Wednesday, August 31, 2016
With today's post we are exactly two-thirds of the way through this year of Lovecraftian Thing a Day blog entries. I would have liked to have offered something a little more special in celebration of the fact, but it is late and I am rather tired - added to which, this came in the post today: Peter Haining's history of horror illustrations from the pulps. There is a nice section on Weird Tales and Lovecraft is well represented (as evidenced by Hannes Bok's classic illustration of 'Pickman's Model' featuring prominently on the cover); also an interesting illustration for Bloch's 'Notebook Found in a Deserted House', which I've also included above. Well, I'm afraid that I can no longer ignore the insistent call of the Dreamlands' restless deeps, so that is where we will leave things until tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
I recently found out that a four volume collection from Routledge - entitled Religion, the Occult, and the Paranormal - has reprinted my ethnographic essay 'Alien Selves: Modernity and the Social Diagnostics of the Demonic in 'Lovecraftian Magick''.
I was contacted by someone from Routledge a few years ago about this, and heard nothing else from them after being promised a nominal payment for the reprint (which I don't recall ever receiving - but then neither did I receive anything akin to a contributor's agreement allowing the reprint to go ahead in the first place!). Even so, I suppose I should be pleased that one of my pieces - and what is probably the first ethnographic essay on Lovecaftian occulture - now appears in a Routledge volume...the only problem being that the collection is now listed on Amazon for the princely sum of £1127.71, and on Routledge's own website for £900.00! So much for the additional exposure! Alternatively, you can still find the article in issue 2 of the Journal for the Academic Study of Magic, which is still available from Mandrake for £19.99 - or you could just download it for free from acadmia.edu! Regular readers who go in for this sort of thing might also be interested to know that a few more of my Lovecraftian pieces should be appearing in various academic publications prior to NecronomiCon 2017; I have also been invited to contribute an essay on Lovecraftian Magic (along with other things) to what looks to be a major academic work on contemporary esotericism. Nice.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Though we are a few days late for Lovecraft's birthday, I thought this limited edition print by Dave Carson would suffice by way of celebrating. I'n not entirely sure where I purchased this from, but I have a vague memory of finding this in a stall in the now-defunct Kensington Market in London.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Around this time last year I had just returned from a trip to the US for NecronomiCon 2015. Bringing a close to this week of NecronomiCon remembrances is the commemorative convention booklet from last year. The booklet contains sketches and short biographies of the guests - I was actually invited as a guest for a panel on Lovecaft and the occult; this, however, occured at the last minute, so unfortunately I didn't appear in the booklet - here's hoping for NecronomiCon 2017!
Saturday, August 27, 2016
NecronomiCon 2013 also saw the unveiling of the bronze bust of Lovecraft - created by Bryan Moore - in the Providence Athenaeum on Benefit Street. I was fortunate enough to be present at the unveiling, as well as a contributor (in a very small way) to the project's Kickstarter campaign. In the latter regard, I received the above postcard commemorating the project.
Since 2013 and the wake of the controversy surrounding the WFA, I have become somewhat conflicted regarding representations of Lovecraft - despite the fact that I own a number of them. Ultimately, I am glad that I supported this project. Lovecraft is, I believe, worthy of memorialising; but with a crucial proviso: that, whilst recognising his hugely important contribution to literature, this kind of remembrance does not constitute an excuse to unreflectively lionise and ennoble the man; rather, it should provoke ongoing critical interrogation of the (racialised) politics of his life and work and, crucially, in doing so endorse a direct engagement with the continuing significance of those politics within the field of modern weird literature and beyond.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Today's item can be found in the studio of artist Tobias Oliver, who procured it from friend of the Ghooric Zone, Joe Broers. Ensconced in a secret location surrounded by ominously domed hills deep within the Scottish Highlands, I recently had the opportunity to visit Tobias' home and workplace. During my stay Tobias made mention of the fact that this statuette of Shub Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, has been the locus of various weird and unsettling phenomena - notably an unpleasantly fecund plague of black flies which infested his workspace - during the time that it has overseen his work on various occult artefacts and esoteric projects.
Many thanks to Tobias Oliver and Graham Liney for their hospitality during my stay at their home.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Not much to add to the title of today's Lovecraftian Thing a Day other than to say this was a postcard-style flyer produced to advertise the excellent Ars Necronomicon art exhibition which took place during NecronomiCon 2013. The exhibition was located throughout three sites in Providence - one of which being the Cohen Gallery at Brown University, situated in the Granoff building in Angell Street which - as I recall - was built on the site of one of Lovecraft's former residences.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
More loot from NecronomiCon 2013: this time, a canvas shoulder bag with 'I Am Providence' emblazoned upon it.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Today we present the hymnal booklet handed out at the NecronomiCon 2013 Cthulhu Breakfast, allowing breakfasters to participate in the proceedings as led by the Cthulhu Hymnal Choir. Nice.
