Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Useful Resources: More Mapping Stuff

Creating maps is a lot of fun, at least I enjoy the process.  It helps to really bring a campaign or a setting to life in a way that a few cryptic passages just don't.  Even Robert E. Howard sketched-out a rough map of Hyboria to go along with his seminal essay on that land and time that never existed but will ever persist in the imaginations of all whom his work has touched or influenced.  Maps are powerful tools and can be inspiring works of art, often both at once.

But not everyone wants to draw fiddly little details for hours on end with colored pencils, smelly markers or borrowed crayons.  Some folks like to go all digital on such projects.  There's freeware/trialware graphics software like Gimp, Inkscape,  Artweaver, Twisted Brush, or even more dedicated mapping software such as AutorealmHexographer, Dundjinni, Profantasy's line of RPG Cartography software, and the Greenfish Random Relief Map Generator which I discovered via this article at Welsh Piper's awesome site, the freeware Hexmapper, and of course you can find out about more resources via RPGmapshare or The Cartographer's Guild.

The Random Relief Map Generator from Greenfish just might be a nice complement to the Dizzy Dragon Random Adventure Generator.  Running a completely random campaign might be fun, at least for a while...

You can also find a range of options for simply making your own graph, grid or hex paper for free at incompetech's site, or the Print free graph paper site, though the Incompetech site is much better overall.  We're currently building our own hex-grid from scratch so we can number or letter it as we see fit on a project-by-project basis.

The Roleplay-Geek blog has a post on How to make your own Fantasy Googlemap with MapLib without needing to be a code monkey which walks you through the process of using Google Maps and Maplib to make realistic and versatile maps for your campaign.  It is a different approach, and one that seems rather interesting, personally, as it could very well solve a few of the problems we've been wrestling with for Riskail in particular.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Dyson Logos set himself a challenge to produce 100 hand-drawn geomorph-tiles at his blog A Character For Every Game.  You can read the overview of the Dungeon Geomorph Project which you can find here, or cut to the chase and download the collected and compiled set which you can find here.  You can also find a Random Adventure Generator which is located here that uses Dyson's geomorphs.  Very cool.

An example tile from the Dizzy Dragon Generator's site:
Very clean, crisp and quite painless to use--this generator-site might just come in handy when our Swords & Wizardry Whitebox gets here.

In the meantime, it's time to start laying-out a bunch of blank geomorph boxes of our own...

Of Manifestos and Magnificent Garbage

I've been re-reading Andre Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism which you can find online here, here, here, here, or learn more about via Wikipedia hereSurrealism is very much integral to Riskail and the other settings/campaigns that we're developing via Netherwerks.  We have several posts/articles concerning various aspects of Surrealism in-progress for the blogs and elsewhere and so I decided to make some time to go back and re-read Monsieur Breton's Manifesto(s) while I was waiting for our new chair to get delivered.  In the course of re-reading this document I found myself wondering about a gamer manifesto.  Gamers are a nerdly lot, and such a thing would undoubtedly appeal to numerous egos flapping about in the various niches and market segments of gaming. 

A quick search led me back to something that I had all but forgotten--a real gamer manifesto.  In fact, my favorite Gamer Manifesto of all time.  It's the Rolpunk Manifesto from Uncle Bear.  This is an excellent one-page rantifesto and I agree with the sentiment a great deal, which shouldn't come as any surprise, what with the word 'Heretic' prominently featured up above on the masthead like a textual Jolly Roger.  I don't give a poop as to what edition anyone else plays--and I stay off of most forums precisely because I'm not inclined to waste time squabbling over silly crap like editions or styles, or what have you.  That gossipy timewastage is for nattering old hens with no teeth and less sense.  Play your games.  Play your way.  What more needs to be said?  Polemics and commentary takes time away form actually playing, thus it ought to be avoided.

If ever there was a manifesto for the grognards...aside from the above-mentioned Rolpunk one...it might resemble this piece by Lin Carter which was extracted from his introduction to the Beyond the Gate of Dreams anthology.  Every generation has their grognards yelling at the kids to get off of their lawn while simultaneously extolling the virtues of the childhood they fondly remember--when they were the kids getting yelled at by the creepy old guys who were far too encyclopedic in their knowledge of Theda Bara, Clara Bow, or Betty Page for anyone's good.  Just swap-out 1944 for 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984 and re-read Carter's rant-roduction.  It could easily get re-posted as a fresh new thing ... and someone may well already have done just that.

Carter's rant just goes to show you that Toynbee was right, this stuff we like to call history is all cyclical and it's probably best not to take it all too seriously. Far from pitying anyone deprived of the dubious wonders that we grew up with, it better serves us all to explore together the new opportunities available to us all here and now.  Living in the past not only makes your butt look big, it leaves you smelling like rancid cat-piss, stale Kool-Aid and moldy baloney sandwiches.

Nostalgia is best as a precursor to inspiration, not an end in itself.  We could use a few less creepy old guys yelling at kids and more of the sort of fresh, fun stuff that we all remember discovering when we were kids--and it's great good fun to see people like ScottMcKinney, Raggi, Mr. Stater and others do just that.  The wheel fire rpg has been invented already; what interests me is what can we do with it.

Picasso Trove

A trove of hoarded Picasso artworks has recently been revealed in France.  The works are apparently all legitimate original pieces done by Picasso, but there is some skepticism as to how the current owners came to possess these 271 never-seen-before and completely-uncataloged items of incredible historical and artistic value.  You can find out more hereherehere, here and here.  (There's a slideshow here.) This is so very much the kind of thing that I want to have happen in Riskail...

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch looks incredible.  It's highly stylized.  Very polished.  All the dirt, grunge, scratches and faux wear-and-tear looks expertly designed and coordinated with the particle effects and lighting--all wonderful, yet very distinct aspects of the digital movie-making process, which still looks a lot like high-end videogame production.  But hey--it does look cool.  And there's something of a story to this pageant of computer effects--which some games can't honestly claim.  In this spectacle, five girls with perfect hair escape from a 1950's-esque Institution by way of a Matrix-like gamer-quest through a realm of their own imagination.  The trailer is a lot of fun and the movie looks like it hits just about every major Hot Trope currently in-play amongst fans, dieselpunks, steampunks, gamers, RPG-ers, comic-nistas, nerdists, etc. like a three-fisted steaming-hot bucket of Pulp-istity coming your way this March.  Whether you're ready or not.  Like the movies' tag-line declares: You Will Be Unprepared.  Or not.

