Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.31: Arkham Horror

Today’s post marks something of an early landmark in the Lovecraftian Thing A Day series of ‘microblogs’; and now I have managed to submit at least one blog post per day for the entirety of January 2016, I’d like to take a little bit of time to explain what this is all about.

Whispers from the Ghooric Zone started up back in 2013, and has, at best, been rather erratic with regards the regularity of posts. I resurrected the blog (for the second time) back in November 2015 (in part inspired by my time at NecronomiCon in Providence that year). Whilst I had a lot of ideas (along with plentiful notes) for some of the things I intended to talk about, work and life interceded to such a degree that I wasn’t able to submit the intended weekly posts. I write regularly, but even so am a slow writer at the best of times – but I am also a great believer in the dictum that writing begets writing.

So, in a fit of pique and frustration at lack of progress with the blog, on  New Year’s Eve 2015 I determined that I would embark on the present enterprise: the intention being that, daily for the entirety of 2016, I would present an item or object from my collection of Lovecraftiana along with a short commentary on the piece – in part as a placeholder for what would hopefully become regular posts on more substantive topics (yet to appear!), but also as a means of encouraging me to engage in regular ‘creative’ writing via the pressure I’d put myself under by doing this publicly and via social media.

On which point, I am fully aware of how egocentric the daily presentation of my collection of Lovecraftian odds and ends might appear – and indeed it  seems pointless  denying that is the case. Even so, the series so far has proven very productive personally: some of the items have evoked memories of times and events That were all but forgotten; others have led to short forays into a kind of flash fiction, leading me to wonder if I might be able to create some kind of narrative continuity throughout the series, perhaps facilitating its transformation into another kind of creative work. In the former case, I’m quite surprised by just how odd certain of my experiences around the Lovecraft milieu have been; with regard to which, in the latter instance, I will leave it to you, good reader, to judge which of my stories really are accounts of genuine experiences, and which are fictions…

…And so on to today's Lovecraftian Thing A Day, which I acquired, at the age of 19, from Games Workshop’s original store at Dalling Road in Hammersmith during the Summer of 1987. Unfortunately that copy met its demise due to a severe case of mold in the early 1990s: the one displayed here I picked up about 6 years ago on eBay. I bought the original copy a couple of months before I was to leave my familial home for the first time and head off to the University of Leeds to begin a Religious Studies degree:  a move that was to have a significant impact upon the overall trajectory of my life and career, as doing religious studies led me directly to the study of anthropology (I am now a lecturer in that discipline at Goldsmiths College, the University of London); it was also in Leeds that I first encountered the contemporary esoteric practice of Chaos magick, which in turn has led me to explore the intersections between Lovecraft and esotericism for the better part of my academic career. Whilst I was never directly involved in Chaos Magick in Leeds during the time I was there (I returned to London in 1995), I was often on the periphery of the scene: at one time I worked next door to Id Aromatics – an aromatherapy shop where I used to pick up copies of Chaos International, and which was either owned or managed by Dave Lee (who later become the head of the Illuminates of Thanateros). For a time I lived on Burley Lodge Road, virtually opposite to the notorious UK occult shop The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This was also where I bought my first copy of the Simon Necronomicon as well as Peter J. Carroll’s Liber Null & Psychonaut. Towards the end of my time in Leeds, I also had the opportunity to meet Brian Ward, who supplied the Lovecraftian illustrations to Carroll’s book – and therein lies a tale which I will relate as part of a later Lovecraftian Thing A Day.

These thing aside, Arkham Horror resurrected my love for gaming (which had waned as I entered my later teenage years) and inspired an interest in solitaire gaming which continues to this day – certainly one of the threads which will continue to weave itself through this series is the degree to which Lovecraftian tropes have become integral to contemporary tabletop gaming culture.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.30: Nightgaunt! Nightgaunt!

