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Made in us
Tzeentch Aspiring Sorcerer Riding a Disc





Orem, Utah

I recently re-watched a horror series that was brilliant up until the final episode. At the end, the characters were able to talk to the ghosts and supernatural elements. They could reason with them, get explanations from them and convince them to be helpful.

I feel like the sense of disconnect between the living and dead worlds was one of the things that worked best earlier in the series, and losing that aspect really damaged the sense of dread that previous episodes evoked.

This got me thinking about Lovecraft- especially his most cited quote:

H. P. Lovecraft wrote:The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.


- He might be right. My experience with that series and with a number of other supernatural horror films really use the unknown to create their mood.


- The Cthulhu Mythos seem to contradict this method at the conceptual level. If we find the "unknown" to be the central source of terror, then it makes little sense to write a story detailing the daily activities, motives and methods of the Great Race of Yith or Mi-Go. Some of Lovecraft's work leaves much to be wondered, but a surprisingly large amount of it is defined in detail.

- Moreover, the way in which we consume Lovecraft in gaming is all filtered through the work of Sandy Petersen. He scoured Lovecraft's and later mythos author's work, and Lovecraft scholars' work to finely define each and every aspect of the Mythos. With Petersen, we have a full timeline detailing the pre-history of the planet and universe. We know which deities are transdimensional Outer Gods and which ones are local hidden sleeping Great Old Ones. We find that Azathoth is the father of Yogsothoth and great grandfather of Cthulhu. The form and motivation of the Color Out of Space is neatly written down.

Everything is carefully cataloged (in the Call of Cthulhu RPG books) along with statlines so that if we so chose, we could host combats between Dagon and Hastur.



And the strangest thing about all of this, is that Chaosium insists on putting that Lovecraft quote all over their books.


H. P. Lovecraft wrote:The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/06/01 11:56:09


 
   
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I feel less like Lovecraftian horror leans into the fear of the unknown (although it does to an extent, it also describes the monsters and what exactly happened fairly well in most stories), and more fear that what we do is completely insignificant and pointless. The Yithians are a great case of this, regarding most other life as just a way to keep their civilization going via time travel body swapping. Cthulhu also doesn't give a feth about you, human civilization is just in the way of the planet being suitable for his species. Later authors like Charles Stross do an amazing job of taking the ball here and running with it, with stories like A Colder War and the Laundry series.

There's also just the plain old fear of the Other, which he leans into HARD in a lot of his stories. The Innsmouth Horror, for instance, is just chock full of racial and religious imagery (both veiled and blatant) intended to be shocking to his white Christian audience, and it works pretty well. Thankfully, his successors have (mostly) moved away from the cheap thrills this sort of writing elicits.

EDIT: Not that fear of the unknown isn't effective. It's just also incredibly annoying to a lot of viewers/readers if it's done for too long. I listen to a lot of short horror fiction, and one of the most common complaints I hear about stories is "There's no payoff! We never got to see what was chasing the MC!" Those sorts of stories can be really effective, but TV and movies especially need that visceral "reward" of getting to see the monster in all its horrible glory, and the mystery explained, or people start getting testy.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/05/14 17:18:54


 
   
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YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP

Part of the entire point of many of lovecraft's stories is when they get into those elaborate explanations of how things really work, you as the audience are supposed to be watching in horror, realizing that the main character is becoming brainwashed before your very eyes.

A perfect example of this is the explanation of the culture of the Mi-go at the end of Whisperer in Darkness. When the narrator starts going into what the mi-go do, what he's been able to do as a servant of the mi-go, that's him falling under their sway and repeating their lies.

The Lovecraft Mythos fandom, as with many fandoms....almost all of them, basically...takes all that at face value. and when reproducing lovecraft's work, they end up with nothing but yet another easter egg hunt to show that you're a good little lad, and you've read enough lovecraft so you know in advance what this thing is and how it works!

Ultimately, that's some of the catharsis of horror media. Once you have seen it, you can reflect on it, and your survival instincts give you the same surge of happy juice you might have felt when you saw Throk get mauled by that tiger and now you know how to look for tigers in trees and you won't end up like Throk.

If you make a lovecraft story, and you use the fixed elements as defined by Lovecraft and leave in little easter eggs so a knowledgeable audience can recognize the signs and know that the main characters are dealing with Shub-Niggurath, Black Goat of the Woods, so they should be on the lookout for tree monsters and Black Young, what you're really doing is just providing that mental reward of previous knowledge, it's never going to be horror.

There's a really great game that actually sets up this knowledge-reward loop that I've been playing recently called Cultist Simulator. It's almost incredibly simple at its core, but does a great job of creating gameplay patterns organically and getting you to play like a weird cult leader without actually forcing you to do so.

And the very first thing it does, is completely remove itself from established mythos' that you'd know going in. It sets up its own completely unique "Cthulesque" (tm) type universe, while avoiding all but the most basic lovecraftian tropes about ancient forbidden knowledge and dreamworlds and things like that.

A lot of the little secrets and scraps of lore you collect out of your library of tomes are, frankly, useless - but you collect them anyway, because it feels extremely good to have this vast horde of esoteric knowledge. And when the game does pose a riddle to you and you go "Aha, I know the exact little scrap that is the answer to this puzzle!" you feel great, and you also know you'll continue to compulsively hoard more and more lore books.

