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Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Statement of Randolph Carter

Ignorance is the foundation for Evil.  Ignorance, not in derogatory terms, but in it’s definition; a lack of knowledge, is the cause of the greatest of all issues.

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  Today we’re tackling an introduction to Randolph Carter, in the short vignette, and we’re covering the nature of evil, and how in Lovecraft, it always seems as though a willed ignorance is the cause of much of the horror.

The Statement of Randolph Carter has our titular character telling officials of what happened to his friend Harley Warren.

It seems as though Mr. Warren delved into strange occult books.  He was fascinated with something, and kept digging deeper and deeper.  He searched the world for the book that would tell him what he was looking for, and eventually he found it.  Carter says that many of the books he is looking at are in Arabic, proving that he is looking for some ancient knowledge, but that the book that holds the secrets are in a language that Carter doesn’t understand.

Carter helps Warren carry equipment to a site, but when the open the tomb Warren turns to Carter, with confidence, and tells him that he is to stay there.  That Carter’s sensibilities are too soft to experience what is down in the catacombs of the tomb.

Warren heads down and clicks on a phone, so that he can communicate with Carter.  Warren eventually finds what he’s looking for, but realizes that he’s made a mistake.  Whatever it is that he was looking for is far worse, far more powerful, far more demented, than what he anticipated.  He screams and screams for Carter to run, that it’s too late for Warren to save himself, but Carter could get out.

Carter promises to save Warren, but cant bring himself to go down into the tomb.  Eventually he hears a voice that tells carter “You fool.  Warren is dead!”

I’ll get to the idea of ignorance, but first there is something that has been happening in quite a few Lovecraft stories which had been bothering me; in many of the stories, the narrator of the story passes out from fear before they get a glimpse of the true horror that is coming for them.  Why is it that these Elder creatures and beasts are letting these people live?  They come upon them, helpless, but they always let them go to tell their story.  This is useful for Lovecraft to tell his tales, but is there a thematic reason for this benevolence?

I think there may be more to it.  How else could all these old books like The Necronomicon be written?  The knowledge had to have been obtained for the first time somehow.  Could it be that the Elder Gods allowed some man to write down this knowledge?  Or could it be that they want the knowledge to get out?

There is another possibility…do they have a moral code?  I have always assumed that the Elder Gods have a chaotic nature, but do they not attack people that don’t wish to delve into their secrets?  Do they stop their rampage when they find something helpless?  Are they like the Predator?  An alien creature who is a hunter, who never kills when the prey is helpless?  There seems to be some credence to this theory.

So if the Elder Gods are indeed this way, then why would anyone strive to find their secrets?  Is it just curiosity?  Power?  Which brings me to my next point.  It seems like the cause of much of the issues that begin in Lovecraft, happens when ignorance takes over.

These brash adventurers, who with to go after this forbidden knowledge, are in fact ignorant of what the knowledge they seek really means.  In every story these men find these books and seek their knowledge.  What we infer is that these men see that there is hidden power or knowledge and that’s where they stop.  It is their ignorance of what is actually going on that causes their deaths.

So are the Elder Gods actually evil?  Or are they only trying to stop the ignorant from accessing knowledge (like strange angles that will enable you to travel to another dimension), that they are not ready for?

What do you think?

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Dreams in the Witch House

“To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.” – Hamlet Act III Scene 1

Aye, there’s the rub.  What dreams come from death, but who’s death are we talking about? What brings about these dreams? and do the dreams have a steak in reality?

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  This time we’re diving into a new level of Lovecraftian fiction.  Welcome to the Dreamlands.  I’ve been excited to look into this a little more (in fact I even mentioned it in a previous Blind Read), because we have already begun to tackle some of the Cannon of the Mythos, so beyond Lovecraft’s weird fiction, he has the Cthulhu mythos and the Dreamland stories.

The story follows along our protagonist, Walter Gilman, who is a student of Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass.  Gilman is interested in weird science, so much so that he studies the Necronomicon in the library of Miskatonic U and familiarizes himself with the lore behind it.

But that isn’t quite enough for him.  He finds a local house that was known as a residence of a Witch by the name of Old Keziah and her pet Brown Jenkin (a strange animal like furball, with a humanistic face that looks strangely like Old Keziah, and also has anthropomorphic features).

