" It is new, indeed for 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" The Call of Cthulhu

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Lovecrcraft, merchandising and me


My Mythos journey started at 15 when a friend lent me two books featuring these eerie portraits by John Holmes. (I did return his cpoies) My mother then gave me a copy of The Lurker at the Threshold with a somewhat funky cover by Murray Tinkelman, I am amazed to this day. (Sadly this is not that copy) One could note that two of the three books are primarily by August Derleth, but that is another post. However my love for HPL and the ever expanding mythos was launched. 

Lots of books followed including some of the less expensive Arkham House titles. But then other stuff appeared that did not require trips whether real, via mail or finally virtual to the haunts of used book sellers.

There is kids stuff.

There was science!! Sadly this site does not seem to update any longer but there are lots of fascinating posts.


There are comics, graphic novels and these cool editions illustrated by Fracnois Baranger. Some have quibbled with his illustrations for example this depiction shows what might be a human skeleton in the cavern discovered by the member of the Miskatonic University Expedition to the Antartic. Maybe yes maybe no, but really people, why don't we call it foreshadowing and move on. These great books, great illustrations and I hope to discuss them in more detail in the future.

The there are games. My wife and I love collecting and sometimes even playing (actual physical) games. The more cool plastic figures and stunning graphics the better. And Howard is of course included.

Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu. It is produced by Z-Man games who produce a number of Pandemic games. You move around the world closing portals, and fighting cultists, monsters, and elder gods. It is the simplest and most compact of the mythos games we own. The game are relatively short and quite entertaining.


I cannot find my core box but as we can see Eldritch Horror has produced lots of expansions. Produced by Fantasy Flight games you fight, well you know.

 " An ancient evil is stirring. You are part of a team of unlikely heroes engaged in an international struggle to stop the gathering darkness. To do so, you’ll have to defeat foul monsters, travel to Other Worlds, and solve obscure mysteries surrounding this unspeakable horror. The effort may drain your sanity and cripple your body, but if you fail, the Ancient One will awaken and rain doom upon the known world. 

Eldritch Horror requires more space, takes longer and is more complex. There are a number of expansions including not just new opponents and scenarios  but in some cases additional boards. Great fun. 

Cthulhu Death may Die by CMON games. 

I purchased the base game and the larger Season 2 expansion at our local game store. The Black Goat of the Woods and Yog-sothoth expansions came from Amazon. CMON is currently running a kickstarter for another expansion Cthulhu Death May Die - Fear of The Unknown which has 7 days to go. We have ordered it, but I want to be clear, we are not involved with the company or the kickstarter campaign in anyway. We have purchased other games via kickstarter Wonderland Wars (Alice themed), Etherfields (Fantasy), ISS Vanguard (Space Exploration) and also have several more coming. What they have in common, is they take a long time to manufacture, cost a fair bit to ship and often during the course of the kickstarter you are seduced into adding things to the initial purchase like possibly an Ithaqua, the Wind-Walker, the Lord of the Winds expansion, or Animal Allies for when you are facing the Color Out of Space, but maybe that is just me.

We have never participated in a kickstarter from CMON games so I cannot speak to that. We like the Death May Die campaigns we have played. Like many modern games they take a fair bit of space to play, and have lots of elements to juggle. We also like the beautifully made miniatures that come with the game. Helen and I have both begun painting miniatures again, something we did close to forty years ago when we were first together, (then they were lead) and I plan on painting some of these. I was eyeing the Black Goat last night. Basically I love seeing models for Brown Jenkin (he is over sized so easier to paint) or a Gug or the stunning Tsathogguo figure. Also I am really enjoying seeing them incorporate beings from The Mound, Dreamlands and Lovecraft's story Hypnos. I am not encouraging anyone to purchase the game rather I think that people who like HPL and the Mythos might get a kick out of seeing all the associated tchotchkes. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Halloween Reading


  Somehow Halloween has snuck up on me. In Sept. I pulled a pile of my horror paperbacks to go through, started, and then was distracted by my ongoing science fiction discussions with my buddy Doug. Last night I realized Halloween was Monday.  So I was up at 4:00 bringing up decorations and thinking about Halloween. Which for me means books. There are two novels and a short story by Scott Thomas that I always read around this time. Since I have covered them already I have provided the links below. I then decided to expand my reading list and chose Something Wicked This Way Comes (how was this not already on the list), "Dr. Locrian's Asylum" by Thomas Ligotti (a bit of Coultophobia anyone), and Matt's Cardin's "Chimeras & Grotesqueries". I am not going to discuss the Bradbury novel and two short stories here but I certainly am going to recommend them

 The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury


A Night in Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny


"The Night is A Sea" by Scott Thomas


Since my discussion of the Thomas story is short, I will include it here. 

