If an author can write a ton of pages about ice and snow and sleet and darkness and things one cannot see, so much description and non-action and still make a classic out of it, then one can do anything on the page.
I remember reading H. P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness back when I was in college, at a time when all I was reading were psychology textbooks and other academic literature. And here it was, just like that, a horror story whose sense of dread was borne out of a legend concerning some extinguished badass entities called the Old Ones, a forbidden publication called the Necronomicon and a man traveling through endless ice-scapes in the Antarctic in search of an ancient mythos, and I’m thinking, how many ways are there to describe ice and snow and glaciers and dark caverns? How can someone keep writing about these monolithic items for pages and pages and pages and still manage to keep the story interesting and the dread mounting?
If At The Mountains Of Madness taught me anything — apart from the fact that Metallica’s Call of Ktulu was based on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and that horror doesn’t need to be gory, or full of action, to be horrifying — was that words are magic.
It showed me how the right framing and a good story with a solid, animated backstory can carry almost any landscape, any setting.
It showed me how malleable reality is, and how pliable imagination is, and how engrossed we become with stories that capture our fascination. How words are magic, some of it dreadful, some of it wondrous, all of it supernatural. Words are supernatural, and deeply so. They conjure realities out of nowhere, communicating our private thoughts to each other. Words are the tools of telepathy. Our thoughts are silent, taking place inside our heads, and there’s only so much we can convey with our tone of voice and body language, so we make meaningful sounds to capture the essence of what we think, objectifying our concepts into words, stringing together lines, sentences, creating patterns of communication, and our thoughts are conveyed to those around us. From head to head. From gut to soul to gut again, through mouth and ear and pen and eye. From brain to brain. The transmission of abstract mind. Telepathy.
And thought spreads, and so do ideas, some of them dreadful, others wondrous, all of them magical and extraordinary.
Eighteen years after reading Lovecraft’s seminal novella, and eighty-five years after it was written, Cthulhu lives on, communicated by the throngs of people engrossed by its Mythos.
And the chthonic legend returns, this time on screen, reimagined by the mighty Japanese anime pens.
I can’t wait!