HP Lovecraft and the (Monkey) Puzzle of the “Good Lovecraftian Film”

I was talking with my friend Chris about a bunch of SF- (and, to a lesser degree, fantasy-) -related things the other day — one of those discussions where you are trying to get at the heart of how we read genre and why, reader/viewer expectations for genre texts and media, and so on.

One of the interesting points that came up was how it’s so difficult to make a good Lovecraftian film, and the fact that people keep trying and trying. This has stuck out in my mind as a question to myself, since for a few months now I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing a Lovecraftian film script, set in Korea, for Miss Jiwaku and me to try and film and edit together (with some Creative Commons music and maybe I could compose something on Finale, who knows?) and enter into festivals and such.

It sounds like a really fun project, doesn’t it?

But when I look at the track record of Lovecraftian films, I see very little I’d call successful. And I see a great deal of stuff which I’d honestly call awful. There are very few exceptions: The Last Lovecraft is one, if you think the humor is funny, as a kind of Lovecraftian equivalent of Shaun of the Dead; there was a period-piece (silent, wasn’t it, and black-and-white) Call of Cthulhu that worked for me; and though I haven’t seen it since it was new, I remember thinking that John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness was, well, okay as a kind of Lovecraftian homage.

I have, however, sat through oodles of bad, amateurish, not-scary, not-creditable, not-even-worth-the-buck-I-paid-to-see-it Lovecraftian films. Which tells you a couple of things: that I kept renting them or otherwise getting my hands on them, and that even when I knew they were going to suck, I (at least sometimes) kept watching them. Also, out there in filmmaker land, people kept making them.

All of this raises a few questions, of varying degrees of difficulty.

The easy question here is, Why is so much of “Lovecraftian cinema” so unsatisfying? Unlike the blogger at Wigfield’s Gibberonica, I don’t think it’s just the racism. (Funny, though, how the question of Lovecraft and film adaptation is in the air — that’s a very recent post over there, and by a blogger/apparent SF fan in Korea, no less!) Adaptations of works excise such things a lot, and while racism is a significant part of Lovecraft’s storytelling, there’s plenty of preoccupation with white New Englanders who are somehow devolved. It would be feasible to turn Lovecraft’s racism into something else in a cinematic adaptation — perhaps, a whole town (of whatever mixture of races) harbors an evil genetic secret; or maybe a specific family, or cult of a more modern, mixed-race type, could be the Cthulhu-worshippers.

Chris, in our discussion, noted that a recent podcast he’d listened to suggested something which it turned out was also my own working theory for one problem of filming Lovecraftian horror — that we love Lovecraft not just for the purple, dense language he uses (something hard to translate to the screen) but also because he, like Miles Davis, works with empty space.

This is the very same point I made in a class over a decade ago, when we were discussing the techniques of horror. A classmate of mine had gone and told us that Stephen King was the best horror writer ever, because he showed you everything, and left nothing to the imagination. My own presentation, a week later, was on how, by withholding, by not showing the monster for as long as he could, Lovecraft managed to be disquieting and scary. (I should say, I’ve not yet read much King, so this is all on my classmate’s word. I have been reading King’s Under the Dome for a few months, very off-and-on, and think it’s pretty damned good, though.) Lovecraftian stories are creepy or scary or whatever they are for us, precisely because it withholds the scary thing, the monster or evil deity or whatever, to let the awfulness build up in your mind, and that this is hard to do in film since, after all, it’s about spectacle.

But the somewhat harder question that came to my mind — simultaneously about common practice among would-be filmmakers, and about the project I mentioned I’m considering: Why, given the inherent difficulties of translating Lovecraftian horror to film, and the disappointing track record, do both fans and filmmakers seem to hold out endless hope for the long-awaited great Lovecraftian film?

If it’s so hard to do right, how come so many people keep trying to do it, over and over and over again? What drives this quixotic urge to make Lovecraftian films? And for moviegoers, the same could be asked: why, despite past experience, do we keep seeking out and watching Lovecraftian films? What drives us to try find a “good” one? What would it take for us to just shrug and say, “Maybe it’s not possible to make a successful adaptation of Lovecraft to the screen…”?

