Thursday, June 30, 2016
Richard Lupoff's Lovecraft's Book, punlished in 1985 by Arkham House, was an early attempt to openly address Lovecraft's racism Via a piece of historical fiction. Marblehead - now available in multiple formats, including Kindle and epub - presents Lovecraft's Book in its intended form (nearly half of the text was excised in the Arkham House publication, and is included in this complete edition). In effect, this posits Lovecraft's involvement in supporting Nazi interests in North America by producing a kind of Amercan version of Mein Kampf. Rightly so, the book tends to focus on the ugly side of Lovecraft's character, and as such is a powerful indictment of his racism. Also worth checking out is Lupoff's fantastic novella 'The Dicovery of the Ghooric Zone', which would not only have Lovecraft spinning in his grave with its depiction of future (post-) human sexuality (the story begins in media res with a multi-ethnic polysexual cyborg orgy), but also offers further reflections on the insidiousness of his racism.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
In my previous two posts I entirely forgot to mention Lynne Jamneck's edited collection Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. Given that it is another outstanding collection, it deserves inclusion here as the Lovecraftian Thing a Day on day 5 of Lovecraftian SJW Week. As Jamneck notes in her introduction, the book seeks to redress in part the male privilege that informs Lovecraftian anthologising, often legitimsed and naturalised by the claim that Lovecraftian horror is really the exclusive purview of the masculine - that women aren't predisposed to writing Lovecraftian horror, or if they do, they don't do it well. Certainly this volume demonstrates the fallacy of such partisan and prejudicial assumptions. You can buy Dreams from the Witch House here.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Given the apparent surge in reports of racially-motivated crime in the UK since the EU referendum - and the broader fact of the increasingly blatant racism informing Euro-American politics - the claim that we shouldn't judge Lovecraft's racism by the standards of our own time rings increasingly hollow. Whether we like it or not, Lovecraft's modernity can no longer be safely compartmentalised as being 'back in the olden days'. In the matter of race, his modernity, it seems, is contemporaneous with our own. Where things admittedly differ in the Lovecraftian milieu (at least those areas not too heavily policed by 'the old guard') is the ongoing interrogation of that racism and its continued relevance - including novellas such as today's digital offering, Victor Lavalle's The Ballad of Black Tom, along with a whole slew of other excellent pieces such as Elizabeth Bear's Shoggoths in Bloom, Ruthanna Emrys The Litany of Earth, various pieces in Nick Mamatas' Nickronomicon, and Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country (which I have yet to read). Added to which is Brian Sammons and Oscar Rios' forthcoming Heroes of Red Hook, which you can help Kickstart here.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Day 3 of Lovecraftian Social Justice Warrior Week heralds another digital item: Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles' anthology of Lovecraftian horror by an all-female roster of writers, She Walks in Shadows. Typically when a project like this comes to the attention of the Lovecraftian community, it is greeted with thoughtful interest and, for the most part, appreciation that editors are actively seeking to encourage diversity and inclusivity, as well as acknowledgement of the importance of both subverting Lovecaft's racism and sexism, as well as recognising the potential of mobilising his cosmicism in support of embracing difference in the context of contemporary identity politics.
There are, of course, those occasional bottom-feeders that usually flounder around the darkest recesses of the Lovecraftan internet who think otherwise, and who will troll you endlessly for not agreeing with their usually toxic brand of masculinity or racism - indeed, I've already encountered some of this in relation to Oscar Rios' forthcoming Heroes of Red Hook anthology, where the Lovecraftian equivalent of Gamergaters have been crowing about reverse sexism and racism, wholly failing to recognise how they as (usually white males) benefit from those embedded structural inequalities which operate to exclude POC, women and LGBTQ people. Or one encounters those who feel that the whole genre is somehow depoliticised, and that raising these issues in the first place is devisive and disruptive to the field. At which point, the term 'social justice warrior' starts getting flung about as a perjorative - perhaps (as I like to believe) as a means of deflecting self-interrogation of the possibility that, not only are these structural inequalities functionally extant, but that one's inaction regarding them might also make one complicit in their promulgation.
But I digress - if nothing else, She Walks in Shadows is excellent, so please buy it now.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Another digital purchase, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's latest audio drama seems an appropriate choice for day 2 of the Lovecraftian Social Justice Warrior Week, given that it subverts the racist tropes found in Lovectaft's The Call of Cthulhu (to which this is a partial sequel). In this respect, The White Tree: A Tale of Inspector Legrasse pits one of the protaganist from TCoC against a Louisiana cult worshipping yet another entity from Lovecaft's Cthulhu Mythos; but where Lovecraft often represents worshippers of the Mythos in terms that fit neatly with his own (even at the time) bigoted and outdated social evolutionist and racist presuppositions, here the HPLHS make the effort to switch things up by levelling the blame at the KKK. Without going off on a huge tangent, this seems relevant with regard to how contemporary GOPers, whilst on the one hand presenting a racialised narrative of white Christian 'civilization' being a bulwark against non-white 'barbarism', nonetheless often viciously advocate the same barbarism against its white liberal enemies (some of the neo-Con comments re: the tragic events in Orlando being instructive in this respect).
At this point, hopefully it is evident that the Lovecraftian Social Justice Warrior Week is not meant as a joke or some sly commentary on those who identify as SJWs; rather, it is meant as an (albeit) brief exploration of the relevance of Lovecaft's cosmicism in a contemporary social milieu; also how Lovecaft's racism informs (often in direct and unambiguous ways) that cosmicism, as well as - most importantly - the possibility of that racism's subversion. Indeed, if the increasingly overt racism that is becoming evident in the UK post-referendum wasn't bad enough, today social media has also revealed more by way of Lovecraftian apologetics with the inference that his racism is excusable on the grounds that, really, it was only levelled at POC who have not been properly assimilated by 'Western Civilization'. How very magnanimous.
The fact that many (albeit not all) of Lovecraft's apologists tend to be members of a privileged ethno-economic class is also significant here with regard to their institutionally-legitimsed power to enact a denial of HPL's racism, which is something else this short series hopes to contest. Finally, as an academic interested in contemporary esoteric thought, I'm also looking to challenge those (often highly-conservative) Lovecraftian esotericisms which namecheck racialist historians, philosophers and esoteric thinkers (names to be aware of here are Miguel Serrano, Oswald Spengler, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, R.A Schwaller de Lubicz, Ludwig Klages and other various propagators of racialised Theosophical /Ariosophist thought) oftem, it seems, as a means of promulgating an ill-thought out body neo-colonialist and primordialism.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
In response to events in the UK - and the sadly predictable global rise of racism under the auspices of unregulated neoliberal capitalism - today kicks off day 1 of Lovecraftian Social Justice Warrior Week (which, if nothing else, will hopefully annoy a few conservatives on the Lovecraftian scene). Here I present a Deep One statuette of unknown provenance: a rejoinder to the myth of race (and especially to that of 'racial purity') and by way of a reminder that modern genetics demonstrates that all of us - every single one - is a hybrid entity, and that we are all somebody else's 'Other'.
Friday, June 24, 2016
With the result of the UK referendum being what it is, I was seriously considering bringing the Lovecraftian Thing a Day to an end, given that I have had my fill of racist bigots (and it now seems I live on an island where half the population appear happy to identify as such). Instead, I thought it would be instructive to present Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race as today's offering, as it pretty much summarises my view of humanity right now: the best thing we can do as a species is to stop breeding and exit en masse. At any rate, the way things are going as far as the current political climate is concerned, it feels as if there is a greater likelihood of mass extinction of some sort occuring sooner rather than later. The last person to leave, make sure you switch the lights off. Or not, as it doesn't really fucking matter.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Michael Bukowski's Illustro Obscurum series - the first volume of which I present here - exemplifies the kind of characterful work being produced by many Lovecraftian creatives today. It is not just the art itself, but the care and verisimilitude that goes into framing it within a wider narrative context: that this is not just a representation of a thing, but the thing itself. In other words, each volume of the Illustro Obscurum series is presented not just as a collection of Lovecraftian text and imagery, but as if it were the kind of hand-crafted (which to a degree each one is) gimoire or bestiary one might likely encounter on the bookshelves of some hoary Lovecraftian sorcerer.
