On the subject of Cthulhu & Christmas: “A Very Scary Solstice” and other Christmas Merch

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Image provided from http://www.cthulhulives.org/solstice/

That sure is a bizarre looking picture, isn’t it? I mean, not quality-wise: I couldn’t photoshop anything better than this myself.

What I mean to say is how is the person responsible for this capable of inspiring this?

The explanation is quite simple and comes to fruition in Cthulhulives.org’s “A Very Scary Solstice” guide to a Lovecraftian Christmas.

An adamant atheist enamored with science and the faults of religion, Howard Philip Lovecraft LOVED CHRISTMAS with a passion as unholy as his monsters. Christmas cards, poems, and greetings are all a part of his bibliography as well, collected and explored for 9-80$ used in The H.P. Lovecraft Christmas Book on Amazon.

But it’s the works that have come afterwards that strike me the most.

And then there’s my personal favorite, The Antarctic Express, a love-letter cross over of At the Mountain of Madness and The Polar Express:2704

It hilarious, as are a number of Kenneth Hite’s Lovecraftian adaptations of children’s books (including Cliffourd the Big Red God and Where the Deep Ones Are).

So give those a look and if all else fails while looking for Lovecraftian swag this Christmas, plush Cthulhu is always a winner.

 

Recommending another blog: The Lovecraft eZine

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The Lovecraft eZine Christmas Banner

It was a long and desperate night two years ago that, in one of my darkest moments of need, I found solace in the insane.

I was in the midst of having to wrap-up a research paper with a midnight deadline and I needed an additional source for my Lovecraft biographic essay. It was no thesis paper: rather, an assignment meant to test how well we could study a topic and write about it while providing citations. I had chosen to write on Lovecraft (again) but had run out of sources when trying to finish the assignment at the last minute (again).

Then, a savior emerged at around 11 PM. It came in the form of the “Lovecraftian Books” section of Mike Davis’s lovecraftzine.com.

I cannot recall the exact book I used, but I ended up finding a cite-able source that contained the information I knew off the top of my head and could then be typed with a text to point to if questioned by the Professor (something that never happened to me at my University as it turns out).

I don’t recall the grade I received either but what I do actually remember is following Davis’s website regularly soon after the work was all said and done.

Described as “an online magazine (also known as an ezine) devoted to Lovecraftian horror,” the site acts as a massive conglomerate of all things weird and horror-like. Books reviews, legal streamings of Lovecraftian films, and regularly scheduled rounds of the Call of Cthulhu Role Playing Game game are but a few of the consistently high-quality content Davis and his contributors submit.

Viewing its monthly digital “zine” that’s made available through both the Kindle and Nook, I can say that it’s the first competent, decent “zine” I’ve ever seen since 1999, a bygone era in which the act of strangers using their father’s Xerox machine to print two paragraph articles and sell them to you for five dollars was a fad.

Though those days are mostly dead (I still find skateboarding zines in coffee shops), The Lovecraft eZine is very much alive and in need of as much support as it can get. And for $2.99, I see nothing stopping me from supporting the bastion of all things Lovecraftian save for an empty checking account.

Not to mention, they jump on HPL stories and news well before I even turn my computer on most days.

Better late than never: “Azathoth” made an appearance in OK

Before we go any further, let’s dissect Azathoth. He’s one of Lovecraft’s creations and like many of his bizarre Cthulhu-mythos deities, has been passed down by generation after generation of horror and science fiction authors alike, being used and mentioned by Lin Carter, Ramsey Campbell, and August Derleth among many others.

The “blind, idiot god” Azathoth was first mentioned by the Providence writer himself in his story The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath in the following passage:

Outside the ordered universe [is] that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes. 

-Howard Philip Lovecraft

Lo and behold, he is one of the author’s most comically chaotic and nonsensical super-beings capable of inflicting madness and evil where ever it may reach.

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A scaled down version of XlegendariumX’s interpretation of Azathoth

So with all of that in mind, just what the hell was a monolithic statue inscribed with “IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2012 CREER PIPI CLAIMED THIS LAND FOR AZATHOTH” doing outside of a restaurant in Oklahoma City a two months ago?

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Taken from unwrittenthings.com, another Lovecraftian blog

The answer, as it turns out, is a lot less occult than I originally thought.

Eric Piper and J. David Osbourne, two local artists more enamored with the Cthulhu mythos than I could ever be, were responsible for the statue’s inception, creation, and placement as discovered through an interview conducted by i09.com’s Rob Bricken.

Chosen for the old god’s chaotic symbolism, Piper and Osbourne erected the monument with the intention of making a statement on land ownership, describing how placing a huge chunk of concrete onto one’s property is essentially modern flag-placing.

