Lovecraft and Pedantry

I took a visit to Waterstones today.

Huddersfield has two.  One in the town centre and one in the Kingsgate Shopping centre – the former being a far better store.

Whilst in the top Waterstones I noticed that the layout had been altered since my last visit.

This led to an enjoyable re-exploration of the store; more so as friends of mine work there.

I was recently given a book token as a gift and so was looking for anything interesting that might jump out.

I have a fairly predictable routine in book stores.

Science Fiction Fantasy, then horror, then graphic novels and roleplaying games and finally philosophy, spirituality and occult.

A lot of stores don’t have the latter but the better of Huddersfield’s Waterstones does.

Whilst attempting to move from the science fiction/fantasy section to horror, I was blocked by two young gentlemen.

They looked like students and roleplayers to boot.  (It takes one to know one).

Rather than bully them out of the way (as I did later in the day when looking for a Rider/Waite Tarot deck in the Kingsgate Waterstones) I stood and waited for them to finish browsing.

On the shelf were two impressive, black bound hardcover compilations of stories by H. P. Lovecraft.

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft: The Best Weird Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (Gollancz S.F.)

Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre

I have both, I’m quite a fan of Lovecraft as are many that people I know.  These two compilations are really well put together and part of a set covering the works of a number of other similar authors.

It was with horror that I listened in on the conversation the two were having.
Oh look, Lovecraft
Exclaims the first.
Hurr Hurr … I LOVE Lovecraft
His friend replies.  The first reaches to take the black bound compilation entitled “Necronomicon”.
What’s that… the necmuh  erm necromah… erm neh…
Without turning the first chap replies,
His friend leans over and nods,
Oh yeah… that’s his best one isn’t it, the Necronomicon?
The first chap looks at his friend in shock.  As do I.  I mean, the Necronomicon is a reference to the fictional book that has played a part in so many mythos stories and spin offs… it’s hardly Lovecraft’s “best one”.
The first one replies
I quite like ‘The Raven’
It is at this point I decide it is best I leave before my inner pedant, Saint Patrony himself, lets loose on the pair.  I’m not quick enough though, I still manage to hear his friend’s final response.
Yeah, that’s his best work… the Raven.
I’m still seething now…

Kraken Rum – Lovecraft in a Bottle

Kraken - BottleLast year, a good friend of mine alerted me to the existence of Kraken Black Spiced Rum.

We were both taken with the look and feel of the product’s website and more importantly, the imagery and design of the bottle itself.

A quick search about wholesalers and distributors in the UK proved that the only way we could acquire a bottle would be to order from the States itself.

The cost of both the Kraken gift set and postage was initially prohibitive and so we gave up on the idea.

Alcohol is expensive enough in the UK without importing it in; we decided to wait for a UK release.

Kraken - ReverseThis month I discovered that a number of UK outlets are now selling Kraken.  I purchased a bottle from (I’ve only ever used them for Absinthe or Asbach Uralt previously).

The rum itself looks wonderfully dark, like ink, but I can’t bring myself to open it for a taste… yet.

As I hint at above, the company’s website is a treat.  Amongst its distinct antique style it makes good use of technology to showcase a little of the history and mythology surrounding the Kraken.

The artwork and typeface is superb, the same can be said for my imported bottle.

A search, through google’s shopping option, shows a number of other sources in the UK but I find to be reliable and easy enough to use – if a little steep on its shipping costs.

The KRAKEN Black Spiced Rum 70cl Bottle is also available from Amazon, albeit shipped by

Kraken - LabelKraken - Kraken

The Atrocity Archives

The Atrocity ArchivesLast night, on the recommendation of a friend, I read The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross.

What a good recommendation that was. Essentially a collection of consecutive novellas, The Atrocity Archives is an amalgam of spy thriller and supernatural horror, all wrapped up with an early cyberpunk feel. This is the first of three books following tech-occultist Bob Howard as he begins field work for “The Laundry”, a UK intelligence organisation focusing on the suppression of certain occult threats to our world.

The world Stross portrays is very similar to our own, only with an emphasis on a link between science and magick; mathematics and physics being directly accountable for occult events. We find entities used in The Laundry’s phone system, zombies controlled as security guards and a variety of interesting field items. The Laundry is kept busy by the natural re-discoveries of dangerous occult memes by everyday techies/occultists like you or I. Whilst the people of the past may summon an entity by means of animal sacrifice, the same effect can be achieved by means of a accurately positioned laser grid or with the correct application of capacitance. It’s interesting to see how Stross’s ideas could fit so easily into contemporary occult practice.

Stross manages to merge the shadowy worlds of espionage and Lovecraftian horror in a way that impresses me more than other similar works. I think my experience on IT help-desks makes me more sympathetic to the world that Bob Howard protects; that and Bob’s lack of any superhuman ability. The Laundry is far more convoluted and bureaucratic than Brian Lumley‘s E-Branch (don’t get me wrong, I love Lumley’s work – E-Branch especially) and Stross’s tale is far more relevant to today than Robert R. McCammon‘s The Wolf’s Hour or The Night Boat (again, both excellent works).

The horror in The Atrocity Archives is not limited to themes of eldritch magicks and foul tentacled elder gods. We also find horror in the descriptions of our own world’s history; Nazi atrocities, modern day acts of terrorism and the hopelessness of a bureaucratic workplace. There is humour too, the kind of dry, quotable humour that many tech geeks would appreciate.

The third book, The Fuller Memorandum is due out some time this year but the second, The Jennifer Morgue, is available and on its way to me soon.

Yog Sothoth

Yog Sothoth - The Key and The GateA good friend of mine posed a question this morning:

Q. Do you think Yogg-Sothoth was an Old One or an Elder God?

My initial response was to cite my belief that the two terms are, not necessarily, mutually exclusive.

Yog SothothI’ve always considered Yog Sothoth to be something more than the likes of Cthulhu and Azazthoth – in the same way that Nyarlathotep is something less. After all, Yog Sothoth is the Lurker on the Threshold – this eldritch entity that inhabits the Bits Between the Bits.

Cthulhu is nothing more than an aeons dead dreamer who struggles to get up in a morning and Azathoth is merely an, albeit cosmic, interstellar ball of blind rage.

A brief google shows that most followers of the Cthulhu Mythos seem to view Yog Sothoth as an Elder God or at least an “Outer” God… Nyarlathotep and Azathoth are also deemed to be Outer Gods; Azathoth is even placed alongside Yog Sothoth. So I accept that my initial reaction was incorrect.

One good thing to come out of this brief study is that my assumptions surrounding Tsathoggua (probably my favourite Cthulhu Cycle Deity) are correct. To my mind, Tsathoggua is the definitive Old One. Good old St. Toad.