The 2022 Cosmic Horror Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome, friends. We gather together once again, having circled the burning orb another year and finding ourselves back in the same place whence we last marked this moment. The same dark scar, the same gloom-ridden spot, the same soiled stain where we as a species have been eternally doomed: Black Friday. The dimmest of western holidays. Yet even in this shadowed place burns a light of deliverance. All is not lost. I’m delighted to introduce my ninth annual List of Lists for 2022. As with previous years, you’ll find a plethora of paraphernalia for the weird-fiction fanatic, cosmic-horror connoisseur, or mythos maniac in your life. I’ve worked to assemble a list of exceptional items for all ages and budgets. I hope you enjoy it.

The Annual Notes: All book links point to IndieBound where possible. Please do what you can to support your locals. They can get you anything the big box stores can, and it’ll help out your community, and you’ll meet cool people. Author links go to their web pages and blogs and sometimes Wikipedia. I try to avoid Amazon links, but occasionally I’ll need to link there, and I will let you know if I do—I avoid affiliate links. If you see one, let me know, and I’ll fix it. I spend 40+ hours putting this together, and it’s common for me to share my creations alongside things I find. If you want to support me, buy something of mine. If not, that’s okay too. While I’ve ordered these by price, all prices and availability are subject to change. Shipping and stock are out of my control. I’m just sharing cool stuff made by the community.

Happy shopping!

• Books • Music • Apparel • Games •
• Housewares • Miskatonic •

❄️ Books ❄️

The Tindalos Asset by Caitlin R. Kiernan
$14.99 + Shipping (Paperback) $9.99 (eBook)

The third in Kiernan’s Tinfoil Dossier series of novellas reunites the reader with The Signalman. While he and a former Dreamland agent begin to explore horrors rooted in Frank Belknap Long’s seminal Hounds of Tindalous, Kiernan takes use to much weirder and wilder places.

Chills by Mary Sangiovanni
$15.00 + Shipping (Paperback) $1.99 (eBook)

If you’re looking for an icy tale of cultic horror this winter, you can’t go wrong with Sangiovanni’s 2016 novel Chills. Dead bodies marked with strange symbols appear in the small isolated community of Colby. With a winter storm bearing down, Detective Jack Glazier and pals must find the reason behind the murders before it’s too late.

Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda
$16.95 + Shipping (Paperback) $8.98 (eBook)

Leaning into the weird in weird fiction, with a heavy dose of transgressive literature, Jawbone is a multifaceted story following the lives of two twins, both seeking extremes, their school-mates, and a teacher slowly losing her grip on reality. This novel won’t be for everyone, but it is a simmering psychological horror that will give back to those willing to put in the time.

Gleam Upon the Waves by K. M. Alexander
$16.99 + Shipping (Paperback) $5.99 (eBook)

The fourth book in my Lovecraftian urban fantasy series The Bell Forging Cycle arrived last year. Caravan Master Waldo Bell finds himself outward bound on an enormous floating casino en route to the canals of Empress, the mysterious capital of the hermit-nation Victory. There Wal will discover darkness runs deeper than he ever thought possible; reality is not what it seems, and a new apocalypse is closer than anyone predicted.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
$17.00 + Shipping (Paperback) $13.99 (eBook)

Set in Mexico after the Mexican Revolution, this novel follows Noemí Taboada as she seeks to help her recently married cousin Catalina in the forboding High Place—a creepy English-Manor in Mexico occupied by a strange sort. The plot quickly moves from mystery to thriller and, ultimately, horror blending aspects of gothic and cosmic in a delicious and unsettling way.

A Black and Endless Sky by Matthew Lyons
$19.99 + Shipping (Paperback) $10.49 (eBook)

Jonah and Nell, brother and sister, embark on a road trip across the American Southwest back to their hometown of Alberqueue, New Mexico. But along the way, unsettling events befall the siblings, and disturbing visions plague Nell. As an impending sense of doom begins to distort their reality, a strange figure pursues them, and they know more about Nell’s condition than they’ll let on.

The Night Before Christmas by Jason Ciaramella
$19.99 + Shipping (Board Book)

The minds behind C is for Cthulhu, and the recently released Counting, Colors & Cthulhu, retells the story within Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem “Night Before Christmas” but adds a Lovecraftian twist. It’s cute, delightful, and perfect for any young cosmic-horror fan. (And yes, there are plushies.)

West of Innsmouth by Hideyuki Kikuchi
$20.00 + Shipping (Paperback) $10.99 (eBook)

From the mind behind Vampire Hunter D comes a tale of the old west with a distinctively cosmic-horror twist. Shooter, a bounty hunter, pursues the “Dreams Made Flesh,” four outlaw gunslingers born from the fleeting thoughts of Cthulhu through the badlands of Kansas and, ultimately, history itself.

The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson
$28.00 + Shipping (Hardcover) $14.99 (eBook)

In recent years, Davidson has become a favorite writer of mine, and his latest novel has been a standout this year. When a Nellie is willed a thousand-acre turpentine estate owned by her great-grandfather, she packs up her car and son and flees an abusive marriage. But things at Redfern Hill aren’t any better, and she discovers a monstrous evil lurking in the dark recesses of her family history. Phenomenal.

Out of Space and Time by Clark Ashton Smith
$4,000 + Shipping (One Copy Available—Sold via AbeBooks)

A rare first-edition 1942 hardcover of what Clark Ashton Smith considered some of his best work can be yours! Own a piece of cosmic-horror history, Arkham House only printed 1054 copies, making this collection of short stories extremely rare (and quite expensive).

