Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Starting the Dreamlands Remixed

I'm really feeling it (again) for the DREAMLANDS REMIXED setting concept that I outlined some time ago (a little over a year ago, as it happens.)  Let's establish (or reestablish, in some cases) the baselines.

  • The Dream Cycle of Lovecraft's stories purportedly take place in the Dreamlands, a unique setting where people go when they dream, that resembles a fantastic sword & sorcery setting, in many ways.  Many of the so-called Dream Cycle stories actually don't detail any locations in the Dreamlands, however.  The only one that really surely does is The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
  • This brings up another point.  Many of the stories that are traditionally "binned" to the Dream Cycle are probably actually not meant to belong to the Dreamlands at all.  Lovecraft's habit of reusing names of characters, places, and objects—regardless of the genre that he was writing in—means that one can draw tenuous ties between his horror stories, his dream stories, his weird science fiction stories, etc. that may not have been meant to be seen "together" at all.  Stories such as "Polaris," "The Doom That Came to Sarnath" or "The Cats of Ulthar" (and others) therefore get mentioned prominently in, for example, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and therefore some of their details are adopted into the Dreamlands, but these are more likely meant to be seen as a kind of prehistoric proto-sword & sorcery type story, not unlike the Hyperborean stories of Clark Ashton Smith.  This isn't necessarily super important; I'm going to follow the tradition of letting these locations be in the Dreamlands, of course, but it's worth mentioning.
  • Given that, it makes even more sense to add Smith's Hyberborea directly to the Dreamlands.  Why not?  For that matter, why not add Zothique?  Sure, it's supposed to be Dying Earth far future sword & sorcery, but the tone is still very similar.
  • None of the maps of the Dreamlands (or for that matter, Zothique or Hyperborea) that I've ever seen is truly definitive.  They are all simply the inventions of writers who came along later, and most are heavily dependent on the map included in the Call of Cthulhu supplement on the Dreamlands.  This means that the geography that most of these maps posit is readily suitable for change; even quite significant change, as needed.
  • For that matter, the CoC supplement started the habit of including locations detailed in a bunch of Gary Myers stories.  These stories were only ever published in pretty limited form, and they are not readily available today, making their inclusion as "canonical" in the Dreamlands questionable at best.  Frankly, if we need to go beyond the Lovecraft and Smith stories, we'd be better off looking at Brian Lumley's Primal Lands stuff; that's at least in the same vein.  And Lumley even wrote some specifically Dreamlands stuff.  None of that seems to pop up in the maps and gazetteers I've seen.
  • I'm not that familiar with the Primal Lands myself, though.  Honestly, I'd rather take some names from the Thulian Age of Robert E. Howard instead.  The Hyborian Age is perhaps a bit too familiar to really fit in the same oeuvre as the Dreamlands, on the other hand.
  • I've been trawling through wiki entries on the various Dreamlands, Zothique and Hyperborean stories, and I've created a pretty big list of place-names.  Referencing the Gazetteer in the Dreamlands sourcebook, I should be able to create from this a new Gazetteer for my remixed setting easily enough.  I'll have to do a bit more research into the Zothique places—I don't know them as well, and there's a lot of names from those stories.  Of course, I may not use them all...
  • The single most important sources for this setting are the stories "Polaris," "The Doom That Came to Sarnath", "The Cats of Ulthar", "Celephaïs" "The Quest of Iranon," The Other Gods" and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.  Other stories, including the entirety of the Clark Ashton Smith corpus, will be added in a more ad hoc nature, but I expect that eventually I'll get around to making the entirety of Hyperborea on the map.  Smith himself, in a letter to Derleth in the 40s said: "My Hyperborean tales, it seems to me, with their primordial, prehuman and sometimes premundane background and figures, are the closest to the Cthulhu Mythos, but most of them are written in a vein of grotesque humor that differentiates them vastly. However, such a tale as 'The Coming of the White Worm' might be regarded as a direct contribution to the Mythos."  And Lovecraft, in a letter to Smith said this: "I must not delay in expressing my well-nigh delirious delight at 'The Tale of Satampra Zeiros'... [W]hat an atmosphere! I can see & feel & smell the jungle around immemorial Commoriom, which I am sure must lie buried today in glacial ice near Olathoe, in the Land of Lomar!" As an aside, this is pretty compelling evidence that many of these so-called Dream Cycle stories of Lovecraft's were always meant to be a prehistoric setting, not unlike Hyperborea or Howard's stuff.
Which is why I'm making the Dreamlands not a Dreamlands at all, but rather a regular sword & sanity setting that I'm playing straight.  

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