He finds that he has strange dreams in this house.  He goes into strange realities and sees Old Keziah and brown Jenkin nearly every time, but he also sees strange things like spheres and polyhedrons of light, which lead him around.

He eventually comes to the realization that there are odd angles in the house.  Walls tilted at incomprehensible angles that twist the mind, and whenever something strange happens it comes from those angles.

The dreams continue to get stranger, and things follow him back into the real life.  He wakes and finds his feet are muddy after dreaming about walking in a muddy field.  He wakes and finds his ankle has dried blood on it, after he is bitten by Brown Jenkin in the dream.  He assumes that a rat bit him, but can find no blood in the room at all.

He begins to wonder about his somnambulism, and borrows flour from his landlord and places it around his room and outside of it, to try and see his footsteps and figure out what he gets up to in his sleep walking fits, but when he wakes nothing is disturbed.

The dreams continue to darken as they get closer to May Eve.

“May Eve was Walpurgis night, when hell’s blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds.”

Around this time and around Hallows eve children from the poorer neighborhoods seemed to disappear.  They are well known in Arkham as dark days, and as the day nears the dreams get even stranger.

Gilman sees a “black man” in his dreams, who holds out a book to him and Old Keziah wants him to sign it and gain a new name (hers was Nahab).  The story centers around this strange ritual of Walpurgis night and this strange “black man”.

A local child goes missing, which happens nearly every Walpurgis night, and in his dreams, Gilman sees Old Keziah holding a knife up, with the “black man” watching in the distance.  She is obviously making a sacrifice of the child and attempting to drain it’s blood into a strange metal bowl with  bunch of unrecognizable symbols.

There is much confusion, and Gilman finds himself struggling with Keziah.  He for some reason wonders if he actually signed the book that the “black man” held.  The book of Azathoth.

Gilman succeeds in stopping Keziah and strangles her with the cross that a fellow tenant gave him.

But Gilman never wakes.  The same tenant hears him screaming and goes to him.  Under the blanket there is a bunch of blood coming up, and eventually a creature looking like Brown Jenkin pops out from underneath the covers, but it has a strange resemblance to Gilman in the face, and it has hands instead of claws.  The creature runs to the corner, where the inverted angles appear and disappears into the wall.

The landlord evacuates the house, and there is a fire.  In the wreckage they find bones from across the ages.  Old Keziah had been up to her terribleness for years.

This is without a doubt my favorite of anything I’ve read by Lovecraft thus far.  Terrifying and, just perfectly Lovecraft.

Lovecraft immediately puts you on edge with his mention of odd angles.  What he does so well is bring the supernatural into our world so succinctly.  There are alternate dimensions, but the fact that thee is a scientific way to get to those alternate dimensions…or to bring those dimensions to us, is utterly, and fantastically terrifying.  In addition to that, the fact that one can indeed think of those angles and gain access to those dimensions is spectacular.

Which brings me (surreptitiously I know, but bear with me) to my next point.  Walpurgis night is a brilliant temporal setting.  The names of the people involved in the story are mainly Polish and Czech names, and Saint Walpurga is a Catholic saint who is known to have driven witches out of many Germanic provinces.  So by making this about Walpurgis night, Lovecraft is basically retelling the story of Walpurga through his own lens.  Gilman, ostensibly drives the witchcraft out of Arkham by destroying Old Keziah, and limiting the connection with our world to that of the Elder Gods.

There are a few gods mentioned in the story.  There is much mention of Azathoth, who “rules from the bed of chaos”.  There is Nyarlathotep, who we know has been to our plane, and lead people out of Egypt to supplicate themselves to his will (could there be an actual connection?  Nyarlathotep is just a mention in this story, but does he have a reason why he can come to our world?  is he a master of the angles?).  Then there is Shub-Niggurath “The goat with a thousand young”.

We know that the book is Azathoth’s who is the master of chaos.  Could Shub-Niggurath be Azathoth’s concubine?  Is that where the thousand young came from?  Then if we correlate to Christianity with the connection with Walpurgis night, we see the connection with Satan being sometimes correlated to a goat.  Thus we have hell being another dimension led by Azathoth and Shub-Niggurath, with Nyarlathotep potentially being the “black man” trying to get Gilman to sign Azathoth’s book and “getting a new name”.

