Not a literary manifesto: Stross on Strangecraftian fiction

cthulhuCharles Stross discusses the influences behind The Atrocity Archives and the rich seam of existential horror from whence they are mined:

There’s nothing terribly funny about “A Colder War”: I was groping in the dark for a way to express the alienating horror of nuclear annihilation that I’d grown up with, and Lovecraft’s monsters came perfectly to hand. The existential dread they evoke is not so alien to those of us who lived through the original Cold War.

[image from rainvt on flickr]

5 thoughts on “Not a literary manifesto: Stross on Strangecraftian fiction”

  1. I must admit that I read that post and felt rather sad.

    I think “A Colder War” is one of the best things Stross has ever written. It’s definitely better than Jennifer Morgue and it’s arguably better than either of the Atrocity Archive novellas.

    What made me feel rather sad was his belief that this existential dread can co-exist with comedy. I’ve never felt that the end of Strangelove was particularly horrifying. If anything it’s almost a slapstick “whoops… there goes the world!” ending. It certainly isn’t as disturbingly funny as something like Bad Boy Bubby where the bleakness and the comedy gel perfectly.

    So I’m sad that Stross seems intent upon chasing down an effect that I don’t think is actually there and I’m also worried as Stross is not a particularly funny writer. He thinks he is but he really isn’t. His jokes are usually little more than pop-culture reference and can, at times, be more cringeworthy than funny.

    So while I’ve enjoyed the Laundry books thus far, his Strangelovecraftian ideal strikes me as more worrying than anything else.

  2. Yes I really agree. A colder war was inspired – but Atrocity Archives had the same flavor … as thrty year old guys playing a GURPS derived cybercthulhu-illuminati-nazipunk crossover. Felt like eating new york times & mayonaise.

  3. I have a lot of affection for the Atrocity Archives so I wouldn’t be THAT harsh on it. But I do think that he should stop trying to be funny.

    A) He simply is not a funny writer. His humour’s on the level of something you might smirk at down the pub or smile at if you read it on a forum but he’s not funny enough to ‘do comedy’ as a professional writer.

    B) He tries to be funny in almost all of his stories. A Colder War (and to a lesser extent Missile Gap and, at times, Accelerando) were very somber in tone and worked well as a result.

    I really would welcome an attempt by Stross to move on from appealing to the Digg demographic and return to something thematically closer to A Colder War. I think his writing would benefit from becoming more serious and less geeky.

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