Revolutions are launched by clever people with strong views and excess energy.

Julian Fellowes and Sonja Warfield, The Gilded Age, “Never the New”, s01e01

Hermetic quote Fellowes Warfield The Gilded Age revolutions launched clever people strong views excess energy

Cult of the Spider Queen

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Cult of the Spider Queen [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by S A Sidor, part of the Arkham Horror series.

Sidor Cult of the Spider Queen

This Arkham Horror novel is a direct sequel to the the same author’s The Last Ritual. Cub journalist Andy van Nortwick is the viewpoint character who bridges the two books. In this one, he ends up on an expedition to the Amazon to rescue missing film actress and director Maude Brion. Explorer Ursula Downs signs on to lead the expedition, and they also bring along Iris Bennett Reed, an anthropologist whose husband colleague had died five years earlier in the same wilderness area to which they are adventuring.

The elements of Yog-Sothothery in this book are closely related to those explored in Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dream-Eaters expansion, even though the principal setting is in the Brazilian jungle rather than Arkham. The synthesis of Clark Ashton Smith’s Atlach-Nacha with the Lovecraftian Dreamlands is central to the tale. More than the previous Sidor contribution to the series, I found that this one hit the same thematic mix of weird horror and pulp adventure that is featured in the Arkham Horror games. (I think I liked The Last Ritual a little better, but it was not so squarely on target with the games’ mood.)

There are sixty-six short chapters, and the book reads very quickly. I most enjoyed the introspective elements of the story constructed around Iris.

These fools possess a wisdom so corrosive that it strips them of their ability to behave appropriately or to be members of the status quo. Yeats’s fools are always outsiders, observing circumstances and belief systems with such a degree of objectivity that they become totally subjective and self-absorbed.

Susan Johnston Graf, W B Yeats Twentieth Century Magus: An In-Depth Study of Yeat’s Esoteric Practices and Beliefs, Including Excerpts from His Magical Diaries [Amazon, Bookshop, Abebooks, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Graf W B Yeats Twentieth Century Magus fools possess wisdom corrosive strips ability behave members status quo outsiders totally subjective self absorbed

Ideas have no status except through forms that are accepted symbols of sentience and are spatially and outwardly self-indulgent. Excarnation of an inspired or superimposed concept may be induced and orientated by ‘space-apperception’. The whole body and being must suspire… This total effluxion makes everything reciprocal and becomes a re-orientated sequence of focused nexity. Through this harmonic relation with Ego one becomes the qualitative mediator of the hypothetical or real propensity: any position giving vastness or panorama, and, by abstractive gazing beyond distance, allowing and following the flow of thought until there is an intrusive and more cognate idea. This idea is held and projected into the ‘vista’. Nothing innate is permitted to be subtracted from the visualization.

Austin Osman Spare, The Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos

Hermetic quote Spare Zoetic Grimoire of Zos ideas have no status except through forms accepted symbols sentience

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen: A Game of Tall Tales and Playing Roles as told by James Wallis [DriveThruRPG, Amazon, Publisher, Local Library], art by Gustav Doré and calligraphy by Paul Antonio.

Wallis Dore Antonio The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

This Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a rule book for a game I haven’t played. In fact, I might never get around to playing it, but I don’t regret for a moment reading the full 130 pages, which are hilarious all the way through. It is not necessary to have familiarity with Rudolph Raspe’s original Munchausen stories from the 18th century in order to appreciate this book; even a secondhand acquaintance through the Terry Gilliam feature film will be sufficient.

The game described is one of competitive yarn-spinning, sort of like a table-top roleplaying game with a minimum of rules constraint and a retrospective rhetorical style. A frame-story relates author James Wallis’ ancestor’s encounter and collaboration with the original Baron, as well as his own rediscovery and continuation of the work of publishing the Baron’s game. The rules are digressive and somewhat confusing, but helpfully summarized “in brief” in a two-page appendix. Another appendix lists hundreds of play prompts or story challenges.

This third edition includes two expansions with a host of variants, including adaptation for younger players (“My Uncle the Baron”), thematic inflections (Arabian Nights, science fiction, occult horror, prehistory, 007-type espionage, cats, and others), and suggestions for online play, “whilst one has a sky-fish hooked on the line … using the vibrations of the fishing line to resonate with one another at a distance” (124).

To me the mythos is stagnant, boring, and festering. Hardly any new ideas are brought in because too many people are trying to write like Lovecraft or perpetuate the same conventions, but they’re doing it by maintaining the status quo and not offering anything new. And quite frankly, I for one am sick of the same-old, same-old. The same product in a new package doesn’t fly anymore with me, and just the sheer commercialism of the franchise on whole has soured me to it. Not that commercialism is bad, but some of the conventions lumped under it using the mythos are.

Comment by Werecat on Who Cares About the Cthulhu Mythos? in the Key 23 archive.

Hermetic quote Werecat Who Cares About the Cthulhu Mythos Key 23 stagnant boring festering status quo same-old

All Systems Red

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews All Systems Red [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Martha Wells, book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries series.

Wells All Systems Red

This first of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a fast and engaging read. The tale is told by the eponymous “construct”: a security unit android, something like a synthetic rent-a-cop for exoplanet missions. Murderbot has hacked its own governor module and become autonomous, and is mostly interested in consuming the Sanctuary Moon soap opera rather than doing assigned tasks. When a crisis arises to threaten the entire expedition, the self-hacked SecUnit exhibits surprising competencies while trying to conceal its liberated condition.

The best part of this book is the narrating voice of Murderbot, who is profoundly uncomfortable with social interaction, although fascinated by it, as demonstrated by the chosen diet of entertainment programming. Despite some difficulties, the humans of the crew have a much easier time treating Murderbot as a person than Murderbot does in behaving like one. A human describes Murderbot as “shy,” but that radically understates the difference of the construct’s perspective and alienation from human interaction. For all that, Murderbot’s professed laziness and apathy are endearing, as is its resentment for the incompetence of the avaricious corporation that has leased it to the crew.

I read this longish novella in two sittings. It sets up a longer series, but fully completes a plot arc within this first story.

Next day, the victims each receive a letter explaining that their receipt of the objects effected the delivery of a curse. The hex will cause them to come to know their true desires, symbolized by the magical objects. They will also now begin to realize they are acting as enemies of the human race by commodifying desire and working as the agents of soul-Control. The magic art-objects will weave into their dreams and desires, making their jobs now seem not only poisonously boring but also morally destructive. Their desires so magically awakened will ruin them for work in the Media – unless they turn to subversion and sabotage.

Hakim Bey, The Occult Assault on Institutions

Hermetic quote Bey Wilson The Occult Assault on Institutions letter curse hex know true desires symbolized magical objects acting enemies human race commodifying desire ruin subversion sabotage