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Question: Which author better conveys mood and atmosphere in his short fiction: Poe or Lovecraft?
E.A. Poe - 17 (60.7%)
H.P. Lovecraft - 11 (39.3%)
Total Voters: 28

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Author Topic: Poe or Lovecraft- who is better at creeping us out?  (Read 14407 times)
Maplesugar
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« on: October 25, 2010, 11:04:18 AM »

Many years ago I wrote an essay comparing the short fiction works of Poe and Lovecraft and was wondering what other people thought.

Please share!
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DKT
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« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2010, 11:24:56 AM »

Moved at the request of everyone's favorite maplesugar Smiley
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Maplesugar
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2010, 11:25:26 AM »

TY!   Smiley
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Swamp
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« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2010, 12:45:11 PM »

I am partial to Poe, but that is mostly due to my greater familiarization with his works.  I've read Lovecraft, but not as thoroughly or as often.  I think they are actually very different types of authors.  Poe's work is very personal and centered around the horror within ones own mind, and the terrible acts one person can do.  On the other hand, Lovecraft is very outward oriented, with unknown powerful forces beyond our comprehension.  Lovecraft makes us fear our insignificance and fragility; while Poe makes us fear ourselves and our own darker tendencies.
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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2010, 12:52:15 PM »

Swamp hit the nail on the head.  Lovecraft was great at doing atmosphere and entertainingly baroque plot twists, but if you didn't share his personal horror of miscegenation and the collapse of Western civilization, then there really wasn't much to frighten or creep you out.  Just fun horror romps and music that goes dun dun DUNNN at the end.  Poe, on the other hand, really gets into peoples' heads and shows the process of creeping insanity.  I'm much more "creeped out" by personal horror than impersonal; the fear of death or obliteration doesn't scare me, but the fear that I might lose control of myself or do something I regret does.
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MCWagner
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« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2010, 03:53:31 PM »

The great irony, of course, is that Lovecraft was an immense fan of Poe, and considered his own work vastly inferior to that grandmaster.

Me, I recognize that Poe is the greater, more literary writer.  His work formed the foundation upon which most of the subsequent American (and to an extent European) horror built.  Poe will always be the great enshrined classic.

But Lovecraft I find immensely more enjoyable.  His purple prose, absurd situations, and yet immensely clever and unique ideas springing forth like the fevered dream of an ancient thesaurus seems to be the overwrought heart and soul of pulp.  And still, he was enormously influential... where Poe worked himself to death in miserable lonely obscurity, Lovecraft's absurd volume of correspondence encouraged, personally, an entire generation of writers to start planting those fecund fields prepared by him and his idols.

But, of course, that wasn't the question.  For pure creep factor, I have to go with Lovecraft, though not for the reasons most would likely proffer.  Rather than the grand vistas of "cosmic terror" that most will cite as his best contributions, I've always felt that HPL was better in the clausterphobic, personal moments.  It may be some error in my own reading, but HPL caught me off guard more frequently than Poe, and usually with something small... not the great forms among the mountains (Mountains of Madness) or the Godzilla-sized monsters he's known for, but the errant wet drop (The Picture in the House), the frantic cat (The Rats in the Walls), the smooth barrier (The Outsider), the slipped visage (The Festival) or the discarded mask (The Whisper in the Darkness). 

(Kudos to Scatter on the miscegenation note... I'd begun to think I was the only person to note the likely and uncomfortable genesis of "Shadow over Innsmouth.")
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MCWagner
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« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2010, 03:56:50 PM »

I am partial to Poe, but that is mostly due to my greater familiarization with his works.  I've read Lovecraft, but not as thoroughly or as often.  I think they are actually very different types of authors.  Poe's work is very personal and centered around the horror within ones own mind, and the terrible acts one person can do.  On the other hand, Lovecraft is very outward oriented, with unknown powerful forces beyond our comprehension.  Lovecraft makes us fear our insignificance and fragility; while Poe makes us fear ourselves and our own darker tendencies.

While this is a good summation for purposes of comparison, it is rather limiting.  HPL's work could cast inward on occasion... several of his works are obsessed with corruption in one's lineage, with the author fearing his mind or body will turn upon himself (inspiring some of Cronenburg's themes).
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Scattercat
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« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2010, 04:29:38 PM »

(Kudos to Scatter on the miscegenation note... I'd begun to think I was the only person to note the likely and uncomfortable genesis of "Shadow over Innsmouth.")

Oh, old H.P. was a great big old racist, no question.  They talk about it quite a bit over at the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, but it's pretty clear just from reading his stories, I think. 

Don't get me wrong, I love his stuff and all it's pulpy goodness, but he never once scared me.  The strongest effect I've had from one of his stories was "The Lurking Fear," in which the description of the mounded and rolling landscape stretching away from the house on the hill really defined for me the "Oh, shit..." moment.  Cheesy
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« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2010, 05:53:02 PM »

i largely attribute the Poe blowout to the word 'creepiness', it would be much closer if we were comparing their sense of dread.  still, Poe would probably take it with stronger, more accessible writing.

a decade back my dichotomy on the horror spectrum was Barker/Lovecraft instead of Poe/Lovecraft.  Lovecraft does an excellent job of introducing existential horror, anybody who writes on a similar topic is inevitably compared to him.  Barker on the other hand, does an excellent job of capturing the innate horror in the human condition.  sensations, emotions, social taboos... pretty much everything that results from going through life in a meat suit.
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MCWagner
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« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2010, 04:11:10 PM »

(Kudos to Scatter on the miscegenation note... I'd begun to think I was the only person to note the likely and uncomfortable genesis of "Shadow over Innsmouth.")

Oh, old H.P. was a great big old racist, no question.  They talk about it quite a bit over at the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, but it's pretty clear just from reading his stories, I think. 

There's a difference between spotting character flaws in an author and tracing them as the genesis of particular literary concepts.  I'm well aware of that particular flaw, having read all the collected letter volumes, but realizing the first time how it festered at the center of a couple of his stories was a nasty surprise.  Like realizing some beloved Sci-Fi author's unique worlds are merely hyperbolic extrapolations of particularly vile political views (re: the recent discussion on Orson Scott Card), or the modern perspective on Kipling's weltanschaung with regards to the African and Indian continents.  With such examples, one could easily be disillusioned into seeing Poe's work as well-written but simplistic misanthropy arising from his slow descent into drunken misery.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2010, 05:16:42 PM »

I s'pose.  I picked up on it just from the stories and was unsurprised when I read about it in biographical stuff later. 

Ditto the Poe thing, really.  I was not shocked, to say the least, when I learned how he died after reading his collected works.
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« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2010, 06:59:29 PM »

When I was in 6th grade, our teacher read "The Tell-Tale Heart" to the class.  It scared the crap out of me.  I find Poe to be deliciously creepy. 
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