New Mineshaft Feature : Loving the Craft

Well I’ve yet to top my (unimpressive) Robotron score from a while back, so I need an ongoing feature to keep me coming back to the mineshaft. In addition to the normal posts, I will be spending a paragraph or two at the bottom to explore an H.P. Lovecraft story, since I think in general he is a writer that is known of, but not known well enough outside of a few key stories.

Some of the stories might warrant a whole post, though I’m sure I can capture how I felt about one of his short stories in a little blurb at the end of a post, taking the place of the Robotron Diaries (unless I top my score). We’ll be kicking this off in style, with a story that helped renew my interest in this author : “The Silver Key.”

This story is the third in the series of Randolph Carter stories. It’s not completely necessary to read the other two first, but if you wanna be hardcore about it, go for it and read “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and “The Unnamable” first. True Lovecraft fans will point out that in terms of chronology there’s really another one you should read first, “The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath”, but i’ve found that reading them in the written order to be more enjoyable than the chronological order. Plus, these first three stories are much more manageable in size and complexity for those who want to start reading a bit of Lovecraft and don’t want to plunge into Unknown Kadath just yet.

Randolph Carter is one of Lovecraft’s few repeating characters. By this story, he is an old man who has “lost the key to the gate of dreams”. Like several of Lovecraft’s stories, it begins with almost an essay that sets up the mind of the main character before leading in to the story itself. Carter makes several attempts to understand the meaning of the world around him, but finds himself unsatisfied, so he must find a way to retreat back into his dreams from childhood.

The story is both very different from Lovecraft’s other works and very typical for him. It very carefully walks the line between the total cosmic and ghoulish hopelessness of his stories and a kind of childlike belief in the sheer power of dreams and fantasy. It’s almost like Peter Pan with a fog machine… I love it.

Supposedly when this story was published, it wasn’t a big hit. It doesn’t have any monsters or Elder Gods or cults, so maybe that’s why. I can see how it could be less memorable and perhaps less shocking than some other Lovecraft tales. Still, this story is incredible, especially when read in the context of the previous Randolph Carter stories.

I won’t completely spoil the ending, but it is neither completely uplifting nor a total downer, but it does set up a sequel of sorts. I haven’t had time for it yet, but I’m really excited to read it and feature it soon!


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November 2009
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