Mon
Nov 4 2013 4:00pm
Advanced Readings in D&D: H.P. Lovecraft

HP Lovecraft

In “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Up this week is the spooky uncle of fantasy literature, H.P. Lovecraft!

Mordicai Knode: The Grand Old Master of the Order of Frighteners. High Priest of the Creeping Madness. Providence. Howard Phillip Lovecraft. I doubt anyone really needs us to sing the praises of Lovecraft (though I expect we’re going to, anyhow—and for that matter, I already have). I’m expecting that we’ll have plenty of criticism about the gentlemen in question; not just literary criticism (or basic writing critique: how many times do you really need “eldritch” and “squamous” in this story, Howard?) but actual you know, criticism. Still, the guy basically invented contemporary horror— besides splatter and slasher, I suppose— and you can’t really talk about him without a sort of gleeful enthusiasm. Or at least, I can’t.

Uncaring alien godthings and cults of fishpeople get all the attention, but the stories that stick with me are the ones that get a little more surreal. Don’t get me wrong: At the Mountains of Madness, Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Over Innsmouth... there are a reason that these stories are at the forefront, as the juxtaposition of modern man with truly unknowable forces is a ripe category...the ensuing cosmic creepfest and insanity in response to a nihilistic and uncaring universe might be seen as Lovecraft’s thesis.

That said, for me it is the odder tales, like The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, that kick it up a notch. Hordes of cats, friendly conversations with cannibal ghouls, trips to the moon, evil ticklers, and terrifying plateaus that only exist in dreams? Yes please! I’m going to go on a limb and say that I see a little Randolph Carter in some of my favorite protagonists. Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, I’m looking at you, and while I’m hard pressed to say Dream of the Endless is like Carter, I wouldn’t hesitate to say with certainty that you can take a road from his palace in the Dreaming directly to the Plateau of Leng.

Tim Callahan: All right, this is going to be fun, because I have no idea what you’re talking about. Here’s the thing: I never read a single H. P. Lovecraft story before 2012.

How could that be? What is wrong with me?

Here’s how it happened.

I was aware of Lovecraft as a teenager, and I remember reading about him, and knowing that he wrote these weird horror stories that, in my mind, were like Edgar Allan Poe on drugs or something. I realize how ridiculous that sentence looks, trust me.

And by the time I would have actually wanted to read his stuff, I was a “serious” student of literature and I had heard that Lovecraft was a pretty terrible writer, prone to verbosity and sloppy plotting and, well, all kinds of atrocities of the sexism and racism variety. So that put me off Lovecraft and I just wasn’t much interested. I probably associated Lovecraft mostly with guys I knew who played Call of Cthulhu and seemed both smug and panicked at the same time, a far from attractive combination. But Lovecraftian references continued to pop up in the books and comics and movies I loved, and between our initial discussions about starting this Appendix N project and knowing that my ongoing Great Alan Moore Reread would culminate with Moore’s unabashed Lovecraft tribute series Neonomicon, I picked up a hefty tome of collected Lovecraft tales last year and read a few of the more famous ones in an admittedly cursory way. I read them like they were a school assignment rather than something I really cared about, so I need to go back and give them some more attention.

And I haven’t dipped into his lesser-known stuff at all. So here we go. I’m going to give you the power to shape my Lovecraft experiences and sharpen my focus on these stories. I’m off to read The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath right now, and I’ll see you on the other side of the Plateau of Leng, whatever the heck that means.

Okay, thanks to the magic of internet time, I just finished reading it.

Wow. That’s like 90 pages of psychedelia, isn’t it? I see what you mean about the odd and the surreal. There’s one point where, in the midst of dense imagery of swirling towers and strange beasts and a difficult-to-grasp sense of ever-shifting reality where Randolph Carter is described not as riding a horse, but riding a zebra. Because zebras are freaky! It’s like Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel had kids and they turned out to be the two brothers who write and draw Axe Cop...in your nightmares.

MK: Man, I don’t think “...like Edgar Allan Poe on drugs” looks like a weird sentence, I think it looks like a great sentence. And not entirely inaccurate, either, as is “... both smug and panicked at the same time.” Except, you know, both of those things in the best way, rather than the worse way. I avoided “serious literature” and the bulk of Western Canon, since I wasn’t an English major at any point in my life, so my reading history is equally devoid of classics that are undoubtedly wonderful, as well, so no judgment here. While Lovecraft is, how do you put it, “prone to verbosity and sloppy plotting” he also has an intuitive knack for suspense and...existentialism? Which is an odd skill to have, existentialism, so kudos to Lovecraft for putting it to good use.