Monday, August 22, 2016
More ephemea fom NecronomiCon 2013: the convention schedule & programme. Tomorrow I'm off on holiday for a few days and, whilst there will be regular Ghooric Zone transmissions during this period, I'm afraid that posts are likely to be as similarly brief as today's. Be seeing you!
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Addition memories of NecronomiCon today. This is the commemorative booklet produced for NecronomiCon 2013, and it really is a thing of beauty. With vey high production values, the cover itself is extremely unusual in that it possesses a very soft, rubbery - but-suede-like - quality. Akin to what I would imagine the flensed hide of a Night Gaunt might feel...
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Today is Lovecraft's 126th Birthday - in celebration of which, here's the bust of Lovecraft I received from Arkham Studios for supporting the Necronomicon 2013 Kickstarter. As much as I admire Lovecraft's writing and fictive worlds, the fact that you can see thick dust upon the small (and slightly askew) table upon which the bust currently rests - and that this is ensconced in a rather hidden and shadowy corner of my room - speaks to my conflicted feelings about the man himself.
Friday, August 19, 2016
On this day three years ago I arrived in Providence to attend my first NecronomiCon. Over the next week or so, I'll be presenting various bits, pieces, odds and ends memorialising my two visits to the convention - as well as looking forward to 2017 - starting today with this welcoming postcard from NecronomiCon 2013. See you there in 12 months time!
Thursday, August 18, 2016
I'm close to finishing Steve Rasnic Tem's novella In the Lovecraft Museum, and as a consequence it constitutes today's Lovecraftian Thing a Day. Whilst it gets off to a something of a slow start, the novella shifts gears about a third of the way in as the protaganist travels from the US to the UK in search of his long-lost son, at which point the things become reminiscent of Ramsey Campbell's work as a subtle sense of creeping dread and unreality begins to encroach. Great stuff. In the Lovecrafft Museum is available from PS Publishing, and also in kindle format via Amazon.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Lovecraft, sadly, never had the opportunity to visit Britain; indeed, there hasn't been a great deal (as far as I'm aware) written about Lovecraft's Anglophilia and it's influence on his weird fiction (there are a fair number of references to British locales in his work, such that I have pondered the possibility of doing a walking tour of Lovecraftian London). Whilst Stephen Jones' H.P. Lovecraft in Britain doesn't address these issues directly, it is notheless one of the few pieces that deals with the publication history of Lovecaft's work in the UK, and as such offers intriguing insights into this often-ignored facet of Lovecraft scholarship.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
More NecronomiCon 2015 memories with The Doom That Came to Providence - a convention exclusive and round-robin produced by some of that year's guests. I tried to chase down as many contributors' signatures as possible, but only managed to collect about six overall (but then, as anyone who has attended a relatively large scale fan convention will know, there is too much to do and all too little time to do it in). The round-robin itself recounts a true story of events surrounding an actual manifestation of some Cthulhoid horror during NecronomiCon 2013, and which many of the contributors personally witnessed; for my part, I watched in abject terror as someone transformed into a pinkish, tentacled thing that writhed and shrieked mindlessly to the atonal blaring of weird music that was clearly not of this world. Fortunately, I was able to maintain enough presence of mind to record this sanity-shattering event:
The local press, of course, passed off reports of the manifestation - which occured amidst the heavily-attended Waterfire celebration which took place on the Saturday of NecronomiCon 2013, and left many of the convention attendees gibbering husks in its wake - as the result of high spirits and drunken misperception. But those of us who were there know the truth of it.
A brief NecronomiCon 2015 memory (as I have just missed the deadline for today's post by about 5 minutes): Peter Rawlik's The Lurking Chronology: A Timeline of the Derleth Mythos, which the author kindly signed for me at the Lovecraft eZine both at the convention. I love stuff like this which digs a little deeper into some of the ephemera of the Mythos. This is also available to purchase in Kindle format as well as hardcopy from Amazon.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction is not only the basis of Guillermo del Toro's first Hellboy movie, but also firmly establishes the Lovecraftian provenance of Mike Mignola's horror/supernatural-themed comic series (which was also quite effectively translated into del Toro's big screen vision). Nazi occultists, an undead Rasputin, and horrors from beyond time and space - what more could one ask for?
