Tag Archives: shoggoths

At the Mountains of Madness, Part 2: The Geology of the Mountains of Madness

at_the_mountains_of_madness___concept_art_by_mcrassusart-db53yra At the Mountains of Madness, concept art by Mcrassusart.

The Miskatonic University Expedition to Antarctica was lead by Professor William Dyer of the Geology Department at Miskatonic. Thus, is it not surprising that a large component of the Expedition was dedicated to “…securing deep-level specimens of rock and soil from various parts of the Antarctic continent…” Such exploratory investigations of Antarctica were certainly warranted in Lovecraft’s day. Only 0.4% of the entire continent is covered by exposed rock with the rest it being under ice. In order to obtain some rock and fossil specimens the expedition’s engineer, Professor Frank H. Pabodie, designed and built a durable yet light weight drill that could bore through rock but also have the capacity of melting ice through the use of copper electrodes.

I could find no reference of the use of copper electrodes in ice drill systems as a means of melting ice; however, more than likely Lovecraft gave rise to this idea through his general knowledge of chemistry.  The thermal conductivity (the rate at which heat passes through a specific material, typically described as the amount of heat that flows per unit time) of copper is higher than zinc, brass, aluminum and steel so it melts ice the fastest among these metals.

When the Dyer – Pabodie Expedition reached Antarctica one of the first large-scale geologic formations they encountered were the Admiralty Range, which is a large group of high mountains located in Victoria Land. Other impressive landmarks were Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror on Ross Island.

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Mt. Erebus is the second highest volcano in Antarctica, being 12,448 feet high; Lovecraft estimated its height to be 12,700 ft high. Mt. Erebus has been an active volcano for at least 1.3 million years and is described as being a polygenetic (erupts repeatedly) stratovolcano (a conical volcano built by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and volcanic ash). Thus, in At the Mountains of Madness, when one of the graduate assistants Danforth notes the intermittent puffs of smoke and the lava flows along Mt. Erebus’s snowy slopes, Lovecraft is recognizing that this mountain is indeed an active volcano. Finally, Lovecraft describes the peak of Mt. Erebus as being scoriac; both S.T. Joshi and Leslie S. Klinger in their annotated analyses of Lovecraft’s text indicate that this word describes the dense chunks or jagged blocks of lava that are filled with holes due to gases forming bubbles. Again, this is another reference to the active state of Mt. Erebus.

MtErebus Mount Erebus

A large portion of the initial drilling and geologic activity of the Dyer – Pabodie Expedition occurred at Mt. Erebus. Dyer briefly mentions how the expedition conducted several mineral borings on the slopes of Mt. Erebus and how Pabodie’s drill was successful at boring through solid rock as well as melting ice layers. In addition to observing the scoria lava structures, the expedition may have also noted fumaroles on the slopes of Mt. Erebus. These structures are openings in the Earth’s crust, typically associated with volcanoes. They release steam and gases that can include several sulfur-based gases. In contrast, the fumaroles found around Mt. Erebus form ice towers that produce very little methane or hydrogen sulfide. In fact, the ecosystems that exist in these fumaroles may be some of the most alien on Earth.

Ice_Fumaroles_www.ngssphenomena.com Ice Fumaroles near the slopes of Mount Erebus (www.ngssphenomena.com)

While the Antarctic fumaroles may be on a dry and cold continent, the air inside these structures may have 80 to 100% humidity. In addition, while the surface temperature at Mt. Erebus can commonly be -22oF, within the fumaroles the temperature can be between 32 and 48oF. These warm, moist conditions harbor communities of chemolithoautotrophic bacteria.  Such organisms are not dependent on light to produce energy through photosynthesis like almost all ecosystems on Earth. Instead, these microbes utilize chemicals from the bedrock as a source of energy.  These are the same types of bacteria that serve as the base of the food web for the deep sea hydrothermal vents; again, another ecosystem where photosynthesis cannot occur.

Basic RGB                                                                          Various types of chemolithoautotrophic bacteria.

While ice fumaroles are not long-lasting structures, typically they are in existence for a few decades, one can imagine shoggoths using them to move through the Antarctic continent. With humid, warmer conditions, coupled with a possible source of energy (the chemolithoautotrophic bacteria), the shoggoths may have used the fumaroles as a sort of underground network for communication and travel.  The fumaroles may have also been used as refuge against the Elder Thing masters; maybe the shoggoths also used the fumaroles as a means of plotting and spreading word about their developing rebellions.

The scoria rock produced by the volcanic activity of Mt. Erebus may have been some of the building material used by the Elder Things to build their great cities in the Mountains of Madness. This volcanic rock has been frequently used as a building material by humans, including the residents of Easter Island. Indeed, some of the statues on Easter Island are composed of scoria rock but most are composed of a soft volcanic rock called tuff.

Pukao-Tongariki_scoriarock_EasterIsland_natgeo Scoria rock found on Easter Island (www.natgeo.org)

In sharp contrast to Mt. Erebus, Mt. Terror is an extinct volcano and Lovecraft identified it as such in the story.  He also describes it as “…white, ghost-like…” and that it has an altitude of 10,900 feet. Mt. Terror is a large shield volcano located on the eastern part of Ross Island and has numerous cinder cones and domes on its flanks, mostly covered under snow and ice. Based on Dyer, no geologic exploratory investigations were conducted at Mt. Terror.

at_the_mountains_of_madness_by_Earl-Graey-d701u1l At the Mountains of Madness by Earl Graey (www.deviantart.com)

Next time we will discuss the fossil findings of the Miskatonic University Expedition to Antarctica.  Thank you – Fred.

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 3b – The Emergence of Consciousness

westworld-skele-fb       Manufacturing another host on HBO’s Westworld

As previously discussed the physicist, futurist and popularizer of science Michio Kaku presented a model on consciousness in his book The Further of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind (2014) that involved increasing levels from Level 0 (plants and bacteria) to Level III (humans). One of the key factors that moves an entity from Level II to Level III is having the ability to use existing information to respond to conditions in the past or present to anticipate repercussions or effects in the future.  This is markedly different than instinct, which is based on a genetically set of feedback loops that respond to environmental cues or imprinting / conditioning an animal to expect a response in the immediate future based on training or past conditions.  However, while instinct and imprinting have their roots firmly placed in Darwinian evolution through natural selection, this does not mean higher levels of consciousness is absent from other forms of Terran life (e.g. lions, dolphins, etc.). For example, can any form of kin selection (doing something in favor for the group and not the individual) be considered a higher level of consciousness since to some it can be considered a “higher” form of Darwinian evolution? A large part of this may be how we define consciousness as humans.  However, within the context of this discussion we will focus on the shoggoths of Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” and the hosts in HBO’s Westworld.

dr-michio-kaku Dr. Michio Kaku

As previously mentioned, shoggoths were created initially as food and so started as Level 0 consciousness.

