It’s all the more suiting that I’ve just finished reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” the story of the Antarctic expedition that discovers strange fossils and unbelievable terror. Although I have known of this Master of horror for a long time, this is my first encounter with his work, prompted – I must gratefully say- by some of the comments that my story “A Harvest of the Deep” has received on this blog. How I wish I were a “real” part of that Miskatonic Expedition, and flew over those gigantic mountains, and stepped onto the stones of that Cyclopean city...
Aksel Karcher at www.splutterfish.com
"Little by little, however, they rose grimly into the western sky; allowing us to distinguish various bare, bleak, blackish summits, and to catch the curious sense of fantasy which they inspired as seen in the reddish antarctic light against the provocative background of iridescent ice-dust clouds. In the whole spectacle there was a persistent, pervasive hint of stupendous secrecy and potential revelation. It was as if these stark, nightmare spires marked the pylons of a frightful gateway into forbidden spheres of dream, and complex gulfs of remote time, space, and ultra-dimensionality. I could not help feeling that they were evil things--mountains of madness whose farther slopes looked out over some accursed ultimate abyss. That seething, half-luminous cloud background held ineffable suggestions of a vague, ethereal beyondness far more than terrestrially spatial, and gave appalling reminders of the utter remoteness, separateness, desolation, and aeon-long death of this untrodden and unfathomed austral world."
There are certain books that do this to me, books that, beyond any reasonable explanation, will always represent a never-ending fascination to me. Books that I HAVE to have, and keep close to me, and read again and again, or just touch and relish in the comfort of their presence. This is and will remain now one of them.
Another of these books is “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” by Edgar Allan Poe, this overwhelming genius and one of my most beloved authors, and often mentioned by Lovecraft in “At the Mountains of Madness.” And its sequel of course, Jules Verne’s “Le sphinx des glaces” (“The Sphinx of the Ice Fields” – translated as “An Antarctic Mystery”). Those of you who have read Pym might remember its haunting ending.
"And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us. But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow."
This is where Jules Verne picks up from and expands, bringing to the fantastic and the horror of Poe the rational quality of his science fiction.
"One day I witnessed the departure of an albatross, saluted by the very best croaks of the penguins, no doubt as a friend whom they were to see no more. Those powerful birds can fly for two hundred leagues without resting for a moment, and with such rapidity that they sweep through vast spaces in a few hours. The departing albatross sat motionless upon a high rock, at the end of the bay of Christmas Harbour, looking at the waves as they dashed violently against the beach.
Suddenly, the bird rose with a great sweep into the air, its claws folded beneath it, its head stretched out like the prow of a ship, uttering its shrill cry: a few moments later it was reduced to a black speck in the vast height and disappeared behind the misty curtain of the south."
Fantastic expeditions in frozen lands, thus was my daydreaming on this frigid January day...