All this aside, one also has to marvel at the scope of the Illustro Obscurum project: that of illustrating every beast or monster described (or even mentioned) in Lovecraft's work - which I believe Mr. Bukowski has now completed. Sir, we salute you for you services to Lovecraftdom!
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Linda Falorio's The Shadow Tarot is an oracular implementation of the primal gnosis supposedly encoded wthin the symbolism of the Tunnels of Set: the averse, 'demonic' or Qlippothic side of the Qabalistic Tree of Life explored in Kenneth Grant's Typhonian Trilogies (especially The Nightside of Eden) - primordial strata of consciousness which form the habitation of those forces identified with Lovecraft's Old Ones. Of the predictive power of these cards I cannot speak - although they have proven useful in certain operations pertaining to some of the more troblesome items in my collection; regardless of their precognitive rfficacy, the thing of which I am certain is that the Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be...
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Today's offering is another digital product (only the second I've presented thus far, I think). I would like to own this as a physical CD, but it doesn't appear to be available for purchase in that format. Regardless, The Silver Key by Ah Pook The Destroyer is a concept album based on the Lovecraft tale of the same name (although it also incorporates elements of Lovecraft and E. Hoffman Price's Through the Gate of the Silver Key). Beyond its overall excellence, The Silver Key is rather difficult to categorise as an album, covering as it does a wide range of musical styles - although I suppose it could be broadly classified as a kind of hybrid folk-psychedelic-prog-funk-rock. There is also an odd air of 70s counterculture rock musical theatre about The Silver Key - here I'm thinking Hair, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar - which is something I genuinely enjoy about it. In any case, this might very well be my favourite piece of Lovecraft-inspired music which, very much as the Fungi from Yuggoth does via the medium of poetry, spans the gamut of key Lovecraftian themes and topics. The final track in particular presents a beautifully-realised personal portrait of Lovecraft the dreamer, setting to music as it does his poem 'Providence'. Definitely a worthy addition to your growing collection of Lovecraftian sounds, The Silver Key can be purchased as a download here.
Monday, June 20, 2016
A few days ago I received this via Fedogan & Bremer: a CD of H.P. Lovecraft's Fungi from Yuggoth and Other Poems, narrated by Will Hart with music by Graham Plowman. Regular readers will be aware that I hold the Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle in very high regard, considering it to be the poetic distillation of the very best of Lovecraft, so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to listen to this. Whilst there is obvious comparison to be made with the earlier recording of the sonnet cycle by John Arthur and Mike Olson (Also recently reissued by Fedogan & Bremer), I'm pleased to say that the Hart and Plowman rendition stands up rather well, although their approach is rather more dramatic in its presentation where the Arthur and Olsen recording is more wistful and lyrical (and ultimately remains my prefered reading). You can purchase H.P. Lovecraft's Fungi from Yuggoth and Other Poems here, as well as listen to a more detailed review provided by the excellent Mr Jim Moon via his wonderful Hypnogoria podcast here.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Azathoth is, perhaps, one of the least easily definable features of the Cthulhu Mythos - despite its conceptual centrality to Lovecaft's imagined cosmology. I sometimes wonder if this is why Cthulhu has become the figurehead of Lovecaftian fandom: an anthropomorphised cephalopod it might be, but anthropomorphised nonetheless. Yet despite Cthulhu's capacity to usher in humanity's ultimate demise, he/she/it is ultimately a parochial entity - at least in the wider context of the universe of the Mythos. For this very reason I have always been intersted in Lovecraftian literature which seeks to further explore the nature of the Blind Idiot God. Enter Chaosium's The Azathoth Cycle. A defining feature of Chaosium's Cthulhu Mythos fiction line was (and remains) a kind of Derlethian desire to classify, categorise and systematise; thus, since its inception, the line has sought to explore (in a relatively structured fashion) the various concepts and entities key to Lovecraft's cosmc vision through the publication of dedicated anthologies. The Azathoth Cycle - though one of the earlier collections in the series - follows some of its precursors by the inclusion of both key texts by Lovcraft alongside others which dilineate the anthology's chosen theme. In this respect, The Azathoth Cycle certainly contains much that is worthy of any neophyte seeking to embrace the Mysteries of That Most Unspeakable of Beings; yet there are a few prevarications, repetitions and thematic wrong-turns here that also make this feel a little like a lost opportunity. Even so, a worthy early contribution to the series...
Saturday, June 18, 2016
In 1999 Chaosium released Beyond the Mountains of Madness: an epic campaign for The Call of Cthulhu rpg, which I consider to be something of a flawed masterpiece. Accompanying this as part of their fiction line, Chaosium also published The Antarktos Cycle - edited by Robert M. Price and what I believe to be the first themed collectio themed around Lovecaft's original tale of Antarctic horror (confusingly, a more recent themed volume has been released, also edited by Robert M. Price, and also entitled Beyond the Mountains of Madness). In many respects, Lovecaft's At the Mountains of Madness represents something of a capstone to the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as being my favourite of his stories - indeed, I consider it to be one of the greatest tales of cosmic horror. As such, I'm typically drawn to anything that references AtMoM, although in truth The Antarktos Cycle is somewhat variable in the quality of its contents, and occasionally the selections feel strained in terms of their link to Lovecraft's original tale; even so, if you are a fan of Lovevraft's masterwork, then this volume is worth perusing.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Many years ago I found a copy of Richard L. Tierney's almost legendary Cthulhu Mythos novel The Winds of Zarr for a ridiculously cheap price in a London bookshop. For some foolish reason I decided not to buy it - a decision I have long come to regret. Not so my purchase of The Scroll of Thoth, collecting together twelve of Tierney's (otherwise difficult-to-obtain) tales of Simon of Gitta (better known as Simon Magus), merging historical fiction, the Cthulhu Mythos, and early Gnosticism in a melange of weird horror and sword-and-sorcery. These may not be to every Lovecraftian's taste, as they do resonate with something of a Derlethian tone; nonetheless, this volume is worth seeking out if you are looking for a unique take on the Mythos. To this day, I don't believe that Tierney's Simon of Gitta tales have been reprinted outside of this collection - although his novel The Drums of Chaos set within the same universe is still available.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
In 1995, Chaosium released Ramsey Campbell's Goatswood, a supplement for The Call of Cthulhu rpg. Being both a fan of Ramsey Campbell's Cthulhu Mythos work and into roleplaying, this was something I had been long anticipating. Sadly (and for reasons I won't go into here), the finished product was massively disappointing. Released alongside it, however, was this far superior collection paying tribute to Campbell's Severn Valley tales of cosmic horror - with a contribution by Ramsey Campbell himself (representing his first return to Mythos writing in some time). Unfortunately 'The Horror Under Warrendown' - basically a comedic pastiche of Lovecraft's 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' - is my least favourite of Campbell's Severn Valley/Cthulhu Mythos tales; even so, it was great to be able to explore Campbell country one more time, if only through the eyes of authors other than he. In addition to which, Chaosium's revitalisation of the Mythos scene with books such as this seems to have subsequently encouraged Ramsey Campbell to return to writing in a Lovecraftian and Mythos-inflected vein - more of which we look forward to in the future.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
On day 3 of Chaosium Week, we present The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by the inestimably talented Mr Dan Harms (whose talk at Treadwells Bookshop I hope to attend during Dan's coming trip to the UK). This tome has been of immeasurable help to scholars and afficianados of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as serving as a source of inspiration for Call of Cthulhu Keepers aplenty, and I think I'm correct in saying that it found it's first home in Chaosium's Mythos fiction line. Regardless, if you are a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos this book deserves a place in your collection.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
In day 2 of Chaosium Week, we present Robert Bloch's Mysteries of the Worm. This was the scond in the series of Chaosium's Cthulhu Mythos fiction line (the first being The Hastur Cycle). As with yesterday's offering, this was another key publication - bringing back into circulation as it did Bloch's otherwise very difficult to find (at least for us in the UK) collection of Mythos tales. Also of note is the erudite introduction and commentary to this and other volumes, provided by Robert M. Price who, to my mind, produced at the timr some outstanding academic analysis of the Lovecraftian fictional milieu.
