By: Neil Gaiman
Release Date: (Original) 1986; (Tor.com) December 28th 2009
It’s Throwback Thursday once more. This week we read a short story by Neil Gaiman titled I, Cthulhu, or, What’s a Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing in a Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)? It’s a fun story with what is possibly the longest title that I ever have (and maybe ever will) come across.
But what, exactly, is it about?
As the title suggests, I, Cthulhu is a short story based on the Cthulhu mythos. Originally published in 1986, this is one of Neil Gaiman’s earlier works. The story is written in first person point point of view. Cthulhu himself narrates the tale, orating his life story to a human named Whateley who, we infer, is supposed to be writing Cthulhu’s memoir. Cthulhu begins with his birth and takes us through his conquering of Earth and subsequent fall. As for Cthulhu’s biographer, we never really meet Whateley so to speak. He is only mentioned by Cthulhu, who gives asides to his biographer and answers the human’s questions, which we aren’t explicitly given. This works very well for the story, giving us at once a familiar set of eyes to experience the story through or with and also allowing questions to be asked and answered for us.
The title, or the second half at least (What’s a Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing in a Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)) , is a perfect indicator of the stories tone. Cthulhu, as a character, is almost unintentionally amusing. While funny, the story is also a bit spooky and a bit unsettling. So, really, quite a lot like a lot of Gaiman’s other works.
The story touches on some interesting concepts that really help to humanize and normalize Cthulhu. One such concept is his family. Cthulhu’s family is just that – a crazy family we can relate to on some level with the added insanity of being otherworldly eldritch creatures the likes of which can’t be fully explained. I also really liked how Cthulhu mentions almost off hand how he was scared of humans when he first saw them simply because they looked so extraordinarily different than anything he was used to. It humanizes him for lack of a better term.
If you like Lovecraftian works or anything by Neil Gaiman, then you will enjoy I, Cthulhu, or, What’s a Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing in a Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)? As of writing this review, if you are interested in reading this short story you can do so for free either on Neil Gaiman’s website or over at Tor.com.