Tag Archives: h p lovecraft

Lovecraft

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Lovecraft [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Hans Rodionoff, Enriqué Breccia, with Keith Giffen, introduction by John Carpenter.

Rodionoff Breccia Giffen Carpenter Lovecraft

This graphic novel furnishes about as accurate a portrayal of H.P. Lovecraft as the movie “Chemical Wedding” (a.k.a. “Crowley”) did of Aleister Crowley, which is to say: not particularly. In the foreword, moviemaker John Carpenter gives entirely too much credence to the possible facticity of the contents–which were apparently first developed as a screenplay. 

Still, Rodionoff tells an entertaining story, and Breccia’s art is quite effective and evocative. I would recommend it to horror comics afficianados and Cthulhu Mythos completists.

Len Deighton was not an author of spy thrillers but of horror, because all Cold War–era spy thrillers rely on the existential horror of nuclear annihilation to supply a frisson of terror that raises the stakes of the games their otherwise mundane characters play. And in contrast, H. P. Lovecraft was not an author of horror stories—or not entirely—for many of his preoccupations, from the obsessive collection of secret information to the infiltration and mapping of territories controlled by the alien, are at heart the obsessions of the thriller writer.

Charles Stross, The Atrocity Archives [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Stross The Atrocity Archives spy trillers existential horror nuclear annihilation frisson terror secret information mapping territories alien heart writer

A thrill, like a shot of good booze, ran through Elvis. He had once been a fanatic reader of ancient and esoteric lore, like The Egyptian Book of the Dead and The Complete Works of H. P. Lovecraft, and straight away he recognized what he was staring at. “Egyptian hieroglyphics,” he said.

Joe R Lansdale, Bubba Ho-Tep [Bookshop, Amazon]

Hermetic quote Lansdale Bubba Ho-Tep fanatical reader ancient esoteric lore

The H P Lovecraft Dream Book

Julianus reviews The H.P. Lovecraft Dream Book in the Occult Book Reviews archive.

Lovecraft The H P Lovecraft Dream Book

Despite all the rumours amongst the Junior Satanist League types, HPL was certainly not a practicing occultist, at least not conciously. He was a great dreamer who could hardly nod off for a second without entering some elaborate fantasy, many of which formed the basis for his best-known stories. This chapbook collects some 23 letters describing various important episodes in Lovecraft’s dream-life, sometimes giving varying accounts of the same dream to different correspondents. Some of these would certainly be classed as significant visions or past-life memories if the writer were a Magician, and a Qabalistic analysis of these would be interesting. Of special note is an extended dream of ancient Rome where HPL experienced something like a week of detailed coherent life (not the least bit “dream-like”) in the period. This was used almost verbatim as an episode in Frank Belknapp Long’s “The Horror from the Hills.”

H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life by Michel Houellebecq.

This treatment of the life and work of Grandpa Cthulhu was Michel Houellebecq’s first book, and in his preface he characterizes it retrospectively as his “first novel” (23). His summary of H.P. Lovecraft’s literary program can be assembled from the chapter headings in Part Two: “Attack the story like a radiant suicide; utter the great NO to life without weakness; then you will see a magnificent cathedral, and your senses, vectors of unutterable derangement, will map out an integral delirium that will be lost in the unnameable architecture of time.”

The emphases in this book are ultimately on Lovecraft’s anti-modernism and his racism as expressions of fundamental fear and hatred of life itself, and the fear and hatred as the preconditions for Lovecraft’s genuine artistic success. Houellebecq is not writing about success among critics or academics, which was even in 1988 only beginning to glimmer with respect to Lovecraft’s work, and HPL never saw anything like personal financial success or fame in his lifetime. The success at issue is among readers and writers of fiction, where Lovecraft’s “great texts,” the archetypal novellas of yog-sothothery of his final decade, loom as “ritual literature.”