You wouldn't get that payoff if it was an official Cthulu Canon Production and you could know all the secrets by already having that encyclopedic knowledge.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/05/14 17:31:54


 
   
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What was the horror series?

I recently read Alan Moore's Providence, and that did something fairly similar except that the ending was pretty classic Lovecraftian 'the protagonist goes mad.'

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Dominating Dominatrix






Southeastern PA, USA

I think August Derleth was the one who first got the ball rolling with what the OP describes. IIRC, he even coined the phrase "Cthulhu Mythos", where HPL really just saw everything as loosely connected.

While it's contradictory in some sense, the reality is that geek culture tends to be extremely obsessive about details (take your pick of examples), and 'loose connections' aren't something that's going to get geeks excited.

So I guess what I'm saying is that thing haven't been 'true' to HPL's vision since about 1937, and all the detailing has helped drive popularity for the last 80-odd years. I mean, I get it and probably prefer less structure to it all...but going around being an HPL hipster and telling people that 'here isn't even a 'Cthulhu Mythos' if you're a real Lovecraft fan' seems kinda ridiculous. Works can grow and evolve after a creator has passed. *shrug*

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/05/14 19:02:43


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OP, the Elder Things and Great Race were sympathetic “victims” giving us a glimpse of our own fates. The MiGo were a bridge between science (abused) and the unknowable gulfs of horror beyond our comprehension. The Dreams In the Witch House and some of the other stories give a great sense of the scale of the cosmos that makes humans less than bacteria compared to beings who are the playthings to still greater entities or forces. The horror come from the hero getting the slightest glimpse of our insignificance, our hopelessness in an indifferent universe full of unknowable dangers. Everything we think we know about the universe and our part in it is wrong—that’s the point of many of his stories. But not all. Some are just monster stories or science fiction stories that barely tie in to the greater (and deliberately inconsistent) mythos. A story like

Don’t attribute to Lovecraft the interpretations and extrapolations of his work by August Derleth, Chaosium or Sandy Peterson. They brought a lot of baggage, or they wanted to adapt the material to their own uses.

Edit: I guess you can call me a hipster because I don’t care for the Derleth stuff.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2020/05/14 20:50:29


   
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 gorgon wrote:
I think August Derleth was the one who first got the ball rolling with what the OP describes. IIRC, he even coined the phrase "Cthulhu Mythos", where HPL really just saw everything as loosely connected.

While it's contradictory in some sense, the reality is that geek culture tends to be extremely obsessive about details (take your pick of examples), and 'loose connections' aren't something that's going to get geeks excited.

So I guess what I'm saying is that thing haven't been 'true' to HPL's vision since about 1937, and all the detailing has helped drive popularity for the last 80-odd years. I mean, I get it and probably prefer less structure to it all...but going around being an HPL hipster and telling people that 'here isn't even a 'Cthulhu Mythos' if you're a real Lovecraft fan' seems kinda ridiculous. Works can grow and evolve after a creator has passed. *shrug*


Maybe instead of not calling people a True Fan, people might be implying that "geek culture" is really great at sucking the life out of almost anything it touches.
   
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Southeastern PA, USA

Oh, it can definitely do that.

And I'm not really calling anyone else a hipster. Just saying that being a Lovecraft hipster with all that implies -- proselytizing to others or lording over others or both -- seems kinda silly given the timeframe and how much more has been written about or added to HPL's work than he ever wrote himself.

Bob, I've never been able to get through the Derleth stuff either. I don't think it makes you a hipster. Hipsterism is more about what one does with one's preferences, IMO.

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What I also find unique about the mythos is its elements of a conspiracy. It's different from a conspiracy in that the plots and motives in the stories are not connected in some grand singular plot, but similar in that the deeper you go, the more similar things you encounter. While we take for granted the mythos as a backdrop, before the mythos, most horror was disconnected (eg. no relationship between the werewolf and Frankenstein's monster) or based on European folklore. (Non-horror, such as Magic's Antiquities set, also played with "piecing together" quotes and bits of information from different sources, and having you fill in the gaps to create a backdrop).

BTW, Much of the visual aspects of the mythos, namely illustrations and miniatures, were also post-Lovecraft. I think Chaosium, with Sandy Petersen, made a huge contribution on conventionalizing the appearance of visual elements (especially the Yellow Sign). However, I don't know if earlier illustrations were around that set precedence for visuals.

I'm not going to get into another argument with someone who thinks the way *they* paint is the *only* way to paint, am I?? 
   
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I think its important to note that lovecraft made very liberal use of the unreliable narrator. Most stories are told 3rd hand from collected journals or the recordings of people in insane asylums.

Yes, this story says what the yithans are about. But it says what THAT guy in that asylum says the yithans are about. There might not be any yithans. Or his understanding of them might be as broken and fragmented as his mind.

You can take almost nothing in lovecrafts writing as fact.


These are my opinions. This is how I feel. Others may feel differently. This needs to be stated for some reason.
 
   
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Tzeentch Aspiring Sorcerer Riding a Disc





Orem, Utah

Nurglitch wrote:
What was the horror series?

I recently read Alan Moore's Providence, and that did something fairly similar except that the ending was pretty classic Lovecraftian 'the protagonist goes mad.'



