Monday, February 29, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.60: Carcosa - For Adults Only!

Carcosa is a supplement written by Geoffery McKinney for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other OSR (Old School Renaissance) retroclone roleplaying games - basically modern rewritings of classic/original Dungeons & Dragons rules. Carcosa is essential a Lovecraftian OSR sandbox, and one that stirred up considerable controversy when it was released a few years back - primarily due to its explicit content. Indeed, one can find the following 'trigger warning' on the product's webpage: 'Warning: For Adults Only! Contains explicit descriptions and illustrations of vile black magic and violence'. Nice. In fact, if you are of a nervous disposition or easily offended, it's probably best not to visit the webpage itself (which of course you are now going to do, even though I haven't provided a link), as this itself contains an image of a woman having her eye poked out - which not only renders the proffered warning on the site pointless, but also doesn't help much by way of addressing accusations of misogyny that have been levelled at the book.

All of which left me pondering whether or not to include it as part of this series. Carcosa is, however, a beautifully-produced book, and thankfully most of the graphic material is in the writing and not the illustrations. In addition to which it is perhaps one of the better attempts at realising a truly weird, horrifying and nihilistic Lovecraftian setting for D&D. An interesting - if sometimes disturbing and unsettling - read for both gamers and Lovecraft fans alike.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.59: The Seal of R'lyeh

This is one (actually no.1 of 100) of a limited run of prints of an art piece entitled 'The Seal of R'Lyeh' produced by Peter Smith, and which I picked up in Leeds in the early 1990s. Among other things, Smith has contributed Lovecraftian art to Chaos International and the Typhonian/occult journal. Starfire. As I recall, this was the first piece of Lovecraftian art I owned.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.58: Cthulhuvian Rock Art

This unique piece, surely inspired by visions dredged from the primal shores of dread R'lyeh itself, comes from the hand od Lovecraftian artiste extraordinaire, Mr. Dave Carson.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.57: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath animated movie

Next to the HPLHS's The Call of Cthulhu, this animated version of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath - using Jason Thompson's graphic novel of Lovecraft's tale as its basis - is one of my favourite Lovecraftian films.

Completed in 1927, Dream-Quest is something of an oddity in the Lovecraftian canon, being written at a time when Lovecraft's work sought increasingly to express what he referred to as 'non-supernatural cosmic art'. The Colour Out of Space - which many consider t represent the apex of Lovecraft's secularised cosmicism - was, after all, completed only a couple of months later. Dream-Quest, on the other hand, remains stylistically and (to an extent) thematically rooted in Lovecraft's earlier Dunsanian phase. Understandably, many Lovecraftians feel an ambivalence toward the whimsy found in Dream-Quest in light of the more serious, philosophical tone Lovecraft's work took in the final phases of his writing. For my part, I think Dream-Quest is very much a transitional work, containing many powerful elements of weird and cosmic horror alongside a sense of dream-like wonder; and indeed this is why I feel so well-disposed toward it: like The Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle, Dream-Quest effectively distils the senses of wonder, awe and horror which are all central to Lovecraft's life and work. So sit back, relax, watch and enjoy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.56: Belated Happy Birthday, Augie Derleth

In belated honour of August Derleth's birthday (yesterday), I present this lovely two volume set of the collected letters of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. I love the covers of these; notably, the second volume (on the right here) depicts the house on Lovecraft's beloved Benefit Street which was to become 'The Shunned House'. As noted in an earlier post, I twice stayed in the Coach House Inn opposite this location during previous trips to Providence.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.55: Lovecraftian Tales from the Table

Despite the fact that I rarely get the opportunity to play, The Call of Cthulhu rpg has always been a key facet of my engagement with the Lovecraftian milieu. Fortunately, the good folks at continue to facilitate my participation in rpging – albeit vicariously – through the extensive gaming recordings they have provided over the years. Of note is this DVD which released in 2008, documenting over 50 hours of actual play across two complete (not to say classic) CoC campaigns: The Masks of Nyarlathotep and Horror on the Orient Express. The DVD also comes with a temporary tattoo of the symbol of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue (or is it the Black Pharoah?). In any case, I expect that someday I will end up applying this to my forehead in an effort to scare the neighbours...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.54: The Opener of the Way

