By Alexandre Serrano
Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s proposals were already considered, in his lifetime, typical of an inflexible reactionary, and are even more so today, eighty years after his death. He despised the idea of progress. Democracy was to him a stupid and dangerous idea. He believed miscegenation was a descent into barbarism, and some of his best passages were inspired by racial hatred. He loathed sex and consumerism even before they became the central and ubiquitous topics of our civilisation. He could be accused of misogyny if it weren’t because his misanthropy made no gender distinction. His works, on the other hand, are a negative cosmogony the ultimate truth of which is the universe’s absolute indifference towards the human race. Dominated by blind, monstrous and amoral forces, our great principles and we only represent an illusive parenthesis between two instances of vast darkness.
With that CV, the normal thing would be for him to never have abandoned the ostracism he inhabited (only known by a few fervent initiated members) until the seventies of the 20th century. Or at least the general tonic should be to burn him as a heretic, like did the prudish protestors that pleaded for his bust not to be the model for the World Fantasy Awards. What was difficult to foresee was that some day the most usual thing would be this, that or even this other thing:
For which strange decantation a writer with views so opposed to the hegemonic ones today, with a literary style that is quite singular and demanding, to say the least, and with such a stoic and nihilistic vision of existence becomes a sort of good-natured patron saint of the nerd tribe or well-loved creator of a joyful imagery that equally befits political satire, intertextual amusement or plain jokes?
It hasn’t been, obviously, a sudden transfusion. It’s Lovecraft’s own merit, allergic as he was to any kind of opportunism, to have embodied in life an ideal of purity and coherence that make us perceive him with a lot more sympathy than hostility. As it’s also his merit, and that of his circle of faithful followers, to have built a mythological cycle able to project itself to the future, naming frights that have become even stronger in the light of some biological or astrophysics discoveries, or giving them a shape that still appeals to us. But there has also been a slow mediation of other disciplines such as film, comics and even rock that have borrowed, re-elaborated, amplified and at the end of the day popularised many of his concepts. And from there to camp appropriation, through processes I don’t need to describe here, everything has been downhill.
There are, of course, those who lament that along the way his message has been denaturalised. Once bad news without lenitive turned into mere fair stall chill, his cosmic scale shrunk to familiar geography, his non-representable gods turned action toys, the horrifying original flow has been finally canalised.
Other less apocalyptic and more acute readings understand, though, that these revisions add new functions and layers of meaning to the things they manipulate. And, for this same reason, not only do they degrade or trivialise them, but also invigorate them.
In this case, I would forecast a third possibility. As the GIF accompanying these lines shows, behind their inoffensive appearance, the Nyarlothetep plush toys or the fake vintage tourist R’lyeh posters are inter-dimensional portals. Cracks through which a psalmody, barely heard at first, comes in and attracts us and asks us to go further and further in. Cracks that the Great Ancient have found to communicate again with our world: bait to make us walk again the way from post-modern irony to the ominous revelation of their August Terrors.