I described it in generic terms because I didn't want to spoil it for anyone, and I would still recommend it because it was done very well, just with a flaw. It was also not Lovecraftian, except that it started out using a 'fear of the uknown' and the tension dropped off when the series no longer employed that. It was the television mini series
Spoiler:
The Haunting of Hill House


Here's a more detailed versions of what I said, for those who have seen the series:

Spoiler:
The series is built on a lot of mysteries, and the pay-offs work really well for the most part. They also make liberal use of the "creepy monologue" which works really well until the last two episodes in which the ghosts are also able to monologue- and every time they go into a long monologue from a dead person, the tension dies a little more.

I don't think there's an issue with the fact that things are revealed, but more about how 'normal and human' the ghosts start to behave. In the last episode, characters talk to them, argue with them about how what they're doing is 'wrong' and stuff like that, and the ghosts respond like they're people. At that point, the horror is completely gone.



Automatically Appended Next Post:
 Lance845 wrote:
I think its important to note that lovecraft made very liberal use of the unreliable narrator. Most stories are told 3rd hand from collected journals or the recordings of people in insane asylums.

Yes, this story says what the yithans are about. But it says what THAT guy in that asylum says the yithans are about. There might not be any yithans. Or his understanding of them might be as broken and fragmented as his mind.

You can take almost nothing in lovecrafts writing as fact.



That is an interesting proposal, but I don't find it lines up with his work as well as all that.

Obviously, the consistency that does exist within Lovecraft's work is intentional, but HPL probably wouldn't approve of the publication of his notes (the "fragments" that simply define Azathoth, Nyarlathotep were probably just meant as notes to help with consistency).


The thing about Lovecraft's narrators is that they can't stop telling me that they're unreliable, but they seem most unreliable in that regard. The Yithians are a great example- the guy telling us this can't stop telling us that this whole idea is completely bonkers and how his mind is totally fragmented- but he can describe Yithian daily life, culthure, anatomy, architecture, history and motivations along with a full account of how he was personally treated and what he did as a Yithian in such detail that we are led to believe that it is his own disbelief in the Yithians that we are meant to doubt. His mind is clearly not 'fragmented' at all, he just doesn't want to believe in the 'real' things that he has encountered.

And again, I feel that this still doesn't relate to any 'fear of the unknown." There are so many things that are known and explained- even if they're meant to be doubted (as the unreliable narrator demands" it still seems to deal more with a fear of knowing and a fear that it is true rather than a fear of something unknown or unknowable.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/05/15 16:36:48


 
   
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gorgon wrote:So I guess what I'm saying is that thing haven't been 'true' to HPL's vision since about 1937, and all the detailing has helped drive popularity for the last 80-odd years. I mean, I get it and probably prefer less structure to it all...but going around being an HPL hipster and telling people that 'here isn't even a 'Cthulhu Mythos' if you're a real Lovecraft fan' seems kinda ridiculous. Works can grow and evolve after a creator has passed. *shrug*


I think this is something the modern audience often struggles with. Really, when we talk about the Cthulu Mythos today we're talking about what grew from Lovecraft, not what Lovecraft himself created.

There's so much extra detail now about everything in the Mythos, that people don't realize how incredibly vague it all was in HPL's own lifetime. Fundamentally, the man only wrote seven stories in his 'Yog-Sothothery" cycle. There's maybe a half dozen others that can be squeezed in there, but Lovecraft himself wrote profoundly little on the Mythos relative to how massive it has become. Trying to look back at HPL and saying there is too much detail in the Mythos for it to be unknown I think is to miss how much of the Mythos the man didn't write, which is the overwhelming majority of it really. You can fit his entire collected mythos works into something the size of a dime-store novel.

And if we're talking about the contradiction of Lovecraft himself, I think that's really a very different beast. I think that, looking at Lovecraft in retrospect, what he called the 'unknown' is really more properly understood as 'not the world my white Christian aristocratic outlook fits into". Lovecraft's main works were largely written at a point in history of great social changes and shifting attitudes on scholarship, science, society, and religion. In nearly all of those respects, Lovecraft was an 'old soul' in many ways and I think the horror of his stories heavily reflects his own horror at realizing on some level the world was rapidly becoming a place his sensibilities and cultural outlook didn't quite mesh with (EDIT: And I'm talking very Victorian/Late Enlightenment sensibilities, in the roaring 20s). The unknown in his case is very central, understood from his own perspective as a white christian male descended from a family of aristocratic leanings that squandered it's wealth and 'blood' in a way that was very personal to Lovecraft himself. It's hard not to see how heavily his works reflect what seem like his own fears.

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2020/05/15 16:43:36


   
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Tzeentch Aspiring Sorcerer Riding a Disc





Orem, Utah

 ced1106 wrote:
What I also find unique about the mythos is its elements of a conspiracy. It's different from a conspiracy in that the plots and motives in the stories are not connected in some grand singular plot, but similar in that the deeper you go, the more similar things you encounter. While we take for granted the mythos as a backdrop, before the mythos, most horror was disconnected (eg. no relationship between the werewolf and Frankenstein's monster) or based on European folklore. (Non-horror, such as Magic's Antiquities set, also played with "piecing together" quotes and bits of information from different sources, and having you fill in the gaps to create a backdrop).