There was no cited disdain for the restaurant they chose to place the statue honoring Azathoth in front of. In fact, the interview goes on to illustrate how the two were concerned the owners might hate them (only to discover they found it partially amusing).

Getting to Brass Tacks: The Guide to Lovecraftian Massachusetts

So far on this blog, I’ve talked a good game about Lovecraft himself and, to a lesser extents, works directly inspired by him. There’s a lot more ground to cover but there’s no getting around it: I’ve been neglecting the garden. This blog is being typed IN Lovecraft Country and calls itself The Lovecraft Country Review, yet I’ve managed to not show any love for the Commonwealth Howard Philips hiked across many a time when he was financially stable and living in Rhode Island.

Thus, I give you Donovan K. Loucks’ Guide to Lovecraftian Sites in Massachusetts

It reads like a brochure one can find at a bus station or in a tourist stand and, after listening extensively to Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey’s Lovecraft podcast, it’s is pretty accurate in its sites. For example, Lovecraft had a thing for the Victorian buildings and cobblestone roads of Marblehead, MA as better detailed in one of Loucks’ own essays on the matter. He loved the colonial era buildings and cities that survived the changing times of the early 20th century. In fact, as recently compiled in a list of his most used words by the blog Jahsonic.com, “antique” or “antiquarian” is the third most-used word to be found in HPL’s works.

What surprised me most on the webpage was the small detour to Western Massachusetts found in the “Hadley” section. Vermont itself pops up a few times in his stories, but for the most part, Lovecraft Country generally halts around Central Mass. Not true to Loucks who brings up the centuries old cider press found in the Hadley Farm Museum touches on The Dunwich Horrorone of Lovecraft’s few excursions into the “Sticks” that picks up on the creepiness and decrepit-ness  of backwoods politics and the hauntingly unknown stuff that takes place there.

For a website that’s well over a decade old (the domain appears as copyrighted from 1998 to now), Loucks does a fantastic job of maintaining it, updating the guide as recently as October of last year. I’d argue it feels a little short with possible locations missing such as the old Massachusetts turnpike referenced in several Lovecraft Country stories or the town of Whately some believe served as the source for The Dunwich Horror’s antagonist’s name. But ultimately, what Donovan Loucks has put together on his website is astounding regardless, going after the cemeteries referenced in Pickman’s Model or the church mentioned in Fungi from Yuggoth.

He even goes as far as to list the actual witch house from Dreams in the Witch House  “the location of many of the inquisitions of the reputed witches in the Salem hysteria.”

It’s a great list and with its detail in mind, I’m of the opinion it’d make for an interesting tourist guide to anyone venturing across Lovecraft Country.

For those looking to get into Cthulhu and Lovecraftian text, Cthulhu Mythos Writers Sampler 2013 is free (for Kindle)

ImageIt’s not particularly hard to find horror stories and literature of the cosmic/weird variety these days. Poe, Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Machen, and Blackwood are all in the public domain to a certain extent and can be found on various website. Dagonbytes.com in particular helped me brush up on whatever stories HPPodcraft.com was covering for the week.

But all in all, nothing beats having works of literature in one’s own hands whether it’s in traditional print or on an e-reader. But even with the low prices of the Amazon book marketplace, securing an anthology of horror writers is usually a little up there in terms of cost (though usually not more than buying two large coffees).

With that in mind, though, if you have a Kindle e-reader (sorry Nook and Kobo users, you crazy diamonds, you), stepping into the Mythos for the first time or expanding your knowledge of the current “Lovecraft circle” (a term we’ll explore in a future post) just got a bit easier.

Over at Amazon, Cthulhu Mythos Writers Sampler 2013 has been made free to purchase for a short span of time (listed as “a few days” by the Lovecraft Ezine). While also demonstrating how comically cheap digital short stories run for these days (the sampler is usually $.99), Cthulhu Mythos Writers Sampler 2013 brings with it a HUGE offering in terms of body of text.

To take up a more critical standpoint, I usually balk at buying low-cost anthologies. For example, I love supporting all things “weird” but after buying A Season in Carcosa while it was on sale, I learned the harsh lesson that just because a handful of stories met the publisher’s standard doesn’t mean the standard’s of my liking. That is, it’s strange how a few bad eggs can spoil an entire collection of stories but it happened in my case.

But for free? That’s a different story. If you have a Kindle, get this sampler. David Conyers has had a hand in some of the most popular Call of Cthulhu: RPG handbooks ever printed (which are pretty much  anthologies in and of themselves) and Shane Jiraiya Cummings had a hand in the revered Cthulhu Dark Cults. And they’re only but two of many contributors who are well-rounded in the world of Cthulhu.

Paying a debt to Lackey & Fifer

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(The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast banner from hppodcraft.com)

My love of Lovecraft doesn’t border on obsession these days: it crossed that line long ago, nearly six years before this blog was created. It’s taken me to some interesting places and led to a lot of great, strange reading and it all began on a whim when my cousin recommended the short story Rats in the Wall to me after discussing what constitutes good horror writing.

Sure enough, I tracked down a collection of Howard Philip Lovecraft’s works at a Barnes & Noble bookstore and the rest was history.

However, one source in particular secured my interest just when it was starting to wane and for that, this post is for them. There was a point in High School when reading was at the bottom of the list and Lovecraft even further. My fascination would have died prematurely would have died prematurely had it not been for the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast hosted by Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer.

At the time, I was just beginning to listen to podcasts on my MP3 player. I found that the podcast was an illusive little medium: each different show was like a talk radio station only they focused on things I might enjoy. And with a quick search on iTunes, the duo’s series of readings and analyses celebrating the gentleman from Providence came into my circle.

Started in 2009, the show based itself on the works of Lovecraft in a chronological order of sorts, ranging from the writer’s first published works to his attempts at poetry to even an interview with literary scholar S.T. Joshi. One could argue the original run was 119 episodes and started with The Tomb and ended with Haunter of the Dark.

I was fortunate enough to catch the show in its infancy and followed it from there. I recall hiking behind my home while listening to the Dagon episode and waiting for the Polaris podcast to download while vacationing with my family.

Nowadays, though, just like how this blog likes to focus on all things Lovecraftian rather than solely H.P.L., hppodcraft.com now covers the works of Lovecraft’s predecessors and influences such as Arthur Machen and Sir Walter Scott. After all, there are only so many works Lovecraft started and finished before his untimely death.

So whether one is just getting into cosmic horror (a niche genre growing as bizarrely as its stories are), wants to hear quality readings of horror stories, or just wants to bask in the wealth of knowledge Fifer and Lackey share with their listeners, give The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast a try.

The amount of quality is unspeakable (in a good way).

Lovecraft & Providence Featured on Morning Edition

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Keeping in spirit with Halloween, Rhode Island Public Radio’s Catherine Welch filed a story Thursday involving Lovecraft himself and this year’s successful “NecronomiCon” convention for the show “Morning Edition.”

While the story’s audio segment didn’t go much past three minutes, what makes Welch’s piece worth a gander is its brief summary of all the efforts and projects the city of Providence, RI and its historical society have been pushing for over the last few years.

The projects have ranged from installing plaques on Angell Street where HP grew up to large-scale ventures such as making an intersection in the city the official “HP Lovecraft Memorial Square” and creating a bust of the horror writer.

All of this for a man who’s followers regularly make pilgrimages to Providence simply to visit his gravestone that was unmarked up until the 70’s when fans paid and installed the now famous “I AM PROVIDENCE” headstone in the Swan Point cemetery according to hplovecraft.com.


Overall, along with the smart phone application and tour site markers that will help bolster tourism (NecronomiCon brought in around “$600,000” according to local businesses), the attitude of the city towards commemorating the late author has been fascinating.

For context, a few decades ago, the works of HP only loomed in the backs of libraries, preserved and passed on by small publishers like Arkham House which founded by Lovecraft’s correspondent and fellow weird fiction writer August Derleth. For the longest time, only those with a taste for the strange and rare sought them out, some of whom included Stephen King, Guillermo del Torro, and John Carpenter.

But now through social media, constant reprinting and easier access to Lovecraft in general, a renaissance of weird fiction is going full-steam.

I suppose the only question I can muster here is whether or not the conventions and smart phone apps are totally warranted. After all, Lovecraft was a relatively obscure writer in his time (early 20th century) and his stories were commonly ran in pulp fiction magazines that cost a quarter.

Not to mention, his writing style was infamous for its “purple prose” (extravagant, dramatic writing) and, coupled along with certain texts that can alienate entire audiences altogether, made for hard reading.

These are but a few of the reasons why Lovecraft doesn’t enjoy the same “mainstream” status along with fellow 1920’s writers such as TS Eliot (whom Lovecraft hated and lampooned) or F. Scott Fitzgerald (who wrote during the same jazz age as HP).

To this, I say nonsense: without a doubt does Lovecraft deserve the recognition he’s receiving a bit less than a century after his death. One does not simply influence and shape the landscape of an entire genre of film and literature and make off with only a plaque on a street in his hometown.

What do you think?