Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: July 2015

I’ve talked this week a bit about some of the characteristics that I think makes a mythos story authentically Lovecraftian, beyond slavish devotion to his characters (or, at worst, pure imitation of his writing style). I think if I had to chose the most essential element, it would have to be the indifferent universe: the blackness that swallows you up without noticing you, the destruction that’s as automatic and unthinking as a computer algorithm, the despair that comes from recognizing your complete insignificance. But lately, I’ve been noticing a strange element in a number of mythos stories that have really stuck with me: complete lack of concern on the part of the protagonist.

I don’t think that most Lovecraft mythos stories are particularly heart-wrenching—in fact, a lot seem to go out of the way to establish that our protagonist is (at best) pathetic and incompetent or (at worst) a complete asshole, so we don’t get too personally torn up when he’s ripped limb from limb by elder god peeved by how badly said asshole mangled his summoning ritual, or what have you*. But the one way in which we expect to relate to these doomed souls is in our reaction to the unknown: the inability to process what is about to occur, gut-wrenching fear at our eminent destruction, and, on some level, the anger at the knowledge that it was never personal, and there was never a way out. This existential dread typifies this type of weird horror. When the story is stripped of this characteristic, things become immensely bizarre.

In this story, the passiveness of the protagonist leaves me distinctly unsettled. For some context, I had a very vivid dream as a young teenager. It was night, and I was walking up the driveway to my house, when I saw myself standing there, waiting for me on the porch. I didn’t feel any fear or confusion, but a blinding, visceral rage. At being impersonated, maybe, at being replaced in the universe, possibly—but I didn’t pause for a second to figure out where it was coming from. I tackled my doppelganger and started to rip and tear at it with my bare hands, mutilating it however I could. As I rent and tore it more and more, it started to shrink, until eventually it withered into something like those old-fashioned apple head dolls.

apple head dolls

 

Folk art is terrifying

My point is that I can’t imagine a scenario in which one would give up their own place in the world so easily. But maybe that’s the real point of the story—maybe there was already something so broken, so underutilized in the protagonist that he can slip out of humanity without too much fuss. Maybe it was that emptiness that enabled something—a stack of pillows?—to take his place so effortlessly. And that potential strikes me as truly terrible.

These sorts of stories, I think, turn typical Lovecraft completely on its end, and almost always are stronger for it. I hope I encounter more stories of this nature as I read more—as always, your recommendations are deeply appreciated!

-The Cultist

 

*I have been surprised, and usually delighted, by more evocative mythos stories, but that’s a post for another day.

**Check out “Possession”, an essay about apartment-hunting abroad by David Sedaris.

***A play on “What we talk about when we talk about love”, by Raymond Carver. I haven’t read it yet, but I suppose I ought to—it might put the story in a different perspective.

There’s a devotion to Lovecraft that strikes me as improbable and amazing. There have been so many amazing horror writers in the last century but, so far as I can tell, none of them boasts the strange communal legacy that Lovecraft has developed. A lot of it, I’m sure, was derived from Lovecraft’s tendency to correspond with and encourage his fellow struggling writers as they all banged out oft-rejected horror for the pulp magazines. Some of it relates to the rather prosaic fact that the gods and creatures Lovecraft developed lend themselves to experimentation more effectively than the characters created by other horror writers: it’s hard to, say, write “Return to the House of Usher” when by the end of the original two of the principle characters are dead, the third has fled and is probably going to go mad really soon, and said house itself has been subsumed into the living earth, or whatever.

But I feel like there’s more to it than that. And I don’t have a great handle on Lovecraft yet, but (obviously) it’s a subject I love to think about. Lovecraft has undoubtedly influenced modern horror tremendously, so what was it about Lovecraft’s horror that proved to be so fertile? He died in 1937, for Christ’s sake. How many other 1930’s writers inspire so much popular thought in 2015? And, within his twisted pantheon, what leads to popular success? I’ve read maybe one mythos story about Azathoth*, but…

…I’ve been beating around the bush for two paragraphs now, so I might as well just come out and get to the topic of today’s post:

I have NO IDEA why everyone is so impressed by Cthulhu.

