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H.P. Lovecraft

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The Wrath
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Horror short stories. Malevolent universe, and insanity are the key features. I read pretty much all his stuff in early high school during a phase. I recall the writing quality to be pretty good in terms of creating suspense, atmospherics, delivering a plot and resolution.

I don't see how much positive could come from reading H.P. Lovecraft, however, from a psychological or sense of life perspective.

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Just this morning on the train I noticed this from "The Art of Fiction":

"The only rule about it [the use of fantasy] is that it should not be purposeless..." ...

"What kinds of fantasies are not justified? Those with no intellectual or moral application to human life...But fantasy for the sake of fantasy is neither valid nor interesting." ...

"I know of no ghost or horror stories that I would classify as valid"

So, what would be the purpose of reading a horror book by H.P. Lovecraft which generally and essentially portrays man as helpless and doomed living in an incomprehensible and malevolent universe?

I'm not tempted to reread them.

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Ok, give it a try and please report back your impressions. I haven't had any interest in the horror genre since integrating Objectivism. I don't know if I'd even find the stories interesting, 20 years later, other than as part of a socialogical/psychological exploration of why many young people are fascinated by horror.

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Just this morning on the train I noticed this from "The Art of Fiction":

"The only rule about it [the use of fantasy] is that it should not be purposeless..." ...

"What kinds of fantasies are not justified? Those with no intellectual or moral application to human life...But fantasy for the sake of fantasy is neither valid nor interesting." ...

"I know of no ghost or horror stories that I would classify as valid"

So, what would be the purpose of reading a horror book by H.P. Lovecraft which generally and essentially portrays man as helpless and doomed living in an incomprehensible and malevolent universe?

I'm not tempted to reread them.

Does this apply to everything, or just fantasy? Whats the moral or intellectual purpose of comedies, such as the novels of P G Wodehouse, or Seinfeld?

People enjoy comedies because they like to laugh. Similarly some people enjoy horror novels because they like the feeling of being scared. Deep fear is a very powerful emotion, and to experience it within a controlled environment may be cathartic for some. Is this not purpose enough?

For what its worth, I've never particularly liked the horror genre. But I'm not going to condemn those that do.

Edited by Hal
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I was going to post something similar to that earlier, but I was at work and didn't want to get into it.

People enjoy the feeling of fear in a controlled environment, in part because of the adrenaline rush that comes with it. Two horror movies that I love, for instance, are The Shining and The Exorcist.

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  • 2 months later...

For anyone who seeks a world menaced by hostile, unknowable forces and peopled by frightened, helpless wretches, Lovecraft is your ideal destination.

If, on the other hand, you value a universe of moral blacks and whites, breathtaking achievements and the triumph of super-heroes over envious, irrational beings, then I would recommend the novels, short stories and plays of Ayn Rand above all others.

(This is not to say, of course, that Ayn Rand’s fiction is great merely because Ayn Rand wrote it. Rather, we should say Ayn Rand is a great writer because her fiction is of the highest quality.)

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  • 1 year later...

(This is the first draft of an article I am writing, so it is unfinished. Much of it is written concerning horror films, but the concepts apply to horror stories in all forms, whether they are a movie, a book, or even a video game.)

On horror stories

Horror stories have long been an obsession of mine; however, I hate most horror movies. Instead I am obsessed with the way I think they should be, the way I would make them.

I’m going to look at some of the things that I think are wrong with horror stories, then the things that I like about them. Then I will look at a few good examples of what a good horror story can be, and discuss how to create them.

Things that are bad about horror stories.

Some general ideas and quotes borrowed with respect from the Rouge Psychologist, http://roguepsych.blogsource.com/post.mhtml?post_id=314939.

1) The hold the malevolent Universe premise.

Horror movies are almost universally set in a universe where man is constantly surrounded by evil; a universe where at every turn lays torture and death.

As the Rouge Psychologist points out, horror movies often have numerous sequels with the evil returning over and over, never vanquished. As he says, “You can’t destroy the evil. And you never know when, where, or how it will strike.”

I hate such a universe; after watching such a movie I am not happy, I feel like I need to take a bath to scrub off the scum.

2) They portray man as a helpless being.

They almost universally show man as a being helpless in the face of true evil. They often show man unable to defeat the evil permanently (again, often numerous sequels showing the evil returning). They do not make you feel like you can take charge of your own destiny, that you are instead a plaything of the evil around you, and are ultimately doomed.

3) They show that the good cannot win (related to 2 above).

The rouge psychologist makes an excellent point here; the good is defined simply by contrast to evil. He says: “However, even at that one hopes that survival and the defeat of obvious evil is possible. No such hope is given, except maybe briefly.”

I simply do not wish to see men and women dying in horrible ways, without any chance of survival.

The worst example of this I have seen is in “Night of the living dead” (I believe this is the correct film). Throughout the entire movie there is a character that shows significant tenacity in surviving the zombies, narrowly escaping death numerous times. However at the end of the film the cavalry is here; the police have arrived and are shooting the zombies, and the character has survived. Despite the many other problems, this could almost redeem the movie to some extent (at leas tot the point it would not be a total waste of time); however the sheriff then mistakes the man for a zombie, and shoots him dead.

So even when there is some good shown (the tenacity of the character), it is shown at best as pointless, or at worst as harmful.

4) They want to disgust you.

They seem to strive to disgust you, without any point; it’s not really to drive you to righteous anger at some evil, it’s simply to disgust you.

Things that can be good about horror stories.