I received this Nightgaunt statuette as a gift some years ago. Nightgaunts have always been one of my favourite of Lovecraft's creations which, thinking about it, is a little odd: they are, after all, also one of the more conventional beasts of the Cthulhu mythos in their resemblance to the traditional devils of Christian iconography (horned, bat-winged and barbed of tail). What distinguishes them, of course, is their hideous facelessness...

Friday, January 29, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.29: Cacophony

In parts almost unlistenable - and virtually musically-unclassifiable - the first (and perhaps best) Lovecraftian concept album: Cacophony by British anarcho-punk popular beat combo Rudimentary Peni. 'Gentlemen Prefer Blood' in which, apparently, Michael Nyman meets a fireman, is one of my favourites. This aside, the album is lyrically rich and, at least in my opinion, musically very Lovecraftian (but in an atonal-piping-mindless-Daemon-Sultan kind of a way). Listen. Enjoy. Let your ears bleed.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.28: Lovecraft and Spare

I have to thank Michael Chislett, writer of Machenesque strange stories and Clark Ashton Smith aficionado, (and, as I understand it, occasional wanderer through the haunted terrains of New Cross) who, a few years ago, pointed me in the direction of the subject of today’s post.

In a letter from Smith to Lovecraft from sometime between February and March 1934, Smith reveals that Lovecraft was aware of the work of occult artist Austin Osman Spare. For those unfamiliar with Spare, he inhabits a key position in the Lovecraftian 'Nightside’ occultism of Kenneth Grant (who in turn has played a central role in popularising occult interpretations of Lovecraft’s work). Apparently Grant also introduced Spare to Lovecraft’s writings, supposedly leading Spare to produce a couple of paintings inspired by Lovecraft (detailed in Kenneth and Steffi Grant’s Zos Speaks!, in which reproductions of said paintings appear).

The following quotation from the letter in question indicates that Lovecraft’s knowledge of Spare came from a magazine or newspaper article:

     'Your mixed assortment of clippings went back with the books. Among these, I was especially
     taken with the drawings of the London artist, Spare. The man certainly must have had a vision of
     paganry and demonry! His drawings remind me of Machen’s “The Great God Pan.” He’d
     certainly be an ideal illustrator for that story, and also for “The White People.” There is grand
     literary material in those ruins.’

So it appears that the clipping Lovecraft sent Smith contained samples of Spare’s work; if the statement regarding ‘ruins’ also pertains to this, it offers a tantalising hint as to the identity of the image or images in question. An intriguing little literary and artistic mystery, I'm sure you’ll agree. A cursory review of missives from the same period in the other volumes of Lovecraft’s letters I possess seem not to include any other mention of Spare. In any case, the above quotation can be found on page 254 of The Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith which, of course, is today’s Lovecraftian Thing A Day. You’re welcome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.27: Castle Amber

It's a virtual truism now to say that Lovecraft and gaming have become almost inextricably linked, with Lovecraftian themes and tropes populating much of the world of rpgs, board games, card games and video games. I've previously indicated the important role played by The Call of Cthulhu rpg in popularising the mythos and leading many people to Lovecraft’s writings. And whilst Tolkien is rightly cited as the key influence upon much of the fantasy gaming genre, Lovecraft is never far behind (or, in today’s case, lurking in the background by proxy).

Thus I present one of my all-time favourite pieces of Lovecraftian gaming history: Castle Amber, an adventure module for the Expert edition of Dungeons & Dragons published by TSR in 1981. Whilst this is a (wonderfully sandboxy and Poe-esque) gaming simulation of Clark Ashton Smith’s fictive medieval French province of Averoigne, Smith’s tales of this imaginary region make a good few references to the mythos – some of which make their appearance here. Except for the occasional hobgoblin, this module is also notable for its avoidance of typical Tolkienesque fantasy fare: no orcs, elves, dragons or dwarves here.

Less a scenario than a mini-campaign, I spent many memorable hours wandering the strange environs of Chateau d’Amberville and the ghoul-haunted woodlands of Averoigne.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.26: The Mask of Cthulhu.