On my ever-growing shelf of Lovecraft horror, I see (and these are just for starters): On the Black Wings of Cthulhu I through III. Acolytes of Cthulhu. The New Cthulhu. The Book of Cthulhu I and II. But:

  1. Squids are not particularly scary.
  2. Adding bat wings and legs to a squid does not make it scarier.
  3. There’s exactly one Lovecraft story in which Cthulhu features.
  4. He gets wiped out by a dude who drives a boat through his head.
  5. He’s not even a particularly powerful god. (See #4)

I’m not saying “The Call of Cthulhu” is a bad story. On the contrary! You’ve undoubtedly heard the opening sentence thousands of time, plastered at the start of every other mythos story in existence, but in my opinion, the entire paragraph is startling in its bleak assessment of humanity’s path:

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

We’re ignorant, yes, cozy in our false sense of isolation and certain of a security built on an imaginary foundation. But if that were the sole source of the horror in Lovecraft, we’d surely have moved on by now. In a few (surprisingly clear, uncluttered sentences), Lovecraft mercilessly pinpoints the source of our doom: our insatiable curiosity. As much as we crave coziness and safety, we keep digging. Despite everything, we keep digging. The only outcome possible is our destruction, and (and! Not but, but and) we keep digging.

The inevitable self-destruction, the curiosity that overcomes our innate, tragically weak sense of self-preservation is one of the most powerful currents in Lovecraft’s work. It continues to inspire horror writers today.

And as we read further, we’re introduced to another key Lovecraft trope: the manipulation of humanity’s shared consciousness. We may live on a placid island of ignorance, but we’re shockingly weak against outside forces that wish to make their presence known. They will be known, regardless of whether we’re the lowest cult worshipper or a foppish, rather delicate young artist. They poison our dreams. They are inescapable.

Part II, I would say, is excellent as well. The Tale of Inspector Legrasse introduces the reader to the worshippers of the Great Old Ones, the backwater practitioners of unspeakable rites performed to please their dead and dreaming masters.

And then…and then…we come to Part III. (Trigger warning: apostasy ahead!)

To a group of sailors that come to a mystical isle, and, after encountering a multitude of slimy rocks and grotesque obelisks, encounter a most dreadful beast. It emerges from its lair, “visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings” (all right). It grabs the poor sailors with its “flabby claws” (huh). It slides into the water, this dreadful “pursuing jelly” (I…okay) , but our brave Norwegian protagonist (whose yellow hair was whitened by this encounter) still has the presence of mind to drive his boat into the “awful squid-head with writhing feelers”, which results in a collision typified by the “bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper” (ewwww). And then Cthulhu is dead, but he was dead all along so maybe he’s not dead (but, I mean, he is dead, maybe just temporarily stymied and dead, not dead-dead).

It’s not a bad ending, by any means. I just don’t think it’s worthy of the two parts that preceded it. And I certainly don’t understand why Cthulhu remains the most recognizable (and, arguably) beloved of the Lovecraftian pantheon. He’s certainly recognizable. (Although, it must be pointed out, the hideous tentacled behemoths are perhaps a far cry from what Lovecraft himself had envisioned, as you can see from his sketches.)Lovecraft's cthulhu

And it can’t be denied that while I might be somewhat unimpressed by the visuals, a lot of Lovecraft’s characters suffer from similar or worse impediments. A friend of mine pointed out that Cthulhu is the only mythos character that isn’t actively, you know, stupid-looking. (Fighting words, for sure, but when the horrible civilization-ending Shoggoths are compared to both subway trains and luminous bubbles in the same breath, you can’t ignore the fact that the argument holds water, at least slightly.)

While my perception of Lovecraft’s fiction is constantly in flux, I would say that the real horror of Lovecraft’s work isn’t derived from its villains itself. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite: the lonely and horrible realization that the villains aren’t really villains, per se, because a villain takes an active interest in its prey. Lovecraft’s most immortal monsters are as indifferent as they are powerful. And the identification and creation of a mascot with a tentacle-y head and little flappy wings diminishes the impact of this conclusion.

The Cultist

*”The Sect of the Idiot”, Thomas Ligotti

I should preface this by saying that the title of the post is as much a genuine question as clickbait, and I welcome any and all opinions on the subject. As I’ve alluded to in the past, my sole qualification for talking about Lovecraft fiction is pretty much exclusively limited to having read a buttload of Lovecraft fiction. But I’m not a Lovecraft purist: I’ll read pretty much any horror story I come across, and one thing I often find myself wondering is whether or not what I’ve just read could be considered—intentionally or unintentionally—to be Lovecraftian in nature. (I say “unintentionally” because I’ve definitely stumbled across compilations of Lovecraft mythos containing stories by authors whom I’m fairly certain emulated Lovecraft’s style accidentally*.) So, here is a list I’m likely to revisit as I read more, discuss more, and widen my scope.

