Found another review of Child of Fire today that used the “L” word. “Lovecraft.” It’s one I think about often. I stuck werewolves into my first novel because they’re scary (to me, anyway–I have had many nightmares about dog attacks) but the books are meant to feature supernatural creatures you don’t normally find in folklore. No pixies, no rakshasa, no ghosts, no ifrits, none of that. I wanted to make my own.

Which would be one thing if I was writing a second-world fantasy, but the setting for the Twenty Palaces books are contemporary Earth. And if you write contemporary fantasy but do not use the traditional horror/folkloric supernaturals, how are people going to describe those creatures?

With the “L” word.

Me, I enjoy most Lovecraft–especially the monsters–but I have always hated the names. Cthulhu. Nyarlathotep. Yog-Sothoth.[1] They always rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t believe people would be willing to stick with those unpronounceable names, except under very special circumstances (as in “Nyarlathotep, have I got a deal for you!”). I mean, how long did it take for the U.S. to stop using the name “Peking.” People change things for their convenience.

But the real question is, how do you write a fantasy creature that does not draw on a religious or folkloric tradition that does not prompt comparisons to H.P. Lovecraft?

edited to add: finally reached 100 reviews on Amazon.com yesterday, which I think is pretty cool.

[1]All spelled by memory. Because.

6 thoughts on ““Lovecraftian”

  1. Actually I thought the Fire Wheel was a little more Barkerian.

    Which I think probably also goes to show that a lot of people use the word Lovecraftian whenever a monster just isn’t one of the old standards.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the RPG book, The Book of Unremitting Horror:


    But it’s another nice horror piece that pushes beyond what’s come before.

  2. Michael B Sullivan

    I have described your mythos as “Lovecraftian,” by which I mean more than merely, “non-traditional fantasy creatures.”

    What I mean is:

    1. The creatures are non-traditional.
    2. They’re also otherwordly and alien. They aren’t just dudes with weird ears or ridges on their noses or whatever, they’re crazy circles of worms.
    3. They seem to be universally hostile to humanity (or indifferent to humanity in ways that end up being functionally the same as hostility).
    4. They seem like they’re a genuine threat not to just a few people, but regions or indeed all of earth.

    I haven’t actually read Lovecraft. But at this point, I think that horrible, powerful, utterly inhuman monsters is what people tend to mean by “Lovecraftian.”

  3. Man, when I talk to friends about why I like CoF, one of the first thing I go to is the fact that you make the otherworldly creatures scary and disturbing without leaning on the Lovecraft crutch of making them imponderable and randomly tentacled.

    So, yes, I suppose you invited comparison, but only because HPL is the elephant in the room, not because of any poor reflection on your book.

    -Rob D.

  4. Thank you! It’s true that HPL casts a long shadow, especially for writers (like me) who like his work and want to emulate certain aspects of it.

    And thank you also for telling your friends about the book. That’s crucial, seriously.

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