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Insanity is central (if arguably not always essential) to true Lovecraftian horror.  But it’s really tough to incorporate it smoothly.  The protagonist is too lucid, the purportedly unthinkable seems rather logical and quite thinkable (looking at you, Derleth), or the onset of insanity is just a little too sudden and convenient.  (Protagonists frequently lose their minds right at the moment the author needs to deliver the punchline, I’ve discovered.  See “In the Plain of Sound”, by Ramsey Campbell…actually, see if you can get this anthology from a library, it’s one of the less impressive ones I’ve read.)

And maybe it’s a matter of taste.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who would argue with me until the end of time that the conclusion of At the Mountains of Madness was both necessary and terrifying.  (And because this is my blog, and because as a grad student the control I exert over my environment is so precious and limited, I will say: They are dead wrong, but I acknowledge their right to be dead wrong.)  But to me, the traditions I talked about on Wednesday just seem so…tired.

But here’s the thing about weird fiction.  Insanity is not tired.  Insanity is raving and howling and all-consuming, either the product of unspeakable knowledge or our sad attempt to protect ourselves against the futility and meaninglessness of human life.  Insanity should roar!

So the loss of one’s mind can be done well in mythos fiction, and it’s important and fascinating enough that it should be done well.  Here are a few of my favorite examples (spoilers assiduously avoided, but I’ll provide cuts nonetheless):

It's more or less like this, yeah

It’s more or less like this, yeah

The Cultist


*Poe wrote on both, both produce notes (but they’re flat), neither is ever approached without caws…so on, and so forth