Posts Tagged ‘HP Lovecraft’

Let’s face it, every creative out there (especially those who weave stories together) has put themselves into their work. Often, they do it more than once, and the resemblance to themselves, accurate or in their own heads, varies from self-insert to self-insert.* HP Lovecraft loved to put himself through cosmic horror and dreamlike ordeals as Randolph Carter (does that count as masochism?), and Stephen King’s The Dark Half is obviously him having fun with a fictional version of himself and his pen name Richard Bachman.

And don’t forget, Dante Alighieri made himself the star of The Divine Comedy, where the poet Virgil and later Beatrice, the dead girl he crept on when she was alive, led him through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

You know, now that I’m typing this, I realize that a lot of self-insert characters get to go on the biggest, most grandiose adventures. I mean, Dante traversed the afterlife and recorded it in detail! And remember Lani Sarem, the lady who conned her way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? Her novel’s protagonist, who from the cover art is basically her under a different name, was a witch who basically became the delight of the Las Vegas entertainment scene using her abilities.

There’s an article to be found in this, I’m just not in the mood to research and write it right now.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Self-inserts. I’m no exception to the rule. Throughout my writing career, I’ve included different versions of myself in my stories. One or two have even been included in published stories (I’ll let you guess which ones those are). And once more, I’m inserting myself into the story I’m currently working on. Only this time, this might be the most obvious and blatant self-insert since Dante!

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it feels like it! My character is basically what I hope will be me in a few years: a full-time writer with his own home, hosting costume parties in his living room and able to focus on creepy tales as a living. His last name is an anagram of my own and his first name also begins with an “R.” So yeah, pretty obvious self-insert.

Still, I’m having fun with it. The story’s focus isn’t on my character, he’s just a good way to get this story going. And since I can focus on telling the story and not making my self-insert seem like the bee’s knees to readers, I can get a little ridiculous and have a ton of fun with it. Whether that will lead to a decent ghost story (because of course I would put myself into a ghost story!) remains to be seen. But perhaps with some edits…well, we’ll see.

Anyway, I’ll get back to this story soon. And I’ll likely have a post or two for you all very soon, so keep an eye out. And in the meantime, check out this book trailer for The Jewish Book of Horror that was uploaded to YouTube last night. It’s really cool, and you can even see my name listed beside my story, “The Divorce from God,” at one point. Give it a watch and consider getting a copy of the book when it releases.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*That’s the preferred term, as I understand it.

Visual image for Blood and Paper Skin.

Well, isn’t this the most exciting and post-filled weekend ever! I think this is my fifth post since Friday!

So, as you can see, I’ve gotten another story acceptance, and I am over the moon about it! In fact, I went outside, jumped straight into the sky, and appeared to my neighbors to jump over the moon. Some are now sure I’m evil and are preparing to move out of the complex.

The story in question is my novelette “Blood and Paper Skin,” and it’s going to be published over three issues in the magazine The Dark Sire (you can check out their website here). The story follows a bunch of young twenty-somethings who go out to buy drugs, only for some of them to end up in a prison-like room. They soon find out they’re being held there by a middle-aged man, and he has a sinister but mysterious purpose for them being there.

I’m telling you, I’m very happy that this story has found a home. As it’s close to fifteen thousand words, I was really worried “Blood and Paper Skin” would have trouble finding a home. Who would have thought, after a lot of editing, it would get accepted by the first place I sent it! And because it’s a novelette, the story will be divided into three issues–Issues, 8, 9 and 10.

You know, that’s really old school. Plenty of famous short stories and novels were published in multiple issues as both a way to save room in the magazine and to keep suspense going. Examples include most of the works by Charles Dickens; Herbert West: Reanimator and The Lurking Fear by HP Lovecraft; and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even Stephen King had a story, Dolan’s Cadillac, published this way (though that was published through his newsletter, so some might say that isn’t the same).

Anyway, the first installment of “Blood and Paper Skin” will be published in Issue 8 of The Dark Sire, which should release at the end of the month. If that changes, or the timeline is split into thousands of branches creating a multiverse, I’ll let you know. I hope you’ll give the story a read, and I hope you’ll support The Dark Sire as well. They’re a small, independent horror magazine influenced by the darker works of writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, JRR Tolkien, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. They’re still pretty new, but they love what they do and are committed to publishing qualities stories, art, poetry and screenplays.

