“ALIEN went to where the Old Ones lived, to their very world of origin.”

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Those words were written in 2003 by Dan O’Bannon, in his essay that included this recollection of a particular movie review of Alien:

One especially insightful critic – I wish I remembered who – wrote that ALIEN evoked the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, but where Lovecraft told of an ancient race of hideous beings menacing the Earth, ALIEN went to where the Old Ones lived, to their very world of origin. He was right, that was my very thought while writing. That baneful little storm-lashed planetoid halfway across the galaxy was a fragment of the Old Ones’ home world, and the Alien a blood relative of YogSothoth.’

excerpt from “Something Perfectly Disgusting”. Dan O’Bannon. 2003.

Since reading that passage, I have always looked forward to reading the works of Rhode Islander H. P. Lovecraft, just to see what the whole “Old Ones” mythos is all about.

Especially since it had such an influence on O’Bannon and his vision for Alien.

I decided recently to just dive into the Lovecraft bibliography, and although Yog-Sothoth is not found in its pages, I chose At the Mountains of Madness since I have heard it mentioned many times.

Written in Depression-era 1931, the prose is dense but accessible once you wade through the (necessary) geologic terms and the action begins. The setup is something I really enjoy: a scientific expedition (back in the days when sea travel was still slow and laborious) to an unexplored frontier!

I wasn’t planning on giving a review, but I did want to share a couple of passages from the book that dovetailed nicely into O’Bannon’s writing above.

This first one, evokes the strange “S.O.S.-turned-warning”, from the film:

“It would be tragic if any were to be allured to that realm of death and horror by the very warning meant to discourage them.”

excerpt from At the Mountains of Madness, pg. 59

Substitute “antarctic” with “alien” in this second excerpt, and you might make the argument that it maps out the entire film series, including the prequels’ “stolen fire from the gods” theme:

“Certain lingering influences in that unknown antarctic world of disordered time and alien natural law make it imperative that further exploration be discouraged.”

excerpt from At the Mountains of Madness, pg. 63

Dominic Kulcsar explores the O’Bannon-Lovecraft connection much deeper than I do. In fact, he found more information about that film critic’s quote.

At any rate, as the mystery of the story leads me along, the connection between Lovecraftian horror and Alien is a little stronger for me. I leave you now to draw your own connections, and well as to enjoy these two images:

At the Mountains of Madness, by Gutalin (2006)
Alien (1979)

If you would like to read through a couple of interesting Lovecraft sites that I’ve looked at while enjoying his book, here are the links:

The H. P. Lovecraft Archive (a very comprehensive site)

Geology of the Mountains of Madness (a real-world look at the fictional locale)

P. S. I also read something in O’Bannon’s essay that was quite prophetic of the climactic showdown at the end of Alien: Covenant! I won’t spoil the surprise, but I think that you will get a little chuckle out of it.

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2 Comments

  1. Fear, so deeply rooted in our subconscious. So often deliberately ignored by curiosity and ambitious desires to attain that shivering feeling. Fear will encourage the inquisitive mind. Hi.there. A very interesting article, with the lights shining on those quotes from H P L. Pure joy for the inspiration. Well done. K.

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