Episode057

We’re back from the distant past! Our minds have escaped the sinister and rugose clutches of the Great Race, and we have returned to the present to wrap up our discussion of Lovecraft’s classic story, The Shadow Out of Time. In this episode we give our own personal impressions of the story, take a look at adaptations and have a chat about what elements we can steal for games.

Lovecraft punk

Speaking of stealing stuff, here’s that picture of punk Lovecraft, originally posted by Alex Mayo, that we’re convinced is actually a photograph of Paul.

The only film adaptation we could find was an odd Swedish short (with English narration) that condenses the story into 15 minutes. The result is how we’d imagine a modern piece by Georges Méliès would look, if he weren’t too busy being dead. Happily the film is on YouTube, so you can enjoy its pleasingly idiosyncratic style by taking no more strenuous action than clicking below.

We also mention the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s audio adaptation, which is part of their excellent Dark Adventure Radio Theatre line. A very different audio take on the story is The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets‘ concept album, The Shadow Out of Tim. We were supposed to be discussing this with singer (not to mention prolific RPG artist and writer) Toren Atkinson, but, appropriately enough, time worked against us. Here’s a little taste of the album by way of recompense.

And, as ever, you can find a comprehensive and eclectic analysis of the story over at the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast. Their discussion of The Shadow Out of Time begins here.

Episode56

We’re back — back about 250 million years in the past, to be precise! At least this gives us a chance to take an extended look at Lovecraft’s classic tale of time travel, identity theft and whistling polyps, The Shadow Out of Time. It is a lengthy tale, and we found plenty to say about it, so our discussion is appropriately split over two time periods (although you probably won’t have to wait millions of years for the second part).

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We’ve heard that one before.

This episode contains our discussion of the story itself, as well as many complaints from Matt about how long it is. We’ll get around to discussing adaptations and gaming next episode, along with more complaints from Matt. In the meantime, you can enjoy our discussion of alien fascists from beyond time, whether this is a story or an essay, and why it is needlessly confusing to name your child after yourself.

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“You humans have peculiar naming protocols,” observed Kzzkzkzzkkzkkzkzkzk.

And we’ve just noticed that Ken Hite has released a Yithian instalment of his Hideous Creatures series. This came too late for us to mention it in the recording, but we’d be remiss not to do so now!

How Cthulhu Took Over the World

We’re back, and we’re celebrating our fiftieth episode! We’re as surprised as you are that we’ve made it this far; we really should have been eaten by a shoggoth or returned to our essential salts long ago. With this in mind, we decided to commemorate the occasion in the way we know best: by talking too much. This is a long episode — over two hours in length — but it’s also a big subject. You could almost call it Cyclopean.

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There’s a reason why Lovecraft is remembered as a writer and not an artist.

Over the years, we’ve met a lot of people who only know of the Cthulhu Mythos through gaming. Given how pervasively Cthulhu’s tentacles have worked their way into the gaming world, and into geek culture in general, almost everyone interested in such things has heard of Lovecraft, or at least his most famous creation. This episode is our attempt to explain where it all came from and how Lovecraft’s influence spread so widely. It is a superficial overview at best, and none of us are Lovecraft scholars. We hope this will at least serve as an introduction, and may illuminate a few dark corners you weren’t previously aware of.

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Or you may prefer to flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Our investigations take in books, films, television, comics, music, games and other eldritch topics. All this follows on from the work of Lovecraft himself, however, and happily this is now in the public domain. If you haven’t read any of his stories, you can peruse them free online, or pick up a nicely formatted ebook of his complete works for less than the price of a sandwich.

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Especially one with tentacles.

With this being an overview, in many cases we’ve done little more than name-check various works, authors and artists. Our half-formed plan is to return to some of these topics in more depth later. Please let us know whether this sounds interesting or is the worst idea since August Derleth decided the Mythos should centre on a fight between good and evil. Weep.

Instead of finishing on that vexing note, here’s one of the highlights from Shoggoth on the Roof, a work we mention a number of times.

Robert Aickman’s The Hospice

We’re back, and we’re in sounder health that the title of this episode may suggest! Although after hearing us sing again (yes, we have a new Patreon backer!) you may disagree. This time we’re looking at another short story, again with a view as to what it can add to our gaming. We’re taking a little break from Lovecraft, however. It’s nothing personal, Howie! You’ll always have a special place in our hearts.

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Aw, why the long face?

The story we’re discussing is The Hospice, by Robert Aickman. In case you are unfamiliar with him, Aickman was a twentieth-century English writer of what he referred to as “strange stories”. His work is characterised by maddeningly dreamlike events, the meanings of which slip through your brain like greased eels, all communicated through precise prose. It’s debatable whether Aickman’s work should be classified as horror, but it’s generally more unnerving than most stories that are. The Hospice is one of Aickman’s finest tales, and can be found in the recent Faber reissue of his collection, Cold Hand in Mine (also available as an eBook from a variety of sources).

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Probably the finest collection of Aickman’s work, and highly recommended.

We make mention of a television adaptation of The Hospice from the 1980s, but sadly none of us have been able to track it down. If you want a taste of Aickman, you can always enjoy this 2002 short film, adapted from his story The Cicerones by Jeremy Dyson, writer of The League of Gentlemen and long-time Aickman fan. As good as the adaptation is, it cannot hope to capture the full strangeness of the original story, but is still well worth watching.

The next episode will be our fiftieth, and we have big things planned! Well, we have a special episode topic at least. And fireworks! OK, maybe not fireworks. Paul’s office has too many flammable things in it, including us.

The Thing on the Doorstep (part 2)

We’re back and we’re wrapping up our look at H P Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep. This is the episode containing all the bits you wanted to hear last time, but were bumped because we talked too much. Every time we record an episode about a Lovecraft story we promise we’ll keep the synopsis short, yet we never do. Maybe its time we acknowledged our rambling problem and dealt with it like mature adults, through heavy drinking and denial.

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Burying your head in the sand always seems like a good idea up to the moment it gets eaten by chthonians.

In particular we mention the few film adaptations to date (although it seems there’s a new one we missed, so I’ve embedded the trailer below by way of recompense) and, more pertinently, ideas about using elements of the story in your games. Definitely just in games. The Good Friends of Jackson Elias recommend against stealing the bodies of family members, as it can make Christmas dinner even more awkward than usual.

Be warned that there are some spoilers for an old Chaosium scenario that uses elements from The Thing on the Doorstep. It’s difficult to warn you which one, as the spoiler is that it uses these elements, so mentioning its name is a spoiler in itself. When we start talking about it, fast forward for a minute or so if you don’t want to know, or if you’re just getting bored of listening to us. I fast forward myself the whole time.