I’ve always loved the idea of H.P. Lovecraft more than I actually like the man’s writing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he was hack or anything, and he had some wonderfully despicable ideas about the world and humanity’s place in it, but his writing was so damn tedious to get through.
Take, for instance, “At The Mountains Of Madness.” This is the story where Lovecraft introduces some of the elder gods like the Elder Things and their servants, the Shoggoth, and gives us a hint that their culture may not have been much different than ours, but that the creatures themselves are anathema to us. They built this fantastic civilization on the backs of slave labor and when that slave labor rebelled it took the whole damn civilization down with it.
Reading that story was like reading stereo instructions where all the components of the system are labelled things like “the hellish volume controls” or “the blasphemous bass-booster that should never have seen the light of day.” Part of it, I’m sure, was the writing style at the time when Lovecraft wrote his stories.
Still, the man could tell you in no uncertain terms just how bad his bad guys were.
Like I say, I loved his ideas more than his actual writing. He’s still considered one of the greats in his genre and his ideas have permeated popular culture to the point that you can purchase Cthulhu slippers, but I wonder how many have actually sat down and tried to get through his tales of the misadventures at Miskatonic University, or the Deep Ones, or the unholy terror that accompanies the ghastly visage of a sleeping god.
Lovecraft’s ideas are fascinating. In his world, there were various gods and things wandering around, just under the vision of the human psyche. His gods cared nothing for their followers and his things ate humans with glee. They were bad guys with a capital B, and there was absolutely nothing redeeming about them to the humans who had to deal with them. At best, a human interacting with one of Lovecraft’s creatures wound up just plain old dead, at worst nearly dead and tortured for eternity. More often than not, his humans would up shattered versions of themselves, the mere sight of the old gods having driven them hopelessly insane.
Charles Stross (a hero mine) has picked up these threads of the Lovecraftian mythos and woven them into a series of books called the Laundry Files that bring that mythology into the modern world and into throw a government analyst at those myths. The books are incredibly fun, and I highly recommend them if you’re looking for something to read.
The Laundry Files (along with other works by such luminaries as Richard Kadrey, Richard Paul Russo and, to a lesser extent, Lovecraft himself) influenced Henchmen greatly. Robertson, the guardian that turns into the giant squid-like thing that’s defending the entrance to the Dreamer’s prison, was pulled from Lovecraftian mythos, stuffed in fake human garb and dropped into place to act as a kind Cerberus.
I love the idea of a world just below the surface where monsters and madness lie. In fact, I’m going to go find the “Button that shall not be named” on my stereo and push it, just to see what happens.