After completing Derleth’s The Trail of Cthulhu, the next mythos tome I read – also in my local library in the above Neville Spearman edition - was The Mask of Cthulhu. I'm less fond of this than Trail, although Mask is notable for introducing Hastur as an actual mythos entity. Whilst Lovecraft mentions Hastur and the Yellow Sign, he does so fleetingly and with no clear indication of what these things are. As such, later mythos interpretations of Hastur – especially those found in The Call of Cthulhu rpg – are almost entirely dependent on Derleth. Again, I think this highlights the significant influence of Derleth on the rpg setting and, insofar as the rpg has been responsible for introducing many people to the Lovecraftian milieu, on the popularising of the mythos more generally.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.25: A Curious Postcard.

I received this curious postcard - sent anonymously from Dunwich - not long after I returned from Providence in 2001. Who could have sent it? And why? And, more to the point, what of the cryptic yet sinister Conradian inscription? Sadly, dear reader, these questions remain unanswered to this day - and perhaps they are best left so.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lovecaftian Thing A Day No.24: An Atlas of Fantasy

In the very first post in this series I noted that the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction acted as my formal introduction to Lovecaft's fictive universe, but that I had heard rumour of the Old Gent prior to my encounter with that volume. Today I present J.B. Post's An Atlas of Fantasy, published in 1973 by Mirage Press (and reprinted in an amended/expanded edition by Ballantyne In 1979). I believe that this was one of the sources of my very first encounters with the Lovecaftian milieu, containing as it did the famous Gahan Wilson map of Lovecraft's Arkham, a map the Dreamlands, alongside various maps documenting the strange worlds envisaged by others of the Lovecaft circle.

I found ths book in my local library - which, in retrospect, seems to have been on par with the Restricted/Special Collection of the Miskatonic Unversity Library with regards to the kind of eldritch tomes of forbidden lore I was able to peruse there - sometime around (I think) 1977. I distinctly recall being very taken by the the Frank Utpatel map of Ramsey Campbell's Severn Valley, which led to an almost decade-long quest to track down Campbell's mythos tales (only realised in 1987 with Graftons UK paperback release of Cold Print - more of which at a later date).

I picked up this copy of An Atlas of Fantasy from the much-mourned Fantasy Centre in Holloway Road, London: until its closure, probably one of the last bastions of independent horror/fantasy/sci-fi bookselling in the British Isles (another matter to which I am sure to return).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No. 23: A Map of the Dreamlands

This is one of my favourite decorative pieces: a massive (3ft by 2ft) framed print of Lovecraft's Dreamlands by Jason Thompson of Mockman Press. The map, in fact, includes locales not just from Lovecraft, but Lord Dunsany, Brian Lumly, Gary Myers, and others. It is a wonderfully evocative piece, and forms something of a centrepiece to my study here at Ghooric Zone Towers.

Sometimes I find myself driven almost obsessively to study the many fascinating features of the map, with a view to penetrating the nameless secrets which are doubtlessly encoded within its design. On those occasions, I almost feel as if some mystic gateway or hidden portal has wrested my consciousness from out the world of the commonplace into those very lands of wonder and horror which the map depicts. On account of the scratching and tittering that sometimes emenates from the wall behind the map, I cannot help but wonder if I have brought something back with me from those strange reveries and fantastic journeyings...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.22: Happy Birthday REH!

As it's Robert E. Howard's birthday today, I thought something both REH & HPL related would be fitting: my (partially-read) copies of A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, published by Hippocampus Press. Sadly, this wonderful two-volume set (which includes the extant correspondence between these two giants of weird literature) currently appears to be out of print.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No. 21: Lovecraft Pyrograph

This is a pyrograph of Lovecraft by my friend Jason Tobias Oliver. I had the opportunity of watching Jason put the finishing touches to this piece in his studio about a year and a half ago. My photograph doesn't really do it justice – particularly the subtle blue-green glaze that has been applied to the image. This forms part of a series of pyrographs depicting key figures in modern occultism and horror which Jason Tobias has produced.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.20: The Hound

I acquired this curiosity - a jade amulet depicting a grotesque winged hound - from Joe Broers. Rumour has it that it was used in the foul rites of the corpse-eating cult of Leng. Since it has been in my possession, my sleep has often been disturbed by the weird baying of some distant beast which, nightly, seems to creep a little closer...

