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Sidney Sime and Call of Kafka
Why had I never heard of Sidney Sime before? This is the sort of work that makes me think the late 19th century romantics and decadents were much more unsettling than any Shock of the New.
BTW that's Don Kenn on the header, who's also brilliant. The combination of the two kinda bridges the gap between Edward Gorey and Aubrey Beardsley in my mind's eye.

Elsewhere Zak Smith said: lovecraft in his home era, when the urge to be purist is most intense, is profoundly antisocial and timeless and devoid of cultural markers. It's about people alone in featureless rooms with the landscape... It's like his language strips away so many signifiers of everyday life that it's at its best when dealing with only "eternal" things: a house, a desert, a field, a forest, a museum, an office. Nothing that has any chance of being dated.

Which I think of as "Call of Kafka" or, where the monsters really are up to something conspiratorial and it is society-must-be-defended, then Kafka of Cthulhu.

I would add another strand: for me, the mystery's the thing, but not really in the sense that now you have a puzzle to solve. CoC adventures where you actually do learn something about the True Nature of the Universe strike me as deeply problematic, partly because the monsters turn out to have human-readable motivations after all (what with being created by humans and all). I think my favourite resolution to a CoC mystery might be that you realise at the end of it that now you know less about the Mythos than you did before.

It's hard to make a lot of plots around the concept of the uncaring universe that reveal more about that idea. Like, first there's Roadside Picnic, and you can run across the aliens doing something awful and maybe you have to step into the mincing machine to turn it off, so the question is who's going to do that. And then there could be x-com: which bits of the brain melting machine are we going to try to use to barricade our little planet and keep it safe for humanity, and how hopeless is that as a goal? But then I kinda run out of ideas.

So I think the thing that keeps me loving CoC is that the mystery stays unresolved: you don't know what's going on, and a lot of the plots are really human (because it's stupid humans trying to please the alien masters but they don't know what they want actually and meanwhile ooh look shiny virgins!) and what's behind them is unfathomable which means we're not now going to fathom it around this table in the context of a game.

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I really enjoy Mythos games when at the end we say, "WTF was that? Well we're still alive, some of us, and now what?". I really don't want to have it explained to me, if I'm a player.

If I'm running such a game, I don't want to explain what happened because I think it spoils the effect, and sometimes I don't know what happened either. A serious of somehow connected events have conspired to lift the veil on a hidden or ignored world, attaching some kind of human meaning to this diminishes it.

That said, I'm fine with misguided human cultists too, as long as their cultist status does not afford them any much protection from the Mythos.

That some ants appear to be keeping out of your larder and merely traipsing across the kitchen floor, doesn't mean you wouldn't kill all of them.

I'd like to +1 this. Yes, on all counts.

And why didn't I know about monsterbrains? When I looked for some Hannes Bok to show you, that site turned out to have a large collection. Bok isn't as reliably weird as Sime, but Bok hits the note pretty well in a lot of his illustrations.

What Zak Smith said about lack of specifics is exactly what impressed Tolkien about fairy tales. If you get it right, you're invoking archetypes.

interesting about the fairy tales thing - that sounds exactly right... up to the point where you discover that the term "house" has different connotations in the tale because language is like that.

All of those Hannes Bok pictures are amazing - thank you! And what variety in style and handling and medium! Wow.

The last third of the page looks like stuff Escher might have made but then decided was too creepy and left out of his "serious" works. Brilliant.

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