Skeleton Songs

Skeleton Songs

A games and literature podcast all about stories, from London-based indie developers Weather Factory. Forgotten myths, fantastic sources, gothic tropes and ghoulish tales. All with a list of the games / texts we talk about at the bottom of the episode summary, so you can go away and play/read to your black heart's content.


November 24, 2023 62 mins

Author. Visionary. Dreamweaver. Plus bellhop. Meet Jack Vance, one of the most inventive fantasy authors we've ever heard of, and probably not a pirate king. What happens when fairies become too lumpen and earthy? Why are Lvl1 wizards in D&D so rubbish? Who is Larkin the Baby-Stealer, and why are you reaching for that kazoo?

We talk Cugel the Clever, Vancean magic and why you shouldn't make bread from dogs.

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"If magic works, why isn't the President of the United States doing it?"

After a 'brief' hiatus, we're back! We pick up where we left off and talk about the magic of Doctor Faustus, whether magic is 'liberation or damnation', and the distinction between ceremonial magic and what specialists term 'Doing A Big Spell'.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for you...

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April 27, 2022 46 mins

Welcome to a new season, all about magic and literature! We talk William Shakespeare's Tempest, from women-wizards from Algiers to royal demonology. Caliban's Moth, Ariel's Lantern and AK nearly dies in a spiegel tent.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for your gaming / reading pleasure:

- "The Tempest", by William Shakespeare
- Against Worldbuilding, and Other Provocations, by ...

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December 3, 2021 34 mins

What makes games 'savoury'? Why is Twitter such a bad place to get game design advice? And is it ever sensible to push a count off a cliff?

This episode, Lottie and Alexis talk art, games and critique, through architect Christopher Alexander to Jack Cohen and Brian Aldiss' fight over speculative xenobiology in Helliconia. Listen to avoid the perils of categorisation, and the pitfalls of diamonds - and hear A...

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November 19, 2021 42 mins

Hiraeth? Sensucht? Saudade? Listen to Alexis and Lottie cry as we talk nostalgia, sequels and games, from 17th-century Swiss cowbells to sailing away from your loved ones into danger. We talk transmission of experience from one generation to the next, the future of games as gamers get old, and the impossible loss of childhood - and why that's not such a bad thing after all.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for...

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August 27, 2021 56 mins

The conclusion of an epic two-parter. Who would win in a fight between TRPGs and CRPGs? What happens if a giant worm swallows a city? Is a dolphin the same as a cat? We attempt to answer these questions with appeals to Simon Baron-Cohen's empathising-systemising theory, work out why TRPGs rely so heavily on rule-sets when lots of people don't follow them anyway, and end up convincing ourselves that Game of Thrones is Love...

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July 8, 2021 53 mins

"I don't want to be Elfstar anymore! I want to be Debbie!"

Join us for a romp through tabletop gaming's earliest origins and the effect its had on modern video games. Well, that was the intention. We actually stop around the 1980s with fundamental Christianity and a woman called Janine who is bad at charades. But we talk about the defining characteristic of nerdery, Star Wars vs Star Trek, Boris Johnson...

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June 25, 2021 40 mins

Real talk: APOPHENIA. Alexis and Lottie discuss subliminal pattern-seeking from its coinage by a Nazi psychologist to its use by modern indie game developers to cover up the fact we don't have any budget. Wait! We meant to make clever, co-operative immersive experiences. All via werewives, apophanies and Zhou Enlai.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for your gaming / reading pleasure:

- Cultist Simulat...

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May 20, 2021 46 mins

This episode is about sex and games and the libertine novels of eighteenth-century France. From Talleyrand, the Napoleonic clergyman and diplomat, through to Cindy Crawford, Peter Bradshaw and Amouranth, the Twitch streamer scandal du jour, we talk erotica, porn and those anime sex games you see all the time on Steam. Listen for the power of 'not for me', the uselessness of banning things, and Alexis's really bizarre...

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March 25, 2021 47 mins

Join Alexis and Lottie for a discussion of antagonists and villains! Via witches, Belgium, Simon Baron-Cohen, a charming Irish vagabond and, of course, Nazism. Alexis talks about how rubbish games are and destroys Lottie's argument; Lottie talks about five-hour Polish art films and producers stopping developers from kicking each other in the nads.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for your gaming / reading ple...

