The players in my Eclipse Phase campaign were a bit amused at the end of the first session when they were recruited into Firewall by a woman named Sonya Greene. The cause for their amusement was that in an earlier campaign, they had been recruited into Delta Green by a woman named Sonya Greene. They even asked if it was the same person and I assured them it was.
It was a quick joke at the time, but some time later I thought about it a bit and realized that Firewall and Delta Green have a great deal in common. Perhaps enough that one could draw a line of connection from one to the other.
Of course there are going to be similarities between the two organizations. Both are conspiracies operating under a cell structure and both are composed of people working to protect humanity from a hidden threat. And both must keep themselves and even the existence of the threat secret from the people they are protecting. Both know that their best-case scenario is only to break even; all they can really do is push the inevitable end away for a little longer. And of course both are from games that are equal parts conspiracy and horror. But is there more to it than that?
I think there is. If you stop and look at it, there are quite a few elements of Lovecraftian horror in the world of Eclipse Phase.
When most people think of the Cthulhu Mythos they probably think of a bunch of many-tentacled creatures and insane cultists, and to be fair a good amount of that can be found in Lovecraft’s work. But if you look a little deeper you will see that Cthulhu and his kin aren’t really the true horror of the mythos, they are more of a symptom. Lovecraft’s horror really draws from concepts of cosmic alienation and indifference. It isn’t that Cthulhu is opposed to humanity; it’s that Cthulhu really doesn’t care about or even notice humanity. We are a cosmic accident; insignificant in time and space and beneath the notice of the true masters of the universe. Consider the famous phrase that opens Call of Cthulhu:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Reading that, do you think Lovecraft would have been surprised by the Fall? I’d fully expect to see that on a poster somewhere in Firewall headquarters. And I suspect much of the Mythos would have been fractal as well as tentacular if Lovecraft had ever known of the concept. The closest he came was the Colour out of Space, and if a color not in the known spectrum isn’t one step away from a TITAN infestation I don’t know what is. The transhumans of Eclipse Phase have encountered the intelligent slime molds of the Factors; would crustacean-like fungi from Yuggoth surprise them at all? The similarities are there.
So many of the themes are the same. But, can we connect the two even further? Of course!
Now I’m not saying that the world of Eclipse Phase is populated with Lovecraftian beasties (though there isn’t that much difference between Cthulhu and a TITAN war machine beyond flavor text; one will ruin the day of a player character just as fast as the other). But consider this…
Eclipse Phase makes it clear that transhumanity did most of the damage of the Fall to itself. But it is also clear that the TITANS were infected by the Exsurgent virus and that it was the TITANS who took transhumanity over the edge (even if they did walk themselves there).
But what was the Exsurgent virus and the ETI that created it? What destroyed the other civilizations of the galaxy, the remains of which have been discovered through the Pandora Gates?
Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around tall idols which the Great Ones shewed them; idols brought in dim eras from dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.
Sounds like the Fall to me. Maybe there was no Exsurgent virus. Maybe the TITANS just uploaded the Necronomicon.