I've always known the tropes... In the 1980s, I practically memorized the "Cthulhu Mythos" section of the original D&D Deities & Demigods book. I got the joke about "Uhluhtc" (oo-loo-tec) in the original Heavy Metal movie. Heck, I own the game Call of Cthulhu, and I even consulted on a supplement for CoC back in the 1990s!
|Artist: Erol Otus. I'm trying to illustrate this post without any tentacles.|
So shame on me for taking this long, for sure. What spurred me to start reading wasn't Lovecraft himself, but rather a short story from 2014 by Ruthanna Emrys called "The Litany of Earth." (Online in full here.) It's powerful and very well-written. I resist saying too much more about it because I'd like people to read it without preconceptions, as I did. Suffice to say that it provides a new perspective on the Lovecraftian world that genuinely surprised and charmed me.
This story also got me to seek out more information about cosmicism, a (sorta kinda) real-world attempt to broaden Lovecraft's ideas into a coherent and satisfying belief system. Despite its stereotypical veneer of bleakness and existential nihilism, there seems to be some raw material for a more positive and optimistic path; see here, for example. I was already familiar with Kenneth Grant's mind-bending attempts to do something vaguely similar, but it was nice to see a few more modern, less occultish, perspectives on it all.
However, the rub:
Nearly all of the ideas that fascinated me -- both from Emrys' story and from the cosmicistical writings I found on the web -- were extrapolations from Lovecraft... not really taken directly from what he says on the page. His stories are powerful and interesting -- and I do intend on reading more of them to complete my education. But after reading a handful, I'm learning that Lovecraft's well-known reputation for bleakness and terror is well justified.
I'm hoping to find some small kernels of hope in the remaining HPL stories in my queue. I might give Derleth a try, too. But I'm starting to suspect that Lovecraft may be a bit like another early 20th century thinker who ushered in some scary new ideas: Aleister Crowley. Both kind of serve as anti-prophets -- i.e., conveyers of wild thoughts that spurred on others in unique ways, but who ought not to be "followed" too slavishly or literally. That way lies, well, the mountains of madness.
|Back to Erol Otus|