If you haven’t read any Lovecraft, this post by Matt Baldwin at Defective Yeti will put you on the right track. I agree with him that “Call of Cthulhu” and “At the Mountains of Madness” are probably not the best to start with. Why not? They’re long, dense, and larded with big undigested chunks of exposition that will be more rewarding if they aren’t the first stops on your Lovecraft tour. I’d go with “Pickman’s Model” or “The Outsider” as starting points, and “Shadow Over Innsmouth” as one of the most approachable, creepy, and–rather uncharacteristically–kinetic Mythos stories. Update: In case you don’t follow the Defective Yeti link, you can get almost all of Lovecraft’s work for free here, and you can get the complete work for e-readers here. Go nuts!
My own love of Lovecraft started around age 12, when I found a collection of his stories in the public library in Enid, Oklahoma. The above image was on the cover, and all it took was one glance for me to feel absolutely compelled to know more. Now I look at that image and think, “too human, too relatable, not alien enough”. But now I’m a jaded 38-year-old with a highly refined taste in Cthulhu depictions. At 12 I didn’t even know it was Cthulhu, I just knew that it was totally f’d up and totally awesome. The puny human being casually dropped to his death really sells it.
Since then I’ve been what you might call a recreational Lovecraft user. I’ve always had some Lovecraft around, and occasionally I really gork out on it, but it’s never been a lifestyle thing for me. I’m not into Cthulhu plushies, is what I’m sayin’.
But I am into lots of other Lovecraftiana, at least periodically. The current affliction was triggered by the Kickstarter campaign for the 7th edition of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game from Chaosium. I funded at the “Slobbering Shoggoth” level–you get a truly insane amount of loot for a hundred bucks. I hope the cover art for the new edition rocks as hard as that from the 6th edition, above.
And of course that set me off on one of my periodic quests to plumb the depths of the Mythos. Here’s the best of what I’ve found this time out.
This mesmerizingly detailed Cthulhu figure is from the upcoming, Kickstarter-funded Cthulhu Wars boardgame. As of this posting, there are still 6 days left to get in on it. If you don’t want the whole game, you can get the Cthulhu faction figure set for $50. I haven’t made up my mind yet. Fifty bucks is a lot to drop on a hand-sized plastic statue (and some other figures I could take or leave). But it is pretty rad.
Michael Bukowski runs the wonderfully-named Yog-Blogsoth blog, makes and sells handcrafted journals full of Lovecraftiana, and draws just about every possible Thing mentioned by HPL. This is his “resurrected human” from The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which is really disturbing, and therefore really awesome.
The poster at the top of this post is from the recent (2005) Call of Cthulhu movie from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. CoC is silent, looks like it was made in the 1920s, and has a runtime of 47 minutes. As of right now, it is streaming on Netflix and available to rent or buy on AppleTV, but not streaming on Amazon (although you can buy the DVD or Blu-Ray through Amazon). The disks are also available direction from the HPLHS, and there are posters and t-shirts, too.
So how is the movie? I watched it Saturday morning and enjoyed it immensely. For Lovecraft, knowledge may be power (maybe), but it is definitely sanity-eroding horror, and the movie does a good job of capturing that. I thought the decision to go with a faux-1920s production was canny. The climax of the movie could easily swallow a hundred million dollars, and if you don’t have that, you might as well skew in other direction and create a meta-fictional reason your effects don’t look like Avatar. The stagecraft and miniatures and stop-motion were all great by 1920s standards, and it’s easy to slip into thinking that you’re watching a genuine artifact of that era instead of something that came out the same year as Revenge of the Sith. And of course, the 1920s are the decade for all things Lovecraftian, so using a faux-1920s production for a Cthulhu movie is appropriate. As other reviewers have noted, this is how you do sci-fi/fantasy/horror on a budget.
Incidentally, the HPLHS has done another movie, The Whisperer in Darkness, as a faux-1930s “talkie”, and it has gotten good reviews. I may post a review when I get a chance to see it.
Among my favorite things in the CoC movie were the two Cthulhu idols:
This set me off exploring the hitherto-unknown (to me) fan activity of making Cthulhu idols. For a taste of the breadth and depth of Cthulhu idol making, check out the ‘Cthulhu idol‘ category at the niche and awesome Propnomicon blog, which currently has 192 posts on the topic.
The most epic Cthulhu sculpt I have seen yet is this excellently-documented effort by Nick Derington, as chronicled on the Replica Props Forum.
Obviously what I should do next is sculpt my own Cthulhu. If and when I find time to do that, I’ll post the results here. In the meantime…
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
(In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.)
UPDATE 13 months later: Well, I didn’t sculpt my own Cthulhu, but I did draw one, and that kicked off a thing where a bunch of other, more talented people let me post their Cthulhoid art as part of something I called the ‘Collect Call of Cthulhu‘. Clink that link for all the rest. And this summer the Lovecraft fever is on me once again–results so far are here.