This movie has style nailed six ways from sunday...like William Gibson's Neuromancer when it firswt dropped...but does it have any substance?  Does it matter?  Does anyone care?  Candy is yummy.  Just be sure to brush your teeth afterwards.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grandmas Goulash

Grandma's Goulash: Succinctly Yours
Can you write a story in 140 words or how about 140 characters? That's what the prompts at this site are intended to help you accomplish. We'll be trying our hand at this off and on in the coming months.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Opening Gambit in Dealing with Success/Failure, Skill-use and XP

Trollsmyth has a very good post regarding Resource Management that struck particularly close to home for me, as I've been cogitating about exactly this sort of thing for some time now. I dislike the notion that adventurers who are specifically trained in, presumed experts at, and supposedly professionals with some measure of competence and skill in regards to their various and sundry Class Skills have a very significant chance of extreme failure in any use of these specialized skills.  It makes you wonder why anyone bothers training at all.
I quote Trollsmyth from the closing paragraph of their recent excellent post--Investigating Resource Management:
"On a very related note, I am somewhat intrigued by this capers game. The dice rolls appear to be less about success or failure, and more about interesting complications. That seems to me to be a more interesting way to go, especially if your assumption is that the PCs are hyper-talented and extremely competent individuals who nearly always succeed. The notion that the PCs should always be skirting the ragged edge of disaster in every exercise of their skills is another of those ideas that I think has become a bit too pernicious in game design these days."

I definitely agree with most (if not all) of the points Trollsmyth raises in his post.  It isn't about the dice rolling, or the random numbers, but actually playing the game itself.  A lot of game mechanics and frivolous crap get in the way of a good game, or destroy any desire to adhere to the implicit motivations heaped upon characters like how the success/failure thing is sorted out by a random roll that includes a chance for massive failure in the basic roll, no matter how much skill, expertise, or talent one has.

You should get what you paid for, as a player, and your character ought to get more than a few measly points added to their dice rolls to avoid abject disaster.  Perhaps they should instead receive a number of additional rolls in case of initial failure, to reflect their training and their ability to catch and correct mistakes.  The penalty could come in the form of lost time, more materials cost, or a need to focus more intently, not having the whole mess go boom in their face automatically.  Failure is always an option, yes, but a seasoned professional with real expertise in a particular skill or ability ought to at least have a chance to be able to catch themselves when they are about to make a big mistake.  They also ought to have a shot at correcting a slip or oversight before it cascades into a Buster Keaton style epic failure.  And even if they do screw up, they ought to at least have a chance to rectify things--not without at least some consequences, of course, but not abject total failure, unless they manage to mess that attempt up as well.  You get a Saving Throw for death rays, dragon breath, petrification, poison, etc., so why not something similar to handle this sort of thing?

I'm going to give this matter some serious thought over the Holidays and see what I can come up with in terms of some way to handle success/failure for ability/skill use and how to handle the pay offs and penalties stemming from it. Maybe I'll have to chack out this capers game, Leverage.  I like how they desribed their approach to handling success/failure rolls...

I also appreciate Trollsmyth pointing out the recent B/X Blackrazor post on Marion Zimmer Bradley and non-combat oriented adventuring that doesn't automatically suck rocks.  We've been developing an XP system based on exploration and other preferred activities and moving it away from the unfortunate, thuggish prediliction for murder and thieving in Riskail, mostly because those activities are handled with very different techniques and repercussions in a post-nanotech society.  They haven't gone away, but you don't gain power by murder, theft and vandalism, necessarily, either.  But that's something we'll leave for next week.

Goodbye Countess Dracula--Ingrid Pitt Has Left the Set

Ingrid Pitt, the sexually explicit Scream Queen who really made Hammer Horror movies more than just blood, guts and gore--and who remains one of the most seductive vampiresses of all time--recently passed away at the age of 73. You can read more herehere, here and here.  Her Wikipedia page is worth looking at as well, if you're a fan of Hammer Horrors or her other roles like Doctor Zhivago.  The lady was more than a heaving bosom and some glued-on fangs, but it's movies like The Vampire Lovers that she'll be most remembered for...and that's just fine.  She will definitely be missed, but her movies will live on, especially the Hammer films, and perhaps that is a form of undeath that an actress would find amusing, if not gratifying.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bela Lugosi is Dead, and Monsterverse Has Him...

Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave
You can hear Peter Murphy crooning sinisterly in the background, or at least you could if you clicked here or hit the play button down below to the left a bit.  Ah Bauhaus.  The good old days.

Monsterverse is a fresh new alternative comics publisher that is reviving and resurrecting the genre of old school Horror Comics like EC, Warren and a lot of other Pre-Comics Code publishers used to crank out long ago and far away.  You can find out a bit more about them here, Read their blog, or watch a Preview or a teaser-clip for the recently released Bela Lugosi's Tales From the Grave, which is available here.  Issue one features a beautiful portrait of Lugosi as Dracula by Basil Gogos himself.  They also feature Reprints of Famous Monsters of Filmland on the Monsterverse Store-page, which is very cool.

Bela Lugosi died August 16, 1956 after a memorable career in the movies that hit its peak with Tod Browning's Dracula in 1931...and arguably hit its nadir with his involvement in Ed Wood's gloriously terrible Plan Nine From Outer Space, though that point could be argued by hardcore Lugosi-fans, depending how they feel about some of the other less than awesome roleshe had to take on in order to make a living. It is Lugosi's performance in Dracula for which most people remember him, and this is for good reason.  Just watch the classic trailer:

Some Suitably Macabre Bela Lugosi Links
Bela's page at Findagrave
Bela at Findadeath
Bela Lugosi Bio at the NY Times site -- Full Biography is here, a filmography is here
A nice Fan Site for Lugosi, including another filmography, just in case
Lugosi at the International Movie Database site
The obligatory Bela Lugosi Wikipedia entry
Lugosi at AllMovie
Lugosi at the Internet Broadway Database
Info on the Stage Production of Dracula at the IBD site
More info on Lugosi at a site that is mostly in Hungarian
Biofile page on Bela Lugosi
Lugosi at Rather Grim Tales
Lugosi at Netflix
Some Bela Lugosi Quotes
Lugosi at The Pit
Lugosi Bio at the Who2 site
Bela at NNDB
"I have never met a vampire personally, but I don't know what might happen tomorrow."
Bela Lugosi

RPG Brainstorming: Some Real-Life Monsters

The world around us is a far more weird and wonderful place than most of us ever realize.  Below are a few peculiar items lifted from YouTube to spark your creativity. I'm already thinking up a scenario that combines all of these critters into a set of linked encounters...

