Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Genealogy of the Gods, Part One



I wrote and lost a draft about how the anti-mythological nature of the Cthulhu Mythos is better served by the epistolary nature of the most notable and seminal Mythos tales ("The Call of Cthulhu," "At The Mountains of Madness," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth") than any peculiarity of content of said mythology, but the rewrites lack élan so I'm just going to skip it. 

I've been running Cthulhu-related stuff for a few years now (since the stable gaming group I GM for accrued) and that leads to a lot of thinking about how the background—the deep background—fits together. The nice thing about unreliable narrators is that you can scratch off any 'canon' you want to get rid of or radically reinterpret while still pretending the fictional world is 'intact.' It's functionally irrelevant, yeah, but sometimes there's little invisible lines between whether you're really 'in' a fictional world or not, and whether you feel like you're in the 'real' Innsmouth.

I got into Lovecraft through an alignment of certain interests—gothicism, body horror, orientalism—and a lot of the accumulated Cthulhiana that's come along since then doesn't really do it for me, especially game material that just hits a few of the same notes as the original stories when presenting monsters, instead of prying them open and looking for themes, or motifs, or systems to deepen their strangeness and refine the alienation. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, which leads to experiments in Lovecraftian "purity," (usually in opposition to "Derlethian" or "pulp" elements) but instead I like to think of my approach as putting "Lovecraft" itself in the crucible and seeing what base metals result from the reverse transmutation.

So that's what I've been trying to do, taking the gods and monsters and cults apart and reassembling them into even less coherent and classifiable forms. Because I run (and enjoy poring over) Trail of Cthulhu, most of the following will be referencing interpretations of mythos figures presented there, and less so the more literal-minded write-ups in the Call of Cthulhu rules.

Next week, I'll lay out Cthulhu and its fellow-travellers.