So Gilman actually did sign the book, and that’s why he had his transformation into a creature somewhat like Brown Jenkin, but, because he killed the only other human (old Keziah), and the Witch House was destroyed, there is a loss of connection with that hellish world.

Which brings us back to angles.  In our culture good is the default.  We have a thought that to be bad, or to do evil things means that you are off, that your brain does something different that other people’s brains.  Lovecraft gives a reason here.

Angles.

If you have the ability to see in different angles then you have access to hell.  This is how you can have someone, who is structurally the same as every other human being, but their ability to see a way into another dimension, without the need of a loadstone (like the Witch House and it’s odd angles), is what leads them to evil deeds.

What do you think?

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Shunned House

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  This time we’re delving into a wonderfully classic haunted house story, with a Lovecraftian twist.

This is the story of the Shunned House, and Lovecraft finds yet another way to tell a story in a unique way.  We know of the narrator’s experience there.  Lovecraft tells that up front.  A young man who is scared terribly by something that he cannot explain.

Then we delve into the history of the house, to try to garner a better explanation of what actually happened there.  The reasoning jumps around from spirits, to demons, to vampires, to werewolves.  Each person who had some kind of supernatural experience in the Shunned House have experienced something different.

The story gives some wonderfully Gothic imagery.  I had a vivid image of Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” in both visceral description, as well as tonality.  We find a house with a history and delve into something altogether different than we possibly expected.  Poe’s story is a Gothic tragedy, but Lovecraft’s is wonderfully cosmic.

Then the story evolves.  It becomes much more like Richard Matheson’s “Hell House”, where we have a scientific study, instead of a supernatural study (Hell House is one of the singularly most terrifying stories I’ve ever read, just so you know).

“We were not, as I have said, in any sense childishly superstitious, but scientific study and reflection had taught us that the known universe of three dimensions embraces the merest fraction of the whole cosmos of substance and energy.” pp 128 “At The Mountains of Madness” Dey Rey 1982.

There is so much going on in this sentence.  First, we know that the narrator and his uncle are not walking into anything with a superstitious bend.  They intend on using facts to find the truth of the mystery of the Shunned House.  However, they recognize that science has it’s limitations and the answer that they are looking for could potentially be beyond the walls of our known dimensional world.

Then we get down into the house and discover that the story has evolved again.  Now we come to the realization that we are in a Lovecraftian cosmic horror.  The narrator talks about the “fungus ridden earth” and how there is a green and yellow phosphorescent glow.  Thus far in my blind reads I have found that this is the most consistently mentioned precursor to a cosmic horror.  This green and yellow light shows that a cosmic creature is around.  Immediately it becomes less about a ghost story, and into a completely different area.

Then we come upon the most horrible section (or should I say beautifully horrible?) of any Lovecraft story I have read thus far.  The phosphorescent pile is actually part of a creature that is sucking the life force out of the humans it comes into contact with.  This is the reasoning for the vampire and werewolf descriptions.  The creature is taking on horrible visages of other creatures to both feed and to incapacitate its victims.  It was suddenly at this point that I realized this could very well be Stephen King’s inspiration for “IT”.  A cosmic alien who shows people what they fear and eats their life force.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite stories I’ve read thus far.  I think only “In the Walls of Eryx” comes close to this one.  It’s a bit longer than most of the stories, but it’s succinct, and it changes what you think it’ll be multiple times throughout the exposition.  I think if I were to recommend any one story to someone looking to get into Lovecraft I would tell them to start on this story.

What do you think?

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At The Mountains of Madness; Conclusion

“At the time, his shrieks were confined to the repetition of a single, mad word of all too obvious source: “Tekeli-li Tekeli-li”

A single enigmatic word that has such a huge meaning.

I had originally meant to only read two chapters and separate this blog into two different sections, but I just couldn’t stop reading, and there are so many ideas bouncing around that I decided to codify them all into this single blog.

Spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want to read them stop here.

