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HP Lovecraft Creature Lab
November 8, 2010 11:48 AM   Subscribe

In September, Jon Schindehette [previously] and Lars Grant-West [wiki] issued a challenge to students at the Rhode Island School of Design: "Create a creature based upon a non-humanoid critter from H.P. Lovecraft's literature. The creature should have a fully resolved form, convey motion where appropriate, and be believable. Creature can be shown as either 3/4 view or 'turn-arounds'." Here are the entries and here are the judges' comments. posted by brundlefly (58 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew Spearling's Shoggoth was the winner when I saw it. Brilliant. And now, my desktop.

It all calls to mind the best art from Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu RPG. (I had the black covered 1989 edition.)
posted by grabbingsand at 12:00 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The winner of the challenge was Craig J. Spearing's depiction of a Shoggoth.

Or, according to the judge's comments, of a "shaggoth", which sounds like something unspeakable that happens in the back of the Mystery Machine.

Damn fine shoggoth, though!
posted by gurple at 12:02 PM on November 8, 2010


Or, according to the judge's comments, of a "shaggoth", which sounds like something unspeakable that happens in the back of the Mystery Machine.

That spelling bugged me too, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia:

This spelling appears in the original Arkham House printing for "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1937), though the definitive manuscripts show that the proper spelling is in fact "shoggoth".
posted by brundlefly at 12:06 PM on November 8, 2010


HP Lovecraft art is never satisfying.
I always run to it eagerly, slathering for a taste of the unknown, but it's ultimately disappointing.
Am I surprised? I guess not. Lovecraft wouldn't be either.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


There should be a warning that viewing the link will cost 1d6 SAN.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:08 PM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think this one got robbed. The way the edges of appendages and things are so clearly defined in the winning Shoggoth really does a disservice to the extra-dimensional nature of the Mythos creatures. There is this ambiguity about where one appendage joins or passes behind or in front of another in the Dunwich Horror one which I think is much truer to the spirit of the Mythos.
posted by juv3nal at 12:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


The fish-man from Shadow Over Innsmouth is my favorite.
posted by electroboy at 12:16 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


To paraphrase HPLHS, there are things mankind was never meant to adapt to the graphic arts.
posted by gurple at 12:16 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


the winning Shoggoth really does a disservice to the extra-dimensional nature of the Mythos creatures

But shoggoths aren't extra-dimensional. They're probably the most science-fictional and least supernatural things in Lovecraft's bestiary -- genetically engineered shape-shifters. Their edges are as clearly defined as they want them to be.
posted by Zed at 12:18 PM on November 8, 2010


juv3nal, I agree. I rather like how that one seems to slightly warp the space around it too. I always think the scariest part of CoC is the way the risen temple's geometry seems to be in flux while they're climbing around on it...

Parker slipped as the other three were plunging frenziedly over endless vistas of green-crusted rock to the boat, and Johansen swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn't have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse.

shudder

posted by anigbrowl at 12:20 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, the Mi-Go are really popular... and I love the origami Gug!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:24 PM on November 8, 2010


I liked the winner, but thought that Will Martinez's Ghast (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_T9n9y1_Lkfs/TLW-TVFzbYI/AAAAAAAAF8E/7wcDBBKJqF0/s1600/Will-Martinez.jpg) was badly robbed. It just conveys such a fantastic sense of everyday, gloomy horror and *wrongness* - I think it hits much harder than the winning illustration. The Shoggoth was well-depicted, but it's a much louder "action" sort of scene. Lovecraft had those, but he was most effective with the quieter moments of horror, with bits of wrongness seeping into our everyday world. Martinez got that, but I'm not convinced that Spearing did.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 12:25 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


But shoggoths aren't extra-dimensional.

I concede that I'm not as up on my shoggoths as I probably should have been to make that comment. But substitute "extra-dimensional" for a handwavy way of referring to the sanity-bending otherness that HP is getting at and I think my point still holds. The notion is that these critters should unsettle you because they seem impossible, unknowable. I think clearly defined edges runs counter to that.
posted by juv3nal at 12:27 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That was fun to go through! I think my favorite favorite of all has to be this specimen of the Great Race. He's just so gosh darn friendly yet perplexed looking. I feel like I just knocked on his door after my hovercraft broke down right near his house, and he just answered the door. The two I found the scariest were the hunting horror and Mi-Go. I can totally picture myself picturing them as I wake up with a night terror. I also really love this Shoggoth, and am unsettled by it in a way that I can't really explain. Other ones I like are the good ol' fishman, the sculpture and, of course, the fearsome Penguin of Leng.
posted by Kattullus at 12:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Craig J. Spearing's depiction of a Shoggoth
I'm pretty sure that was a Morbid Angel album cover 15 years ago.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:28 PM on November 8, 2010


Very nice.
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on November 8, 2010


Metafilter: I concede that I'm not as up on my shoggoths as I probably should have been to make that comment
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:35 PM on November 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Like Stagger Lee above I love the idea of HPL art, but then when I see it I always come away a little disappointed. It's just impossible for the image to be as scary as my mental impression of whatever it's an image of. And I know that, rationally, but I always hope that this time it won't be true. Not that these weren't fun to look through; they were. Good post.

