("hello-cthulu" from Sneakykitty)In the excellent Volume 5 of Darklore Volume 5 , Greg "Daily Grail" Taylor's fringe culture journal, Erik Davis contributes a fantastic study of our favorite hideous overlord Cthulhu, his creator HP Lovecraft, and the author's "fusion of occult folklore and weird science." The entire essay can be read at Daily Grail but I highly recommend the entire Darklore Volume 5 and, in fact, the complete series. From Erik Davis's "Calling Cthulhu":
Written mostly in the 1920s and ’30s, Lovecraft’s work builds a somewhat rickety bridge between the florid decadence of fin de siècle fantasy and the more “rational” demands of the new century’s science fiction. His early writing is gaudy Gothic pastiche, but in his mature Cthulhu tales, Lovecraft adopts a pseudodocumentary style that utilizes the language of journalism, scholarship, and science to construct a realistic and measured prose voice which then explodes into feverish, adjectival horror. Some find Lovecraft’s intensity atrocious – not everyone can enjoy a writer capable of comparing a strange light to “a glutted swarm of corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an accursed marsh.”"Calling Cthulhu" (Daily Grail)
But in terms of horror, Lovecraft delivers. His protagonist is usually a reclusive bookish type, a scholar or artist who is or is known to the first-person narrator. Stumbling onto odd coincidences or beset with strange dreams, his intellectual curiosity drives him to pore through forbidden books or local folklore, his empirical turn of mind blinding him to the nightmarish scenario that the reader can see slowly building up around him. When the Mythos finally breaks through, it often shatters him, even though the invasion is generally more cognitive than physical.
By endlessly playing out a shared collection of images and tropes, genres like weird fiction also generate a collective resonance that can seem both “archetypal” and cliched. Though Lovecraft broke with classic fantasy, he gave his Mythos density and depth by building a shared world to house his disparate tales. The Mythos stories all share a liminal map that weaves fictional places like Arkham, Dunwich, and Miskatonic University into the New England landscape; they also refer to a common body of entities and forbidden books. A relatively common feature in fantasy fiction, these metafictional techniques create the sense that Lovecraft’s Mythos lies beyond each individual tale, hovering in a dimension halfway between fantasy and the real.
Darklore Volume 5 (Amazon)