The occult, the supernatural, science fiction and dark fantasy are just a few words to describe the works of H. P. Lovecraft. The cosmic horror from his works have spread around the world, images recognisable or not, his monsters and deities are a favourite among readers. Yet, what does it take to write a cosmic horror, a dark fantasy such as the Lovecraftian mythos?
It takes a nightmare.
The Power of Dreams and Nightmares
Howard Phillips Lovecraft created many of his cosmic horrors from the creatures in his darkest nightmares. Monsters so terrifying, but lacking in meaning and purpose. Lovecraft wrote what he saw down and constructed an entire entity from that nightmare. He added a dash of the supernatural, a pinch of the occult and a splash of destiny. In short, Lovecraft took something that scared him and became its god.
Dreams and nightmares are often put up for debate in what they truly are. Some consider these images and sequences to be a collection of jumbled thoughts at the end of the day, others consider to be messages from their subconscious. Lovecraft decided that in his fictional mythos that dreams were cosmic entities communicating through people. Adding a meta horror to his writing.
Imagination is something that helps every writer, but sometimes there are thoughts that cross our minds in dark moments, deep in slumber. Thoughts that make horror writers wake up in a cold sweat. Lovecraft demonstrated how a writer should approach these ‘visions’.
You climb out of bed in your delirious, tired state and write down everything you can remember before your mind forgets.
A World Open to Interpretation
H. P. Lovecraft also made it clear that his world should be put under interpretation. You derive whatever message you wish from his works, but in addition to that, you decide how it works in general. Lovecraft established an open world, where nothing is canon and it is up to other creative types to decide.
There are plenty of writers today, writing short stories, poems and novels that adjust or recreate the Lovecraftian or Cthulhu mythos. Being so open-ended, the dark fantasy world has lived on for decades and will continue to live on as more writers and artists stumble across the universe.
For those interested in the supernatural or dark fantasy works, this is both thrilling and inspirational. It is as if the pieces for something greater, something your own has been laid out before you, ready to be put back together in you own image. Being that nothing is truly canon, that leaves you with a valid world, a valid interpretation of the mythos.
Research and Strange Interests
Now, you cannot simply create a world without some weight to it, some factual proof. No, the beauty of these cosmic horrors is the idea that it might be true. That is not to say that they are, when already all these works have been stated as complete fiction. Yet, the reason why a killer in a novel is scary is because it is possible that they might exist.
That familiarity with the subject is important, for both the reader and the writer. Lovecraft, not so much a good man, but a creative one, studied organic chemistry. The world of science helped him establish some very real facts in his universe, thus grounding the other more unbelievable ideas. In doing so, the creatures, the monsters feel more alive and thus, more of a threat to the reader in the imaginative sense.
In addition to more scientific influences, Lovecraft was also inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s influence shows clearly in Lovecraft's writing and rightfully so. Poe wrote darker stories, nothing as bizarre as the works of Lovecraft, but truly terrifying. The reason Lovecraft adopted many of Poe’s techniques is for this reason. Poe had a way of describing situations, of putting a dark idea in the reader's mind.
Lovecraft wanted to bring that same sense of fear to the table and so he did.
Belief or Disbelief?
Lovecraft was not a believer in the supernatural. In fact, he was very much a man of science, even documenting his last days of live as he died of cancer. It is one of the main reasons why he left his world so open. With that in mind, how can a writer create so many inspired works without having a hint of belief in any of it?
The answer is simple. Lovecraft wrote what he felt fitting for his world. While grounded in science, the world is painted with emotion. Be it metaphor or childish fear of the water, creatures such as Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep were created. Be it from a nightmare or from a fleeting, imaginative thought, Lovecraft used whatever was worthy in his mind to create and expand the mythos.
Now, by no means were the works of Lovecraft appreciated in his time. At least, he wasn’t so popular that he made any decent money from his work. He struggled financially until his dying day, but even then, he continued his work. If it is not a venture for financial gain to create, then is a venture of passion.
It goes without saying that Lovecraft enjoyed his work, his fans enjoyed his work. Money was something that he no doubt needed, but it wasn’t the reason behind his writing. It was a happy side-effect of sharing his stories with the world, if he made any at all.
October has been wonderfully inspirational as always and I found exploring an author further even more so. These two fit each other perfectly thanks to their horrific topics, which only makes me look forward to writing my next novel during the NaNoWriMo.
I hope you found this deeper look into the inspiration that was Lovecraft's writing interesting. H.P. Lovecraft led a strange life, but nothing too different from most. His works are what separated him from any other and it is his works that will ensure he lives on in the mind of other writers and readers.
In that sense, he can be respected and his work admired. Thank you for reading and as always…
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
Thank you for finishing this article. I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you truly enjoyed it. There are many things you will learn from the writing experience and the 150 above are only a few.
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Matthew Dewey, Writer
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