We follow our narrator and Danforth out of the horrible city built by the Shoggoth for the Great Old Ones, and when they make it out they find the lost dog and the young Missing Gedney.

They catch a strange stench and they find a cave down to what the narrator calls the abyss.  They follow it down and they find some strange blind albino penguins, and continue past them…until they find some more of the specimens that Lake found, these ones alive.  Terrified they run, and they can tell that something large and terrible is following after them.  They turn and see that they are being chased by a Shoggoth.  Danforth ostensibly goes mad, but they eventually get out.

There are a few points I want to focus on here:

  1.  The Poe connection
  2. The Blind Albino penguins and evolution
  3. Trypophobia
  4. Anthropomorphism of Star Spawn
  5. Physiognomy (or lack there of) of the Shoggoth

First lets talk the Poe connection.  Tekeli-li is taken from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which Poe references when the narrator hears the cry echo in the abyss.

1.First and foremost, We know that Poe had a large influence on Lovecraft in general, but what is interesting about this is how the entire novella of At the Mountains of Madness is modeled after this story.  Poe set out to write a “realistic” story about a sea voyage gone wrong.  Poe being Poe, some really crazy things happen.  We have Lovecraft here, who is writing the story from the perspective of a scientific expedition.  Everything is very logical and adhering to the scientific method throughout, until the end which takes a creepy turn…the same way Poe did in Pym.  On top of that, Poe wrote about a connection with the theory of the Hollow Earth.  Basically the theory that the earth is hollow and there are vast spaces and potentially civilizations in the middle of the earth.  Sound familiar?  In Lovecraft’s story we actually see one of these massive civilizations, and it goes way farther than that when the narrator and Danforth go into what is called the abyss.  Oh did I mention that both stories take place in Antarctica?

2.Next we have the blind albino penguins.  When I started reading this section I wondered what the point was.  Why involve these creatures?  Was it just a creepy factor to try and scare?  A large creature comes out of the cave!  Oh…wait…its a blind penguin.  It seemed almost laughable at first.  Then the more I thought about it the more brilliant it seemed.  These penguins were the foreshadowing of something horrible coming.  They have lived here for centuries, and down here in the abyss.  That accounts for the fact that they are albino, for they very rarely see the sun.  Why are they so large?  The Shoggoth are huge, so if the penguins never evolved they would just get crushed (which they do anyway when a Shoggoth was incensed).  Ok so we can intuit why the penguins are large and albino, but why blind?  Is it just because they live in the caves?  That could be, but they would probably just have evolved to be able to see in the dark.  I think there is a much more sinister reason.  We’ll discuss this in the last section.

3.Next Trypophobia, otherwise known as the fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps, or honeycomb holes.  Lovecraft describes the architecture and the creation of the tunnels to be honeycombed, and he’s doing this for a multitude of reasons.  The first is that he wants to give a little preamble to what the Shoggoth are.  What kind of nightmare creatures create that type of pattern on purpose?  Why is that the aesthetic that they want to look at?  Which leads into the second reason, it gives the reader unease.  This strange, abnormal pattern leaves many people on edge, and I would purport that Lovecraft suffered from trypophobia as well, which is why he was inclined to include it. The last is that it solidifies these creatures as being cosmic, or otherworldly.  That is the kind of shape that one would not want around, but it may be something that makes the Great Old Ones long for home.  Yet another reason to instill madness.

4.The anthropomorphism of the Star Spawn in the bas-reliefs.  The Shoggoth make these statues almost in a recognizable theme.  Except why is that?  The Great Old Ones created the Shoggoth on our world.  Whenever something is created, the idea of how it looks is relegated to the mind of the creator.  Thus when things are created they are generally created in the image of the creator.  The Shoggoths are no different.  At the end of the story, Danforth, who read The Necronomicon to completion, mentions Yog-Sothoth.  Now this is the first mention of this name in any story I have thus read, but just before he mentions this name (which I know is some sort of god in the Lovecraftian pantheon) he mentions proto-Shoggoth.  This makes me believe that Yog-Sothoth actually created the Shoggoth in it’s image.  Switching to the Shoggoth themselves, they lived as servants for many years, until they finally rose up against the Great Old Ones.  As they lived as servants the Shoggoth watched the evolution of the planet, and how the creatures of the land actually became human from primordial ooze.  I propose that this is why the Shoggoth rose up, they saw how humanity grew and took out on their own, and they saw what they could be, instead of servants.  They thus created the images on the massive underground city based around their uprising.  That’s why such an alien culture was legible and understandable from a couple of scientists.

