Grappling with Lovecraft by Frank Cavallo

HP Lovecraft has gotten a fair amount of bad press lately. Salon, the Atlantic and several others have published pieces questioning his legacy. The World Fantasy Award discontinued the use of his image as their trophy. Numerous blogs have discussed and dissected his views, with an eye toward how modern readers (and writers) should deal with them.

I’m not going to disagree with any of that. Lovecraft was a racist. Period. Full stop. Even for his day, his views were on the fringe. You don’t really need my opinion on this, and I’m hardly going out on a limb by saying it, but his attitudes were quite frankly abhorrent. Anyone with a conscience should disavow that sort of naked ignorance—then or now.

Does that mean it’s time to dump ol’ HP and everything he wrote, now and forever? Is there anything about his work that is worth preserving, or even continuing? My answer to that isn’t going to surprise you much either, given that I just released a book so heavily steeped in the Cthulhu Mythos that it features one of his creations in the title. But how can that be reconciled? Is it really possible to take anything from the writing apart from the writer himself, and if so what is there about Lovecraft that really is worth saving?

For one, I think that his conception of the cosmos is enduringly fascinating, more so now than ever—and probably for different reasons than he thought.

In Lovecraft’s work, the universe was a vast, cold and amoral place dominated by forces beyond our understanding, and humanity’s role was insignificant, at best. Much of the horror in his fiction comes directly out of that viewpoint, and it’s a totally different idea than the more traditional “good vs evil” approach. All the terror in the Omen or the Exorcist is rooted in the notion that powerful forces are at work in the world, dedicated to evil ends, and very much interested in corrupting humanity. Satan has to have at least some interest in us in order to want to harm us, right?

To me, Lovecraft’s ideas are far more terrifying, because if there’s a Devil, there’s also a God. If there’s a force of evil there’s also a force of good. But what if there are none of those things? What if those powerful forces don’t care about us at all? It seems much scarier to me to be adrift in a universe that wouldn’t even notice our annihilation.

Maybe his bleak social views brought him to such a bleak cosmic view. Maybe the two were linked somehow in his mind, I don’t honestly know. But the fact is, however he got there, Lovecraft arrived at a cosmic perspective that turns out to be much more relevant today than he probably could have imagined.

In the modern age, with a wider and deeper view of cosmology in the public consciousness than ever before, plenty of people (myself included) do see the universe as a vast ocean full of powerful forces in which humans occupy no special place in particular. But most of us today come to that conclusion by virtue of rational inquiry and the scientific method. In other words, you can believe what Lovecraft believed about the universe and be an inveterate racist, like he was—but you can also come to that same viewpoint from a very different angle, and without any such baggage. The two are not inherently linked.

Today’s readers, raised on a steady diet of science popularizers like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, might be much more inclined to see the universe in terms that Lovecraft imagined (tentacled monsters aside) but entirely divorced from any particular social views, let alone explicitly offensive ones like he espoused.

So is it possible to separate Lovecraft’s racist views of the real world, as awful and backward as they were, from his views of the fantastical and the cosmic? I absolutely think that it is. Not only that, but by coming to the same general concept of a cold, amoral universe—just from a very different path, we’ve already done it.

Second, the fictional universe he created was always intended as a shared, ongoing project. He invited other writers in his day to add to it and to expand it. In the decades since his death, that process has continued, with some of the best writers of the succeeding generations trying their hand at Mythos tales. In that spirit, deepening and broadening the legacy of the man’s creation (and not necessarily the man himself) has now become something of a time-honored tradition.

There’s a little more to it though. Beyond just simply furthering his creation, the best part of that tradition is to be found in taking the Mythos and using it to tell stories that carry it beyond the narrow, dim prejudices of its creator. Today we can use Azathoth and Cthulhu as a framework to tell stories that appeal to modern readers, rooted in modern sensibilities. That’s what I’ve tried to do, to tell a story of cosmic horror for our world and our time.

