Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review - "The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft" (2011) by Marc Laidlaw

"Review of

'The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft'

(c) 2011

by Marc Laidlaw"

(c) 2012

by Jordan S. Bassior

This is a genuine horror story, set in Providence, Rhode Island, in the fall of 1929, about Douglas, an imaginative and intellectual boy who becomes fascinated by the works of H. P. Lovecraft.  When Douglas learns that Lovecraft lives in the same town, Douglas decides to seek him out.  And thus a meeting fateful to the boy's life ensues ...

This is very much a Lovecraft story, both structurally and in the sense that Lovecraft himself is a major character.  The final revelation, in true Lovecraftian form, does not materialize until the very last sentence, literally the very last word of the story.  Let me just say that the main character is personally very much like Lovecraft, save for one small detail; that the Lovecraft of the tale is drawn directly from the real Lovecraft, and that the relationship between these two facts makes the outcome inexorable.

I cannot get more specific without spoiling the surprise.  No, really I can't.  And I don't want to.

I strongly urge anyone with any interest whatsoever in Lovecraft, the Mythos, horror fiction, or simply the human condition to read the story here.  Then come back and post your replies to this entry.  I would dearly love to discuss this work, which I think will become a genuine classic of Lovecraftian fiction.



  1. Interesting. I don't think I share the strength of your reaction, but I also felt like I could see the ending coming; it reads less well, I imagine, while waiting for what you know is ahead.

    I wouldn't call it a Lovecraftian work, in any event - it's tragic, and that it reflects real history certainly is horrible, but I'm not sure I would properly call it a work of horror.

  2. The story is a direct parallel to "The Outsider," it is set in Lovecraft Country, and it features Lovecraft as a major character. It even mirrors Lovecraft's last-line-revelation technique. And uses it to reveal exactly the same "ultimate horror" as in "Medusa's Coil."

    1. Ah, you're referencing works I haven't read, there. Interesting, and kudos to the author!

      I can only say that it did not, to me, seem to have the feel of Lovecraft, whether its overall structure was the same or not - that it was not, in the TV Tropes sense of the phrase, a Cosmic Horror Story. Sure, the protagonist is horrified by a reveal - but it's a reveal that is unfortunately commonplace and comprehensible. (A man who comes home to find his family murdered might likewise be horrified, but the result would not be cosmic horror.)

      I'm not saying it's a bad story - it just seems to me to be a different kind of story. I'm not sure I would really qualify the overall genre (as opposed to the protagonist's reaction) as horror at all, but we get into increasingly fine definitions there.

  3. You're absolutely correct that "The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft" isn't Cosmic Horror. It's "Lovecraftian" in other ways, though, being both about Lovecraft and the love of cosmic horror.

    Here's "The Outsider"

    Note the plot and structure -- it's about a man who finds himself alone and lonely who tries to find friends, and is rejected -- for his appearance, and what people assume it implies about his nature. It's one of the foundation-works of modern horror fiction, short but very effective.

    Here's "Medusa's Coil."

    Not as great a story, but it has its moments. Note however what Lovecraft chooses, after he has already revealed far worse regarding Marceline, to make his ultimate revelation. To a modern reader, it utterly undercuts the story's punch, applying an inappropriate absurdist tone. Lovecraft may well have meant it seriously, though.

    If you read them both you will very much perceive the relevance.

    1. Fair enough! There we just get down to definitions.

      It was an interesting read, though, and I'll check the other two out.

    2. I think Ms. Bishop, or Mr. Lovecraft, meant it as irony more than horror -- that three men who were so absorbed in being white, having "high birth," and following the Southern cult of ladylike womanhood, would end up involved with two women who represented an even older tradition of birth, education, and breeding. And of course, Louisiana has always been the home of Creoles more than the home of "pure" white people, so it's doubly ironic. (And heck, the dad married his own cousin, however distant, so there's your Lovecraftian inbreeding.)

      It's pretty nasty irony, really. You could take the whole thing as some kind of Faulkner-out-for-blood.

    3. That's an interesting take on it, and it would very much explain the whole "Arson, Murder and Jaywalking" aspect of the order of the revelations. Lovecraft was a racist by our standards, and even to some extent by the standards of his age, but it always struck me as odd that Lovecraft would finish with what even people in the Interwar Era would consider the weaker punch. Lovecraft was so good an artist that when I first read "Medusa's Coil" it surprised me to see him apparently doing this by accident.

      It makes more sense if it was no accident.

    4. two women who represented an even older tradition of birth, education, and breeding.

      "Even older" as in Devonian, I'd wager ;-)

  4. The biggest problem I see with the "President Lovecraft" timeline is

    England would soon have perceived more than a financial threat, since an invasion of Canada would certainly have suggested itself to Lovecraft's government, both for strategic reasons and as an exercise.

    Improbable, because Lovecraft was a huge Anglophile. His very racism, and more significantly his racialism (the belief that race is the most important factor in history) would have led him to see Britain as a natural ally rather than enemy. When one adds to this that (1) Britain posed no threat to America, being actively friendly toward her, (2) there was little Anglophobia among non-Irish, non-German Americans, and (3) Britain was navally more powerful than Interwar America, the notion that Lovecraft would have screamed and leaped on Canada for no reason other than it being close at hand is laughable. (If Lovecraft wanted to do something like that, wouldn't it make more sense for him to invade Mexico?)

    Lovecraft was more than a little bit anti-German (remember he grew to manhood during the Great War). But I don't think he would have wound up taking us into war against Germany, unless Germany sorely provoked us, because America had little to gain by fighting Germany, and racialism wouldn't have suggested Germany as a necessary enemy.

    What's more probable is that Lovecraft would have turned against Japan. The Interwar Japanese (especially in the 1930's) were obnoxious, arrogant, aggressive, and wanted lands that America either possessed (the Philippines) or was allied with (China). Lovecraft was very much a believer in the "Yellow Peril" and would have viewed the growth of Japanese naval strength with alarm. The conquest, or at least disarmament, of Japan would have greatly enhanced American security and power, and would not have involved turning an ally into an enemy.

    Lovecraft was racist, and eccentric. He was not outright insane. and his existing prejudices had clear and consistent orientations.

  5. just read this story, and I have some questions about it. I've read far more Robert E. Howard than I have Lovecraft. I remember reading long ago an encyclopedic article on Howard that called him, rather harshly, "an extreme racist who hated and feared blacks," but that "this fear and hatred was theoretical only, " and that "there is no evidence he ever focused it on individuals." From what I know about Howard, I can believe that. I'm not so sure about Lovecraft; but I've done some research on him, and said some things that make Howard look like a modern PC liberal. However, as dreadful as some quotes from Lovecraft were, I haven't come across anything that suggested that he did focus his hatred on individuals. The story has him doing just that. Is there any evidence out there to suggest that he really might have?