The Null Device
Fathomless abysms of the night that broods beyond time
Salon has an interesting piece on H.P. Lovecraft
, cosmic horror writer and abuser of adjectives:
Lovecraft's narrators routinely rave about the "hideous," "monstrous" and "blasphemous" nature of their revelations. Wilson went on, again quite reasonably, to observe, "Surely one of the primary rules for writing an effective tale of horror is never to use any of these words -- especially if you are going, at the end, to produce an invisible whistling octopus." That octopus crack is a particularly low blow, since the most celebrated of Lovecraft's stories and novels partake of what has been dubbed the Cthulhu Mythos, an alternative mythology involving an enormous and malevolent being whose tentacled head resembles a cephalopod.
The truth, however, is that hardly any reader finds Cthulhu frightening. In fact, by all indications, the public is very fond of the creature. You can check in regularly at the Cthulhu for President site ("Home Page for Evil"), purchase a cuddly plush Cthulhu or behold the adventures of Hello Cthulhu, a cross between Lovecraft's "gelatinous green immensity" and the adorable, big-eyed Sanrio cartoon character. Sauron never inspired this kind of affection.
At root, all of Lovecraft's phobias seemed to come down to an elemental dread of the human body: the tentacles and gaping abysses with their obvious genital associations (hence Stephen King's comment), reproduction's disorderly tendency toward mutation and of course the horror writer's primal muse -- the death and decay that lie in store for every living thing. If not all of us share the specific racial and sexual manifestations of that dread, we all feel some version of it. Lovecraft, in his fiction at least, abandoned himself to it with a kind of warped gallantry.
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