Tag Archives: Lovecraft

Who you gonna call? On Halloween!

I almost got into talking about this the other day during our horror movies discussion on Comparative Opinions, but I decided since it’s a good read I would link it up here on Halloween. This is an absolutely phenomenal review of Ghostbusters, and I honestly think it helps explain some of why the movie is so good, why the sequel as well as the new one don’t compare, and… yeah. Enjoy.

The Ghostbusters are an Antidote to Lovecraft’s Dismal Worldview

Welcome to Night Vale: (Audio) Book Review

Thanks to the power of the library (beware the Librarians), mindless manual labor, and the commanding voice of Cecil Baldwin, I was able to recently finish the Welcome to Night Vale audio book. As a librarian, the chapters about the library were a particular joy…

The book is based on the podcast of the same name, which started in 2012 and has a new half-hour show twice a month, and has had several longer live shows that they have toured with – available for purchase. I’m still not caught up to the present with the show, but I hit an episode called “Epilogue” which placed the novel in the timeline of the world, so I decided it was time to seek that out. Upon hearing that the audio book was narrated by the legendary Cecil (the voice of Night Vale), I chose that option from the library.

The podcast is structured as a community radio show, with an atmospheric band playing music in the back, and with recurring features like the community radio and traffic – along with longer overarching plots (that tend to run in 10 or more episode arcs) as well as monster-of-the-week reporting. And there tends to be at least one monster a week: the world of Night Vale is based on the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. It also relies heavily on absurdism, presenting as true all conspiracy theories, post-modernism, and running jokes/ways of presenting things. It subverts tropes. It dismantles philosophies and world views. It is sometimes exceptionally genre aware, and sometimes completely genre blind.

That’s the world you’re thrust into with the book, and the feel is all totally there. However, there’s a huge difference that makes the novel a fantastic addition to the world of Night Vale: it isn’t a radio broadcast. That means, instead of reporting on things happening at a location, we’re following characters who actually go to the places (like, the library). Instead of reporting on the goings-on of individuals, or perhaps interviewing them, the various characters populate the story throughout (like John Peters – you know, the farmer).

We follow two main characters, both female, through the story. They’re not new characters, but they were never main characters previously. Having two female leads – who at points find themselves utterly exasperated by the mysteries and problems they find themselves in the middle of because of men – is one of the many storytelling inversions that you come to expect from Welcome to Night Vale.

Overall, it leads to a story that is entirely different from anything the podcast could have presented, while doing so in a manner that felt completely in line with what the podcast does. For a fan, I would say absolutely check this out.

As a standalone piece of media, however, it’s a harder call. Because it is an entirely new plot, with fully-fleshed characters for whom you don’t need to know any backstory, in that sense it seems like you could dive right in. However, because as I’ve mentioned the show in part relies on a constant stream of recurring elements, characters, and phrases that function like a running joke (if not quite a joke), there is definitely a lot to be gained by already knowing the show.

I also can’t imagine reading this. Like, in my imagination, I’m having trouble picturing what parts of this book look like on the page. Despite the fact that the book, at quite a few points, asks readers to imagine what something looks like… Anyway, I feel like someone reading the book, in particular, who has not listened to the podcast, might get lost a bit along the way. A show listener could probably brave this changing format and make it through to the other side.

A couple of examples. For one, several inanimate objects (some sentient, some not) have quite a few lines in the book. That could get confusing. For another, there are often intermissions that on audiobook at least, play like short clips out of one of the radio broadcasts, in the style of the podcast. On the audiobook, these sections were fantastic, with the band kicking in, and the narrator switching from narrating to acting. There might even be a few cameos. In the book, if I were to imagine it, these sections would read like a play, perhaps?

All in all, I think I recommend this as an audiobook over a read book, and for fans over newcomers. If you do start with the novel, and as the audiobook, I could definitely see it as a jumping on point to listen to the whole podcast as well! Or perhaps, do that whole journey the other way, and reach the book like I did, the long way around.

