The Double Shadow: A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast

Transcription for Episode #21: “The Tale of Satampra Zeiros”

Show notes for the episode

R: I have called up in all my years of horror / P: inch by inch, with baleful terror / R: no god nor devil / T: the red moon, ominous and gibbeous / R: no demon nor lich nor shadow / T: had declined above the terraces / P: of the wormy corpses that he dug with his hands from unconsecrated graves / R: and the thing was a streaming ooze of charnal pollution / R: dreaming of conquests / T: It is verily known by few / R: and of vaster necromancies / P: there were people — mostly priests and women, it is told — whom he picked up as they fled / T: It is verily known by few, but is nevertheless an attestable fact / P: and pulled limb from limb as a child might quarter an insect / T, P, R: The Double Shadow — A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast.

J: Hello and welcome to the double shadow a podcast exploring the weird fiction of 20th century writer Clark Ashton Smith.

T: I’m Tim.

P: I’m Phil.

R: And I’m Ruth.

J: And I’m Jason

T: Yaaay

R: Wait, we got another person?!

J: That’s right. I’m here- a mysterious voice in the dark-

T: *laughs*

P: Whisper obscenities to us.

R: Oh!

P: I mean occult obscenities, I mean- I’ll be quiet.

T: Yeah, so that mysterious voice in the darkness is Jason Thompson.

J: Hi guys, I love your show and I love Clark Ashton Smith, and these two things go together very well I find.

P: Jason, tell us who you are.

J: I’m the creator of a bunch of comics. I did an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s, “The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath.” I did the King of RPGs graphic novel series with my friend Victor Hao and I wrote a book on Manga, Manga: the Complete Guide. I’ve worked as a comic editor for about 10 years and I also like to make them and I love old school fantasy and sci-fi and horror and it’s a pleasure to be with you folks.

T: The pleasure is ours.

P: I’m so excited to have our first guest. It’s super, uh, it’s super exciting.

R: Yes, and you’ve drawn a Clark Ashton Smith comic which just happens to be the story that we’re covering this week, so what is the story?

J: “The Tale of Satampra Zeiros.”

R: This will be our first story in Hyperborea, which we’ve obviously heard alluded to, I think in both Poseidonis and in Averoigne.

P: Oh it’s been mentioned in both? Yeah I think so.

J: I think-

R: I think in both-

J: -I think with Hyberborea and later Zothique, he really, really gets into his mode, because he’s totally- he’s creating places which are- I mean there’s still a faint, like, historical background for Hyperborea, but even more than Poseidonis and Averoigne he’s really just going crazy with stuff that’s completely out of their minds. Yeah I love Hyperborea, I think its- It’s my favorite Smith setting personally.

P: Hyperborea is a notion that comes from antiquity, right? It’s not something that Smith made up himself. You- Do you know the historical background of Hyperborea? I mean, I threw some Wikipedia nonsense in here, but I was wondering if you knew anything more about it.

J: No, yeah I mean, I assume we’ve both got Wikipedia open, but, yeah, Hyperborea is um I mean it was basically the ancient Greeks name for the um, the mysterious polar regions north of Europe, right? The land beyond the north winds, I believe it was-

R: mhmm

J: So it could’ve- It probably was just an analog for Britain.

P: Right.

J: Y’know they had all these crazy legends about it and what all those strange creatures existed there and the weird habits of the people; most of which Smith seems to have completely ignored and made up his own stuff like Poseidonis, but um, but the name – I’ve always thought the name was really cool and um-

P: Yeah the name is awesome.

J: And when I was a kid I had this book, this children’s book called, Inventorum Natura by this illustrator called Una Woodruff. It reported to be an illustrated transcript of the explorations of Pliny the Elder as he traveled around the globe. It’s really cool you should link to it. And it has the illustrations of all the places he went which include like, Africa and India and China, but also Hyperborea, I think it’s his last stop and in Hyperborea there’s all kinds of jungles, man eating plants and stuff and uh, there’s like cliffs that are shaped like human corpses and just- yeah, I read that when I was a little kid and coincidentally my dad, who was a big horror fan, he’s the guy who got me into horror, science fiction and stuff, he had the 1970s Ballantine Books edition of Clark Ashton Smith’s Hyperborea and Poseidonis and Zothique collections.

T: Oh really?! Those are awesome.

J: Yeah the art work on em is great. And um, so that’s how I got into Smith actually; around junior high-ish age.

T: Cool, yeah-

P: And by quite a bit.

T: -pedigree

J: (old man voice) Aaargh, just an old veteran of the Clark Ashton Smith wars.

T: Right, that’s it.

J: And I love how he, in the various Hyperborea stories, it has um, like Poseidonis and Zothique, it has this narrative of decay, where it’s, um, y’know it’s this lush tropical paradise it’s jun-, well not a paradise, but it’s this lush jungle and but simultaneously it’s being overtaking by the glaciers from the North as the ice age sets in. So it’s- and it’s, so it’s never like a pleasant comfortable like Hobbit land like setting with fields and farms; it’s always either like crazy jungle or it’s like a frozen wasteland; it’s super exotic and super cool.

P: I have a, like, a Weird Tales circle of writers question, none of us may know the answer to, depending on our knowledge of Robert E Howard, but Conan takes place in the Hyborean age, which is of course different right than Hyperborea. Does anybody amongst us have any idea if the two are even remotely related or if Robert E. Howard just decided he didn’t want to use Hyperborea and so he made the Hyborean Age or is it just a coincidence that the two words sounds somewhat similar and if we don’t have an answer I’ll excuse us for not knowing.

R: I’ve heard the rumor that he just took the Hyperborea idea and dropped it off so he could make it his own thing and not tie it in with the myth, so he didn’t have to pretend to be faithful and say, “Oh, well in Hyperborea it was this way.”

P: Jason are you a Robert E. Howard person as well or do you just stray-

J: I’m not much of a Robert E. Howard person, um-

P: Yeah

J: I like Smith for- more very specific reasons. Yeah I dunno. I think that uh, I think that Howard was just using a word that sounded like Hyperborea, kinda like with a lot of his place names, where as Smith was nailing his own completely deranged fantasy setting onto a real word.

R: So Jason you’ve done a graphic novel slash comic adaptation of this story. What made you choose this one in particular out of all of Clark Ashton Smith, or out of all the Hyperboreas, since we know that’s your favorite setting.

J: Well it was in, let’s see, it was like, about, it was in like 1999 actually and I had just finished my adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s, “Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath,” which was my first comic and I was looking for more stuff to do that was kinda a fantasy vein that had lots of really detailed backgrounds and stuff so I could draw monsters and so on and I kinda just settled on Smith because I love his work. To me he’s sort of the love child of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. He’s got that totally ornate language which is more like Lovecraft, but he’s got like the heroic adventure part, which is like Howard, but then everyone dies and it always ends horribly, which is more like Lovecraft again.

P: Yeah, nobody has quite the tone that Clark Ashton Smith has.

J: Yeah.

