These are two terms that are bandied around lots when it comes to the Old School Renaissance (OSR),
A quick Google looking for a definition of Cosmic Horror, sends you straight towards HP Lovecraft and his Mythos. The rather nihilistic idea of alien beings, and their incomprehensible actions being the source of alarm and anxiety, rather than blood and gore. To be fair that’s were I came in with the term, with the Games Workshop printing of Call of Cthulhu (2nd edition + Companion with all manner of new art, in a lovely hardcover instead of a bunch of pamphlets in a box which was the US Chaosium offering at the time). Actually, I was more interested in the idea of using it as a Gothic horror game, since rather than Lovecraft I had been brought up on a diet of Hammer Horror films, with a dash of the bizarre and creepy 70s/80s British TV Series Tales of the Unexpected (which sometimes went into the realms of the supernatural). I didn’t really get Cosmic Horror until I read the work of Lovecraft’s peer Clark Ashton Smith a couple of years later. CAS is the master of dry, almost sarcastic, delivery of “oppps man has wandered into an encounter with the supernatural almost outside of his comprehension, and suffers badly because of it”. I personally think he’s a much better writer, than Lovecraft, and he certainly got across the sense of how to use Cosmic Horror effectively.
Weird Fantasy? Again a quick Google brings you to a broad church of pulpy, supernatural, dark fantasy, swords and sorcery, titles and stories, that have their origins in the 1920s with the familiar circle of HP Lovecraft, CAS and Rober E. Howard. For me as a Brit, brought up on a quaint diet of Tolkien and CS Lewis, it means anything that is genuinely strange and somewhat dangerous by its very nature. Moorcook’s Eternal Champion stories (Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum, Von Beck among others) which I drank deep off in my teens come to mind in a happy way here.
Both flavours are covered by the zines I’m offering as part of the From the Shroud ZineQuest 4 Kickstarter.
From the Shroud #3, is cosmic horror in a big way. The Tales that describe the adventures on Other Worlds and their alien inhabitants are the first proper look at the genre that has previously been heavily mentioned and referenced by some of the otherworldly fiends that are the monsters of Crypts and Things. Now I give Crypt Keepers (C&T GMs) a bucket full of ideas to inflict upon their players, whose characters now can visit the worlds beyond the Shroud.
The nearly funded second zine, Mancuria covers Weird Fantasy. It’s an alternative history take on 21st Century Manchester, with an airpunk theme, with flying airships, steam-powered weapons, and dangerous elements in the form of a zombie workforce that sometimes gets hungry, visiting barbarians on unicycles and pirates who prey on the airships.
Both zines are available on Kickstarter now until Monday 29th August.