And they gave Rose one hell of a nice review. Just saying.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I have work, so I’m going to do some reading before bed and then hit the hay. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and RELEASE THE DRAGON BATS…AGAIN!!!


I can’t say it enough: Followers of Fear, you have just over nine days to submit a question for my ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. One lucky participant will win a prize, so send your question to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by 11:59 PM, July 28th, 2021. I look forward to reading your questions and writing up answers. See you again soon!

I read the book back in 2018 and loved it (would have done a review, but I think by that point it had been out a while). I was excited when I heard that it was getting a show…and then sad when I heard it would be on HBO. However, now I have HBO Max, so I was able to watch the show. Which I finished watching today. As I’m obligated to do, I’m writing a review.

Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Freeman, a black soldier living in 1950s America who returns home to Chicago after receiving a mysterious letter from his estranged father Montrose, stating he is in Arkham, Massachusetts, a location from the works of HP Lovecraft. Turns out, it’s actually a secret community called Ardham, but that doesn’t change how fantastical life gets for Atticus. Pretty soon, his life starts to resemble a Lovecraft story, involving secret societies of sorcerers and magic, ancient history, and entities that defy reality and biology. And it may end up putting Atticus and his whole family in danger.

So, it would be more fair to say this is a variation on the novel’s story than a direct adaptation. The first season acknowledges the concept of a multiverse and uses that to explain the changes from the novel. Some of these changes are minor–some names or genders are changed, roles are reduced or expanded, etc. Others are good, such as the expansion of Montrose’s character to be a meaningful exploration of a man with a troubled past still effecting his present. And others just made me scratch my head.

An example of this would be the creation of the character Ji-ah, a character from Atticus’s past who knows more than she lets on. On the one hand, I get why they added her and they tried to make her inclusion into the story important to the plot. At the same time, I feel like this whole character’s reason was diversity for diversity’s sake, which is an odd choice considering the show.

As for the rest of Lovecraft Country, it was great for the most part. The writing in even the dullest episodes was superb, and the actors were awesome. There were several scary moments, such as the events of the first two episodes and episode eight. The exploration of racism in America was powerfully done as well, drawing many parallels between events then and now (and making me want to know more about the Tulsa race riots. I do not remember learning about that in school).

If you haven’t checked out the novel, that’s also worth the read.

However, there were some downsides. The actress playing the villainess, Abbey Lee, played her role so emotionlessly I wondered if she couldn’t get into her character’s head, let alone play her convincingly. A lot of the music choices were modern rap or music from well past the 1950s, which honestly felt out of place in a historical fantasy-horror piece. And there were a few episodes where things kind of dragged for me.

Like the novel, Lovecraft Country the TV series isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and make the watch worth it. You’re going to get different things from each iteration of the story, so it’s up to you which one you prefer.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the first season of Lovecraft Country a 3.7. Combining horror, magic, heavy themes and great characterization, it’s worth the hype I heard. A second season may be in the works, but until we get confirmation one way or another, there’s still plenty of time to check it out. Get on HBO Max if you can and prepare for a powerful experience.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on stories I doubt will ever get their own adaptations (though it can’t hurt to try). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I first heard about this film last month, described as The Call of Cthulhu meets small Norwegian island and with Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and Chopping Mall fame heavily featured in the marketing. The trailer looked cool, so I mentioned it in a post about cosmic horror becoming popular, and patiently waited for it to come out. I watched it evening, so obviously I have to write a review about it.

Based on a short story by Paul Kane* and influenced by the works of HP Lovecraft, Sacrifice follows Isaac Jorgstadt and his pregnant wife Emma as they return to the tiny Norwegian island where he lived until he was a child and his mother took him to America. As his mother has recently passed, Isaac now owns the home and has come to see if he can sell it. However, between the townsfolk’s bewildering behavior, unearthed family secrets, and strange dreams, Isaac and Emma find themselves in the crosshairs of a powerful cult worshipping an ancient and terrible god.

Pandemic or no pandemic, I think we can call this the first good horror film of 2021.