P: In this story a little bit, but- you won’t be with us for “Door to Saturn,” but “Door to Saturn” I can’t really even wrap my mind around exactly what the hell he was going for, like cus it’s just like surreal and then it’s- it has such a wonderful rye wit, but you kinda almost miss it because you’re in the middle of trying to wrap your mind around all these ridiculous things and there’s a little bit of that in this story definitely where it’s like comedic, but than darkly comedic, but then also an adventure story, but also horrific, but then also fantasy.

J: Yeah.

P: It’s just like, ‘Hey let’s take everything! I’ll take it all!’

T: Which is why it makes the best D&D story.

J: That is true, it is so D&D. It’s more like D&D 1st edition not like 4th edition where you have a chance

T: Oh yeah.

P: There is nothing 4th edition about this story.

T: Noooo….no

P: Can we make this the D&D nerdiest of our episodes?

R: Woooo! We could try.

P: Well we did, remember that way way back in um-

R: -in Averoigne.

P: The story with the vampires who were really dumb was like a story- was like a D&D adventure run by a bad DM.

T: (laughs) Right.

R: With really bad rolls.

T: Who’s just reading right out of the module.

P: I feel like we can maybe extend that metaphor and this could be an adventure run by a really good DM.

R: Yeah and if only running a two person adventure that goes really terribly for the players.

J: I’ve just always liked this story a lot. My four, the four favorite stories that I really wanted to do were Satampra Zeiros, “The 7 Geases,” “The Dark Eidolon,” although that’s not Hyperborea,

T: Yeah.

P: Yeah that story’s so awesome though.

R: It’s so beautiful.

J: And uh, y’know I think there’s nothing else that’s at the level of those three stories. I really like “The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan,” as well; sort of for the same reason as Zeiros because it’s so, um, such a punch you in the face and run out the door sort of story, but yeah I like Satampra Zeiros. It’s a pretty simple story and it was actually a pretty fun exercise in comic making because I sort of started out drawing the story one way and sort of finished it another way stylistically. Because it sort of starts out this ornate tale that is told and then it sort turns into an action sequence, which was fun to do and I got the rights from the Smith estate and I ended up, I printed it, like, up in 2004. So I was going to do a whole bunch of Smith stories, but I got distracted by other projects, but I do love Smith so perhaps one day.

T: You have no plans for right not to go back to doing a limited Hyperborea series.

J: Not right now. Right now I’m working on a web comic, which is a biographical black comedy about the life of H.P. Lovecraft.

T: Nice

J: It’s about the struggles of a single woman in the 1910s trying to raise H.P. Lovecraft while coping with the syphilis she got from her dead husband, which is causing her to go insane. That’s the elevator pitch.

R: I think that’s a pretty good pitch.

P: Sold!

T: A light hearted little story. Phil you want to tell us about the issue that this appeared in.

P: I would love to Timothy. This story first appeared in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales. It was alongside stories by Robert E. Howard, although I don’t think it was a Conan story, as well as stories by Elizabeth Sheldon, Wilfred Blanch Talman, and others. It was not the cover story, which is too bad, because it would’ve been cool to see a vintage Weird Tales cover for this story.

T: Did Smith ever have any covers, uh, like any paintings dedicated to his stories.

P: Not that I’ve noticed, and come to think of it, did Lovecraft have any covers dedicated to his stories?

T: Yeah I don’t know. I don’t think so either.

R: I was able to find some info actually, I was able to find a Smith rejection letter, sorry, a Wright rejection letter-

T: Nice.

R: -for this story because he originally wrote it November 1929 and Lovecraft adored it and he sent it off to Wright and Wright wrote him back this:

(Ruth doing old timey voice over the sound of a teletype): I’m reluctantly returning the other story the “Tale of Satampra Zeiros.” I’m afraid our readers, the great majority of them at least, would find the story extremely unreal and unconvincing. Personally I fell under the spell of its splendid wording, which reminded me of Lord Dunsany’s stories in The Book of Wonder, however I feel Lord Dunsany’s stories would prove unpalatable to most of our readers.

R: So Smith sent that letter to Lovecraft and Lovecraft just flipped his shit. He was really angry, and so he apparently wrote to Wright and to the co-editor that was working with Wright at the time and lobbied for the story and Smith credited, in a later letter to August Derleth I believe, the acceptance of that story to Lovecraft’s advocacy. Cus Lovecraft just fell in love with it and he wrote back and he said, ‘I love this Tsathoggua, it’s got me thinking about all these things, I’m gonna put him in “The Mound,” which is the story I’m working on for’ what’s her name? Hazel Heald? Yes. And he said, ‘I’m gonna have him written in for these underworld people and it’s just going to be absolutely perfect.’ And then two years later finally it did get published. So yeah Lovecraft was huge on this story. Wright- I love the way Wright worded his rejection, ‘I fell under it’s spell, but the readers wouldn’t like it.’

T: Right. What a gent.

R: But this led me to discover that the Brown Archive has more of these Wright letters, which makes me want to find out just how many they have and to go there and to read the rejections of Farnsworth Wright.

T: Yeah that would be a great resource to get into this guy’s head; who had so much power at the time.

R: Exactly. So we mentioned a book in the, uh, “Death of Malygris” episode…(overly dramatic) I could write that book.

T: (laughs) Right.

J: It’s an awesome idea. It’s cool that he mentions Lord Dunsany, cus it’s kinda what it reminds me of a little in retrospect; it reminds me of those stories like “The Probable Adventure of 3 Literary Men,” where its some thieves, who are trying to steal something and they come to a terrible fate, but y’know it won’t be that terrible because it is told from the first person.

R: Yeah

P: Sure.

R: Could be a lot worse. Although from the first person…limited hand.

(Music Cue)
J: [Reads]

I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasures of Commoriom and be tempted thereby.

P: That was an amazing reading.

T: So we’re introduced to Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, who’s writing with his left hand strangely, because he lost his other one. I wonder how he lost it do you think we’ll find out?

J: Hmmm

R: It’s the Chekov’s Gun.

T: Everything in this passage is so mysterious. It’s such a great open.

J: It’s a great line.

R: And quite colorful too that he chooses to write in a violet juice that turns to blood red on a strong vellum made from mastodon skin. I love all the little touches that aren’t necessary.

T: So this guy Satampra and his buddy Tirouv; they’re thieves right?

P: Yup.

T: They make their living st- pulling off these amazing heists to make money to live high on the hog.

P: Yeah and the story lists a bunch of their other capers.

T: Yeah, yup.

P: The theft of the jewels of Queen Cunambria.

T: The breaking of the adamantine box of Acromi.

P: That one sounds amazing!

T: I know!

P: They don’t break the box they, like, what they do-

T: They burned it open with acid.

P: Yes. Mordant. Rare and mordant acid.

R: Yeah, I liked the one where they stole the jewels or was it the jewels or the medallions? Where they simply went in as, uh, Indiana Jones style in Jason’s versions of the story the floor just covered with snakes and other reptiles, it’s creepy.

T: Yeah, “venomous reptiles wandered at will.”

P: As venomous reptiles are want to do.

T: Yup.

P: Jason when you play D&D do you play as a thief? Be honest.

