January is Cosmic Horror and Cthulhu Mythos Month

The bright lights of the high holidays have turned to ash. Those of us who live in climates with winter brace for long, cold nights and dreary days. We’re all a little down. That makes January the perfect month to embrace the inherent bleakness of the season by celebrating Cosmic Horror and the Cthulhu Mythos!

Okay, hear me out. I’m someone who loves reveling in my fandoms. When I was deeply into reading H.P. Lovecraft, I trekked to Providence to visit the city that fueled his fiction. I read Michael Shea’s The Color Out of Time at a local reservoir because the story took place at a reservoir. When I play Cthulhu Mythos-themed games, I dress in 1920s finery and serve period drinks. Doing these kinds of things helps immerse me, and my friends, in whatever fandom we happen to be celebrating. Making January Cosmic Horror and Cthulhu Mythos month is just an extrapolation of that idea. Celebrating works whose fundamental goal is to make us realize our own insignificance is best done in the month where we already feel most insignificant.

If you’re still reading, I assume you’re interested in hearing how to celebrate Cosmic Horror and Cthulhu Mythos month.

Readings

Cosmic Horror and the Cthulhu Mythos were birthed in print, so that’s where our festivities must begin. This is a perfect, solitary endeavor to keep your mind occupied on bitter January nights. Review the classics beginning with The Call of Cthulhu, the tale from which the Cthulhu Mythos takes its name. Buy works from your favorite modern masters. Might I recommend John Langan, Pete Rawlik, and Lucy A. Snyder for a start? There’s also Ramsey Campbell, Laird Barron, Caitlin R. Kiernan, the Arkham Horror Files Novels, and many, many more. In the interest of time, I’m not listing them all, but you should absolutely investigate the amazing writers in this subgenre. You don’t have to stick to single author works either, there are plenty of stellar anthologies, such as New Cthulhu, Children of Lovecraft, and The Book of Cthulhu. There is even a great Cthulhu Mythos anthology wiki tracking all these. Just don’t read aloud from the Necronomicon. You’ve been warned.

 

Movie Viewings

This is a great way for you to gather friends to join together for the dreadful festivities of January. Simply pick your favorite Cosmic Horror and Cthulhu Mythos films and watch them with your chosen acolytes in the order of your choosing. The Lovecraft eZine has a great list of movies to choose from here. If you need a little more structure, here’s my personal schedule for your use.

  • January 9th to 13th
    • Stuart Gordon Week! – Viewings of From Beyond, Dagon, and Dreams in the Witch House.
  • January 16th to 20th
    • Monsters and Madness Week! – Viewings of Alien, Necronomicon, The Mist, and The Lighthouse.
  • January 23rd to 27th
    • John Carpenter Week! – Viewings of The Thing, Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness, and Cigarette Burns.

 

Podcasts

Just search Cosmic Horror or the Cthulhu Mythos on your audio platform of choice and listen to the horrors you find. I highly recommend lending your ears to The Lovecraft eZine, a fine program discussing Cosmic Horror, Cthulhu, and modern horror books of all kinds. You should also seek out the many fantastic productions of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre (DART). DART adapts Lovecraft’s works into radio dramas. Listening is a good activity to fit into car rides, mindless times at work, or whenever else you aren’t consumed by Cosmic Horror and the Cthulhu Mythos.

 

Themed Snacks

Calamari is an obvious snack for most Cthulhu Mythos themed celebrations. I think sushi is an equally solid food that fits the month’s themes. You could also focus on 1920s era cocktails, spirits, or desserts. Pictured below is a delicious “human sacrifice” my wife made out of a blondie, fruit, and gummy worms. If you’re struggling with inspiration, check out this article for ideas. No matter what you decide on, don’t forget to keep some “cheese crackers” handy, like the protagonist from The Shadow over Innsmouth.

 

Games

There is a wealth of options to choose from here. My Cthulhu Mythos game of choice is Mansions of Madness, but I love the Call of Cthulhu Role Playing Game, Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, etc. While I prefer games that put me around a table with friends, you don’t have to be bound to the physical realm. There are also a wide variety of Cthulhu Mythos themed or inspired video games to choose from.

 

Those are my ideas for celebrating Cosmic Horror and Cthulhu Mythos month, but I’d love to read any ideas you have in the comments below or on social media. You can find me most easily on Twitter, @JeremiahCook1. And don’t forget, Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl!

 

Under Twin Suns Edited by James Chambers

I received Under Twin Suns: Alternative Histories of the Yellow Sign as a Christmas present and read it in only a few days. Unfortunately, January and February were busy months, and I couldn’t finish my review of this anthology until now. In the time since I read Under Twin Suns, it made the final ballot for the 2021 Bram Stoker Awards. Congratulations are in order for the editor, James Chambers, publisher, Hippocampus Press, and all the authors. The Bram Stoker nomination is a well-deserved accolade for this fantastic collection.

I’m an avid fan of Robert W. Chamber’s The King in Yellow. I’ve written a few tales loosely connected to the King in Yellow, and I even took a trip to visit the author’s grave in Broadalbin, New York. Suffice it to say, when I first heard about Under Twin Suns, I was excited by the prospect of an anthology consisting of King in Yellow-inspired stories. My excitement only doubled when I found out some of my favorite authors, such as John Langan, had tales included.