How about you – what do you think of the show? The book? Let me know in the comments below!


Comparative Opinions: Monsters – Episode 18

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! In honor of Halloween, hosts Holly and David are joined by Julia to talk about monsters – origins, media representations, fads, favorites, you name it! What are your favorite monsters? Did we mention them?

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!



Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

Hellboy vs Cthulhu: A Storytelling Moment (and Stuff)

People play different games and they play for different reasons. Sometimes simply because they’re competitively-natured, sometimes it’s just to kill some time, sometimes to be entertained, and sometimes to be social. (These aren’t mutually exclusive reasons.)

Recently, my wife and I were over for dinner with friends, and we decided to play a game of Munchkin Cthulhu.

Our friends’ names are Chooch and Viv; I’m telling you this to make this anecdote flow. Allegedly.

At least one of those names is definitely a nickname. That would be Viv. Chooch might be a nickname. He looks like a Viking, so let’s just roll with this, shall we?

Everyone here knows how to play the basic set of Munchkin, right? If not, for a full introduction please check out Wil Wheaton’s YouTube episode of TableTop, where Wil plays the game with the lovely Felicia Day, the lovely Sandeep Parikh, and the legendary Steve Jackson – the creator of Munchkin.


If you don’t have 28 minutes to spare, I’ll give a super high level breakdown. It’s as if you were playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons (or the equivalent) but without a map or character sheet. Everyone starts at level 1. Each turn someone kicks down a door in a dungeon (not literally, a “door” card gets turned over and then the player might fight a monster.) Winning fights against monsters results in gaining combat levels and treasures for the player.

First person to level 10 wins. Often, everyone else in the game tries to prevent this from happening.

It’s GREAT FUN! (In this context, munchkins are not residents of Oz nor the delightful donut-holes that can be purchased at a specific donut shop, but refer to people who play non-competitive games in an aggressively competitive manner.)

We were playing the Cthulhu version of the game (Munchkin comes in many many different genre versions) so we weren’t elves or dwarves, fighters or wizards.


This was Lovecraftian. (I hope I don’t have to explain Lovecraft or his literary creation, Cthulhu.) This version of the game includes 1920’s tommy guns, mystical tomes, and tentacles.

The particular gaming session with our friends was a typical Munchkin run: some easy fights, some empty rooms, some running away from Things Men Were Not Supposed To Know, some team-ups when it was mutually beneficial, and many occasions of trying to make the current player’s combats go badly.

Along the way, Viv, my wife Lisa, and I were turned into cultists (a character class.)


We didn’t realize what effect this would have at the end. We cultists were just happy to have a +4 combat bonus.

Soon Chooch, Viv, and Lisa were all at level 9, so the game was close to being over since one of them was bound to win a fight sooner or later and hit level 10. (I was level 6 or something, so it was very unlikely that I was going to win.)

It was Chooch’s turn, and when “kicking open the door” to start his turn, he opted to play a monster from his hand to fight. This wasn’t some easy creature. This monster was Cthulhu.


The issue was this: if Chooch fought Cthulhu and won, he wins the game. All of us cultists would lose. (It didn’t matter that we were cultists, we’d lose if we were professors or monster bashers or investigators.)

But if Chooch could not defeat Cthulhu, and was caught by the big bad… he’d be killed and his new character would be a cultist.

That would make everyone a cultist. Munchkin Cthulhu has a rule, if all players end up being cultists, all the players lose and the Great Old Ones (or Elder Gods, one of those) win.

Things suddenly got weird. And familiar.

I’d recently re-watched the first Hellboy movie, starring Ron Perlman as the eponymous demon with a heart of gold and a fist of stone.


Hello Hellboy

The movie’s been out forever, so if you’ve not seen it, I apologize for spoiling the ending where the good guys win.

