Seamus Sweeney, a previous contributor to Alt Hist, has been featured in a radio documentary for RTE the Irish broadcaster. Hes been involved in writing a pseudo-biography of Fr Noise. You can find the documentary at https://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2017/1102/917047-a-man-out-of-time/. I encourage you to have a listen. It’s an interesting story and piece of pseudo-fact—you could call it Fake History perhaps?
Seamus has told me more about similar projects he has been working on:
WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR A 1936 NOVELLA AND 1987 RPG ADVENTURE!
I’m a big fan of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP for short) having played it extensively as a teenager in the 80s – I GMed the Enemy Within campaign and several other adventures too. WFRP is going through a bit of a revival at the moment with a new fourth edition due out in 2018 from Cubicle7, and I have even started GMing 1st edition WFRP again with some old friends.
For those who don’t know it WFRP has a gritty, realistic feel to it – it’s set in an Old World much like late medieval Europe and was grimdark before grimdark was a thing (I hate the grimdark tag to be honest – to me it just seems an excuse for violence and misogyny, but really should be about realism and the darker side of human nature, but that’s for another day).
Apparently one of the requests from Games Workshop management for their new RPG game when it first published was to make it more like Call of Cthulhu – the RPG set in Lovecraft’s world of dark horror and ancient evils that lay hidden. WFRP’s Enemy Within campaign certainly took on that atmosphere, with chaos cultists hidden within normal human society, ready to conjure daemons into being – much like the dark forces lurking in Lovecraft’s fiction.
I’ve only started reading Lovecraft recently having got hold of a collection of his work. It’s hard going, but also mesmerising in a way, and also very influential on other horror writers who followed.
The Shadow over Innsmouth involves a traveller interested in the history of New England who makes the journey to the coastal town of Innsmouth, a place that has fallen into decline and has a bad reputation.
So what about Death on the Reik and The Shadow over Innsmouth? You’d expect with that name the influence might be more for the first main adventure in the campaign – Shadows over Bogenhafen? But actually I think there is some conscious or perhaps subconscious borrowing by the authors of Death on the Reik (Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher) from The Shadow over Innsmouth. Here’s what I think the similarities are:
The town of Wittgendorf and Innsmouth have fallen into decline – no one visits anymore – in fact people avoid each town
The inhabitants drink rotgut
The inhabitants are mutated in some way – chaos mutations in Wittgendorf, the Innsmouth look in Innsmouth – i.e. turning into frog creatures
The rulers of each place (the Marsh family and the Wittgenstein family) are recluses, undergo mutations themselves and have brought the decline of their towns upon themselves
In the past one of the rulers ancestors brought something back – this has resulted in the mutations – warpstone and something unexplained in Innsmouth (as far as I can tell)
Both towns are by the water (bit tenuous!)
It’s possible to travel to both places – but visitors are made to feel unwelcome. I.e. these aren’t places that are forbidden, but they are shunned by most outsiders.
There are also plenty of differences of course – but I do think the atmosphere and theme are quite alike – have a read of The Shadow over Innsmouth and see what you think – it was my favourite of the Lovecraft stories I read recently. And if you don’t know WFRP and Death on the Reik – get to it immediately – check out the PDFs on DrivethruRPG, get some friends together and start playing – you won’t be disappointed.
To be honest I thought that the inscription of swords was just something that happened in fantasy books and role-playing games – but it seems not! Most inscriptions were invocations to God to help out the person bearing the sword.
But a certain sword that is currently part of a 1215 Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library has got all the experts stumped, as no-one knows what the following means:
I must say that I certainly don’t – the signs of the cross that top and tail the inscription are standard for medieval spells as well, so maybe its a magical inscription – and perhaps that’s why it is so hard to decipher?
I was thinking about writing heroes the other day. Those writers who inspired a love of reading in me when I was a kid and also, I suppose, have inspired me to write later in life as well. Here are the writers that I would classify as my heroes.
J.R.R. Tolkien Michael Moorcock Robert A. Heinlein Douglas Reeman Alastair MacLean W. E. Johns (creator of Biggles) Terry Pratchett
I also read a few works by the following when I was a kid and loved them more and more as I got older:
Jack Vance Gene Wolfe
I would also have give an honourable mention to comics as well. Particularly 2000 AD and Warlord.
Heroes now? There are a lot of writers I admire nowadays, but I’m not sure I would describe them as heroes in the same way. Perhaps hero-worship is something that is more in keeping with childhood?
I thought it would be cool to compare Christmas wish lists for books, but not wish-lists for actual books that exist. What are the top 5 books you wish were going to be out for Christmas but aren’t because they don’t exist and haven’t been written yet?
Follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
A new story featuring Severian the Torturer, courtesy of Gene Wolfe
A new Robert Harris thriller – I’ve read all of them and even sampled one of his non-fiction works!
Lord of the Rings sequel (Sauron fights back) by J. R. R. Tolkien
A decent sequel to Star Wars turned into a decent film as well – i.e. episodes 7 to 9!
Well you’re unlikely to be able to attend this course (if you are then you’re very lucky!), but if you want to read up on what the supernatural meant in the Middle Ages then I would recommend looking over the course notes for Eileen Joy’s The Medieval Supernatural.
In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know . . . . there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination — and the laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken place, it is an integral part of reality — but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us.
~ from Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre