Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Night Thoughts: Post-Lovecraftian Lovecraftian Fiction

Recently, we at the Ghooric Zone have been pondering what shape a post-Lovecraftian Lovecraftian fiction might take. In other words, if we recognise that Lovecraft's 'non-supernatural cosmic art' radically overturned the established themes and tropes of supernatural fiction, what (if anything) could replace push Lovecraftian fiction forward and beyond Lovecraft's original cosmic vision? Is such a thing even conceivable? Did Lovecraft, as Erik Davis suggest, mark the limits of human conceptual boundaries with his fiction? If so, could it be that a post-Lovecraftian Lovecraftisn fiction could only be suggested through the scrawl of a Burroughsian word-salad, or via an inscription of alien sigils perpendicular to reality?

These perverse and impious ruminations aside, a few viable contenders to the post-Lovecraftian Lovecraftian throne spring to mind: Thomas Ligotti, of course. No doubt a worthy successor to the Lovecraftian mantle; though perhaps Ligotti's work strays a little too close to personal horror to fully qualify as 'cosmic' in the way that Lovecraft's best work does. China Mievielle at his best wonderfully evokes the cosmic in new and alien worlds although his work ultimately revolves around a very human politics. Jeffrey Thomas' 'Punktown' novels also merge Lovecraftian themes with the urban decay and inhumanity of far-future cyberpunk: a universe populated by chameleon private dicks and tentacular-eyed alien prostitutes, where Vietnam-like corporate wars are waged across dimensions and the dead communicate through the latest cell-phone technology. However my personal recommendation - and about as far from trad Lovecraftian as you can get - is M. John Harrison. His most recent novels (Light and Nova Swing) come very close to articulating the inconceivable via the fractured physics of an alienated and alienating (almost)posthuman universe.


  1. GB Steve1:41 PM

    I'd certainly agree with your assessment of MJH, although I'm not sure he would. He doesn't like to be pigeonholed, that might signal that he has some kind of plan or style which he maintains he hasn't.

    As for the notion that he is post-HPL, I'm not so sure. More because I'm not sure that post-HPL is either a state that something can attain, or that it would be something like HPL, only more so. Which seems to be what you're saying MJH is. And I think MJH has a deep vein of humanity in his writing, but it's mostly the humanity of feeling rather than thinking.

    Perhaps post-HPL is about looking at HPL's universe and saying "so what?" and just getting on with the business of living. Perhaps that's what MJH does. I'm not sure.

  2. Hi Steve,

    Agreed on most of your points - especially you last one. There is, as you say, a deep vein of humanity in MJH's work (even though I find many of his characters thoroughly unlikeable).