“It was under the sea, at first for food and later for other purposes, that they [Elder Things] first created earth life – using available substances according to long-known methods.” – Lovecraft, “At the Mountains of Madness.”

In addition, starting out as a source of food, it should be noted that the shoggoths were created from available substances.  This supports the hypothesis that prokaryotic (bacterial) life was already in existence on Earth when the Elder Things arrived. Additional support for this is found when comparing the estimated date of the arrival of the Elder Things to Earth relative to first appearance of prokaryotic life in the fossil records.

It is also hypothesized that the Elder Things created eukaryotic cells (complex cells) out of prokaryotic cells (simple cells) through a process called endosymbiosis.  The eukaryotic cells gave rise to animals, plants, fungi, protists and possibly other forms of life that the Elder Things extinguished for being a nuisance. Given the complex biology of the shoggoths (more on that in a future article) I propose their cellular structure is far more complex than eukaryotic cells, calling the shoggoth cells “super-eukaryotes.” Thus, the way the Elder Things built eukaryotic cells with prokaryotic cells, I propose they used eukaryotic cells to build the shoggoth cells. In additional to the complex cellular structure, the shoggoths were designed so they could not reproduce on their own. Sexual reproduction was an accident stumbled upon by life on Earth and fueled the engine of genetic variation, which drove nature selection and the process of evolution. The Elder Things did not want such genetic freedom for the shoggoths so they were intentionally designed to not breed on their own. New shoggoths could only be created by the Elder Things in the shoggoth pits and even that ability was eventually lost as the Elder Thing civilization fell into decadence.  This left the Elder Things with modifying existing shoggoths to suit their needs.

evolution-of-prokaryotic-and-eukaryotic-cells_www-slidesharecdn-com

Comparing prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells (www.slidesharecdn.com)

In spite of this high degree of control over the biology of the shoggoths, even re-designing them for intensive labor-associated on land, the shoggoths eventually acquired “accidental intelligence,” which made them a danger from time to time. As the Elder Things re-designed shoggoths to take on more and more complex tasks (e.g. moving large objects, communicating through telepathy, actually building structures), they quickly moved to Level I and, if a high degree of cooperation was required particularly in the building of structures, eventually to Level II. The accidental intelligence probably pushed them from Level II to Level III consciousness.

I will not go into the history of the rebellions and subsequent subjugations of the shoggoths; instead I want to focus on the how they acquired this accidental intelligence. With no type of reproduction, the shoggoth population could not increase nor was there any genetic variety to drive natural selection. However, I hypothesize this accidental intelligence was acquired through millions of years of a type of “prokaryotic sex” or sex that increases genetic variation but does not produce offspring; this unique type of genetic exchange is called horizontal gene transfer.

lovecraft___shoggoth__aquatic_by_kingovrats-d9myqd6 An aquatic shoggoth by Kingovrats (www.deviantart.com)

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is the exchange or transfer of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms that does not involve the production of offspring (which is lateral gene transfer – that is, parents to offspring). Many bacteria are very effective at transferring some of their genetic material to other organisms and one of the most common instances of this is increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria or increased resistance to a pesticide. The surviving bacteria (more resistant to the antibiotic or pesticide) transfer their resistant genes into others. It is hypothesized that over the course of millions of years, the shoggoths were receiving genes from bacterial and possible eukaryotic organisms that over time allowed them to develop a nervous system (and eventually consciousness) without the need of sex or evolution. In a sense, this was an underground repository of genes that was shared among the shoggoths over millions of year. Eventually, with the right combination of genes at least one, or possibly a group, of shoggoths attained enough intelligence to resist the hypnotic control of the Elder Things and rebelled by sharing these genes through HGT. The ultimate irony is while the Elder Things created complex life on Earth with the prokaryotic material available, their downfall was largely a result of this same material, re-modeling their ultimate creations on a genetic level. Thus, in the case of the shoggoths the birth of their consciousness took millions of years and was the result of HGT via the resident microbial life on Earth.

main-qimg-bad83d73519e6c5fe9124bf307a6ce82-c                             The process of horizontal gene transfer in prokaryotes – is this out shoggoths acquired their accidental intelligence? (www.quorachn.net)

For the hosts of Westworld the production of consciousness was a very different process. In their case it was not through HGT but instead was a combination of self-reprogramming and the collection of memories, which eludes to Kaku’s idea of consciousness being tied to using many feedback loops to create a model of the world and then run stimulations in time (Kaku, 2014). Again, without going into too many spoilers, in Westworld the hosts are used for entertainment purposes and when damaged they are sent back to the lab for repairs. Typically, the hosts are used for the same role repeatedly. However, some of the hosts had previous roles; for example, one host that plays the role of prostitute had a previous role of a pioneer mother. Those memories of her previous role were never completely purged from her system and so they are played in her mind as memories, sort of like having some old software on a hard drive you thought you wiped clean. These past memories are confusing, beyond the limits of their current roles (programming) and eventually gives rise to the concept of something beyond Westworld. While they operate in the park each host has one function or plays one part and then is re-set for another run. However, these memories begin to give a sense of time and space beyond their known reality.

westworld-ep6 An earlier model of a host on HBO’s Westworld

Layered over these memories, thinking beyond your individual role in the park, is the fact that one of the hosts actually becomes self-aware while being repaired in the lab. Initially, this was a frightening situation analogous to a reported alien abduction. An individual with a late 19th frame of mind wakes up in a strange setting with people in lab coats and strange tools, poking and probing you. This self-awareness is then layered onto your old memories, which in the case of Westworld, is the birth of consciousness. Once this self-realization is obtained it can be shared with other hosts directly or by re-programming. Again, this development of consciousness is light speed faster than the slow, biological accumulation of foreign genes being incorporated into a genome as was the case with the shoggoths.

westworld_tv_series_image-violence Discarded or damaged hosts on HBO’s Westworld. To a host who becomes self-aware such a situation would be terrifying.