I think I also correct in saying that Joe's version of this amulet also appears in Arabi, a found footage short film merging Lovecraft's 'The Hound' with 'The Statement of Randolph Carter'.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No. 19: The Silver Key

I've harboured a desire to possess my own Silver Key since first reading Lovecraft's Randolph Carter tales. Fortunately Jason McKittrick of Cryptocurium acquired a small number of these arcane artefacts a year or two ago, and I was able to procure one. The wonders and horrors that have since haunted my dreams I will not speak of here - but if you wish to discover these things for yourself, please do check out Jason's emporium of monstrous arcana.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day: No.18: 'Mercy? You ask for mercy? I'm Chaotic Neutral!'

A good number of people I know who are into Lovecraft discovered him via the medium of roleplaying games - in particular The Call of Cthulhu rpg published by Chaosium (and now in its 7th edition). Chaosium have. indeed, been central in revitalising interest in Lovecraft since they began republishing many difficult-to-find Cthulhu mythos titles in the 1990s.

Whilst I discovered Lovecraft before I discovered rpgs, the intersection between Lovecraft and gaming has been another key interest of mine. At some point I mean to produce a series posts unearthing the eldritch genealogies of contemporary Lovecraftian gaming. But for now, I present my copy of the Deities & Demigods supplement for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, containing stats for and descriptions of various mythos entities. This was not the first gaming publication in which Lovecraft's creations appeared, but it was the first I encountered and the classic Erol Otus illustrations evoke a profound sense of nostalgia. The copy shown here was donated to me by an old school friend who I gamed with in the fantastic worlds of D&D - using this very book - over thirty years ago...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.17: Cosmical (?) Horror.

Whilst not particularly rare, this tome is one that I haven't seen much discussion of in Lovecraft circles: The Cosmical Horror of H.P. Lovecraft: A Pictorial Anthology.

As is probably evident from previous posts, my interest in Lovecraft ephemera stretches beyond the purely literary. As well as possessing a collection of Lovecraftian art and sculpture, I also like to collect art books relating to the Cthulhu mythos, horror, and the weird more generally. Today's item is unusual in being trilingual (the text is in French, Italian and English); it is also notable in collecting art and images relating to Lovecraft's fictive universe from European and non-English sources - much of which I haven't seen outside of this book.

I first spied this in a specialist UK bookshop in the mid-1990s, and eventually picked up my own copy about 5 years ago (from a French online bookshop). Obviously, being British, It behooves me to inform my more sensitive readers that some of the content of the book is rather 'Continental' in nature - or what we in the UK might refer to as 'a bit saucy'.

Breaking News: Polar Bear Claims Ownership of Cthulhu Tiki Shocker!

A surprising controversy has erupted regarding the Lovecraftian Thing A Day No. 15: Cthulhu Tiki - ownership of which has been contested by a certain bear, who has presented the following evidence in support of said claim. Ghooric Zone central will continue to report as the story develops...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.16: Dogging in Dunwich...

Today's entry is a Dunwich coaster from actual Dunwich. I picked this up from the local museum in Dunwich village, which I visited in (I think) 2010. On that same day my companion and I decided to take a stroll through the nearby Dunwich Forest – a notable beauty spot a short drive from the village. There is a small car parking area at the entrance to the footpath through the Forest – on arrival we found about three other cars parked there, the occupants of which appeared to be taking a marked interest in us.

Soon after entering he Forest, we noticed that someone seemed to be following us, stopping whenever we did. This struck us a a little odd, but not particularly unnerving. Soon after we returned to our car and left.