5.Shoggoths are these horrible creatures.  What Lovecraft does so well is that he never actually describes the creatures.  He mentions that the star spawn have tentacle mouths, and that the Shoggoth have many eyes and are spherical but that’s really it.  One of the most interesting descriptions came when the two are running away from their Shoggoth pursuer.  Danforth has started to go mad, and is mentioning subway stations.  The narrator finally understands and says that the reason is, the Shoggoth looked like a passing train.  The shoggoth looked like a blur of steel and windows.  The thing that sticks the most here is the world blur.  Despite the fact that the Shoggoth wasn’t moving particullarly fast (they were able to out run it), it still looked like a blur.  Was this because it was so hideous that our minds couldn’t comprehend it?  Or is it because their features move so quickly that they are completely amorphous?  This is the true Lovecraft horror.  This is why Lovecraft works so well.  You have these creatures that if they are described, then we can begin to understand them.  When you keep it a mystery, and our minds have trouble categorizing things then unease bleeds in and the horror begins.

What do you think?

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At the Mountains of Madness, pt 4

Talk about a revelation!  Chapter 7 of this story gives so much of what I was looking for!  It’s like a primer for Lovecraft.

Our brave explorers continue on their trek through the ancient cosmic city and through the frescoes and sculptures they tell a story of the Great Old Ones who once lived in the city.  I will eventually have to go back and read through this chapter because there was so much here to consume.

First off, lets talk Shoggoth.  I had thought that this was an actual god, or species of god, or something along those lines.  What we find here is that the Shoggoths are actually creations of the Great Old Ones.  They were “protoplasmic masses” that were brought together by the Great Old Ones to have slave labor.  They were used to create the amazing city that the narrator and Danforth are exploring.  The Shoggoths eventually rise up against the Great Old Ones, but were eventually put back down.

We also see a little about Cthulhu and it’s minions.  They come down from the cosmos and attack the Great Old Ones.  The narrator mentions these creatures as the humanoid Cthulhu spawn.  There was a great war, and eventually peace broke out and the Cthulhu spawn was given the land, and the Great Old Ones and the Shoggoth took to the Ocean floor.  That is until the Pacific waters rose and the great cities of the Cthulhu spawn were swallowed by the sea.  From what I’ve gathered from other stories, the great city R’lyeh, where “all the cosmic octopi” lived is also the prison of Cthulhu itself (from info from the Shadow over Innsmouth).  So here we have the origin (at least origin from our worldly perspective) of Cthulhu.

Then, much later, after the war with the Cthulhu spawn and the uprising of the Shoggoth, there came the Mi-go, partially fungoid, partially crustacean creatures.  They also came down from the cosmos, and it seems as though they defeated the Great Old Ones, because the Great Old Ones tried to flee, but found that after so long, they could not leave the earth’s atmosphere.  They thus fled to all portions of the world.

What is significant to this, is that now we have an understanding of the Great Old One’s reach and some of their capabilities.  We also have now two different races besides these creatures, the Cthulhu spawn, and the Mi-go.

The Cthulhu spawn seems to be in the pacific ocean, with their few cities, including the fantastic R’lyeh.  So the stories containing them, have to be in the south towards the Antarctic.

Then we have the Mi-go, who began in the Antarctic, but are known in the Himalayas, so they must have migrated during the ice age.  Since the only information we have about them is that they flourish in cold environs, we must guess that any mention of the Mi-go to be surrounded by sub-zero temperatures.  I imagine this information will be important for investigation later.

SO ultimately, we have people being born from the Great Old Ones.  It is implied that our race may have started in this Antarctic city that the expedition has found.  However we still have those transformation ideas.  Transforming into a fish person.  Transforming into an Ape.  And transforming into a beast.

