If You Were To Write a Lovecraftian Story What Would it be About?

  1. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    What kind of a story would you like to write ? What would it be about?
     
    Jul 12, 2015
    #1
  2. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    An essential thing would be a strong sense of place. That remains a strength of Lovecraft's own writing when some of its other aspects are not necessarily compelling. A problem for the would-be Lovecraftian author is that few people have anything like his imaginative engagement with any place.

    That is a direction that the Lovecraftian author might be nudged to go. Imitation of his style or his plot habits is dubious; I think that Lovecraft himself may have been trying to extricate himself from some of these things in his last few years. (Unlike some of his admirers, I see Lovecraft as a developing author, much of whose work labors under deficiencies that he himself was trying to outgrow; so it is ironic if someone tries to imitate stories that the man himself might well have regarded as apprentice work.)

    The engagement with place has two aspects. The more familiar one is the creation of imaginary landscapes, as in his rather triumphant Mountains of Madness. Here is a combination of sense of place that he derived from his reading plus attention to wholly imaginary scenes. Lots of authors do this sort of thing. In sf/fantasy circles, they talk about "world-building."

    The second aspect is that about which I was thinking in my third sentence above. Here Lovecraft has some interesting kindred spirits. We have not heard very much yet about Lovecraft and, say, Joseph Mitchell (New York -- Up in the Old Hotel) or even today's author Ian Frazier. In his interest in the local, the small town rather than the global economy, his appreciation for lifeways that have grown up in close interaction with the particular creeks, fields, weather, etc. of a specific area, Lovecraft has affinities with essayist Wendell Berry and the Front Porch Republic bloggers.

    Lovecraft had a strong element of a strain of conservatism. Many Chronsfolk probably have almost no idea of what I am talking about. For them, "conservatism" means "right-wing" militarism, unbridled free market consumerism, etc. In fairness to these ignorant folk, there seems to me, on the national level at least, almost no political activity that reflects the kind of conservatism of which I'm speaking, so how can they be blamed for not being aware of it?

    Anyway, much of HPL's writing does show much interest in a particular region. Ask yourself, if you are a Lovecraft fan who aspires to write "Lovecraftian" fiction: Do you love (≠ idealize) the place where you live, or some place where you used to live, and do you know it well or at least want to to know well? Do your shelves contain books about the place where you live or where you used to live? If you think to write a "Lovecraftian" story, would it be rooted in a particular place (whether the real names where used or not), or would you be writing based on a recycling of imagery from stories you've read, movies you've seen, etc.?

    You have probably been educated and socialized for just the other kind of sentiment, i.e. mobility is good, see the world, "multiculturalism," "diversity," "global economy," etc. College teachers are generally far indeed from the "Lovecraftian" sentiments I've tried to suggest:

    http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2015/06/rootless-professors-reboot/

    So the more "educated" you are perhaps the less you are interested in the small, the local, etc., the less rooted you are. But Lovecraft at least believes (you can believe he was wrong) that he drew a great deal of strength from his roots.

    I haven't tried to write a Lovecraftian story in about 40 years, but I wrote two back in the day, and both were set in my region (e.g. Kalmiopsis wilderness area). This doesn't make any aspect of the stories any good! But when I aspired to write a "Lovecraftian" story, I did tune in to this "sense of place" aspect that I'm haranguing you about.

    My one and a half cents.
     
    Jul 13, 2015
    #2
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  3. Nick B

    Nick B author Nick Bailey, formerly Quellist.

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    I would most certainly write about architecture of cyclopean scale. Not sure if a shogoth would make an appearance.
     