J: Uh, no, I play as a wizard. A necromancer preferably-

T: Ooooh.

R: (laughter)

P: Wow, nice.

J: -I’ve read enough Smith stories.

P: The most Clark Ashton Smithian of persuasions.

J: I mean I know what happens to thieves, I’ve read enough of these things.

R: Yeah.

P: (laughing throughout) but then you should know what happens to necromancers as well.

J: Yeah they become super awesome.

T: I know and they never die.

R: Yeah!

P: Yeah just skip the end of those stories. Who knows?

J: I love their flowery dialog throughout, which dresses up the fact that they’re just these like thugs. He’s so eloquent describing these awful things he did- that he does to people, it reminds me a lot of Jack Vance; of Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever and Eyes of the Overworld books from the Dying Earth series and which I guess isn’t surprising because the Dying Earth sort of is a Clark Ashton pastiche actually.

T: Oh absolutely, yeah.

R: Yeah I was handed a Dying Earth by one of my friends and said, ‘Huh I, I, I, who wrote this too.’

J: I mean I love, I love the later Dying Earth stuff like, that he wrote in the 60s; that’s got a lot of creativity and it’s it’s own thing y’know, but in the beginning when I read the first Dying Earth stories they’re just totally like Smith’s; they- obviously a Smith fan boy. (switching to a faux-authoritative voice) Do you hear that 96 year old Jack Vance?!

T: (laughing) Yeah take that!

R: Well we’re sure he listens to our pod.

T: Hi, Jack.

J: You’re awesome

T: I’m a big fan.

P: I think there’s some Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in this stuff as well actually; in particular there’s a part where they’re having the debate about the bread verses the wine and it sort of seemed like two buds out on the town trying to decide whether to get drunk or eat.

T: Wait why if they’re such big time thieves why are they- why do they have to choose to buy bread or wine?

P: Because they’ve fallen onto hard times, Tim.

T: Ahhhhh.

P: It happens to best of us.

R: People have gotten more cherry with their valuables they’re like, ‘Hey people are stealing our stuff let’s lock it up.’

J: We only have Satampra Zeiros’ word that he’s done all this awesome stuff-

T: Yeah that’s true.

J: -We only know from his perspective that he’s actually- supposedly like an awesome thief. Maybe he sucks.

R: Yeah well there was one time he nearly got caught with a sack of red yams, which you know, that’s Ocean’s 11 stuff right there.

J: I bet those were some yams.

P: It’s like the opening to Aladdin or something.

R: Sadly, yeah they don’t have very much, in fact they have what all of three pazoors. So it’s either the pomegranate wine-

T: Or bread.

R: Or bread.

T: They decide to get drunk and in- while they’re in the sauce Satampra comes up with one big score; one last big score.

(Music Cue)
T: [Reads]

“Tirouv Ompallios,” I said, “is there any reason why you and I, who are brave men and nowise subject to the fears and superstitions of the multitude, should not avail ourselves of the kingly treasures of Commoriom? A day’s journey from this tiresome town, a pleasant sojourn in the country, an afternoon or forenoon of archaeological research—and who knows what we should find?”

“You speak wisely and valiantly, my dear friend,” rejoined Tirouv Ompallios. “Indeed, there is no reason why we should not replenish our deflated finances at the expense of a few dead kings or gods.”

R: Cus that’s always a bright idea.

P: I know, that’s the best logic ever. I mean they’re dead, right?

T: Yeah they’re not using it.

P: They were only kings and gods what could possible go wrong?

R: Well the gods, y’know that is not dead which can eternal lie.

J: It’s not like the world of magic and giant monsters and dinosaurs roaming around and stuff.

R: Psssh, no.

T: Can’t be any consequences to this.

(Music Cue)
J: [Read]

Now Commoriom, as all the world knows, was deserted many hundred years ago because of the prophecy of the White Sybil of Polarion, who foretold an undescribed and abominable doom for all mortal beings who should dare to tarry within its environs. Some say that this doom was a pestilence that would have come from the northern waste by the paths of the jungle tribes; others, that it was a form of madness; at any rate, no one, neither king nor priest nor merchant nor laborer nor thief, remained in Commoriom to abide its arrival, but all departed in a single migration to found at the distance of a day’s journey the new capital, Uzuldaroum. And strange tales are told, of horrors and terrors not to be faced or overcome by man, that haunt forevermore the shrines and mausoleums and palaces of Commoriom. And still it stands, a luster of marble, a magnificence of granite, all a-throng with spires and cupolas and obelisks that the mighty trees of the jungle have not yet overtowered, in a fertile inland valley of Hyperborea. And men say that in its unbroken vaults there lies entire and undespoiled as of yore the rich treasure of olden monarchs; that the high-built tombs retain the gems and electrum that were buried with their mummies; that the fanes have still their golden altar-vessels and furnishings, the idols their precious stones in ear and mouth and nostril and navel.

P: That sounds like a great place to get drunk and pillage.

J: Yeah. Y’know when you find out what made people leave Commoriom in “The Testament of Athammaus,” you…you would not believe that they actually build a new city just a day away, I would like, move to a new continent.

P: They didn’t go very far.

T: Look it’s hot, it’s the jungle, they’re not gonna travel that far.

P: How do you- can we put this moment; so we have two thieves, a party of two thieves. They get drunk in an inn-

T: Yup.

P: -er, I’m assuming they’re in an inn I guess-

R: Well-

P: They get drunk somewhere.

R: -I am assuming they’re in a street, but-

T: Yeah, no, they’re in a tavern because they had to go there to buy the wine.

R: Ah yes.

T: Don’t they stand outside first to- alright whatever.

P: Ah, I just wanted to put this into D&D logic. Like what is this moment? It’s like- is it a sandbox and they’re like two player characters are like ‘let’s get drunk’ and then you roll on a chart and it’s like you know the myth of Commoriom and the players are like, ‘We’re going there.’

T: ‘We’re going to hex 245.’

J: I feel they’re railroaded into going, personally.

P: You think they’re railroaded? This doesn’t feel like a railroad to me!

J: Well it’s not like he suggests like, ‘Well we could go here, we could go there we could go sailing to the isles of the torturers in a couple billion years.’ We- no. It’s just like one option.

T: Yeah, plus later on they’re kind forced to, uh, confront things…

P: That feels like railroading. This is maybe like the DM dangles this bait and the players go for it because they want to.

T: ‘Rich stuff guys! Rich stuff!’

P: Yeah.

R: ‘Do you want loot and probably not much to do for it? Less chance of leveling because there’s absolutely positively nobody at all in there.’

T: So Smith is a good DM cus he makes you feel like you’re making a good choice even though it’s the only option.

P: I can’t wait to alienate all of our non-D&D listeners. ‘So then I roll a d20 and it’s like-‘

R: ‘And you rolled to bluff your way back into your lodgings so that you can actually go on your trip.’

T: Yeah.

J: ‘Roll on the alcohol miscibility table.’

T: So they’re partying hard and they, they’re in love with this idea of going to this forgotten doomed city. They bully their way into rooms because they’re wasted drunk so they want to sleep the night and the innkeep can’t stop them and then since they dri-, this I found hilarious, that they were drinking so much that they overslept.