  • The obvious: Cthulhu, the Deep Ones, Wilbur Whateley, night-gaunts, ghouls in the grave-robbing, tomb-dwelling, meeping sense of the term: if the story you’re reading contains one or more of the previous terms, it’s Lovecraftian by default. This definition pleases me the least, even though it’s clearly the least arguable and most correct. I’ve read plenty of poor Lovecraft pieces whose drama and development hinged on the incorporation of Lovecraft’s characters and settings—while I don’t think anyone who considers themselves a Lovecraft cultist can or should be snobby about this sort of borrowing, defining Lovecraftian character in this way runs the risk of removing a key element of creativity. And furthermore, it tends to smooth over subtleties in a way that makes the genre less meaningful. Some of the works that incorporate Lovecraft’s monsters have such a unique tone or direction that I’m hesitant to lump them in with the rest of Lovecraft fiction. I’ve read plenty of fiction that feels like pure Lovecraft but lacks a single reference to one of these touchstones.
  • Complete indifference: I love love love Clive Barker. He’s one of my favorite authors of modern horror in existence, and he frequently writes stories of unspeakable abominations, hideous monsters beyond imagining, terror that spans beyond the world and into mysterious dimensions beyond. But I absolutely wouldn’t classify him as a writer in Lovecraft’s genre. His abominations are too involved in the lives of the hapless humans they terrify. In the opening to Books of Blood, a fraudulent young medium is mutilated beyond recognition by a swarm of spirits. This premise could easily be made to fit the Lovecraft cannon, but it doesn’t: the spirits are angry. They’ve been misrepresented by the medium for years, and they’ve finally found an outlet to wreak vengeance. Lovecraft powers are uninterested in vengeance. Even in cases where curiosity leads to disobedience leads to destruction (see the next principle), only in very rare instances do the powers themselves seem angered by human impudence. The punishment is not a product of vengeance, but of adherence to protocol. This indifference is tremendously frightening: if evil is personally invested in you, there’s room for error (play “You Find Yourself in a Room” as a great demonstration of this principle).
  • Compulsion and curiosity: In my opinion, older horror stories often seem to embody a highly frustrating trope.  It’s easier to give an example than to define it: there’s a character that knows he’ll be doomed if he does this one HIGHLY SPECIFIC THING, and he knows it, he knows it so well, everyone knows it, but despite literally everything goddamn if he doesn’t go and eat golden raisins while wearing a kilt on his 44th birthday exactly like the chain-rattling ghost told him NOT TO, and then he’s doomed to an eternity in hell. Or something. For no reason whatsoever. Lovecraftian protagonists suffer from the same foolhardy tendency, but there’s a key difference: our actions are not entirely under our own control. Maybe a relic exerts an incomprehensible pull, or maybe a god or a witch controls us in our dreams. Sometimes the culprit is our own greed or hubris, but more often than not, action in the face of everything screaming at us not to act is the product of intelligence and curiosity. A surprising number of the damned in Lovecraft fiction are professors: anthropology professors studying primitive races and their mysterious gods, engineering professors trying to make heads or tails of a strange dismantled machine, linguists studying old Arabic texts…the list goes on and on.
  • Heritage: Lovecraft was obsessed with the power of bloodlines. The sins of the father—his perversions, his unorthodox interests, his twisted racial heritage—would undoubtedly surface in the son, regardless of the son’s identity, interest, or choice. Abomination, to Lovecraft, was both massive—incomprehensible, traveling beyond the stars, skipping dimensions left and right—and unbelievably tiny, written indelibly on the genetic code. Even if you skip “Arther Jermyn” (which I’m sure I will rail about at some point in the future), it’s in virtually every Lovecraft story in some form or another: it’s the twist at the end of “Shadow over Innsmouth”, it’s the mysterious parentage of “The Dunwich Horror”, it’s the hideous crescendo and climax of “The Rats in the Walls”, it’s the strange history of the Martense family in “The lurking fear”. It’s a topic frequently embraced by modern mythos writers—if used well, it’s terrifying.
  • Doom: Compulsion, curiosity, heritage: all lead to one of two predictable ends: death or something worse. Some might argue that the same conclusion becomes easily tedious. I will admit that the “it was so scary I proceeded to lose my mind, and now I am crazy despite the fact that I just told you a wonderfully lucid story” element of Lovecraftian fiction is not a favorite, though it can be done brilliantly well. To me, though, the real horror arises from the fact that choice is never really a factor. While we might consciously struggle and rail against the powers that be, what makes us human—our intellect, our needs as people, our parents—damn us to the same predictable, awful fate. Sometimes we’re horribly aware of our fate and we run as far as we can. Sometimes we don’t recognize our doom until it’s upon us. Sometimes we might even escape (as indicated by the fact that we’re currently writing our memoirs in the first person)—but have we really?