Ouch.  Enough said.

These are shrimp for crying out loud...Shrimp...save versus shrimp?  The thing just snaps its specially-modified claw and the resulting implosion of air bubbles temporily reaches the temperature of the surface of the sun.  You can't manage that with a Zippo lighter at a Lynnerd Skynnerd concert.  (Freebird!)  Anyone making-up this sort of critter would very likely get laughed at and then punched.  Hard.  Repeatedly.  But it's real, and now you have proof of it courtesy of the BBC. 

Drunk Monkeys.  Another denizen lurking in some dimly lit corner of an inn, bar or gin-joint near you--some of them aren't just drunks, though, some of them belong to thief-troupes...and they might have friends amongst the roving bands of Rogue Baboons...

Breakdancing skunks, or could it be olfactory capoeira?  That's some dance of defiance.

Okay, maybe these would work just fine, especially if they were enlarged and perhaps trained by some sort of aquatic being to serve as guards along the shoreline or in the midst of a really big mangove swamp...best not be carrying a lantern near that pool...

Now this is just too good not to use for an encounter.  Wonder who'd train and use such critters as mounts?  A good critter to summon for a quick get-a-way as well, if you can call up a big enough specimen...

Parasitic fungi that infect the victim's body and mind--and it's real--and there are over a thousand vrieties that are out there, possibly one that can convert PCs into weirdly elegant sculptures.  It's not just Yuggothian Mi-Go that you need to worry about...

Let me know if you found any of this useful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Wow.  Simply Wow.  If you like Science Fantasy even a little bit, you need to check out Calific and the up-coming World of Yezmyr module: Marooned Across Space and Time.  You can also check out the Sickly Purple Death Ray blog for more details as well.  This looks amazing.  Russ Nicholson's ulta-distinctive artwork for Calific is simply spectacular!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A More Modular Module?

Old School Jump has a very insightful post titled The Outbound View that cuts through the gamist gobbledy-gook BS and explains the very simple, and often overlooked, reason so many of the old modules from TSR were packed to the gills with encounters.  Far from being unrealistic or stupid, it's a good way to both give the customer more for their money, and to provide a wide range of encounters that can be customized and flexibly re-arranged or ported over to another scenario, module or setting area at the whim of the end user.

This approach is a legacy of the old days when such products as modules were geared towards the active participation of the end-user in creatively restructuring and tinkering with everything.  Customization was king.  Before corporatization and standardization and the ruthless pursuit of conformity and franchise-appropriateness superceded personal creativity, engagement and imagination.

Reading this excellent mini-article reminded me of an old notion that came up from time to time in the old gaming group I was part of back in the Eighties regarding modules--that the modules were not all that terribly modular in nature.  They were certainly self-contained and qualify as modules in that respect, but they were also pre-set-up and strung together and all arranged ahead of time, often for a particular implied or overtly acknowledged setting such as Gygaxes' Greyhawk, and most were approached as being modular and thus amenable to hobbyist-cobbling and DM-revisionism. You could cut & paste sections, copy-out items or spells, borrow monsters, re-use encounters and re-draw chunks of maps or whatever to your heart's content, but outside of the classic Dungeon Geomorph-Sets, the modules themselves were not really modular in terms of being buckets of resources to re-assemble for yourself like an Erector set, but rather were complete pre-designed and pre-built adventures. They were model kits complete with diagrams, charts, and instructions.  They were arranged into a predetermined pseudo-narrative, or sequence of networked and interconnected encounters. A truly modular module would provide a set of discrete encounters that an end-user could mix and match at will in order to develop their own scenario, adapting it and customizing it all right from the start to fit into their particular setting of choice or to meet the specific needs of their situation, group or ambition.  An excellent example of this more granular sort of modularity is being explored in a very intriguing way by Monte Cook with his Dungeon-a-Day site.  This notion goes farther than just a bunch of random tables.  It's not just another excuse for dice-rolling, but it would fit into a flow-chart style of scenario structuring reminiscent of first edition Gammaworld's artifact usage sub-system.  The idea is still a bit raw and not totally formed or clear just yet, but it is something that I'll be kicking around over the weekend.

I like the basic idea of a more Geomorph-like, more modular module that provides distinct encounters and such elements devoid of any setting details that the end-user can use like a plug-and-play resource that does not deliver a pre-made adventure, but rather puts a wide array of pieces before you and lets you string them together to your heart's content in the very best tradition of the Old School approach.  Yes, there have been a few things that have come close to this approach in the past, but I think that I have the germ of a strange new idea for how to do this sort of thing, and I aim to see what I can knock together one of these days--maybe after the holidays, after I'm caught-up on the current back-log of projects.  At least it fits-in with all those peculiar geomorphs that I've been doodling...

Spires of Mourning: Urban Necropoli

In the course of editing/completing the overdue-post about the Spires of Mourning for the Riskail setting, originally planned for Veteran's Day, I did a quick Google search on the term 'Spires of Mourning,' and I discovered the following from: Lapham's Quarterly, which is a site that I fully intend to go back to, as it merits a great deal more scrutiny indeed.
In 1820 a little-known architect named Thomas Wilson proposed a plan for “a metropolitan cemetery on a scale commensurate with the necessities of the largest city in the world, embracing prospectively the demands of centuries, sufficiently capacious to receive five million of the dead, where they may repose in perfect security, without interfering with the comfort, the health, the business, the property, or the pursuits of the living.” What he proposed, in short, was a massive pyramid, its base covering eighteen acres and its height well above that of St. Peter’s Cathedral-a metropolitan sepulcher, a skyscraper for the dead.

Wilson envisioned massive flights of stairs on each side of the pyramid, leading to an obelisk on top that would include an observatory. In the gardens around the pyramid, a sculpture garden would counterpoint the “bold, monotonous, and sombre background of the pyramid;” not just a house for the dead, it would be a monument for all of London.

