Worldbuilding Wednesday 4/6/22: English Folk Beings

A depiction of Taran and Gurgi, from the Chronicles of Prydain. When I read the book I pictured Gurgi as more apelike.

In Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series, one of the main characters is Gurgi, a sort of apelike wild man who Taran, the protagonist of the series, first encounters living in the forest. Though a pest at first, Gurgi later grows into his own as a hero and participant in Taran’s quest. Though Gurgi struck me as a Gollum equivalent at first the character has longer roots in English and European folklore of hairy wild people living in the forest, at one with nature… perhaps the pagan equivalent of The Noble Savage archetype.

Known as The Wild Men, or Wodewos, these creatures have mythic roots stretching back to the times of Gilgamesh. They became a popular artistic subject in Medieval times, appearing in paintings, woodcuts, and even costume pageants. Many assumed them to be real, drawing on travelers’ tales of apes and monkeys and Greek and Roman natural history accounts.

English folklore is full of other humanlike fairy, goblinoid, or animal creatures with colorful names like boggarts, shellycoats, and pyewackets. Other beings are singular, like Jenny Greenteeth or The Tiddymun.

If you want an original being of your own, check these out, all non-existent, but they could be.

 

English folk beings

Hunkdandle

Manticreer

Heronfoot

Harefinger

Flinchbow

Unip

Toadtooth

Questweasel

Amberseed

Pugril and Wiggid

Fenbramblers

Kilpeet

Webblefoot

Falrusk

Grippledark

Ruggle

Drubbin

Gipplebrik

Staggle

Demisda

Mugwag

Jerran-lass

Brassin

Smagglemoor

Niknass

Dokkencrack

Cranewoman

Gerdingen

The Book of Three [Reading Challenge 2022]


The Book of Three

by Lloyd Alexander
Square Fish, 2006
(Originally published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964 )

[ Challenge # 23: Read the first book of a series. ]

The Chronicles of Prydain is a much-loved children’s book series originally published in the 1960s. It consists of five books that follow the adventures of Taran, an orphan growing up on a farm with a wizard, a retired warrior, and a magic pig, Hen Wen, whom he cares for as “Assistant Pig-keeper.” In many ways, it’s an American analog to the Narnia series, but without Christianity, and a school-age analog to Tolkien, but based on Welsh myth including The Mabinogian. The series is frequently mentioned in best-of fantasy lists of the 1970s and 80s, but it’s one I never read despite growing up in those times. I found the first book recently in a Little Free Library (can’t praise them enough) the next block over so decided to try it out.

At first I found it merely OK. Engaging, but nothing that knocked me out of the park. To the author’s credit, it was not as twee as how Narnia or The Hobbit got in places. I lay this on the American emphasis on realism. The plot begins with the time-worn trope of Evil Afoot in The Land, which causes Hen Wen to run off and Taran to chase after her, which makes him leave his childhood home. On the way he meets a Gollum analog named Gurgi and a Sauron one, The Horned King (we know the Horned King is  EVIL because he wears a mask made of a human skull, with deer antlers) a warlord who is out to oust Prydain’s ruling family, the Don. The Aragorn analog is Gwydion, a prince of the Don, who Taran also meets. There’s also a girl along for the fun, spunky princess Eilonwy, who was annoying at first but later grew on me.

The adventures were pretty standard — capture, escape through a labyrinth, the finding of a magic sword, companions assumed dead but later found alive, on offhand act of kindness that later saves the day, etc. Perhaps the plot relied too much on lucky coincidences: I mean, the boy-girl pair just happen to find the magic sword under the castle when they get lost in the labyrinth. But, there’s a reason for that. And the reason is a moral lesson: everyone, no matter how minor, plays a role in an adventure, and even companions you find annoying or useless can come back later to save the day. The lesson is made clear in the book’s final chapters, when Taran realizes the dream he had of derring-do in the book’s beginning turned out to be different than he expected.

In the end, the book won me over. I’ll be reading further when I get the chance.