As for the racism and sexism, which is something we keep coming back to in this series...well, yes. You know what, I don’t like Michel Houellebecq as a novelist at all— quite the opposite in fact— but he wrote an essay called H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life that really gets into the fat and gristle of the matter, looking at a disenfranchised Lovecraft living in Red Hook, and how his prejudices flourished. At how his sort of usual upper class racism really turned into something awful; Houellebecq argues that it happened as a sublimation for his frustration and general impotence, and I find it pretty convincing.

Not that it excuses anything, by any means; mostly I just want to encourage everyone to read H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, as it provides a good background context for Lovecraft’s oeuvre and posits that Lovecraft’s writing is fundamentally a rejection of money and sex. An acknowledgement of Materialism as a philosophy and a horrible reaction against it. For that matter, I think it provides an argument for why I don’t like Houellebecq, who embraces and glorifies the petty, disgusting corners of the world. The same misanthropy, but from two entirely different angles. I only read the first few issues of Neonomicon (after adoring The Courtyard) and I sort of got the impression that it was a little more in Houellebecq’s vein.

Okay, so what is next, Tim? Colour Out of Space? The Music of Erich Zann? Oh! The Shadow Out of Time?

TC: That Houellebecq essay! I remembered reading that, but then I looked it up and realized that I read the October 2004 issue of The Believer with the excerpt of the essay, as part of McSweeney’s promotion of their soon-to-be-coming full-length translation of Against the World, Against Life. I’ve never read the complete, super-long essay, then, but just the excerpt, and now it looks like the book is out of print and pricey.

I unearthed my copy of that desperately old Believer issue, with the giant, smiling head of John Kerry on the cover, back from the days when the 2004 election was looming and it looked—at least to Heidi Julavits and her crew—that the senator from Massachusetts had a chance to overtake George W. Bush and win the presidency. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Houellebecq quotes Lovecraft’s Arthur Jermyn in his essay in that very issue: “Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which makes it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.”

Even in the brief excerpt, Houellebecq nails the essence of Lovecraft, and rereading it makes me wonder why I didn’t read Lovecraft stories in 2004. Surely the essay would have encouraged me to explore Lovecraft’s work. I don’t remember why I didn’t, but I’m guessing that reading the essay allowed me to think, “oh, Lovecraft, got it. Don’t need to actually read the guy. I get it. As much as can be...um...gotten.”

I was wrong, of course, which is always the case when you substitute reading about something for the actual experience itself. (And, hey, that doesn’t mean we don’t want everyone to stop reading our Gygaxian reread series, but we’d love it if you read our conversations and the actual books too!)

Because it doesn’t matter if you understand that Lovecraft deals in the unknowable and an overwhelming sense of despair and dread. What matters is that when you read his stories, you feel it. Reading Lovecraft fills you—well it fills me, at least—with that sense of uncertainty and dread and anxiety. I don’t know about “smug and panicked,” but I certainly understand the panic.

And what’s perhaps creepiest of all, as I sit here and pretend to be a Lovecraft expert after only reading a few stories (including The Shadow out of Time), is that Lovecraft seems less like a storyteller and more like a historian or an archeologist of the cosmically terrible. He’s in touch with forces beyond our reckoning and he’s conveying that truth to us. That’s the game he’s playing as a writer, but he’s damn good at it.

MK: It sounds like you “get” Lovecraft plenty if you can feel that anxious nihilism in your gut. Like a butterfly made of strange colors and fungi, trying to flutter its way out of your body. That is the spirit!


Tim Callahan usually writes about comics and Mordicai Knode usually writes about games. They both play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons.

40 comments
Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
It really cracks me up how Houellebecq nails Lovecraft, because it is also really true of Houellebecq, but they just do opposite things with the same starting point.
Colin Bell
2. SchuylerH
@Mordicai: "Cosmicism" is probably more accurate than existentialism here: an absurd or hostile universe would be a mercy since the real horror is that on the grand scale, you are totally insignificant.

@Callahan: I can't remember where but I once heard Lovecraft described as "a historian of the strange". That sounds about right. For all his manifold sins, he was capable of sounding like he had a direct line to Azathoth...

EDIT: By the way, which collections were used in this re-read?
Mordicai Knode
3. mordicai
2. SchuylerH

I dunno, Existentialism sort of covers that, I think-- the real tweak is that the uncaring, unfeeling universe might wave & say hello.

