We’re back and we’re digging through the crypt to bring you another toothsome Lovecraft tale, dripping with succulent grave mould. This time it’s the turn of The Outsider, probably the most popular story from Lovecraft’s early, Gothic period. While the twisted shadow of Poe lies heavily over The Outsider, there are many elements that make it essentially Lovecraftian. These include hints and references that touch upon what would eventually become the Mythos.

Sadly, the ghouls in Lovecraft’s later stories spend more time moping around in graveyards than riding the night-wind.

As is usual for our story discussions, we look at the history of the tale, its adaptations into other media and what elements we can steal for our games. The meatiest part of the discussion, however, is our synopsis, which spoils the story worse than the most putrid of charnel fruits. If you haven’t read The Outsider yet, we advise you to do so before listening.

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You may want to find a cheaper edition than this one, however.

While there are many films inspired by The Outsider (just search for “Lovecraft” and “The Outsider” on YouTube), we focus on two of them. Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak stands out as the only one of his Lovecraft adaptations that none of us particularly like. It will still appeal to Lovecraft completists and connoisseurs of cheesy horror films, however. Aaron Vanek’s award-winning short film The Outsider is entertaining if still none too faithful to the source material. It may be found on volume 3 of Lurker Films’ HP Lovecraft Collection.

Had Lovecraft lived to see this, he would have kicked himself for not thinking of that title first.

The protagonist of The Outsider only emits one sound in his strange unlife. He describes this as “a ghastly ululation that revolted me almost as poignantly as its noxious cause”. The only thing distinguishing this from the sounds we make towards the end of this episode is that their cause is far from noxious. As long-time listeners know all too well, we sing our thanks to those generous souls who back us on Patreon at the $5 level. This episode features two such explosions of gratitude.

“No, don’t run! There’s only one song left to go.”

We also have a brief discussion about Matt and Paul’s recent visit to the Dragonmeet convention in London. One of the people Paul spoke to there is Chris Lackey, co-host of the excellent HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast. Along with his friend Greig Johnson, Chris has produced three comedic takes on Lovecraft stories that number amongst the best Lovecraftian short films available. Paul was shocked to learn that they haven’t received many hits yet on YouTube, which is deeply unjust. We urge you to watch them and share them with friends who enjoy Lovecraft, comedy or blasphemy of the most exquisite kind.

 

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We’re back and we’re following up last episode’s discussion of Clark Ashton Smith with a look at one of his stories. The Seven Geases is part of Smith’s Hyperborean cycle, the series of his that most intersects with the Cthulhu Mythos. In fact, the The Seven Geases adds more entities to the Mythos than any other single Smith story, making it a fascinating read for Call of Cthulhu Keepers.

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As usual, we dig into aspects of the story that would make good gaming material. The Seven Geases is a little different than the types of stories we normally discuss. While many of its elements have found their way into Lovecraftian horror fiction and games, the story itself is a weird mix of sword-and-sorcery and black comedy. This disparity of genres has never stopped people incorporating elements from Smith’s stories into Call of Cthulhu games, however, and usually to great effect.

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Even with this in mind, however, Call of Cthulhu Keepers who read The Seven Geases for inspiration may find it a strange and jarring experience. While the story introduces major Mythos entities, such as Abhoth and Atlatch-Nacha, and reincorporates a number of others, the way in which they behave differs markedly from their use in Call of Cthulhu. Mythos deities are rarely as chatty as those encountered here.

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“Just pull up a corpse and sit down. Now, let’s have a nice little chat about blood sacrifices. Scone?”

If this episode inspires you to run a game set in Hyperborea, good friend of the Good Friends Stephanie McAlea has put together a rather lovely map of the lost continent. Stephanie has been the cartographer of most of the work we have written for Chaosium, and does excellent work. You can buy her map via DriveThruRPG, or download it directly if you back her on Patreon.

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As Bret Kramer, another good friend of the Good Friends, pointed out, we neglected to mention The Double Shadow podcast in our overview of Smith. This was a major oversight. If you have any interest in Smith and his work, you should definitely give it a listen. The hosts know their subject well and delve into each story and its context in loving detail.

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And still speaking of good friends of the Good Friends, we mention in the episode how Frank Delventhal amazed and alarmed us with his feats of strength during our recent chat with Patreon backers. Frank has made videos of some of these feats and placed them where lesser mortals may see them. One particularly terrifying example may be found below.

 

 

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We’re back and we’re delving into the life and work of Clark Ashton Smith. Along with Robert E Howard, Smith was a core member of H P Lovecraft’s literary circle. While his work was massively popular in Weird Tales, it has been rather overshadowed by that of Smith’s peers. His stories have been reprinted in various forms almost constantly since the 1920s (and are free to read on the excellent Eldritch Dark website), but his creations have never had the cultural impact of Cthulhu or Conan.

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While Smith’s stories are perhaps a little less accessible than that of Lovecraft or Howard, they are rich, heady tales, filled with sardonic humour, beautiful nightmares and evocative language. Many of his pieces are perhaps closers to prose poems than conventional short stories, which is unsurprising given Smith’s roots as a poet. As well as being wonderful pieces of fantasy in their own right, Smith’s friendship with Lovecraft led to many elements of these stories adding to the Cthulhu Mythos. Call of Cthulhu players will find many familiar names in Smith’s stories, such as the god Tsathoggua and the infamous Book of Eibon. We will expand on this connection a little more next episode when we look at a Smith story that birthed many such monstrosities.

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As well as being a short story writer and poet, Smith was also an accomplished painter and sculptor. In fact, his career in the visual arts lasted for decades after he stopped writing fiction. His carvings and sculptures often incorporated elements from his stories and those of Lovecraft, and were always filled with the same weird imagination that fuelled his prose. Again, the Eldritch Dark website provides extensive galleries of his paintings and sculptures, as well as essays, articles and criticism.

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Most of our discussion, however, focuses on Smith’s literary work and the various worlds he created. While legal issues have prevented these from ever becoming licensed RPGs, they have certainly inspired a great many. We offer some ideas about how Smith’s work can shape your own games.

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As we mention in the episode, today also marks the release of the first of our Weird Whisperings to everyone who supports the Good Friends of Jackson Elias on Patreon. This is our series of recordings of some of the weird fiction we feature on the podcast. This time it’s the turn of The Music of Erich Zann, which we discussed back in episode 75. If you are a Patreon backer, please check your email for a download link. Enjoy!

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We’re back, and we’re tearing into the ripe meat of another Lovecraft story. This time we discuss the charnel pleasures and toothsome delights of Pickman’s Model. While there is nothing of the cosmic about this tale, it is one of Lovecraft’s best-known works, and perhaps the purest horror story he ever penned. It introduces us to Lovecraft’s version of ghouls, although they weren’t fully integrated into his wider Mythos until The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

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Put down your lunch and wave to the nice listeners.

The above picture is probably the iconic rendition of Pickman’s Model, by beloved pulp artist Hannes Bok. In the episode, Paul mentions that this image also reminds him of one of the covers of the Grafton editions of Lovecraft’s work. While its subject may lack the distinctive snout and hooves of Lovecraftian ghouls, and is rather more corpulent, it still sort of fits the (grave) mould.

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Not every model is a size zero.

As usual in our story episodes, we talk about the different elements we can steal for our games, as well as mentioning various film and television adaptations. Specifically, we discuss the Pickman’s Model episode of Night Gallery, as well as Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture and their adaptation of Cool Air; Volume 4 of Lurker Films’ H P Lovecraft Collection, which is devoted to Pickman’s Model and includes the feature film Chilean Gothic; and Pickman’s Muse, an independent feature which, unusually, sets Richard Upton Pickman at the heart of the events of The Haunter of the DarkI reviewed Pickman’s Muse as part of the 2013 October Horror Movie Challenge.

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Don’t let the lack of ghouls put you off. There are many fine films that fail to depict the consumption of human flesh.

This episode also sees more singing. It obviously didn’t see the singing in time, otherwise it would have run off in the other direction. If you haven’t encountered our outre musical endeavours before, I had best explain that this is the way we give thanks to our bravest and most generous Patreon backers, whose praises we literally sing.  This time, inspired by our topic, we have tried to integrate some glibbering and meeping into one of our numbers. It was an interesting experiment, but it has left us with some unwholesome appetites.

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Our backing choir will now join us in a bone-shaking rendition of I Ain’t Got No Body…

Speaking of music, we make mention of a far more melodious and less sanity-blasting number, in the form of a fun, catchy RPG-related song titled Party Killer, from our friends Kat and Sarah. Well, here it is!

We have a fresh and meaty segment of our new Q&A feature, Ask Jackson. As the earthly vessels of the ascended spirit of Jackson Elias, we are empowered to ask his advice about all matters eldritch on behalf of our listeners. If you have some hideous conundrum weighing on your mind, simply use the Contact Us page to let us know what it is, and Jackson will provide you with his shining wisdom before you know it. This episode sees the first question to involve a visual component, in the form of the brochure depicted below. Pay close attention, for your very life could depend on it.

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If you think those are fronds in his maw, you are just the kind of naive fool that ends up devoured.

This episode also includes an unexpected and delightful piece of interaction with one of our listeners. Frank Delventhal sent us a couple of mysterious packages from Germany, packed with eldritch goodies. You can listen as we unwrap them on air and try to work out just how he managed to bend a bunch of six-inch nails into such unnatural configurations (having seen photographs of Frank’s workout regimen, I still maintain that he used his bare hands). You can see some photographs of the lovely presents below!

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Blimey, this was a busy episode! I’ve written scenarios shorter than these show notes. Congratulations if you made it all the way through them!