I think there are a few possible answers to this harder, double-edged question. None of them are particularly encouraging or comfortable.

One, the more depressing one I think, is that Adam Roberts hit the nail on the head when he said (approximately, in his Palgrave history of SF) that the dominant form of SF has become “media” SF (film or video form), and not fiction.

It seems sometimes that a book doesn’t quite “arrive” until it’s been turned into a film. Never mind that books inspired by something else have been made into films — for example, the books about Sidney Reilly (by Robin Lockhart) and RH Bruce Lockhart (by himself) opened up the way for the books of Ian Fleming about James Bond, which opened the way for Bond films. (Not to mention Len Deighton and others.) No Lockhart books, no Fleming and no 007 film franchise, or so I understand it.)

Still, it’s easy for people to see a cinematic rendering of a text as a way for it to, you know, “come to life” and I’m not alone in remembering a time when I felt that my favorite books becoming movies was a good thing. (Even I am eager to see Guillermo del Toro’s long-deferred cinematic At the Mountains of Madness on the big screen.) I do know a number of people who seem to perceive it as a kind of injustice when their favorite author’s work hasn’t ben “done justice” on the big screen. The assumption being that everything worthy in books is necessarily adaptable to cinema, perhaps. Or maybe it’s a fannish, selfish-gene type memetics that drives this desire: if a great Lovecraftian film could be made, people would finally get why his books are so wonderful and Lovecraft would get a wider, more enthusiastic audience.

Another could be that plenty of the people who are into Lovecraft are also into the idea of Lovecraft being “pulp” fiction, the equivalent of which in cinema is the B-movie, of course. While I find it hard to understand now, there definitely is a market — and an aesthetic — that prizes cheapness, cheeziness, predictability, and outright camp. I always got the sense that Lovecraft felt a little screwed-over by the way his work ended up in pulp magazines, and not recognized as “literature,” though I don’t know whether I picked up that idea. In any case, when I thumb through pulps on occasion, I find something in his work that, with all its dense prose and intensity, seems of a different sort: surely Lovecraft had some “serious” literary aspirations and affectations, which I think some of his pulp hack peers did not exactly nurture. Still, it is understandable why audiences, when receiving his work would drop it into the pulp category in their heads, and align it with B-movies. It’s not necessarily bad, in part because it has led more people to go back and read the texts.

Yet another explanation, though, might be that people want to believe they can do it better, or that someone out there can do it better. Surely, that’s part of del Toro’s motivation — he loves Lovecraft’s fiction and wants to do the man’s only novel a justice that so many others have failed to do others of his works. I would be surprised if others who’ve made Lovecraft films have also been motivated by a kind of sense of, “Hell, I can do that… but better.” The reality, though, is that unless people really get why they love Lovecraft’s stories, they are going to focus on things like tentacles, like frog people, like putting Cthulhu on the big screen, and not on the creeping sense of dread that, let’s face it, non-Lovecraftian horror films long ago taught us how to capture and build that kind of fear in cinematic formats.

(The underseen and unfairly-forgotten film The Haunting of Julia, an adaptation of the Peter Straub novel Full Circle (known in America as simply Julia), is a great example, and scared the crap out of me when I watched it one winter’s night in 1997 or 1998. That film, as I remember it, was a great example of how it’s done… it just works, as they say.)

I wonder, though, if there’s something else to it… something about the nature of Lovecraftian fiction that suggests a kind of vividity, a kind of overt, familiar terror or unsettling discomfort, that paradoxically makes one feel as if it ought to be filmable, because, for Lovecraft fans at least, it works so damned well as a text.