BTW, Much of the visual aspects of the mythos, namely illustrations and miniatures, were also post-Lovecraft. I think Chaosium, with Sandy Petersen, made a huge contribution on conventionalizing the appearance of visual elements (especially the Yellow Sign). However, I don't know if earlier illustrations were around that set precedence for visuals.


I think you're on to something about the conspiracies. A lot of the stories seems to be about secret conspiracies (secret monsters and cultists working against humanity from the shadows).

Lovecraft tends to feature prominently among believers in conspiracy theories (many think that he was secretly including real things in his stories, or that he was contacted by alien beings that inspired his writing). The popular "Reptile Shapeshifters" conspiracy that many of us mock constantly are tied directly to the Cult of Yig (and the same serpent cult from Conan).


You're absolutely right about Chaosium art standarizing the Mythos. I tend to think of it as the same thing that West End did for Star Wars- they took everything that was there and then connected the dots and filled in the blank spaces. I tend to thank Tolkien for making this a thing that we do- especially in gaming.

 
   
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 BobtheInquisitor wrote:
Edit: I guess you can call me a hipster because I don’t care for the Derleth stuff.


I think most Mythos fans would agree with you, honestly. Really the only thing I think he deserves credit for is the idea of the 'mythos' itself. His contributions to it are quite sub-par compared to other writers like Lin Carter and Robert Price. Hell, even Stevie King has done better with Lovecraftian motifs than Derleth did.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/05/15 17:05:30


   
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Southeastern PA, USA

Spoiler:
 LordofHats wrote:
gorgon wrote:So I guess what I'm saying is that thing haven't been 'true' to HPL's vision since about 1937, and all the detailing has helped drive popularity for the last 80-odd years. I mean, I get it and probably prefer less structure to it all...but going around being an HPL hipster and telling people that 'here isn't even a 'Cthulhu Mythos' if you're a real Lovecraft fan' seems kinda ridiculous. Works can grow and evolve after a creator has passed. *shrug*


I think this is something the modern audience often struggles with. Really, when we talk about the Cthulu Mythos today we're talking about what grew from Lovecraft, not what Lovecraft himself created.

There's so much extra detail now about everything in the Mythos, that people don't realize how incredibly vague it all was in HPL's own lifetime. Fundamentally, the man only wrote seven stories in his 'Yog-Sothothery" cycle. There's maybe a half dozen others that can be squeezed in there, but Lovecraft himself wrote profoundly little on the Mythos relative to how massive it has become. Trying to look back at HPL and saying there is too much detail in the Mythos for it to be unknown I think is to miss how much of the Mythos the man didn't write, which is the overwhelming majority of it really. You can fit his entire collected mythos works into something the size of a dime-store novel.

And if we're talking about the contradiction of Lovecraft himself, I think that's really a very different beast. I think that, looking at Lovecraft in retrospect, what he called the 'unknown' is really more properly understood as 'not the world my white Christian aristocratic outlook fits into". Lovecraft's main works were largely written at a point in history of great social changes and shifting attitudes on scholarship, science, society, and religion. In nearly all of those respects, Lovecraft was an 'old soul' in many ways and I think the horror of his stories heavily reflects his own horror at realizing on some level the world was rapidly becoming a place his sensibilities and cultural outlook didn't quite mesh with (EDIT: And I'm talking very Victorian/Late Enlightenment sensibilities, in the roaring 20s). The unknown in his case is very central, understood from his own perspective as a white christian male descended from a family of aristocratic leanings that squandered it's wealth and 'blood' in a way that was very personal to Lovecraft himself. It's hard not to see how heavily his works reflect what seem like his own fears.


I've always wondered about what would have happened had he not died young, though. His letters indicate that he was starting to change as a person...at least incrementally less xenophobic, racist, reactionary, etc. I think he even embraced the New Deal, IIRC. WWII -- and all the horror that Hitler brought -- might have continued to push him down that path.

So would that have affected his writing? He was -- at least in my very strong opinion -- a *much* better and more polished writer in his later years. But would the horror still have the same edge without all the fairly awful views against some of his fellow humans? I think it might have just been a little different, but I dunno.



Automatically Appended Next Post:
 odinsgrandson wrote:
You're absolutely right about Chaosium art standarizing the Mythos. I tend to think of it as the same thing that West End did for Star Wars- they took everything that was there and then connected the dots and filled in the blank spaces. I tend to thank Tolkien for making this a thing that we do- especially in gaming.


No doubt. Cthulhu is an iconic image, and yet Lovecraft's description is extremely vague.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/05/15 17:40:02


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 odinsgrandson wrote:
Nurglitch wrote:
What was the horror series?

I recently read Alan Moore's Providence, and that did something fairly similar except that the ending was pretty classic Lovecraftian 'the protagonist goes mad.'



I described it in generic terms because I didn't want to spoil it for anyone, and I would still recommend it because it was done very well, just with a flaw. It was also not Lovecraftian, except that it started out using a 'fear of the uknown' and the tension dropped off when the series no longer employed that. It was the television mini series
Spoiler:
The Haunting of Hill House


Here's a more detailed versions of what I said, for those who have seen the series:

Spoiler:
The series is built on a lot of mysteries, and the pay-offs work really well for the most part. They also make liberal use of the "creepy monologue" which works really well until the last two episodes in which the ghosts are also able to monologue- and every time they go into a long monologue from a dead person, the tension dies a little more.