“This grand mausoleum,” Wilson claimed, “will go far towards completing the glory of London. It will rise in majesty over its splendid fanes and lofty towers—teaching the living to die, and the dying to live for ever.”

This intriguing concept at the very cutting edge of the Nineteenth Century is further developed by Colin Dickey in an essay Necropolis, and at the Roundtable blog section of Lapham's Quarterly: Skyscrapers of the Dead.  The essay is interesting, and the Skyscrapers of the Dead piece offers some nice examples of how this idea has been developed out in the world we all share. 

There must be some psycho-squamous and inscrutible thing in the water, or squirming about out in the blogosphere since Telecanter recently posted about Hanging Coffins, and that bare-knuckled genius Warren Ellis has also latched onto this idea from Lapham's Quarterly over at his blog as well.  Good company to be keeping in both regards.  Besides, the mausoleum-tower/pyramids of Thomas Wilson have been out there since 1820, so it's about time someone did something with them...

As for the Memory-Ships mentioned in the Spires piece at Riskail, it looks like Hong Kong is (maybe) going to do something similar, only they're looking at building floating cemetary-islands, not autonomous ships, but then, if a particular ship were to get big enough and full enough, perhaps it would tether itself off somewhere and effectively become something of a floating island cemetary moored off amongst some of the quieter, less traveled backwater by-ways of the Estuarial Marshes.  It's cool when the 'real world' catches up to some of these bizarre notions; it also spurs one on to then see how much farther such concepts can be taken...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Red Riding Hood

Hammer is back and they're doing Fairy Tales just the way that only Hammer could do things--and it looks amazing--despite the fact that it's directed by the same director that did that pile of filmographical scheiss  er um movie, Twilight, gak, barf, vomit, which really wasn't my cup of tea.  Gary Oldman looks good as a werewolf hunter, and the sets look incredible...who knows, someone besides Oldman might even be able to actually act in this thing.  A guy can hope. 

With any luck, maybe they'll remake The Reptile.  That was a fairly original movie, with an interesting monster that wasn't straight off the shelf.  It'd be cool to see what they could do with it now...but then again, they did come up with a weird slot game promotion based on the 1971 vampire movie Twins of Evil, part of the notorious Karnstein Trilogy (Which some people think ought to be a quadrology including Vampire Circus, or even a quintology if you add-in Captain Kronos) which was based in turn upon J. Sheriden Le Fanu's Classic Carmilla..so I don't know what to think...but I'll probably have to see this movie.

Friends of Starship Warden

The amazing game designer Jim Ward, author and co-author of Metamorphosis Alpha, Gammaworld, and myriads of other incredible things is in need of some assistance.  He has recently been diagnosed, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, with a serious neurological disorder.  This guy has given a great deal to those of us engaged in the peculiar hobby of role-playing, and now he needs our support.  You can find out more details, and show your support by visiting the Friends of the Starship Warden and making a donation to the Bail Out the Warden fund.

Wearing of the Green/Tangled Up In Blue

You know, when I saw this trailer for the upcoming Green Lantern movie, I also got a chance to look at the most recent Tron: Legacy trailer as well.  It was a strange experience. (Almost as strange as watching the re-vised/re-done trailer for the 1982 Tron movie done by DrewboiX)

Green Lantern was once summed up by a friend of mine as being a "Paladin with a magic ring that allowed him to cast Phantasmal Forces spells at will for as long as it was charged-up."  I've kinda always liked that description, from an OD&D perspective.  Other people have equated GL's power ring to an artifact the dispenses (Limited) Wish spells, but I've never really felt that was quite right.  But it is close.  The whole set-up for Green Lantern revolves around wish fulfilment in a very major way.  The McGuffin--the Power Ring--let's this guy do anything that he can imagine i.e.visualize i.e. express meaningfully to the alien mechanism that is the Power Ring. In that respect it really is a lot like the Wish spell.

Watching these two trailers back to back during my mid-day break really got me to thinking about the perils of wish fulfilment.  When you can do literally anything that you can imagine or desire, describe or express, then you need a good vocabularly and repertoire of ideas, images, even templates and models to work from--otherwise you're left babbling incoherently and manifesting a lot of amorphous blobs and half-formed ideas that don't really go anywhere.

You can build an incredible empire of the mind and retreat/withdraw deep inside it and live out your existence caught-up in the neverending pageantry that spills forth from your psyche, like Bridges' character in the Tron movies, but in the end, if you are the main determiner of what happens, how it happens, and what comes next...sooner or later you're going to run out of ideas, unless you set up some means for you to refresh your personal reservoir of creativity, imagination, and intellectual raw-materials.

If Green Lantern is sort of like a Paladin (whether you think he's an asshat when he's in a citadel, or not), then Flynn is a lot like the Fisher King caught-up within the spectacle of a nanotech faux-paradise.

As I develop the Fountains for Riskail, and the Isoclaves and Inner Precincts of the High Families as well, this process of unbridled wish fulfilment, inevitable burnout and necessary personal renewal--the very root and core of so many mythos and hero-journeys--really jumped off of the screen and smacked me rght between the eyes.  In a good way.

Vampires Don't Sparkle...they cast Dark Shadows

Fairys sparkle.  That's why they are the Ancient and Shining Ones, the Good Folk of the Mound and so on and so forth.  Vampires are creatures of darkness and soul-chilling sorrow who drain the very life from a person's marrow before they even start to sink their teeth into a victim's neck.  Or at least they used to, back before they got trivialized by illiterates and ... oh forget it.  There's no point to doing any sort of a rant like that.  Besides, there's no need.  Stephanie Myers didn't drive a stake into anyone's heart, least of all romantically troubled vampires wrestling with their consciences while they dilly-dally around with their food like lonely shepherds on dark, dark nights down in the holler up in the hills.  She didn't even do it half as well as Dan Curtis did back in 1968 with Dark Shadows--the world's first Gothic Soap Opera.  And no, that's not gothic as in rubber pants, overdone black eyeliner and striking a suitably Byronic pose with a glass of absinthe whilst discussing the merits of suicide as practised amongst obscure French occultists.  That's Gothic as in the sort of tragic and moody romances with eery atmosphere and weirdly subversive supernatural elements that Lovecraft grew up reading like the Castle of Otranto, Melmoth the Wanderer, The Monk, and the rest of those classic tales that you can mostly find over at Project Gutenberg's Gothic Fiction Bookshelf. For free. And spare me the angsty melodrama of the hip newTrue Blood stuff--that sly old devil of a Yankee gentleman with a penchant for exsanguination, Barnabas Collins, was dating a waitress and having ethical qualms that tormented his black, black soul back before the Seventies even got started.  And he did it very, very well, thank you.  And on a day-time Soap of all things.

