The sweltering heat of midsummer now torments us in the northern hemisphere, and it is a maddening sort of affliction – more to be borne than truly remedied. Still, hope of a antidote beyond central air conditioning may send some in search of metaphorical chills – such as those that course down the spine when one encounters true horror.
We have re-opened Vacation Necronomicon School for a second term just for those seekers – call it a sequel, if you will.
It’s true that film sequels tend to have a higher body count and more explosions, but literary sequels need not be so unimaginative. We do have many returning cast members (if you’ll pardon the term) and a formula to follow, but the similarities mostly end there. However, I think it’s fitting that our first Lovecraft story up for discussion is a sequel of sorts.
“The Haunter of the Dark” was a response to another writer’s story – Robert Bloch’s “The Shambler from the Stars,” which was a mythos-type tale, and dedicated to H. P. Lovecraft. However, Bloch killed off his Lovecraft-inspired character, so Lovecraft correspondingly killed his Bloch-inspired character in today’s story, a move I choose to interpret as genteel ribbing between the two authors. (Though of course my interpretation may not be correct.)
In “The Haunter of the Dark” we encounter another facet of the ever-fascinating (and terrifying) Nyarlathotep and witness yet another unsuspecting man’s descent into madness. Your assignment today is to discuss insanity as an inevitable consequence of encountering the unknown. Are these characters actually mad if they have actually encountered such things? Why is loss of rationality so often the horrifying result? Is disbelief of others the key? If a normal condition such as darkness can become a living presence that means literal harm, is madness a rational response rather than an irrational one? Ponder an aspect of this, in 300 words or less.
Welcome back to Vacation Necronomicon School!
Note: Neither Bloch’s “Shambler from the Stars” nor the subsequent “The Shadow from the Steeple” (which he wrote to complete the trilogy), are in the public domain and are therefore unavailable online. However, all three tales in the cycle are included in the Del Rey edition of “Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.”
Reading Assignment: The Haunter of the Dark
Task: 300 words or less on madness and the unknown