First off, the movie was really well done. The strange behavior of the townsfolk adds to this feeling of unreality in the story, which is heightened by frightening imagery and occurrences. The tension between Isaac, who becomes more and more enchanted by the island, and Emma, who is just freaked out, compounds the uneasiness we feel. And the slow-burn nature of the story ramps up in just the right way in the third act.

I also like the way HP Lovecraft’s work is incorporated into the story. Images and statues of Cthulhu–or as he’s known in the movie, “The Slumbering One”–abounds; Isaac’s name in America is Pickman, a reference to Pickman’s Model; dreams play a prominent role in the film; and of course, we get the occasional tentacles. You really enjoy stumbling across all these references and being like, “I get that!”

I always enjoy when cosmic horror is incorporated well into a non-Cthulhu Mythos film.

Excluding Barbara Crampton’s attempt at a Norwegian accent and one line that could be misconstrued as offensive to certain belief systems,** I only had one problem with the film. During the climax, the ending was epic and scary, and then that final shot felt…anticlimatic. I would have liked to see a shot of the Slumbering One or his tentacles or something. Just something more Lovecraftian and scary to end the movie with. Is that too much to ask?

All in all, though, this was a creepy and enjoyable ride. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.1 As of right now, it’s only available from iTunes, but I say it’s worth the cost to check out.† Especially if you can pair it with some good calamari.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to birth my own nightmares. Until next time, pleasant nightmares (or as they say in the film, “dream well”).

*Whose work I need to check out.

**That better have been a put down on female genital mutilation and not on bris milah or similar rituals, I’m just saying.

†Hopefully you have an easier time playing the movie than I did. Still not sure if that was my iTunes player or my computer, but I had so many issues with the streaming.

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.

My, how time flies when you’re defending Britain!

No, wait. That’s what my characters are doing. I’ve been busy with a million other things. But time has flown since December began and “Mother of the King” came out. And in that time, I’ve gotten a few sales, some great feedback and reviews, and a lot of ideas on the future.

So, for those of you who don’t know, “Mother of the King” is my Arthurian fantasy story that I released as an ebook exclusive. The story centers on the fabled return of King Arthur, as told through the perspective of the woman chosen to be his mother. The story delves deep into Arthurian lore, while also showing how the legend might evolve in the near-future.

And I’ve gotten a lot of good reviews so far on Amazon, Amazon UK and Goodreads. Here’s what some people have said:

What an interesting story! Part history and part futuristic. The legend of King Arthur plays in the forefront while the post apocalyptic England is developing a scientific plan to protect the British Isles from the advancing end of the world. A present young leader Arthur is a top position of protecting the young queen, most likely the last of the royal family and hopefully launch the successful application of the Camelot System that will save them all. The story of the historic King Arthur plays over current events in an interesting way and the story is told first person by Misty Adams [sic], the mother of the king (to be).

This is a well crafted novella and I really wanted to know what eventually happed. I was yelling “No! More now!” On the last page but the story definitely perks up your imagination. Rami Ungar is absolutely one of my favorite writers and look forward to more adventures from him soon. Enjoy!

Kimberly Napolitano, Amazon US and Goodreads

I had the pleasure of reading this book before it came out, it was an amazing read for me, love the main character Misty and the mystery behind her is amazing love it Rami

Kyle Baird, Amazon UK

A short and sweet tale that is inventive, modern, and relatable of a woman and her destiny in raising a King who would rise again. Loved her characterization and witty voice. She could easily be a mother next door and the reader gets swept away in her daily love and struggles of raising her son in coming to power. One of the most down-to-earth and relatable tales about a woman, unbeknownst to her, comes to find herself grabbling with motherhood of one of the most extraordinary kings in mythology.

Leslie, Goodreads & Amazon

And my friend and colleague Allen Huntsman made a video on his channel, DeathGroundReviews, on the story. HE made it sound so amazing both narratively and thematically, and I want him to narrate a future audio version if the future is kind. Check out what he said:

Ooh, I got shivers!

Yeah, it’s been good this week. However, I’ve noticed a trend in the reviews: you guys want more. That you want to know what happens afterward, or see more from Arthur Addison’s point of view. Some were even suggesting that I was laying the basis for a new connected literary universe or sub-universe, or that I was laying groundwork for a TV pitch.

