FULL BLEED: FAITH AIN'T MECHANICAL
I'd really meant to get more done over the holidays, but like all pure and good intentions, it was about as meaningful as a sugarcube in a downpour. So I've been doing pre-writing on the thing that's currently called VOIDMAW. I'm sure a better, more compelling title will come to me while I'm writing it. But then I said that about QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS, and all that happened with that was the omission of a THE at the beginning.
By the by, QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS is available now, both as an ebook and real world physical book. You can order it here. As always, if you order direct from the publisher, you pay a touch more, but all the money goes to them (as opposed to however much going to Amazon.) But if you're motivated to and you've read the book, feel free to leave an Amazon review else it'll never get absorbed into their algorithms and may as well actually not even exist. I'm not exaggerating that, either.
But one of the things that I'd been thinking about while working on VOIDMAW worked around matters of faith in cosmic horror/SF. I mean, Lovecraft called all these things ancient gods with cults arrayed around them. Veneration and worship are suggested if not demanded with this terminology. And yet, HPL's work, in particular, is spiritually barren. So's the bit of Derleth's work that I've read. They hint at sort of an apocalyptic wonder, but only dance around it.
HPL's spiritualism is nonexistent. He was a materialist. Maybe even a pure rationalist, or pretended to be such. I'd seen this issue come up in online discussion of early cosmic horror, and in particular how there was a kind of desperate flight from anything resembling worship much less spirituality in his work. Magic was technology. Our shrinking away into insanity in the face of the elder gods? It wasn't magical or extra-rational, rather it was a *pure* rational reaction to the kind of gibbering insanity embodied by these beings. Yes, he called them gods, and suggested that they were worshipped. But it was always by debased creatures and humans who'd plunged to that level. Or they were primitive, savage. All loaded terms.
And if there were civilized humans who worshipped these creatures? Well, that was all purely transactional, in the pursuit of power that would be granted them by the Great Old Ones. Or at least indifference as Cthulhu gobbled up anyone besides the individuals who'd summoned him up from dread R'lyeh. Granted, I'm moving past HPL here. A lot of this stuff is second/third generation mythos sorts of activity.
Of course, as he wrote more and more and the mythos progressed, HPL introduced races that if not human, were at least thinking creatures, not merely avatars of chaos. The Mi-Go, Old Ones and Great Race of Yith all created star-spanning civilizations, harnessed intellect and technology and in many regards were twenty-first century men wearing different skins. Yeah, we can talk about fiction as allegory sure. But let's stay on this track. Rationalist, transactionalist.
Not spiritual. There's nothing that we associate with worship other than perhaps surrender of the self and the attendant obliteration (without enlightenment to show for it – some bargain, right?) Probably because, as a materialist, there is nothing beyond this world for HPL. Of course, that's death to spiritualism, right? This is where I get down to the opinion that HPL was writing science fiction, not fantasy (at least when he stumbled onto the mythos). His gods are ancient star-beings, not avatars of qualities or deities in any traditional sense. Hell, if you worship them, you're likely just to get their attention and have nothing to show for it but being consumed. Obliteration. Yeah. There is only the horror of dissolution, of life ending because that's it, man. Cockroaches are gonna inherit the whole show (but they'll be really smart cockroaches being driven around by bodiless egos from another planet.)
See, spiritualism is more than just materialist facts ("The ancient gods have ruled the universe forever – don't look at them or you'll go insane" etc etc). It's about how the world is created, right? Faith is information, but more than that, it's bone-deep *belief* that these things are true and this is the way things are. Back to the land of Is. But faith is shattered in the face of materialism. Note how there's no characters who attempt to reconcile say, Jesus and Yaweh/Jehovah with the existence of Yog-Sothot and Shub Niggurath. My guess is because HPL was all "That's because Christianity is stupid and wrong and facts obliterate it" so he wasn't really capable of imagining such a confrontation much less playing it out with his characters. The closest we get to that sort of thing is MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS where the joke of human creation is revealed. Absurdism reigns.
I suppose this ties back to some earlier thoughts of mine, where I talk about "Carcosa but not horrible." For HPL to talk about genuine human spirituality instead of abject terror just wasn't something he was interested in. For instance, I'm reading the VALIS trilogy by PKD, and in the first couple chapters of that, there's more spirituality (and by extension humanity) than in HPL's entire oeuvre. This isn't necessarily a slam, but an observation. You can only write about what you can write about, dig? HPL didn't view religion as a positive thing. I'm a little more nuanced on it, but I'm not a fool. I've read enough history to see how religion has excused all manner of excesses and horrors.
Anwyays, this is a long way around to talk about one of the many mini-revelations-of-the-obvious I've come across on this stupid and meandering pathway I'm on currently. But it struck me as weird, this sort of failure of imagination that HPL (and frankly, most other cosmic horror writers) fell into. Yeah, I know. Lots of writers are just trying to imitate the same kinds of feelings that reading this stuff hit them with when they were impressionable. I'm not any better, I guess. But hopefully I come across a couple different facets of humanity along the way.
Working on a year-end wrap post that I hope to get to in not too long. As I haven't really accomplished all that much visibly this year, well, it should be a short piece.