Monday, June 13, 2016
By way of a belated 'happy birthday', today's item is The Xothic Legend Cycle: The Complete Mythos Fiction of Lin Carter (born June 9th 1930); this also kicks off Chaosium Week for the Lovecraftian Thing a Day, where will survey a selection of the fiction books that Chaosium have been producing since the early 1990s. The Xothic Legend Cycle was notable because most of its contents were not readily available elsewhere, and the republication of Carter's Mythos tales enabled a new generation engage with his and others' work in this field. To this end Chaosium's fiction line effectively revived and revitalised the Cthulhu Mythos literary scene in the 1990s, making available again many fine (and some, admiitedly, not so fine) stories which had, in many cases, been long out of print. Chaosium, we salute you!
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Lovecraftian Art Week reaches its conclusion today with this limited edition art print by Dean Kuhta, commissioned to commemorate NecronomiCon 2013 (where I purchased this fine piece). Apparently a small number of these prints are still available to purchase fom Lovecraft Arts and Sciences - please do support them to ensure that NecronomiCon will continue to be an ongoig coneern.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
For day 6 of Lovecraftian Art Week I present a selection of postcards of Nicholas Roerich's work, which I picked up from the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York a few years back (and absolutely worth a visit if you are ever in NY). Whilst obviously not depicting Lovecraftian subjects per se, some of the images shown here are likely the ones that Lovecraft used as inspiration for At the Mountains of Madness.
Friday, June 10, 2016
On day 5 of Lovecraftian Art Week I present a colourised print of Allen Koszowski's characterful portrait of Ramsey Campbell, which I was able to purchase directly from Allen during NecronomiCon 2013, and which also acknowledges Campbell's Severn Valley mythos. Nice.
Thursday, June 09, 2016
On day 4 of Lovecraftian Art Week, I present this mounted print of a very fine piece by Mr. Jim Pitts illustrating The Music of Erich Zann, and hinting at the horrors that were forestalled - even into death and whatever state lies beyond - by that gentleman's continued playing.
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
I'm unsure of the provenance of this print, whch I picked up in the early 2000s in Brighton, UK. I believe it is supposed to represent the 'huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes' mentioned in The Call of Cthulhu as inhabiting a hidden lake deep within the Louisiana Bayou - and is one of only a few artistic renditions of that nameless monstrosity that I have thusfar encountered...
Tuesday, June 07, 2016
In day 2 of Lovecraftian Art Week, I present an original painting by Steve Lines, and which was used as the cover of one of Rainfall Books' chapbook series (possobly an issue of Lovecraft's Disciples). I'm afraid I have no idea what the title of this beautifully weird piece is, so for the purpose of this post I have referred to it as s Lovecraftian portal.
Monday, June 06, 2016
This week marks the beginning of a dedicated Lovecraftian Art week, where for the next seven days Ill be showcasing a sample of the various Lovecraftian drawings, paintings and prints that I own. First up is a print entitled The Tomb Herd (illustrating a scene from Ramsey Campbell's 'The Church on High Street') from the pen of Mr Dave Carson.
Sunday, June 05, 2016
We round off Brian Lumley Week with The Complete Crow, collecting Lumley's short stories concerning the eponymous antagonist to the Cthulhu Mythos. Titus Crow is probably my favourite of Lumley's creation, in part because he represents one of the more contemporary manifestations of the literary tradition of the occult investigators (whose number also include such luminaries as John Silence, Thomas Carnacki, Jules de Grandin, and Anton Zarnak) for which I maintain a fondness. The stories collrcted her span the entirety of Crow's career, including his inception as well as the aftermath of his mysterious disappearance. Interestingly, the Mythos does not loom large in all of the tales, some of which document Crow's encounters with more earthly revenants. The book is now avaible in electronic and audiobook formats (the latter of which is s current listening favourite at Ghootoc Zone central). In any case, the collection forms a fine bookend to Crow's novelised adventures, and a nice way to bring Brisn Lumley Week to a close.
