Showing posts with label Tales from the Magician's Skull. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tales from the Magician's Skull. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull - May 4th 2022 Blog Round-Up

 


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog May 4th 2022 Round-Up


APR 22  Classic Covers: Avram Davidson

Twentieth-century genre fiction produced a number of huge talents that liked to try it all — writing across category labels in blissful violation of what would one day become the standard practice of brand marketing. Indeed, for prolific writers of both the pulp and science fiction golden ages of magazine fiction, casting one’s net wide across the flimsy genre partitions of the day was just a common-sense way to broaden your market. Prolific author of short fiction, as well as essayist, editor (including a stint at the helm of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), and novelist Avram Davidson stands right alongside genre-hopping giants like Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, or Jack Vance as a writer that refused to stay fenced in. Whether in his dozens of undefinable short stories, or his pulpish far-future SF, magic-infused novels of alternate history (the Vergil Magus and Peregrine series), or tales of mystery and weird horror set in imaginary nations of the contemporary world, Davidson demonstrated a roving intellect ever-eager to explore the wild hinterlands of speculative fiction.


APR 25  Adventures in Fiction: Fletcher Pratt by Jeff Goad

The Appendix N is a list of prolific authors of science fiction and fantasy. But Fletcher Pratt is not one of them, at least not in comparison to most of the authors on the list. He primarily wrote historical nonfiction about the Civil War, Napoleon, naval history, rockets, and World War II. So why is Fletcher Pratt listed in the Appendix N and why does he have the coveted “et al” listed after The Blue Star?

Well, digging a bit deeper into his writings and his career, it is no surprise that Gary Gygax was smitten with this fellow….

Fletcher Pratt was a bearded, bespectacled, pipe-smoking intellectual who raised marmosets in his spare time. And if you don’t know what a marmoset looks like then I highly encourage you to pause reading this to do a quick Google Image search of these adorable mini-monkeys. I promise that you won’t regret it.


APR 26 Beyond the Gate of Shadows: Harold Lamb’s The Grand Cham

“As evening closed in they were threading through gorges that hastened the coming of darkness. Often they looked back in the failing light. No one desired to be last. And then Rudolfo, in the lead, halted abruptly.

‘Before them in the twilight stood a great mound of human skulls.”

When we are first introduced to Michael Bearn, young Breton ship-master in Venetian employ, he and his shipwrecked crew are slaves to the Turkish Sultan, Bayezid the Great, ‘the Thunderbolt.’ Bearn, talented, headstrong, and proud, refuses to kneel before the conqueror, the ruler of an empire stretching from the Danube to the Euphrates, and Bearn is cruelly cowed when his arm is crushed by an iron sleeve. Crippled, brutalized, Bearn vows his revenge to the Sultan’s laughing face — and thus colossal events are set underway with the snapping of a man’s bones, and the humiliation of his soul. For Bearn is a man of immense drive and cleverness, and Bayezid is not the only great conqueror in the vast lands of the East . . .


APR 28  Adventures in Fiction: Jack Williamson by Ngo Vinh-Ho

In the storied list of Appendix N authors, there is one name that encapsulates nearly the entire course of modern American science fiction and fantasy: Jack Williamson. John Stewart Williamson was born on April 29th, 1908 in an adobe hut in what was then still the Arizona Territory. Seeking to better themselves, the Williamson family travelled by horse-drawn covered wagon to New Mexico in 1915, where Williamson recalled that they “homesteaded in Eastern New Mexico in 1916 after the good land had been claimed. We were living below the poverty line, struggling for survival.”

This isolated, hardscrabble existence continued throughout Williamson’s entire youth, but his imagination and inquisitive mind helped him to endure. As he describes, “I did a lot of farmwork—riding horses after a string of cattle, gathering the corn, that sort of thing. Working alone so often like that was naturally pretty boring, so I started creating these endless epics and fictional cycles in which I was the principal character—all this done simply as a way of keeping my mind alive.”