I was also surprised by the author. I’d assumed all these years he was English, and a scholar ala J. R. R. Tolkien, but he was born in Philadelphia, PA! And developed a love for Wales while stationed there in the military.

Lovecraft March is over

Cartoon by anothermark

It’s been fun.

Mystery Flesh Pit National Park [Review]

An “old” park poster showing tears and fold lines

Mystery Flesh Pit National Park

World concept by Trevor Roberts
Begun 2019

This is a different kind of review as it’s not for a book, movie, or game, but a shared concept world.

The Mystery Flesh Pit is the creation of Trevor Roberts, a concept artist and writer who started playing around with the idea on a Reddit forum on worldbuilding. The world is our own, but with a difference. Sometime in the early 1970s a mining company, Anodyne, discovered a titanic alien life form living within the mantle of the Earth. And by titanic I mean titanic; no one knows how deep it extends into the Earth’s mantle or how far its many branches spread. One of the ideas Roberts plays with, but leaves unsaid, is that the fact that it’s so huge humans cannot even begin to understand its true form or the function of its many strange organs. (I mean, the thing has ocular organs — eyeballs of a sort — that are a kilometer in size.) This makes it cosmic horror akin to Lovecraft’s idea of huge cosmic beings indifferent to mankind or the  unseen visitors of Roadside Picnic whose visit to Earth is never explained, nor are the objects they left behind. The site is equal parts Roadside America, Fantastic Voyage, Body Horror, and The Missing 411,  and the informative yet bland pictures and prose of US government brochures.

I’ll let the author himself explain the basics.

The Mystery Flesh Pit is the name given to a bizarre natural geobiological feature discovered in the Permian Basin region of west Texas in the early 1970s. The pit is characterized as an enormous subterranean organism of indeterminate size and origin embedded deep within the earth, displaying a vast array of highly unusual and often disturbing phenomena within its vast internal anatomy.

Following its initial discovery and subsequent survey exploration missions, the surface orifice of the Mystery Flesh Pit was enlarged and internal sections were slowly reinforced and developed by the Anodyne corporation which opened the Pit as a tourist attraction in 1976. In the early 1980s, the site was absorbed into the National Park System which operated and maintained the Mystery Flesh Pit until its sudden closure in 2007.

Given this framework, the Tumblr site consists of series of ephemera, as if someone had been saving for decades printed material (and a few objects, such as signage) about this place. It is the objects that tell the story. For example this sign:

A sign based on ones you might find in Yellowstone National Park, where the unwary could be cooked alive in hot springs or dissolved in mineral pools.

… tells the reader way more about the place than any amount of printed word could.

But that’s not all. An integral part of the site is the subreddit it has generated, which invites readers to join in on the fun with their own artistic creations, theories, questions, and even “memories” of experiencing a family trip to the park as a child. This adds to the strange feeling of dislocation, as many of the remembrances sound no different from any other forum chatter about some long-vanished attraction, save it took place inside a giant alien being.

Indeed, the whole world could be taken as a cautionary tale about normalizing the monstrous and how insidious it is. Readers of both sites are reminded again and again of how dangerous the place is, yet the neutral, helpful, anodyne (like the name of the mining company which founded the park) tone of the brochures and signage speak soothingly to us, overriding the truth. And there are kernels of truth in there to be found in there: corporate greed for one.

This world is still growing and expending, the author purposefully keeping back information which leads to speculation and interest. It already has a thriving mythology, like the mysterious amniotic fluid stomach chambers that contain a liquid that stimulates the libido, whale-sized creatures that swim in the gastric sea, and deformed humans that live deep in the creature’s innards. The nature of the being itself is still mysterious. It has red blood and breathes oxygen, but that’s all that’s known about it, apparently.

If you’re into something different, and want to be immersed in a world but not necessarily a plot and characters, check out the MFP.