1) They scare you.

This is one thing I find good about them; being frightened. This can in fact be an enjoyable experience, and can help you to feel alive! I enjoy being scared sometimes, and more enjoy the happy and lighthearted feeling afterwards. The right kind of scary film can raise my mood up from the dumps; I feel that the world is not a horrible place, because even such evil as that can be defeated! A purely happy movie can help you directly see the good in the world, which is very good, but sometimes a concrete example of evil being defeated really helps.

2) Horror stores can be an excellent setting for heroes.

Given a great evil, a terrible situation, people in danger; this is the perfect setting for a brave hero to do good.

Examples of good horror stories.

Careful about reading these, they do contain some spoilers.

Aliens.

This was the second film from the Alien series; the first not having, from my understanding, the qualities that made this one good.

The main character is extremely tenacious and brave, and most of the other characters are suitable, if not down right good. Only some are shown as wishy washy and weak, and at least one is shown as evil (and is punished).

The film is not about disgusting you; it’s about scaring you.

28 days later

I was very surprised by this one. It had tenacious characters, the evil characters where punished, and the overall evil itself was defeated. The main characters survived, and the end was actually quite uplifting (do not watch the alternative/director’s ending).

Ways to make good horror stories.

Of obvious value is to not have a malevolent universe; create a universe that yes, has evil, but also has good that can fight the evil.

Create heroes, strong and tenacious, to fight and survive.

Allow people to survive, and be happy. Show the ending as being a good and happy place to be.

Don’t try to disgust the audience; scare them instead. Through use of suspense, sound, and shadows, depending on the medium, you can scare your audience without pointlessly disgusting them.

Conclusion.

It seems horror films are not by their very nature malevolent; there is no reason why we cannot have a good horror film, that makes us go away happy. We can show the world as a good place, but still have our evil.

I do not find H.P. Lovecraft to be an example of good horror. In fact, it has most of the problems I have with horror stories.

Edited by jcapehart
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Horror short stories. Malevolent universe, and insanity are the key features. I read pretty much all his stuff in early high school during a phase. I recall the writing quality to be pretty good in terms of creating suspense, atmospherics, delivering a plot and resolution.

I don't see how much positive could come from reading H.P. Lovecraft, however, from a psychological or sense of life perspective.

I drew a political conclusion from Lovecraft. I am tired of voting for the lesser of evils. I am writing in C'thulu for President n the 2008 election.

Bob Kolker

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Don’t try to disgust the audience; scare them instead.

As a horror movie fan, I strongly recommend discerning between movies that attempt to scare the audience with sudden, loud disasters and movies that attempt to scare the audience by creating malefactors who are so evil that the audience fears for the safety of the heroes.

In my opinion, examples of the former are the Final Destination series which I have not actually seen. Nevertheless, the whole point of the movie seemed to say that at any given moment, your life can be inexplicably terminated by some horrendous, unpredictable, unjust and unstoppable catastrophe. This is an epitome of the negative universe premise.

Examples of the latter (also in my opinion) are the remakes of Dawn of the Dead and The Hills Have Eyes, each of which build the monsters to be incredibly evil. Thus, the courage of the heroes who risk their lives to vanquish the abominations or escape from them is that much greater to appreciate.

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  • 2 months later...
In my opinion, examples of the former are the Final Destination series which I have not actually seen. Nevertheless, the whole point of the movie seemed to say that at any given moment, your life can be inexplicably terminated by some horrendous, unpredictable, unjust and unstoppable catastrophe. This is an epitome of the negative universe premise.

Let me take a moment to defend the ORIGINAL Final Destination movie. The hero finds that death is acting via a plan of who was to die in the order if they had still been on the plane. He then takes measures to protect people, though those who don't pay attention to his warnings do die. He figures out how to save himself, and makes a "death proof" place to hide out, "cheating" death.

I really like that part of the movie. Using intelligence and planning to win against fate.

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I don't agree that all fiction has to have some intellectual or moral purpose. To me, that only applies when I want to read a book that has some political/philosophical axe to grind. I'm perfectly content to read something for the sheer entertainment value.

What? Entertainment value?! We can't have this! That's impossible!

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I personally don't have a problem with the malevolent universe premise in fiction. I don't think that all fiction necessarily has to be optimistic.
I agree. Overall, dystopian fiction is more interesting than utopian fiction. Dreaming up a bad world in fiction probably has a cathartic effect

What? Entertainment value?! We can't have this! That's impossible!
I think it was H. L. Mecken defined a Puritan as a person who lives in abject terror and loathing at the idea that somehow, somewhere someone is having fun.Bob Kolker Edited by Robert J. Kolker
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  • 5 years later...

I read a graphic novel version of one of his pieces a while back. As Mr. West wrote earlier in the thread, Lovecraft is very good at creating atmosphere. Gamers know that Lovecraft is a huge influence on nearly every type of gaming that has a storyline. I do table-top roleplaying and I sometimes turn to the horror genre for inspiration to create antagonists.

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Horror short stories. Malevolent universe, and insanity are the key features. I read pretty much all his stuff in early high school during a phase. I recall the writing quality to be pretty good in terms of creating suspense, atmospherics, delivering a plot and resolution.

I don't see how much positive could come from reading H.P. Lovecraft, however, from a psychological or sense of life perspective.

H.P. Lovecraft taught me who to vote for in Presidential Elections.  I vote for C'thulu. (write in)  I say:  Why settle for the lesser of evils?

 

ruveyn1

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