Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.152: Mythos Omnibus Volume One

In day two of Brian Lumley week I present the first volume of Lumley's two Mythos Omnibuses (is that a word?), which contains (yet again) The Burrowers Beneath, The Transition of Titus Crow and The Clock of Dreams, which together comprise the opening trilogy to what would eventually comprise a series of at least nine interlinking books, throughout which Lumley continues the work of Derleth in attempting to systematize the Cthulhu Mythos.

In any case, The Transition of Tius Crow - a direct sequel to The Burrowers Beneath - remains one of my favourite Lumley works, and in part because our eponymous hero becomes a veritable Mythos-bashing Doctor Who-like figure, flying around time and space in a clock (the weird alien one from 'Through the Gate of the Silver Key') which is bigger on the inside than on the out. Despite how bad that sounds, Transition is rip-roaring pulpy goodness, and even manages to occasionally evoke a sense of the cosmic - dealing as it does with Crow's travels through vast swathes of time and space.

Admittedly Lumley is unable to sustain this on account of his insistence on subjecting the Mythos to a Derlethian moral dualism; the Mythos is, however, both big enough and strange enough to encompass multiple philosophies (even if they are diametrically opposed), so I for one remain unashamedly a fan of Lumley. Just don't mention Kthanid.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.151: The Burrowers Beneath (Day 1 of Brian Lumley Week).

Brian Lumley can be quite a polarizing figure when it comes to the Cthulhu Mythos, insofar as his work in the field tends to reiterate and develop upon the Derlethian 'heresy' - an issue I mean to explore over the coming week. In any case, I retain fond memories of Lumley's The Burrowers Beneath, if only for the fact that it was my first encounter with a Cthulhu Mythos novel by someone who was part of the 'new' Lovecraft circle. In actuality, I quite like Burrowers - it moves along at a fine pace, and contain some moments of genuinely weird horror; it also introduces Titus Crow, a character for whom I have retained a fondness since encountering him here. Sadly, the copy shown here is not the original Grafton UK edition which I picked up in the late 1980s, but an earlier US paperback edition which I purchased more recently.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.150: Shoggoth

To celebrate the 150th post of the Lovecaftian Thing a Day series, I present one of the most remarkable and treasured objects in my collection: an original and unique artwork - which I believe is entitled 'Shoggoth' - produced by the hand of Mr. Dave Carson. I possess many fine and strange things, some of which harbour equally strange properties - but none moreso than this.

I cannot speak as to the manner and circumstances surrounding the creation of this piece, but having spent many long evenings carefully surveying the effigy's weirdly carved contours, it is evident that occult means were employed in its design: the sculpture operates as a kind of psychic gateway or conduit, which opens the inner eye not only to visions of a vast, snowy plateau beyond which looms ominously a range of black, needle-like cyclopean mountains, but also to intimations of monstrous things buried deep within those peaks  - things which lay coldly dreaming, and whose slumber is best not disturbed.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Lovecaftian Thing a Day No.149: William Hope Hodgson

There is a common misconception that a common narrative trope informing much of Lovecraft's work is that of the beleaguered narrator, desperately typing away in an attempt to reveal to the world the horror that at this very moment fumbles monstrously at the latch of my study door...

Well, you get the idea. As I recall, the closest Lovecraft comes to this is in Dagon; in fact it is a conceit that is not original to Lovecraft, but one of his literary forebears: William Hope Hodgson employs it in The House on the Borderland. Mention of Hodgson is long overdue here, so today I present two of his classic works, and ones which not only prefgure Lovecraft's cosmicism but have arguably had something of an influence on HPLs work (but see the comment below): The Night Land and the afoementioned The House on the Borderland. Enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.148: Lovecraft at Last

Today's selection is Lovecaft at Last, the collected correspondence of H.P. Lovecaft and Willis Conover, which includes facsimiles of some of the original letters. This is the 2002 edition (the first being published in 1975). I have no idea from where I picked this up, but seem to recall acquiring it close to the date of publication, so I suspect it may have been a purchase from the venerable (and, since its demise, much lamented) Fantasy Centre in London. I was a bit rushed putting this post together, so haven't had a chance to fact-check, but I think I am correct in stating that the famed 'History of the Necronomicon' appeared in one of Lovecraft's letters to Conover, and is included in this volume.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.147: H.P. Lovecraft Memorial Square Plaque Fridge Magnet

