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From: "Alex David Groce" <adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Dualism & horror
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 14:23:16 

Continuing the dualism & horror thread (it's not off topic--one of the essays
in Castle of Days talks about the issue, so there's our Wolfe link.  I don't
remember the essay in detail, but one part goes something like "Fantasy has the
gods under God, while in horror Satan kills and is killed by Cthulu."

Tony Ellis wrote-
> I'm on Alex's side. I don't think you can say that the normal world
> "opposes" the Dark, in a dualistic sense, because in Lovecraft's fiction
> the normal world _is_ the Dark. What we think of as normality is
> invariably revealed to be a delusion, or merely the narrowest slice of a
> much bigger, scarier universe. As for "Innsmouth or Arkham before the
> horrors came", it's another basic tenet of the stories that the horror
> was there _first_, inhabiting this world long before humanity turned up.
> Any pretty suburban streets are just a part of a transient blip in
> reality, cosmically speaking.

Yes, if anything, Lovecraft's world is a kind of opposite of non-dualist
orthodoxy--the only Real Game in Town is the Utter Abyssmal Eldritch Things
from the Deep.  I agree with Tony that (A) the horrors are, as Lovecraft
constantly emphasizes, MUCH older than humanity and (B) even if Innsmouth and
Arkham weren't just upstarts, they are hardly a real force for good.  The only
defense against the horror is ignorance (I think that's a paraphrase of part of
"The Call of Cthulu").  If the Dualism is Cthulu & Co. vs. human ignorance,
that's a pretty weak Dualism.

> Well, the usual expression is "supernatural horror" rather than
> "supernatural evil". Most of the more highly-regarded horror writers
> long ago grew out of the simplistic good\evil trap. 

Perhaps out of the simplistic version of it--I think there are some good horror
writers who still make use of the concepts.  Even a supremely ambiguous writer
like Robert Aickman (my favorite) often suggests, in his quiet way, that
something is evil--the dog in "The Same Dog," or Mr. Millar in "Meeting Mr.
Millar" or Parliament in "My Poor Friend."  In fact, part of Aickman's genius
is the way he subtly equates certain social trends with a kind of invisible and
incomprehensible Evil.

> Off the top of my head... none (but there must be a few). The rule seems
> to be that if you have a supernatural Good, it has to win. That's
> probably why the horror I prefer doesn't have such feeble concepts in it
> in the first place.

I wouldn't call the concept of supernatural good a feeble concept--maybe seldom
well done in a horror novel, but at least outside that context it's been one of
the most powerful ideas in history (and in literature).  I'd even stretch the
definiton and say Dante's Inferno is a brilliant work of horror that (in the
end, even without the Purgatorio and Paradisio) is based on the concept of a
supernatural good--"Divine justice moved my maker."
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8:32
Alex David Groce (adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu)
Senior (Computer Science/Multidisciplinary Studies in Technology & Fiction)
'98-99 NCSU AITP Student Chapter President
608 Charleston Road, Apt. 1E (919)-233-7366

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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