Saturday, June 04, 2016
I don'r even know where to begin when trying to describe this: Lumley's take on a kind of Howardian sword-and-sorcery (although in this case more science fantasy) action tale, set amidst an earthly 'lost' civilisation that is the precursor to ancient Egypt. Mix in lots of sex and violence (the eye-watering incident involving a pair of bronze false teeth which merges both comes to mind), ancient aliens, time travel, with the Cthulhu Mythos lurking in the background, and you have the glorius pulpy goodness that is Khai of Ancient Khem. The plot, though convoluted, is at heart fairly straight forward: the manly, muscular hero Khai seeks revenge against the pharaoh Khasathut for murdering his family, and manages to win the heart of a beautiful princess on the way to doing this. Amidst all this pulpy fun there is, however, one big criticism, and that is the thread of heteronormative homophobia (sadly indicative of a good deal of 70s and 80s horror) running through the book (the incident with the aforementioned bronze false teeth being a case in point) - think the kind of Othering found in Zak Synder's rendition of Frank Miller's 300, where the bad guys are portrayed as physiognomically monstrous sexual deviants. I may very well be looking at this from a 21st Century sensibility, but it is nonetheless an issue which readers should be aware of (and no doubt one that will infuriate those who think Lovecraft's racism doesn't matter...).
That aside, regular readers may be aware of my academic interest in tracking the influence of the Lovecaftian milieu upon contemporary pop culture. Given that it was first published in 1980 (and well before the Stargate franchise popularised these ideas), Khai of Ancient Khem contains many elements that have become a normative part of contemporary (online) paranormal occultures: ancient/lost civilisations mixed in with the belief held by some 'alternative' archaeologist that the Sphinx and the pyramids are much older than the archaeological mainstream claims; ancient but anachronistic technologies; ancient aliens, and human-alien hybridisation programmes. Admittedly all of these ideas were floating around prior to 1980, and certainly at that point the idea that aliens built the pyramids was nothing new. I'm not, then, suggesting that Lumley's book gave rise to these beliefs; it does, however, seem seem a little prescient in terms of bringing together a range of themes that probably didn't begin to coalesce within the mainstream of pop and paranormal cultures until the 1990s - so I'm wondering if Khai of Ancient Khem may have played a very small role in popularising these ideas and their intersection.
Friday, June 03, 2016
Today I offer something of a rarity: a signed copy of the Brian Lumley chapbook Synchronicity, Or Something, illustrated by Dave Carson and published by Dagon Press. Its been a while since I last read this, so the details of the tale are a bit vague, but I beleve it is one of the earlier examples of a kind of subgenre of weird tale where authors present a parodic view of literary horror conventions, often including barely-disguised caricatures of well-known horror writers in the cast of characters. Other contributors to this subgenre include Karl Edward Wagner and, more recently, Laird Barron; I seem to recall Ramsey Campbell having done something of the sort also. Regardles, this is a fun little piece which documents what happens when an actual manifestation of the Cthulhu Mythos occurs during an H.P. Lovecraft convention.
Thursday, June 02, 2016
We return to The Burrowers Beneath today, but on this occasion via a visual medium: a print depicting a key scene from that novel, to be precise - and by no less a Lovecraftian luminary than Mr Dave Carson. Enjoy.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
At the risk of contradicting myself re: yesterday's post, I think that Return of the Deep Ones is my favourite (non-Crow) Lumley tale. Whilst the novella effectively reproduces key elements of 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' in a UK setting, it nonetheless contains excellent moments of a peculiar kind of weird horror that Lumley seems apt to produce in his best work - especially when he abandons or ignores (as he does here) the Derlethian trappings of his other Mythos tales. This collection also contains a reprint of Beneath the Moors, one of Lumley's earliest works that was first published by Arkham House (I used to own that edition, but sadly sold it many years ago when i think a younger, more foolish me was going through a bit of an anti-Lumley phase).