No book catches your interest? Check out the books featured in one of the previous guides.
• 2014 Books • 2015 Books • 2016 Books • 2017 Books •
2018 Books • 2019 Books 2020 Books 2021 Books •


❄️ Music & Audio ❄️

Lovecraft Investigations by BBC Radio 4
Free (Digital Download/Streaming)

Presented as a Serial-like production following a team of investigators delving into a mystery. It starts with the strange case of one Charles Dexter Ward but quickly spins into a larger conspiracy. Well-acted and incredibly produced, this series, written by Julian Simpson as part of his “Pleasent Green” universe, takes the original Lovecraft tales into new and compelling places while maintaining their cosmic horror character. Loads of fun and free!

At the Mountains of Madness by Cosmic Nightmares
$4.00 USD (Digital Download)

If you love horror—especially horror movies—you’re familiar with synth and the synth-wave sound. It’s the music of classic 80s horror, led primarily by composer (and filmmaker) John Carpenter. So it fits that Argentinian-based Cosmic Nightmare has stepped up and produced a compelling synth album based on Lovecraft’s icy tale of arctic terror, and they do a damn fine job of it along the way.

Vitsk​ä​r S​ü​den by Vitsk​ä​r S​ü​den
$7.00 (Digital Download)

Rooted in dark fantasy and cosmic horror, this psychedelic prog-rock album from 2020 resonated with me when I first listened to it earlier this year. Layers of melodic sound work together in unexpected yet captivating ways, and the tales woven therein build upon a mythos that is fresh yet all too familiar.

Heathen Hof by Sons of Perdition
$7.00 (Digital Download)

How to describe this one? Okay, so take an experimental atmospheric sound, but blend it with a narrative Americana and murder-ballad folk. On top of that, add a healthy dose of doom druids but mix them with a doom-rock, gothic-country influence, and you’ll get close to describing the sound of Sons of Perdition. Or you won’t. It could be the madness talking.

People of the Black Circle by People of the Black Circle
10.00 ($10.27 USD) + Shipping (CD) (Digital Download Avl.)

I’ve appreciated this resurgent in cosmic-horror-influenced psychedelic rock, especially if it’s willing to blend the metal, synth, and dark ambient sounds that have defined Lovecraftian music. People of the Black Circle and this self-titled album (named after a Robert E. Howard Conan story) is a phenomenal and compelling cohesion of those sounds. Engaging as it is haunting.

Bog Phosphors by The Cube of Unknowing
$11.00 + Shipping (Cassette) $7.00 (Digital Download)

This is the year of weird-fiction synth, and this release under composer Franic Heely’s Cube of Unknowing project focuses on the bogland plains of Ireland’s county Galways and the inherent cosmic otherworldliness one can experience therein. It’s a resonant grounding of astral dread in a real-world local, as engaging and personal as it is haunting as esoteric.

Haunted by Confusion Master
€16 ($16.64 USD) + Shipping (Vinyl) (Digital Download Avl.)

Suppose you’re a fan of the early-70s Black Sabbath but want an even grungier, doomier, and sludgier feel. Well, I am happy to say the German rock quartet Confusion Master is here to fill that void and add a healthy dose of cosmic horror to the mix. It works in that warmly nostalgic and strangely maddening feel. (The price above reflects the standard vinyl edition. There are loads to choose from here.)

Not finding any music or audio that interests you? Check out one of the previous guides.
• 2014 Music • 2015 Music • 2016 Music • 2017 Music •
 2018 Music • 2019 Music 2020 Music 2021 Music •


❄️ Apparel ❄️

Cthulhu Sleep Mask
$16.99 + Shipping

More like cute-tulhu, am I right? (I am.) This super soft, cotton fabric mask will help you keep you dreaming in comfort even through the brightest light. You don’t even need to be buried in a dead city to appericate it! (Slumber may not be protected from New Zealand-based and terrified armored steam-yacht crews.)

Cthulhu Slippers
$34.99 + Shipping
(Limited Availability)

It’s cold deep beneath the ocean, so why not be cozy with these sleeper slippers? Few will mess with you when you come stumbling out of the bedroom adorned in these grumpy recently-awoken fellas. Recommended fit is men’s sizes 9-12. (If they sell out here, google ’em, they’re available all over.)

The Shadow Out of Time Mechanical Pocket Watch
$45.00 + Shipping

This mechanical pocket watch is created by and for Lovecraftian fans, anyone intrigued by ancient astronauts, the mysteries of the cosmos, and the universe in general. Inspired by the Great Race of Yith introduced in H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Shadow Out of Time,” this 46.5 mm “antique” pocket watch is inscribed with mysterious totems and scripts that may be the devices used by the Yithians to travel across time. Mysterious yet delightfully elegant.

Cthulhu Baby Gift Set
$61.93 + Shipping

Suppose you’re looking for a great little gift for the wee one in your life that pays proper tribute to the greatest of great old ones, the Great Dreamer, the Sleeper of R’lyeh. Well, look no further. Not only do you get a (customizable) organic cotton body suit, but you also get a super adorable crocheted rattle to compliment (and possibly call) Ol’ Mr. Cthulhu himself.

