The Wellcome Institute has been on my doorstep all these years – I even went to the university round the corner – but I’ve never had occasion to visit. It was worth the trip. The Medicine Man exhibition shows a cross-section of objects from Henry Wellcome’s collection and is pretty great; the States of Mind: Tracing the edges of consciousness exhibition runs until October, and the Bedlam: the asylum and beyond exhibition until January next year.


Treaders in the Dust

Last night in The Last Catalogue of Ramon Dégas the player-characters met rival bookseller Colin Ballard and down-at-heel Arizonan book scout Alan Sheldon, tracked the rapidly-diminishing paper-trail of catalogue agents Aston Drummell and Hamilton Golding and saw the outside of their premises marked “Y” in the yellow chalk of the Yellow Paper Men; they found themselves dazzled by the sudden intervention of international woman of mystery Catalina de Moraes and her Hispano-Suiza sports car; they shadowed suspicions, bought drinks for the unworthy, found a dead body at Hathaway & Co. Fine Books on Fleet Street, shivered among worms and cobwebs and fear and examined a pile of dust they could not raise the courage to touch; the missing plate shown to them by Edna the Inebriate Woman gained them their first knowledge of the Mythos and cost them their Sanity; they found the sales ticket for The First Temple of Umbanda Branca by Zélio Fernandino de Moraes and friends and heard the dread whisper of Quachil Uttaus; the Kane Gang was casing the joint as the session ended. It was a warm-up really and boy, did the players burn those Investigative Abilities. Next I’m going to try running Gumshoe chases and combat.


Stranger Things

Stranger Things

That the resulting series achieves this never-ending chain of referents without tiring its audience is a testament to its technical acuity: the hairstyles are spot-on, the social attitudes rendered as knowing Satire, even the acne is carefully rendered; there is an interesting tension between nostalgia and period piece throughout. Here are the Children in SF of the 1980s, say the Duffer brothers: remember them with us for we were they. Devotees of Genre SF may soon be aware that Stranger Things alludes to the SF Megatext without really understanding its conventions: the human-sized world of the townspeople and their children does not cross-pollinate meaningfully with the “Upside-Down” Dimension beyond the town, plotlines are left to wither once they have done the job of reminding us, and there is little or none of that exchange of outer reality and Inner Space prevalent in the increasingly popular New-Wave writings of Philip K Dick and J G Ballard. If there is a literary antecedent to Stranger Things, it is the oeuvre of Stephen King: a decent but morally-compromised sheriff, a dangerous pubescent woman, a somnambulant town encircling the heart of darkness. There is none of the supercharged existential awe of the brothers Strugatski‘s Roadside Picnic (1972; trans 1977) or the arresting emanations of the strange and unknowable from Jeff VanderMeer‘s Southern Reach trilogy (2014). Stranger Things is all storyboard and no theme. As such, it is better television than it is science fiction:-

Stranger Things


Itras By: The Menagerie

Itras By is one of the most enchanting and innovative roleplaying games ever made.

Eight Resolution cards link to a deck of Chance cards designed to communicate the disjunctive elisions and dreamlike combinations of surrealist narrative. In the case of the former, players draw cards and resolve actions on one another’s behalf; in the case of the latter, each player (including the GM) draws a Chance card once per session: something as wild as it is suitable is sure to occur.

The larger part of the game describes the City that is inspired by these creative implications: Itras By is a game that is as rewarding to read as it is fun to play.

Now some of the world’s best game designers – plus one or two opportunistic hangers-on – have gathered to form a new dérive into Itra’s City and beyond.

From Carsten Damm at Vagrant Workshop:-

Somewhere in early 2015, I reached out to Ole Peder Giæver to hear if we and Martin Bull Gudmundsen were interested in writing an adventure or two as follow-up to their surreal roleplaying game Itras By. Itras By is one of our best-selling books, so making more of that would satisfy a certain demand.

A few months later, Ole came back to me with a different vision–a sourcebook containing a variety of contributions from several authors. A wild mix of material: varied, eclectic, slightly subversive, and useful or inspiring to readers, players, and gamemasters of Itras By. How could I say no?

Now, over a year later, our company inbox is overflowing with contributions. Ole and his team of collaborators–dozens of writers and illustrators–have worked hard to create Itras By: The Menagerie. We have no idea of what the final page count will turn out to be, but since the ball is now in our court, we will make sure this book gets all the love it needs and the looks it deserves.

Look for it in early 2017.

