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Cosmic Horror: Frank Thayers Personal Why?

The History of Cosmic Horror

 

Read until the end for a special bonus! A lifelong study of the work of H.P. Lovecraft and the mentorship of August Derleth leads me to approach the very concept of cosmic horror and its meaning. Stories of black magic and merely human evil do not open the gates of cosmic horror. As Derleth told me, the fiction of Lovecraft went beyond mere black magic, and stories such as “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” which, by the way was assisted posthumously by Derleth, show the opening of the gates to a dark dimension that may well be an example of beyond good and evil, as discussed by Nietzsche. Thus, cosmic horror creates in the reader a sense of awe as well as an underlying level of terror. We all have moments when we sense that existence is more wondrous and horrible than we can imagine. Our personal fates are as nothing in the face of a universe that is beyond our conception. Lovecraft created such a mood, and we can but do likewise.

“Nyarlathotep…the crawling chaos…” Such begins one of H.P. Lovecraft’s lesser known fragments recovered by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei in 1943 and whose mood is evocative of a horror beyond human understanding. Originally written before Lovecraft’s death in 1937, this fragment portrays a dark figure: “He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilization came Nyarlathotep.” Additionally, he wrote, “My friend had told me of him, and of the impelling fascination and allurement of his revelations, and I burned with eagerness…” At the time of this writing there emerged in Germany an inexplicable figure who fascinating and drew to him a blind obedience—and he was schooled in the occult arts. Did Lovecraft subconsciously perceive what was moving on the inner planes at the time? If you can imagine this, you are on the brink of knowing cosmic horror.

Truth be known, supernatural horror has been the stuff of literature for centuries, long before the frenzy of social engineering known to today’s English departments. One of the best scholarly essays was written by H.P. Lovecraft and his “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” tracing how supernatural horror was the mainspring of plays, stories, and novels into the 19th Century, when the work of Edgar Allan Poe coagulated the tradition into the form of short stories. Elsewhere on the Sun Cross website I have published my fragment titled “The Domain of Supernatural Horror and Its Secret Agenda,” which cannot even stand in the shadow of Lovecraft’s superb essay but which seeks to discover the reason why humans are drawn to supernatural horror, and the more educated they are, the more likely are they to ponder the dimensions beyond the physical. Of course, we must except the over-educated intellectuals, whose mental prisons are self-constructed.

Then we have the conflict of plot, character, and mood. August Derleth was a master of plot, and he guided me in the engineering of an exciting plot. Yet, while plot may be good for a 60-minute TV drama (or 30-minute “Twilight Zone” episode), many stories are good plots in search of a character. Young writers often search for bizarre plot twists to hold the reader, but the novel must be built around character. It is sometimes argued that Lovecraft’s characters lacked dimension, but his longer works belie that criticism. Lovecraft himself said that he sought to create mood, and such is the mother lode of the cosmic horror tale or the supernatural story. Mood cannot be taught but is the outgrowth of the writer’s imagination exploding into his or her creations. It is not arcane language, but an almost-indefinable, mysterious ambience that cannot be described. Lovecraft had that quality in his best writing, and we who follow that example can but seek the same as found in Poe, M.R. James, Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, and many others.

Many writers and critics have dissected the Cthulhu mythos and, indeed, in the pulp era, H.P. Lovecraft’s contemporaries fleshed out the myth beyond what the original author described. Then, succeeding generations of college students and movie makers created a cult figure of the mythos. “The Call of Cthulhu” finds the dead old one dreaming in his undersea kingdom, but Lovecraft imagined Azathoth, that bubbling idiot god at the center of the universe, and the cosmogony became more complex. Even Frank Thayer pays homage to that mythos in oblique terms, using the barbarous names of evocation as voiced by hideous things in the cosmic darkness…Iä, Iä, Shub niggurath.

As far as myself and my companies contribution to the genre goes, read on to learn more:

In the 1930s sci-fi readers expected aliens to be “bug-eyed monsters” or BEMs, and after WWII, real flying saucer crashes led to aliens described as little green men, but common wisdom dominated, holding that aliens would be humanoid and probably benevolent. The Whispering Darkness goes back to the idea that visitors from the cosmos could be frightening to look at and possessed of motives unfathomable to humans. My novel is set in a real location and supported by vintage and recent photographs. In sparsely populated Catron County, many residents have reported flying saucer sightings that were sometimes menacing. The story deals with human frailty and a brooding horror from the depths of space.