Lovecraft, with all of his flaws and prejudices, gave birth to the Mythos, but it belongs to us now. We can, and should carry on with it, but we should use it to tell our tales, and to reflect the values we hold today.

 

Frank Cavallo’s latest novel Rites of Azathoth was released in January 2017, published by Bedlam Press (An Imprint of Necro Publications).

“Rites of Azathoth is an occult-thriller rooted in the H.P. Lovecraft tradition, or what is sometimes called the Cthulhu Mythos. It is a book that will appeal to general horror audiences, especially any fans of Lovecraft himself, as well as fans of Clive Barker, Peter Straub and Jack Ketchum,” says Cavallo.

Synopsis:

F.B.I. criminal profiler Diana Mancuso doesn’t do field work anymore. Not since a tragic mistake that cost innocent lives. But when notorious serial killer Luther Vayne escapes from prison and resumes his campaign of brutal murders, the Bureau convinces her to take one last case.

To catch him, she must understand him. She must delve into the arcana that fuels his madness, risking her life and her sanity to follow his twisted path.

The trail plunges her into a shadowy world of occult rituals and unspeakable horrors, leading to a secret cabal operating at the highest levels—and a plot to summon the darkest of all powers, to bring forth an evil that does not belong in our world—to enact the Rites of Azathoth.

About the Author:

Frank Cavallo is a horror and dark fantasy writer. His previous works include Eye of the Storm, The Lucifer Messiah, The Hand of Osiris, and the Gotrek & Felix novella Into the Valley of Death.

He was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. His life-long fascination with the darker side of human nature has led him to devote most of the past 15 years to a career as a criminal defense attorney, at the Cuyahoga County Public Defender Office, in Cleveland, Ohio. There he has come face-to-face with some of the truest horror in this world. Murder, rape, burglary, drugs. That’s his bread and butter.

Readers can connect with Frank on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to http://www.frankcavallo.com/

Unsung Stories anthology and Kickstarter

Unsung Stories is publishing a new anthology of science fiction, called 2084 with new stories from Priest, Hutchinson, Tidhar, Noon, Smythe, & Charnock

Unsung Stories have gathered eleven leading science fiction writers who have looked ahead to 2084, as Orwell did in 1948, for a new anthology – writers such as David Hutchinson, Christopher Priest, Lavie Tidhar, James Smythe, Jeff Noon and Anne Charnock, who are already famous for their visions of the near future.

As the events of 2017 reveal an ever more complex relationship between people and their governments, classic dystopian literature is proving its relevance once again. But as readers turn to classics, like Nineteen Eighty-Four, writers are also looking to our future, and what may lie there.

Speaking about the anthology, George Sandison, Managing Editor at Unsung Stories, said, “We knew when we first started work on the anthology that the idea was timely, but the start of 2017 has really hammered home how important writing like this is.


“Dystopian fiction gives us a space in which to explore today’s fears, and the nightmares of society. For many people the events of the last eighteen months have brought those dark futures much closer, so it’s inevitable that we turn to literature to help us understand why.

“The ideas at work in 2084 range from the familiar to the fantastic, but all are bound by a current and relevant sense of what we could lose, what’s at stake. As with Orwell’s work, decades from now, we will be looking back to our stories, to better understand today.” 2084 will be published by Unsung Stories in July 2017.

In 1948 Orwell saw a world in flux, at risk of losing liberty so recently won. In response he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, a prophetic book. Now, in 2017, the themes are still with us. This anthology of new short stories draws together leading science fiction writers – famous for their visions of our near future – and asks them to look
into our future, to the year 2084. Put humanity on trial as the oceans rise. Slip over borders in a Balkanised
Europe. Tread the bizarre streets of cities ruled by memes. See the world through the eyes of drones. Say goodbye to your body as humanity merges with technology.

Warnings or prophesies? The path to Paradise or destruction? Will we be proud of what we have achieved, in 2084?
Our future unfolds before us. The Kickstarter will be live at www.unsungstories.co.uk/2084 from March 29th.