This is a replica (in the form of a fridge magnet) of the plaque which now graces the H.P. Lovecraft Memorial Square in Providence - not far from Prospect Terrace, one of Lovecraft's favourite haunts (I find myself suddenly taken by a strange, melancholic nostalgia just thinking about that spot). I imagine that Lovecraft would marvel at the fact that he'd be remembered within his beloved Providence in such a manner. In any case, this is produced by Gage Prentiss, creator of the actual plaque, and it remains a fond reminder of my last visit to the Sunset City.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.146: Dave Carson Original Art

This is an original artwork by Dave Carson which I picked up a good few years ago, such that I've since forgetten the title of the piece - although I think it is supposed to depict one of Nyarlathotep's monstrous forms. It current hangs on the wall of my Sanctum Sanctorum, above a bust of Lovecraft.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.145: Pulp Macabre - The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era

Another NecronomiCon 2015 purchase, Pulp Macabre presents a wide selection of famed Lovecraftian illustrator Lee Brown Coye's later work. I've always been a huge fan of Coye's style - the peculiar derangements which he subjects the human form to in his illustrations marks him out as a master of the weird. Coye's work is probably best known from the covers of various classic Arkham House collections (notably Dagon and At the Mountains of Madness); the strange, recurrent stick-like motifs that pepper his art also inspired Karl Edward Wagner to write his highly-regarded Cthulhu Mythos tale 'Sticks'. Nice.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.144: Arthur Machen's 1890s Notebook

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be one of a small number of people (300 or less) to receive The Friends of Arthur Machen/Tartarus Press' joint publication of Arthur Machen's 1890 Notebook, which, I understand, includes (amongst other things) notes on Machen's classic weird tale (and one of Lovecraft's favourites) 'The White People'. This along with yet another hardback copy of Faunus (the Journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen), as well as Machenalia (the Newsletter of the Friends of Arthur Machen). Aside from wonderful gifts like the Notebook, you too can receive Faunus and Machenalia twice yearly for just twenty-five of your finest English pounds. Join The Friends of Arthur Machen today - you know you want to.

I'm also very pleased to hear that the Friends will be holdng their AGM/annual dinner in honour of Machen in London next year, which I mean to attend - with NecronomiCon also on the horizon, it's looking like 2017 is going to be very exciting indeed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.143: A Touch of Evil

Today's item is not the title of a well-known Orson Welles movie, but rather Flying Frog Productions' game of supernatural horror and investigation. Whilst A Touch of Evil is somewhat akin to Arkham Horror, initial impressions might indicate this is more Washington Irving than H.P. Lovecaft - Sleepy Hollow the boardgame, if you like - insofar as the game is set in the early 1800s and has a 'colonial gothic' feel. In any case, the game is premised on players taking the role of diverse investigators seeking to unearth, confront and thwart various supernatural evils plaguing the New England village of Shadowbrook. On closer inspection, Lovecraftian elements do reveal themselves, although they are primarily to be found in the game's two big box expansions: the first of which introduces an antagonist bearing more than a passing resemblance to a Deep One/the creature from the black lagoon, along with a cult worshipping a betentacled Unspeakable Horror from Beyond Time and Space; the second coastal-themed expansion introduces encounters with a kraken and provides more by way of Deep One fare in the form of 'the Children of the Deep'. Afficianados of the classic 'undead pirate' trope will also not find themselves disappointed.

While there are indeed gameplay comparisons to be made with Arkham Horror, A Touch of Evil is lighter and with a shorter playing time, meaning it is more likely to hit my table than Arkham. As with previous entries, production values are also very high here, and the game uses a rather unusual art style comprised of photos of actors in period costume or made-up/photoshopped to look like the various antagonists. Some gamers have taken issue with this, but I rather like the conceit. One downside - indeed a problem I have regarding many modern boardgames - is the inclusion of miniatures in A Touch of Evil. It appears to be a common assumption amongst gamers today that a boardgame's quality is proportionate to the number of plastic miniatures which come packed in its box - regardless of the fact that, to all intents and purposes, miniatures remain functionally useless in in many boardgames. In miniature wargaming, miniatures are meanigfully used to simulate or represent the actual physical conditions of warfare, such as combat range and line-of-sight. Since these concepts are often abstracted (or don't apply at all) in may boardgames, miniatures have no purpose other than to act as glorified counters or markers. In this respect, I find that grey plastic miniatures often detract from the aesthetics of a boardgame, necessitating on my part the painting of the damned things in order to create an aesthetically pleasing experience. Fortunately A Touch of Evil only has 8 miniatures in the base game (and thusfar I have only bothered to paint two of them); these could, however, quite easily have been replaced by something akin to the pleasingly attractive cardboard standee markers found in most of Fantasy Flight Games' Lovecraftian boardgames. Alas, the obsession with miniatures in boardgames shows no sigh of abating, so I guess I will just have to live with it...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.142: Ancient Terrible Things!