Well, I don’t think a TV show is anywhere near a possibility in my life right now. But a connected universe? That might not be a bad idea. What would I call that? The New Arthur series? The New Arthur Universe? As long as nobody gets the central character confused with my Uncle Arthur, it should be fine…

Oh, alright! Fine! It sounds fun! I’ll do it! I’ll continue the story of Field Marshal Arthur Thomas Addison, AKA the new King Arthur! Like HP Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, a series of short stories, novelettes, and novellas (and maybe a novel, who knows). It might take time. A lot of time. I’m not going to just write a story and put it out. I have to feel like it’s a good story to add to the major story. But I’ll write further stories in this world.

And when I do, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, if you want to check out the story, “Mother of the King” is available to download and read. I’ll post the links below if you’re interested. And if you do read the story, please give me some feedback and/or a review. Positive or negative, I love what you have to tell me, and it helps me and other readers in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to make dinner and maybe chill, maybe write. We’ll see. Until next time (which will likely be within the next few days), happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

I’ve talked a bit about “The Pure World Comes,” the story I’m writing set in Victorian England. And yes, at this point I’m pretty sure it’s going to be another novel. But that’s beside the point. With the completion of the latest chapter, I’m two-thirds of the way through the story, so I figured I’d talk about something I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while: what it’s like writing a story set in Victorian England.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while now, you’re probably aware that I’m a big fan of the Victorian era. It’s an era of contradictions: one of vast British expansion and industrialization, of great achievements in science and literature, as well as one of the most glittery ages of British history (at least in our popular memories). However, it was also an age of deep poverty for many, an age of exploitation and horror, and one where some of the most horrific crimes of the 19th century occurred, from Jack the Ripper to the British government’s reaction to the Irish Potato Famine (and yes, I’m counting that as a crime).

I’ve been trying to channel all that love, as well as all the information I’ve gathered through years of research, to make this story of mine, about a young maid who goes to work in the home of a mad scientist, feel authentic. Like you actually stepped into the Victorian era when you read this story.

What’s been the hardest part so far? Well, the language. I’ve been trying to make the dialogue sound like that fancy Queen’s English we see in movies and on TV, and the narration sound something like Stephen King’s Jerusalem’s Lot (a prequel to his novel, Salem’s Lot), which reads like a Victorian novel or something by HP Lovecraft, who likes to pretend he’s a Victorian. It’s harder than it looks, and at times, I find myself worrying if my characters sound more like modern Americans than 19th century Brits.

I’ll admit, it’s gotten easier to make the story and the characters sound Victorian as time has gone on, but it’s still far from perfect. And I have no doubt that later drafts will focus a lot on language.

I could also focus a bit more on describing the clothing. That’s a big part of the Victorian appeal.

However, other aspects have been easy. Going into the minutiae of Victorian life, from mourning clothes and practices (which the Victorians made an entire production of), to food and garden parties has been a treat. I had a lot of fun describing both the daily lives of maids in that age and just how dirty that age could be. And, of course, I had a blast working my theory of who Jack the Ripper is into the story.

And of course, adding those little weird details of life back then has been fun. Did you know that, according to the beliefs of the time, whom a pregnant woman interacted with could influence the baby’s health and appearance? Yeah, so if she met a drunk on the street, she might spend the rest of her pregnancy fearing her kid would come out looking and eventually acting like that drunk.

I also spent a good chunk of Chapter Eleven describing Victorian bath rituals (believe me, it’s relevant). Did you know public baths were a big phenomenon back then? How much you could pay for those baths, always sex-segregated, could determine what sort of bath you could take. And showers? They were known as shower-baths, or more formally as douche-baths. Yes, douche-baths. And no, not like we mean it today.

In the end, I think what I’m dealing with are all the usual struggles of writing a sort of historical fiction (Or is it more a homage to Gothic literature and gaslamp fantasy?). Balancing the level of detail with the need to tell the story, attempting to bring the age to life for even the most unfamiliar of readers. It’s a challenge, no matter your experience or how much research you’ve done.

Trying to bring to life the age when this sort of dress was fashionable.

Still, it’s a challenge I think I’m up to, as well as a challenge I’m glad I took up. I’m enjoying working on this story, and I feel like I’m learning a lot. Hopefully at the end of this story, it’ll show.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I was going to watch a movie after this post was done, but it’s past midnight, so I think I’ll hit the hay.

