Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The icy grasp of Cthulhu

I hate quite a few things in life, including carrying things (I'm not very strong) and washing up without gloves (it really dries out my hands). However, near the number one spot is cold. I really really hate the cold. I possess a lizard-like inability to heat my own body up once I get cold. I get lethargic and it actually hurts. This is partly due to being very thin, but also genetic as my father suffers from the same condition. It's actually quite hard for other people to understand just how debilitating it is, which is annoying as I often have to put up with folk throwing open windows and insisting we sit outside.

The point of this ramble is to get to H.P. Lovecraft. He too hated the cold, but in his case it grew into an almost pathological phobia. In his later years he would keep his heating on all-year-round to stave off the chill. This fear is articulated in some of his weird tales including, most famously, At the Mountains of Madness. "MoM" as it is sometimes affectionately known is one of his most popular yarns. This reputation is well-deserved as it is a excellently crafted story which takes readers on a trip into the terrifying reaches of the freezing antarctic wastes and thence back into the history of the Elder Things. These were extraterrestrial creatures who populated the earth before mankind walked the land and are the main-stay of Lovecraft's fictional universe (or mythos).

The tale has inspired many artists and writers since. There are direct radio-drama and comic book adaptions while films like The Thing are more loosely inspired by the Lovecraft's vision. For a while Guillermo del Toro was developing a big-box-office movie adaptation (Tom Cruise was attached to the project at one point) but this faltered and is no more. With the notable exception of the H.P. Lovecraft Society's brilliant silent version of The Call of Cthulhu, I must confess I have never felt any direct adaption of HP's work has ever done justice to the mythos.

I leave you with a wonderful poster my friend Alastair McColl did for MoM. Check out the tale if you have never read it as it's one of H.P.'s best.


  1. Cool Air is worth a mention too for those with a fear of lower temperatures...

  2. Yes, I have only just done "Cold Air". I listened to the excellent reading on (which is an awesome site). The tale is good, but not epic like "MoM". BTW - the Chaosium MoM campaign is constantly quoted as being in the top 10 RPG adventures ever written.

  3. Oh, I didn't realise the podcast did readings, not just chat, nice. I guess the two stories are at the extreme sides from personal to epic. I guess his ability to make epic topics personal (insignificance resulting from cosmic indifference) is quite rare and works well.

  4. Regarding movie adaptations of Lovecrafts work I'd point out that, despite the move to a contemporary setting and it being rather atypical of his works, Re-Animator is a superb movie rather in the spirit of the original.