R: Yeah. ‘We’re going on an adventure! When the hangover’s off.’

T: Yeah, so they slept late and then they head out to the country the next day.

P: Don’t they also say that they’re not- they weren’t drunk enough to actually do it that night? Isn’t it that–like if they had had one more bottle of wine they would’ve just done it? I love these guys.

T: I know, I know. They’re like junkies, looking for that last big score, ‘This is gonna change our life.’ And then they oversleep and then they travel out to the country to steal food.

P: Tim, they’re not like junkies they’re like Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is not a junkie and I resent the implication.

T: They’re like the typical D&D group: Murder Hobos.

J: Yeah, like Indiana Jones if he like stopped and like murdered and stole stuff from people on the way to the archeological dig.

R: And you’re saying he didn’t? Cus I have fanfic that says otherwise.

P: I’ve seen Indiana Jones murder so many nazis, I don’t even think that I can- Dude kills, dude is not afraid to kill.

J: Not very respectful of native peoples is Indiana Jones.

R + T: No.

P: Exactly. Whether they’re natives of Germany or India.

J: Smith really writes about his heroes’ appetites. It’s so un-Lovecraftian. They’re all pigging out on bread and wine and palm wine and like melons and stolen fowl that they cook in the woods. It’s so sad that Lovecraft probably only liked to eat bread and cheese and coffee and donut(s).

P: Yeah I have this sneaking suspicion that Clark Ashton Smith legitimately loved being alive and H.P. Lovecraft legitimately hated being alive.

R: I have a theory from reading Lovecraft’s letters that he had a bit of an eating disorder just based on reading him and talking to friend’s of mine that have acknowledged eating disorders.

P: I also think that these characters are so, although we don’t know them that long in this story at least, but they’re, they just have such personality; like they’re vivacious.

T: Yeah, they are.

P: They’re almost more vivacious than any character we’ve met in any other Smith story actually. They’re like- I don’t know they just feel like they’re out for a good time. Like the seem like fun characters to be around, which is pretty rare in, has been pretty rare in Smith and it is definitely rare in Lovecraft, not to constantly make Lovecraft comparisons, but it’s rare that you encounter a character who’s like, ‘Hey these guys are kinda fun.’ You know? They’re not dire, madness bound adventurers, y’know?

T: And even when they eventually get to the jungle; when they get there and they get to the overgrown road and they head in and it’s all strange.

J: The description of the journey into the jungle is very evocative though.

T: Yeah it’s so good and they’re kinda spooked by everything. By the stealthy vipers and enormous moths and puerperal bats.

J: (shudder noise)

P: What does that word mean?

J: Purple, but just really a bad purple.

R: The connotations, yeah, of a purple color. Which isn’t quite how I read it, which is weird.

T: Yeah that’s gross. So huge sickly purple bats with tiny red eyes.

R: Yeah and they feast on poisonous looking fruit, which is creepy.

P: This is the part where they succeed on the random encounter table to not have any random encounters.

R: The GM keeps rolling and saying, “You see a bat eating a poisonous looking fruit” “We fight it?”

J: “I ignore it”

T: (to Phil) You’re really sticking to this theme.

P: Hey, when I make a decision, Tim, I stick to it, whether it’s the right decision or wrong decision.

T: I’m learning that. So they’re quiet and they’re spooked until they start knocking back some drinks, cus they stole a large leather bottle full of palm spirit and that starts lightening they’re mood.

J: So they walk through the jungle and finally in the middle of the night they come to Commoriom. They finally come to the ruined city and they start exploring and the first building they see, coincidentally, is an old temple. And they approach this ancient temple, which is kinda simple and crude compared with the other buildings of the city and I believe they recognize it as the temple of Tsathoggua immediately, don’t they?

T: Yeah they do.

R: Mmhmm.

T: They’re familiar with him, but he’s like an older god that nobody really worships anymore.

P: Uh, then we have this rather long reading that somebody-

T: Pretend you’re DMing.

P: *sigh* Man if I were DMing I’d blow it even worse.

J: Let’s set it up, let’s set it up. Ok, I examine the temple, what does it look like?

(Music Cue)
P: [Reads]

The temple, like the other buildings, was in a state of well-nigh perfect preservation: the only signs of decay were in the carven lintel of the door, which had crumbled and splintered away in several places. The door itself, wrought of a swarthy bronze all overgreened by time, stood slightly a-jar. Knowing that there should be a jewelled idol within, not to mention the various altar-pieces of valuable metals, we felt the urge of temptation.

Surmising that strength might be required to force open the verdigris-covered door, we drank deeply, and then applied ourselves to the task. Of course, the hinges were rusted; and only by dint of mighty and muscular heavings did the door at last begin to move. As we renewed our efforts, it swung slowly inward with a hideous grating and grinding that mounted to an almost vocal screech, in which we seemed to hear the tones of some unhuman entity. The black interior of the temple yawned before us, and from it there surged an odor of long-imprisoned mustiness combined with a queer and unfamiliar fetidity. To this, however, we gave little heed in the natural excitement of the moment.

With my usual foresight, I had provided myself with a piece of resinous wood earlier in the day, thinking that it might serve as a torch in case of any nocturnal explorations of Commoriom. I lit this torch, and we entered the shrine.

The place was paven with immense quinquangular flags of the same material from which its walls were built. It was quite bare, except for the image of the god enthroned at the further end, the two-tiered altar of obscenely-figured metal before the image, and a large and curious-looking basin of bronze supported on three legs, which occupied the middle of the floor. Giving this basin hardly a glance, we ran forward, and I thrust my torch into the face of the idol.

I had never seen an image of Tsathoggua before, but I recognized him without difficulty from the descriptions I had heard. He was very squat and pot-bellied, his head was more like that of a monstrous toad than a deity, and his whole body was covered with an imitation of short fur, giving somehow a vague suggestion of both the bat and the sloth. His sleepy lids were half-lowered over his globular eyes; and the tip of a queer tongue issued from his fat mouth. In truth, he was not a comely or personable sort of god, and I did not wonder at the cessation of his worship, which could only have appealed to very brutal and aboriginal men at any time.

P: Everything about this passage is D&D, lets start at the top.

R: Quinquangular!

T: Quinquangular.

P: Quinquangular is my new favorite word.

T: It’s a great one.

P: It’s so good.

T: Yeah, so they creak open the doooor-

P: Oh, hold on Tim, what did they have to do to open that door? Put it in D&D terms.

T: They had to make their bend bars open gates roll.

P: Exactly.

R: Probably strength.

P: Pass a strength check and then they get inside and it’s dark and the GM says, “Does any of you have a torch?”

T: ‘Oh, I grabbed some resinous material out in the jungle!’

J: So they run forward and they look at- Is this the first time that Tsathoggua actually appears in fiction?

R: (checking) Yyyyes. um-

P: I think it is.

R: This is the story in which he came up with it, according to his own letters.

T: Yeah and there’s no there’s no rich stuff, it’s bare, there’s just this squat obscene idol and a stink basin.

