Episode069

We’re back, and we’re looking at another of Lovecraft’s major stories. This time it’s the turn of The Colour Out of Space, an unsettling tale that Lovecraft considered the closest he came to capturing the essence of cosmic horror. It revolves around an alien entity that crashes in from deep space to suck the life out of an unsuspecting community, leaving the residents as shambling, empty husks.

bletchley

How else do you explain Bletchley?

This is the first of two episodes, covering the story itself and our thoughts about it. Next time we’ll look at various adaptations, as well as trying to work out what we can steal and rework for our games. This story is especially juicy, and we shall suck the ideas out of it until there is only an empty, grey mass of words.

Placeholder_book

Add the cover of your least favourite book here to create your own cheap shot.

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Fireplace

Paul’s former fireplace surround, wrought from deep woods that no axe has ever cut.

Episode066

We’re back, and we’re mulling over a topic suggested to us by good friend of the Good Friends, Tore Nielsen: what is the appeal of horror? Apparently this is a huge subject, and even pinning down what exactly we mean by horror took as long as some of our shorter episodes. Paul has worked tirelessly to edit all this rambling down to a reasonable length, but I fear this may be the episode that finally breaks him.

Blind Dead

Eight hours of cutting out “ums” takes its toll on a man.

Our discussion veers all over the place, like a teenage camper trying to escape an axe-wielding maniac. We take in films, television, books and games in our attempt to try to work out what appeals to us about horror, as well as looking at our own personal reactions to fear, violence and the uncanny. As usual, we come to three entirely different conclusions, but unlike other episodes, none of us are wrong in our opinions. Not that I hold grudges. Oh no.

repulsion-murder

It’s all right, Carole. We’ll make them pay one day.

Episode065

We’re back and we’re looking at another classic horror short story. This time it’s Karl Edward Wagner’s Sticks, a nasty little tale that is both of the Cthulhu Mythos and about it. The story draws from a number of real people and events, blending them with fiction to create a delirious nightmare. The imagery of Sticks has had a notable impact on horror media, and the lattices that pepper its narrative will be familiar to fans of The Blair Witch Project and True Detective.

Devil Trap

If time really is a flat circle, maybe True Detective used them first.

We also take some time to talk about the man behind the story. Karl Edward Wagner was a complex figure, a giant in both the horror and sword-and-sorcery genres, but one whose battles with alcohol stopped him from building on the promise of his early work. While his body of horror stories is small, with his later work sometimes disappointing, he wrote more genuine classics of the genre than most writers will ever manage. Sadly Wagner’s work is hard to come by these days, and his horror collections have been out of print for decades, barring expensive collectors’ editions. He deserves better.

Karl Edward Wagner

If I weren’t already a writer, this picture would make me want to be one.

Be warned that as with our other fiction discussions, we spoil the bejesus out of Sticks. If you want to read the story first, you can find it anthologies such as Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (only some editions), The Book of Cthulhu 2The Mammoth Book of Zombies, The Dark Descent or, assuming you either have them or a lot of money to spend, the Karl Edward Wagner collections In a Lonely Place and Where the Summer Ends.

Where the Summer Ends

Those bloody things get everywhere!

Episode062

We’re back and we’re looking at monsters, hoping against hope that they don’t look back at us! In particular, we’re talking about our favourite monsters from Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu. There’s one entry on our list that was created especially for the game, and another that has rarely seen use at the gaming table. No matter where they came from, however, they will all be happy to devour you. Or worse.

Sea_Lamprey_mouth

It is difficult to believe that Lovecraft isn’t responsible for certain real creatures too.

We’re also back to using our old Top 3 format for this, with each of us counting down our three favourites. Thank you to listener Danial for reminding us that we hadn’t done one of these for a long time and suggesting monsters as a topic! We’ll revisit this format soon with a look at our favourite Lovecraftian gods, once we’ve worked out how to pronounce all their names.

Operation_Upshot-Knothole_-_Badger_001

On second thoughts, maybe some names should remain unutterable.

While discussing one of Paul’s choices, we recommended a book named The Throne of Bones, by Brian McNaughton. Happily it is not only in print, but also available as an inexpensive ebook. You can find a nice little review of it here.

throne

We’re still trying to find out how the cover artist got a picture of Scott’s living room.

In our introductory chat, we make mention of recent posts by user specialflesh on Reddit, featuring photographs of Lovecraft that none of us had ever seen before. You can find them here. At the time of posting, specialflesh had posted no pictures from his or her account that were NSFW; we can’t promise this won’t change, especially given that username!

videodrome stomach

And where does he find all those photographs anyway?

The other thing we mention in the introduction is the Kickstarter campaign for Lovecraftesque, a new Lovecraftian story game from Black Armada (AKA Becky Annison and Joshua Fox). We were going to play a session of it and discuss it on this episode, but life had other plans. Life is mean like that sometimes. It never returns our phone calls either.

lovecraftesque

Lovecraftesque is illustrated by Robin Scott, whose work isn’t made any less lovely by being deeply disturbing.

One of the things that makes Lovecraftesque unusual is that the players control a single investigator between them, taking turns to navigate him or her through a deadly maze of clues. This possibly makes Lovecraftesque the closest gaming experience to an actual Lovecraft story. At the time of posting, the campaign has another 15 days to run. It is fully funded and has hit a number of stretch goals. One of the upcoming goals, tantalisingly within reach, is a scenario by Scott, named Change Our Vile Bodies, which promises body horror and weirdness on a West Country hippie commune in the early 1970s.

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.