As to what collections, I have a bunch of anthologies of increasing age, but I mostly use the Barnes & Noble pretty-covered edition as my desk reference.
Jimmy Dodd
4. BwanaJim
I did a massive (and sometimes painful) reread of all of Lovecraft's weird fiction this year using the collection made public at cthulhuchick.com. It's put together well (I read the epub version), is complete (as far as I can tell), and is free (and legal since HPL's stuff is in the public domain).

I did notice that no one has mentioned any ties to D&D or Gygax in this installment. Is that an oversight? Has everyone gone mad from reading The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath?
Colin Bell
5. SchuylerH
@3: I have Gollancz's Necronomicon and Eldritch Tales for display but those editions unaccountably left out "The Haunter of the Dark". The one I use is the ebook mentioned in @4 (I like having the search function).

@4: True. I suspect the lurking madness has infected us all. By God! That squamous hand! The indescribable terror drags itself nearer and nearer to my chamber! I must attempt to finish this missive even as the shambling, inexplicable intelligence attempts to render my soul unto...
David Levinson
6. DemetriosX
I first encountered Lovecraft at then tender age of 11 or 12 through a collection from the Scholastic Book Club. Between "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs", it scared me so bad, I wouldn't even touch the book (physically, let alone read it!) again until I was like 16. "Mountains of Madness" is probably his best work and I long for the day the Guillermo del Toro actually makes that movie.

Kdath is so heavily influenced by Dunsany that it's almost better to read his stuff for that sort of thing. I also find it sags a little towards the end. But still good stuff.

But for D&D, I'm not sure. Plot hooks I suppose. And Kdath will get you lots of ideas for creatures and cultures (but again, see Dunsany). Where Lovecraft certainly won't help the aspiring DM is in descriptions. Lovecraft's narrators always have their vocabularies and their faculties fail them on meeting the ultimate horror.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
4. BwanaJim

Well fair enough, I guess we sort of got sidetracked, but in our defense, these guys are just D&D canon right? I mean, they've got stats & everything!

5. SchuylerH

I do use e-resources, & plenty, but the bulk of my reading & research here has been paper in hand, which is my personal preferred delivery system.

7. Gnarly Hot Ep

You raise a good point sir, the music does seem to almost sound like crickets, or locusts...in fact the more I listen I almost detect...a pattern...a strange...mathematical recursion...no! They are speaking! O gods, the Hive is Speaking! Ia ia ias ajaiaiaiaiiaiaike .. . . ..

.
Jimmy Dodd
8. BwanaJim
Along with eldritch and squamos are the overused cyclopean, gambrel roofed, shew, and blasphemous.

I have always thought that Lovecraft's talent was not in how well he wrote, but in how he made your imagination kick in while you were reading. His stories seem to stay with you and actually get better the longer they ferment in your mind.
Colin Bell
9. SchuylerH
@8: Has anyone yet described one of Lovecraft's stories as a "mindworm"?
Mordicai Knode
10. mordicai
9. SchuylerH

...or done a Lovecraftian story about mindworms?
Colin Bell
11. SchuylerH
@10: According to ISFDB, there's a C. M. Kornbluth story called "The Mindworm", which, if I remember correctly, features an alien vampire. The term probably got used over and over again by one of the many enterprising hacks after Lovecraft's death.
Colin Bell
13. SchuylerH
@12: Not that I can find.
Nathan Martin
14. lerris
@4
The connection to AD&D was in the initial 1980 printing of Deities and Demigods, which detailed the gods and heroes of several mythologies, both fictional and historical. At the time, there was a bit of legal confusion over whether the works were in the public domain, and Arkham House, who claimed to own the copyright, had licensed the material to another game company ( Chaosium ). Rather than fight a protracted legal battle, the material was removed from subsequent printings.
The Dream Quest is a fine example of how an extraplanar adventure might feel, and At the Mountains of Madness is a pure dungeon-crawl adventure.
Mordicai Knode
15. mordicai
14. lerris

