In the end … there is no end. I take comfort in that.
The End of the World that human beings worry about is primarily a collapse of their cultural world. The world – Planet Earth and the life upon it – will go on after human civilization fails. It went on after an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. Something else will evolve after humanity has made everything but insects and stupid yappy dogs extinct. Life will endure even after the arrogant apes with delusions of grandeur pass away. Heck, maybe some of those apes will figure out a way to stick around.
Clowns were once considered funny and wholesome children’s entertainment. So too were ventriloquists and their dummies. Nowadays these innocent creatures are more likely to be the menaces in a horror movie than the welcome guests at a youngster’s birthday party.
Clearly they must do something to improve their image. How you ask?
Fight crime of course!
When Lovecraft wrote his stories in the 1920s and 1930s the world still seemed to be full of hidden, unexplored places. Hidden cities and lands forgotten by time seemed possible. Now, in 2017? The world is mapped. Maybe not completely but with enough detail that any current Cthulhu Mythos authors have to work harder to explain how a place manages to stay undetected. “The government is covering it up” might work for something relatively small that exists within the borders of that country but how would “they” cover up the existence of an entire city (much less a range of mountains taller than the Himalayas) on a continent that is owned by no one? That would require a lot of cooperation between governments and a lot of people who are willing to be silent about that cooperation.
Some authors suggest that the Mythos entities hide from us. That seems unlikely. They can travel between the stars. Some of them can travel between the places between the places between the stars. We can’t be a threat. So if they’re hiding, perhaps they’re hiding from each other. Or from something even bigger and scarier.
In At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft a group of antarctic explorers discover the evidence of an ancient, prehuman civilization. While exploring the ruins of a vast and abandoned city the explorers find and interpret a series of carvings and hieroglyphs that seem to tell a history of both the “Elder Things” and, basically, the evolution of life on Earth. I say “seem to tell” because the explorers are only able to spend a few days in the city and are forced to leave it under terrifying and sanity disturbing circumstances. Their understanding of the story told in the carvings shouldn’t be assumed to be perfect. It might be missing important information. It might be completely wrong. Human beings have a hard enough time understanding the languages and art left by extinct human cultures. It’s unlikely that a human could get an accurate reading of non-human culture without being able to interact with representatives of that culture.
That’s one of the things that I enjoy about the Cthulhu Mythos. Humanity and the Earth itself are not central. Sure, most Mythos stories feature human protagonists and deal with human adventures but that’s because human authors are writing the stories for human readers. But the Mythos features beings and species and civilizations that existed long before mankind learned to make fire and who will exist long after mankind’s story ends. Earth is just one of the places these creatures have visited. The Universe is vast and full of strangeness and wonder. (Or terror and madness, if you’re a xenophobic New Englander.)
The Elder Things came from the stars to the Earth, presumably, before fish evolved in the seas. Their civilization here lasted for millions of years. That civilization might continue, somewhere in secret, here on Earth. In all likelihood there are Elder Things civilizations scattered across this and other galaxies. If humans made it out to the stars, would we find the Elder Things welcoming? Threatening? Dismissive? All of the above?
The world is, and has been, full of unnoticed pioneers. They go unheralded because they took the road not taken and either no one followed or someone else followed in such a noisy way that the original pioneer was forgotten. This happens in all realms of human endeavors – art, invention, commerce, philosophy, physical exploration – you name it. I have an admiration for the unsung explorer, even when (sometimes especially when) they went down a path I wouldn’t travel myself.
One such pioneer was Jane Oliver. Most of what I know of her is from the article linked to her name here. She was a cartoonist who published her own work from 1976 until cancer killed her in 1992. She was a woman practicing an art form mostly done by men. Her stories were about vampires and rock and roll. She doesn’t have an entry in Wikipedia. Neither does Wikipedia have an entry for Tales of Jerry, her primary comix endeavor. I met her once, briefly, in 1992, shortly before she passed away. She asked if I’d be interested in contributing anything to Tales of Jerry. I don’t remember my exact answer but I suspect that I was non-committal. Jerry (a series about a red haired hippie vampire) wasn’t really my thing.
25 years later I’ve finally gotten something done. Cheers Jane!