Sunday, May 19, 2024


Bad Books for Bad People, Episode 76: Joyland

Stephen King’s 2013 novel Joyland is the author’s second effort for publisher Hard Case Crime. Jack and Kate are ready to track the clues in this story of murder, romance, and amusement park professionals.

What happens when the King of Horror gets a chance to be the Crime Writer Guy? Can the main character of his book ever achieve full carny acceptance? Why doesn’t the magical child at the center of the mystery infuriate your hosts? All these questions and more will be explored in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Chateau Frankenstein and Creedhall University

Two locations in Creedhall, each of which twists the virtue of knowledge toward horrific ends.

Chateau Frankenstein

A lone manor stands on the isle at the center of Loch Riven—the foreboding Chateau Frankenstein. This ancestral seat has been inherited by Doctor Viktoria Frankenstein, the heir of the infamous Frankenstein family who continues the “family business” of creating golems from corpses and the refuse of the slaughterhouse.

    • The only visitors to the chateau are the body snatchers and resurrectionists Viktoria employs to bring her the grisly fodder for her experiments. 

    • Lightning continually flashes over Chateau Frankenstein; Viktoria’s monstrous apparatus draws it to the manor, where it is used to fuel her inquiries into endowing dead flesh with a semblance of life.

    • Viktoria Frankenstein is protected by a number of constructs of her own devise, such as the Orphan—a construct devised to look like a young girl who functions as Viktoria’s assassin.

Creedhall University

Creedhall University is the preeminent institution of higher learning in Krevborna. Although the university employs respected scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, some departments are dogged by rumors that they pursue less than savory scholarly interests. 

    • Some families are reluctant to send their children to the university’s lecture halls for fear that they will return steeped in occult lore instead of more practical subjects.

    • As the library of Krevborna’s most hallowed educational institution, Creedhall University Library is an astoundingly well-funded repository of learning and knowledge. 

    • The library possesses books related to any imaginable topic, though some of its archives are highly restricted due to the fell nature of the tomes involved.

    • Although most of the staff of the library works to maintain and catalog the library’s holdings or assists the scholars of Creedhall with their research, the library employs a number of adventurers who are tasked with seeking out and obtaining rare books, scrolls, and other writings under the aegis of its Special Collections Department. 

    • The agents of Special Collections Department are rarely sent after mundane books; they deal in the arcane, the occult, and the forbidden.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

The Resurrectionists

We've come to the final adventure in this particular Krevborna campaign! It's hard to believe, but the campaign started in January of 2023, but we wrapped things up last Friday. For now.

The end of the last adventure found the characters once more on the Isle of Omera--this time to attend the coronation of Dorian Margrave as the island nation's king. However, Dorian's regime ended shortly after his coronation and Omera was soon under attack by the Church. The group also met with tragedy while fending off an attack from House Carathis; Serafina, long a friend of theirs, was killed in the ensuing battle. And worse: the entire island was under attack from something called the Executioner's Psalm. With Dorian Margrave gone, it was up to them to save the island and its residents.


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child


As the party approached the Executioner's Psalm, they got a better sense of what it entailed. The Executioner’s Song was a massive cathedral barge currently sitting offshore of the Isle of Omera. It was as if a sprawling cathedral of black stone has been ripped from the earth by its roots and set atop an ancient battle barge of dark wood and iron. The windows of the Executioner’s Song were brilliantly hued stained glass; a round window at the highest point of the tallest central spire was projecting a beam of pure white light onto the island. Where the light touched Omera, the land was dissolving into smoke–giving off a distinct ozone smell. They looked on in horror as the beam inched inland, destroying all in its path.

The group's plan was a three-pronged assault. Geradd had rallied Dorian's remaining troops and gave them orders to lure any guards aboard the Executioner's Psalm into a battle that would draw them away from the structure. Meanwhile, Captain Laurant would bombard the barracks on the Executioner's Psalm from the Dawnrazor to take out any additional forces the Church had brought. While all that chaos was raging, the party would storm the Executioner's Psalm and attempt to stop the beam it was using to destroy Omera.

Panthalassa smashed down a side door so the party could enter the Executioner's Psalm. The group began to explore the cathedral structure, desperately looking for stairs that would lead them up into the central spire that housed the window that the beam was emerging from. From the various tapestries, murals, paintings, and a carved stone sarcophagus they located along the way, they were able to piece together the origins of the Executioner's Psalm: it was an ancient weapon of war used against pagans by St. Vigil. Worse, they were hit with the realization that St. Vigil had probably returned and raised the Executioner's Psalm from the sea because Pendleton had inadvertently released him from imprisonment in the Necropolis during a previous adventure.

The group found the cathedral to be uninhabited, but still managed to put themselves in peril: when they made their way to the eastern side of the cathedral, a wall they were passing exploded from Vanessa Laurant's cannon fire, injuring several members of the party. Nevertheless, the group eventually found access to the cathedral's roof and discovered the stairs that would lead them up into the main spire. At the top of the spire, they found three figures busy in prayer: 

  • Cardinal Radinov, a man with a dashing mustache and pointy beard clad in red priestly vestments, who had a splinter of wood thrust into his heart; unearthly radiance poured from the wound.
  • A ten-foot tall winged angel in bladed silver armor--the very same angel they had fled from on a previous occasion! 
  • The remains of St. Vigil, a walking reliquary comprised of golden armor ornately decorated with cherubs, his saintly skull visible behind a glass helm.