And in the meantime, remember that you can still participate in next month’s YouTube Q&A in honor of the 1-year publishing anniversary of Rose. Just send your name, where you’re from, and question for me to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, and your question might appear in the video (and you could win a download code for the audio book). You can also order a signed copy of Rose with that address, or head to Amazon and Audible to get copies.

Goodnight, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares, and remember, face masks are inconvenient, but ventilators are far worse.

This story is set in the Cthulhu Mythos (and may or may not involve the big tentacled guy. I aim to keep you guessing).

Well, this has been a productive day. Today I finished a new story!

“What Errour Awoke” is a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos.* The story follows Taylor Molton-Reed, a graduate student at my alma mater, Ohio State. One day, while teaching a class on the famous British poem The Faerie Queene, the description of one of the monsters in the poem awakens repressed memories in one of his students of a certain Great Old One (I’ll let you guess which one until you actually read the story). The student later relates to Taylor what he remembered, beginning a chain of events involving this particular eldritch monster and its plans for the people of this world.

This story was actually inspired by my own studies in college. I read the Faerie Queene‘s first book in one of my British literature courses, and remembered one of the monsters in it quite particularly. Years later, after I’d gotten deep into Lovecraft’s canon and became familiar with many of the entities in the story, I found myself thinking back on that monster and thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a minute! That sounds a lot like such-and-such entity!” Thus the idea for this story was birthed.

I had a lot of fun writing this story. For one thing, it’s set right in the Cthulhu Mythos, and there’s a certain thrill for me when it comes to writing stories set in that world (possibly because I’m an entity right out of that world?). For another, the majority of it takes place during our current pandemic. so it was cathartic to write about. I’ve compared the coronavirus to a Lovecraftian entity in the past, so writing about it in a Cthulhu Mythos story felt especially apropos. And finally, I had a lot of fun applying something other than the writing courses from my English major to a story, and modeling certain parts of the story after the first book of Faerie Queene.

In fact, I liked this story so much, I decided to put this into that collection of short stories I’ve been working on and switch out one of the weaker stories in it. That’s how much I loved it, and how confident I am readers will enjoy it.

Now, for the stats on the story. “What Errour Awoke” totaled out to 63 pages and 17,880 words, the last 13 pages and 3,880 words written over the course of this afternoon and evening (yeah, I went on one hell of a writing binge). This puts it at a novelette, so I’m two for two on getting at least one short(er) story done per month for the rest of 2020. Hopefully I can keep that up with the next story, which I’ll likely finish in May.

Speaking of which, what’s next? Well, I’ll be reaching out to some writers I know who may be able to give me some valuable feedback on how to edit “What Errour Awoke.” And while they’re doing that, I’ll be starting work on the last story for that collection, a novelette or novella set in my beloved Victorian England. Believe me, it’s going to be a strange one. A wonderfully strange one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a late Shabbat dinner and an Avengers movie calling my name. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares.

*Which means, if my parents ever read this story, they’re not going to get any of the references and think I made up more than I did for this story.

I had a revelation recently. No, not the kind that inspires texts that are the basis for entire religions. I had that already, and you do not want to know what information was imparted to me. No, it’s about Lovecraftian fiction.

Now, the common image among people, readers and writers, of Lovecraftian fiction is Cthulhu or any other Great Old One/Elder God/giant terrifying monster from the deep sea/outer space/alternate dimension. And that’s not wrong. From stories like The Dunwich Horror to the recent science-horror film Underwater, big monsters are a major part of the story and, along with the mind-bending insanity and dark truths they represent, are the main source of horror.

But it’s recently come to my attention that Lovecraftian horror stories are about more than just the monsters. Sometimes, it’s about psychological horror. Sometimes, you can have an effective scary story by not showing the monster, but by instead relegating the monsters to mere glimpses or suggestions and focusing on the characters’ reactions. And if done right, it can lead to some compelling horror.

There are actually plenty of stories like this. And if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably run into plenty of them. The Call of Cthulhu, for example. Being by Howard Phillips himself, it’s obviously Lovecraftian, but have you ever noticed that we never really see Cthulhu? Think about it. The closest we ever get to seeing the High Priest of the Great Old Ones himself is through the eyes of a Scandinavian sailor’s diary. The narrator only sees drawings and statues of him.

