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.
InAt 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?
Lovecraft described some of his creations in great detail. Others are described in ways that are give the reader a vague sense of the thing and leave the specifics to his/her imagination. And others are left as vague eldritch monstrosities, barely comprehensible to the human mind. Shub Niggurath is one of those. So she (it) can be depicted however seems most appropriate.
One of the reasons that I’m so fond of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos is its breadth and diversity. H.P. Lovecraft may have originated it but it has long since outgrown his writings. Howard Belknap Long was a writer who added to the Mythos during Lovecraft’s lifetime. His most notable creations are the Hounds of Tindalos and the fellow above, Chaugnar Faugn. All of Lovecraft’s work is in the public domain, easily found and therefore easily read. Long’s work is still under copyright and, because Long has not retained a lot of posthumous popularity, requires some effort to track down. As far as I can tell, the Seattle Library has nothing by him in its collections. As such, I haven’t read The Horror from the Hills, the story that first features Chaugnar Faugn.
But what the hell, I have read T.E.D. Klein‘s Black Man with a Horn, featuring a version of Chaugnar Faugn that only vaguely resembles the original, and I felt like drawing an eldritch abomination so … here he is.
Back in 2014, Edward Morris contacted me to ask me about using the illustration for “If Company Should Come” in a collection of his short stories. I said yes and offered to illustrate another story of his choice. Below is the illustration for that story – “To Walk the Night”.
Both stories (and illustrations) were included in the ebook edition of CARCOSA TENEMENT BLUES. The book, unfortunately, seems to be out of print – a weird thing since it’s an ebook. It was never “printed” as such. It did get a glowing review on Amazon.
Hopefully it will see actual print someday. Mr. Morris’s writing deserves to be widely read and appreciated.
Back in 2011 I illustrated two stories for THE AKLONOMICON, an anthology of Lovecraftian stories and poems. The print run of the book was very limited and it has long since sold out. Sadly (for me) I only have a PDF of the book, not a print version. PDFs and ebooks may be the way most things get published (now and) in the future but I can’t put them on my shelves so they just don’t seem real.
Below is my illustration for “If Company Should Come” by Edward Morris. I don’t think the story has seen print yet anywhere else. That’s unfortunate. Ed is fine fellow and his way with words makes me very very jealous.
Here are some of the sketches I plan to turn into colored illustrations over the next few months. No doubt I will get distracted and work up new sketches before all of these get completed. I’ve also started work on a graphic novel commission that I expect will take up most of the time that isn’t currently filled by my day job. This week I’m just posting these previews and a few other, older illustrations that haven’t made it to this site yet. There may be some weeks where I don’t post. Hopefully not but …