Following my encounters with Derleth, Robert Bloch's The Opener of the Way - in yet another UK Neville Spearman edition - was another collection of mythos tales that found its way onto the shelves of my locale library in the late 1970s. Still no Lovecraft, though. Even so, Bloch's Egyptological spin on the mythos was enough to keep me going. It was also through his work that I had my first proper encounter with The Strange Dark One: Nyarlathotep.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.53: Mate Ellis

Joe Broers procured this curiosity for me during one of his sojourns in Kingsport. It comes from the estate of a hoary old seafarer who was a denizen of that dream-haunted town - apparently Mate Ellis was the name of a shipmate of this peculiar character who, rumour has it, would hold long, rambling conversations about the olden days with this bottle and others like it. I try not to listen when, sometimes at night, the little stone head suspended in the bottle whispers it's horrible secrets to me.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.52: The Novel Of the Black Seal

This paperback edition of Machen was the first collection of his work that I owned - although not the first of his fiction that I read: that honour goes to the 1895 edition of The Great God Pan whose cover was illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley (and a work of fiction which I consider to be one of the earliest examples of cosmic horror). I discovered this in the special collections of Leeds University Library in 1987; this meant I was unable to borrow the book and instead had to read it whilst locked in the special collections' dedicated reading room. The reasons for this, I would like to presume, were on account of the shocking and unspeakable nature of the volume's contents...all in all, fairly typical of the kind of Lovecraftian fare that has increasingly come to constitute my daily life.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.51: Gods, Men and Ghosts

Not only is this the first Lord Dunsany book I purchased, it is also one of my favourites - collecting not only a good number of the proto-cosmic phantasies that Lovecraft lionises in Supernatural Horror in Literature, but also containing many of Sidney Simes' classic illustrations of Dunsany's stories. The only downside is that the volume doesn't include the wistful 'Idle Days on the Yann' - probably my favourite of all Dunsany's tales. Regardless, many's the evening that I've spent in the Ghooric Zone's snug little book nook waiting to be transported to wild worlds of wonder through the pages of this strange little volume.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.50: The Call of Cthulhu Cult Statue

So today the Lovecraftian Thing A Day reaches another benchmark with its fiftieth consecutive daily post. Whilst I still haven't followed through with my overall intention for the blog (producing at least one substantial post every week or two), the process so far has been a lot of fun - and very instructive. So, then, to celebrate I present another of the rarities from my collection: a replica of the Louisiana Cthulhu cult statue prop as used in the HPLHS film of The Call of Cthulhu and produced in a limited run by Bryan Moore of Arkham Studios. My photo really doesn't do the sculpture justice, which is an attempt to represent the wholly alien Cthulhu in a really unusual Art Deco/Futurist style.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.49: Happy Birthday Gahan Wilson (maybe...)

In honour of the great Gahan Wilson, whose birthday it is today (although sources differ - some say 8th, but others say 18th Feb) I present not one but two samples of his art gracing books in my collection: an illustrated selection of Poe's poems, and Acolytes of Cthulhu, which includes one of Wilsons renditions of the Old Gent himself. Happy (possibly belated) Birthday Gahan Wilson!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.48: The Book of Azathoth

This is another of my sets of Lovecraftian tarot cards, evocatively entitled The Book of Azathoth These are quite nicely illustrated in a rather baroque style; but whatever maddening secrets lurk within the pages of The Book of Azathoth remain hidden from me. For the time being, at least...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.47: Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea!