Since the Great Old Ones have relegated themselves to the Depths, then it is apparent that they have a direct correlation to the Fish transformation.  As of right now I would argue that they also have the Ape transformation under their wing as well.  I’m not sure where the beast transformation comes from.

Also we know that Cthulhu is empirically, NOT a Great Old One.  This was something I was hazy on.  Though I’m assuming that Dagon is one of the children, or lesser Great Old Ones, I have not gotten a name for any others as of yet.

Loving the story thus far, and can’t wait to see if there is any more Mythos in here.

Is there anything I missed?

What do you think?

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At the Mountains of Madness, pt.3

Continuing the journey into the mountains of madness (chapters five and six).  Our narrator and his cohort Danforth head out over the mountains to search out the mysteries of this strange antarctic world.  There are sprawling descriptions of the landscape as they fly over it, but they eventually turn the corner and come across a terrible “Cyclopean city”.  In this meaning that it is a huge city, all made from stones laid together, not using mortar.  This adds to the mystery of the strange civilization, now abandoned.  They eventually land down where they can and head into this strange and massive city.

They take samples of the stones, showing that the city is incredibly old, older than any known civilization.  Older than the dinosaurs even.  This is an interesting perspective for a geologist like our narrator is.  If we take out all the horror aspect of this notion, it means an incredible find.  Somehow there was a civilization of intelligent creatures, long before we have known to be evolved from apes.

This brings up an interesting notion of transformation to me.  There have been many stories where the people in the stories have transformed into fish people, and ape people.  A strange juxtaposition.  As a writer, Lovecraft is probably trying to find transformative creatures that are terrifying, but if this is indeed the case why not transform people into crabs or some such?  Or even Octopus people to give the tentacle nightmares of Cthulhu?

I think there is something deeper that Lovecraft is going for, which is coming to light through the reading of this story.  People are descendants from apes, and even farther back, all life has developed from one celled organisms that transformed into amphibious creatures.  Is Lovecraft saying with this story that we are all descendant from the Old Ones?  Or is it that the Old Ones are transforming people back to the known quantity of what they knew when they had prevalence on our world?

If it’s the latter than there are potentially two different influences.  Which of these beings were around during the time we were amphibious and which of them were around when we were Apes?

This story seems to be about the “Great Old Ones” (of which I’m sure will come to light the farther I get in the story, though there is already mention of them), and this was their city before us.  Thus the Great Old Ones are beings like Dagon, and Cthulhu, because they are sea dwelling and such.

The strange thing is, this city is huge, but most of the rooms are small.  Which means that despite the fact that the narrator talks about how the Great Old Ones came from the stars and the moon, there were other beings here as well.  The beings that would house the 30 by 30 rooms that were no larger than 20 feet (Lovecraft goes into specific detail describing the layout of the city)…beings our size.  Is it possible that in that ancient civilization there were mortal beings from another planet?  Is the end game of this story to presuppose how Human’s came to be on the planet?

I’m over half way through the story with six chapters left, which means three more blogs (unless I get crazy into it and ignore work for a while).  I’m excited to see if any of these theories come to light.

What do you think?

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At the Mountains of Madness, pt. 2

This is the first of the novellas by Lovecraft, that I’ve gone into.  The organization and tentative handling of the pacing is an interesting elongation of what the short stories experience.  This blind read recap comes from chapters 3 and 4, which basically covers the insinuation of something happening.

The crew goes to the destroyed encampment of Lake and they find that it has been completely devastated.  It seems like it may have been from a weather event, but things are stranger than they seem.  Plus there is a missing expedition member, Gedney, and a missing dog as well.  Everyone else was killed, some in what looked like weather, though the circumstances are suspect, but there are some far greater horrors in store.

Many of the expedition members and dogs, were cut up with strange and horrible precision.  Doctor precision.

The group makes a search for Gedney, and fly over the strange igneous rock, which doesn’t seem quite normal.  In fact Lovecraft describes them as being like paintings of Nicholas Roerich.  There is a strange feeling in the air.

Danforth and our narrator eventually go out over these peaks, frequently referred to as Mountains of Madness, and they come upon an “elder and utterly alien earth”.