Ancient Terrible Things is a yahtzee-style dice-rolling game of Lovecraftian pulp horror, where players travel around a stylised board representing weird locations along a mysterious jungle river, seeking to unlock arcane secrets whilst avoiding awakening various ancient terrible things from their aeons-long slumber. The game has quite a unique visual style which fits the theme extremely well, with top-notch components as far as production values are concerned (after The Witch of Salem, this contains what is probably my second-favourite gaming board). That said, Ancient Terrible Things is mechanically similar to Elder Sign, which of the two is my preferred game. The first expansion to Ancient Terrible Things (The Lost Charter) adds solitaire play as well as components that allow you to play the game in a travel format minus the board, which is a nice addition. Not my favourite game of Lovecraftian horror, but one that still occasionally hits my gaming table.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.141: Shadows over Normandie

Undead Nazi occultists seeking to unleash monstrous powers from beyond time snd space? Check. Deep Ones? Check. Shoggoths? Check. Extra-large full-colour counter representing Cthulhu, should I be foolish enough to try snd take him on with a platoon of British commandos or the 101st Airborne? Check. Hellboy - oh, sorry, I meant the non-IP infringing 'Devil Boy' counter with which to kick aforementioned undead Nazi ass? Check. If any of the above sound appealing, then you'll be eanting Shadows over Normandie, the World War 2 squad level tactical wargame of Lovecraftian horror by Devil Pig Games, and which is also a boardgame tie-in to Modiphius' wonderfully named Achtung! Cthulhu rpg. You can even get in-game counters for Lovecraft (wonder which side he'll be fighting on...) as well as Herbert West (who of course allows you to introduce squads of reanimated undead into the game). This ticks so many boxes for me that, with the purchase of this game, my life is pretty much close to being complete.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.140: De Profundis

Michal Oracz's De Profundis is somewhat remarkable in being a game of Lovecraftian letter writing. Ostensibly a kind of rpg, players participate in a process of shared Lovecraftian world-building and storytelling via the epistolary medium. On which point, Oracz's is at pains to point out that the game should, ideally, involve the actual handwriting (or typing, preferably using a vintage typewriter) and physical sending of letters - and indeed other artefacts - through the post. Understandably, the rules governing this type of play-by-mail LARPing operate less as such and more as a set of guidelines - especially as it is anticipated that games will be resolved when one or more of the participants (or at least their literary alter-egos) come to some vaguely horrific end.

Interestingly, De Profundis is just one facet of a wider trend within the Lovecraftian milieu; here I am thinking of the kinds of narratively-backgrounded objets d'art produced by the likes of the HPLHS (as well as other Lovecraftian sculptors), along with more recent endeavours such as the Mysterious Package Company. And of course, much of this harps back not only to a kind of 'folk history' of the production of Lovecraftian material culture within the gaming community (in the form of unique and often beautifully-crafted player handouts), but also to Lovecaft's literary use of verisimilitude and textual cross-pollination as a means of producing a realistic context for his horrors to inhabit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.139: Witch of Salem

Witch of Salem is a neat little cooperative game based on the Cthulhu Mythos-inspired series of novels by German author Wolfgang Hohlbein, apparently centering on the heroic occult activities of the eponymous Witch of Salem in facing off against various Lovecraftian threats. Despite the fact that Hohlbein's work has seen massive sales in Germany, and has been widely translated, I understand that only one of his (non-Mythos) works has seen print in English, which seems a shame. In any case, the game itself is fun and easy to learn, but damned difficult to beat - so it has seen a number of return visits to my gaming table. Thematically, it is not far removed (but quicker to play) than Arkham Horror, such that players are travelling around Salem, avoiding monsters and seeking to close interdimensional gateways before one of the Great Old Ones can forces its way through. Not only is the Witch of Salem a strong recommend if you are a novice seeking to dip your toes into the waters of contemporary Lovecraftian gaming, it also has a gorgeously illustrated board and production values to excite even the most jaded of Lovecraftian aesthetes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.138: Eldritch Horror

