(Painted in, uh, 1986 maybe?)
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So the irony of me landing a sale in Lovecraft-inspired/weird/cosmic horror fiction is, well, cosmic-level. But then so is the survival and ascendancy of an obscure writer of decadent (he'd hate that) weird fiction from the thirties to almost a hundred years later. There was, of course, a following who kept HPL's works alive long after their print publication, but it was still kind of a cultural clique/clubhouse more than anything like widespread acceptance.
But then the same happened with Tolkein, only on a more accelerated timeline. LORD OF THE RINGS was published how many times in the US before it finally caught on in the sixties? Three? More? And I still don't think it really caught on until those hippies who adopted it decided that THE HOBBIT was the kind of thing you read to kids in the fifth grade (fourth if you were, ahem, in the Mentally Goofed-Up Monsters program like your humble author here.) That's how it really spreads around.
Me? I didn't learn about Lovecraft from anyone like Derleth. I got exposed to him from Wayne D. Barlowe in BARLOWE'S GUIDE TO EXTRATERRESTRIALS. In that, Barlowe designed and drew up the Old Ones, from HPL's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. And I was entranced, not only because it was a resolutely non-human, non-humanoid alien, but one that was tied up in the whole of human history. See, as a kid in the middle seventies and on, you get exposed to ideas like galactic panspermia and that sets wheels turning. Of course, you also get exposed to alien astronauts building the great human civilizations of the past. (Protip: von Daniken is a big ol racist and about 99% of his findings can be traced back to that, but then growing up means everything in your childhood gets ruined.)
Luckily, about the time I found BARLOWE'S GUIDE (and to be fair, DIETIES AND DEMIGODS, the original first edition that still depicted all the Cthulhu mythos), Ballantine books put out those paperback collections of Lovecraft's work. You know the ones, black and white with a dollop of red covers from Michael Whelan? Yeah, those. I read those and loved those. (But heyooo: racism and swarthiness and pet names that really are the worst -- stuff I noticed as a kid but never put the cause and affect together until later.) Still, these were books that I could have gotten in any Waldenbooks or B. Dalton or Crown books. Yeah, you had more than one book chain back then. Weird, right?
I didn't have to be tapped into the Arkham house circle to find these. Though, to be fair, getting into the Arkham House editions (including the stuff that Ballantine didn't cover like his revision/ghost-written works) happened later. But the important part was that I was no longer reliant on it.
A couple other things contributed, weirdly. One was the edition of the NECRONOMICON which was being touted in the back pages of OMNI and STARLOG (I think) about the same time. Of course, when I finally got my hands on that, I was disappointed to see that it was just rewritten Babylonian mythology. Bummer, right? But it was a popcult thing that stuck around.
The other was the CALL OF CTHULHU role-playing game. Fun fact. I had every box set and supplement and a whole ton of miniatures. I never played a session of it until one I ran in my fourth year of college (and it wasn't even the same game system.) But yeah, I ate up all the additions to HPL's universe.
Of course, by that time, I could see the roots of a cottage industry (or several) being set down. Little did I suspect what it would turn into over time. Or that I would end up being part of it. Though, honestly, I still find that supremely strange. And if anything I still feel like an outsider virus that's been let in so I can run around the circulatory system and poke at things and see which hang together and which get sick and die real fast. Language is a virus, man.
Of course, I punched out pretty hard by about 1991 or so. All of my CALL OF CTHULHU stuff sat around gathering dust until I sold it off in a pre-Ebay auction on alt.horror.cthulhu. Took bids by email and updated the auctions a couple times a day. Even had to fend off a couple offers to buy everything for a single price after the auction had started. I'm a man of my word.
Made enough to buy a relatively cheap guitar and most of a cheap amplifier so that I could hang out with my friend Chris from UCI and make music under the name The Roswell Incident (most of which is available up at Bandcamp). I don't regret the move. I kept the miniatures, most of 'em anyways. But I missed out on the Lovecraft Rennaissance that hit hard after then. And now I'm in it, as peripherally as I may be.
Even weirder, or perhaps the most bone-deep predictable outcome of this, is that the stuff that brought me in, the monsters, are now the least appealing thing to me. Honestly, I'm looking at some story pitches I'm coming up with for a thing and I'm sure that not a one of them will be picked up because they're more PKD and less HPL. I say "Man, this really needs a cosmic squish monster or it's never gonna get a second look" and I feel more than a little sad. 'Cause that's just kaiju with different atmosphere and aesthetics.
Not to mention that the longer you dwell on these cosmic monsters casting their baleful gaze upon our green earth, the more the truth is revealed. These monsters aren't indifferent. They're obviously fascinated by humans, perhaps even scared of them. Hell, all the stories are about monsters trying to claw their way into our world to be the shatterer of worlds. Indifference and malice don't swing hand in hand. One's the opposite of the other. (And yes, I know, critters like the Old Ones and Mi-Go and the Deep Ones and even the Spawn of Cthulhu all have something approximating personalities if not strategic goals driven by intelligence. But the Big Cosmic Guns do not, what's more, giving them intelligence and motivation kinda destroys them.)
Anyways, the monsters have lost their interest for me. Yet they're expected. It's a quandry.
It sure is.
Gosh, and people wonder why my first entry into the modern weird was basically about fishing up Great Old Ones and putting them into ramen cups. Yeah, I wonder.
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