On Lovecraft

I've been listening to Stephen Fry read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my longer drives lately, and while I've read it many, many times, it is always a delight. This time around, though, I've been struck by the more Lovecraftian details incorporated into Adams’ narrative — the terrifying expanse of the universe, existential collapse, paradoxical descriptions of size and dimension, etc. This is probably because the other day I spotted the illustrated complete works of HP Lovecraft for the Kindle for 99¢, which means lately my diet has been positively fortified with eldritch tales of horror and dread.

I poke fun at Lovecraft a lot, and he certainly has his tired devices that make you roll your eyes a bit, but he is honestly one of my favorite authors. My mind boggles when I think that he wrote what he did, the way he did, when he did. I mean, The Call of Cthulu turns 85 this year!

The other day I read his short story, The Other Gods, and it was such a treat. What I love the most about his narrative style is his spare description of theunimaginable to invite the imagination to fill in the blanks: it is always more horrifying and incredible than anything you could actually spell out. Here’s my favorite part from The Other Gods:

Whilst Barzai was shouting these things Atal felt a spectral change in the air, as if the laws of the earth were bowing to greater laws; for though the way was steeper than ever, the upward path was now grown fearsomely easy, and the bulging cliff proved scare an obstacle when he reached it and slid perilously up its convex face. The light of the moon had strangely failed, and as Atal plunged upward through the mists he heard Barzai shrieking in the shadows…

…And now Atal, slipping dizzily up over inconceivable steeps, heard in the dark a loathsome laughter, mixed with such a cry as no man else ever heard save in the Phlegethon of unrelatable nightmares; a cry wherein reverberated the horror and anguish of a haunted lifetime packed into one atrocious moment:

"The other gods! The other gods! The gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of the earth!…. Look away!…. Go back!…. Do not see!…. Do not see!…. The vengeance of the infinite abyss…. That cursed, damnable pit…. Merciful gods of the earth, I am falling into the sky!”

You guys, that is solid stuff.