Friday, September 30, 2016
I'm still on a bit of a gaming kick at the moment (hoping to progress a little further in my solitaire campaign of Pandemic Legacy later tonight), and earlier in the week I picked ip a hard copy of Chaosium's Alone Against The Flames (which is also available to download for free from their website). This is Chaosium's first solo outing since 1985's Alone Against The Dark, and I plan to make use of it on one of what I hope will be my regular Monday solitaire gaming nights to test out the new 7th edition Call of Cthulhu rules. Nice.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
I discovered only yesterday that a previously unobtainable Call of Cthulhu solitaire scenario - The Thing in the Darkness - has become available from Steve Jackson Games. It appears in issue 3 of The Fantasy Gamer (first published in 1983), which is now purchasble from SJG's Warehouse 23 website in pdf format. Nice.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
I picked up two new expansions for the Mansions of Madness boardgame recently: Suppressed Memories and Recurring Nightmares. I've yet to get MoM to my gaming table, but with the built-in solitaire capability that comes with this edition, this is a game that I'm very excited to play - once I've had the chance to paint all of the lovely miniatures which come with it, that is...
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Well this was an unexpected find: I was picking up some books relating to a research paper I am about to start work on, and unexpectedly discovered Karl Stone's The Star of Hastur. I think this is supposed to be a talismanic book of sorts, even though it is a small paperback. At least I'm presuming that is the case given that I spent THIRTY THREE of your finest (but rapidly devaluing) British pounds on it! I'll just repeat that to give you time to take that in: a small, 160 page paperback about the size of the typical pulp novel you'd find in the late 1970s for £33.00 (well, £32.99 to be precise, but lets not quibble). But being a sucker for this kind of thing, I picked it up regardless (in any case, as this is actually for work purposes, it should be covered by my research fund...)
A brief perusal indicates that this a fairly standard Typhonian Left- Hand Path take on Lovecraftian occultism, replete with lots of Grantian language - as well as illustrations by the author somewhat reminiscent of Michael Bertiaux's art. The early chapters outline Stone's 'sexo-magical' initiation into the mysteries of the Yellow Mist (whatever that might be), along with his explorations into 'Hyperchemistry' (again utilising alluded-to-but-never-described sexo-magical means), leading to the discovery of a constantly capitalised SUBSTANCE (I shudder to think), which in functions as a medium of communication with/manifestation of praeter-human intelligences and the like (cue more Grantianisms...).
Oddly, Stone works from a primarily Derletho-Lovecraftian (see what I did there) interpretation of Hastur, the King in Yellow, and so on; but whilst Robert W. Chambers is included in the bibliography, there is no mention of either Lovecraft or Derleth. In addition to which, Stone treats the Mi-Go as servants of Hastur and the Yellow Sign, even though this is contradicted in The Whisperer in Darkness (and here I am being rather picky).
In fairness, though, I haven't read the book in its entirety, and parts of the text have piqued my interest - so there may be more here than I'm currently giving credit for.
Monday, September 26, 2016
My work year doesn't quite follow the pattern of typical of many other people's, such that today effectively marks the beginning of a 'new year' workwise for me. As a consequence, it us also a time of reflection on what has passed, as well as a time for for new resolutions. With regard to the latter, I have not only resolved to try and make better and more creative use of my time over the next twelve months, but to improve my overall quality of life with regard to things that are important to me re: my leisure/hobby time. To this end, Monday evening is (at least until January, when my work schedule changes) now designated as gaming night. I haven't been part of a gaming group for a couple of years, so any gaming that I do tends to be of the solitaire variety. In any case, so far this evening I've played a game of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (which I won); next up is a session of Call of Cthulhu using tonight's offering: Chaosium's classic solitaire scenario Alone Against The Wendigo.
The author of this piece, Glenn Rahman, has an interesting history re: Lovecraftian gaming. Prior to the advent of the Call of Cthulhu rpg, he co-authored a couple of articles in the Sorcerer's Apprentice gaming magazine for using the Tunnels & Trolls rules set for running games of Lovecraftian horror - apparently these also inspired aspects of Sandy Petersen's Call of Cthulhu rules (if anyone is sble to point me in the direction of copies of these articles, please do let me know).
