Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Call Waiting of Cthulhu

Okay, so you have stories penned by a paranoid social misfit in the beginning of the 20th century that are weird fiction (or science fiction or horror fiction or science fantasy) and they usually involve some person being driven insane from gathering the merest glimpse of the whole of reality in its 16 dimensional spaces, a situation which makes them an unreliable narrator at best, and they aren't even very good and somehow this becomes the basis for an entire pop-culture of douchebaggery.  That about sums up my thesis here.
This happens in every single game of Arkham Horror.  Just assholes shooting guns at things that are supposed to be nigh invulnerable...and winning.
From Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu to Fantasy Flight Games Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, and Elder Sign there is something fundamentally wrong with fans of the genre.  By this I mean that I wish to ask fans of Lovecraft if they have ever actually read the man's work.
Case in point: A friend of mine was in a bookstore, which is surprising enough in this day and age, and overheard a young man commenting loudly to his female companion that the bookstore was in error because they put the Lovecraft works in Science Fiction rather than Horror where it belongs.

Oh really.  Is that what you think, sparky?  Well the fact is that Lovecraft wrote Science Fiction.  Or Weird Science Fantasy, if you prefer.  I have a list of reasons why this is but let me break them down to these:
1) The bulk of his work features entities from beyond the stars.
2) It is not in the least bit scary.
3) We weren't calling it Science Fiction when he was writing, but honestly, it is.
4) Okay, it's not all Sci-Fi, but the roots are mostly Sci-Fi.
5) Science Fiction and Horror have always been evil twins anyway.  Where you see the one, the other is usually nearby, probably waiting to kill you.  And wear your skin as a hat.

That wouldn't even bother me.  What bothers me is how much geeks like Cthulhu.  To the point that they act like the thing is their best friend.  He's become some sort of guard dog and badge of geek honor all rolled into one.  On the least offensive side this is a debasement of the source and on the worst side it is the sort of thing people do to show how "unique" they are with overtones of shock and offense.  Like when people pretend to be Satanists to annoy Christians who are not strong in their own beliefs.  It is douchy.  Stop it.
That's METAL that is.
So what we have, shown above, is a thing beyond human comprehension, summoned from the very depths of a man's neurotic nightmares (seriously, the man had issues, go read his bio some time) showing his trepidation and fear of, among other things, the infinite universe (interestingly he uses the sea as a metaphor for this in Call of Cthulhu) being reduced to...
I know these are on somebody's Christmas list somewhere.
Yes, fuzzy slippers.  H.P. would vomit to see this.  I guarantee it.  Like Poe, Lovecraft's writing reveals much of the author's own internal struggles with life and fear.  H.P. believed in the relationship between author and reader (he reportedly did not like adaptations of his work for radio as he felt it destroyed the dramatic tension and personal relationship that made the horror work-paraphrased from the introduction to the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu RPG, 3rd edition, I think).  What then would he think of this:

I think he'd think what you are thinking, "Hey, that guy is fisting Cthulhu".  He would not be happy about that.

Personally I put old Squid-Face in the same group as Freddy Kruger for his pop-culture appeal.  I don't understand a human mind that enjoys misusing the monster.  Hey, I get it, we love our monsters, but they still need to be monsters and if not monsters in the traditional sense, as least still monstrous, dig?  I love The Munsters and would certainly hang out with Herman and his family, so maybe I am off-base with this Cthulhu pop-culture hatred.
I think much of this is aimed at gaming anyway.  When you play a game where a being beyond space and time shows up and you shoot it to death with a tommy gun I think the whole thing has gone horribly wrong.  When we make the Frankenstein Monster into a friendly thing at least it was not designed from the beginning as an unfeeling cosmic horror (again with that's not scary).  We were meant to feel a sense of pity for the monster from the start.
This is the thing that ushers in man's destruction on this planet?  Yeah, probably.
So that's my thing.  Cthulhu for president and plush Cthulhus and all of it.  It's just silly.  Playing an RPG, video game or any Mythos product where you can shoot dead a Cthonian or a Star Spawn is taking away from the very thing you profess to love.
Sad, really.


  1. Yeah, the worst thing about the Chthulhu is that the Lovecraft fan-boys turned it into a mythos!

    I mean, the whole point was that the thing was inconceivable to the human mind, so trying to formalize it into a pantheon with a back-story completely undermines the horror.

    Personally, I couldn't get into Lovecraft, I don't like his writing, though some of the ideas behind his work are interesting, the work itself is hard to swallow. I can forgive any of his flaws though, if only for the fact that he basically gave us Robert Bloch!

  2. Mantan, man, I could not agree with you more. I too find Lovecraft a ho-hum writer. I think some people have used his work to write better pieces, but then it just becomes Conan meets Nyarlthotep and that gets silly. Down with the fanboys!

  3. I like Lovecraft's ideas and settings but his writing is a bit humdrum. I do enjoy running games in his settings but I limit using his supernatural creatures and use my own instead.

    1. I understand where you are coming from, Kilchester old boy, and I have had the experience many years ago of your particular brand of gaming, so I won't deny it. This is more a general sense of Cthulhu worship that I find I disdain.
      I don't think any of us shall soon forget the night at the old Mahaffey homestead when we broke out the Necronomicon and attempted to ring up Hastur the Unspeakable, or some Outer God. I recall being found screaming under the table when the lights came on again. Ahh, good times.

  4. Alas the old Mahaffey homestead is going away as it has been sold to the evil cousin as John needed fundage to retain a lawyer against his foul ex-wife over the kinder.

    1. Damn. Lotta good times there. Lotta blood spilled and bonfires burned.