The Thing

The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast takes a special look at John Carpenter’s horror/science fiction classic, The Thing. As well as discussing the film itself, we talk about how it might inspire our games of Call of Cthulhu and other tabletop RPGs.

If you are a horror film fan and this is your first visit to the Good Friends, you might be interested in some of the other similar episodes we’ve released:

We’re back and we’re eyeing each other suspiciously, freezing our bollocks off and watching in dismay as our blood sample runs screaming out the door. This is our look at John Carpenter’s 1982 science fiction/horror masterpiece, The Thing.

Main Topic

After years of independent features, The Thing was John Carpenter’s first studio film. It had a decent budget, strong cast and ground-breaking visual effects. After 35 years, it remains an enduring cult favourite. So why was The Thing a critical and commercial failure at the box office when first released?

Let’s poke around inside and find out.

We cut into the entrails of the film, examining its background along with our synopsis. Then, as you might expect, we let it infect us, transforming our games. We offer a few ideas about how The Thing could reshape itself as a Call of Cthulhu scenario. Given the apparent influence of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, this isn’t too tricky.

Although surprisingly few Lovecraft stories contain the line, “You gotta be fucking kidding.”

In our discussion, we mention a few related works:

News

We recently released a special episode, recorded live at the first Tabletop Gaming Live event in London. You can hear Mike Mason, Paul and Scott answer questions about all things Cthulhu. Alternatively, if you can stomach our faces, you could watch the video instead. We’d prefer that you didn’t stomach our faces, however. Stomachs are full of acid and that stuff stings.

Stomached face for reference.

Other Stuff

It would be remiss not to remind you that issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is approaching fast. This is the print-only fanzine that we produce to thank our Patreon backers. Issue 4 features a new Call of Cthulhu scenario from Matt Sanderson and an amazing cover from the equally amazing Evan Dorkin. If you would like to learn more about what lurks within and how you can invite it into your home, please see our recent post.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

In our social media section, we discuss some of the feedback we received on our recent episode about the joy of failure. In particular, we mention a post from Uncaring Cosmos which really must be read in its entirety. You can find it and the rest of the discussion in our Google+ Community. (Yes, we know that Google has announced the closure of G+. We are currently investigating alternatives.)

Artist’s impression of Google shutting down G+

And we make passing mention of good friend of the Good Friends Frank Delventhal’s terrifying ability to blow up hot water bottles like balloons. We promised a video, so here it is. 

#AOBS2018me on stage with the hot #waterbottle

Posted by Strongman Frank on Saturday, 20 October 2018

Please don’t try this at home. Try it in public so everyone can enjoy the sight of your lungs rupturing like two wet paper bags.

As we mentioned in our latest episode, we have started work on issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the old-school fanzine we put together for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias. If you would like to know more, please check out our page about the Tome.

This issue will feature “The Hero Affirmed”, a brand new Call of Cthulhu scenario from our own Matt Sanderson!

Once again, we are aiming to release the Tome along with the Christmas cards we send to all our backers. If you are a backer between publication (late November) and the end of the year, we will send you at least one copy. Our page about the Tome has full details about who will receive what.

If you would like to submit a short article (up to 500 words) or some black-and-white artwork, we would love to hear from you! The Blasphemous Tome is licensed by Chaosium, so we are able to include stats and other game mechanics for Call of Cthulhu. The deadline for submissions is the end of October.

The current table of contents goes something like this:

  • The Ludomancers
    • Our favourite game sessions of the past year
  • Cocktail Corner
    • Matt shares another recipe that man was not meant to know
  • Mythos Fiction: The Sixties and Seventies
    • Scott’s series of story recommendations continues
  • The Hero Affirmed
    • A brand new, full-length Call of Cthulhu scenario from Matt Sanderson
  • Vinyl Corner
    • Paul discusses another musical artefact from the 1970s
  • The Sanderson Collection
    • Matt reveals another rarity from the dusty corners of his bookshelves
  • 2018: A Year in Horror Films
    • Scott talks about the films that impressed and disappointed him this year
  • Episodes of Insanity
    • Some background on our favourite episodes of 2018
  • Die, Die, Die!
    • Matt punishes another die that failed him
  • Plush of the Month
    • Matt makes Scott sad
  • Strange Eons
    • Scott offers an overview of Robert Bloch’s unjustly forgotten Mythos novel

We shall update this list as we receive more submissions.

In episode 137 we discussed Nathan Ballingrud‘s short story Wild Acre. A few days ago, Mr Ballingrud generously took some time to record an interview with us. We discuss Wild Acre and its themes of trauma, as well as the wider role of madness in horror, as well as where Nathan’s work is taking him these days. Given Nathan’s interest in RPGs, we also talk about Call of Cthulhu and how it relates to his work as a writer.

Nathan Ballingrud
Nathan Ballingrud

While we largely focus on North American Lake Monsters, Nathan shares some details about his upcoming book, The Atlas of Hell. He also mentions the film adaptation of his novella, The Visible Filth. This has been made by Babak Anvari, the director behind the wonderful Under the Shadow. The film, which is still awaiting a title, is due out in April of 2019.

