Our Member of the Month for June, 2023 is Alastair McBeath of Morpeth, in the United Kingdom.
Alastair says: “I've had a lifelong fascination with myths, legends, fantasy and horror that began in early childhood. Thankfully, it shows no signs of abating six decades on! I first read a Lovecraft tale in late 1975, in my early teens, when my Dad bought me a two-volume set of paperbacks, The Ghouls: The Stories Behind the Classic Horror Films, edited by Peter Haining. Among these, deep in Vol. 2, was "The Colour Out of Space", hidden behind its movie version's UK title, Monster of Terror (Die, Monster, Die in the US; 1965, American-International). While the film's plot extracts elements from the story, it's no adaptation of Lovecraft's original. Luckily, the text here was pure Lovecraft, and the story made a lasting impact on me, for all I knew nothing of Lovecraft then. That understanding began only in 1983, after I discovered Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu role-playing game (RPG; I started playing RPGs in 1977, with the original Dungeons & Dragons set). Call led me to start tracking down Lovecraft's works, and I recognised "Colour" as soon as I re-read it. Its opening sentence still creates a frisson of anticipation: "West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut."
Years of preparing notes for RPGs led to my working-out timelines for those Lovecraft stories with detail enough to allow it, drawing sketch-maps for the few places similarly described, such as Innsmouth and the Dunwich area. Chaosium began publishing their Lovecraft Country RPG sourcebooks around the same time, during the early 1990s. In addition, the use of realistic RPG handouts for players in Call of Cthulhu, meant I'd been tinkering with those too from discovering the game. Lovecraftian boardgames followed into the 2000s, such as Fantasy Flight's Arkham Horror, plus greater access to more tales from the Lovecraft circle of authors, fresh editions of Chaosium's RPG, and increasingly impressive numbers and designs of Lovecraftian miniature figurines to use in RPGs and pulp-period tabletop wargames.
Suddenly, it was the 40th anniversary of the Call of Cthulhu RPG in 2021, when Chaosium's KickStarter for a reworked reprint of the original boxed set led to my discovery of the HPLHS and its many wonders, visual, tactile and audio - and what a whirlwind of adventures that's been, and continues to be, ever since! And now, I am to be elevated among The Chosen, a Member of the Month. "One of us...One of us..."
A few images. Apparently, I don't record well on photos; not sure why... However, viewable exclusively in the Member Sanctum is a copy of my final sketch map for the Dunwich area, completed in June 1991 (several months before I learnt of Chaosium's Dunwich RPG sourcebook, first published that May; no Internet in those days), and a couple of montage shots of tiny fractions of my Lovecraftian collection, including Vol. 2 of The Ghouls, open to the first page of "Monster of Terror", and a few samples of my HPLHS items, with a mysterious package and letter sent me by a firm of solicitors in Switzerland... I love that the cover illustration for the Mesoamerican Codex booklet has been accidentally fixed in the wrong orientation!
Lastly, a couple of shots of my favourite local haunt, five minutes away, and visible from my back windows, St. Mary's Churchyard, a ten-acre burial ground, whose legibly-datable stones are only 18th century, for all the church itself reuses some 13th century grave covers as windowsills. Most of the church stonework, and one of its larger stained glass windows, is 14th century in date, restored in the 19th. The burial ground has a pleasingly Gothic feel, and I got to know it well, as it was on my regular walk to and from work during the later 1980s and 1990s, occasionally well into the night. Oh, and there were ghouls here once, as a watch-house was built into the graveyard wall's south side in 1831, to guard against them (also known as body-snatchers)."