And yet we’re scared, because the very idea of what we glean from these diary recordings is of a worldwide cult, one devoted to a very real god. One that will use humans as its pawns so that, when it finally arises, it’s in prime condition to take over our world. And the cult will do away with anyone who gets in their master’s way.

And while that’s a great example, there’s plenty more where that came from. Last year’s film The Lighthouse (see my review here) was Lovecraftian with a capital L, but we barely saw any of the marine monstrosities supposedly behind the horrors occurring on the island. And what we did see, we weren’t sure if they were real (within the film, anyway). Are they monsters, or are they just the manifestations of two men on an isolated island having a breakdown? Or maybe it’s a bit of both. It’s hard to tell.

A great example of this Lovecraftian psychological horror, 2019’s The Lighthouse.

And not just The Lighthouse. Stephen King’s novella N is told from the POV of people who all claim to be guardians of a circle of stones. If they don’t perform certain rituals, the stones will become a portal for terrible monsters. We never see these monsters though, and it’s possible that all the characters are suffering from a shared delusion. Or is it something more?

And in the novel I’m reading now (I hope to finish it and have the review up tomorrow or Thursday), there’s a Lovecraftian undertone, but the focus is on the characters and how they’re dealing with all the lies and hidden secrets swirling around them.

Or maybe that’s not a Lovecraftian undertone, but some other supernatural undertone. I’ll let you know when I finish the novel.

Anyway, it’s a good thing I’ve noticed that. The story I’m trying to write next is going to be heading into that psychological/Lovecraftian territory, so hopefully I can do a good job of it. And even if I don’t, it’ll at least be good practice.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to bed. I hope you’re not going stir-crazy while social distancing yourselves. If you want, we can talk in the comments for a bit.

Anyway, until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of tag, so I saw this on my friend Kat Impossible’s blog and I was like, “Sounds like fun.” And while I’m not sure I believe in “perfection,” I tried to come up with stories that come close to that in my personal opinion. Most of these titles are from the horror genre, but I do add some from other genres and even a few other mediums (I can be a rule breaker when I want to be). With that in mind, let us begin the Perfect Book Tag.

THE PERFECT GENRE

(pick a book that perfectly represents the genre)

I had a hard time choosing on this, between what could be considered a quintessential horror novel, and what could be the most terrifying novel (AKA the “perfect” horror novel). In the end, I wanted to include the quintessential novel elsewhere, and I hate repeating myself, so I decided on the most terrifying novel I’ve ever read, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Honestly, this novel’s show of brutality, the ease in which regular people can be persuaded to commit acts of evil and the graphic descriptions of torture and cruelty were enough to make me put the book down at times just so I could process what I was reading and get control of my dread. If you want perfect horror, this might be close enough.

Just don’t blame me if this gives you an upset stomach or nightmares. Trust me, it’s a tough one to get through.

THE PERFECT SETTING

(pick a book that takes place in a perfect place)

Again, I’m not sure if there’s anything considered “perfect” in entertainment, let alone a perfect setting. However, as far as I’m concerned, this might come damn close. The Doctor Who universe has every sort of setting imaginable. From futuristic cityscapes, to the distant past, and even our own modern times, you can find aliens, historical personages, gods and demons, magic (sort of) and science, friends and enemies, and even new universes or pocket universes! It’s an endlessly adaptable setting, and that’s why it’s my choice for perfect setting.

Also, I know it’s a TV show and the books are expanded universe and semi-canonical at best, but like I said, I like to break the rules.

 

THE PERFECT MAIN CHARACTER

(pick the perfect main character)

For this one, I didn’t pick perfect as in “they’re the best at everything and never have to improve. The story is just a way for the reader to fawn over how amazing the characters are.” Those are known as Mary Sues and Gary Sues, and most writers learn to stop creating them when trying to write compelling stories. Instead, I picked examples of characters I like to work with the most: women/girls who don’t start out as protagonist material, but as time goes on they grow into their heroine roles. Sailor Moon and Buffy are two great examples of those characters, as well as the reason I love that character type.

Neither Buffy Summers nor Sailor Moon started out as heroes who were thrilled with their roles. They just wanted to be normal girls, not burdened down with these destinies to save humanity from evil. But over time, as they get stronger and build their support networks, they become stronger, able to defy evil and inspire everyone around them and everyone watching them, regardless of age or gender. It’s part of the reason why these characters have endured over thirty years after their debuts, and part of the reason why I am who I am today.

 

THE PERFECT BEST FRIEND

(loyal and supportive, pick a character that you think is the best friend ever)

 

This one was easy. She’s smart, kind, brave, and is willing to point out when you’re wrong or doing something stupid. And she’s willing to stand up for the oppressed when no one else will, including many of the oppressed. She can be a bit stubborn, and at times she loses sight of reality when it comes to studies or other things she deems important. But honestly, Hermione Granger would make a great best bud.

 

THE PERFECT LOVE INTEREST

(pick a character you think would be an amazing romantic partner)

Let me level with you all. I may be bisexual, but I’m aromantic, so I don’t really feel romantic attraction to anyone. Sexual, definitely, but I have trouble imagining myself wanting to be tied to someone like a partner or lover. And since I don’t feel like telling the world about a character I may find sexy, I’ll just leave this one blank. Sorry if you really wanted to know what my type was or wanted to set me up with someone you know. You can’t change someone’s nature that easily.

 

THE PERFECT VILLAIN

(pick a character with the most sinister mind)

Remember that quintessential horror novel I mentioned as a contender for Perfect Genre? Yeah, IT was the runner-up. But in terms of villains, Pennywise is the ultimate, hence why he’s here. Honestly, he’s a perfect mix of both the human villain and the supernatural. He understands human fears and motivations, is a master manipulator and knows just how to get under our skin and either terrify us into a stupor or make us his pawn. At the same time, he’s this giant cosmic entity from beyond the universe, a thing we can only grasp as orange lights known as The Deadlights. His motivations aren’t born from hatred or greed or any human desire, but from the need to feed and eventually the need to procreate. It’s just another show of his Otherworldly nature.

And let’s face it, he’s devious! It takes a special sort of evil to enjoy being an evil clown 24/7, and Pennywise does it better than the Joker. Yeah, you read that right. What are you going to do about it?

 

THE PERFECT FAMILY

(pick the perfect bookish family)

Well, they’re not from any books, at least not originally, but the Addams Family would be my perfect fictional family. You can guess why.

 

THE PERFECT ANIMAL OR PET

(pick a pet or fantastic animal you need to see on a book)

Although I’m against the breeding of white tigers (they’re a genetic abnormality and breeding them leaves the tigers with all sorts of genetic problems), White Blaze from the anime Ronin Warriors is a creature I always wanted. He’s a tiger and deadly towards his enemies, but he’s smart, kind and good with people. You could honestly have him babysit your kids, he’s that good. And in a fight against evil, you couldn’t ask for a better animal partner.

In fact, White Blaze might be part of the reason why tigers are my favorite animal. And it’s not hard to see why.

 

THE PERFECT PLOT TWIST

(pick a book with the best plot twist)

I won’t say what it was. But it left me reeling. Took me half the next chapter to realize the author was serious and wasn’t pulling my leg. Still the hardest a twist in a novel has ever hit me.

 

THE PERFECT TROPE

(pick that trope you would add to your own book without thinking)

Let’s face it, I love a cosmic horror twist. The idea of an entity that defies human conception, to the point it can drive us mad, excites me as a horror writer to no end.

 

THE PERFECT COVER

(pick a cover you would want on your own book)

I want a cover similar to this on one of my books someday. Either that, or something that disturbs just to look at it.

 

THE PERFECT ENDING

(pick a book that has the perfect ending)

My favorite endings in horror have the horror continuing on long after the heroes appear to have won. So if I have to pick one that’s a good example, I think I’ll go with Needful Things by Stephen King. Great book with an enigmatic and terrifying antagonist. If you haven’t read it yet and you have a stomach for horror, you might want to change that sooner rather than later.

 

I TAG THEE:

  • Priscilla Bettis
  • Iseult Murphy
  • Joleene Naylor
  • Ruth Ann Nordin
  • Matt Williams
  • YOU!!! (If you want to)

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow, I finally start that essay, and then I start on a new short story. But in the meantime, what did you think of my choices? Any of them resonate with you? Let’s talk in the comments.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!