Saturday, August 10, 2019

GenCon 2019 Writer's Symposium Behind the Scenes - Volunteering

This serves a snapshot scrapbook for the Writer's Symposium at Gen Con #52, 2019.  Every year in Indianapolis, it's a guaranteed blast of fun with authors, readers, editors, and gamers! Volunteering is a lot of work, but those who do get to hang out with a bunch of like-minded folk. Looking forward to seeing everyone next year. 

Trade Day - GenCon 2019 - Learning Financial Literacy Through Games

 "Is That The Best You Can Do?"

Free Market Kids' "Is That The Best You Can Do?" game is inspired to teach basics of financial literacy and negotiating skills, but it's fun whether or not you care about learning. It is as easy as Uno... but totally different. The games works with three people, but works best with four or more for the negotiations to get exciting. It is excellent for family gatherings, home schooling, or class settings. A match runs about 30-45min, but a single ~5min round can be fun and full of teachable moments.

Wed July 31st at Trade Day GenCon 2019, Free Market Kids demonstrated the game with ~17 librarians, game developers, and teachers. 

This post shows short clips of mini-rounds. In short, these demonstrate how easy the game is to pick up.  Negotiating can be fun... but it is most fun with abstract "Alternate Identities" and "Flying Cars" on the market.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Savage Sword of Conan #5 and #6

Savage Sword of Conan #5 - 2019
Savage Sword of Conan #6 - 2019

4 stars for each; reviews by SE

Well #5 was satisfying. Was just getting into Koga Thun as a villain... and that may be unwise. Trying to avoid spoilers, but even from the cover blurbs (below), it is clear that Koga Thun's story arc runs dry. Cripes, there was enough material there to stretch it out, but Marvel seems to insist on a lack of focus.

As before, Scott Oden's "Sword of Vengeance" continues at a nice pace throughout. Octavia is in a real pinch now.

I am confused about where #7 will go, since #6 is pitched as a stand alone tale.  I'll be disappointed if #7 ignores the trajectory of prior #6 issue: As per my other reviews of this series, Marvel already has three separate and simultaneously released Conan comics in 2019... and each of those have separate stories/novellas. The last thing any of these is reboot of a story after 5 episodes. 

Official Blurbs
#5: SHOWDOWN WITH KOGA THUN! The mystery of the magical treasure finally revealed! It’s now or never, and CONAN must make a choice that will determine the fate of Stygia! Either way, KOGA THUN will not let the Barbarian go without a fight! Plus: The next chapter in the all-new CONAN novella, “The Shadow of Vengeance”!

#6 :THORFEL’S REVENGE FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE! Brought to you by the creative team of Meredith Finch and Luke Ross, this all-new self-contained story springs from classic Conan mythology as Conan is led to death by the son of a man he had wronged in the past. But stripped of his weapons, his strength, and even his wits, Conan will have to dig deep if he wants to live to see the dawn! Plus: Continuing the all-new Conan novella “THE SHADOW OF VENGEANCE”

Savage Sword of Conan #4

Savage Sword #3 - Review by SE

SE Review of #2
SE Review of #1 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Reign of Wizardry - review by SE

Frazetta's Reign of Wizardry cover
The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson
S.E.: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to the Sword and Sorcery Group on Goodreads continuing to sponsor group-reads, I re-discovered Jack Williamson who wrote fantasy from ~1930-2001. I tracked down The Reign of Wizardry (with the Frank Frazetta cover) and Golden Blood to read. This review covers the first.

This ~142 page novel, first published in 1940, reads as a solid pulpy adventure. It could easily have been a Howard Conan novella. Jack Williamson presents the classic Theseus (i.e., Minotaur slayer of Greek mythology, and founder of Athens) as a heroic avenger out to remove the evil, Minoan sorcerers of Crete.

In fact, Theseus conceals his identity, going as "Captain Firebrand." There is an over abundance of going undercover; Firebrands even assumes the role of "Gothrung the wandering Northman" (a third identity, and very Conan like). It reads real fast, and in a few hours you join Firebrand on a dozen daunting missions. Betrayals and disguised impostor-ing abound. It fits most requirements of Sword & Sorcery:

  1. Magic abounds, and it is usually evil black-robed wizards dishing it out
  2. Our hero has a magic sword with special powers, called "Falling Star"
  3. Melee - lots of battles
  4. Fast pacing, focus on action more than character (though the characters had just the right amount of depth
  5. Lots of early pulp adventure were steeped in historical fiction; Robert E Howard's fascination with pioneer-like adventure and the history-infused Hyborian Age, this one retells classic Greek mythology with pulpy flare
  6. Predicaments - Theseus is constantly challenged by overwhelming odds, and manages to survive somehow.