Carcosa Tie Clip
($77.00 USD) + Shipping

Most of us aren’t wearing ties daily anymore. But for those times when one wants to gussy up, why not let a little classy cosmic horror don your visage? Borrowing from the True Detective King in Yellow aesthetic, this sterling silver tie clip is elegant enough to blend in but strange enough to catch the eye.

Re-Animator Sweater
$84.99 + Shipping

Like it or not, everyone expects an ugly holiday sweater at this time of year. It’s become a tradition as much as trees and lights and cookies. So when you get invited to your next ugly sweater party, at least lean into your cosmic horror fandom and choose Herbert West. (HR may get upset at the reverse side, but that’s on you, pal.)

Cthulhu Masquerade Mask
$125 + Shipping (Limited Availability)

This heavily textured and quite disturbing masquerade mask features Mr. Deathy Dreaming himself front and center, but from his horrible visage, corruption spreads. Made from a variety of recyclable parts and materials. Give yourself time for this order. It’ll be worth it. (Missed this particular mask? There’s plenty more to choose from.)

The Shadow Over Innsmouth Boots
$157.99 + Free Shipping (US)

The boots are made for walkin’… away from your musty hotel room and out of town as quickly as possible! Are those FISH PEOPLE? Made of vegan leather, these lace-up combat boots feature everyone’s favorite Oberlin alumn on one side and the strange inhabitants of Devil’s Reef on the other. If Innsmouth isn’t to your liking, the shop features a few other Cthulhu-themed boots as well.

Not finding apparel you like? Check out the apparel on one of the previous guides.
• 2014 Apparel • 2015 Apparel • 2016 Apparel • 2017 Apparel •
 2018 Apparel • 2019 Apparel2020 Apparel 2021 Apparel •


❄️ Games ❄️

Blackout: The Darkest Night
(Digital Download – PC/Mac) $5.99 (Kindle)

You have been part of something terrible, something so unspeakable that caused you to blackout and forget all recent events. Now you have the choice of pursuing this dark truth or trying to bury it in the past in this non-linear interactive fiction game set in a dark modern universe. (Also available in a choose-your-own-adventure style Kindle eBook.)

Gates of Delirium
$9.00 + Shipping

Take on the role of a researcher, seeking the truth behind the scattered tomes that speak of evil monstrosities. Travel worldwide in this cut-throat card game that pits you against 2-3 other players. Discover lost manuscript pages and ancient maps that reveal more of the ancient evil while you struggle not to be driven mad in the process.

The Great Old One: Playing Cards
$15.00 + Shipping

Created by and for Lovecraftian fans. This 54-card poker deck features exclusive Cthulhu-themed artworks based on Lovecraftian characters and scenes depicted. Beautifully designed, featuring less noisy artwork, giving the cards a classier overall look that’s still rich in details. The background mimics old textured paper and adds a vintage touch. Poker night? Solitaire? Cribbage?

Tiny Cthulhu
$17.99 (PDF Download) $24.99–34.99 (Physical Formats)

Face off against unknowable horrors as classic Lovecraftian protagonists in this cosmic-horror-focused ruleset from Gallant Knight Games’ popular “Tiny” series of tabletop RPGs. Using a minimalist D6-focused ruleset allows you to spend more time fighting the denizens of the darkness and less time pouring over complex rules.

Grey Dawn
(Digital Download – PC)

Christmas Eve in 1920, Father Abraham seeks to solve the mystery of a missing altar boy while confronting the face he might be the man who killed him in the first place. A first-person puzzle-focused psychological (and often very weird) thriller set in a gothic-inspired Eastern European world that is as beautiful as it is horrifying.

Shadows Over Normandie
$39.97 + Free Shipping (Amazon)

It’s 1944, and the heroes of the Allied forces are about to face an unexpected threat. Fanatic cultists from the Order of the Black Sun are laboring to unleash demonic forces on Normandy’s World War II battlefields. Only a battalion of Rangers and their heroic allies can stop them and save the world from an endless era of despair. Compatible with Heroes of Normandie.

Empty Faces: The Woods Box Set
$99.99 + Shipping

In the isolated forests of West Virginia, a young woman from a family of witches lies unconscious, afflicted by an ancient evil. Comb through her possessions and correspondence to figure out what happened to her and reconstruct her life in the months before she fell ill. (Includes all five episodes. No subscription required.)

Not finding a game you’d enjoy? Check out the games on one of the previous guides.
• 2014 Games • 2015 Games • 2016 Games • 2017 Games •
 2018 Games • 2019 Games 2020 Games 2021 Games •


❄️ Housewares & Collectables ❄️

Lovecraft-Inspired Vintage Postcard Set
$8.63 + Shipping (Limited Stock)

I’m a sucker for beautifully designed ephemera. So, I was drawn to this set of postcards based on Lovecraft’s most famous locations. The sort of thing one might happen across in an out-of-the-way store in a remote part of Essex County. Seven postcards are included: Arkham, Arkham Asylum, Miskatonic University, four views of Miskatonic University, Dunwich, Innsmouth, and Innsmouth Harbour, with a suitable vintage rear side.

Cedric's Eatery 11oz. Mug

Cedric’s Eatery 11oz. Mug
$16.00 + Shipping

The weather outside is frightful, and you need a new mug for a warm beverage. Why not pick up a classic diner mug from Lovat’s own Cedric’s Eatery, located in the entresol between Levels Three and Four. (Breakfast served all day.) An in-between place for in-between folks. Waldo Bell’s favorite hangout. Fill your mug with 11 oz. of lousy coffee, your favorite tea, or something more substantial. [From the pages of the Bell Forging Cycle.]