In yesterday's post I indicated that, whilst Arkham Horror remains a favourite Lovecraftian game, it rarely hits my table. The reason for this is due in part to its successor, Eldritch Horror. Retaining many of the key features and mechanics of Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror also produces a more streamlined and story-driven experience, managing to fit the equivalent of an entire Call of Cthulhu rpg campaign in the space of about 2 hours. Nice.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Lovecraftan Thing a Day No.137: Arkham Horror (Redux)

I’ve decided to designate this week as ‘Game Week’ for the Lovecraftian Thing a Day series, primarily on account of my owning a shedload of Lovecraftian and Cthulhu-themed games, which provides a relatively easy means of producing content...

In any case, as far back as entry 50, I presented my copy of Chaosium’s Arkham Horror; today I present the revised and updated version of the same produced by Fantasy Flight Games. In fact, this is less a revision than a total redesign of the original, pretty much from the ground up – indeed, whilst sharing some core mechanics with (as well as having the same theme as) the first edition, Fantasy Flight’s version of Arkham Horror looks and plays significantly differently to its forebear.

One key difference is footprint. The original Arkham Horror takes up a modicum of space. Currently my gaming table is too small to accommodate the enormous board that comes in the Fantasy Flight edition; compared to the older, the newer version takes an epically long time to play (I don’t think I’ve ever managed to finished a game in under 4 hours – 5 hours is the norm). That said, the production values are through the roof in this edition, with high quality component and beautiful art. The game also comes with a good number of expansions covering the classic locales of Lovecraft country (Kingsport, Dunwich and Innsmouth), alongside four smaller expansions each dealing with a specific entity (Nyarlathotep, Hastur, Shub Niggurath and Yog Sothoth). All told, Arkham Horror and its myriad expansions offer hundreds of hours of gameplay and is playable – important for an ageing antisocial curmudgeon like myself – solitaire. Outside of the classic Call of Cthulhu rpg, Arkham Horror probably represents one of the best Lovecraftian gaming experiences out there. Why then does it rarely hit my gaming table? The answer to that question, dear reader, will be provided tomorrow…

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.136: Demons By Daylight

Demons by Daylight, Ramsey Campbell's second collection of weird tales, includes a number of stories which are, I would argue, nominally part of Campbell's Severn Valley Cthulhu Mythos cycle: 'Potential' (one of my favourite stories by Campbell), 'Made in Goatswood' and 'The Interloper' - none of which, interestingly, are included in PS Publishing's Visions from Brichester. I think that there are a few others from Demons By Daylight also set in Brichester and surrounding environs. In this respect, this is very much a transitional work, where Campbell continues to incorporate key thematic elements of the Lovecraftian milieu in his tales, whilst also abandoning many of its stylistic trappings in the finding of his own, very modern, voice. For those reasons this is one of my favourite collections of Campbell's work.

Whilst Campbell has continued to return to Lovecraftian themes in later novels and stories, his post-Demons by Daylight output has tended to gravitate more towards exploring urban alienation via forms of spectral, uncanny and psychological horror than the cosmic - although there is more in the way of explicit Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos horror to look forward to by way of some of Campbell's forthcoming novels. Appropriately, my paperback edition of Demons by Daylight (shown here) was kindly signed by Ramsey just before he gave a reading from one of his new Cthulhu Mythos novels at NecronomiCon 2015!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.135: The Inhabitant of the Lake (Redux)

We return once more to the Lovecraftian work of Ramsey Campbell with PS Publishing's recent republication of his shorter length Cthulhu Mythos tales in two beautifully illustrated hardback editions, including a new edition of Campbell's very first book, The Inhabitant of the Lake.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.134: Allen Koszowski Print

At NecronomiCon 2013 I had the great privilege of meeting Lovecraftian artist Allen Koszowski, whose work I first encountered in various Lovecraftian publications snd fanzines (notably Dagon) in the late 1980s. At NecronomiCon, Allen was running a stall selling colourized prints of his work for ridiculously low prices, and I'm pleased to say I picked up a good number of them. Even better, Allen was kind enough to sign all of them, during which time he regaled me with a few choice stories about his time on the Lovecraftian scene, including his experiences at various horror conventions in the UK, and his friendship with Brian Lumley (Allen also asked me to say 'Hi' to Brian on his behalf should I bump into him when back in the UK!). This kind of experience is exactly why I love the Lovecraft scene. In honour of Allen, today I present what will almost certainly be the first of a number of his pieces to grace the pages of this blog.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.133: Early Lower Palaeolitic (Piltdown?) Idol and Elder Sign

This was found resting on a small, naturally-formed ledge within the almost inaccessible cave system within the Iberian Mediterrenean Basin - a system that was apparently widely decorated with a type of parietal art unlike that found in any other location in Europe. Prior to his untimely and unexpected death, the archaeologist who unearthed this idol attached to it a very early Lower Palaeolithic origin (possibly Oldowan). Needless to say, such a claim - if proven correct - would necessitate a radical revision of the currently accepted timeframe regarding the emergence of the first human art - and thus the beginnings of human symbolic thought.

Wrapped around the idol by a length of some sort of twine (a remarkably resilient material, given its speculated age) is a stone amulet, crudely inscribed with the Elder Sign (possibly one of the earliest human renditions of this glyph - assuming, of course, that the piece is indeed the product of human artifice). This has only been removed once - an occasion which, by all accounts, precipitated the spectacularly gruesome demise of its original discoverer. I have been advised by Prof. Broers of Miskatonic University - who kindly forwarded the idol in the aftermath of its owner's death (and who also possess its twin, found in remarkably different circumstances with widely differing speculated origins) - that, on no account whatsoever, should the amulet be removed a second time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lovecaftian Thing a Day No.132: A Disquisition Upon the Efficacy of Certain Wards and Seals

I receive occasional enquiries regarding the precise nature of the protective wards and seals I employ to ensure my safety against the (frankly) volatile nature of many of the items in my possession. Those readers of an esoteric inclination will understand the importance of silence in relation to such matters, where an open disclosure of certain secrets could prove disastrous to the world at large. However, I believe it safe enough on this occasion to reveal two of the slightly less baleful instruments from my arcane armoury?

Knowledgeable readers might be aware of certain textual sources which speculate at a relationship between the nightgaunts of primal myth and (amongst other things) that Primordial Being known as Nodens; that, furthermore, Nodens has had occasion to offer protection (albeit in an arbitrary and indifferent fashion) against those Elder Horrors which lurk beyond curved spacetime.These jade statuettes in the shape of said nightgaunts - whose otherwise faceless visages are inscribed with an Elder Sign within an apotrapaic Eye-in-the-Triangle design - were procured for me by the mysterious and elusive Dr. Gage Prentiss (who has been the topic of previous posts); whatever the matter regarding their provenance and relationship to the Lord of the Abyss, these little statues have proven remarkably effective (especially when deployed using the appropriate rites and incantations) as a first line of defence against intrusions by hyperdimensional horrors. You may note a slight blurring of the photographs above: not the product of poor photographic skills, but a peculiar quality inherent to the idols (no one has yet been able to photograph them without this effect appearing on the image) - hinting, perhaps, at the possibility that they exist within or operate at some higher dimensional frequency

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.131: In the Yaddith Time Redux

As an addendum to yesterday's entry, today I present an original piece of Steve Lines artwork, which was used as the final illustration in the first published edition of Ann K. Schwader's In the Yaddith Time sonnet sequence. Nice.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.130: In the Yaddith Time by Ann K. Schwader

Bringing our poetry week to a close, today's offering is Ann K. Schwader's In the Yaddith Time, published by Mythos Books in 2007, and illustrated by Steve Linex. Despite the fact this is another homage to Lovecaft's The Fungi from Yuggoth, Schwader's sequence of 36 sonnets is notably original  on two counts: in the first instance, the sonnets taken together do tell a story rather than being random visions; secondly, the sequence has an interesting science fictional premise in which a team of explorers from Earth discover a strange gateway in a cavern beneath the surface of Mars, thus avoiding some of the rather trite and frankly rather unimaginative framing devices found in similar works. In any case, as one might expect, general unpleasantness ensues following said revelation. Of the Fungi homages I own, this is undoubtedly my favourite and Schwader's poetry is uniformly excellent. In the Yaddith Time can currently be found in the Hippocampus Press collection of Schwader's weird poetry, Twisted in Dream, which is a strong recommend.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.129: In Mayan Splendor by Frank Belknap Long

