Scratching my Lovecraftian Itch by A.J. Smith (guest post)

Scratching my Lovecraftian Itch
Writing the Long War – Part Three 
by A.J. Smith

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I played the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game long before I read any of H.P Lovecraft’s writing. My first exposure to his world was making a sanity roll after seeing a Shoggoth. There was something intangibly-fascinating about creatures that didn’t just kill you, they sent you insane. The idea that we cannot have truth and sanity. The game led to the stories and the stories led to a deep love of weird fiction. From then on, I never doubted that I’d include Lovecraftian horror in my fantasy books.

There is a preoccupation in Lovecraft’s writing with nihilism and amorphous horrors. Not so much blood and gore, but slime and formlessness. His monsters don’t run at you, shrieking. They ooze towards you, tentacles gyrating in the air, as if you are truly insignificant to their alien worldview. They’re from another place and time, they are “the Other,” the flip-side of the coin; and the more you learn of them, the further your mind recoils. Truth and sanity... in his world they are mutually exclusive.

Then there are the gods. Lovecraft called them Great Old Ones, other writers have classified them as Elder God or Outer God, but they remain the pillars upon which his nihilism is built. Lovecraft was an atheist and through the cosmic indifference of his own pantheon, he imagined the creation of humanity as a genetic accident – the ultimate proof of our insignificance in the universe. His gods are not actively malevolent in any way we would understand, they are simply alien and treat us – when they acknowledge us at all – as we would treat ants.

After being obsessed with Lovecraft and his mythos for many years, I now find that other sub-genres of horror can leave me a little cold. That is to say, in my mind, the Cthulhu Mythos is synonymous with horror, far more so than your average slasher film or ghost story – though I should confess that my favourite horror film is The Exorcist and my favourite horror book is The Hellbound Heart.
And then there is me and my humble contribution to the Mythos. My two proudest moments as a writer are: 1) receiving a review from SCIFINOW which categorized my writing as “Martin meets Lovecraft,” and 2) the inclusion of my name and series on the Wikipedia page dealing with Lovecraftian writers (I didn’t put me there, but I’d like to thank whoever did.)

Like Lovecraft, my monsters have tentacles and my gods are unknowable titans of eternity. In keeping with the tradition of weird fiction, I keep my monstrosities at the edges of the world, lurking in the shadows for the curious, the unlucky, or the ambitious. This fits perfectly with fantasy. Just as Lovecraft inserted his Elder Things into the history of humanity, I have woven my creations into my world. Few humans know what lurks in the shadows, oozing and festering at the edges of history. And rightly so - if it’s there for all to see, it loses its power. The unknowable should remain so. But it is there... and eventually someone will find it.



About the Author

A. J. Smith spent 12 years devising The Long War cycle. When not living in the Lands of Ro, he works in secondary education.


About the Book

The Black Guard
By A. J Smith

The first in a major new fantasy series set in the lands of Ro, an epic landscape of mountain fortresses, vast grasslands, roiling ocean and slumbering gods

The city of Ro Canarn burns. With their father's blood fresh upon the headsman's sword, Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, the last scions of the house of Canarn, face fugitive exile or death. In the court of Ro Tiris, men fear to speak their minds. The Army of the Red marches upon the North. Strange accidents befall those who dare question the King's new advisors. Those foolish enough to speak their names call them the Seven Sisters: witches of the fire god; each as beautiful and as dangerous as a flame. And, called from the long ages of deep time by war and sacrifice, the children of a dead god are waking with a pitiless cry. All that was dead will rise. All that now lives will fall.


  1. Excellent article and reflects my own experiences with Lovecraft.


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