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H.P. Lovecraft

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Since I am feeling rather prolific in posting today, I will ask this: does anyone have a comment on H.P. Lovecraft's spiritual worldview (as expressed in his stories, or his personal beliefs) and whether a Christian can find anything profitable in it (he professed a hardened atheism to the best of my knowledge, - in his stories there are 'gods' and they are all evil). Despite his incredibly skeptical and Godless view of the universe, I find I am fascinated by his work.

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I, too, am fascinated by Lovecraft's writings. I love the otherworldliness of his writings, as well as the notion that there are forces out there lurking just below the surface of everyday life, that they're far beyond human comprehension, that humans are dwarfed by their power and presence. Which, I think, isn't too far removed from a Christian worldview. Of course, the forces are all evil and contact with them always leaves one either dead or insane, so that might conflict with Christian teachings. wink.gif

I think Christians can certainly appreciate the aesthetics of Lovecraft's writing - the sheer wierdness and alienness of it, the way he can easily conjure up a ton of atmosphere in a simple sentence or two, the overarching mythology - without necessarily agreeing with his worldview, whatever that might be.

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That's an excellent description of Lovecraft's gifts. Also notable is the way he infuses his stories with scholarly/scientific detail. This lends them a certain realism that makes the mythology feel all the more real, and therefore terrifying.

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If you check out Ramsey Campbell's introduction to The Cthulhu Mythos, an anthology of work by Lovecraft's disciple August Derleth, you'll find an interesting note on the way that Derleth, a Catholic, appropriated the mythos. Campbell credits Derleth with systematizing atheist Lovecraft's thought: "What Lovecraft had conceived in fragments, as a way of giving glimpses of the cosmic scope of his imagination, Derleth rationionalised into a system." According to Derleth, the Cthulhu mythos is "basically similar to the Christian mythos, particularly in regard to the expulsion of Satan from Eden, and the power of evil to survive," but Campbell adds that Derleth had "come to view Lovecraft's creation in terms of his own use of it." In other words, the Christian concepts of good and evil are not really present in the work of Lovecraft the way they are in Derleth. Hope that's helpful....

Mark

www.jmarkbertrand.com

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If you check out Ramsey Campbell's introduction to The Cthulhu Mythos, an anthology of work by Lovecraft's disciple August Derleth, you'll find an interesting note on the way that Derleth, a Catholic, appropriated the mythos. Campbell credits Derleth with systematizing atheist Lovecraft's thought: "What Lovecraft had conceived in fragments, as a way of giving glimpses of the cosmic scope of his imagination, Derleth rationionalised into a system." According to Derleth, the Cthulhu mythos is "basically similar to the Christian mythos, particularly in regard to the expulsion of Satan from Eden, and the power of evil to survive," but Campbell adds that Derleth had "come to view Lovecraft's creation in terms of his own use of it." In other words, the Christian concepts of good and evil are not really present in the work of Lovecraft the way they are in Derleth. Hope that's helpful....

Mark

www.jmarkbertrand.com

Interesting. Being one of my favorite authors, I never noted that in the introduction.

BTW . . . If you like Lovecraft, you will also like Thomas Ligotti.

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Of course, to Lovecraft they were just a bunch of stories. His actual worldview was a lot more along the lines of "I believe what can be proven, and that's about it." If I recall correctly.

According to legend, though, he was plagued by readers wanting to know where they could get their hands on an actual copy of the Necronomicon. They didn't believe him when he told them that he made the book up. smile.gif

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On a related note... some very cool Lovecraftian fonts can be found on this site, including a couple based on the man's handwriting.

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Just saw this over at AICN... a whole boatload of Lovecraftian cinema is coming down the pipe. The Out Of Mind documentary sounds really interesting.

Note: the article does contain some disturbing imagery that I assume is taken from one Lovecraft film.

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Resurrecting this thread just to say that I saw The Call of Cthulhu this weekend, and it may be the only Lovecraft adaptation I ever need to see. It's filmed as a B&W silent movie, much like those that Lovecraft might have seen in his day, and that approach, as simple as it may be, is a lovely touch. Not only does it get around the budgetary constraints of depicting alien entities from other planes of existence whose appearance is enough to drive men insane, but it adds an alien feel of antiquity all its own that is actually more inline than Lovecraft's writing than any CGI spookiness could be.

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I too have seen the movie, and completely agree with Jason/opus's take on it. There's one brief scene of carnage that was horrifying enough to stick with me maybe for the rest of my life, and the atmosphere was pretty much perfect. The movie might've actually been better than many of Lovecraft's stories, come to think of it.

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There's one brief scene of carnage that was horrifying enough to stick with me maybe for the rest of my life, and the atmosphere was pretty much perfect.

Wow, I didn't find anything in the film particularly horrifying. What scene are you referring to?

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Wow, I didn't find anything in the film particularly horrifying. What scene are you referring to?

There's a scene where the police raid the cultist's camp and find the missing people, some of the mutilated beyond comprehension. It's very brief, but has some 'face-carved-off' type images. It's not the worst thing I've witnessed, but the atmosphere of the scene just intensified it. Ick.

