Crossing Lovecraft

Today as it turns out is looking very hectic, and I’m out and about tonight, so instead of a long typed-in-the-evening post about Hal Duncan (I’m going to a talk on Norse Gods, etc), here’s a short rant about H. P. Lovecraft.

Not so much about Lovecraft, in fact; more about August Derleth’s misappropriation of the Lovecraftian mythos. I’m currently ripping through his pulpily enjoyable ‘The Trail of Cthulhu’ and was – unsurprisingly – enjoying it in a pulpy kind of way until I came across this:

‘ …the striking parallel which forced itself upon me, a divinity student, a parallel which could not be overlooked, was plain – the similarity between the tale of the revolt of the Great Old Ones against the Elder Gods, and that other, more universally known tale of the revolt of Satan against the forces of the Lord.’

Well, where do I start? At a stroke, Derleth breaks the fundamental nihilism of Lovecraft’s vision, replacing his driven obsession with the minute insignificance of humanity with a narrative that rescales human morality as a fundamental operating principle of the entire cosmos.

I’m not sure what puts me out more – the arrogance of the change in scale, or the casualness with which HPL’s entire worldview is discarded. Both are equally disconcerting – and both make me wonder if this is a book I particularly feel like finishing, now.

3 thoughts on “Crossing Lovecraft

  1. Derleth has been accused of tampering with Lovecraft for ages…and that’s to his discredit. Still, when Lovecraft died and perhaps would have slipped into oblivion, it was Derleth’s Arkham House imprint that drew subsequent generations of readers to HPL’s oeuvre. I, myself, am not a fan of either writer, I think they’re dreadful stylists. I’ve written a couple of homages to HPL but it’s mainly the theology he proposed (although I’ve heard he lifted some of it from Arthur Machen) that interested me, the notion of Elder Gods exiled/cast out and plotting their savage return. Interesting post. Thanks.

  2. Well, true enough – and on the plus side at least he avoided *improving* Lovecraft (as they did to Shakespeare etc) to bring him into line with his own belief system. Tho’ some strange version of the Pilgrims Progress with tentacles would have been wonderful!

    Oddly enough, talking about Lovecraftian style today – yup, you do have to wade – personally, I love him for the vision, the kind of anti-transcendent SF he wrote! Good ultimate pessimism corrective to all the find-yourself-in-space stuff…

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