Sunday, August 20, 2017

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) 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.

GenCon-50yr Anniversary - SEL's First Impressions

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. 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. 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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weirdbook #35 - Review by SE

Weirdbook #35Weirdbook #35 by Douglas Draa
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Weirdbook is highly recommended; a menu of high quality horror tales that span most genres.

Weirdbook is one of a few Weird Fiction magazines that persist. Weirdtales is likely the most famous, which emerged in the Pulp Era of the early Twentieth Century and comprised horror, dark fantasy, and Sword & Sorcery; Weirdtales exchanged hands over the decades and was carried/edited in the late 1980’s by John Betancourt and Darrell Schweitzer who both play a role in Weirdbook (Betancourt as Publisher & Executive Editor via Wildside Press, and Schweitzer as an anchoring author). In 1967 W. Paul Ganley edited Weirdbook magazine, its compelling run ceased in 1997 (Back issues available via Ganley’s ebay store). A century from its origins, Weird Fiction still has followers, but its identity is split across myriad markets/venues; in 2015, editor Doug Draa partnered with John Betancourt of Wildside Press to reboot the magazine with Weirdbook #31 (review link). [Fanboy aside: I was able to meet Ganley and Schweitzer at the World Fantasy Convention 2016 that I was blessed to moderate and panel a bit]. 

Calling Weirdbook #35 a "magazine" seems to minimize this ~200page book which is more a quality anthology. It has 22 contributing authors (18 stories, and 4 sets of poetry) and there are no reviews/advertising/articles one expects in a magazine. Skelos comes to mind as a contemporary magazine (newly kickstarted) which has those non-story features (also worth subscribing to).

In any event, Weirdbook #35 is entertaining and a great value.  Douglas Draa continues to share myriad adventures by new & seasoned authors with milieus running the gamut of weird-dark fantasy. It promises that readers will experience some flavor of horror. Expect equal parts ghost stories, psychedelic trips, gory murders, thoughtful introspections, and battles with the unknown! My favorite is the last entry from Darrell Schweitzer’s The Take and the Teller, but I enjoyed most of these (I star/earmark the ones below that I can’t get out of my head and will reread).  I’m usually mired in Sword & Sorcery, and reading Weirdbook allows me to branch out. I encourage others to do the same. Get Weirdbook. Don’t trust my “stars/earmarks” but find your own amongst the menu.


1.     The Pullulations of the Tribe by Adrian Cole, is gothic noir tale in which the sleuths must free hostages; more fun than horrific

2.     Dead of Night by Christopher Riley; very weird and satisfying horror on the high seas; contemporary milieu

3.     Mother of my Children by Bruce Priddy: short and weird dose of arachnids

4.     John Fultz's Man Who Murders Happiness is accurately titled, poignant, and disturbing

5.     * English's Handful of Dust a natural engaging story; could be described as ghost story, but it is more than that … I hate wasps BTW

6.     K.A. Opperman's series of gothic poems re: “Carpathia” are a nice touch.

7.     Poetry “translated” by Fredrick J Mayer called Taken from the Tcho Tcho People’s Holy Codex is Elditch/Lovecraftian verses that didn’t make much sense to me (but I’m no acolyte yet, more advanced students of the occult may understand)

8.     Revolution a' la Orange by Paul Lubaczewski has nice historical context (1672 Dutch republic and William III) but too many scene breaks

9.     Fiends of the Southern Plains by Patrick Tumblety reads as frontier family faced with night haunts that have more faith than the humans--very dark and satisfying.

10.  * Stanley B. Webb's Pyrrhic Crusade is unique Sword ‘n’ Sorcery; the pacing was jarring at first, but the tale came together really well and covers a lot of ground

11.  Charles Wilkinson's futuristic Migration of Memories is reminiscent of Philip Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) but a touch more realistic than trippy

12.  Maquettes by MacKintosh is WWII, Nordic sea horror. Fun variation.

13.  The Dinner Fly poem by James Matthew Byers could be paired with Priddy’s story above

14.  In the Shadows by JS Watts, offers a new perspective on being depressed (contemporary horror)

15.  * "Lagillle's The Spot starts as a well-done, but typical, zombie apocalypse.... but then shifts into a weird trippy horror. Great stuff.

16.  Donald McCarthy's Schism in the Sky has a hermetic pastor encountering his god on an alien planet

17.  Janet Harriett's To Roam the Universe, Forgotten and Free is a heart wrenching, contemporary ghost story"

18.  Lily Luchesi's Rejuvenate is a short circus horror, which felt like a great outline for a larger novel

19.  * Crescentini's Vigil Night is dark fantasy at its finest; enough necromancy and madness for an entire army of knights

20.  Dead Clowns for Christmas by L.J. Dopp – mashing up the movies “Killer Clowns form Outerspace” and “Chuckie” yields something like this

21.  Jessica Amanda Salmonson offers Strange Jests four fable-like poems with fish/water themes

22.  * The Tale and the Teller , by Darrell Schweitzer read like a Lord Dunsany masterpiece. This one is worth the price of the book by itself.

