Tag Archives: fear

Notes from ConDor – How Cthulu Became Cuddly

All beauty comes from harmony and contrast, goes the line from the film Vatel (2000). So, too, horror and humor have a similar relationship. By contrasting opposing moods – opposing tones – each hits harder. The laughs are more heartfelt, and the fear twists deeper into your guts. The same goes for reverence and satire, ostracism and belonging, and finally, the Cthulu mythos and plushy toys.

There was a discussion at ConDor this year about how Cthulu became cuddly. H.P. Lovecraft’s story, “The Call of Cthulu” was originally published in Weird Tales in 1928. The monstrous creature was one figure in over a hundred works by Lovecraft, whose stories (an absolute simplest terms) delve into mysterious and terrifying forces that shape civilization – and humanity’s reaction to either flee or worship those forces. Lovecraft is a brightly-burning star in horror’s lineage, and his popularity has spread, attaching to the goths of the 80s and remaining popular in both geek and steampunk culture of today. Lovecraft’s stories, and Cthulu in particular, have become iconic for reclaiming power as an outsider, celebrating one’s own strangeness, and laughing in the face of evil.

For some, it’s a way to both experience religious community and make fun of those communities. Cthulu is a charged repository for “unknown” fears.  As geeks, we want to justify our sense of being an outsider. But this, in and of itself, is an inherited chip on our shoulders. Geek culture was strange and misunderstood before it became the massive, accessible, sexy (profitable) subculture it is today. Nascent religions experience similar punishment – when beliefs and community membership were grounds for everything from ostracism to violence. Humans respond to If you’re an Other, you’re guaranteed to trigger a fight or flight response. Geek culture, like the religion it teases, It is a safe means of rebellion now. It has been stripped of its ‘outsider’ status in all but name.  The horrors of the deep, with their twisting pseudopods, now adorn H&M necklaces and home décor.

The octopus’s popularity followed the same path into trendiness carved by punk’s spikes and studded-leather look. Rebellion sells. Counterculture sells. Malificent and Wicked were hardly the first tales to re-frame evil. The city of Dunwitch, associated with Mordred of the Arthurian legend, had an alternate myth that cast Mordred as the hero. Whether it was by accident or design, Cthulu has experienced a rebranding. Arkham Horror the board game and santa-hat Cthulu are about fun and silliness, not horror. Godzilla experienced a similar transformation, going from a terrifying force of nature, to a friend of children everywhere, and then to a giant monster again. This is how we tame our fear: transforming the face of evil into an inside joke.

santathulu

Santa Cthulu, from ToyVault.com

What really makes horror horrible is the wall that stands between us and the abused. In a slasher movie, for example, the violence is being perpetrated for your benefit — your amusement. This is happening because you need to be entertained. For horror fans, we either feel obligated to be horrified by others’ blasé attitude toward violence, or we can relax and laugh from irony and cynicism. Making Cthulu cute is part of this catharsis. By making fun of the terrifying it’s easier to cope with, and through Cthulu you can have Hitler-grade level of irony without having to explain why you made a Hitler doll. The Mayan saying, the sun in the sky is not the sun, means that the sun we see isn’t the sun god. We’re not actually dealing with Cthulu, (or Hitler, if you have a Hitler doll), but rather the fear, darkness, and absence of humanity that these images represent.

Just as we see the beauty in objects by setting them in harmony or contrast with their environment, we’re better able to cope with evil by setting it against comedy. The different beats — fear, horror, fear, horror – allow both experiences to come to the fore in all their glory. Cthulu represents both evil and community – a fascination with darkness, and a way to poke fun at it. In the end, Cthulu is as warm and cuddly as we are to ourselves – and that perception could change at any moment.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.
― H.P. Lovecraft

Blood is really warm,
it’s like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming
.”
― Ryan Mecum

Moses saves, Jesus forgives, and Cthulu thinks you’d make a nice sandwich.” ― Tracy Nolan

Advertisements

12-year-old Doodles Self-Portrait as a Demon

A doodle I did at 11 or 12, which my dad recently unearthed from his office.

I took a Predictive Index (PI) test recently, and one of the aspects we discussed is that your core self never changes. I take some comfort in having the same concerns then as I do now. Self-aware child, or immature adult, that is the question…

 

glide

Little bat wings, circa 1997

The Cave

BayCon is coming up, I’ll post my schedule and prep notes later today.

I’m hitting one of my favorite parts in the story I’m working on now. Kar’s been so tough for so long. “She carries the story on her shoulders, up a rope ladder and across a swinging tightrope into the sky!” said one of my beta readers.

As I’m writing, she’s really badly hurt, and there’s a good chance she’ll remain that way for the rest of the story. Since she has relied on physical prowess for so long, having that taken away from her is becoming a shattering experience. Especially, as with Kar, her expertise is something she fully embraced as a way to escape and ignore deeper fears and doubts.

Music is really important to my process. This smaller, scared version of a power anthem captures the fear, devastation, and last drops of determination remaining in a warrior heart when it realizes the body doesn’t work anymore.
 

These Are The People I Want In My Life

I found this beautiful poem through a friendship with a musician with a beautiful soul. I would not have met her if I didn’t know writers with beautiful souls. Beautiful souls are true, and shine bright, whether they glow with compassion or writhe in their own torment. For me, beauty lies solely in entelechy.

The Invitation
by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can  disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.