Sure, Philip K. Dick seems to hold a similar allure for Hollywood filmmakers, but at least some of those films are watchable, or good, even when they aren’t quite in the spirit of P.K. Dick’s original texts. Movies like Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly suggest it actually is possible to do Philip K. Dick’s work justice in cinematic form, with a little jiggering and poking here and here. But honestly, I have yet to see a film that has convincingly adapted Lovecraft — whether a specific narrative, or even just his aesthetic — to the screen in a way that I considered anywhere near as successful as, say, A Scanner Darkly.

I have to wonder if, in some sense, Lovecraft cinema is the external trace of a kind of pop-cultural monkey-puzzle. If it is, though, I’m not so sure it’s a limitation of Lovecraft, or of film as a medium: it may be a limitation based in the audience, or in the industry itself. After all–and as I mentioned to Chris–I believe that a certain ideological and imaginative mediocrity dominates what we sometimes call “media SF.” As SF authors note time and time again, the ideas in media SF are often decades behind the cutting edge in literary SF. I don’t think it’s so much that visual SF can’t be brilliant–of course it can, and it occasionally manages to be made brilliantly–but it is very often nowhere near as mind-blowing (in the sense of the pleasures I read SF for) as written SF.

Whatever the reason, though, I have this funny feeling that by the end of the summer, I will have gone ahead and stuck my own hand into the Cinematic-Lovecraft monkey puzzle, and written something for Miss Jiwaku and myself to work on in terms of filming. Since I became aware of the Kurodahan publication of translations of Japanese Lovecraftian stories in a four-book series titled Lairs of the Hidden Gods, I’ve been wondering what a Lovecraftian narrative set in Korea might be like.

As for why I am drawn to old HP Lovecraft’s work, well, Jason Colavito touches on some of it in his essay, “Atheism’s Mythographer: How H.P. Lovecraft Reinvented Mythology for the Postmodern Age of Science.” I think Colavito hits the nail on the head when he describes who the gods and pantheons of the Cthulhu Mythos enunciate what, for a lot of people, is the experience of becoming atheist: the sudden confrontation with the meaninglessness of the universe, the chaos with which one is surrounded.

I’ve told elsewhere the story of my own questioning of religion as a child, and how it led my father — I’m not sure whether in seriousness, or as a joke — to recommend I check some Erich von Däniken (this, specifically), much of which I later discovered was 3rd generation riffs on Lovecraftian concepts. (Another link on the Colavito site, I realize now. I shall have to read the rest of the man’s essays.)

I first read Lovecraft, long after I realized von Däniken was full of crap but also long after reading von Däniken had catapulted me both away from any one religion, and toward both SF and science — von Däniken does, after all, attempt a kind of pseudoscientific, but semi-naturalistic, explanation of human religion, if also a basically racist explanation of ancient monuments. Nonetheless, my reaction to Lovecraft (as well, I recall, as to the first few of David Brin’s Uplift books) was shock at how much it was like von Däniken, except instead of pretending to be nonfiction, it was bizarre SF horror. I was amazed to discover Lovecraft had been writing this stuff so long ago. So there’s a kind of funny nostalgia and maybe glee I find it messing with those concepts — anciently malevolent alien gods, a mindlessly mechanistic universe, and the infinitesimally small, insignificant nature of human life in a giant, cold, bone-crushingly heartless universe — and the man’s approach to storytelling.

At the same time, I’m also curious about how one can adapt the Lovecraftian aesthetic as fully as possible to another culture. While Korea has as many images of dilapidated coastal towns, peopled by folk who are, well, somehow just a little too off to be normal human beings, how is one to adapt the racism that was so crucial to Lovecraft’s worldview to a Korean, and essentially monoracial, context? (Possibilities include (especially) regionalism, as well as the urban/rural divide, and perhaps also the potent generation gap in Korea today.)

Besides, I think that it’s about time someone made the connection between the Lovecraftian horror I mention above — malevolent alien gods, a terrifyingly pointless universe, and human insigificance — in some of the social structures in Korea, such as the Korean chaebol megacorporation (which I envision as a kind of Cthulhoid machine for eating minds and spitting out ruined, disfigured, and occasionally outright insane human beings), the Korean military (ditto), and the hypertrophied Korean education system (once again, ditto).

