What is Cosmic Horror?

One of the most prolific pulp fiction genres, cosmic horror is a flavor of spooky storytelling that bends the mind. As its architect HP Lovecraft said in his famous quote “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

Cosmic horror embodies this concept of a looming evil that is unknowable and inconceivable, where simply trying to understand or look upon these otherworldly forces shatters the mind and drives one mad.

Cosmic horror skips the traditional horror tropes of gore and jump scares to bend and question the very laws of reality itself. Can you imagine an entity that is larger than the universe? What about a being that transcends time? Or a “creature” whose form is a deranged amalgamation of horrifying appendages? Perhaps an unreachable realm consisting of angles and colors beyond man’s perception now leak into our world with no hope to stop it.

The name “Cosmic Horror” often implies that the antagonist presence within the story hails from elsewhere in cosmology: outer space, different dimensions, or planes of existence where reality itself works differently then our own. This lends to the psychedelic quality of cosmic horror and its use of vibrant colors and bizarre aesthetic.

Another aspect of cosmic horror is its ability to invoke dread and hopelessness. In many of these stories the protagonist has his mental state eroded by the knowledge that something of immeasurable power is lurking, and there’s absolutely nothing that anyone can do.

It’s a truly timeless and groundbreaking subgenre that has been entertaining readers for nearly a century.

If you’re new to pulp fiction, it’s a stop you don’t want to miss.