The Horrors of the Lovecraftian Genre

Photo credit: Wallin

Photo credit: Wallin

Caden Desoto, OwlFeed Lifestyle Reporter

In most modern horrors, fears are lurking in the shadows, terrors that are so unspeakable, and entities that suggest mankind is not alone. These types of horrors were solely brought to fame by a man whose name is now used to describe this type of horror. Born August 20th, 1890, in Rhode Island, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was one of the many admirers of the gothic genre of horror, with his first short story “The Alchemist” written in 1916, being of the same genre. However, at this time many had already witnessed the horrors of the first world war, making the original horror genre seem like common folklore. Because of this, Lovecraft aimed to invent a new terror that responded to the scientific process of his era.

Today this genre is known as Lovecraftian, or cosmic horror, in which scientific elements, methodology, and even mathematics are used to wreak havoc on any poor soul who beholds it. But according to Lovecraft, one of his works’ biggest elements is the fear of the unknown. In a quote you might have heard of before, Lovecraft states “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.”

One of his most famous works, At The Mountains of Madness, is one great example of the Lovecraftian genre, as it is written as an Antarctica expedition where the narrator, William Dyer, and his partner, Danforth, discover a city that belonged to creatures known as “The elder ones” that were killed by big, black bubbling masses known as Shoggoth’. During the exploration, the two men stumble upon a Shoggoth before escaping by plane. As they leave Danforth witnesses something so inhuman his mind can’t handle it, immediately leading him to madness.

Lovecraft also created dark masters which see Earth’s inhabitants as nothing more than mere playthings. Known as “The Great Old Ones”, these figures are more like primordial beings rather than deities. Living beyond the human’s conception of reality, their existence is only discovered through researchers, anthropologists, and antiquarians. But these small hints are enough to drive anyone insane, leaving them with feelings of cosmic indifference without triumph.

In “The Call of Cthulu”, Lovecraft’s most popular work, the narrator follows a member of a cult to piece together various writings left by his deceased uncle who stumbled upon a group of cultists who worship the elder god Cthulu. While most modern depictions of the creature show a giant green man-like figure with wings and an octopus head, Lovecraft left no detailed explanation of Cthulhu’s appearance other than “It lumbered slobbering into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway.”

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However, despite Lovecraft’s fear of the unknown, there was a less savory expression in his personal views. Lovecraft held strong racist, and sexist beliefs, which can sometimes be found in his works through cruel stereotypes and slurs. So beware of the ‘Shub-Niggarath’ and the ‘Yog-Sothoth’.

Despite this, Lovecraft’s works and creation of the genre had outlived his darker side. The Cthulhu Mythos, created by the author to describe the cosmic horrors and monsters which threaten mankind, was adopted by a wide variety of authors who imagined the genre from diverse perspectives.

One notable example is Stephen King’s IT, as Pennywise is a trans-dimensional entity that came to earth through a meteorite. Much Like Lovecraft’s “Color Out of Space” where a meteor lands on a farm, becoming a nightmarish hellscape. 

His legacy may be one of the most recognized in modern fiction, but sadly, the author never managed to see his works as we do today. Dead from unknown causes, Lovecraft’s pains finally ended on March 15, 1937. His death, perhaps, is the result of his cosmic indifference. If only he saw how loved his genre has become in today’s generation.