The glacial dungeons where new tunnels are unthawing...& new monsters are coming out of hybernation...
Alan Brown
16. AlanBrown
I hate to say it, him being a local Rhode Island boy who made good and all, but I could never get more than a few pages into his stuff. The prose was too turgid and the situations it described too creepy. Not to mention the general hopelessness and futility.
Angiportus
17. Angiportus
Lovecraft fan since late teens. Liked the exotic and alien imagery and so on. Kadath...what I always noticed about that one is the theme of gaining power, of scary things becoming less scary, like the night-gaunts turning from enemies into transportation. It mirrored much of my own growth. To me the interesting thing about a senseless universe is that an able and brave mind could put some sense into it. I would rather identify with the alien terrors than the duped cultists or the hapless, not-well-enough-prepared investigators. But I never did get around to finding out what a pshent is.
Angiportus
18. JonLundy
Lovecraft had influence on some of the Gygax adventures, the giant series had several 'Lovecraft inspired' areas where they were escalating the adventure. I would say that the Temple of Elemental Evil also had some similar ideas with the whole 'resurecting a deity' aspect. Lovecraft was great for evoking a mood, I haven't reread him in decades, I'm not sure how much my greater awareness of the racism & sexism would impact a reread.
Walker White
19. Walker
Personally, I always felt that the greatest connection between Lovecraft and D&D was Erol Otis' artwork. Somehow he captured the otherworldly horror of it more than any other artist.
Angiportus
20. RobinM
I've only read a few things by Lovecraft and that's within the last five years or so well after college and highschool. I can't get into him his writing style drives annoys me; it's turgid and verbose. He invokes a great sense of atmosphere creepy, foggy and dark. I do still put his short story collection on display at work every October it's just not for me.
Colin Bell
21. SchuylerH
@16 & 20: I wonder if it would be possible to put together a list of Lovecraftian horror for people who don't like Lovecraft? Quite a few stories, like the The Atrocity Archives, Move Under Ground and "A Study in Emerald", all pastiche something else at the same time but I think my favorite might be China Miéville's "Details". It's a neat reworking of a famous mythos story (to say which would be a spoiler) which, despite failing to include a litany of the Elder Gods and staying firmly in our dimension, manages to capture the best aspects of Lovecraft's work.

@17: In our reality, it's the Egyptian double crown.
Angiportus
22. Squamous Gambrell
I found Lovecraft in an anthology of fantasy that included Morris and Howard and a couple of Norse stories - I'm not sure just where that is now ... but the story was The Doom That Came to Sarnath. I've been squamous ever since ... squamous with bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious ears ... and with an idol of Bokrug the great water-lizard; before which I dance horribly when the moon is gibbous.

One of my first efforts at fiction was a retread of Sarnath ... I think it might have been tolerable - at least my English teacher at the time didn't chew his leg off to escape. It took me well into my twenties before I found some other works of his, and eagerly devoured the shoggoths of the Mountains of Madness - they taste excellent with salt and vinegar - and the night-gaunts of the fabled Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath - they don't mix well with claret - and the like.

I think his importance isn't so much that he wrote about eldritch horrors out of time, but that he considered Time as a character, and Space, and attempted to fit the human condition to such unimaginable vastness. That he was a misanthrope goes without saying; but I suspect only a misanthrope could've seen Time and Space as fit for characterisation as beings beyond human needs or concerns ...

I enjoy his odd style too - it's at times like a parody of T.S. Eliot's at his most earnest.
Colin Bell
23. SchuylerH
@22: Would that be the Cary Wilkins anthology A Treasury of Fantasy? It looks like quite a good line-up: there's also an Earthsea story and Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter in there.
Mordicai Knode
24. mordicai
16. AlanBrown

The creepiness & the bleakness is the selling point! If that was your turn off then I would say you made the right call, I don't think he's for you.

17. Angiportus

You say "less scary," I said "failed SAN check..."

18. JonLundy

I just beat the Temple of Elemental Evil earlier this year, & yeah, I mostly tried to think of Zuggtmoy as a Lovecraftian alien god-thing.

19. Walker

I've actually never been the biggest Otus fan...which isn't to say I'm not a fan, because I am, but I've always known other people who were really into him. I like that I can still get books with his art on the cover, like The Dungeon Alphabet.

20. RobinM

He very much has a "style," & he very much likes to re-use vocabulary. All certainly true but for me the trick is tilting your head to seeing that as charming, as just a quirk, & then diving on in. I mean, the dude is writing stories about alien invasions by weird colours & brain steeling plutonic fungi!

21. SchuylerH

Oh, I never read that! You know what I really like? Alan Moore's The Courtyard.

22. Squamous Gambrell

Spoiler alert, I'm reviewing the new Pathfinder Bestiary, & Bokrug is statted up in there; CR 27.
Colin Bell
25. SchuylerH
@24: Which one did you miss? "Details"?

