Whoever wrote about Cthulhu saves

The Cthulhu Myth

In February 1928, the legendary American horror magazine Weird Tales published Howard Phillips Lovecraft's story, The Call of Cthulhu. In this narration, the narrator reports that he sifts through the remains of his late great-uncle George Gammell Angell, professor of Semitic languages ​​at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He finds a strange bas-relief made of clay on which a monster or a kind of octopus and unknown characters can be seen. Next to it is a manuscript in the handwriting of his great-uncle, which is entitled "Cthulhu cult". The text is divided into two sections. The first contains reports of strange dreams made by various people and some newspaper clippings indicating "cases of extreme insanity and the appearance of mass psychoses or manias in the spring of 1925." These reports are now "quoted" - and we are right in the middle of a typical Lovecraft story of pseudo literary science.

All the information and documents lead to an island in the Pacific where he is supposed to live: Cthulhu - a creature from the vastness of space, one of the ›great old men‹. This race of aliens is said to have already visited our planet when the earth's crust had just cooled down and the first bacteria were still dancing in the primordial soup. Cthulhu's body seems to have a certain resemblance to an octopus, so one has to conclude on the basis of various cultic objects collected from many countries, but it seems to have far more than just eight arms, and one shouldn't think about its size ...

In 1928, after the publication of this story - Lovecraft had the idea in May 1920, after waking from a very vivid dream - the cry of Cthulhu was heard all over the world and the story became one of the most influential in modern fantastic literature . Many, many authors have taken motifs from Lovecraft's creation in order to use them in their own stories. Lovecraft's friends continued to weave the material - Lovecraft himself encouraged them to do so, and he had fun developing a literary mythology and populating it with other beings such as Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep or the blind idiot god Azathoth. Even the names of his writing friends went through strange metamorphoses: Clark Ashton Smith became Klarkash clay, Robert E. Howard made Ar-I-Ech and Duane Rimel mutated into Rhi'-Mhel. Lovecraft had a lot of fun with games like that and of course didn't take himself out: E'ch-Pi-El called himself. Some of these corruptions even appear in his stories. Lovecraft's friends, in turn, invented new demon gods and smaller ingredients to the Cthulhu mythology.

When Lovecraft died in 1937, he had no idea what kind of wave he had caused with his stories. Virtually all subsequent authors of the fantastic genre were inspired by Lovecraft, the list is endless: Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, Lyon Sprague de Camp, Stephen King, Brian Stableford, Gene Wolfe, Chet Williamson, Fritz Leiber, David J. Schow, Neil Gaiman , Michael Marshall Smith, Brian Lumley, Karl Edward Wagner, Brian McNaughton, Alan Dean Foster, TED Klein, Julio Cortazar, John Skipp, Joanna Russ, Fred Chappell, Douglas Clegg, Bruce Sterling, Lin Carter, Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Umberto Eco, Arno Schmidt, HC Artmann, Colin Wilson, Ramsey Campbell and of course Wolfgang Hohlbein ...

The decisive question, however, is not who wrote all of the Cthulhu stories, but why writers take up such motifs in the first place. What drives you to continue spinning the stories of a long-dead writer?

The answer is simple: Young authors in particular, who still lack their own voice and whose horizon of experience is not great, feel drawn to this literary game world - and is it not interesting in this context that there are role-playing and computer games based on myths, that is the medium of young people who Call of Cthulhu are titled?

A quick look at the biographies and bibliographies of the Cthulhu story writers confirms that I am right. The Americans Fritz Leiber and Robert Bloch - both of whom were pen pals of Lovecraft, by the way - wrote a number of such stories in the early stages of their careers. Later they turned to other subjects; Leiber became a very well-known science fiction and fantasy author, Bloch achieved world fame with the novel made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock Psycho.

The Englishman Ramsey Campbell was one of the most diligent writers of Cthulhu stories. Born in 1946, he published his first book at the tender age of sixteen: The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants (1964, Arkham House, Sauk City, Wisconsin). They were all tributes to Lovecraft. Ramsey Campbell did not forget his literary roots in later years either.

The situation is similar with Brian Lumley, who as a young author even set two novel cycles in the world of the Cthulhu myth in addition to dozens of stories, namely six novels about the hero Titus Crow and four volumes of the Dreamland saga. Later, and significantly, when he freed himself from the literary influence of his idol, he became a bestselling author through his vampire series Necroscope. But even today, as an old hand in the literary business, he occasionally indulges his love for Lovecraft with a short story.

The authors of the Cthulhu myth can be classified into three categories. First of all, I would like to mention the armies of young authors who publish their stories in fan magazines about the "nameless thing from the depths with a thousand shadows" and whose names will never appear in the table of contents of any books. Your texts are "more lovecraft than Lovecraft itself," Dirk W. Mosig once remarked. These works belong to the category of simple Lovecraft imitations that try to achieve the literary effects that their model achieved by copying style and plot frameworks - one should not forget that Lovecraft is one of the most talented creators, given the seeming triviality of the subject sinister literature - and which all fail so miserably at the stage of unwanted parodies.

The discerning imitators, who often copy the Lovecraft style, but who emerge from the first genre through talent and original ideas, such as the young Ramsey Campbell, August Derleth, Lin Carter, Basil Copper, Robert Bloch, can be classified in a further category , Brian Lumley or Lin Carter.

A third group of Lovecraft imitators includes the texts of some outstanding writers who refrain from aping and who concentrated on their own voices, such as Ramsey Campbell since the late sixties, Fred Chappell, Thomas Ligotti or T. E. D. Klein.

The text was written by Frank Festa and taken from the book "The Saat des Cthulhu".
© 2005 by Festa Verlag