Seeking Goblins, They Find the Beast

My favourite televisual junk food recently has been Hellier, produced by the gang at the Planet Weird website and available on Amazon Prime, the Planet Weird YouTube channel, and the show’s dedicated website. It’s centred on Greg and Dana Newkirk, the co-founders of Planet Weird, and their team of fellow researchers as they delve into a paranormal mystery centred on the small Kentucky town of Hellier… or at least, they try to find a mystery.

The narrative begins simply enough: back in 2012, Greg had been contacted by an individual called David Christie, who e-mailed him about small alien creatures allegedly besieging his rural home. The initial e-mails sound a lot like a riff on the letters in The Whisperer In Darkness to me; to Greg, they seemed to be riffing on the decades-old case of the Kentucky Goblins. (Though the term “goblin” wasn’t used in the e-mails, the description of the creatures matched the earlier incident uncannily well.)

At around the same time Greg also got some e-mails from someone calling himself “Terry Wriste”, who seemed to know something about the situation, which made Greg think that there was probably enough to it to be worth looking into – but David didn’t respond to followup e-mails (much as you wouldn’t follow up, say, if you’d just written the original e-mail as a pisstake and were wrong-footed by being taken seriously), and Greg let the matter lie.

Years later, filmmaker Karl Pfieffer found himself drawn into the case through a series of curious synchronicities, prompting the Newkirks to take a second look at the case. Filling out the party with a few other trusted colleagues, the Newkirks would lead the group on an expedition to Hellier itself, where depending on your point of view they find absolutely nothing or absolutely everything.

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GOGathon: Sierra’s 1980s Peak

1989 saw the fifth anniversary of King’s Quest, and with the old AGI game engine well and truly retired and the shiny new SCI engine firing on all cylinders, Sierra were not resting on their laurels. As well as pushing the technical boundaries of graphical point and click adventures, they had also developed the medium to a point where they could reasonably be said to be pushing at their creative boundaries too, and 1989 would prove to be a fantastic year on that front, with five games which each in their own way developed the genre in a different direction and based in a different genre.

Two of these would be sequels to big-name Sierra series, two would initiate series of their own – one much-beloved, one more remembered as a bold experiment that laid the groundwork for better things – and one of them was absolutely terrible. Which is the stinker? Let’s find out?

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Pickin’ Up Truth Vibrations, Part 5: Renegade Without a Cause

Here we are, bringing the story of David Icke and the development of his unique brand of Ickean Gnosticism (like regular Gnosticism mashed up with a rerun of V). We’ve learned how Icke’s embrace of New Age beliefs earned him mockery in the early 1990s, and how his ideas no longer seemed so funny once he went hardcore conspiracy theorist and started promoting The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. We’ve seen how his extraterrestrial-themed ideas developed from wholesale ripping-off of The Gods of Eden and Bill Cooper’s Behold a Pale Horse into his own distinctive Reptoid-based mythology, and how the repeated Gnostic themes in his writing eventually evolved into an overt endorsement of Gnosticism.

Along the way, we’ve also had a bumpy ride in terms of Icke’s business endeavours and personal relationships. Lovers, friends, fellow researchers and allies have come into Icke’s world and been exiled from it. Royal Adams took the US rights to his books and ran rogue with them, causing Icke a tremendous legal headache. Icke teamed up with Sean Adl-Tabatabai in the debacle of The People’s Voice, which left a lot of true believers angry and out of pocket.

Icke went a bit quiet after the collapse of The People’s Voice, at least in terms of published books – though naturally he continued his eternal lecture tours, podcasts, guest appearances on other people’s platforms, and so on. Since then, though, he’s released three books and a movie. Let’s see where the path leads us now…

(Spoiler: It leads us to overt demonisation of a minority religious sect.)

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What If Henson Called Some Other Artist?

A big part of the appeal of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth – aside from the fact that they’re genuinely creative fantasy movies which cut the bullshit and just get on  with their plots and demonstrate the genius of Jim Henson and his workshop collaborators in their capacity to make puppets and costumes which seem genuinely alive – is their aesthetic. In both cases, the movies have a cohesive look which is clearly the work of a singular vision and in The Dark Crystal in particular gives the impression of a world with a deep history and ecosystem which we only brush the surface of.

Brian Froud is, famously, the man we have to thank for that, which makes me wonder: what would Jim Henson have produced had he instead decided to call on the talents of some other in-vogue British fantasy artist of the era? Let’s have a play and find out, for each artist proposing one movie in the Dark Crystal slot, one in the Labyrinth slot. The Dark Crystal slot is for a movie steeped in a well-realised secondary world with no apparent connection to Earth after all and a deep lore and backstory implied; the Labyrinth slot is for a movie about someone from our world having a little adventure in a world inspired by the artist in question’s work in which they come away with an appreciation of both the power of imagination and the necessity to harness it purposefully rather than wallowing in daydream or something like that, with a musical score provided by a musician popular in the 1980s who also plays a role in the film.