Houellebecq clearly shares HPL’s pessimism, misanthropy, and hostility to realism. Those who in any way doubt Lovecraft’s enduring racism or its integral role in his fiction should read this assessment from a sympathetic writer. I think Houellebecq also makes a persuasive case as to how the person of “the old gentleman” fitted itself for cultic veneration. While the recent remodeling of the World Fantasy Award trophy (formerly a bust of HPL) was ideologically sound and pragmatic, Lovecraft’s own opposition to soundness and pragmatism was what made him a fantasist of the highest and most influential order.

In addition to Houellebecq’s entertaining and insightful essay, the book contains two of Lovecraft’s “great texts”: “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Whisperer in Darkness.” These are well chosen as essential nuclei of the “founding mythology” offered by the dreamer of Providence. The English edition of the book also sports “Lovecraft’s Pillow,” an introduction by Stephen King, whose personal debt to Lovecraft goes almost unremarked, while he defends escapist literature as such and praises Houellebecq’s handling of HPL. I recommend all parts of the book. [via]

Omnium Gatherum: July 20th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 30th, 2014

Afterlife with Archie issue 6
“Afterlife With Archie” Issue 6 is a comic every Lovecraft fan will enjoy — Mike Davis, Lovecraft eZine

 

Here are some top gatherum posts from the BBS this week:

  • The Baphomet Sculpture Hidden in Brooklyn — Jena Cumbo, Village Voice

    “Lucien Greaves (a.k.a. Doug Mesner), one of the people who commissioned the sculpture, that now sits in a warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, asked the sculptor — we’ll call him “Jack” — to forgo the breasts. This Baphomet is smooth-chested and muscular, with thin, shapely lips and rectangular pupils. The sculptor based his physique on a blend of Michelangelo’s David and Iggy Pop.”

  • ‘Join us in our ritual,’ beckons Cthulhu-based cryptocurrency — Adrianne Jeffries, The Verge

    “Written in the voodoo cultspeak of futurist horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ the creepy Cthulhu Offerings may be the most confusing digital currency yet.

    ‘The time draws near, the return of The Great Old One is upon us,’ writes the developer. ‘Join us in our ritual.'”

  • 70,000 Year-Old African Settlement Unearthed — Past Horizons

    “During ongoing excavations in northern Sudan, Polish archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Poznań, have discovered the remains of a settlement estimated to 70,000 years old. This find, according to the researchers, seems to contradict the previously held belief that the construction of permanent structures was associated with the so-called Great Exodus from Africa and occupation of the colder regions of Europe and Asia.”

  • The Occult Knowledge – Strategies of Epistemology in La Société Voudon Gnostique — Maria Liberg, a Bachelor thesis in Religious Studies at University of Gothenburg, supervised by Henrik Bogdan

    “The academic research on Western esotericism in general and contemporary occultism in particular has been largely neglected in earlier scholarship and has only recently gained serious academic attention. This thesis examines how the contemporary occult group, La Société Voudon Gnostique, headed by David Beth and an organization under the general current Voudon Gnosis, legitimate their claims to knowledge, mainly through three discursive strategies of epistemology offered by Olav Hammer, namely: the appeal to (1) tradition; (2) scientism as a language of faith; and narratives of (3) experience. Since Hammer argues that these strategies can be found in esoteric currents in general, but only examines theosophy, anthroposophy and New Age as well as only examining “esoteric spokespersons” this thesis aims at examine them in relation to contemporary occultism as well as in relation to both the spokesperson and to “ordinary adherents”. In order do this, La Société Voudon Gnostique works as a case study in qualification of being a contemporary occult group that has gained no academic attention before.

    The conclusions of this thesis are that the strategies are all prevalent, to a more or less extent, in La Société Voudon Gnostique and they are also used by the adherents. Besides the strategies proposed by Hammer, this thesis argues that the secrecy and elitist approach, which can be found in the texts, also can be seen as a discursive strategy of epistemology.”

  • Christian Persecution: The Movie! — Scott Stenwick, Augoeides; about the forthcoming movie Persecuted

    “Persecuted, is based on a laughably impossible premise that the audience is supposed to find threatening. In this case, it’s the government attempting to legislate religion, something Poor Oppressed Christians are totally for until they realize that religious freedom also applies to non-Christians. Then they go off the rails about how wrong and unfair it is that they aren’t treated as special and given more privileges than everyone else.”