APR 29  Classic Covers: Jack Williamson

Few writers can boast as long and as productive a career as SF Grand Master Jack Williamson — this ‘Dean of Science Fiction’ produced scores of short stories and dozens of novels across multiple genres and series during a lifetime that saw him publish work in over eight consecutive decades. Getting his start in the era of the pulps and publishing right through until the first decade of the twenty-first century, Williamson’s style may have changed with time, but his adherence to straightforward storytelling, breakneck adventure, and uncluttered prose remained a constant over his long career.

Williamson, who became a college professor after he achieved success as a commercial writer, is credited with coining the terms ‘terraforming’ and ‘genetic engineering.’ He is possibly also the first to use the term ‘psionics’ (perhaps this was what Gary Gygax was thinking of when he listed Williamson as an influence on D&D in Appendix N?). While most associated with his numerous science fiction shorts and series (Legion of SpaceHumanoids), Williamson also wrote grounded fantasies, even horror, as with his werewolf novel, Darker Than You Think.


MAY 3 Ballantine Adult Fantasy: Ernest Bramah

An English writer with a varied bibliography ranging from humor, to dystopian science fiction, to mystery tales of the blind detective Max Carrados, Ernest Bramah achieved literary success and is still best known for his tales of itinerant Chinese storyteller, Kai Lung. Bramah’s combination of understated humor, familiarity with East Asian culture and mythology, and most especially his inspired ‘translation’ of the cadences and over-refinement of antiquely formal and courtly Chinese into a playfully whimsical English, proved not only popular with audiences, but enduringly influential for the more fantastical varieties of Asian-themed fiction penned in the West over the last hundred years.

Lin Carter chose both Kai Lung’s Golden Hours, and Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in the 1970s, and had the series continued there would have certainly been more Kai Lung available had Carter wished — for unlike many of the individual works or even specific authors Carter would reprint after decades of relative obscurity, Bramah’s Kai Lung stories have never been long out of print in over a century since their first publication.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog Apr 1st-20th 2022 Round-Up




Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog
 Apr 1st-20th 2022 Round-Up

 

Apr 4: Adventures in Fiction: Stanley G. Weinbaum by Ngo Vinh-Hoi

Not many authors can be credited with changing the entire trajectory of a genre, yet Stanley Grauman Weinbaum managed to do so with his very first published science fiction story A Martian Odyssey. The story first appeared in the July 1934 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories, which was a distant third in popularity to Astounding Stories and Amazing Stories. Forty years later, no less a figure than Isaac Asimov would declare that “hidden in this obscure magazine, A Martian Odyssey had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single-story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science-fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him.”

 

Apr 5: Classic Covers: Adventure Magazine

At its height, Adventure Magazine had a circulation of over 300 thousand and was published three times a month, marking it as one of the most successful fiction pulps of all time (in 1935 Time Magazine dubbed Adventure ‘The No. 1 Pulp’). Adventure gave the audience just what the title suggested; pulse-pounding tales set in exotic locales, desperate journeys on land and sea, western gunfights, jungle explorations, and blade-whirling exploits throughout history. It even frequently intersected with real-world adventures offering true (ish!) accounts of modern day acts of exploration and daring. A host of classic adventure writers appeared in its pages, such as H. Rider Haggard, Rafael Sabbatini, Baroness Orczy, John Buchan, Talbot Mundy, Harold Lamb, and H. Bedford Jones.

 

 

Apr 8: A Look at Edgar Rice Burroughs’ I Am A Barbarian

If the nickname “Little Boots” doesn’t fill you with dread perhaps it will in the original Latin: Caligula. The byword for depraved tyranny, the quintessential Mad Monarch, Caligula’s brief reign as third Emperor of Rome has been the fascinating stuff of prurient legend and scandalous rumor for nearly two thousand years. A megalomaniac combining arbitrary cruelty with a wicked sense of humor – flinging coins to the poor after first heating them in a brazier, turning the Imperial Palace into a brothel to pimp the wives of senators, ordering his legions to attack the oceans and gather seashells as plunder, appointing his favorite horse to the Senate – this “viper for the people of Rome” is like a joke you’re ashamed to laugh at, or a car crash from which you can’t look away. Separating the truth of Caligula’s reign from the rumors and embellishments is the mostly impossible task of historians – but using it as a backdrop for titillating fiction is the job of storytellers, something Edgar Rice Burroughs’ I Am a Barbarian does with page-turning success.

