The Cowboys of Cthulhu and Riders Where There Are No Roads – David Bain

Earlier this year, after finishing every scrap of fiction that H.P. Lovecraft wrote, I planned a series of posts that would look at Lovecraft’s peers and successors who extended his Cthulhu Mythos. I started with August Derleth, and I planned to continue with the other big names like Howard or Bloch. Then I found a free audiobook of a book named The Cowboys of Cthulhu

the cowboys of cthulhu david bainThe Cowboys of Cthulhu – 2011

I enjoy a good Western movie from time to time, but I don’t think I’ve read any Western books. (Blood Meridian doesn’t count, right?) I’m not against the idea of reading a Western, I’d just never felt the desire to do so until I heard the title The Cowboys of Cthulhu. I knew it was probably going to be awful, but for one second I imagined the relentless American masculinity of John Wayne facing off against the oblivious chaos of the Great Old Ones, and on the tiny possibility that that’s what this book might contain, I knew I’d have to give it a go.

It turns out that The Cowboys of Cthulhu is only a short story. It serves as a prequel to David Bain’s ‘Riders of the Weird West’ series. It’s basically the story of a shootout between a pair of outlaws and some octopus-headed freaks in a geometrically challenged canyon. It doesn’t really add anything to the Cthulhu Mythos, but it was decently entertaining. The audiobook narrator did some pretty dodgy accents. While it did not feature a burly old cowboy addressing the Sleeper of R’lyeh as “pilgrim”, The Cowboys of Cthulhu was still good fun.

riders where there are no roads david bainRiders Where There Are No Roads – 2014

When I started Riders Where There Are No Roads, I was looking forward to an explanation of what happened in The Cowboys of Cthulhu. I was expecting the protagonists to go off in search of Cthulhu’s acolytes. I was totally mistaken. This novel has nothing to do with the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s the story of a lad who enters another dimension with a bunch of ghost-cowboys to save his son from a demon. I was disappointed by this, but I guess that’s more my fault than David Bain’s.

I kept going with the story even after I realised that the High Priest of the Great Old Ones wasn’t going to make an appearance. It was a weird mix of cowboys, Easy Rider and Lord of the Rings, definitely more fantasy than horror. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it wasn’t too bad. It was imaginative, and the characters were fun.

The ‘Riders of the Weird West’ series is supposed to be a trilogy, but as of right now, only the first novel has been released, and that came out more than 6 years ago. I messaged David Bain on Twitter and asked if the other books were ever going to come out, but he hasn’t responded. If you like Westerns and fantasy, you might really like these books. I didn’t dislike what I read, but I probably won’t be reading the next entries in the series. This stuff is fine; it’s just not.really my thing.

 

August Derleth’s Cthulhu Mythos Fiction

After finishing up my recent series of posts on Lovecraft, I started to feel a giant shoggoth shaped hole in my life. I’ve read and then reread Lovecraft’s stories twice within the last few years, and as much I enjoy them, I reckon I should wait a while before going over them again. Fortunately, the Cthulhu Mythos did not die with Lovecraft, and there’s lots of Yog-Sothothery left to be read. Many, many horror writers have done their best to emulate Lovecraft’s style and expand the mythos he created. I’m planning to do a few posts on this stuff to see how it measures up to Lovecraft’s own writing.

From what I have read, August Derleth seems to have had more of an influence on Lovecraft’s mythos than anyone other than H.P. himself. After Lovecraft died in poverty and obscurity, two of his friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, became determined to get a collection of their pal’s tales published. When they failed to find a publisher, they made their own, Arkham House. If it wasn’t for Derleth, it’s possible that Lovecraft would be practically unheard of today.

On top of being a publisher, Derleth was also prolific writer. He wrote many stories that borrowed characters, places and books from the works of Lovecraft. Lovecraft did this himself. His tales often referenced monsters and books from his other stories, but there was never any real attempt to make these things fit together. (Nyarlathotep, for example, pops up everywhere but often in different roles/guises.) Derleth set about to work these different elements into a cohesive framework. He is credited with creating the term “Cthulhu Mythos”.

With this in mind, I decided that Derleth would be the first of Cthulhu’s Disciples to be featured in this series of posts. Here are 4 of his books of Lovecraftian fiction.

 

lovecraft derleth watchers timeThe Watchers out of Time
Carroll and Graf – 1996 (Originally published in 1974)

Wait, you said this post was about Derleth! That book looks like it’s by Lovecraft himself! Well, yeah, that cover is a disgrace. It’s common knowledge that Derleth wrote 99% of these stories, occasionally borrowing a phrase from the notes that Lovecraft left when he died. Other publishers were cheeky enough to list Lovecraft with Derleth on their covers of this collection, but this one brazenly lies. This contains the following tales:

  • The Ancestor
  • The Dark Brotherhood 
  • The Fisherman of Falcon Point 
  • The Gable Window 
  • The Horror from the Middle Span  
  • Innsmouth Clay
  • The Lamp of Alhazred
  • The Peabody Heritage
  • The Shadow in the Attic
  • The Shadow Out of Space
  • The Shuttered Room
  • The Survivor
  • The Watchers Out of Time
  • Wentworth’s Day
  • Witches’ Hollow

In truth, this isn’t great. Half of the stories in here are about descendants of the Whately family who inherit houses in Dunwich, only to find that their grandfathers were evil wizards. The houses all bear terrible secrets. Some of the other tales are very obvious Lovecraft rip offs. Every time I’d sit down and read one, I’d think, “Oh yeah, I remember this bit.” Some of it’s blatant too; ‘The Watchers out of Time’ is only a variation on Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow out of Time’.

These are Lovecraft knock-offs, and none of them reach the quality of Lovecraft’s best work. That being said, I personally enjoy Lovecraft’s middle tier stuff, and some of these tales aren’t far from that. ‘The Dark Brotherhood’, perhaps the most original tale in the collection, was pretty good. I liked ‘Witches Hollow’ and ‘The Horror from Middle Span’ too. This collection is not essential reading, but if you read it over a few weeks it’s not a horrible experience.

 

derleth lurker threshold

The Lurker on the Threshold
Arkham House – 1945

(The original Arkham House editions of The Watchers out of Time included this novel, but later publishers omitted it and printed it separately.)

See my complaint in the above review of The Watchers out of Time? The part where I said that a bunch of these stories were about lads inheriting houses in Dunwich and then moving in and discovering their grandfather was a wizard? I swear, I wrote that before starting this novel. This is basically the exact same as those stories except it’s far longer and more repetitive. There’s a part at the end where an anthropologist reels out a huge explanation of the relationships between the of the different Elder Gods and Great Old Ones that is kind of interesting, but otherwise this was horribly dull. There’s sections in here that were actually written by Lovecraft, but again, this is Derleth’s story. It’s dumb to have Lovecraft’s name above his on the cover. I was looking forward to finishing this pretty soon after getting started. It made me not want to read anything else by Derleth.

Also, the name of this tale and the entity in it are very similar to Lytton’s ‘Dweller of the Threshold’ from Zanoni. I wonder if that was intentional.