As the three rose to face the party, their prayers and ended and the beam ceased its destructive procession. However, all three of their foes were armed with Dorian's missing enchanted swords. Things immediately turned against the party. St. Vigil conjured lances of holy light that ripped through everyone, causing some dangerous wounds before the fight had even begun in earnest. The bleeding angel took to the air, rushed at Pendleton, and tackled him out of a stained glass window. 

The group slowly fought their way back from the brink of defeat. Cardinal Radinov was the first to fall; Raoul weakened him with two necrotic bolts, then Catarina stabbed him to death with one of her magical bone daggers to heal herself. Out on the roof, Pendleton found himself stalked by the angel. As the angel was about to bring its sword down on him, Pendleton felt a sharp pain in his head and then heard the sound of steel on steel--Captain Laurant had interposed the Brineblade and parried the blow on his behalf. "No one gets to kill him today but me," she said. "On your feet, Doctor, there's still work to be done."

The Widow attacked St. Vigil, but was unable to break the glass protecting his skull. Daytona, leaning out the broken window at the top of the spire, channeled his infernal power into a shot that blew through the back of the angel's head. Meanwhile, Geradd was able to succeed where the Widow had failed. Hefting the sword known as the Fang of the Worm, Geradd smashed through St. Vigil's glass helm and sundered his holy skull into mere fragments of a now destroyed relic.

As the party regrouped, they noticed that tremors were now running through the Executioner's Psalm. The cathedral began to shake more and more, indicating that a hasty departure was now in order. But there was one problem: they still hadn't located Emily's body! Raoul quickly held a seance; following Emily's cryptic clues led them to a tomb on the Executioner's Psalm where her casket had been hidden. The group carried her to their rowboats, though by now it was clear that the Executioner's Psalm was sinking--they found themselves wading through water as the sea reclaimed the cathedral barge. 

Aboard the Dawnrazor, the group mulled over what to do with Thomasina. Catarina wanted to execute the girl for the murder of Rosaria, but the rest of the group attempted to talk her down. The Widow even placed herself in between Catarina and Thomasina should tensions escalate. Once they returned to Omera, Raoul set himself to the task of learning how to resurrect the dead. His first attempt was Rosaria, who he drew back through the veil of death. Rosaria was glad to be alive again, and perhaps even more glad to be out from under the thumbs of Dorian and Laorishe. She was conflicted about Thomasina, but did not believe the girl should be punished for her actions--even though she couldn't bear to take on the responsibility of fixing her.

There was much more riding on Raoul's second attempt to raise the dead, as he was now finally in the position to bring his beloved Emily back. He was again successful. There reunion was tearful, and Emily finally got to meet Raoul's adopted daughter, Panthalassa. When the girl approached her, Emily removed Panthalassa's skull helmet and whispered "Look at you. So pretty. I think we'll mean something to each other, if you'd like that." Panthalassa promptly burst into tears at meeting her new mother.

Meanwhile, Geradd wasted no time establishing himself as king of Omera in Dorian's place. There were parades in his honor and many feasts, as well as consolidating the remaining army under his control. Captain Laurant appeared, with two of her zuvembies carrying a treasure chest between them. Captain Laurant said, "I am considering stealing the honor of being the first to pay homage to the new king. I do have one question: what do you say to making Omera a safe haven for pirates?” When Geradd agreed, Laurant made him a sound offer: in return for yearly tribute and for defending the island by sea, the pirates would have safe haven on Omera henceforth. She presented him with the treasure chest as his first taste of a pirate's tithe, removed her hat, knelt, and swore fealty to the new king.

Before Captain Laurant left, Catarina asked her why she had come to the island in their hour of need and why she bore the Brineblade. Vanessa explained that Scylla had tried to sink the Executioner's Psalm, but its holy aura rebuked her approach. Unable to scuttle the cathedral barge herself, Scylla had charged Captain Laurant with the task of assisting the party and had given her the Brineblade for that purpose. Catarina also took the opportunity to ask Vanessa what she thought of Belle Silvra. Sensing that Catarina may be building up to a conflict with Belle, Vanessa Laurant stressed that Belle is adept at manipulating people and money in service to Scylla and that Belle and Catarina are perhaps the same sort of women--stubborn, beautiful, and possibly not the best at communicating openly. Before taking her leave, Vanessa suggested that Catarina approach Belle with her complaints before waging war against her.

Of course, the group's resurrection tour was not yet over. They made the journey back to the mainland and ventured to Viktoria Frankenstein's island on Loch Riven at Creedhall. First the stopped to talk to Father Prim, who was not wearing his customary priest's cassock, but was instead wearing a black suit and a mourning arm band. He said that Viktoria had shut herself up within the chateau, which they could see was now totally dark with no lights in the windows. They also observed that there were a number of bouquets and wreaths outside the chateau; Serafina's graverobbing admirers had braved the island to pay their respects to the fallen Angel of the Graves.