So today Modiphius has launched its Conan rpg Kickstarter. If, however, you can't wait for that burning hunk of Lovecraftian-inflected sword-and-sorcery goodness to appear in your friendly local gaming store, you could do worse than check out the honest slice of Old School gaming that is Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerer's of Hyperborea! Ok, so officially the title doesn't end with an exclamation mark. But it should. No orcs, elves or dwarves here - but Nightgaunts, Shoggoths and Elder Things aplenty (along with many other Lovecraftian horrors) to vex you player characters with.  There are already a number of Lovecraft-themed scenarios available, with an Innsmouth one being kickstarted shortly.

Personally, I find Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea best played whilst wearing nothing but a pair of sandals (socks not optional if you are British) and some leopard-print underpants to get into the proper, mighty-thewed barbarian mood...

I'll leave you to ponder that image with some easy listening.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.46: Strange Aeons

Psychedelic Lovecraftian folk rock featuring the voice talents of Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Price, Joseph Pulver and Michael Cisco - what's not to like about today’s Lovecraftian Thing A Day from Steve Lines of Rainfall books?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.45: Dave Carson Mi-Go Sculpture

I'm a huge enthusiast of Dave Carson's Lovecraftian art, and am fortunate to possess a number of original pieces of his work - including this sculpted wall-hanging depicting one of the Fungi from Yuggoth. I also understand that today is also Dave Carson's birthday, so happy birthday, Dave!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.44: Dagon

Back in the olden days (the 1980s), before the Internet, we communicated by writing on vellum in our own blood, before strapping said missive on the back of specially-trained sheep who would deliver our messages. Those were the days when the Lovecraftian scene was largely sustained (at least in the UK) through a network of specialist bookshops, by occasional conventions, and by dedicated Lovecraftian zines. Foremost of these was the venerable Dagon, which was published and edited by Carl T. Ford, and lasted for 27 issues. As I recall, Dagon started as a fanzine for The Call of Cthulhu rpg; however its focus later shifted more towards the literary side of things. I picked up an early issue (no.3, I think) from the original Games Workshop at Dalling Road, Hammersmith. It wasn't until, I think, about 1989, that I picked up another issue – this time from the Leeds branch of Games Workshop. In many respects this was an utterly transformative experience, as it was the Thomas Ligotti special issue. Without this, I wouldn't have discovered Ligotti until much later, and it meant I was able to get in at the ground level of Ligotti collecting/fandom (although I never managed to get hold of the Silver Scarab edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer)..

Importantly, Dagon also carried adverts for UK stockists of Weird and Lovecraftian fiction, which (a few years later) allowed me to begin collecting in earnest. Other issues also introduced me to the works of Karl Edward Wagner, D.F. Lewis, and Mark Samuels (who I struck up a brief acquaintance with after returning to London). Dagon was also notable for its extremely high production values, not to say the quality of its contents, showcasing the work of some amazing Lovecrsftian artists (including Dave Carson). I think I'm correct in recalling that Dagon also won a British Fantasy award. Well remembered, and long missed: Dagon, we salute you!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.43: Kadath Press Catalogue

Earlier today I was doing some research for a talk that Phil Hine and myself are giving on Lovecraftian occultures (for the London Fortean Society, in March) when I uncovered this: an old catalogue listing current stock produced by Kadath Press (based in Keighly, North Yorkshire) sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I can't quite remember where this came from, other than I picked it up whilst living in Leeds. I suspect it might have been tucked away inside a copy of Chaos International. In any case, the catalogue highlights the intersection between Lovecraftian fiction and occultism in the late-1980s: the first half of the catalogue lists Arkham House titles, along with other horror small press books and various Lovecraftian zines (Crypt of Cthulhu, Lovecraft Studies, Dagon, etc.); the second half is filled with Crowley rarities, Kenneth Grant books, and Lovecraftian occult titles by Peter Smith and the EOD. In addition to which, the cover is by Brian Ward (illustrator of Peter J. Carroll's Liber Null & Psychonaut), who I had the opportunity to meet (not long, it seems, before his mysterious disappearance - but therein lies a tale for another time...). Kadath Press was run by Mick Lyons who, I understand, was part of the Chaos occultural scene in the North of England in the '80s and 90s.