  • The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda — Mark Ames, NSFWCORP at Alternet

    “Pull up libertarianism’s floorboards, look beneath the surface into the big business PR campaign’s early years, and there you’ll start to get a sense of its purpose, its funders, and the PR hucksters who brought the peculiar political strain of American libertarianism into being — beginning with the libertarian movement’s founding father, Milton Friedman.”

    “That is how libertarianism in America started: As an arm of big business lobbying.”

  • Aldous Huxley quoted at Reversed Alchemy — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti

    “Certain authors possess the secret of a kind of reversed alchemy; they know how to turn the richest gold into lead. The most interesting subjects become in their hands so tedious that we can hardly bear to read about them.”

  • Ian Clark quoted at The Limits of “Unlimited” — Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed

    “By speaking up, we are not only defending public libraries but the entire notion of public services. Silence is not how we defend ourselves against an ideological battle, it is how we surrender.”

  • More Songs for the Witch Woman — John Coulthart, feuilleton

    “It’s been a great pleasure in recent years seeing the welling of interest in Cameron’s work. In 2001 when I was compiling notes for an abandoned study of occult cinema, Cameron as artist, witch or mere human being was a shadowy presence about whom nothing substantial seemed to have been written; her art was impossible to see anywhere, all one had were fleeting references in books”

  • Love Spells — Sarah Anne Lawless

    “Love spells are black magic. Love spells to manipulate the body, heart, and soul. Love spells to dominate, to bind, to cause destruction and madness and pain.

    Love spells are not about love, they are about the lustful eye and the selfish heart. Be honest with yourself about it and then move on to the work at hand.”

  • Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations — Tom the Dancing Bug, Boing Boing

    Tom the Dancing Bug Bible-stories for Young Corporations detail

     

  • Stick-Gods — Inonibird

    “‘Stick-Gods’ is the culmination of over a dozen years of fascination with Ancient Egypt—particularly, its mythology and deities. Whether you’re studying Egyptology, a practicing Kemetic or just a fan of myths, there should be something in there for you! I’m doing my best to balance informed content with a fair bit of silliness. …And puns. Lots of puns.”

    Inonibird Stick-Gods

     

  • William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard — Gesigewigu’s, Spiral Nature; a review of William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision from Inner Traditions

    “Reading William Blake one cannot help but realize this is a man who is both religious and spiritually active, especially his poems known as the prophecies. The question is what was the nature of his spiritual life? What inspired Blake to create works that are both heavily Christian and at the same time antagonistic to many Christian ideals? The surprising answer is laid out as Schuchard leads us back into the complex religious web of mystical Christianity of the 17th and 18th century.”

  • A Victim of Drunken Channeling — Scott Stenwick, Augoeides

    “Aleister Crowley criticized spiritism as ‘a sort of indiscriminate necromancy’ because of a complete lack of formal magical procedures and protections, in which many mediums simply opened themselves up to whatever spiritual force happened to be present. Modern channelers such as Knight still employ essentially the same methods that Crowley was talking about. As such, there’s a real possibility that any channeling attempt could reach just about any spirit, like some sort of metaphysical Chatroulette.”

  • Mary Magdalene and the Gospel according to Mary — Kate Cooper; an edited excerpt from Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women from Overlook Press

    “The argument between the four disciples seems to be our anonymous writer’s way of exploring the different positions being taken by the men and women of his own day on the question of an alternative tradition being handed down by women. But he is also expressing his concern that the Church is changing, and not for the better. In his eyes, Peter seems to represent the voice of a faction in the community which wants to ‘make rules or lay down laws other than the Saviour gave’ – in other words, a group that wants to develop an institutional structure to replace the more fluid and informal movement of the early decades. This was clearly a topical warning after the death of the disciples who had known Jesus. Levi thinks that the new rules are a way of drawing the community away from fulfilling its task of preaching the gospel. The anonymous writer seems to be using Levi to suggest that too much emphasis on authority from the ‘Peter faction’ is stifling the Church.”

