New book: H.P. Lovecraft (Pop Icons)

Due at Christmas in the French “Pop Icons” books series: H.P. Lovecraft. It’s co-written with Alexandre Nikolavitch, the author of the graphic novel H.P. Lovecraft – He Who Wrote in the Darkness (2018), which inspires confidence. Translating the blurb, one finds it’s also half a comic-book biography…

Alongside Nikolavitch, twenty of the most notable comic-book creators illustrate the most significant episodes in Lovecraft’s life and some of his most famous works.

Sounds good, at a chunky 258 pages with accomplished French BD comics artists and writers at the helm. The book ships in French on 1st December 2023.

On the cards

Hurrah! A very kind benefactor, who was upgrading to a blisteringly fast 40x series graphics-card, gifted me his old GeForce RTX 3060 12Gb graphics-card. This worth-$250 hunk o’ joy has been slotted in to my PC and suitably wrangled. Thus I’m now a proper local/desktop AI image generator. Since I also managed to install InvokeAI 3 on Windows 7 (it runs Stable Diffusion models), with a little .DLL swop-out trick, and everything AI is working fine and fast with the new card.

Nicely timed, released today… the free Alienscape – Strange Landscapes LoRA for SD 1.5. Generates the sort of landscapes you might have seen on an old SF paperback cover, from your descriptive text prompt.

The other thing I’m enjoying is the Stable Diffusion community ethos, once you break free from the paywalled online service-providers. Everything is free, once you have the card to run it locally. UI’s, models, add-ons, tutorials, workflows. All free. Nice.

The Scientist in Popular Culture

New to me, a 2015 McFarland study I’d missed, The Literary Haunted House: Lovecraft, Matheson, King and the Horror in Between. Finding this led me to note that the same author also put together a Haunted House Short Stories anthology in 2021, and (more in my line) edited a new essay collection book The Scientist in Popular Culture: Playing God and Working Wonders (2022). Amazon has no TOCs for the latter, but Google Books has a basic list of chapters:

Frankenstein Goes West;
“Pay Attention, 007”;
A Space Odyssey;
The Scientist as Sixties Icon;
Why Is Everything So Heavy in the Future?;
Through Heroism and Science, Woman Inherits the Earth;
A Scientific Method to Muppet Madness;
All of It Madness;
A Feeling for the Clone;
Its My Time Now, The Time of Science;
I Suggest You Don’t Worry about Those Things and Just Enjoy Yourself.

Lovecraft in Madrid

A multi-day Spanish event of interest this weekend, Especial XV Aniversario SGM – Sui Generis Madrid. Includes among other events…

* Meeting with Spanish writers who love Lovecraft. Participating: Amparo Montejano, Jose Rodríguez Montejano, Nieves Mories and Javier Olmedo.

* “I Am Providence”. Meeting with S.T. Joshi, biographer of H.P. Lovecraft. Accompanied by his editor in Spain, Carlos M. Pla, and by the writer Alberto Avila Salazar. (In English with interpreter).

Christmas with Lovecraft

New at the HPLHS Store, the gift book Christmas with H.P. Lovecraft. Sadly not a themed selection from the letters. Rather it… “primarily comprises Lovecraft’s published and unpublished poems which deal with Christmas, winter, the solstice, and related themes.” Plus “The Festival”. A 48-page limited edition of 500 copies.

Here, however, is one of the ‘Christmas’ letters…

[December 1934] “My aunt & I had an exceptionally pleasant Christmas, & I hope the same is true of yourself. We had a tree for the first time in over a quarter of a century. All our old-time tree ornaments were long ago dispersed; but I laid in a new & inexpensive stock at Woolworth’s & Kresge’s [1] &mdash’ tinsel star & rope, globular baubles, set of lights, stand, & abundant shreds of tinsel to hang from the branches like the Spanish moss of the far south. The result was really delightful & impressive, & I’ve spent considerable time admiring & gloating. We had numerous though inexpensive presents- my best one from my aunt being a picture of the oldest house in Providence (the Stephen Hopkins house — 1742 only a block & a half from our door), drawn by a local artist & simply framed. We began the day most auspiciously by listening to the great British Empire broadcast — which I hope you did not miss. Etheric conversations between London & the uttermost reaches of our [Empire’s] Dominions — Australia, Tasmania, Canada, India, South Africa, & so on — with other area sages from Scotland, Ireland, Liverpool, & a country place in the Cotswolds … & finally an address by the King. I don’t know when I’ve ever had a greater imaginative stimulus. [2] After it was over I turned face down the dollar bill that was tied on top of one of my gifts …… I couldn’t bear to see the features of one who was instrumental in the cruel tearing of these colonies from the Empire in whose fabrick they rightly belong!