I have to say, though, that this makes me rather nostalgic for a simpler time before the internet, when, for an early-career collector of Lovecraftian fiction like myself, colourful little booklets like this (written on a typewriter, photocopied and stapled by hand) offered to unlock whole new worlds of strange possibilities...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.42: Elder Sign Pendant

Given the highly volatile nature of the many strange and eldritch artefacts in my possession, needs must that I employ various wards, talismans and other less mentionable occult devices to protect myself (and the world at large!) from the monstrous powers that lurk both within and about these macabre objects. Foremost amongst such wards is the dread Elder Sign, an exemplar of which I present here for your interest and edification. This is a handcrafted piece by Mr Dave Carson, one of the UK's greatest exponents of arts Lovecraftian.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.41: S. Petersen's Field Guides to Cthulhu Monsters

These were the first thing approaching books of Lovecraftian art I owned: produced as field guides to mythos beasts, ostensibly for investigators in The Call of Cthulhu rpg, they also contained invented bibliographies to allow for further 'research'. Lots of lovely Tom Sullivan illustrations in the Cthulhu Monsters book, but also absolutely stunning colour pencil drawings in the Dreamlands volume, which is my favourite of the two. After purchasing these many years ago, I ended up losing them (or perhaps throwing them away). I was fortunate to find these two replacement copies about five years ago, lurking in a dusty corner of a shelf of second-hand books in a UK gaming shop, and going for a song.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.40: Selected Letters Volume III

Fairly early on in my career as a collector of things Lovecraftian, I managed to secure volumes I, II, IV and V of Lovecraft's Selected Letters, but for many years volume III eluded me - in fact it had become virtually mythological in its rarity; fortunately it was reprinted (in the late 1990s, as I recall) by Arkham House. I think that, along with reissues of Lovecraft's fiction and revision work, this may have been part of the final batch of books they published. In any case, I finally managed to pick up a copy in Forbidden Planet (I seem to remember this was around Christmastime). I think because of this, volume III of the Selected Letterx remains my favourite to this day.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.39: Fear the Future!

Today's item is a set of H.P. Lovecraft tarot cards, produced by Mythos Books and published in 2002. Apparently these are a bit of a rarity. These are one of five sets of Lovecraft-themed tarot cards I own, along with two Lovecraftian ouija boards - all of which, no doubt, will make an appearance here at a later date. I have to say, though, that there is something a little curious about basing an oracular system upon Lovecraft's cosmic futilitarianism; indeed, I have only used these once, and what I read in the cards on that occasion makes me fear not only for my own future, but also for that of the entire human species...

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.38: Illuminatus!

The Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson isn't something that tends to register on lists of Cthulhu mythos fiction, despite the fact that this countercultural classic not only includes mention of Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones (the 'Lloigor') as part of a complex conspiratorial melange, but Lovecraft himself makes an appearance whilst Yog Sothoth has a not insignificant role to play in the denouement of the trilogy. I'm also convinced that Charles Stross' use of Yog Sothoth in his novelette A Colder War was inspired by Shea and Anton Wilson's horrific treatment of that entity as 'The Eater of Souls' in the Illuminatus! books.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.37: A curiously stoppered bottle and a tale of necromancy

I acquired this item from an artist-sorcerer who currently resides in or near an English coastal town of questionable repute. It contains certain essential saltes, about which I will not speak here – other than to say that there exists a Fraternal Order whose members are party to the truth of the matter, and who will recall that, some years ago, I undertook a certain journey to a certain burying-ground, at which certain artefacts were buried, and from which certain materials were procured, thence to be apportioned out to the adherents of that Dark Brotherhood. These things aside, I always ensure that the correct formula (in the descending mode) is to hand when dealing with the contents of this vessel.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.36: The Magical Revival

Whilst the Simon Necronomicon is probably the best known (not to say most notorious) Lovecraftian occult text, it was predated by Kenneth Grant’s The Magical Revival. If not the first book to interrogate the Lovecraftian milieu from an esoteric standpoint, Grant’s work offers (at least to my mind), some very creative insights into occult uses of Lovecraft’s fictive mythology. That said, Grant’s writing is at times all but impenetrable – especially if one goes into reading his work unprepared (some nominal knowledge of Aleister Crowley’s life and work is useful, if not necessary).