I think it's kind of a reverse Uncanny Valley thing. These pictures make the creatures look so ... possible, so realistic, that they're not unsettling anymore.
posted by penduluum at 1:13 PM on November 8, 2010


i loved these.. the dunwich horror one is awesome.
posted by empath at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2010


Stagger Lee : HP Lovecraft art is never satisfying.

These are quite good, but I agree with you. It's because the things that live in our heads are far more terrifying for being unseen. Once it's put to paper, it's trapped and rendered less powerful.

The phrase that best captures this for me comes from Clive Barker's description of an old one called the Iad: "Mountains and fleas, fleas and mountains" I don't know what it describes, I can't quite get a picture in my head, but what it does conjure is simply terrifying.
posted by quin at 1:21 PM on November 8, 2010


For lots of good Cthulhu art see Fantasy Flight Games :

Call of Cthulhu LCG

or

From Boardgamegeek

For more
posted by Windopaene at 1:59 PM on November 8, 2010


In other Lovecraftian news, Yog Radio, the Yog Sothoth Dot Com podcast, just celebrated it's fifth year. They've also got a lovely interview with Graham Lineham, who turns out to be a Call of Cthulhu fan, and who talks about the great little RPG storyline that featured in an IT Crowd episode.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm still searching for a piece of artwork I believe I saw in the late 80s. I'm almost positive it was when CoC was young. It featured something clearly meant to be vampire-like, but with a long skull covered by thin, combed-back hair, overlarge eye sockets, and a grin composed of needle-like interlocking teeth.

Good Lovecraft artwork sticks with you.
posted by adipocere at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


But shoggoths aren't extra-dimensional. They're probably the most science-fictional and least supernatural things in Lovecraft's bestiary

Ahh, all that stuff comes later. In Lovecraft's work, the Shoggoths are much less defined. Check it from At The Mountains Of Madness:

"It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter."
posted by lumpenprole at 2:20 PM on November 8, 2010


adipocere - a ghoul, maybe?
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on November 8, 2010


It could be a ghoul, but ... it had clothing on and appeared to be sitting up. Or at least, that's how I remember it, some twenty-odd years ago. It had a "formerly human" look to it, rather than a "was never a person" flavor.

I'm at the point where I am thinking of buying that rather pricey Lovecraft artwork retrospective and trying to lay hands on the first couple of editions of the CoC RPG to check my memory.
posted by adipocere at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2010


The phrase that best captures this for me comes from Clive Barker's description of an old one called the Iad: "Mountains and fleas, fleas and mountains" I don't know what it describes, I can't quite get a picture in my head, but what it does conjure is simply terrifying.

That's the Iad Ourobouros from the "Books Of The Art" trilogy.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:41 PM on November 8, 2010


It had a "formerly human" look to it, rather than a "was never a person" flavor.

That's some ghouls... Mr. Pickman for instance... could be all sorts of other things I suppose.
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2010


I feel like a total nerd for being all, "DUDE THAT IS SOOOOO RAD!"
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:59 PM on November 8, 2010


This is great. Thanks for alerting me to it.
posted by ServSci at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2010


Yeah, I just didn't remember Lovecraft's ghouls wearing much clothing.

The design of the image was very reminiscent of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, only with thinner hair and an even more enormous grin, with the aforementioned interlocking teeth. Color, skin a sickly yellow, eyes more so, with cavernous sockets and the kind of suit you'd find on a dead man, one you'd prefer laying down rather than sitting up.
posted by adipocere at 3:19 PM on November 8, 2010


You know, that;s an AskMe waiting to happen...
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2010


HP Lovecraft art is never satisfying.

I'm with you on that, but some of these are pretty good. Maybe my favorite of the bunch.

I was looking around for one of the freak-me-out-the-most pieces of Lovecraft art. I discovered it through this Lovecraft post by Artw (natch). The piece was called "Daemons, when desiring an human form for evil purposes, take to themselves the bodies of hanged men." The link to the image is dead, it showed a howling thing from beyond everything grabbing the soul out of body on a gibbet. Wish I could find that image again. I think.

Digging around reminded me how much I enjoy the little bits from Lovecraft's Commonplace Book:

Disturbing conviction that all life is only a deceptive dream with some dismal or sinister horror lurking behind.

