Tag Archives: Robert M. Price

The Innsmouth Cycle

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Innsmouth Cycle: The Taint of the Deep Ones in 13 Tales [Amazon, Bookshop, Local Library] selected and introduced by Robert M Price, part of the Call of Cthulhu Fiction series.

Price The Innsmouth Cycle

The Chaosium-published “Cycle” books, as edited by Robert M. Price, generally take a Cthulhu Mythos “entity” and supply a full range of literature for it: the key Lovecraft stories, likely prior influences, and later derivations. In this case, center stage is given to the Deep Ones of “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” I almost skipped re-reading the Lovecraft story itself, since it is the longest in the book, and I always have other things to read. But I’m glad I didn’t: it’s one of my favorites, and it really held up to the repeat reading, which was further enhanced by some of Price’s remarks in the general introduction, where he discusses the initiatory dimension of the tale. Given the fondness that I have for “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” I thought the other stories might have a hard time measuring up. But I found this collection very strong on the whole. 

With the exception of the three poems placed at the end, the contents are arranged roughly chronologically by date of first publication. Price has identified three predecessor stories. The first and least relevant is the brief Dunsany Pegana piece “Of Yoharneth Lahai.” It may be the source of the name Y’ha-nthlei as Price contends, but it contributed no substance to Lovecraft’s Atlantic citadel of the Deep Ones. “The Harbor-Master” was the first Robert W. Chambers story I had read that wasn’t in The King in Yellow, and it was quite good; in fact it may goad me to read the remainder of In Search of the Unknown, the site of its original publication. “Fishhead” by Irvin S. Cobb is an effective little tale also. But in both the Chambers and Cobb stories, the ichthyoid men are isolated freaks of nature, whereas the terribleness of the Lovecraftian Deep Ones has a great deal to do with the extent of their society, or even conspiracy.

That element is played up well in a number of the latter-day tales, most especially “Innsmouth Gold” (Vester), “Custos Sanctorum” (Johnson), “Rapture in Black” (Rainey), “Live Bait” (Sargent), and “Devil Reef” (Glasby). I preferred these 1980s and 90s pieces to the 1960s and 70s work of James Wade and Franklyn Searight, although the Wade stories in particular can be seen as predecessor tales themselves to Alan Moore’s splendid Neonomicon. The majority of the newer stories have very explicit links to the original Lovecraft story, usually mentioning Innsmouth by name and often setting their principal events in the same mythical New England town. Geographic outliers include Big Sur (“The Deep Ones”), Chicago (“Rapture in Black”), and Essex, England (“Custos Sanctorum”). 

The high level of inter-textual continuity is surprising, in that none of these stories are mere pastiches. I was profoundly charmed by the mystical “Transition of Zadok Allen” which concludes the prose section of the book. The trio of poems at the end are of mixed value, and they are sequenced by increasing length and greater conformity to the contents of “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” The whole collection is quite worthwhile, and I would recommend it to fans of weird horror generally, beyond addicts of Lovecraftiana.

The Gardens of Lucullus

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gardens of Lucullus [Amazon, Local Library] by Richard L Tierney, Glenn Rahman, and introduction by Robert M Price, part of the Simon of Gitta series.

Tierney Rahman Price The Gardens of Lucullus

This novel is a lively sword and sandal and sorcery story set in the Rome of Claudius and Messalina. It is a “team-up” adventure with Tierney’s Simon of Gitta (i.e. the Samaritan Simon Magus) and Rahman’s Rufus Hibernicus (a.k.a. Dunlaing MacSamthainn), although Simon plays the larger part. It’s a fast-paced adventure story throughout, with some quasi-esoteric details drawn from the Cthulhu mythos. 

The co-authors of this fiction have collaborated to good effect. I enjoyed Tierney’s Simon stories collected in The Scroll of Thoth, and The Gardens of Lucullus measures up to them nicely. I might seek out Rahman’s Rufus novel Heir of Darkness on the strength of this read.

The Dark Rites of Cthulhu

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphlius reviews The Dark Rites of Cthulhu: Horrific Tales of Magic and Madness from 16 Modern Masters of Terror! [Bookshop, Amazon] edited by Brian M Sammons, illustrated by Neil Baker, with Glynn Owen Barrass, Edward M Erdelac, John Goodrich, Scott T Goudsward, T E Grau, C J Henderson, Tom Lynch, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Brian M Sammons, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas, and Don Webb.