Sunday, September 25, 2016
I picked this up earlier in the week - I'm not sure what the likelihood is of me playing 7th ed. Call of Cthulhu anytime soon (although there is a solitaire scenario available), but this contains some lovely maps which will look very nice when framed and hung on my study wall...
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Yes, this really is a thing: Lovecraft and Pokemon get the mash-up treatment in this light roleplaying game published by Dork Storm Press. I believe that a set of Pokethulhu miniatures were also released by Steve Jackson Games. I'm not really into the mash-up genre (especially where Lovecraft is concerned) and I have never played this - but it does look quite fun; I especially like the map that plays on various Lovecraftian locales (and which forms the game's setting), as well as the cut-out standees which emulate those found in the first edition of the Call of Cthulhu rpg. And, frankly, what's not to find appealing about a game in which, as the cover informs us, 'the monster in your pocket is...itching for action'? Nice.
Friday, September 23, 2016
I picked up Richard Ward’s Echoes from the Primal Grimoire: Kenneth Grant, H.P. Lovecraft and Magical Reality in the Quantum Universe (published by Von Zos) from Treadwells Bookshop just the other day, so unfortunately haven’t yet had a proper look at it. I was acquainted with Richard many years ago, and was aware of his interest in Lovecraftian occultism; he was also a participant in Andrew Collins’ psychic questing activities (Collins is perhaps better known today for his involvement in the alternative archaeology scene). I’m not sure how well-known psychic questing is outside of the UK, where Collins’ The Black Alchemist - the supposedly true account of Collins and his associates’ attempts to psychically combat a powerful black magician bent on evoking dark forces, culminating in the ‘Great Storm of 1987’ (when the UK was hit by a hurricance) - was something of a minor hit (as well as stirring up some controversy in the occult scene). In any case, The Black Alchemist is a cracking read, and has a bit of a Lovecraftian feel to it. I also recall one occasion when Richard intimated that his involvment in psychic questing had, in fact, led in a Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos-inflected direction; somewhat ominously, he refused to say anymore regarding the matter - and if an account of those events exist it has, as far as I am aware, yet to see print.
On a final note: whilst I’ve yet to read Richard’s monograph in its entirety, a brief scan of some of the early sections has, nonetheless, indicated that the historic influence of a certain hidden occult sodality continues to resonate into the present.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Colin Wilson's 1962 The Strength to Dream was a something of a thematic follow-up to his famous study of pessimism and alienation in Euro-American literature and philosophy, The Outsider. While (despite its title) the earlier book had nothing to do with Lovecraft, The Strength to Dream contained a rather withering critique of HPL, leading August Derleth to challenge Wilson to write his own Cthulhu Mythos novel - or so the story goes. In any case, Wilson subsequently produced The Mind Parasites in 1967 (the copy shown above is the 1969 Panther paperback edition); interestingly, the novel subverts Lovecraft's pessimistic cosmicism via an existentialist optimism, in effect prefiguring the development of Wilson's notion of 'Faculty X' - a speculated human capacity for the expansion of consiousness - which he introduced in 1971s The Occult. Wilson's refutation of the damaging effects of modern philosophical pessimism is also present in one of my favourite of his Cthulhu Mythos tales, The Return of the Lloigor - shown here in what I think is the relatively rare 1974 Village Press chapbook edition.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Edward Andrew Mann's The Portals seems to be a lesser-known Lovecraftian novel, and is notable as an early attempt to marry the Cthulhu Mythos with the UFO phenomenon via John Keel. Other than that, there's not much I have to say about it - I powered through the book I didn't much like it, and can't really remember that much else about the story. Published in 1974, I suppose it also constitutes a precursor to the much better Delta Green take on the Mythos-UFO connection (and, without going into details, there are some very general similarities between The Portals and the Delta Green universe).
