“Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness.” — H.P. Lovecraft from the story The Outsider, Weird Tales, 7, No. 4 (April 1926), 449-53
H.P. Lovecraft and his wonderful tales have had a huge influence on how I approach writing, reading horror, and life. There is no other author I can think of who paints a story picture with words better. This tale in particular, The Outsider, holds a special place in my heart. On the surface, it is a narrative about a being who wants to expand the edges of its known universe. The story evolves into the overcoming of the unknown and the ultimate realization of where you belong in the world. It is a discovery of self. Vivid descriptions abound are not found in any other writings of this era.
“Nearly mad, I found myself yet able to throw out a hand to ward off the foetid apparition which pressed so close; when in one cataclysmic second of cosmic nighmarishness and hellish accident my fingers touched the rotting outstretched paw of the monster beneath the golden arch.”
The story is told in the first person, a personal favorite of mine. The reader gets only the perspective of the main character; a truly personal experience. All feelings are filtered through a single pair of eyes. This is a common theme among many of Lovecraft’s writings. An explorer telling a story, a scientist’s journal, an otherworldly narrator are all commonly found.
“I cannot even hint what it was like, for it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny, unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable.”
I went to 13 different schools from kindergarten through high school. The feeling of being an “outsider” is definitely one known to me. I would often spend hours of my childhood in my own fantasy worlds, isolated from all that was normal. I was never abused, that I can remember, I was not exposed to any horrible situations that my young mind couldn’t comprehend. I was left alone, ignored.
Over time, I was able to master the art of being the new kid at school, the new guy in the office, and because of all my reading and fantasizing, I learned to adapt to a wide variety of situations. I learned the art of conversation; how to blend into any social setting. Popularity never found me, but everyone knew who I was. I carried these skills with me into adulthood. I learned to live vicariously through others and developed an empathic connection to the world as I experienced it.
Now I am closer to 40 than 30 with a family and responsibilities of my own. I never imagined a world where someone would want to share it with me. I never saw myself as a part of a world to be shared. I always felt like the “Outsider” from this story, but much like the main character, I have been blessed to learn my purpose in this world. Life truly begins once you find that.
Good luck and happy writing.
Picture credit here.
Read H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider