How Should We Deal with Lovecraft’s Influence in Games?


Uh. It’s been a while but doesnt darkest dungeon end with the player shooting themselves?


Yes, and then the other thing happens.


Something I find comfortable about the whole Lovecraft thing, and I think Danielle mentions it at some point during the podcast, is that his work is in public domain and most of his influence is fragmented pieces of lore that are used left and right in original work.

Not that it means we shouldn’t investigate his problematic nature and the pernicious aspects of his work, but the way his legacy is being used does really aid in doing that.

Like, simultaneously enjoying Lovecraftian aesthetic and influence and being very critical of his racist views, goes really well if you have the ability to tear apart, backwards engineer and reshape his lore to remake it in a way that it is not disgustingly offensive as his original work?
It feels like being able to disassemble a machine gun and use the parts to make walking cane.

Or is it fundamentally wrong to use any of the material that was conceived by a man such as HPL? :thinking:


These questions get asked in basically any conversation about HPL. This isn’t even the first post in this thread to ask them. It’s the foundation of the entire conflict around his work. Fortunately, there already exists a well-written, considered, personal, and gripping answer!

read The Ballad of Black Tom

and then

listen to/read this Fresh Air interview with the author, Victor LaVelle


Inspired by recent discussion about HPL here and elsewhere, I read The Ballad of Black Tom, and Lovecraft Country back to back. While the opening chapter of Lovecraft country is excellent, I found the rest of the book couldn’t sustain it.

On the other hand, The Ballad of Black Tom made me an instant fan of Victor LaValle. Without the historical and literary context, it’s a well written pulp-inspired horror novella. With it, it’s a powerful work, that gave me a glimpse into the author’s complex relationship with horror fiction, that somehow felt quite personal and intimate.

Thanks for the link to the Fresh Air interview! I’m enjoying it now.


yeah like I wanna make it clear: I am not a scholar of Lovecraft, and I didn’t even know that The Ballad of Black Tom was written in direct reference to HPL’s work. I went in totally blind, and thoroughly enjoyed it entirely at face value. The ending is so cathartic and satisfying on its own that I was nearly in tears.

THEN I went and looked up the author and this interview, and holy hell the entire story exploded open before me like a mechanical diagram. The setting was made more powerful by the preexistence of Lovecraft’s awful Red Hook story (which this one is intrinsically tied to), and the ending becomes a metanarrative on the author’s own feeling writing in this universe, handling the literary materials whose very existence are predicated on harming him and people like him.

And yo it’s short! 160 pages! Read this book!


Hadn’t heard of The Ballad of Black Tom before, going to check that out!


I’ve been wanting to read that for months now but it always slips my mind. Your comment reminded me of this great interview I read where Daniel Jose Older and Victor LaValle talk about race, publishing and H.P. Lovecraft:


Thanks for the links! :slight_smile:


LaValle agreed, saying, “I see [the Lovecraft Mythos] as being the greatest embodiment of white terror. The horror is coming from miscegenation. There are beings that do not care about [the white author] or his power. That’s what makes Lovecraft amazing… but it didn’t occur to him that these mutant half-breed monsters, at some point they will learn to write.”

god damn


With the folks on the podcast being new to HP Lovecraft and what people mean by Lovecraftian Horror I wonder how they now feel about things like Night In The Woods, Dishonored, Darkest Dungeon and True Detective s1.


I don’t think you need a deep appreciation or knowledge of Lovecraft and Lovecraftian Horror to recognize that the first season of True Detective whiffed so hard on the subject and did such a full frontal retreat from any sort of cosmicism/cosmic horror in the final episodes that people like me are still insanely bitter about it!


There was cosmic horror in that show, just not the magic kind that some people were expecting.


Ehh I really think the show backed away from anything that can be construed as cosmic horror. Cohle’s final lines about the light winning out over the darkness is a direct repudiation of sorts of cosmic horror as it frames things as a battle between good and evil. The central crux of cosmic horror is the indifference of everything; there is no good-evil binary, there is simply a yawning cosmos that is wholly indifferent to humanity and its actions. Season 1, as I remember it, begins by hinting at the fact that these “murders” are not really murders but are part of something that transcends our understanding of human society and humanity but we end up with a generic kooky killer and a standard showdown. The show did a good job of borrowing props from Robert W. Chambers–the sort of borrowing and recontextualizing that Lovecraft encouraged with his own creations–but they were basically just set dressings.

Cosmic horror definitely does not need magic or tentacles but it does require some sort of reveal of a cosmic indifference or otherness beyond our comprehension and I felt like the show did not deliver on that.


I never expected literal tentacle monsters or whatever from True Detective but the abrupt shift kind of made me idly wonder if someone realized, too late, that they hadn’t actually optioned any Thomas Ligotti stories and needed to back off.


tbf there isn’t a lot of tentacle monsters in Ligotti’s stories either.


This is exactly what I was thinking when it comes to how the Lovecraftian tropes could be used (almost unchanged, really) to comment on ignored small town communities and their rightward political slide


Agreed. The point I am making is that cosmic horror does not need to involve tentacles or monsters of any sort; cosmic horror should involve a horrifying philosophical revelation that mankind is insignificant in the face of the unknown. I felt that season 1 lacked this.


I don’t know what if anything I will do with this notion, but this podcast got into my head the idea of a lovecraftian story where the horror and rot comes from a society of white supremacists trying to achieve total genetic purity, and becoming physically inhuman monsters. and I guess the underlying notion would be that the plurality and diversity of humanity is inherent to it and by taking that away you become less human. like I said I don’t know what will come of this idea but it has been ping ponging around in my head for a few days now.

also, move over Lovecraft, somebody should make a Junji Ito game.


You should check out the 1992 Brian Yuza film Society ASAP. :smiley: