Friday, April 06, 2007

H.P. Lovecraft in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith

"My own rule is that no weird story can truly produce terror unless it is devised with all the care and verisimilitude of an actual hoax. The author must forget all about "short story technique" and build up a stark simple account, full of homely corroborative details, just as if he were actually trying to "put across" a deception in real carefully as a crooked witness prepares a line of testimony with cross-examining lawyers in his mind. I take the place of the lawyers now and then-finding false spots in the original testimony, and thereupon rearranging details and motivations with a greater care for probability."

A bit of twisting of Aristotle's Poetics, but what the hell, the Greeks didn't have zombies so I suppose it all evens out somehow. (JDF)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Neat quote you found. It's funny that rules-ish expressions like short story technique were thrown at writers even back then. And it's also funny how the best writers didn't listen to those rules. Seems nothing much has changed there.

Lovecraft's one of my favorite reads; I must reread a bunch of his stories. I already have but I can just keep rereading them--they never seem to get old or unweird. Years ago I read The Case of Charles Dexter Ward while on lunch breaks at a copyediting job. The whole building just didn't exist to my mind then, including the stench of the terrible unhealthy petroleum-distillate-filled glues that gave me migraines by noon every day.