This true crime podcast is actually a cool modern adaptation of Lovecraft

Last January, the BBC released the first episode of a true-crime style podcast called The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Created by Julian Simpson, this story took a Serial-esque approach to a locked room mystery involving an American man who disappeared from an asylum in England. But as the story progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that there's something darker going on.

That "something darker" would be the fact that it's a loose adaptation of The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward by HP Lovecraft. Simpson's podcast version takes the initial Lovecraftian premise — a person of privilege uncovers some hidden knowledge that inevitably connects back to ancient evil Elder Gods — and spins an updated modern tale that spans the Atlantic Ocean. Simpson cleverly weaves in English folklore and the occultism of Aleister Crowley as the journalist narrators travel back-and-forth between England and Rhode Island.

One of those narrators, it should be noted, is a woman. And there are people of color, and class issues, too — a clear response to Lovecraft's notorious bigotry (the dude was so terrified of black people and vaginas that he literally crafted an entire universe of creepy-ass tentacled fish monsters just to try and justify it). It's an organic way to breathe new life into a story that doesn't have to be so bogged down in Lovecraft's more unfortunate qualities.

I recently binged all 10 episodes of the podcast while working on some home renovations, and I found it utterly delightful. The Investigative Reporting approach gives it an almost Blair Witch-like vibe — it's certainly presented as if it is a genuine true crime podcast, and you wouldn't be faulted for falling for it (In my humble opinion, that also makes for a more gripping narrative device than the usual Lovecraft method of Random Trustfund Baby Takes A Bus Into a Random Creepy Town and Randomly Gets Involved In This Dark Mystery About Cthulhu). Read the rest

Get ordained in the First United Church of Cthulhu

A decade ago, I became ordained in the Church of Latter-Day Dudes so I could officiate a wedding in Texas; it is, apparently, legal for the Dude to abide over the institution of marriage in that state.

But that was a different time, before an apathetic cosmic horror who craves nothing but worshipful death from his followers became an appealing alternative to the current leadership of several powerful nations. Which is why I've renounced by Dudeist vows, and am now ordained in the First United Church of Cthulhu.

In order to perform weddings, some states do require a letter of good standing from the local governing authority of your church; I learned this the hard way when I officiated a wedding in Massachusetts, and the governing authority for the Church of Latter-Day Dudes was characteristically lazy and unresponsive. Luckily, the website for the First United Church of Cthulhu offers clear instructions for this:

You are the gibbering voice, the insanity-inducing dreaming mind blast, the writhing real world living tentacle of Cthulhu! As the head priest and exalted avatar of Cthulhu I ordain thee as a priest of Cthulhu. As such, you are granted by the power of Cthulhu to physically sign your own Letter of Good Standing. Or ordain a friend and have them sign it.

If you really need my signature as the Head Priest it's gonna run you $20. But that includes shipping and the cost of having it notarized. And I'm sorry your state sucks. You should really summon a few star-spawn and take care of that problem.

Read the rest

Friday: the new digital-first, pay-what-you-want Lovecraftian YA detective comic from Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente

Award-winning comic creators Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin launched Panel Syndicate in 2013 as a digital-only, name-your-price publishing outlet for their near-future Internet noir The Private Eye. They've released several comics through this imprint since then — from themselves, and from other creators — that all fit under the same DRM-free, pay-what-you-want f0rmat, with horizontally-oriented pages specifically designed to be read on a computer screen or tablet.

The Panel Syndicate format was always intended to upend comic publishing, in a way. So it wasn't that surprising when they announced a new book in the wake of the temporary coronavirus pause of the entire comic book industry. 

The new book, Friday, features art by Panel Syndicate founders Martin Martin and Muntsa Vicente, with a story by acclaimed comic crime writer Ed Brubaker, creator of Criminal, The Fade Out, and the Winter Soldier from Marvel Comics. Here's a brief synopsis:

Friday Fitzhugh spent her childhood solving crimes and digging up occult secrets with her best friend Lancelot Jones, the smartest boy in the world. But that was the past, now she's in college, starting a new life on her own. Except when Friday comes home for the holidays, she's immediately pulled back into Lance's orbit and finds that something very strange and dangerous is happening in their little New England town...

This is literally the Christmas vacation from Hell and neither of them may survive to see the New Year.

In interviews and his newsletter, Brubaker has described the story as "post-YA," which isn't really a genre, but makes sense — it's about that first winter home after the first semester of college, except in this case it's riffing on the child detective archetypes of Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Hardy Boys.  Read the rest

Zone out with 10 hours of ambient footage from Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum

On April 16, Marvel live streamed 10 hours of "footage" from outside Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, which you can now watch in its entirety on YouTube. It's kind of like a Lovecraftian YuleLog, with spooky sounds and energy demons and ghastly spirits peeking through the windows.

It's also kind of like going outside, but without actually going outside, and somehow less terrifying (but still kind of eerie). Read the rest