P: I wanna go back to what Jason was just saying though. like, they like the torch and the first thing that he does is, excuse my French, fucking run up to the base of Tsathoggua and stick his torch in its face. It’s inSANE. Like, I love this guy.

T: Yeah.

P: What, like, what do you think that is? Like, is he just that curious, is he that drunk, what’s going on?

T: Yeah, this is why they’re here. They’re here to go and rob these idols of their riches so of course he’s going to run up and try to inspect it.

P: But doesn’t he do that after he knows there’s no riches?

R: Well he hasn’t seen anything else in the room, but y’know he’s going to try that AD&D cover-

T: Ye- right, exactly!

R: -handbook; pry the jewel of the eyes out.

J: Yeah! Totally.

T: That’s what this made me think of that cover to the- what was it, the player’s manual?

J: Yeah. The player’s handbook.

T: A bunch of thieves prying- so he was looking at that cover thinking, ‘Oh there’s going to be rich stuff in this idol,’ but nope.

J: They look all around, but there’s nothing of value, there’s not a gold piece to be had and they’re kinda pissed off.

R: Which gives me a lot of questions about the worship of Tsathoggua. If we step back and say kay, so we don’t, spoiler, we don’t get to see inside any of the other temples and see if there actually is lucre just hiding around piles of gold if they’re jewels or anything, so does this say that Tsathoggua cult is so ancient that it’s rooted in this stone age type of work where everything is just carved and there’s no jewels yet and it’s just this, the deity and the folky base and the altar.

T: Yeah. The basin’s made out of metal right?

R: Uh, yeah I guess so.

T: It’s like bronze or something?

R: I want a Tsathoggua idol by the way if any of you guys ever see one (very dramatic) I want it. Or a Tsathoggua idol kickstarter.

J: I think Smith carved some Tsathoggua idols.

T: Yeah he did. I wonder if anybody makes like a reproduction of it. That would be awesome to have. He looks weird. He looks like a little weird, little man-god.

J: Dude, that would be so cool, like a best of Clark Ashton Smith sculpture, like, for reproduction thing and they could all have little candle holders and stuff and then-

T: That would be great.

P: That would be awesome.

J: You could float them in the bath while you’re y’know-

T: So relaxing

P: Jason, you’re not aware, I guess people who listen to the podcast maybe aren’t aware either, but for a while I was obsessed with trying to figure out who has all of Clark Ashton Smith’s artwork cus there’s obviously tons of it right? And I found some people who have some of his, like, his paintings and drawings and stuff, but I have no idea who has his sculpture and I read somewhere that the, whatever’s left of Arkham House Publishing might actually own his statuary-

R: Oh, and this is why we have to buy Arkham House, I mean take it over hostilely.

P: (hearty laughter) But I would love to see in real life his carving I think it would be amazing.

R: I would like to steal in real life his carving.

P: Alright Ruth, don’t, let’s not proclaim criminal intent.

J: You know that thieves come to bad ends, perhaps from creatures squatting in bowls in the Arkham House (inaudible)

P: Guys, let’s get some pomegranate wine and we’ll go to Wisconsin and then we’ll head to, uh, wherever the hell they are, somewhere outside Madison, and we’ll just see. I mean maybe we can pass our strength check and uh-

T: I’ll pack a torch.

R: I’ll bring the palm wine, once we get there. In fact some friends in Madison might be up for a caper, this could happen. Anyway, (clears throat) I also like that Tsathoggua’s fuzzy by the way-

T: Yeah.

R: That he’s not just…

J: Yeah

P: He’s a very…

T: He’s a sloth-bat-toad.

J: Y’know now that you mention it, I’m kind of thinking of this way the Buddha’s hair is shown in the sculptures, where it’s really stylized and like tightly bound around his-

R: Oooo! That’s prettier than I was thinking.

J: Yeah it could just be like a bunch of little lumpy whatevers…

P: Do you think that Smith was thinking of Buddha imagery when he came up with this, cus it always struck me as very Buddha-ish too, how he’s written about.

T: Yeah, with his little tongue sticking out, his sleepy lids, or was it just supposed to look like, sloth-like?

P: I don’t know.

J: There’s definitely a lot of like, sort of, uh primitivist ideas of what idols quote un quote should look like in here, y’know? Plus the monster movie.

T: So they don’t find any gems, but they do find this basin with this odorous liquid in it and they- he says specifically that it doesn’t smell like decay or death, it smells like an animal, like some vile and unclean creature of the marshes, which I thought was a really good touch cus it would be super easy to just say it smelled like death and decay, but nope. It’s got the musky smell of an animal. So they’re looking in and it just starts to bubble.

(Music Cue)

J: [Reads]

The center swelled as if with the action of some powerful yeast, and we watched in utter horror, while an uncouth amorphous head with dull and bulging eyes arose gradually on an ever-lengthening neck, and stared us in the face with primordial malignity. Then two arms—if one could call them arms—likewise arose inch by inch, and we saw that the thing was not, as we had thought, a creature immersed in the liquid, but that the liquid itself had put forth this hideous neck and head, and was now forming these damnable arms, that groped toward us with tentacle-like appendages in lieu of claws or hands!

Then the whole mass of the dark fluid began to rise, and far more quickly than the suvana-juice runs from my pen, it poured over the rim of the basin like a torrent of black quicksilver, taking as it reached the floor an undulant ophidian form which immediately developed more than a dozen short legs.

J: (no longer reading) AAAAAAAAAGH

J: This is the awesomest scene ever.

T: It’s so good.

P: There’s more though, there’s more! “What unimaginable horror-”

(Music Cue)
J: [Reads]

What unimaginable horror of protoplastic life, what loathly spawn of the primordial slime had come forth to confront us, we did not pause to consider or conjecture. The monstrosity was too awful to permit of even a brief contemplation; also, its intentions were too plainly hostile, and it gave evidence of anthropophagic inclinations; for it slithered toward us with an unbelievable speed and celerity of motion, opening as it came a toothless mouth of amazing capacity. As it gaped upon us, revealing a tongue that uncoiled like a long serpent, its jaws widened with the same extreme elasticity that accompanied all its other movements.

T: AAAAAAAAAGH

P: AAAAAAAAAGH

T: Yea that’s an amazing, number one, Monster, and reveal of a monster.

R: Yeah.

J: It’s sooo great. I love blobs, blobs are so scary.

P: What is it?

T: It feel very much like a modern horror movie. I feel like you would see this in a film today.

J: Yeah, hopefully with good CG, not bad CG.

All: YEAH

R: Proper CG (shudder sound).

P: What by the logic of the story, or if we want to go off logic of this story, do you think that this is?

J: Well it’s interesting that it’s not a little clone of Tsathoggua or the Tsathoggua itself gets up and is like, ‘WAH-‘ (previous noise was the beginning of a waddling sound effect) waddles over y’know?

P: Can you, hold on, hold on, can you make a sound effect for Tsathoggua waddling?

T: ‘wak wakchwakchwa’ (‘K’ take on a swallowed, whispered tone in previous)

J: I feel it should be heavier sounding.