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Another digital item which I've been devouring over the past few days. Having attended the last two NecronomiCons and had a very positive experience at both (the matter of last year's opening ceremony notwithstanding), I naively thought that Nick Mamatas' scathingly funny presentation of racism and misogyny in Lovecraftian fandom was over-exaggerated; recent events on social media have persuaded me otherwise - such that it seems entirely apposite to present this as today's Lovecraftian Thing a Day. Read it now!
Friday, August 12, 2016
The release of Cubicle 7's Cthulhu Britannica: London boxed set also heralded the release of Cthulhu Britannica: The Curse of Nineveh, an accompanying 7th ed. London-based campaign. Also shown here - and significant with regard to yesterday's musings on rpg handouts and verisimilitude - are two additional products which support (but are not necessary to run) The Curse of Nineveh campaign: The Journal of Reginald Campbell Thompson, and The Journal of Neve Selcibuc (written by friend of the Ghooric Zone, Paula Dempsey). These latter are two beautifully produced hardback volumes containing the personal narratives of non-player characters from within the campaign, and which can be provided to the player characters as a means of furnishing them with additional hints, clues and insights regarding the mystery they are exploring. So, on the one hand these volumes can be treated as long-form narratives of the Cthulhu Mythos to be read in their own right as fiction; on the other, they can be potentially provide an additional level of immersion into the gaming experience which effectively occurs outside of the confines of the typical gaming session. In any case, this kind of approach points to some of the very intriguing directions which Cthulhu gaming might be going in with the advent of 7th edition Call of Cthulhu. Nice.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Continuing with the Call of Cthulhu theme, today we present the marvelous Cthulhu Britannica: London boxed set by Cubicle 7, which just won the Silver Ennie award for best production values in a gaming product at GenCon this year.
A while back I made a tidy sum when I sold off practically all of my old Call of Cthulhu material (which included a good few rarities). The reasons for this were twofold: firstly, I hadn't played the game in years; secondly, as a consequence of the digital revolution much of the old material was available to download relatively cheaply - and as my iPad had become my preferred means of reading, I had already begun to purchase most of my gaming material in electronic format. This was also compounded by the fact that I was rapidly running out of storage space. In any case, pretty much all of my Call of Cthulhu gaming material went, and my intention was to only purchase rpg material electronically.
Then 7th edition appeared.
It is not so much the game mechanics themselves, but the fact that 7th ed. seems to have aesthetically revitalized Cthulhu gaming that has led back to collecting Call of Cthulhu material. As a case in point, Cthulhu Britannica: London is tangibly a gorgeous piece of art - a collector's item if you will; something one might like to smell and stroke (probably in a slightly sinister - and not entirely appropriate - manner) whilst quietly whispering 'the precious' to oneself. And let's not forget the maps. The lovely, lovely maps...
And then there is the matter of the (equally lovely) handouts. I mean to return to this issue in more detail with tomorrow's offering, but I believe I have mentioned previously the tradition of engendering verisimilitude in Call of Cthulhu roleplaying via the production of authentic-seeming handouts; this tradition has, I believe, played a not insignificant role in shaping both the content and production of contemporary Lovecraftian material culture: many Lovecraftian artists now, for example, package their wares in ways that narrativise their work as seemingly-authentic material manifestations of the Cthulhu Mythos. An item may come in 1920s packaging, or is accompanied by a typewritten note explaining its provenance, and so on. For collectors like myself, there is huge enjoyment in participating in this shared suspension of disbelief, especially insofar as the fictions become all the more credible due to their apparent corporeality. Indeed, this blog itself is, in a strange sort of way, a manifestation of that process in the digital realm: take for example the 'flash fiction' I produce in relation to some of the items presented here, which tells a story as much sbout the object in question as the particular ways I engage with that object and, through it, the wider Lovecraftian milieu. Except of course, that none of what I have written is fiction - every single word of it is true. Now you'll have to excuse me - there is an extremely unpleasant smell and strange tittering noise emanating from the Cabinet of Curiosities at this very moment...
