Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Let's Make Stuff: I Go, You Go, We All Go "A Mi-go!!!"

The Fungi from Yuggoth, also known as Mi-go but I can't call them that because "a Mi-go" somehow fails to instill terror in my heart, happens to be my favorite Lovecraftian race. Don't talk to me 'bout no Deep Ones. We've got an island full of them here in North Carolina. And the Elder Things look like an angry wine barrel with a starfish on top.

But the immigrants from far off Yuggoth provided my imagination with something to chew on (Yuggoth, by and by, was intended to be Pluto and seemed much scarier in the 1920's when we had only just discovered it and was not synonymous with a dog. It also hadn't suffered the indignity of losing its Planethood) I think much of that is owing to the superb Delta Green setting for Call of Cthulhu, which expands on their concept significantly.

Like most creatures that originated in prose, the Fungi have been re-imagined many times, and visual depictions can vary greatly. Google it and you'll see what I mean. There are some compelling images, certainly, but few that hit my alien-horror sweet spot. Let me explain.

I like my aliens alien. They did not evolve here. They may not even have evolved under the same physical laws. Therefore, my Laws of Alien Design:

1: Symmetry is right out. I know, I know, radial symmetry is the preferred design of the weirdest things on Earth. But almost no living thing is asymmetrical. The ones that are are usually accidentally so, and they disturb us greatly.

2: If you show me a humanoid biped, I will show you a lazy design.

3: Asymmetry does not mean "blob." Make it a little symmetrical, then fuck it up.

4: In the spirit of #3, tack on extra limbs, but make their purpose non-identifiable. Case in point.

5: I like wings. I don't like wings that look like they'd work in our atmosphere.

6: I do like it when the alien is flying anyway.

7: This is what makes it hard to sculpt good aliens. The best aliens are not made of normal matter.

That last one is the sticking point for the Fungi. People read Lovecraft describe them as "crustecious-like" with multiple limbs and wings, and they draw or sculpt a big bug. This is ignoring both the "fungi" monicker and the fact Lovecraft repeatedly describes them as being made of matter unfamiliar to Earth.

When I sat down to sculpt this one, that's what I tried to keep in mind. In my mind's eye, free from the constraints of reality and polymer clay, a Fungi from Yuggoth does not wholly occupy space but flows within it - filling out into an ever-shifting form like hot dye poured into cold water. Their wings can be like those of a bat and a moth simultaneously, while also seeming more like a shelf fungus or a rotting whale's fins. They don't beat them... they don't buzz or glide on them... they just inhabit the air.

The worst thing of all is that the Fungi you see is only the tip of the iceberg. The Fungi exists here and elsewhere at the same time, but not all of it exists in all places. There are limbs, organelles and instruments that flail and maneuver with no discernible purpose. Somewhere, though, they are effecting something... and there and likely parts there that we can't see here, yet they move against us regardless.

The investigator sees a strange light dance over the tree tops, towards the house. He turns from the window, but it's already climbed the stairs. It's small, at first, it's luminescent central stalk flickering pale green and blue. Then it stretches out in all directions, chiteneous panels expanding to allow previously non-present limbs to flop out in asymmetric pairings. It's glowing oblong head-thing extends towards him and shifts to an impossible violet, the limb or trunk supporting it stretched thinner and thinner. By the time he remembers his revolver a wing-fin uncurls, then another and then, almost comically, a third. Before he can perceive what's happened it has somehow doubled in volume, and though all six of his bullets puncture the writhing purple globe that - by all reasonable biology - should have contained the brain, the thing neither advances nor retreats. To his eye, it does nothing... but he falls dead all the same, unseen tendrils pulling down the pillars of his life.

You know. Something like that.


  1. I agree with a whole lot of what you're saying here.

    Personally, I've always preferred to just call them the Yuggoth. Calling them "Mi-go" never made any sense to me, and that was a word for yetis that means something like "wild man". I really don't know what Lovecraft was thinking, trying to draw a connection there.

    Anyway, my biggest problem with their depictions is generally the wings. Like you said, they often look way too terrestrial. I dig your depiction, here, though. The "rotted whale fin" qualities are especially nice.

    And, actually, the drawing accompanying the Mi-go article on Wikipedia does a good job, as well:

    Making them live up to the whole "fungi" moniker seems to be especially hard. I don't think HPL was ever very clear on how they resembled fungi in the first place, so artists tend to ignore it. I kind of like the idea of portraying their outer carapace something like the gnarled, slippery bark of a rotted stump, with the "head" growing out from the inside like a mass of fungus or coral--more a STUFF than a THING.

  2. I think Lover-boy (as an 80s high school bully would call him) was trying to pin various world myths about "scary things in the mountains" on the Yuggoth (I agree, that's a much handier name). In typical Lovecraft fashion that included saying a sacred animal revered in one region of the world was just a horrible space monster.

    Buddhist Monk: "Gupta, did you see that?! It looked like a giant floating lobster with a slimy disco-ball for a head!"

    Monk 2: "Oh, that's the Mi-go. Lucky us!"

    Monk 1: "The Mi-go... Gupta, the Mi-go is a big hairy guy."

    Monk 2: "What do we know, we're foreigners. Now, shall we sacrifice this goat to Nyarlethotep or save it for the negroid swamp orgy next week?"

    Thanks for the compliments: I'm still getting the hang of trying to work at 25mm scale. This one still came about double the size I wanted... I'm writing it off as "Well, he's of the soldier caste. He's bigger."

    I agree about the drawing on Wikipedia. The hind legs give it a nice proportion - like it doesn't even need to fly if it wants to chase you down.

    The fungi bit, I think, is from the poem of the same title. In fact, it's possible Sandy Peterson's responsible for making that connection when he wrote the RPG. Other than "Yuggoth" I don't know if there's a connection between the story "The Whisper in the Darkness" and the poem "The Fungi from Yuggoth." I could be wrong. But your description is good and sort of matches what I wanted to do here, but didn't quite manage. My Yuggoth looks just a little bit like a Koopa Troopa.

  3. That is crazy cool. How much does a decent sized chunk of hard bees wax for something like this go for anyhow?

  4. This was Super Sculpey, but let's see...

    It's far down on the page, but they've got bee's wax suitable for sculpting. Looks like $19 a block.