Like every horror writer/reader, I have opinions on Lovecraft.
He is objectively a racist and bigot. He is objectively an asshole. He is also an over-writer and his prose has not aged as well as it should have given his talent. But, he is still a good writer and the idea of cosmic horror is too valuable to ignore due to his terrible views.
I think there is space to understand Lovecraft as a creator and contributor, but I also think there is significance in making sure that we do not hold him up as something that he is not. We can’t ignore who he was in favor of his work.
But I think we also can’t ignore his work solely because of who he was.
Which brings me to my point.
I’ve been thinking about cosmic horror a lot. I’ve been writing about it (here and in fiction), reading about it, and watching it. And I don’t know why.
I guess it has something to do with the situation we find ourselves facing. COVID-19 is not cosmic. In fact, it feels too real that it’s somewhat ironic that we find ourselves in this situation. As a horror fan and writer, I often (and I bet you do too) saying things like, “How did we not see this coming?”
I think it’s a valid question until you remember that a lot of people don’t walk around thinking about horror throughout their daily lives and these things don’t always occur to the “normal” person.
And I’ve been going to cosmic horror because it doesn’t feel as real as the horror that we face. It feels different.
I’m an atheist. A big, bad “there ain’t no Jesus coming to save you” Atheist. I don’t think there is anything out there and I firmly believe that we are just a weird coincidence in the universe. Are there other lifeforms? Yeah. Are those lifeforms sticking probes up people’s asses and harvesting their sex organs? Nah, bro.
And I’m not trashing you. If you have faith in something, that’s fine. I just don’t and it should be okay that I don’t and you do.
Cosmic horror gets me thinking about what I would want to be out there. By “out there,” I mean in some place beyond space and time. Heaven is the christian understanding of it. Beyond the Stars is Lovecraft’s.
I would actually feel more comfortable knowing that whatever is out there, the elder gods or the eldritch things, is indifferent. I kind of like the idea that things move on without us. It cuts down the pressure on our existence.
But it also means that many things are out of our hands and not radically shifted by what we do or say or feel. It’s kind of like living with COVID-19.
Hear me out.
There is literally nothing we can do about COVID-19. Now, I don’t mean “we” as in government or hospitals or capitalistic organizations that (as of the writing of this post) continue to refuse to assist in making materials that could save lives. Those entities can do a lot of good or evil in the face of COVID-19.
But we. The small people who still have to do work and get up in the morning and need to exercise and eat and sleep and try to find ways to live in this madness, we can do nothing. Either you have it or your don’t. Either you will catch it or you won’t. No amount of prayer or faith or belief will stop it.
You can wash your hands and you can isolate, but you still won’t know if you’ve got it. You might even have it and you don’t know it.
That’s the indifference of the elder gods.
I guess that’s why I’ve been finding comfort in cosmic horror lately. I love that there is, fundamentally, nothing that can be done. You can try to intervene but it won’t matter. You just need to ride it out and see what happens.
And I want to say that I currently do not have symptoms or feel sick and I am very lucky that I have a place to live and stay in quarantine. Many people don’t have these conveniences. Don’t forget about them. They don’t have the comfort of bullshitting about their situation on their blog.