The Street


1 HARMSDM 06 Oct 1995
|-2 Jason Thompson 09 Oct 1995
\-3 Andy Skinner 10 Oct 1995
  \-4 HARMSDM 12 Oct 1995


From: HARMSDM@ctrvx1.Vanderbilt.Edu (HARMSDM) Newsgroups: alt.horror.cthulhu Subject: TSOU -- The Street Date: 6 Oct 1995 01:40:19 GMT The Shadow over Usenet "The Street" Source: Arkham's _Dagon and Other Macabre Tales_. Synopsis: This is the story of a street, from its humble beginnings in colonial times to its final self-destruction in Lovecraft's era. At first populated by good English men, the Street is later taken over by a band of anarchists who would like to destroy the U. S. A. The Street takes supernatural revenge upon them before they can do so, however. Comments: This is really awful. If someone came up to me and said, "Hey Daniel, I think H. P. Lovecraft was a wordy, overly-sentimental bigot whose stories don't make much sense," this would be the last story I would hand to him to convince him otherwise. The story is a statement of Lovecraft's nostalgia, xenophobia, and fear of the future, but Lovecraft forgot that it was supposed to be a story as well. Besides, how scary can a story be when it includes a cesspool of human degradation called that "Rifkin School of Modern Economics"? I have noticed a common theme between this story and "The Temple", "The Doom...Sarnath", "The Terrible Old Man", "The Cats of Ulthar", "The Tree", and this particular tale. To follow Monty Python, I'll call this horror convention "the Hand of God." The basic outline of a story using this convention is as follows. You have a really nasty person, for whom neither the author or the reader are given any reason to sympathize with. As the tale progresses, you slowly get the feeling that something really nasty is going to happen. Then -- zot! The Hand of God strikes, and this slimeball is wasted by some supernatural force! End of story. Lovecraft isn't the only person who does this; other horror authors have also written this sort of story (Ramsey Campbell's "Cold Print" is the only one that comes to mind just now, though). Even though Lovecraft uses this convention in many stories at this time, he drops it later in his career. The narrators of "The Call of Cthulhu," "The Colour Out of Space", and "The Whisperer in Darkness" succumb, not due to any moral failing, but because they just happened to be a little too curious. Why is this? Possibly HPL realized what I am going to postulate now, that the "hand of God" storyline is not really a viable horror technique. It does give us some satisfaction to see the bad guys get their comeuppance, but since we can't identify with the character, our fear is impeded somewhat. Questions: Any thoughts on the story? Any thoughts on what I've said above? Daniel
From: jason@sonic.net (Jason Thompson) Newsgroups: alt.horror.cthulhu Subject: Re: TSOU and 'Wrath of God' horror Date: 9 Oct 1995 00:46:51 -0700 HARMSDM (HARMSDM@ctrvx1.Vanderbilt.Edu) wrote: : The Shadow over Usenet : "The Street" : : Comments: This is really awful. If someone came up to me and said, : "Hey Daniel, I think H. P. Lovecraft was a wordy, overly-sentimental : bigot whose stories don't make much sense," this would be the last : story I would hand to him to convince him otherwise. *** (laughs uncontrollably for several kB) Yep! That sounds like a good dozen H.P. Lovecraft stories. :) : I have noticed a common theme between this story and "The : Temple", "The Doom...Sarnath", "The Terrible Old Man", "The Cats of : Ulthar", "The Tree", and this particular tale. To follow Monty Python, : I'll call this horror convention "the Hand of God." The basic outline : of a story using this convention is as follows. You have a really : nasty person, for whom neither the author or the reader are given : any reason to sympathize with. As the tale progresses, you slowly : get the feeling that something really nasty is going to happen. Then -- : zot! The Hand of God strikes, and this slimeball is wasted by some : supernatural force! End of story. (stuff deleted) : Questions: Any thoughts on the story? Any thoughts on what I've : said above? I agree that the "bad guys get what's coming to them" ending is the absolute LAMEST idea ever invented for horror. It's endemic throughout "Tales from the Crypt" and most modern horror movies as well- the perpetual rip-off of it being the scene in which the minor villain or jerk, who's been bugging the main characters, goes up to Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers/Freddy Kreuger/ whoever, says something cocky, and proceeds to get ripped to shreds. If only these lame plots could at least be *honest* about where they intend the sympathy to lie; with a psychotic murderer-as-force-of-vengeance. I don't understand how anyone can like these plots, or even consider them to be true HORROR, when we're empathizing with the killer/punisher instead of the VICTIM, and when the Cosmos is shown to be 'just'- albeit with a crueler sense of punishment than the original bad guy had. I've read entire books where, as if in token apology for the horrible things that happen to 'em, every character who dies is proven to have some personality flaw. "They had it coming to them," the author nods sagely, while the reader supposedly laps up the blood. In my mind, a universe isn't really one of _horror_ unless there's a sense of objectivity, or at least _unprovoked_ cruelty of the "Why me?" type that's trendily called Kafkaesque. Luckily most of Lovecraft's later stories AREN'T "Wrath of God" ones, as you point out; instead of being judgmentally optimistic, they usually imply that Lovecraft's favorite traditions/ideas/whatever, while good, aren't going to survive the "mechanistic/materialistic chaos" he predicted and embodied in his various Deities. Ah, depression! :) What's worst, of course, is that this tradition is by no means new... going back into the annals of Gothic novels and what's called 'horror', time and again the grisliest fatest are reserved for the most evil characters. You vicariously experience their crimes, then you vicariously experience their torture, as Executioner and Public Eye. To me THIS is a sick universe. Who would suggest that God exists, and then say that God exists to make evil people suffer even worse evils? Look at the old EC comics- it's always the guy who murders his business partner or commits some initial crime, who REALLY ends up suffering. This is a profoundly unforgiving, mean, gloating