  • “Afterlife With Archie” Issue 6 is a comic every Lovecraft fan will enjoy — Mike Davis, Lovecraft eZine

    “As the story begins, our heroine Sabrina Spellman is relating one of her eldritch dreams to her psychiatrist, Dr. Lovecraft. Sabrina has apparently been committed to an institution because after her aunts died in a house fire, she had a breakdown and couldn’t deal with the reality of their death.

    But is that really what happened?”

 

If you’d like to participate in the Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS. You can check out all the other gatherum posts, like posts you enjoy, and even add your own posts with links to other things of interest, related to the subject matter of the library, from elsewhere around the Internet.

The Trail of Cthulhu

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Trail of Cthulhu by August Derleth.

August Derleth The Trail of Cthulhu

Not properly a novel, The Trail of Cthulhu is more of a “story cycle”: a set of five novellas, with linking narratives, in chronological sequence. Each was originally published separately. There are five protagonists, one for each story, but some feature in each other’s tales. The humans in this book are much more active in their antagonism toward the Great Old Ones (Cthulhu and his cousins) than Lovecraft’s own precedent-setting fictions would have allowed. As the title implies, Derleth’s heroes take the initiative to track down these beings in an effort to rescue humanity from their inevitable reconquest of Earth. The stories are almost entirely plot-driven, and the characters are tepidly drawn. Derleth has no evident skill at dialogue, and he avoids it as much as he can. Still, it’s all digestible fun for those who have a taste for this flavor of nightmare, from human sacrifice in New England to nukes in the South Pacific. The net effect is like nothing so much as an account of a great campaign in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.

Even for a confessed pastiche with some genuine innovation, the writing is often painfully derivative. The third story begins with this sentence: “It is singularly fortunate that the ability of the human mind to correlate and assimilate facts is limited in relation to the potential knowledge of the universe even as we know it—to say nothing of what lies beyond.” Even for the reader unaware that this prose is a virtual plagiarism of the opening sentence of Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu,” the fact is exposed when Derleth uses that very sentence as an epigram for the fourth story!

An appendix is Derleth’s “Note on the Cthulhu Mythos,” in which he attempts to demystify the lore generated by the Lovecraft Circle regarding eldritch prehuman forces. The “immediately apparent” similarity of the Cthulhu stories to “the Christian mythos,” emphasized both in this short essay and in the text of Derleth’s fiction, is an equivalence of Derleth’s own invention, just like his attribution of certain Great Old Ones to the classical elements of fire, water, air, and earth. Although it may be something of ignotium per ignotius in a quick book review, it strikes me that Derleth is to Lovecraft much as Kenneth Grant is to Aleister Crowley. Both are self-appointed successors eager to remake their mentors in their own image. Just as Grant (himself no mean Lovecraft fan) is determined to reduce AC’s Thelema to an outre form of Indian Tantra, Derleth is intent on making HPL’s Cthulhu into an aquatic Satan on steroids.

While the “Note on the Cthulhu Mythos” carefully points out that Lovecraft never took his own writings as anything other than fantasy, the stories of The Trail of Cthulhu represent HPL as a researcher into the genuine occult who cloaked his findings as fiction. In neither case does Derleth admit to the abundantly demonstrated fact that Lovecraft was a mechanistic materialist convinced that there were no “higher powers” with any fondness for humanity whatsoever. [via]

The House of the Octopus

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The House of the Octopus: Essays on the Real-Life ‘Cthulhu Cult’ of the Pacific edited by Jason Colavito.

Jason Colavito The House of the Octopus

Well, who knew? Jason Colavito has unearthed some late-19th-century accounts of cults involving an actual octopus god in the South Pacific. The sources are proto-anthropologists and scholar-missionaries, whose accounts often acquire the tone of a travelogue, and come close to the narrative tone used by some of Lovecraft’s scholarly protagonists. There is nothing here to contradict “The Call of Cthulhu,” and the notion of a sleeping-not-slain cephalopod deity is practically confirmed by these pages.