"The Courtyard" was originally a short story in The Starry Wisdom, along with a reprint of, among others, J. G. Ballard's "Prisoners of the Coral Deep". What's interesting is that both Ballard and Lovecraft, while generally writing very different kinds of story, both share the same bizarre cosmic horror, to the extent that they often feel like they are both tapping into the same dark undercurrents. (Ballard never read any Lovecraft and J. G.'s prose is vastly better than H. P.'s but you can't help but wonder...)
Steven Halter
26. stevenhalter
HPL's answer to the Fermi paradox would have been that they just haven't noticed us and that we should be very glad we are insignificant. Horror an gods/aliens who would certainly be bad, mad and dangerous to know. Wild and psychedelic at times--this is the Lovecraft that sticks in your mind like a twisted hamster run loose inside your skull.
On another side of the coin is the rotted poodle of racism that sometimes gets thrown right in your face as you read along. Holding your breath and wiping off the muck works to some extent, but the unpleasantness does remain.
Lianne Burwell
27. LKBurwell
I worked my way through all of Lovecraft's writing in the last couple of years paired with listening to the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast. The podcast also has some fantastic readings of Lovecraft stories. Their complete reading of Call of Cthulhu is highly recommended.

But the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath? That one was a slog, even though the touches from other stories (Cats of Ulthar, Pickman's Model, etc) were nice.

I did love At the Mountains of Madness, though, and I still hope that Guillermo del Toro will decide to go ahead with his movie version.
Mordicai Knode
28. mordicai
25. SchuylerH

I have that Starry Wisdom, but I got it for the Couthart, the rest is just gravy! & I think the graphic format works better than the original, personally.

26. stevenhalter

I've mentioned elsewhere on Tor.com, but my favorite "solution" to the Fermi Paradox is from Ultimate Marvel, where the answer is "because Galactus ate them."

& I agree, that unpleasentness shouldn't be ignored, & it does undercut the whole thing. Which might be a lesson to people who are writing in the modern day-- look around, & if you think you are on the wrong side of history, you might want to, you know, reconsider your opinions in light of past examples of those whose biases ended up at least partially sabotaging the work?

27. LKBurwell

Oh man Gugs & kangaroo ghouls...Kadath is my jam! Different strokes for different folks though. We're not too different, after all; I too want that MoM movie to be made by GdT. So say we all, I think.
Angiportus
29. lach7
I'm not the first to point this out but I'm not sure we would have some of the great horror tales from Lovecraft that had he not been a racist. The horror of mating with sea creatures ("Shadow over Innsmouth") is probably best brought out by a real xenophobic!

However, it should go without saying that this doesn't justify racist attitudes. I'm not suggesting we attempt to become racist (or more racist) in order to write good horror.
Tim Eagon
30. Tim_Eagon
I was introduced to Lovecraft via the Call of Cthulhu RPG, so I've read him for years (but not recently). I can see his influence on early D&D (the mind flayer and the aboleth are probably the most prominent examples) but I think it has actually increased over time, especially after late period 2nd edition (with the introduction of the Far Realm) - 4th edition and Pathfinder in particular borrow a lot from the Cthulhu Mythos. Personally, I always thought that Lovecraft and D&D was something of an uneasy mix - mostly because very few of Lovecraft's protagonists could stab there way out of their horrific cosmic problems (though the US Navy took out the Deep Ones, so blowing them up seems to work OK).

As for Lovecraft's racism, nativism, and xenophobia I always have to recommend his work to others with lots of caveats. The last time I did so was to my Mexican-American brother-in-law who wanted to read more classic fantasy, science-fiction, and horror; I warned him and he said he didn't mind, but I never did ask him how he felt about it afterwards (assuming he's read them since last Xmas, as he's a busy guy). Thanks Howard!
Mordicai Knode
31. mordicai
29. lach7

That is interesting...because on one hand, it is a story of miscegenation, that is a dead-on reading & I'm willing to entertain that it was at the heart inspiring Lovecraft. That said, in our post-Cronenberg world, it just seems more...body horror? & is part of Lovecraft's tradition of "decaying families" & a horrible family curse. "...Red Hook" is another example of one of his stories that you could easily argue is inspired wholecloth by his racism, but that is less successful & evocative than Mother Hydra & Father Dagon.

I guess my counter-"argument"-- though I realize you are observing & not arguing in favor, just discussing-- would be that without racism, HP Lovecraft would have still been writing, & maybe we wouldn't have gotten "Shadow..." but we would have gotten something.