I don't think there's an issue with the fact that things are revealed, but more about how 'normal and human' the ghosts start to behave. In the last episode, characters talk to them, argue with them about how what they're doing is 'wrong' and stuff like that, and the ghosts respond like they're people. At that point, the horror is completely gone.



Automatically Appended Next Post:
 Lance845 wrote:
I think its important to note that lovecraft made very liberal use of the unreliable narrator. Most stories are told 3rd hand from collected journals or the recordings of people in insane asylums.

Yes, this story says what the yithans are about. But it says what THAT guy in that asylum says the yithans are about. There might not be any yithans. Or his understanding of them might be as broken and fragmented as his mind.

You can take almost nothing in lovecrafts writing as fact.



That is an interesting proposal, but I don't find it lines up with his work as well as all that.

Obviously, the consistency that does exist within Lovecraft's work is intentional, but HPL probably wouldn't approve of the publication of his notes (the "fragments" that simply define Azathoth, Nyarlathotep were probably just meant as notes to help with consistency).


The thing about Lovecraft's narrators is that they can't stop telling me that they're unreliable, but they seem most unreliable in that regard. The Yithians are a great example- the guy telling us this can't stop telling us that this whole idea is completely bonkers and how his mind is totally fragmented- but he can describe Yithian daily life, culthure, anatomy, architecture, history and motivations along with a full account of how he was personally treated and what he did as a Yithian in such detail that we are led to believe that it is his own disbelief in the Yithians that we are meant to doubt. His mind is clearly not 'fragmented' at all, he just doesn't want to believe in the 'real' things that he has encountered.

And again, I feel that this still doesn't relate to any 'fear of the unknown." There are so many things that are known and explained- even if they're meant to be doubted (as the unreliable narrator demands" it still seems to deal more with a fear of knowing and a fear that it is true rather than a fear of something unknown or unknowable.


Yeah, Love raft is more about fear that the known is wrong than fear of the unknown, although there’s a healthy dollop of that. I mean, you could write a very Lovecraftian story without any monsters at all; just take some standard scholar from 1600 and introduce him to modern textbooks that explain the Earth is billions of years older than he thought, trailing whole orders of extinct higher life, stripping the divinity from humanity and placing it strictly with the beasts, while simultaneously opening the universe to gulfs unimaginable and possibilities endless and terrifying.

   
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 LordofHats wrote:
gorgon wrote:So I guess what I'm saying is that thing haven't been 'true' to HPL's vision since about 1937, and all the detailing has helped drive popularity for the last 80-odd years. I mean, I get it and probably prefer less structure to it all...but going around being an HPL hipster and telling people that 'here isn't even a 'Cthulhu Mythos' if you're a real Lovecraft fan' seems kinda ridiculous. Works can grow and evolve after a creator has passed. *shrug*


I think this is something the modern audience often struggles with. Really, when we talk about the Cthulu Mythos today we're talking about what grew from Lovecraft, not what Lovecraft himself created.

There's so much extra detail now about everything in the Mythos, that people don't realize how incredibly vague it all was in HPL's own lifetime. Fundamentally, the man only wrote seven stories in his 'Yog-Sothothery" cycle. There's maybe a half dozen others that can be squeezed in there, but Lovecraft himself wrote profoundly little on the Mythos relative to how massive it has become. Trying to look back at HPL and saying there is too much detail in the Mythos for it to be unknown I think is to miss how much of the Mythos the man didn't write, which is the overwhelming majority of it really. You can fit his entire collected mythos works into something the size of a dime-store novel.


I agree that the mythos got really big, but I've been reading too much Lovecraft (non-collaboration) works lately to agree that he did not put a lot of this detail in himself. Shadow out of Time has a LOT of detail, it is more in line with science fiction of its era. Same goes for Whisperer in the Dark.

On the other hand, the Color Out of Space is very vague (and Peterson did his best to define the indefinable elements from the story). So it started out more concrete than something like Poe, but it only got more concrete later on when Peterson featured Cthulhu's family tree.


Automatically Appended Next Post:
 BobtheInquisitor wrote:
 odinsgrandson wrote:
Nurglitch wrote:
What was the horror series?

I recently read Alan Moore's Providence, and that did something fairly similar except that the ending was pretty classic Lovecraftian 'the protagonist goes mad.'



I described it in generic terms because I didn't want to spoil it for anyone, and I would still recommend it because it was done very well, just with a flaw. It was also not Lovecraftian, except that it started out using a 'fear of the uknown' and the tension dropped off when the series no longer employed that. It was the television mini series
Spoiler:
The Haunting of Hill House


Here's a more detailed versions of what I said, for those who have seen the series:

Spoiler:
The series is built on a lot of mysteries, and the pay-offs work really well for the most part. They also make liberal use of the "creepy monologue" which works really well until the last two episodes in which the ghosts are also able to monologue- and every time they go into a long monologue from a dead person, the tension dies a little more.

I don't think there's an issue with the fact that things are revealed, but more about how 'normal and human' the ghosts start to behave. In the last episode, characters talk to them, argue with them about how what they're doing is 'wrong' and stuff like that, and the ghosts respond like they're people. At that point, the horror is completely gone.