The Visible Filth

The conversation also drifts into our mutual love of horror. Some of the answers Nathan offers could almost have come from our episode about the appeal of horror. He neatly sums up in a few minutes what it took us an entire episode to pin down!

We also make mention of Storium, which we then completely fail to explain. Storium is a website that bridges the gap between choose-your-own-adventure books and multiplayer RPGs. You can create your own games, writing content and walking players through your game world. Hell, maybe you can plot out the setting for your next novel there too!

Subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu

We’re back and we’re strapping on our headlamps, checking our harnesses and spelunking like our lives depended upon it. This is our look into subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraft. From his work, Lovecraft seemed to be both drawn to and disturbed by deep, dark holes and the mysteries lurking within.

“Verrry interesting…”

Main Topic

Many of Lovecraft’s stories involve the buried remains of alien cities, caverns best left unexplored or tunnels dug by things that should not be. It’s only natural that many Call of Cthulhu scenarios should build upon this. Or build under. We’re not quite sure how this works.

All right, maybe you can build over and under at the same time.

We try to get to the bottom of the appeal of subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu, but the deeper we dig, the more we find to explore. As well as archetypal dungeon-based scenario designs inherited from D&D, we find connections to mythology, symbolism and Hollow Earth theory. We could so easily get lost down here. Before struggling to the surface, however, we find time to offer a few scenario seeds involving sinister underworlds.

News

UK Games Expo is this weekend (1st-3rd of June). Matt and Scott will be there on Friday, running games in the Cthulhu Masters tournament, signing books and generally milling around. Please say hi if you spot us!

Paul attended another Scream Unseen presentation at the Milton Keynes Odeon and offers a very brief review of The Strangers: Prey at Night. This leads to a discussion of what we thought of the first film. Apparently, we don’t like anything. I blame being old and grumpy.

Speaking of ageing, on the 7th of June, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias turns 5. You could be excused for thinking we’re older, given all the grey hair. Back in those innocent days of 2013, we huddled around a shared microphone in Paul’s shed for the first time. 131 episodes and 8 specials later, it’s hard to imagine life without the podcast. Thank you to everyone who has joined us along the way!

Other Stuff

Down here in the darkness, robbed of daylight, hearing is crucial to survival. Every sound could mean the difference between life and death. Was that water dripping on limestone or claws snickering across the cavern floor? The intrusion of a bellowing cacophony could be fatal at a time like this. Mercifully, perhaps, none of the new Patreon backers we thank this month sponsored us at the $5 level, so you are spared our singing for now.

Although the acoustics down here could have birthed something special.

You might still hear snatches of conversation echoing around you, however. These are comments from our various social media presences. Stay very still and they won’t eat you. You can find most of the discussion of our recent episode about comedy in RPGs over on our Google+ Community, or carved on the walls of the lost city that lies buried deep beneath your cellar floor. Google+ might prove easier to access.

The Wicker Man

We’re back and we’re erecting monstrous effigies, playing deadly games and proclaiming that Sumer is Icumen In. OK, it’s February, but we’re sure that summer is out there somewhere. In fact, as we mention, the cast and crew of The Wicker Man had to pretend that a Scottish November offered the warmth of late spring. We Britons are good at lying to ourselves about the weather.

And we can always find ways to keep the chill off.

Main Topic

As we’ve just implied, this episode is our look at the 1973 classic British horror film, The Wicker Man. Christopher Lee may have claimed that it wasn’t truly a horror film, but, with all due respect, he was wrong. This is one of the Unholy Trinity of folk horror film, as discussed in the last episode. A deeply disturbing look at a clash of faiths, leading to grisly consequences, it is filled with pagan imagery and nihilistic hopelessness. It’s also a musical, so do sing along as you scream!

“Please release me, let me go…”

Once again, Mike Mason, line editor of Call of Cthulhu, joins our discussion. Like Scott and all other right-thinking people, Mike proclaims The Wicker Man as his favourite film. As a result, our conversation gets progressively more enthusiastic and geeky as we lose ourselves in its pagan ecstasies.

Not quite enough to strip off and dance naked for joy, but it was close.

In the course of the episode, we mention a few related projects:

Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, Lord!

News

We mention that Scott was recently interviewed for a local radio programme on Secklow 105.5. The interview hasn’t been broadcast yet, but we shall be sure to post a link once it is available.

Matt mentions that the first session of his playthrough with Into the Darkness of his Intersections scenario should be available. This is the short campaign set in 1970s Istanbul that he wrote for the World War Cthulhu: Cold War corebook. It’s not actually out yet, unfortunately. We can offer the character creation session to tide you over, however. If you subscribe to the linked channel as well, you will be notified when the first episode is available.

Other Stuff

As The Wicker Man blends music and terror, so do we. There are two new songs in this episode, each a potent incantation of primal ecstasy. These, as ever, are our means of thanking new Patreon backers. The old gods themselves cower before our chants, so we limit ourselves to two songs per episode. With the recent influx of new backers, this means that we are still working our way through a considerable backlog. If you are still waiting, we thank you for your patience and promise that your song will come soon. Some fates are too terrible to be avoided forever.