Given the successes of Japanese horror/SF authors’ adoption of Lovecraft to their cultural milieu, and that of Charlie Stross in the Laundry books, I have to say I do think it’s possible. Whether I’ll turn out to be right, though, remains to be seen. I’ll say more when I have more to say.

22 thoughts on “HP Lovecraft and the (Monkey) Puzzle of the “Good Lovecraftian Film”

  1. I was going to mention Stuart Gordon as well. His Dagon interpretation is quite good, I think.
    That doesn’t quite address your point of course; and I agree that Lovecraft is terrifying because of the unknown, not the eldritch abominations.

  2. Gonna ditto the “Re-Animator” rec — it’s definitely worth a watch, as much as its sequels are not.

    I’m not sure it’s necessarily a Lovecraft problem; it may be a general genre problem. Horror is tough to execute well. Even Stephen King’s horror-based stuff tends to bomb more often than not, while adaptations of work like “Shawkshank Redemption” and “Stand By Me” turn out, in my opinion, fantastic.

    Not sure why that is, though you raise an excellent point with the whole trying-to-make-work-on-film-what-worked-in-text when the two media demand different approaches.

    Incidentally, I considered writing a Lovecraftian story with a Korean bent but ultimately gave up on the venture, though not because I think it’s undoable. (But if you want a Korean horror flick about a slimy creature rising from the deep with a dash of xenophobia thrown in you need look no further than “The Host.” Add a few cult members and you’re halfway home!) If you’re looking to work from the preexisting-creeping-dread angle, I find Baekdusan pretty worrisome. Cults trying to appease spooky volcano godthings…? Might get too Pele.


    Wish this comment could be more useful. :| Anyway, good luck and godspeed!

  3. John, Ahi, and Jei,

    Yeah, I definitely own up to the fact I’ve not seen all the Lovecraftian films out there; I gave up after seeing many bad ones, though I sometimes come back to it. I am taking your recommendations under advisement, and scrounging in such subterranean pipes as I can to get a chance to see some of the films.

    (I’m pretty sure I saw the Reanimator film, but during that period when I often fell asleep during movies. I’ll give it another try, as I don’t recall much, but have heard it praised many times. Dagon and From Beyond as well… and a few other things.)

    I should add the links for the shows I thought were passably successful, as there are a few.

    Jei, your comments on the Host… yes, but it’s not Lovecraftian. I actually have two papers coming out with discussions of the film, one of them extensively exploring the politics and history bundled into The Host (a discussion which, if I may say so, is more in-depth and adds more context to the film than any other critical paper I’ve seen). If you’d like a gander, I can let you see it a bit early…

    I think some of why so many horror films have sucked (including King adaptations) also falls under the rubric of why Korean SF films are so often unsuccessful, as I discussed here… partly because the directors and funding people (and audiences too) simply don’t take the genre and its aesthetic seriously. In the 1970s, people made films designed to scare the shit out of audiences; now, we don’t. The Haunting of Julia was one of the first 70s horror films I saw after a long break following my terrified viewing of The Exorcist… in between, I saw lots of 80s “horror” but that was about gore and creepy fun and camp — Freddy Kruger and Jason and Candyman and the Chucky films and so on — and not about eliciting actual fear. Somewhere along the way, they stopped trying too scare us and started trying to gross us out, or make horror into gore-porn or comedy or something.

    Then I saw the Straub adaptation and it was… wow, it was scary in a way I didn’t expect.

    I’m thinking more about coastal Korea, the creepiness of poverty and rurality and Jeolla backwardsness and so on. Also, chaebol power, and so on. Baekdusan is creepy too, though. Good idea.

    Though I’m not sure we’ll get a chance to get anywhere near a mountain. We’ll see… with screenwriting, doable is a huge factor too.

