Tag Archives: Harlem Unbound

Vale, Howard Philips Lovecraft

HP Lovecraft cameo by Bryan Moore, with Grenadier Miniatures Cthulhu

I originally wrote this for HPL’s 130th birthday, on 20 August 2020, while we were on blogging hiatus. Today is 15 March 2021, the anniversary of his death in 1937, so he is on my mind again.

Vale, Howard Philips Lovecraft, you complicated old soul. 130 years of age and you don’t look a day over strange aeons.

What a slithering mass of contradictions you were. Your views on non-Anglo peoples and cultures were reprehensible, and fill me with more horror than an Antarctic tunnel full of Shoggoth. That outlook infuses your work, poisons it, making some stories unreadable when I first encountered them 35 years ago and trust me they have not improved with age.

But you had kindness in you. You’d write to anyone, mentor anyone, with patience and humour (and occasionally some unfortunate rants). You were the original creative collaborator, cheerfully sharing monsters and forbidden tomes with your chums in the small press and using theirs in turn, killing each other off in gleeful ways.

And the stories… we’re revisiting them again lately, or listening with rapt attention to the readings by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. There’s your voice, written or tapped out one word at a time in your cold and lonely room some ninety years ago, a voice at once confident and anxious, pouring on sensation after sensation by adjective after adjective until I feel trapped, suffocated, desperate to learn what is about to happen and terrified of what I’ll know when I do. Great horror needs conviction and your writing has it, even that ridiculous one about Dr. West.

I am sad that you didn’t get a chance to grow as a person or even into your senior years. You died at 46, an Old Gent before your time (Grandpa to all in your circle), in poverty and terrible diet, with little regard for the quality of your work and never enjoying great success with it. If you could see Cthulhu now, you’d chuckle, in a language we could not read nor speak.

I owe you so much, HPL. I’ve made so many dear friends, global travel, a life’s work of stories I’ve spun in your long dark shadow. You passed on so much to me that I can never forsake you, but you’ll get a scolding from time to time believe me, as should all racist literary uncles.

I’m so pleased to see your visions and horrors told anew by creators who are inspired by your ideas but reject your exclusions. I love the anthologies Heroes of Red Hook edited by Oscar Rios and She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, which give voices to the people you left out of your fiction. I love the work that Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy at Chaosium did to rebalance Masks of Nyarlathotep, a seminal work of roleplaying from the 1980s but which in parts was still a bit too close to your outlook. And of course the towering work that is Harlem Unbound by Chris Spivey, the most unflinching and passionate reply yet. Thus we refute Lovecraft.

So, I’ll raise an ice cream to you Howard, not one from Chauncey’s of Hope Valley R.I. as you once wrote about with great delight to a friend (120 flavours!). In fact it’s a Vegan Cornetto and frankly I’m glad don’t have to hear your opinions on that, but thanks for all that you gave me. I cannot and will not forget it.

Leave a comment

Filed under HP Lovecraft, Writing

In with the new year and out with the old

2018 was certainly a stellar year for us.

First things first. Reign of Terror was published. We originally developed this scenario as a secret history, a prelude to the Horror on the Orient Express campaign, back in 2013.  Over the years the book grew and took shape as intrepid writers Darren Watson  and James Coquillat contributed additional background history, scenarios and scenario seeds to fully flesh out the experience of horror role-playing during the French Revolution. We were incredibly honoured to receive the 2018 Gold Ennie for Best Supplement for the book.

Reign of Terror hardcover

Then the PDF of the new edition of Terror Australis was launched (with the book itself due in 2019). This is a whole new edition of the first Call of Cthulhu project we ever worked on in 1987. It has new scenarios, new background, and all new scares! Dean Engelhardt of Cthulhu Reborn did a wonderful job assembling this new version, and it has great new writing from our longtime Aussie mates Marion Anderson, Phil Anderson, Geoff Gillan, John Hughes, Richard Watts and others.

Terror Australis

Do you think it might be friendly?

Just in time for Halloween, the official Call of Cthulhu computer game arrived from Focus Home Entertainment. Mark had wicked fun coming up with ideas for the story line with the clever folks at Cyanide Studio in Paris.


Finally, Mark’s scenario ‘Dead-Man Stomp’ was included in the new Call of Cthulhu starter set. He has always loved this jazz-fused scenario co-written with Lynn Willis, and this new 7th edition version is with a new co-writer, his friend Chris Spivey, who wrote the incredible supplement Harlem Unbound. In fact, “Dead Man Stomp” was Chris’ gateway to the world of Cthulhu, so this collaboration is especially meaningful.

Call of Cthulhu starter set

Sure let’s visit this spooky old house. What could possibly go wrong?

However we are not ones to rest on our laurels. You want more? We have a stellar line up for 2019!

For starters, we’ll be running two new scenarios from the upcoming Reign of Terror 2  as well as my 1920s Samoan scenario ‘Curse of Aforgomon’ at Arcanacon 2019 on 26 & 27 January here in Melbourne. The new 18th century scenarios are by Kelly Grant (Parisian investigators are sent to recover animals from a former aristo’s menagerie), and James Coquillat (a cold snap turns deadly, and then gets worse). So you can go mad in Revolutionary France or perish miserably in Samoa, you choose. Tip: avoid coconut palm groves! And Madame La Guillotine. And don’t get the two confused.

Arcanacon 2019

Crash landing in  a tropical paradise was only the start…

Mark has been invited to Poland in March 2019 as a special guest at CarcosaCon, a Call of Cthulhu convention in a genuine Polish castle. The Czocha Castle is located in Sucha village in Poland, and was nearly burned down in 1793, the same year as Reign of Terror…

Carcosa-con 2019

One previous owner… how do you spell that again? D-R-A-C-U-L-A.

And we have even more Revolutionary Horror to come, with Reign of Terror 2 in the pipeline. This features our scenario, Love Eterne, in which our citizen investigators thwart an aristo’s attempt to flee Paris and find themselves facing a horror worse than even Madame La Guillotine, as well as the new scenarios from Kelly and James, and a longer scenario from Darren Watson about a most peculiar investigation.

What’s that you say? You want more? We continue working on our Cthulhu by Gaslight campaign, Curse of Seven, and I have contributed a scenario, ‘Market Forces’ to the new RuneQuest relaunch, so stay tuned!


Filed under Chaosium, Conventions, Fun, Travel, Writing