Mythos Inspired Hot Sauce Bundle
$17.98–$26.97 + Shipping

“You Will Not Survive.” Terrorize your tastebuds with these mythos-inspired hot sauces. Do you dare experience the Caribbean flavors of the mild King in Yellow Habanero pepper sauce? Or perhaps you prefer the boldness mid-spice level of the Dagon-themed unhallowed jalapeño sauce? Or maybe you are willing to face madness and partake of the over 500,000-Scoville-unit ghost pepper-infused Cthulhu Mind Flayer? Only you can decide.

Moth & Myth ‘Kraken’ Octopus Set
$18.00 + Shipping

This beautiful 6″x5″ Caribbean Reef Octopus features a brilliant display of colors each octopi holds in life. Each cephalopod is accompanied by two tiny babies, just beginning their transformations into one of the most unique creatures in the sea. The Moth & Myth Wunderkammer Ornament series comes on a beautiful 5.5″x8.5″ backing, double-sided on pearlescent card stock. These are perfect for safekeeping or shared as a lovely gift.

Cthulhu Cocktail Bar Stirring Spoon
$19.99 + Shipping

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits, mixing a mean martini and a sublime sazerac. Rumor has it he can whip up a nifty negroni as well. (Yay, cocktail-themed alliteration!) So, join the High Priest of Great Old One mixology and make your drinks, using his likeness to stir the elements with this 12″ long cocktail spoon.

Cthulhu Chia Pet
$21.99 + Free Shipping (Amazon)

How can you tell that cosmic horror has gone mainstream? Well, one surefire way is checking to see if the primary mascot has a chia pet version. Well, lucky for us, that’s finally happened. Now weird fiction fans can grow our favorite eldritch terror. It’s easy! Just spread the seeds, water, and watch the cosmic chaos grow.

Color Out of Space Candle
$37.24 + Free Shipping

The indescribable color is probably paired with an indescribable smell, right? But what if it isn’t? What if that strange color smelled like rhubarb and black plum? Delicious, yeah? And what if I told you that smell could be contained in this 35-hour+ burning soy candle? You’d think me mad. But, reader, I am soberly lucid. Decorated with tentacles and floral shapes, this candle makes a perfect gift for any horror fanatic or mythos enthusiast!

‘Welcome to Arkham’ Wooden Sign
$85.00 + Shipping

Arkham, Massachusetts, a bustling academic town, home to Miskatonic University and the site of many strange, unsettling, and inexplicable occurrences. Arkham has revealed many dark secrets over the years, and it certainly has more to tell. Available in a variety of colors. The perfect piece to decorate your home, confuse your neighbors, or attract mysterious strangers. (Innsmouth signs are also available if you lean more Esoteric Order and less Miskatonic booster.)

Call of Cthulhu Classic Gamer Prop Set
$109.00 + Shipping

HPLHS always makes quality stuff, and this collection of deluxe, ultra-realistic props was assembled to celebrate Call of Cthulhu’s® 40th anniversary and help add an air of authenticity to your next classic tabletop RPG campaign. The complete set includes all 94 props named in the classic supplements, plus a whole bunch more! Over 120 individual props, all organized into handy folders with full instructions.

Cthulhu Lamp
$139.00 + Shipping
(Limited Availability)

This 4.25″ x 5.75″ resin lamp is perfect for your creepy castle wall, your more secret sanctum sanctorum, or your very ordinary bathroom. Perhaps those are all the same place. You do you. We don’t judge in this gift guide. No matter where you need light, this lamp is there to provide it, in all its sorta-creepy glory.

Who Goes There? Deluxe Edition
$735.00 + Free US Shipping
(Limited to 50 copies)

The John W. Campbell book that became John Carpenter’s horror classic The Thing is back in a VERY limited edition. This run of 50 is half-bound in cold blue book cloth with a blind emboss and supple tan leather spine. Each is stored in a custom-designed and cloth-bound portfolio containing a triptych of Antarctica with notes and sketches from the expedition and holding five frame-ready letterpress prints from the story. Embedded in the portfolio’s cover is a distinctive hand-cast, painted resin medallion of the expedition’s emblem—a true collectors edition. Angel Bomb’s attention to detail is masterful.

Not finding a houseware item you like?
Check out the housewares from one of the previous guides.
• 2016 Housewares • 2017 Housewares • 2018 Housewares •
2019 Housewares 2020 Housewares 2021 Housewares •


❄️ Miskatonic University ❄️

Miskatonic University Library Staff Pin
$9.95 + Shipping

The stacks are filled with treasures, and only one group knows the ins and outs of the strange, sometimes alien system in which every tome is organized. Join the ever-diligent Library Staff of Miskatonic University and show your school spirit with this 1.25″ soft enamel pin with double pin-back rubber backing and remember, knowledge above all!

Personalized Miskatonic University Diploma Set
$29.99 + Free Shipping

I’ve seen a lot of Miskatonic Diploma Sets, but none has yet to go as far to feel as authentic as this. Not only does this diploma look like an actual diploma, including foil seals, but it also includes the alums’ personalized name, studies, and graduation year. A purchase here also consists of a lifetime listing of the Alumni on the Miskatonic University website. (See the full listing on Etsy for details.)

