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Cosmic Horror

and Cosmicism in general

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About the Genre

What is Cosmic Horror to you?
Extraterrestrial & Interdimensional Entities: 3 votes (15%)
Ancient Civilizations: 0 votes (0%)
Horror Beyond Comprehension: 14 votes (70%)
Underwater Cities & Gods: 0 votes (0%)
Insanity From Knowledge: 2 votes (10%)
Occult Practice & History: 1 votes (5%)
Total Votes: 20

Any of the options in the poll above could be correct. Narratives in cosmic horror and cosmicism can vary in different ways. This subgenre is one that builds on our fear of the unknown and of esoteric knowledge that we cannot comprehend. The horror here comes from ancient pre-human civilizations, unfathomable and eternal elder things, madness from grasping the arcane, and dread that one could not even begin to envision. The genre of cosmic horror is largely credited to author H.P. Lovecraft. His entire fiction bibliography is considered the cornerstone of the genre, and much of the cosmic horror that has come since includes themes, characters, and settings that are all derived from his stories.

Lovecraft's stories were typically set in what is now referred to as "Lovecraft Country." This encompasses the New England region of the United States, which includes Lovecraft's home state of Rhode Island. Some of the fictional locations in Lovecraft's work include Insmouth, Arkham, Dunwich, and the Miskatonic River. Also, there might sometimes be an exotic setting that is undiscovered by current civilizations and has remained untouched by humanity for anywhere from centuries to eons.

Perhaps the most iconic part of cosmic horror that truly begins with Lovecraft are the characters of the "Elder Gods," the most well-known being Cthulhu. These are cosmic beings whose existence means the eventual destruction of humanity. They are beings of incomprehensible power and any human unlucky enough to confront one is sure to go mad. Some specific human characters that come directly from Lovecraft's stories include Charles Dexter Ward, Arthur Jermyn, Randolph Carter, Herbert West, and Richard Pickman. Some character archetypes that are commonly found in this fiction include detectives, explorers, or scientists. Simply put, any profession that is involved in discovery, for they would be apt to dig further into certain locations, studies, ancient histories, or indigenous peoples and uncover things that were better left undisturbed.

One of the most important parts of cosmic literature is the theme of fear of unknowable knowledge and all that is unknown. This knowledge is not something meant for human comprehension. The knowledge in question is typically something that reveals the inconsequential nature of all human civilization. Our insignificant place in the cold, unforgiving cosmos is revealed to the protagonist, and they become mentally incapacitated by these morbid facts.

 

Annihilation

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer.

In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers--they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding--but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

FEVER DREAM

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She's not his mother. He's not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family. Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale.

The Atrocity Archives

The father of modern computer science, Alan Turning paves the way for esoteric mathematical computations that, when used by Nazi Germany's Ahnenerbe-SS to perform a summoning, results in an unexpected evil brought to Earth through a portal to an alternate universe.

Jawbone

Fernanda and Annelise are so close they are practically sisters: a double image, inseparable. So how does Fernanda end up bound on the floor of a deserted cabin, held hostage by one of her teachers and estranged from Annelise? When Fernanda, Annelise, and their friends from the Delta Bilingual Academy convene after school, Annelise leads them in thrilling but increasingly dangerous rituals to a rhinestoned, Dior-scented, drag-queen god of her own invention. Even more perilous is the secret Annelise and Fernanda share, rooted in a dare in which violence meets love. Meanwhile, their literature teacher Miss Clara, who is obsessed with imitating her dead mother, struggles to preserve her deteriorating sanity. Each day she edges nearer to a total break with reality.

Seed of Destruction; Wake the Devil

Mike Mignola's Hellboy is one of the most enduringly popular comic characters of recent times. As part of the B.P.R.D (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), Hellboy and his comrades have investigated and combated some of the world's deadliest supernatural villains. Since the release of the Hellboy films (in 2004 and 2008), the character has achieved mainstream popularity along with the respect he was always given by the comic book community.

THE TERROR

Their captain's insane vision of a Northwest Passage has kept the crewmen of "The terror" trapped in Arctic ice for two years without a thaw. But the real threat to their survival isn't the ever-shifting landscape of white, the provisions that have turned to poison before they open them, or the ship slowly buckling in the grip of the frozen ocean. The real threat is whatever is out in the frigid darkness, stalking their ship, snatching one seaman at a time or whole crews, leaving bodies mangled horribly or missing forever. Captain Crozier takes over the expedition after the creature kills its original leader, Sir John Franklin. Drawing equally on his own strengths as a seaman and the mystical beliefs of the Eskimo woman he's rescued, Crozier sets a course on foot out of the Arctic and away from the insatiable beast. But every day the dwindling crew becomes more deranged and mutinous, until Crozier begins to fear there is no escape from an ever-more-inconceivable nightmare.

Black Hole

Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the out-set that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back. As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape. And then the murders start. As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying, Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it- back when it wasn’t exactly cool to be a hippie anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird. To say nothing of sprouting horns and molting your skin…