Based in the East Bay Area of sunny California, Ben Monroe is a writer and communications consultant. He is interested in the ways that traditional storytelling methods can be used in advertising, corporate communications, and other non-traditional ways.

Writing (Cosmic) Horror Is Fun!

Writing (Cosmic) Horror Is Fun!

The work for hire novel I started in February is firmly set in a version of the universe created by H.P. Lovecraft and his collaborators and imitators. There's obviously positives and negatives to working within these ideas. Lots of stuff has been written over the years in his Mythos, and I've read plenty of it. Some of it was even pretty good. 

One of the things I'm enjoying in the project is thinking about the notion in Lovecraftian fiction that "seeing a monster drives you crazy". I get the notion of being scared, but not having your mind shattered by seeing something weird. 

Some of it is explainable when you've got something like Cthulhu itself, which is not just a big squiddly godzilla sort of thing, but also described by HPL as this vast battery of alien psychic energy. Contacting Cthulhu's dreams is like trying to fill a milk jug with a gorilla: when Cthulhu twitched in its death-sleep, the emanations of its dreams caused ripples of madness. That's easy enough to work with. There's also the bits where the character discovers some unknown truth about the universe, or themselves, and that never ends well.

Trying to get my head around describing things in a way that explains why contact with the mythos is mind-shattering is a fun challenge. I've often thought of trying to understand the Lovecraftian bent of cosmic horror thusly: You and a friend are standing next to each other, and looking into a tall mirror. Each of you is looking at the same mirror, but you're seeing slightly different reflections, based on the angle you're at. How is it that this single object (the mirror) can reflect infinite possible angles, all at the same time? I'm sure a physicist could explain it in a way that makes sense (and takes the magic out of it). But to my mind, it's something fundamentally confusing and unsettling.

That's (to me) the essence of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Underlying strangeness, a sudden discovery of a fundamental -wrongness- in our every day perceptions of our place in the cosmos. So, there's all this to think about, which I'm finding to be a really fun challenge. Even though the themes aren't quite so obvious as I'm writing the first draft, I've got tons of notes in my notebook to push more of this stuff into the revision.

So, I'm a novelist now?

So, I'm a novelist now?

So, I'm writing a book...

So, I'm writing a book...