Excellent Discussion of Horror History at HWA

mod 130419_0008I happened across an excellent roundtable on Horror History 101 at the Horror Writer’s Association (http://horror.org/horror-roundtable-16-horror-history-101/) today while at lunch.  Check it out.  It has a great panel of experts and a wide-ranging discussion of the great horror writers of the past from the beginning of horror with Horace Walpole up to Lovecraft and more.

Horror at Project Gutenberg

The blogger on the banks of the San Juan River, Farmington, New Mexico, 2013

If you are an avid reader (of anything) and are not familiar with Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page), you are doing yourself a great disservice. As they state on their homepage:

Project Gutenberg offers over 46,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.

We carry high quality ebooks: All our ebooks were previously published by bona fide publishers. We digitized and diligently proofread them with the help of thousands of volunteers.

No fee or registration is required, but if you find Project Gutenberg useful, we kindly ask you to donate a small amount so we can buy and digitize more books. Other ways to help include digitizing more books,recording audio books, or reporting errors.

Over 100,000 free ebooks are available through our Partners, Affiliates and ResourcesOur ebooks may be freely used in the United States because most are not protected by U.S. copyright law, usually because their copyrights have expired. They may not be free of copyright in other countries. Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright laws of their countries before downloading or redistributing our ebooks. We also have a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.”

As they state, most of these books are available because their copyrights have expired, making them usually quite dated.  However, for anyone with a bent for the historical, Project Gutenberg is a gold mine.  I did a quick search for “horror” on their website and received 169 titles in response.  For a few, the only relation to the horror genre was the word “horror” in the title (such as “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases–which is a horrible subject, but is non-fiction vs. horror fiction).  However, many are the classics or founding works of the horror genre, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Vampyre: a Tale by John William Polidori, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Fantome de’l Opera (Phantom of the Opera) by Gaston Leroux, many works by Edgar Allan Poe,  The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, and many others.

Please take the time to visit this treasure trove of literature and of the horror genre, and if you are so inclined, please consider making a donation (via their website) to support their worthy cause.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Fictional Realism and You


Today at Stumble Upon, I found a fascinating article entitled “10 Mind-Blowing Theories That Will Change Your Perception of the World”.  Of the ten, the most fascinating for writers is #9, “Fictional Realism” which reads:

9. Fictional realism.

This is the most fascinating branch of multiverse theory. Superman is real. Yes, some of you would probably choose a different story, for argument’s sake, Harry Potter might be real too. This branch of the theory argues that given an infinite number of universes, everything must exist somewhere. So, all of our favorite fiction and fantasy may be descriptive of an alternate universe, one where all the right pieces came in to place to make it happen.

So, according to this, Cthulhu and all the rest of the Lovecraftian universe and the eldritch world may actually exist out there someplace just beyond our ken in a parallel universe.  Somehow horror becomes scarier when it becomes possible at some level.

Thoughts? Comments?

Notes on the movie “Cabin in the Woods”

I watched “Cabin in the Woods” last night for the first time and found it to be a terrific movie.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

The acting is good as is the cinematography, and the action is almost non-stop with wonderfully executed surprises and a reasonable amount of gore that isn’t overdone (as in the recent “Evil Dead” remake).

But what truly fascinated me is the way the director and screenwriter (whose names I unfortunately don’t recall) masterfully intertwined at least three of the most popular horror themes into an incredibly imaginative plot.

The first  is that of five teenagers undergoing a variety of horrors and torments at a secluded cabin in the woods much as in the aforementioned “Evil Dead”.  By the way, the cabin in “Cabin in the Woods” looks a lot like the cabin in the original “Evil Dead” so I have to wonder if they used the same set or simply copied it as a sort of cinematic nod to the horror subgenre of teens in an isolated cabin.

The second theme I think is more commonly seen in science fiction than horror, but it occurs there too:  a covert society of “puppeteers” watches and controls society.  In this case, they are controlling what happens to the teenagers in the cabin for the purpose of sacrificing them to an oligarchy of ancient, evil gods who live below ground.

