Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
You know there are times where you crave the monsters and deities of The Cthulhu Mythos but you just don‘t want the blackness and utter horror that is inherent in the genre, what do you do? Well now you can find mythos stories with less or none of that despair that abounds in cosmic horror.
The overriding theme of Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos is that you are helpless in a universe full of super-powerful entities that normally don’t care about you, but have no problem destroying you as an afterthought, if you get in their way. It can get kind of…dark. Cthulhu Lite a more humorous and upbeat subgenre of cosmic horror. A lot of HPL purists, often bemoan CL, as heresy, that it’s the antitheses of the writings of the Old Man from Providence. And though it might be opposite of his writings, Lovecraft did have a sense of humor and I don’t think that it takes from the original. And sometimes you need a trip to the lighter side.
So here are my reconditions for some Cthulhu lite gems.
Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper, Ted is kind of like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, until danger rears its ugly head, and he goes into this weird fugue state and turns into Chuck Norris, the problem is the rest of the time he is this uber loser. Lara is his lesbian BFF/FBI agent who he saved in college from a vampire, she is racked with the guilt he ruined his life saving hers. She can never give him the things he wants the most, love and a real life. Ted tops out as the world’s best barista, but can never have a normal life after what he had to do to stop the vampires. Years later they uncover an attempt to release Cthulhu in a suburban mall.
One of the most appealing parts of this book is that it never takes itself too seriously. With Cultists who have old cell phones, to secret cadre in the FBI hidden in its anti-terrorist unit, fighting the mythos, to the survors guilt relationship of the two main protagonists, you get that the writer is winking at the genre and that he is sharing an inside joke with you. A good choice for those of you that take your tentacle horrors with a soy latte and a smile
Charles Stross’ The Laundry series rocks. This is the story of a British Secret agency codenamed the Laundry which fights supernatural horrors, some of which are very mythos-esque. The narrator uses the name Bob Howard, after Conan creator and Lovecraft circle writer Robert E. Howard. Bob finds out the hard way that maybe a government bureaucracy isn’t the best thing to save the world with. It is defiantly Cthulhu light, but Stross never makes light of the horrors or the evil entities in his story directly. The humor comes from how his protagonist uses humor to cope with what he deals with on a daily basses, that and the juxtaposition of ancient magical terrors in an IPhone dominated world.
A collection of novels and short stories The Library deals with HM’s Government trying to hold of Case Nightmare Green, where the world is over run by multidimensional entities. It has also branched on to more traditional vampire stories. In addition to the stories, there is now an option for Basic Role Playing license system RPG, so you can have your own adventures.
Brian Lumley is a diffident star in the Mythos constellation. His more pure mythos creations include, the outer gods Summanas and Yibb-Tstl, but his most lasting effect maybe creating the giant tentacled worm creatures the Chthonians. He also gave us the first description of what the Hounds of Tindalos might have looked like in addition developed the mythology of the great old one, Ithaqua, so he has a lot of cred in ‘pure’ Lovecraft stories, but his best known Cuthlhu tales are his Titus Crowe stories which are Cthulhu Light. He gets a lot of flak for these stories from the purists, and they have a legitimate complaint, the idea that one man could hold back that mind caving chaos of the Old Ones, is pretty anti-HPL. Lumley even throws in Kthanid Cthulhu’s good brother, which evens the sides in a way Lovecraft never envisioned. But taken on their own Lumley’s Titus Crowe stories are an epic struggle between good versus and evil and are defiantly worth checking out.
