Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Why I Love Lovecraft

A few weeks ago, a flurry of discussion sprang up on Twitter as the various factions aired their opinions about H.P. Lovecraft. These discussions always end up touching on racism, cosmic horror, fear of the other, and whether the concepts can be disentangled. Then people debate whether Lovecraft actually told good stories, whether he was the first to do what he is famous for, etc etc.

I love Lovecraft’s stories. And the main reason that I love them has nothing to do with the racism / cosmic horror discussion. In fact, as a Christian, I find Lovecraft’s themes of humanity being alone in an amoral universe pretty disturbing and offensive, since I believe that the universe is subject to the sovereignty of a personal God who has described law and morality and loves his people. So why do I love Lovecraft?

Setting.

I often say that the thing I enjoy the most about fiction of any form is the experience of being taken to a place. When I read Lovecraft for the first time in high school (I think the first thing of his I read was The Nameless City), I discovered the archetypal examples of many settings from different stories I loved as a child. A couple I can think of off the top of my head are the dark swamps and dripping caves from The Rescuers. Another trope that I enjoyed a lot as a kid, a lost technology-rich ancient civilization, is a common feature of Lovecraft’s settings.

In contrast to fantastical elements, I appreciate how Lovecraft drew from what he knew to build the “grounded” parts of his settings. Last September, my wife and I spent a week in Providence and Massachusetts visiting both literal and inspirational sites for Lovecraft’s stories. Especially in Massachusetts near the setting of my favorite Lovecraft story The Dunwhich Horror, the close similarity of the actual landscape to what he described struck me. I always assumed his descriptions of steep, tree-covered mountains with bare peaks were a bit of an exaggeration, but there they were.


"As the hills draw nearer, one heeds their
wooded sides more than their stone-crowned tops."

Creating evocative settings, whether creepy, mystical, or grounded, is one of my main goals in writing. And Lovecraft is a primary inspirations.


If you like sci-fi adventure / space opera with a dose of Lovecraft, check out my novel Uriel’s Revenge.

3 comments:

  1. The absence of God in Lovecraft's work does not necessarily turn me off. The effect is the same as in Dostoevsky's existential writings: You see just how barren and desperate men are without that close relationship with their Creator.

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    1. Absolutely.

      I think when I read his stories, I usually imagine that God is still present and that he is sovereign over the unfolding horrors. Cthulhu and the Old Gods could serve as instruments of God's wrath just as well as the Assyrians.

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