Welcome, newcomers, to Vacation Necronomicon School!
Soon we will begin our customary 13 day foray into forbidden knowledge and madness, but there may be some pupils who have never encountered our subject. Looking through last year’s archive is encouraged, but time is always short, and a more concise introduction to H. P. Lovecraft may be in order.
However, it is always difficult to say which story to read first if you are truly unacquainted with H. P. Lovecraft. If you’ve found your way here, however, you must be curious – and you will, for better or worse, soon become acquainted with Mr. Lovecraft’s output – tentacles and all.
But where exactly to start? There are so many stories to choose from, all with differing charms and strengths. Do we choose ease of reading or an introduction to the famous Cthulhu mythos? Do we wet our feet gradually in the pool, or plunge into the depths without a care? It’s a difficult choice.
In fact, we discussed this very topic last year, in the comments of this lesson, and though the suggestions presented there were all quite good, the sheer number of them presented a smaller version of the original problem.
I therefore tactfully suggest a dual approach for the Lovecraftian beginner: one introductory story for the toe-dippers amongst our ranks (A), and another for the brave divers (B).
Our first choice is “The Cats of Ulthar” – a wonderfully dark fable – and quite unlike many Lovecraft stories, though it shares his signature use of language, and a suitably horrific ending. It’s a true short story, easily read in a single sitting, and a delightful way to begin our course. (My thanks to Borrowind for this suggestion.)
Our second choice, for those of you who cannot wait to encounter an Elder Thing, is “At the Mountains of Madness.” This is a much lengthier story – it is very nearly novella length – but it is one of the Cthulhu mythos stories, and my personal favorite. If you are the sort to delve in as quickly as possible, this may be the tale for you. (My thanks to acrasis for this suggestion.)
A certain hardy sort may feel inclined to read both, but only one is required. There is no written assignment for this preview lesson, though you are welcome to share your impressions in the comments.
In the meantime, enjoy your final weekend of sanity. Remember, regular lessons begin Monday, and once seen many things cannot be unseen.