Monday, September 19, 2016
I'm rather busy at the moment, so this is going to be a quick post - but following on fromyesterday I thought I might run a short series of classic Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos paperbacks from the 70s onwards. Today's offering is Basil Copper's 1974 The Great White Space, which is a kind of sci-fi inflected and pulpified version of Professor Challenger meets At the Mountains of Madness. Kind of. This has been republished recently and is available in kindle format - a fun read.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
I had planned a series of posts on Ligotti this week; however, tomorrow marks my full return to work as the new academic year begins, and frankly the thought of having to deal with Ligotti on a daily basis at the same time is just a little too much to bear! Instead, I present what will be my reading material for the next few days: Robert Bloch's novel-length homage to Lovecraft, Strange Eons (which I think may also be a sequel to the now famous Lovecraft-Bloch murder trilogy). I first read this in a hardback edition my local library. As I've mentioned previously, back in the late 70s-early 80s my local public library seemed full of weird Lovecraftian and occult stuff - probably on account of that fine institution being run by hippy librarians (the very best sort, of corse). In any case, I recall that the hardback edition of Strange Eons also contained a number of rather nice pen-and-ink illustrations.
Strange Eons was, I think, something of a rarity back in the Lovecraft revival of the 1970s, in being one of only a few novel-length Cthulhu Mythos tales (most of the others apparently having been written by Brian Lumley!). indeed, it seems that the penchant for creating long-form Mythos fiction didn't take off until the 1990s.
Strange Eons is currently out if print (but available relatively cheaply as a paperback - the edition shown here - on the second hand market). This also reminds me that, despite the digital revolution - which appears to have facilitated a veritable explosion of contemporary Cthulhu Mythos fiction - there remain as yet a good number of older tales unavaible in ebook format or republished hardcopy.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Teatro Grottesco kicks of what may be a few days of Thomas Ligotti items. I begin the series with this particular collection because it contains 'Purity': probably my current favourite of Ligotti's tales, and one which uses the genre to deconstructs some of the key institutions underpinning contemporary Euro-Ameican democratic nation-states - as well as human society more generally - via a tale involving a rather strange family, a serial child-murderer, and the revelation that some heads are more haunted than others.
Whilst Ligotti's fiction has been widely lauded, astonishingly Ligotti himself has also come in for some criticism from within the horror community for, it seems, taking horror as an artform too seriously. Specifically, the critique focuses on Ligotti's use of the genre - like Lovecraft - as the medium for expressing a philosophy, ideology and worldview: in Ligotti's case, a nihilistic antinatalism which holds that humans are biological automata for whom consciousness (or at least the illusion of consciousness and the subsequent belief that we possess some kind of essentialised self) is the worst thing that could have ever happened to our species.
After encountering Lovecraft's cosmicising of horror, it was difficult for me to see where the genre had left to go - whether it was in fact possible to out-Lovecraft Lovecraft. Ligotti proved to me that this was, indeed, possible via the uncompromising extremity - the purity - of his view; added to which the manner that he personalises the abstractions of Lovecraft's nihilism in a very psychologised and Poesque manner make them all the more papable and visceral.
Returning to the matter of the criticisms levelled at him, Ligotti has been very upfront about the fact that his fiction expresses his own deep-seated anxieties and beliefs regarding the nature of the cosmos, leading to the subsequent accusation that he is effectively presenting his own mental illness as a fully-blown and intellectually coherent philosophy. Such a claim - especially coming ss it does from within the horror community - seems to me to be an expression of a kind of Satrean Bad Faith: that horror and horror writing should not give expression to the author's genuine convictions, thus implying that all the genre is really good for is offering a few cheap thrills. Now I'm pretty certain that this was not the intention behind said claim but, if anything, the fact that Ligotti's fiction is so terrifying to some readers that they simply cannot contemplate or conceive of the possibility that it might represent the genuine order of things, then that in itself is a huge testament to the power of his work. Some heads, indeed, are more haunted than others.
Friday, September 16, 2016
I watched the new Blair Witch movie yesterday (mild spoilers ahead) and, despite some strong reviews, I have to say I was unimpressed: it feels like a much cleaner, updated version of the original (to which it is a direct sequel), but swaps out the sense of creeping dread which underpinned the original for the kind of tired jump-scares that are all-too typical of modern found footage movies; in addition to which, it commits the cardinal sin of actually showing the witch (albeit very briefly) - a reveal that the original movie quite rightly eschewed. There were some intriguing elements to the film - particularly the fact that whatever is stalking the protaganists through the woods at night is seemingly of monstrous size...yet despite some very Lovecraftian intimations that we get here, Blair Witch takes another direction which both ultimately disappoints and adds nothing to the mythology fbthe Blair Witch.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with today's offering? Nothing other than the fact that probably the best part of my trip to the cinema was seeing the new Doctor Strange trailer, which reminded me of Lin Carter's Anton Zarnak: Supernatural Sleuth. Zarnak follows in the tradition of literary paranormal investigators a la John Silence, Carnacki, and the like; but his knowledge and expertise in matters mystical and occult - especially as they pertain to the Cthulhu Mythos - mean that Zarnak is also something of a Lovecraftian analogue of Dr Strange. In addition to which (if I recall correctly), a footnote to Zarnack's backstory includes mention of an association with one Stephen Strange...
Thursday, September 15, 2016
This is probably my favourite version of the Call of Cthulhu rpg: 3rd edition, licensed to Games Workshop and published in hardcover in the UK. This was back in the day when GW hadn't yet become the gaming juggernaut it is today, and still dealt in IPs other than its own Warhammer universes. In any case, this or 2nd edition are my go-to versions when I occasionally play the few CoC solitaire modules that were produced.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Using occult powers (the nature of which I dare not speak), I have managed to procure a copy of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu a couple of days prior to its UK release date (this Friday). For those unfamilar with this, Pandemic is a hugely popular co-operative boardgame in which players seek to cure diseases before the outbreak of a global pandemic; this is effectively a retheming of the game in which players act co-operatively to thwart the efforts of cultists - clustered around Arkham, Kingsport, Dunwich and Innsmouth - who are seeking to bring sbout the return of the Old Ones. Not only is the original Pandemic an excellent game, it is incredibly easy to learn and play (not to say fast - a typical game lasts about 45 mins - 1 hour) - as well as being incredibly tense. For all intents and purposes, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu looks to be a very accessible, fast-play version of Arkham Horror (a game notorious for lasting 4-5 hours), so I'm rather excited about this. Indeed, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu was one of the topics of discussion at a recent Lovecraft Scholars meet-up, at which other exciting matters were also discussed - more of which in the future...
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
In yesterday's post I lamented the demise during the early stages of the internet revolution of many specialst bookshoops in the UK. As I recall, in the latter half of the 1990s, there were at least four specialst sci-fi/horror bookshops in London, three of where along or near Charing Cross Road and within walking distance of one another. Perhaps the hest known, however, was the Fantasy Centre along Holloway Road, which was also the last - albeit most long-lived - of its species, closing its doors for the final time in 2009. Here I present, in memoriam of those happy days, an original piece of art (which I think may have been used on the final catalogue/newsletter which the afantasy Centre issued) by Dave Carson, and commemorating 40 years of service to the UK's horror community. Good times.
Monday, September 12, 2016
This is another little Cthulhu idol which I picked up many years ago from the long-lamented Arkham - an emporium which, back in the late 1990s, was hidden away in the backstreets of Brighton (for non-UK readers, a well-known seaside resort on the South coast of the UK), and was a repository of all things strange and Lovecraftian. I have no idea as to why Arkham closed its doors - although I presume that it ultimately became the victim (as did many of the specialist UK bookshops in the late 1990s/early 2000s) of the then-incipient online marketplace.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Joe Broers kindly sent me a small sample of gold coins which, he informs me, originally formed part of a much larger cache - discovered whilst Joe was exploring the notorious Devil's Reef (which, as informed readers ae no doubt aware, lies off the coast of equally disrepitable Massachusetts maritime town of Innsmouth). The coins were found in s rotting wooden chest hidden under a pile of seaweed within the deeper recesses of a sea cave. Joe assures me that, uniformly, the coins from the cache are stamped with images of various cephalopodic monstrousities, along with other, less-imaginable oceanic phantasmagoria.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Gage Prentiss of the Rumtucket Trading Company secured this for me: a piece of the almost-legendary Innsmouth gold. The only other example of this that I am familar with was an ornate (and rather horribly embellished) tiara formerly on display at the Newbryport Historical Society - at least until that fine establshment was burnt to the ground in suspicious circumstances some years back. This particular piece has been worked into the form of something skin to an ammonite - although I am reliably informed that, if it is indeed modelled on an extant fossil sample, it is one that conforms to no known genus or species currently recognised within the palaeontological world.
Attentive readers may recall that, on acquiring the object examined in entry 103 of this series, I noted the appearance of a rather repellent-looking individual who seemed to take an unnerving interest in my abode. Since acquiring this item, said individual - whose eyes, I recently noticed, were of grotesquely protuberant cast - appears to have recommenced his surveillance of my sanctum sanctorum...
Friday, September 09, 2016
Joe Broers entrusted me with this bronze-finish Cthulhu idol, though from whence he procured it I do not know. Extensive analysis has failed to identify the exact metal or alloy of which the thing is composed, although texts indicate a distinctly non-terrestrial origin. Another curious property of the item - as attested to by the above images - is the weird purple glow or light which emanates from it under certain conditions. It is speculated that this is a consequence of how the idol's unique and non-terrene composition warps the curvature of space-time in a manner that some of the world's best astophysicists have been at a loss to explain.
Thursday, September 08, 2016
This plastercast Cthulhu icon - which I painted a dark shade of sea green - was gifted to me by Maria Strutz many years ago. Whilst it is now safely ensconced within my cabinet of curiosities, since coming into my possession it has acquired an unusual and somewhat sinister history: since coming many are the times it has rested silent and uncaring upon a makeshift alter in some unlit and desolate, liminal space; numberless eldritch sacraments has it witnessed, where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons...
As a consequence of these ritual applications, the icon has become somewhat chipped and worn - although I like think this renders it all the more characterful.
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Its something of an understatement to say that these two books - bought for me by my parents during a day out to Windsor in the late-1970s - pretty much consolidated a radical re-evaluation of the fantasy genre that had started a few months earlier when I read my first Michael Moorcock novel (The Knight of Swords). I was about 11 at the time. These were two early instancs of what today we would term as graphic novels, illustrated by Philippe Druillet. I has never quite ready anything like Yragael/Urm (and still haven't); the influence of Moorcock is here, the imagery is phantasmagorical, and the story virtually incomprehensible - to my 11 year old mind, that spoke of profundity. Whether or not that was or is the case, the tales of Yragael and his desendent Urm demonstrated to me at that young age that something very different could be done with the fantasy genre.
All of that aside, A Lovecraftian tone looms large in both these works: Yragael/Urm begins with a story of cosmogenesis seemingly involving monstrous gods and vast, Lovecraftian tracts of space and time; said monstrous gods also seem to be manifest in the monolithic architecture of the world, and at one point the protaganist Yragael encounters some sort of cosmic being, leading to the appearance of a massive Cthulhu-like entity. Urm, ostensibly a sequel to Yragael, is perhaps more overtly Lovecraftian insofar as Urm himself - possibly Yragael's son - is mislead into facilitating the return of Lovecraftian dark gods into the world. At least, I think that's what it is about...
Lone Sloane/Delirious is more in the line of classic space opera - except that early on eponymous hero the is cast into a void where a sleeping black god lurks; eldritch symbols beyond human comprehension or articulation are evoked, and Loan Sloane ends up wandering around the cosmos on a weird space-throne, making statements like 'I have talked with demons and at times gods have granted me audience!'. Amidst trans-dimensional hopping, other cosmic beings and weird gods are also encountered. Lovecraft also gets a mention in the introduction by Jacques Bergier.
Whilst the Cthulhu Mythos is definitely not explicit in either of these tomes, the mood of cosmic pessimism and the stylistic intimations of a Lovecraftian universe that permeate both books certainly speaks to Lovecraft's influence - unsurprising given that Druillet was also a contributor to the issue of Heavy Metal dedicated to Lovecraft. Whilst neither of these books are, then, pure Lovecraft, if you are looking for something very different with a definite Lovecraftian timbre, they are certainly worth investigating.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
Unfortunately heightened busyness and constant interruptions over the past couple of days mean that more substantive entries to the Lovecaftian Thing a Day will have to wait a little longer. Until then, here's an Elder Sign sticker from NecronomiCon 2013. Nice.
