Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Shorts with the Sheriff - That's Mr. Lovecraft to you.

Sheriff Tom was so happy to take part in this, that we're letting him make this his weekly thing. We'd actually like to rename it, Sunday Shorts with the Sheriff. So here's our lawman with his pick for the week.

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Hi, everyone. Being the sheriff of a small New England town that has...a history, it's only natural that I have some interest in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I mean, when things around Stansbury get bad, I can at least look to Lovecraft's work and say, well, at least it's not as bad as all that. This week, I want to share the story, "Nyarlathotep" with you.

Lovecraft mainly wrote of people who discovered the world was doomed to succumb to dark, insane gods. If you have never read a Lovecraft tale, it is hard to relate to you the power of his language. His vocabulary and tone make Poe seem like Jane Austen.

This particular story is a treasure trove of dark descriptions. Just about every line is pregnant with dread. I am particularly fond of the line: “A sickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low.” It is poetic, evocative and deeply disturbing both in the context of the story and, simply, in the image it creates.

Writing horror is a tricky business because you really have to think about what you intend your story to do. Do you want your readers losing sleep to nightmares? Do you want to create disgust or shock? I think Lovecraft wanted his prose to disturb his readers. He wanted to create vivid landscapes of a nightmarish pseudo-reality and mindscapes of psychosis born of the knowledge that nightmares are the pale reflection of the really horrible things that exist and have been discovered. This story is effective because it is relentless horror. It smothers the reader with so much vivid dark detail that by the time you reach the end you are breathless and, yes, disturbed.

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