 

 

 

Apr 12: Where to Start With Harold Lamb by Howard Andrew Jones

It wasn’t so long ago that the fiction of Harold Lamb was best known only as a footnote in the old Lancer Conan books, mentioned in passing as being important and influential but almost completely unavailable. All that could be found of his prose were some late novels and his biographies, and, fine as those biographies are, neither were foundational works of sword-and-sorcery. Today, though, most of Lamb’s fiction is in print once more, and fairly easy to lay hands on, just like the histories, many of which are retained to this day by libraries across the United States. So much is out there now it can actually be difficult to know where to start. You need no longer scratch your head in wonder, however – this essay will show you the way.

 

 

Apr 15: Classic Covers: Harold Lamb’s Histories

What do you get when you cross an expert adventure storyteller with a linguistically-gifted polymath? Some of the greatest popular histories ever written. While Harold Lamb’s fiction was familiar to readers of Adventure magazine, it was his gripping histories and biographies, starting with 1927’s Genghis Khan, that won him international acclaim, and made him an acknowledged expert in both Hollywood and the State Department.


 

 

Apr 19: Adventures in Fiction: Turning the Khlit Stories of Harold Lamb into RPG Adventures!  by Julian Bernick

Here in the Goodman Games world, we’ve been rediscovering the works of Harold Lamb. He wrote timeless adventure stories that influenced a bevy of Appendix N authors, most notably Robert Howard. The strength of Lamb’s tales are tight plotting, crisply drawn characters and rich historical detail. But as enjoyable as Lamb’s tales are, they lack some of the cardinal elements of Appendix N literature and DCC RPG adventures: supernatural magic, brooding extra-human entities from beyond space, and the never-ending struggle between Law and Chaos. Without these elements, what can we draw from these adventure stories to enrich our adventures for DCC RPG? For this essay, I’ll discuss the Khlit stories collected in Wolf of the SteppesThese tales are just a fraction of Lamb’s pulp stories, but still provide plenty of useful ideas for DCC adventures. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull March 2022 Round-Up 2

 


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog  Mar 2022 Round-Up-2


 Post Links & Blurbs, Championed by Bill Ward

 

Apr 1:  Look at Henry Treece’s The Great Captains by Fletcher Vredenburgh

When Treece turned to fiction, an endeavor that would eventually put an end to his poetry writing, he found his voice in historical fiction, in particular in legendary events and characters, and in providing a realistic basis for them. Among his most notable works is the Celtic Tetralogy. Chronologically, the first, The Golden Strangers (1956) is about the conquest of Neolithic Britain by bronze-wielding invaders. The Dark Island (1952) and Red Queen, White Queen (1958) recount the doomed resistance by British leaders Caractacus and Boudicca, respectively, to Roman rule. In The Great Captains (1956), Artos and Medrodus, descendants of the invaders from The Golden Strangers, fight a doomed battle against a new race of intruders. Together the four books recreate ancient Britain, its forests haunted by spirits, portents looming in every strange occurrence. In his novels he presents events that perhaps lie at the center of the mythic heart of Britain. Alongside Paul Kingsnorth’s Buckmaster Trilogy, it’s one of the great poetic works about Britain’s history, its land, and its people

 

Mar 29:  Ballantine Adult Fantasy: William Morris

One of the most significant figures in the cultural life of Victorian England, William Morris (1834-1896) was everything from a poet, translator, and writer of medievalist fantasy, to a political activist, printer, champion of building preservation, and a renowned innovator in textile manufacturing and interior design. When Lin Carter oversaw the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line (1969-74), he brought many of Morris’ out-of-print fantasies back into print in affordable paperback editions.