R: See I feel like, ‘Pplloou Pplloou Pplloou Ppppplloou’ Something like that maybe?

J: Is that your, are you having a cold there or is it a-

P: Are you blowing your nose on your microphone?

R: I was using my cold to help me make that heavy Tsathoggua-y sound.

J: Nice.

R: It was sort of gross general sound, which I thought was apt.

J: Yeah you’re never told what the hell this creature is, but Lovecraft tells us what it is later on in “The Mound,” right?

P: Does he? I didn’t know that.

T: Oh that’s right he does doesn’t he?

J: Yeah, in fact I have here a quote from H.P. Lovecraft’s, “The Mound.” Alright, cus, um, in that he has like, it’s got all the underground worlds are layered on top of one another and the human like ones live in K’n-yan, where most of the story takes place, but there’s this back story where they go down into the black gulf of N’kai below the Earth and-

J: [Reads]At any rate, when the men of K’n-yan went down into N’kai’s black abyss with their great atom-power searchlights they found living things—living things that oozed along stone channels and worshipped onyx and basalt images of Tsathoggua. But they were not toads like Tsathoggua himself. Far worse—they were amorphous lumps of viscous black slime that took temporary shapes for various purposes. The explorers of K’n-yan did not pause for detailed observations, and those who escaped alive sealed the passage leading from red-litten Yoth down into the gulfs of nether horror.

T: They’re not monsters, they’re men!

R: And they worship- they’re Tsathoggua worshippers, which is a really cool, cool touch for it, that it’s not just like, it’s some sort of pet or slave or whatever, no, it worships Tsathoggua and it just curled up cozily here-

J: But this one’s been living alone for a long time out in the sticks, so it’s probably pretty weird even if you talk to it, y’know?

P: He’s lonely! That bit of intertextual answering just blew my mind by the way. I’m gonna have to pick my jaw up off the floor.

T: I know! So yeah, so as this thing- It does kind of, a little bit, seem like it is lonely, because it chases them and it could he even mentions in the story, it could have easily grabbed them. It could have easily elastically caught up with them because it keeps changing its shape the entire time its chasing them. So it seems-

R: Maybe it’s like a cat

T: Yeah it seems like it’s playing with them or maybe it is trying to, uh, make contact with them in some way.

P: Oh I wanted to take about like, in the, I noted a little thing, I’m sorry, back a second. In the passage where they describe the monster where, I don’t think it’s meant to be humorous, but it strikes me as an odd tonal choose to say instead of ‘it wanted to eat us’ say “it gave evidence of anthropophagic inclinations,” which I don’t know if it’s meant to be comedic, in this case. I think it’s- but it’s- there’s something in there to me that speaks to what will eventually like, the weird comedic tone of Hyperborean stories; where it’s like- It’s funny that he says it that way.

T: Cus you picture him strapping on a bib and taking out a fork and knife and like striking them against one another.

P: There’s giving evidence of something and then there’s opening a giant mouth and trying to eat something. And while there’s a weird almost wry understatement about it.

J: That’s how it’s different from a Jack Vance story. If it were a Jack Vance story the monster would actually talk be like, ‘Excuse me I’m sorry you’ve awakened me from my slumber. Do you mind if I eat you?’

P: ‘Let me give some evidence on my intentions.’

P: So they get chased by this thing.

R: Through jungle or hill or vale. Up to the moon and back.

J: It’s very fairytale. They run around all night and till they’re sooo tired.

R: And suddenly, hope on the horizon, it’s a city…oh, crap. It’s Commoriom. ‘Quick let’s go back into the same temple. And lock ourselves in. That’s a great idea.’

P: See now I feel railroading.

T: Right, exactly. ‘Oh you’re not getting away.This is the only thing that I have planned so…’

R: ‘Sorry guys’

T: ‘You find yourself back in front of the temple.’

P: But it could also be really bad rolling.

R: It’s true.

P: I do you think it’s a little bit, like I wish that they had run into a different building. It would be nice to see a different building in this same city.

R: Except for how it ends.

P: Well, I meant he ending is awesome, but I’m just saying from a literary explorer’s point of view I would like to be given a glimpse of one of the other buildings.

R: Maybe run through a building a discover it didn’t have any locks so the thing kept pursuing them over piles of jewels or something, cus that would be awesome.

P: yeah

J: Yeah, from an archeological perspective it would be nice to see more of Commoriom.

T: Can we talk for a second about the word “foreomening?”

P: Sure.

T: Just that. “Foreomening.” Isn’t that kind of redundant? You’re getting a premonition of your omen, which is also a premonition.

J: It’s like fore-doubleshadowing.

T: Yes, so they stop and “no farther away than the toss of a javelin,” is the temple of Tsathoggua. That’s how I measure distance as well.

R: Which, I mean who throwing their javelin? Cus my real life strength is y’know, like an 8. D&D listeners will know that I’m below average.

P: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

T: Oh, now you give up.

P: Now I give up and now I’ve changed my mind. Ah, so they run back into the temple and they- do they slam the door that they’d previously opened behind them?

R: Well they lock it, yeah.

T: Yeah they’re able to slam it shut and use all their strength again to lock it and they think they’re safe, but then, and this was actually an interesting call back where he says, “I think I have said that the lintel of the door had crumbled and splintered away in several places.” And he did so it’s- I feel like it was unnecessary, but that’s a cool little narrative trick.

J: We’l I had forgotten so.

R: And it makes you say, ‘Oh I know what’s gonna happen.’

P: So the creature then oozes through the holes, which leads me to the supposition that Clark Ashton Smith actually invented the T-1000 and probably morphing technologies. Like, all of 90s cinema effects can be linked back to this story now officially, by me.

J: I know this wasn’t the first blob story, but it’s pretty damn good.

T: The creature actually kind of reminds me of the Beast of Averoigne a little bit.

R: A little bit, but the beast of Averoigne isn’t quite so malleable. But it is fairly flexible.

T: Yeah.

J: It’s more like a Chaos Beast that’s always shape shifting, and this is like a blob. It’s like a big slimy blob.

R: Viscous.

T: Can we talk about the words “Chaos Beast” for a second?

J: Noooooo. So the monster starts oozing back into the temple and they have like a split second to decide what to do and there’s two objects in the room to hide behind, both of which actually suck, but they have no choice. So Satampra Zeiros, he just jumps behind the only decent thing to hide behind, which is the statue of Tsathoggua, meanwhile saying, “Farewell, Tirouv Ompallios,” and just leaving him completely fucked!

P: Sorry bro.

J: And Tirouv Ompallios has no choice but to stupidly jump inside the basin-

R: Inside.

J: From whence the monster had come.

T: I like that he also- he doesn’t have the dialog of saying it, but he also returns the ‘Goodbye Satampra Zeiros.’

J: ‘See you in hell sucker’

T: Yeah, right.

P: S the creature comes in and it like reels up over the bowl and then it’s just a lapsing wave or a giant mouth it crashes into the bowl over Tirouv. There’s a lot of verbiage put behind what it does, like it consumes him, but here’s no noise, there’s no- he doesn’t scream, he’s just completely smothered.

