Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lovecraft 101 - The Nameless City

The Nameless City
The time is finally here. That moment all you readers have been waiting for as we trudge through these stories. I give you, the first official Mythos story. This story begins with the first appearance of one of the most core mythos characters. Abdul Alhazared, otherwise known as the mad Arab. We will get to know him well in later stories, for he is integral to all things Cthulhu. But so is the line that is quoted from him.
“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.”
For anyone familiar with Lovecraft fiction, this will resonate immensely. It appears again later in the Call of Cthulhu, but this is the first quote from the mysterious Necronomicon. And hints that to not all beings is death a certainty. If you can't tell by my enthusiasm, this is the story where things really start to get exciting.
And not only is my excitement palpable, but so is the writing of the narrator of this story. You can feel his excitement as an archaeologist diving into a new find, his curious mind holding back the primal fear that should be present as he wriggles his way deeper into a claustrophobic ancient temple.
Like many of Lovecraft's works, especially the mythos stories, HPL mixes elements of real-world history and literature with his own fictional references. We see reference of ancient parts of Mesopotamia right next to mention of Sarnath, and he quotes Lord Dunsany as much as he does his fictional Arabian mystic.
The Nameless City is one of my favorite stories, and it was one of HPL's favorites too, though he had far too much difficulty getting anyone to print it. For me, the excitement of discovery is so easily mixed with the terror of the unknown. And the horror of discovering a race of tiny reptilian men below the earth who far out-age the race of man, is just too cool to pass up. To me, this is quintessential Lovecraft. We have the overarching sense of cosmic fear, a terror beyond human control. We have ancient beings hidden away in unknown places waiting to take hold of the world again and vanquish the plague of man. And we have a protagonist, whose pure curiosity gets him into a heap of trouble. It is stories like this, that have inspired much of my own writing, and as we will see as we begin to finally dive into the Cthulhu Mythos stories, it only gets better.

You cannot pass up reading this story, you can check it out here: HPL's TheNameless City
Illustration copyright Jeff Powers © 2013

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