Whilst I would like to think that we had stumbled on some sort of nefarious cult activity, subsequent research indicated that Dunwich Forest is also known as Gate 44: one of Sussex’s better-known dogging/cruising sites...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lovecaftian Thing A Day No.15: Cthulhu Tiki

This is a fun Cthulhu tiki idol which I picked up at NecronomiCon 2013. One of the few pieces of Cthulhu kitsch that I own. That  is  all for today!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.14: Clark Ashton Smith or Bust!

This – amongst other…unusual…artefacts – arrived in the post today: another wonderful piece by my friend Joe Broers. Joe has also sculpted a statue of the dread Hyperborean sorcerer Eibon which I understand is in the process of being cast for reproduction in resin – an appropriate companion piece to this bust of Clark Ashton Smith. Joe has also hinted to me that he may be working on a similar sculpting project that I'm very excited about...

In any case, buy Joe’s stuff! Now!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No. 13: The Trail of Cthulhu

In an earlier post I mentioned how The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction became my formal point of entry into the Cthulhu mythos; soon after (late 1978, I think) I discovered the Neville Spearman edition of Derleth’s The Trail of Cthulhu in my local library. I was so taken by the book that I eventually purchased my own copy, subsequently gave that away, then decided I needed to purchase a second copy (shown here). All  of my initial forays into the mythos were, as it happens,  through Lovecraft’s contemporaries rather than the man himself – indeed it wasn't until a good few months after reading Derleth that I was first encountered an actual Lovecraft tale. (Oddly, I can't even remember what that was, although it might have been ‘In the Vault’).

Derleth has come under quite a lot of flack in recent decades, and for good reason: his use of the Cthulhu Mythos (a term of his own devising) – and, indeed, his attempts not only to codify but trademark it - seriously diluted the philosophical magnitude of Lovecraft’s original vision. Even so, I don't consider Derleth to be bad writer, and elements of The Trail of Cthulhu resonate with a sense of genuine weirdness. I still find the figure of Professor Laban Shrewsbury to be deliciously shuddersome. Having re-read Trail recently l'm of the opinion that, moreso than any of Lovecaft’s work, it formed the conceptual foundation of The Call of Cthulhu rpg. In addition to which the quasi-abstract Futurism (I'm sure art lovers will take me to task for that description) of Stanislaw Fernandes’ cover is probably my all-time favourite mythos illustration.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.12: Not Another Lovecraft Portrait!

This is an original artwork which I acquired from Steve Lines of Rainfall Books which, as I understand it, was the same used for the cover of issue 7 of Lovecraft’s Disciples in which my tale ‘The Sparkling Darkness’ appeared. Obviously the original image was  subject to colourisation and Photoshopped to include the new title.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.11: I Am Lovecraft's Disciple!

Some shameless self-promotion as today’s offering, which represents my one – and thus far only – published piece of Lovecraftian fiction: ‘The Sparkling Darkness’. It’s really more of an attempt to ape Ligotti than Lovecraft and, whilst I think the tale contains some interesting ideas, frankly it is not very good...Even so, it is nice to have at least one piece of Lovecraftiana in my collection  my name on the front cover! For the moment, though, I'll probably stick to writing the occasional academic paper, which I'm at least passable at. There’s a companion piece to this which I'll be posting as tomorrow’s Lovecraftian Thing A Day.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.10: CSI Arkham

Nothing too exciting today other than my CSI: Arkham cap, which I wear occasionally when I want to be street, down with the kids and all Hippety-Hop. Not sure from whence or where I got this, but I think that CSI: Arkham would make a great pitch for a show. Now if you will excuse me I have to go and look all moody and pensive before putting on a pair of sunglasses....

