Back in 2005 I was doing research for my final thesis of my anthropology studies. The thesis concerned the works of H.P. Lovecraft and their impact on modern pop culture. In the course of the research I came across the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and a particular short film by the name of, you gessed it, Nyarlathotep, which had received an award at the festival a few years earlier.
I could nopt get hold of this movie for a long time, although it obviously kindled my interest since Nyarlathotep is my favourite Outer God, and I forgot about it for some time. But just as the etherial winds between the stars blow in mysterious ways, so luck and chance would have it that I came across it on Youtube recently and I now have the pleasure of sharing it with you, enjoy!
After a longer break than I had anticipated it is finally time for the next episode of the Non-Euclidean Æthercast.
This one is on the double-bladed side of things. The first part is a bit of a rant about being a geek and a teacher and how pupils perceive you and how their gender colours the perception. I rant a bit because I had something related to the fake-geek-girl phenomenon happening (as an observer, mind you).
The second part is about my experience with the absolutely awesome Zombies, run! Halloween race. SPOILER ALERT!
Nyarlathotep is perhaps the most interesting of the Lovecraftian Deities. He is arguably the only one who had a developed persona in Lovecrafts own lifetime and the one most involved in human affairs while at the same time being one of the most, perhaps the most, alien and incomprehensible of the Outer Gods Pantheon.
Nyarlathotep is one of my favourite entities of the Mythos and, due to his extra-dimensionlity, has made cameos in several RPG campaigns I ran over the years.
Since Nyarlathotep is a rather complex and alien entity, getting what it (or he, or she) is all about, is a bit of a complex task. Luckily, Mr H. Reviews has started a series of videos explaining entities of the Cthulhu Mythos and he has done a splendid job explaining Nyarlathotep to the non-cultist:
The Cthulhu Mythos, the original tales by H.P. Lovecraft and for a long time the vast majority of the stories written by his friends and successors are lacking one thing (both the stories and the successors):
Both the stories and the the league of authors are almost devoid of women and I was only aware of Sonia Greene, as far as female authors are concerned. So I was delighted when a friend pointed me towards She Walks in Shadows, an anthology written entirely by female devotees of the Mythos and featuring female protagonists.
I was also a little weary since I have had mixed experiences with anthologies in the past andShe Walks in Shadows is all about my favourite fictional universe, I knew I would react a bit touchy if the anthology was a disappointment.
I need not have worried, She Walks in Shadow is a jewel, a jewel more akin to a Shining Trapezohedron, but a jewel none the less.
While I did not enjoy every story, the ones I did enjoy far outweight the ones I did not.
“Cthulhu of the Dead Sea” by Inkeri Kontro and “Bring the Moon to Me” by Amelia Gorman share the #1 spot in my personal list, both blending science and the Cthulhu Mythos in delightfully creative ways and being bone-chilling at the same time.
Another great one is “Notes Found in a Decommissioned Asylum, December 1961″ by Sharon Mock. The style of the story really drags you into the brutal reality of an insane asylum and then there is some Cthulhu Mythos sprinkled on top.
“The Thing in The Cheerleading Squad” by Molly Tanzer is really delightfully different and not slapsticky at all, although you might think it is, judging from the title.
But the review would not be complete without mentioning the final story of the anthology:
“Queen of a New America” by Wendy N. Wagner, a tale featuring everybody’s favourite evil lady pharao: Nitocris,truly a lady with a plan.
She Walks in Shadows is a great and delightfully different Cthulhu Mythos anthology that opens new perspectives on old tales and spins new ones, adding more facettes to the cosmic horror that is the Cthulhu Mythos.
The Anthology contains 25 original short stories, there is a lot more to discover than the stories I mentioned in this review. Get a copy, you will not regret it…
Back in the 1920’s and 1930’s when H.P. Lovecraft wrote and sometimes published his novellas and short stories around the Cthulhu Mythos, he painted a picture of a stark, unforgiving, and uncaring universe in which, to quote The Call of Cthulhu:
[…] wherein our world and human race form transient incidents.
Our understanding of the universe has grown by several magnitudes in the now 80 years that have passed since his untimely demise. What our increased undertsnading of the cosmos has taught us is: Lovecraft was right.
The cosmos (of which there might actually be more than one) is unimaginably vast, so much so, there are parts of it, we will never see.
The size of what we can see is several times that what it was 10 years ago, thanks to technology, and the more we know, the vaster the universe becomes, the more we shrink in comparison.
We have also learned that down the ages 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth have died out. It is only a matter of time until we, too, shall enter the long darkness of extinction.
So yes, we are nothing but a transient incident.
We are starring out into a vast, cold universe, occasionally lit by tiny islands of stars called galaxies but most of them we will never reach, if any at all.
Yet, we have gotten far and we must not forget that we are actually capable of starring into the abyss, up to the stars and into the vast, cold chasms of void between the stars, and to our knowledge, we are the only ones who do that. This should make us feel good and here, the way the Cthulhu Mythos has developed in the past 80 years comes to our aid.
Most people familiar with the Cthulhu Mythos today do not know the cosmic horror sleeping beneath the waves in his corpse city of R’lyeh, no, they think of things like this (please click):
Cthulhu is largely no longer a manifestation of supreme cosmic horror but rather something cuddly, funny and generally very lovable and this is also the way the indifference of the cosmos should be approached.
Since the universe does not care what we think about it, we are far too insignificant, living on a single rocky planet in the outskirts of an unremarkable galaxy and destined to go extinct eventually, we are free to think and act towards the universe any way we like – It does not make a difference!
The Cthulhu Mythos has become something coudly, so why should we not just give a long, good cuddle to the darkness? Maybe then the darkness gets a little warmer and more comfortable for everybody.
If we are destined to go extinct, why not make the best of the time we have and make it the best for everybody we meet? After all, everyone only gets this one shot of existing in the universe. And no, even if you believe in reincarnation, this does not change anything. Because this is still you and you only get one experience, even if it is spread out over several incarnations. It is still you and you should do your best to make this world a better place for everybody!
So, let’s follow the example the evolution of the Cthulhu Mythos in the past 80 years have set: Face the horrors of the cosmos, but give them a cuddle!
Already a while ago, I got myself a copy of Elegy for a Dead World, a game which is aimed towards animating the player to write a story about worlds they explore. All the worlds have one thing in common: They are home to ruins of dead or abandoned civilization.
Yesterday, I played the game and immediately found that my love for the Cthulhu Mythos crept into the story. I took the role of an interplanetary investigator and this is the story, my log, so to speak, that I cam eup with. If you play Elegy for a Dead World, you will be able to guess, which world I visited:
A palpable sense of burned decay. Everything here is tainted red. Hard, geometric forms seem to want to stab the viewer, the earth, the sky.
Curious symbols, like the once found in the dreaded Necronomicon mark bookshelves. I start to wonder if the colonists made contact with the forces of the mythos, before everybody vanished.
There is another symbol, a central, big circle, drawn with a thick stroke, and another, smaller and thinner one in the lower left corner of the plaque they share. Maybe it signifies a gate. This is the only symbol with no shelf underneath.
I look for a key or a portal in this gap between the shelves, but nothing moves. It is only a gap. Nothing hints of the dark powers, eldritch might or alien tech.
Another example of weird geometry. A tower with a floating ball, or sun, suspended over its apex. The distant mountains and clouds form an eery backdrop. The sun is glaring down despite the thick cloud-cover. DId the sun burn the colonists? It is so bright here.
I have entered a tower. There is a sound of someone breathing but noone is here. The light is ofter and candles are burning. It appears to be a place of worship. The room is dominated by a glowing orb of the sun with broken stone sculptures of the same sun on either side. This is not a triple system, why the broken suns or why three times the sun, then? Are the spheres in their combination symbolize Yog-Sothoth? Is this the answer? Did the colonists all vanish through a gate?There is another stairwell. leading up. I continue my search. The breathing noise has ceased, replaced by a dull hum, like heavy machinery or turbines are running somewhere in this tower.
I found a room one floor up, containing cryo-chambers. One seems to be occupied, but I cannot open it. The other is powered down and I cannot look inside.
The other room on this floor leads to an inner room reaching far down. The sculpture of a giant head of vaguely human outline is here. Of the face, there is only a nose and maybe a symbolic eye on the forehead? Nyarlathotep?
Someone (a child?) has created a snowman-astronaut here. It is almost madeningly mundaine and quaint in this hellish frozen wasteland under the eclipsed sun.What? I exited the top of the tower. The landscape is completely changed and the top is actually sticking out of the ground of some other place. It is an icy waste. Broken machinery and the carcasses of space ships are strewn about. A giant black moon permanently eclipses the sun. The rotation of this planet has ceased or never was. I am returning to the point where I started.
I can only recommend Elegy for a Dead World. If you like writing and are rather casual about it, as I am, you will love this game!