Sammons The Dark Rites of Cthulhu

A fairly slender volume containing sixteen stories of liturgical Yog-Sothothery, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu featured only four authors previously familiar to me, so I was grateful for the appended “About the Authors” info. The stories are reasonably solid throughout. Some do sort of stretch the category of ritual magic, such as one oriented around martial arts (“Of Circles and Rings” by Tom Lynch). A few are detective stories oriented around ritual murders. There is considerable variety of flavor within the “magic” field, encompassing voodoo, online cult recruitment, and stage magic, among others.

Most of these tales don’t bother with Arkham and Lovecraft country, though some do, and a few even go so far as to include or reference specific characters from Grandpa Cthulhu’s “ritual literature” (so-called by Michel Houellebecq). The Lovecraft stories that most conspicuously served as references in this assortment were “The Dunwich Horror” (of course) and “From Beyond.”

“The Dark Horse” by John Goodrich is set in a stars-were-right post-apocalyptic regime of human dispossession. Edward Erdelac’s story “Black Tallow” lost points from me initially by misspelling the name Aleister Crowley, but ultimately redeemed itself with a credible representation of pathological contemporary ceremonial magic, along with lovely Club Dumas bibliophile fan service.

I read this book slowly over several months, since there is no continuity from story to story. It’s a decent collection of new weird fiction built around specialized themes that are of particular to interest to me, and I was satisfied by it.

The Cthulhu Cycle

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Cthulhu Cycle: Thirteen Tentacles of Terror edited by Robert M Price.

Consistent with the general plan of the series of Lovecraftian “Cycle Books” in which this book occurs, sage editor Robert M. Price here collects precursors and successors together with “The Call of Cthulhu” itself, and offers some entertaining commentary.

The forerunners are an especially interesting set, including one reproduced in Price’s introduction that doesn’t get its own entry in the table of contents for the volume: Tennyson’s poem “The Kraken.” Dunsany’s “A Shop in Go-by Street” is included as the story mentioning sleeping gods that was probably a proximate inspiration for Lovecraft in writing “The Call of Cthulhu.” And I was very interested in the M.R. James story “Count Magnus,” less for it’s influence on HPL than on Thelemic adept Jack Parsons, who seems to have found in it the germ of his idea of the Black Pilgrimage.

“The Call of Cthulhu” itself needs no review from me. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing a story that helped to develop the genre as surely as Frankenstein or Dracula did. I am even tempted to credit it further, and suggest that it’s perspective is as symptomatic of the 20th century West as was Pico della Mirandola’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man” of Quattrocento Italy.

Predictably, the more recent materials are somewhat more varied in quality. Several of them were enjoyable reads flawed by weak endings. My two favorites were “Recrudescence,” in which Leonard Carpenter pits a paleontologist against petrochemical companies and eco-cultists, and Steven Paulsen’s “In the Light of the Lamp,” which brings a young stoner couple to no good end. [via]

Rehearsals for Oblivion

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Rehearsals for Oblivion, Act I: Tales of the King in Yellow, edited by Peter A Worthy.

Peter Worthy Rehearsals for Oblivion, Act I: Tales of the King in Yellow

This collection consists of “Tales of the King in Yellow,” i.e. instances of the microgenre that I call the jauniste weird, dependent from The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers. The jauniste literary current is now most often regarded as an annex to the Yog-Sothothery (latterly-dubbed “mythos”) of H.P. Lovecraft, although it came first: the imaginary text The King in Yellow (a play) served as an inspiration and model for Lovecraft’s similarly dreaded and deranging Necronomicon.

Rehearsals for Oblivion is subtitled Act I, and the back cover boasts that it is “the first volume in a comprehensive set,” but none further have appeared since 2006, as far as I can determine. It does have company, however. In 2012, the collection A Season in Carcosa was issued under the editorship of Joseph S. Pulver Sr. Both have materially unimpressive softcovers for their first (and so far only) editions. To contrast the contents of the two, editor Peter A. Worthy’s earlier book Rehearsals for Oblivion is far more conservative in the way that the stories integrate the Carcosan tropes and themes. There are a handful of short poems as well.

Rehearsals successfully avoids the use of the so-called “Yellow Sign” graphic invented for games in the late 20th century. There is a sort of double-yod symbol at the foot of each selection which may be intended to suggest the “real” sign. Tim Wilson’s cover painting is quite beautiful, and the fonts chosen for the texts meet my full approval.

