Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Gathering of Ravens - Review by SE

A Gathering of RavensA Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Gathering of Ravens delivers an Orc with serious depth, and he carries a bloody seax too.
“Since young adulthood, I’ve wanted to write a book about Orcs—those foot soldiers of evil first revealed to us in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I wanted to write it from the Orcs’ point of view. And I wanted to redeem them.”Scott Oden, Author’s Note from A Gathering of Ravens

Scott Oden did not want to “write about a redeeming orc,” or the “redemption of an orc.” Rather, the author set out to present an orc that was not shallow, zombie-like drone (ala Tolkien, and most of high fantasy novels stereotype).

The milieu in A Gathering of Ravens is reminiscent of Poul Anderson’s Viking Age The Broken Sword, being full of Dane’s and Celtic faeries and Norse myths. The style is more readable than that classic, but is still saturated with just the right amount of call-outs to geographies and history to blur the lines between fantasy and history. This is no historical fantasy, but the foundation of history is so well played the fantasy feels “real.”

Equally balanced are the sorceries of Celtic witches, Norse deities, and Christian beliefs. All supernatural “sides” of faiths conflict here. All are presented as real, though some are being superseded.

So who is the orc protagonist employed by Scott Oden to redeem the Orc culture? He is Grendel’s brother, as named by some. The lady Étaín, a servant of the Christian God, the Nailed One, and unlikely companion of him describes him:
“He is called Grimnir… the last of his kind, one of the kaunar—known to your people as fomóraig, to mine as orcnéas, and to the Northmen as skrælingar. In the time I’ve known him, he has been ever a fomenter of trouble, a murderer, and as cruel a bastard… I can vouch neither for his honesty nor his morals, as he is bereft of both. And while he did kidnap me, threaten me with death, mock my faith, and expose me to the hates of a forgotten world, he also saved my life …”

Grimnir is a brutal bastard. His name suits him, since he might as well be carrying a flagstaff with the contemporary “Grimdark subgenre” splayed upon it. Yet his predicament and motivations are compelling as any vigilante hero. Way to deliver on your muse, Scott Oden!

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

GenCon-50yr Anniversary - SEL's First Impressions

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Summarizing my first GenCon, and I picked a good one. It was the 50th Anniversary! >80,000 attendees over ~5days (though I only had Saturday to explore). In short, I'll be back next year and will spend more time. Three posts cover my experience:

  1. SEL's First Impressions  <<< You are Here
  2. Tabletop Gaming
  3. Writer's Symposium


Some  First Impressions


  • 80,000 fellow "nerds" congregate to play game
  • Somehow several hotels, an entire convention center, and an entire stadium are filled with events... and it is all family friendly. Strollers and kids abound.
  • Lots of cosplay
  • The Exhibit Hall is incredible.  
  • Play Areas: people are playing board games everywhere! Miniatures, Magic, Catan, you name it.  Crazy.
  • I got to fist-bump a Dark Souls statue
  • Lot's of big game designers and authors here. Cripes...is that Margaret Weis chilling in front of me?  
  • If you Kickstart games like I do, you'll want to come here. 
  • Never had a chance to even visit the authors/artist alley, the stadium event, etc.
  • One day is not enough
  • Next year, I'll stay longer








GenCon-50yr Anniversary - SEL's Tabletop Gaming

GCMS Login Image

Summarizing my first GenCon, and I picked a good one. It was the 50th Anniversary! >80,000 attendees over ~5days (though I only had Saturday to explore). In short, I'll be back next year and will spend more time. Three posts cover my experience:

  1.  First Impressions
  2. Tabletop Gaming <<< You are Here
  3. Writer's Symposium

TableTop Gaming

  • Ritual - Playtesting: I started the day with 2hrs of play-testing  Ritual, a card game for 3+ players in which each person is a necromancer trying to build their villages (of people to harvest for sorcery) while sabotaging the other players' villages. to be Kickstarted soon. The goal was to fine tune the rule book.  The game is fun and easy to play, and can "ruin friendships!" 
  • Deep Madness: A fan of CMON's Zombicide, I was lured into backing Diemension Game's cooperative dungeon crawler (not CMON, but is reminiscent, this game being a cooperative crawl with Mythos culture/creatures). Got to meet designer Roger Ho in person. Diemension plan to kickstart Dawn of Madness (aka Celestial?) within a year, which will be another horror miniature game....this time with a progression of character transformation.
  • STOP THIEF: A fan of the ~1979 original, I had to back this renewed version on Kickstarter. It is due in the mail any time, and stopping by Restoration games enabled me to pick up an extra thief (apparently made in Garay Gygax's honor). Rob Daviau & Justin Jacobson of Restoration Games had a presentation/seminar (conflicting with the Writer's Symposium), but my brother filled in the audience.











GenCon-50yr Anniversary - SEL at Writer Symposium

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Summarizing my first GenCon, and I picked a good one. It was the 50th Anniversary! >80,000 attendees over ~5days (though I only had Saturday to explore). In short, I'll be back next year and will spend more time. Three posts cover my experience:

  1.  First Impressions 
  2.  Tabletop Gaming
  3.  Writer's Symposium  <<< You are Here

Writers Symposium

  1. SEM17121201 Business of Writing: Hybrid Publishing—Covering All the Bases: From self-pub to large press, they discussed building sustainable writing careers. With Steve DrewGail Z. Martin, Linda Robertson, Matt Forbeck.  
  2. SEM17121231 Writer's Craft: Drawing from Mythology:  Great topic including an author/editor I follow, Howard Andrew Jones. He introduced me to Black Gate in 2010, so I was thrilled to get him to sign the 2011 Spring edition in which he is featured. He was most passionate about clarifying the loss of character synergy in Star Trek renewals. Cripes, I just saw that artist Donato Giancola was at Gencon (he did the coverart for Black Gate Magazine's last print issue (#15 2011 spring)..ie the one in this image). Gen Con was so big, I never got to the Artist alley; Long live Black Gate! 
  3. SEM17121205 Writer's Craft: The Art of Adding DetailsHow do you add details that enrich your story without going too far and overwhelming the reader? Featuring Steve Drew, Leigh Perry, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly McCullough & Richard Lee Byers.