episode089

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.

clark_ashton_smith

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.

zothique

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.

cas-carving

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.

1009x638x19.-1922-marzo-1-a-brosnatch-ilustrador-habitual-de-weird-tales.jpg.pagespeed.ic.qrqLlWYVdr

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!

Episode082

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.

pickman's model

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.

haunter of the dark cover

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.

pickman 6

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.

skulls

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.

manatee

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!

Frank Pressies 1 Frank Pressies 2 Frank Pressies 3 Frank Pressies 4

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!

Episode075

We’re back, and we’re talking about everyone’s favourite eldritch curtain-twitcher, Erich Zann. Lovecraft’s short story, The Music of Erich Zann, is a highpoint of his early career. More importantly, it is a rare example of a work that all three of us agree about. The sanity-blasting revelations at the end of the story are nothing compared to such weirdness!

1009x638x19.-1922-marzo-1-a-brosnatch-ilustrador-habitual-de-weird-tales.jpg.pagespeed.ic.qrqLlWYVdr

And almost as uncanny as finding a picture of Erich Zann in which he plays a viol, and not a violin!

This is the shortest Lovecraft story we’ve discussed so far, barely a tenth of the length of The Shadow Out of Time. This has allowed us to fit the entire discussion into a single episode, including the usual mentions of adaptations and ideas for stealing elements for our games.  Admittedly, the discussion on adaptations is brief; while The Music of Erich Zann has been adapted a number of times, it has largely birthed short films or somewhat freer musical interpretations, both of which are tricky to discuss for different reasons.

Screenshot 2016-03-29 at 18.17.09

Every time we tried to play an example, Paul’s study window revealed an endless vista of cosmic awfulness. Or Buckingham. I get confused.

And speaking of musical adaptations of Lovecraft, we make mention of the ongoing IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, raising money to record their fifth album, The Dukes of Alhazred. Hell, it’s worth giving them money for that title alone!

doa

Also, those shoggoths won’t feed themselves. Or they will. That may be worse.

 

There is also some discussion of sloths, evisceration and tea, which needs to be illustrated with a photograph. We’re not sure if this makes things any clearer, but it certainly makes them weirder. This is usually the best we can hope for.

IMG_20160329_104812062

If people are willing to pay a premium for coffee beans that have passed through a civet cat, tea made from sloth urine must be a sure thing!

Episode070

We’re back, and we’re wrapping up our discussion of H P Lovecraft’s eerie mix of the Gothic and the cosmic, The Colour Out of Space. This time we’re looking at various adaptations, as well as deciding what we would steal for our games (the answer is almost everything — we’re shameless).

die farbe 1

Leaving little more than a spent husk behind…

In particular, we talk about the various film versions:

We also discuss a few related films and TV programmes:

And we mention the H P Lovecraft Historical Society‘s Dark Adventure Radio Theatre performance of The Colour Out of Space. Unfortunately none of us have listened to it yet, but if it’s up to the standards of their other adaptations, it should be something special!

We round things off with an interview with Huan Vu, director of Die Farbe. His is the most faithful adaptation of The Colour Out of Space so far, and certainly the one we all enjoyed most. Huan tells us a little about the making of the film, his background in gaming, the popularity of Call of Cthulhu in Germany, and his current project, a Lovecraftian feature film called The Dreamlands. This latest production is largely crowdfunded, and Huan is still looking for backers. If you are interested, or simply want to learn more about the film, take a look at the production website.

This is the final episode recorded on our trusty old Yeti microphone (although there are two older episodes in the can, waiting for the release of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition).  It has served us well, but we have new microphones now, thanks to our generous Patreon backers, and the sound improvement next week should be marked. We conducted the interview in this episode over Skype, however, and it sounds like I’m sitting in a wind tunnel. Apologies for that!

blue yeti

Fare ye well, old friend!

Oh, and we make passing mention of a short and bitter RPG that I wrote a few years ago, titled We Call the Police. I’ve been threatening to turn this into something more substantial for a while, possible using shouting, whining and pouting as resolution mechanics. Perhaps one day, when I hate the world enough…

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.

We are experimenting with a new hosting provider for the media files. Please let us know if you experience any problems downloading this episode, and we can revert back to the old provider quickly.

Fireplace

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