Cover illustrations © Charlotte Ronald, Adam Crossingham, and L. Abdul Baan.

THE BLACK SEAL # 1 (Winter 2001/2002), # 2 (Spring 2003), and # 3 (Spring 2004), edited by Adam Crossingham. Covers by Charlotte Ronald (# 1), Adam Crossingham (# 2), and L. Abdul Baan (# 3). 84 pgs. (# 1 & # 2), 100 pgs. (# 3). Check publisher for prices.

[Reviewed by Edward P. Berglund]

Adam Crossingham, the editor of The Black Seal, has put together three fantastic issues devoted to Cthulhu Now and the related Delta Green sub-genre. These were published to fill the void in the usual roleplaying game magazines for these two game systems. And a mighty fine job he has done, while focusing on the British Isles.

In his first issue, subtitled "Strange Britain, Secret Country," we are given numerous articles. In keeping with Delta Green, we are given background articles on the PISCES organization (originally in Pagan Publishing's Delta Green: Countdown) and Army of the Third Eye (Graeme Price, Jonathan Turner, Rik Kershaw Moore), general articles of a British nature (Nick Brownlow, Phil Ward, Hans-Christian Vortisch, Nick Brownlow and Adam Crossingham [investigator templates], Jonathan Turner and Adam Crossingham), and some articles of a Mythos nature (Davide Mana, Rik Kershaw Moore, Adam Crossingham). There are two "Tales of Terror", an introduction to a UK-based Delta Green campaign, an introductory scenario for a ZODIAC Clearance campaign, all by Phil Ward. There are also two non-player characters, "Unusual Suspects," with adventure hooks; a report from "The Further Files of Prof. Grant Emerson; and two gaming supplement reviews.

In his second issue, subtitled "P.I.S.C.E.S.: The Silent Service," the information on PISCES has been further expanded. There are articles on PISCES (Adam Crossingham [with Graeme Price], Graeme Price, Daniel Harms), alternative organizations to PISCES (Nick Brownlow, Tobias Cooper, Adam Crossingham, Rik Kershaw Moore), The Avengers (Davide Man), general articles of a British nature (Nick Brownlow, Adam Crossingham, and Baz Nugent [investigator templates]), and articles of a Mythos nature (Nickbrownlow, Adam Crossingham, and Daniel Harms [with Davide Mana]; David Conyers; Nick Brownlow; Nick Brownlow; Rik Kershaw Moore). There are "Two Tales of Terror (Andy Bennison, Nick Brownlow). There are also an "Unusual Suspects," an interview with Gary Sumpter (author/editor/project-coordinator of the Arkham Now sourcebook from Chaosium), "The Further Files of Professor Emerson Grant (whose given name and surname seemed to have been swapped from the first issue), and reviews of two books, three movies, and four game supplements, including a review of Call of Cthulhu d20

In his third issue, subtitled "Alien Cultures: Strange Things and Even Stranger Places," there are no articles about the PISCES organizations, however, they are mentioned in several of the articles herein. There are articles of a Mythos nature (Nick Brownlow, David Conyers, and Others; Jonathan Turner; David Conyers; David Conyers and William Jones [with Philip Ward]; Wood Ingham; Daniel Harms [with David Conyers and Adam Crossingham, Hans Christian Vortisch]; Ben Counter). There are two scenarios (David Conyers, Davide Mana). There are also an "Unusual Suspects," a comic strip (Nick Brownlow and P.J. Holden), and "The Further Files of Professor Grant Emerson (I guess he figured his name was correct in the first issue).

This third issue goes farther afield than the previous two issues, in given an atlas of strange places, which covers the entire world; one of the scenarios takes place in the Congo; and one of the Mythos articles relates to the conspiracy surrounding the Starkweather-Moore Expedition to the Antarctic.

The fourth issue should have been out last year, but has yet to appear. This was to be a special issue devoted to the Vietnam Conflict.

You may obtain this book from Brichester University Press.


Cover illustrations © Steve Lines

LOVECRAFT'S DISCIPLES # 1 (Dec05), # 2 (Feb06 [mislabled Feb05]), and # 3 (Apr06). Edited by John B. Ford and Steve Lines and published by Rainfall Books. 39 pgs., 64 pgs., and 50 pgs. Covers by Steve Lines. $11.66 each.

[Reviewed by Edward P. Berglund]

The issues of Lovecraft's Disciples are in the format of chapbooks, with stiff covers. These publications are supposedly fiction and poetry than has been influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. However, not all of the material is Mythos, even though a few non-Mythos stories mention something in passing that would tend to make one think it was a Mythos story. The only complaint I had with any of these issues was with the third issue -- there were no page numbers. I was two-thirds of the way through the issue and I dropped it. It took me twenty minutes to figure out where I was, since I didn't recall the title of the story -- and I usually subconsiously note what page I am on when I'm reading.

In the first issue, there are two original stories. The Mythos story is "A Fisherman's Tale" by Ran Cartwright (his stories have been on the Internet, bylined as by "R.S. Cartwright"). The style of the story reminds me Stanley C. Sargent's "Trust Me." The other original story, which is non-Mythos, is "The Stone of Stars" by Kevin Oliver and Steve Lines.

The reprint stories are "One Rainy Late Afternoon Spent in the Company of Dr. Thulask" by James Ambuehl (a reporter interviews Dr. Thulask of Braving, Minnesota) and "The Black Goat" by Ron Shiflet (what happens when a man visits The Black Goat tavern). It's nice to see Ron Shiflet's tale, since it appeared originally on the defunct All Things Dark and Dangerous website, not all of which was picked up by the Internet Archive website.

There are also five reprinted poems, one by Ann K. Schwader, and four by Franklyn Searight, his "The Folks of Innsmouth" series.

The second issue has one Mythos story, a reprint. The story is "The One That Got Away" by Ron Shiflet and is a delight to read. A man arrives to do some fishing and is told a "fish tale" and then everyone gets excited when he actually catches the "fish." There are also two non-Mythos stories, "Chancellor Town, At Dark" by Brian Leno and "The House on the Hill" by Clinton Green.

There are six poems in this issue. There are three reprinted Mythos poems by Haydon Atwood Prescott (pseudonym for Steve Lines) and an original poem by Ann K. Schwader. The other two poems, by Richard L. Tierney and Joel Lane, are non-Mythos.

There are two non-Mythos stories in this issue, "Fishing With Live Bait in Chancellor Town" by Brian Leno and "Ms Found in a Steel Bottle" by Simon Whitechapel. The four poems by Ann K. Schwader, Warlock G. Vance, Phillip A. Ellis, and Haydon Atwood Prescott (Lines) are all Mythos.

These "chapbooks" are worth the reading, even the poetry (of which I know next to nothing). If you have recently come to the Internet and found out there is a plethora of Mythos material out there, you will soon learn that a lot of Mythos material is not longer out there! So it is nice to see some of these reprints again, even the ones from the small press, because the publications they appeared in are out of print.

You may obtain this book from Shocklines. (Lovecraft's Disciples # 4 can also be ordered.)


STRANGE SORCERY # 1 (Jul06). Edited by Steve Lines and John B. Ford and published by Rainfall Books. Cover by Steve Lines. 41 pgs. $11.66.

Cover illustration © Steve Lines.

[Reviewed by Edward P. Berglund]

This is another of Rainfall Books' "chapbooks." But this one seems to be stories that were received after Steve Lines had finalized the two-volume anthology Lost Tales of Space and Time, which consisted of stories and poetry influenced by Clark Ashton Smith. In fact, it is subtitled "Weird Stories of Lost Worlds of Space and Time."

"The Temple of the Ophiotheos" by Simon Whitechapel -- This is one of Whitechapel's tales of the city of Yihh. There are various temples to various gods in the city and an acolyte of the Temple of the Thorn-God volunteers to sabotage the statue of the god in the Temple of the Snake-God.

"The Struck Tower" by Michael Fantina -- It is nice to see that Fantina has come back into the prose writing fold, though he had some poetry published in the two-volume anthology mentioned above. The most powerful sorcerer in the land lives in the Struck Tower. And since he is the bane of all the other sorcerers in the land, he needs to be disposed of. I consider this the best story in the issue.

"Lord of Lizards" by James Ambuehl -- This is one of Ambuehl's tales of Altuas, which is also a Mythos tale. Parthias the Conqueror finds out that one should not desecrate the temple of the conquered.

"Dwellers in the House of Hzan" by Damien V. Furnier and Randolph Stevens -- Another sorcerer that needs to be disposed of!

"The Ghouls of the Forsaken Desert" by Phillip A. Ellis -- This is more of a prose poem than it is a complete story . . . the title tells it all.

Although I enjoyed reading these stories, especially the Fantina story, it seems that a lot of CAS-influenced stories deal with sorcerers trying to dispose of more powerful sorcerers or desecrating temples. Maybe it's just the nature of the beast. There are two types of fantasy stories being written today -- those concerned primarily with sorcery and those concerned with sword-play, ala Robert E. Howard. What many of these writers seem to neglect is not how to destroy another sorcerer or a temple, but the overall effect of those trying to do so. Whether it's sorcery, sword and sorcery, science fiction, fantasy, whathaveyou, those stories that make the greatest impact are those in which the reader remembers the characters in the story more than what they destroyed. Even though there was sword and sorcery in the stories of Conan the Barbarian, the stories were always about Conan the Barbarian. So, as a rule, when I read a publication like Strange Sorcery or the anthology Lost Tales of Space and Time or The Sorcerer's Apprentices, I enjoy the stories more if I don't read more than one or two at a time.

But I would still recommend anyone who admires the writing of Clark Ashton Smith to purchase this first issue of Strange Sorcery.

You may obtain this book from Shocklines.



© 2006 Edward P. Berglund
All reviews: © 2006 by their respective writers. All rights reserved. Some reviews have previously appeared in the alt.horror.cthulhu newsgroup.
Graphics © 1998-2006 Erebus Graphic Design. All rights reserved. Email to: James V. Kracht.

Created: October 28, 2006