Miskatonic Cocktail Club Work Shirt
$44.99 + Shipping

Even cultists take a break for a cocktail or two. Look sharp in this red and black work shirt. The front pocket features the Miskatonic Cocktail Club insignia in white. The back is printed with a larger version in white with the phrase “the stars are always right… for a drink”. This black work shirt is accented with side panels in red for an eye-catching pop of color. Perfect for poker night. Or bowling. Or esoteric investigations.

Miskatonic Tibetan Hoodie
$50.00 + Shipping

Miskatonic is a university willing to send its faculty and students to strange, far places in its relentless pursuit of knowledge. You may not know much about M.U.’s 1926 expedition to Tibet, but you will once you own this garment – it comes with two props that bring clarity to the expedition’s goals and its outcome. The hoodie proudly displays the expedition’s logo on the front left breast.

Miskatonic 3.0 Hockey Sweater
$119 + Shipping

Geeky Jerseys has been making a Miskatonic University hockey sweater for a while now, and I’ve featured them in the past. This third rendition takes ol’ MU in a new direction while maintaining that modern college hockey feel. Every Geeky Jersey will feature high-quality embroidered crests, sublimated patterns, plus a custom cut and stitched name and number. (In this case, “Cthulhu” and the #28—someday I hope we can make these custom.)

Not finding any Miskatonic University gear you like?
Check out the Miskatonic University items from one of the previous guides.
• 2014 Miskatonic • 2015 Miskatonic • 2016 Miskatonic • 2017 Miskatonic •
2018 Miskatonic • 2019 Miskatonic 2020 Miskatonic 2021 Miskatonic •


 ❄️ Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! ❄️

Whelp, there we have it, folks. All good things must eventually end. The ninth annual List of Lists is in the bag. Hopefully, you found a few necessaries and were able to check a few people off your shopping list.

As always, thank you to everyone who has suggested items in the past to help me pad out this list. Your efforts are welcome. I always appreciate the help. Do you have a book, game, album, or other weird fiction-related items I should feature in 2023’s Cosmic Horror Holiday Gift Guide? Leave a comment below with links to your favorite goodies for others to see, or send me an email as a potential submission for next year!

Want to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information. Sign Up Today →

Raunch Review: Carnival Row

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews. Welcome.

The Author: René EchevarriaTravis Beacham

Work in Question: Carnival Row

The Profanity: “Critch”

In the world of Burgue from Amazon’s fantasy-fueled steampunk fairytale Carnival Row, humans live alongside mythical creatures who have fled their war-torn homeland. As you expect with any setting featuring this sort of mass immigration of refugees, there are examinations of xenophobia, bigotry, classism, and segregation. Most humans dislike these newcomers, and throughout the series, the viewer witnesses it from a variety of perspectives that of the commoner, law enforcement, and the elite.

As you’d expect, this plays out often in language, particularly with the word “critch.” Like any language designed to dehumanize, “critch” is the catchall term for any non-human species. It’s derived from “creature” and wielded with a particular venom by the various bullies throughout the series.

This is an interesting slur, focusing more on a class of people rather than a particular species. However, those species-specific insults are also in Carnival Row’s world as well: “Puck” being faun-specific, “Pix” for the Faerie, “Brute” for the Trow, and so on. And in many ways, these work better because they focus on each species rather than a random group. So “critch” exists in an odd space, clearly meant to harm and degrade, but it’s also so broad it loses some of the edge, which would make a slur like this so pernicious. Falls a little flat under scrutiny.

Final Score: 3.5

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews

Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.

Open Call for 2022 Cosmic Horror Items

Oh, you know it’s coming back.

Every year since 2014, I have assembled a holiday gift guide focused on cosmic-horror goodies. It’s become one of my favorite annual projects. Our little corner of the horror world is full of talented creators, and I like to use the gift guide to highlight some of the fabulous weird-fiction-related items I’ve discovered throughout the year. 2022 will be no different. (I’ll link to previous guides below so you can see what I’ve featured previously.)

That said, I am but one man, and there’s always cool stuff out there I missed. I could use your help. As I have for the last several years, I’m getting an early jump on assembling the guide. And it’s always worthwhile to do an open call and see what else lurks in the internet’s shadowed corners. This is that open call! Link me cool stuff! What have you found, dear reader? I want to know about it, and I’m sure others do too.

As always, the categories are:

  • Books (I generally have this covered)
  • Music
  • Apparel (no teeshirts—there’s a bajillion of them)
  • Games
  • Housewares
  • Miskatonic University

You can leave a comment below (I approve all non-bot comments), tweet me, or drop me an email. Let me know what you’ve found that would be perfect for this year’s Gift Guide! Not everything submitted will be featured. I curate the heck out of this.

Thanks in advance!

Previous Cosmic Horror Gift Guides

As promised, below are links to the guides from the last seven years. Some of the products were one-offs, are out of print, or just aren’t sold anymore. Don’t be shocked if you find broken links, especially in those earlier guides. It happens. Still, loads of cool stuff to check out.