Children of the Elder Things, or Echinoderm Horror

 

Japanese theater poster for the 1956 SF movie Warning from Space

As I talked about here, H. P. Lovecraft’s Elder Things were such a unique creation both of their time and for SF in general that their caliber was not duplicated  for many years. There were echoes of them in the BEMs (bug-eyed monsters) of the lurid SF pulp covers of the 1930s through the 1950s, after which the BEMs began to be derided as an artistic trope. But the rise of the cheap SF paperback also meant Lovecraft’s work was more widely disseminated, and let’s not forget, too, the influence of that seminal indie publisher Arkham House. Through these media, the Elder Things spread their influence, albeit in a watered-down form: their starfish heads.

Let’s face it, starfish are pretty horrible, with or without an Elder Thing to be attached to. Behind the myriad forms, colors, and textures lurks a strange alien being. It has no eyes or brain.  Instead of a normal animal’s up-and-down, fore-and-aft, symmetrical body plan the starfish is radial. It doesn’t have a head or a butt and is literally all arms, or tentacles, and if one of these goes missing, it grows a new one… while the missing tentacle, if it’s still intact, grows a body plus four others.

And, as schoolchildren are always shocked to learn from one of those  “amazing facts about animals” book, starfish ingest food by turning their stomachs inside out through their tiny mouth apertures and digest it outside their bodies. After pulling a clam or scallop open with their tube feet, of course. If that’s not alien, I don’t know what is.

Starfish eating an anchovy it has caught

To top it off, even scientists don’t fully understand the starfish and its echinoderm cousins. As larvae they are free-swimming, fore-and-aft creatures like any other kind of plankton but at some point in their development they root themselves on a fleshy stalk and reconfigure their bodies, the left side evolving into the top, the right, the bottom, and the arms develop radially and the mouth and anus at the center. When complete, the tiny starfish blasts off from its stem like the lunar lander from its base. The twists and turns the HOX genes (which regulate the fore-and-aft animal body plan) must take to accomplish all this remains a mystery.  However the change occurred, and why, it’s been a positive one, as starfish are very successful marine creatures.

So, keeping this in mind, the post-WWII horror boom cast about for a monster and decided that the starfish was it… in Japan, at least. It’s not hard to see why: the Japanese have always revered the sea and its creatures, and add to that anxiety about nuclear bombs mutating those creatures (fresh in memory was the irradiation of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5 and its crew. from the American nuclear bomb test Castle Bravo) and possibly a Japanese translation of At the Mountains of Madness, and a movie came to be: Uchûjin Tôkyô ni arawaru, or in English, Warning from Space.

It’s not a bad movie, though certainly RiffTrackable. It’s of the genre of serious-minded Japanese movies before the camp of Godzilla came to predominate in the late 1960s. I had the sense watching it that real horrors were being addressed and processed  — the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, certainly, but also more primal ones, like the the disasters of tsunami and earthquake which were always a risk in an island nation on the Pacific Rim. The disaster comes from above, a wandering planet that threatens to crash into Earth destroying not only it but also a sister planet, Paira, sharing the same orbit but on the opposite side of the sun. This other planet is inhabited by starfish-shaped beings and they send emissaries to Earth to warn them.

“We come in peace… and mosquito coils.”

OK, actors dressed up in giant, waddling starfish costumes, each adorned with a fabric eye at their midriffs, are pretty silly. But looked at in an B&W, expressionistic way, as many of the movies of the 1950s were at heart, it’s marvelous, an abbreviation for the inhuman and strange. When they speak, they waggle back and forth in their roomy spaceship, a set adorned with chiaroscuro lighting and circular radiating coils. There’s even a neato special effect of a rotating set of hoops that creates of optical illusion of two circles melding an splitting. Easy to make fun of, but so spare and neat! To make over the film with today’s technology would be to miss the point.

To make contact with humans the aliens pop up in Japan in odd places — a seaside dock, a geisha bar, a nightclub with a feathered, sequinned female singer doing a Latin tune — but shock and horrify bystanders, and in the case of the singer, make them faint. Which is also very silly, but gives a fascinating look into Tokyo life in the mid-1950s. Which is portrayed as realistically as the starfish aliens are not, but that’s what makes the movie so fun.

