Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Horizons, Pluto, and Yuggoth: Is the fastest spacecraft ever launched set to awaken The Abominable Ones?

A digital speculation from Daily Galaxy of what Pluto might look like 
The New Horizons spacecraft is set to make its closest approach to Pluto this summer! Pluto has been the center of discussion and debate in the last decade due to it's reassignment to the new classification as a dwarf planet in 2006. Beside my excitement for the New Horizons mission and all of the awesome imagery and data that are soon to come from Pluto, a little part of me revels in the fantasy of New Horizons waking up an ancient evil race of beings coming from that distant world, which they call Yuggoth, as imagined by the great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.

A visualization by John L. Cherevka (skullbeast on DeviantArt) of what a Mi-go may look like, based on The Whisperer in Darkness (1931)

Home of the Mi-go and target of New Horizons

H.P. Lovecraft's blend of mystical horror and sci-fi horror from the early 1900s is still regarded as some of the best writing of the 20th century in the horror genre. It's a tragedy that Lovecraft never knew the impact his writing would have; he died in poverty, having only ever published his stories in pulp magazines. Lovecraft's stories often involved mysticism and mythology. He created a universe of ancient evil beings, including the famed Cthulhu Mythos. Of Lovecraft's work the great horror writer Stephen King has said, "I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." (American Heritage, 1995)

Lovecraft introduced the term Yuggoth within the Cthulhu Mythos in his collection of sonnets, Fungi from Yuggoth, though the first elaboration about the planet of Yuggoth and the creatures known as Mi-go were first depicted in his short story The Whisperer in Darkness. Written in September of 1930, this story appears to have been partially inspired by the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in February of that same year. In that story, we learn that the Mi-go are a race of alien creatures from Yuggoth, a distant world at the end of our solar system. The Mi-go are large, pink, crustacean-like fungi who can transport themselves through space to travel between worlds. These beings appear to be evil to humans who encounter them, though we're never fully informed of their intentions within Lovecraft's work.

Of Yuggoth, Lovecraft wrote "Yuggoth... is a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system... There are mighty cities on Yuggoth—great tiers of terraced towers built of black stone... The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need no light. They have other subtler senses, and put no windows in their great houses and temples... The black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges—things built by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the beings came to Yuggoth from the ultimate voids—ought to be enough to make any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane long enough to tell what he has seen..."

Allicorn on Bandcamp offers a full recording of Fungi from Yuggoth as read by Paul MacLean.

Lovecraft was likely thinking of Pluto when he wrote his stories of the Mi-go and their world Yuggoth. Although complete works of fiction, it's still fun to fantasize about the possibility for some unthinkable and horrible discoveries to occur when New Horizons passes by Pluto in July of this year (the fly-by is scheduled for 15 July 2015). Will we discover that Pluto is more similar to the 8 planets of our solar system than it appears, or will we confirm that Pluto has far more in common with the Kuiper Belt Objects of the outer solar system? Or, rather, will we discover that Pluto is really the home to a hideous race of alien creatures with potentially evil intentions?

The blog Lovecraftian Science posits this question with regard to what New Horizons may find when it reaches Yuggoth this year:

"Will it find oceans of semi-frozen methane slowly vaporizing into interstellar space while the stars continue to shine?  Or will it find… 'black streets where abominable blasphemies moved among hideous gardens of those greyish nodding fungi and vast black windowless towers?' – from Ramsey Campbell’s The Tower of Yuggoth."

Of course, there's not a great reason to think that we'll discover alien life on Pluto, especially intelligent alien life, but it's still fun to let our minds wonder about the possibilities for alien life out there. Much as Lovecraft imagined races of alien beings with a completely different moral structure than our own, I like to imagine sometimes that our contact with intelligent alien life lies just around the corner with our continued exploration of space. Maybe there are alien races out there right now who have heard the radio signals we've broadcasted into space. Perhaps there's an alien race that have been watching our solar system to see when we advance enough to control the light that leaves our star system. There are so many possibilities when it comes to what we may find in our exploration of life in the universe. It makes me giddy sometimes just to think about it.

With a closing thought, perhaps we shouldn't call Pluto by the name Yuggoth. Perhaps we could do some justice to the memory of H.P. Lovecraft by using that name in a different way. Lovecraft's stories were motivated by his interests in science as well as mysticism. Perhaps, one great way to reflect on Lovecraft's stories of Yuggoth and the Mi-go is to use these names for future discoveries of astronomical objects. Indeed, the Italian astronomer Albino Carbognani suggested on the blog Urania in 2012 that if we discover another dwarf planet beyond Pluto, that we should consider calling it Yuggoth in honor of Lovecraft. That would be a great way to honor Lovecraft and to have a little fun with a name for a newly discovered object in our solar system. 

I'll surely be writing a lot more in the coming months with regard to the New Horizons mission, and if strange alien fungi creatures decide to attack our spacecraft, you'll definitely be able to read about it here on A Cosmobiologist's Dream!

Perhaps the Mi-go are not just fungi, but are fun guys (The Fun Guy from Yuggoth by DrewArt on Deviant Art)

Note: I'm personally amongst those who don't think that Pluto should be equally classified with the terrestrial or jovian planets, though I also think the current IAU definition of "planet" is pretty unfulfilling. I think most of the people who argue that Pluto should still be considered a planet do so out of sentimentality more than anything else, although there are good arguments for just accepting Pluto as a planet and then counting all the other dwarf planets as planets as well (though we would probably end up with over 100 planets that way). What do you think about Pluto's status as a dwarf planet? Feel free to leave a comment about your stance on Pluto, planet or not.

1 comment:

  1. AWESOME post!
    We cheer from R'lyeh ;-)