A lot of the science fiction novels that I enjoy, and enjoyed growing up, feel like Westerns in space. In a way, The Measurements of Decay was written as a kind of anti-Western analog to science fiction. The grand adventures of its universe have already been lived out. The great battles have already been fought––and lost. Will our beaten-down hero regain lost glory? Embark on one last adventure? Or will he ultimately pay for the frontier days of old?
The thematic reason for this is that while much of science fiction pronounces the freedom that comes with the “final frontier” of space and technology, The Measurements of Decay instead looks at the dark side of that. What are the limitations? What is the price to be paid for the final frontier?
The influence of H. P. Lovecraft on The Measurements of Decay is also of note, if somewhat subtler. In Lovecraft, many stories begin at a very small scale. It could be a scholar’s study, or a ship at sea. But the scale of the horror and of the story and world increasingly escalate in conjunction with each other. By the end, the whole world and the human race are being devoured by gigantic, tentacled monsters coming from dark regions of space. The horrors in The Measurements of Decay (most of them) are not awful, physical monsters, but philosophical ones––just as tentacled, gangly and difficult to observe without the threat of madness.