 

 

Mar 25: Fueling the Fire of Fantasy Fiction: Gaming’s Influence on Today’s Writers by Brian Murphy

After taking a bit of a controversial stance last week with my piece on the possible detrimental effects of gaming on sword-and-sorcery, I will now take the opportunity to rebut … myself, and offer the opposing side a chance. And discuss the net positives that role-playing and, in particular, Dungeons and Dragons has had on fantasy fiction. As I mentioned in my prior piece, gaming can, and in many instances has, inspired gamers to take up a pen and launch successful careers as fantasy authors. Before they were writers, the likes of China Mieville (author of Perdido Street Station), Cory Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom), and Joe Abercrombie (First Law trilogy, The Heroes) were slinging dice at the game table. George R.R. Martin is another notable author who sings the praises of role-playing, though he had started writing in 1971, prior to the invention of D&D.

 

 

Mar 22: Classic Covers: Dragonlance

It might be fair to say that the Dragonlance series — initially a trilogy of novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman in tandem with a group of D&D modules from TSR — is The Lord of the Rings of media tie in fiction: massively best-selling, appealing to a broader fanbase than conventional wisdom dictated, and prompting an entire industry of imitators. In Dragonlance one can see the beginnings of not only an explosion in shared worlds based on popular media, but also the genesis of Young Adult fiction as a force punching well above its weight class in publishing.

 

Mar 18: Dungeons & Dragons: Friend or Foe of Sword-and-Sorcery?   by Brian Murphy

I’m a long-time D&D fan and ex-gamer who may again pick up the dice bag. D&D is an awesome game, has given me countless hours of unadulterated joy, and I will unequivocally state that the world is a better place for it. But, I don’t think it has necessarily been a uniformly positive influence for subsequent generations of writers. Specifically, it may have played a role in the downfall of sword-and-sorcery.  Note: The following bit of speculation is not an indictment of what goes on at the table during D&D games, which at their best are cauldrons of creativity. But rather, the impact D&D may have had on sword-and-sorcery and subsequent fantasy fiction.

 


Mar 15: Where to Start With Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Aside from Conan the Cimmerian, there can be no more iconic image in all of sword-and-sorcery fiction than the dynamic duo of “the Twain.” Fafhrd, towering Northern barbarian, and Mouser, weaselly little thief, form a wonderfully visually complementary whole, and that’s even before you get to their actual personalities. Bawdy and reckless, bantering and adventurous, these two lovable rogues have traveled the length and breadth of a nowhere place called Nehwon, with many of their most memorable escapades taking place in the city of Lankhmar.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Tales From The Magician's Skull -Mar-2022 Round-Up 1

 


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog Mar 2022 Round-Up-1

Feb-24: Adventures in Fiction: Arkham House, Ithaqua, and In-Jokes: The Influence of August Derleth by Bradley K. McDevitt

Most of you probably know the name H.P. Lovecraft, but do you know August Derleth? Bradley K. McDevitt reminds you that you have a good reason to remember him. Without August Derleth (1909-1971), you probably wouldn’t have that Cthulhu bumper sticker on your car, that Cthulhu for President poster, and certainly not that Plushie Cthulhu you have staring down at you from your geek-memorabilia shelf.  Not that Cthulhu would not exist, but he (it?) would be just one more forgotten character in a series of stories by an author unknown except to the most ardent of horror literati. Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s greatest creation and most if not all of his fiction would have passed into obscurity if not for August Derleth’s founding of Arkham House publishing.

 

Feb-25: Classic Covers: Arkham House

When one thinks of legendary pulp publishers, names like Weird TalesBlack Mask, and Planet Stories leap to mind — beautiful magazines as sadly transitory as the era of popular literacy they defined. But it was for an indie book publisher to emerge as one of the leading lights of preservation for the best in the weird and fantastical horror of the age, and add its own legendary name to the rolls of honored pulpsters: Arkham House.


