Not my TvTropes post yet, only that I kept forgetting to post this ever since I found it last Thursday and thought it was interesting in terms of worldbuilding: his name is essentially ‘Henry Love’ transmuted through three changes in two existing Earth languages. In her introduction, Le Guin casts herself in opposition to the tendency to define science fiction as inherently extrapolative, but what else is this but one potential development of human language? Not predictive, sure, but there’s that inclination to want to push existing culture in a direction, to see where it could go; I was really surprised to see her blanket dismissal of extrapolation, considering.
(And in a way it reminds me of the system of names in Lovecraft. ‘Francis Wayland Thurston’ sounds as likely to be a foreign devil-worshipper as ‘Henry Love’ sounds like a time-jumper from an interplanetary space democracy. Use a different name – Castro, Genly Ai – and suddenly the whole character is more plausible. It’s connotative shorthand.)
“Locally, interest was intensified by the obscurity of the cause of death…. Physicians were unable to find any visible disorder, but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure lesion of the heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a hill by so elderly a man, was responsible for the end. At the time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly I am inclined to wonder–and more than wonder.”
As a whole, the Cthulhu Mythos should not be taken at much deeper than face value. It is in many ways a fantastical and thoroughly fictional tale. However, I really identified with this passage in particular with regards to the Mythos because it gave introduction to the whole idea of Cthulhu. Somewhat familiar in this passage’s adaptation to the real world is the sense of paranoia that manifests itself and envelops in a society following an interesting occurrence. I have no doubt that plenty of cults or schools of thought in history, even modern-day, were founded and developed due to an inexplicable event. The unexplained is perhaps the most fearsome, and I believe that Lovecraft is commenting on the curious nature of humanity with juxtaposition to the mysterious.
Lovecraft, H.P. “The Call of Cthulhu.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Ed. S.T. Joshi. New York: Penguin Books, 1999. 140. Kindle Edition.
“The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.” Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”, p.155.
The passage above struck me as Lovecraft providing a horrifying reminder of our socially constructed morality, beyond which is a largely incomprehensible space of feeling. For example, likening some flaming holocaust to feelings of ecstasy and freedom seems not just disgusting, but beyond relation in considering our own understandings of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Though the results may not be as extreme as Lovecraft’s vision of a planet ruled by cosmic eldritch horrors, serious issue could be seen in considering humanity’s own moral adaptation as we venture further into a terrifyingly alien universe.
Lovecraft, H.P. “The Call of Cthulhu”. H.P. Lovecraft: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Ed. S.T. Joshi. London: Penguin, 2002. 139-169. Print.
While much of the Cthulhu mythos is based upon irrationality, the obtuse, and the strange, H.P. Lovecraft’s tales contain various messages, some of which are especially applicable to modern society.
One especially predominant example of this is featured when Lovecraft explains, “The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age” (Lovecraft 139).
The fascinating paradigm that Lovecraft explores in this section is a focal point predominant even in our culture today – that is to what extent ought science (no matter what kind) proceed before it goes “too far?” From genetically modified foods to cloning, this contentious topic arises in nearly every issue about bioethics. Some of the less progressively minded arguers of similar topics have similar perspectives to Lovecraft, that there is in fact a limit to where scientific progression ought go, and that surpassing it would lead to major social harms. While, granted, we as a society are not necessarily proselytizing for cultists in eldritch rituals, certainly in the minds of these more conservative members, the recent advent of technological booms have similar effects. To many, especially the elderly, the idea of a large winged tentacle creature is comparable to the “magic black box that accesses the Internet,” something modern generations see as both innocuous and essential parts of our lives. The only way to diffuse this culture of fear however is to force society forward, by driving our boat through the Cthulhus of modernity, grasping us in their flabby claws.
Lovecraft, H. P., and S. T. Joshi. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.
Lovecraft, in the beginning of The Call of Cthulhu, says “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents…The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality…”. Lovecraft eloquently states an age old fear about science: that it will eventually open us up to such incredible and terrifying possibilities the likes of which will destroy us. The limitless expand of scientific inquiry still to be done is like outer space, and so it seems natural that from that void evil gods of madness and strange comets of alien color come from. The imagination, when set with anxiety, produces horrific scenarios and monsters, much like Lovecraft did in his novels. This anxiety, I feel, is over the advancement of science. However, he’s not wrong. The Cold War, with the threat of total nuclear annihilation a very real danger, is proof that advancements in science have an extremely powerful effect on the world, and may in fact one day destroy it.
Lovecraft is campy, pulpy fun. But is there a sense in which we should take what he has to say seriously? Granting the obvious fictionality of the Cthulhu Mythos, speculate about a possible idea of serious import that you see in either of the two stories you have been assigned. Cite a passage as part of your discussion. Essays forbidden.
Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific. Naturally you will already need to be familiar with the basics of gravitational lensing and non-Euclidean geometry.