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Poem: "The Click-Whistle of Cthulhu" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Click-Whistle of Cthulhu"

This poem came out of the December 7, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from aldersprig and marina_bonomi, plus conversations with my partner Doug and I think fayanora and some other folks.  It has been sponsored by fayanora and marina_bonomi.

The worldbuilding context is, of course, the Cthulhu Mythos.  The poem's title is a riff off the original story "The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft.  You may want to read about Cthulhu and the sunken city R'lyeh.  I also researched cetaceans and whalesong to find out which species would appear in the vicinity of R'lyeh and who would be doing what.  Basically, I figured that cetaceans might have a very different experience in R'lyeh and relationship with the Elder Gods than humans would, because their perceptions and thought patterns are so unlike ours ...


The Click-Whistle of Cthulhu


When the fishermen harassed the dolphins
and the whalers hunted the whales,
the harried cetaceans of the South Pacific took refuge
in the cold dark waters around a sunken city.

There they discovered R'lyeh
and they swam through its non-euclidean spaces
with the greatest of ease.
There was nothing there to confuse them:
they were accustomed to thinking in multiple dimensions.
There was nothing there to frighten them:
they were familiar with the ways of whalers and trawlers.
There was nothing there that they could not pronounce:
they happily click-whistled their way through
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

They came together in the shelter of R'lyeh,
whose puzzled passageways delighted the dusky dolphins,
whose doors and avenues were wide enough for the blue whales.
At first the southern right whales cowered deep in the fortress,
but eventually even they began to relax.
The blue whales and the humpbacks sang to each other
in amphitheaters shaped like dreams.
The sperm whales dove deep into a crevice where they found
the sleeping, mountainous form of an Elder God.

Excited whalesong woke Great Cthulhu from his deathslumber,
surrounding him with multidimensional images.
He stretched his tentacles and shook out his scales
and waved amiably to the large enthusiastic creatures crowding around.
He was not best pleased to hear about
the ghost nets and the exploding harpoons.

So Great Cthulhu sang back to the cetaceans
and taught them sorcery and quantum mechanics
and sent them back to the surface
where the hunters and whalers lay waiting.

The swimmers wove their own nets of cosmic strings
and launched their own harpoons of horror,
sinking the ships to lie in a ring of rusting wreckage
around the walls of lost and found R'lyeh.

They captured some of the humans in sorcerous bubbles
and brought them down to Great Cthulhu
who shelled their minds out of their brains like so many shrimp.
The Elder God fed, and grew stronger,
and was well pleased with his new followers.

Then the sperm whales and the blue whales and the humpbacks
set out to swim the oceans of the world and spread the word
to other cetaceans far away.  The southern right whales
and the dusky dolphins stayed behind
while Great Cthulhu turned a tesseract page
and began to teach them about the stars.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

25 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: December 8th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, and lol all in one.
And I'd love to see this illustrated, my mind is full of images right now.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 8th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

This would make an awesome picture, now that I think of it.

I'm glad you like the poem!
fayanora From: fayanora Date: December 9th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC) (Link)
AWESOME!

I'll bet the cetaceans already knew Dagon. :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you like it.

Far as I know, this was their first encounter with the Elder Gods. Of course, it's possible that someone else in another part of the ocean has more contacts...
From: mmerriam Date: December 9th, 2010 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
That is made of complete awesome!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad the poem impressed you.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: December 9th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Loved it! I've always had a soft spot for multidimensional objects.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

So do I. Tesseracts and teflon and penrose tiles, oh my...
kengr From: kengr Date: December 9th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Then you may like this icon.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Wow! That is really cool. There's another I have seen that shows a wire-frame "shadow" of a tesseract rotating.
kengr From: kengr Date: December 10th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

somewhere I have an *ancient* MSDOS program (requires EGA/VGA) that not only displays such a wireframe in 3d (you need the red/blue glasses) but lets you rotate it around all four axes.

When I first found it, it required a math coprocessor to get anything more than glacial rotation.

Last time I ran it, it needed a light touch on the keys to keep it from rotating too fast.
eseme From: eseme Date: December 9th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I enjoy the idea of combining classic horror with environmental revenge. It's quite neat.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad the combination works for you.

I've done this sort of thing before -- think I've got a couple different leviathan poems, for instance -- but this is probably the first Mythos one like it.

*cackle* The military occasionally tries to train dolphins to do things ... can you imagine how bad people would freak out if the dolphins suddenly started cursing at them in Arabic?
eseme From: eseme Date: December 9th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Oh my! That's an image.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 9th, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I like this one!!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm happy to hear that. *chuckle* I bet you'd have fun exploring the ruins of R'lyeh ...
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 9th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I was reading 'The Mountains of Madness' a while back, and couldn't understand while the narrator was getting all hysterical about the weird carvings. I'd have been having a whale of a time, if you'll pardron the pun.

