Half full? Half empty? Nah. Just half.

Well, I’ve gotten a whole lot of nothin’ done this evening. I’ve written half a story, but that’s still half a story less than what I need for posting. Of course, I would have more than 2,000 words sitting on my hard-drive if I hadn’t gotten sucked into the ancient and unknown terrors of the Lovecraftian section of YouTube; which is odd, considering that I’m not exactly a fan. I admire the atmospheric, crawlingly-claustrophobic feel that H.P. Lovecraft’s rather poetic prose creates (and I’m a sucker for creepy short stories: Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt,” anyone?), but my favorite stories are driven by the actions, thoughts, motivations, and dialogue of characters. Lovecraft horror works because he first untethers rationality, explains the indescribable by admitting that it’s indescribable (and thereby forcing imagination to take over — and there is nothing like imagination for filling in the holes better than any description could by either words, art, or computer graphics), and then ultimately tells the meat of the story in lengthy prose after the fact. His characters are inevitably doomed, like sleepwalkers who can’t turn left or right. They’re ghost stories told around a campfire, with the added disorientation of dream logic.

What tethers me to reality is a worldview that sits 180 degrees opposite of anything written by the man who created the Cthulhu mythos. I love a good atmospheric story, but it cannot haunt me when I don’t share Lovecraft’s cosmic indifference.

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.

— H. P. Lovecraft, in note to the editor of Weird Tales, on resubmission of “The Call of Cthulhu”

Philosophically, it makes for neat story-telling. Why wouldn’t something non-human live by non-human logic? Yet my worldview puts humanity at the center of the story. Not a side-note in some ancient evil’s locker room talk; not an inevitably doomed experiment forgotten by the Elder Things; not an existence in a universe that’s utterly unbound by law. Instead, I know that all of history hinges on the cross-shaped conjunction of justice and mercy. I can imagine and what-if to my heart’s content, but when I put the pen down there is no escaping the bounds of that describable reality.

And so I cannot write like H.P. Lovecraft.

But I do not have his nightmares either.

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2 Responses to Half full? Half empty? Nah. Just half.

  1. Your Local Friendly IT Guy says:

    Meant to leave this note earlier – I finally saw this late (past bed time late), and just barely managed to stop myself from reading all of “The Veldt”. You’re killin’ me, Smalls!

    (I did read the whole thing at a later date, and once again very much enjoyed it. Got love my boy Bradbury.)

    • A.L. Schultz says:

      Hey! I totally missed that you commented on this.

      Also, in relation to your comment: Brenda told herself she’d hate the Veldt if she read it, told herself she wasn’t going to do it, and then called me to tell me how much she hated me for making her read it. Hahaha, she has no appreciation for the creepier things in life.

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