And admit it. The idea of a starfish with one huge eye is plenty horrifying, like this species of starfish that has a human-like mouth.

Chompers! Note also starfish can have more than five legs.

In the modern Western world, any symbol with a human eye on it is unsettling. In America, there is one on our currency: a Masonic one, if rumor is to be believed, of an all-seeing eye stop a pyramid. Perhaps it’s a reminder of a pagan past Christianity has tried hard to stomp out, an era of gods in the form of an all-seeing eye, and eyes as amulets and charms working to protect the wearer against another form of supernatural eye, the Evil Eye. What was once a valid symbol of protection has become primal and horrifying.

In 1960 DC comics’ The Justice League faced the peril of Starro, a giant starfish alien with, you guessed it, a central eye, who spawned thousands of little starros that latched on to peoples’ faces and controlled their minds. This was years before Ridley Scotts’ Alien used the idea of the face hugger.

Starro appeared off and on in the DC line until the present day, when he, or it, made an appearance in the recent Suicide Squad movie. It was the creation of Gardner Fox, a writer who worked both in comics and mainstream publishing, where he specialized in SF and fantasy. A few of his stories appeared in Weird Tales, which also published Lovecraft, and it’s not that far of a leap to assume he was familiar with the works of the Master.

Pestar and his friends

In 1966 this monster, part bat, part starfish, made an appearance in the original Ultraman Japanese series from 1966. Here they multiply in pastel colors. Known as Pestar, it drank oil.

Artwork by Stephen Lewis

Now Lovecraft comes full circle with Vthyarilops, the Starfish God, a Great Old One invented by writer Dan Perez for his 1994 horror novel The Likeness.

I am sure there are tons more of starfish aliens and alien-seeming starfish out there, and that I’ve only scratched the surface. But it’s been a fun scratch!

Worldbuilding Wednesday 3/30/22: Shunned Locations
xxxx(Lovecraft IV)

Miskatonik University may be the most beloved of Lovecraft’s imaginary locations. This Ivy League college, known for its library of occult books and daring expeditions, lies near a river of the same name which runs through imaginary Arkham, Massachusetts, *  which Lovecraft based on Salem. He even drew his own map of the city to aid his writing. Miskatonic University t-shirts can be readily purchased online along with other items to show your school spirit (or spirits, given its reputation.)

Lovecraft’s other human settlements, Innsmouth, Kingsport, and Dunwich, also had real-life Massachusetts analogs. In the case of Innsmouth, it was Newburyport.

Of the inhuman and alien locations R’lyeh, Cthulhu’s submerged city in the South Pacific, remains the best known. But there’s also the Mountains of Madness and the Plateau of Leng, which pops up in a recent graphic novel I read, Locke & Key, as “The Plain of Leng.” Many of Lovecraft’s locations make out-of-genre cameos like this, even on the dwarf planet Pluto, where several features are named for Mythos elements. Who says Life does not imitate Art?

In the same spirit here are more places a shady character or Great Old One might hang out.

 

Shunned Locations

The Hewes Museum

Caverns of Algol

The Land of Shan

Iuman of the Unseen Dunes

Gulf of Hastit

The Blasted Moors

Gate of Thuban

Wiskachanik River

Wulfham College

Mishgahoolik State Library

The Hell-Gates

Arxhan River

Osnam Memorial Hospital

The Inhuman City-state
of Aygnalla

Hodgeson Sanitarium

The Aetheric University

City of K’thun

The Dream City of Sathep

The Shining Silver Gulf

Sea of Xoth

The Crimson Library of Vhuthoa

The Nameless Mountains

Limekiln Asylum

The Burning Tower of Yorghra

The Shugyok Empire

The Sathsothor Depths

Plateau of Ptaeth

Monstrous Temple of
the Myidd-Myidd

* In the DC comic universe, Arkham Asylum is where Batman’s foes get put after their defeat.

