HP Lovecraft was the creator of the cosmic horror subgenre. I find cosmic horror much more terrifying than some crazy axe wielding maniac jumping out of a closet and chopping up someone.
We want to have value. Today’s educational system is busy trying to build children’s self-esteem. “We’re all winners.” “Everyone has value.” “You have a purpose.”
And while those are indeed lofty sentiments, in reality the children taught those sentiments are going to have a difficult time when they encounter their first selfish SOB out in the real world.
When I was in fifth grade, I lived in terror of the bullies who every recess when we were outside pantsed wallflowers such as myself. Those bullies didn’t give a fig about playing nice, or that everyone had value, or that everyone was a winner. They operated on a primeval level. Those who were stronger got their way. They were the winners.
Lovecraft’s point was no different. We humans sit on this speck of dirt and tell ourselves how important we are. That we have intrinsic value just because we’re human. However, the universe isn’t listening. And it isn’t listening because it doesn’t care. We don’t matter. It’s indifferent to us. We have as much value as the ball of ice orbiting our sun known as Haley’s Comet.
Everyone in the tiny Greek city-states was important (if you weren’t a slave, that is). When Alexander the Great suddenly expanded the world across a huge chunk of Asia, those same Greeks were suddenly faced with an identity crisis.
“Who am I in this huge new world?” they asked. The Epicurean and Stoic schools of philosophy arose in response to that question and attempted to provide answers.
Today we are faced with the same question. For the sake of literary convention, Lovecraft personified the universe’s indifference to us in The Great Old Ones. For Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos was an attack on religion and it’s false hope. And the irony should not be lost that Lovecraft gave The Great Old Ones worshipers.
Lovecraft was throwing down the gauntlet. All of our cherished beliefs are false. We have no objective meaning. We are living in a dream world if we think we do.
And the terror comes when we suddenly awake and are confronted with the meaninglessness of reality. That’s why I think The Great Old Ones and their minions are described as insanities, contrary to nature, blasphemous, and the like. They are contrary to everything that we think is normal.
Those bullies on my playground didn’t care about values or artificial constructs of behavior. They were contrary to everything that was considered normal behavior. If they could catch you, they would pants you. That was their reality. And their laughter at your pain and embarrassment was a reminder that the universe did not play fair and did not care.
Lovecraft’s heroes are basically helpless. They can do nothing to stop The Great Old Ones. All they can do is warn us that they are coming.
Pierce Mostyn, then, is not your typical Lovecraftian hero. He fights back against that cosmic indifference. He does so out of a sense of duty. Much like the Stoic who lives his life according to the principles of virtue and duty. Duty arises out of our being part of a whole, and we have obligations to that whole. Obligations that the virtuous person is bound to discharge.
Mostyn doesn’t see himself as helpless, even when facing an entity such as a shoggoth (one of those walking insanities that is a blasphemy of nature). He’s willing to admit there is a lot out there that we don’t understand. And maybe can never understand. He uses reason, and approaches the problems of life rationally. Not unlike the Stoics before him.
Dr Dotty Kemper, Mostyn’s main sidekick, on the other hand is a materialist. She believes science has all the answers. She’s a paranormal skeptic. It is science that replaces superstition with knowledge. Sometimes though she has a rough time of it, especially when science has no explanation.
In a sense, the Pierce Mostyn Paranormal Investigations aren’t pure cosmic horror. Because in the face of the universe’s indifference, and I do agree with Lovecraft on that, I think Marcus Aurelius provides us with a ready answer. Namely, that life is opinion. Or, if we expand the translation, life is what you make it to be.
I hope you enjoyed this little discussion of Lovecraft, cosmic horror, and Pierce Mostyn. The series, Pierce Mostyn Paranormal Investigations, launches in 3 weeks on the 29th. So mark your calendars!
The emblem at the top of this post is the emblem of the Office of Unidentified Phenomena (OUP), which is part of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which is a child agency of the US Department of Homeland Security. But don’t Google it, or check Wikipedia. You won’t find it there. Maybe if you went to the dark web…
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