A commentary on cosmic horror

I have written about my recent enjoyment of cosmic horror before, in John Langan’s The Fisherman, I highly recommend. Though this is the first time I’ve seriously dived into H.P. Lovecraft’s work. Cancellable racism aside, Lovecraft’s cinematic enormity in his horror tastes so sweet despite the scariness. I think I’ve always intrinsically enjoyed horror – R.L. Stine’s Deep Trouble from the Goosebumps series was a favourite in my paltry childhood library, stored in that little pocket under your hand-me-down Ikea nightstand. I love, an antediluvian sea beast, gargantuan and ancient, beyond the comprehension of a regular guy like me. Godzilla, Clover, the Watcher in the Water, and other Kaijus are very good examples of the type of underwater terror I like. Similarly, Sin from Final Fantasy X is in my personal top five villains of the series – the religious aspect of Squaresoft’s 2000’s crowning achievement holds up very well against modern videogame storytelling.

In our plane of existence, cetaceans fall into this category, with many of the whale species possessing an even more spiritual and emotional connection with each other. They are evolved beyond human connection – guardians of the Earth who traverse our seas far deeper and far better than the reach of our iron gills. Sharks are a quintessential sea beast too; they are evolution’s perfect weapon, adapted so succinctly to the vast reaches of the ocean. It would be an honour to be in the presence of either creature, underwater, but also an extreme risk to my life. And I’m paying $169 USD for that diving experience too – a great white shark attack I’m sure is a fatal and expensive liability. You can only pray to whatever god serves your purpose to save your physical body, soul careening into final judgment.

(Funny sidenote: at Parry Sound’s Bearly Used Books, one of my favourite haunts in the north Toronto regions, at one point had so many shark horror books, they were all gathered up in their own precious, little section. Loves it.)

China Mieville writes in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu (Robinson, 2016), that traditional genre horror finds troubled protagonists wanting to return to a comfortable status quo, but “by contrast, Lovecraft’s horror is not one of intrusion but of realization. The world has always been implacably bleak; the horror lies in us acknowledging the fact.” Jumping into a clear blue ocean as far as the eye can see, a foreign world where technology and gravity are but suggestions, where underwater aeon entities the size of a yellow school bus lurk; in that situation, life is pretty bleak. This is likely the main draw of any modern shark movie. Lovecraft’s intimate phobias of marine life, invertebrates and the cold abyss of the sea activates my own powerlessness against those waters.

It’s easy to see why I was able to read almost the entirety of Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, published by Penguin Books in 2011. Personal favourites include The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Call of Cthulhu, Rats in the Walls and Herbert West – Reanimator. I’m actively trying to branch out my blog writing into short fiction, so I am currently devouring sci-fi/fantasy, horror and magic realism short story anthologies by the pound. Equipped with my penchant for kaijus and leviathans, I want to create something within the same Lovecraftian atmosphere or universe. S.T. Joshi, in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu writes that the Lovecraftian universe relies less on “a pantheon of imaginary deities nor in a cobwebby collection of forgotten tomes, but rather in a certain convincing cosmic attitude” (Robinson, 2016). I’m imagining an eldritch whale, an offset of Sin, one of the gods of antiquarian things, but no real specifics here. My immediate goal, at some point in the foreseeable future, is to knock out 4000 words in one go, for the first draft of a short story.

Additional reading:

The Fisherman by John Langan (Word Horde, 2016)

The Breath of a Whale by Leigh Calvez (Sasquatch Books, 2019)

“A commentary on ‘The Fisherman’ by John Langan” for Windhill Journal

2 responses to “A commentary on cosmic horror”

  1. […] “A commentary on cosmic horror” for Windhill Journal […]


  2. […] and conversational tone, phrases every so often landing a critical hit, or the meandering horror of H.P. Lovecraft’s prose, whose negative, miserable voice is human none the less, the high fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien is the […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: