Kuranes was not modern, and did not think like others who wrote. Whilst they strove to strip from life its embroidered robes of myth and to show in naked ugliness the foul thing that is reality, Kuranes sought for beauty alone. When truth and experience failed to reveal it, he sought it in fancy and illusion, and found it on his very doorstep, amid the nebulous memories of childhood tales and dreams.
H.P. Lovecraft, CelephaÃ¯s
When people ask me which Lovecraft story is my favorite I immediately answer with the above. A slight departure from his more horrifying works, CelephaÃ¯s is the story of a man whose connection to the dream realm becomes the method in which he travels to distant worlds and witnesses things that are fantastic, sometimes terrifying, but always better than the reality other people so readily embrace. While itâ€™s true this story carries a certain optimism that is absent in many other Lovecraft stories, I believe it emphasizes a current that runs throughout his greater works: That the capacity for imagination is superior to that of intellect.
Lovecraft was often inspired by what he dreamt of, from CelephaÃ¯s (notes in Lovecraftâ€™s commonplace book reveals â€œMan journeys to the past- or imaginative realm- leaving bodily shell behind”) to the horrible Night Gaunts, which he had nightmares of when he was a little boy. The power of the creative and artistic capabilities in humans, in particular an artistâ€™s sensitivity to that which others cannot perceive, plays an especially crucial role in The Call of Cthulhu. While the brilliant academic may be fooled into seeking the truth with no regard for personal safety (Iâ€™m looking at you, The Whisperer in Darkness) a spark of imagination that brings a doctor to reject commonly-held beliefs and instead pursue a fringe theory is what lets the protagonist see anotherâ€™s dream in Beyond the Wall of Sleep. Time and time again the studious and well-read are driven mad while the creatives are driven to be part of something larger.
It is this commonality within his stories that makes me wonder what Lovecraft would think about his stories in regards to role-playing. Beyond the more rigid board, card and video games that bear his signature creations, role-playing offers the capacity for expansion on the themes described in his works. While I am as guilty as anyone in taking a humorous approach to Lovecraftâ€™s works (alright, perhaps more so than most) I wonder what he would think of a genuine examination of his ideas born of true appreciation? Would he see a value in what we do, creating a new narrative in universe of his making, utilizing our imaginations to expand on his ideas? Or would he find our praise of his works wanting, and prefer that we stuck to space marines and super-heroes? I would hope the former.
The many personal flaws of H.P. Lovecraft can be discussed at length, as can the pros and cons of his style and topics of writing. It is his appreciation of the creative and love of wonder, however, that has always captivated me. A sculptor, a violinist and a man who wanders a city at night pining for a lost time are all inherently connected to a greater existence. When it comes to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, the scientist will search for truth at great cost, but the Dreamers have already found it.
I would like to leave you with a thesis for Weird Fiction written by Lovecraft himself, in his Supernatural Horror in Literature.
The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow because it demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and a capacity for detachment from every-day life. Relatively few are free enough from the spell of the daily routine to respond to rappings from outside, and tales of ordinary feelings and events, or of common sentimental distortions of such feelings and events, will always take first place in the taste of the majority; rightly, perhaps, since of course these ordinary matters make up the greater part of human experience. But the sensitive are always with us, and sometimes a curious streak of fancy invades an obscure corner of the very hardest head; so that no amount of rationalisation, reform, or Freudian analysis can quite annul the thrill of the chimney-corner whisper or the lonely wood.
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