Pendleton led the group down into the catacombs beneath the chateau and found a very drunk Viktoria slumped in a chair in front of one of the cold storage chambers. Scattered at her feet were a number of empty wine bottles. She explained: "If I’m drunk, I can’t operate. This bottle is the only thing keeping me from going in there and making a monster out of her. I don’t want to do that, but (she tapped her head) I’m never entirely in control of myself." The "Viktoria" part of her brain, as opposed to the monstrous "Frankenstein" part of her brain, just wanted her friend back the way she was. 

When Raoul explained that he could bring Serafina back, she said, "I hate to admit it, but I think I’m starting to understand why you’ve worked so hard to bring Emily back. How embarrassing for me–I'm human after all." She then asked two more favors of the group: she wanted Panthalassa to shock her into unconsciousness with her lightning hammer, and she wanted Pendleton to bind her hands and gag her mouth so the "Frankenstein" part of her brain couldn't try to stop them by calling for Father Prim. She also had a life lesson to impart to Pendleton as her heir, "Let me give you some motherly advice: who we are pushes us to reject everything else in our lives in favor of our work. Resist that, resist it as strongly as you can. Resist it better than I have. Hold on to the people you love and who love you in return." 

They followed her instructions, and Raoul was once again able to return the dead to life. For her part, the newly returned Serafina was perplexed, having now experienced both sides of the grave. When Viktoria came to, and was released from bondage, she pushed everyone out of the way, gathered Serafina in her arms, and bawled. Serafina, her pale face visible over Viktoria's shoulder, appeared to be terrified.

In time, Pendleton defended his first "thesis," producing from his body a homunculus named Lillasyra. His friends were both terribly impressed and horrified. Viktoria Frankenstein was justly proud of her heir, Serafina applauded, and the creature was entrusted to the Widow's care.

Raoul, Panthalassa, Lenore, and Emily retired to the Sabbath estate to begin the work of figuring out their new family. Geradd reigned upon the island of Omera. Catarina began a new venture--making the lands under her control sanctuaries for the oppressed. She and Daytona even took tentative steps toward a romance that has yet to fully blossom. Still, we turn the page on our "heroes" here. They were never traditionally on the side of "good," but over the course of their adventures they did right some wrongs, save many innocents, and spare the world from becoming a darker place. What more could be asked of them?

* * *

If you would like one last recap, here's a short fiction piece I wrote from Viktoria Frankenstein's perspective the day after Serafina was brought back from the dead; she muses on each of the characters and their personal journeys over the course of the campaign. My players have dubbed this "emotional terrorism," and I am absolutely fine with that. 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

RIP Steve Albini

I found out yesterday that Steve Albini has died. It's hard to express what a huge influence he was on me in my formative teenager years. I might not have started a punk band in high school if it weren't for Big Black. I probably wouldn't still be making game stuff with a DIY ethos or prioritizing doing creative work with a sense of ethics divorced from the desire for mainstream success if it weren't for Steve Albini. 

To celebrate the man, let me suggest that you listen to some of his music or maybe read some of his writing.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Blood in Omera

This adventure began six months after Catarina sacrificed herself for the good of the group and allowing herself to receive the Dark Kiss of vampiredom from Count Magnus Draghul. This session started with the characters meeting at a dock in Lachryma as they prepared to board a ship called the Gorgon's Kiss, bound once more for Omera. They had been invited back to Omera by Dorian Margrave, who had reconquered the isle after being released from imprisonment in the Necropolis by the party. Now he was requesting their presence so they might plan greater conquests to come. Accompanying the party as guests were Viktoria Frankenstein, Serafina, and the Widow. Raoul also brought the preserved body of Emily and a retinue of soldiers to guard her remains.


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child


As they waited on the dock for the Gorgon's Kiss to be ready to receive them, the party had several emotional reunions, particularly where Catarina was concerned. Panthalassa gave presents to her companions, Daytona wanted to make sure that Catarina was doing well enough after the change, and Serafina had an encounter with an admirer. Soon enough, however, they were off to Omera.

When they disembarked, they saw that Omera bore the signs of recent fighting: several buildings had been burned down, corpses hung in gibbets on streetcorners, and patrols of Dorian's soldiers were conspicuous. After arriving at the governor's residence, which Dorian had taken as the seat of his rule of the island, they were met by Rosaria--who had been instructed to give them a tour of the manor. Rosaria informed them that they would be guests of honor for Dorian's coronation the following day. (Pendleton noticed that Rosaria was nervous about something.) Later that night, the group attempted to address some security concerns with Laorishe, but she waved them off. 

When the time for the coronation came around, they found that the ceremony and crowning was handled by Raymond, Raoul's cousin and the former governor of the isle. Since Raymond was led out on a leash and chain, it appeared that his participation was not entirely voluntary. The ceremony completed, and a crown now atop Dorian's draconic brow, the group was invited to feast with Dorian and his wives. Once everyone was seated at the long dining table, Rosaria poured everyone a goblet of wine so Dorian could offer a toast to his guests: "To conquest and the many subjugations to come!"

After tipping back his wine, Dorian collapsed to the flagstones, his body now wracked with convulsions. Catarina's dainty sip was rewarded with a sudden spike of pain and then a feeling of exhaustion. Daytona was seized by a return of his visions of angels, crucifixions, and the End of Days. Laorishe was on her feet instantly and at Dorian's side. Pendleton examined Dorian, with Viktoria hovering over his shoulder to critique his work. Pendleton was able to determine that Dorian had not been poisoned in the traditional sense. Beyond that, he was in the dark, but Viktoria offered a theory: someone had added something holy to the wine, which is why it only had a deleterious effect on Dorian (a drakoi), Catarina (a vampire), and Daytona (a dhampir).

Rosaria pulled Catarina aside and said, "We need to secure the swords," referring to the three powerful artifacts that Dorian had in his possession, besides the one he was currently armed with. Catarina and company went with her to gather them. On the way, Rosaria broke down, saying, "I have something to confess,” she says. “It was me. I poisoned my husband. I thought you would understand. After you freed us from the Necropolis, I just couldn’t go on tethered to a man I do not love. This is my last chance at liberty." However, when they reached Dorian's personal armory, they found the door already ajar and the swords missing. When questioned about who she had conspired with, Rosaria denied that anyone else was involved and appeared to be sincere.

The moment was broken by the sound of raised voices and the clash of steel on steel. Looking out a window, Catarina spied soldiers wearing the Carathis family livery entering the governor's manor. Rushing back to the dining room, the group found Carathis agents spilling in from multiple doors. Geradd ran to cut them off from the door, but he became locked in combat with four soldiers. Viktoria Frankenstein activated one of her many arcane devices--this one surrounded her with a field of arcing electricity that roasted four of the warriors alive. She also called out in a loud, clear voice, "Father Prim, I require your assistance." The shadows in one of the room's corners began to boil.

Daytona cast an infernal spell that sent a wave of concussive force at the soldiers, dazing three of them. Catarina picked one of them off with her pistol. Raoul felled another with a necrotic bolt. Laorishe stood guard over her fallen husband and slew one of the soldiers who advanced toward them. However, the overwhelming number of Carathis agents began to take its toll. Geradd, Catarina, Raoul, Laorishe, and Viktoria all took wounds--ranging from minor to life-threatening. Father Prim strode forth from the shadows, removed his customary wicker mask, distended his jaws to an uncanny degree, and promptly ate four of the assailants.

Things then went from bad to worse. Valancourt and Tanith, Raoul's hated siblings, now entered the room and began firing crossbows at Panthalassa and Raoul. Serafina was stabbed by three soldiers and fell to the floor in a bleeding heap; Daytona rushed to her side and threw her over his shoulder, but before he could get her out of the melee he heard her death rattle. Enraged at the death of her favorite graverobber, Viktoria grabbed one of the soldiers who had slain Serafina and pulled him into her electricity field until he had been roasted alive.

Panthalassa and Pendleton dealt with the Carathis siblings. Earlier, Pendleton had given Panthalassa an alchemical grenade. She ran forward with it, confronting Tanith and Valancourt while tossing the grenade behind them. They were heavily injured by the blast, but were still standing. Pendleton picked up the spare by lobbing another grenade; this one took out the siblings and a number of their soldiers. Help arrived as a woman dressed in the hat and coat of a pirate captain strode through the smoke. "Grant them no fucking quarter," Captain Laurant commanded the zubembies who followed in her wake. It was initially unclear whether she meant to fight the party or their foes, but that concern was dispelled as she plunged the Brineblade into a soldier, disemboweling him. The cavalry had arrived.

Their numbers now bolstered and the worst of their foes slain, the party rallied and turn the tables on the remaining Carathis agents--the last of whom were gunned down by a flurry of shots from Daytona. Unfortunately, that was not to be the end of the tragedy and bloodshed.

Viktoria gathered the dead Serafina in her arms and asked Father Prim to take them home. Viktoria walked into the rippling shadows with Prim and Serafina, presumably leaving Omera for the safety of Chateau Frankenstein. 

Laorishe now realized that Rosaria was the one who had betrayed Dorian, drew her sword, and stalked toward her. Catarina interposed herself between Laorishe and Rosaria, but Laorishe commanded Thomasina to attack her sister-wife. Thomasina went ferally insane and launched herself at Rosaria, her hand axes biting into the other woman's neck. Laorishe then commanded Thomasina to "feast," which caused the girl to begin eating Rosaria. Laorishe was slain in disgust, and Panthalassa used her shocking hammer to knock Thomasina unconscious so she could be restrained. 

Dorian, still wracked with pain, beckoned to Geradd. His final action was to unbuckle his remaining sword, the Fang of the Worm, and gift it and his crown to Geradd--apparently with the intention for Geradd to take his place as the lord of Omera. Daytona then put Dorian out of his misery with his flaming sword.

Captain Laurant was emphatic that they needed to leave Omera. She explained to them that the island was under attack by the Church: the Church had raised the long-missing Executioner's Psalm, a cathedral barge, and it was now projecting a massive beam of holy light that was devouring the island inch by inch. Vanessa stressed that they still had time to escape the island on her ship, the Dawnrazor. However, when Raoul checked the dungeon chamber that was being used to store Emily's remains and found nothing but the slain bodies of the soldiers he had trusted to protect her, there was no chance that they would leave without recovering Emily's body.