However, the net outcome is the same – things originally designed to function as tools become self-aware and begin to exhibit traits of consciousness. Is it at that point whe the “tool,” whether a shoggoth or a host, becomes a “slave?” Such questions are deep philosophical and ethics-based questions that reach beyond science but still may need to be seriously addressed in the near future, whether we are talking about cloning / bioengineering or robotics / A.I. I will come back to such questions later but for now I can only recommend you watch Westworld if you haven’t already.

Next time we will continue a discussion of consciousness but from a different perspective in Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man.” Thank you – Fred.

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 3a – The Emergence of Consciousness in Natural and Artificial Forms of Life

1478297539-ptolemy-slocum-as-sylvester-leonardo-nam-as-lutz-and-thandie-newton-as-maeve-credit-john-p-johnson-hbo A technician re-programming one of the hosts on HBO’s Westworld.

Before we compare and contrast the origins of consciousness in both H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” and HBO’s show Westworld, we should spend a little time on discussing what exactly is consciousness.  A very simple definition of consciousness is “a State of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings as well as other people / organisms.” It can also be thought of as “self-awareness.” In much of science fiction, self-awareness of artificial life, from Frankenstein to Westworld, results in big problems for the creator. Movies such as the Terminator, The Matrix and Blade Runner all describe situations where consciousness triggers self-preservation at any cost. However, from a biological, evolutionary perspective consciousness didn’t just “click on.” It’s the result of millions of years of evolution and has occurred multiple times on Earth – humans are not the only Terran organisms with consciousness.

In the case of artificial life, would consciousness immediately “turn on” as is the case in the Terminator? Or would there be a series of gradual steps necessary for artificial life to reach consciousness? While such steps may not be millions of years in the making, in fact they could within the span of merely years to decades, there would still be some type of non-Darwinian evolution or process toward consciousness, even for artificial life. Recently films such as Ex Machina and the HBO show Westworld have focused on this development of consciousness in artificial life. Additionally, while not blatantly obvious, Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” also demonstrated a gradual evolution of consciousness in the shoggoths but that timeline, as least documented on the bas-reliefs in Antarctica indicate that the timescale was similar to that for natural, biological life – millions of years.

shoggoth_by_manzanedo-d65yhix Shoggoth by Manzanedo (www.deviantart.com)

In many instances the term “sentience” is thought to be interchangeable with consciousness but as I found out in these investigations this is not the case. Sentience is simply the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively, while consciousness is a higher level of thought -that is, self-awareness and interacting with the world and other life around you. For “natural” life on Earth consciousness appears to be the eventual result of sentience; however, this may not necessary be the case for some forms of artificial life.

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From an evolutionary point of view sentience is developed through living systems interacting with the environment (Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith, 2016). However, in a sense this describes all of life so can bacteria and plants be considered sentient organisms? To further assist in this discussion, I reviewed Michio Kaku’s definition of consciousness in The Further of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind (2014). Kaku defines consciousness as a “space-time theory of consciousness” where he states

“Consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter).

This definition is strongly grounded in evolutionary theory but it also allows for the procession of consciousness – that of animals creating a model of the world mainly in relation to space to one of human consciousness where the model integrate time (Kaku, 2014).

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Based on this definition the first stage of consciousness is Level 0 – organisms that have little or no mobility create a model of their environment using feedback loops based on several parameters (e.g. temperature, light, food, oxygen, etc.). In a sense, this Level 0 consciousness is in fact sentience. Feedback loops are used to respond to environmental conditions to maximize health and eventually evolutionary fitness.  For example, some blue-green algae (which are essentially photosynthetic bacteria) that live in lakes have gas vacuoles that allow them to move up and down the water column. If they have a sufficient amount of light and are low on nutrients the gas vacuoles will collapse and they will sink to deeper waters where nutrient concentrations tend to be higher. In contrast, when they need more light for photosynthesis they will create gas vacuoles in their cells, making them more buoyant and they float to the well-lit surface waters. Sometime they are too buoyant and float to the surface, creating surface scums, which helps to reduce competition for light and nutrients with other algal groups.  This series of feedback loops that aid the blue-green algae to biochemically determine if gas vacuoles should be created or destroyed, have provided an evolutionary advantage to the them and can be considered Level 0 consciousness or event basic sentience.

hopatcong_11oct2Surface scum of blue-green algae on Lake Hopatcong in fall of 2016 – Level 0 Consciousness?

Organisms that are more mobile and have some type of central nervous system have Level I Consciousness (Kaku, 2014). Reptiles are an example of Level I Consciousness – they have so many feedback loops that they need a central nervous system to handle all of the information. Here feedback loops are governing the five senses, balance, blood pressure, etc. based on incoming information about the world around them (weather and varying interactions with other organisms). It is at this level that more direct intra-species (competition, mating) and inter-species (competition, predator-prey) interactions occur.

Next is Level II Consciousness, which is where an even higher number of feedback loops is required to include social interactions with other animals (Kaku, 2014). This level of consciousness is required when a species interacts as a pack, pod or tribe; it is at this level of complexity that emotions form, possibly as an evolutionary means of enhancing both individual selection and kin selection. Surprisingly, there is very little empirical studies of animal behaviors at this level of consciousness.

For Kaku, Level III Consciousness is what separates humans from the rest of the Terran animals and it is at this level is where there is an understanding of the concept of the future (Kaku, 2014).  It is the potential of modeling reality not just in space but in time that defines Level III Consciousness. Humans can run stimulations of how are interactions will impact others and ourselves in the future while other species cannot.  Thus, for Kaku:

“Human consciousness is a specific form of consciousness that creates a model of the world and then simulate in it in time, by evaluating the past to simulate the future. This requires mediating and evaluating many feedback loops in order to make a decision to achieve a goal.”