 

derleth mask of cthulhu
The Mask of Cthulhu

Arkham House 1958

At least half of the stories in this collection are about lads who inherit houses in Dunwich/Arkham/Innsmouth and then discover that the previous owner (usually one of their distant relatives) was a devotee of the Cthulhu cult.

  • The Return of Hastur
  • The Whippoorwills in the Hills
  • Something in the Wood
  • The Sandwin Compact
  • The House in the Valley
  • The Seal of R’lyeh

I honestly don’t know if this collection is any worse than The Watchers out of Time, but the stories in here are so similar to the ones in that already remarkably repetitive collection that I gained little to no enjoyment from reading this book. These tales are so dull that I actually started to wonder if I any longer had an interest in Lovecraftian horror.

In these stories Derleth pushes to organise different entities and elements of Lovecraft’s tales into his cohesive mythos. He distinguishes between the benevolent Elder Gods and the malevolent Great Old Ones like Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath and Nyarlehotep. Derleth is reverting to pre-Lovecraftian good vs. evil horror. For me, a huge part of the appeal of Lovecraft’s monsters is their utter disinterest in morality, and the the binary structure of Derleth’s system makes his villains here a little too similar to Dennis Wheatleyesque black magicians, doers of evil for evil’s sake. There’s a time and a place for that kind of thing, but it isn’t in Lovecraftian horror.  Derleth also classifies the great Old Ones by their elemental force. (The three I mentioned above are linked with water, earth and air respectively.) This is dumb. I want crawling fucking chaos, not a god damned overgrown pokemon.

 

derleth trail of cthulhu
The Trail of Cthulhu

Arkham House – 1962

After finishing The Mask of Cthulhu, I was loath to begin another book by Derleth, especially one with a similar title to that piece of crap. Fortunately, The Trail of Cthulhu turned out to be a significantly more enjoyable book.

This is a collection of 5 short stories that combine to form a novel. They’re about a collection of men who come into contact with Laban Shrewsbury, an eyeless academic who needs their skills in hunting down the mighty Cthulhu. These stories were written over the course of 8 years, and they weren’t compiled until almost 20 years after the first one was published. In each tale, Derleth has to lay out the background information for his readers. All of these stories contain very similar passages explaining the conflict between the Elder gods and the Great Old Ones, the separate Lovecraftian deities, and the forbidden books. While I have already complained about repetition in Derleth’s other books, it was far easier to stomach here. Remember that these stories were originally published years apart. A bit of a reminder would have been necessary for the original readers, and I’m glad the stories weren’t edited or abridged for this collection. Also, these 5 tales have almost identical plot structures, but this isn’t as annoying as the similar plots in Derleth’s other books.  The tales in The Trail of Cthulhu form a cohesive whole. They are part of a series. A certain amount of repetition in a series makes sense. The repetition in the other books is annoying because it makes it seem like Derleth only had one idea.

These are the stories:

  • The House on Curwen Street 
  • The Watcher from the Sky
  • The Gorge Beyond Salapunco
  • The Keeper of the Key
  • The Black Island

This is not a great book. I wouldn’t even say it’s a good book. It’s horribly overwritten, and I had to force myself to get through it. All that being said, this is Derleth’s best book of Lovecraftian fiction.

 

Throughout this post, I tried to refer to Derleth’s work as Lovecraftian fiction rather than Lovecraftian horror because at no point during the 1000 or so pages I read by him was I afraid or even remotely creeped out. These stories have none of what made Lovecraft great. When I was slogging through these books, I kept wishing I was reading ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ or ‘The Whisperer in the Darkness’ instead. Honestly, even the best of Derleth was pretty boring. Derleth wrote a lot, and he might have written other books of Lovecraftian fiction. If he did, I don’t want to read them, but I probably would if they weren’t too hard to track down.

 

August DerlethThe man himself

I have been very critical of Derleth’s writing, but I want to acknowledge that I have been comparing him to one of the most important horror authors of all time. (It’s hard not to do so when you’re looking at work that Derleth tried to pass off as having come from Lovecraft.) While his fiction may have been second rate, fans of modern horror owe a lot to this man for bringing Lovecraft’s work to a far bigger audience. August Derleth, I salute you.

I’m hoping that the other authors of Lovecraftian horror are going to be better than this crap. I’m considering looking at either Robert E. Howard or Robert Bloch next. I was going to do Clark Ashton Smith, but I realised as I was writing this post that I actually did a post on his Cthulhu mythos stories a few years back. I seemed to have a real bee in my bonnet about the poor quality of the physical book when I was writing that post though, so maybe I’ll do a more level headed post on Klarkash-ton’s Cthulhu mythos tales soon.

Lovecraftian Rarities and Howard’s influence on Houellebecq: Lovecraft’s Legacy Part 5

lovecraft

About a year and a half ago, I started rereading the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. I had previously read the three Penguin Classics editions of Lovecraft’s work, so this time I read through the four Wordsworth editions of his fiction. The Wordsworth editions, while lacking the footnotes included in the Penguins, present a more complete collection; in fact, one of these volumes is comprised exclusively of collaborative works omitted from the Penguin versions. I wrote a series of posts on these books (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), pairing each one with a work of Lovecraftian Occultism, but as I was reading through them, it became apparent to me that while the Wordsworth editions of Lovecraft’s work are more complete than the Penguin editions, they do not contain all of the fiction that Lovecraft wrote/contributed to. In this post, I want to list and examine the short stories of Lovecraft that are contained in neither the Penguin or Wordsworth editions of his work.

There are four tales that Lovecraft wrote by himself that are not included in the aforementioned collections. These tales are Ibid, Sweet Ermengarde, The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson and Old Bugs. ‘Ibid’ is a parody of academic writing about history. It’s not funny, amusing or worth reading. ‘Sweet Ermengarde’ is a farcical comic romance. ‘The Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson’ is a boring story about an old man talking about his friends, and ‘Old Bugs’ is a fairly predictable story about an old drunk. None of these stories contain any horror, and I can’t recommend checking them out.

There are also still extant several stories that Lovecraft wrote as a child between ages of 8 and 12.  These are The Mystery of the Graveyard, The Mysterious Ship, The Little Glass Bottle and The Secret Cave. These are pretty impressive for a kid of that age, but there’s no need to read them unless you’re a completist dork like me.

There are also handful of other stories that Lovecraft contributed to that are not included in the Wordsworth book of Lovecraftian collaborations. These are The Battle that Ended the Century, Collapsing Cosmoses, Bothon, The Challenge from Beyond, The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast, Four O’Clock, The Slaying of the Monster, The Sorcery of Aphlar, The Tree on the Hill, Satan’s Servants, Deaf, Dumb and Blind, The Ghost-EaterAshes and The Loved Dead. These are not included in either the Wordsworth or Penguin collections for one of two reasons. Either we don’t know how much (if any) influence Lovecraft actually had on the tales, or else the tales are absolutely shit.

Both ‘The Battle that Ended the Century’ and ‘Collapsing Cosmoses’ are collaborations between Lovecraft and his friend R.H. Barlow. These stories are jokes where they make fun of their friends, and they don’t seem to have been written very seriously. ‘The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast’ is another collaborative fantasy between these two. It’s ok. They also wrote ‘The Slaying of the Monster’ together. It’s barely worth mentioning.