To the best of my knowledge, these are the first real cliffhanger endings.  Every chapter so far has left the reader with something to chew on, and come back to.  This type of cliffhanger chapter end, has come into more prominence in writers like Dan Brown and James Patterson, and it’s interesting to see Lovecraft developing something like a 1930’s movie ending.  It almost seems like when Flash Gordon is in the car and goes over the cliff, just to find next week, that he jumped out of the car at the last second.  Lovecraft is just using his weird horror to elicit those feelings.  Truly a master of atmosphere.

The chapters at times feel a bit plodding, but they slowly develop into one serious and terrifying event to end them.  It almost feels like each chapter is a book to itself, and the whole novella is part of a series.

It is also interesting to see the narrator be an archaeologist, because the utterly alien horrors that are inherent to Lovecraft are coming from a place of empirical thought, which gives the horror a little more credence when it happens.

I’m going to read through two more chapters on Friday which will take me over halfway through the novella, so if you want to join me feel free!

Also a great way to get through this if you’re new to Lovecraft is to listen to Will Hart’s podcast of it:

 

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At The Mountains of Madness pt 1

Welcome back to another blind read.  I’m tearing into “At The Mountains of Madness”, and have come across some interesting pieces that hook into the mythos, but there is one lingering question that I have as I get farther and farther into the cannon.  How strictly are the stories connected to the Dreamlands, and what are in the mythos, and what are just weird tales?  Thus far I have not come across anything that might be considered connected to the Dreamlands, except maybe “The White Ship”.  I have one very obvious story that is coming up with “The Dream-Quest of unknown Kadath”, and one of the mythos with “Call of Cthulhu”.  I am really going to enjoy reading some Derleth, to try and get a better understanding of how these are both connected and separated once I have finished the Blind Reads (as I understand that August Derleth is the one who truly created what is now considered the cannon).

This story surrounds the Miskatonic expedition, as it searches an unknown mountain range in Antarctica.  There are some fun call backs so far with the ship called Arkham and our narrator mentioning that The Necronomicon is in the library of Miskatonic University.

Basically the first two sections of the story revolve around the findings of the mountains, and then within the mountains of some strange fossils.  The fossils seem to come from 600 million years ago, but they are far more advanced than your average trilobite.  They seem to be amphibious (another call back?) with gills, but they also have wings with strange striations.

The crew gets called up to the mountain range, with it’s strange rock striations and strange petroglyphs in areas so deep that they have to be hundreds of millions of years old.

If it weren’t for the tone of the novella, and the consistent call backs to how the fossils look like something described in The Necronomicon, this could just be a scientific journal about the findings of a paleontologist expedition.

There is also an interesting call back when Lake, one of the crew, calls the specimens they find “The Elder Ones”, based upon descriptions in The Necronomicon.  There is great, hit you over the head with a hammer foreshadowing here.

But there is also great writing that brings you back for more.  I’ll leave you with this example:  “No wonder Gedney ran back to the camp shouting, and no wonder everyone else dropped work and rushed headlong through the biting cold to where the tall derrick marked a new-found gateway to secrets of inner earth and vanished aeons.”

What do you think?

I’ll be back next week for the next section of “At The Mountains of Madness”.

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Shadow over Innsmouth, conclusion

Wow, so much in such a short chapter.  There is more in these last few pages than there had been in the previous 60, and truly, the majority of interest comes from the last two paragraphs of the story.

The narrator wakes from his faint, and headed back home.  He continues on his investigation of his lineage when he finds that some of the story of old Obed Marsh, was actually his ancestors.  The daughter who was married off to an Arkham man, was actually our Narrator’s great-Grandmother.  He sees pictures and sees the “Innsmouth look”.  He even finds out that an Uncle that he had committed suicide when he found out the truth.  Our narrator buys a gun, thinking, that maybe he will do the same thing, but his heart isn’t in it.  There is a strange draw back to the Innsmouth.  Back to the Sea.

So earlier in the story, they were not trying to chase him.  They did not tell him to go to the Gilman to trap him, they were bringing in one of their own.

The interesting point for the lore comes in the second to last paragraph.  It is here that I have seen the first mention of Cthulhu being a “Deep One”, and that has to mean that Dagon is related in some way to Cthulhu.  The narrator mentions that “the Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even through the palaeogean magic of the forgotten Old ones might sometimes check them.”  So the Deep Ones are evil in some way, because another “forgotten power” is checking them.

