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yock's Lovecraftathon: The Crawling Chaos



(with Winifred Virginia Jackson - based on her dream, text written by Lovecraft)


Pushing straight on, this is a relatively short story, but at the start I'm finding it a really hard read. The text doesn't flow for me, and I need to work hard to read each sentence. To be fair it is describing an opium dream, but I feel that should be more dreamlike, and transporting, rather than hard work to wade through.


But things do improve as the opium dreamer opens their eyes in the dream. The room where they find themselves, full of furnishings and with many windows, is vividly described, and I can picture it as I read.


I do have a problem with the implication in this part, and earlier in the story too, that all opium takers follow a similar route in their dreams, and could potentially reach the same dream destinations, including this one. I just find that really implausible. Probably just me, but each reference to it takes me further out of the story, and means I don't buy in to its central thesis, but rather look from outside, sceptically.


But I do like the vision of a house on a precipice of land, with tumbling cliffs on either side, and the waves attacking. It reminds me of some of Lovecraft's writings of Kingsport. I guess I like sea stories. Oh and did Lovecraft know about coastal erosion? I think he knew the history of English Dunwich, for example.


Why bother to lock the door on fleeing though? It's a nice detail, but seems like a totally useless activity for someone for whom time is of the essence, before the sea gobbles the land underneath their feet. Yes I know it's the dreams of an opium taker, so rationality goes out the window. Ditto for the thought that a certain book would be found back in the dream cottage, if they just turn round and go back there.


The ending is strange. I'm not quite sure what happened there. I guess the Earth is destroyed, and the Moon. The Sun is described as dying, but I don't think it went nova or anything. Bit puzzled. I'd have found it simpler to follow if the narrator on looking back - reminiscent of Lot's wife in the bible - had just fallen back to the dying Earth. So yes, I'm not entirely sure what happened. But I think overall I enjoyed it.

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It's been a couple decades since I've read this one, and I don't remember much about it, but your comments about the dying sun probably refer to the "Old Solar System" idea about the sun burning its fuel in a conventional fire, with the fire expected to burn out in a couple million years:  the sun was just expected to more or less gradually get cooler and darker like a dying camp fire, before eventually being completely extinguished, leaving the planets freeze from the outside of the solar system inwards.  (Our understanding of the physics of the Sun has changed since then, and we now believe the Sun will get bigger and hotter, engulfing the inner planets including Earth, before cooling in the very distant post-Earth future.)


The "Solar System Heritage" website briefly explores how the old Dying Sun concept was used in other older science fiction/fantasy stories:  (link)


Apparently the idea really captured the imaginations of speculative writers of the era - Lovecraft visited it more than once (there are hints of the ultimate cold, dying future of earth in the far distant future in "The Shadow Out of Time", where the inhuman beings who inherit the earth at the end burrow into the planet's "horror-filled core" seeking the last of Earth's warmth before the end); William Hope Hodgson refers to the idea in "The Night Lands", I believe H.G. Wells touches on it in "The Time Machine" after the traveler accidentally journeys far into earth's post-human future....

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