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Today I picked up the hardcopy of S.Petersen's Field Guide to Lovecaftian Horrors: a completely revised and redone (all of the art s entirely new) compilation of the two illustrated field guides to Lovecraftian monstrosities which featured in a previous post, and which Chaosium published in the early days of the Call of Cthulhu game. I must say that this is an absolutely beautiful full-colour, high-quality art book which, in many cases, does a truely outstanding job of capturing the alien quality of Lovecraft's monsters; there are a few misteps - to my mind neither the ghoul nor the Mi-Go illustrations really measure up to Lovecraft's descriptions - but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Presented with a degree of (sometimes amusing) verisimilitude as something between a bestiary and scientific typology of Lovecraftian horrors, this something of a 'fluff' book for the Call of Cthulhu game; that being said, knowledge of or interest in the game is not required for enjoyment of the book (there are no rules or game references within), so this is something that collectors of weird art - as well as of stuff that drifts towards the more unusual end of the spectrum of Lovecraftiana - might want to add to their collection.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
With GenCon 2016 having just ended - alongside my recent posts regarding Lovecaftian miniatures in gaming - it seems apposite to celebrate the 7th and latest iteration of the classic Call of Cthulhu rpg. Unlike many other games of its ilk (Dungeons and Dragons being a case in point), the base mechanics of Call of Cthulhu have remained virtually unchanged since its first appearance in 1981 - meaning that there has been constant backward compatibility throughout the game's history. 7th edition is probably the most 'radical' in terms of changes and innovations to the system; even so, the core rules remains recognizably the same as earlier editions, such that backward compatibility, whilst a little more time consuming, is easily possible.
Sadly it has been a good few years since I last played, such that I'm now primarily interested in Call of Cthulhu material for reading rather than gaming purposes. This, indeed, is not uncommon practice: perhaps more than any other game (again, D&D excepted), there has been a long tradition of gaming-to-literary crossover within the Lovecraftian/Call of Cthulhu community.
On the point of miniatures, however, its a rare occasion that I've encountered players making regular use of them in Call of Cthulhu; regardless, there are a significant number of Lovecraftian miniature lines out there. In part this is due to th growing number of tabletop miniature games which make use of a horror theme (Wyrd Miniatures' Malifaux springs to mind, and the massively popular Warhammer 40,000 wargame is deeply indebted to Lovecraft; indeed, I would suggest that evidence exists which concretely locates the 40K universe as part of the Cthulhu Mythos - a point to which I mean to return in a later post). Lovecraftian tropes have long been evident in more 'traditional' fantasy rpgs such as D&D, where miniatures have also been more widely employed as part of the gaming experience. Paizo's immensely popular Pathfinder iteration of 3rd edition D&D has explicitly made the Cthulhu Mythos part of its canon, producing many prepainted plastic miniatures of Cthulhoid entities as part of the Pathfinder line. In addition to which, miniatures have become a key component of the modern boardgaming hobby - indeed, the inclusion of miniatures seems to significantly drive the success of boardgame kickstarters. Notable here is Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Wars, which attracted over a million dollars (or was it two million?) in pledges during its kickstarter campaign. Fantasy Flight Games has also heavily invested in miniatures in its boardgames; given the number of Lovecraft-themed games that are part of their stable, it is therefore unsurprising that they have moved into producing Lovecraftian miniatures in recent years - the Mansions of Madness game mentioned recently being a further case in point. So much for failing to represent the unrepresentable! In any case, these factors have coalesced to produce a thriving industry involving theproduction of indescribable horrors in miniature form. what esle is one to do then, other than wrap whatever tentacle, psuedopod or uncategorizable appendage you possess around that brush, and get painting!
Monday, August 08, 2016
For no other reason than I can't really think of what to post today, I continue with the miniatures theme by presenting a few more examples of Lovecraftian beasties I've had occasion to paint over the years, alongside a few oddly familiar characters...
Sunday, August 07, 2016
Not quite the commentary on Lovecaftian miniatures I thought this would be (it is getting late, and I am rather tired); instead I offer an example of my own minature painting work by way of this Dark Young of Shub Niggurath miniature from the RAFM Call of Cthulhu miniatures line. The Dark Young isn't, however, a 'canonical' Lovecraftian beast outside of its infered existence in Lovecraft's own work, where it (yet again) comes to signify Lovecraft's racialised bigotry re: his ideas about 'miscegenation'. In fact, as a Lovecraftian entity, the so-called 'Dark Young' pretty much owes its existence to the Call of Chulhu Rpg rulebook, which in turn takes its inspiration for the beast from Robert Bloch's classic 1951 tale 'Notebook Found in a Deserted House'. And here it is made fairly explicit that said rampaging entity is actually a shoggoth.
Regardless, parts of 1999's The Blair Witch Project do bear a resemblance to Bloch's tale; however, despite it's very Lovecraftian atmosphere, I don't think anyone has yet managed to establish with any certainty literal (rather than thematic) continuities between the Blair Witch mythology and that of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Saturday, August 06, 2016
Just a quick one today as we are rather occupied at Ghooric Towers at present; but by way of forthcoming meanderings, today we present the 2nd edition of Strange Aeons: A Miniature Skirmish Game of Eldritch Horror. This, in brief, involves teams of ministure investigators engaging in small scale skirmishes with cultists and various Lovecraftian monsters.