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March 5, 2021 41 mins

What's the connection between the Labyrinths of Night and the Bright Ditches? This question and many more we don't really answer in this episode on mazes, labyrinths and game design.

Meet labrys, the lesbianic double-headed axe. Leave kittens in mazes and form human chains in swampy MUDs. Learn Alexis Kennedy's First Law of Narrative. Cake. Also, Lottie gets cross about a pretend man 'buggering off with...

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January 28, 2021 42 mins

Skeleton Songs season two, baby! This season's all about GAMES, but not as you know 'em. Join Alexis and Lottie as we discuss genre via Aristotle and Wittgenstein, cyberpunk and film noir, the Berlin Interpretation and, er, fish genitalia. Also there is an odd bit about tortoises in the rain but perhaps Alexis's medicine was wearing off then.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for your gaming / readin...

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November 11, 2020 38 mins

Ragnarok! Gotterdammerung! Armageddon outta here! In the final episode of season one, we talk eschatology, chocolate, fake news and the bloody gothness of Old Germanic literature. Sexy zombie apocalypses and millennial doomsday cults make an appearance too, because of course they do. And even though we say 'everyone's gonna die' a lot in this episode, we realise it's small acts of everyday niceness that really s...

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October 28, 2020 33 mins

Maenads! Who are they, what do they want, and how do they wear their fox-skins? Kittens! How can they be so cute and so murderous at the same time? Join Alexis and Lottie as they discuss why frenzied Bassarids and Cutie McFloofcat are both the same Gothic trope of violent comeuppance. Via boring werewolves, Nosferatu and beautiful, naughty Clodius, of course. Also, there is a surprise storm half-way through.

Games / books ...

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August 18, 2020 32 mins

Join Alexis and Lottie on a deep-dive into WORLDBUILDING. Why it's menacing to be told to start with a timeline, how Twin Peaks' BOB came to be, why you must never call pulled pok 'flesh-spicing', and why the architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao probably didn't start with the toilets. Alexis, unsportingly, refuses to get cross.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for your gaming / read...

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July 3, 2020 32 mins

This week we take a break from literature and talk about the weird stories in our own lives. Join Sheep-Stealer and Big Head as they introduce you to Great Uncle Gilbert, the teenage flying ace and real-life Great Escape artist, and David the contract officer for the Sultan of Oman who brought a wolf to tea. All shot through with poisonous headwear, what Britain wants for Christmas, and gentlemen flying kites.

Follow us on...

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June 12, 2020 34 mins

Can you really trust anyone? Join Alexis and Lottie as they roundly conclude that you can't. We talk unreliable narrators via toilets, relevance theory, echoic mentions, the four levels of Star Wars canonicity and Lovecraft being surprisingly confident that his monsters were real.

Games / books mentioned in this episode, for your gaming / reading pleasure:

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May 1, 2020 33 mins

Madness, blood and ladies! We talk all things bloody, from Freud to Pliny to the Red Grail to Queen Elizabeth the First to murdering an entire hive of bees. The Madonna / whore complex? Check. Horrible Norse mythology about men being scared of ladies, and gods being made out of spit? Check. Etymology that devolves into single entendre riddles about vegetables? We gotchu. Also, Lottie gets increasingly cross.

Games / books ...

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March 18, 2020 33 mins

Join Alexis and Lottie for a run-down of forbidden knowledge: the type that's ipso facto dangerous and the type that's dangerous because of what you can do with it. We discover Christopher Marlowe was definitely a spy, nuclear codes are modern occultism and everyone's neighbour Mrs Thrumb writes a very boring diary.

We skim past Papist plots, diabolical monkeys, why Lovecraft is like watching a snake getting...

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March 3, 2020 33 mins

From ancient Egypt to modern web comics, döppelgangers haunt us all. Join Alexis and Lottie as they discuss the ins and outs of these look-alikey ghouls, from Scottish fetches to Capgras syndrome via Dostoyevsky, Silent Hill 2, neuropsychology and scary mirrors. All with a sprinkling of gothic literature.

Oh! And if you run into a doppelganger in a graveyard, pray that it's the right time of day.

Games / book...

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