Sunday, September 3, 2017

Missing The Point. Hard.


I...I really don't know what to say about this. 

I'm not speechless, far from it. I'll have plenty to say on this soon as I pick my jaw up off the floor. It's just astounding to me that somebody could read Lovecraft, Howard Philips Lovecraft, and think to themselves, "You know what this kind of cosmic horror about the inherent worthlessness of all life and human effort needs? A COMING OF AGE STORY ABOUT A TEENAGE GIRL!" There's missing the point, and then there's this. A metaphor I've used frequently, and will continue to do so, is that if these people were in an archery contest, they'd have shot the judge. 


Over the past year I've begun to studiously avoid anything proclaiming to be "Lovecraftian," or touted as such. Most of the creators of such work generally have contempt for the man Lovecraft himself, or can't stand his writing in general. Besides this, approximately 99% of the things that are called "Lovecraftian" have no resemblance to Lovecraft at all.

As (I believe) Alexander at Cirsova has said in the past, "Lovecraftian" is a pastiche, devoid of meaning other than "There's tentacles in it!" Much like most Steampunk literature is actually Victorian Romance with gears and goggles, "Lovecraftian" fiction is some vague action/adventure story with tentacles. Occasionally, to their shame and the continued recession of my spine into my abdominal cavity, they'll name-drop mythos bigwigs like Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, or the big guy himself, Cthulhu. Which, just to clear that up, doesn't make your story "Lovecraftian" nor does it give it an air of legitimacy. 

And this isn't limited to modern authors, either. Much as I love Robert E. Howard, I listened to a story of his last night called "The Hoofed Thing," which was an attempt by him to do what Lovecraft did. The man just couldn't manage it. He was too concentrated on having the hero fight the evil, rescue the dame, and drive the evil from the world forever. The story was published in 1970, so I'm not exactly dropping spoilers, here. There was a rash of disappearances, the MC finds out that the crippled old man isn't as crippled as he appears, and there's a Cthulian monster upstairs that tries to eat his girlfriend, so he takes a sword to it, turns it into a puddle of goo, then burns the house down.

Of course the "crippled old man" gets his diabolistic rant so common in Lovecraft's work about the occult, and the fake book Nameless Cults makes an appearance, to connect to Howard's other horror stories, as well as Lovecraft's work, as they'd made a concerted effort to put these fun little hints into their works to give them a feeling of overarching mythos. But so far as the feeling of the story, it is Howardian, not Lovecraftian. Even when he was trying, he couldn't do it. And by god, did he try. But in the end it comes off too heroic.

This may have had something to do with the differences between the men themselves. Howard was a boxer and a drinker, and Lovecraft was slightly anemic and a bit of a shut-in. But I'm not here to dissect the differences in their writing styles. This is merely to demonstrate that, even amongst his peers, Lovecraft was a one in 7 billion, at the very least. The ability he had to bring across the feeling of cosmic hopelessness, to instill existential fear of the entirety of the known universe, all in under 6000 words in some cases, is unparalleled in all fiction before and after him. 

Nobody can quite pull it off. 

People have come close, but nobody hits that same bull's eye. With these themes, and these subject matters, he was a practiced Robin Hood, while we're all barely able to hit the target at all. This appears doubly true for these...comic creators, here. Going to be charitable. Be nice. 

I need a drink...

So where to begin? I've take a look at the two-panel-per-chapter sneak peaks they have on the Stela comic book app (don't bother, I just downloaded it to get a look at this), and it's exactly as bad as I thought it would be. But since not everyone can see the horrible secrets of the universe I've had forced into my eyeballs, let's just go with this paragraph (their entire "about" section on the website), and break it down by glaring mistake after glaring mistake. 

"Being a teenager isn't easy. Even more so when you're Calla, a girl who carries the bloodline of the Great Old Ones in her veins."

STOP. STOP RIGHT THERE. CEASE AND DESIST IMMEDIATELY. PUT DOWN THE LEGACY OF THE GREATEST HORROR WRITER HUMANITY HAS EVER KNOWN AND WALK AWAY SLOWLY. 

I'm pretty much of the opinion, at this stage in the game, that nobody should be allowed to write "Lovecraftian fiction", and the genre should be considered for all intents and purposes dead with the man who began it. And, I might add, was the only one to do it right. At least that I've been able to discover. But, yes, the big problem with this. "[...] carries the bloodline of the Great Old Ones in her veins."

WHAT

According to the wiki, we don't even have a proper definition of what a "Great Old One" is, or clear, defined lines around which mythos beings are or aren't "Great Old Ones." And the list they do have is longer than J. K. Rowling's daily virtue signalling to-do list. Take a look if you don't trust me. And not all of these are made by Lovecraft. Many of them are expansions of the mythos added by other authors. So yes, I'm going to fucking nitpick this blurb right here. Which Great Old One is she descended from? Bokrug is not Hastur is not Yig is not Shathak, so which ones precisely are we dealing with? 

More importantly, HOW DOES SHE KNOW?! This seems like not-so-vital information that could be built up into a great and horrible mystery like, you know, Lovecraft did in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth!" But no, let's just start that out at the beginning. She knows, and not only does she know, she refers to Hastur (one of the more terrible Great Old Ones out there) as "Uncle Hastur" in one of the panels I read. Like they were picnicking and he would bounce her on his unearthly knee while reading her stories about ghoul-haunted New England, or some shit. But I suppose they had to have SOME kind of reason for their girl power Mary Sue bullshit, so yeah, she's descended from some ancient god related to Hastur and that's how she's able to have special powers like, and I wish I was joking around, fixing her hair. 

