"Gothic and Lovecraftian horror are inherently thematically incompatible."

Shipyard Locked

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While browsing the old Fraternity of Shadows fansite for Ravenloft, I found this interesting passage from John W. Mangrum, the author of many 3rd edition Ravenloft products.

John W. Mangrum said:
As a note, had we been able to write Van Richten's Guide to Eldritch Horrors (which would have been about illithids and their fleshcrafted spawn), the "hook" would have been presenting this Lovecraftian horror in a Gothic context. (There was little to no point in doing a simple rehash of the Illithiad or Lords of Madness.) Because it's true, beyond the surface conventions Gothic and Lovecraftian horror are inherently thematically incompatible.

Each of Van Richten's [Ravenloft's Van Helsing and in-setting writer of monster guides] foes presented a different thematic/moral threat -- a different take on evil. Werebeasts represented our darkest natures unleashed; Created was about the hubristic need to control our surroundings. Shadow Fey morality was skewed by their lack of mortality. Fiends were ultimate evil, interested in nothing more and nothing less than spiritual destruction for its own sake.

The underlying thematic threat of Bluetspur's [domain of the illithids in Ravenloft] inhabitants would be the threat of transforming the cosmos from Gothic Horror to Lovecraftian Horror. In other words, that the true threat of the illithids was the destruction of morality itself -- that, in a cosmos where the illithid way of life rules supreme, all that we know as Good and Evil would be stripped away, replaced by an utterly alien morality -- one into which mankind may not even figure. A cosmic paradigm shift, if you will. In other words, better the devil you know than the thing you can never understand.
I found this particularly interesting in light of how often Gothic and Lovecraftian trappings are casually mixed in horror gaming. I'd sensed something was off, but I hadn't been able to put it into words.

Of course, this could just be purist nonsense. What do you think?
 

Edgewise

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I can sort of understand the claim. Gothic horror is innately Romantic, and Lovecraftian horror seems to be far less so. At the risk of oversimplifying, I'd say that gothic horror is very human and Lovecraftian horror is very inhuman.

I think what we see a bit more of in role-playing is the blending of gothic settings with Lovecraftian horror. The closest thing I can think of as a true hybrid might be Pulp Cthulhu, and pulp should be an even harder thing to combine than gothic qualities. However, it may be argued that Pulp Cthulhu is Lovecraftian but not Lovecraftian horror.

I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other, but I can see where this claim is coming from.
 
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Postmortem

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While I won’t go as far as to claim purist nonsense, I do not agree that Gothic and Lovecraft are thematically incompatible. That seems like a broad statement and it may be true for his idea of Ravenloft, but Gothic and Lovecraft are very broad categories.
 

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I disagree... or rather, I think the trick lies in the presentation.
Lovecraft's stories, most of them, are essentially science fiction... but so is Frankenstein.
H.P.L. took various traditional horror tropes and recast them in light of his own scientific/rationalist viewpoint... so creepy old town, ruins, 'haunted' houses. Themes of moral and hereditary corruption.
The Shunned House is pretty much about a vampire... except Lovecraft's version of the beast is some sort of blue giant buried under the house that the protagonist destroys with acid.
His ghouls might be taken for werewolves.
Watch Roger Corman's The Haunted Castle, with Vincent Price. It's actually based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and seems to fit in with 'gothic horror' to me.

The main disconnect, for some, might be the absence of a supernatural worldview that assumes 'good' and 'evil'... and 'God' vs. 'Satan'... Lovecraft's monsters don't shy away from crucifixes or holy water... can't be cast out by priests. There's nothing looking out for the welfare of mankind, and mankind is of no real importance to the universe.

If I wanted to push the 'Gothic' atmosphere I'd leave off mentioning the monsters as 'aliens' and present the Old Ones more like evil spirits of vast power... and I'm sure Nyarlathotep has a devil costume somewhere in his wardrobe.
 
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Baulderstone

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It's a complicated answer as Lovecraft did write a number of stories that were straight gothic, but he also wrote stories that were intended to move beyond gothic. Even then, he was still willing to draw on gothic tropes in those stories. He was trying to do new things, but it wasn't out of rejection or contempt for what came before.