(A typical Monday morning around my house)
posted by marxchivist at 4:02 PM on November 8, 2010


I would totally buy a comic book starring Yithian-with-a-Fez as he calmly investigates cosmic horrors in the 1930s. I imagine him going through human assistant after human assistant, packing tobacco into his pipe and tutting in disapproval as they collapse and gibber on the floor.

"Really, Jenkins, it's just a tentacled obscenity phased halfway into our dimension over a brutal human sacrifice. I know that man was never meant to see such abhorrent violations of the very nature of reality, but as I told you that this Elder Sign will keep us perfectly safe if we just stay — oh, really! Now you've lost an arm! Well, half of one. Hmm, lengthwise. That's interesting. But who's going to carry my luggage now, eh?"
posted by No-sword at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wish I could find that image again. I think.

You're welcome.
posted by Zed at 5:10 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


These are fantastic, thank you.
posted by smoke at 5:12 PM on November 8, 2010


Thank you Zed.
posted by marxchivist at 5:20 PM on November 8, 2010


HP Lovecraft art is never satisfying.

Looks like it's from RISD's illustration department. At least some of them can read, I've heard.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:22 PM on November 8, 2010


I'm still searching for a piece of artwork I believe I saw in the late 80s. I'm almost positive it was when CoC was young. It featured something clearly meant to be vampire-like, but with a long skull covered by thin, combed-back hair, overlarge eye sockets, and a grin composed of needle-like interlocking teeth.

This one?
posted by Tenuki at 4:58 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


gibber gibber
posted by Samizdata at 5:23 AM on November 9, 2010


And, sort of nthing the disappointment factor. I always imagine worse (or better - cf the end of CE3K Special Edition) when a author is properly nondescriptive. One of my favorites is Clive Barker's The Inhuman Condition which has the following (hurriedly hand-transcribed) -

From it's camouflage of leaves the waiting beast leaned down toward Karney and exhaled a single, chilly breath. It smelled of the river at low tide, of vegetation gone to rot. Karney was about to ask it what it was again when he realized that the exhalation _was_ the beast's reply. All it could speak of it's condition was contained in that bitter and rancid breath. As replies went, it was not lacking in eloquence. Distressed by the images it awoke, Karney backed away from the spot. Wounded, sluggish forms moved behind his eyes, engulfed in a sludge of filth.

Thanks, Google Books! (As transcribing on screen beats paperback to screen, especially when you don't touchtype.)

This sort of unobvious description is why I think so many of Barker's more fantastic works (like, say, Nightbreed) fail so epically on screen. The need to definitively show an object removes the imagination needed, in my less-than-humble opinion, to truly terrify a beholder.

Of course, I could also be full of crap.

Squamous crap.

Or rugose crap.

Whatever brings the cold shivers.
posted by Samizdata at 5:36 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or, ummmm, on post preview...

to truly terrify or beguile a beholder.
posted by Samizdata at 5:39 AM on November 9, 2010


Tenuki, that is exactly it! And, looking about, it was in the Call of Cthulhu RPG, second edition. Thank you!
posted by adipocere at 6:57 AM on November 9, 2010


Now, back to looking for this!
posted by adipocere at 7:21 AM on November 9, 2010


Of course, I could also be full of crap.

Eldritch, unnameable crap?
posted by electroboy at 8:07 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Crap of a color out of space.
posted by Samizdata at 8:09 AM on November 9, 2010


I'd describe the crap you're talking about, but I was so overcome with horror I fainted and when I awoke I found myself in the hospital with no memory of the previous nights' events.
posted by electroboy at 8:17 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


M'igo'd, this conversation is positively Lovecraptian.
posted by Samizdata at 8:49 AM on November 9, 2010


Dreamcatcher
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on November 9, 2010


Samizdata: "Crap of a color out of space"

The crap on the doorstep?
posted by Splunge at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mi-Go fans will want to watch the end of this trailer.
posted by Artw at 7:02 PM on November 9, 2010


Oh, hey, y'all want some serious squamous and rugose?

Cthulhu Mythos, As Imagined By Kids.
posted by kipmanley at 1:32 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow -- some of those Shoggoths and Elder Things are really good. Thanks for linking to that, Kip.
posted by Zed at 8:06 PM on November 11, 2010


"Never Go To Antarctica"
posted by Artw at 8:09 PM on November 11, 2010


Seems I can't get enough drawings of Shoggoths and Elder Things 'cause I just ordered this from the UK.
posted by Zed at 9:14 AM on November 16, 2010


That does look pretty awesome, I'll be picking it up myself at some point.

Some "making" of blog posts:
* Detective work (on adapting the text)
* HERE BE MONSTERS!!!
* Wish you were here! (On designing the city - Nicholas Roerich is worth checking out)
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2010




Tintin at the Mountains of Madness
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on November 22, 2010


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