I discovered The Magical Revival (in the original Fredrich Muller edition) in my local library around the age of 11, practically alongside the Derleth volumes I have previously documented. I barely understood it then, but read it because it mentioned Lovecraft. That the local librarian allowed my 11 year old self to borrow a book of weird, spooky occult shit might seem a little odd; but then all the librarians in my library were hippies and this was, after all, Britain in the 1970s, when it was quite acceptable for Doctor Who to scare the shit out of children at teatime, and when the youth of the day were subjected to a barrage of public safety films involving children dying horribly on farms. And quite right too.

I eventually began collecting Grant’s Typhonian Trilogies (nine books in total) in the 1990s when Skoob Books began reissuing his older work as well as printing the final, previously unpublished volumes of the trilogies. I am fortunate in possessing a complete set, including the extremely rare final two volumes. Fortunately, Starfire Publishing are current republishing the trilogies in their entirety. The edition presented here is the Starfire printing.

All in all, I owe a significant debt to Grant, as his work proved formative in helping me develop some of the key theoretical orientations that informed my doctoral thesis which, in turn (for better or worse), led me to where I am now.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.35: I am a patron of Yog Sothoth!

Today's offering is an Elder Sign cloisonné badge which I received for my patronsge of I became a patron of the site when owner/administrator Paul of Cthulhu (who I finally got to meet at NecronomiCon 2015) introduced the scheme a good few years ago, and am proud to remain a patron to this day. If you are not familiar with, it is without doubt the premiere website for Lovecraftian gaming (with a key focus on The Call of Cthulhu rpg), and has built up a wonderful community over many years. The team were also early adopters of the podcast (they were podcasting well before it became the popular media format it is today) - indeed, it was through the site that I heard my very first podcast.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.34: Still no hot water, but at least I have this...

I remain without the luxury of hot water, so it seems appropriate to display this vanity pack which I 'liberated' from the bathroom of my room in The Old Court Bed & Breakfast, where I stayed during my second trip to Providence in 2011 - a hostelry located almost opposite from the real world analogue of the Shunned House on Benefit Street.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.33: 'They are lean and athirst...'

Aside from being incredibly busy this week, I have have just discovered that I have no hot water in my apartment! That said, a week of cold showers in unlikely to cool my ardour for things Lovecraftian - although expect greater brevity where my posts are concerned over the next few days.

Today's piece is a rare example of one of those most curious of mythos beasts, the Hounds of Tindalos, having been given sculptural form. This is by the redoubtable Joe Broers - I love the sense of langiud menace that inhabits the piece.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No. 32: The Arkham House Companion

Despite my passion for things Lovecraftian, I’ve never been much in the way of an Arkham House collector (I estimate that I own about 25 Arkham House books). That said, if there is one thing that could possibly inspire me to collect Arkham House titles, it would be Sheldon Jaffery’s The Arkham House Companion – a detailed listing (with commentary) of  every Arkham House book published up until, I think, the mid-1980s. I picked this up from The House on the Borderland (a specialist bookshop in Peterborough which, sadly, is no more) sometime back in the early or mid-1990s.

In those heady, pre-internet days, hunting Lovecraftiana was much more of a challenge; there was a certain savour when one occasioned upon a rarity at a secondhand bookstall or charity shop which one rarely encounters since the advent of Amazon, ABE books, and the ready availability of previous rarities in digital format…but this was, as my father is sometimes still prone to wax lyrical about, ‘back in the olden days’.