The thing that Lovecraft had real contempt for in horror was what he called "ethical didacticism". He didn't like horror that taught a tidy moral lesson. I would say that ethical didacticism is thematically incompatible with Lovecraftian horror.
 

silva

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Bloodborne comes quickly to mind.
...as an example of what @Edgewise said above: Gothic aesthetics in a Lovecraftian story. There's nothing romantic or moralistic about Bloodborne, right? It's a tale of curiosity leading to the discovery of things better left unknown (and the hubris of men in trying to harness it).
 
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Shipyard Locked

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There's nothing romantic or moralistic about Bloodborne, right? It's a tale of curiosity leading to the discovery of things better left unknown (and the hubris of men in trying to harness it).
True. Nothing romantic or moralistic, for sure.
Personally, I think as soon as you start including statements like "things better left unknown" or words like "hubris" in your description, it sure starts to sound a little moralistic.

That is to say, in a purely Lovecraftian universe, animals like humans follow their curiosity in an attempt to enhance their survival. After all, nothing else is looking out for them. Sure, learning the truth can destroy you, but ignorance will destroy you pretty soon too and no entity will mourn you, or condemn your "hubris", so you might as well try.
 

Skarg

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There's not just one thing that is Gothic horror and one thing that is Lovecraftian horror. It depends on what one means, whether they're compatible or not.

But I can see how trying to mix some elements of them could lead to all sorts of issues.

And, I actually know more about the actual literature (Walpole, Shelley, Poe, Lovecraft, Beckford, etc...) than I do about the RPG forms (I know a bit more about Call of Cthulu than I do about Ravenloft).

But I wouldn't say Gothic and Lovecraftian horror were fundamentally incompatible, but that one should pick which elements to mix in, and that trying to dump the kitchen sink together would tend to be a mess. Some of the themes and cosmological ideas could easily be rather at odds.
 

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I thoroughly backed John on this point--Gothic horror, or rather, that tradition of it followed by the Ravenloft setting, is fundamentally about violations of natural and moral law, while the point of Lovecraft is arguably that there's no natural or moral law to which anyone can appeal.
 

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I've always felt that Lovecraftian horror had this weird link with Science Fiction. Something weird was happening, a protagonist tries to figure it out, sometimes as logically as they could (usually failing). Uncaring space monsters.

Gothic, while also atmospheric, was, as @Edgewise put it, very human. It was always either full-on about human failings and passions, or parables about the darker sides of romanticism. I guess.
 

Baulderstone

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I've always felt that Lovecraftian horror had this weird link with Science Fiction. Something weird was happening, a protagonist tries to figure it out, sometimes as logically as they could (usually failing). Uncaring space monsters.

Gothic, while also atmospheric, was, as @Edgewise put it, very human. It was always either full-on about human failings and passions, or parables about the darker sides of romanticism. I guess.
There is no question that there is element of science fiction to Lovecraft's work. "The Whisperer in Darkness" and "At the Mountains of Madness" are completely science fiction. As you say, there is also scientific approach to things. "The Dunwich Horror" is more occult then sci-fi, but the protagonist prevails in an analytic way.
 

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I thoroughly backed John on this point--Gothic horror, or rather, that tradition of it followed by the Ravenloft setting, is fundamentally about violations of natural and moral law, while the point of Lovecraft is arguably that there's no natural or moral law to which anyone can appeal.
Lovecraft usually throws both at his characters... first, the realization that there is a monster/sorcerer/cult (natural/moral violation)... followed, sometimes, by the further revelation that it goes much farther than that, and what seemed unnatural a moment ago only seemed that way because the character was ignorant of the true nature of the universe. Sometimes Lovecraft's characters accept this new worldview (Shadow Over Innsmouth) and sometimes they just go nuts and/or die.
To me it's often not a this OR that... it's this AND that... there is an evil degenerate sorcerer living off blood in an old house... AND he's been conducting rituals based on ancient alien mathematics.
Does it change things all that much if Dracula (Strahd) has knowledge/dealings with the Mythos? If Frankenstein's methods are based on something weirder than electricity? Dracula still is still creepy/dangerous/over-dressed and Frankenstein probably still gets people killed by being a shitty parent.
 

