Friday, February 14, 2020

Irreverent Irrelevance: Lovecraft Rising

"Necromant" by Sanchiko


The two of you who read this blog on a regular basis have probably figured out by now that I'm doing "The River of Mnemosyne" challenge again.  I was going to write about it and my story idea much earlier, but I got lazy, then got caught up in researching the story, then started writing it... so I sorta just didn't advertise the challenge.

Not that it matters.  We haven't had anybody new participate in years.  And even the old guard are slowly fading away.


I used to play tabletop role-playing games.  Dungeons & Dragons is the one you've likely heard of, but I hated that system.  I was a Star Wars nerd growing up, so I played a Star Wars-based role-playing game (RPG) instead, among occasional others.  But it's been well over a decade since the last time I partook.  Nearly two, I think.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, a buddy of mine is into role-playing games.  He's also an H.P. Lovecraft fanatic.  And there's a role-playing game called Cthulhu, which, obviously, is based on the mythos created by Lovecraft and expanded by dozens of fellow others... both contemporaries and friends of Lovecraft, as well as modern-day authors still writing shit about tentacled old eldritch gods and other obscure words.

Now, I'm not a huge Lovecraft fan.  Up until January of this year point, I've read maaaaaybe three Lovecraft short stories.  Yes, I've long been familiar with Lovecraft and his mythos (oddly enough, mainly by having been introduced to the existence of the Cthulhu RPG back in the early 90s), but, no, I hadn't ever been so familiar that I knew the titles of his stories, the names and locations of his fictional towns, nor the names and purposes of his gods and dream creatures.

Long story short... I knew what "Lovecraftian" meant, but I never really knew what it entailed.  And while I did, years ago, set out to write a Lovecraftian story on purpose ("A Winter Tale"), I've more often than not written Lovecraftian stories on accident ("Uncharted").  There was the matter of that unproduced short film script I was asked to write, but that's neither here nor there.

So, my buddy... the one into RPGs and H.P. Lovecraft... he starts pestering me about Cthulhu.  He brings the rule book over one night and is pretty excited about it, so I peruse it.  I don't know how many whiskeys it took (Bushmill's, I think... which may have been the problem), but I eventually agreed to make a character for a campaign he wanted to run.

Now, when I played RPGs on a regular basis, I was usually what's called "the gamemaster" (GM).  In Dungeons & Dragons, the role is called "the dungeon master" (DM), and some other popular games have their silly little honorifics for the position (in Cthulhu, for instance, the role is called "the keeper," which I guess means something to Lovecraft aficionados).  The GM is the person who creates the game, hosts the game, referees the game, and is basically "God" of a particular game world.  It's a lot of work to set up games properly, and it's often quite unforgiving.

Needless to say, most GMs are pieces of shit.  But, in my experience, a lot of that has to do with how lax GMs are when it comes to player character creation.  See, everyone who plays has to make a character to play.  Hence, "role-playing."  Most GMs seem to just let players come with up the character's attributes (traits like strength, agility, endurance... etc... because we all want to play bad-asses) and then jump right into playing.

Good GMs, however, don't do that.

They make their players role-play.  Heaven-fucking-forbid that's too much to ask.  And they make their players role-play by having characters detailed enough to role-play.  Basically, creating a living history for the character that informs the character's personality and knowledge of the game world.  It's acting for people who can't act and don't even want to.

When I was a GM, I made my players create a lot of detail.  Won't go into it now, since I'm practically rambling, but my point is, as a player in this Cthulhu game, I wanted to create a character worth role-playing.

So I did.  And that character is, by far, the most in-depth character my buddy has been the GM for.

Which brings me to the "River of Mnemosyne" (RoM) challenge.

See, I made this character in January, while I was trying to think of a story to write for RoM.  And as I was deep-diving into this character's past (a Frenchman born in 1878, who served with the French Foreign Legion during France's takeover of Morocco), I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

Except one of those birds has proven really hard to kill.

There's been an awful lot of research for this story ("Beyond the Island in the Sky").  I bought a book regarding France's said takeover of Morocco.  I consulted with a scientist friend from the La Brea Tar Pits regarding the ancient geological history of Morocco.  I've been reading stuff about New England - Massachusetts and Rhode Island in particular, given Lovecraft's settings and his personal connection to the area.  I've read up on the history of the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston (now, sadly, a Chipotle) and the late 19th and early 20th century history of Eastern Massachusetts' electric train and trolley system (which was quite impressive).

And I've (finally) read enough of H.P. Lovecraft's short stories that the mythos is starting to sit in my brain.  I don't really like the man's style of writing, but the lore is quiet wonderful, and it's easy to see why he became so popular and remains so influential in literary circles.

In the past two weeks, I've read "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Nameless City", "The Dunwich Horror", "The Dreams in the Witch House", "The Rats in the Walls", "The Colour out of Space", "The Haunter of the Dark", and "The Thing on the Doorstep".  I even read Robert Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars", given that Lovecraft's"The Haunter of the Dark" is a sequel to it.

Not that anybody's asking, but of those, "The Dreams in the Witch House", "The Rats in the Walls", and "The Thing on the Doorstep" are my favorites.

As of this posting, I've got five of nine chapters up (my Museless Propaganda blog is public during RoM, so they're available to read for the time being) and I'm almost done with chapter six.  I am having fun playing in the world Lovecraft created, but I made the mistake of not straying far enough away from his style of prose, which is muting that fun a bit.

Anyway, I suppose I need to get back to writing that story.  I just felt like letting y'all know what the fuck is happening.  If you're a fan of Lovecraft, please read my crap and post a comment.  Offer a critique, a complaint, a suggestion, or point out a misspelled word.  Or, Hell, just tell me if you love it or hate it.


  1. Oi! I read. Jost a bit sluggish this past couple of weeks! Hope it’s a masterpiece🙂

  2. Look up the history of the Quabbin reservoir and the towns they flooded to create it...I live five minutes from there... it's deep in Lovecraft country.