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.