Mountains of Madness/shadow out of time


Chuckle Churner
Jul 18, 2007

I am still reading the HP Lovecraft anthology (Necronomicon) that I recieved for Christmas (I stopped half way through to read some sci-fi classics, but am back into it now) and last night I finished 'The shadow out of time' which I thought was another brilliantly disturbing tale. But what I noticed most was the similarities and maybe even direct relation to 'At the Mountains of Madness'

In Mountains he finds the remnants of an ancient race of beings, I'm not entirely sure of their physical appearance but he does mention the 5 star headedness of them. In this tale he expounds the history of this race and talks about thier war with another race that lived elsewhere on Earth at the same time (millenia past).

then in Shadows out of time (literally two stories later in my anthology (only separated by Shadows over Innsmouth)) he describes another ancient race that live millenia past and have fear of the great ones that have 5 point star head things. He then goes to explore the deserts and finds their ancient city and talks about the captured and imprisoned alien that was kept there as some ancient one with 5 star head.

Am I right in thinking that these are the other aliens from each story? Was Lovecraft creating a canon here by including the elements from previous stoies in newer ones. Did he, in fact, write Shadows (I will assume it was written after Mountains) after he had created the race of brain swappers (consciousness swappers is more accurate) in the Mountains tale?

I think this is brilliant and lends further credability to his tales, it created a mythos, that ties more than one alien together in the history of the earth he has created. A stroke genious. I doubt he was the first to do so, but although the tales are similar in that ancient race's cities are discovered, to link two seperate tales in such a way is very clever. I enjoyed.

Tonight I shall begin 'The hunter of the dark'
I think a few things are getting switched from one to the other, as it was the conical beings in "The Shadow Out of Time" which used mind- (or consciousness-) transference, not the star-headed Old Ones from At the Mountains of Madness. Also, the beings in SOT didn't fear the Old Ones; it was what Edmund Wilson (scornfully) called the "whistling invisible octopus", race of beings which were only semi-material, invisible, and used winds as their weapons, which these feared. The Old Ones, of course, feared the shoggoths.

But you are right that he was weaving together a prehistory of our planet, where the earth had been visited and colonized by different sets of beings over millions of years. In At the Mountains of Madness, the Old Ones had encountered both the "Cthulhu-spawn" and the cretacean fungi from Yuggoth (from "The Whisperer in Darkness"); whereas the nearly omniscient beings of "The Shadow Out of Time" had exchanged minds with a wide variety of beings from not only earth's history (past and future) but from all about our solar system.

By the time he wrote these stories, others were already contributing to what would come to be called "the Cthulhu Mythos", and Lovecraft often wove references to some of those works into his tales as well, such as Frank Belknap Long's Hounds of Tindalos (in "The Whisperer in Darkness") or Robert E. Howard's serpent-men and the Hyborian age, etc., in "The Shadow Out of Time" or "The Haunter of the Dark"....

Incidentally, if you have trouble visualizing the Old Ones from MM, see if you can find a copy of Wayne Barlow's Guide to Extraterrestrials, which has a very good depiction, following the description given by Lane to Dyer and his colleagues....
These are impressive stories, and call for a couple of quick comments.

(1)They show Lovecraft as a committed writer of science fiction. They remain "weird tales," but the atmosphere of "the supernatural" is almost gone, giving way to something akin to John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" The emphasis on horror is less heavy-handed; HPL seems to be more concerned to evoke a sense of cosmic wonder -- as his friend Donald Wandrei was doing in "Colossus" and other writers were also attempting.

(2)And so one wonders whether Lovecraft would have continued to develop as a writer of science fiction, had he lived, with the possibility that he would have become identified with Campbell's Golden Age of SF. Campbell as editor might have pressed HPL to shed some of his earlier distinctive style; but I would contend that HPL was already doing that to some degree.

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