Read Before Providence #8: The Key to the Dreamlands

H.P. Lovecraft's Randolph Carter or Providence's Randall Carver - Providence #8 Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows
H.P. Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter or Providence’s Randall Carver – Providence #8 Portrait variant cover, art by Jacen Burrows

Providence #8 is among Avatar Press’ April 2016 releases, which means it could come out any day now.

We do not have any actual advance knowledge, but, from issue #8 covers and from the conclusion of Providence #7, we are expecting the issue to center on Randall Carver, the Providence analogue of H.P. Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter.

Carter began life as a stand-in for Lovecraft himself in “The Statement of Randolph Carter” (1919), which began as one of Lovecraft’s dreams. In that story, Carter, “a bundle of… frail nerves,” and his friend Harley Warren are occultists who uncover a set of stairs leading underground—where horrors lie. This echoes nicely with the subterranean themes explored in Providence #7.

Carter also appeared in “The Silver Key,” “The Unnameable,” The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (a collaboration with E. Hoffmann Price) and is mentioned in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” Carter is Lovecraft’s most-recurring human character. His adventures bridge the gap between two different “cycles” of the Cthulhu Mythos: those set in the “real world” of the Miskatonic Valley (including “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Thing on the Doorstep”) and those set in the Dreamlands (including “The Cats of Ulthar” and “Celephaïs”).

Pickman (Providence #7’s Pitman) too is a transitional character in these works, appearing on his own in “Pickman’s Model,” and together with Carter in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”

Lovecraft never got around to describing Randolph Carter in any great detail in his stories; as the narrator of the tales readers get an impression of an older man, well-educated, erudite if retiring.

Fittingly the Randall Carver on the covers of Providence #8 appears to be based somewhat on Lovecraft himself, in a dressing-gown and oriental slippers, surrounded by the books and relics of a lifetime of occult study. The main differences with Lovecraft appear to be the addition of graying temples and a Holmesian pipe; Lovecraft had smoked cigarettes when he was younger, but gave it up, and never took up the pipe.

Carter is a weird fiction author very analogous to Lovecraft. Carter’s stories are published in Whispers; Lovecraft’s in Weird Tales. There is not a lot of detail, but here are some of Lovecraft’s descriptions of Carter:

Besides, he added, my [Carter’s] constant talk about “unnamable” and “unmentionable” things was a very puerile device, quite in keeping with my lowly standing as an author. I was too fond of ending my stories with sights or sounds which paralysed my heroes’ faculties and left them without courage, words, or associations to tell what they had experienced. (“The Unnameable“)

Amidst this chaos of hollowness and unrest Carter tried to live as befitted a man of keen thought and good heritage. With his dreams fading under the ridicule of the age he could not believe in anything, but the love of harmony kept him close to the ways of his race and station. He walked impassive through the cities of men, and sighed because no vista seemed fully real; because every flash of yellow sunlight on tall roofs and every glimpse of balustraded plazas in the first lamps of evening served only to remind him of dreams he had once known, and to make him homesick for ethereal lands he no longer knew how to find. (“The Silver Key“)

His [Carter’s] career had been a strange and lonely one, and there were those who inferred from his curious novels many episodes more bizarre than any in his recorded history. […] Carter lived in Boston, but it was from the wild, haunted hills behind hoary and witch-accursed Arkham that all his forbears had come. And it was amid those ancient, cryptically brooding hills that he had ultimately vanished. (“Through the Gates of the Silver Key“)

S. Petersen's Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands (1989, Chaosium)
S. Petersen’s Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands (1989, Chaosium)

In light of the revelations of Providence #7, and the subterranean and dream-world adventures of Randolph Carter, it seems possible that in Providence #8 Randall Carver could serve as a psychopomp of sorts, either regaling Robert Black with some of his adventures, or giving him a kind of guided tour of the Dreamlands, or at least the underlying theory and cosmogony. A subcurrent of thought that has been running throughout Providence has been the Jungian symbolism of descending into the underworld, and it might be that Moore will pursue this further in light of the revelations of the last few issues.

Burrows for his part, if he will depict any creatures of the Dreamlands, may pay homage to the classic Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying accessory S. Petersen’s Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands. See Burrows depictions of Dreamlands on a number of Dreamscape variant covers.

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18 thoughts on “Read Before Providence #8: The Key to the Dreamlands

      • Retailer order in a three month cycle, so solicitations for new books go out 4 months prior to publication.

        Publishers often can’t predict an artists output, Moore’s books are often off schedule.

        Hopefully Providence never approaches the MiracleMan publication timeline.

        Like

      • It’s basically the cover date that is set to appear on the comic. For Avatar, the actual issue could arrive a month early, or on-time, or up to a month or two later. It’s really difficult to know. (For Prov8 though, it looks like it’s supposed to ship a week from Wednesday – on March 30th)

        Like

    • Yah – Providence being roughly bi-monthly is model of punctuality compared to V, Miracleman, Watchmen, etc. (don’t mention Big Numbers) I think it’s fine. I think it’s just us over-enabled 21st Century readers who want everything done yesterday.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh god, don’t mention Big Numbers. I still viscerally remember the pain of thinking “Big Numbers is coming this week, right? Or next week? Or… It’s…
        …It’s never coming, is it?…
        Never.”

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I just reread “The Statement of Randolph Carter” – and there’s plenty of stuff there to hang an issue of Providence on. I wonder if it could be that Carter is back in Boston, convalescing from his awful experience in Florida, smoking some kind of hallucinogen… we’ll see soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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