The Call of Kathulos: Kull, Skull and “Call”

I’m Deuce Richardson and I’ll be your blogger for this evening. I’m a native south-east Kansan and grew up working on my parents’ farm/ranch, the fourth generation of Richardsons to do so. At the age of nine I discovered Robert E. Howard and haven’t been right in the head since. Subsequent to graduating high school, I attended Kansas State and then Pittsburg State University. After that, it was time to get to work. In early 2005, I leapt into the twenty-first century by purchasing my own computer. That eventually led me to becoming a member on the Official Robert E. Howard Forum. Membership there landed me in various places like Cross Plains, Texas and then, surprisingly, here. Enough about me. On with the show.

Ever since a certain “Mr. O’Neail” wrote in to Weird Tales wondering, there has always been a question hovering, bat-winged, over Robert E. Howard’s novella, “Skull-Face”: Was REH’s “Kathulos” (and the tale thereof) influenced, somehow, by Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”?

Howard had this to say in a letter to HPL (ca. August 1930):

A writer in the Eyrie, a Mr. O’Neail, I believe, wondered if I did not use some myth regarding this Cthulhu in “Skull Face”. The name Kathulos might suggest that, but in reality, I merely manufactured the name at random, not being aware at the time of any legendary character named Cthulhu — if indeed there is.

That’s that, I guess, but… all indicators point to Robert E. Howard reading “Call of Cthulhu” before he ever started composing “Skull-Face.” In a letter to Weird Tales, Howard demonstrates he’d already savored the darksome pleasures of “CoC” (published in the February 1928 issue of Weird Tales): “Mr. Lovecraft’s story, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ is indeed a masterpiece, which I am sure will live as one of the highest achievements of literature.” (ca. April 1928)


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Derleth Be Not Proud: S. T. Joshi’s The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos,


Part One: Hypersensitive, Not Hyperborean

Part Two: Cry ‘Havoc!’ and Let Slip the Hounds of Tindalos

Part Three: Autochthonic Masses Howling and Wet-Mouthed

He tried to struggle through Lovecraft pastiches, but at the first painfully serious reference to the Elder Gods, he felt some important part of him going numb inside, the way a foot or hand will go to sleep when the circulation is cut off. He feared the part of him being numbed was his soul.

Joe Hill, “Best New Horror”

The Disciples of Cthulhu. The Quest for Cthulhu. New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. Cthulhu 2000. In His House at the Federalist Society, Dead Chthulhu Waits Dreaming. The Children of Cthulhu. Cthulhu’s Heirs. Fall of Cthulhu Volume I: The Fugue. Acolytes of Cthulhu. High Seas Cthulhu. Frontier Cthulhu. Cthulhu’s Dark Cults. Age of Cthulhu: Death in Luxur. Hardboiled Cthulhu. The Strange Sound of Cthulhu. Cthulhu Has Two Mommies. Eldritch Blue: Love and Sex in the Cthulhu Mythos. Song of Cthulhu. The Spiraling Worm: Man Versus the Cthulhu Mythos. Gumshoe Trail of Cthulhu. Cthulhu on a Hot Tin Roof. Cthulhu Fhtagn, Baby! And Other Cosmic Insolence. The Conquering Sword of Cthulhu. Our Mutual Cthulhu. The Cthulhu Also Rises. Bright Lights, Big Cthulhu. And that list is limited to books that give the most Cosmic of Cephalopods star billing, a titular mention! The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all the contents of today’s Mythos.

Thirty years after August Derleth was driven to conclude, while introducing Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, that “Certainly the Mythos as an inspiration for new fiction is hardly likely to afford readers with enough that is new and sufficiently different in concept and execution to create a continuing and growing demand,” M. le comte’s “new and sufficiently different” desiderata have been more honor’d in the breach than the observance, yet we’re clearly dealing with a recession-proof industry. No doubt a bit of cooling-off has occurred since the irrational exuberance of the Nineties, when the fellahin flocked to Robert M. Price and wild beasts licked his hands, but if we recall Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness” and a disclosure by Henry Akeley to Albert Wilmarth — “They could easily conquer the earth, but have not tried so far because they have not needed to. They would rather leave things as they are to save bother” — some of us might be tempted to interject “Save bother, hell! They’re sitting on their pseudopods because there’s money to be made!”

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Mystic Chords of Memory and the Melancholy Tune Thereof


Mary Emmaline Reed is sharing her childhood memories of Alabama around 1865 with her granddaughter’s new swain, specifically the depredations of the locust-outdoing “riff-raff” that showed up soon after the Union Army:

Bob lunged forward in his chair. He’d hung on every word, and now he reacted physically. It is one thing to read history, but it’s altogether different to talk with someone who remembered. “And there was nothing you could do about it?” His voice was venomous against the injustice.

“Well,” Mammy mused, “yes and no. There was a little bit of help.”

“Help?” Bob picked up the word quickly. And though I’d heard the story many times, tonight, it was new again. Bob’s interest, his emotion, his deepest attention to Mammy while she talked, made me participate in the story.

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Fire and Water, Or At Least Serious Swiggage of Firewater


Right about now there are seemingly two kinds of people, those who are already missing TC-as-a-print journal, and those who aren’t in a position to miss it, because for reasons best known to themselves they’ve been missing out ever since the spring of 2004. The good news is, it is still possible to remedy the latter delinquency, to escape the darkling plain where certain ignorant armies persist in clashing by night, by pouncing in a swell foop on the back issues Leo will be selling for a little while longer. The alternative is, I suppose, to repair to a repurposed fallout shelter and read the exciting Princess-Sumia-gets-abducted-yet-again scenes in old Lin Carter paperbacks to one’s action figures.

As a student of the American classics, Leo must be feeling a little like Tom Sawyer at the moment, kibitzing at his own funeral. He gave TC a Viking-by-way-of-the-coast-south-of-Kush sendoff with “A Cimmerian Coda” at the end of V5n6, and the motif is reinforced by the seagoing synchronicity of Donald Sidney-Fryer’s “A Ship Sails Out to Sea”:

The moon came up just as the sun went down,

Leaving behind a blaze, a fiery crown,

A coronal of purple, gold, and flame:

Inside this blaze the ship appeared to drown

Better a coronal than a coronary, nicht wahr? And how perfect that The Last of the Courtly Poets should be The Last Cimmerian Poet as well.

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Yet Another Drive-By Pathography


(Steve Trout should require next-to-no introduction at this site: a REHupan since the palaeozoic period, contributor to Don Herron’s The Barbaric Triumph: A Critical Anthology on the Writings of Robert E. Howard, and the researcher who stood athwart the expurgationist history of the Donald M. Grant Solomon Kane editions and cried “Stop!” Here he shows us why, to take liberties with the title of a Thomas Ligotti novella, Our Work Is Not Yet Done)

The Good, the Bad, and the Mad (*Disclaimer — [redacted], if you read this your head will probably explode*)

by Steve Trout

Recently my brother sent me the book of this title by one E. Randall Floyd of Augusta State University — who happens to be, unbeknownst to me, a syndicated newspaper columnist as well — which is a collection of short biographies of American characters subtitled “Some Weird People in American History”. The accounts of Ambrose Bierce, Madame Blavatsky, Colonel John Chivington, George A. Custer, Marie Laveau, H.P. Lovecraft, Bernard McFadden, Cotton Mather, William Walker, Sarah Winchester, and others, should be of some interest to my readers for various obscure cultural ties to Howard, but of prime interest, of course, is that Floyd devotes a section to Robert E. Howard as well: “The Tortured Genius Who Walked Alone”. Guess which one Howard is — Good, Bad, or Mad?

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