Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Cthulhu Fraternity

Someone heard me talk about Cthulhu recently and gave me an odd expression. "What is that?"

"Cthulhu? He's the God who lies dreaming at the bottom of the ocean, waiting for the stars to be right so he can rise and welcome the return of the older gods."

"Yeah." I recognized the response and the facial expression. My father had that expression when he leaned against the doorframe gazing about my room the year I moved out on my own. He nodded at the posters and darkness, letting his gaze fix on a skull I had on my desk, a half-melted candle on its crown, held there by wax drippings.

"When are you going to grow up?" he would ask.

"November 23rd at 3:45 pm, EST."

My father glanced at the skull and left, mumbling something over his shoulder in Yiddish.

I'm not going to give you an in depth defense of my love for horror, but I will relate something that might help explain the appeal. At least of the Lovecraftian world. Lovecraft, for those who might not know, was the author of the horror stories that have come to be known as the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft never gave us a consistent and definitive view of this mythos, but perhaps his allusions to the chaos that is the reality of the universe are more chilling for their vagueness.

When I was much younger I remember reading a veiled reference about what happened off Devil Reef and feeling a thrill because having read "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", I knew what happened there, dammit!

"...Cap'n Obed an' twenty odd other folks used to row aout to Devil Reef in the dead o' night an' chant things so laoud ye cud hear 'em all over taown when the wind was right? Tell me that, hey? An' tell me why Obed was allus droppin' heavy things daown into the deep water t'other side o' the reef whar the bottom shoots daown like a cliff lower'n ye kin saound? An' why'd the new church parsons--fellers as used to be sailors--wear them queer robes an' cover their-selves with them gold-like things Obed brung? Hey?".

I knew what happened that brought in the feds with their dynamite to Innsmouth, dammit. Reading these connecting threads made me feel as though I knew something others didn't, that maybe I might be part of an exclusive club for reader and writer alike. Only it isn't the sort of club one talks about out loud and the members aren't necessarily the sort of folk you want to see under a full moon.

Don't laugh. That sense of belonging is important to literature. Readers of the Harry Potter series have that sense of unity. Lovers of Sherlock Holmes have societies around the globe. Let's not get into the insanity that Star Wars and Star Trek have bred.

So why not the mythos? Why not a sense of fraternity among those who thrill at stories in this narrow vein of horror? In a time where the threat of global warming and nuclear war are real threats, the chaos of the Lovecraftian universe makes dark sense and serves to remind us that we are not as important as we think we are and the danger we present to ourselves, while significant to the species at large, is minute next to the indifferent chaos that waits in the eternal blackness where the gods sing in madness and the pipers play to soothe the vortex that is the blind idiot deity. Kinda catchy, don't you think?


Charles Gramlich said...

You can't see it, but I'm giving you the sign for the "Elder ones" right now. I grok you brother. Soon we will rise, then the entire earth will tremble!

Stewart Sternberg said...

That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.

Steve Buchheit said...

(Eldritch) Word.

Anonymous said...

I know absolutely NOTHING about Lovecraft... but I want to read something now that I know it is based upon mythology. Cause I LOVE mythology. Recommend me something and I will read it.

Stewart Sternberg said...

STEVE, we should adopt a special handshake.
GWEN, Perhaps any of Lovecraft's anthologies...several good ones out there. Or, you might pick something by that follows the Lovecraftian tradition, like High Seas Cthulhu or Tales Out Of Miskatonic University. But then, I'm partial.