Pickman’s Model: TCL #49

Whatever your opinion on the literary merits of the tentacle loving stenographer of old Providence town, it is hard to ignore the sheer influence his works have had on the wider fictional and creative world. That influence is not restricted to his more famous works alone. It’s not all Cthulhu and elder gods, mansions of madness, a fair chunk of Stephen King novels and stranger things… His less well-known works have had influences far beyond what you would by rights expect for a writer who in his own time was little known and published in periodicals and often only the amateur press.

It’s a subject I have wondered across before in this vainglorious quest to read his collected works. Sweet Ermengarde, for example, is not just a little known ‘comedy’ but is also where a German goth metal band ( currently touring the UK as it happens) got its name. (they are quite good too, and if I get chance I plan to get tickets for one of their northern gigs ). That’s only one of several musical diversions inspired by Lovecraft’s fiction. There is plenty of other stuff out there. And so we come to Pickman’s Model…

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In the case of this little tale however what it has influenced is a  little on the odd side. Because this tale, of an artist who has a passion for the macabre and who takes his work a tad too far, influences a whole subquest line in the extremely popular Fall Out 4. Indeed this tale set, like fall out 4, in Boston, led to the design of a house of horrors, the macabre portraits of bloody corpses drawn from ‘life’ after the artist hacked up bodies to pose for him in his old townhouse in the dark streets of northern Boston. If anything the Fall Out team took things further than are hinted at in the tale itself, and the blood-soaked rooms in the game are only hinted at in the tale. While Pickman himself, or at least his actions, can be found throughout the game world, in the notes he has left on the mutilated remains his would-be models. The artist come, serial killer, is one of the most viscerally repellant characters in a game set in a post-nuclear future. Not bad for a character in a run of the mill little tale that never quite pulls off what I suspect Lovecraft was trying to achieve. you can also decorate your own buildings (in game) with his artwork, if you appreciate his aesthetic. Though if you do, well your taste is questionable…

But to the story itself that inspired the Fall Out 4 fun and games… Follows a slightly different path, but one which is no less horrific in its inception. Lovecraft’s Pickman is not a serial killer painting his crimes but a man who has sought out the dwellers in the darkness. His paintings of ghoulish grotesquery are painted form life. And in the end, having stared into the abyss as it were…  Well, Nietzsche has something to say on that subject.

This isn’t the strongest piece of Lovecraft fiction, but at the same time it is far from the weakest either, at the end of the day it’s a middling little tale. Like much of Lovecraft, what it has inspired is so much more than the subject of that inspiration. So it’s a steady three tentacles, read it, don’t read it, its hard to recommend or not.

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

On the other hand, stalking Pickman through the cellars of his house and trying not to look too closely at the twisted piles of bodies he has arranged as art installations in Fall Out 4 I can highly recommend…

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