The oligarchy of ancient, evil gods is the third theme and its best-known incarnation in the horror genre is as the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, though there have been others, most often derived from Lovecraft’s works, though a few pre-date H.P.

By all means, take the time to view “Cabin in the Woods” for the sheer delight of watching it, if for nothing else.  But if you have a serious interest in the horror genre, be prepared to be swept up in some fascinating analysis.   A lot goes on in this film and anyone well-read in horror will probably be able to spot tons of subtleties that escaped my novice’s eye.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Lovecraft on the Supernatural

H.P. Lovecraft, 1915
H.P. Lovecraft, 1915


I was reading Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” the other day when I came across this line concerning the nature of  the “weird tale”:

“A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and protentiousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain — a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only daily safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.”

With me, this idea hit home.  I have always thought that the more realistic I could make a story, the more frightening it would be for the reader, because it could possibly happen. Lovecraft takes the complete opposite approach.  In essence, he says let’s dispense with the chains of our preconceptions of reality then see what could happen.   He is right.  If anything can happen, the horrors that could happen to humanity are limitless and unimaginable.

Now let’s take this line of thought a step or two further philosophically.  Perhaps our concept of reality is really a sort of protective shell, a defense mechanism created by our minds that shields us from being overwhelmed by the thousands of possible ways we could meet our ends.  If a person tried to conceive of all the ways he/she might die at any moment, no matter how miniscule the odds, his/her mind might be overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear or destroyed by paranoia and madness.   The only way the mind could survive would then be to limit the possibilities to only those with the greatest probability of happening at that moment, in essence, wrapping itself in a protective cocoon of denial.

If there are any philosophy majors out there reading this, please feel free to bring up this idea in class.  I would love to hear the arguments for and against this.

Now, let’s go a step even further.   If we start to see our perception of reality as only a concept, as only a protective shell in a much greater universe, as only one alternative among thousands or millions of possibilities, then the possibility of creatures like Cthulhu, Shoggoth, Nylarhotep, the “ancient ones”, and all the other monsters contained in Lovecraft’s vivid imagination becomes very real.

Lovecraft’s world of the “ancient ones” is frightening enough when we think it has no chance of happening, but it becomes truly terrifying if we think it has even the slightest chance of actually happening.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Jorge Oscar Rossi’s “Archetypal Horror: H.P. Lovecraft and Carl Gustav Jung”


I ran across an interesting article today at http://www.quintadimension.com/article66.html, entitled “Archetypal Horror:  H.P. Lovecraft and Carl Gustav Jung”.  It was written by Jorge Oscar Rossi, an Argentinian writer of science fiction (and fantastic literature in general), and published on December, 8, 2000.  Please note that the article and his autobiography are in Spanish.

I am no master of Spanish, having had only two years in college and some practical, albeit frequent, experience in Texas and Mexico over the last twenty years.   However, Señor Rossi’s article is well-written and relatively easy reading, so that I feel I caught the gist of it, if not all the nuances.

His main point (and anyone with a better knowledge of Spanish than I, including Señor Rossi, may correct me if I am wrong) is that Lovecraft’s ancient gods of the Cthulhu mythos represent archetypal forms of horror in the Jungian sense of “archetype”.

If you have a basic comprehension of Spanish, the article is quite intriguing and worth taking a shot at reading.

If nothing esle, the article will help you view the poster above from another perspective: what is the meaning of the poster if the creature above symbolizes archetypal fears shared by everyone?

Thoughts?  Comments?

Beyond the Veil of Reality

Face of Horror Houseby Horror House
Face of Horror House
by Horror House

Last night, I watched an adaptation of Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House” on the Masters of Horror series (season 1, episode 2) on Netflix .   Afterwards, being late and time for bed, instead of finding the story on Project Gutenberg or some other cost-free source so that I could read it firsthand, I read a summary of the story on Wikipedia to see if the adaptation was at least reasonably accurate.  It seemed to be, even though the story was set in the modern day and the ending varied significantly from the original.  But, in accordance with today’s tastes, it was rather bloody and cruel in ways I am sure Lovecraft never intended (I say this after having read a considerable amount of his most famous works).

The most interesting aspect of the story to me was not the story itself, but speculating on how Lovecraft came up with the story’s concept.

I understand from the Wikipedia article that Lovecraft had recently attended a lecture and read up somewhat on non-Euclidean space.   Apparently, he was intrigued with the idea of existence on different planes.  Somehow he came up with the idea that the different planes of existence might intersect and beings would be able to move from one plane to the next.  This is the concept that the protagonist of the story, Walter Gilman (a graduate student in Physics) is studying when he moves into the Witch house, which was a boarding house in the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, but three hundred years ago was the residence of a witch.  Gilman, as I interpret the TV story, notices that the corner formed by the intersection of two walls and the ceiling in his room coincides with the intersection of three dimensions.  It is this intersection that the witch who previously resided in the house and her familiar (a really nasty creature combining a rat with the face of a man) uses to re-enter the house in the modern day and create havoc for Gilman and the other residents.   I won’t give away the ending, but it is a good story and probably one of the more reasonably accurate adaptations of a Lovecraft story that you are likely to find.

What I found most interesting was speculating if  how Lovecraft came up with the story was to be looking at the intersection of three walls in his house and wonder if different planes of existence could intersect like that and, if they could, could creatures use the intersection to move from one plane to the other?   I am always fascinated by how writers come up with ideas for their works.   Did you ever wonder what spurred Richard Matheson to write I am Legend or Stephen King to write Carrie?

I know that some authors of Horror  (such as Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and Arthur Machen) were intrigued by the idea of a plane of existence beyond what we take for reality, that what we perceive as reality may actually just mask the true reality.  Apparently, Lovecraft was thus intrigued as well and used his ideas of a possible alternative reality as the foundation for what others would later term “the Cthulhu Mythos”.

After having contemplated this since last night, I have been asking myself, what did these intelligent men see in their interpretations of the everyday world that would lead them to believe in the possible existence of an alternative reality?    Based upon my experience with humanity, I have come to realize that some people have some downright bizarre concepts of the world around them, but how did these concepts originate?  What causes their perceptions to be so radically different from mine?  Is it a matter of genetics that causes their synapses to be linked together differently?  Do they have slightly different body chemistries influencing their thoughts?  Is it that they simply encountered different views of the world as they grew up?  Is there a reality that they can perceive but I cannot–in the same way as I can see the workings of God in everything about me, but others do not and thus call themselves atheists and agnostics?

What are your thoughts?

Russian Cthulhu Nesting Dolls


I mentioned yesterday that German was my first major at college.  Russian was my second.  Therefore I had to dive into Russian horror at least a bit today to satisfy my curiosity.  So I did a quick search on Google Images and found out that Russian horror is apparently alive and well.

The most interesting item I found in my search results were these Lovecraftian nesting dolls.  I did not have time to go to the website (agreatbecoming.com), but I did see that the name of the photo is cthylhufhtagn_mikebilz.jpg [sic].   I assume Mike Bilz is the artist (very creative, Mike!)  At first opportunity I will visit the site.


I visited agreatbecoming.com after posting this blog and found that it mainly focuses on computer games.  The blurb at the top of the webpage describes it as A blog about games, networked media, technology, evolution & nature..”You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing…”    Interestingly,  there are a considerable number of Cthulhu knick-knacks shown–making the site worth a visit for fans of Lovecraft.  For example, here is a Cthulhu Santa (from reyenamarillo.tumblr.com).


Cthulhu Santa

Enjoy your visit to agreatbecoming.com!



A Little Dark Humor for my Readers


My posts have been deep of late, so I thought I would lighten things up with a little dark humor.  I found this someplace on the internet and I love it.  I apologize to the artist for not having recorded its source, but whoever you are, I love your work! 

While I’m at it, I’ll add another of my favorites.  Again, I didn’t record the artist’s name, but I love his work.