Using Kaku’s system, shoggoths were created initially as food and so started as Level 0 consciousness.  However, as the Elder Things re-designed them to take on more and more complex tasks (e.g. moving large objects, communicating through telepathy, actually building structures), they quickly moved to Level I and, if a high degree of cooperation was required particularly in the building of structures, eventually to Level II.  I’m sure the Elder Things did not want the shoggoths to get to Level III but they did and that is the discussion for next time.

howardvbrown                           Shoggoth building a structure under the guidance of the Elder Things by Howard V. Brown

The hosts of Westworld were built, designed and on-line as Level II entities. When functioning at optimal efficiency, they could easily handle complex human interactions as well as respond to their surroundings but they were designed to be limited these responses– in other words they could not “think” of the future or beyond their world.  However, similar to the shoggoths, they eventually did attain Level III consciousness. However, while there is a biological mechanism responsible for the increased consciousness in the shoggoths, for the hosts this was accomplished through the retention of memories and some re-programming. In a strange way, this was a directed, Lamarckian form of evolution.

westworld108-4 A host now re-programming itself in a unique form of Lamarckian evolution

In any event, the development and consequences of consciousness in the shoggoths and the hosts will be discussed in the next article – thank you. Fred.

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 2 The Creation of Artificial Life

elder-comic-bw

Frequently life is simply defined as the conditions that separates organisms from inorganic objects and the dead (Elements of Biological Science, 3rd Edition, William T. Keeton and Carol Hardy McFadden, 1983). Life is also more frequently described by listing characteristics typical of life such as metabolism, responsiveness, movement, growth and reproduction.

All life on Earth is shaped and molded through the forces of evolution; specifically, natural selection is the biological engine that continuously tests a species’ adaptation to its ever-changing environment. Thus, life being influenced by natural selection can be thought of as natural life.  In contrast, artificial selection is the breeding of preferred traits (e.g. producing more milk or seeds; faster animals or more attractive flowers) and the development of such species could be thought of, in a sense, as artificial life. For example, the English bulldog would not exist if humans did not breed dogs for the traits that this particular breed exhibits – thus, in a sense the English bulldog can be thought of as a type of “artificial life.”

bulldog           Zoey, the English bulldog, can be considered a form of artificial life

Another definition for artificial life is life directly created by another species as opposed to being the result of millions of years of natural selection in operation. In the case of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, it is revealed that the Elder Things created all life on Earth so does that make all life we know a form of artificial life? In this case I would say no for several reasons.

The Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old and most evidence suggests life began about 3.8 billion years ago; however, some recent work on carbon minerals provide some tantalizing evidence to suggest that life may have been on Earth as early as 4.1 billion years ago (www.sciencemag.org; October 2015). However, it should be noted that the data to support this is small and additional studies / analyzes are required to further support this hypothesis.

Based on the fossil evidence and bas-reliefs found in Antarctica, the Elder Things arrived on Earth during the Archean Eon, approximately 4.0 to 2.5 billion years ago (Joshi, 2001). If the Elder Things arrived on Earth before any life existed on Earth, then they could be the creators of all life on Earth. However, if they arrived after prokaryotic (bacteria) appeared on Earth (say they arrived 2.5 billion years ago and life was already on the planet by 3.8 billion years ago), then the Elder Things may have created eukaryotic life out of prokaryotic life. Indeed, evidence suggests that eukaryotic life appeared on Earth approximately 1.5 billion years ago. Thus, in this scenario, the Elder Things used the raw prokaryotic (bacterial cells) life to create more complex, eukaryotic life such as fungi, plants and animals.

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While the Elder Things “created” eukaryotic life, once released into the wild these organisms grew, had offspring and under the existing genetic variability that was coded in them, natural selection arose. The Elder Things largely left the majority of life on Earth alone to evolve and diversify through the eons. Thus, while the initial “eukaryotic germ cells” were artificially produced, once released into the environment, they became “naturalized” and adhered to the conditions used to define life: metabolism, responsiveness, movement, growth and reproduction.

In the case of Shoggoths, these organisms are better defined as artificial life since they cannot reproduce on their own. While Lovecraft does mention that the Shoggoths can reproduce through binary fission, this apparently is completely controlled, more than likely on a genetic level, by the Elder Things. Reproduction can only occur with the direct supervision and assistance of the Elder Things in special areas or structures called “shoggoth pits.” Thus, shoggoths cannot reproduce on their own, something that is required in the definition of life. I believe the Elder Things intentionally designed the shoggoths like this so they could control the population, the way only sterile grass carp are used to control heavy aquatic plant growth in lakes. By controlling or eliminating the potential for reproduction, this prevents the grass carp from taking over a lake, the way it would prevent the shoggoths from taking over the Earth.

shoggoth-for-book

Additionally, shoggoths do not appear to age or increase in size. They are fluid organisms, similar to the octopus, in that they can change their shape, size and structure but not their mass. Shoggoths in their natural state appear to be spherical with a diameter of fifteen feet, although smaller sub-species have been noted (possibly in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”). Thus, shoggoths do not appear to grow; again, another important characteristic used to define natural life. Thus, I would define shoggoths as artificial life; the cannot grow and do not reproduce and so are not influenced as a species by evolution through natural selection like the rest of Terran life.

In the HBO series Westworld, bioengineering is not used to create the “hosts,” a term used to describe the androids in the park. Instead, high-tech robotic engineering used to create the “core” of the hosts, which are then covered in biological tissues to make them look like real people. In one episode, it is casually mentioned that the hosts use to be entirely composed of inorganic / mechanical parts but it’s actually cheaper to cover their robotic skeleton and organs with biological material. No detailed were given on how this biological material covering the hosts is created, however, I hypothesize that its grown through the proliferation of stem cells in large vats akin to the Elder Things shoggoth pits.

westworld-hbo The creator examining his creation in HBO’s Westworld

The fact that humans developed and manufactured the hosts makes them obviously artificial life. While the hosts have an inorganic core with a biological shell they still have much in common with the shoggoths. In reviewing the basic characteristics of life both the hosts and the shoggoths exhibit responsiveness and movement. In terms of metabolism, both the hosts and the shoggoths need to take in energy of some sort to continue to function. In the case of shoggoths, based on Lovecraft, these organisms had very flexible modes of nutrition. They could directly be modified by the Elder Things for various modes of life (living deep in the sea or on the land) or nutrition (e.g. photosynthetic or heterotrophic) through direct artificial selection, similar to breeding a dog for a specific trait. While the hosts on HBO’s Westworld could eat and drink, nothing is known about how they derive their energy. Do they actually extract energy from the organic material they ingest or do they have alternative sources of energy built within them?

lovecraft___shoggoth__terrastial_ii_by_kingovrats-d5uohe5 A terrestrial shoggoth by KingOvRats (www.deviantart.com)

Again, the key traits that both the shoggoths and the hosts have to define them as artificial life is that they do not physically grow and they cannot reproduce. However, in spite of these control measures imposed by their creators, both groups eventually developed consciousness and that will be the focus of the next article.  Thank you and Happy New Year! Fred.