The Art of the Elder Thing (Part III)

In this post I’ll examine  Elder Thing depictions done in different media and styles.

This is an Elder Thing stripped down its basic elements: starfish head, wings, cucumber body, five tentacle legs. I’m guessing it’s a petroglyph painted on some exposed shale rock, which since has been desecrated by bird poop.

The creator of the Lovecraft-oriented Propnomicon website has showcased a mouth-watering selection of DIY props, sculptures, and other ephemera related to  At the Mountains of Madness and the RPG game Call of Cthulhu. This sculpture from George Gourogiannis that might have been chiseled off the wall of the Elder Things’ city by the explorers and sent home in a crate.

The slitted aperture (as per Lovecraft) in the center of the creature’s star-shaped head looks more like an eye here. But there’s a reason for that: the increased sense of horror! Which I’ll get to later.

A series of Elder Things done in  illuminated manuscript, Medieval woodcut, and Haeckel engraving style, spanning the centuries.


Haeckel was the naturalist whose depictions of echinoderms likely inspired Lovecraft to come up with the Elder Things in the first place.

An Elder Thing in the decorative style of Russian artist Erté. Very elegant.

An Elder Thing sew-on patch from the Monsterologist website.

Arkham Bazaar offers Lovecraft merchandise for sale, including this lovely enameled Elder Thing pin.

This 1960s-inspired Necronomicon pop-up book has to be the trippiest thing I’ve seen so far. Scenes from five of Lovecraft’s tales are depicted in psychedelic day-glo colors, including this Ratfink-inspired Elder Thing in a tableau from At the Mountains of Madness (with a cameo from Kurt Russell who wandered out of the set from The Thing)

The Art of the Elder Thing (Part II)

In Part II of this series I’ll be taking a look at the Elder Things interacting with their natural environment — either the snowbound Antarctica of At the Mountains of Madness, or their titanic cities of long ago.

This illustration of the creatures shows them checking out a ship that has been stuck in the ice. The Pabodie expedition did not use ships with sails, so this one must be from a time before coal-fired engines. Maybe it’s Shackleton’s ship before it sank. Could the Elder Things have had something to do with it…?

Not a bad depiction, but the heads need to be more substantial, IMO.

Artwork by thatartistfeller

The Elder things stand like sentinels here, taking a pause from pulling their stolen sleigh. They remind me of a group of UFOs poised for takeoff. The texturing on the bodies, which looks metallic, is a nice touch.

Some illustrators have depicted the creatures actually attacking the human expedition.

Artwork by Mark Witton

Artist Mark Witton theorizes the Elder Things might have been bioluminescent, which would have aided them in the sunless depths of their city. In his depiction they have attacked Lake’s camp and set fire to it. I love the contrast of colors here and the reflection of the firelight on the creatures’ bodies.

Artwork by Jake Murray

Danforth and Dyer are having one hair-raising escape! Though without weapons, the Elder Things have managed to bend the wing of the airplane, dent in its side, and cause it to lose a tire. One is in the process of ripping off a horizontal stabilizer and two more are approaching from the upper left. But pity the poor Thing whose eyeball has just been shot out!

This scene never took place in the novella. But it could have. Or not. The creature’s wings are arranged radially, which would have given them problems with a direct attack. They are not birds that have a top side, with wings, and a bottom side, with claws. It’s more likely they would have lashed out with their locomotive tentacles, hooked on, and sheathed their wings for protection while their crinoid arms did the dirty work.

The Elder Things grieve for their companion who didn’t make it. Poor creatures! How their tentacled heads droop in sadness. The one at the left has prepared a star-shaped marker for the grave. This scene was in the story, albeit happening off-screen.