    Jul 14, 2015
    #3
  4. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I think Extollager has raised a very important point* -- though I would say that this is only one, albeit major, aspect of Lovecraftian fiction; there are others which may be the mainstay of a story, this sort of regionalism may not in fact be necessary at all to still remain true to Lovecraft in quite valid ways. I would, however, wholeheartedly agree with him that copying either his "style" (which is nonsense; HPL varied his style considerably depending on the needs of a particular tale) -- better read "mannerisms" -- or his plots/plot elements is most likely to end in disaster. This isn't across the board; some have managed to do one or the other quite successfully and still retain a large degree of originality and worth in their own right... but by and large, it's best to avoid such.

    I, too, attempted a Lovecraftian tale or two a few decades ago; one was a direct sequel to "The Statement of Randolph Carter", inspired by wondering just what had happened to Warren, whom I chose to make the narrator of my own piece. It wasn't particularly good, but not bad, I suppose, for a tyro still finding his own voice.

    The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to take whatever aspect of Lovecraft truly inspires you to creative, rather than imitative, endeavor, and then utilize that in your own voice and manner. The best Lovecraftian stories all seem to do this, from several of the stories by Thomas Ligotti to Basil Copper's "Shaft Number 247" to F. Paul Wilson's "The Barrens", to so much of Wilum's work, or that of Caitlin R. Kiernan, or Ann K. Schwader, or Gene Wolfe's essays into the form, etc. This, in fact, was precisely what Lovecraft himself encouraged other writers who wished to play on his work to do. The very last thing he wanted was slavish imitation, as he deeply felt that art was, in its very essence, self-expression.

    Which, as I've said before, is why "Lovecraftian" fiction is burgeoning with a multiplicity of very talented writers these days. They aren't hidebound by the Derlethian concepts of the Mythos, but rather inspired by this or that peculiarly Lovecrafian trait or element, much as the French writers (among others) were so inspired by Poe. This leaves a wide-open field to explore, and acts as a liberating, rather than confining, form.

    *This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I admire W. H. Pugmire's Lovecraftian tales so much. While the regions he depicts are indeed fictional, they are reflections of regions he has known and loved, and this informs them with a "depth" quite comparable to HPL's own fictional New England cities, towns, and villages. It is seldom a site Lovecraft created (though he has recently done some very good work in that direction), but rather places which he himself has known intimately. It is the technique rather than the specifics, at work here... which may be why he has lately dipped more into Lovecraft's own territory, as he has gone there and absorbed his own impressions and come away with a love of these places which has since been assimilated into his own -- to use de Camp's phrase -- "topomania".
     
    Jul 14, 2015
    #4
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  5. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    It's very difficult. I think you have to have read a lot of genre fiction of HPLs time, and somehow manage to recreate the 'mood' in a modern setting. Not easy at all. You can't imitate and get anyhere, it has to be absorbed and reprocessed, after a lot of work, into something like what William Pugmire and others do. It's a challenge. So far I've only been able to come up with four (4) short stories that lean into the genre at all, and they deal with things coming through from the other side, or another dimension, - description of which is crucial, and hard to achieve in modren skeptical times like we live in.
    About? That's a moot point with Lovecraft. It has to be about things that are hard to describe. You can't just pull out Cthuhlu and send him after some soldiers.
     
    Jul 14, 2015
    #5
  6. w h pugmire esq

    w h pugmire esq Well-Known Member

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    Everything has changed from when I first began to write for the small press journals in the 1980's and 1990's. At that time I was a starry-eyed Mythos fanatic, far more influenced by August Derleth and Brian Lumley and Lin Carter than by H. P. Lovecraft, and my main reason for writing was to "belong" to what I saw as the emerging, always evolving Circle of Mythos writers. I "knew" I had to create my own Mythos locality, and so I invented Sesqua Valley. I had to have my own Great Old Ones, and so I invented Ny-Rakath and Shii-N'guth. I had to have my own version of ye Necronomicon, and so I invented The Book of Dark Words. I knew I "had" to have my own human-like creatures who had some kind of tainted look, a race separate from humanity, and so I invented the Shadow Children of Sesqua Valley. My early stories were so bad that eventually I gave up in disgust, discovered punk rock, and had nothing to do with ye Lovecraftian scene for many years. Then, in 1985 or '86, Jessica Salmonson and I sold a story to the Cutting Edge anthology, and I got serious about writing weird fiction again.