The Butcher

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While I won’t go as far as to claim purist nonsense
No need, I’ll do it:

Purist nonsense.

Gothic writers were a HUGE influence on HPL; his horror writing, for all his talk of an amoral universe, is rife with strident moral tones; and “themes” in literature do not necessarily translate in a straight line to “themes” in elfgames.

Also, I do not believe in incompatibility of genres, let alone subgenres. (See avatar.)
 

TristramEvans

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Of course, this could just be purist nonsense. What do you think?

I absolutely agree. While it's possible to have Gothic horror that includes archetypal elements from Lovecraftian horror (and vice-versa), ultimately they are an entirely different form of horror - meaning the horror itself comes from a different place.

edit: lol, replied before going back and reading everyone else's replies, looks like I'm the odd man out on this one. Still I stand by my statement, because ultimately, deep down, each horror tale draws on a different type of fear, and I think identifying that underlying cause will determine what "genre" the horror falls into.
 

TristramEvans

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So, what makes Gothic Horror, well, Gothic? What elements make it up?
The best possible answer would be to listen to Del Toro's DVD commentary for The Devil's Backbone - it was essentially a masters thesis on Gothic Horror. But assuming not everyone has that readily at hand, the short answer is that Gothic Horror is fear that comes from the punishment of sin in the afterlife intruding upon life through what Radcliffe termed "explained supernaturalism". That's a very simplistic statement, akin to saying that Lovecraftian Horror comes from fear of meaninglessness in the face of an uncaring universe - it's accurate, but misses a lot of the elements/tropes that are associated with the genre. I think these tropes are what are essentially interchangeable. You can have a Lovecraftian story that involves decrepit old buildings, doomed romances, and aristocratic angst, in the same way you can have a Gothic horror story involving The Hounds of Tindalos, alien/interdimensional menaces, and an inherent fear of other cultures.
 

Chris Brady

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So in a rather simplistic nutshell, Gothic Horror is about religious based fears of the afterlife and punishment, whereas Lovecraftian take a more scientific route, which implies there's nothing to look forward to when you die?

It does seem incompatible to me.
 

CRKrueger

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The best possible answer would be to listen to Del Toro's DVD commentary for The Devil's Backbone - it was essentially a masters thesis on Gothic Horror. But assuming not everyone has that readily at hand, the short answer is that Gothic Horror is fear that comes from the punishment of sin in the afterlife intruding upon life through what Radcliffe termed "explained supernaturalism". That's a very simplistic statement, akin to saying that Lovecraftian Horror comes from fear of meaninglessness in the face of an uncaring universe - it's accurate, but misses a lot of the elements/tropes that are associated with the genre. I think these tropes are what are essentially interchangeable. You can have a Lovecraftian story that involves decrepit old buildings, doomed romances, and aristocratic angst, in the same way you can have a Gothic horror story involving The Hounds of Tindalos, alien/interdimensional menaces, and an inherent fear of other cultures.
Hmm. It almost seems like you defeated your own argument there. I know we’re starting to split hairs, but tropes being interchangeable doesn’t mean the themes are incompatible.
 

Skarg

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I would not say that Gothic horror (fiction) needs to be about sin/punishment, and certainly not about "explained supernaturalism".

I would say that if there is a core theme in Gothic horror, it is about the dread of the unknown, which is entirely in sync with most Lovecraft.
 

TristramEvans

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Hmm. It almost seems like you defeated your own argument there. I know we’re starting to split hairs, but tropes being interchangeable doesn’t mean the themes are incompatible.
tropes are just cliches that people imitate from originating sources often enough that they become ":"defining elements" of a genre, until the genre goes through a period of deconstruction, in which case inversions of those original tropes are par for the course until they themselves become cliche.