Monday, September 05, 2016
Today we present a portion of a clay tablet dedicated to Dagon, parts of which were cast into the sea off the coast of Dunwich (UK) over a decade ago as part of an apocalyptic ritual which is rumoured to have has precipitated a huge shift within global geopolitics - one that will supposedly lead to the return of the Old Ones. I was not present at said ritual as I was...elsewhere - secreting another fragment of the tablet in a place of particular power and significance. I did, however, directly witness and experience what some claim to have been the aftershocks of the ritual. Needless to say, such a powerful artefact is now safely ensconced behind a particularly nasty and efficatious occult firewall. Until the time is right, that is.
Sunday, September 04, 2016
Another refrain from NecronomiCon 2015 - the postcard flyer for the Influence of Anxiety exhibition put on by Brown University at the John Hay Library, primarily covering the literary correspindence between Lovecraft and Bloch. Interestingly, the exhibit contained a number of original artworks by Bloch depicting various Mythos entities; unfortunately there was a rather odd copyright policy in force for the duration of the exhibit, which meant that it was permissible to photograph the Lovecraft items on display, but not those of Bloch. The image on the postcard flyer - shown at the exhibition - is entitled 'Iaa Shub Niggurath Y'a'. Interestingly, one of the Bloch artworks on display (entitled Kadath, although actually depicting something akin to a Mi-Go) - and which he sent to Lovecraft - was drawn on the reverse side of a poster promoting Jewish Day on July 3rd, 1933 at the Centre of Progress International Exposition in Milwaukee. It seems that Lovecraft managed not to explode into a paroxysm of bigoted rage when appraising Bloch's artwork on this occasion - although he appears to have been unsurprisingly critical of the exposition regarding its advocacy of modernist progess...
Saturday, September 03, 2016
I picked up this set of rather nice Lovecraft-themed postcards during NecronomiCon 2015 from the HPLHS stall. The images are by Darrell Tutchton, with whose work readers may be familiar from the covers of the HPLHS' Dark Adventure Theatre series of audio dramas. Nice.
Friday, September 02, 2016
For no better reason than I was rewatching it last night, the HPLHS' adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness is not quite as true to the source material as their classic version of The Call of Cthulhu, but is a rather fine film nonetheless. I also believe that The Whisperer in Darkness may be the only film ever made thusfar in which Charles Fort appears as a character, which might be some small claim to fame. Regardless, The Whisperer in Darkness is one of the better of the Lovecraft cinematic adaptations, and can now be downloaded from iTunex.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
If I'm honest, The Lovecraftian Thing a Day has become a little pedestrian of late - in part due to my being particularly busy during this time of the year. Excuses aside, over the past weeks keeping this blog updated daily has come to feel like a bit of a chore, such that I've tended to grab some random object from my shelves and scribble a few ineffectual lines about it. The bad news is that this may continue for the next few days; the good news is that, as of early next week, I mean to assert more rigorous quality control over the content during the final four months of the series. That said, today's offering is another random shelf-grab: In Lovecraft's Shadow: The Cthulhu Mythos Stories of August Derleth, published by Moran & Mycroft in 1998. Regardless of what one might thinks of Derleth, this is a beautifully produced volume with cover art and interior illustrations by Stephen Fabian. Although it should be added that is not a complete collection of Derleth's Mythos tales.
For all of Derleth's faults - especially his attempt to authoritatively define the Mythos in a distinctly counter-Lovecraftian manner - I retain a soft spot for his writing, which I consider to be not-too-terrible. In addition to which, the criticism levelled at Derleth of trying to assert absolute interpretive jurisdiction (not to mention proprietry rights) over Lovecraft's work is something which one or two well-know and vocal contemporary Lovecraft scholars might productively reflect on. Especially as far as their self-assured assumption of unquestionable expository ownership over his life and work are concerned...
On a less controversial (and more personal) note, I believe this may have been one of the very last books I purchased from the long-lamented Fantasy Centre - which used to be one of the UK's best genre/specialist bookshop - before that fine establishment closed its doors for good. Sad times.