Mar-3: Appendix N. Archaeology: Arthur Machen by Bradley K. McDevitt

This article is part of a series where the spotlight shines on some authors that inspired the writers we acknowledge today as influencing the creation of Dungeons and Dragons. For those unfamiliar with his fiction, the late Victorian era Welsh author Arthur Machen was admired by contemporaries like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Butler Yeats. Further relevant for this article, his work is an acknowledged influence by Appendix N authors such as Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft even cheerfully admitted appropriating details like the god Nodens and reality-destroying language Aklo from Machen to be parts of the Cthulhu Mythos.

 

Mar-4: A Look at Andre Norton’s Witch World by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Born in 1912, Alice Mary Norton worked as a teacher, a librarian, and finally a reader for Gnome Press before becoming a full-time writer in 1958. By then she’d already had a dozen books published, including such classics as Star Man’s Son, 2250 A.D. and Star Rangers. Based on their easy style and simpler characterizations, most of her early books would probably be classified as YA today. It was with 1963’s  Witch World that Norton first wrote a full-fledged sword-and-sorcery book steeped in pulp gloriousness. Sadly, for one of the most successful and prolific women to write fantasy and science with a career that last over fifty years, her books seem sorely neglected today.

 

Mar-8: Classic Covers: Andre Norton

Alice Mary Norton — best known to the world by her pen name Andre Norton — was the author of over a dozen series in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, as well as a host of standalone works, including everything from young adult stories and historical adventures to wild science-fantasy mashups and sword-and-sorcery. Her best known and most enduring work is Witch World, itself consisting of story cycles running the gamut from portal fantasies incorporating science fiction to straight up high fantasy. Her long and varied publishing career would influence many a future writer, result in Norton being honored as the first woman to receive the SFWA Grand Master Award, and, of course, inspire dozens upon dozens of evocative book covers.

 

Mar-11: Jack Vance’s Influence on Dungeons & Dragons

Did you know that ‘Vecna’—he of the disembodied hand and eyeball—is a deliberate anagram of ‘Vance?’ Gary Gygax made no secret of his love for the work, and person, of Jack Vance, and Vance’s Dying Earth stories in particular were often cited (see Appendix N) by Gygax as a major influence on the genesis of Dungeons & Dragons. Most prominently, of course, in what came to be known as the ‘Vancian magic system’—a term that emerged from the world of RPGs rather than any literary fandom—but there are many other elements, and indeed a prevailing tone, in D&D that are inspired in whole or in part by the works of Jack Vance.

 

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Tales From The Magician's Skull - Issue #7 Round-Up


 

Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog Early Feb 2022 Round-Up



PRE-ORDER #7. What's in it? Seven tales, and all have previews on the TFTMS blog! here are the quick links:

JAN 31 A preview of John C. Hocking’s “The Gift of a Poison Necklace”

Benhus returns once again to the pages of Tales From the Magician’s Skull to confront the mystery of a necklace that kills. When his patron, the Lady Thale, survives both an assassination attempt and the follow-up robbery to recover the deadly jewelry sent by her enemy, Benhus must investigate a twisty trail of murder and intrigue in “The Gift of a Poison Necklace.”

Fans of John C. Hocking’s long-running series will know that this is the seventh King’s Blade tale to appear in our magazine—one in every issue! Once again the young swordsman Benhus is in over his head and beset on all sides—good thing he knows a thing or two about swordwork . . .

Let Stefan Poag’s double-page, tavern-smashing illustration further whet your appetitive for sword-and-sorcery action while you await the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!

 

FEB 5 A Preview of D.J. Tyrer’s “Death Stalks the Night”

Horror-powerhouse D.J. Tyrer marks his first appearance in Tales From the Magician’s Skull with an eerie tale of bone-stealing nightwalkers and sinister magic. All is not well on the night-shrouded veldt, and only the warrior Ini-ndoga and his diminutive companion Mbeva can thwart a potent evil in “Death Stalks the Night.”

Chris Arneson’s mistily mysterious double-page illustration sets the stage for this tale of dark forces and heroic deeds — and our downloadable preview is sure to whet your appetite for the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!


