Saturday, June 23, 2012
At The Mountains Of Madness At Last!
This short novel by H.P. Lovecraft has been on my must-read-eventually table for years, but for whatever combination of reasons (distractions and forgetfulness) I never got around to actually reading it. I've dabbled in Lovecraft my whole life, reading and re-reading "The Call of C'Thulhu", "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Colour Out of Space" many times as well as other classic Lovecraft short stories. But I've never read some of his longer works. I'm rectifying that oversight this summer.
Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness was serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in three parts in 1936. Lovecraft (according S.T.Joshi) regarded it as his favorite work. It begins in wonderful Lovecraft fashion as a report in vivid detail of an expedition to Antarctica which after some reality-establishing labor, finds a vast range of mountains which are taller and more vast than then discovered on Earth. And inside a cave at the foot of these mountains they uncover strange seemingly preserved new life forms. What evolves from there is vintage Lovecraft. I won't spoil any of the twists, but Lovecraft's ability to describe the weird and make the reader feel that weirdness in the depths of their being is well on display in this tour of this outpost of "The Old Ones".
Then I dug out "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" by Clark Ashton Smith, a story which likely was inspired by Lovecraft's original, just as Lovecraft's story was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.
The soul-chilling Antarctic setting of this story is assumed to have also inspired John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" the inspiration for RKO's The Thing from Another World which itself inspired John Carpenter's bleaker version many years later. I'll have to dig out that classic and give it another reading, and perhaps bring home that "Thing" movie they made last year and finally watch it. Lovecraft's influence on fantasy is difficult to overstate.
On yet another note, my recent Wold Newton reading suggests that McReady from Campbell's original story is highly suggestive of Kenneth Robeson's Doc Savage. That's a curious connection I'd like to examine first hand.