Automatically Appended Next Post:
 Lance845 wrote:
I think its important to note that lovecraft made very liberal use of the unreliable narrator. Most stories are told 3rd hand from collected journals or the recordings of people in insane asylums.

Yes, this story says what the yithans are about. But it says what THAT guy in that asylum says the yithans are about. There might not be any yithans. Or his understanding of them might be as broken and fragmented as his mind.

You can take almost nothing in lovecrafts writing as fact.



That is an interesting proposal, but I don't find it lines up with his work as well as all that.

Obviously, the consistency that does exist within Lovecraft's work is intentional, but HPL probably wouldn't approve of the publication of his notes (the "fragments" that simply define Azathoth, Nyarlathotep were probably just meant as notes to help with consistency).


The thing about Lovecraft's narrators is that they can't stop telling me that they're unreliable, but they seem most unreliable in that regard. The Yithians are a great example- the guy telling us this can't stop telling us that this whole idea is completely bonkers and how his mind is totally fragmented- but he can describe Yithian daily life, culthure, anatomy, architecture, history and motivations along with a full account of how he was personally treated and what he did as a Yithian in such detail that we are led to believe that it is his own disbelief in the Yithians that we are meant to doubt. His mind is clearly not 'fragmented' at all, he just doesn't want to believe in the 'real' things that he has encountered.

And again, I feel that this still doesn't relate to any 'fear of the unknown." There are so many things that are known and explained- even if they're meant to be doubted (as the unreliable narrator demands" it still seems to deal more with a fear of knowing and a fear that it is true rather than a fear of something unknown or unknowable.


Yeah, Love raft is more about fear that the known is wrong than fear of the unknown, although there’s a healthy dollop of that. I mean, you could write a very Lovecraftian story without any monsters at all; just take some standard scholar from 1600 and introduce him to modern textbooks that explain the Earth is billions of years older than he thought, trailing whole orders of extinct higher life, stripping the divinity from humanity and placing it strictly with the beasts, while simultaneously opening the universe to gulfs unimaginable and possibilities endless and terrifying.


Ironically, we have horror movies that are the opposite. The Exorcist is about finding out that the Catholic religion is real, and how terrifying the implications are.

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Sounds like the initial TV Mini-series you watched that started this thread devolved from horror of the unknown to ordinary melodrama to fill out the last few episodes.

Many concepts run their course and are then replaced by a different genre or concept, often to the shows detriment.

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 Easy E wrote:
Sounds like the initial TV Mini-series you watched that started this thread devolved from horror of the unknown to ordinary melodrama to fill out the last few episodes.

Many concepts run their course and are then replaced by a different genre or concept, often to the shows detriment.


It is exactly this. The show can't hold up for more then 2 or 3 seasons, at most... and even that is a stretch. They lost the tone in the last two shows or so...

Remember Season 1 of Stranger Things, and how you would have thought that they could have kept that momentum? but didn't? It is the problem with television, as opposed to if they would have set it in a 2 hour movie. When you have too much time, you lose the momentum, Too little, you don't construct the tone in a tempo that is believable, and adds to the air of the story.

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 gorgon wrote:


I've always wondered about what would have happened had he not died young, though. His letters indicate that he was starting to change as a person...at least incrementally less xenophobic, racist, reactionary, etc. I think he even embraced the New Deal, IIRC. WWII -- and all the horror that Hitler brought -- might have continued to push him down that path.


I think you can see a definitive shift in his attitudes both in his letters and his later fictions. It roughly coincides with the end of his marriage (which according to his wife ended in no small part due to his racism).

So would that have affected his writing? He was -- at least in my very strong opinion -- a *much* better and more polished writer in his later years. But would the horror still have the same edge without all the fairly awful views against some of his fellow humans? I think it might have just been a little different, but I dunno.


This is another facet. Lovecraft's oldest published work (not his first published work mind) was written when he was 17. He basically wrote his entire adult life and you can see his progression as a writer when you place his works in chronological order. He was getting better indeed and many of his later works suggested a changing attitude and outlook on life (they were less dreary and more optimistic, though still existential horror). His later philosophy seems to clash starkly with his earlier one, and I'd say Lovecraft as he got older became something of an anti-nihilist.

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 LordofHats wrote:
 gorgon wrote:


I've always wondered about what would have happened had he not died young, though. His letters indicate that he was starting to change as a person...at least incrementally less xenophobic, racist, reactionary, etc. I think he even embraced the New Deal, IIRC. WWII -- and all the horror that Hitler brought -- might have continued to push him down that path.


I think you can see a definitive shift in his attitudes both in his letters and his later fictions. It roughly coincides with the end of his marriage (which according to his wife ended in no small part due to his racism).

So would that have affected his writing? He was -- at least in my very strong opinion -- a *much* better and more polished writer in his later years. But would the horror still have the same edge without all the fairly awful views against some of his fellow humans? I think it might have just been a little different, but I dunno.


This is another facet. Lovecraft's oldest published work (not his first published work mind) was written when he was 17. He basically wrote his entire adult life and you can see his progression as a writer when you place his works in chronological order. He was getting better indeed and many of his later works suggested a changing attitude and outlook on life (they were less dreary and more optimistic, though still existential horror). His later philosophy seems to clash starkly with his earlier one, and I'd say Lovecraft as he got older became something of an anti-nihilist.

