn Peake's Titus books, I'd like to say that I can recognize someone being good or bad at description... and Lovecraft was pretty bad... He seemed overly fond of the word 'grotesque' and other generalizations... He called penguins grotesque in what I can only assume was an attempt at foreshadowing or something...

So yes, amazing, instant-skin crawling sensations, but terrible writer, somehow. When you come across creations inspired by his works, filtered through other creators brains, the sheer impact of his style comes through, without the roadblock created by his writing ability... I'm definitely going to read whatever else I can find by this guy, but I'll be happily remembering DCOTE and all the extreme spookiness I've found in tributes to his writing from some of my favorite authors...
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Belial » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:02 pm UTC

Yeah, as much as I love Lovecraft's concepts (and I *do*), a lot of his writing boils down to him telling you "And it was really scary, guys. Seriously." over and over.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Asleep or Wrong » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:45 pm UTC

Are there any Cthulhu Mythos writers who aren't terrible? It seems like Lovecraft & friends set up something spectacular and then a great many people have spent the last 70 years making it suck with terrible pastiches.

As for Lovecraft's writing style, in addition to the above, his casual racism is pretty hilarious. I guess it's not really fair to blame him for it though, as much as it just a product of his times.

Dream Cycle is surprisingly good for pulp fiction.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jan 16, 2008 4:13 pm UTC

Not that its a surrogate for a good read, but the Call of Cthulu videogame does some cool stuff with capturing the *insanity* that Lovecraft hits or misses with. Screen shaking and whispered voices.

But yeah, my neighbor was a Lovecraft nut. Belial summed it best, Lovecraft tries very hard to convince the reader that it was scary. Sometimes it works, sometimes you just shrug.

I liked that in his mythologies however the world stems from the darkness, not from the light. And he drops reference to a lot of things the reader isn't supposed to know about, but can understand as being real *scaaaary*... The Dream Traders of Lem stuck out in my mind.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:32 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Yeah, as much as I love Lovecraft's concepts (and I *do*), a lot of his writing boils down to him telling you "And it was really scary, guys. Seriously." over and over.


You forgot the "And then they learned something people aren't supposed to know. I'd tell you, but.. you know..." bits.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Narsil » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:21 am UTC

Don't forget the non-euclidean geometry. And the ancient beings of unknowable...wait, I'll stop there. That sums up every scary concept he ever tried to get across.

That said, "Rats in the Walls" freaked my shit for a week straight. It got really bad when I started hearing scratching sounds in the ceiling. I had some kittens then.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby McCaber » Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:56 am UTC

Lovecraft rocked. The legions of his minions, however, is another story altogether.

I personally loved "Shadow over Innsmouth." It just captured my imagination and my fears.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby JayDee » Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:06 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
Belial wrote:Yeah, as much as I love Lovecraft's concepts (and I *do*), a lot of his writing boils down to him telling you "And it was really scary, guys. Seriously." over and over.
You forgot the "And then they learned something people aren't supposed to know. I'd tell you, but.. you know..." bits.
For all that, I know I enjoy reading it.

Although I must admit that my favourite Lovecraftian work would be Anchorhead by Michael Gentry. On one level it's a rip-off of one or two of Lovecraft's stories, but still.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Pathway » Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:23 am UTC

Asleep or Wrong wrote:Are there any Cthulhu Mythos writers who aren't terrible? It seems like Lovecraft & friends set up something spectacular and then a great many people have spent the last 70 years making it suck with terrible pastiches.

As for Lovecraft's writing style, in addition to the above, his casual racism is pretty hilarious. I guess it's not really fair to blame him for it though, as much as it just a product of his times.

Dream Cycle is surprisingly good for pulp fiction.


Haha. As far as casual racism goes, The Street seems the most overt. Lovecraft ain't no liberal.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Belial » Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:41 pm UTC

I don't think it was even a matter of him being liberal, conservative, racist, or whatever.

Dude was just nuts. Off his damn rocker.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby cathrl » Thu Jan 17, 2008 10:38 pm UTC

I've got to agree with whoever said the ideas are amazing but the writing is less than stellar, often rather stilted, and the "diary" style can be very forced ("I hear a tapping at the window. I must go and investigate!". To a certain extent, though, it's a stylistic thing from that era (as is the casual racism). Edgar Allen Poe is considered a pretty good writer, but there are a lot of similarities. Old-fashioned =/= badly written.

Call of Cthulhu is a hell of a good RPG, though. And you can wind the GM up by asking questions like "Is it hippocephalic?"