Per the advice of James Chamber’s introduction, I read this collection from front to back. It’s a testament to the quality of the work in Under Twin Suns that I was able to do that with no issue. I often find that anthologies have ebbs and flows, like a novel, and some stories prove to be more or less engaging based on your mindset while you’re reading. Occasionally, you may even skip a tale to revisit. There wasn’t a single story in Under Twin Suns that didn’t hold my interest. I read each one and moved right to the next until I was finished.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite tales in this collection below, but I wanted to note again that each work included in Under Twin Suns is great. These stories are just the ones that resonated most with me on my first reading. “Robert Chambers Reads The King in Yellow” by Lisa Morton is the first tale, and I loved the meta nature of it. “The King in Yella” by Kaaron Warren felt like a modern take on Karl Edward Wagner’s “The River of Night’s Dreaming.” “The Yellow House” by Greg Chapman ramped up to a stunningly insane climax. “Freedom for All” by JG Faherty felt topical as it dealt with a conspiracy theory driven cult. “Y2K” by Todd Keisling gets props for bringing David Bowie into the King in Yellow mythos. “Veiled Intentions” by Linda D. Addison was an excellent poetic inclusion. Lastly, “The Exchange” by Tim Waggoner was a perfectly Twilight Zone-esque story with a wonderful ending.

If you haven’t read Under Twin Suns yet, I highly recommend you pick up a copy. That said, be sure you’ve read at least “The Yellow Sign” and “The Repairer of Reputations” by Robert W. Chambers before you dive into this anthology. I’m sure you can still enjoy this collection if you’re not familiar with those tales, but you’ll get a lot more out of each author’s work with some prior knowledge of The King in Yellow. If you need a taste of Chamber’s prose before picking up his work, you can check out this video, where I read an excerpt from his story “The Yellow Sign” while visiting the author’s final resting place.

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Itchy, Tasty: An Unofficial History of Resident Evil by Alex Aniel

Don’t let anyone convince you Twitter is all bad. Thanks to @MiskatonicL, a Twitter friend who shares a mutual love of horror, I discovered Itchy, Tasty: An Unofficial History of Resident Evil. I’ve been a Resident Evil fanatic since 2002 (the first movie led me to the games). The mix of horror, monsters, and action hooked me, and I quickly purchased and worked my way through every available entry in the series. To date, I’ve played twenty-three of the twenty-eight released games. The ones I missed were either not released in the US, non-canonical, or repackages of games I’d already played in another form. Suffice it to say, I know my Resident Evil games, but I was still surprised by how much I learned in Itchy, Tasty.

For those who don’t know, the phrase “itchy, tasty” comes from the diary of a person turning into a zombie in the original Resident Evil. Fans of the series fondly recall the first time they read that haunting tome. I was amused to learn that in Japanese, the phrase is “kayui uma,” but due to the words being homonyms in that language, the phrase can mean “itchy, tasty,” or an odd assortment of amusing other things such as “delicious porridge,” “itchy porridge,” or “itchy horse,” to name a few. I was also amused to learn that the voice and live actors in the first Resident Evil were, essentially, a hodgepodge of English speakers with no voice acting experience pulled in off the streets of Japan.

While I knew the name Shinji Mikami, the director of the first and fourth Resident Evil games, prior to reading this book, I was delighted to discover the names of Kenichi Iwao and Noboru Sugimura. Iwao was the writer for the first Resident Evil, and Noboru Sugimura wrote most of my favorite Resident Evil games after the first one. As a writer, I loved learning more about the people who created some of my favorite characters and scenarios. Sugimura in particular, was responsible for the story of the original Resident Evil 2, which I consider an unsurpassed masterpiece.

In addition to learning new bits of information about the development of the Resident Evil games, I experienced continual waves of nostalgia as I was reminded of things I’d forgotten. For instance, Capcom had decided to release Resident Evil games exclusively for Nintendo’s GameCube for a short time. As a kid, I didn’t have a GameCube, but my brothers had one at my dad’s. As a result, I spent most of my weekends and summers at my dad’s playing Resident Evil Remake, Resident Evil Zero, and Resident Evil 4 (which were all exclusive to GameCube for a time). I was also reminded of playing Resident Evil: Outbreak and Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2. These were the first online games I ever played, and I had to use my uncle’s PlayStation 2, which had an online adapter, to connect with other players during a short visit to his apartment in Philadelphia over the summer of 2005.

I don’t typically review nonfiction, but I thought, since the subject is horror related, I’d make an exception for Itchy, Tasty. If, like me, you love Resident Evil, I’d say this book is a must read. I’d even highly recommend it if you’re just a fan of gaming, as you’ll learn a ton about Capcom’s history. This book provided me a much-needed break from fiction, while also supplying me with inspiration as I learned about how the various creators at Capcom worked around countless challenges to release my favorite games. In Itchy, Tasty, Alex Aniel wisely chooses to focus on the period from 1996 to 2006, what old school Resident Evil fans tend of think of as the golden age of the franchise. That said, I’d certainly be interested in a follow-up book covering 2006 to the present.

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