Why Cosmic Horror is The Most Relevant Genre of Our Time

If you like Rick and Morty, you should try H.P. Lovecraft.

Cosmic horror (also known as Lovecraftian horror), is a horror of a different breed. While basic forms of horror center around external fears like monsters or the supernatural, cosmic horror fixates on the one most crippling, inescapable, and unexplainable fear we all try to ignore: the fear of the unknown. The universe and everything beyond it is too vast for us to understand, and completely indifferent to our existence. Now, that’s scary.

If aliens invade your home, monsters hide under the bed, or demons possess your soul – guess what?– that’s still about you (or humanity, really). Cosmic horror isn’t about you at all. It’s quite the opposite. It’s about how insignificant you are, and any true up-close glimpse of our insignificance is enough to drive the average person completely insane. So what does that have to do with liking Rick and Morty? Well, it could all be explained in this single quote:

“Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s going to die. Come watch TV?”

Rick and Morty, and cosmic horror, in general, isn’t concerned so much with being right or wrong as it is with an understanding that it doesn’t really matter. This sentiment hits home again in the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror.

Faced with world-changing technological advancements on a near daily basis, questions about isolation, helplessness, humanity, and the fragility of sanity have become central in our acceptance of new technology into our daily lives. Jumping between alternate universes and opting-in to digital heaven packages seems like a far-off world, but today we are facing questions about the ethics of AI, the implications of prenatal genome sequencing, and much more. If cosmic horror posits that nothing really matters, then does it matter how we treat each other? Or does the temporality of it all make life even more precious?