And now Barnabas is having the last laugh.  Johnny Depp has been cast to reprise Jonathan Frid's iconic role in a new production of a big screen adaptation of Dark Shadows helmed by Tim Burton.  Barnabas might get a little weirder, but he certainly won't get frikkin' sparkly, either.

What's not to like about a dyed in the wool Gothic Soap Opera that made use of plots, tropes and ideas from Edgar Allen Poe, Shirley Jackson, Guy Endore, Nathanial Hawthorne, Oscar Wilde, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Henry James, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft and other unnameable authors of supernatural/gothic/occult horror fiction?  Maybe, if the movie adaptation (Third Big Screen remake) does significantly well, there will be another attempt made at a new and hippified Dark Shadows TV series (version 3.5!). 

Episode One of the Original Dark Shadows Series

Watch Dark Shadows: Episode 1. in Entertainment  

  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Some Dark Shadows Links
Vrooooooom Vroooooooom --gak--
Now if only there was a Dark Shadows RPG...though I did find an attempt at developing an online acting-exercise type RPG for Dark Shadows that appears to be all over the social media sites and quite active.  This online Dark Shadows RPG looks like a cross between White Wolf LARPers and gothic/Victoriana enthusiasts, so if that's your particular cup of tea, then by all means check them out.

I was hoping to find a Dark Shadows supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG, or something more along those lines, but so far, no such luck.

I'm heading over to YouTube/Vimeo/Hulu now, I'm looking for this particular episode, as quoted from Wikipedia: "The Leviathans: episode 885 (November 14, 1969) to 980 (March 27, 1970) An ancient Lovecraftian race of beings coerce Barnabas into joining their ranks. Together they attempt to enslave the Collins family and bring the town under the thrall of their mysterious leader, Jeb Hawkes."  Wish me luck.

* A Quick Lovecraftian-esque Excerpt from the Big Finish site:
"Dark Shadows--Collinsport, an isolated fishing village on the Maine coast. At its centre, lies the ominous Collinwood mansion, home of the wealthy Collins family. Those who dare to live at Collinwood find themselves the victims of ghosts, witchcraft and the supernatural, as they fight the spectre of vampirism that curses the Collins family name across the centuries."
All new, full-cast audio dramas and talking-books on CD, based on the classic gothic drama serial. Starring original Dark Shadows cast members, David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlen and Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Word(s)

Johnny Oneiric over at the Thinking Outside the Red Box blog has recently coined a wonderful neologism that I rather like.  It's Phlebotarian.  And now that someone else has used it on the Internet, it must be a real word and carry much literary power. If you're curious as to just what it means, you'll have to go read his blog.  It's not my word.  But I definitely plan on using it.  Soon.  In public.

2-Minute Call of Cthulhu

OMG--now no one will ever have to read the actual story--maybe that's a good thing...
(Insert maniacal laughter here)

This is a wonderful re-telling of the classic tale--I can't wait to show it to my daughter.  She'll probably roll her eyes in disdain/disgust.  Fifteen is like that.

Running a little bit late on the current crop of posts, but since they've taken a while to put together, there's no sense in rushing things now.  One or two more days won't hurt anything.  Unless the stars suddenly go all right and all R'Lyeh breaks loose.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Damned Thing After Another

The e-Text version of Bierce's The Damned Thing is available here, here, and at Project Gutenberg.  Apparently it was also converted into an episode of Masters of Horror, but I missed that.
You can really notice the seasonal variation in its coloration with the onset of autumn.  It's quite a striking contrast to the Horla, which has already begun its post May migration.

