Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Real Cthulhu and the Meaning of Christmas

While the winter season is a season of celebration and family, it is also a season in which much of nature "dies" covered in a white shroud and under a bleak sky. In his story, "Sorcery from Thule," Manly Wade Wellman wrote of the connection -- in the human imagination -- of winter and terror. Wellman's story contains a brief section demonstrating why dark magics from Hyperborea, and the horror of Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness all share a quality in their use of frigid climates to add to their sense of terror.

He paused a moment, even then, to ponder the connection between thoughts of evil and thoughts of the Arctic. Lovecraft, who wrote and thought as no other man about supernatural horror, was forever commenting upon the chill, physical and spirtual, of wickedness and baleful mystery. The ancients had believed in whole nations of warlocks to the far north -- Thule and Hyperborea. Iceland and Lapland had been synonyms for magic. Where did one find the baleful lycanthrope most plentiful? In frozen Siberia...Death's hand is icy. The Norseman's inferno is a place of utter dark and sleet.

There is something chilling, pardon the pun, about the chilling season.

In this haunted spirit of the season, Tor books have decided to follow up on their "Steampunk" month theme by having December be their "Month of Cthulhu."

Their first offering this month is a welcome piece of evangelism for H.P. Lovecraft as writer and as person, written by Weird Tales editor Steven H. Segal. His article focuses on Howard, as he calls him in the piece, as Geek -- as one of us. It is a nice portrait and runs smack against the typical portrayal of Lovecraft as recluse, though the piece does call Howard emotionally backward early on.

Segal presenting Lovecraft as "one of us" is important and helps dispel images of some attic dwelling weirdo, though Kenneth Hite's easy dismissal of Lovecraft as recluse in Cthulhu 101 does an even better job, which is an image that -- if cultivated -- will introduce Lovecraft to those who might otherwise overlook him. People read Neil Gaiman because, in addition to being a very good writer, he looks accessible and cool. Lovecraft might never look "cool," but he should certainly be viewed as accessible.

One thing that Segal leaves out in his litany of things Lovecraft would do if he lived as a modern geek is blogging. Lovecraft would blog. He would blog oceans of text. He would comment on innumerable other blogs. And his blog would be one of the most popular blogs on the internet. Lovecraft would be bigger than 4chan or Penny Arcade.


Tulkinghorn said...

I am amused at your finding contradiction between the concept of "Geek" and the concepts of "reclusive", "emotionally backward", and "weirdo"

Christian Lindke said...

The modern geek is not necessarily any of these things. Cases in point...Jon Favreau, Vin Diesel, Wil Wheaton, Michael Chabon, Felicia Day.

Tulkinghorn said...

All of whom are famous (at least in part) because they fail to fit the mold.

In Chabon's case, don't forget, he needed a very long time to come out of the closet... until he was secure in his reputation as a non-geek.