In Mayan Splendor - a selection of Frank Belknap Long's verse published in 1977 - is another of my all-too small collection of Arkham House volumes. This is a little eclectic In terms of its contents, and perhaps somewhat unusual as an Arkham House publication in that the poems are not exclusively weird or fanastic in theme. That said, this does contain much of interest to the connosieur of weird verse, including some Cthulh Mythos pieces ('When Chaugner Wakes'), riffs on Machen's work ('The White People'), and a closing poem in memoriam H.P. Lovecraft. The volume is also illustrated by the always excellent Stephen Fabian. A worthy read, and one of my favourite little books of poetry.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Lovecaftan Thing acDay No.128: Flowers of Nithon by Michael Fantina

Michael Fantina's Flowers of Nithon - published as a chapbook by Rainfall Books in 2009 - is a more recent homage to Lovecraft's The Fungi fom Yuggoth. Indeed, Fantina's sonnet cycle directly references Fungi in its very title, borrowing from sonnet XI, 'Star Winds':

'This is the hour when moonstruck poets know
What fungi sprouts in Yuggoth, and what scents
And tints of flowers fill Nithon's continents,
Such as in no poor earthly garden blow'

Flowers uses a similar framing device to Fungi and Carter's Dreams from R'lyeh, although in this instance it is a strange prism rather than a book from which marvelous and horrifying visions flow.  Beyond this, however, there is little by way of a narrative arc to Flowers of Nithon and, even if Fungi lacks the same, there is more in Lovecraft's sonnet cycle by way of aesthetic and thematic unity. Fantina's sonnets are, however, very good, and - with a few exceptions - do their job by building mood and atmosphere rather than signalling their Lovecraftian roots via a constant referencing of the mythos. Definitely a recommended read.

I'm unsure of the current availability of Flowers of Nithon, but you may still be able to order it from Rainfall Books.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.127: Dreams from R'lyeh by Lin Carter

Given the degree to which Lovecraft's prose has incited what is now effectively a global industry of pastiches and works otherwise influenced and inspired by the Old Gent, it was inevitable that later weird writers would also seek to imitate Lovecraft's poetry - especially his famed The Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle. One of the first of these being Lin Carter's Dreams from R'lyeh, published by Arkham House in 1975 (and, incidentally, the only volume of Carter's work produced by AH). Whilst Carter's sonnet cycle follows a clearer narrative arc than does Lovecraft's, the central conceit - that of the poet discovering a crumbling tome in his family library, producing cosmic visions from which the inspiration for the sonnets arises - is virtually the same as Fungi.

The sonnets themselves are enjoyable in a workmanlike fashion, but lack the muted sensitivity of Lovecraft's efforts and thus fail to produce the sense of awe and wonder central to his cosmicism; and where HPL crafts subtle links to the elements of his mythos within the Fungi sonnets, Carter places the Cthulhu Mythos front and centre throughout, being sure to namecheck all the usual suspects - such that this feels more like Lovecraft channelled via Derleth. Even so, this is definitely worth a read, and has more recently been reprinted in Chaosium's The Xothic Legend Cycle: The Complete Mythos Fiction of Lin Carter.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.126: The Fungi from Yuggoth & Other Poems

We've visited Lovecraft's The Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle once before in audio format - indeed, weird poetry seems to me to be best enjoyed via an aural medium (although I'm less a fan of audiobooks). In any case, Fungi is, in my opinion, the masterwork of weird/cosmic verse, and this is one instance where Lovecaft's poetry outstrips that of Poe. It also remains my favourite of Lovecraft's works. My first encounter with some of the Fungi sonnets were as chapter headings to L. Sprague de Camp's biography of HPL; I later picked up the complete cycle by way of the Necronomicon Press' chapbook edition (which I'm currently unable to locate, so it may make an appearance at a later date). More recently I picked up the volume presented here, with Frank Utpatel's illustrations. A new edition, illustrated by Jason Eckhardt, is also on its way from Hippocampus Press.