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Mini-Review: The Sabbat Worlds Crusade

The Sabbat Worlds Crusade is to the Gaunt’s Ghosts series what the Dune Encyclopedia is to the Dune series, if the Dune Encyclopedia had actually been written by Frank Herbert himself and hadn’t been rendered non-canon by later developments. Penned by Dan Abnett and gorgeously illustrated throughout, it is a history of the grand military campaign which forms the background to the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, allowing the reader to see the wider context against which the exploits of the Tanith First-and-Only and their leader, Commissar Gaunt, take place.

Written as though it were an in-character document from the universe of Warhammer 40,000, the book originally came out in 2005, after the Saint plotline had wrapped up and when Abnett was kicking off the plot arc which would become The Lost. With this new release, he’s taken the opportunity to update it with further material, bringing it all the way up to date and showing us the state of play as of the end of the latest plot arc, The Victory. (The in-character explanation for this is that the book is an unauthorised update of the previous official history of the Crusade, drawing heavily on that material but also including extensive secret data which the Inquisition and Imperial Guard aren’t entirely happy about being set down like this.)

Complete with a really gorgeous fold-out map of the Sabbat Worlds and fun details on both the Imperial and Chaos forces vying for control of it, this new edition of the book will be of interest both to fans of the series who want more deep background (and perhaps a flavourful way to get a bit of a recap of the action, if you are coming back to the books after a long break) and to those who want to mine the background for gaming purposes. For instance, if you wanted to make a Warhammer 40,000 army inspired by the Sabbat Worlds forces, you can mine this for paint schemes and iconography; likewise, if you wanted to play one of the tabletop RPGs based in the Warhammer 40,000 setting in the Sabbat Worlds, this could be a big help. (It’d be an ideal fit for Only War, for instance.)

Age of Slasher

The Warhammer Horror line continues its second wave with Castle of Blood by C.L. Werner, the first full-length novel in the line to be based in the Age of Sigmar setting. The premise is pretty simple: the ancient Count Wulfsige von Koeterberg has lived for years in isolation in his castle of Mhurghast, overlooking the town of Ravensbach. Decades ago, Count Wulfsige’s errant son died, and since then the Count has been stewing in his own resentment of those he deems responsible, and has been making his plans for revenge.

That revenge is announced at a dinner party he calls at Mhurghast, to which he summons his intended victims – and their children, all of whom are adults of about the age that young von Koeterberg was when he died, give or take. That’s important for the Count’s plan – for, by arranging the dinner in a ritual fashion, he ensures that the children become acceptable vessals for a dire demon of Khorne – a spirit of mass murder and destruction, forcing the parents into a terrible situation where once the demon is unleashed they’ll be forced to kill their own children in self-defence or face destruction at the hands of their offspring.

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Slouching Towards Liverpool To Be Born

Ramsey Campbell may well be the greatest living author of Cthulhu Mythos stories these days, despite – or, quite possibly, because – a great chunk of his career has nothing to do with it. Having cut his teeth on Lovecraftian pastiches – the cream of which were collected in The Inhabitant of the Lake – he then developed his own unique voice, with his second collection (Demons By Daylight) applying that voice to a mixture of Mythos and non-Mythos material – breaking new ground with the latter, and revolutionising the former by attacking Lovecraftian themes with a distinctly different worldview, sensibility, and set of writing techniques.

Since then, Campbell has mostly returned to the Mythos for occasional visits rather than extended stays, with 2002’s The Darkest Part of the Woods being a notable exception in that respect, and 2013’s The Last Revelation of Gla’aki being a sort of anniversary tip of the hat to the the eponymous Inhabitant of the Lake, Campbell offering a bit of authorial gratitude for all the good things Gla’aki has brought him over the years.

Now, still showing no signs of slowing down as an author, Campbell has offered us by far his most substantial Cthulhu Mythos work yet: a trilogy of books telling a saga spanning decades. It’s been referred to lazily in some quarters as the “Brichester Trilogy”, but this is an error – Campbell’s imaginary Northern England territory surrounding Brichester which was the backdrop to many of his early stories doesn’t feature here, with all three novels unfolding primarily in Liverpool. Its true title, once again, pays tribute to one of the entities which first put Campbell on the map: specifically, it’s called The Three Births of Daoloth.

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