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Torvaun » Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:32 am UTC

I was a big fan of Rats in the Walls, and whatever the one with the soul-eating fly was. Herbert West, Reanimator was also awesome.

In a similar vein, has anyone here read The Horla? It's like Lovecraft, but with better writing.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:38 am UTC

Pathway wrote:
Asleep or Wrong wrote:Are there any Cthulhu Mythos writers who aren't terrible? It seems like Lovecraft & friends set up something spectacular and then a great many people have spent the last 70 years making it suck with terrible pastiches.

As for Lovecraft's writing style, in addition to the above, his casual racism is pretty hilarious. I guess it's not really fair to blame him for it though, as much as it just a product of his times.

Dream Cycle is surprisingly good for pulp fiction.


Haha. As far as casual racism goes, The Street seems the most overt. Lovecraft ain't no liberal.


Well, I once saw a poem allegedly by Lovecraft about God creating animals, then people, needing something to put in-between "and he called the thing a Nigger." So, yeah.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Belial » Fri Jan 18, 2008 4:55 am UTC

cathrl wrote: Edgar Allen Poe is considered a pretty good writer, but there are a lot of similarities.


There should be. Lovecraft idolized Poe, and consciously emulated him in a lot of ways.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby cathrl » Fri Jan 18, 2008 4:09 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
cathrl wrote: Edgar Allen Poe is considered a pretty good writer, but there are a lot of similarities.


There should be. Lovecraft idolized Poe, and consciously emulated him in a lot of ways.


What I mean is, when I read Poe, I find myself stamping down on my "man, this is painfully stylised" kneejerk reaction to get at the story beyond it. Lovecraft has just the same effect on me.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby nevskey1 » Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:57 pm UTC

I'm still acquainting myself with Lovecraft, but after a few stories I kind of get the idea -- which is not to say it's a bad idea at all. The first story I read was Rats In The Walls and still think it was the best of what I've read so far. I have to agree with Narsil that it was some crazy scary shite. After that I noticed all the style issues everyone here is talking about. I sad to say I was quite underwhelmed by Call of Cthulu. It was just too tedious to be very rewarding. And The Nameless City just like a retelling of Rats. Now I keep meaning to read Mountains of Madness. Maybe next week I will.

Oh, and what got me into Lovecraft was The Illuminatus Trilogy. I don't know how accurate the stuff there about him is, but the book offers a cool reading of him. And of Joyce. And Ambrose Bierce, and many others. Check it out if you haven't already. Its like the Da Vinci Code on acid.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Midnight » Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:43 pm UTC

yeah.. people always talk about "lovecraftian imagery" and i think "there's actually not too much.. unless you mean it was completely pitch black, damp, and somehow grotesque"


i'm still convinced that you could make a Cthulu movie called "The Dead Lie Dreaming". Dumbasses would go "nooo. it's not about kuh...kuhthoooollunnnz? kuhtuhluh? its' about GHOSTS or some crappy horror movie shit!"
While well-read people go "In the house of R'yleh, dead cthulu lies dreaming." And see it for cthulu.


JJ Abrams would produce it.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Nyarlathotep » Sat Jan 19, 2008 6:40 pm UTC

My personal favourite Lovecraft story is the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, mostly becuase he DOESN'T constantly go "it was a cyclopean eldrich horror from beyond the stars and all knowing, and its presence drove mens minds to madness, but I do not dare speak of it here..."

Well there IS some of that, but not so much, and it actually has a fairly hopeful and, heck, even beautiful ending.

I like the rest of his work, too, but somehow it never manages to scare me. Stuff like Cloverfield scares the shit out of me, but the things Lovecraft talks about... somehow don't. I don't know if it's his writing style or what, but my usual reaction is "Oh, huh, really? Cool."

I do like his stuff though.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby JayDee » Sun Jan 20, 2008 12:32 am UTC

Nyarlathotep wrote:I do like his stuff though.
Somehow I'm not surprised :P .
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Cabhan » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:56 am UTC

I'm with McCaber on the love of Shadows Over Innsmouth. The Whisper in Darkness was also enjoyed by me. And the whole series with the cats coming from the moon...that one was just trippy.

