Sunday, January 27, 2013

From the Witch House

I can still remember the first time I read Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House". It was during the winter break of 1981. I was a voracious reader and maxed out my library privileges to insure I had enough books to keep me entertained for the whole holiday span. One of the anthologies I had picked up included the tale of Walter Gillman's unfortunate end, and to this day I can recall the impact of the revelation that science and magic were the same thing. That what appeared to be ancient lettering and elritch sigils scribbled on a page were actually equations.

Today that's a well established trope, thanks in no small part to the writings of Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt, but at the time Lovecraft wrote it the idea was brilliantly innovative. It's a foundation stone of the entire Mythos and one of the major reasons I'm still fascinated by HPL's works.

That all serves as prologue to this new prop set from Jason McKittrick, the Witch House collection. All of the pieces are well done, but I particularly like the skull of Brown Jenkin and the sacrificial obsidian knife.


Raven said...

Traps in the Text

It should be remembered that a time-honored security method to keep interlopers, thieves, and overambitious apprentices from benefiting by an unauthorized reading was to leave deliberate errors here and there for the unwary -- "left" instead of "right", "up" instead of "down", "add" instead of "subtract" -- to which properly trained initiates would be duly warned.

As with "errors" on a map or set of travel directions, the trained (by substituting what they had been taught for what was written) would attain their desired destination, while the untrained (by following the text) would meet some dread demise.

[The hidden history of the Apple Maps fiasco comes to mind here.]

Accordingly, may I urge readers not to put the geometrical methods suggested on this page into immediate use without first conducting further review, and to remember the career outcome for Walter Gillman?

Raven said...

* [Apple Maps fiasco]: This is not to say that Apple erred in borrowing code from a Order-owned organization. However, in the absence of documentation or accompanying experienced programmers, some unexplained settings were bound to be troublesome, like "user_degree": at zero, locations might simply vanish; at >1, directions might be systematically falsified, expecting the higher-degree initiate to correct them.