Unlike Uranus HPL did mention the other ice giant, Neptune, in his stories. It is mentioned a number of times in “The Whisperer in Darkness,” specifically when he is referring to “that the new planet beyond Neptune [that] had not been discovered.” The new planet in the story was Yuggoth, which was then identified as Pluto. In turn, Pluto is no longer considered a planet but that is another story.
A brain jar of the Mi-Go with a Terran brain, not a Neptunian brain (by Steve Maschuck)
Later in the Whisperer in Darkness as Akeley is describing to Wilmarth what beings are in the brain cylinders of the Mi-Go, he says the jars contain the minds of…”Three humans, six fungoid being who can’t navigate space corporeally, and two beings from Neptune (God! if you could see the body this type has on its own planet!), and the rest entities from the central caverns of an especially interesting dark star beyond the galaxy.” After that, the Neptune beings are never mentioned again.
Whisperer in the Darkness is one of my favorite HPL stories and this passage always intrigued me. What did the Neptunian body look like? A Neptunian would have to live in a nearly lightless world and frozen environment. The weather patterns of Neptune generate some of the highest wind speeds measured in the Solar System, up to 1,300 mph (2,00 kilometers per hour) (Suomi, et. al., 1991. High Winds of Neptune: A possible mechanism. Science. 251 (4996): 929-932.). That’s a lot of energy generated. Is it possible that the Neptunians use the high winds to somehow collect energy or harvest material blown by the winds to live, grow and reproduce?
A Neptunian by Michael Bukowski (yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com). Are the strange aerial appendages used to collect material blown by the harsh Neptunian winds?
The only other time Neptune is mentioned in a HPL story is in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (co-written with E. Hoffmann Price) where again Swami Chandraputra is describing the travels of Randolph Carter through time and space. In one passage the Swami states that…”He [Randolph Carter] saw Kynarth and Yuggoth on the rim, passed close to Neptune and glimpsed the hellish white fungi that spot it..” What is interesting about this passage, is back in HPL’s time very little surface features could be seen on Neptune. Remember it was HPL who stated that while Neptune was greenish in color like Uranus, it is not diversified by any visible markings. In spite of this in 1932-1933, HPL talked about some white fungi that spot the planet.
More than half a century later the Voyager 2 spacecraft took photographs showing white wisps of material adjacent to Neptune’s Great Dark Spot (see below). The Great Dark Spot is thought to be a hole through the methane layer of Neptune (similar to the hole detected in our ozone layer on Earth). The white clouds are above this hole. Are these white clouds a strange, endemic, atmospheric community of fungi? How did HPL know about these cloud-fungi or is this just a coincidence?
A close-up of the Great Dark Spot of Neptune. Note the white wispy clouds above the spot (www.windows2universe.org)
HPL’s article on the planets was written in 1915, while Through the Gates of the Silver Key was written in 1932-1933. Maybe HPL, and Price for that matter, had the chance to travel to Neptune and observe the strange white wisps of alien fungi that feed off of the extremely feeble cosmic rays that radiate through the Great Dark Spot from the distance sun.
Next time we will talk about Clark Ashton Smith’s use of Neptune in his stories. Thank you – Fred.