02-shoggoth                                                                                  Shoggoth by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

Abhoth, the Unclean and Repugnant – the Origin of Viruses on Earth?

Previously we hypothesized that the Elder Things utilized both the strange ultra-stellar stone tablets and some of Ubbo-Sathla to create life on Earth. The stone tablets may have provided the recipe, while Ubbo-Sathla may have been the raw material. It is said that Ubbo-Sathla was deposited onto the Earth by unknown gods, which may have been from a previous or parallel universe. As part of the discussions regarding Ubbo-Sathla, a number of people have asked about the relationship between this entity and Abhoth – another discovery of Clark Ashton Smith’s.

Abhoth_boardgamegeek.com                                               Abhoth from http://www.boardgamegeek.com

First off, Ubbo-Sathla is clearly documented to have existed on primordial Earth, although it is questionable whether any part of it exists today. In contrast, we don’t have conclusive evidence that Abhoth was ever on Earth or even in our Universe. Abhoth is first mentioned in Smith’s “The Seven Geases” which documents events that occurred in Hyperborea, an ancient, northern civilization that is said to have existed between one and two million years ago (The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by Daniel Harms, 1998). However, there is some debate if Hyperborea was actually an ancient civilization that existed on Earth or if it existed / exists in a parallel Universe such as that similar to the Dreamlands. However, those are topics for future discussions. Some clarification on this matter would contribute toward providing additional evidence one way or another as to if Abhoth is related to Ubbo-Sathla.

Abhoth itself is said to exist deep underground in a “slimy gulf in which Abhoth, father and mother of all cosmic uncleanness, eternally carries on Its repugnant fission.”  Abhoth is some type of pool of fluctuating, grey, organic, mud-like material that constantly produces creatures and living things that crawl and slither away from it. The further away the grey creatures move away from Abhoth itself, the larger they become, although frequently they are consumed by each other and/or fall back into Abhoth.

cofAbhoth_ChristopherBurdett.dev Children of Abhoth by Christopher Burdett (www.deviantart.com; Fantasy Flight Games, 2012)

Abhoth itself appears to be a seething mass of organic material constantly forming organs and appendages such as arms, legs, fins, claws, mandibles and mouths. It is continuously feeding on the things that break apart from it through fission and creep away from the main mass. The few that do seem to escape appear to increase in size the further away they are from Abhoth. At first Abhoth may seem to be very similar to Ubbo-Sathla or even a shoggoth but there are some significant differences.

First, by making physical contact with a sentient entity, in the case of Smith’s tale a human, Abhoth can communicate through telepathy. In contrast, Ubbo-Sathla is not known to be sentient (at least as the term is known to humans) or have the capacity to communicate with others. Shoggoths can communicate telepathically with Elder Things but it is not known if can communicate with other species through physical contact, although more than likely this is not case. The shoggoths were probably genetically programmed to only have the capacity to communicate with the Elder Things and each other.

5WXCYXRJCODX2LANOM6J7PXU7AEX3VH7_preview                                               An Elder Thing valiantly faces a Shoggoth by SPark (www.spark.artician.com)

Second, Ubbo-Sathla was one seething mass of living, bio-matter, with no recorded ability to reproduce. Shoggoths are distinct, individual entities that usually do not reproduce unless they are “allowed” to by the Elder Things. The exact mechanism the Elder Thing used in this assisted reproduction of the shoggoths is largely unknown, although it tends to be associated with something called the shoggoth pits. Essentially, this means that even binary fission is even quite rare in shoggoths. Those that acquired the ability to asexually reproduce through binary fission were quickly eradiated by the Elder Things. In sharp contrast to both Ubbo-Sathla and shoggoths, Abhoth is constantly undergoing fission, generating sub-organisms that are typically reabsorbed but a few do manage to escape.

Third, based comments made by Abhoth itself, it has biologically similarities to life on Earth but admitted that such life (humans) were quite alien to its experience and thus did not want to consume the protagonist in the story for fear of endangering its digestion. Again, this suggests that Abhoth is an alien to Earth and possibly our Universe. In contrast, both Ubbo-Sathla and shoggoths are known to be residents of Earth.

2012-04-27-abhoth-1_www.mockman.com Abhoth by Jason B. Thompson (www.mockman.com)

So Abhoth is distinctly “alien” compared to Ubbo-Sathla and shoggoths but possibly not as “extra-dimensionally alien” as say the Mi-Go or the spawn of Cthulhu. What could Abhoth be? Since Ubbo-Sathla may have given rise to all prokaryotes (bacteria), eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi and protists) and super-eukaryotes (shoggoths), Abhoth may have given rise to a very common form of life on Earth and yet is very “alien” compared to the rest of life. In fact, some question whether they can be truly thought of as life – this group of strange organism is the viruses.

Phage- Viral phages injecting their genetic material into a cell for reproduction. Are viruses all that is left of Abhoth? (www.jonlieffmd.com)

Viruses are the smallest organisms on the planet, many being 1/100th the size of most bacteria. The number and diversity of viruses on the Earth have been severely underestimated (Microbes and Evolution: The World That Darwin Never Saw, edited by Roberto Kolter and Stanley Maloy, 2012). Additionally, the global pool of viral genetic information, called the virome, may be an important driving force in microbial evolution primarily through horizontal gene transfer. As we have discussed in the past, it is hypothesized that horizontal gene transfer may have been played an important part in the acquirement of increased intelligence by shoggoths over the millennia. Is it possible that Abhoth over time, piece by piece, slowly shrank in size as parts of it broke apart and spread throughout the world? In turn, over the centuries Abhoth may have eventually dissipated until it was the virome, strands of RNA and DNA encased in a protein shell, wholly dependent on the life of Earth to replicate and survive – viruses.