That’s what I’ve got thus far, but I’m sure it’ll bear revisiting as time goes on. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

The Cultist

*Although, to be fair, I’m frequently surprised by how far-reaching Lovecraft’s influence really is. I’m in the midst of a Lovecraft compilation that included “There are more things”, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. I feel like most people (non-cultists) draw a pretty hard line between horror (pulpy, cheap tropes, cheap shots, too plot driven) and Real Literature (art! imagery! character development! noble!), and that Borges was always on the right side of that line. But, much to my amazement, a quick search revealed that the story bore the dedication “To the memory of H.P. Lovecraft”, a fact all the more impressive given that Borges was no real fan of Lovecraft, whom he considered to be “an involuntary parodist of Poe”. (Take THAT, Real Literature people…kinda.)

Foreshadowing a turn toward more oceanic themes this coming week, please enjoy one of my favorite Lovecraft-inspired songs of all times!

The Cultist

As much as I’m dismayed that Robert W. Chamber’s genius for weird fiction went largely underutilized, one could easily make the argument he did the world of horror a tremendous service by creating and essentially abandoning such a magnificent construction as The King in Yellow. The King, according to Chambers, is defined in the faintest of terms: the sane have only the dimmest understanding of what he represents (namely, something that should be avoided by all costs). Those who have been exposed to his influence are not only insane, but obsessed with the practical power associated with this knowledge: it’s never quite clear how, or why, but Hildred’s association with the mysterious play will lead to his ascendancy as The Last King of the Imperial Dynasty of America, but this fact is treated as completely irrelevant. He knows the King, he has found the Yellow Sign, and once everything falls into place he will claim the power that is rightfully his.  His obsession renders him completely non-concerned by the questions that might intrigue us about the King.  As such, Chambers has provided weird fiction writers with tremendously fertile ground to develop.

So, it’s actually a big surprise to me that I haven’t seen nearly as much King in Yellow mythos fiction as, for example, fiction revolving around Deep Ones or ghouls. But I have encountered a handful of stories that definitely bear reading:

The more I think about this story, the more I love it, because the crappy, badly-dubbed film both modernizes and perfectly mirrors the nature of the original play: there’s nothing outwardly wrong with it, it’s maybe a little weird, hard to exactly pinpoint why…but it changes you. Irrevocably.

But, to be honest, I’ve gone through all of my anthologies and these are the only stories I’ve found featuring the storied King. Have you encountered any? Recommendations are always appreciated!

The Cultist

 

*Lovecraftian tidbit for you: This story was apparently Lovecraft’s response to “The Shambler from the Stars”, a short story by Robert Bloch. The doomed protagonist is a college student, an academic type who wishes to write weird fiction but his work is continually (and consistently) rejected by the editors of the leading pulp magazines. Sound like a familiar character? Well, in order to avenge the death of his literary doppelganger, Lovecraft wrote “The Haunter of the Dark”, in which a foolish young man finds an artifact capable of summoning a dread creature across time and space. Which, of course, leads to said young man’s—named, of course, Robert Blake—untimely and hideous demise due to a three-lobed burning eye.

The King in Yellow has long been an enigma for me. Everyone who loves Lovecraft has at least heard of the King in Yellow and the mysterious shores of Carcosa. The mysterious King pops up from time to time in modern mythos fiction and I’d heard him mentioned in one of Terence Chua’s hilarious* song “Banned from Arkham”. And he’s now gotten more attention than he ever has before: References from the original work even made it into two episodes of True Detective**.

