ORACLE

4/24/2010

Lovecraftian Insights from Ken Hite

Ken Hite is a man I admire the hell out of. His impact on the gaming industry, and on me as a gamer, has been huge, and his knowledge of all things Lovecraft seems to be limitless. I think it is safe to say that his main interests are the same as my own (gaming, Lovecraft, Weird Tales), so it should come as no surprise that I have such admiration for this individual. Mr. Hite has earned a well deserved spot in my Gods of Imagination photo gallery (sidebar on the left).

I wanted to share an interesting interview with Ken I found over at Booklife, titled "From All Directions at Once: Kenneth Hite on Cthulhu & Creativity." Here is just a snippet of the discussion:
Jones: What is it about Cthulhu that attracts you as a reader and as a writer? What can writers who aren’t familiar with the Mythos learn from reading Lovecraft?

Hite: I think the fundamental thing that attracts me about Cthulhu and the Mythos at large is its scope. It’s vast; the entire canvas of time and space, illuminated by a dozen or more A-list writers (and yes, scores of B-listers and on down) in just enough detail to inspire but never too much to restrict. Cthulhu seemingly explains everything from evolution to religion, but when you look closer at the stories, things are less explained than ever. Cthulhu also dwells at the intersection of fantasy, horror, and science fiction: he’s a magic monster alien. In proper non-Euclidean style, you can come at him from all directions at once.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a Cthulhu fan or a Mythos buff, you can learn a lot from Lovecraft. I maintain you can learn a huge amount about horror and about fiction from his plots, his story structure, and — yes — his style. It’s just not true that Lovecraft — especially after, say, 1926 or so — is a bad writer. He can be a challenging writer, for those of us who grew up on Asimov and Heinlein and the post-Hemingway plain-glass style of American fiction. But he is a truly great writer, and any writer can learn from his or her betters. If you think otherwise, try rewriting “The Call of Cthulhu” or “The Colour Out of Space” in a style you prefer, and see how many of Lovecraft’s decisions you wind up repeating anyway.

To that end, I’d start any look at Lovecraft with the real great stories: “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, At the Mountains of Madness, “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and “The Haunter of the Dark,” say. (There’s about ten more great stories in HPL’s lineup, but those will get you started.) Every one of those stories has a sympathetic — even tragic — character, a complex narrative structure, and passages of sheer wonder and terror that will knock your socks off.
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