The climax of Hellboy centers around the mad monk Rasputin planning on summoning something equivalent to Lovecraft’s Elder Gods (or Great Old Ones, I don’t want to split hairs.) He’s assisted by some crazed Nazis (as if there are any other kind) and has some leverage over Hellboy which serves to ensure compliance and assistance from the big red devil.

HBAndRaspWe’ll just say everyone is at level 9. Just like Chooch, Viv, and Lisa. (My level 6 movie analogue would be one of the dead critters, probably. I’m not even in this fight.)

Hellboy eventually turns the tables, the summoners are all killed, but there’s a complication. Hellboy has inadvertently caused the materialization of a huge, tentacled, rapidly-growing creature. That can’t be good.

Just like Chooch choosing to play Cthulhu in a bid to win the game or have everyone lose.

monster and hellboy

To deal with this growing threat, Hellboy allowed the nightmare to swallow him along with the belt of grenades he was carrying.

BOOM! Game over. Good guys win.

Speaking of games…

In our game, Chooch numerically could not defeat Cthulhu. Until he played this…


BOOM! Game over (literally.) Good guys win? Well sure, since Chooch wasn’t a cultist, we’ll say he was one of the good guys. (He’s actually a great guy.)

As it turned out, none of us cultists had any cards suitable to help Cthulhu (and had we helped, we would have been risking a fate worse than losing. I think? Maybe?)

And this is why I like to play games. For all of the reasons that were outlined in the beginning, but also I like being told a story.

In ye olde dayes, my dad would eye me skeptically as I was graphing out a dungeon to be a setting for the weekend Dungeons & Dragons game with my buddies.

My dad did like games and he liked playing games with me. Provided that game was Chess.

His view of my awkward teenage chums and me rolling a lot of dice was this: random chance wasn’t interesting or worthwhile. There was nothing skillful about it.

(He also liked playing cards, but even though poker and its ilk are games of chance, they’re also games of skill. But that’s not my point.)

I didn’t have a good grasp at the time on why I enjoyed playing D & D so much and so I didn’t have a good counter-argument for my pop, but now in my wizened and enlightened adulthood, I realize that I wasn’t gaming as an exercise of skill or competition or just to waste time.

I was in it for the moments of storytelling.

Sometimes those moments came from the dungeon master and sometimes from the players. (And sometimes from the dice. I won’t be lying. We teenage DMs and players were clownish noobs when it came to narrative import.)

And even though the particular story being told to me by the events of Munchkin was a story I already I knew (i.e. the climactic plot of Hellboy) it doesn’t change the fact that my imagination was being engaged. I feel that I could have appreciated the story of Chooch, with his backpack of dynamite, fighting an eldritch horror with the fate of the world on the line, regardless of if I’d seen Hellboy or not.


This probably isn’t world-shattering news to anyone. I assume anyone reading this has had similar experiences where the turn of a card or the roll of a die has the emotional echo of a good book’s plot twist or a movie’s big reveal.

I’m sure we all have similar stories to tell.

This post was written by Patrick Sponaugle, who couldn’t possibly be wrong all the time. Hey, do you like Game of Thrones? Pat is my go-to Game of Thrones blogger. Hey, did you like this post? Also a great reason to check out his blog! Oh, and leave your stories to tell in the comments below!

Locke and Key, Finished

Locke and Key Volume 6

In this last week David and I finally completed the last volume in the graphic novel series Locke and Key. Early I did a sort of initial reaction post, which you can read. Now that I have finished I wanted to do a much more spoiler heavy look at Locke and Key. If you have not read the series then please do not continue because you want to go in to this spoiler free. One of the great things is just discovering the story and creations that are presented. The other part is that up until the end of the story I was not entirely sure how this was going to end up. In the end the final volume surprised me multiple times and brought the story to the next level. So again, if you have not read the comic do not read beyond this point if you do not want to be spoiled. (Major Spoilers for Locke and Key after the jump.) Continue reading