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SF subgenres: What is Lovecraftian horror?

The term "Cthulhu Mythos" was created by H.P. Lovecraft's friend and eventual publisher August Derleth.
The term "Cthulhu Mythos" was created by H.P. Lovecraft's friend and eventual publisher August Derleth.

As speculative fiction has grown and evolved, the original sub-genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror have fractured into even more sub-genres. In this series of "SF subgenres," I'll not only identify and define these sub-genres, I'll help you find resources for engaging with these sub-genres right here in Long Beach.

Lovecraftian horror defined
H.P. Lovecraft was an American writer of horror, fantasy and science fiction, but his specialty was weird fiction. Much of is work was guided by the concept of "cosmic horror," the idea that human minds couldn't possibly comprehend life and the universe is fundamentally strange and alien.

Lovecraftian horror follows this same guiding principle. Protagonists who try to use reason to get through the story are gambling with their sanity. The emphasis of this type of horror is the terror of confronting the unknown or unknowable, rather than shock and gore (although these may be present, as well).

Lovecraft is best known for his stories that developed what is now called the Cthulhu Mythos.

Lovecraft's work was deeply cynical and pessimistic, revealing that ordinary life is but a thin and precarious veil over a profoundly abstract and alien reality. As dark as his fiction was, his literary influence can still be seen in works today that are a tad lighter, such as Hell Boy and The X-Files.

Examples of Lovecraftian horror

  • The art of H.R. Giger, which influenced the alien design of the series of Alien films starring Sigourney Weaver.
  • Dead & Buried (1981) directed by Gary Sherman and starring Melody Anderson and James Farentino.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975) starring Darren McGavin and its 2005 reboot starring Stuart Townsend.
  • Dead But Dreaming, edited by Kevin Ross and Keith Herber, an anthology of Lovecraftian horror
  • Titus Crow by Brian Lumley, Volumes 1, 2 and 3

Long Beach Lovecraftian horror

  • James Riot, the author of the Arthurian/Lovecraftian/Swords and Sorcery web-comic, The Path, lives in Long Beach.
  • James Blaylock, who was born in Long Beach, is associated with Arkham House, a publishing company first created to publish the works of H.P. Lovecraft after his death. The company gets its name from the fictional town of Arkham, Mass., from Lovecraft's work.
  • You can find plenty of Lovecraftian horror at Secret Passages Bookstore here in Long Beach. In fact, I was at one of their MeetUps recently and several of the group ended up playing a Cthulhu-based card and dice game.

Do you see the world through genre-coloured glasses? For more science fiction, fantasy and horror news and information -- with a travel twist, check out The Genre Traveler, the travel resource for science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, at


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