November 1, 2016 | In: Uncategorized

The truly terrifying thing is how little we matter in Lovecraft’s stories

The works of H.P. Lovecraft have with the age of the internet experienced a renaissance. A man who in his prime was viewed as not much more than a pulp writer, today he is one of the most respected authors of horror in the world. Lovecraft’s specialty was in writing eldritch horror, stories of otherworldly and cosmic creatures of near-godlike power, so fantastical in scope that looking upon them drove men mad. He gave his monsters tentacles and scales, made them slimy and alien, and surrounded them in a shroud of mystery. They were worshiped by cults, whose followers were often cursed with insanity, and sometimes disgusting features that mirrored their god. Nearly a hundred years after he first published “The Call of Cthulhu”, his most famous work, his influence can be traced to hundreds of works in literature, cinema and interactive storytelling. Yet so much of his writing is fundamentally misunderstood. Too often do people mimic his style and aesthetic (Cthulhu himself has become a staple of horror monsters) without understanding the underlying theme that Lovecraft was desperate to get across. At the heart of his stories are not scary monsters and blood and gore, but a more existential horror: fear of the unknown, lurking in the depths of space, dwarfing our tiny planet.

What Lovecraft wanted to capture with his fantastical creatures was the idea that not only was humanity not alone in the universe, but the beings who inhabited it were so powerful, so massive, so incomprehensible that we were nothing but ants to them. Lovecraft believed that what people truly found horrifying was that which challenged our delusions of grandeur. He wanted to confront his readers with how insignificant they were, how small our species was, compared to the vastness and complexity of the universe. To this end he decided to distill the mystery and scale of the universe into physical form, that man could be confronted by it, and the implication became that should anyone ever confront this manifestation of infinity it would be the most horrific experience in their life. The horror of Cthulhu, of Lovecraft’s many monsters is a metaphor for the horror of how small we are. Nothing could save humanity from this horror. The most we could do was to be ignorant of it.

Lovecraft’s horror is one for the modern man, the man who has abandoned religion and become a god unto himself. It confronts the arrogance and avarice of his bloated sense of self with the realities of existence, and dares him to gaze into the abyss and not despair. Beyond the creepy monsters and disturbing settings, this is the true legacy of Lovecraft’s writing. No wonder that he has become so beloved.