Later in the day came a turkey feast at the boarding-house across the back garden (home of the late [cat] Sam Perkins), a general unveiling of gifts, & a session of conversation & contemplation by candlelight & tree-light. At the boarding-house Mrs. Spotty (little Sam Perkins’s mother) received a catnip mouse as a Christmas gift, & seemed very well pleased with that traditional feline delicacy. I couldn’t locate any of the members of the Kappa Alpha Tau [his local shed-top cat ‘club’] — the weather being inauspicious for sessions atop fence & clubhouse — but trust they all partook of ample Yuletide cheer. Well — unless something goes wrong, the New York convention season will open Monday morning — the last day of 1934. Barlow hit the metropolis Christmas Day, & is staying at a rather luxurious hotel in 102nd St. which Long found for him. His tastes in lodging are so sumptuous & sybaritical that he couldn’t get about the country as cheaply as I do!”

[1] “Kresge’s”:

“S.S. KRESGE’s 10c STORE”, Westminster Street, Providence. Note what might be an “American Cheese” sign.

Typical Kresge’s interior, with tentacular balloons, 1948. Later became KMart.

[2] The Empire broadcast:

Live, the hour was an intricately coordinated triumph of radio engineering and clear evidence of the new medium’s global reach. The British Empire then still ruled a quarter of the world’s people, thus Lovecraft’s fond cry of “God Save the King!” was no vapid archaism.

College Hill, looking toward the Capitol

This week in ‘Picture Postals from Lovecraft’, a glimpse of Lovecraft’s beloved College Hill looking toward the Capitol building (aka State House). Said to be Benefit Street, possibly early 1960s.

The picture appeared in a magazine and the seller of the pages cropped the preview picture. Thus the top part is missing. But we can still see the down-slope view that Lovecraft would have known. I’ve here colourised and contrast-adjusted it.

The article reveals that… “in the 1950s urban renewal threatened the whole area [of College Hill] with demolition and redevelopment”.

Monstrously big in Japan

New in the Japanese Journal of Analog Role-Playing Game Studies, an academic article offering “An Exploration of the Appeal of the Cosmic Horror Series of Gamebooks for Call of Cthulhu TRPG | RPG”. This considers, partly via online surveys, some of the reasons for the sustained popularity of the Call of Cthulhu RPGs in Japan.

The Call of Cthulhu series is said to be bigger than D&D in Japan, and synonymous with ‘tabletop RPG’. The success is apparently aided by the relatively simple rules, adaptability to different time-frames and sub-genres, and a strong player base among female fans (meaning male fans can ‘play with my waifu’).

More AI freebies

More looking through CivitAI, which is the main repository for free generative AI image models and plugins. There’s a lot there, and it can take a lot of digging to find stuff.

There’s some obvious Cthulhu / Giger / pulp etc stuff. But here are some other interesting non-obvious items, which seem to have Lovecraftian and RPG potential, and which you would never find via search.

These two might be combined in interesting ways… SAMO bones carving (intricate ivory carving) and Occult Geometry.

You would be able to use negative prompting to steer the Bone Carving away from an Anime / Chinese look, and more toward Giger / Lovecraft.

And for RPGs and illustrations involving museums, explorers etc…

KnollingCase (puts X inside an old fashioned specimen case for museums).

Antixdisplay (puts X inside a modern museum display case).

And for Victorian / Edwardian explorers, Muttonchops / Sideburns (Realistic) (for men) and DrawingSD1.5 (19th century pen and wash pictures) for the explorer’s old books of field-notes.

How far AI image generation has come, in just a year. What will another year bring?

The Cthulthu Palimpsest

The venerable British writer and ‘early SF’ scholar Brian Stableford has a new book due early in the new year. The Cthulthu Palimpsest is set for release on 5th January 2024, and its 300+ pages complete a series…

Written to complete and conclude a series of metaphysical fantasies featuring Auguste Dupin, a character invented by Edgar Poe, which involve him with characters and entities invented by H.P. Lovecraft, as well as actual historical figures and occasional devices appropriated from other works of weird fiction.

Also noted, looking back through his recent books, his Weird Fiction in France: A Showcase Anthology of its Origins and Development (December 2020).