world. Even the idea of Hell, which nowadays is usually devoid of religious context in horror, was originally something inflicted BY GOD on the pathetic, damned sinners. Somehow I'm not relieved to hear that "the bad guy got his just desserts" when the 'just-desserts' turn out to be prolonged mutilation, or roasting over a slow fire, or something. Cruel punishments inflicted 'by Fate' or 'by Justice' or, yes, by 'the Wrath of God', on villains, are just ways for the audience to feel sadistic revenge without feeling guilty about it. Reading these kinds of hypocritical horror stories makes me feel homesick for the Marquis de Sade- at least his writing (awful though it is IMHO) doesn't pretend to be delivering one moral lesson while demonstrating another. There's nothing wrong with a Judaeo-Christian horror scenario, although it IS harder to be scared of many things when you're convinced that anything God wills to happen, happens. I mean, who do you blame? Fear and awe OF divine vengeance, or guilt for one's crimes, ARE worthy of horror, but they're mighty far from both (1) Lovecraft and (2) slasher movies. ("Angel Heart", "Bad Lieutenant", and, I hear but have not seen, "The Rapture", are good movie examples of this religious horror.) Predictably, most horror stories involving God turn the universe into a kind of Zoroastrian set-up with nearly-equal forces of Good vs. Evil, but this tends to eliminate all the interesting gray areas, and usually ends with Good triumphant in the standard happy-ending way (i.e. the heroes go home with a medal on their chests saying "Thanks for helping God when He needed you", etc.) Sorry about the rant, but I _hate_ those kinds of stories. In my own writing I'm not totally averse to poetic justice, but I at least like to show it through human agency; I also think it's best for deaths and Dark Fates in horror to be as arbitrary and random as possible, so the universe doesn't seem to be editorializing. What does anyone else think about the subject? - Jason B. Thompson Knygathin Zhaum / jason@sonic.net "But that's a CTHULHU campaign!" -- disgruntled SHADOWRUN player speaking to the author/DM
Newsgroups: alt.horror.cthulhu From: skinner@fuzzy (Andy Skinner) Subject: Re: TSOU -- The Street Date: Tue, 10 Oct 1995 16:29:13 GMT In article <4521e3$ab5@news.vanderbilt.edu> HARMSDM@ctrvx1.Vanderbilt.Edu (HARMSDM) writes: The Shadow over Usenet "The Street" Synopsis: This is the story of a street, from its humble beginnings in colonial times to its final self-destruction in Lovecraft's era. At first populated by good English men, the Street is later taken over by a band of anarchists who would like to destroy the U. S. A. The Street takes supernatural revenge upon them before they can do so, however. I only remember this one a little, but it didn't impress me all that much, either. Besides, how scary can a story be when it includes a cesspool of human degradation called that "Rifkin School of Modern Economics"? Does Lovecraft present it as a horror story? Is it supposed to be scary? Or it it just supposed to connect with his own thoughts on the spirit of a long history growing into the setting of that history, mixed in with his own impressions on what parts of history are good and bad. I have noticed a common theme between this story and "The Temple", "The Doom...Sarnath", "The Terrible Old Man", "The Cats of Ulthar", "The Tree", and this particular tale. To follow Monty Python, I'll call this horror convention "the Hand of God." The basic outline of a story using this convention is as follows. You have a really nasty person, for whom neither the author or the reader are given any reason to sympathize with. As the tale progresses, you slowly get the feeling that something really nasty is going to happen. Then -- zot! The Hand of God strikes, and this slimeball is wasted by some supernatural force! End of story. Some of these stories are almost mythological. They are a different kind of story. They may not invoke fear in the reader, but they've got their own place, as well. andy skinner@stdavids.picker.com
From: HARMSDM@ctrvx1.Vanderbilt.Edu (HARMSDM) Newsgroups: alt.horror.cthulhu Subject: Re: TSOU -- The Street Date: 12 Oct 1995 01:36:00 GMT From: skinner@fuzzy (Andy Skinner) > (I wrote): >> Besides, how scary can a story be when it includes a cesspool of human >> degradation called that "Rifkin School of Modern Economics"? >Does Lovecraft present it as a horror story? Is it supposed to be scary? >Or it it just supposed to connect with his own thoughts on the spirit of >a long history growing into the setting of that history, mixed in with his >own impressions on what parts of history are good and bad. For me, it doesn't matter whether or not it's a horror story. If you're trying to make the reader disgusted at the actions of a group of people, you don't want to have said people hanging out at a place called the "Rifkin School of Modern Economics" or the "Circle Social Club". I think something more sinister is in order here. >> I have noticed a common theme between this story and "The >> Temple", "The Doom...Sarnath", "The Terrible Old Man", "The Cats of >> Ulthar", "The Tree", and this particular tale. To follow Monty Python, >> I'll call this horror convention "the Hand of God." The basic outline >> of a story using this convention is as follows. You have a really >> nasty person, for whom neither the author or the reader are given >> any reason to sympathize with. As the tale progresses, you slowly >> get the feeling that something really nasty is going to happen. Then -- >> zot! The Hand of God strikes, and this slimeball is wasted by some >> supernatural force! End of story. >Some of these stories are almost mythological. They are a different kind of >story. They may not invoke fear in the reader, but they've got their own >place, as well. Still, I feel that place is somewhat limited. As far as I can tell, though, many of Lovecraft's earlier, less well-regarded stories use this technique, while those which are generally considered "greater" (i.e. those in Arkham's _Dunwich Horror_ or Ballantine's _The Best of H. P. Lovecraft_) usually don't. Though this doesn't mean that a person can't write a good horror story using this plot, the plot itself will get in the way of the reader's identification with the main character that makes a horror story successful. Daniel

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