Oh, and I'm with the whales & dolphins on this one. My first effort at writing serious SF was a novel involving some alien 'anthropologists' (or rather cetaceaologists!. They were studying whale society and got a bit angry because their subjects were getting horribly murdered by these daft obnoxious primates. So they started to wage war against the whale hunters.

Sadly I never finished it - one day,I realised how difficult it was to get into a whale's head and use them as a viewpoint character because they are so very alien. Then I discovered archaeology and the rest is history, or rather historical fiction...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 9th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

>>I was reading 'The Mountains of Madness' a while back, and couldn't understand while the narrator was getting all hysterical about the weird carvings. I'd have been having a whale of a time, if you'll pardron the pun.<<

Yeah, me too. But then I don't really think like a human. Many people have a very rigid reality tunnel and they freak if it gets disturbed in any way. Some of us have a reality tunnel matrix and are not at all bothered by branches, and will gleefully dive into a new one. *chuckle* I think the most likely thing I'd say to a Great Old One would be along the lines of, "Move. You're blocking my light!" or perhaps "What does this symbol mean?"

>>Oh, and I'm with the whales & dolphins on this one. My first effort at writing serious SF was a novel involving some alien 'anthropologists' (or rather cetaceaologists!. They were studying whale society and got a bit angry because their subjects were getting horribly murdered by these daft obnoxious primates. So they started to wage war against the whale hunters.<<

OOO...!! That sounds fascinating.

>>Sadly I never finished it - one day,I realised how difficult it was to get into a whale's head and use them as a viewpoint character because they are so very alien.<<

*whiiiiiiiine* Alas!

It is true, though, that writing alien perspectives is one of the greatest challenges in science fiction. Not many people can do it well.

It helps to read about what we know of unusual perspectives. Neurovariant humans. Primates, cetaceans, psittacenes, etc. With cetaceans in particular, sight/hearing are linked much like our smell/taste. They experience the world in three dimensions and moving images, so they tend to converse the same way. Not having manipulatory digits, they also lack humanity's compulsion to modify everything in reach. But they are just as curious as us, and they love to figure things out.

Maybe you could try a short story, instead of a novel?

>>Then I discovered archaeology and the rest is history, or rather historical fiction...<<

Science fiction isn't all about astronomy. There are other sciences! Archaeology is one of them. I've read some great examples, like "The Greatest Dying" which involved dinosaur fossils.
http://education.llnl.gov/bep/english/9/tAnal.html
There are others that touch on ruined cities and all kinds of exciting stuff. And of course there is Suzette Haden Elgin's linguistic SF. I like trying to encourage scientists and hobby-scientists of diverse fields to write science fiction using the details of their own craft. Why should rocket scientists have all the fun?



endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 9th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I'm not too good with science. I'm an Arts Baby!! My brain just can't cope with logic!!!

The viewpoint thing with the whales was interesting. I was tinkering with the idea of humpback whale songs as genealogy, and when I came across Levi Strauss, I tried ordering the whale world into categories, light/dark, warm/cold, high/low (in the vertical sense), summer/winter, mating/eating, etc. It was fascinating, but too much like hard work!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 10th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I sympathize. I have put a LOT of work into researching some of my stories. Ironically, I think the most effort went into historical fantasy, not hard SF. "Kyrie Alison" involved medieval culture, liturgical music, early Christianity, and modern military topics. I was a bit bemused by some of what turned up along the way.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 10th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Kyrie Alison! Oh, very good!!!

Sounds fascinating. And yes, I understand what you mean about the historical research. At least if you create your own world, no-one can turn around and say, 'oh, but you did that wrong' and 'that wrong' etc.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 10th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

>>Kyrie Alison! Oh, very good!!!<<

Yeah, the main character is a nun. The story has bits of background song woven through it as people sing their way through the canonical hours.

>>And yes, I understand what you mean about the historical research. At least if you create your own world, no-one can turn around and say, 'oh, but you did that wrong' and 'that wrong' etc.<<

Or at least it's a lot harder for them to find a basis for making such claims about another world. I do occasionally muff things even in other settings, but the main advantage is that I can just GO LOOK. I do not have to LOOK IT UP right here and find an actually reference. Peeking next door is much faster and easier. The most common mistake I make is just not unpacking enough for the bit I've mentioned to make complete sense, and that's easily fixed with more careful description.
sythyry From: sythyry Date: December 12th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! That's pretty amusing!

And sounds like it might be a prelude to Souls in the Great Machine
natf From: natf Date: December 13th, 2010 11:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Stunning imagery!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 13th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this. Yes, it would be fun to get this one illustrated.
25 comments or Leave a comment