❄️ 202120202019 – 2018 – 2017 – 2016 – 2015 – 2014 ❄️

The annual 2022 Cosmic Horror Holiday Gift Guide arrives on Black Friday, the darkest and most vile winter “holiday.” Return here in a few weeks to see this year’s thematic selection. Tell your friends! Share with your family! Shout it from the rooftops! It’s going to be a good one. 🦑

Ishikawa: A Free 17th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps 

Sourcing high-quality images to extract brush sets can be an arduous process, especially if you’re looking for something fresh and unique. There are hundreds of resources out there, but most are limited to western sources and skew more European. (Especially the prolific Dutch.) This is fine, but for a while, I’ve really wanted to diversify my brush sets and bring in more varied approaches and artistic voices.

So, when I recently came across a 17th-century map from Ishikawa Ryūsen (or Tomonobu), I got excited. Ishikawa Ryūsen was a Japanese writer, ukiyo-e painter, and cartographer from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century who primarily worked for the Edo-period shogunate. His work became the foundation of Ryūsen-zu, a style of woodblock map prints, and because of their artistic value, were often printed on folding screens. His maps have been reprinted many times, so I found it a little surprising that it took me so long to come across his work. But the version I found was perfect for a brush set, and after pouring over it for hours, I knew with a little work, it would be the perfect source for my first non-European brush set.

Today, I am happy to announce the release of Ishikawa, an extensive cartography brush set extracted from 日本海山潮陸圖 (Map of Sea, Mountain, Tide, and Land of Japan) depicting the Japanese islands of HonshūShikoku, and Kyūshu during the Edo period. It’s a stunning set with loads to offer, and it will help create maps that stand apart from the traditional European-influenced fantasy maps.

A sample of the brushes in the Ishikawa brush set - Lots of Japanese styled buildings and Torii gates as well as more modern markers.
A sample of the settlement brushes you’ll find in Ishikawa

There are some obvious stylistic differences here. From the almost kanji-inspired flora to the elegant, calligraphic mountains, but it’s also familiar. For the most part, this is a hill-profile style of map. Some exceptions come in the form of settlement markers, and those skew graphical—the large circles represented jitō manor houses, squares were fortified towns, ovals were traveling stops, and small circles were outposts. Yet, even with these graphical representations, Ishikawa still drew the roofs of the homes and shops that surrounded these points of interest. What we end up with is a fascinating hybrid style, not exactly hill-profile and yet not fully “modern.”

I want to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Amy Bliss Marshall for her help with translation and for providing some deeper dives into the koku-fueled Edo-period Shogunate. Her effort helped significantly in the creation of this set.

More of the Ishikawa brushes, landforms and flora as well as ocean waves and boats.
More of Ishikawa’s brush offerings

Since this is my first Asian-sourced map set, I wanted to make a splash. Ishikawa is enormous. Over 700 unique brushes fill out the set, making this my third largest. (Only Vischer and Ogilby are larger.) While it took more time, I went ahead and removed the kanji from all the simple settlement markers allowing you to use them as you wish.

Inside Ishikawa you’ll find…

  • 23 Cities
  • 30 Individual Roofs
  • 50 Grouped Roofs
  • 27 Individual Buildings
  • 25 Blank Outpost Markers (Small Circles)
  • 15 Blank Travel Stop Markers (Ovals)
  • 25 Blank Jitō Manor Markers (Large Circles)
  • 15 Blank Fortified Town Markers (Squares)
  • 5 Blank Named Manor Markers (Larger Squares)
  • 5 Blank Region Markers (Tall Rectangles)
  • 43 Torii Gates
  • 15 Unique Settlement Markers
  • 100 Individual Trees
  • 100 Forests (Grouped Trees)
  • 3 Unique Flora Markers
  • 71 Individual Mountains
  • 67 Grouped Mountains
  • 73 Waves
  • 2 People Cartouches (Sword Fight!)
  • 4 Directional Cartouches
  • 18 Small Boat Cartouches
  • 21 Large Boat Cartouches
  • 15 Sail Cartouches (These could also work as banners, just sayin’)
  • 1 Group of Boats Cartouche
  • [🚨 BONUS!] 7 Directional Road/Border/Line Brushes

I’m excited about Ishikawa’s bonus brushes. They are something many people have been asking for, and I’m pleased to finally be releasing them. Yep, directional “road” brushes. They’re a bit finicky, and I recommend taking your time with them, but they’ll allow you to easily paint roads and borders that follow the styles from the 17th and 18th centuries. I’ll most likely expand them into their own more fleshed-out set in the future, perhaps even combining them with Ende, my Littoral Edger brushes, but for now, they get to be an Ishikawa bonus.

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP and Affinity Photo) as well as three large transparent PNGs, Settlements (5.3 Mb), Flora & Landforms (3 Mb), and Water Features & Cartouches (2.5 Mb), in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black, and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there. (If you want to throw a few bucks my way to help with hosting this stuff, I wouldn’t complain.)

As with all of my previous brush sets, Ishikawa is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in commercial work and distribute adaptations. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Ishikawa? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me or finding me on Twitter. I love seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers. Let me see what you make!

Ishikawa in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? You can see the results below. It’s a bit of a blend of styles, but I am happy with how it turned out. There’s a lot you can do with these brushes. There are three versions, a colored, black and white, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you as you get started on your projects! Feel free to use these for whatever you want. Your next book? A D&D campaign? Lots of possibilities.

2813×5000 (8MB)
2813×5000 (6.9 MB)
1080×1350 (1.1 MB)

Sample Details: Location names were taken from various places and points of interest on Hokkaido. The font I used is a modified version of Bizmo, which was licensed from Envato Elements. I do not recommend laying this many western characters vertically, but I wanted to evoke some of the elements from Ishikawa’s original source and decided I was okay with it being a little illegible. The paper texture is from True Grit Texture Supply’s Infinite Pulp, and they’re also where I got Atomica, which gives me ink-like effects for the text—big fan of their tools. The boar illustration in the key is from an 1857 woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshitora and is available for free on Deviant Art.

Support this Work

If you like the Ishikawa brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work or just help cover the cost of hosting, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror-soaked dark urban fantasy novels. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. I think you’ll dig it. You can find all my books in stores and online. They make great gifts. Visit the Bell Forging Cycle hub to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging Cycle

Buy me a coffee?

Not interested in my books but still want a way to support the #NoBadMaps project or help pay for hosting these brushes? Why not buy me a coffee?

More Map Brushes

Ishikawa is just one of many brush sets I’ve released over the years. You can find it and other free brushes covering various historical styles on my Fantasy Map Brushes page. Every set is free, distributed under a CC0 license, and open for personal or commercial use. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that works for your project. Click the button below to check them out!

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Vote, America. Vote. 🗳

I usually like to release brush sets on Tuesdays. It’s a habit born from years of working on marketing emails. I had a set all ready for today, but I am pushing it out a bit because here in the United States, we have an election, and it’s an important midterm election. That means if you’re a citizen here in the United States of America, you should go vote.

My ballot is in and will be counted. Even got a text alert telling me everything was verified.

We’re vote-by-mail here in Washington State, and I turned my ballot in last week, and it was verified and counted (or will be counted tonight after the polls close.) If your state doesn’t offer that sort of convenience (I’m sorry) and if you need to know where to go, you can find your polling place here. If you’re an adult US citizen, remember, no one can keep you from voting. Stay in line. Get counted. If you’re intimidated at polls or have problems voting, keep these numbers handy:

  • 866-Our-Vote (English)
  • 866-Ve-Y-Vota (Spanish)
  • 866-API-Vote (Asian Languages)

Find out more information at You got this.

I saw a quote going around on various social media sites for the last few months, and it’s stuck in my head. To paraphrase, it suggested, “If you didn’t know how to vote, think of the most vulnerable individuals you know and vote in their best interests.” That resonated with me, and in turn, reminded me of this poem which is one I’ve been reflecting upon, maybe you’ll also find it inspiring.

Voting As Fire Extinguisher

by Kyle Tran Myhre

When a haunted house catches fire:
a moment of indecision.

The house was, after all, built on bones,
and blood and bad intentions.

Everyone who enters the house feels
that overwhelming dread, the evil
that perhaps only fire can purge.

It’s tempting to just let it burn.

And then I remember:
there are children inside.

Aim High, America

The Rings of Power Doesn’t Understand How River Navigation Works

⚠️ NOTE: The following contains spoilers for Amazon’s The Rings of Power, especially Episode 6, but really the whole show. So, consider yourself warned.

This isn’t a review of The Rings of Power. Suffice to say, I’ve had a good time with what I’ve seen overall, and I’d recommend it to Tolkien fans and non-Tolkien fans alike. You can see its enormous budget at work; overall, it’s fun. But, an incident in Udûn, Episode Six of The Rings of Power, annoyed me. It was a moment that echoed from previous fantasy shows, namely the last few seasons of Game of Thrones. And I wanted to discuss how dismissing realism (yes, even in fantasy) can dampen dramatic moments.

The ships of Númenor – The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – Amazon Prime

The incident in question: the Fast Travel of the Númenorians. “Fast Travel” is a phrase borrowed from video games that allow players to warp around the game world. It’s most recently been applied to movies and television series when characters seem to travel great distances very quickly, all for dramatic effect. Those moments have to be earned. A foundation needs to be built. A reader’s suspension of disbelief disappears when the Deus Ex Machina is fully displayed. We see the man behind the curtain, taking the fun away from the fantasy. And it happened in The Rings of Power.

The scene that kicked off this error was easy to overlook. It was a shot of the Middle Earth map, primarily focusing on the river Anduin with a conversation between Elendil reporting their situation and strategy to Queen Regent Míriel. It goes as follows:

Elendil: “Land has been sighted, your majesty.”

Míriel: “How long til we make anchor?”

Elendil:It’s a full day’s sail into the mountains, and from there, another day’s ride east, into the vale.”

(Emphasis mine.)

In the prose, Tolkien was always hand-wavy with Middle Earth distance (as the crow flies, a day’s ride, etc.), but I don’t buy that it’s “a full day’s sail” up the Anduin from the Bay of Belfalas. It’s easy to say, but it’s just not realistic. This is a fantasy setting, but magic isn’t being used. They’re traveling in big cumbersome sailing ships. This isn’t a car trip on well-paved roads. These Númenorians are voyaging into the unknown, a place they’ve only read on maps or heard about in stories. The two people with them who are familiar with the area (Galadriel and Halbrand) aren’t sailors.

In The Atlas of Middle Earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad estimates the Anduin is about 1388 miles long. Elendil taps the map in roughly the spot where Minas Morgul ends up being built. [1] Being generous, we’re looking at the distance from the mouth of the delta to the anchorage where they’ll disembark and ride to the vale’s rescue at nearly 300 miles. (The official map for The Rings of Power has a scale and would agree with me—it’s 90-ish leagues which comes out to 280-ish miles.) Rivers on old maps never precisely render a river’s actual meandering, so the odds would be good that, realistically, it was quite a bit longer. Still, we’ll pretend it’s accurate for this discussion and use this guesstimate for our base distance number.

The lands of Númenor and Middle Earth – The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – Amazon Prime

Okay, so we’ve established the Númenorians have to travel 300 miles. Fast sailing frigates during the Age of Sail—technologically, a later time than Middle Earth’s 2nd Age—topped out around 14-ish knots or 16-ish mph on the open sea. Earlier, Roman vessels that sailed the Mediterranean traveled at about 5-ish knots or about 6-ish mph. The Númenorian ships are neither 18th-century frigates nor a Roman 8th-century trireme. They have weird but cool-looking sail structures and seem much bigger than either of our examples. But, for the sake of argument, we’ll be charitable and say they have a speed of 14 knots—these are people of the sea, after all, and they build fine vessels.

So, that’s 300 miles at a generous 16mph. With some quick math, we can see that it’s almost 19 hours from start to finish if you can maintain that speed for the journey. At first, that makes Elendil’s calculation sound reasonable—and this entire essay worthless. We traveled less than a day with time to spare! But there’s a catch, actually a lot of catches. You know what, let’s call them snags.

Snag One:

Sailing up river is challenging. Yes, even on a river as wide as the Anduin would be at this point. The top speed for frigates I mentioned above is with good winds, and rivers aren’t known for favorable wind conditions for sailing vessels. Winds tend to follow river valleys flowing with the river to the sea, and even with fore-and-aft rigging (which the Númenorians don’t use, their ships are closer to square-rigging), you’d need constant tacking or jibing to make it up the river. Then there’s the whole other matter of winds shifting.

Snag Two:

You’re fighting the current, which slows you down. The flow for that stretch of the Anduin has to be enormous. It’s the primary drainage basin for the Grey Mountains, the Misty Mountains, the Ered Nimrais, and parts of Ephel Dúath. That’s an incredible amount of water. There’s a reason early American settlers used tows to drag boats upriver.

Snag Three:

We haven’t even accounted for basic river navigation on top of everything else. Rivers aren’t the open ocean. To seamen like the Númenorians, the Anduin is a ribbon of an ever-changing shore. It is much more complex to navigate than the sea, with prevalent snags, sandbars, bends, and channel depth changes. Heavy seagoing vessels (especially big ones) require much more draw than smaller vessels designed for rivers, so the dangers from all of those hazards would increase the risk and further slow progress.

Snag Four:

And then there’s the Anduin’s hydrography. The river flows through flat flood plains, which means its constantly moving. There’s no system in place to “tame” the river. Elves aren’t running snag boats or building weirs and levees. A bend one day could be a dry bed the next because of a snag upstream. This can depend on weather and seasons and the geography of the landscape through which it flows. It’s less of a concern than the other snags, but it is still a snag we should consider.

To the casual viewer, this probably went unnoticed. But for river nerds like me, it was a glaring mistake that sucked some of the fun out of the story. The idea of three enormous sailing vessels making it three hundred miles in a single day grows more unbelievable the more you examine it. But, it was necessary for the plot and therefore explained away. As a result, the Southlander’s rescue felt contrived—it wasn’t earned.

As I mentioned earlier, Game of Thrones did similar things in later seasons and had a similar effect. Euron Greyoy travels from King’s Landing to Casterly Rock so fast he had to set land-speed records. Gendry’s quick “run” back to the Wall. Daenerys flies from Dragonstone beyond the Wall in a few hours. Theon and Sansa escape Winterfell and magically show up on the Iron Islands with hardly a mention of the hundreds of miles of travel between those two locations.

And like Game of Thrones, The Rings of Power writers could have quickly solved this was some minor editing or a few throwaway lines. It doesn’t take much to earn the difficulty of travel. A few lines about how the journey across the sea from Númenor was long and arduous (it was almost 2000 miles according to the official map!) If they wanted to go further, they could have added a few shots of the ships moving upriver, perhaps under oars or being towed from the shore or by rowboats. A quick pan showing the day or two it’d take to unload a cavalry battalion from sailing vessels (something I didn’t even get into) could have added to the tension of the Númenorians not making it in time. Instead, it was brushed aside with an “it’ll take a day and then another day, NABD” as if this journey was simple.

Compare this to the ignition of Mt. Doom at the end of Episode Six. In previous episodes, pieces were placed to set up for that incredible moment. It was earned. We saw the channels being dug by the orcs and the enslaved elves. Characters even asked “why,” drawing our attention to the orc’s strange strategy. Unlike the rescue, the ignition was earned, and it was spectacular.

The rescue fell flat. When you step back, it becomes too convenient to work out the way it did, especially in Tolkien, where travel and the vastness of the land play a big part in the overall plot. It was such a tiny bit, but it developed in ways over the episode that detracted from what could have been an incredible and dramatic scene. Unearned, it came across less like the heroic task it was meant to be and more like watching someone move a few pieces around on a game board, and that’s not nearly as exciting.

[1] Interestingly enough, in Tolkien’s The Return of the King, about two-thirds to half of this same trip is taken up the Anduin by Aragorn and pals after they captured a fleet of ships from the Corsairs of Umbar at the port of Pelargir. These are then rowed (accurate!) upriver over the next exhausting day and a half. And, unlike the Númenorians, Aragorn had an angry ghost army with him, who I assumed greatly helped with the rowing.