Less nihilistic, sure, still had some pretty awful views about his fellow humans. In 1933, he wrote that he thought Hitler was a bit too loud, but that his heart was in the right place. It's not The Creation of N****rs, but it's hard to top that lovely piece of poetry.

And honestly, I think that yes, his work would have been just as compelling without his rampant xenophobia and racism. We can look at modern adaptations of the Mythos (A Colder War springs to mind) to see that versions that explictly decry xenophobia as counterproductive and ultimately suicidal for our species can be successful and even surpass the original works.

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To be fair, it really wasn't apparent in 1933 how bad a guy Hitler was. If he'd died before '39, he would have been remembered as one of the greatest statesmen Germany ever had. It took the war itself to lay bare all of the horrible gak the Nazi party was about.
   
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 creeping-deth87 wrote:
To be fair, it really wasn't apparent in 1933 how bad a guy Hitler was. If he'd died before '39, he would have been remembered as one of the greatest statesmen Germany ever had. It took the war itself to lay bare all of the horrible gak the Nazi party was about.

Not really? The Nazi Party got into power by loudly and publicly beating the hell out of anyone that disagreed with them, as well as espousing antisemitic propaganda that laid the blame for Germany's defeat in WW1 at the feet of the Jews. At no point were they anything but a bunch of violent, racist bullies, and while active extermination efforts didn't begin until later on, Dachau was first opened in 1933 as soon as Hitler became chancellor.

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 Laughing Man wrote:
 creeping-deth87 wrote:
To be fair, it really wasn't apparent in 1933 how bad a guy Hitler was. If he'd died before '39, he would have been remembered as one of the greatest statesmen Germany ever had. It took the war itself to lay bare all of the horrible gak the Nazi party was about.

Not really? The Nazi Party got into power by loudly and publicly beating the hell out of anyone that disagreed with them, as well as espousing antisemitic propaganda that laid the blame for Germany's defeat in WW1 at the feet of the Jews. At no point were they anything but a bunch of violent, racist bullies, and while active extermination efforts didn't begin until later on, Dachau was first opened in 1933 as soon as Hitler became chancellor.


The anti-Semitism was actually very much not at the forefront of their rhetoric, and you can't really credit the Nazi party with laying the blame of WW1 on others because that had already been going on for years before the Nazi party even became a thing. The public at large sincerely bought into the idea that the army had been stabbed in the back well before Hitler became chancellor. Ironically, it was Hindenburg himself who got that ball rolling very early into the life of the Weimar Republic. Hell, even foreign statesmen loved Hitler in those years. Chamberlain thought he was a swell dude, as did many others. Liking Hitler in '33 was absolutely not taboo.
   
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 creeping-deth87 wrote:
To be fair, it really wasn't apparent in 1933 how bad a guy Hitler was. If he'd died before '39, he would have been remembered as one of the greatest statesmen Germany ever had. It took the war itself to lay bare all of the horrible gak the Nazi party was about.


I doubt that. In the period of course, you are correct. Liking Hitler was a quite common attitude for a number of reasons. Some people liked his nationalism. Some people liked his opposition to communism. Some people liked his advocacy for 'Aryanism', particularly in the Anglophone world. And some people liked him for his anti-semitism. It was not a secret thing. Everyone knew the Nazis were vehemently anti-semitic.

But people today heavily underestimate how widespread and vehement anti-semitism was then and how integrated it was into 'normal' life. Lovecraft was thought of as too racist even then (I mean seriously, The Street is just fethed up). He definitely mellowed out in his later years, but I don't think he became a saint by any measure. Racism was part of life in the 30s. Even the period's progressives were often quite racist by a modern standard.

   
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 LordofHats wrote:
 creeping-deth87 wrote:
To be fair, it really wasn't apparent in 1933 how bad a guy Hitler was. If he'd died before '39, he would have been remembered as one of the greatest statesmen Germany ever had. It took the war itself to lay bare all of the horrible gak the Nazi party was about.


I doubt that. In the period of course, you are correct. Liking Hitler was a quite common attitude for a number of reasons. Some people liked his nationalism. Some people liked his opposition to communism. Some people liked his advocacy for 'Aryanism', particularly in the Anglophone world. And some people liked him for his anti-semitism. It was not a secret thing. Everyone knew the Nazis were vehemently anti-semitic.

But people today heavily underestimate how widespread and vehement anti-semitism was then and how integrated it was into 'normal' life. Lovecraft was thought of as too racist even then (I mean seriously, The Street is just fethed up). He definitely mellowed out in his later years, but I don't think he became a saint by any measure. Racism was part of life in the 30s. Even the period's progressives were often quite racist by a modern standard.


I wasn't necessarily trying to say Lovecraft was a saint, I was just objecting to the idea that him liking Hitler in 1933 was hard evidence he was a bad apple. It's just not a good metric because it paints huge swathes of people as bad apples.

Apologies for derailing the thread!
   
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 creeping-deth87 wrote:


I wasn't necessarily trying to say Lovecraft was a saint, I was just objecting to the idea that him liking Hitler in 1933 was hard evidence he was a bad apple. It's just not a good metric because it paints huge swathes of people as bad apples.

Apologies for derailing the thread!


