As the writer of Death in a Gondola for Horror on the Orient Express it seems to me that everyone is picking up on the ghoulish gondolier theme. Terror in Venice is the upcoming expansion for the Call of Cthulhu card game from Fantasy Flight Games, and look what’s on the cover:Who wouldn’t want to go for a romantic cruise through that slime-infested ooze? Although I don’t suppose that lady is enjoying the ride. Perhaps she thinks that Deep One is after her champagne.
Fantasy Flight produce two games that Mark and I play at lot, Elder Signs and Mansions of Madness (although I hate it when I have to solve those stupid cardboard clues). I enjoy games involving pattern recognition but fail mightily at strategy and in chess have never really recovered from having an eight-year old beat me using Scholar’s Mate. Twice. Elder Signs to me was the game of 2013 when the nephews went from sanity dribbling utter loss to destroying Azathoth at 9 minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve. Also Fantasy Flight always put a capable looking woman on the cover of their Cthulhu games, a reminder that unlike in Lovecraft’s stories, investigators are not always men.
Venice has not featured as often as you might think in the litany of weird tales. The only novel I can think of offhand is Wilkie Collin’s ripping supernatural detective fiction crossover, The Haunted Hotel.My favorite story, The Black Gondolier by Fritz Leiber, is set in Venice, naturally, but Venice, L.A. It features a gondolier made of primordial ooze (otherwise known as oil). Leiber is very Lovecraftian in his weird tales as he re-casts commonplace modern technologies in a bizarre and terrifying light. So next time you’re in Venice, whether Italy or California, and a gondolier invites you for a ride, just keep an eye for tentacles sneaking out from under his jaunty striped shirt when you’re not nervously peering over the side.