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.9: Sounds Beyond Meaning

Today I present a recent acquisition: Sounds Beyond Meaning – a talismanic collection of essays in honour of the late Kenneth Grant. For those unfamiliar with the contemporary esoteric oeuvre, Grant was at the forefront of incorporating Lovecraft’s fictive mythology into modern occultural theory and practice - the essays in this volume certainly expound upon that very point (particularly with regard to what Grant referred to as ‘creative occultism’). Indeed, I'll be presenting a series of occult-related Lovecraftiana – and will no doubt end up pontificating at length on this controversial topic – at a later date.

The reason I’m presenting this item is because, at the very moment I'm preparing to post, I'm travelling into central London for the Kenneth Grant Day being held at Treadwells bookshop – at which some of the contributors to Sounds Beyond Meaning will be speaking.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.8: Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?

This was a papier mache mask I bought from a craft shop, then modified by adding a version of the Yellow Sign (the one typically used in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game) before painting up in a suitable yellowish tone, and adding yellow ribbon as a tie. Unfortunately, the photo doesn't do justice to the actual colouration and painting of the mask which, even if I do say so, is quite good. I ended up wearing this at the Eldritch Ball at NecrononiCon 2015. I had been looking for a set of yellow silk pyjamas to go with it as a 'King in Yellow' costume for the event, but (surprisingly) I wasn't able to find such a garment online. Instead, I wore the mask suited and booted (along with a stylish smoking hat) - there may be images/video out there somewhere of me wearing said apparell at the Eldricth Ball whilst dancing to the Sister's 'This Corrosion'. Good times.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.7: Arkham Artefact

This is an incense holder sculpted in the shape of what looks like one of Brian Lumley’s Cthonians. I purchased it in the early 2000s (if memory serves me well) at Arkham – a now-defunct emporium of the weird located in Brighton, UK. There was a Dave Carson exhibition being held at the shop when I visited – Mr. Carson was himself also present so I had the opportunity of a quick chat; as I  recall, there was also one of his unique shoggoth sculptures on display in the shop window – I wasn't able to afford  it at the time, but managed to acquire it a few years later.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.6: The Fungi from Yuggoth

Today I present my Lovecraftian desert island disk: the updated and re-released audio recording of the Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle. As a distillation of the thematic essence of Lovecraftian wordsmithery -  including a profound sense of awe and wonder as well as horror  – this approaches being one of my favourite of Lovecraft’s literary efforts. Added to which is the superbly evocative reading of the sonnets to a musical accompaniment which is in turn both eerie and sublime. Mr Jim Moon of the Hypnobobs/Hypnogoria podcast also provides an excellent essay exploring thematic and narrative continuity across the sonnet cycle in the booklet accompanying the CD set. What makes this copy rather unique is that, during a rather fanboyish moment,  I had Jim sign the cover (this occurred last September at the annual shindig organised by the Black Dog podcast – of which Jim is also a co-host).  A version of the essay can also be found at Jim’s blog.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.5: A Curious Gift

Another art piece for today’s entry. This was gifted to me at the conclusion of a talk I gave on Lovecraft by a mysterious individual dressed, appropriately,  in the style of an 18th Century gentleman –  a true story, by the way. I would like to think, perhaps, that it was the revenant of some sorcerer, resurrected from ‘essential saltes’ found in a lead  urn buried in a hidden corner of some forgotten burying ground...But I digress. This is a really unusual piece painted on a circular wooden board in the style of a religious icon. The cracked effect applied to the paint really adds character.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.4: Portrait of Lovecraft

Something a little more personal today. I only managed to scrape a ‘D’ grade on completing my  A level in art. That, however, hasn't stopped me from occasionally committing (and I  use the term in the criminal sense) certain visual doggerel to paper. This pen drawing of H.P.Lovecraft isn't, perhaps, too bad (although I'm sure I ‘borrowed’ the idea of depicting HPL in such a stark chiaroscuro manner from someone else). The frame, at least, is quite nice.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Lovecaftian Thing A Day No.3: Shoggoth Embryo