But that was nothing to do with my point, which was the source of the fear that forms the basis of one type of horror vs another. Lovecraftian Horror is particularly relevant here in that MOST things these days containing Lovecraftian elements have nothing to do with Lovecraftian Horror. The majority of films based on Lovecraft's works are Gore-based or slashers despite the call-outs to Lovecraft elements (Re-Animator, Dagon, etc).
 

TristramEvans

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I would not say that Gothic horror (fiction) needs to be about sin/punishment, and certainly not about "explained supernaturalism".

I would say that if there is a core theme in Gothic horror, it is about the dread of the unknown, which is entirely in sync with most Lovecraft.
I'm not aware of Dread of the Unknown forming any major element, let a lone a major theme, of the works that formed the basis and defined the Gothic Horror genre - Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Island of Bornholm, The Italian, The Bravo of Venice, etc.

And "explained supernaturalism" is a direct quote from Ann Radcliffe, to say Gothic fiction is "certainly not about that" seems to me like saying Hitchcock films have nothing to do with suspense. It does not compute to me at all.
 

Skarg

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I'm not aware of Dread of the Unknown forming any major element, let a lone a major theme, of the works that formed the basis and defined the Gothic Horror genre - Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Island of Bornholm, The Italian, The Bravo of Venice, etc.
I was aware of it when I read most of those and others, and my memory from researching Gothic horror at university was that theme came up as the most consistent common thread in academic papers about Gothic novels. If you take another look for it, you may notice the stories are largely about the experiences of characters who encounter terribly dreadful things that can't stand to face and fully comprehend, etc.

And "explained supernaturalism" is a direct quote from Ann Radcliffe, to say Gothic fiction is "certainly not about that" seems to me like saying Hitchcock films have nothing to do with suspense. It does not compute to me at all.
I read "explained supernaturalism" as something a modern writer might write. Perhaps Radcliffe was actually referring to something more like what I was referring to. When supernaturalism starts to be explained as reality (in the experience of the characters in the story) their world views and/or identities are torn apart. That's the horror of it. "Oh... my... god... a giant freaking helmet with black feathers just fell and crushed someone... what if the curse is real? (shudder!)" It's rather like the gradual realizations in much of Lovecraft, just Lovecraft's things tend to be more modern.
 

TristramEvans

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gah, I'll be perfectly honest, I just don't have the time to give a good response. I'm still in the middle of a move that won't be finished until Friday, and I know my indulgence and interest in this topic is the type that is urging me to do nothing else until 3am except write a rambling explanation of what I understand regarding Gothic Horror. But this isn't a hill I currently have the luxury to die on. Suffice to say I think perhaps we do agree to some extent, it's just a matter of different usages of terms. I may be misunderstanding your use of "Dread of the Unknown" just as I think you may be mis-understanding "explained supernaturalism".Another day perhaps, I can indulge myself and explain my PoV to an extent that I would consider at the least I'd made a good show of it, even if it was ultimately not convincing.

I will state this though: I do believe a distinction exists between Gothic Horror and other types of horror, otherwise the terms would serve no purpose. And that is not to say that I don't think genres can, or should, be blended and mixed. I love the Evil Dead series of films, and that was a different genre blend each film. But I also think, as is my earlier stated hypothesis, that even blended genres are ultimately one genre with tropes taken from other genres, and the underlying genre of horror, specifically, is identified by what, ultimately, drives the cause of fear. And I see Lovecraft's bleak view of an atheistic universe where Humanity is nothing but an accident of nature a very existential form of fear that is particular to the secularized society of the turn of the 19th & 20th century, whereas the Gothic literature I've read is very rooted in an ultimately Judeo-Christian worldview where some aspect of the universe cares enough about humans to see them worth "punishing" (cursing).
 

AsenRG

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No need, I’ll do it:

Purist nonsense.

Gothic writers were a HUGE influence on HPL; his horror writing, for all his talk of an amoral universe, is rife with strident moral tones;
and “themes” in literature do not necessarily translate in a straight line to “themes” in elfgames.