    (Ha, and would you believe, I may try pressing our friend Kammerud into a role? I think he’d made a great young visiting professor from Miskatonic, albeit one doomed to die early on since the movie will mainly be in Korean…)

  4. Bahaha, I fully endorse this casting. A wardrobe comprised entirely of collared shirts under sweaters is a must.

    (Have you seen the first Death Bell movie? Spotted a couple Caucasian English teachers [I assume] floating around in the background, though I don’t remember either of them having speaking roles. Still, it’s neat to see how the high school horrors update themselves since, say, the Whispering Corridors series.)

    I’d love to read your words on The Host, though I’m not sure I’d be able to make it through an especially lengthy paper this season. Have you considered submitting it as a review to Strange Horizons? I think I read that there’s an absence of non-Anglo-sourced reviews over there that needs be remedied.

    The 80s seem to have been a worrisome place; I’ve missed most of it, alas but I guess it says something that my dad used to tell me the plots to a lot of those horror flicks as bedtime stories. But there’s definitely been a surge of splatterpunk, slasher flicks, and body horror recently. We may have the Saw franchise to blame. Which has its place within the genre and all, but isn’t something I find especially terrifying, possibly because I have a hard time fearing a mortal baddie on whom any reasonably intelligent/ruthless protag could as easily turn the tables. On the other hand, a lot of things that give me the willies are also things that people tend not to believe in and, not running a terribly high risk of encountering them in their daily lives, tend not to take seriously either. I’ll definitely have to give The Haunting of Julia a look; here’s hoping it gives me more chills than the staggeringly disappointing Insidious (super spooky trailer, super cheesy film :|).

    “adfj;kadfs;kfdk;” just signifies keyboard smash, or facekeyboard. ^^

  5. Jei,

    Well, this is very indie film: the wardrobe will be whatever the actor has on hand to wear. Sweaters and collared shits beneath makes sense, though. Herringbone tweed would be nice, but I dunno if such is to be had.

    I saw Death Bell’s premiere, apparently. It was okay. I didn’t notice any Caucasian teachers in the background, though.

    I’ll let you see the thing on The Host. I’d probably be likelier to submit a kind of review to The Portal, which is sorta the spiritual successor to The Fix and which also is eager for reviews and discussion of non-Western material. For now, though, I’m not sure I have time t boil it all down into something shorter. It’s only about 10 pages or so, and I’ll even give you the revised version that the editors hack’n’slashed together out of what I sent them.

    As for 80s horror, yes. Something went amiss there, and Saw (which, frankly, are just too much for me — I felt a little psychologically damaged after seeing the first one) seems to be the new definitive style of horror. The Haunting of Julia hearkens back to a time when horror flicks were trying to spook the hell out of you, instead of just making you queasy by forcing you to watch people do awful things to their own and others bodies in order to survive.

    (The closest I’ve seen to the effect lately was, in fact, the film Buried, which I found quite unsettling.)

  6. Seconding, thirding Dagon and Re-Animator.

    A favorite stealth Lovecraft movies is Smilla’s Sense of Snow. It’s the “Call of Cthulhu” with the speculative elements taken out and played as a straight detective story, and of course John Carpenter’s The Thing has been dubbed “Lovecraftian”.

    I’ll have to track down Julia. The 70s made some wonderful movies. It must have been weird to live in a decade when guys like Walter Mathieu would be considered sexy.

    BTW, chat-gaming went well. Actually it was a lot of fun. Not that anyone needs another hobby, but gaming sure is a fun one.

  7. Thanks for the seconding and thirding… I have them incoming, now I just need time to watch ’em.

    I haven’t seen Smilla’s Sense of Snow, though now you have me curious; The Thing was indeed Lovecraftian, and not a bad movie… but also missing a lot of thing things I think would make an adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness hard to adapt.

    If I can find my copy of Julia, I’ll let you know. Mind, I haven’t seen it since the mid-90s, but it scared me then (watching alone, late at night). Walter Matthau… I get the feeling life in the 70s was just, well, easier. The ABBA clips above was shocking to me… it looked so very amateur compared to what we’d be expecting today, in terms of media stylization and controlled appearance, mind, not so much musical amateurishness.

