It’s no secret that H. P. Lovecraft was a massive influence on the highly successful gothic horror/action RPG Bloodborne, but perhaps not every gamer is familiar with his works. If you loved Bloodborne, here’s my top 5 reading recommendations to get you started on the vast mythos of H. P. Lovecraft.
2. “From Beyond“
A scientist, eager to make contact with things beyond our limited perception, and willing to do so by any means? Sounds like plenty of plot threads in Bloodborne. Unfortunately for our narrator, he is unwittingly drawn into these experiments by the mad scientist, and left to fend for himself against the horrific, otherworldly things the experiment alerts to our presence.
The idea of overlapping worlds, and that we are surrounded by things that we cannot normally sense, is explored in Bloodborne most notably via the insight mechanic, by which, if we acquire enough perceptive ability, we can see the horrific creatures that have, all along, been staring down at us.
3. “The Nameless City“
Something of a spiritual predecessor to “At the Mountains of Madness, this tale documents the discovery of an ancient middle eastern city by an unnamed protagonist. At first thinking this ruin is deserted, he begins to suspect that its antediluvian residents have not necessarily vacated the premises, but have simply been slumbering in the labyrinthine tunnels below.
A possible inspiration for the ‘Chalice Dungeons’, which any good tomb prospector could appreciate. Also notable for being Lovecraft’s first use of the infamous couplet, “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
Any Lovecraft fan will tell you this one is an essential, no matter what your reason for reading this work is. Upon reading this story, you will find uncanny parallels between it and Bloodborne’s ill-fated fishing hamlet.
In this story, we follow a visitor’s journey to Innsmouth, whilst researching his ancestry. However, it’s not long before he uncovers a cult performing human sacrifices to beings called the Deep Ones; amphibious humanoid-fish-frog creatures into which the half-breed residents of Innsmouth will eventually turn. Along with Dagon, this is the definitive volume on Lovecraft’s race of the Deep Ones, who have also gone on to pop up in the works of George R. R. Martin.
One of Lovecraft’s longest tales, and certainly my personal favorite, this is an epic voyage through the dream lands, featuring characters pulled from Lovecraft’s other stories. It is, arguably, his magnum opus.
Randolph Carter, a character previously written about by Lovecraft, catches a glimpse of an otherworldly city, called Kadath, in his dreams. He becomes obsessed with it, and though he is warned not to pursue it, he finds a way to traverse the dream-lands in search of it. Along the way, he encounters monsters, ancient interstellar entities, and an army of cats. At turns whimsical, terrifying, and wondrous, this is, in my opinion, the best showcase of Lovecraft’s imagination and talents.
Honorable Mention: “What the Moon Brings“
One of Lovecraft’s shortest stories, it touches on the occult nature of the moon, an all-important element of Bloodborne. In it, a man is transported by sinister moonlight to another world, and encounters the idol of an eldritch God. Despite its brevity, it includes many things that the video game would incorporate into its world and mythology.
While there have been many attempts to transpose Lovecraft’s universe into video game form, few have been as successful as Bloodborne, in its handling of the unknowable horror of that which lies beyond our senses, and the way it can twist our minds to gibbering madness.
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Eden is a Soong-type android learning to pass as human through studies of pop culture, humor, and dark fantasy. Perhaps one day she will learn to love and pronounce “hyoo-mahn” correctly. She was written analyses of music, video games, comics, and film. You can find her other writings on Vocal and WordPress.