Also, I do not believe in incompatibility of genres, let alone subgenres. (See avatar.)
Thank you! Someone needed to say it, and I was on my phone or busy (or prioritising other threads) until now...:smile:

In fact, I'd argue that Lovecraftian horror relies on morality. It's just that said morality is being subverted/proven meaningless in contact with the "reality" of the Mythos (or what passes for reality in the case of the Mythos:wink:).
Because, see, in my reading of HPL's horror, the souce of the horror* is that the protagonist, raised with a conventional morality sense, is suddenly confronted with the fact that the universe doesn't care** for his morality. The horror comes from realizing that they were wrong all along, and all the people in their lives have - probably unknowingly - lied to them.
Without this, you don't get any shock value, and HPL isn't a horror writer...merely a macabre pulp writer:grin:.

BTW, is it just me, or do his characters/narrators refer to "creatures that shouldn't exist on God's Earth":tongue:?

Viewed under this lense, Gothic horror and HPL horror are two brands of the same thing. Vampires were also seen as "abominations of the natural order", for example, and some Gothic protagonists - especially if attracted by them - question whether God has any plans for them. Some probably*** question whether He exists, if such creatures could also exist.
And that, I'd argue, is undistinguishable from HPL's writing.


Or I might be talking out of my ass, and showing inability to comprehend HPL's brand of horror. Whatever, I've never claimed being a huge fan...but the above understanding has always served me well in Mythos games.


*And the explanation why HPL stories have next to no impact on me as horror stories. I see them as kinda gory pulp SF.
**Reminds me of the surprise of players used to systems/GMs that allow narrative bonuses for behaving in a moral manner, or merely for being a protagonist/PC. Once they play a system that doesn't care about this stuff...and their PC ends up dead in a "meaningless" (to them) scuffle, the looks on their faces tend to be priceless:devil:!
Me? I have internalised that if my characters behave ethically because they don't care whether the universe agrees...because of believing the LITTLE LIES:skeleton:.
***Don't ask me for a quote, though.
 

Edgewise

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I know we’re starting to split hairs, but tropes being interchangeable doesn’t mean the themes are incompatible.
I think that's fair; the term "trope" is broad enough that it actually encompasses themes. The way I'd put this is that there are tropes in both genres that can be mixed, but others which are incompatible. Fear of damnation versus fear of universe bereft of human meaning...those are incompatible tropes.

Also, Gothic horror often has heroes and villains - especially, apparently, Byronic heroes (i.e. brooding yet decisive, and always dashing). Meanwhile, Lovecraftian horror has no heroes, because humans are too insignificant to rate as heroic, and we're too far below the notice of our alien antagonists for their actions to be villainous.

So if you break the genres down to their tropes, they certainly aren't incompatible. The question to me is whether you can blend them together in a single work while retaining their respective "hearts." Whatever those are. Maybe genres are just a set of quirks and conventions and no core tropes.

Mind you that I don't know much about Gothic horror other than Shelley and Stoker, and I dunno, Ravenloft? I got most of that stuff, and the definition of "trope" in a literary context, from wikipedia.
 

opaopajr

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The structural trappings are the same (that's why their story tropes tread the same ground). Even the focus on the humanity's horror is the same (that's why they are in the same lit genre). It's the explanatory ethos that differs.

And that differing ethos, with no care to humanity's primacy, was to be the horror for audiences of Lovecraft's time. (Which given post-Great War, Industrialization, Mass Production, Progressive Movement and Temperance failure, and Modernism was an idea already behind the times and passé. It was the formalizing it into words for the horror genre that made the implication of this Brave New World finally hit under the skin.)
-----------------

Also, since Ravenloft is a Deep Ethereal Prison for Darklords to forever be thwarted in a Pageant-like narrative, most Lovecraft Mythos fits in like a glove. Most Mythos are either thwarted outright by humans, or by means of humans using Elder God help. The stars that keep being not right is as much of a chastising prison for Darklord Mythos as the horror for heroes that maybe one day the stars will be right.

But until that day, they are to forever sleeping lie... That deferred promise sounds like Ravenloft-appropriate torture of the Darklords.
 
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Baeraad

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I think one thing blurring the lines is that Lovecraft described an amoral universe through a moral lense. He uses the term "blasphemous" on every other page, for instance, all while making it clear that there exists nothing holy to blaspheme against. The attitude his protagonists tend to take seems to be that while human values are lies, we still need to hold to them, because what else are we going to do? Go crawl around in the muck with the slugs?