30. Tim_Eagon

I like aboleths so, so, so much. The idea of a monster that can both a) physically transform you into a fish-ape slave & b) mentally transform you into a mindwashed slave is to me the crux of them-- you can have the mind-controlled people infiltrate, & an army of skum...yeah....

(Sorry, flashbacks to the time my PC was dominated by an aboleth into servitude & convinced a whole town of people to go in with pitchforks to take it out, knowing the aboleth would just skum-ifiy them all...)

Anyhow, yeah, in the "argument" between Howard & Lovecraft, DnD very surely sides with Howard...or, you could make the argument that it sides with Lieber, that it isn't an inevitable doom, or a single heroic force, but a team that takes down the monstrosity?

I should note; one of the reasons I use the World of Darkness is because the "Humanity" track is easily converted/doubles as a Sanity track.
Andy Holman
32. AndyHolman
I'm hardly a Lovecraft expert, but I find it a little funny that he was one of Gygax's inspirations, since humanity's insignificance in the face of cosmic power seems contradictory to how D&D characters, as they level up, can become all but elder gods themselves. Of course, that might not be as true of older editions of D&D as it is of more recent editions, but it's still a little ironic.

-Andy
Angiportus
33. Eugene R.
Mr. Lovecraft is one of two authors whose works I plumbed due to my involvement with D&D (from a campaign with these weird dwarves, whose beards were wiggly white worms, uuuugh!). So, thank you, banned first printing of Deities & Demigods.

Oh, and the other author was a British linguist who had a thing for protagonists with hairy feet.
Mordicai Knode
34. mordicai
32. AndyHolman

I always find it interesting to discuss what "epic" foes people have taken on. Zargon, Zuggtmoy, the Tarrasque, the Hag Countess, Father Dagon...those are the "big names" on my list, off the top of my head.



Mordicai Knode
35. mordicai
33. Eugene R.

Weird dwarves are my favorite! People always seem happy to come up with new clever elf stuff, like Eberron's undead/ancestor worshippers, but the closest dwarves get is to be a little steampunky. I want Death Dwarves, who burrowed so deep they started mining into Hell, who woke the Balrog & wrapped it in iron & used it to heat the boiler on a subterranean train; I want Moon Dwarves, totally hairless, masters of strange ray guns & psionics, I want King Dwarves with beards of gold & eyes of ruby or emerald, I want creepy Derro, man, I want DERRO.
Angiportus
36. Squamous Gambrell
@23. SchuylerH

Definitely. I wish I knew where it has got to.

@24. mordicai

Glad to hear it. Bokrug's one of Lovecraft's lighter touches - it's barely there, and you hardly notice it, but it's also the Chekhov's Gun of the story.
Angiportus
37. thomas the bruce
Having read most of the Appendix N authors, as a pure writer, and especially in the area of evocitiveness, Lovecraft is the best among all of the other writers. That's where I think Gygax list him among the most influential in the game; maybe not the rules, but more in the modules. Descent into the Depths of the Earth where he describes the subterrenian city of the Drow, and in Keep on the Borderlands where he has an area of the Caves of Chaos and the temple of evil...these two specific modules (and others) seem to draw heavy inspiration from Lovecraft. His characters are not as rich as Vance, but from a pure story perspective and escaping into the narrative, with his deft weaving with words, for me, he wins.
Angiportus
38. Kirth Girthsome
Lovecraft's greatest horror story was The Colour Out of Space- most of Lovecraft's stories are about people who are scared, TCooS was actually a scary story- it has a sense of creeping dread about it, unmarred by squamosity, rugosity, or tentacles. It's the tale of a New England family slowly going to pieces, much like the greatest horror story I've ever read- Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I know a lot of high schoolers read Ethan Frome and their reaction is "meh"- that was my reaction back then. Read it as an adult and the true horror sinks in.
Mordicai Knode
39. mordicai
38. Kirth Girthsome

I like Colour, but I dunno that I agree for scariest. Maybe it is because I have always had a thing for Anatarctica, or because I went to school to be an anthropologist, but I like Mountains might be the scariest? Hm.

Oh you know what, I want to talk about the guy not on this list, even though Dunsany & CAS were-- Chambers! I think I'll do a "what Gygax missed" post with Tim &/or "Appendix N2" or something. I really like Chambers, read him on my honeymoon for the first time.
Colin Bell
40. SchuylerH
@39: If you're doing Chambers, it has to be The King in Yellow, doesn't it?

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