2084 features original fiction from:

Christopher Priest (author of The Prestige, The Gradual and many more)
Lavie Tidhar (author of A Man Lies Dreaming, Osama and Central Station)
Dave Hutchinson (author of The Fractured Europe Sequence)
James Smythe (author of The Australia Trilogy and The Anomaly Quartet)
Anne Charnock (author of Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind and A Calculated Life)
Jeff Noon (author of Vurt, Automated Alice, Pollen and many more)
Aliya Whiteley (author of The Beauty and The Arrival of Missives)
Oliver Langmead (author of Metronome and Dark Star)
Cassandra Khaw (author of Hammers on Bone)
Desirina Boskovich
Ian Hocking (author of Deja Vu)

How authors can bring their books to life by Dane Cobain

The internet age has its perks. You can access cat videos when you’re supposed to be reading. You can order books to be delivered on the same day. And your favourite authors can create immersive experiences that add a whole new dimension to their relationships with readers.

New technology, such as virtual and augmented reality, has paved the way for a whole new type of storytelling, and while it’s still in its infancy, it shows a lot of potential for the storytellers of the future.

The concept of blending storytelling and technology isn’t a new one. Tom Clancy, for example, founded computer game maker Red Storm Entertainment back in 1996, and his name has been attached to the Rainbow Six series of games since 1998, across eighteen different releases.

New Technologies

It’s easy to see how new technologies could revolutionise the way we interact with our favourite fictional worlds. Imagine if Stephen King worked on a virtual reality game, for example. With a mixture of traditional writing skills and an interactive platform, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

An early sign of this potential is demonstrated by J. K. Rowling’s Pottermore, which allows visitors to be sorted into houses and to access bonus material that isn’t available elsewhere. Of course, Rowling has a bigger marketing budget than most authors, but as new technologies become more widely available, the cost of using them tends to decrease over time.

Another popular trend is the rise of 360-degree video, which sits somewhere between VR and a regular video. Some filmmakers have started to experiment with the format, but we’re yet to see a high-budget, long-format production that’s been developed with the aid of a well-known writer.

Which Genres Work Best

The interesting thing about this new technology – and I have VR in mind in particular here – is that it paves the way for stories to be told like a video game, allowing the ‘reader’ to interact with the action. In many ways, this is reminiscent of ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ books, where the reader is asked to make a decision at the end of every section and to navigate to the relevant page.

But VR is much, much more interactive than this, and it also offers up the ability to generate an entirely fictional world. That means that fantasy authors can bring their books to life in a way that wasn’t previously possible – imagine a virtual Ankh-Morpork that you could walk through, or a full-sized replica of King’s Landing. Horror authors can get into the game, too – ghosts, ghouls and goblins are much, much scarier when you can see them right there in front of you.

Science fiction is also rife with possibilities, because virtual reality experiences can take people literally out of this world or show them new types of technology that we can’t even begin to imagine. In fact, it’s basically a sci-fi writer’s job to know about new technologies, and readers will soon come to expect them to lead the way when it comes to them taking advantage of it.

An Exciting Time To Be A Reader

For readers, the future is looking bright. We’re already benefitting from new devices – like e-readers and tablet computers – and audio book production values and accessibility levels are higher than ever. But we’ve got plenty to look forward to, too.

Of course, the printed book is unlikely to ever die out completely. There’ll always be a certain pleasure to be had from the actual aesthetics of a decent paperback. But what will change, though, is the ways in which books are promoted and augmented, and how authors’ words are brought to life.

We’re in the digital era now, folks. What a time to be alive.

Your Turn

What do you want to see from authors in the future? Let us know what you think with a comment!

About the author

This post is written by Dane Cobain and sponsored by Publishing Addict, an organisation that helps authors to develop their indie website to establish a brand, connect with their readers and to sell more books.

Many thanks to you Dane for putting together this post for The Scary Reviews. I’m sure it will be enjoyed by my followers as much as it was by me. Please feel free to come back again and share your thoughts!