I'll grant that maybe his imagery isn't the best, but I have generally found his stories very interesting to read. He certainly tells good stories, though obviously not the most varied.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby kwub » Sat Jan 26, 2008 6:11 pm UTC

I don't know if I've necessarily ever read a "well-written" horror story. The most famous authors in history of the genre tend to communicate fear almost entirely through frightening concepts which overcome their messy (or bland) writing styles. From Poe to Lovecraft to King, I have always been unimpressed with the writing itself while still delighting by the sole basis of the terrifying plot.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Johannes Factotum » Thu Jan 31, 2008 12:52 am UTC

I had the same problem as a lot of people here, loved Cthulhul but not Lovecraft. If you want it slightly less stylized (or differently anyway). Try the Cthulhul stories by Robert E Howard. Even if you can't stand Conan his horror stories are bleak without being completely hopeless.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:03 pm UTC

I'm reading "At the Mountains of Madness" right now, and I have to say that it's really, really pissing me off. It's like a bad relationship or bad habit that you know you should quit, but you just can't. The ideas are so interesting, but the language is just so daunting. And the worst part is, I can't even explain exactly what makes it so annoying. It's certainly not Shakespearian or anything that antiquated. It's not too technical, except where it needs to be. But something about it just makes it the most difficult thing in the world to read. That something is annoying about his style most people here tend to agree, but I'm having trouble understanding just what that "something" is. (And I'm not talking about his repeating "and it was really scary really evil, really." But just something about his language itself. Basically, "God, Lovecraft, why the hell do you have to make this so difficult for me to enjoy!" is a thought I keep having as I read.)

Oh, and how this story has not yet been filmed is beyond me. I mean, it just has "Hollywood Gold" written all over it.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Belial » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:50 pm UTC

Just wait for the movie.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby nevskey1 » Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:02 am UTC

Oh, holy crap! Mr. Pan's Labyrinth himself to direct? That's perfect! The two are made for each other. Thanks for the good news.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:16 am UTC

Pan's labyrinth and Hellboy. If this man can't do lovecraft, no one can.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Nyarlathotep » Mon Feb 04, 2008 1:39 am UTC

Belial wrote:Pan's labyrinth and Hellboy. If this man can't do lovecraft, no one can.


Holy crap, the movie might actually be good o_O
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby senmoonsect » Mon Feb 04, 2008 5:45 am UTC

REANIMATOR!

Thats one of my favorites. I don't know. Its similar but different. Gotta say though I love the Mythos. Its pretty killer. But yeah a lot of the stories get really boring. At least they are all online though so you know... if you're bored you can just read them. Thats how I'm making my way through them.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Arancaytar » Tue Mar 25, 2008 6:00 pm UTC

I must say that some of the "diary"-style stories are hilarious. Any moment, I expect the story to break off, literally, with "Aaaaaaarrgh!" because the alleged writer is putting thoughts into "paper" as if he were dictating an inner monologue.

But the "it's so scary I won't tell you what it is" concept, while easy to mock, is a very effective staple of horror. Fear of the unknown is powerful, because our imagination fills in the gaps for us. Of course, if it is overdone to the point of being comical, the atmosphere is completely destroyed. Really, I've liked the Cthulhu mythos most for the way it pretends to be real (Arkham, Massachusetts), and the multitude of contributions by other authors that has sprung up around it. "The snouted worms can track us through our dreams" indeed.

Edit: Needless to say, "Aaaarrgh!" is still better than "Aaaaarrgh! *dies*" :P
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby xyzzy » Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:21 pm UTC

I actually quite like Lovecraft's writing style, but to each their own. No idea about favourite story though.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby alexgmcm » Thu Mar 27, 2008 4:59 pm UTC

xyzzy wrote:I actually quite like Lovecraft's writing style, but to each their own. No idea about favourite story though.


Same here. I like the diary style too as he tends to stop it getting silly yet still stay in the same style. As someone mentioned previously the casual racism helps to amuse in some of the more boring parts.. he's a pretty awesome write IMO

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Reid » Thu Mar 27, 2008 5:29 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Pan's labyrinth and Hellboy. If this man can't do lovecraft, no one can.


I actually quite enjoyed the silent film version of The Call of Cthulhu that the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society did. You can probably find trailers on YouTube for it and The Whisperer in the Darkness, which they're currently working on.

It's true, though - Lovecraft could get pretty repetitious with his descriptors. Everything was cyclopean, non-Euclidean, eldritch and unspeakable. And compared to Howard's two-fisted investigators of the occult Lovecraft's protagonists were weak-willed and craven. But to truly enjoy the mythos I think you have to read some of Lovecraft's stories. They really laid the foundation for everyone else. I think The Rats in the Walls really was one of Lovecraft's best works, but I tended to prefer his more surreal stuff involving the Dreamlands.

