Monday, October 3, 2011

The Touch, the Feel of Cthulhu - The Lovecraft of Our Lives

Did you ever wonder what horror smells like? Maybe you think it smells rotten like a decaying corpse. Maybe it’s the must of an old castle or the iron ore odor of blood sprayed through the air at an unreasonable speed. Maybe it smells like summer camp or a lake or a latex mask or… it can smell like just about anything you can put in a horror movie. Well the way I identify horror by odor is the smell of an oldy musty book or VHS, mom and pop video store. They smell virtually the same and scream of something old and important. Each time I smell my father’s old VHS collection I know I’m in for a nostalgia trip of terror and every time I crack open The Tomb and Other Tales as published by Ballantine circa 1975 I’m magically transported to the New Jersey shore (pre-Snookie) during the summer vacation of my life.

Most recently, at my wedding a dear friend made me a groom's cake that truly says Lovecraft was here. Our vows did not include the name Cthulhu and our we were not wedded in Innsmouth or Arkham or any other New England town turned occult. It was a red velvet cake that tasted like the sweet paw of Satan laid down in to mark it with sin. Perfect for a wedding night.

To understand how important the Tomb and Other Tales is to my horror development you must know that it is one of the benchmarks by which I judge all horror fiction alongside Night Shift (our previous blog entrant). Let’s just say that Cthulhu makes a fine teacher and does Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Influenced by Edgar Allan Poe and the influence of all horror since his publication, H.P. Lovecraft spins the perfect Hardy Boy of Horror tale. He writes you a mystery from legend up starting with the old and forgotten and the leading up to present day when we suddenly REMEMBER or gaze upon the horror of what once was. Lovecraft’s stories are virtually identical to the tale of evolution and Darwinism but filled with gods and humans instead of Dodo birds.

Seventeen tales of terror. Old. New(er). Fragments and a chronological listing of tales to boot. There is little not to love about this edition. This series from Ballantine featured some of the greatest cover art in the history of horror fiction. It’s why I specifically sought out and purchased this edition. You can too if you’re interested. Just keep searching E-Bay or Amazon with the title and include Ballantine in your query. I always ask myself why the monsters face is Locked. Who holds the key? Why are there red bats emerging from its face? How did this imagery even get on a Lovecraft tome. It’s not Cthulhu based to my knowledge which some of the other images try to capture. It certainly isn’t the fantastic almost Tolkien looking editions that came before it in the late 60’s early 70’s We all know that Lovecraft’s work see reprint after new edition after re-collection with various cover designs. This is my personal favorite.

What will you find inside “The Tomb”? Let me run it down for you right quick:
The Tomb, The Festival, Imprisoned with Pharaohs, He, The Horror at Red Hook, The Strange High House in the Mist, In the Walls of Eryx, The Evil Clergyman, The Beast in the Cave, The Alchemist, Poetry and the Gods, The Street, The Transition of Juan Romero and the fragments Azathoth, The Descendant, The Book and The Thing in the Moonlight.

It’s almost a canon of his more obscure work. The other books released in this series were At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror; The Lurking Fear and Other Stories; The Shuttered Room and Other Tales of Horror (with August Derleth); Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Volume 1 and Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Volume 2. I have memories of each of these from when I was a young pup. We never had the Lurking Fear collection when I was younger so I had to wait to enjoy its tales until I was old enough to save my pennies and by a “proper” edition of H.P.’s work. Any edition will be filled with the old ones. Every edition will have a bit of Cthulhu running down your back or strange town’s folk ready to turn you into the next human sacrifice.

And what of this beautiful man, August Derleth who hath helped preserve and complete the legacy of Lovecraft? Mr. Derleth is responsible for first publishing Lovecraft’s work and founding Arkham House publishing. Sure he made his own contributions to the genre as have many a Cthulhu hound, but his most important contribution to horror is to bring us all Lovecraft’s work as if some pious occultist chasing down the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred or the Necronomicon. Hey, and while we’re on the subject you know it’s ok to allow yourself to pretend that the Necronomicon is real. That Cthulhu is real. That the Mad Arab is real. After all, Lovecraft was real. The Tomb… real enough thanks to Ballantine and Derleth, scribe of Cthulu, absolutely real.

Take the time to read this collections masthead story, The Tomb HERE!

Excerpt from the TOMB:
“But Hiram, loyal to the last, has held faith in me, and has done that which impels me to make public at least a part of my story. A week ago he burst open the lock which chains the door of the tomb perpetually ajar, and descended with a lantern into the murky depths. On a slab in an alcove he found an old but empty coffin whose tarnished plate bears the single word “Jervas”. In that coffin and in that vault they have promised me I shall be buried.”

We shall all be buried in that coffin… in that vault.

-Dr. Cthulhu Terror That Does Not Lie Dead And Drinks Too Many Rock Star Energy Drinks to Sleep (FYI... longest name ever).

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