In addition to this we have the first sight (through the narrators eyes) of a Shoggoth.  I had previously thought these were a god in and of themselves, but the way they are described here, I think they are just a creature, as the narrator saw “a Shoggoth”.  This probably has something to do with the third contract of the Order of Dagon, because the narrator says he saw the Shoggoth in a dream, then when he woke from the dream screaming, he had all of a sudden acquired the “Innsmouth Look”.

So there is transformation which can occur.  There is also a distinct lineage connection, but I have to believe that there is still the ability for the transformation if there is no heritage of the Deep Ones.  I’m sure more clarification will occur the more I read on, but that’s what my hypothesis is now.

And then there is the Shoggoth.  From what I know of in the past, this is a creature that has many eyes and mouths (akin to a gibbering mouther in Dungeons and Dragons land), but apparently it also has some power.  It seems to have transformed the narrator, both in body and in mind, as he had lost knowledge that he could not have gain otherwise.  Either the Shoggoth is the method of transmutation, or it is the harbinger, just solidifying the knowledge that has already been transferred, by some ancient magic.

What do you think?

In any case, I cant wait to read on!  I will be moving on to “At the Mountains of Madness” by Del Rey next.  I will break the story up into approximately 25 page chunks so we can analyze each section, if you are reading along.

Join me tomorrow for the first 25!

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Shadow over Innsmouth pt. 4

We have now reached the denouement.  The background of the story has lead our narrator to try and flee that horrible mind-bending mess that is Innsmouth.

When the chapter opens our narrator has decided to get out of dodge, and goes to get to the bus, only to be told by the odd bus driver, that despite travelling to Innsmouth without issue, there is suddenly a engine problem and the narrator will have to wait the night.  Joe Sargent (the bus driver) tells our narrator to go to the Gilman to wait the night.  He even tells our narrator that he will get a great room rate.  They only charged him a dollar.

He waits the night away in his room and makes sure to lock and barricade the door.  He even looks for an escape route, just because he is scared.  Then late in the night there is a shuffling at the door, and someone knocks with increasing frequency when he doesn’t answer.

Our narrator gets scared and tries to flee through the hotel.  There is a fairly large chase sequence which is a little jumbled (Lovecraft is a master of tone and atmosphere, not action), but the narrator flees out the window and through the streets to get out of Innsmouth.

He faints when he sees a large contingent of fish creatures gather in town, creatures nearly too abhorrent to describe.

There are a few interesting visuals in this portion of the book.  The first is after he flees the Gilman, he tries to stay to the shadows, but he has to cross a street that has direct view of the waters, and he sees two different things of note.  The first is a strange light, emanating from out over the sea of a color he cant quite pinpoint.  And there is a churning of creatures coming to Innsmouth from the craggy rock that old Captain Obed frequented.  This image of the churning waters with “bobbing heads and flailing arms” that “were alien and aberrant” in a way he could not conceive.  This immediately brings about images of Cthulhu and the multi-tentacled beard.  Though these are smaller creatures, and probably more related to Dagon.

The unholy light however, of a hue unknown.  The moon is full and bright throughout the story, could it be the moon’s call?  The moon has called creatures in previous stories, could this be the call, and answer that we have seen in previous stories?

Beyond that there is one more aspect of the story which is really provocative.  There seem to be three different creatures in Innsmouth.  We have creatures that are simian based, which we have seen in many different stories , we have fish creatures which walk beside the simian creatures, and then we have something dog like, or what I like to establish as “beasts”.  The beasts are called from the moon in every other story, with the exception of “The Doom that Came to Sarnath” and there there are fish creatures which are called by the moon.

Are the beasts and the simian creatures (think “Arthur Jermyn” and “The Outsider”) the same thing?  Could Innsmouth be Sarnath in this age?

With the completion of chapter V of this story (which will probably be tomorrow) I have now read through two Del Rey Lovecraft books, and will get started into the third.  I would like to begin to get a timeline, or at least get to understanding the mythos and how they are connected on my own (and with the help of you all) without doing any research and see how my theories stack up.

What do you think?