Today’s post presents a recent addition to the Ghooric Zone’s collection of Lovecraftian artefacts: a shoggoth embryo procured from Dr Lake of Miskatonic University by Gage  Prentiss of the  Rumtucket Trading Company. A wonderful display piece, it also works well as a paperweight and in a pinch can be used as a blunt instrument for ridding oneself of unwanted guests when those occult experiments inevitably go wrong - remember kids: do not call up that which you cannot put down!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.2: Swan Point Cemetery Map

Yesterday’s post dealt with beginnings; today I turn to the more dour Lovecraftian theme of the fragility of human existence. Thus I present a map of Swan Point Cemetery and the circumstances surrounding its acquisition. The map itself I received from an  officer of the Providence Cemetery Police (yes, that is a thing – or at least it was) during my first visit to Lovecraft’s headstone. That, sadly, occurred on a now notoriously historic date which made my pilgrimage all the more memorable - but for all the wrong reasons: September 11th 2001. The very same morning I had boarded a bus in New York and was fortunate to get out of the city - in the shadow of a vast pillar of smoke, dust and debris - before it was locked down.

The monotony of the bus journey was, rather traumatically, punctuated with (mostly garbled) radio reports regarding the events of that morning. These consisted of sensationalised and apocalyptic claims by almost-gleeful reporters that planes were dropping out of the sky left, right and centre - pretty much a Christian fundamentalist’s wet dream…one woman on the bus was frantically trying to contact her husband, who worked at the World Trade Centre. I'd visited the towers a couple of days earlier, and recall wondering whether the lift attendant I chatted with had survived.

Standing at Lovecraft’s headstone later that day, I was also aware that whilst all this had been going on, strange rites in honour of the Old Ones were being performed a continent away at the edge of the sea near a little village called Dunwich. The shade of Alhazred, having been evoked, was ushering in a truly terrible new aeon of Lovecraftian modernity.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.1: First Encounters with Lovecraft - The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

The start of a new year often brings with it a slew of good intentions. Despite the gradual sloughing-off of humanity presaged by our-almost daily interactions with monstrous cosmic realities, we at the Ghooric Zone retain a penchant for occasionally indulging the remnants of our human foibles - particularly during periods of hominid ritualised festivity. To this end, I have decided to instigate a year-long micro-blogging project: daily, I mean to present a short (a couple of sentences, or a paragraph at most) summary, review or reflection upon an element of my personal collection of Lovecraftiana.

Over the last year or so I have been trying to map/construct something akin to a genealogy of my engagement with weird fiction. Even though Lovecraft did not inaugurate my obsession with the weird, his vision has cast a ponderous shadow over my own life and attitudes - so much so that I have become rather obsessed with recalling the historic when-and-how of my initial encounters with the Old Gent. However, whilst providing a seemingly coherent and continuous narrative of (arguably illusory) personal identity, memory is a fragile thing - and I have never been much of a diarist. To this end I am faced with the onerous task of dredging up, in the face of the hideous obfuscations of time and age, long-buried reminiscences of the mid-to-late 1970s...

With regard to which (and also because we are dealing with beginnings), today's offering is both salient and unusual: in the latter case, because it is not an overtly Lovecraftian tome; in the former because it is (one) of the genealogical threads leading back to Lovecraft's early influence on my interest in weird fiction. Sadly, I've yet to recall exactly when or where I first heard of Lovecraft - although I'm almost certain that I stumbled across allusions to his work prior to reading today's showcased volume. I was certainly familar with Lovecraft prior to my involvement in roleplaying games (which is where, it seems, many Lovecraftians of my generation had their first brush with the Cthulhu mythos). In any case, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction - edited by Robert Holdstock and published by Cathay Books in the UK in 1978 - was where I first read anything close to an overview of who this Lovecraft fellow was, and what his Cthulhu mythos was all about. Importantly, the book also provided me with the titles of some of Lovecraft's key mythos tales. This in and of itself was paramount - by way of the highly evocative and suggestive nature of said titles - in stimulating a desire to read and find out more about HPL.