    Glad to hear chat-gaming went well. Fun pastimes are pretty important in these parts, I’d say… but yeah, not that I need another hobby. :)

  8. It’s funny what actually “scares” people, and what we think people should actually be scared of.

    Ghosts do absolutely nothing for me since they don’t exist in “my” world; however, boogeymen with their weapons of destruction do exist, and I actually have a chance of encountering just such a deranged individual or individuals in my daily life.

    While not exactly a boogeyman, we have more to fear from this than phantasms in our future.

  9. John,

    But don’t you think that’s why we enjoy ghost stories so much? I know that ghosts stories are fun-scary to me for this very reason — because they’re not going to happen, because ghosts don’t exist, though I have the same module in my brain that receives them as somehow plausible narratives (despite their unreality).

    After all, ghost stories aren’t really about ghosts — they’re all about our own metaphysical dread of the one boogeyman we’re all guaranteed to meet someday: death. The unfulfilled promises and dreams and hopes, the longing and loss, the sorrow and the sweetness, are all just refracted representations of how we feel about death, and how we feel about what death does to the motivations, emotions, and complex vastness we experience in ourselves and in loved ones, as living creatures.

    I do think we should, as a species, be quite concerned with all kinds of things. I don’t think that’s a reason for us to stop enjoying ghost stories… or the metaphysical angst, an atheist angle of which I tend to agree is pretty well-expressed in Lovecraft.

    Also, amusingly to me, the film FROZEN seems to be one of those that assumes cell phones don’t exist. (Yeah, yeah, bad reception etc. Still… maybe it doesn’t scare me because I don’t ski — or scuba dive, for that matter, though of course any of us could end up in mid-ocean by other means…)

  10. It used to really upset me about how fickle cell phone reception was/is on film and TV, but you’d be surprised at number of places outside metropolitan areas where cell phones don’t get any reception. Where I live when I am back in Texas does not have reception (dead zone) and it drives my family insane because it is only 90 miles from the very large city of Houston. Luckily, for me, my computer is my phone as long as I have access to high speed Internet service, but that is easily severed by power outages or someone cutting the line. So I now no longer cringe when I see the lack of service in extemely rural, desert, forests, and high mountain areas on film and TV. If you truly want to be prepared for anything, you might want to invest in a satellite phone.

    Still can’t buy into ghosts though. Too much science in me.

  11. John,

    Ha, well, I guess we’re spoiled, living in Korea — cellphone-wise, anyway.

    And hell, I’m as scientistic as anyone: doesn’t stop me appreciating ghost stories, poems, paintings of supernatural beings, fairy tales, and all kinds of other things.

    (It does, however, stop me from enjoying science-retarded films like Armageddon, for similar reasons to why a lot of media-SF doesn’t do it for me — it being not SFnal enough for me.)

  12. You mean we are spoiled living in “South” Korea (even though I don’t have a cell phone here and don’t back in the states). However, I don’t think the masses in the “other” Korea are spoiled at all. Even the elite may not be when compared to our daily lives, but they are the lucky ones in that truly horrific world that so many (young) in the South can’t even began to fathom thanks to living in a technological world that would seem like “science fiction” to most of those north of the DMZ.

    As for SF not being SF enough, I, too, used to have a very hard time with it until I discovered Ray Bradbury. He said that his futuristic tales are not SF at all, but, instead, fantasy. I struggled with that for a little while until I remembered that I really love the fantasy tales of Clive Staples and John Ronald Reuel, so there is room on my bookself all “good” storytellers, no matter the genre. I just happen to like those set in the future a bit more than others.

  13. John,

    Well, obviously I meant South Korea… I think nobody could have imagined I was talking about the North, and am not sure where a rant on the evils of the North is relevant here.

