Monstrum Ex Machina, the third novella in the Grey Revolutions series, is released today.
Inspiration for stories come from numerous directions, and there’s usually more than one needed to construct a decent tale. One of the elements from this story came from considering Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, and how it differs from more traditional horror.
Disclaimers: I don’t have a deep knowledge of Lovecraft’s work, and less of horror in general, but have no intention of letting ignorance hold me back from giving an uneducated opinion. That’s what blogs are for. Also, this might result in some waffling, and anyone of a religious disposition may take offence. So better to stop here if this is you. Unless you want to be offended, in which case don’t blame me.
Lovecraft, Horror, and Religion
From the little research I bothered to do, I’m not sure there is a clear definition of cosmic horror. A good part of it is the terror at realising how small and insignificant you are. But associated with this is that the vast horrors to fear are usually indifferent to the harm they cause on something as small as us.
As opposed to a malevolent evil actively intent on doing us harm, so archetypal of a casual view of horror. This malevolent evil often has ties, either explicit or casual, to religious concepts of evil.
I see religion as starting out as folk tales used to explain the otherwise inexplicable world. Over time they’ve come to be considered more than mere stories, and held to tightly as a safety blanket. Of course they can’t be allowed to change over time, or it could disturb the illusion of authority they demand. So they still reflect the times in which they developed.
Times during which there were creatures out in the dark that meant us harm (besides each other). Even if only animals, they were threats. And the stories that built up around them shifted to less known terrors as familiarity grew.
Stories gave the fears form, and by doing so the promise that they could be survived, maybe even bested. But they also maintained the idea of the malevolent force outside our view, to keep the faithful from straying.
By Lovecraft’s time, the dangers in the dark (besides each other) had become less of a true concern. Settlements had grown so vast that a danger lurking outside it was well away from the beds of most in the settlement.
What was within the settlement became more of a cause for anxiety. The vast horde of strangers, feeding feelings of insignificance and isolation in this expanding worldview.
Lovecraft followed scientific discoveries, often using or referencing them. The growing understanding of the vastness of existence, and our smallness within that almost infinite scale, is obvious in his work. His horror was that of recognising one’s insignificance in an indifferent universe. The horror of being at the mercy of mechanisms that may not even register our existence.
Yet religion still seeks to engage people’s fears of malevolent forces, retaining that as the prism through which to interpret the world. Reinforcing divisions of us versus them. Cosmic horror is more about us versus it. Life. Vast and uncaring.
In part that may be why I see religion as archaic. It may once have offered comfort against the things people feared, but now seems to conjure its own boogeymen, oblivious to the true horrors of modern life.
Which can sound dark, but this worldview can also inspire awe (awe in the sense of wonder tinged with fear). And that’s where I feel it’s most interesting. It can raise all kinds of questions, and suggest further stories.
This became only a minor element in the story, serving as motivation for one character’s agenda. So this shouldn’t spoil much. The spirit probably runs through many of my stories though, especially the one I’m currently working on.
The working title is Soul Food. It’s a contemporary, stand-alone story. I’m not sure if it’s horror or urban fantasy. It starts out as a detective story. I suppose I should try and get better at aiming for a particular genre if I want to get any kind of a proper writing career. Maybe someday.
Monstrum Ex Machina
The world is changing, in ways it shouldn’t.
Even on the mindscape, things don’t just happen. Someone must think them. So monsters of fable, and haunted houses, must be thought into being.
Theresa wants to arrest those responsible, for whatever their crime is. Alex is happy to have a mystery.
Then things get violent.
Can they solve it before the nightmare plague becomes uncontrollable?
A 34,000 word sf novella.