Thoughts on Horror from the Masters

H.P. Lovecraft, 1915

H.P. Lovecraft, 1915

In another page, I collected quotations and articles on the definition of horror.  In this one I collect quotations on the art of horror, its effects, implications, and everything other than the definition.  These are posted at random, though I shall try to group similar topics together to some extent.

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”  Edgar Allan Poe  from

“Where there is no imagination there is no horror.”  Arthur Conan Doyle.

“Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.” H.P. Lovecraft.

“Horror is beyond the reach of psychology.”  Theodor Adorno.

Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849

Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849

“From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.” ― H.P. Lovecraft, Tales of H. P. Lovecraft.

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”  Stephen King.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”  H.P. Lovecraft. [quoted from Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature]

“There are, without doubt, great possibilities in the serious exploitation of the astronomical tale; as a few semi-classics like “The War of the Worlds”, “The Last and First Men”, “Station X”, “The Red Brain”, and Clark Ashton Smith’s best work prove. But the pioneers must be prepared to labour without financial return, professional recognition, or the encouragement of a reading majority whose taste has been seriously warped by the rubbish it has devoured. Fortunately sincere artistic creation is its own incentive and reward, so that despite all obstacles we need not despair of the future of a fresh literary form whose present lack of development leaves all the more room for brilliant and fruitful experimentation.”  H.P. Lovecraft from “Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction”, Californian 3, No. 3 (Winter 1935): 39-42. Published in Collected Essays, Volume 2: Literary Criticism edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 178 as quoted in Wikiquotes.

“One can’t write a weird story of real power without perfect psychological detachment from the human scene, and a magic prism of imagination which suffuses them and style alike with that grotesquerie and disquieting distortion characteristic of morbid vision. Only a cynic can create horror—for behind every masterpiece of the sort must reside a driving daemonic force that despises the human race and its illusions, and longs to pull them to pieces and mock them.”  H.P. Lovecraft.  Letter to Weird Tales editor Edwin Baird printed in Weird Tales 3, no. 3 (March 1924), pp. 89-92. Quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 122. As quoted from Wikiquotes.

“good art means the ability of any one man to pin down in some permanent and intelligible medium a sort of idea of what he sees in Nature that nobody else sees. In other words, to make the other fellow grasp, through skilled selective care in interpretative reproduction or symbolism, some inkling of what only the artist himself could possibly see in the actual objective scene itself.”  H.P. Lovecraft. Letter to Woodburn Harris (25 February-1 March 1929), quoted in “H.P. Lovecraft, a Life” by S.T. Joshi, p. 487.  As quoted from Wikiquotes.

“When I say that I can write nothing but weird fiction, I am not trying to exalt that medium but am merely confessing my own weakness. The reason I can’t write other kinds is not that I don’t value & respect them, but merely that my slender set of endowments does not enable me to extract a compellingly acute personal sense of interest & drama from the natural phenomena of life. I know that these natural phenomena are more important & significant than the special & tenuous moods which so absorb me, & that an art based on them is greater than any which fantasy could evoke—but I’m simply not big enough to react to them in the sensitive way necessary for artistic response & literary use. God in heaven! I’d certainly be glad enough to be a Shakespeare or Balzac or Turgeniev if I could! . . . I respect realism more than any other form of art—but must reluctantly concede that, through my own limitations, it does not form a medium which I can adequately use.”  H.P. Lovecraft.  Letter to E. Hoffman Price (29 September 1933), quoted in “H.P. Lovecraft, a Life” by S.T. Joshi, p. 579.  As quoted in Wikiquotes.

“So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide

Clive Barker, Seattle, 2007 by Steven Friederich

Clive Barker, Seattle, 2007 by Steven Friederich

just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.”  Stephen King.  As quoted from

“[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” Clive Barker as quoted in

“Horror was rooted in sympathy . . . in understanding what it would be like to suffer the worst. ”  Joe Hill as quoted in http://www.ingridsnotes.

‘Horror is the removal of masks’ – Robert Bloch as quoted in

‘Horror is not a genre, it is an emotion’ – Douglas E. Winter as quoted in

‘One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses and oppresses.’ – Robin Wood as quoted in

‘That truth is that monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.’ – Stephen King as quoted in

‘…A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.’ – Joseph Conrad as quoted in

Stephen King at Comicon, 2007 Photo by Penguino

Stephen King
at Comicon, 2007
Photo by Penguino

“A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and protentiousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain — a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only daily safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.”  -H.P. Lovecraft in “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”   -Stephen King (as quoted by Goodreads)