I remember the first time I ever came face to face with Cthulu. He was a very weird looking guy. He was very big, maybe 100 meters high, rising out of the ocean, his scaly skin covered with foam. He had bat wings and a beard of octopus tentacles.
“What is that thing?” I asked my associate, who had a picture of the mighty ocean deity taped to his notebook. We were in study hall at the time.
“Cthulu, God of Destruction,” he replied intensely.
“What religion is that?” I asked.
“H.P. Lovecraft’s,” he said. The name had an interesting ring to it.
It turned out that Howard Phillips Lovecraft was the influential author of many science fiction, fantasy and horror stories. He also wrote a lot of the subgenre of “weird fiction.” I loved the sound of that.
Cthulu is a god who has been imprisoned in an underwater city called Ry’leh. Poor guy. Other people in Lovecraft’s universe are Yog-Sothoth, Cthulu’s all-knowing grandfather and Abdul Alhazred, a demented Arab who writes “The Necronomicon”, a book of the occult.
I’ve been reading a lot of his stories lately. Some people think that because he writes tales of terror, he must be a bad writer. But this not true. He has a soaring imagination and a bigger vocabulary than most of his critics.
My favorite story so far has been “The Color Out of Space” when a meteorite lands on a farm and infects its inhabitants with insanity and death. Other good ones are “The Lurking Fear” when people turn into these monstrous ape creatures, and “The Moon Bog” about vengeful bog spirits in Ireland.
Lovecraft only lived to be 46, but he left an impressive legacy. He inspired Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, two of my favorite writers, so that’s another reason to like him, at least for me.
So tonight, get a copy of his collection “Waking Up Screaming” and treat yourself to some quality time with Yog, Abdul, and good old Cthulu.