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Eldritch Optimism: A Kinder, Gentler Rereading of H. P. Lovecraft

A Search for the Heroic in Lovecraftian Fiction, Part One

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Novelist Jonathan Ryan recently wrote an essay,  “Meaning to the Madness,” that was largely devoted to exploring the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft. Teeming Brain head honcho Matt Cardin wrote a response. There was then a Teeming Brain podcast (the first ever) about the whole thing. And now I’m writing this column inspired by all of them. Hopefully someone will then write a piece inspired by my column, and so on, until we take over the entire Internet.

Now, while Jonathan and Matt* centered their discussion around the nature of Lovecraft’s philosophy, I’m personally fascinated by this particular comment from Jonathan’s original essay:

[T]here is no way around Lovecraftian despair while playing under Lovecraft’s rules.

(* I’m going for the informal approach here and fully expect any references to my own good self in any future pieces on this subject to be in the form of “Stuey baby.”)

It’s easy to see what he means. The protagonists in Lovecraft’s stories always wind up going mad. Or dying. Or going mad and then dying. But, being a contrary fellow, I’ve decided to try and prove that it is possible to write uplifting stories while still playing by Lovecraft’s rules. Not only that, but I’m going to prove that Howard Phillips Lovecraft — or Howie-poos, as I like to call him — did himself, on occasion, write stories full of sunny optimism. Yes, that’s the same H.P. Lovecraft who suffered night terrors as a child and witnessed the mental health problems of both his parents, whose father died of tertiary syphilis and who himself suffered a nervous breakdown and died of intestinal cancer.

I do like a challenge.

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