Friday, May 3, 2013

Now That's What We Call Good Writing

The Typing Monkey finally made good on our promise to read more H.P. Lovecraft and it's paying off. Some of the ideas -- a terrific blend of science fiction, horror and fantasy -- buzz right off the page, they're so well thought-out.

And like so many other big names of his era, it's easy to see how much Lovecraft influenced genre fiction of this sort during the 20th century and beyond. (There'd be no Alan Moore if Lovecraft had never put pen to paper.)

One of Lovecraft's greatest feats in his blending of horror and science fiction was the creation of the Cthulhu Cult. It's a time-spanning mythology, methodically laid out in the classic Victorian horror form, with a narrator relating to the reader how researching an unbelievable event has lead down a kaleidoscopic hole.

But Cthulhu's no spirit wandering the halls of an old house. It's much bigger, and far more horrible than that. And to prepare the reader for what's to come, Lovecraft wrote this incredible opening paragraph:

     The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Whew. Make all the proper comparisons to our modern political situation you like. They'll work, because this paragraph neatly isolates the cycles of human civilization in service of straight-on monster storytelling.