    By that time I had become enamored of literary criticism, and I was delighted to see the flow of criticism in book form that discussed the works of H. P. Lovecraft. I began to see Lovecraft not as just some cool horror writer, but as a figure in World Literature, a writer of genius, and excellent author. Writing serious weird fiction--weird fiction that was as close to an art form as I cou'd make it--became my obsession. I began to notice, in his correspondence, how often Lovecraft used the word "art" when discussing his work and good horror fiction. So many great books about Lovecraft's life and works were flowing forth, my interest in and identification with HPL became intense. I burned to write fiction that was authentic homage to Lovecraft, and it had to be the best work of which I was capable. And it had to be securely rooted to Lovecraft's work, which resulted in my going over his texts carefully, not just reading them but studying them. I wanted my books to be "Lovecraftian-to-ye-core," even if I wasn't exactly sure what that meant. I wanted to be an artist who was utterly and absolutely linked to H. P. Lovecraft, and yet a writer so perverse and individual that my fiction was "my own". I found my path to that on-going goal in Lovecraft and Lovecraft alone. We don't need to bother with other Mythos writers. Lovecraft is the one true source, the writer who matters. Although I am dead serious about the importance of writing weird fiction, I always remember that Lovecraft had a sense of "fun" that he infused into creativity, and I have try'd to capture that sense of fun with my own work. I feel that there is no end in sight, and I hope to write these kinds of stories until I am dead or gaga.
     
    Jul 14, 2015
    #6
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  7. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    I’m going to cheat and say that I wouldn’t, not deliberately. I’ve written a short parody of Lovecraft in God Emperor of Didcot but that was easy: it’s just a matter of fitting “Squamous… cyclopean… pen running out of ink…” into the same sentence. But of course that doesn’t really cover Lovecraft at all and doesn’t really do him justice.

    There is a sense of place that you’d have to capture, and of brushing past a greater truth that is often too incredible, and perhaps too awful, to comprehend in full. I suppose there is also a sense of mankind’s smallness, and also a sort of intellectualism and poetry that has to be in there, which probably requires a level of fascination with the things being described, not just disgust. I think the real Lovecraftianism (if that is even vaguely like a word!) comes, as you say, not from the Providence setting or the trappings of the stories but from getting that mixture of sensations (which is perhaps what Derleth didn’t get). I think that is why the films that strike me as closest to Lovecraft, such as Alien and The Thing, aren’t literal adaptations.
     
    Jul 15, 2015
    #7
  8. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    No, yes, William tells us how it is. Lovecraft was a serious writer, a great writer, in any genre. Funny how we used to see the pulps laying around and they were just thought of as junk, 'escape fiction' as my Mom always called it. In the book trade, we came across an astonishing horde of weird fiction in the early 70s, in a strange old house in a remote area, not unlike one of his stories!- and as a result I got to hold original signed HPL books, pamphlets, pulps - signed copies, a few actually dedicated to CAS and others, in my hot little hands. That was the Floyd Peill collection, and you may well run into some of them if you collect, he signed every book he owned, thousands of them.
    If HPL was around today, would he be a punk rocker? May be a story idea there for someone. )
     
    Jul 15, 2015
    #8
  9. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    I could see Lovercraft in a Rock band .:D
     
    Jul 15, 2015
    #9
  10. JoanDrake

    JoanDrake Well-Known Member

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    If Lovecraft were alive today he'd be Steven King

    And there would be a Cthulu World in Florida
     
    Jul 15, 2015
    #10
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  11. StilLearning

    StilLearning Well-Known Member

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    If I could I'd write a Lovevraftian themed hard SF story. I think the themes of mans smallness, powerlessness, and inability to process the truth, would go well with a story about some of the cosmic forces we have found to actually exist - and from what I've read of him I think he'd like the idea. At the Mountains of Madness is halfway there already IMHO.
     
