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18 October 2011 @ 07:39 pm
The Mythos? There's only one?  
One thing I keep seeing that kind of annoys me is that a lot of Call of Cthulhu players and writers tend to lump things together as "the Mythos." Saying how "the Mythos" is dangerous to humanity, how "the Mythos" is corrupting and can never be dealt with safely, how "the Mythos" has it out for humanity, etc. Really, I find this kind of silly. It implies a kind of connectedness among the various disparate elements of Yog-Sothothery (Lovecraft's own term for the stuff he wrote about) that I don't think exists. I do think it's reasonable, in-universe, for humans to treat them as all part of some kind of unified singular threat, but it's when writers or GMs running a game do it that it bugs me.

Cosmic horror applies equally, in my mind. The Old Ones in Antarctica were the ultimate original of multicellular life on Earth, but they eventually lost the knowledge of how to travel the stars, were beaten by the mi-go, driven under the sea, frozen off the surface and eventually nearly exterminated by the servitor race they themselves created. The Serpent Men had a great kingdom founded on tremendous advances in science, but the evolution of the dinosaurs destroyed their kingdom and forced them into hibernation. Great Cthulhu is stuck dead but dreaming under the sea, and the last time he woke up, he came out, ate a few people, got discorporated by a crazed Norwegian pirate and then the stars were wrong and he went back to sleep. Azathoth, the Nuclear Chaos, is the ultimate creator of the universe, but isn't even sentient. Nyarlathotep is the Voice and Soul of the Outer Gods, which means he's constantly subject to whims and contradictory desires from beings that may not even realize he exists (no wonder he's such a dick).

It's really not like everyone is out to get humanity. Hell, Lovecraft himself says that the Old Ones were basically space opera aliens, where they look different but have a human-like mentality: "Scientists to the last -- what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! What a facing of the incredible, just as those carven kinsmen and forbears had faced things only a little less incredible! Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn -- whatever they had been, they were men!" It would clearly take quite a bit, but I could see a joint human/Old One interstellar civilization without any serious problems and without being unfaithful to Lovecraft's stories--though which stories is the question. I've written before about how the Call of Cthulhu RPG is basically The Dunwich Horror, the RPG, and doesn't deal well with stuff like Through the Gates of the Silver Key or the deeper messages of At the Mountains of Madness. When CoC starts getting into ridiculous stuff like making monsters who are an "avatar of Cthulhu" like Cthulhu was some sort of deity and not just an alien from a part of the universe where physical laws work differently, that's when I roll my eyes and accept that I just have a different concept of how cosmic horror should work.

It might be kind of funny, but I think a lot of people's attempts to do cosmic horror either end up as inadvertent self-parody or gnosticism. In truth, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is all the cosmic horror you need. Eventually, there will be nothing. The planets will decay. The stars will go out, and in the yawning depths of time the entire universe will be completely black, with lifeless chunks of rock in fading orbits around black holes or dead stars, until the orbits decay and the galaxies themselves come apart, leaving nothing but interstellar dust and dead rock floating free in the endless dark.

Cheery thought.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Xenogears - (213) The One Who is Torn Apart
q99q99 on October 19th, 2011 05:58 am (UTC)
Yea, people really overlook the wider amount of stuff in the mythos and focus almost entirely on a subset of them.

-Xenogears - (213) The One Who is Torn Apart-