I’m feeling a little indulgent today and have decided to talk about one of my favourite writers, H.P. Lovecraft. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you will already be aware that Lovecraft is one of my top three horror authors and was the inspiration behind a few of my own short stories.
Today I want to talk about some of my favourite stories, The colour out of space, the shadow over Innsmouth, the Call of Cthulhu, the Dunwich horror and the mountains of madness. I love all of these stories for their ability to build tension, create dramatic and loathsome settings and ultimately bring those things together and give a satisfying pay off at the end of the story.
1st Place: The Colour Out of Space
Synopsis: A meteorite crashes in Blasted Heath, poisoning the water supply and subsequently every living thing in the area. The farmers notice their crops grow to epic proportions but all taste disgusting, the animals all go mad and become physically deformed and the people are not far behind.
Why this is awesome: this is one of my favourites for a few reasons. The first being that it was one of the first Lovecraft stories I read, it is what drew me into the Lovecraftian horror genre.
But it is also one of his best-written stories, it shares the same narrative tools as a lot of Lovecraft’s stories, but the tools fit this story perfectly. The plot is well structured, and even though we are hearing about the events from a third party long after the events of the story take place Lovecraft still manages to wrack up the tension in places. The characters are all well-crafted and believable. They act the way you’d expect people to act in this kind of situation. The story taps into the fear of the unknown and the alien as many of Lovecraft’s stories do but more than that the real fear, in my opinion, comes from the way the people of Blasted Heath react to the unknown, even when they see what it is doing to them.
It’s a timeless story that doesn’t feel dated or damaged over time as some of Lovecraft’s other works do.
2nd Place: The Shadow over Innsmouth
Synopsis: The narrator in this story is conducting an antiquarian tour of New England. He arrives at Innsmouth noting that the locals are extremely odd and that there is ‘something’ in the water, something he might have a personal connection to.
Why this is awesome: I remember being thoroughly creeped out when I first read this story. The atmosphere is incredible and something I have tried to recreate in my own short stories but sometimes struggle with. It’s a great example of Lovecraft’s skill. It’s vivid imagery and realistic character’s make for a disturbing and ultimately delightful (if you like being creeped out) story that will stay with you long after you put it down. The plot is well-paced and while the ending, in my opinion, felt a little tacked on I have no real complaints. Once again this story taps into the fear of the unknown but in a different way to the colour out of space, in this story, it is the narrator who is alien in the town and society/culture of Innsmouth. There’s also the more tangible unknown of the ‘something’ in the water but for me, the real fear in this story came from the narrator being an outsider.
3rd Place: umm…..tie!
I struggled with this, I wanted to keep the list to three but at the same time, there are three really strong contenders for this position. So, to get around this and still stick to my limit of three entries, the third place is a tie!
The winners are. The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness & The Dunwich Horror.
The Call of Cthulhu Mini Synopsis: After finding a strange statute our narrator unearths a mystery almost as old as humanity and finds that despite it being ancient it’s still posing a threat today.
At the Mountains of Madness Mini Synopsis: An explorer discovers a city in Antarctica, a city that was not built or lived in by humans.
The Dunwich Horror Mini Synopsis: Our narrator unearths the truth behind a young man’s mysterious identity.
The Call of Cthulhu Why it’s Awesome: Aside from all my usual praise of the story is well crafted (ha pun!) and pulling you in with amazing imagery, well-paced tension and realistic and believable characters. This story also created one of the greatest creatures in speculative fiction and should be praised for this. All hail Cthulhu!
At the Mountains of Madness Why it’s Awesome: A perfect example of the Lovecraft mythos, containing all the elements that make Lovecraft’s stories so awesome, ancient non-human forces, a mystery being unearthed, and a lingering dread that lives with the reader long after the story has been finished.
The Dunwich Horror Why it’s Awesome: A disturbing look at family dynamics and the influence people can have over the vulnerable. A chilling story, but chilling in a different way than the usual Lovecraft fare. Usually, Lovecraft’s horror comes from the feeling of smallness, our insignificance. But for some reason, I related strongly to the family and felt q deep sympathy for them (except granddad) the young lad, in particular, gave me chills for the feeling of isolation and desperation he exuded.