This startled me: The Big Idea: Kenneth Hite at John Scalzi’s blog. I’m not sure why I happened to look in at Scalzi’s blog … oh, yes I know why: it’s because I’m setting up blog posts for the end of April, when I expect to be busy and probably away from the computer for a week or so. Therefore I was looking around for stuff to write blog posts about, and here we are.
Location is everything — or, if not everything, then still quite a lot, especially when considering the work of foundational fantasist H.P. Lovecraft. For Tour de Lovecraft: The Destinations, master games writer Kenneth Hite gets out the map and takes us traveling, from Arkham to Innsmouth, in pursuit of terror and tourism.
I know Ken because (a) he’s a friend of my brother’s, and (b) he does this podcast called Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff which I sometimes listen to. I haven’t listened to any podcasts for a while, which is probably why I had no idea this book was even in the works, much less out. Oh, I see it’s not quite out: it comes out in a few weeks.
The podcast is good, by the way, all about weird stuff. Some emphasis on gaming — I mean role-playing gaming — but that does segue into relevance to me because Ken and Robin think of gaming as storytelling. Largely, though, I just like hearing about the weird stuff. Also, through some strange magic, the advertisements on their podcast never get painful to listen to. That’s a unique feature as far as I know, as all other advertisements on all other podcasts develop a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality over time. I guess I should download a couple of newer episodes onto my phone, but right now I’m listening to The Goblin Emperor in audiobook form, having realized I could pick it up for $8 because I have the ebook, and therefore I doubt I’ll pause that to listen to any podcast for a while.
Anyway! I’m not a bit interested in Lovecraft. Horror isn’t generally my thing, especially if any important characters die; a descent into madness is ABSOLUTELY not my thing under almost any circumstances; and Lovecraftian horror is therefore right out. But it was still very neat to stumble across this post.
In the linked post, Ken says:
I found it very odd that almost nobody (with the very occasional exception from the great Lovecraftians Peter Cannon and Steven Mariconda) had ever approached Lovecraft’s settings from a literary direction. We have plenty of speculation on the question “Where is Arkham?” for example, but almost nothing on the question “What is Arkham?” What did Lovecraft mean by a city simultaneously full of “witch-haunted” gambrel roofs and a “lovely vista of … white Georgian steeples”?
Once more I turned to Northrop Frye, and his discussion of the symbolic double-city in Western literature, backstopped by Lovecraftian scholar Robert Waugh, who wrote the definitive monograph on the topic. My Big Idea was to turn Frye toward Lovecraft, and to expand Waugh from the city to specific cities – and to the Swamp, and the Moon, and Arabia, and the Apocalypse.
I always intended the series to begin, like Dante, in The Woods and end, also like Dante, in Providence. I got through about a dozen of my “Lost in Lovecraft” pieces (Air Supply as cosmic horror: discuss) before, Lovecraftian creature that it was, Weird Tales sublimed and died once more. But I still wanted to finish the journey, and so did my beloved publishers Atomic Overmind, and perhaps most importantly, so did our Kickstarter backers. Vampires and pandemics notwithstanding, we did. Like Randolph Carter, I spent years seeking the “sunset city,” and also like Randolph Carter, all it took at the end was waking up and looking around.
Click through, if you wish, and read the whole thing. And I do recommend the podcast.