Of particular note is the Samoan temple ruin referenced in the title of the volume. The “House of the Octopus” (O le Fale o le Fe’e) was evidently distinctive for its stone vertical supports, a design otherwise absent in the island environment where plenty of trees were to hand for building pillars. Although the cuttlefish god continued to be reverenced, this site was already in long disuse by the 19th century, and the writers represented here had the opportunity of discovering it as a “lost” site (with the aid of knowledgeable locals).

Colavito has provided a rather minimal editorial service here, pulling the five source essays together into a single, brief volume that he has issued through lulu.com. His foreword provides little more than a reassurance that the materials are in factual earnest. He seems sure that Lovecraft didn’t know about the Samoan cuttlefish cult, but I have to wonder. See, for example, the reference to the Australian Buddai in “The Shadow Out of Time” for evidence of HPL’s study in this sort of material.

At some point, optical character recognition (OCR) was used to gather these texts, and they have suffered for it. Insufficient care was taken to eliminate artifacts like “rougli” for “rough,” and “cither” for “either” (both on p. 5, with many more to come). The cover design is attractive and appropriate, featuring a detail from an Enoch Arden engraving of 1869, and the book is a slim, convenient digest for the use of latter-day Miskatonic University students. [via]

Feeders from Within

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Feeders from Within by Peter J Evans, set in the Lovecraftian world of Arkham Horror.

Peter J Evans Feeders from Within from Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight Games has published two trilogies set in the Arkham Horror gaming milieu of 1930s Yog-Sothothery, but Feeders from Within is a standalone novel in the same setting, also using characters from the games. The principal protagonists here are drifting veteran Mark Harrigan, psychologist Carolyn Fern, and whistleblower cultist Diana Stanley. A few of Lovecraft’s own characters appear or enjoy mentions, most notably Dr. Henry Armitage, Miskatonic University librarian. With respect to the outré horrors they face, the book uses a synthesis of Lovecraft, Chambers, and Smith that has been established as canonical “mythos” in the game context.

The redoubtable fungus from Yuggoth is a prime culprit in this novel, and the story does indeed take on much of the paranoid mood of its Lovecraftian progenitor “The Whisperer in Darkness.” It is a fast read, with the ERB-cum-Hollywood sort of action story arc that builds to a final confrontation with … (that would be telling). Author Evans accomplishes the—in my opinion, most important—task of making the game characters interesting.

While not a high literary accomplishment, I found Feeders from Within to be compellingly savory textual junk food at the very least. The only real disappointment for me was Stephen Somers’ cover art, which, although it still accurately reflects the book’s contents (a scene from the prologue), didn’t seem up to the standard set by Anders Finér with the other Arkham Horror novels. [via]

Verve post about Simon’s Necronomicon mentions Aleister Crowley and more

Recent The Verge post by Joseph L Flatley about Simon’s The Necronomicon (which I tend to call The Simonomicon) at The cult of Cthulhu: real prayer for a fake tentacle mentions Aleister Crowley. There’s also mentions of The Magickal Childe bookshop, Kenneth Grant, Austin Osman Spare and more.

“In 1945, a 20 year old Kenneth Grant spent several months working as the secretary for Aleister Crowley, a ceremonial magician, author, mountain climber, and possibly even spy for British intelligence during World War I. Crowley’s books are key texts of modern occultism, and his reputation as “The Wickedest Man In The World” or simply ‘The Beast’ has given him pride of place in any number of heavy metal songs — not to mention a choice spot on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (the top left, chilling with Mae West and Lenny Bruce). At the end of his life, Crowley was unable to afford a secretary, so he let Grant fill that role in exchange for magical instruction. For a short while at least, Grant was The Intern of The Beast. By the time he passed away in 2011 at the age of 86, Grant had produced nine volumes that constitute what he called ‘The Typhonian Trilogies,’ which explored the connections between all manner of occult systems — incorporating voodoo and tantra and elements from the work of 20th century magician and the artist Austin Osman Spare.”