Aylesbury Thoughts

Now that the Forgotten Corners of Lovecraft Country volume 1 book is formally announced, I wanted to give people some insight into the  section on Aylesbury that I wrote.   There are minor SPOILERS below, for those who might want to use it when it comes out.

First of all, I had to confront the question of the potential Mythos content. Aylesbury has never had a great deal of detail put into its characters or places in the fiction, instead being a sort of bright mirror of nearby Dunwich.  To fit that model, it should be a nice civilized town where nothing untoward actually happens.  But that’s not what I did.

I’ve repeatedly heard criticism of RPG sourcebooks that toss in supernatural explanations and strange characters at every turn.  I think oversaturation is not a good thing, but it’s difficult to convince readers that they should buy a book in which there’s not at least some Mythos content.  Yet, a place that has not been given a dark reputation in the material that has come before should not suddenly become a hotbed for supernaturalism.  My goal with Aylesbury was to create a town with enough Mythos content to give the reader something useful, but also nothing explicit or overt.

To do so, I started with what little hints we had regarding Aylesbury in Lovecraft and other sources.  Previous writers had established that Aylesbury was a town founded in 1801 as a fictional precursor to the semi-Utopian factory town of Lowell.  This actually suited me as fine, as it knocked out the old staples of Native American curses, witch-hunts, and ghosts, and gave me a way to move to something new.  But what would that be?

I turned back to New England folklore and legend, including the writings of Andrew Rothovius on conspiracies involving New England alchemists and earth energies.  Now, I don’t particularly agree with Rothovius’ conclusions, especially regarding Lovecraft’s links to supernatural sites, but they do make for great source material, and I’d wanted to use them for some time.  So, in they went.

Going back to the idea of Aylesbury as the mirror of Dunwich, and starting with the background in Lowell, gave me the key to write about the town.  Aylesbury’s horrors don’t come from moldy books and undead sorcerers.  They come from intelligent, idealistic men who sought to bring about a peaceful utopian community and failed.  That is the essence of the town as written, and I’m happy with the way it came out.

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] by Dan Harms’ recent post about his work on Aylesbury, I though I might add my own few coins about both Aylesbury and the more general notion of making […]

  2. You have a really good point about the risk of over-saturating a place with the Mythos. It sort of makes sense with Urban Fantasies like World of Darkness (although even then it should be handled with care as it gets ridiculous when there’s 200 vampires in a city of 3 million) but with Lovecraftian tales where the Mythos is meant to be a rare but ever-present threat it’s all the more so.

    Not to mention that when you try to create something different, you often come up with a more unique take on it then if you’d endeavored to simply Mythos it up.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the work.

  3. […] response to my last post, Bret posted some thoughts on historical research for the Aylesbury setting.   So before I can be […]

  4. but it’s difficult to convince readers that they should buy a book in which there’s not at least some Mythos content.

    Yeah, ’cause complex human drama is way easier for Keepers to come up on the fly themselves.

  5. Ah, Lowell, Mass. Some of my fondest childhood/teen memories are of summer vacations spent visiting my grandmother there, my uncle in Bahstin (that’s “Boston” to you non-Bostonians), and my aunt in Portsmouth. My whole family’s originally from Lowell/Methuen. I had the “good” fortune of having my parents move to the pit that is central NY just before I was born…

    Maudlin nostalgia aside, I’m really looking forward to this book. I like the approach you’re planning on taking – if it pans out, this will be a refreshing resource.


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