We’re back and we’re setting our long-range scanners to search the cosmos for the insidious influence of the Mythos. One of the things that set Lovecraft’s work apart from the Gothic tales that had previously dominated the genre was the way it incorporated elements of science fiction. This isn’t to say that Lovecraft was the first writer to mix horror and SF—they have been kissing cousins since Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein.

Charles Ogle as Frankenstein's monster

Pucker up!

Instead, Lovecraft used science fiction elements to make a kind of supernatural horror that had no reliance on the supernatural itself. By using aliens as his gods and monsters, he created something that felt both familiar and utterly different from anything that had gone before. H G Wells’s Martians may have had tentacles and travelled to Earth on meteors, but no one ever worshipped them as gods.

Maybe they would have inspired more awe had they looked less like testicles.

Our discussion focuses on how a number of classic science fiction tropes are used in Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu. The main topics we cover are aliens, space travel, other dimensions, time travel and mad science. We also look at some published games and Call of Cthulhu settings that bring the SF aspects of the Mythos to the forefront. We wrap things up by brainstorming some science fiction scenario ideas of our own.

We never said we used our own brains…

This episode also sees a brief audio review of a new collection of Mythos stories, The Private Life of Elder Things. If you want to read a more in-depth review, we published one recently.

As we also mention this episode, there is still time to ensure you receive a copy of issue 2 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the fanzine that we produce exclusively for people who back the podcast on Patreon. If you are a backer at the time of release (probably in early February) then you will receive at least one copy. Please see our recent update for more details.

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!