Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Trail of Cthulhu Link Roundup

Okay, this was an interesting one to do. I write my posts without looking at anyone else’s stuff, so it’s always interesting to compare as soon as I hit “publish”. I was surprised not to find too many reviews on this one this time. I mean, you’d think there’d be an overabundance of them, but no… this particular volume is relatively obscure by internet standards. Anyway, I managed to (again) echo the core points of both Grognardia and When I’m writing I just don’t know for sure that that’s going to happen. It feels like I’m going out on a limb, though!

So Ron Edwards asked the other day when I was going to actually call the crap in Appendix N crap. This is the time! The irony is that Derleth is far more influential on gaming than Lovecraft was. But I have to say… looking at all the “Lovecraftian” type games at the store… my interest in them is only a fraction of what they were before. I think I used to have an “I’m not cool enough to play that stuff” impression when it came to those games, but that’s gone now. In its place is some kind of nerdy contempt. I guess that makes me a snob or a purist or something, but… there’s just something “off” about Cthulhi being the rock star of horror. But it makes sense on a certain level, though.. I mean… Derleth’s work itself falls under the category of “Things Man Was Not Meant to Know”, which is of course a thoroughly “Lovecraftian” premise! [The scare quotes on that last are intended to be gestured physically.]

Here’s my post:

RETROSPECTIVE: The Trail of Cthulhu by August Derlath

Grognardia — “In short, it is Derleth, not Lovecraft himself, who is the true father of what we now call the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’, for Grandpa Theobald had no such conception in his mind as he wrote his stories, each of which was a unique creation that might or might not have some connection to what he’d written previously. That is, Lovecraft simply wrote stories, whereas Derleth (and those influenced by him) wrote stories about Lovecraft stories.” — “How is his writing? Fine. He writes…well, he writes Lovecraft fanfiction, basically. Aptly, but that is what it is—and I mean no disrespect to fanfiction authors or Mister Derleth. His Mythos stuff was just one facet of his writing; I thought about reading some of his historical fiction or detective genre stuff, but I didn’t think it was really in keeping with the spirit of the thing, guessing that Gygax was almost certainly referring to his horror writing. Derleth’s horror is a little overly enthusiastic with the peppering of ‘name brand’ Mythos stuff; if there is a creepy library there is certainly going to be a Necronomicon and Unaussprechlichen Kulten, and if there is a cult they are probably going to talk about Cthulhu and the Deep Ones, if there is a place it’ll be anchored between the landmarks of Miskatonic University and Arkham. There will probably also be mention of ‘le Comte d’Erlette,’ who is a Mythos figure that Lovecraft created as an homage to his buddy August.”


7 responses to “Trail of Cthulhu Link Roundup

  1. Cambias July 7, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Needs a link to your Retrospective blog post at Castalia.

  2. jlv61560 July 7, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I love me some Cthulhu, and don’t feel somehow “lower-class” or mentally deficient for so doing. On the other hand, Auggie’s work generally leaves me cold — I prefer HPL himself, or one or two of the better post-HPL Mythos authors to either Derleth or Carter. Either that, or go back to the roots and read Chambers, Poe and Lord Dunsany…. Bottom line: I agree with your evaluation of Derleth, but not your overall evaluation of Mythos fiction. I think it depends on what you want your horror experience to be; if what you want is vampires and ghostly ghosts, then the Mythos will disappoint. If what you want is something horrifically beyond the more “mundane” horrors of human legend, then the Mythos will definitely float your boat.

    • jeffro July 7, 2015 at 10:45 am

      There is something about Lovecraft’s work that is just flat out on fire. A crystal clear vision that just really kicks. I guess I feel about the same way towards Derleth as I do eighties era Tolkien ripoffs.

      But yes: different strokes indeed.

    • Cirsova July 7, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      The stuff that I like that I consider Lovecraftian tends to fall along the weird science “we have made ourselves gods and what hath god wrought?” lines. I think the missing ingredient is HG Wells. Some of Stanislaw Lem’s stuff wherein mad scientists have cloned themselves and been murdered by their clones or created artificial brains to model solipsism is pretty Lovecraftian. The one “Lovecraftian” story I’ve read by Leiber, The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich, was right on the money too. It also happily correlates my time-travelling BigFoot; BigFoot is blurry because, much like Daniel Kesserich, he is partially dislodged in space-time.

  3. BobtheRegisterredFool July 7, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I first got into the shared universe Lovecraft concocted through fanfiction crossovers with Evangelion. I’m pretty sure Evangelion itself wouldn’t be to my taste, but the combination worked so well for me that I went to see Pacific Rim. This may have been the only movie I’ve seen in theaters in half a dozen years.

    For many years I figured that straight Lovecraft wouldn’t be to my taste. The famous fragility of human psyche theme can be very uncomfortable for me. After one of his bits in a Call of Cthulhu book, I gave up on reading his stuff. For many years I stuck with such other Lovecraftian writers as seemed inside my comfort zone.

    Last fall, on the strength of your recommendation, John Wright’s, and maybe some others, I read a couple of Lovecraft’s stories. They are great.

    I think much of Drake, and IIRC he has some nice things to say about Derleth.

    • jeffro July 8, 2015 at 6:57 am

      I think Lovecraft was better for me in a concentrated amounts. The collection I had included some that had “help” from coauthors. I actually really liked those. “The Mound” was probably my favorite.

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