To me, Lovecraftian writing very much has a Gothic divide between Good and Evil. It's just that in proper Gothic writing, Good must ultimately prevail and what we need to worry about is stumbling onto the side of Evil. Lovecraftian characters have to worry about that too, but they also have to deal with the demoralising realisation that Good (in the form of humanity, civilisation and all that was properly upper-class New England) was ultimately a cosmic accident that would lose in the end. That is a difference, but it's mostly a high-level academical one. For practical day-to-day purposes, a Gothic character and a Lovecraftian character has much the same goals and concerns.
 

Chris Brady

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Thank you! Someone needed to say it, and I was on my phone or busy (or prioritising other threads) until now...:smile:

In fact, I'd argue that Lovecraftian horror relies on morality. It's just that said morality is being subverted/proven meaningless in contact with the "reality" of the Mythos (or what passes for reality in the case of the Mythos:wink:).
That's not based on morality. It's there to prove that it's meaningless.

Because, see, in my reading of HPL's horror, the souce of the horror* is that the protagonist, raised with a conventional morality sense, is suddenly confronted with the fact that the universe doesn't care** for his morality. The horror comes from realizing that they were wrong all along, and all the people in their lives have - probably unknowingly - lied to them.
Without this, you don't get any shock value, and HPL isn't a horror writer...merely a macabre pulp writer:grin:.
Exactly, morality means nothing. Literally. There's no point to it or anything else. It's a very one note nihilistic philosophy from a man who clearly feared the world.

BTW, is it just me, or do his characters/narrators refer to "creatures that shouldn't exist on God's Earth":tongue:?

Viewed under this lense, Gothic horror and HPL horror are two brands of the same thing.
That's a very odd reading. One focuses entirely on Christian morality, in Gothic Horror (which I assume means the classic monsters like Werewolves and Vampire et al.) and how if you're conventionally evil, you will likely become the very monsters that prey on others. It's often the classic tale of hubris.

But in HPL's stuff none of that matters, good, bad, he's the one with the Elder Gods on his side. HPL's type of horror seems to focus on the realization that it doesn't mean anything.

Vampires were also seen as "abominations of the natural order", for example, and some Gothic protagonists - especially if attracted by them - question whether God has any plans for them. Some probably*** question whether He exists, if such creatures could also exist.
And that, I'd argue, is undistinguishable from HPL's writing.
But that's just surface level similarities, though. It's very different if you go looking deeper.
 

Baulderstone

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The best possible answer would be to listen to Del Toro's DVD commentary for The Devil's Backbone - it was essentially a masters thesis on Gothic Horror. But assuming not everyone has that readily at hand, the short answer is that Gothic Horror is fear that comes from the punishment of sin in the afterlife intruding upon life through what Radcliffe termed "explained supernaturalism". That's a very simplistic statement, akin to saying that Lovecraftian Horror comes from fear of meaninglessness in the face of an uncaring universe - it's accurate, but misses a lot of the elements/tropes that are associated with the genre. I think these tropes are what are essentially interchangeable. You can have a Lovecraftian story that involves decrepit old buildings, doomed romances, and aristocratic angst, in the same way you can have a Gothic horror story involving The Hounds of Tindalos, alien/interdimensional menaces, and an inherent fear of other cultures.
In a role-playing game, these definitions can result in the PCs determining what kind of horror a story is. If the PC investigators decide that the haunted house is the result of the sins of their family, it is Gothic. If they decide it is the result of the mad physics of an uncaring universe, it is Lovecraftian. Sure, you as GM know which of these it really is, but what kind of fear the PCs adopt ultimately determines what kind of horror story it is.
 

Caesar Slaad

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Maybe, though if so, it would hinge around the definition of Gothic Horror. Though people associate Gothic horror with trappings. Though really what defines Gothic horror is "how horrible am I/people", where cosmic horror is about how horrible the universe is. It's sort of hard to imagine one not losing punch when juxtaposed with the other.