Go West,Young Alien, With Extra Sauce

True Grit is a straight-up Western...and the New Coen-Brothers Remake (Trailer up above) looks good, at least from the trailer.  The premise is perfect for handling the introduction of an NPC who once a legend, but now is reaching the end of the trail.  It's also far less grim than John Wayne's excellent The Shootist, which features a gun fighter dying of cancer who is trying to go out with some dignity after a lifetime of violence and bloodshed.  Just substitute a party of low-level adventurers for the perky Mattie Ross, and you're in business.  All you need is a Johnny Cash song for the soundtrack and even The Duke will be kindly disposed.  If'n you're lucky.  Sure, it's been done before, but have you ever run into a stalwart barbarian who once was a chieftain, a king and a notorious pirate back in the day, but who is now an addict of the forbidden nectar distilled from the scarlet lotus?  Or what about the one-handed old werewolf duellist who's gotten a bit long in the tooth, and who's now more of a target for the young pups than the walking nightmare she once was...though the old black fire is still there in her belly, if'n you're stupid enough to reawaken her rage.  Or how about the seemingly decrepit old sorcerer who appears more skin and bones than any sort of legendary power upon the land, even if his three eyes burn with a lambent light not of this plane and there's no clear-cut answer to just how many arms the old man has, or why his shadows are always locked in a bitter life-and-death struggle even as he stands there completely silent and still like the sky right before bad weather arrives.  Taking a cue from The Lord of the Green Dragons and Robert McKee *, if you sort out the Desires and Motivations of these NPCs first, the rest of the trappings, dressing and details will fall into place as they are a function of the character's context, both in terms of the player's and the setting.  Nine-tenths of RPGs are storytelling, either in terms of players improvising in the face of random table results, or in cooperatively exploring the make-believe realm that they are co-creating with the DM/GM/Referee. Screw the Narrativist rail-road schpiel, if you address the characters Desires and Motivations up-front, the game pratically drives itself.  Throw in some decent Worldbuilding, and it can really go into overdrive, despite the sound of the clomping feet of nerdism. 
*McKee has another really good interview here, from which I quote:
"Storytelling is the primary civilizing instrument in culture," he said. He then quoted Aristotle: "‘When the storytelling goes bad in society, the result is decadence.’ The way out," he continued, "is through great storytelling. It sensitizes society to the humanity in other people. Writers of the 21st Century will have to work harder. They can’t sell out. And if they don’t sell out, they'll have the potential to do something of beauty and value."
Starting a group of adventurers with a higher-level patron or protector, a mentor or guide, some sort of teacher or casual tormenter who helps them out from time to time is a classic approach.  But you don't want this NPC being held in reserve like a nuclear weapon or a Get Out of Jail Free Card either, not without incurring a serious bit of consequences, turmoil, difficulty and expense--of one sort or another--and not just in terms of gold pieces either.  A down and out constantly inebriated one-eyed law man with a broken heart, a bad attitude and a whole lot of enemies is one incredible walking plot-hook generator in and of themself.  Add in a perky spitfire young lady who's hellbent for vengeance, and you have the makings of greatness, especially if you work from the character's Desires & Motivations, and don't get caught-up in the stereotypes, archetypes and mode of dress--which is way too easy to have happen, and is one major reason most RPG writing is so weak, lame, and amateurish that it hurts.  Substance is often overlooked and style is over-done, and that will kill any form of storytelling, even a genre as hoary, cliche-addled and rife with stereotype as a Western.  Perhaps it would be even more instructive to examine Soap Operas, another genre rife with all the hallmarks of crap and nonsense, but a genre that is rooted right at the very base of human interaction and the axis of Desires & Motivations, in fact most characters are a summary of emotional traits, needs, wants and history--with some sort of physicality draped across the writhing mess of human-ness, usually whatever is handy.  As long as they are attractive, no one much cares for how the characters look, so much as what the characters feel, in a Soap Opera.  This emphasis upon the core Desires and inner Motivations have kept this genre perculating along for decades.  Westerns partake of a great deal of this same fuel mixture, but with the added quality of being set in a simpler, more primitive, more idealized fantasy-image of the noble past.  Westerns are only one step removed from Medieval fantasy or Renaissance fantasy, or even Futuristic fantasies such as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, or the Sword & Planet fantasie sof Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, Kuttner, Moore, etc.  That one step?  A setting that evokes a sort of familiarity bordering upon nostalgia, one that exudes the comforting vibes of cherished notions of How Things Ought To Have Been, and the lurid allure of a fantasy of what generations of audience members and readers wished life haad been like, could have been like for them, or might have been like if they had only been born back then...yep...wish fulfillment.  Westerns are mythic, just like Seigfried, Beowulf and the Icelandic Epics.  C. L. Moore knew this, which is why her protagonist Northwest Smith (the seed-kernel for Han Solo) was a Space Cowboy, and the raw, red towns of Mars were direct evocations of the American Old West.

Westerns are a fun source of timeless plots and cherished stereotypes, which makes them useful for knocking together RPG scenarios, but there's no need to approach the conventions and rich layers of accumulated imaginal detritus that have slowly gathered and compressed to form a fertile soil where previously there had onlyt been the barest rocks of inspiration and the faint shimmering haze of impending visualization as though they were holy writ.  Far from being immutable truths, the inherited corpus of all that has gone before us is much more akin to Moorcock's nebulous Kaneloon; an ever shifting, constantly evolving region of the half-formed and the forgotten that we can boldly stride into and establish new kingdoms by sheer dint of our courage to make the assay and the strength of our own imagination as bolstered by our skill in writing more than swinging a rune-carved sword. Or how fast on the draw we might be. Yippy kay yay...

Speaking of Westerns, there is a new OSR-Compatible set of  Spaghetti Western rules for Old School games by David Baymiller.  This looks like fun, and I've always liked Sixguns & Sorcery, as a sub-set of Space Westerns, so bringing the West into the mix works fine for me.  Ever see The Valley of Gwangi?  The trailer is even more fun in German.  (Note: There is a supplement for the Castle Falkenstein RPG titled Six-Guns & Sorcery, which I might have to check out now that it may be reviving.  And of course there is the always awesome Deadlands...which has returned from the dead as a part of the Savage Worlds empire.  That's another system I've been meaning to try-out...)

But why settle for just Cowboys & Orcs?  Terminal Space is likewise OSR-Compatible, and by bringing those rules into the mix you get all the basic SciFi elements (plus HPL-derived ickiness to boot), giving you a real, down-home set of home-rule-ready Old School Space Western goodness that'll take the chrome off of a bumper just like cookies' coffee.  Wait a minnit--that ain't coffee, it's a shoggoth in the pot...tarnation...and now there's fancy-pants aliens rustling our women and raping our cattle...gimme my gun--these fellas ain't from around these parts, else they'd know better than to interrupt my morning coffee...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Useful Resources: Some Handy Weirdness

Weird.  I'll not waste time defining the word.  Nor do I intend to waste time further debating or defining Weird Fiction versus the New Weird, (which are really more Market Categories than any sort of distinct genres in and of themselves) since I prefer to simply pursue my own take on the matter and listen to my particular Muse in this regard and leave such fiddly-farting polemics and debates to people too busy to actually write (or draw, or paint, etc.) Weird stuff.  As a genre, it seems to be slippery, ambiguous and quite mercurial, often appearing very differently to each author, editor, fan or connoisseur.  That's just how it ought to be.  Below are a few handy dandy Weird resources.  Make of them what you will...

The Weird Review is a rather nice e-zine/website devoted to Vintage Victorian Weird Fiction , to quote from the Home Page: "The focus is on vintage weird fiction, especially Victorian give or take a couple decades, with a little extra focus toward the Short Story. Reviews of anthologies, single-author collections, & even on individual short stories of merit are just the thing, but also of course old weird novels of ghosts & the supernatural."  If you are at all interested in Weird fiction, then this site is a truly wonderful resource.  There are some nice essays and the like on Lost Race tales and novels, vintage Swashbuckler tales, and H. Rider Haggard is well represented.  The essay on Dennis Wheatley was particularly excellent.  You don't necessarily have to be a vetted and papered scholar to contribute, though it could help, probably, especially if you can babble blasphemously, yet prettily, in print.  The Gallery sections will also prove to be of some interest to the usual suspects engaged in vulgar gaming endeavors.  The Weird Review grew out of the Alt.Fiction.Ghost-Fiction UseNet group, the archives of their postings are available here. Overall this is part of the excellent Aunt Violet's Book Museum site, one of those treasure troves of Weirdness online that can steal hours from your day and leave you wondering just where you ran into a Shambleau...oh and they are open to contributions/submissions pertaining to the Weird, and anything else pertinent to the editor's various special interests, including swashbuckling/pirate romance tales, juvenile series (Tom Swift), and Lost Race novels, etc.  Very Highly Recommended and with a very high Rabbit Hole Index...

