Lovecraft and Wells

So does this sound like Lovecraft to you?

I heard cries of terror and their little feet running and stumbling this way and that. I do not remember all that I did as the moon crept up the sky. I suppose it was the unexpected nature of my loss that maddened me. I felt hopelessly cut off from my own world–a strange animal in an unknown world. I must have raved to a fro, screaming and crying upon God and Fate. I have a memory of horrible fatigue, as the long night of despair wore away; of looking in this impossible place and that; of groping among moonlit ruins and touching strange creatures in the black shadows; at last, of lying on the ground near the sphinx and weeping with absolute wretchedness.

It probably should, but it’s not. It’s actually a passage from Wells’ The Time Machine.

So what do we do with this information? Out front, we can see Lovecraft’s language of the Weird already present twenty years before Lovecraft really starts writing anything. Wells is clearly telegraphing the moves of Weird fiction in this piece, and the climax of The Time Machine is even stranger

As I stood sick and confused I saw again the moving thing upon the shoal–there was no mistake now that it was a moving thing–against the red water of the sea. It was a round thing, the size of a football perhaps, or, it may be, bigger, and tentacles trailed down from it.

That isn’t the first time that tentacles are mentioned in the novel, and at this point we’re somewhere in the far, far future, where the sun is dying, a Lovecraftian space of dying and decay if there ever was one. I think what we have to recognize here is that Lovecraft’s claim that Weird fiction is something new in his time is utterly false. In fact, HPL’s writing technique and methodology is indebted so heavily to the end of the Victorian era that we have to look at the intermezzo space between the Victorian and the early 20th century incredibly closely to see where those attachments exist.

The recluse of Providence, the country gentleman, Howard Phillips Lovecraft–a product of the Victorian era. But there’s rebellion in his texts, a denial of progressive telos paired with an utter hatred for the world. Something has to be said about the amount of apocalyptic scenarios that end with the world razed and populated by racist caricatures of cultists and demons.

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5 Responses to Lovecraft and Wells

  1. Pingback: Lovecraft and Wells (via this cage is worms.) « nyrhalahotep

  2. Awix says:

    Well… HPL himself admitted his debt to Poe, who was writing even earlier than Wells. Poe’s weird fiction has a phantasmagorically maniacal quality which makes the connection between the writings of Lovecraft’s time and Victorian gothic quite clear.

    • kunzelman says:

      Agreed, but I think there’s something interesting in the fact that Wells has a very “science eliminates fear of the unnatural” edge to his writing, but he is always living on the edge of a Lovecraftian Weird. There’s a philosophical disconnect between the two, yet they are very similar, pragmatically.

      • Awix says:

        Well… that’s a kind of disconnect that seems to recur again and again down through the history of SF and fantasy literature. People who want to be rational and scientific and explain everything in very measured terms, but who are also the most prone to become almost mystical – Arthur C Clarke, for instance. Some of his writing has a touch – a tiny touch – of HPL’s nihilistic vision about it – great powers in the universe that humans cannot hope to understand, that sort of thing.

  3. Pingback: Designing Horror: Deep Sleep | this cage is worms

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