Lovecraftian miniatures have been around pretty much since the inception of Cthulhuvian gaming (earlier, if one also counts Lovecraftian influences on Dungeons and Dragons - Mind Flayer, I'm looking at you). Given the 'indescribable' nature of many Lovecraftian horrors, miniatures occupy an unusual space in Cthulhu-themed tabletop gaming - moreso given the fact that gaming miniatures have their origin in wargaming combat simulations (where having a representation of your forces becomes essential for resolving tactical situation involving line-of-sight); roleplaying games such as Call of Cthulhu, on the other hand, emphasise investigation and atmosphere over combat, as well as situations where the use of miniatures is either peripheral or largely unneccessary. In any case, there seems no abating in the popularity of Cthulhu-themed miniatures - a point I shall return in a later post.
Friday, August 05, 2016
Last night I was gifted this statuette of Great Cthulhu by Maria Strutz, whose wonderful artwork can be found here and here. On receiving it, I was instantly reminded of the artist Wilcox from The Call of Cthulhu who, when questioned about the depiction of hieroglyphs of pre-human provenance on a newly-created bas-relief of dread R'lyeh, replies 'I made it last night in a dream of strange cities; and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon.'
I dread to think on what strange abysses and nighted voids Maria has visited in her dreams to produce such an item as this, but in this piece I believe she has captured something of the primal horror and formless, anomalous corporeality of the Great Old Ones.
Thank you again, Maria, for such a kind gift - you can be sure that this will be safetly ensconced within my treasured cabinet of Lovecraftian curiosities.
Thursday, August 04, 2016
Today's item I picked up scant hours ago: the 2nd edition of Mansions of Madness by Fantasy Flight Games - a kind of miniatures-based investigative dungeoncrawl set in 1920s Lovecraft country, where players seek to solve various Cthulhu Mythos-related mysteries by exploring the kind of gambrel-roofed architecture one imagines as typical of the Lovecraftian milieu. Helpfully, this edition also comes with a convesrion kit that allows me to use most of the key components that appeared in the first edition; unlike that edition, this one is playable solitaire. Nice.
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Current 93's 22 minute delivery of Thomas Ligotti's prose poem I Have a Special Plan for This World is best experienced than described, other than to say the oddly beautiful monologued content is 'typical' nihilistic Ligotti fare outlining the (presumably unreliable) narrator's ultimately disasterous attempt to enact their Special Plan. That is probably where I shall leave this, other than to say this is one of the more disturbing things I have listened to - it is also oddly addictive, in that when I do revisit I Have a Special Plan for This World, I find myself subjecting it to multiple continuous listenings.
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Today's entry involves the true story of a (seemingly) mysterious disappearance relating to the print displayed above. Whilst living in Leeds in the 1990s a friend of mine introduced me to Brian Ward, creator of the above piece. For those familiar with the early UK Chaos Magick scene, Ward was also the artist whose Lovecaftian art illustrated the cover and interiors of Peter J. Carroll's Liber Null & Psychonaut.
These illustrations can be viewed in their entirety within the following blog post - I can confirm (from the all-too-brief discussions I had with Brian), that the Liber Null & Psychonaut images were partially inspired by Lovecraft's work; I can also confirm Carroll's assesment on said blog that Brian was, indeed, a 'strangely secretive character'. As the blgger notes, these illustrations were also used - without Brian's permission, it turns out (I was, in fact, the person who brought this to his attention) - as the basis of two scenes involving the Many-Angled Ones in Grant Morrison's Zenith comic-strip; unfortunately I can't find images of these online (and my Zenith hardcopies are in storage), but they can be viewed in issues 2 and 4 of Zenith Phase 1.
Regardless, I only met Brian on a couple of occasions at his flat in Leeds (so make no claim to knowing him well); however, the final time I saw him he gave me a signed copy of the above print (I have no idea why he decided to gift me with this), telling me that the entity depicted in the centre of the image had appeared to him in a dream, informing him that he would soon be taking a journey to France (possibly Rennes-le-Chateau?) where he would undertake an intiatory journey and lose an eye. Our mutual friend later informed me that Brian had, indeed, left Leeds (although apparently no one knew where to). My understanding is that neither Brian nor his art have since resurfaced - indeed, this may be the first time that a 'new' Brian Ward piece has been seen online.