    Jul 16, 2015
    #11
  12. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    And, when we find out it's all true, we can sell non-fiction horror novels.
     
    Jul 16, 2015
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  13. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Eeee-yup. Over the last decade of his life (actually, it began much earlier, with such stories as "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" and "From Beyond"), HPL was moving more and more into what would constitute science fiction. He actually did an essay on sf (or what was then often called "interplanetary fiction") recognizing that there is nothing inherently wrong with the subject matter or themes, simply that there was such a plethora of dreck bogging the field down. He had a high regard for such writers as Wells, Stapledon, etc., and felt that, if handled maturely, science fiction could be as fruitful and genuine an artistic field as any other branch of literature.

    As for whether or not a hard sf Lovecraftian story can be done... it has been, more than once. But that's no reason not to go there yourself, if you are so inspired. As a man who was intensely interested in science, Lovecraft would definitely approve of the intention, and likely give encouraging tips on how to improve on any flaws in the execution....
     
    Jul 17, 2015
    #13
  14. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    What about a story in which the Cthulhu and company come face to face with actual supernatural deities ?

    Or what if one Nyarlathoteps evil plans comes back to bite him in very unexpected and unpleasant manner?
     
    Jul 24, 2015
    #14
  15. JoanDrake

    JoanDrake Well-Known Member

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    How about a police procedural about a detective hunting down a serial killer who is killing young virgins for their skins to write the Necronomicon on? Been done?
     
    Jul 24, 2015
    #15
  16. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Close: Nightmare's Disciple, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
     
    Jul 25, 2015
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  17. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Nyarlathotep visits the city of the Singing Flame with the intent to destroying the place , he goes into the flame just for laughs, but and comes out not the same as when he went in. The journey into the flame causes him to grow a conscious. What would he be like if he had one? How might that effect his actions? Nyarlathotep with crises of Conscious , that could make for interesting and hilarious story telling.:)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
    Jul 26, 2015
    #17
  18. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I've got to admit, I can't understand why he/it would even want to destroy it in the first place, given what it does. As for Nyarlathotep having a conscience... that would, I think, be a complete rejection of Lovecraft's view of an entity/concept he called "the Crawling Chaos". Nyarlathotep is, in many ways, the more fleshed-out version of the rather more remote Azathoth; something which is fairly obvious from such things as their respective sonnets in the Fungi from Yuggoth sequence, or even the role(s) they play in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as the fact that, as the role of Nyarlathotep grew, mention of Azathoth, never frequent, became quite secondary.
     
    Jul 27, 2015
    #18
  19. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    He's brilliant, probably the most intelligent of the Lovecraftain pantheon. My read on Nyarlathotep is that he is essentially a sociopath on a grand scale. He has nothing we could call a conscience or anything we define as morality. He's quite despicable, knows it , and could care less.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
    Jul 27, 2015
    #19
  20. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I think, though, that you are making the mistake of anthropomorphizing a being which, while it can take human form, is at core utterly alien, a personification of the capriciousness and amorality of the cosmos rather than one with genuinely human motivations. As with so many of Lovecraft's entities, it is the human face we put on them (essentially for our own comfort, for by giving them such we magnify ourselves, the human race, to a position of importance in a cosmos which simply is no more aware of us than it is of gnats or amoebas) which gives the appearance of such motivations. Nyarlathotep is chaos itself given form (sometimes human, sometimes -- as in "The Haunter of the Dark" -- not) and by applying such motivations one runs a great risk of parodying rather than extending Lovecraft. Wilum has done a series of stories featuring "the strange dark one" in which he plays with this, but he manages to walk that line very well, staying true to Lovecraft's (never quite fully evolved, it must be said) concept of this being while nonetheless using him for his own symbolic ends.
     
    Jul 27, 2015
    #20
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