Column: Writing the Mythos: Yuggoth: Our Ninth Planet

By G. W. Thomas

One of the best parts about reading older fiction – say, the detective fiction of the 1880s or the pulp stories of the 1920s – is seeing into a world that is not our “currently believed to be” world. For example, the readers of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness” may have thought old HPL was making it up when he created a ninth planet in the solar system. Kiddies in one-room school houses (Yes, I’ve heard all the stories from my dad) were drawing pictures of the “eight” planets that had existed since 1846 when Alexis Bouvard detected some gravitational irregularities with the planet Uranus. That means my dad, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather all lived in a society that believed in eight planets.

Lovecraft wasn’t just making stuff up. He made a lucky guess that proved to be true. This happens in science fiction all the time, but HPL was an amateur astronomer and he certainly was privy to early speculation on Pluto. Percival Lowell had been looking for a Planet X back in the 19th century. Clyde Tombaugh officially discovered the planet in 1930. HPL’s “The Whisperer in Darkness”, a tale that features aliens from Pluto living in the highest reaches of the Himalayas, was written in the same year and appeared in Weird Tales in August 1931. His vision of Pluto is a stark world inhabited by the Mi’Go, a spacefaring race that look something like a cross between bees and lobsters. A great pit resides on Yuggoth in which the Great Old One Cxaxukluth sits. This terrible creature rises up occasionally making things difficult for the Mi’Go. Not very Tombaugh at all.

Flash forward to a public school (with eight or nine rooms, at least) in the 1970s. There I was, learning that we had nine planets. Living in a world of safe facts, not unlike my eight-planet relatives of yore, unaware of Lovecraft and Cxaxukluth, just taking in the facts, eating the paste, etc. For the next thirty-plus years, I would go along, safe in my knowledge of the universe around me.

And then, 2006 arrives and Boom! Pluto loses its status as Planet Number Nine. Turns out the facts weren’t so set in stone as my Grade One teacher told me (Shame on you, Mrs. Yakimic!). Pluto’s mass was not sufficient for it to affect the surrounding celestial bodies; an overestimation of Neptune and it’s all over. Back to the Eight-Planet solar system of my great-great-grandfather. What’s next? Shall we flee all the way back to 1690 and take Uranus out, too? (That’s a lot of great-greats.)

Well, it’s okay. I can adjust because the stark facts of the icy, dark and real Pluto are not what are in my head anymore, anyway. To me, Yuggoth will always be my ninth planet, with its scampering Mi’Gos and their stolen, human-brain slaves, and the dark pit of Cxaxukluth. Now, that’s a planet! Mercury. Amtor. Earth. Barsoom. Jupiter. Saturn. Uranus. Neptune.Yuggoth. As it turns out, these things are negotiable.

Bio: G.W. Thomas began writing in the Mythos in 1987 with “The City in the Sea” for Chaosium’s Cthulhu Now!  Since then he has moved into fiction with his collection The Book of the Black Sun and his Book Collector stories. He edits the genre magazine Dark Worlds which features frequent Mythos tales. His website is www.gwthomas.org.