I think I had a vague idea that The King in Yellow predated Lovecraft and was one of his inspirations. I don’t know a ton about the authors that inspired Lovecraft nor about the work of his friends and contemporaries (which I hope to address/discuss as this blog evolves). I definitely didn’t know anything about the origins of The King in Yellow until I happened across an anthology of Chamber’s work in college. (Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if you’re already familiar with the King and the Chambers stories he appears in—the stories themselves, though, are absolutely amazing and definitely bear mentioning.)

Two short stories immediately caught my attention, both published in The King in Yellow in 1895.

And just what happened in the acts of the accursed play that drives everyone so mad?

“No definite principles had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.”

As a horror author, Chambers hits the nail on the head regarding several key issues, and this is one of them. There’s literally no way that the play could ever live up to the mythology that now surrounds it, and he evades specificity quite masterfully. Furthermore, the questions surrounding the narrator and his relationships in “The Repairer of Reputations” are endless—if Mr. Wilde is just a deformed old nutcase, why does he seem to command so much respect? Why was he right on the nail about Hawberk?

But…

and with a title like this, of course there is a but…

There’s a pretty key reason that Chambers is not a well-known horror author today. Only a handful of Chambers’s stories concern The King in Yellow and his Sign. The rest are, quite simply, terrible. I was astounded by the disconnect I saw in the anthology. The King in Yellow was published in 1895. “The Maker of Moons” was a short story of his published the following year. It begins promisingly: strange golden chain associated a curious creature (part “sea urchin, spider, and the devil”) that looks more like an automaton than a living being, and it gets increasingly weird. A group of people who can synthesize pure gold from other elements, a girl who may be a ghost, or may be a hallucination, a mysterious city one of the group claims to have visited, and then it ends like this:

“So here I am, writing all this down, and my wife, who has the same name as the ghost girl, says, ‘Why are you writing so much nonsense?’. So maybe this story you just read is true, or maybe I made the whole thing up, but you don’t know because I am suddenly an unreliable narrator in the last two sentences of this story, so take that, you motherfucker!”

(I may be paraphrasing a bit.)

And that’s one of maybe one or two of his *best* other weird tales. Everything has a happy ending tacked onto it, all stories come to a close with the stakes dramatically lowered, and things are just goofy. If I wanted to read silly tales of adventurers finding funny things and looking stupid, I would…read stories of this nature, and I can’t be more specific than that because I don’t really know who wrote any of them off-hand because I don’t want to read these sort of tales, don’tcha know.

A quick glance at Wikipedia indicates that I’m not the only one who shared this irritation—I quote because writers of yore say it better than I ever could:

H.P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton: “Chambers is…equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them”

Frederic Taber Cooper, editor and writer: “So much of Mr Chambers’s work exasperates, because we feel that he might so easily have made it better”

Why? Why did Chambers, who had this incredible knack for the weird and the profane, who knew how to tell amazing stories of insanity and doom, shy away from this talent? Was he stymied by the market, which favored bold daredevils rewarded with beautiful women and happy endings? Did he genuinely prefer to write brighter, happier works, regarding his literary descent into madness and chaos an interesting but non-compelling experiment? Maybe I’ll find out more as I go, but I get the sense that the real answer to this question might be lost to the ages. Regardless, it still does make me wonder.

The Cultist

*For a certain definition of hilarious, although if you enjoy this blog, you’d probably find it hilarious, so check it out! http://www.khaosworks.org/filk/arkham.html (starts at 1:18)

**A show that I was more or less unaware of previously because—as much as it pains me to say it, for there’s a ton of fantastic horror now that I should be watching—my TV watching starts and ends with Good Eats and Squidbillies

Scene 1: I learn of the existence of H.P. Lovecraft on my 15th birthday party. I am handed a package containing both Dreams of Terror and Death and The Road to Madness. They are a gift from my recently ex-boyfriend (with whom I am still desperately in love and grieving the tragic demise of our freshman romance). I raise an eyebrow, but thank him and try really hard not to read anything into it. (In the days that come, I read a lot into it.) As I fret and mope and occasionally sob into my pillow, I pick at the stories. I conclude the following:

  1. Lovecraft really liked cats. A lot. Perhaps too much.
  2. Eldritch is a word. Tenebrous is too. So is diarite, regardless of what Spellcheck claims.
  3. Arcane rituals require Saltes. A buttload of them. Gotta get those Saltes.

