Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia – Foreword, Part 1

As promised, here’s the foreword to the Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (obligatory plugs for the hardcover and trade editions).  I’ll be posting it in segments and likely setting up a page to lead to them sequentially when I’m done.  Otherwise, this would be a tremendously long document.

Those lucky enough to own the second edition will note that this is a revised version of that document.  Still, not enough people own that edition, and enough changes have been made that it should have some new material.  Feel free to pass on comments, concerns, etc.  I don’t envision the document itself changing much, but if we catch a howler, I’ll try to fix it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

This book is not a historical work. Instead, it represents one person’s perspectives on the present state of the phenomenon known as the “Cthulhu Mythos” – a collection of fictional monsters, books, places, people, and other elements which weave together the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other authors through a stream of common references – in all of its glorious confusion. It is a phenomenon with roots dating back over a century, shaped via carefully crafted narratives, philosophy, mythology, systematization, oversystematization, deconstruction, mistakes, hunches, and outright errors. Nonetheless, an examination of its development may help to clarify its origins and future.

But why embark on such a project at all? Isn’t all of this just fiction? But what do we mean by that? Nothing is “just” fiction, as jokes are never “just” jokes and entertainment is never “just” entertainment. That’s not to downplay the relevance of such material as entertaining or ridiculous, as they certainly are. Nonetheless, all of them also address more serious topics in ways that might not be possible through “serious” communication, providing outlets for perspectives and opinions that might not be acceptable elsewhere. Such “non-serious” material can nonetheless affect us on an intellectual and emotional level, and therein lies thesource of its power.

When we get past the slime and the tentacles, Lovecraft used the Mythos to talk about issues that he did not have an avenue to address otherwise. We begin with the following passage from his letters – one familiar to many readers, though it has seen little critical attention:

When about seven or eight I was a genuine pagan, so intoxicated with the beauty of Greece that I acquired a half-sincere belief in the old gods and nature-spirits. I have in literal truth built altars to Pan, Apollo, Diana and Athena, and have watched for dryads and satyrs in the woods and fields at dusk. Once I firmly thought I beheld some of the sylvan creatures dancing under autumnal oaks…

What we have here is not a childhood game, but an experience similar to those that many people across the world have had over the centuries. We might debate whether these experiences originate in the external world or simply in the mind, or some combination of the two. Nonetheless, they do occur and have a profound effect on the lives of people around them. Those who have studied modern Neopaganism might point to similar (if usually less dramatic) childhood narratives of encounters with beings from another level of reality.

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 1:26 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] similar to those that many people across the world have had over the centuries…. source: Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia – Foreword, Part 1, Papers Falling from an Attic […]

  2. No howlers, there. In fact, you’ve neatly explained exactly why many people still read fiction, so I’ll certainly not complain!

  3. […] Part 1 […]

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