Cthulhu... and ABBA?!

(Wherein is explained what some of the references in my filk mean, and why I am infamous for the combination)


"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

            -- H.P. LOVECRAFT, The Call Of Cthulhu


In 1984, or thereabouts, I discovered the role-playing game Call Of Cthulhu by Chaosium, a desktop RPG based on the stories and concepts created by the early 20th Century writer of weird fiction, H.P. Lovecraft and his friends - a collection of tales known as the Cthulhu Mythos.

Lovecraft wrote stories with a common backdrop, involving alien things with names like Cthulhu, Hastur, Yog-Sothoth. He also invented dark, blasphemous books like the Necronomicon. His fellow writers and friends also contributed by writing their stories referencing his creations, and vice versa, and over time, a collective, fictional mythology arose - feeling so real, sometimes, that to this day, there are people who believe that Lovecraft was talking about a real mythology. These stories are known as Cthulhu Mythos stories, named after one of Lovecraft's most popular creations - the octopoid/humanoid Great Old One named Cthulhu who is trapped beneath the seas in the sunken city of R'lyeh.

The Mythos is generally predicated around the concept that in eons past, Earth was ruled by these inconceivable alien creatures, almost god-like, that roamed the dimensional planes freely. For some reason, they were either cast out or banished from our world, but their worshippers continue their dark rites, preparing for the day when the stars are in their correct alignment, and then these Great Old Ones will rise again, and engulf the world in an orgy of fire, death and madness. Cheery, no?

The game was an odd one, when it came down to it. Unlike Dungeons and Dragons, where the purpose of the day was to slay monsters, gather treasure, and generally kick ass, in CoC (as we called it), the creatures we fought were generally much stronger, impossible to overcome, and drove the player characters into fits of insanity when encountered. Further, the mortality rate for humans was beyond belief, and we spent most of our time running away, and victories were merely delays to stave off the inevitable end of the world

It was the best fun our group ever had.

I mean, screw the fact that you had armour up to your eyeballs and could take out dragons - this was a real challenge, to try to fight things that could squash you like a bug with a swipe of a tentacle. This tested ingenuity, smarts, and at its best, it scared the crap out of me.

And when I turned back to the source material, by borrowing Lovecraft's books from the library, I was hooked on the literary source as well. To modern readers, Lovecraft may seem heavy handed, archaic in style, and almost corny, but the concepts he played around with, his nihilistic view of the universe presented in his stories... you can see the influences go from him all the way up to Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell - modern masters of horror who, by the way, have written Mythos tales of their own. And Lovecraft still has the ability to give me the chills.

Flash forward. In 1999, I was about to attend my first WorldCon in Melbourne. I had no idea, a month or so before I went, that I was going to get sucked into writing filk songs. I knew what filk was at that point - I had written a few parodies in my younger days - but I hadn't thought about it for years. I was on TinyTIM, the MUSH I'm a wizard on, and was talking to this other TIMster, Blindpew, about Cthulhu-based filk. I gave him the lyrics for the classic Cthulhu filk, "The Road To Great Cthulhu" (to the tune of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo"), and he told me he'd been trying to work on one involving ABBA's "Fernando".

My mind recoiled much as Lovecraft's narrators did when faced with something inconceivably horrible. I mean, this was just so wrong. I used to detest ABBA when I was a child - mainly because in the 70s there was no getting away from them. Once, on a family trip to Kuala Lumpur, an 8-hour ride back then, the only thing in the car was an eight-track cardtridge of ABBA. I learnt to hate that day. But I also knew a lot of the lyrics because they had been burned into my brain.

Blindpew gave me the two lines of the chorus he had worked out so far. Then, driven by forces I don't really want to understand, I looked at the lines, thought, "Well, this is actually kind of cool..." and started typing. About 30 minutes later, I emailed Pew with the first of my ABBA/Cthulhu filk - "Do You Hear The Pipes, Cthulhu?".

I brought this over to Melbourne and performed it at one of the filk gatherings during the con. It was a resounding success - I performed it at least four times - to the point where I was almost afraid I would summon up something really nasty. A very kind American lady named Kathleen Sloan recorded me performing it as brought that back to the U.S. where she performed it in front of a filk convention there.

And so it began. Soon, I had more and more Cthulhu/ABBA filk emerging from me - diabolic inspiration, no doubt, to usher in the end times quicker. I performed some more songs in front of some MASSFilc people when I was last in Boston and they've been well received - so I'm going to give it a shot for 2000's WorldCon in Chicago as well.

Cthulhu-based filk isn't new, really, but I think I'm the first one to actually build a reputation on writing Cthulhu-based filk coupled with ABBA tunes. That's something I intend to continue doing - and these days, I've even decided that ABBA's kind of cool, in a retro, camp fashion.

Cthulhu and ABBA. It makes sense, really, in a twisted, perverted kind of way. Which probably explains why I love the combo so.



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