A plan was hatched: the group would gather what forces of Dorian's forces that they could to fight off the Carathis and Church soldiers while Vanessa Laurant bombarded the Church's barracks with the Dawnrazor's cannons. Meanwhile, the group would storm the Executioner's Psalm and recover Emily's body, lay their hands on the three missing magical swords, and attempt to stop whatever miracle was being used to destroy Omera.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Somna, What Happened at Hawthorne House, Wet Moon, and More

Things that brought me delight in April, 2024:

Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay, Somna #3

The third book of Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay's Somna brings the comic to a fiery conclusion. Literally. The murderer reveals themselves, though that isn't the crux of the climax; rather, the book ends with a consideration of faith, doubt, guilt, oppression, and the possibility of redemption. The set pattern of how art is used in the comic--with Cloonan handling the "real world" elements and Lotay covering the "dreamlike" sections--is disrupted here to fantastic effect as the boundary between dream and reality gets muddled and ruptured. The end may well be too ambiguous for some, but I'll be thinking on it for a while.

Hadassah Shiradski, What Happened at Hawthorne House

The first half of What Happened at Hawthorne House is about orphans who invent a strange game of social hierarchy, each a "princess" vying to be the "queen." The orphan girls construct a crown for the reigning queen out of barbed wire and make a scepter by studding a wooden mallet with nails. Within paragraphs of these items being introduced there is bloodshed. Within a chapter further, there is a disastrous cataclysm. And that's only the first half of the book. This is a compelling novella if, like me, you have an interesting in the morbid games of childhood. I do think that the ending fizzles out a bit and lacks bite, but as a quick, creepy read What Happened at Hawthorne House has merit.

Sophie Campbell, Wet Moon, Vols. 1-7

Wet Moon is definitely not my usual kind of comic. It's more a soap opera about gothy queer college girls, than my more traditional Gothic nonsense. One thing I really like about it is that it refuses to paint the characters as anything less than messy, as most people are at that stage in their lives. Their relationships are pretty toxic, and they're still figuring out how to be people. It's also a pretty funny snapshot of a particular era: the characters are huge fans of the band Bella Morte, who used to be one of the bigger names in the goth scene--but I wonder how well that name resonates with anyone in 2024. Probably doesn't, I bet. The Southern Gothic qualities emerge over the series' volumes, and what a series it is. Wet Moon really does feel like Sophie Campbell's opus.

Danza Macabra

"Dared to spend the night in a haunted house" is one of my favorite premises, and Danza Macabra uses it to good effect. I had seen Danza Macabra in its English-language cut under the title Castle of Blood before, but this was my first time with the European cut. Although it's a bit hilarious how slow the dare-accepting protagonist is in catching onto the fact that he is being visited by the murderous ghosts haunting the castle--as well as the fact that he's gone to bed with a dead woman--but overall this is a fun Euro Gothic that is well worth your time if you're a fan of the genre.

The First Omen

Between Immaculate and The First Omen, we're currently in a renaissance moment for nun fanciers. Though I'd say that Immaculate is easily the better movie, I was shocked at how good The First Omen is. Usually a prequel to a long-standing horror franchise is doomed to mediocrity, but The First Omen has some great tense moments and dares to go pretty hard on its gross fx. The story might not hold up under too much scrutiny, but it's easy enough to turn off the skeptical part of your mind and just have some fun with the Evil Catholicism on display here.

Shudder and Vampiress Carmilla

I kept up with the latest issues of Vampiress Carmilla and Shudder in April, as well as continuing to make progress through the back issues! Man, check out the cover of Vampiress Carmilla #20: if you don't have a deep desire to have a framed print of that art on your walls, I don't understand how you're choosing to live your life at all.

The Sins of Thy Beloved, Lake of Sorrow and Perpetual Desolation

There are a number of gothic metal bands whose work I never got the chance to delve into when it was fresh; The Sins of Thy Beloved falls into that category, so I decided that April was the time to investigate their back catalog. Overall, it feels like the bastard child of Theatre of Tragedy and My Dying Bride due to the combination of "beauty and the beast" style vocals and morbid violin. Lake of Sorrow is exactly the kind of gloomy Gothic doom I love. Even the slightly shoddy production makes me feel a bit nostalgic. Perpetual Desolation is the band's second and final album, and although Perpetual Desolation got poor reviews upon its release, I think the occasional experimental flourish keeps the album interesting and perhaps even more noteworthy than its more staid contemporaries.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Season One (Parts One and Two)

I watched the first part of the first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina when it first "aired," but I abandoned it because it didn't live up to the comics--which rule, by the way. I've gone back to the beginning still doesn't live up to the comics. It's a strange mix of decent ideas paired with some of the worst plotting, to a maddening degree. That said, the episode with the tarot readings really worked because it felt like a throwback to the anthology horror films of yesteryear, but that episode also illustrates how the show generally struggles to earn its per-episode runtime and how the show is stronger when it doesn't focus on Sabrina. Miranda Otto and Michelle Gomez make the whole thing occasionally worthwhile.

Stephen King, Joyland

When I put Stephen King's Joyland on the short-list for books under consideration for Bad Books for Bad People episodes, I was expecting the thrill of seeing how "the horror author" would handle a pure-strain hardboiled crime novel on the Hardcase imprint. I'll certainly be talking more about this one on the podcast, but what I got from the book was so very different from what I was expecting and also so much more. My recommendation: get a copy of Joyland now so you're all caught up by the time our episode on it drops!

Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner, Witch Doctor, Vols. One and Two

I picked up Witch Doctor on a whim and it turned out to be a pretty fun comic. The main character feels like he lives at the overlap point between Herbert West and Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. The comic is a monster-hunting book at heart, but the premise--that monsters as the parasites Cthulhoids brought with them from another dimension--is a pretty cool idea. The second volume takes things in more of a long-form direction, and it makes the transition from "monster of the week" to extended narrative very well. I wish we had a third volume; the characters definitely have more juice left in them.

Stephen Graham Jones, The Angel of Indian Lake

I've been looking forward to The Angel of Indian Lake for quite some time off the strength of the previous My Heart is a Chainsaw and Don't Fear the Reaper. As a conclusion to the Indian Lake trilogy, The Angel of Indian Lake is overall good-to-great, though I do think the middle nearly goes off the rails in a somewhat muddled lake of plot contrivances and a tide of dimly remembered characters who have been accumulating over the course of the series. I also think a tighter hand at the editing wheel could have cleared up some of the repetitions--there's so much "calving," so many chins that are constantly "pruning"! But the final reel really lands, even if Stephen Graham Jones passed on the opportunity to go really dark with it. I will say, though, I was terrified for Jade Daniels all the way through; god damn, he made me care about that character so much. 


There's nothing in Abigail that you won't be expecting if you have seen the trailer, but it was undeniably a fun movie. Horror doesn't always have to be deadly serious, obscure, or elevated; if you don't have love in your heart for a popcorn horror flick about a vampire ballerina running roughshod on a team of criminals, I don't want to know you. It's got some cool gross moments, some genuinely funny bits, and a cast who seems to be having a blast with the material. All that a Danzig song in the mix? Yeah, I can get down with that.

My Dying Bride, A Mortal Binding

Do you like melancholy? Crushing guitars? Somber violin? If you said yes to the above, you're in luck because My Dying Bride has a new album just for you. At this point in their career, the question for any new My Dying Bride album isn't "is it good?" it's "how good is it?" Aside from one misstep in their long and storied catalog, every My Dying Bride album ranges from "pretty good" to "classic of the genre." On A Mortal Binding, the band is sounded energized and vital; it may not equal the highest points in their discography, but from any other band it would count as an unqualified success. 

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

It will be a sad day when High on Fire's new album isn't a roaring slab of bad attitude doing wheelies on a road ragin' motorcycle, but with Cometh the Storm today is not that day. Lots of churning grind, pounding drums, and throat-shedding war cries here. And it never really lets up; no quarter is granted on Cometh the Storm, so lay down your white flag--surrender is not allowed with music this gnarly.

Messiah of Evil

I'm not sure what kind of horror movie I had assumed that Messiah of Evil was, but as it unfolded I realized it falls squarely into the "all vibes no plot" style of horror flick, so I had to adjust my expectations while watching. Messiah of Evil feels a bit like Carnival of Souls' seedier 70s cousin. The movie concerns a woman looking for her artist father, who went missing in a strange seaside California town. She encounters a dandy and his two swingin' lovers, and the mystery only deepens from there. There's a great sequence inside a grocery store, which I had somehow seen before--maybe in a documentary on horror movies? 

Dan D., Unicorn Meat

Unicorn Meat is an adventure supplement intended for use with OSR-style rules. The tone of Unicorn Meat is unique; eschewing the tired standard dungeon format, it centers instead on the last unicorn farm and the horrors that have unfolded there. Overall, there's a Southern Gothic feel to the book that charms me. There's quite a bit of content packed into Unicorn Meat, but I find myself a little bewildered by the order that information is delivered; for example, we get advice on how to alter the adventure to meet our players' various sensitivities before we actually get a glimpse of what the adventure is actually about. A roadmap at the very beginning of the book, detailing the shape of the adventure and the basic gist of what you might use it for, would go a long way toward making Unicorn Meat easier to parse.

The Vision Bleak, Weird Tales and The Unknown

Reviewers tend to say that the Vision Bleak specialize in Gothic metal in the style of Type O Negative, but I don't really hear the sonic resemblance. The guitars are more traditionally heavy, there are way more aesthetic flourishes, and the vocals just aren't the same. The Vision Bleak are very much their own animal, and now they're back with a concept album based on the legendary magazine of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. A concept album is already a dicey proposition, but The Vision Bleak tempts fate further by making Weird Tales a single, forty-plus minute track. works. Somehow they pulled it off. Uncanny. Then I went back and listened to The Unknown, another rock-solid album in their discography.

