“Though of small importance indeed in the vast universe of stars, the solar system is yet to us an object of the greatest concern, since it is the only part of creation whose workings we may study in any degree of detail.” H.P. Lovecraft originally published in the Asheville Gazette-News (N.C.); 20 February 1915 – from S.T. Joshi’s (editor) Collected Essays: Volume 3: Science H.P. Lovecraft (Hippocampus Press, 2005).
Our solar system (from http://www.seasky.org)
As Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee incrementally recalled his memories while occupying a cone-shaped body of a member of the Great Race on ancient Earth, he remembered meeting a number of other species who also occupied these bodies. Some of these other species were residents of Earth, while others lived on other planets or moons in our solar system. Thus, over the next series of articles, we will tour the “Lovecraftian” solar system, discussing how HPL incorporated the planets and other other celestial bodies into his stories, as well as what was known about the solar system in HPL’s time.
As I have discussed in previous articles Lovecraft had a strong interest and love in science and his favorite discipline of science was astronomy. This is clearly obvious when you read S.T. Joshi’s (editor) of Collected Essays: Volume 3: Science H.P. Lovecraft (Hippocampus Press, 2005). While the book includes articles on the philosophy of science, debunking pseudoscience and other subjects on science, the vast majority of the articles are on astronomy and his astronomical observations. In turn, a number of these articles are about our solar system.
Two point really come to light when reading this volume. First, while HPL frequently cited in his stories concerns over science and how learning too much can reveal realities we as a species will have a hard time dealing with, he clearly enjoys, appreciates and values the scientific approach. Many of his essays on pseudoscience and comparing astronomy to astrology exemplifies this. Second, HPL really enjoyed astronomy and in another life one could imgaine him gazing up at the heavens from the Ladd Observatory. Obviously this was never meant to be.
Brown University’s Ladd Observatory in Providence, RI
As one identifies where HPL refers to the solar system in his stories, there is a distinct shift in how it is presented. In his earlier stories, such as Beyond the Walls of Sleep and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, there is concern that forces and entities beyond human conception can sweep away the entire solar system, not just the Earth, in the blink in an alien eye.
Beyond the Wall of Sleep by Itdbassplayer
However, in his later stories HPL presented the solar systems as sort of a “way station” or “gateway” to beyond the outer void. This “tiny celestial island” of our solar system was, is and will be both the home and visiting place for entities from our universe as well as from beyond. Most of the upcoming articles will focus on this later concept; from the strange vegetable beings of Mercury, to the various residents of Earth, to the Mi-Go outpost on Pluto and beyond.
Thus, the next article will discuss Mercury, HPL’s observations of this planet and how he incorporated it in his stories. Thank you – Fred.
Some inhabitants and visitors of ancient Earth (from the great illustrator Howard V. Brown