H. P. Lovecraft was never really appreciated in his own time, you know. For some reason, his stories about ancient, uh, blasphemous creatures — Elder Gods, Fungi from Yuggoth, the Great Race of Yith, Cthulhu, Shub Niggurath, and the foul Nyarlathotep — just didn’t really strike a chord with the general reading audience of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Sure, he probably had at least as much influence on modern genre fiction as Edgar Allen Poe; remember when the Joker got stuck in Arkham Asylum? Lovecraft made up that name, Arkham. These days, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Lovecraft or something that he created will be cited in some horror story somewhere. Ever hear of a book called the Necronomicon? Sure you have. If you’ve ever seen a cheesy horror movie, you’ve probably heard of this book. In Evil Dead, some kids find it in the basement of this cabin in the woods, and it’s one of those things you know the characters in a movie shouldn’t do, and no matter how much you scream at them to NOT OPEN THAT CURSED TOME! they still do.
These things happen. They open the book, they all turn into zombies, and life goes to hell.
Yep. Lovecraft invented it. Lovecraft’s use of the fictional Necronomicon was so clever that even today there are people all around the world who believe that it’s real. There’s a cheap paperback you can get in the tacky occult section of your local Waldenbooks, called The Necronomicon, but that one was invented by a couple of college students in the 70’s.
Why didn’t Lovecraft become popular during his own day? Here’s a sample of his writing style, taken from one of his more action-packed stories, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth":
…Nothing that I could have imagined — nothing, even, that I could have gathered had I credited old Zadok’s crazy tale in the most literal way — would be in any way comparable to the demoniac, blasphemous reality that I saw — or believe I saw…. Can it be possible that this planet has actually spawned such things; that human eyes have truly seen, as objective flesh, what man has hitherto known only in febrile phantasy and tenuous legend?
And yet I saw them in a limitless stream — flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating — surging inhumanly trough the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. And some of them had tall tiaras of nameless whitish-gold metal…. and some were strangely robed…. and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishly humped black cload and striped trousers, and had a man’s felt hat perched on the shapeless thing that answered for a head…. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaley…. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.
That’s pretty much the most action packed section in this fifty-page novella in Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. No, it’s not an easy read.
So what makes Lovecraft stick to us, like a bit of blasphemous cake inhumanly stuck to our ribs, causing us to gain one or two loathesome pounds? It’s hard to say; but I think it really is the cosmos that Lovecraft had painted for his readers. The universe that Lovecraft wrote about was not one ruled over by a kindly, benevolent god, or even one of order and sense. In Lovecraft’s universe, ancient entities wrangled with each other in eons-old struggles, and if they thought of human beings at all, they thought of them as a mere irritation at best, something like a flea. It was this vision of cosmic indifference that Lovecraft bequeathed to modern horror fiction.
Lovecraft didn’t even consider himself a horror writer; he was a "cosmic fantasist". And he really wasn’t called a horror writer at all, until after the second world war; and then a vision of a bleak and indifferent universe, where vast powers struggled indifferently to pitiable small humans seemed very realistic to a world of people who had seen nations slaughter millions for no good reason at all.
So, anyway, I’ve been reading a lot of Lovecraft lately, as a way of getting myself geared up for working on the project that Evilpheemy and I have been working on together for a couple of years now. Maybe it was all of that Lovecraft reading that explains the dream I had the other night.
In that dream, you see, I dreamt that Jennifer and I had, in addition to the seven cats that you probably already know about, another three. We had never seen these cats; their shyness put Zuchinni to shame. Somehow we knew that we had these three cats, but they never emerged to eat, drink, play, or even use the litter boxes, not whenever we were around. Even when we moved from the house in one town to the house we live in now, these three cats came with us, but we never saw them.
And then, suddenly, I saw one. Out from its hiding place to play with another cat. But this cat, which Jennifer had named Rosemary, for some reason, inviting confusion with the other cat by the same name, didn’t really look like a cat. It was a silvery-purple color, and glittery, sort of like Seven-of-Nine’s jumpsuit in Star Trek: Voyager, and there were sparks shooting out of it.
It was a very eerie dream. Trust me on this.
When I get sick — and I’ve been sick with a cold these past few days — I get very intense dreams. Some of them have less than holy inspirations. And some of them are just plain weird.
And that’s pretty much it, I guess. A vignette about one of my favorite writers, a recounting of a nonsensical dream.
If you’re hoping that this journal is going to be coherent all the time, you really ought to be rechecking your medication.