By way of a short review, The Fungi from Yuggoth spans the entire scope of the Lovecraftian ouevre, from whistful, dreamlike scenes of exotic wonder to the stark nihilism of Lovecraft's trademark cosmic horror. Throughout all of this, though, a very Lovecraftian exploration of landscape and architecture - presented primarily as sources of 'adventurous expectancy' - operates as a unifying aesthetic, often around themes of loss and longing (the sonnet entitled 'Evening Star' I find almost heartbreaking). In this respect, of all of Lovecraft's work, I also find this to be his most personal.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.125: The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe illustrated by Heath Robinson

Whilst not strictly Lovecraftian (indeed, pre-Lovecaftian), my personal odyssey through the world of weird poetry begins with Poe; indeed, as much as I admire Lovecraft's verse, his work (stylistically, even if not thematically) remains eclipsed by Poe's. And, of course, Poe's influence on Lovecaft is substantial, to say the least. 

I originally encountered Poe's verse in audio format. This was back in the 1970s when, yet again, my local library proved to be a veritable treasure trove of weird literature. There I discovered the classic Caedmon recordings of Poe (and we are talking old-school audio tape here) read by Basil Rathbone. There have been a number of audio recordings of The Raven by luminaries such as William Burroughs and Christopher Walken, but Rathbone's remains the definitive rendition ss far as I am concerned. The Rathbone recordings can now be purchased for download from iTunes, by the way. 

A few years later I picked up today's item from a library sale: a selection of Poe's verse illustrated by Heath Robinson, no less. I'm not sure how familiar readers are with Robinson's work, but in the UK he was notable for his comical illustrations of incredibly complex machinary (usually designed to fulfil some mundane if not pointless task) as well, if I recall correctly, as producing illustrated adverts for Guiness. Nice.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.124: Spectral Realms & Poetry Week

For the entirely arbitrary reason that, having turned up on my doorstep this morning, today's entry is comprised of volumes 2, 3 and 4 of Spectral Realms (the regular anthology of weird and Lovecraftian poetry edited by S.T. Joshi and published by Hippocampus Press), I have also decided to announce this week as Lovecaftian Poetry Week (or at least as far as my little corner of Lovecraftdom is concerned). I still have two-thirds of a year of Lovecraftian Things a Day to get through; by necessity, then, I need to ration some of the more unique items I possess. The rest of the week will therefore, be dedicated to a few of the choice poetical volumes in my collection. Admittedly, my engagment with poetry has been (and remains) largely relegated to the arena of the weird - the reasons for which I will, no doubt, speculate at length about during the coming days...

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lovecaftian Thing a Day No.123: Blood and Thunder!

Today we return to the world of Robert E. Howard with Mark Finn's excellent Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. The book is so good I bought it twice! (In fact, I just received the revised and expanded edition - the volume on the right of the photo - a couple of days ago). Whilst I'm not as much of a fan of Howard as I am Lovecraft, Howard's work has such an intense vitality that I find myself returning to it (especially his Conan yarns) time and time again. In any case, this volume nicely complements The Whole Wide World, which I posted about a few days ago.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.122: The Horror from the Hills.

Today I present yet another item forwarded to me by Prof. Joseph Broers of the Miskatonic University's Department of Antquities. Prof. Broers' recent archaeological expedition was struck by tragedy shortly after this piece - an idol supposedly depicting the primordial Elder Being known as Chaugner Faugn (also referred to in some late Roman sources as 'The Horror from the Hills') was unearthed during the latter stages of an excavation of a particularly ancient shrine near the Nepalese-Tibetan border. Whilst international news sources blame the disaster on a localised earthquake, in the aftermath of the event Prof. Broers - one of the few to survive the incident - purportedly mentioned 'dark, formless shapes crawling from out the earth', a statement which he now strenuously denies making. Those knowledgeable about these matters may recall that the region in question is darkly rumoured as one possible location of the dread Plateau of Leng. Whatever the truth of the matter, the idol is now in my possession. Regular readers may rest assured that appropriate safeguards (both esoteric and profane) are in place to ensure the continued safety and sanity of the world from the malign influence of The Horror from the Hills.