For my Halloween post, I wanted to finish up my look at monsters in the Steampunk genre with just one more. Having read up on zombies, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and ghosts, I sat down and tried to figure out what else I could include. It struck me that one of the more influential creatures on Steampunk as a whole is one of the newest, comparatively. The face of the Great Old Ones, himself. Cthulhu.
Lovecraft’s octopus-headed god was never the most powerful of of his creations, but given the description of his appearance, he became the Lovecraftian monster. And for good reason:
Mankind’s fear of the unknown, coupled with our general lack of knowledge about what lies at the greatest depths of our oceans has long fuelled our love-hate relationship with them. In some ways we know more about what is going on in outer space than we do about what is going on beneath the waves.
Lovecraft, as a writer of horror, or weird tales, knew this, and exploited that knowledge to create one of the more memorable monsters in modern horror. A giant creature, with a head resembling an octopus, tentacles flowing about the area of his face where a mouth would be; a massive, scaly body with deadly claws at the end of each limb. Reptilian and cephalopod combined
Though many authors tried to expand on Lovecraft’s mythos, not many were able to match his style. His stories were rarely about meeting the monsters. More often than not, it is the sense of dread, the foreboding feeling that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, when the Great Old Ones rise again, there will be no stopping it, there will be no salvation.
Steampunk authors, especially those dealing with more dystopian settings, frequently reference Lovecraft’s work. It may be in the form of extreme dread and hopelessness, or more direct use of locations and creatures. Perhaps your hard working police officer is investigating a series of strange disappearances, and comes to discover the existence of a cult that worships an ancient sea God.
A young student from a prominent New England university has discovered an old book in the archives. Upon touching said book, he sees visions of someone, something on the ocean floor, trapped in a sunken city, waiting. He researches the book, uncovering it’s use. An ancient holy book, dedicated to the worship of something called The Great Old Ones. His hunt for the truth leads him to the Pacific Ocean, an airship dropping him on a rickety old trawler. It is here he learns the ultimate truth, before losing his mind.
A young woman is haunted by strange dreams, of voices in her head, telling her that his slumber will soon be over. She does not know what it means, but she knows that it is important, that the world might just end if he wakes up. Her efforts to warn the King of the American Union are in vain. She goes into hiding, posing as a boy and working as a Porter aboard a giant luxury airship. During her time in hiding, her visions become clearer, more real. Finally, the high priest of the Great Old Ones arises from the sea during a climactic storm. As he unleashes the first of his terrible judgements upon the human race, the young woman hears in her head, I am awake. Serve me, and live forever. I am life. I am death. Come with me, my child.
What is everyone’s favorite Lovecraftian work? Do you enjoy the aesthetic when combined with steampunk? As always, I’d love to hear what you think.