And this from Ole Peder Giæver, who lives with the elves of Dunsimore:-

Itras By: The Menagerie

  • Foreword by Emily Care Boss
  • Using the Menagerie by Ole Peder

The Diorama (Back to the By)

  • Imperia Manila by Tobie Abad, illustrations Trond Ivar Hansen
  • Capybaras with Hats by February Keeney, illustrations by Clarissa Baut Stetson
  • The Salon and the Darkness by Edward “Sabe” Jones, illustrations Thomas Novosel
  • The Fringe Zones by Terje Nordin, illustrations by Tor Gustad
  • Radio by Philipp Neitzel
  • LUNACY by Caitlynn Belle, illustrations by Thomas Novosel

The Laboratory (Method)

  • Costuming Itras By by Kat Jones
  • Oneshot Guide by Keith Stetson
  • A Cartography of the Surreal by Steve Hickey, illustration by Gino Moretto
  • Saying No by Ole Peder, illustrated by Anders Nygaard
  • Itras By without Itras By by Jason Morningstar

The Dream Résumé (Elements of Character)

  • Character Generator by Keith and Clarissa Baut Stetson
  • Character Seeds by Willow Palecek
  • Character Name Lists edited by Ole Peder
  • Curious Characters by Niels Ladefoged
  • Character Sheets by Karina Graj

The Hall of Mirrors (Games & Scenarios)

  • Grimasques, freeform by Banana Chan
  • Surrealist Games by Kamil Wu, illustrated by Li Xin
  • Neighbourhood by Aleksandra Sontowska
  • The Hyacinth in the Bureaucracy by Matthijs Holter and Jackson Tegu, illustrations by Jeremy Duncan
  • The Scientific Order of Itra-Troll by Abstract Machine, illustrations by Judith Clute
  • The Shadow Carnival by Evan Torner
  • Edgar by Oliver Vulliamy, scenario from the Swiss-French edition, translated by Sanne Stijve with illustrations by David Cochard

Post Scriptum

  • When life doesn’t make sense by Martin Bull Gudmundsen
  • Outsiders by Martin and Ole Peder
  • The Dream Team by Ole Peder


  • 32 new cards (+ optional extras for new deck)

There are rumours too of one or two very special surprises…


Pandora’s Tears


There’s a warm and joyful atmosphere at Concrete Cow and I’m glad I found time to attend: I encourage anyone able to do so to do the same.


The CARD DROP maps the shared dreamspace of Itra-Troll
Piers draws the card INRUPTION and uses a puddle of water to depict the dream-tears of his character, Pandora

The Last Catalogue of Ramon Dégas


The Last Stand, situated next to the Museum Tavern on the corner of Museum Street opposite the British Museum, specialises in antiquarian books on the Native American experience and first-hand accounts by the European interlopers in the lands of the Lakȟóta, with an accent on the authentic spiritual practices of the prairie peoples of South Dakota.

The bookshop, well-appointed, with three stories above that of the ground floor where much of the public-facing stock is kept, includes a first-floor reading room, a private flat, a roof-terrace and a dingy basement which contains a secret egress – never-yet-used and possibly stuck – to the pub next door. The shop has a thorough grounding in History and Science, rarer items in the related subjects of Victoriana and Criminology and is particularly renowned for its assortment of Cartographic prints and literature, the latter speciality drawing a range of collectors from the length and breadth not only of London, but of the south-east of England, notwithstanding the recent impact of the stock market crash on the book trade of 1930.

The proprietor is Edward Cody, proud son of a Lakȟóta mother who will hear nothing at all, thank you, of the manner in which one William Cody sired him in bigamous circumstances, owner too of the bookshop parrot “Buffalo Bill” – a creature as multilingual as his owner – and of a fearsome reputation at the auction houses of Bloomsbury, Mayfair and Belgravia.

His partner is Robert Nottingham, antiquarian, recently returned from a failed expedition to the Amazon to locate Percy Fawcett, who disappeared into the Brazilian Interior in 1925 searching for the lost city of Muribeca with a mysterious basalt idol he identified as Atlantean (Trail of Cthulhu, p176), a fiend for authenticity, scourge of forgers and filchers of rare items alike, and a well-known habitué of the Royal Geographical Society.

The third member of the confraternity is James William Barnes, an archaeologist in the mould of Basil Brown, self-taught, born and raised in the West Country and resident in one of the upstairs rooms of the neighbouring Museum Tavern, where he sometimes conducts less reputable deals on behalf of the bookshop. A keen believer in scientific progress, he keeps his doubts about the sometime shamanistic practices of Cody and the wilder topographical theories of Bob Nottingham to himself.

By using the excellent advice contained in Kenneth Hite’s Bookhounds of London on shared bookshop creation (p15), we soon found ourselves describing not only the sights and sounds of The Last Stand, but also those of the surrounding area, moving on to the bookshop’s deadly rivals in nearby Coptic Street, The Eye of Osiris, specialists in Egyptian Funerary Rites and Abyssinian Architecture – we’d very quickly found ourselves in the mode of the Pulp Arabesque – and then onto the altogether more friendly rivalry of the neighbouring Fine Books Oriental, purveyors of Japanorama and items of Sino-Eastern origin, adjacent specialist in numismatics King Croesus and, round the corner on Great Russell Street itself, The Red and the Black, a reputable source for the Classics and original artefacts of pottery. The unknown quantity was the recent arrival of Carpe Deus at the bottom of Museum Street, newcomers with the unfortunate reputation of buying up the stock of failing rivals at reduced prices.

It is a ferociously busy time for me right now but I find the game is so far up my street that I cannot resist any part of Bookhounds of London. We hope to begin The Last Catalogue of Ramon Dégas next week.