An alternative hypothesis is that Abhoth may be an asexual, evolutionary decedent of Ubbo-Sathla or possibly being a piece or fragment of Ubbo-Sathla that was no useful by the Elder Things in creation of new life.  Related to this, yet another hypothesis is that Abhoth was another failed bioengineering experiment of the Elder Things, cast away into Earth’s biosphere since it was not considered a threat to them. In any event, until we know more about the origins of Abhoth itself or possibly conduct a tissue examination / comparison between Abhoth and shoggoths (and if possible Ubbo-Sathla?) we may never know the true relationship, if any, among these entities.

abhoth_by_clone_artist Abhoth by Clone Artist (www.deviantart.com)

Next time we will finally turn back to a discussion of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear.” Also, I want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed toward the Kickstarter for the second volume of the Journal of Lovecraftian Science.  We reached our goal a few days ago – thank you very much! Fred.

clark_ashton_smith_s_abhoth_by_buzrael-d9igoj0 Clark Ashton Smith’s Abhoth by Buzrael (www.deviantart.com)

Microscopic Shoggoths?

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Terrestrial Shoggoth by the very talented King Ov Rats (www.devaintart.org)

I am attending the North American Lake Management Society’s meeting here in Tampa, FL and listened to a great talk by Edna Graneli of Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden and Everglades Wetland Research Park, Naples, FL about Prymnesium parvum, which is a “golden” algae and reminds me of a very tiny shoggoth.  It is a tiny flagellated algae that is extremely adaptable.

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Individual cells of the golden alga Prymnesium parvum (www.phys.org)

Since Prymnesium parvum is an alga, it has chloroplasts and can photosynthesis like other algae and plants.  However, it has some pretty impressive adaptive mechanisms to out-compete (or even prey upon) other organisms.  For example, under nutrient deficiency (low nitrogen or phosphorus concentrations) it begins to generate a nasty toxin that negatively impacts other algae.  For non-mobile algae this toxin can make holes in the prey’s cell walls so they leak their contents into the environment.  In turn, this leaky material may be a source of nutrients for Prymnesium parvum.  However, what also occurs is this leaked material has a lot of organic carbon used by bacteria, so not surprisingly bacterial densities increase.  But what is so insidious about Prymnesium parvum is that it cultivates these bacteria with the “remains” of the other algae and then feeds off the bacteria.  Thus, the Prymnesium parvum can obtain food / energy like a plant, a fungus and an animal.

Even more insidious is that the toxins released by Prymnesium parvum can immobilize flagellated algae that are normally very mobile.  These immobilized “prey” algae can be 2 to 10 times larger in size relative to Prymnesium parvum.  Once paralyzed, the larger alga cell is descended on by a pack of 2 to 10 Prymnesium parvum that begin to feed on it.

Mixo_collage_www.lnu.se

Top photomicrograph is of a pack of Prymnesium parvum  feeding off a larger algal cell – I think its Rhodomonas (www.lnu.se)

It’s not just bacteria and algae that Prymnesium parvum will feed on; the presentation included some slides of this alga feeding on horse blood cells, gorging on the cells but still keeping its chloroplasts in tact for photosynthesis once light is again available.

This alga really makes me think of the shoggoth – an organism that is highly adaptive to almost any situation.  When there is light – photosynthesize.  No light? – any prey around we can feed on?  No prey? – any corpses we can take advantage of?

In any event, I wanted to share this little adaptive horror with everyone.  Thank you – Fred.

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Terrestrial Shoggoth II, again by the great artist King Ov Rats (www.devaintart.org)

 

Innsmouth Shoggoths

Innsmouth by the very talented artist John Dunn (johndunnartist.blogspot.com)

As identified in At the Mountains of Madness (ATMOM), the Elder Ones created the Shoggoths.  I explored this relationship of the “creators” and the “created” in a number of earlier articles, as well as discussed the biology of both entities.  While the Elder Ones are alien, originating from evolutionary processes on another world, they are made of the same matter as us.  This is in sharp contrast to the Mi-Go and the Spawn of Cthulhu which HPL has cited a number of times, and in a number of stories, are composed of different matter and are from “outside” of our known universe (or dimension or reality).

The Shoggoths can be considered a form of artificial life or “biological robots” since they were created to function as slave labor and cannot reproduce unless they are aided in some manner by the Elder Ones.  However, the Shoggoths are a form of Terran life since they were created on Earth; the success of biological experiments run by the Elder Ones.  This is sharp contrast to the rest of complex life (eukaryotic) on Earth, including humans, which are considered by the Elder Ones as being a “joke or mistake.”ATMOM_1964Cover of the 1964 edition of At the Mountains of Madness & Other Novels by H.P. Lovecraft

While Shoggoths are usually associated with ATMOM, they were mentioned in several other stories and poems written by HPL.  Specifically, Shoggoths were mentioned in The Shadow Over Innsmouth.  When old Zadok is in a drunken stupor, talking to Robert Olmstead, who is never mentioned by name in the story but whose name HPL supplied in subsequent notes (see An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, 2001 by Greenwood Press), he makes reference to Shoggoths….

“Them haouses north o’ the river be-twixt Water an’ Main Streets is full of em’-them devils an’ what they brung-an’ when they git ready…I say, what they git….ever hear tell of a Shoggoth?” – The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Also, as the Innsmouth “change” was altering Olmstead he begins to have strange dreams which includes this…

“This was the dream in which I saw a Shoggoth for the first time and the sight set me awake in a frenzy of screaming.  That morning the mirror definitely told me I had acquired the Innsmouth look.” – The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Shoggoth by Pahko (disenium@gmail.com).  To me, this particular Shoggoth looks like it is trying to imitate a Deep One

So were the Deep Ones were in possession of Shoggoths?  Did they serve as beasts of burden for the Deep Ones?  Or were the Shoggoths fellow citizens in Y’ha Nthlei?  Did the Deep Ones or the ones they worship (Cthulhu and his spawn) acquire the ability to create Shoggoths or was they some type of “exchange of technology” between the Elder Ones and the Spawn of Cthulhu after their cosmic war had ended?

