Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

William Fothergill: 19/12/16

I would to start this by say that HP Lovecraft was a horrible, horrible person. His views can only be described as racist and some of his works are completely unreadable because of this fact but I am not here to write about the man but more the genre he created.

Lovecraftian literature is a subgenre of horror and science fiction and is better known as cosmic horror. It uses a very pessimistic view of the universe where humans and the world we live in are insignificant and our lives meaningless. The style favours atmosphere over gore and shocking moments but the thing about Lovecraftian literature is that it doesn't scare me. The only story that made me feel nervous and uneasy is The Thing on the Doorstep, which I urge anyone one to read, and this is the least Lovecraftian Lovecraft story.

I enjoy these stories because of the abstract monsters in them. Thing like a Shoggoth and Cthulhu are just so strange and peculiar that they become beautiful. Each one is like an impressionist painting when almost every other monster in the horror genre has been the same ghosts and vampires. Even their names are purposely impossible and otherworldly. Lovecraftian literature takes the reader into a world completely unlike anything else, maybe a world we do not want to be in but still a world which appeals to our morbid curiosity. I appreciate these monster in the same way someone might appreciate The Scream by Edvard Munch. Terrible as much as it is beautiful.

One of the most important part of Lovecraftian literature is the grand reveal. All of Lovecraft's works are short stories. Short stories, on the whole, need some kind dramatic ending in order to make up for their short length. Lovecraftian literature relies very much upon the dramatic twist and the end of the stories. The whole experience acts as a build up for the grand reveal where the truth is uncovered, much like how a murder mystery builds up to the unveiling of the killer or killers. For this reason, these stories often start reading like a noir with a detective or investigator following the tracks of some missing person. But in the end, it is all about the last revelation or , as HP Lovecraft would have put it, that final horror. My favourite of these ‘final horrors’ is the one found at the end of History under the Pyramid. I will not say what it is as it is best to read these stories blind so that you can feel as though you are discovering them for yourself but I will say that it leaves the reader with the feeling that they were at first using the wrong scale and that whatever the thing may be it is much larger than first expected.

Saying all this, I do not think Lovecraft is going to get much more popular. His work has already inspired writers such as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.  At the moment, you should be able to find his works at the science fiction section of any good bookshop and some of his are fairly well known and are penguin classics; however, I believe that his work is at its best at the lesser known cult status it currently has. The stories lend themselves to being discovered. The stories are at their best on the page as they rely on the vague nature which only books can provide. There have been some attempts to adapt them to film but all have fallen somewhat flat for this reason.

Is HP Lovecraft for everyone?   Definitely not. It is a niche author in a niche genre and the subtext of a lot of the stories is not very pleasant due to Lovecraft's beliefs but if anyone feel that itch for something utterly out of this world from a writer that you may never have heard of then by all accounts give it ago. I recommend Dagon or Pickman's model as a starting point.