That is an actual panel set in the comic, yes. Sorry to say. She fixes her hair with magic. I know. So Lovecraftian. Just like Howard would've written. The cosmic horror is so real right now I can taste it.

Kill me. 

"Instead of normal teen activities, Calla spends her time battling supernatural threats: tentacle monsters; creatures of the deep; or her uncle -- The King in Yellow."

Okay, this is precisely what I was talking about. If you want to write fiction that is actually in the vein of Lovecraft, slapping tentacles and Deep Ones on it alongside name-dropping mythos heavies is not enough. The reason your work doesn't stack up to Lovecraft, and indeed is a perversion of his work, is because you could take your thing, remove any Lovecraftian references from it, and it would be stronger. It would actually be something original, at that point. But no. You have to attach yourself to the legacy of someone whose work quality you'll never be able to match to give yourself an air of legitimacy. 

This is the problem with "Lovecraftian" fiction. They don't explore any of the themes Lovecraft actually worked with, they don't try to evoke the mysterious, the otherworldly, they don't try to make you as the reader feel small and worthless. That the universe really doesn't give two shits about you and, moreover, couldn't if it wanted to. This doesn't evoke the sense of horrible, unseen things around every corner that, if glimpsed, could fundamentally reshape your understanding of reality.

I've narrated creepypasta put up on the internet for free anonymously that was more in touch with H. P. Lovecraft than this.

You took what was, at best, a third-rate Marvel superhero story, tacked Hastur and some tentacles on it, put "Cthulhu" in the title, and expect people to take you seriously. Try terrifying me before you name drop mythos heavies, and maybe I'll take you seriously. But this? I don't understand how this is supposed to get anything but indifference or scorn from people who've actually read Lovecraft. 

"She must resist his call to embrace her own chaotic heritage and join the "family business"--as well as prevent him from awakening the terrible deity asleep and dreaming in the corpse city of R'lyeh--the Dread Dead One!"

I think we're done here. 

This is precisely what I thought it would be. What we have here are people who are either fans of Lovecraft and his work and want to imitate him but are unable to do so properly, or people who hate Lovecraft and want to warp and distort his legacy until nothing of the original is left. And, you know, at this point I'm not even sure that distinction matters. It really is a distinction without a difference, because fundamentally they end up at the same place. 

If you'll excuse me I have to go take a walk and try to acquire some fucking booze. Because if this is Lovecraftian I know of some tentacle hentai that also qualifies.

9 comments :

  1. SJW "writer" N.K. Jemisin is apparently planning to write some Cthulhu stories, expressly for the purpose of crapping all over Lovecraft. I'm sure those will be finely crafted works of horror. /sarc

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    1. I'll be looking forward to never reading that bullshit. Jemisin is a hack, she knows it, and so she's trying to make one of the greatest horror writers humanity's ever known look bad through her shitty writing. Good thing we still have the actual Lovecraftian stories written by the man himself.

      I would ask that if Brian Lumley can't even do Lovecraftian fiction properly, what makes her think she can, but I already know the answer to that question. She knows she can't, and won't be trying. She's just trying to further degrade Lovecraft's legacy. Well now she and those like her are going to start getting some pushback.

      Which is what I meant with those last couple paragraphs. I'm not certain these people do hate Lovecraft. I haven't looked into it. But even if they're well-meaning idiots they're fundamentally accomplishing the exact same goals as Jemisin: The destruction of the legacy of a better writer with more influence than they could ever hope to achieve.

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    2. Here's what she wrote: "This is deliberately a chance for me to kind of mess with the Lovecraft legacy. He was a notorious racist and horrible human being. So this is a chance for me to have the “chattering” hordes—that’s what he called the horrifying brown people of New York that terrified him. This is a chance for me to basically have them kick the ass of his creation. So I’m looking forward to having some fun with that."
      She starts off from a point of having zero respect for him on any level. Zip. Nada. No respect for him and no respect for the cosmology he created. From whole cloth I might add. Oh no, all she cares about is that 'he didn't like brown people' that's her only take away from his entire body of writing. And this gets her a three book deal. SMDH
      I love reading good Lovecraftian stories, authors like Brian Lumley managed to do it brilliantly because he understood the central premise. You cannot beat Cthulhu. You can't even fight him, he turns up, you die. The best you can hope for when encountering any Cthulhian Ilk is survival with your sanity mostly intact. Cthulhu Ghostbusters just doesn't cut it.
      Interbreeding between the mythos (hate that word)and humanity isn't new, Lovecraft himself wrote about it, linking it to Dagon worship and the creation of batrachian nightmares (god I loved that word as a 10 year old kid, even if it did get me beaten up!) that lived among us. Plus the whole Dunwich Horror revolves around such a mating. The offspring weren't no superhero though....
      Enjoyed the post, keep it up mate :)

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  3. The opposite problem includes those who grew up with "Lovecraftian" fiction and absolutely hated it and refused to go to the source. After all, it's just generic space aliens with funny names. That's all that they ever see.

    If they're trying to dismantle his legacy they're doing a bang up job.

    But then, that's all subversives do. Flip tables and leech off others. At some point there won't be anymore tables to flip and they'll be left with nothing.

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    1. That's why it's our job to come in after them and build new tables, then nail them to the god damned floor.

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  4. I never read Lovecraft, but I don't like how they trash the legacy of older writers.

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