I’ve got a new literary boyfriend and our relationship is definitely heating up. I mean, he keeps me up at night and I think about him all the time. I find myself sneaking away from my responsibilities to turn a page or 10.
So, Edgar Allen, I’m sorry, but I think it’s time for us to break up. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been craving someone a little younger with a weirder perspective. So…I’ve been seeing someone else. His name is H.P. And he terrifies me.
Last Christmas, my boyfriend—knowing me oh so well—got me two books, a brilliant sci-fi novel by China Mieville and The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft. I just got around to cracking open the Lovecraft and oh my God, where has this author been all my life?
If you’ve read any of my short fiction, you know I like it creepy. I’m the girl who wrote a thesis arguing that The Great Gatsby is actually a ghost story written in the classic Gothic tradition. I’m the girl who listens to sci-fi soundtracks while she writes. Halloween? I’m all in.
So I feel terrible that I haven’t snatched up and devoured all of Lovecraft’s work by now. He reads stylistically like a contemporary Poe. His language is formal and it’s all about setting the scene, building suspense, and speaking through unreliable, on edge narrators. There’s a lot of madness in these works, a lot of people who’ve simply gone over the deep end. And that psychological exploration is fascinating.
Another fun perk—I’m learning about all the Old Ones that are featured in the tabletop game Elder Sign. The game is definitely inspired by the Lovecraft era and stories, and you play as characters trying to keep nefarious, old monsters from emerging from the depths to terrify the world (and probably take over).
Nyarlathoptep, yeah, I get it now. You creepy. “And where Nyarlathoptep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of nightmare. Never before had the screams of nightmare been such a public problem; now the wise men almost wished they could forbid sleep in the small hours, that the shrieks of cities might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon as it glimmered on green waters gliding under bridges, and old steeples crumbling against a sickly sky.”
And big daddy Cthulhu? “These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape—for did not this star-fashioned image prove it?—but that shape was not made of matter. When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, they could not live. But although They no longer lived, They would never really die. They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R’lyeh, preserved by the spells of might Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for Them.”
Lovecraft reads like a dream, introducing you to new worlds and monsters and visions that you didn’t know could exist in your consciousness. And it’s thrilling and downright scary as all get out.
I’ve been watching Dexter on Netflix, which for all intents and purposes, should be horrifying to me; however, it has yet to keep me up at night. The Picture in the House—a nine-page short story by Lovecraft—took me all of 15 minutes to read and then I lay awake staring at the ceiling for at least an hour before I could calm my brain down. That is some talent for terror.
Lovecraft, I love you. I know we just met, but I’m pretty sure we’re soul mates. Thank you for being weird and wonderful.