Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Mythos don’t need no continuity

I decided to read Ubbo-Sathla by Clark Ashton Smith, whose one of those authors I feel like always need to read more of.   I know the story has been co-opted into the Cthulhu Mythos because Smith was part of the Lovecraft circle and why not? The short story certainly deals with cosmic horror and nightmarish secrets man will always regret poking at.

So I then decided to look at how Ubbo-Sathla, the primordial slime that spawned all life and guards the tablets of dark gods, has been jury-rigged into the greater Mythos. The phrase proto-shoggoth came up more than once, with the idea of the Elder Things harvesting samples of Ubbo-Sathla to create those teddy bears of the Mythos, the shoggoth. 

That seemed a little odd with Smith’s story having Ubbo-Sathla kick off life on this fragile globe in a more wild and natural fashion. (Not that I think Smith had any desire to have the story fit neatly into a carefully organized cosmology)

That’s when I realized that I was going about the whole matter all wrong. A key element of Lovecraft’s flavor of cosmic horror is that the universe, in addition to being 100% uncaring, is inexplicable, beyond the comprehension of the soft, squishy human mind. Trying to categorize and organize it just isn’t playing the game, by Jeeves. 

(No offense to you, Mr. August Derleth. You know I still love you. Okay, mostly for Solar Pons but you did keep the Mythos alive)

Yes, there is value and justification in having some kind of cosmology and taxonomy for the Mythos if you’re going to have a game like Call of Cthulhu. A game like that does get a lot of help from a system and I do love me some Call of Cthulhu. 

However, that madman Clark Ashton Smith has reminded me that you can’t cling to that structure too much. Sometimes, you have to remember that the continuity of the Mythos has a lot in common with the continuity of Red Dwarf. It doesn’t make sense and that’s just fine.

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