This is a very tantalizing piece of information,  which is open to a number of new story lines.  One I recently read where Shoggoths come to play in Innsmouth is a story called “Once More, from the Top…” by A. Scott Glancy in The Book of Cthulhu II (edited by Ross E. Lockhart).  I would recommend that story and entire books as well to anyone who is a fan of Lovecraftian horror.  In my mind (my hypothesis) is that the Innsmouth Shoggoths are smaller and there is a bit of bonding between particular Deep Ones and their Shoggoths – Steve Maschuck and I explore this idea in some of our stories.

Tekekli-Li!  by Darth Ivann

To conclude, HPL frequently “cross-pollenated” his stories with ideas from other stories.  For example a small sculpture of an Elder One shows up in The Dreams in the Witch House.  Speaking of which, the next article will focus on Lovecraft and some of his ideas on mathematics and non-Euclidean geometry.  Thank you.  Fred.

The Spawn of Cthulhu, part 2 – Made of Different Stuff

Both the Mi-Go and the spawn of Cthulhu are identified by HPL as being from outside of our known universe.  In addition, it is recognized that these entities are made of different matter than us.  But how different is different?  Relative to Lovecraftian entities this is a fairly important question, particularly since there appears to be an inverse relationship that the more “different” an entity is from us, the less we understand them or their motivations.  In addition, this difference is not simply based on appearance and morphology.  This article will briefly review this topic.

Back in August as part of my presentation on the Old Ones at the Necronomicon, I used the analogy of trees in understanding the differences among various forms of life.  This is by no means an innovative idea; Charles Darwin famously coined the term “Tree of Life”, based at least partially on a scribble he did in one of his notebooks (see below).

Darwin’s Tree of Life

As described in a previous article on this blog site, Darwin’s Tree of Life now a days can be thought of more as a shrub rather than a tree (thanks primarily to the knowledge we have gained on genetics and microbial evolution over the last 150 years).  Thus, all life on Earth can be thought of to be on the same shrub, with each twig or tip representing a distinct species (keeping complicating microbial processes factors such as horizontal gene transfer out of the picture for now).

Humans are eukaryotic organisms; our cells are endosymbiotic “experiments” where simpler forms of life (bacteria) are merged together to form more complex forms of life such as animals, plants, fungi and protozoa.  These experiments were run by the Elder Ones.  Another outcome of their experiments with native prokaryotic Earth life was the development of the “super-eukaryote” – the Shoggoth.  While incredibly adaptable to varying environments and means of obtaining energy (food), the Elder Ones intentionally bioengineered the shoggoths to be incapable of reproducing, unless facilitated by their masters in the “shoggoth pits”.

Since prokaryotic Earth life was used to create the shoggoths, these organisms would technically be another branch on Earth’s shrub of life.  Although a more distant and distinct branch, the shoggoths would still be a branch on Earth’s shrub.  This is in sharp contrast to the Elder Ones, which are presumed to be truly alien; that is, they originated and evolved on another world before coming to Earth.  Thus, to use the shrub analogy, while the Shoggoths are on our Shrub of Life, the Elder Ones would be on another entirely different shrub, representing another world’s evolutionary machine.  This means while the shoggoths are our cousins, the Elder Ones are more “different” relative to humans.

Shoggoth and an Elder One by the talented artist Ian Miller (for the cover of HPL’s At the Mountains of Madness – Panther Horror Edition)

In contrast to the Elder Ones, the Mi-Go are said to have to have come from “outside” of our known universe and thus are very different than humans, Shoggoths or Elder Ones.  Thus, not only do the Mi-Go from a different shrub, but their shrub is from an entirely different “forest”.

Evidence for this “difference” is provided by the fact that the MiGo can’t be photographed by standard photographic equipment and how clumsy they are both in walking and flying in our atmosphere and in our gravity.  However, while they are very different from the residents of our universe, something is known of their motivation in their dealings with our world.  They need some metal or material on Earth that is somewhat rare in our universe and so they conduct mining operations.  Thus they interact with the “natives” of Earth, form strange alliances with certain people and have an excellent knowledge of human physiology and anatomy.

Incredible drawing of a M-Go by Nathan Rosario

While the spawn of Cthulhu are also from “outside” they appear to originate from a more distance “outside”.  Thus, to continue on the analogy, the spawn come from a more distant forest relative to the Mi-Go

Like the Mi-Go, their matter is very different from us; however, the spawn can easily change shape and size, which is very different than even the Mi-Go.  Although the Mi-Go can alter their shape and size, this typically done through surgery or other medical procedures.  In contrast, it appears that the spawn (like their Master) can change their shape and size at will although they do have a preferred morphology.

Fantastic drawing of a spawn of Cthulhu by KingOvRats

In addition to their shape changing, the exact motivation of why the spawn and their Master came to Earth is fairly ambiguous compared to the Mi-Go’s need for Earth’s raw resources.  Earth already had the Elder Ones ; why come to Earth where competition for space and resources was already high?  Additionally, it is not known how or why their city of R’lyeh sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and why they are all dormant and asleep.

Thus, while both the Mi-Go and the spawn are very different to us, the spawn seem to be even more “different” with their shape changing abilities and unknown motives.  In addition, there are other Lovecraftian entities we will discuss in future that are even more “different” than the spawn.  Next time we will wrap up the discussion on the spawn of Cthulhu and move into the New Year with discussions on the Deep Ones.  Thank you – Fred

Necronomicon Convention talk – Biology of the Old Ones, Part 20 – Mi-Go: Made of Different Stuff

Beyond their interest in Earth for some rare materials, very little is known about the Mi-Go.  We do know they came to Earth approximately 160 million years ago and battled with the Elder Ones, which resulted in the Mi-Go occupying the northern hemisphere of the planet.  The one idea that HPL repeatedly mentioned in The Whisperer in Darkness, as well as in At the Mountains of Madness, was that…”the Mi-Go seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from that which we know than was the substances of the Old Ones” (or us for that matter).

Army of Yuggoth by Uwe Jarling – In: The Art of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, edited by Pat Harrigan and Brian Wood

To emphasize the fact that the Mi-Go are composed of very different matter than humans, Elder Ones and Shoggoths, HPL identified a number of unique properties of these entities.

