January 11, 2012

Cthulhu and Me

Benjamin Hayward asks for my cthredentials:

You've been posting often about H. P. Lovecraft and Cthulhu on Twitter, Facebook, and here. Would you mind doing a blog entry talking about your first exposure to, favourite part of, interest in, and history with H. P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos?

I am among the first wave of readers who caught the Lovecraft bug from gaming. Call of Cthulhu came out when I was in high school; I bought it right away and was soon off to the Orillia public library to track down their copy of the Arkham House anthology The Dunwich Horror and Others, with its Lee Brown Coye cover. When Sandy Petersen’s game helped spur a resurgence of interest in Lovecraft, I grabbed the paperbacks as they showed up in the small Ontario city of my birth.

The story that I find most brilliant, innovative and influential as a piece of writing is “Call of Cthulhu”, with its documentary realism and disorienting, stories-within-stories structure.

The one that scared me the most was “Whisperer in Darkness”, perhaps because I mentally set it in an area I knew well from my childhood—not New England, but the stark landscape of Ontario’s Muskoka district. I also retain vivid sense memory of my first reading of the subtle and brilliant “The Color Out of Space.”

Lovecraft interests me on a couple of levels. The kid in me loves the outlandish details of its creatures. The geek responds to the quasi-continuity he builds as he adds to his corpus of stories, so that knowledge of one informs one’s responses to others. The group collaborative aspect with his peers is also appealing—and the reason the mythos sits in ambiguously in the public domain for anyone to play with. I appreciate him as an exponent of intellectual horror: it is as much about our fundamental aloneness as the fear of being torn apart by a star vampire or hound of Tindalos. In his mature work he is also a top-notch stylist, marrying prose to content in an uninhibited way we could use more of today.

For all of these reasons, I am glad to get to dip my toes in the icy Lovecraftian pool, both with works for Trail of Cthulhu, such as The Armitage Files, and as editor of the upcoming Shotguns v. Cthulhu fiction anthology for Stone Skin Press. There are also some other short fiction projects in the offing, which I’ll announce when the stars are right.