I’m often asked why I love Lovecraft. This article is my attempt at trying to explain this. Whether or not I will answer the question, we shall see!
A little bit of back story. Back in the day I was well into role-playing and I used to get the one magazine that dealt with RPGs: White Dwarf. In one edition they discussed a game called The Call of Cthulhu, complete with illustrations and a little extract from a Lovecraft story. I loved what I read but now came a problem. There was no place to get hold of his books or stories (this was back in the pre-internet days) and so his work became this mythical thing, a holy grail of horror. It built up in my mind that this Lovecraft thing was just going to be amazing. When I finally found a collection of his stories I was so excited. Seriously, really excited. On the bus home I read Dagon and was….underwhelmed. Maybe I’d built it up too much in my head, maybe it was trying to read on a busy bus. Whatever it was, I wasn’t impressed.
I stuck with it, read a few more. Slowly, I started to get it. The depth of the stories grew on me, the sense of cosmic dread crept up from the depths and I was hooked. The sheer volume of ideas infused in his stories even now amaze me. Even now, when I read and re-read his stories I’m floored that there are so many original ideas and concepts from one person. Before Lovecraft I’d read a lot of horror but this was the first time there was this whole cosmic thing going on. The sense of who vast the Universe is, and how small and pitiful we are.
But let’s address some of the questions people often ask me about Lovecraft.
Firstly, the pace. These books were written a long time ago. Presumably, life moved at a different pace. I had to slow my impatience down, take my time to read the stories, process the concepts and really absorb the tales. Once I did that, I began to really enjoy the works.
Secondly, the writing. Well, yeah, I believe the term “purple prose” gets banded around quite a bit. Sure, he did get a bit carried away from time to time. A lot of stories drag out to the inevitable conclusion that you worked out quite some time ago. You’ve just got to let go – flow with it and enjoy the ride!
Thirdly, the racism. There’s no getting away from this. It’s been discussed by far more intelligent people than myself. The only thing I have to say on the matter is that his xenophobia must have influenced his writing in some shape or form, creating that fear that exudes in his stories. “Write what you know” and Lovecraft must have known fear.
Finally, what’s with all the tentacles? To be honest, I’m not sure. Tentacles don’t really feature that often in Lovecraft’s work (if at all?), but for some reason it’s been picked up as the key motif of his work. I’m guilty of using tentacles in my own art. It’s an easy way of putting something odd, almost alien, into an image – something that doesn’t quite belong. But if you read Lovecraft, you might see that this is a very misleading piece of imagery. But it exists, so I live with it.
So there you have it. Maybe it doesn’t answer any of the questions, but I hope it gives you an idea as to why, even now, I’m still obsessed with Lovecraft.