I decided to go ahead and read more of the Cthulhu Mythos
stories, so why not go right to the source? H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of
Cthulhu” was published in the February 1928 issue of WEIRD TALES and reprinted
many times since. It’s a very impressive piece of inventiveness. In this one
story, Lovecraft lays out the basis for a huge number of stories by many
different authors: the Great Old Ones, vast cosmic beings that come from beyond
the stars, landed on Earth in the planet’s infancy and are still alive,
although dormant and hidden away in vanished cities, waiting to be called back
to life by a cult of their devoted followers, at which time they will lay waste
to humanity, or at least try to. Although not necessarily evil by their own
standards—they’re beyond the concept of good and evil—to humans they represent
the greatest horrors imaginable, or, in some cases, unimaginable.
“The Call of Cthulhu” itself is a good story, fast-moving by Lovecraft’s
standards, in which the narrator investigates several related series of events
that gradually reveal the terrible truth to him. One section of the story set
in the Louisiana swamps and another on a mysterious South Seas island could
have been really good adventure yarns if Lovecraft had done more than summarize
them. Even at that, they’re pretty exciting, especially the climactic battle
between a ship and the reborn Cthulhu.
This is a good example of why so many authors latched on to the Cthulhu Mythos and wrote their own stories set against that background. It’s such an epic concept, filled with the potential for drama, conflict, and action, that born yarn-spinners such as Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, and many others, naturally would see the possibilities. From what I’ve read so far, it seems to me that Lovecraft’s stories function more as a series bible than as satisfying stories of their own (although I’m warming up to his style and see its appeal).
I’m going to continue reading these stories, including some of the other authors who wrote Mythos stories, and even though this started as a Halloween-related project, it’ll probably take me longer than that. So bear with me, even though many of you probably read all these stories years or even decades ago. They’re new to me.