Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Lovecraft Reference that Needs To Exist

[Originally Posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

It could be a book, or a comic, or a TV Show or a movie.  It could be a dark and stormy night or absolute uncanny silence.  It could be in an old dusty library so that they'd have references at hand or in a room of an abandoned house they're hiding in.  None of that matters.  What matters is that this needs to exist:

Strange things have been happening and they've dug up a book written in an obscure inflected language which purports to be from 1372. After getting a handle on the cases a member of the group begins to translate
"Ok, so the first sentence here looks like a pretty simple thing, with two clauses, 'that... which'. Primary clause, relative clause. The primary clause is, um, 'That ... that is... that is dead,' wait, no, 'That is not dead.' The relative is... 'Which is able to...' Fuck. I hate indirect statement. Ok, this part means 'in/for eternity' so-"
"That is not dead which can eternal lie."
"Uh... yes. How did you know?"
"Trash it, the book's a fake."
"It's quoting Lovecraft, it's a fake."
And then they throw out the book and move on to more important things, having lost valuable time, but at least not as much as they would have if they'd continued chasing the red herring that was the book.


[Original Work Index]


  1. Heh!


    (Or maybe Lovecraft was quoting it. :-)

    1. Or maybe Lovecraft was quoting it. :-)

      Yeah, I would worry about that possibility if I were them.

    2. The thing is the quote shows up everywhere, and in my experience is basically universally accepted as authentic by character and narrative alike. The thread this was originally posted in was when the quote showed up in a comic book adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Alice, living well before Lovecraft was born has no reason to recognize the quote as being an early 20th century invention, but people in modern settings accepting it is absurd.

      If someone digs up what looks like an ancient Latin manuscript containing a translation of the lost works of Sappho and the first line reads, "It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs," then sorry, but no. George Lucas wasn't quoting Sappho. The manuscript is a fake.

      The treatment of the Lovecraft quote is about twenty times more absurd and at some point someone should address that because it really is just silly at this point.

    3. This has shades of what I call the "no pop culture" effect - in a typical horror film, for example, no character has ever seen a horror film, so nobody says "hang on a minute, let's just call the cops/stay together and wait for morning/not go down in the &*&*$ basement". In a typical Lovecraft-related story, nobody's read Lovecraft. And so on.

    4. There's definitely a similarity between the two phenomena, but this one seems to have broader application and no plot related reasons for existing. In a Lovecraft related story then of course we have to operate on the assumption that either there was no Lovecraft in the story universe or Lovecraft was channeling deeper forces. But in a non-Lovecraft related story which the iconic thing in question* seems to show up in all the time (the example that caused me to bring this up was Alice in Wonderland, definitely not Lovecraft related) his works are merely early 20th century inventions and any significant or iconic borrowing from them is evidence that the thing in question post-dates the early 20th century. And since I'm primarily talking about non-Lovecraft related works while the characters might question if Lovecraft was channeling some deeper truth, the narrative can't because in the narrative he wasn't.


      *That is not dead which can eternal lie,
      And with strange aeons even death may die.