I met Sean Hoade a few years back at Cthulhu-Con, and have caught up with him at various Comic-cons and the HPL film festival since then. He has several pulp style books in print, including Deadtown Abbey (mythos and that British TV show I have never seen) and the Cthulhu Attacks! Trilogy (Just what it says on the tin). One of the things you notice about Sean when you met him is his sense of humor, so naturally his stories can be on the lighter side. He also has what he calls his Penny Dreadful line (I think I paid four bucks, you know inflation) One of them Absinthe in Arkham, is obviously inspired by HPL, even though it doesn’t actually include the mythos’ most famous town. It tells two tales one set during the impressionist and the focus on decadents’ movement. It not very light, in ways its some of the darkest mythos stories I have ever read, but I am including it hear because he manages to capture a spirit of fun, despite the stories dark tone. Lovecraft is a great writer but he isn’t very fun. These stories keep it dark, but still have this mischievous glee to them, the closest HPL came to this is his story The Hound. I am currently reading Hoade’s Space explosions (AKA War Thug) a fun romp through space opera bug hunts.
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Dark Dungeons started as an infamous Christian tract by Jack Chick. It was a cautionary tale of the deadly consequences of playing RPGs. JR Ralls bought the movie rights for the tract and made it into a short movie. He also added a lesbian subtext and Cthulhu. He justified the add because on Chick’s own website there is a post (Not written by him but Chick approved) that states you shouldn’t play RPG’s because the Necronomicon and Cthulhu are real. Obviously a satire the movie treats it source material with a sort of respect that a child might give a parent when their comments seem to go off the rail. Though anyone who got beat up in high school for being a D&D nerd will get a kick out of the portrayal of RPGers as the cool kids on campus.
The Cthulhu Mythos owes a lot to its popularity, to the Call of Cthulhu Role Playing game. CoC seems like a strange setting for a roleplaying game, you got no chance of killing an elder god and if your character was not driven insane you pretty much won, but somehow it became second in popularly only to D&D. Old Man Henderson was created by a gamer who goes by the name Waffle House Millionaire, he was created him in retaliation of an evil GM killing off three of his characters in humiliating ways, including having a random horse fall out of an airplane and landing on the character. OMH was supposed to be so off the wall that the killer GM wouldn’t know what to do with him.
OMH starts out his character introduction by destroying a cultist church (he thought was Mormon’s who stole his lawn gnome) they summoned a shaggoth (the worst of CoC non-god monsters) which he lucked out by killing with a shotgun and burning the church down. In fact the dice seem to love the old man, and he survives to cause his GM conceptions till his eventually demise. The original Henderson character sheet was 320 pages long, parts of it in German, so when he need some obscure skill or back story, he could point to where it said he had it. But nowhere in the tome is it explained weather Henderson is his first or last name.
You can hear a reading of Henderson’s exploits here. (Language warning)
I kind of lost interest in South Park about three years in because it seemed to give up being funny for being shocking. But in season 14 they had a trio of Cthulhu episodes. Not only do we get squid-head, we get super heroes and BP, trying to cover up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This episode is spot on from the Watchmen satire to the Lovecrftian horrors. Well almost, I do think that Cthulhu submitting to Cartman because he gives him a cute look and kneads his back like the kitty did to the bulldog in the old Warner Brothers cartoons, seems a bit off, but other than that it was a descent solid show.
Another Cartoon that was always ahead of its game was The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. The idea behind the show is that two kids won a game of chance with Death over the soul of their pet hamster, now he is forced to be their best friend. In this episode Billy and his friend Irwin, get a job at Cthulhu’s call center, crank calling the people on Endsvile and turning them in to tentacle freaks until self-proclaimed fun police Mandy give the squid head a piece of her mind.
The grandfather of all Cthulhu cartoons however is The real Ghosts Busters Collect Call of Cathulhu (the name was changed to make it easier to pronounce to children). This episode has the animated Spector smashing quartet square off against the squid head which Egon describes as making “Goser look like little Marry Sunshine.” In addition to getting a look as a shaggoth, the episode treats us to a gender bended version of August Derleth, named Alice Derleth, as a professor who helps the boys fight the Cuthlhu, Ray uses old copies of Weird tales to research about Cathulhu, and his spawn using a magical chant that appeared on the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon what is there not to like. This episode is now available on Netflix.