Slowly but surely, I make my way. I read it all, even “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath”, which (to my uneducated, plebian eyes) is Lovecraft writing Lovecraft fan fiction. A few months later, I borrow Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre from a friend. I read “The Picture in the House” while babysitting, which turns out to be a terrible mistake. I’m a wreck until I hear the dad’s car entering the garage.

Scene 2-2.5: I am a sophomore in college when I celebrated H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday. I still re-read Lovecraft. I have a new boyfriend who loves Lovecraft too. He has a DVD of short films based on Lovecraft stories, and let me watch them when I was sick with the worst cold I’ve ever had. Sitting amidst a pile of used Kleenex and cough drop wrappers, I was amazed. I was enthralled. I had never imagined that the ponderous, Victorian-sounding imagery and unbelievably pompous vocabulary could be translated into something so compelling, so viscerally gripping.

It’s a year after we met. We’ll break up in another year, but right now, it’s Lovecraft’s birthday. We walk to a local bookstore, me in the Miskatonic baseball cap he had bought me, him with a Cthulhu plushie in his shirt pocket. We eat ice cream in Lovecraft’s honor and take our seats to listen to a reading. A professional story-teller will perform “The Colour out of Space”.

A brief word about “Colour”. In On Writing, Stephen King discusses the need to know your strengths as an author. He cited Lovecraft as an example: he avoided dialogue as much as possible, and you only need to read “The Colour out of Space” to understand why. Take, for instance, the freakin’ half-page-long monologue from the dying, plagued farmer as proof: “…can’t git away…draws ye…ye know summ’at’s comin’ but tain’t no use…I seen it time an’ agin senct Zenas was took…” Jesus fucking Christ.

I agree wholeheartedly with King’s assessment, and I’m pissed that this story (of literally all of Lovecraft’s stories) has been chosen. I mentally steel myself against snickering.

30 minutes later, I walk out of the bookstore, silent and amazed. A living voice had lent the story terror that I had never encountered before. How was it possible?

Scene 3: I am in graduate school. I am a biologist. I have a few books of Lovecraft mythos—I’ve learned something about the writers of Lovecraft’s time, how he corresponded and encouraged them, and how they built off what he created. I find it endearing. I find it beautiful. I love to read a story about some imagined god, or cult, and then read another story building off the first. A correspondence that takes years, decades to create, free of competition or judgment. There is no plagiarism, there is only a shared desire to build.

It is, if I’m being honest and I’m in one of my more self-pitying moods, everything I had hoped science would be. And I’ll spare you my thoughts on this, because if you wanted to read about how graduate school is terrible you would read one of the other thousand rant-laden blogs currently in existence. Suffice it to say: the creativity, the curiosity, the open sharing free of ego and judgment that I imagined…they’re not there. Maybe they don’t exist, maybe they never did. Or maybe I just got unlucky, or maybe I just have a bad attitude. Who knows. But Lovecraft fiction fills that void.

I take up running. I’m very slow. I have bad feet, I probably shouldn’t be running, but it helps my mood, it makes me feel accomplished. I run a half-marathon. I fly with my husband to Seattle to run a full marathon. The day afterward, as I stagger around and imagine that this is what it feels like to be 90 (not truly sore, really, but stiff, oh my god so stiff, my muscles can’t react to changes quickly, I stumble and flail and fall easily), we visit a huge bookstore. I make my way (as I do automatically, anymore) to the horror section, and oh my god. I have never seen such riches. I choose one. I choose another.

20 minutes later, I stumble to the register with a comically-large pile of Lovecraft books. The total comes to three digits. I don’t even blink. My husband smiles but does not scold. I am tremendously grateful for this.

Conclusion: I now have a bookshelf of Lovecraft mythos. I’m always on the lookout for new additions. As I read more and more, my tastes are honed. I won’t call them refined, because that suggests some level of expertise that I don’t have. I’m not a Lovecraft devotee. I’ve never read any of his biographies, I’ve seen one documentary on his life that was available on Youtube. But I love these stories. I love to read them, to think about them, to wonder about what makes some amazing, what makes others fall flat. Even the ones I don’t like draw my fascination, because why am I so irritated? This blog represents a distillation of these thoughts. I’m not a writer, but I hope other Lovecraft and mythos fans read this and respond…if only because I want in on that dialogue. I love this community. My hope is for this website to be a contribution, however paltry.

The Cultist