Confession time – I’m generally pretty terrible about going to conventions. However, this year I did manage to make it to NecronomiCon 2019. This was my first NecronomiCon, It is “an expansive exploration and celebration of all the greats of weird fiction, including predecessors and contemporaries of Providence’s H.P. Lovecraft and the many authors and artists who have forged their own paths of weird”.
Alas, I only made it for Saturday and part of Sunday so it was a little low-key for me, focused on various seminars and some time in the dealer room (and hanging out for a while at a fun Latin festival going on in the area of the hotels). I also got to hang out with a friend in my gaming group who I don’t get to see in person as much as I’d like.
I’ll focus on the seminars and talks that I attended, One funny sidenote related to them – in one of the hotels, there was also a real estate seminar going on, sharing a hallway with NecronomiCon. I kept on thinking of running “The Haunting” as a bunch of real estate agents trying to flip the house…
First up I attended a seminar on creating historical settings for Call of Cthulhu, featuring panelists from Chaosium and licensees. It covered interesting things such as ways to do research. Chaosium’s Cthulhu line editor and other panelists emphasized always remembering this is for a game – that one must both remember to be sensitive to some of the nastiness of history as well as not letting the details of history get in the way of a good game.
I also attended a seminar on the fiction of Manly Wade Wellman, best known for his John the Balladeer series – about a kind man who wandered the Appalachians in a sort of timeless mid-20th century, using his knowledge and silver-stringed guitar to fight the forces of evil and help people. One of the questions the panel focused on was why Wellman lacked the popularity of H.P. Lovecraft. One of the theories was his views on the Civil War – being an act of oppression by the Federal Government on the southern states. I tend to disagree with that theory – H.P. Lovecraft, for example, has his own set of rather toxic viewpoints. Regardless, it was a fascinating talk. Though the stories are out of print, I’d really recommend trying to get a hold of a copy – especially the short stories. David Drake’s Mountain Magic anthology has them, though only in the ebook version (something to do with differences in rights between the physical and digital versions of that book). The stories have a sort of charming timelessness to them and John is such a… nice character.
Next up was a seminar on the influence of Lovecraft on Stephen King. King is one of my favorite writers so I greatly enjoyed it. One of the conclusions was one of the best places to find such influences is in King’s shorter fiction. There was also some discussion that King is often a bit kinder to his characters than Lovecraft was – a King protagonist has a better chance of surviving their tale than a Lovecraftian one, albeit often at a cost. There was also some discussion as to how King excels at characterization whereas Lovecraft’s characters are often rather flat, with some exceptions including “The Colour Out of Space” and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
Probably the highlight for me was a last-minute panel centered around The King in Yellow, featuring James Lowder, Nicole Cushing, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kenneth Hite, and Shane Ivey. Before the panel Mr. Hite was kind enough to sign my copy of his annotated edition of The King in Yellow – and to comment that being a Mets or Cubs fan is to understand cosmic horror (is that true of the Cubs after 2016?) The overall talk was fascinating, with much discussion on madness, the period of French decadence that King in Yellow author Robert Chambers was familiar with, and the many sources that Chambers mined for his tales. For example, the rather creepy (at least to me) suicide booths of “The Repairer of Reputations” appeared in other fiction that Chambers was familiar with.
I’d also like to give a shoutout to Ms. Moreno-Garcia’s crowdfunding for an English translation of The Road of Ice and Salt:
Originally published in 1998, The Road of Ice and Salt is an award-winning, cult horror novella by Mexican author José Luis Zárate. Although Zárate is one of the most important speculative fiction writers of his generation, his work has not been translated into English. Innsmouth Free Press will produce an English-language, print and digital edition (translated by David Bowles) of The Road of Ice and Salt, with an accompanying essay and afterword.
Finally, on Sunday morning I attended a talk on the Delta Green RPG. This was extremely interesting to me as I’m kicking off a Delta Green game. I encountered Arc Dream’s president and managing editor, Shane Ivey, numerous times at the convention, and he, along with his wife Rachel, were joys to talk with. Mr. Ivey moderated the discussion, with panelists A. Scott Glancy, Dan Harms, and Ken Hite. They discussed the origins of the game and encouraged a lively dialogue with the audience. I asked about the possibility of era-specific sourcebooks – while nothing like that is on tap, Mr. Glancy did describe a “century” game in its early stages of playtesting. It will cover a century of play, with the scenarios each a decade apart – and with a need for new characters as the game progresses, with surviving characters eventually becoming the ones briefing later agents. While I imagine it’ll be some time before this sees the light of day. It does sound a little bit like Pendragon to me. Like the first Chaosium panel I attended, there was an emphasis on knowing your players and discussing what people are comfortable with. While the past presents such challenges, so too does the present, with issues such as immigration and ICE being discussed. Another point that was emphasized was to not make the Mythos behind the horrors of the real world – the Holocaust was not a spell to summon Yog-Sothoth and the murdered and missing indigenous women of Canada is not caused by the Mythos – humanity is responsible for the cruelties it performs. Mr. Hite also discussed his The Fall of Delta Green RPG.
Note that the last two panels I described were recorded by ArcDream – when the recordings become available I will post links to them.
I spent a little time in the dealer room. I didn’t get much – I have most of the stuff I want, Mythos-related. I was tempted to get Sandy Petersen’s 5e Mythos book but I’m not certain I’d have the opportunity to play it. I did pick up Chaosium’s The Shadow Over Providence, written specially for the convention. It features a fictionalized version of one of the hotels the con takes place in and after the con will be available via pdf. I was also able to briefly chat with Mike Mason and some of the staff at their table – mainly to thank them for keeping the game alive.
It was an abbreviated trip – I was only there for a portion of the con – but I’m glad I went. I’d definitely like to make a return trip, finances and schedule permitting, with an idea towards getting some gaming done.
~ Dan Stack
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