What is Lovecraftianism?

Some of you may have heard me use the term “Lovecraftianism” at times. Though people usually understand what I mean by that without an explanation, I thought I’d give a short explanation anyhow.

Lovecraftianism is Cosmic Horror

A while back, I wrote a post about horror author H.P. Lovecraft and of his “cosmic horror” stories. Lovecraft created anti-mythical / maltheistic stories where human beings not only don’t have a special relationship with reality, but that reality is actually hostile to us.

In a typical Lovecraft story an investigator will discover some intriguing detail that seems out of place, perhaps a finely carved statue of ancient origins but advanced technology. The investigator looks into this anomaly and he discovers some awful truth about reality. This often takes the form of discovering that an ancient god is going to awaken and enslave us, devour us, or breed us.

Now that the investigator knows the truth he can never be as peace again. He might commit suicide, go insane, or just live out his days knowing too much and hoping the worst does not happen while he is still alive.

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Conan the Barbarian and the Godless Worldview

A couple of years ago decided I wanted to read the early Fantasy stories that created the modern genre. I started with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and George MacDonald. Talk about a contrast. If C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are the fathers of modern fantasy then George MacDonald might be thought of as the Grand Father of modern fantasy. The influence on C.S. Lewis in particular is obvious. I found it interesting to realize that the modern fantasy genre was largely an expression of the Christian religious experience of these founding fathers.

But this isn’t the whole tale, of course. There was also an atheist informed strain of fantasy that co-existed side-by-side with the fantasy stories given birth out of the religious experience. I wrote an article on H.P. Lovecraft a while back talking about how he channeled his atheist worldview into his stories and the result was cosmic horror: the awful realization that the “God” of this universe is uncaring and malevolent. Ironically, this means the darker fantasy genre is also an expression of religious experience.

More recently I decided to read Robert E. Howard, particularly his Solomon Kane and Conan stories.

I am not a fan of Conan, I’m afraid. At least for the first several stories that Howard wrote, I felt like they were all derivatives of each other. Every story followed the same plotline:

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H.P. Lovecraft and the Godless Worldview

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, born August 20, 1890, was the great horror writer of his generation. Lovecraft created the so-called Cthulhu mythos, which is even today visited liberally by imaginative writers the world over. Even one of my favorite Babylon 5 episodes, Third Space, visited Lovecraft’s chilling universe.

Lovecraft seems to have lived a depressing and lonely life. As a young man, particularly from ages 18 to 23, he had “almost no contact with anyone but his mother.” (link)  In 1924 he married, though he and his wife separated a few years afterward, never to live with each other again. The divorce was never finalized. Continue reading