Elaine Lee and William Simpson, Vamps: The Complete Collection

Vamps is a pretty fun comic that doesn't try to pretend that it's about anything other than skanky vampire biker chicks--which is fine because that premise rules. This collection brings together three different series: the first centers on one of the Vamps' quest to find the child taken away from her by the courts before she became undead; the second lands them in Hollywood to make a movie, with predictably funny and gruesome results; and the third details what happens when one of the girls gets marked for death by the vampire council. Trashy, but it's a nice ride. I liked the addition of Elaine Lee's afterword where she talks about how people couldn't decide if she was trying to make a feminist point or if she was just really horny when making Vamps. Insert "why not both?" gif here.


Jennifer Reeder's Perpetrator is a pretty weird movie: it feels like it takes place in one of those slightly off mirrors of our own world, something like Twin Peaks. The movie's protagonist is a young girl who is not quite human, but her nature--and, by extension, that of her weird family--is never fully explained. But whatever she is puts her in the perfect position to discover why other young women in her town keep going missing under mysterious circumstances. This is a movie that attempts a lot--maybe too much--as it works in themes of the way women are encouraged to remain young and plaint, the sexualization of youth, warped family dynamics, etc., but I did ultimately enjoy the uniqueness of tone in Perpetrator

Monica Ojeda, Nefando

Monica Ojeda's Nefando is an abject book, and it is frequently disturbing both in what it describes and the implications of its content. It's well executed, if occasionally a little lit-wanky for me, but I'd have trouble recommending it widely because of the content. The story, such that it is, is told through a collection of interviews with its polyvocal cast of characters, excerpts from their creative work, drawings, and challenging perspective pieces. The six central characters were all roommates, sharing a space while three of their number--siblings who were sexually abused by their father and forced to participate in child pornography--directed the design of a video game called NefandoI appreciated the way the presence of the titular video game--an indie project that appeared on the internet, messed with people's heads, and then disappeared--lurked in the background like a digital specter, made all the more effective because there is another website, barely discussed, that also seemed be an object of unquiet fixation that was hiding behind the game itself. It's an odd novel, and if I were trying to sell it to you (I am not), I would say it is like Story of the Eye meets the urban legend about Polybius.

Creepy Cryptids

I picked up Creepy Cryptids on a whim, but I'm glad I did as this is a neat little product. What you get is a pack of cards. The front of each card has a nifty illustration of a different cryptid drawn from real-world myths and legends. The back of each card features stats in OSE format--that's B/X D&D to the real ones out there. Although I haven't really run B/X D&D in years at this point, I could see doing a one-shot or short campaign that focused just on cryptids rather than the usual vanilla fantasy orcs, goblins, and trolls.

Jeremy C. Shipp, The Atrocities

I had a quiet morning to myself in late April, so I brewed a cup of tea and read Jeremy C. Shipp's The Atrocities cover by cover while I waited to see if the weather would turn. The Atrocities has a pretty interesting premise: a woman arrives at the isolated house where she is to be employed as a private tutor, only to find out that her sole a ghost. Or perhaps the mother of the house has simply gone mad with grief over the death of her daughter, and she is simply being employed to go along with the charade that the child persists beyond the veil. 

Agathodaimon, Blacken the Angel, Chapter III, Higher Art of Rebellion, Phoenix, The Seven

As with The Sins of Thy Beloved, I did a deep dive on Agathodaimon's discography in April. The band's transition between symphonic black metal and extreme Gothic metal has been a fruitful exercise: there's something on every album of theirs that I listened to that had something thrilling or surprising. Observed over the course of several albums, the band's evolution feels entirely natural. Can't wait to go back and fill in the few gaps I didn't get to this month.

Nancy A. Collins and Paul Lee, Dhampire: Stillborn

Dhampire: Stillborn is another of the Vertigo titles that got a lot of ad space in the goth mags of the mid 90s, yet somehow I never picked up a copy until recently. Dhampire has definitely got that tragic Gen X thing going on; the main character is a messed up would be suicide coming from a bad background, though truth be told he doesn't initially understand how bad his background truly is. Hint: he's the son of a woman who had vampire blood running through her body when he was born. His search for identity take some dark paths, and ultimately he chooses the darkest road for himself. Not exactly heart-warming, but a fun comic with that 90s flavor I crave.

Yellowjackets, Season Two

Speaking of that 90s flavor, we polished off the second season of Yellowjackets and now must wait patiently for the third season to arrive. I continue to be Team Misty in the second season of Yellowjackets, but I have to admit that Elijah Wood's character has rapidly grown in my estimation. Overall, the mix of crime elements in the present and folk horror-themed survival horror in the flashback segments continues to really work for me. So many astounding performances from both the adult veterans and "the kids." Yellowjackets might just be the best thing on "tv" at the moment.

Sunday, April 28, 2024


The game group needed to blow off some steam with something dumb and fun, so I ran PLANET MOTHERFUCKER for 'em. Did you know that you can buy PLANET MOTHERFUCKER and its first supplement BLACK SUNSHINE over on Drivethrurpg? Well, now you do. Now you can also be dumb and fun.