Highly recommended for fans of pulp adventure and Sword & Sorcery

The Reign of WizardryCover Blurb:
Before the Glory of Greece, Crete ruled the known world - and kept it enslaved by black magic! The evil of Minos held sway, protected by three unconquerable walls. First is the fleet that they call the wooden wall. Then there is a giant of living brass - he is the second wall. Then there is another barrier about the power of Minos, the Wall of Wizardry. Theseus, the tall Achean, the man they called Captain Firebrand, vowed to scale and destroy all three, and to rid the world of the evil yoke of Crete.

But Minos had other defences besides the walls, and many ways to attack as well...

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Gen Con - Q&A with Anna Smith Spark

The GenCon Writer's Symposium is fast approaching!

Coinciding with this is Anna Smith Spark's released of the third installment in the Empires of Dust: HOUSE of SACRIFICE!

Earlier this year I interviewed the Queen of Grimdark over on  (May 2019):Disgust and Desire: An Interview with Anna Smith Spark

And in ~2weeks, I'll be moderating her Q&A session at Gen Con! Please join us, and bring your questions.

The whole Writer's Symposium is a blast. Check out the events: 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Hell Gate by Andrew P. Weston review by SE

Hell Gate by Andrew P. Weston
S..E rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who “was” the Grim Reaper before becoming Satan’s strongest champion? This series chronicles the exploits of Satan’s right-hand warrior, Daemon Grim (the reaper). It began with Hell Bound and Hell Hounds … and continues with Hell Gate. In addition to my reviews of those, I capture some key

  • The series is all about Daemon Grim
  • Hell Gate is all about revealing the mystery Daemon Grim’s past, which we’ve been teased about for two books, and here it is!
  • The crazy milieu of Hell persists, so start with Hell Bound to get grounded; more on WTH is Hell below.
  • The cat and mouse hunt after Frederic Chopin and Nikola Tesla reaches a climatic milestone; the duo’s evil plotting that began in book #1 is finally revealed too.
  • Grim takes readers in realms of the Quran (Jahannam)
  • The inclusion of mystics (namely from ~1500, Saint Teresa of Ávila and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim) was a pleasant addition

Hell Noir Style: The milieu and conflict are so epic in scope, and weird in substance, that the story lends itself more for narrative storytelling over dramatic showing. As before, Mr. Weston doles out exposition-through-dialogue; as I read this, I just envisioned a Noir film in which the protagonist provided a snarky voiceover. I felt like I was called into Grim's police office and sat in a room full of smoke as he coached me through a mysterious case.

What is Hell’s Milieu? Grim was introduced to the Heroes in Hell series in the anthology Doctors in Hell. Heroes in Hell is a fantastical place built from myths and religions—so do not expect Tolkienesque elves or dwarves. The primary realm explored is called Juxtapose, which is a satirical mirror of our earth’s cityscapes (the Seine river featured as “Inseine”, Paris called Perish, the Eiffel Tower represented as the Awful Tower, Facebook is called Hatebook). Since time has little meaning in Hell, beings from past and present meet and scheme (i.e., Tesla and Chopin). There are other realms beyond Juxtapose connected with ethereal gateways. All are populated by beings being tormented and try to outwit Satan or their comrades. Even Erra, the Akkadian plague god, has visited Hell to torment Satan. No one is safe! It is a splendid, wacky place that works well.

Where to Start on your trip to Hell: Hell Gate is wacky and fun, but is not the beginning. The Heroes in Hell is primarily a series of anthologies; this novel focuses on Grim but has story arcs connected to HIH. Given the breadth of abstract interactions, I recommend initial readers begin with either:

  1. Doctors in Hell (HIH #18): Daemon Grim is introduced in this collection, and even though it is #18 in the series, it is a perfect entryway for HIH newcomers.
  2. Or…. Hell Bound (Grim novel #1): Daemon Grim’s first novel, occurring chronologically after Doctors, but before Hell Hounds.
  3. Or for those who’ve done that, note Grim also appears in Pirates in Hell and Lovers in Hell

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sword and SorceryGroupreads: Jack Williamson AND Lumely's Primal Land 2019 July Aug

Sword & Sorcery: "An earthier sort of fantasy" 

July Aug 2019 Groupreads topics have been chosen. Please join in the discussion or groupreads!

A) Jack Williamson group discussion-read-LINK 
Classic Jack Williamson, ie The Reign of Wizardry or Golden Blood (~1933 Weird Tales)

B) Lumely's Primal Land group discussion-read-LINK 
Brian Lumley's Primal Land (Shad) series, The House of Cthulhu: Tales of the Primal Land Vol. 1 and Tarra Khash: Hrossak!: Tales of the Primal Land

Banner/Masthead Credits
Frazetta's 1964 cover to Jack Williamson's "The Reign of Wizardry"
Melvyn Grant's cover to Brian Lumely's Tarra Khash: Hrossak (Primal Lands #2) 1991
The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson Tarra Khash Hrossak! by Brian Lumley