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May 22nd, 2009

The Horror of Variation

Mining for ideas for Uncanny Midnight Tales, I've been reading and/or re-reading Lovecraft, which is always a mixed bag. He was inventive, and had quite the knack for coming up with a peculiar scenario and then revealing it a piece at a time from an unexpected angle. Reading something like "Whisperer in the Darkness" or "The Dunwich Horror" is a joy for a devotee of the Weird Tale such as myself.

On the other hand, after reading a bunch of his stuff all at once, I keep thinking of the line from 7th Voyage of Sinbad: "He who fears the unknown will one day take fright of his own backside." I realize that he was writing horror stories for the pulp market, but dang. His protagonists are scared of anything slightly outside the very narrow range of their specific lot in life. A guy up the street who once actually went to some other country? Scary. A house with a bad roof? Scary. Immigrants? Scary. Discovery of planets other than Earth? Scary. The color purple? Scary. The fact that China exists at all? Scary. Anybody from any kind of rural area anywhere in the world? Double-plus scary.

I don't know enough about Lovecraft the man to know how much of that reflects his actual nature, and how much is being layered on for effect. But after a while, I for one find myself saying, "Geeze, grow a pair, willya?" I mean yeah, I can see the idea of being swallowed alive by a shapeless gibbering horror tending one towards fright. The idea that there is a subterranean race of semi-human, semi-canid creatures that feast on bodies from graveyards? Fair cop, that's pretty creepy. Aliens that take off your face and wear it like a mask? Yeah, that's scary.

But the idea, just the idea, of time-travel? I can't see that being scary. The possibility of life on other planets? Not scary. Italians? Well, okay, a few of them are pretty scary, but not all of them as a body. The general concept that mankind is not necessarily the center of the universe? I hate to break it to you, but that's been around since Copernicus and most people manage to handle it without having a nervous breakdown.

Stephen King famously said that "the horror movie is innately conservative, even reactionary;" in Lovecraft, this trend is amplified to the level of downright xenophobic paranoia. Retreating from "the other" is not enough — by God, the only thing to do is crawl right back into that womb, where you're safe!

-The Gneech

Writer's Block: There Can Be Only One

Do you believe in monogamy?


Yeah, I've seen it with my own eyes, man. Monogamy's out there!

-The Gneech

PS: Oh, wait, do you mean, like philosophically do I support it? That's a tougher question. I suspect that for most people, a kind of "flexible monogamy" is probably the best choice, but even that is rife with problems. There are people for whom "single mate for life" is the only way to go; there are people who would be best served in a group of five. Everyone's different. But you can't do any kind of -gamy without people being screwed up about it. The human race just don't roll that way.

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