Artwork by Borja Pindado

An Elder Thing before the Mountains of Madness, poised to take flight. This kind of wing seems the most plausible to me: radially oriented, as in the description and large yet thin enough to be folded completely inside. A simple depiction, yet I like it, especially the green cilia on the head that looks like moss contrasting with small red eyes.

How did the Elder Things convey themselves in their cities? The chubby one below, which has the appealing texture of an avocado, is conducting some experiments. Those look like humans in the steampunk-style tubes.

A tongue-in-cheek comic depiction of a lounging Elder Thing being served drinks by a shoggoth as more Elder Things direct a shoggoth to to build a column. The shoggoth seems to be panting with the effort. Overhead a pterodactyl carries another piece for the growing city. This was in the Mesozoic when their civilization was at the height of its power. The artist has many other fine Lovecraft sketches on his website.

Artwork by David Lee Ingersoll

Robed Elder Things gesticulate as a shoggoth sullenly slides behind them. That’s a neat conceit: clothing! Fashioned for a pentagonal, columnar form.

Artwork by Jacen Burrows

Another comic illustration, this time showing the Elder Things defending their city against a shoggoth rebellion. The laser cannon makes a star-shaped explosion when it hits, but not before the shoggoth has speared the Elder Thing at the top with its tentacle. Poor Elder Thing!

This graphic is very busy, as some comic illos are, and delightful. It’s very rare to find a picture of the creatures at the height of their civilization. That these three I’ve found are done in a comic style makes me think the subject matter is just too difficult for a more realism-oriented artist to paint. The setting reminds me of a sewage plant of some sort, and the creatures are true to Lovecraft’s description.

Artwork by Steve Maschuck

Steve Maschuck’s illustration also depicts a shoggoth, but it’s harder to tell what’s going on. The main Elder Thing might be commanding it, or frozen in terror as the two other Elder Things skedaddle through some doorways. Maschuck’s shoggoths are pale, translucent, ghostly protoplasmic masses which glow from within. It’s a different take, and I like it. Maschuck also shows the plasticity of the Elder Things by picturing the one on the right squeezing through a narrow doorway.

The Elder Things on the losing end again, this time from a member of the Great Race of Yith who has zapped it with a “camera-like” (per Lovecraft) weapon.

Holding court with the penguins. A sad end for such an abandoned, lonely being.

Elder Thing, by kkkiri@deviantart

“Am I the only one left?” The creature turns its head to the sky, searching for its fellows.

 

Roadside Picnic
[Reading Challenge 2022]

Roadside Picnic

by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Translation by Olena Bormashenko
Chicago Review Press, 2012
(Originally published 1972 in the USSR)

[ Challenge # 34: A book by more than one author. ]

Roadside Picnic is an SF classic. Originally published in the USSR at the height of the Cold War — and Communist censorship – it received an English translation and publication in the US in 1977. It was thought of then as an experimental novel, and it still is. The premise is this: Four alien ships have visited Earth for a brief time and left behind a bunch of trash and strange effects in the areas they’ve visited, some of which are harmful to humans so those areas have been closed off for safety and further study. But people still sneak in to steal the alien technology, for which there’s a thriving black market. The novel is about one these stalkers, as they are called, nicknamed Red. It’s not a bang-up adventure tale ala Michael Crichton, though there are exciting parts when Red enters “The Zone” to find alien tchotchkes. It’s more about his interior life and how the alien visit has affected the rest of humanity, which ranges from scientists to black market dealers to housewives.

Actually I think the book IS a parody of the Russian black market for Western goods as it existed in the early 1970s. The characters one meets in the book could have been selling rock LPs and blue jeans. But there’s a philosophical aspect too, in the idea that even if aliens have visited the Earth, humanity might never understand them, or they, us.

This is one of those rare books I would give five stars. Despite the often awkward language I was really into it by the end, which describes Red’s colorful but tension-filled trip through a bizarre alien-damaged quarry in search of the “Golden Sphere” — a legendary alien artifact which has the power to grant wishes. There’s a good amount of cosmic horror too. We never see an alien, only the strange effects their visit has caused, which ranges from “bug traps” – areas of increased gravity, that squash anything that enters them into pancakes – to poisonous hell slime, free-roaming invisible heat storms, and momentary time warps that resuscitate corpses. That these are all described so colloquially and off-handedly adds to the strangeness and horror of it all. It was very different from anything I’ve ever read.