The Tale and the Teller – Darrell Schweitzer, opens this way:

Who is the teller and to whom is the story told? Listen: there are voices, and the wind, and the sighing of the sea. Listen.
If you make your way a hundred miles up the Merimnian coast, you come to the Cape of Mournful Remembrance, and, beyond that, pass into a curious country, where high tablelands reach to the edge of the sea, the drop off sharply, revealing black, granite cliffs.

Now white ruins protrude out of the earth like, old, broken teeth, but once a great city stood there, called Belshadihphon, a name which means “City of a Thousand Moons.” So it was: in the days of the Empire of the Thousand Moons, it was the capital of half the world. Yet there remain only ghosts, and wisps of wind; and, of nights, when the tide rushes into the caves that honeycomb the whole landscape, you can hear millions of souls crying out, all those who died in the wars that brought the place glory. Not for sorrow, not for vengeance. Just crying, wordlessly, faintly, like tide and wind. 

It was called the City of a Thousand Moons because, in the great times, the very gods appeared on brilliant nights, rising out of the sea in their luminous robes, wearing masks like full moons, drifting up the cliffs and onto the tabeland, to walk among the pillared palaces of the great city, some of them even, or so it is claimed in stories like this one, to give counsel to the emperor on his throne.
You can still see the moon-masks. They have turned to stone and lie across the beach and the tableland like so many scattered coins.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper -

The Book of ParadoxThe Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper
S.E rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper
“An occult odyssey through the Tarot to an inner world beyond the portals of Death”

Aloethe’s life is taken by a jealous prince; Aloethe’s love, Varka, serves as a scapegoat to the murder. Sentenced to sacrifice at the temple of the Darxes, Lord of the Underworld, Varka awakens and is encouraged to find Aloethe in Limbo … if he can find the place. Varka is also empowered with the Book of Paradox, a magical book with pages/verses are cryptic, dynamic, and crucial to understand.
“You are indeed a thing of paradox,”[Varka] muttered under his breath, addressing the Book. “When I need you most, you tell me nothing, and when you are useful your words are impossible to understand.”

The actual Book of Paradox has 22 chapters, each named/influenced by the Major Arcana of the Tarot. A forward by the author’s first husband Gary Cooper explains the design: “The Book of Paradox represents the journey of the Fool through the initiations of the various cards. This is Varka’s fated quest, and one which leads him and the reader through many strange lands, into contact with many strange people, as will the Tarot itself.”

Louise Cooper was only twenty years old when her debut novel came out, and she was graced with a breath-taking Frank Frazetta cover (called “Paradox”). Each chapter has a frontispiece with an illustration by Barbara Nessim of the card influence in the current chapter along with a paragraph explaining the interpretation. Many mini-stories span 2-to-3 cards/chapters; for instance, the cover of Varka approaching vampire women is a scene from a story spanning (a) Chapters VII: The Chariot (Reversed) and (b) VIII: Fortitude.
Frazetta Paradox

This is a trippy adventure into an underworld that is more dream-like than it is horrifying. It is short and reads fast. The pacing and style is reminiscent of Michael Moorcock (known for his Elric novels) and there are some echoes of Jack Vance (1926-2013) and his Dying Earth series--iconic in RPG/D&D history since the naming of Items and Spells was simple: Magic Items such as Expansible Egg, Scintillant Dagger, and Live Boots...and Spells such as Excellent Prismatic Spray, Phandaal's Mantle of Stealth, Call to the Violent Cloud, Charm of Untiring Nourishment. There is an echo of Vance flare here, in that Louise Cooper offers location and titles similarly: Castle Without parallel, Queen of Blue, the Cave of Souls Passing, and the titular Book of Paradox.

The Tarot design is interesting but not obviously crucial/integral for the story; i.e., the Book of Paradox carried by Varka begged for a stronger connection to the Tarot cards, but the connection, if any, was not obvious. Nonetheless, it is a fun tale. Louise seems better known for her Time Master and Indigo series, which I plan to read.
The Initiate and Nemesis

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Obscure Works Groupread - July Aug on Groupreads

The Sword & Sorcery Group on 

will become "Obscure"!

Time to unearth arcana! Sword & Sorcery, our group reads for July and August are "OBSCURE WORKS." So we all won't be reading the same books, but we all can search for them, read, discuss, and review them! Let's shed a little light on lost gems.

Discussion Folder for Obscure Books Link - click here to join in! 

Remember the poll? Poll Link for obscure bookst... if you need a goal, try one of those. If you voted for one, read it or discuss why you chose it. Our banner is made from two of those items: 

Heather Gladney's Blood Storm (sequel to Teot's War of The Song of Naga Teot series). Cover by John Jude Palencar 1989

The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper, cover by Frank Frazetta 1973.

Blood Storm (The Song of Naga Teot, #2) by Heather Gladney The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper