Sunday, September 26, 2010
THE CTHULHU MYTHOS: TEARING YOUR MIND TO PIECES SINCE 1908
If you are reading this, perhaps you are aware of what the Cthulhu Mythos are. Perhaps you are already in possession of the knowledge that these works of imagination were penned by eminent materialist and philosopher, H.P. Lovecraft, from 1908 to 1935. Perhaps you've already ventured deep into the charnel pits of his works, and literally felt the the sanity fleeing from your mind, as, in despair, you heard the clock strike midnight.Perhaps you have already walked through the sepulchers and subterranean cellars and basements of his mind, and have heard the daemonic piping of the creatures beyond this narrow earth dimension, have had your eardrums and peace of mind forever shattered by the primal, bestial, psychopompatic cries uttered by beings and capering, gibbering monsters, or have laid eyes upon the shambling, silent, heterogeneous grave legions.
Or perhaps you haven't.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft(August 20, 1890 to March 15, 1937) was a brilliant philosopher and writer who was born to Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft and Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman for Gorham & Co. Silversmiths of Providence, Rhode Island. As a child, Lovecraft was lonely and constantly sick(many of his illnesses were psychological), who discovered science at age eight, first in the form of chemistry, later in astronomy(both fields were to shape his fiction later on).
As an adult, Lovecraft became an adamant materialist and published an essay defending his views from religion, titled "In Defense of Dagon", as well as publishing several papers on physics and astronomy in scientific newspapers and journals. In another life, Lovecraft may well have become a great scientist; however, it is his fiction more than anything else, that makes up his legacy.
Starting in 1913, Lovecraft, who had frequently read the Weird Tales magazine, had many of his stories published in this, and other fiction magazines. His stories consisted of a universe exactly like ours, but infinitely more mysterious and sinister. One of his most famous stories, The Call of Cthulhu(1926), sets the tone for the rest of his work. It follows a scholar whose uncle delved deep into the occult and the doings of a strange cult who worshipped a primal deity named Cthulhu, the Harbinger of the Old Ones, and later died under mysterious circumstances. In brief, the Old Ones are metaphysical multi-dimensional beings who came to Earth untold eons ago and conquered it, subjugating all life and creating Humanity's ancestors for amusement. However, after millions of years, a creeping decay set into their civilization, and they were consequently banished back into the farthest reaches of the Cosmos from whence they came, while others were imprisoned in the Earth, awaiting the day when the stars would align, and they could reclaim their lost kingdom...
Needless to say, these stories have captured reader's imaginations for decades. Richard Matheson, author of Hell House, I Am Legend, and What Dreams May Come, also wrote dozens of episodes for the original Twilight Zone, and grew up reading Lovecraft's work in pulp magazines. Stephen King himself drew inspiration from both Matheson and Lovecraft, and has added a few stories to the Mythos himself.
So as you can see, Lovecraft, despite never seeing a hardcover copy of any of his works published during his lifetime, has had an incredibly vast impact on modern horror(on the same note, Mike Mignola, the legendary writer and artist of the HellBoy comic books, has also drawn significant inspiration from the Cthulhu Mythos).
You can still find Lovecraft's short stories published volumes such as The Watchers Out of Time by Lovecraft and August Derleth, or Lovecraft Tales(2006, edited by Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story, Shadow Land, and co-author of The Talisman and Black House, which he co-authored with Stephen King).
May these tales ravage your mind and haunt your dreams for years to come.
All biographical information was taken from The H.P. Lovecraft Archive, a wonderful website containing full information on Lovecraft, his biography, his stories, his interests, his philosophy, and an alphabetic list of fellow writers he corresponded with.