R: And he’s not really sure what’s going on there, so he waits for a little bit.

J: He’s waiting behind the statue afraid to move and he maybe hears some little weird noises but doesn’t know what’s going on till finally he sticks his head out and it’s just a featureless pool of black slime just like before.

R: So this is when he deciders he should make his escape while the getting’s good and while it’s eating or whatever it’s doing.

T: But he wants to do it sneakily cus he feels that it would be, “highly injudicious to disturb the entity in the bowl while it was digesting Tirouv Ompallios.” So he’s being considerate.

J: Yeah.

(Music Cue)
R: [Reads] Even as I shot back the bolt, a single tentacle sprang out with infernal rapidity from the basin, and elongating itself across the whole room, it caught my right wrist in a lethal clutch. It was unlike anything I have ever touched, it was indescribably viscid and slimy and cold, it was loathsomely soft like the foul mire of a bog and mordantly sharp as an edged metal, with an agonizing suction and constriction that made me scream aloud as the clutch tightened upon my flesh, cutting into me like a vise of knife-blades. In my struggles to free myself, I drew the door open, and fell forward on the sill. An awful moment of pain, and then I became aware that I had broken away from my captor. But looking down, I saw that my hand was gone, leaving a strangely withered stump from which little blood issued. Then, gazing behind me into the shrine, I saw the tentacle recoil and shorten till it passed from view behind the rim of the basin, bearing my lost hand to join whatever now remained of Tirouv Ompallios.

J: DOOOOOMMM

T: Do you guys think that the creature made his hand wave to him as it went into the doorway? So yeah that was- Now we know why he lost his hand. I don’t know I feel kind of- There’s something about this ending that, it’s not that satisfying to me.

J: Because somebody survives, right?

T: Yeah, because somebody survives and the creature is still able to do what it wants.

R: Well I kinda like that the creature stays there guarding, worshiping Tsathoggua.

T: The thane of Tsathoggua.

J: I think it’s a pretty awesome ending, although I wonder how he gets back to town and what then hell happens to him, but it’s a nice in-between. He’s completely screwed but he doesn’t die horribly like most Smith characters. He gets to come back later in a sequel.

R: And I liked that he- when he lost his hand, I was wondering at first, the first time I read it, ‘Wait, he loses a hand in the middle of the jungle, forest, thing. His right hand with nobody else around how is he gonna stop that- oh, there’s not much blood flowing. I see what you did.’ It’s like the lightsaber or something.

J: But when I drew it I drew lots of blood, because it’s not as satisfying unless you draw tons of blood whenever possible.

P: And if you’re reading it as a comic and you haven’t read the story and noted that passage-

R: It’s true it wouldn’t make any sense.

P: -And I looked at it, I would be like, ‘Oh he didn’t want to draw the blood.’

J: Exactly.

P: So I feel it’s good you went that route.

R: Yeah.

J: So there is another Satampra Zeiros story. And would you guys say it comes before or after this one? I guess they don’t really say.

P: You’re saying does it come, in the life of Satampra Zeiros, does it come before or after?

J: Well it probably comes, actually it must come before because he, I don’t think there’s any reference to him having a hand.

R: But the story feels like an end of life written story. Maybe.

J: That’s true. Y’know there’s one, spoilers, in that story, “The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles,” I mean it’s actually a pretty different mood and I prefer this one. And speaking of drawing the story, since there’s no physical description for either of the characters I pretty just made them up. I made Ompallios a semi-handsome one and I made Zeiros the paste-y weirdo; but in retrospect when, I had forgotten that in the sequel story, “The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles,” he has this hot girlfriend, but I just think that adds more dimension to his character y’know that he’s (inaudible as many people agree).

T: He’s definitely a charming dude, y’know-

J: Yeah.

T: -he’s got a way with words and he’s able to convince his buddy to go trek into the jungle drunk to raid this doomed city.

P: I love these guys.

T: He’s got some game. (hearing Phil) Yeah.

J: Yeah, he’s more than just a pretty face.

P: When you were drawing the book, I guess this is kind of a general question, but specifically for this, what are your artistic influences. When you set about to envision this, where did you start?

J: Well the first thing I did was I checked out every single eye-witness guide from the library, on like jungles and archeology and crocodiles and plants and everything I could think of. I mean I guess I’m influenced mostly by manga and by underground comics, like the type from the 60s and 70s, Richard Corbin, y’know the artists like that. Hayao Miyazaki, his Nausicaa graphic novel. Things like that, I’m fond of really detailed illustrative kind of art and I always sort of developed in that direction. There wasn’t any specific influence for Satampra Zeiros itself. Although I guess kind of as I drew it, the early parts that are more set up have more of an underground comics feel and later on I started feeling a little more manga when the action starts, but it’s only a 20 page story so it’s not like a 200 page epic based on this 8 page prose story.

R: You would have had to write the entire story of all their heists that he mentions including the yam theft, which would’ve been awesome. The story behind the heist of the yams!

P: What else do we want to say about this story? I love it, I can’t quite put it- y’know because I love to put things in a hierarchy, because that’s how I am. I can’t quite hierarchy this story in my mind of, but I know that I like it a lot in particular because of the way, and we said this about a few of his stories, but this is another one that flies in the face of the idea of genre in general because it, we said earlier it says it does it all. Its a horror, comedy, adventure, fantasy et cetera et cetera. It just kinda goes where it needs to go and does what it needs to do and I think that that’s really cool.

T: And it’s a great into to this new setting, it’s very exciting and there is an ending that leaves it open for more stories.

R: I like that it introduces us to Tsathoggua, who we’ve, I’m trying to think we hear mentioned in other stories, but I believe that chronologically in terms of Smith’s writing they all do come after, cus this was written 1929.

P: Yeah, yeah that’s (inaudible).

R: So they all come chronologically after this and actually for once bringing us face to face with Tsathoggua as compared to just referencing him in all the other stories-

T: And what a face.

R: -And I love that. (hearing Tim) Yeah! It’s so properly evocative that I got a good idea what it looked like before I even saw Smith’s drawings.

J: I think the really great things about this story are three. One, Tsathoggua. Two, the slimy blob monster. And three, the narrative voice that makes it all sound so awesome.

R: Yeah and I like that we have the color that the slimy blob monster adds to Tsathoggua by it not being a him story.

P: Can we talk briefly about what place Tsathoggua has amongst the broader Lovecraft mythos. Cus he strikes me as notably different than the others probably specifically because Lovecraft didn’t make him up. He feel somehow more, I don’t know what the right word is, like less cosmic-

T: Removed?

P: Yeah, or like, all the others are huge and cosmic and sort of- Tsathoggua is inscrutable in a certain way, but he just feels more Earthy in a certain sense.

R: Well he really didn’t know; Tsathoggua didn’t- Lovecraft just basically just fell absolutely in love with Tsathoggua even when incorporating him into his own canon he did it because he fell in love with this idea that Smith had. Which it’s very…fleshy.

P: Where does he fall in, as close as there can be an actual canon of the mythos, like who is he related to, what is he according to that, whether we want to call it or not, we’ll call it canon or not, the logic of the mythos?

