Friday, April 23, 2010

World War I and H.P. Lovecraft

"At the beginning of the twentieth century, belief in the rational suffered a massive blow on the charnel fields of the First World War. Here were the rational, modern, capitalist powers, expressing their supposedly rational interests with an eruption of mechanized human butchery unprecedented in history. The scale of the psychic and cultural trauma of the First World War is vast—perhaps even 'undescribable.' The war smashed apart the complacencies of 'rationality' and uncovered the irrationality at the heart of the modern world with a savagery that eclipsed any fantasist's nightmares. How, then, could the genre known as fantasy present anything that could compare with such horror? Certainly, its stock of werewolves and effete vampires were utterly inadequate to the task....

"Traditionally, genre horror is concerned with the irruption of dreadful forces into a comforting status quo—one which the protagonists frantically scrabble to preserve. By contrast, Lovecraft's horror is not one of intrusion but of realization. The world has always been implacably bleak; the horror lies in our acknowledging that fact."

--China Mieville, introduction to At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, 2005

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