‘The Sorcery of Aphlar’ and ‘The Tree on the Hill’ are collaborations between Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel. These are ok, definitely better than the Barlow crap, but it’s not certain how much Lovecraft had to do with the composition of ‘The Sorcery of Aphlar’.

‘Four O’ Clock’ is a tale by Sonia Greene, Lovecraft’s ex-wife. He apparently made some suggestions on how to improve it after reading an early version of the story. ‘Satan’s Servants’ is a story by Robert Bloch, and Lovecraft also supplied a few suggestions for this one after reading a draft.

‘Bothon’ is a collaboration with Henry S. Whitehead. It’s another one of those ‘man wakes up in an alien’s body’ stories that we’re all used to. ‘The Challenge from Beyond’ is similar, but this one is a collaboration between several authors. C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, Lovecraft, Robert E.Howard, and Frank Belknap Long all contributed sections. This one is cool for what it is, but it’s not really essential reading.

‘The Loved Dead’, ‘Deaf, Dumb and Blind’, ‘The Ghost-Eater’ and ‘Ashes’ are all tales that Lovecraft revised for C.M. Eddy. ‘The Loved Dead’ is a story of a necrophiliac, and it was contained (as the title story!) in the original versions of the Wordsworth book of Lovecraft Collaborations. It was later removed. ‘The Ghost-Eater’ is a straightforward ghost story. ‘Ashes’ is pretty crap. ‘Deaf, Dumb and Blind’ is a bit more Lovecrafty than the others, but it’s not all that great to be honest.

‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’ is included in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work, but it isn’t in any of the Wordsworth ones. I reread this one too. It’s not great.

I am glad to have been able to find these stories online, but I can’t say any of them were very good. I don’t think I’ll bother with them on my next Lovecraft reread. I believe there might be another few tales that Lovecraft is rumoured to have had some input in, and I’ll read those if I ever come across them. My plan now is to read the weird fiction of Lovecraft’s contemporaries, Derleth, Bloch, Howard and the likes.

 

For the other posts in this series, I looked at a collection of Lovecraft’s tales alongside a work of Lovecraftian Occultism. Most of those spellbooks were utter nonsense, and for this post I’m including a book about Lovecraft’s literary influence instead.

lovecraft houellebecqH.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life
Michel Houellebecq
Gollancz – 2008 (Originally published 1991)

Most of the books that I read end up getting reviewed on this blog, but recently I read two books by a Frenchman named Michel Houellebecq that don’t really fit in with the crap that I review here. Houellebecq is a respected author, but he has been critical of Islam and accused of misogyny in the past. Submission, the first of his books that I read, is about a sex-hotel in Southeast Asia being bombed by Islamic terrorists. The other one, The Elementary Particles, is about a scientist and his pervert brother. I enjoyed both books, and while they certainly contain some inflammatory passages, they are novels. Houellebecq has also written an article in defense of Donald’s Trump’s presidency, and I get the impression that he’s not really concerned with coming across as woke and progressive. I don’t agree with his outlook, but it was interesting to read something that was written by a person who clearly doesn’t give a shit.

While one of these novels has a slight touch of science fiction, Houellebecq’s thing is nihilistic, pessimistic realism. The general negativity of his books made it easy for me to swallow their nastier passages. Unhappy people have shitty outlooks. When Houellebecq’s narrators say stupidly racist things or perform acts of misogyny, it’s at least clear to the reader that these narrators are supposed to be fuck-ups.

So how does this dodgy Frenchman relate to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft? Well, while these authors’ fictional outputs are very, very different, both contain strains of nihilism, pessimism and misanthropy. There are no ancient tentacled atrocities in Houellebecq’s writing, but it didn’t surprise me to discover that the Frenchman was a fan of Lovecraft. In 1991, Houellebecq wrote a book called Against Life, Against Nature about Lovecraft’s writing.

It’s a fairly interesting read if you like both Lovecraft and Houellebecq, but I doubt it will be of much interest to everyone else. It’s basically just Michel talking about how Lovecraft’s work is groundbreaking. It contains an introduction by Stephen King.

The most contentious element of Lovecraft’s writing is his attitude towards race. While Houellebecq acknowledges Lovecraft’s blatant prejudices, he isn’t nearly as bothered by them as many modern readers seem to be. In fact, he actually seems to think that Lovecraft’s close-mindedness makes his fiction more effective. I get what he’s saying. Just because a person is shitty, that doesn’t mean that their art is shitty. Horror fiction isn’t supposed to be comfortable and pleasant for everyone, and if it’s racial prejudice that stokes the flames of fear, that doesn’t make that fear any less fearful.

Of course, it’s easy for Houellebecq and I to accept such statements. The prejudice in Lovecraft’s tales isn’t directed at us. I understand that my white privilege makes it easier for me to enjoy some of Lovecraft’s writing,and I would understand why people might deliberately avoid his writings on principle; however, I would be very surprised to meet a horror fan who has read Lovecraft and failed to find entertainment in his work.

For convenience sake, I’m just going to conclude with the links to all of the posts in this series for anyone who’s interested. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) This series is complete, but I assure you, there’s plenty more posts on Lovecraftian fiction and occultism to come.

 

 

 

The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 4

the book of old ones - scorpio.jpgThe Book of Old Ones – Scorpio
Finbarr – 2002

Truly, there are terrible primal arcana of earth which had better be left unknown and unevoked; dread secrets which have nothing to do with man, and which man may learn only in exchange for peace and sanity; cryptic truths which make the knower evermore an alien among his kind, and cause him to walk alone on earth. Likewise are there dread survivals of things older and more potent than man; things that have blasphemously straggled down through the aeons to ages never meant for them; monstrous entities that have lain sleeping endlessly in incredible crypts and remote caverns, outside the laws of reason and causation, and ready to be waked by such blasphemers as shall know their dark forbidden signs and furtive passwords. – from The Diary of Alonzo Typer

When I read a book on Lovecraftian magic, I want to learn about the aforementioned dark forbidden signs and furtive passwords. Unfortunately, this is never what these books contain. The one I’m reviewing today, Scorpio’s The Book of Old Ones, might well be the silliest of all the Lovecraftian grimoires I’ve read.

Imagine what a grimoire would read like if its author had absolutely zero understanding of magic. It’d probably contain powerful spells that are quick and easy to perform and unfailingly effective regardless of whether the person performing them believes in them or not – ‘say this magic word under your breath, and the girl beside you on the train will become your sex slave’ kinda crap. Take 20 pages of that garbage, add a few Lovecraft references and some stories about pathetic losers trying these rituals and then becoming rich, sexy and succesful, and you’ve got Scorpio’s Book of Old Ones.

Much like The Necronomian Workbook, this book shows little understanding of the total apathy of Lovecraftian entities towards human beings. The Old Ones are bigger and older than us. Their children made us for the sake of their amusement. Cthulhu is not concerned with the affairs of mere mortals. He’s plotting revenge on the elder things that imprisoned him. I doubt he’s interested in watching over you as you go on sea voyage, and I really struggle to imagine him helping you find a girlfriend.

cthulhu love spell.jpg
Seriously?

This book is stupid. The author understands neither magic nor Lovecraft’s mythos, but he has written a book combining them. This Scorpio guy seems like a real moron. Then again, this was published by Finbarr, so I’m not quite surprised.

I have made fun of the authors published by Finbarr Publications quite a few times at this stage, and I had initially planned this week’s post on two grimoires written by another of their authors. After doing a little bit of research though, I discovered that this guy actually has a learning disability and has suffered tremendously with his mental health. I’m not being facetious. I decided against reviewing his books, as he uses his real name, and I don’t want to cause any suffering for a person with serious mental problems. I mention it here only to highlight the remarkably low standard of stuff that this publisher puts out. I didn’t find out much about this Scorpio guy, but he’s clearly an imbecile too.

 

lovecraft horror in the museum.jpgH.P. Lovecraft – The Horror in the Museum
Wordsworth
This is the second entry in Wordsworth’s Lovecraft series, and it is comprised of works that Lovecraft worked on with other authors, only one of which I had read before. Most of the stories in the other 3 Wordsworth entries are included in the Penguin editions which I read and reviewed years ago, and after a year of rereading tales I had previously encountered, it was really cool to dive into a fresh batch of unread terror. The quality here is pretty high, and I enjoyed most of the stories in here more the fantasy stuff in Volume 3 and the odds and ends in Volume 4. Picking favourite stories from this collection is quite difficult. The tales in here are really good, and many of them flesh out the Cthulhu mythos – there’s references to Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu every few pages.

This volume contains the following stories:
The Green Meadow, Poetry and the Gods, The Crawling Chaos, The Horror at Martin’s Beach, Imprisoned with the Pharaohs, Two Black Bottles, The Thing in the Moonlight, The Last Test, The Curse of Yig, The Elecrtic Executioner, The Mound, Medusa’s Coil, The Trap, The Man of Stone, The Horror in the Museum, Winged Death, Out of the Aeons, The Horror in the Burying Ground, Till A’ the Seas, The Disinternment, The Diary of Alonzo Typer, Within the Walls of Eryx and The Night Ocean
(Imprisoned with the Pharaohs appears in the Penguin collections as Under the Pyramids.)

Some of these tales are fairly racist. The word ‘nigger’ is thrown around quite a bit. One of the stories, Medusa’s Coil, is particularly nasty. It’s about a very evil woman. I was quite confused when I finished reading it. In this edition, the last line reads; “It would be too hideous if they knew that the one-time heiress of Riverside… was faintly, subtly, yet to the eyes of genius unmistakenly the scion of Zimbabwe’s most primal grovellers.” I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this, so I looked up a summary, and it seems as though the editor at Wordsworth actually cut the final line of the story. The original text ends: “No wonder she owned a link with that old witch-woman—for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a negress.” The final revelation of tale is that the anatagonist is a bit black. This is not made very clear in the Wordsworth edition. In 1944, August Derleth anthologised this story and altered the final line to say “though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a loathsome, bestial thing, and her forebears had come from Africa.” At least Derleth’s version kept the meaning. The redacted Wordsworth edition makes the ending confusing rather than ugly. This is obviously a horribly racist ending to a horribly racist tale, but I’m pretty disgusted that Wordsworth thought it acceptable to censor it. I absolutely hate when publishers do that. If you choose to publish a dead racist’s work, don’t pretend he wasn’t a racist.

So why do I devote so much of my time to reading and reviewing books by and about this horribly bigoted individual? Well, it has a lot do with passages of writing like this:

These scribbled words can never tell of the hideous loneliness (something I did not even wish assuaged, so deeply was it embedded in my heart) which had insinuated itself within me, mumbling of terrible and unknown things stealthily circling nearer. It was not a madness: rather it was a too clear and naked perception of the darkness beyond this frail existence, lit by a momentary sun no more secure than ourselves: a realization of futility that few can experience and ever again touch the life about them: a knowledge that turn as I might, battle as I might with all the remaining power of my spirit, I could neither win an inch of ground from the inimical universe, nor hold for even a moment the life entrusted to me. Fearing death as I did life, burdened with a nameless dread yet unwilling to leave the scenes evoking it, I awaited whatever consummating horror was shifting itself in the immense region beyond the walls of consciousness.

Come on. That is brilliant. This is from The Night Ocean, the last story in the collection. Of all the stories in here, this one is the least explicit in its horrors, but the sense of gloom and despair that pervades the narrative is perfectly effective. Lovecraft may have been a horrible racist, but damn, his work does a damn fine job of expressing the futility of life. Interestingly enough, the author of The Night Ocean (Lovecraft was mainly an editor for this one) was gay. He was also an anthropologist, and was actually one of William Burroughs’ professors at Mexico City University.

There’s another curious little tale in here called Till A’ the Seas that I really liked. It’s about the last human on an Earth that has overheated. It’s set in the distant future, but by now it could believably be set 60-70 years from today. You should definitely read the full story (link above), but if you’re too lazy, just read this:

And now at last the Earth was dead. The final, pitiful survivor had perished. All the teeming billions; the slow aeons; the empires and civilizations of mankind were summed up in this poor twisted form—and how titanically meaningless it all had been! Now indeed had come an end and climax to all the efforts of humanity—how monstrous and incredible a climax in the eyes of those poor complacent fools of the prosperous days! Not ever again would the planet know the thunderous tramping of human millions—or even the crawling of lizards and the buzz of insects, for they, too, had gone. Now was come the reign of sapless branches and endless fields of tough grasses. Earth, like its cold, imperturbable moon, was given over to silence and blackness forever.

God damn, that’s beautiful.

Originally, the second collection of Lovecraft’s work put out by Wordsworth was titled The Loved Dead, but this story was removed from this collection after the people at Wordsworth decided that Lovecraft’s influence on that tale was only minor. Also, Through the Gates of the Silver Key is curiously absent from this collection despite being a collaboration between Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price. Through the Gates… is the only story to appear in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work that is missing from the Wordsworth collections. I’m planning a fifth and final post in this series on the few tales by Lovecraft that are missing from this series, so keep an eye out for that in the near future.

Edit: For convenience sake, I’m including the links to all of the posts in this series for anyone who’s interested. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

Dark Gods – Anthony Roberts and Geoff Gilbertson

dark gods - anthony roberts and Geoff Gilbertson.jpgDark Gods – Anthony Roberts and Geoff Gilbertson
Rider/Hutchinson – 1980

Malevolent forces from another dimension have long been plotting against humanity. Throughout history these forces have manifested as demons, angels, spirits, fairies, vampires, dragons, aliens and Men in Black. They have convinced some humans to create secret societies that unwittingly aim to bring about the downfall of humanity. Lovecraft’s tales are not mere fiction. Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu are very real, and they’re patiently waiting for misguided humans to call them forth so that they can lead us into an era of blasphemous anarchy and interdimensional terror.

I mean… if you don’t want to read this book after that description, you’re on the wrong blog.

There’s so much to unpack here. This utterly insane book takes the work of H.P. Lovecraft, Bulwer Lytton, Erich Von DänikenFrancis King, Pauwels and Bergier, Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley, Trevor Ravenscroft, and John Keel and mixes it with Biblical Lore, black magic, cryptozoology, secret society conspiracy theories and UFO abduction stories. This is essential reading.

h.p.lovecraft - tom evesonjpg.jpgI’ve seen this image of Lovecraft before. It’s by Tom Eveson.

When I read Colin Wilson’s The Occult, I complained about the author’s unquestioning acceptance of ridiculous ideas. This approach made a little more sense to me after I read Morning of the Magicians by Pauwels and Bergier and understood their concept of fantastic realism, but I still thought of Wilson as a fairly credulous yet knowledgeable individual. Wilson actually wrote the foreword for this book, and it’s rather telling that he seems uncomfortable accepting this book’s findings. While he praises the authors of Dark Gods’ inquisitive vigor, he can not endorse their blind acceptance of their own conjecture. What is too much for Wilson will be far too much for almost everybody else.

Truly, this is a ridiculous book. There is no consideration given to the reliability of any of the authors’ sources; they even accept testimony from individuals they acknowledge as being liars.  They make no distinction between myths, fiction and eye-witness witness reports. Lovecraft’s short stories, extracts from The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus and Bulwer Lyton’s novel The Coming Race are presented alongside historical documents as proof of the conspiracy.

I don’t mind authors being ridiculous if the material they’re presenting is entertaining, but unfortunately, not all of the stuff in here is hugely interesting. Much of the second half of the book is taken up with descriptions of different secret societies such as the Golden Dawn, the Illuminati and even the Bilderburg Group. I recently wrote about my current disdain for conspiracy theories, and I found this section of the book to be grueling. The general message of the last 100 pages or so can be summed up by saying that any secret society that claims to offer illumination is actually run by Satanic forces that aim to enslave the society’s members and ultimately destroy humanity. I will give the authors some credit for briefly suggesting Reptilian government leaders 10 years before David Icke went mad, but this part of the book was painfully dull.

dark gods crowley blavatksy weishauptMadame Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, Adam Weishaupt, Aleister Crowley, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Dietrich Eckart – Satanic Illuminatists (Picture by Tom Eveson)

Overall, the writing is quite bad. The authors seem to dance around the points they’re trying to make rather than just stating them clearly. This is particularly unfortunate as the points they are making are hardly common-sense ideas.

Perhaps the most confusing, convoluted part of this book is the bit explaining the motives of the entities who seem to abduct people in UFOs. ‘The phrase ‘seem to’ is very deliberate in that sentence. The authors of Dark Gods don’t believe that aliens are coming to Earth and abducting humans; they believe that interdimensional beings are coming to Earth and pretending to be aliens that are coming to Earth and abducting humans. We’re talking about malevolent ultra-terrestrials, not inquisitive extra terrestrials. (The idea of ultra-terrestrials rather than extra-terrestrials can be found in Whitley Strieber‘s abduction books too, but ol’ Whitley never imagines his visitors to be so deceptive.) Why are these weird entities playing such an elaborate hoax on humanity? According to Gilbertson and Roberts, it’s basically just to confuse us.

golem dark godsThis image of a Golem later appeared on the cover of a book by David Schow.

Think about that for a second. Inter-dimensional creatures are crossing over into our dimension and then pretending to be aliens because they think that will make us feel afraid and uncertain. The pretending to be aliens part just seems a little bit redundant to me. They’re inter-dimensional creatures – that’s plenty frightening and confusing. What kind of deranged people came up with this nonsense?

There’s sparse information on the authors available online, and I had to dig around quite a bit for it to paint a cohesive picture. What I could find was fairly depressing. Both men are now dead.

Anthony Roberts had previously published some other books on Atlantis and mythology. Paul Weston, an expert on Glastonbury’s mythology, claims that the mood of Roberts’ earlier books were “considerably different” to Dark Gods. Roberts ran a publication company called Zodiac House with his wife. He died in 1990 while climbing up Glastonbury Tor to see a lunar eclipse. He died of a heart attack, but some have suggested that he was actually killed by fairies for planning to summon the ghost of Robert Kirk, a folklorist who was supposedly abducted by the fairies in 1692. Most accounts of Anthony Roberts that I have found have presented him as a rather temperamental individual. (Sources: an essay on meeting Roberts, Paul Weston’s notes, and Roberts’ obituary on page 12 of The Ley Hunter Winter 1989/1990)

glastonbury tor - dark gods.jpgThis creepy image from the book shows the spot where Anthony Roberts would later die.

Geoff Gilbertson died more recently, in 2017. Despite living longer, he seems to have been the more tragic of the pair. He died alone of untreated cancer. I believe Dark Gods is his only book. After publishing it, he supposedly became convinced that the Dark Gods were after him for doing so. He apparently suffered several psychotic breakdowns and spent time living on the streets and in a mental institution. One of his friends believed that he was on the autism spectrum. This guy genuinely seems to have suffered horribly with his mental health. People that knew him seem to have thought him a very nice guy though, a fact which is not true for Anthony Roberts. Nearly all of the information I could find on Gilbertson came from this article.

I’ve read accounts describing both men as unstable. I don’t know how they met or what their relationship was like, but it seems that their interactions with each other created an echo-chamber of Fortean paranoia. Dark Gods doesn’t read like some transparent attempt to synthesize occult ideas in order to make a quick buck. No, this book is a genuine trek into Crazy Town.

I first saw Dark Gods being mentioned on twitter. Somebody was discussing how difficult it is to find these days. Underneath that comment, somebody else had posted a video review of the book by Occult Book Review, one of my favourite youtube accounts. (He’s another Irish dad with an interest in occult books, basically a nicer, smarter, more respectful version of me.) After the first few minutes of that video, I knew I’d have to track down and read this thing as soon as possible.

Doing so wasn’t easy. This book really is quite tricky to find. You’ll be very lucky to buy a copy for less than 200 dollars, and I wasn’t able to find a digital version. With a little bit of work, I managed to get my greedy little claws on a physical copy. It’s actually a very tedious read, but if you’re determined to read it and can’t afford to spend a bunch of money, ask me nicely and I might be able to help you out.

Crawling Chaos Magic – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 3

pseudonomicon phil hine.jpgThe Pseudonomicon – Phil Hine
New Falcon Publications – 2007 (Originally published in 1994)

I’ve read quite a few books of Lovecraftian occultism at this stage, and this was the best one yet. It’s a book of chaos magic. Chaos magic, as far as I understand it, is a very open form of magic. It is to free verse as goetia is to writing sonnets. The focus here is on results rather than rules and rituals.

While other books of Lovecraftian magic attempt to mix Lovecraft’s mythos with traditional forms of occultism, the Pseudonomicon encourages experimentation. A true Cthulhu druid should follow their intuition rather than the steps of a ritual. This disregard for traditional sequence fits in with Lovecraft’s tendency to use non-Euclidean mathematics as a method of evoking a weird atmosphere in his tales.

cthulhu.jpg

From the perspective of the layman, the behaviour that this book describes and encourages will seem ridiculous, and a skeptic might fairly describe this as a book on how to pretend that a collection of fantastic stories by a dead lad are based in reality. Neither view would be incorrect, but so what?

The book acknowledges that reading it might lead one to madness, and anyone who takes its advice and smears themselves in shit while dancing around a graveyard at night might well be seen as insane. On the other hand, who am I to act as though my take on reality is any more accurate than that of the Cemetery Scat Man. The more I think about it, the more I believe that what a person perceives IS their reality. If the Pooey Ghoul believes his actions are allowing him to speak to the Great Old Ones, I can’t disagree. Reality, existence and their links to perception are too inherently unknowable for anyone to assume that their take on these concepts is any more sensible than another’s.

This book does get pretty weird. In an appendix near the end, the author describes his experience of being possessed by Tsathoggua, Clark Ashton Smith‘s giant toad god who features in Lovecraft’s Whisperer in the Darkness. Cool.

This book does a pretty good job of balancing the Mythos stuff with a practical way of incorporating it into magical workings. If i was ever going to practice magic, i think i’d go for something like this.

haunter of the dark lovecraft.jpg
The Haunter of the Dark – H.P. Lovecraft

Wordsworth – 2011

This is the second and biggest entry of the Wordsworth Lovecraft editions. It contains the following stories:
Celephaïs, Herbert West – Reanimator, Pickman’s Model, Polaris, The Cats of Ulthar, The Colour Out of Space, The Doom That Came to Sarnath, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Dreams in the Witch House, The Haunter of the Dark, The History of the Necronomicon, The Horror at Red Hook, The Other Gods, The Shadow out of Time, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shunned House, The Silver Key, The Statement of Randolph Carter, The Strange High House in the Mist, The Thing on the Doorstep, The Unnamable, the essay Supernatural Horror in Literature and Fungi from Yuggoth, a collection of weird sonnets.

The items listed in blue are not contained in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work. I’m not going to say much about this collection other than that I really enjoyed reading most of these stories again. The Thing on the Doorstep and The Dreams in the Witch House are so deadly. Also, I’m pretty sure The Shadow Over Innsmouth is tied with Whisperer in Darkness as my favourite Lovecraft story. I’m not mad about all of the Dream Cycle stuff, but parts of it (The Other Gods) are awesome.

At this stage I’ve finished rereading all of the stories that Lovecraft wrote by/for himself that were included in the Penguin editions. It has been very enjoyable, and I feel that I’m now in a much better position to understand a lot of the occult texts that are based on his works. I can now sensibly distinguish a Shoggoth, Yuggoth and Yog-Sothoth. I still have one more entry in the Wordsworth series to read, but that one is comprised of collaborations that Lovecraft worked on. I’m quite excited about that as I’ve only read one of the stories it contains before. After I review that, I’m going to do a post on all of the stories that are not collected in the Wordsworth series. Both posts will also include an obscure work of Lovecraftian occultism. Stay tuned.

Edit: For convenience sake, I’m including the links to all of the posts in this series for anyone who’s interested. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

Hacking the Necronomicon – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 2

In this series of posts, I’m reviewing books on Lovecraftian Occultism alongside the Wordsworth collections of Lovecraft’s tales. I’m finding it quite insightful to read through the bizarre works inspired by Lovecraft’s horrors while these horrors are still fresh in my mind. This post delves a little deeper into Lovecraftian Occultism, focusing on two books about the Simon Necronomicon, a book that is itself directly inspired Lovecraft’s work. I have previously reviewed the Necronomicon itself and Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon.

necronomian workbook necronomicon.jpgNecronomian Workbook: Guide to the Necronomicon – Darren Fox 
International Guild of Occult Sciences – 1996

This was written by Darren Fox, otherwise known as Brother Moloch. This is actually the same guy that published The Dark Arts of Tarantula, one of the silliest books I’ve ever read. His book on the Necronomicon isn’t much better.

He claims that Lovecraft astrally traveled to another dimension where Abdul Alhazred was real. This is where our boy H.P. discovered the Necronomicon, but he told himself it was all just a dream.

There’s at least 2 versions of the Necronomicon out there. Brother Moloch acknowledges that they might be fake, but posits that coherent forgeries can still give effective magical instruction.

necronomicon simonProbably fake, but who cares?

What follows is basically a bunch of tips on how to perform each of the different rituals and prayers in the Simon Necronomicon. Large quotations are taken from Simon’s book.

Although Moloch has warned his reader not to contact Cthulhu, he gives a ritual to do exactly that. This ritual mixes names from Lovecraft’s pantheon and quotes from Crowley’s Book of the Law into a ritual that sounds like it comes straight from a Solomonic grimoire.

Next, there’s a bunch of bullshitty grimoire styled spells with the names of a few Lovecraftian entities thrown into the mix. It’s mostly the usual stuff: to kill an enemy, to increase sexual potency, to hold back evil… but, there’s also a spell to get money that directly addresses Cthulhu. Yes, performing this spell involves asking the great priest Cthulhu for cash. In At The Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft explains that human beings were created solely for the amusement of a race that were in conflict with Cthulhu’s spawn. We are less than shit to Cthulhu, yet Brother Moloch suggests that we should ask him to help us make some money.

Moloch also describes his visit to Leng. He made a nice a cup of tea, had a warm bath, did some yoga exercises and then imagined himself walking down a stairs to the center of the world. He opened a door down there and walked into Leng, easy as that.

After this, there’s some poems that the author pinched from a 1903 book on the Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, and some essays that he stole off the internet. One of these essays is called “The Aeon of Cthulhu Rising”. A quick google search reveals that its author was none other that Frater Tenebrous, the author of Cults of Cthulhu, the pamphlet I reviewed in my last Lovecraft post.

The other essay, “LIBER GRIMOIRIS: The Parallels of East and West: Termas, Grimoires and the Necronomicon”,  is by a guy called Frater Nigris. It basically says that the Necronomicon might be real. Searching the author’s name brings up other essays on Thelema and the like.

The book ends with a description of the author’s journey through Kenneth Grant‘s Lovecraftian Sephirot. It’s very confusing.

Overall, this book was utter rubbish. The spelling and grammar are utterly atrocious, and the author seems to have completely missed the distinctive and complete apathy of Lovecraft’s entities towards the human race.

Shite.

hidden key necronomicon.jpgThe Hidden Key of the Necronomicon – Alric Thomas
International Guild of Occult Sciences – 1996

This is a shockingly uninformative pamphlet on the Necronomicon. It was put out by the same publisher as the Necronomian Workbook. It’s only a few pages long, and most pages are taken up with diagrams from the Simon Necronomicon. Some of these images have been slightly edited. The author acts as if these edits will blow the Necronomicon open for the practitioner. Ugh. This is poorly written garbage. No effort was put into creating this piece of trash.

 

the lurking fear lovecraftThe Lurking Fear – H.P. Lovecraft
Wordsworth – 2013

This is the fourth collection of Lovecraft’s writings put out by Wordsworth Publishing. It contains the following tales:

The Lurking Fear, Azathoth, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Ex Oblivione, Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, From Beyond, Hypnos, Memory, Nyarlathotep, The Alchemist, The Beast in the Cave, The Moon-Bog, The Music of Erich Zann, The Outsider, The Picture in the House, The Quest of Iranon, The Street, The Temple, The Terrible Old Man, The Tomb, The Transition of Juan Romero, The Tree, The White Ship, What the Moon Brings, The Rats in the Walls, He, In the Vault, Cool Air, The Descendant, The Very Old Folk, The Book, The Evil Clergyman, and the short essay, Notes on Writing Weird Fiction.

The titles in green were not included in any of the Penguin collections of Lovecraft’s work, and so I hadn’t read them before. Some of them (Ex Oblivione, Azathoth, Memory) are very short, but also very cool. The essay on Weird Fiction is very interesting, and I plan to write more about it in the future.

Overall, this collection is quite a mix of stuff, both in terms of content and quality. A lot of these stories are quite short, and don’t really fit neatly in with either Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos or his Dream Cycle. (Most of those tales are collected in the first and third Wordsworth collections respectively.) What you’ll find in this book is a collection of odds and ends. It features tales that Lovecraft wrote as a boy (The Beast in the Cave), stories that were never meant to be published and originally only included in private letters to Lovecraft’s friends (The Very Old Folk), and horror classics that just don’t fit in with his other tales (The Rats in the Walls).

Some of these stories are fairly shit. I read The Tree a couple of times, and I still feel like I don’t get it. A few of the other stories (The Lurking Fear, In the Vault, Arthur Jermyn…) are fine, but don’t come close to the atmosphere or excitement of Lovecraft’s more famous tales. Some are absolutely deadly though. I had totally forgotten The Picture in the House. It is fantastic.

The Horror at Red Hook is the story that people usually point to when they want to show that Lovecraft was a horrible racist, but that’s a horror story that features racism. The Street is just a racist story and a shit one at that. If you want a clearer look at Lovecraft’s racism check out this vile little poem or his letters. In one letter he says of Adolf Hitler, “I know he’s a clown, but by God I like the boy!” I considered writing more about Lovecraft’s xenophobia, but the internet is already full of articles about it and I don’t actually care that much. If you’re triggered by some of the passages in his stories, just remind yourself that he died poor and lonely and keep reading.

I’m glad to have this book on my shelf. Even though it’s basically a leftovers collection, I really enjoyed reading it. This is the shortest book out of Wordsworth’s editions of Lovecraft’s work, and it’ll probably be a few months before I write parts 3 and 4 of this series of posts.

Edit: For convenience sake, I’m including the links to all of the posts in this series for anyone who’s interested. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

 

 

Echoes from the Darkness – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 1

While reading John L. Steadman’s H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition last year, I decided that the time had come for me to reread Lovecraft. Too many of the books I read and plan to read reference his stories, and it was getting to stage where I was mixing up my Shoggoths, Yuggoths and Yog-Sothoths.  In order to remedy this embarrassing situation,  I started going back over Lovecraft’s tales, including the stories that aren’t included in the Penguin editions of his work.  I started on this collection during the summer, reading a story here and there, between other books. I haven’t strictly limited myself to the stories in this collection, but it’s the first of the Wordsworth series that I’ve completed, so I’m reviewing it first.

whisperer in darknessThe Whisperer in Darkness – H.P. Lovecraft
Wordsworth – 2007

All of the other entries in the Wordsworth series contain stories that are not included in the Penguin editions, but this collection was all stuff I’ve read before. It contains:

Dagon
The Nameless City
The Hound
The Festival
The Call of Cthulhu
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness

These are obviously some of Lovecraft’s finest. The Whisperer in Darkness has long been my favourite of his, but I couldn’t remember what happens at the end. It’s fucking fantastic. There were gross parts in this story and in Charles Dexter Ward that I had also forgotten about. I was also very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Call of Cthulhu. I have read an awful lot of horror fiction since the last time I read this classic, and I was expecting that it might not seem as effective to me now. If anything, I enjoyed it more than ever. There’s so many passages throughout that story that I paused to reread several times on account of their exceptional awesomeness. It took another half year to get around to writing this review though, so I’ve forgotten the specifics. In fact, the only story from this collection that I’ve read within the last 4 months has been At the Mountains of Madness. It’s only about 4 years since I previously read this story, so much of it was still in my head, but it still managed to give me a few chills. There’s one part near the end where he says, “It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.” Fuck yes. Please Sleeping Abnormalities, if you’re still out there, leave those unplumbed depths and destroy us soon!

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Lovecraft was one of the only writers I had any interest in as a teenager, but I absolutely love his writing style. I adore Lovecraftian horror. I love how he took what he understood about the advances in modern science and used this not to spread hope for the future of humankind but to insist on the futility of all human life. We are nothing in even the minutest scheme of things. According to Lovecraft’s mythos, we were created by an ancient race of prawn-cucumbers to provide them with light entertainment. YES!

Although I own all of the Wordsworth editions of Lovecraft’s work, and these are the ones I’m using to order my rereading, I’m actually reading most of the stories from the Penguin editions because of the notes therein. I’m also using audiobooks and pdf versions. The Wordsworth edition are fine though; what they lack in commentary, they make up for in comprehensiveness. So important is Lovecraft to my reading habits that I need to have hard copies of all of his stories in my library.

wordsworth lovecraft

Anyone reading this blog should have read Lovecraft. His fiction has affected so many of the other books that I review here. Kenneth Grant’s The Magical Revival, Thomas Ligotti’s Conspiracy against the Human Race, Pauwel and Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians, Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, Simon’s Necronomicon, and Stephen Sennitt’s Infernal Texts are all heavily influenced by Lovecraft. His influence on horror fiction is unmeasurable. Some novels like Michael Slade’s Ghoul and Garret Boatman’s Stage Fright feature beings directly from Lovecraft’s stories, but his influence can be found in countless ways in countless other novels and tales.

Like I said, I’m rereading Lovecraft to refresh my memory so that I can delve deeper into the realm of Lovecraftian occultism. Here’s a review of an interesting little pamphlet on that topic.

cults of cthulu tenebrous.jpgCults of Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecraft and the Occult Tradition – Frater Tenebrous
Daath Publications – 1987

This short pamphlet contains the text of a lecture given in Leeds University in 1985. It’s credited to a lad named Frater Tenebrous who the internet is telling me is another name for Peter Smith. Peter Smith was a contributor to Stephen Sennitt’s Infernal Texts, and Sennitt actually dedicated the second half of that book to him and referred to him as “foremost scholar on the Necronomicon”. Only 123 copies of this were initially published, and they go for quite a lot of money these days. Fortunately, you can download pdf copies for free. This text contains a short biography of Lovecraft, descriptions of the major players in his pantheon and a very brief discussion of how Lovecraft’s fiction has shaped the rituals of a handful of occult groups (one of whom was led by Michael Bertiaux, yet another contributor to Sennitt’s book). I can’t say Cults of Cthulhu contained much information that I wasn’t already aware of, but it was only ever supposed to be “an introduction to the occult aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings for potential initiates of the E.O.D.”. It made for pleasant reading on my commute to work one morning last week.

I’m gradually getting through the other stories and some even weirder texts of Lovecraftian occultism. Expect to see a few more posts on these over the next year.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Edit: For convenience sake, I’m including the links to all of the posts in this series for anyone who’s interested. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

The Infernal Texts: Nox and Liber Koth – Stephen Sennitt

the infernal texts nox and liber kothThe Infernal Texts: Nox and Liber Koth – Stephen Sennitt
New Falcon Publications – 2004 (Originally published 1997/1998)

This book is comprised of a collection of essays about different esoteric orders (Nox) and a grimoire for summoning Lovecraftian entities (Liber Koth). The essays, as far as I can tell, were taken from Stephen Sennit’s occult zine, Nox. These essays are split into three sections: one on the Order of the Nine Angles, one on Nikolas Schrek’s Werewolf Order, and one on mixed bag of weirdos that Sennitt Groups together and refers to as The Nameless Sodality.

I find the Order of The Nine Angles quite interesting. Some people know of them as the occult order that actually advocates human culling, and these people probably assume that it’s a hoax or an urban legend or something. I am not now, nor even have been, part of the O9A, but I was once in contact a person involved with the order who committed some truly reprehensible acts. He’s now in prison. (While some of these weirdos are actually quite dangerous, it is worth emphasizing that despite their delusions, they’re far more high-school shooter dangerous than Sauron dangerous.) Obviously the independent actions of a few weirdos shouldn’t necessarily tarnish the reputation of a whole group, but this group’s philosophy is rather sketchy and acts like a magnet for pieces of shit looking to justify their shittiness.

nox infernal texts

It’s hard to know how seriously the stuff on the Werewolf Order should be taken. I had read about this order before in relation to Radio Werewolf, the order’s musical faction. I enjoyed Radio Werewolf’s hilarious appearances on the Hot Seat with Wally George (part one, part two) so much that I wanted to like their music. (Schrek’s later, more serious, appearances on Bob Larson‘s talk show were less entertaining.) Unfortunately, Radio Werewolf’s songs are absolutely awful. Seriously atrocious shit. I have tried listening to their albums just for the sake of the lyrics, but the accompanying music is so lame that I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a full song.

This Order’s philosophy, as put forth in Nox, the same philosophy which Schrek founded Radio Werewolf to propagate, is cringeworthy. It’s just Church of Satanism edginess pushed half a step further. Members of the order are expected to be warriors, not worriers; Pagans, not pious; predators, not prey; and Beserkers, not Bankers. Lame. From Schrek’s lyrics and willingness to be interviewed by Wally George, it is apparent that he had a sense of humor, and if this the stuff in Nox was written as tongue-in-cheek promotional material to draw attention to Radio Werewolf’s awful music, fair enough, but from the interviews with Schrek that I’ve read, I get the sense that there is an underlying sincerity to his nonsense. Part of the act is clearly satire, but the ratio of satire and satanic sincerity is quite unclear. Read with that in mind, this stuff makes the Werewolf Order come across as a shower of plonkers, Schrek in particular coming across as an absolute arse. ( I chose the word “arse” instead of “ass” deliberately here. I’m not comparing him to a stubborn, uneducated donkey. I’m comparing him to two fleshy, hairy bumcheeks with a tinted brown anus nestled ‘tween.)

The essays from the “Nameless Sodality” are forgettable garbage, crap about Zombie Meat and other rubbish. Don’t waste your time.

cthulu nox koth

Liber Koth is a grimoire of Lovecraftian Chaos Magic. I’m not a magician, so I can’t speak to its efficacy. Just reading it might be moderately enjoyable if you were to imagine yourself as a character in one of Lovecraft’s stories who has stumbled upon some dark tome of eldritch secrets, but I didn’t have the pleasure of doing so because I read it while sitting on a crowded, smelly bus home from work. It was a pretty shit experience.

Most of this book was pretty crap, but at least it was short.

H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition – John L. Steadman

h.p. lovecraft black magickal tradition - john lH.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition – John L. Steadman
Weiser – 2015

H.P. Lovecraft was a horror writer who did not believe in the supernatural. Despite his clear declarations of the contrary, some people believe that Lovecraft’s horrors were real. This book examines both the beliefs of those people and the beliefs of other occultists that have some similarities to the ideas in Lovecraft’s fiction.

Let’s start with the first group, the nutjobs that believed that Lovecraft was psychic. Both Simon and Kenneth Grant believed that Lovecraft had channeled his horrors from another dimension. I’ve talked plenty of shit about those lads before, so let’s just say that Grant was mental and full of crap, and “Simon” is a con-artist. Steadman, the author of this book, spends paragraphs defending the legitimacy of the Simon Necronomicon, but in a note at the end of the book he concedes that Simon might just be Peter Levenda. Also, Steadman, while discussing Simon’s work, refers to Michael Baigent as “a reputable scholar”. When I was reviewing Dead Names, the book in which Simon referenced Baigent, I called him out for referencing a bullshit artist. Dead Names might best be described as a work of pseudo-non-fiction though, so a reference to a bullshit artist doesn’t really make it any less enjoyable. Steadman’s book, however, is presented as an academic work. How could any person hoping to be taken seriously refer to the author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail as “a reputable scholar”? Come on.

lovecraftian occultistsThe authors of these occult texts were clearly influenced by Lovecraft. It’s a pity they’re all garbage.

There are also chapters in here on Chaos Magicians and LaVey’s Church of Satan. Like Simon and Grant, these lads deliberately brought Lovecraftian elements into their belief systems, and although I wasn’t hugely interested in the precise ways in which they did so (I’ve already read lots of the original literature being summarized here.), I can’t complain about their inclusion in this book.  This stuff on the Lovecraftian occultists was fine. The chapters on Wicca and voodoo were not.

Wicca and voodoo have nothing to do with Lovecraft, but Steadman spends chapters trying to show how these belief systems are similar to some of Lovecraft’s ideas. There is no reason to believe, nor has anyone ever suggested, that Lovecraft was responsible for the foundation of Wicca or Voodoo, and I thought that the purpose of these chapters was to show how Lovecraft’s ideas resembled parts of these foreign belief systems in an attempt to suggest that he was psychically in tune with their practitioners and/or spirits. However, in the conclusion to the book, Steadman claims, “I have shown that Lovecraft has had an indirect, though clearly definable, influence on current Vodou and Wiccan practices.” That’s not what I got out of what he has written at all. In saying that, I have to admit that I found it extremely difficult to pay attention to these boring, lame chapters.

Steadman goes into quite a lot of detail on the beliefs and practices of wiccans, voodoo practitioners, members of the Typhonian O.T.O., and Satanists. I’m so sick of reading this kind of rubbish that I found myself skimming large passages of it. I suppose it’s my fault for choosing to read another book on the occult.

lovecraft collectionsI’ve been meaning to go back over Lovecraft’s own work for a while. It has been about 10 years since I last read some of these stories. I’m going to use the Wordsworth editions next.

H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition is not a good book; it’s actually quite unpleasant to read. It’s the literary equivalent of Nickelback writing an album about a Morbid Angel song. The academic presentation combined with the author’s willful naivety is infuriating. There was a part in here where Steadman tries to make it seem that it’s common knowledge that the Knights Templar were Satanists. If he’s trying to get away with rubbish like that, who knows what other falsehoods he has slipped in here. I’d be a bit meaner, but this book is only a few years old and the author has an internet presence, so he might see this review. John L. Steadman, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but your book is handicapped.