Over at Pop Matters, Dennis P. Quinn has an interesting article on the religious legacy of Lovecraf'ts Cthulhu Mythos, including its use in the Church of Satan and fringe sects. Perhaps most shocking (and saddest), the atheist Lovecraft's creations are now used to provide Derrick Dishaw (a.k.a. Venger Satanis) with a tax-free lifestyle thanks to the IRS granting his Cult of Cthulhu tax-exempt status. (I checked IRS.gov, but I was unable to find a listing for the Cult of Cthulhu under tax exempt charities and religious organizations. I wonder if it is listed under another name.) I really need to start a religion so I can stop paying taxes like Dishaw, L. Ron Hubbard, and other latter-day prophets. Cthulhu's taken, so I suppose I will have to devote my cult to Nyarlathotep. He could beat up Cthulhu, anyway.
Scarecrow Press has announced a release date of December 28, 2010 for Danel Olson's anthology of literary criticism, 21st Century Gothic, in which my article "The Tyranny of Time and Identity: Overcoming the Past in Gregory Maguire's Lost" is set to appear.
The 678-page anthology will contain essays from leading literary critics and horror theorists, including David Punter, Jerrold Hogle, Karen F. Stein, Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Tony Magistrale, Don D'Ammassa, Mavis Haut, Walter Rankin, James Doig, Laurence A. Rickels, Douglass H. Thomson, Sue Zlosnik, Carol Margaret Davision, Ruth Bienstock Anolik, Glennis Byron, and June Pulliam. S. T. Joshi will provide the forward.
More information about the book can be found on Scarecrow Press's website.
In a blog post last week, Christian blogger Mike Duran cites me to support his claim that H. P. Lovecraft and other "atheist horror" writers have created a world view that seeks to induce fear and horror by grounding their stories in an unkind cosmos whose defining feature is the absence of God:
"For the atheist horrorist, nothing but a 'monstrous chaos' without 'conscious purpose' can exist, godlike, at the center of the universe. This is true terror." (emphasis in original)
Therefore, the Christian should hold Jesus up as the "anti-Azathoth," the opposite of all things Lovecraft, the rejoinder to the "atheist" world view in which the great horror is an unending, meaningless void.
In this, Duran is wrong on several counts. First, "horror" is a feeling of fear mingled with repulsion. The Lovecraftian cosmos is more properly one of "terror," which is fear but fear without the repulsion. This brings us to the second problem. There is no fundamental opposition between Azathoth and Christian horror. Both aim to evoke terror--awe at the grandeur of the universe beyond humanity, the realm of forces and powers greater than mankind. The Christian may find the atheist cosmos especially frightening, but this is not because of anything inherent in Lovecraft's vision so much as it is the preconceived notions the Christian brings to it. At heart, Lovecraft's vast and awesome spaces populated by strange beings are meant to induce the same holy terror as the theist world he (and many modern readers) cannot believe in.
After all, what kind of atheist would be horrified that his ideology was real? And what does it say about Mr. Duran's brand of Christianity that the ultimate horror, in his words, is the fact that God really does exist?
Today marks the day 120 years ago when H. P. Lovecraft was born. It's hard to imagine that when Lovecraft wrote the "Call of Cthlulhu" in 1926, he was closer in time to the Civil War than we today are to 1926. Yet the Cthulhu Mythos hardly seems dated at all. How much else from the 1920s can claim that?
James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro plan to bring H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness to the big screen--in 3D. I suppose it is only appropriate for transdimensional cosmic horrors to make use of as many dimensions as filmmaking allows.
Even with my reservations about how one can film a story that is essentially a long description of the narrator viewing horrific bas relief carvings, it must be better than the latest abomination from Japan. Lovecraft's thousand-formed Crawling Chaos, Nyarlathotep, is apparently being reimagined as a silver-haired anime girl who helps a high school boy fight insufferably cute aliens. I don't see the connection other than a few letters in the girl's name--Nyaraku--but whatever the case it makes stuffed "Summer Fun Cthulhu" toys look dignified.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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