guardian shrouds of shadow

January 11, 2020

Most horrible of all sights are the little unpainted wooden houses remote from travelled ways, usually squatted upon some damp, grassy slope or leaning against some gigantic outcropping of rock. Two hundred years and more they have leaned or squatted there, while the vines have crawled and the trees have swelled and spread. They are almost hidden now in lawless luxuriances of green and guardian shrouds of shadow; but the small-paned windows still stare shockingly, as if blinking through a lethal stupor which wards off madness by dulling the memory of unutterable things.

H P Lovecraft
The Picture in the House

It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.

H.P. Lovecraft
At the Mountains of Madness

dark narrow glens

January 7, 2020

West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.

H P Lovecraft
The Colour out of Space

I’ll tell you something of the forbidden horrors she led me into – something of the age-old horrors that even now are festering in out-of-the-way corners with a few monstrous priests to keep them alive. Some people know things about the universe that nobody ought to know, and can do things that nobody ought to be able to do.

H.P. Lovecraft
The Thing on the Doorstep

When he did enter he saw something dark in the corner, and upon seeing it more clearly he screamed outright. While he screamed he thought a momentary cloud eclipsed the window, and a second later he felt himself brushed as if by some hateful current of vapour. Strange colours danced before his eyes; and had not a present horror numbed him he would have thought of the globule in the meteor that the geologist’s hammer had shattered, and of the morbid vegetation that had sprouted in the spring. As it was he only thought of the blasphemous monstrosity which confronted him, and which all too clearly had shared the nameless fate of young Thaddeus and the livestock. But the terrible thing about the horror was that it very slowly and perceptibly moved as it continued to crumble.

H P Lovecraft
The Colour out of Space

It was a repulsive task that we undertook in the black small hours, even though we lacked at that time the special horror of graveyards which later experiences brought to us. We carried spades and oil dark lanterns, for although electric torches were then manufactured, they were not as satisfactory as the tungsten contrivances of today. The process of unearthing was slow and sordid—it might have been gruesomely poetical if we had been artists instead of scientists—and we were glad when our spades struck wood.

H P Lovecraft
Herbert West — Reanimator

I remembered how we delved in this ghoul’s grave with our spades, and how we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horrible shadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires, the sickening odours, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard, directionless baying, of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure.

H P Lovecraft
The Hound

Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen; author of some dozen tales long and short, in which the elements of hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness…His powerful horror-material of the ’nineties and earlier nineteen-hundreds stands alone in its class, and marks a distinct epoch in the history of this literary form.

H P Lovecraft
Supernatural Horror in Literature

the Lovecraft Circle

December 4, 2019

Lovecraft’s work was kept alive not just in the stories he told, but in the growing shared universe that was created in his wake. August Derleth, Lin Carter, Donald Wandrei, and many others promoted and reprinted Lovecraft even as they contributed to a flourishing corpus of tales inspired by his writings. Lovecraft’s coalescing legend was foundational in the creation of the publishing company Arkham House, and grew beyond that as more writers discovered his work, its variegated offspring, and the laudatory missives of the Lovecraft Circle. In those early years, not only was Lovecraft’s work being gathered and codified, it was explicitly put forth as a storyworld that could be reworked and imitated, one with greater depths and literary potential than its pulp beginnings could contain.

It is this conceit, this intertwined shift in both reading protocols and in textual refashioning, that elevates the Lovecraftian corpus to a more significant and interpretable level. His stories are no longer “mere” pulp or obscure, tortured prose; they are rich in fantastical possibility and contain themes that are construed as uncomplicated, powerful,  and reproducible, simplified in the Mythos by Derleth and able to be reused as individual creators saw fit. “Cthulhu Mythos” became a shorthand not just for such borrowings but for a discrete subgenre of horror/fantasy fusion literature that expanded over time.

John H. Stevens
The Improbable, Inevitable Domestication of the Great Old Ones: HP Lovecraft’s Iconic Influence on 21st-Century Fantastic Literature and Culture

Realism is conservative

October 26, 2019

We live in uncertain times. We have always lived in uncertain times. I think what makes the weird inherently attractive is that it speaks to a part of us that knows, consciously or not, that the rules we play by, the realities we choose to agree to and normalize, have cracks in them. Increasingly, I think that putting realist modes and non-realistic modes at opposite ends of the spectrum does a disservice to both. Realism is conservative in that it tells us what we believe is real is in fact real. But it isn’t. It’s also consensual, questionable, open to interpretation, and often ignorant of other, competing narratives. We are in a moment when the consensus is beginning to shift. Non-realist modes seem to help us get a handle on this faster because they teach us the consensus was never absolute to begin with. People were excluded, people dissented. This breakdown is enjoyable at some level even as it’s also frightening. It means elements of our lives which we lacked the ability or will to question suddenly seem disputable, something we can fight back against. Breakdown gives us an opportunity to see what lies beneath, for better or worse. Increasingly what strikes me as strange about Lovecraft’s fiction is the sense that once the monstrous is encountered, the only options are madness, forgetting or death. And that in its own way is a conservative way of thinking: there are many more options. Resistance, recuperation, remembering, rebirth. This is the energy that comes from the collapse of the consensus — the possibility of change.

Helen Marshall
Interview with David Davis 15th November 2017