In terms of modern mythos tales, A Study in Emerald is probably the best work out there. Sherlock Holmes + Cthulhu = Good Times.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Belial » Thu Mar 27, 2008 5:34 pm UTC

Reid wrote:I actually quite enjoyed the silent film version of The Call of Cthulhu that the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society did. You can probably find trailers on YouTube for it and The Whisperer in the Darkness, which they're currently working on.


Oh, they're doing Whisperer in the Darkness too? Sweetness.

Yeah, I liked the silent movie version, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see it done with more modern and atmospheric filmwork. And since I made the post you referenced, I've also gone and seen the Devil's Backbone and The Orphanage, and I am ever more convinced that Del Toro will make a Lovecraft movie AMAZING
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Reid » Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:48 pm UTC

Yes, they're doing Whisperer in the Darkness - and it's going to be a talkie.

This is the first I've heard of Del Toro working on a Lovecraft film. I must admit it would be awesome to have a big budget Lovecraft film that didn't suck.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby aleflamedyud » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:22 pm UTC

I read Call of Cthulhu and found myself not very impressed at all. I just can't suspend my disbelief in a world of utter horror where everything sucks, we're all doomed, and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it.
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Culden » Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:34 am UTC

Nyarlathotep wrote:My personal favourite Lovecraft story is the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, mostly becuase he DOESN'T constantly go "it was a cyclopean eldrich horror from beyond the stars and all knowing, and its presence drove mens minds to madness, but I do not dare speak of it here..."

Well there IS some of that, but not so much, and it actually has a fairly hopeful and, heck, even beautiful ending.


I agree. Mostly, it seems that his Cthulhu stuff is scary because of the idea, but tedious due to the nature of his writing style. Dream cycle stuff... he didn't try so hard to be creepy, so they seem generally more well written (and also Mountains of Madness is pretty awesome, if long-winded).

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Reid » Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:03 pm UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:I read Call of Cthulhu and found myself not very impressed at all. I just can't suspend my disbelief in a world of utter horror where everything sucks, we're all doomed, and there's absolutely nothing we


Don't mistake the point of view of a human narrator for the objective truth. Not everything sucks - life is good for most people in Lovecraft's world. And this is not always due to ignorance or the inability of their minds to correlate their contents. Pickman gets along well enough, even after becoming a ghoul. Randolph Carter doesn't seem particularly put out by the existence of the Crawling Chaos.

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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Arancaytar » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:28 pm UTC

IÄ! IÄ!

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Well, except that Lovecraft was as white supremacist as they come. >_< You can read past this and enjoy the horror, but ever so often you'll notice him calling indigenous people "degenerate" and roll your eyes.

I really liked Celephais and The Cats of Ulthar, however.

Lovecraft has inspired a century of fan-fiction, some by very famous authors. These spin-off stories fill entire anthologies. Be sure to check those out as well.
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Kesho
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Re: Cthulhu! (Well, Lovecraft in general)

Postby Kesho » Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:22 pm UTC

Arancaytar wrote:IÄ! IÄ!

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Well, except that Lovecraft was as white supremacist as they come. >_< You can read past this and enjoy the horror, but ever so often you'll notice him calling indigenous people "degenerate" and roll your eyes.


Definitely. Lovecraft had one entire story (The Temple) about a German U-boat captain in WWI, who had to deal with his crew going insane after they picked up a small ivory carving of a human head. The whole thing reeks of a racial power complex, as this is one of the few stories where the protagonist does not get scared to the point of madness and the captain constantly blames the insanity and weakness of his crew on their ethnicities. In the end, after the entire crew has died, by the captain's pistol or suicide, he is left in darkness, waiting to die, in a mysterious city on the ocean floor. It wasn't all that bad and a new type of protagonist was certainly a breath of fresh air to me, but the way that he refers everything as every positive quality being German and any weakness of his crew being un-German makes me wonder if Lovecraft wasn't ghost-writing for a propagandist.
However, in the intro for the anthology that I read that story out of made a few interesting points about why he did this. In his time, having even an extremely distant relative of "the wrong race" made it almost impossible to advance socially and could have made someone of his time a potential victim. So, it seems sort of right that someone so paranoid would avoid something that could cost him his standing in society and take note of something that could cause similar problems for people like himself. Of course, his simply being batshit seems to negate any need for an explanation to begin with. Lovecraft doesn't have be to a victim of the zeitgeist. Lovecraft was just fucking crazy.
(Aside: How do you pronounce "IÄ!"? )
Edit: Whoops. I skipped over part of the thread. I guess I just restated Belial's point, but Lovecraft didn't need to be anything over than insane.


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