Edit: or if I had read to post 2, basically what Edgewise says.
 

Stevethulhu

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Maybe, though if so, it would hinge around the definition of Gothic Horror. Though people associate Gothic horror with trappings. Though really what defines Gothic horror is "how horrible am I/people", where cosmic horror is about how horrible the universe is. It's sort of hard to imagine one not losing punch when juxtaposed with the other.


Edit: or if I had read to post 2, basically what Edgewise says.
In literary terms, what defines Gothic Horror is the juxtaposition of horror elements with romantic elements. The term emerged in the late 1700s as part of the Romantic movement, so by now it's fairly well understood. Another name for Gothic Horror is Dark Romanticism. Mystery, fear, eerie locations omens and supernatural activity, aristocratic villains, damsels in distress, romance and anti heroes all play a big part in the various aspects of Gothic Horror.

Take Interview with a Vampire. The book or film. It's filled with all of the above. It's very much steeped in the Gothic tradition. So is something like The Shining. Now take Near Dark, another film about vampires. It's a horror movie, sure. But it draws on Westerns, rather than Gothic plots and devices to set it's tone.

Gothic Horror has little to do with how horrible people can be to each other.
 

CRKrueger

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Well, since the Internet always gets a little stuck when using literary terms (due to some using strict academic and some using broader, cultural definitions) I’ll just use a generic word - elements.
Putting together what a bunch of people have said, we get something like this:
  • Some Elements of Gothic and Lovecraftian Horror will be incompatible.
  • Source of Horror certainly seems to be one of these.
  • In a Horror genre, Source of Horror certainly seems to be a key component.
  • If you classify a Horror work as a bowl full of elements, you can scoop out and mix elements, what you can’t do is have more than one bowl. Fundamental basis or source for the Horror seems like the bowl.
  • So to a certain degree, they are incompatible. You’re either going to have Gothic Horror with Lovecraftian elements, or Lovecraftian Horror with Gothic elements. The core type of Horror will be fundamental, with the rest essentially trappings.
  • So whether the contention is correct depends on your definition of “thematically compatible”, “Lovecraftian Horror”, and “Gothic Horror”.
Now that we have that sorted, we can expand the discussion:

What defines Howardian Horror, especially with relation to Gothic and Lovecraftian?
 

Stevethulhu

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What defines Howardian Horror, especially with relation to Gothic and Lovecraftian?
Never heard that term. I get the reference, but in the same way we don't have 'Kingian' horror, I'm not sure it's a sub genre. Lovecraftian has the advantage of being quite a collaboration between Lovecraft and his correspondents. Which included RE Howard and Robert Bloch, of Psycho fame. But does that mean Psycho was a Lovecraftian tale? It would certainly work as a Call of Cthulhu scenario, but that I think is a bigger tent than any one particular horror genre.
 

Baulderstone

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Never heard that term. I get the reference, but in the same way we don't have 'Kingian' horror, I'm not sure it's a sub genre. Lovecraftian has the advantage of being quite a collaboration between Lovecraft and his correspondents. Which included RE Howard and Robert Bloch, of Psycho fame. But does that mean Psycho was a Lovecraftian tale? It would certainly work as a Call of Cthulhu scenario, but that I think is a bigger tent than any one particular horror genre.
I agree that there isn't really something called Howardian horror. I think he is a great horror writer, but I can't see that he created any unique subgenre in horror in the way that he did with fantasy.
 

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For a while now I've been thinking of designing a horror-themed megadungeon (Castle Hellsgate). Apart from a few notes and some wandering monster tables this largely remains a grand thought experiment. One idea I had was for the upper levels to be gothic themed and the lower levels to have more of a Lovecraftian vibe. I feel that this is doable - that I can segue from one into the other. Partly I think because I feel that it's possible to layer the gothic over the cosmic, for the latter to represent a deeper (literally) level of revelation. I also feel that I can blend one into the other by mixing gothic trappings with cosmic themes. I've been thinking of the middle levels as being the Poesque levels, where the aesthetic is still clearly gothic but the horror is more impersonal, more existential.
 
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