The writings of Puritan Cotton Mather were never far from my stories, and certainly H.P. Lovecraft knew Mather’s Wonders and Magnalia as well as anyone. The witch cult of Massachusetts and the lore of New England provided haunted settings for Lovecraft’s tales, while I was immersed in the culture of the New Mexico Southwest as well as the province of Ontario. Cosmic fear? My story “In the Shadow of Geronimo’s Mountain,” an invisible force evokes the legend of the skinwalker and its power to steal the souls of men and to leave them as an empty shell.

Cobston Trilogy presents a festering horror that spans the better part of a century, from 1918 to 2000, and what seemed to begin with revenants created from a plague in the community, grew under the earth for more than 50 years. Finally, an indescribable horror reaches its tendrils into the modern Cobston community until discovered by the descendant of the newspaper publisher who first uncovered the beginnings of something that could only be destroyed by a cleansing fire.

Bram Stokcr capitalized on and romanticized the vampire legends of Eastern Europe, but the facts surrounding these supernatural pests was indeed more grisly and better proven than Stoker revealed in his most successful novel. My novel The Vampire of San Vicente seeks to shed the romance and present the case for the reality of the vampire. It is argued that the vampire could not emerge from a grave and return to it each day, but there is a convincing case for how the vampire saps the life force from victims and still remain buried. You will find the case compelling. All but the most materialistic of people accept the power of ritual to affect consciousness, and perhaps more. “The Grand Order of Marbas” reveals the way ceremonial magic can effectively transform a human being into a ravening beast. In this story, the accounts of hundreds of murders in Juárez, Mexico in the late 1980s is suggested as a connection to a werewolf cult. Strangely, after the fictional victory over this cult in El Paso, Texas, seemed to coincide with a decline in murders of women in that Mexican city. There may indeed be relationship between life and art. To learn more about Frank Thayer and his personal Why?, visit the HOME page. 

Read more below, a special reward awaits!

Gallery of Cosmic Horror available on our Shop page :

The Thayer Mythos on a bookshelf
The Thayer Mythos on a bookshelf

The Thayer Mythos: All 4 of Frank's Lovecraftian Horror Novels

The Thayer Mythos
The Thayer Mythos

The Thayer Mythos: All 4 of Frank's Lovecraftian Horror Novels

Newspaper Review #2
Newspaper Review #2

A newspaper review of Frank's novels.

The Thayer Mythos on a bookshelf
The Thayer Mythos on a bookshelf

The Thayer Mythos: All 4 of Frank's Lovecraftian Horror Novels

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The Literature of Cosmic Supernatural Horror and Its Secret Agenda

 

My life has always been about writing, even though I have had a long career in education, and even had the privilege of working in entertainment at one point. As a professor, I learned from the students in my writing classes as they learned from me, both in the United States and in Canada. As a lifelong devotee of the writers of supernatural horror in general, and H.P. Lovecraft in particular, I still have a box of early typewritten stories stashed in my house. Fortunately, August Derleth, a prolific writer who founded Arkham House Publishers to preserve Lovecraft’s work, took me under his wing and became my mentor. My early stories were strong on plot and light on character, but Derleth anthologized one of my stories in 1966 while I was trying my handwriting stories for minor men’s magazines. Then followed a long career in education when fiction took a back seat to research papers, journal articles, and the writing of three journalism textbooks. Supernatural horror fiction came back to the driver’s seat in 1998 when I joined a fledgling online writers’ group dedicated to the field. Writer’s Cramp became pre-eminent in the genre, and several of my stories became part of that liturgy. They also became the nucleus for expanded versions when I launched my books, the fruits of which are seen on this site. As for the secret agenda? First, life and consciousness are not limited by the brain or the physical body. Poe’s “Ligeia” introduced readers to a woman whose will was stronger than her life. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla is a classic vampire tale that has spawned more than one erotic horror film. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep,” tells of a rapacious soul that seeks to exchange itself with that of her victim. Second, magic is the art of causing a change in accord with Will. Lovecraft’s Wizard Whately, in “The Dunwich Horror,” calls unnameable beings from another dimension using his rituals and incantations, and most human beings use some form of magic to marshal their goals and to protect them from evil. The third principle holds that the universe is as Einstein put it, “queerer than we can imagine,” and thus we can be faced with the inexplicable at some point in our lives. I invite you to enter this domain of supernatural horror in literature and to explore the books I have published with you in mind. The stories are unique and, some of them will be unforgettable.

The Lovecraft Circle

 

In this post-literate age, it is difficult to imagine an era in which writers kept in touch with letters and social visits, but such were the days of books, magazines, and literary exploration. Pulp magazine writers gathered a fan base, and the authors of the 1920s and 1930s were prolific and imaginative. The authors’ stable of Weird Tales included Robert E. Howard, of Conan fame, Robert Bloch, who later wrote “Psycho,” Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, and several others to include a young August Derleth. These writers established round-robin communication and encouraged each other’s writing, much to the benefit of the reading public who enjoyed horror and fantasy tales. As an example, in Weird Tales, we see Robert Bloch “killing off” a thinly disguised Lovecraft in “Shambler from the Stars,” and Lovecraft matching him by destroying a “Robert Blake” in the tale “Haunter of the Dark.” The leavening of the Lovecraft Circle left a rich heritage.