Grim Reviews is a blog that provides thought-provoking reviews, essays and articles on various and sundry aspects of Weird fiction, both vintage/classical and modern, with an emphasis on scholarship and definite opinions, which makes it a lot of fun to read--and often inspirational as well.

Weird Fiction is a blog/site that is ... well ... pretty Weird, and it's another online venue that could drain away some precious moments from your schedule if you're not ultra-careful.

Skulls in the Stars is the blog of an Associate Professor of Physics...and he likes Weird Fiction, which he blogs about off-and-on.  Anyone who mentions Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman and Marie Corelli in the course of their posts is well worth giving a few minutes of your attention to in order to hear what they have to say, or at least write/post.

The obligatory link to H. P. Lovecraft on How To Write Weird Fiction...if only to make sure that it's handy for later.  You can alternate versions of this essay here, here, here, here, here, and here, as well as several other venues.  There's also the Supernatural Horror in Literature essay (Public Domain version), which is also available in a variety of versions/formats herehere, here, herehere, here and here.  Whew.  Yes, there are other locations where you can find this essay, but that ought to be enough to at least get you started...

Clark Ashton Smith weighs-in on Atmosphere in Weird Stories over at The Eldritch Dark site, another high-risk Rabbit Hole Index site that might drain hours from your life before you even realize that you've read half a dozen classic tales...

Arthur Machen gets some respect.  Finally.

A Quick and Painless Introduction to the Lovecraft Circle of correspondents, which had an enormous impact on Weird Fiction.

A decent essay on Horror Fiction that crosses-over into the Weird quite a bit, which is super-easy to have happen as horror is a major component to the weird, be it vintage or modern.

Still Weird After All These Years, a nice short article on how Weird hasn't become passe or stale.

Another blogger examines what Weird Fiction means to them, and still manages to self-promote her new book...which might interest some of you folks, either in terms of the opinions expressed, the overall subject matter, or the mechanics of marketing one's work online.

Creative Fluff has a page where they started to work out just what Weird Fiction is/was, but it hasn't progressed very far as yet, perhaps they just need encouragement, feed-back or a few dozen hits to show that anyone cares?  In the meantime, the main Creative Fluff blog itself hosts a lot of resources worth taking a look at, especially for designers, artists, etc.

Supernatural Fiction Resources courtesy of Alan Gullette (another excellent resource that'll potentially send you off on wild tangents into the dark recesses of the internet...)

China Mieville turns around and thanks that dead old white bourgeois gent Mr.Tolkien, which may be a sign of the impending apocalypse.  Very interesting reading, at least I thought so...

A Few Small Publishers devoted to Weirdness
Hippocampus Press

Tartarus Press

Fedogan & Bremer

Arkham House

Nightshade Books

Necronomicon Press

Monday, November 15, 2010

Huge Ruined Pile Forums

If you are at all interested in "...Classic fantasy fiction, sword-and-sorcery, pulps, planetary romance, weird tales, and genre miscellanea," then you might want to consider Scott's recently-inaugurated Huge Ruined Pile Forums, which you can find here.  Once I manage to get caught-up from after the recent unplanned and unexpected hiatus, I hope to spend a little quality time there myself...

Quantique & Eiglophian Press Archives

Since returning from our trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior more than a month ago, I've been side-lined with a shoulder injury and offline far more than has been the norm.  In that time several of the blogs that I used to look forward to like Sean's Bite the Bullette and the very promising Tremulous Antennae have evaporated or been deleted for whatever reason.  I know that I'm not the only one who'll miss those blogs.

G. Benedicto's very cool, ulta-weird blog Quantique was also one of the recent withdrawals from the blogosphere.  All three of G. Benedicto's wonderful blogs have gone missing.  Suddenly and with no warning, so I hope that he's okay, and whatever the reasons, it was and is, his decision to make and I respect that, and wish him all the best of luck in all future endeavors.  I'll miss Quantique.  It was the absolutely right kind of Weirdness, and it's starting to feel a bit lonlier without it's company.  But all is not necessarily lost.  Cyclopeatron is hosting PDF archives of G. Benedicto's posts (minus reader comments) that were compiled by blog-reader Restless.  You can download the PDF Archives of Eiglophian Press and Quantique at Cyclopetaron's blog.  Thank you for doing this Restless and Cyclopeatron!

So, I'm regretfully deleting the links to these defunct blogs from the list of Blogs We Read.  I had no idea that by missing so much time that I'd also miss-out on the last moments of these fun and much-appreciated blogs.  But this does seem to be a natural part of the overall blogging process.  People come and people go, blogs surge and fade and life can sometimes intervene.  I just wanted to say Thank You to each of these wonderfully creative people who shared their imagination, ideas and enthusiasm with us all.  I, for one, feel lucky to have crossed their respective paths, if only out on that there internet-thing.  Good luck and Gods Bless.  Maybe we'll meet again.  Weirder things have happened...

And hey, at least Planet Algol, From the Sorcerer's Skull, and Urutsk are still going strong...and Raggi's Weird Empire is growing, so there's still plenty of hope and life in the Weird end of the pond yet...and Riskail is only just getting started...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Humor and HPL: A Sampling of YouTube Madness from Inmate93

Humor and the, oops, that's The Mythos do not mix--or so some people have declared, ranted and proclaimed.  Plush Cthulhu, Kovalic's My Little Cthulhu, the Little Gloomies Carl Cthulhu are all seen by some as a sort of sign of an impending HPLocalypse or something I guess.  Several folks have decried such things as somehow trivializing the Great Old Ones or diminishing the horror-quotient of the squishy-gellid-squamous blasphemies from beyond time and space.  Maybe they just don't appreciate the paradoxical juxtaposition of horror and humor, but all that is required is to hear a lunatic laugh and all becomes quite clear and cogent let me assure you.  It's nowhere near as paradoxical as it might seem on the unspeakable face of it.  HPL wrote about the fears lurking in the heart of an uptight xenophobic racist ultra-conservative prude who feared modernity and lusted after sterile, dessicated quasi-Victorian hyper-intellectual fabrications of How Things Ought To Be (but aren't ever going to).  He was the sort of guy who might well have masturbated over (the personal acquisition i.e. conquest of) rare books, with gloves, with the lights off.  Then he'd eat a big bowl of ice cream and get back to writing another long, long letter with the same hand, though he would probably remove the glove. Probably. I won't even get into the asexual versus homophobe/repressed gayness argument, though the whole squishy tentacle-faced squid-beast lurking under the sea symbolism fairly speaks for itself, even if you find Freud more freaktacular and weird than HPL.  Hillbilly-cultists babbling prehuman blasphemies ain't the only pervert in-breeders, you know.  Ick.  The horror of it all...
"I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little-known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me."
The Tomb, by H.P. Lovecraft

