Unlike Mercury, HPL mentions Venus in a number of stories. In fact, one of his tales is actually set on the second planet from the sun – In the Walls of Eryx (co-written with Kenneth Sterling). Of all of the stories HPL wrote, co-wrote or ghost wrote, In the Walls of Eryx is the most conventional science fiction story. This story will be briefly discussed here since future articles will focus on it greater detail.
A composite of images taken by the Mariner 10 spacecraft in February 1974 showing the heavy atmosphere and cloud cover over Venus (abyss.uoregon.edu)
In the Case of Charles Dexter Ward HPL briefly mentions Mr. Benjamin West, who was described as a scholar and keen thinker, primarily due to his work on the late transit of Venus. The transit of Venus is when this planet passes directly between Earth and the sun. It is seen as a small black dot gliding slowly across the sun. It’s a relatively rare event; the last one occurred in early June of 2012 (I remember actually seeing it). The next transit of Venus is not until December 2117; however, there is a transit of Mercury in 2016 (www.transitofvenus.org)
Transit of Venus (from usatoday.com)
In the Shadow Out of Time, when Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee’s mind inhabits one of the cone-shaped beings, he learns of a number of entities that populate Earth and the solar system. In Peaslee’s studies HPL briefly mentions “a mind from the planet we know as Venus, which would live incalculable epochs to come….”. Nothing else is mentioned of Venus in the Shadow Out of Time after this reference. However, inhabitants of some of the other worlds in our solar system were referenced and will be described in future articles.
Venus is also briefly mentioned in The Diary of Alonzo Typer, originally ghostwritten for William Lumley (not related to Brian Lumley). In that story Alonzo Typer is investigating some strange occurrences in the house of the van der Heyls in upstate New York (An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia; S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, 2001). As Typer reads a manuscript book of one Claes van der Heyl, he discovers a reference in the Book of Dzyan which states, “…the lords of Venus came through space in their ships to civilize our planet.” This is the only such reference in any of HPL stories and may reflect some of Mr. Lumley’s ideas or some concepts presented in the Book of Dzyan itself. Indeed, the Book of Forbidden Things, “the seven lost signs of terror” and the mysterious city of Yian-Ho were all Lumley’s ideas (An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia; S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, 2001)
The last story of HPL’s that references Venus, in fact occurs on Venus, is In the Walls of Eryx, again co-written with Kenneth Sterling. Here a complete alien ecosystem is described, which included carnivorous blossoms, wriggling akmans, and skorahs, as well as flying tukahs. However, the dominant race on Venus were the strange man-lizards, who appear to worship the crystals of Venus, which humanity is mining as a source of energy on both Earth and Venus. Again, this story will be discussed in greater detail in future articles but it is interesting to note that this is one of HPL’s few stories, or possibly the only story, that occurs entirely off Earth.
Venusian Man-Lizard (by Michael Bukowski)
Next time we move beyond Earth and head for the last planet of the inner solar system – Mars. Thank you – Fred.