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Books–At the Mountains of Madness October 26, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other.

H.P. Lovecraft is amazing.  I thought a lot while I was reading this book about the writing process, since I am seriously considering writing a novel in November for NaNoWriMo.  Lovecraft couldn’t have possibly read the same book that I read on plotting, but he reminds me of it nonetheless.  I read this old book I found in the library written by a guy who only identifies himself as Foster-Harris.  (I don’t know whether that’s a first name spatchcocked to a last name with a hyphen, or whether he thinks his first name isn’t important, or what.)  Anyway, this guy’s advice was pretty kookety, and I’ll post more about it maybe during November.  “At the Mountains of Madness” reminded me of Foster-Harris’s advice that you take the central conflict in your story and make it more and more difficult for the protagonist.  Make it so difficult that it looks to be simply impossible for some sort of positive resolution.

Now in terms of plot, Lovecraft’s stories are nothing like that.  But he seems to sometimes accept a similar sort of challenge.  It is as if someone said to him when he was writing this “H.P.  I think that you could not possibly make penguins scary or creepy.  Penguins are too cute and goofy.  They look too happy-go-lucky.  I’ll give you ten thousand bucks if you can make some scary penguins without screwing up your story.”  And then H. P. rose to the challenge. These are, I should note, six-foot tall, sightless, albino penguins.  And they are not the main villains of the story; they may not be villains at all.  But still, if you can mak penguins creepy and then later in your story make them seem a welcome sight by comparison, you are the best. 

Far worse than the penguins are the Shoggoths, which were originally engineered by the Old Ones, the Elder Gods of the Cthulhu mythos.  They appear in this story as creations that have gone out of the control of their makers.  These creatures remind me a little too much of the final scenes of John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” which veered substantially from the original movie.  I see from the wikipedia entry on this book/story that Carpenter was fascinated by Lovecraft, and of course both stories take place in the arctic. 

At the “Mountains of Madness” is the longest story in this collection of four stories at about 110 pages.  The shortest in this book is five pages long.  It also contains “The Shunned House,” “The Dreams in the Witch House,” and “The Statement of Randolph Carter” (the five-page one).  All are excellent and creepy.  Perfect reading for the end of a New England October.  I wish I had a few more on hand.

 Next Up:  Another Bullshit Day in Suck City, by Nick Flynn


1. caveblogem - March 29, 2007

Sorry you had to see this. This is a fake comment I am using to test the comments feed in Bloglines. It won’t happen again, I hope.

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