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That silent version of CTHULHU is neato, but as far as I'm concerned, Ridley Scott's ALIEN is the best Lovecraft film ever made.

Guillermo Del Toro has been working on an AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS adaptation for quite some time, but I found the script really disappointing. It often reads like a hybrid between Jackson's KING KONG and Carpenter's THE THING, a derivative mish-mash that goes for action hijinx over existential dread.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I've been working my way through Lovecraft's writings over the past year. I've been enjoying it, for the most part, and I've found the guys at H.P. Podcraft particularly helpful in digging into the stories. (They have some nice full-story readings on their site as well.)

I stopped in here, though, to mention a film adaptation of one of my favorite Lovecraft stories: Cool Air. Directed by B-movie guru Albert Pyun (of Kickboxer 2 fame!), the film takes a surprising faithful approach to the story (well, aside from changing the setting from 1920s NYC to modern-day California).

But the movie proves how difficult it is to get Lovecraft right — sure, some of the words are Lovecraft's, and it (mostly) follows the same narrative beats. The movie still flops, though, especially with the few deviations from the source material (there's a subplot involving a "autistic hottie," to use the narrator's words, that is just boring and demeaning). Also, Pyun is a terrible director, so there's that too. As the reviewer here says, the almost century old Lovecraft story "has it." This adaptation does not.

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Have you seen the Night Gallery episode?

I haven't. It's regarded somewhat negatively among Lovecraft fans, though I eventually mean to check it out. I want to see the short film version of Cool Air from 1999 first.

The best part of that link is the exchange between the reviewer and Albert Pyun himself in the comments.

Yeah, Pyun (as I've learned) is notorious for trolling message boards and review sites and posting that kind of thing.

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I'm teaching "The Call of Cthulhu" in conjunction with the prologue to Invisible Man in my Am Lit II class, so I gave the story another read this past Friday (in conjunction with the relevant section in Out of the Shadows: A Structuralist Approach to Understanding the Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, which--while by no means perfect--is pretty interesting). This was only my third or fourth read, but man. Still good--and very clever. Also racist as anything (relevant controversy). So that's going to be fun. But here's what's more fun:

 

The story was written in 1926. A quick glance into the History Orb tells us a couple of things: First, at the time when Lovecraft was situating the cult of Cthulhu in the words of a "Chinaman," the Kuomintang was busy cracking down on the warlords. Chiang Kai-Shek has just assumed power. Lovecraft's China is still a place of deathless monks and mist, at precisely the moment (or, more properly, historical moment running from 1911-1937) when China is attempting to modernize. This contrast isn't as striking as, for instance, the fact that Fu Manchu was conceived in the exact year that the Qing dynasty fell--but it's striking.

 

More to the point, this was the year that the second part of Mein Kampf was published. It wouldn't be published in English until 1931, but the coincidence is striking: at exactly the moment that Lovecraft is imagining the rise of an evil from the past, an evil that calls together all the [non-white] races of the world to institute an apocalypse of destruction...Hitler is issuing his call. Only his call isn't going out to the mixed-race and "lower orders"--it's going to precisely those people Lovecraft thinks are superior (though powerless, an important point). So, in a bizarre and unexpected moment, the scribblings of a horror-writer and the gathering force of history (if you'll forgive the personification) collide. "The Call of Cthulhu" starts to seem almost prophetic.

 

It's a stretch, and it's not the sort of thing one should do in the common run of criticism. But there are some moments when rational concern for credibility breaks down. And, when it does, sometimes something else peeks through. (Or doesn't, as the case may be. But I think that Lovecraft, of all writers, yields himself up to this kind of play).

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For your listening enjoyment this Halloween season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTElRyYaZ2s

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHfIjnr-1TY

Edited by John Drew

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I know I've posted these elsewhere on the forums, but this go well with the recordings John posted. 

 

Full-story readings of nine of Lovecraft's stories, from the folks at H.P. Podcraft. I didn't link directly to the individual stories, so you can find them on the left on the linked page. Some, especially the ones narrated by Andrew Leman, are fantastic. 

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Nick Mamatas argues at LARB that Lovecraft "is wrongly derided as a bad writer."

 

Lovecraft doesn’t use adjectives to avoid description, or due to a failure of the imagination, or even to persuade the reader that some frightful unholy thing is just that. Lovecraft uses a variety of testimonies and in-story artifacts (newspaper articles, diaries, sound recordings, correspondence) to build a practical case for the cosmic horrors with which he was obsessed.  He had a pretty clear aesthetic and used polyphony well to build authority for the ineffable. His logically-minded characters — scholars, bookish sorts, curious investigators — traveled the road of rationality right up to the dead end where rationality necessarily failed. (And yes, sometimes at the dead end awaits a whistling squid.) One might even say that Lovecraft interrogates the assumptions of realism and bends the habitual gestures around new shapes, to detourn a phrase.
Edited by NBooth

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