 

It was a shock to all when Lovecraft died on March 15, 1937, more than two years before I was born, and August Derleth emerged as the champion of Lovecraft’s work, forming Arkham House Publishers in 1939, with Donald Wandrei, to collect and publish all of Lovecraft’s works as well as publishing Derleth’s own competent stories. It is no secret that Derleth took many of Lovecraft’s scribbled ideas and fleshed them out into full stories—even a book Lurker at the Threshold with Lovecraft as author but actually written primarily by Derleth. Derleth was Literary Editor of the Capital Times in Madison, Wisc., and he should be credited with stories that expanded the Cthulhu mythos beyond what Lovecraft had sketched out.

 

At the beginning of the 1960s, Derleth was still Lovecraft’s protector, seeing that opportunist writers did not piggyback on the reputation of the original. Thus it was that when I wrote to Arkham House in 1965, I hoped Derleth would consider my “novel”— that first big effort of a 23-year-old “wannabe,” but instead of brushing me off, Derleth asked me to send him my manuscript, which he savaged and diced in his critique. It was the best basic training I could have wished for, even though it was devastating at first. I was then selling a half dozen stories to men’s magazines, just as was Stephen King, who became wealthy and famous as a horror writer (very rare!), while I ended up with a day job teaching journalism and pursuing my writing until the present day.

 

The chain of correspondence between myself and Derleth was very similar to what I understand passed among the writers of the original Lovecraft Circle, and I came to see myself as part of the second tier of the old Lovecraft Circle when Derleth in 1965 accepted my short story “The Family Tree” for a now-scarce Arkham House anthology Travellers by Night. His letters over the years, until his death July 4, 1971, were instrumental in helping me develop professionalism in the craft of writing supernatural horror.

 

With the intervening years, my books and stories remain in the vein of classic supernatural horror in the great tradition of Poe, Dunsany, Le Fanu, Robert Howard, Machen, Lovecraft, and those following the tradition of true cosmic horror and mystery.

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Testimonials:

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Thayer's novels strike at the very core of our deepest, perhaps most secret and personal fears: spirits, vampires, assaults by beings from other dimensions or outer space, and evil in any form − even the devil himself.

We like to believe that we are safe and secure in our solid reality but Thayer has an uncanny ability to convolute that reality, opening the door to pure terror. Is any of it real? Are we truly vulnerable?

You won't be disappointed by any of Thayer's stories. Personally, The story entitled 'The Grand Order of Marbas' in the book, Terror Tales of the Southwest, has shaken me to the core and continues to haunt me years after reading it.

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I’ve read all of Frank Thayer’s books (at least every one I know of!) and delight in his tales of horror. He describes people and places so well that I feel as though I’m there and can actually see what is going on. It’s this reality that forms the basis of a great horror story better than any movie.

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Couldn't stop reading! I first got introduced to Cobston back in 2008. A ghastly tale to the end with a genuine grimoire. I love all of Thayer's novels. He also has pretty good writing tips!

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The Vampire of San Vicente is intellectually

written, researched to the nth degree, and

presents a wonderful subplot love story

written within the vampire theme. That

subplot keeps the reader wondering—until

the Epilogue is written—if the two lovers

will actually remain together and live a

happy life after what they experience.

 

The 29-word last graph in that Epilogue

is delicious and cleverly underwritten. It

should leave readers with a wry smile on

their faces. It did mine.

 

Author Frank Thayer is terrific at scene

development and that ability works so well

for his classic supernatural horror genre

writing.

 

Malevolent forces haunt the pages of Frank Thayer’s classic horror novels, a surprising combination of gory medieval legends, Southwestern mysteries, and alien encounters that are mostly set in the small towns and wide-open landscapes of his native New Mexico. Thayer creates lasting images of locations and characters—unsuspecting, everyday folks forced to confront dark powers in a creepy battle of good vs. evil. His use of language is impeccable; the author, a writing professor emeritus at New Mexico State University, incorporates just the right words to deliver readers into the murky domain of the supernatural, where just about anything is possible.

William Lanno Wehrens

J. Sean McCleneghan, Ph.D.
Augusta,GA

Pamela Porter

Mary Kaschak, avid mystery and horror fan, Southern New Mexico

D.G. "Dennis"Adams

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