    Funnily enough, though, my thoughts on why [South] Koreans haven’t been very actively creating and consuming a native form of SF have expanded to include the idea that American mainstream, non-genre prime time TV and Hollywood film are SFnal enough in the areas of ongoing change here most crucial for many (especially younger) Koreans: I’d argue Sex and the City is utopian in the freedoms it suggests Western women have, compared to women in Korea, and Starbucks and so on have capitalized on the global, postcolonial science-fictionality of American-branded consumer experience when it hits places like [South] Korea. Likewise, I can see how a show like Prison Break might actually quite effectively speak to a lot of young Korean men’s anxieties, frustrations, and problems in daily life in Korea.

    (It’s more complex than that, but that’s a chunk of it, among other realizations I’ve had this year.)

    I’d be very curious to know which American TV shows have had the biggest following here. I am betting the patterns would match my theory, but it will take me a little while to find the resource I need to test it and all that.

  14. Nowadays, I’d add “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” and, most definitely, “The Simpsons” (and “Futurama” to some extent) to your list, but you are on the right track.

    Sorry about taking a tangent off into a rant, but I find it quite perplexing as to how fast foreigners in South Korea drop the South part as there are two (maybe a study should be done on this), and, for those native English speakers all over the world outside of the South, the “Korea” that most see and hear about happens to be the North. The relevancy is that your blog transcends international borders and no one should forget the horrors occurring right now in that Korea, and I would hate for those who are not in the South to be confused over why many people speak of “Korea” with nothing but praise and admiration when the North deserves nothing of the sort.

  15. John,

    Yeah, Gossip Girl is definitely another one. I’m a little out of touch with more recent TV that’s popular here now, though.

    I think mostly non-Koreans in South Korea refer to Korea because it’s faster and shorter, and because it’s almost obvious to which Korea they’re referring.

    After all, when I’ve mentioned in the past that I live in Korea, the only people who have ever asked me, “Which Korea?” are North Americans, and usually even smart North Americans can guess I’m not an escaped prisoner of the DPRK.

    I’m sure we’d agree on a lot of the reasons why DPRK sucks. I just don’t see why I need to vigilantly remind people of it when it’s, you know, tangential. Also, I’m pretty sure nobody who spends more than two minutes searching my blog for other Korea-related posts would characterize my comments as “nothing but praise and admiration.”

  16. Hey Gord Sellar I just noticed on the left side your “Writing Projects Tracker” has a project you titled At the Mountains of Baekdu. Is this going to be something that elaborates upon or references At the Mountains of Madness? If so, then I can’t wait til it gets into print so I can read it…

    1. Hey,
      Ha, I should update the writing projects tracker, but it’s been a rough few years for writing (for me).
      “At the Mountains of Baekdu” is a longish short story (technically, a novelette, I think?) I wrote a while back, but wasn’t happy with. It’s about a younger Korean archaeology prof (possibly working at the Korean campus of Miskatonic Daeghakgyo) who is coerced by an older male prof into joining an official excursion to Baekdusan.

      It’s a bit of a riff on At the Mountains of Madness but also explores how the murky prehistory of human evolution that has been complexified lately by finds in China, and the horrors of the North Korean government. Oh, and a Lovecraftian reinterpretation of the Tangun myth.

      It’s one of a series of Lovecraftian stories set in Korea that are in various states of revision. I also have a Shadow Over Innsmouth-inflected retelling of the life of Admiral Yi Sunsin, a story where Sado Seja falls foul of the darker side of the Dreamlands (inspired by Lady Hyegyong’s accounts of the events in Crown Prince Sado’s life), and a comedic story about an expat English teacher who gets hired to teach TEFL at the brand-new shiny Seoul campus of an American university (미스카토닉 대학교).

      Unfortunately, the market for Korea-inflected Lovecraftian tales by a non-Korean was pretty small when I was writing them, and I doubt it’s gotten any better since. People tend to prefer my take on the Dreamlands to my Lovecraftian take on Korean history, sadly. I’d still like to try do a collection of the stories once they’re revised to a point where I’m willing to share them, though. (If you’d be interested in reading them and giving me your suggestions, I’m all ears!)

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