"My wife is a huge fan of the magazine Fortean Times, so our household is well aware of the work of Charles Fort in recording the weird, the uncanny and the just plain odd. Here Thomas has captured the universe spanning scale of Lovecraft with the type of news items beloved of Fort. Indeed our narrator, Emerson a collector of the strange and mystical, is also the writer of the column Emerson Bridge's Journeys to the Border for the newspaper Free Worchester, producing columns taylor made for the pages of Fort's The Book of the Damned. Emerson loves to share the stories he has uncovered like that of the Ice Sisters, 

"As for the Ice Sisters… A boy searching for his missing dog found three dead women dressed in colonial mourning gowns lying in the middle of a field in the Coddington property. They were spaced evenly apart with their heads nearly touching, though their hair and faces could not easily be seen. Each had a dark wooden box enclosing her from the neck up, and underneath, shaped to the dimensions of the boxes and further encasing the women's heads were blocks of ice.  (11)

The story wanders happy along, as we follow Emerson, researching and relating stories as well as assisting in a search for a missing senior, until all the elements come together in a outstanding climax. This story is a wonderful fusion of Lovecraft and Charles Fort and any aficionado of the weird is sure to enjoy it. "


Saturday, October 2, 2021

New Eldritch Tomes


This summer a bump in liquid assets due to my advancing age coincided with the arrival of a catalogue in my email basket. Yes I did the mature thing and pondered whether I needed more books, Discussed it with Helen and and said hell yes what's two more given the thousands we have. And the catalogue did happen to contain relatively reasonably priced copies of two books I have wanted for years. (We all remember relatively from school, things appear different depending on where you sit, I think that's how it goes) Yes these are Derleth, but as I discussed in an earlier post when I began reading the mythos I made little distinction between HPL and his various imitators and collaborators. In truth it was hard to get books we could afford in Windsor in those days we took what we found in the drugstore racks, used book stores, and Coles. And opened the covers with eager anticipation, besides we thought Twinkies were food. (oh wait I still do)


Besides these are by one of the greatest cover artists every to grace Arkham House publications, Richard Taylor and they just happen to complete my collection of the five titles he did for them. And while you can debate the quality of some of Derleth stories "The Fisherman of Falcons Point" in The Shuttered Room and "The Seal of R'lyeh" in The Mask of Cthulhu are two of my favourite Derleth stories.

I knew Taylor was a cartoonist for the New Yorker but I did not realize he was Canadian.


Dreams has a wondrous cover, don't you think.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Rowena Morrill (1944-2021)


 Another illustrator that was once a significant force in the science fiction books I used to select from the spinning racks of drug stores and the Wee Book Inn has passed away. Locus provided an excellent overview of her career here.


I cannot say that Rowena Morril was one of my favourite illustrators, but at one point, books with her cover illustrations seemed omnipresent. When I decided to pull together a few of my favourites, I was surprised with how few I found. Either I had culled the authors long ago, Piers Anthony or the books are currently misplaced Manly Wade Wellman as the ongoing basement renovations continue. However, I have a few, some of which I love. 

How can you not like Clark Ashton Smith?

This rather tatty Sturgeon is Helen's but as someone who compulsively collects translations of the Divine Comedy there is a lot to like here.

George R.R. Martin writes the best horror/science fiction short stores in the field. "Sandkings" is probably his greatest short story and quite possibly belongs on any list of the top science fiction stories of all time. This is a nice representation.

When I first owned these editions of Lovecraft I did not like them. As was sadly the case with many of my early paperback editions I did not keep them when I bought hardcovers. When I came to realize I wanted to collect the art of HPL as well as the words I had the joy of buying expensive copies in not very good condition so I could add them to my collection. While we are told we become more conservative as we age I find myself moving in the opposite direction in most areas of my life. These are certainly a case in point. Now I really enjoy the flamboyance of Morrill's interpretation of Wilbur Whatetely or the Great Race of Yith. Occasionally I do wonder how Wilbur keep all those bits sufficiently concealed beneath the 1920's equivalent of Dockers that he could ride the bus in search of the Necronomicon. But that is part of the fun of it. Do you have any favourite Morrill covers?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

New Eldritch Tomes (not really) and Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams and Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country

 I wanted to put a post together and was waiting to gather some things I wanted to share. First off I have not been buying as many old paperbacks lately. I basically have accumulated lots and decided to hold off for a while. However will searching the basement for Blaylock's The Elfin Ship for another project, I found two books that really belonged upstairs with my main collection. Initially I assumed that The Phoenix Tree was part of Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, it must have been the unicorns and dragons that fooled me. However the authors on the cover had a distinctly weird tales or horror vibe. I have been collected a number of slim horror collections from the 1970's and this Stoker collection for 1974 by Quartet Books fit right in. 

I also wanted to mention a couple items that I thought would be of interest to readers of this blog. The first is a documentary I just watched on Vimeo, Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams directed by Darin Coelho Spring. Smith is a favourite author and I thought this was a great overview of his life and career. It featured a number of tours by Smith scholar, Donald Sidney-Fryer. There were interviews with S.T. Joshi, W.H. Pugmire, and an extensive interview with Harlan Ellison on Smith's influence on his work. Ellison also mentions how he first encountered Smith's "City of the Singing Flame" in Derleth anthology  The Other Side of the Moon. I found the interview with Smith's stepson Prof. William Dorman particularly interesting. The documentary also featured some of Smith's painting and sculptures and I have to admit I has really impressed. The b&w reproductions in my copy of The Fantastic Art of Clark Ashton Smith did not do them justice and led me to undervalue them.

Author John Langan reviewed the documentary for Locus here,


And you can see the trailer here, (I really recommend it)


Lastly I want to recommend Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country by Edward Parnell and I am only on chapter eight. (Finished, a powerful but poignant (okay sad) memoir)

Parnell has written a beautiful and engaging memoir combining his personal history with an overview of the supernatural fiction and film that informed his childhood. Parnel's discussions of the works of authors like Machen, Blackwood. M.R. James, Alan Garner and William Hope Hodgson and films like The Wicker Man or The Blood on Satan's Claw are enhanced by visits to significant locations in their creators' lives and works. 

Readers of W.G. Sebald (who I love) may recognize some similarities. There are b&w photographs of the author and his family or the locations he visits. The work consists of descriptions of trips interspersed with personal anecdotes, capsule histories, observation of the local birds and the landscape.

But I think Parnell is more deeply immersed in his subject than Sebald sometimes was. This process seems vitally important to Parnell. His visits to the locations where these authors lived and worked become meditations on his own life and a trigger for his own memories. I have mentioned before that Helen is a big fan of The Fortean Times. One phenomenon which she made me aware of was the concept of The Haunted Generation, as mentioned in the link below; 

" The phrase ‘Haunted Generation’ comes from an article of that title by British broadcaster and writer Bob Fischer for the June 2017 issue of Fortean Times magazine, the purview of which is ‘the world of strange phenomena’. Fischer, who was born in 1973, discusses his childhood exposure to a popular culture thematically preoccupied with mysticism and the supernatural;"   





A link to the actual Fortean Times article is here.


I think Parnell's work provides an interesting example of the phenomenon. I have found it riveting not just for his discussions of supernatural fiction in Britain but also as an exercise in memoir.    

There is a excellent discussion of Parnell's book with an interview with the author here. Parnell states,

"I went back to Norfolk and thought hard about whether I would like to write such a book – a book concerned with ghost stories and films and the places around Britain that fed into them. And I decided that I did. Because I’d grown up obsessed from a young age with the supernatural and horror. Like a lot of children born in the 1970s, my early years had been surrounded by morbid public information films and terrifying, offbeat TV programmes aimed at, but quite probably unsuitable for, our age group; without knowing it, I was part of what the Fortean Times has come to term the ‘haunted generation’."


Cover credits;

The Bram Stoker Companion unattributed

The Phoenix Tree unattributed

Genius Loci Frank Wakefield

A Rendezvous in Averoigne Jeffrey K. Potter

The Other Side of the Moon Virgil Finlay?

Emperor of Dreams Ned Dameron

Thursday, December 24, 2020

May Cthulhu be good to you.


"There is snow on the ground
And the valleys are cold
And a midnight profound
Blackly squats o'er the wold:
But a light on the hilltops half-seen hints of feasting unhallow'd and old."

from Yule Tide by H.P. Lovecraft

Saturday, December 12, 2020

On Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera by Elizabeth Bear.

  I have, I believe, remarked about how coincidence plays a large part in my life and my reading. Lately, I have been reading non-fiction from the library. As normal, the topics reflect my choice of fiction; the Sirens of Mars by Johnson discusses the search for life on Mars, Ancient Bones by Bohme, the evolution of apes and hominids in Europe and Kindred by Sykes provided an overview of the current research on Neanderthal's. The last two works that I discussed on my blog Jagged Orbit, Simak's "The Whispering Well," and Bradbury's The Halloween Tree touched on evolution and early man. Obviously, something is going on. Perhaps deros are shooting rays into my brain to direct my reading (see Richard Sharpe Shaver), or maybe stuff just happens.

Early this morning, Bear's story appeared on the Tor.com banner and, well, it had both R'lyeh and Carcosa in the title. I was up with insomnia anyway, so here was a gift. I just discussed three of Bear's mythos stories, and this did not disappoint. It starts in true pulp fashion with the protagonist and her companion reloading their weapons as they shelter behind a flimsy barricade. A tentacle has just smashed her GoPro, so we are in reasonably familiar territory. Then Bear proceeds to tell us how we got here. "My name is not Greer Griswold. I’m approximately fifty-two years old. I don’t know who my birth parents were, and my adoptive parents are dead. I have never married; I have no children; I have very few close friends. I’m a physicist at a notable northeastern US institution you would have heard of if I named it." 

Spoilers ahead, I suggest you read the story first, then see if you agree/disagree with me.

And while your there I recommend Lavie Tidhar's stories "Judge Dee and the Limits of the Law" and "In Xanadu".


Greer decides to take a DNA test; she is nearly one-twentieth Neanderthal (yeah!!), but 10.2% is undetermined. Luckily one of her few friends is Michael Roberts, a geneticist at the same institution. Roberts initially dismisses her results as contamination in the sample. But after additional research, he finds similar results appeared in a thesis that eventually was rejected. This leads them to the author Albert Gilman a recluse living on Cape Ann. I will stop the summary; the story is available on the Tor website. Why did I like it. Bear is a fine writer; I loved this line, "Unless his peculiar transformation had been more than merely cosmetic and he’d returned to the deeps like a hatchling sea turtle." She is also very inventive. Her story Dolly is a lovely discussion of the rise of sentience in a robot.


I fully intend to discuss her story 'The Deeps of the Sky', a brilliant first contact story that can be read here. 


How inventive since Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu", writers have struggled with describing his concept of non-Euclidean geometry. Bear does not struggle, she nails it 

“Octagons,” I said. “Traditionally, they don’t interlock without small squares to make up the corners.”

“But honeycomb?”

“Hexagons,” I said. “Like the basalt pillar we were on. Your bathroom tiles, those are octagons. With the little black squares between the corners, because that’s how topology works.”

Well, that was how topology worked where we came from. Here, apparently octagons interlocked." 

I love good mythos tales, I love prehistory, and I am interested in DNA and evolutionary science and increasingly, I love Elizabeth Bear's sf short stories and mythos tales. 


Detail from "Moving to New Hunting Grounds" by Zdenek Burian, I received my first book in the Augusta/Burian series on prehistoric life, Prehistoric Sea Monsters (they aren't) as a child and the die was cast.

Kindred, I borrowed this from the library and realized I would want to reread it and make notes in the text. So I returned it so the next in line could enjoy it and got my own copy from a local bookstore who delivered it and some Jeff Vandermeer books. 

On my next visit to my local library branch I found three more books on Neanderthals on the shelf. I had to request Almost Human on Homo naledi from another branch but I was able to get it before the library closes again until the new year and I thought it made a nice addition to the photo. 

Be careful out there.