Runa, Church Burner

Chet, Living Dead Hustler

Dr. MK ULTRA, Doctor Feelbad

Dan Smakob, Spooky Scary Skeleton


The characters had all been captured in an ambush. They were stripped of their weapons, handcuffed, and marched onto a repurposed school bus that now read SCHOOL BUS at the top. (They ran out of standard-issue handcuffs, so they had to bind Chet with some pink fuzzy handcuffs.) From the chatter they could overhear from their captors, they were being taken somewhere to be tried for a crime they did not commit: MURDER!

From the bus's windows, they could see that they were entering a compound called Truckstopsylvania, which was a series of gas pumps and trailers arranged around a building with shops and services inside. The characters were brought before the Honorable Judge Abigail Sweetcooter, an elderly woman with some obvious breast enhancement, who was presiding over their "trial." She was quick to pass a guilty verdict and a death sentence for the crime of murdering Truckstopslyvania's mayor, Leon Buttermouth.

At the last minute, the group's court-appointed lawyer came running in and demanded that his clients be offered a Trial by Snoop. Trial by Snoop worked like this: the characters would be strapped into Snoop Suits--aka wetsuits with built-in explosives--and given the opportunity to prove their innocence by snooping around until they found the "real" guilty party. If they weren't able to establish their innocence within six hours, the explosive would detonate, which they were told would be "messy."

Their first order of business was to examine the mayor's corpse, which was still where it was found in his office--which was a defunct Pizza Hut. He had no signs of violent injury, but they did notice that he had two puncture marks on his neck and seemed a little light on blood for a man of his size. Unfortunately, everyone they questioned about the possibility of a vampire on the loose would reply with a variation of "Vampire? Everyone knows they aren't real!"

Searching his pockets turned up some possible leads: a receipt for the convenience store he bought rubbers at, a handful of urinal cakes, a wash cloth wrapped around a bar of Irish Spring, a diner menu with a note that someone had written "I'll see you later, big boy" on it in lipstick, a book of matches from a gentleman's club called Skeezer's, and a key marked "Moon Room."

They decided to hit up the convenience store first. There was a teenage girl reading a copy of Ninja of Fortune magazine behind the counter. Dan poured a blue slushy into his skull and because he was a skeleton it just ran out the bottom of his Snoop Suit, prompting the teenager to have to get the mop and bucket to clean up in aisle three. Dr MK Ultra traded the girl a syringe full of drugs for information. Both the mop and the drugs would become plot points in a little bit--wait for it.

At Skeezer's strip club, they learned that Mayor Buttermouth was a regular and that his favored "girl" was Misty--the club's most elderly stripper. Over at the Truck Nuts Cafe diner, they learned from a gum-poppin' waitress that Mayor Buttermouth's last meal was the steak & eggs--which he always ate when he was expecting to "get lucky." In the shower room, a strapping fellow with an ever-changing accent introduced them to the concept of "Special Sauce"--a combination of Aqua Velva and Old Spice that was purported to be a pussy magnet combination. The mayor had requested the special sauce on the night of his death.

While they were in the shower, the heard a woman screaming down the hall. Following the hollerin', they backtracked to the convenience store, where they found the teenage ninja fan under attack by a vampire who had emerged from the Beer Cave. Runa threw some punches at the vamp, Dan concocted a flamethrower from a lighter and a can of Aqua Net and lit the dude up, but Chet grabbed the mop, broke the head off, and staked the sucker. He dissolved into ash, which means they couldn't pawn the mayor's death off on him. Also, they couldn't get the teen girl to testify as to the existence of vampires because she had taken the drugs Dr. MK Ultra had given her and was now tripping balls so hard that she saw Naruto running backwards into infinity everywhere she looked.

Putting the pieces together, they figured out that since the mayor had a kink for aged women he had probably gotten vampirized by Judge Sweetcooter, who had then tried to pin his death on the motherfuckers as soon as they got hauled before her bench. They revived the mayor with a drop of blood, got confirmation of their theory from him, then burned his ass to a crisp too.

They found the judge in her chambers, where she offered them wine coolers. She declined to drink one herself as she said she "Never drinks wine...coolers." They forced her into calling a town meeting, where they proved she was a vampire by showing that she had to reflection. She jumped through a glass plate window and started running her old ass off toward Dr. MK Ultra's coffin car. She veered off at the last minute and climbed into a big black monster truck instead. 

Runa and the Dr. got in their vehicles because they figured that Judge Sweetcooter was making a run for it, but she had gotten into a monster truck because her plan was to crush the fuck out of them. Both of them found their vehicles getting smacked around by the monster truck. Dan threw his skull at the truck, which did more damage to him than to the truck. Chet managed to climb aboard the monster truck, which gave him a good vantage point to stab the judge with the broken mop.

Chet gouged out the judge's eyes, causing her to aimlessly run amok in the monster truck. Runa jumped her motorcycle onto the back of the monster truck, allowing Chet an easy escape route...which was good because the monster truck was now headed straight toward Truckstopsylvania's gas pumps. They biked off just before the massive fireball consumed the truck and the judge. All that was left was a pair of melted implants.

Their innocence established and the real murderer now brought to justice, the gang were released from the Snoop Suits. Dr. MK Ultra had his car back, but missing from his trunk was his dead gal pal. Where the fuck did she end up? We'll find out someday.