24 responses to “Conversation: What appeals to you most about Lovecraftian fiction?

  1. The purest kind of fear of them all — fear of the unknown. When your fear grows to cosmic proportions. It’s not the monters, it’s just the knowledge, deep down in ones soul, that can drive one crazy, that’s just too big to handle when you try to understand it.

  2. Work-a-day life can be a drag; same thing every day. On the other hand (tentacle?), HPL’s universe is one of dark dangers and cosmic threats – a universe that exists side-by-side with our own. I find it exciting that HPL’s universe co-exists with ours – that just outside the veil of our perceptions lies the Mythos.

  3. He reminds me of what I KNEW as a child, there’s something awful in the dark, and it’s beyond comprehension.

  4. The ancient, abiding mystery of it. The forgotten places just out of sight behind the trees. The intimacy of an old stand of wood gone very bad.

    The cosmic scale horror? Not so much.

  5. Some of the vast majority of things beyond my control; such as when Cthulhu and the minions devour human beings like candy bars.

  6. I think Lovecraft’s stories (as well as Machen, Blackwood, and other influences) have a consistent appeal in their secular nature, in that terror is not derived from the petulant disapproval of a knowable theistic entity (at least knowable by religious traditions) but that the most terrifying thing imaginable is the defiance of how we normally interpret the world. The dissolution of wisdom or pulling the rug out from underneath our well grounded understanding of how this mechanistic universe operates incites dread as it demonstrates just how little is knowable much less what little we do know. While vampires and ghosts and were-beasts are all important and fascinating expressions of how various culture’s deal with the unknown, they retain a Victorian quaintness in an era where genomes have been mapped and a neutrino’s mass measured. The ghost in the shell is no longer ghostly and the quaint chain rattling traditions tend to rely on irrelevant religious concepts of good and evil (usually Western concepts at that).

    Lovecraft’s influence on me was that no matter how beautiful and awe inspiring existence may be there’s this paradoxical loathing in knowing there’s nothing benevolent behind the curtains and everything will inevitably collapse, dilapidate and rot into irrelevance. I’m not advocating a Ligotti-like misanthropy (I find anti-natalism arguments to be philosophically weak and Ligott’s particularly unconvincing), but a sense that the terrible and the beautiful are so inexorably intertwined a literature that examines and celebrates the terrors inherent in a physical existence is the only sane response. And despite Lovecraft’s many failings I can look to his sense of wonder at this apathetic universe and draw a kind of mournful inspiration from the whole mess that resulted in everything existing.

  7. For me it’s a combination of both his use of gothic atmosphere and language and the secular horror. I love supernatural horror, which seems invariably Christian in origin. Lovecraft gave us a similar feel of overwhelming entities from ‘out there’ without the need for hooking into that mythology. Combined, there’s nothing else like it I’ve found.

  8. His expanse – he looked at the universe not as something with things that happen in the millennia or so around human existence but across millions of years and billions of miles of space. He knew just how big and scary the universe is to the human mind.

  9. I agree with those here who point to the fear of the unknown, and more so, the unknowable. His atmospherics are especially exciting to me and the way he can turn a phrase that conjures a shudder. And his openings immediately grab you: “There was thunder in the air on the night I went to the deserted mansion atop Tempest Mountain to find the lurking fear.” How does anyone stop reading?! Whenever I feature a Lovecraft short story on my blog, he get more hits than any other author and I think it’s because they know they will be in for a great ride.

  10. The Mythos itself. The idea that there exist amoral forces lying in wait behind the veil of accepted reality bent on the destruction of humanity. I also like the fact that Lovecraftian tales have no heroes in the traditional sense, just unlucky souls who happen to stumble across things better left unknown. As regular player of Arkham Horror it just gets my adrenaline up knowing that unspeakable doom is gibbering just around the corner and our hapless group is a dice toss away from armageddon.

  11. I like the feeling that there is something a few degrees away from mundane reality that has no religious or moral subtext. Something much bigger than us mangy monkeys and our petty concerns. Something that drags our attention out of ourselves, even if its only to be driven mad and eaten.

  12. I love the sense of otherworldliness and the concept that man (despite his huge ego) is reduced to insignificance in the cosmic order of things. It humbles one. I also love the strange science and physics of the Cthulhu mythos.

  13. The idea of our insignificance against the backdrop of a pitiless universe has always appealed to me. As a child I felt that the anthropocentric view of reality was so obviously, plainly false, that we were just crude, barely-formed grunting, loping things howling our supremacy and flinging our dung about, baying to an imaginary big ally who created us in it’s own sad, sad image. I loved, and instantly gravitated to, Lovecraft’s notion that we’re actually laughably low on the food chain, that the forces out there are malevolent, ravenous, and unrelenting, and our greatest desire should be to remain quivering in the underbrush unseen. That nothing good shall come of actually investigating the forgotten places, the dank warrens, the doorways long sealed up: we won’t recover from seeing what waits for us there. And yet, again and again, learned, thoughtful souls do just that in their arrogant assumption of intellectual clarity, only to be driven mad at best, and at worst, leaving open a portal through which that otherworldly malevolence can follow them back. Since I always relate to these curious dumbasses, and would probably make most of the same mistakes they do, I really enjoy being there with them. It’s a world that strangely comforts me even as it chills my blood.

  14. It hits the universal nerve of the fear of the unknown, and what would happen if we tried to open that mystery door.

  15. It’s not just fear of the unknown, but fear of insignificance and impotence (in the non-medical use of the word). In the best of HPL’s work, whatever the menace might be is something that cannot be fought back against effectively. Shoggoth with a bow-wave of blind penguins? Run. Cthulhu? Discover that driving a boat through his chest is at best a short-term distraction. Migo in the woods? Stay in the city and change your phone number. It’s why I also like M.R. James– his creepies are a little more one-on-one than Lovecraft’s, but there is the underlying unstoppability once they’re aroused. Add to this the sense that the whole inimical swarm of malignities is ALWAYS there, just outside the usual range of human perceptions, and that the only sin is to discover them whether intentionally or with all the forethought of tumble through a rotten well-cover, and you’ve got some damn effective shivers.

  16. The thing I like most is the idea that there is this hidden world of dark horrors and ancient spell books and alternate dream dimensions that exists below our normal, mundane world. Our world has become so digitized and packaged and marketed to, the ideas of these hidden worlds and ancient powers that normal folks like me can just ‘stumble onto’ – and be driven mad, of course….

  17. This is what I love about Lovecraft. There are so many ways of looking at this undying HPL theme. Lovecraft’s Cosmicism is an affront to many tenets of American Idealism, The self-made man, the Protestant Work-ethic, Technological Optimism and Meritocracy – all these mean nothing against the backdrop of the cosmos. I will be exploring these themes in an upcoming essay for Lovecraft Ezine.

  18. What i like more in the fictional works of Lovecraft is that sense of unknown and dread,that fact that in truth the universe is not made for man but it’s an unknown and scary place. And obviously i like also the various cretures and gods that Lovecraft created in his tales.

  19. After comparing some of HPL’s work to other “weird” authors of the period (e.g.: Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”, etc.) and living for a period near his home in R.I. I imagine I’m starting to see some of the vast spaces of unknown lore and points of reference, even to this day, from such inspiration. There are still so many things that catch us unaware and bring that feeling of loathing. It must come from somewhere or from something. It builds in the doubt of the reality around us all, correct?

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