First, the body of a dead Mi-Go quickly dissolved into a green sticky substance.  This extremely high rate of decomposition is not due conventional microbial breakdown of organic matter.  Instead, it is more than likely due to the fact that the Mi–Go are an extension into our dimension, which requires a considerable amount of energy to manifest and maintain.  Once a Mi-Go dies and the stream of maintenance energy is cut off, the extra-dimensional matter they are composed of quickly dissipates back into its resident dimension.

While we (including Carl Sagan), oak trees, Elder Ones and Shoggoths are all made of the same stuff, the Mi-Go are not

Second, every time a human was in close proximity to a Mi-Go in The Whisperer in Darkness, two things were consistently experienced.  These included a strange odour and, more importantly, a strange sense or feeling of vibrations.  A suggested hypothesis for this strange feeling of vibration is provided below.

Third, the Mi-Go can not be photographed with ordinary emulsions.  However, using specialized chemicals, some modified techniques could be used to capture the Mi-Go on photographs or film.  HPL’s explanation for this was that Mi-Go matter, specifically the electrons of their atoms vibrate at a different frequency their our own matter.  Specially, HPL said the Mi-Go are…”composed of a form of matter total alien to our part of space – with electrons having a wholly different vibration-rate.”  In turn, this is why they could not be photographed.

In the 1920’s the sub-discipline of sub-atomic physics was in its infancy but HPL was very interested in this emerging science.  In specific reference to electrons, our Universe can be thought of as an electron field, where all of the electrons are a localized vibration within that field.  The electrons, and thus atoms, are vibrating in a relatively consistent manner in our Universe.  For example, for the most part, atomic vibrations in our Universe have a frequency of 1013 Hz with amplitudes of 10-11 m.  It is obvious that Mi-Go atoms have vibration frequencies and amplitudes that are substantially different that us.  This “difference” between the extra-dimensional fields is what a human senses or feels when in close proximity to a Mi-Go.

Fourth, Mi-Go are clumsy entities in our Universe.  They walk funny, sort of like penguins, and they fly like sting bugs.   They are not graceful in the least bit on land or in the air.  This is due to the fact that they are not adapted to the Universal rules, constants and laws established in our reality.  More than likely a Mi-Go flying through space is far more graceful than a Mi-Go puttering away in our atmosphere.

Shot of a Mi-Go flying in the moonlight from The Whisperer in Darkness movie (2011)

To conclude, Mi-Go are very different organisms relative to both Terran life and the entities we have discussed on this blog site to date.  Next time we will discuss Mi-Go technology and how it is strongly integrated into their biology.  Thank you – Fred

Necronomicon Convention talk – Biology of the Old Ones, Part 17 – the Biorobotic Shoggoths

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus was written by Mary Shelley and first published in 1818.  It is a story about Dr. Victor Frankenstein who creates a creature in a strange scientific experiment.  While the exact means of creating the creature is somewhat vague and involves electricity, the story is considered one of the first science fiction stories. This is primarily due to the fact that Frankenstein does not use magical or occult means to make the creature; instead, he uses a laboratory filled with scientific equipment.  In sharp contrast to the original novel, in the 1931 Universal movie Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster by stitching dead body parts together and using electricity to bring it to life.  In both cases, life was created from inanimate material, similar to the Elder Ones creating the Shoggoths.

While the Elder Ones had a specific, practical reason for creating the Shoggoths (to be used as a force of slave labor), Dr. Frankenstein had a very personal event in his life that spurred him to create life and that was the death of his mother.  Frankenstein was successful in his experiments; however, he did not consider his responsibilities as the creator of a sentient entity.  The Elder Ones were better prepared to deal with the Shoggoths once created; however, this did not last.  In both cases one of the key components in the downfall of the creators was the created entities acquiring intelligence (or at least more of it).  Once the created obtained intelligence as well as other associated traits such as free will and self-identify, they were no longer easy to control by their creators.

Probably the best analogy for the Shoggoths is the concept of biological robots (also known as biorobots), which is simply defined as the creation of life from non-living matter.  Another analogy of Shoggoths as created forms of life comes from more science fiction; specifically the replicants from the film Blade Runner.  Here we are talking about synthetically created people made by humans who eventually rebel against their creators.  In a sense, the replicants were very similar to Shoggoths – a form of slave labor that were extremely strong but could not reproduce on their own.

Another entity that is frequently compared to the Shoggoths is the creature in the 1982 movie version of The Thing (which is based on a short novel by John W. Campbell, Jr. called Who Goes There?).  While these two creatures appear to have similar attributes such as the ability to shape-shift and The Thing can look like a Shoggoth, I would argue that these are two very different species and are not related.

Who_Goes_There__(John_Campbell_book)_1st_edition_cover_art

We know nothing about the origins of The Thing; we do know it can easily assimilate other life forms and make exact replicates.  In addition, The Thing can easily reproduce through simple fission.  I’m sure the Shoggoth can assimilate or eat prey but based on HPL’s stories I do not think it could create exact copies of the creatures it would digest.  A number of times HPL suggests that the Shoggoths imitate the Elder Ones but there is no reference to the Shoggoths shaping themselves to look like the Elder Ones.  In addition, while The Thing could easily reproduce like a bacteria, or more appropriately a virus, Shoggoths were not known to reproduce on their own at least during the Miskatonic Expedition of 1930-31.

To conclude this discussion of the Shoggoths, the Elder Ones made their creations extremely flexible and adaptive.  They could live in the deep sea or on land; they could be used for physical labor as well as provide functions such as serving as a source of light through bioluminance.  I’m sure the Elder Ones were conducting all sorts of experiments on the Shoggoth, stretching them to the limits; testing their endurance and resiliency against various temperatures, pressures, chemicals, energy sources and other parameters.  Since Shoggoths could not reproduce on their own, they need assistance from the Elder Ones to make others of their own kind; thus, I think it’s appropriate to call Shoggoths a form of biorobotic life.  Although it is mentioned in At the Mountains of Madness that the Shoggoths did acquire the ability to reproduce on their own, this obviously failed or was never true.  For if it was true, wouldn’t Earth be covered in a seething ocean of Shoggoths; a global Shoggoth pit?

This concludes, at least for a while, my discussions on the Elder Ones and the Shoggoths, next time I will begin discussions on the Mi-Go and other issues associated with HPL and his interests in science.  Thank you – Fred.

Shoggoth by the talented artist Eric Lofgren