October Good for Lovecraft

Any month is a good month for the fiction of horror master H.P. Lovecraft, but October provides an added aura of foreboding.  Not that many of Lovecraft’s stories are particularly Halloweenish, and he was more apt to include ageless alien demi-gods in his fiction than ghosts or witches or the like, but there’s something about a gray stormy evening with a cold autumn wind blowing that makes passages of nameless horror especially tasty.  For this reason I’ve been re-reading at least one classic Lovecraft story each October the last few years.  (Having read virtually all of them the first time back in college.)

This year it’s been the short novel, At the Mountains of Madness. A couple of great aspects of AtMoM, which is one of H.P.’s later works and draws on many of the fictional tropes and techniques he was known for:

  • Fully developed Cthulhu Mythos – the story draws on the weird alien cosmology of earlier stories, and you can just tell that he had many of the world-building details worked out and realized here.
  • Lovecraftian reaction to the Other – critics have noted the latent xenophobia of many of Lovecraft’s narrators/protagonists and it’s certainly apparent as each new revelation brings about additional levels of revulsion.  It’s a far cry from the sense of wonder and relief that has become the hallmark of so much contemporary fiction, in which the heroes or society espouse relief and hope when they finally meet the aliens or supernatural beings.  I blame Speilberg.  An yet, in AtMOM, the protagonist develops some sense of sympathy for the Old Ones, and his scholarly curiosity gets the better of his dread and terror.
  • Baroque, scholarly narration – You could state that Lovecraft’s narrators tend to be uppity New England professor-types, and you’d be right.  A bit snobbish, a bit high-minded.  And yet the narration works.  The language of such a narrator can convey the right amount of horror mixed with scientific theory and explanation and academic curiosity.  H.P. will write some long descriptive (and sometimes over-the-top) paragraphs and passages, and they’re short on dialogue, but the overall effect is still quite frightening in this era of splatter and gore.  One wonders what old H.P. would’ve thought of zombie movies and X-Box…

If you consider yourself a fan of horror and weird fantasy, consider a dose of  Lovecraft this Halloween season.  He’s not considered one of the modern masters of the genre for nothing…

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