The book is divided into one prologue in which the alien visit is nicely introduced and four chapters. The first of them is a first person present monologue by Red as he visits The Zone with two companions. It’s one of the rare first person present POVs that gets it right. The other sections are in close third, also from Red, which felt like first person POV; as writer, I felt the authors were showing me two different ways to handle the same voice. Both were valid, and both worked.

On the downside, the roles of women were stereotypical: Wife and Mother vs. Spoiled Teenage Whore. There were no female scientists, stalkers, or black market dealers. There’s only one mention of a woman even having a job, and that’s as a stenographer who has to fend off the attentions of the boss. Well, it was written in the early 1970s after all, by two Russians with only clandestine knowledge of the West, which is where the story is set. Unlike the Russia of the time, where women were regarded as comrades working alongside the men, women of the West in the 1960s were still expected to hold minor jobs at best until they got married.

The story’s setting adds to the absurdist nature of it, making it more like magic realism than a Western SF novel of the time that set out to predict a plausible future. The imaginary town of Harmont where the visit occurred is English-speaking and could have been American or  Canadian, yet, the characters are Russian through and through in their personalities and mannerisms. There’s a lot of drinking and smoking that goes on, and there’s even a bar called The Borscht. Colloquialisms that were originally in Russian sound odd when translated to English equivalents, like “mug” for example, for a criminal-looking face. Which might have suited the early 1970s time frame, but sounds odd today, in the 2020s. But that’s also what made it so interesting to read.

So, don’t be intimidated by this book in spite of its academic pedigree. (There’s a scholarly introduction by Ursula K. LeGuin, in fact.) You’re in for a good time. There’s even been a video game based on it.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 3/23/22: Shady Characters
xxxx(Lovecraft III)

Asenath Waite, Lovecraft’s only transgender femme fatale, by Abigaril Larson

Humans in Lovecraft’s universe did not fare very well. They were transformed into monsters or disembodied brains, driven mad by forbidden knowledge, or became cannon fodder against ancient gods. That’s for the male humans. Female humans fared better. Mostly, by keeping out of his stories. But when they appeared they were witches, or the mothers of monsters.

Lovecraft was meticulous about choosing names for his characters, sticking to family names from his corner of New England (Masschusetts) like Dyer, Pabodie, Peabody, and Whately. His male characters’ names always sound a bit prissy, like they got called four-eyes in school and got beaten up a lot. When he references imaginary local histories, the first names he uses are those that were popular in that particular decade, which may be names from the Bible, Puritan names like Mercy or Resolve, or old blood English ones, such as Thomas or Abigail. In doing research to randomgen this list I came across some very odd ones indeed, like Onesiphorus, Gershon, and Hepza.

Since his characters are often professionals like doctors and scholars, I included some titles for both women and men.

 

Characters for a Lovecraftian story

MALE

Old Leyander Lipcott

Captain Theodore Baird

Dr. Jeremiah Pallsgrave

Elder Levi Cabell

Pastor Israel Hugh

Resolve Plumstead

The Honorable Israel Clough

William Trascott

Minister Gershon Curtwell

Nathaniel Shapley

Zephaniah Jessup

Roland Sherman

Deacon Wymont

Governor Jonathan Whippel

Enoch Stoddard

FEMALE

Madame Paget

Dr. Eunice Granger

Patience Silsbee

Lydia Cabell

Serene Cordner

Old Addie Osgood

Lavina Charles

Susannie Watkins

Harriet Rose Bucknam

Lucy Colcord

Mercy Stoddard

Lady Adelaide Carrington

Madame Lucente

Mrs. Eber Alger

Mother Phoebe