(This is written by Sean – his usual abode on the interwebs can be found here.)
If you’ve read a lot of Lovecraft, you’ll notice recurring themes and motifs, especially in his monsters. The preeminent Cthulhu with his octopoid head, the vast Dagon crawling from the ocean, the Elder Things that much resemble certain flavours of sea urchin: much of Lovecraft’s mythos is inextricably linked with the sea and its life. I doubt that Howard Phillips and Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Sphere would find much positive to say about calamari, and not just because of their shared fear of the seabound denizens from which they’re formed.
The sensation of horror and disgust that pervades Lovecraft’s writing is clearly borne from his fear of sea creatures, and it is through tapping into this that Lovecraft creates such emotion in his works.
While I am by no means comparing myself to the man, it does well to look to the masters for good practice.
I am not afraid of sea creatures. Sometimes I can be unsettled by the movement of the crustacea, but it doesn’t stop me from cracking them open and feasting on their flesh.
My own fear is of a more insectoid nature. From a young age, I have been both fascinated and horrified by insects at all stages of their life cycles. Some disconcert me more than others – I cannot stand maggots while I can handle worms, I cannot stand moths while I can calmly shoo wasps on their way.* There are a number of very clear images from my childhood that I hope I will never shake, despite that their recall even now brings a shiver to my spine: a two-inch elephant hawkmoth landed in our kitchen and stared at us with glow(er)ing eyes; the discovery of the half of a cockchafer grub that had not been eaten by our cat; the momentary glimpse of a foot-long dragonfly** hovering behind a friend’s head. That being said, I used to keep the earwigs that I found in our sandpit as pets, and I once looked after an adult may-bug so that I could bring it in for a school science lesson.
Images of insects continually surface in my weird fiction***, from descriptions of bark splitting like an insect shedding its skin to roach-infested eyeless animate waxworks. Yet they don’t always provide the explicit monsters. More regularly, it is someone human, once, corrupt by some fell purpose. My favourite of these is Gustav May, a magician and hypnotist who is the high priest of an insect cult for whom no other ‘human’ members have yet surfaced in my stories.
Why my monsters were decidedly human on such a regular basis is something I do not fully understand. Thinking about it now, I think that I use their corruption to hint at the horrors that lie behind. Or maybe it’s to create a tangible foe. Perhaps it’s a convention I’m not aware that I ought to shake off.
What I do know is this. All it would take is for a man to turn up in a blue box, and I’ll have written a lotof Doctor Who stories.
* Did you know that wasps make their nests from paper?
** Looking back on it, it’s more likely that it was two mating flies, rather than a prehistoric sized one.
*** Alas, as yet unpublished.