I don't think it's that much of a derail honestly. It's a major element of Lovecraft's work, an element of a lot of works that come to use from that period in our history. It's not a waste imo to talk about how we reconcile old norms with modern norms, especially with respect to how those norms play out in culture. Lovecraft could be seen as a triumph of cultural rehabilitation. The man was a lot of unsavory things for most of his life, yet he has left us with a powerful cultural legacy that still sparks our imaginations with cool monsters, engaging questions about our existence, and a distinctive lexicon that is still influencing the prose of modern creators.

We've kept the good while leaving much of the bad behind.

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 Grot 6 wrote:
 Easy E wrote:
Sounds like the initial TV Mini-series you watched that started this thread devolved from horror of the unknown to ordinary melodrama to fill out the last few episodes.

Many concepts run their course and are then replaced by a different genre or concept, often to the shows detriment.


It is exactly this. The show can't hold up for more then 2 or 3 seasons, at most... and even that is a stretch. They lost the tone in the last two shows or so...

Remember Season 1 of Stranger Things, and how you would have thought that they could have kept that momentum? but didn't? It is the problem with television, as opposed to if they would have set it in a 2 hour movie. When you have too much time, you lose the momentum, Too little, you don't construct the tone in a tempo that is believable, and adds to the air of the story.



Well, it was just a mini series, so there were only about eight episodes, and won't ever be any more. Really, I think ti would have been perfect if the last two episodes were condensed into a single one. Mostly, I was watching it thinking "what is it that is making this not work anymore?


There is something messy about the final act of most horror films as well. Often, it comes down to a mystery story structure, and once the supernatural elements are more predictable, it isn't scary anymore.

There's nothing very wrong with that in a film- you just want to keep the final act short, and probably derive the tension from action or some other source (which is fine for a short final act, and a problem for a long one).


I'm not sure how to keep a long running horror series working. I think it is going to have to go somewhere else eventually, or else just keep hitting the same notes way too much.


Automatically Appended Next Post:
 LordofHats wrote:
 creeping-deth87 wrote:


I wasn't necessarily trying to say Lovecraft was a saint, I was just objecting to the idea that him liking Hitler in 1933 was hard evidence he was a bad apple. It's just not a good metric because it paints huge swathes of people as bad apples.

Apologies for derailing the thread!


I don't think it's that much of a derail honestly. It's a major element of Lovecraft's work, an element of a lot of works that come to use from that period in our history. It's not a waste imo to talk about how we reconcile old norms with modern norms, especially with respect to how those norms play out in culture. Lovecraft could be seen as a triumph of cultural rehabilitation. The man was a lot of unsavory things for most of his life, yet he has left us with a powerful cultural legacy that still sparks our imaginations with cool monsters, engaging questions about our existence, and a distinctive lexicon that is still influencing the prose of modern creators.

We've kept the good while leaving much of the bad behind.





Well, we're having this conversation, and I see no reason not to take part.

Lovecraft is very much like D.W. Griffith.

Ok, I'm sure a lot of you don't know who that is. He was an early silent film director, and an absolutely essential innovator. He is generally credited with the invention of the "close up" and the idea that the shot is the basic building block of cinema rather than the scene (as it is in theatre).

He also directed the first smash hit film- title The Birth of a Nation. It is a film about how the Ku Klux Klan rescued the southern united states from black equality. In one of its triumphant final scenes, a bunch of black people come out on election day and retreat as they see the Klansmen standing in their way like powerful knights.

Later in life, Griffith regretted his film in quite a lot of ways, and disavowed it as a racist portrayal that should only be watched by film students.


Lovecraft is a lot like that. He was an innovator whose work was extremely important but also tinged with racism (admittedly less than Griffith's). If Lovecraft had lived longer, I wonder if he would have eventually abandoned a lot of his racist ideas or if he would have further embraced them (I can't imagine that living through WW2 wouldn't change him one way or the other).

I have a problem when we want to disavow the accomplishments of someone because of their action or ideas outside of the art, but I can also understand people not wanting to idolize them,

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Lovecraft was a man of his times. Its fun to watch apologists rewrite history to suit them.

He was no more or no less racist then anyone else in the 1920's. To take the old phrase- "Leave Lovecraft alone!"



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 Grot 6 wrote:
He was no more or no less racist then anyone else in the 1920's. To take the old phrase- "Leave Lovecraft alone!"


I'm sorry, but this is demonstrably false. I know it's hip for the would be apologist to simply say 'rewriting history' but literally no one here is ignoring history.

I suggest reading The Street (one of his first published works). It is little more than an extremely racist tirade that ends with all the minorities being killed because they deserved it. That was not normal racism in the 1920s, an era marked by a resurgence in violent racism in America. I would be surprised to see any history suggesting it was.

Other members of the Lovecraft circle (some of whom were themselves quite typical in their opinions for the period) considered his deep seated racism his great personal flaw. Lovecraft definitely mellowed out in his later years after his divorce (which his wife blamed on his extremely racist treatment of her, which could not be something a Jew in the 20s was unaccustomed too) but he was definitely more racist than most of his time for much of his life.

As said earlier, Lovecraft seemed to be mellowing out a lot in his later years, possibly because of his divorce because I think it's worth being fair and noting that the dude was a lot less intense later in life.

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