My favorite Rehearsals included the Wilde homage “In Memoriam” by Roger Johnson and Robert M. Price, and Carlos Orsi Martinho’s “Machine in Yellow,” both of which trace attempts to produce the banned play on stage, in very different contexts. Other notable stories include the noir “Broadalbin” by John Scott Tynes, and “The Adventure of the Yellow Sign,” in which G. Warlock Vance supplies a jauniste Sherlock Holmes tale.

Scroll of Thoth

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Scroll of Thoth: Tales of Simon Magus & the Great Old Ones (Cthulhu Fiction Series) by Richard Tierney:

This book collected most of Tierney’s “Simon” stories, in which the protagonist is the Gnostic hierophant Simon Magus. They are adventure stories with a strong Weird Tales flavor, set in a well researched late antique context. They are really good, even if you’ve outgrown (or never particularly liked) pulp sword and sorcery stuff. The appropriation of the Lovecraft “mythos” and its integration with classical Gnostic theology is handled really artfully.

Unfortunately, the very best Simon story is not included in The Scroll of Thoth. “The Throne of Achamoth” was co-written by Scroll editor (religious scholar and fringe ecclesiastic) Robert M. Price, and it appears in the Azathoth Cycle collection, also published by Chaosium, and also out of print. [via]



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The Gnostic

You may be interested in Voices of Gnosticism and The Gnostic: A Magazine of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality put out by Bardic Press. I saw several issues of The Gnostic at the Esoteric Book Conference and thought they were well done. I regret not picking them up at the time, but they are available still.


Voices of Gnosticism

“For several years, Miguel Conner has engaged the most prominent writers and scholars on Gnosticism and early Christianity on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio. These interviews with 13 leading scholars represent one of the best ways to get to know ancient Gnosticism, the movement that has inspired Dan Brown, Philip Pullman, Philip K. Dick and The Matrix movies. Read what the best minds have to say about the Gnostic sects, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, Mary Magdalene, heresy, the origins of Gnosticism, and the original teachings of Jesus.

Elaine Pagels · Marvin Meyer · Bart Ehrman · Bruce Chilton · Stevan Davies · David Fideler · Birger Pearson · John Turner · Einar Thomassen · Jason BeDuhn · Karen King · Jane Schaberg · April DeConick”


The Gnostic 1

“The first issue of a tri-annual journal on Gnosticism in all its forms. Featuring interviews with Alan Moore and Sethian Gnostic expert John Turner; a complete translation of the Gospel of Judas; Tim Freke on The Gospel of the Second Coming; articles on William Burroughs, Philip K.Dick, the Alternative Judas, Gnosticism and Magic; columns, book reviews and more.”


The Gnostic 2

“The second issue of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Featuring an interview with Colin Wilson and an indepth examination of his ideas on the occult. An interview with Tessa Dick, widow of Philip K Dick, plus an excerpt from her memoir and Anthony Peake’s analysis of Dick’s precognitive abilities. An interview with noted scholar April DeConick on the Gospel of John. The Gnosticism of the TV series The Prisoner. Kimetikos, Jeremy Puma’s Gnostic practice. Tony Blake’s meetings with remarkable people including J.G. Bennett, David Bohm and Idries Shah. Articles on asceticism, the symbolism of the Bible, resurrection, Schrodinger’s Gun, a short story by Andrew Phillip Smith. Extensive book reviews, original art and more.”


The Gnostic 3

“The third issue of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Featuring a cover by C.G. Jung, Lance Owens on Jung’s Red Book. Interviews with David Tibet of Current 93, Jacob Needleman and Zohar expert Daniel C. Matt. Articles on Gnostic anime, Robert Graves, Gnostic texts, the Gospel of Luke, William Blake, deja vu, coincidence, a ten page comic, reviews and much more.”


The Gnostic 4

“The fourth issue of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Alan Moore’s Fossil Angels, an investigation into the contemporary occult scene. Interviews with Stephan Hoeller and Miguel Conner. Anthony Peake on the Quantum Pleroma. Sean Martin tells a Gnostic sci-fi tale. Robert M.Price on the Gnostic Gospel of John. Bill Darlison on the zodiac in the Gospel of Mark. Gnostic influences on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. The plight of the Mandaeans. The gematria of Marcus the Magician. The Gospel of Thomas, a translation and Fourth Way interpretation. Gnostic politics. John Cowper Powys. The complete text of the Gnosis of the Light–a book within a magazine! Egyptian cat mummies and more. And we review enough books to fill a whole shelf. Cover and interior illustrations by Laurence Caruana.”