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OK, cut to the punchline. Once and for all: the Necronomicon is fiction, pure fiction, invented by H. P. Lovecraft in his stories in the 1920s. There never was such a book, not nowhere, not no-how, before that.
One of the recurring plot devices was the "terrible and forbidden" book, The Necronomicon, an all-purpose book of demonology, occult lore, and magic, written by "the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred." Lovecraft first made reference to The Necronomicon in "The Hound" (1922), and earlier to Abdul Alhazred in "The Nameless City" (1921).
In 1927, Lovecraft wrote the "History of the Necronomicon" as a tongue-in-cheek history of his mythical book. He said he did it to give "a sort of air of verisimilitude." Doubtless also to be sure that all the other writers who were making reference to the Necronomicon would be consistent.
According to Lovecraft's "History," the Necronomicon was written in the 8th Century AD by the "mad Arab" Alhazred, and was translated into Greek under the title Necronomicon by Theodorus Philetas in AD 950, then into Latin by Olias Wormius in 1228. (The real Wormius--a Danish doctor--lived from 1588 to 1654.) An "imperfect" English translation was supposedly made by Dr. John Dee (1527-1608), an English mathematician and astrologer. And so on. Lovecraft thus created a detailed background for his imaginary book.
When fans wrote Lovecraft in the 1930s to ask if these books were real, he replied truthfully (as quoted above.) In a 1936 letter, for instance, he says, "I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary. There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself."
Long after Lovecraft's death, several books appeared, sold privately or in bookstores, purporting to be new translations (or rediscovered copies) of the Necronomicon. Most of these are clearly spoofs or in-jokes. There are just under a dozen versions floating about, including one by Lin Carter and one by L. Sprague DeCamp, famous science fiction writers in their own right. All of them have an initial appearance that post-dates Lovecraft, usually by over 35 years.
A Bedouin in a psychic realm.
No possessions but those you carry.
Terrible in its beauty.
Visiting Fellowship at the University of Leeds. Recently I’ve primarily been working as a mathematical writer, and occasionally speaker, largely aiming at the general public rather than specialists. In what time I have left, I do some research in Model Theory, an area which bridges mathematical logic and algebra.
Thanks for getting in touch. Thanks too for mentioning my article in your post, which I enjoyed, as well as all the wonderfully weird pictures and videos on the thread.
I should give credit where it's due: the idea of writing about the mathematical aspects of HPL's work was Tom Hull's first. But when I wanted to write about exotic spheres and so on, it just seemed a perfect fit. Where else would The Old Ones live but in some insane high-dimensional manifold, so demented and deformed that it no longer even faintly resembles familiar Euclidean space?
I wouldn't go so far as to call Lovecraft a mathematician, but he certainly had some interest and knowledge of the subject. It's also worth saying that he was writing at a time when some way-out-there ideas from pure mathematics (e.g hyperbolic geometry) were unexpectedly beginning to find applications in physics (e.g in Relativity theory). This took a lot of people by surprise, raised the profile of a few previously obscure bits of geometry, and I suppose it also sent HPL's imagination into overdrive - not that he needed much prompting of course.
I genuinely think that fiction-writers like HPL and mathematicians have a lot in common. Both want to investigate worlds which have some of the same basic constituents as the universe we know, but in other ways are very strange places indeed. The challenge to both is: how weird can these alien realms possibly be? In each case, a lot of imagination and hard work is needed to answer the question! The main point of my article was that in the case of 4-d space, we still don't know the answer. But it is certainly a deeply strange place, to the eyes of us residents of 3-dimensions.
(I should add that the before & after pictures posted in the thread accurately reflect the effect of my encounter with Yog Sothoth. I also appreciate the comment: 'Eldritch Mathematician Richard Elwes', a title which I shall use with pride.)
All the best,
By the way we now officially know you're a geek because you knew to call them D20s rather than 20 sided dice. Paper and Dice Gamers are even lower than Chess nerds in societies pecking order! ha haa
“And while there are those,” the mad Arab had written, “who have dared to seek glimpses beyond the Veil, and to accept HIM as a Guide, they would have been more prudent had they avoided commerce with HIM; for it is written in the Book of Thoth how terrific is the price of a single glimpse. Nor may those who pass ever return, for in the Vastnesses transcending our world are Shapes of darkness that seize and bind. The Affair that shambleth about in the night, the Evil that defieth the Elder Sign, the Herd that stand watch at the secret portal each tomb is known to have, and that thrive on that which groweth out of the tenants within—all these Blacknesses are lesser than HE Who guardeth the Gateway; HE Who will guide the rash one beyond all the worlds into the Abyss of unnamable Devourers. For HE is’UMR AT-TAWIL, the Most Ancient One, which the scribe rendereth as THE PROLONGED OF LIFE.”
“The man of Truth is beyond good and evil,” intoned a voice that was not a voice. “The man of Truth has ridden to All-Is-One. The man of Truth has learnt that Illusion is the only reality, and that substance is an impostor.”
There were “Carters” in settings belonging to every known and suspected age of earth’s history, and to remoter ages of earthly entity transcending knowledge, suspicion, and credibility. “Carters” of forms both human and non-human, vertebrate and invertebrate, conscious and mindless, animal and vegetable. And more, there were “Carters” having nothing in common with earthly life, but moving outrageously amidst backgrounds of other planets and systems and galaxies and cosmic continua. Spores of eternal life drifting from world to world, universe to universe, yet all equally himself. Some of the glimpses recalled dreams—both faint and vivid, single and persistent—which he had had through the long years since he first began to dream, and a few possessed a haunting, fascinating, and almost horrible familiarity which no earthly logic could explain.