T: Is he like an Outer God or an Elder Thing?

P: Yeah, exactly.

T: (reading) Tsathoggua, The Sleeper of N’kai, he’s a Great Old One.

R: Interesting.

T: He ranks.

P: He ranks? (laughs)

T: He’s up there.

R: I always figure he’s big and powerful, but he seems like a lazy Great Old One, which I’m ok with. He’s the one who just waits for you to bring him sacrifices if I recall correctly.

T: Well his Dex is only 27.

P: Can we call them ‘snack-rifices?’

R: I was looking at some references for Lovecraft’s use of him and he used him in the “The Mound,” which was actually for Zealia Bishop, which is why I was thinking Sadie Smith for some reason. In “Whisperer in Darkness” there’s a little aside that he said, which I think we talked about at one point, because it’s very properly silly and very Lovecraft/Smithian, “It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsathoggua came—you know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.”

P: Wow, look at, that was all tied together wasn’t it. We got Commoriom and we got-

R: -Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and just everything.

P: And Atlantis.

J: So, I know that you guys have posted it on the Facebook page, but have you talked about the family tree of the gods that Smith and Lovecraft wrote?

T: Not on the show I don’t think.

J: It has a very Ancient Greek feel, like Theogony, where he’s writing, talking about how the gods are related to one another and stuff and how the formless night beget that, beget that…

T: Right.

J: Y’know it’s very, it’s much more mythological than LOVECRAFT REFERENCE, in the Lovecraft version of the gods.

R: Here we go, family tree of the gods as drawn up by H.P. Lovecraft and working with Clark Ashton Smith. At the top we have Azathoth and let’s just look for the tree with Tsathoggua on it; we have The Nameless Mist and The Darkness, which give birth to Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath, who together create Yeb, which begets Tsathoggua, which is the- Tsathoggua is cousin to Cthulhu who’s from Nug. They are the first of their respective lines to inhabit this planet.

T: Nice.

P: WooHooo!

R: So Tsathoggua and Cthulhu are cousins, which just goes to show you how much HPL adored Tsathoggua.

J: Awwww, that’s really cute. They probably grew up together.

T: Yeah.

J: At least at like holidays and stuff, y’know.

T: Yeah I love that little family tree. It really highlights how geeky, nerdy, and funny Lovecraft was with Smith. I don’t know that he was like that with any of his other contributors. ‘Oh I’m gonna build a family tree and make us descended from our creations.’

R: With some of them, but really really got into it with Smith.

J: It’s interesting that they’re such good friends in the end cus they have such- their characters were pretty different in a lot of ways like particularly around sex and stuff. I guess, most people’s were different from Lovecraft about that, but um, did you guys tell the story about how Smith did illustrations for “The Lurking Fear,” early on with his relationship with Lovecraft and they were full of obvious sexual symbolism and penises and trees and stuff and Lovecraft didn’t see it at all. He’s like, ‘What great artwork! This is awesome!’ And Smith is like cracking up.

R: Oh y’know I did see a letter to Smith or to somebody where he was saying that, ‘Loveman sees all this phallic stuff in young Smith’s artwork, but you know the way he is.’ Like nudge nudge wink wink. He knows Loveman’s gay so he just sees penises everywhere, but I’m sure that’s not it.

J: But I’ve never seen the artwork so I don’t know actually if I would see penises in it y’know. Do I dare look in the penis mirror of Smith’s art.

R: I-I-I dare.I also want to see how he could work that into “The Lurking Fear,” which I don’ see as a-

J: “The Lurking Fear” is totally phallic! It’s about inbreeding and I mean it’s the story of offspring and horniness.

R: Speaking of Smith and Lovecraft being silly, not actually trying to turn the topic away from penis trees; I was looking at some of the selected letters earlier to get Lovecraft’s reaction to this and I love this start to a letter. [Reads] “Dear Klarkash-Ton (what follows is phonetic pronunciation of guttural gibberish words) It hath come homage lord Tsathoggua, father of night glory, elder one first born of outer eternity! Hail thou who was ancient beyond memory, ere the stars spawned great Cthulhu! Power hoary crawler over Mu’s fungoid places! Ia Ia Gnoth Cuagtha Ia Ia Tsathoggua!”

And then he goes on [Reads] “Sir I am most profoundly your debtor and know not how I can make you sensible of the extreme degree of my pleasure and gratitude. Never I vow have I beheld so primal and sinister an idol of the Old Ones and I cannot doubt for a moment that this represent no less a being than the lord Tsathoggua himself.” And he goes on quite a bit longer about Tsathoggua. If you’d like to read it, it’s the October 7th, 1930 letter on page 185 of Selected Letters volume 3. Cus he goes on for a while about Tsathoggua, but it just makes me so happy how he writes to him. It’s a side of Lovecraft that you don’t see in a lot of his writing.

T: Wish I had a friend like Lovecraft, who would write me things like that.

R: Dude, did you not get my Christmas card.

T: (laughs) Oh yeah that’s true.

J: I love this story, it’s so awesome. It’s got disgusting evil monsters that toy with the heroes. It’s got jungles and ancient cities and thieves and wine and like, off-screen evil debauchery and it’s really cool.

P: I completely agree.

T: Here’s a funny little story, one of the first things that I ever purchased on the internet, not the very first thing, but within the first like ten or twelve things was actually the animated version of, Jason, your adaptation of the Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath on DVD.

J: Whoa. Oh my goodness.

T: That’s a fun little connection.

J: Yeah that was a pretty cool project. The Dreamquest started out as a comic series that I did back when I was 22 and then it- then someone made it into a movie and now I’ve graphic novelized it. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamquest.

T: Well it’s a great one.

J: Yeah I like it. I like it a lot. Thank you for having me on the show you guys. I love your show and I listen to it all the time and I hope you conquer the world soon, because it deserves to be listened to by all manner of folk.

R: For Tsathoggua.

P: I think we should have Jason on again, maybe to do the other Satampra Zeiros story.

T: Yeah!

R: Or “The Seven Geases.”

P: Or The Seven Geases,” yeah either way.

J: Dude, “Seven Geases” is the best.

P: Ok then “Seven Geases” it is.

J: Yay!

T: But thank you for being on the show.

P: Yeah thank you so much.

T: It’s awesome to have somebody who has such a pedigree with this material come on and talk to us about it and we’re still fairly newcomers to this, to Smith, but yeah it’s great talking to somebody else about it, other than the three of us just rambling back and forth.

J: Well your show kicks ass and I would totally listen to the three of you rambling back and forth about anything. So if you want to do that cooking podcast, or about how to steal pomegranate wine, please do it. I will be there.

P: Next time we’re doing “The Door to Saturn.” I think we’re going to split it in two episodes, because it’s quite long and quite crazy. I don’t know if we’ll encounter crazier words than we’re gonna encounter in “Door to Saturn” anywhere else. It’s gonna be a rough one, I just know it. Stay tuned, because it’ll be an exciting one as well.

R: A fun trip.

P: Yup

J: Hooray!
[outro music]

Show notes for the episode

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