Honestly, how anyone can take the horror-fiction of HPL seriously is beyond me, but the Mythos as a shared sandbox we can all mess about in to our various respective black-heart's delight, like a passle of disrespectful alley-cats in the moonlight, that is frikkin' awesome and a lot of fun.  Trying to bring the scary back into HPL's stuff is a good challenge, but few have managed to pull it off.  Most of the time things simply descend into gross-ness and puerile nonsense.  A lot of it is funny without meaning to be, and in this age of sparkly vampires and well-groomed domesticated-lycanthropes maybe HPL's miscengenation tales and pre-Unabomber technoloathing fables have lost a lot of whatever charge they once carried...maybe.  But maybe not.
“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”
I double-dare you to say that three times fast...with a straight face...
In a Mythos dominated by a blind, idiot god writhing at the center of the universe surrounded by the patron saints of couch potatoes and reality programming, humor definitely has a place in The Mythos.  But what is that place exactly?  Is it quite what we might imagine it to be, or are we being lulled into a false sense of security?  Is it really funny, or is the laughter more of a nervous release, the kind that occurs when confronted by terrible things that just cannot be processed, let alone accepted by the conscious mind?

It's an interesting, even intriguing notion...

Here are a few of my favorite HPL-spoofs and Lovecraftian Parodies from YouTube:
  • The Love Craft.  A short spoof of the classic Seventies TV-show The Love Boat, only now with Cthulhu as the special guest star.  Asenath Waite as the Cruise Director was a stroke of genius.  And it has Charo.  Cthulhu+Charo=Priceless Soul-Shattering Horror.
  • Elder Sign.  Absolutely one of the best Lovecraft-spoofs ever done at YouTube.  The Plumber's matter-of-fact delivery is spot-on and the whole mock-ad is definitely quite a bit funnier than anything the old gent ever wrote himself.  It's a classic, like the phony Myth-Os cereal-ad, both of which have been around for a while, but are worth a chuckle.
  • Carol of the Old Ones.  Wow.  Absolutely one of the best HPL-spoofs ever committed in the name of the Old Ones--and it's just one of a whole slew of blasphemous carols collected together on a CD available via the HPLovecraft Historical Society.  This just went to the top of my Must-Get List.  A couple of other examples: Death To The World, Awake Ye Scary Great Old Ones, Freddy The Red-Brained Mi-Go...
  • Reanimator Versus Sin City.  Incredible editing work turns clips from these two movies into one very creepy faux-trailer.  It really gets you thinking about what Frank Miller might do with some of HPL's stuff...and this guy's mash-up of Herbert West taking on Ash of the Evil Dead movies is also pretty well done, though the Herbert West: Benny Hill clip is a little funnier...
  • Cthulhu's Clues.  Blues Clues meets the Mythos.  Yeah.  What can you really say?  It was apparently a reaction to the Cthulhu Lego clip.
  • For the HPL-inclined Troma-fans there is LoveCracked: The Movie from Biffjuggernaut...which looks equal parts gross and funny...in a decidedly Troma-esque manner, which is obviously an acquired taste, like cannibalism sudoku puzzles.  This is a fun project that thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously and deserves a bit wider distribution beyond Innsmouth, Arkham and points East.  If you like the trailer enough, you can get a copy of the whole thing via amazon.  It's cheap.  Take that however you will...
  • The Adventures of Lil Cthulhu.  Ouch. Funny, well-done, but you can hear HPL turning over in his grave...which reminds me of My Little Cthulhu and Cutethulhu...which brings this particular list to an appropriate end, with the Old Gent himself beating his skull against his coffin-lid in disgust.
Some people prefer to debate the merits of humor and whether it has any place in the, ahem, The Mythos?  Apparently it most certainly does, whether anyone approves of it or not. It's all around us.  Practically ubiquitous. You could say that it squirms around like slimy tentacles behind the scenes all over the place, lurking and waiting for the opportunity to spill forth inappropriately or grotesquely, in some of the weirdest, strangest, most unlikely places.  Whatever one's personal opinion on the matter, Mythos-derived/inspired  humor is a reality, a fact of life. Just as HPL deftly skewered the old tropes and conventions of Horror and developed his ambiguous, anomalous, squamous and insidious modern mythology to replace the out-moded and tawdry remnants of lingering folklore that once actually frightened grown-ups (consider the cases of Peter Plogojowitz or Peter Stumpp, or Urban Grandier, for examples), now, in turn, his own tropes, conventions and so forth are showing signs of wear, tear and the stretchmarks associated with having to adapt to radically different social conditions than anything HPL imagined as likely or possible. 

Or is that really the case?

Stop for a moment and consider this; the proliferation of spoofs and parodies rooted in HPL's synthetic mythology may really be more of an indication that we've passed the threshold he feared, that we've entered into the End Times predicted by Dread Cthulhu's demented prophets and inbred cultists alike.  Didn't the old Gent himself write that:
"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return."

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
Where once serial killers were inextricably wound-up in the folklore of Lycanthropy, which they may or may not have inspired, a man who has knives jutting from his hands isn't just the latest incarnation of the boogeyman anymore, he's also a psychopathic superhero and one of the most notorious real-world serial killers of all time was himself a clown.  A clown.  Who says that humor has no place in The Mythos?  We can laugh all we want at the octopus in the room, but in the end, Cthulhu laughs last and loudest because, like a literary STD, HPL's Mythos has managed to infect just about every and all aspects of our popular culture and that is the most pervasive, insidious, and all-too-real horror of them all.  It kinda makes me want to laugh...
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