FEB 8 A preview of C.L. Werner’s “The Snake in the Fold”

Fans of Tales From the Magician’s Skull and Warhammer Fantasy alike need no introduction to C.L. Werner, who returns once again to the pages of our magazine with a tale of his wandering samurai, Shintaro Oba. On a mission to free the soul of his late master from a demon’s clutches, Oba’s encounters with spirits, monsters, and foul magic are fast-becoming the stuff of legend — join him as he once again braves damnation in “The Snake in the Fold.”

Randy Broecker’s iconic double page illustration of samurai versus snake demon embodies eastern style and pulp power, the perfect match for Werner’s Oba! Our downloadable preview is sure to whet your appetite for the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!


FEB 11 A preview of Mark Rigney’s “Dara’s Tale” 

Mark Rigney’s story of a remote village beset by scurriers — and perhaps fouler things besides — is his first foray in the pages of Tales From the Magician’s Skull. Young Dahnica, her head full of stories and a knife in her hand, may be all that stands between her people and a dark evil in “Dara’s Tale.”

Peter Mullen’s creepy-crawly illustration will surely have you scurrying after TFTMS#7 — and our downloadable preview is guaranteed to whet your appetite for the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!

 

FEB 15 A preview of Scott J. Couturier’s “Interred With the Worm”

Scott J. Couturier hits the pages of Tales From the Magician’s Skull for the first time with this tale of a powerful amulet and a forbidden tomb narrated by . . . well, let’s just call him a “tomb-robber of old.” Marvel as he brushes the cobwebs from his ancient story in “Interred With the Worm.”

And just in case you were thinking the title referred to a garden-variety ‘worm,’ let William McAusland’s hyper-detailed rendering of Couturier’s unquiet tomb dissuade you of the notion — just as our downloadable preview is sure to whet your appetite for the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!


FEB 19 A preview of Nathan Meyer’s “Beneath a Scarlet Moon”

Hardboilded wordslinger Nathan Meyer explodes onto the pages of Tales From the Magician’s Skull with Issue#7’s cover story: “Beneath a Scarlet Moon.” Join the grim warrior Auric and some unlikely companions as they journey across a poisonous landscape beneath a bloody glaring moon in this doom-laden tale of pain and sacrifice.

Chris Arneson frames the horror of a thousand-legged attack in his incredible interior illustration — and our downloadable preview is sure to whet your appetite for the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!

 

FEB 22 A Preview of James Enge’s “Beasts of the Bluestone Hills”

Fan-favorite Morlock Ambrosius stumps up that crooked way once again and into the pages of Tales From the Magician’s Skull for the seventh time! But lucky number seven may not prove to be so boonful as Morlock and his fiery avian companion travel across bizarre lands confronting chimeric creatures in “Beasts of the Bluestone Hills.”

Samuel Dillon’s brooding art captures the look of the seasoned adventurer and hints at the oddities in this, Morlock’s latest tale — and our downloadable preview is sure to whet your appetite for the full story in our soon-to-be-released next issue!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

TFMS bi-weekly Blog Roundup

 


Tales from the Magician's Skull Blog Roundup, end-Dec-2021 to min-Jan 2022
Skull Champion of the Fifth Order, Bill Ward, continues to marshal his army of articles! Here are the latest headlines (linked) with blurbs:

Dec 27: Appendix N Archaeology: Clark Ashton Smith by Michael Curtis

Gamers often point to Appendix N and decry the absence of a particular author (or three, or seven, or…), declaring Gygax’s omission of them to be a literary crime of some sort. Putting aside the unbelievable idea that gamers may complain about things for the moment, we must realize that Appendix N is not a list one can argue with. It is a catalog of all the literary influences Gygax chose to recognize as wellsprings from which Dungeons & Dragons flowed. Since it is representative of one man’s work, we can’t claim he made the error of excluding a particular author, even if we believe we can see their influence in the final product. Game design, like art, is a subjective process and one tends to see what one is inclined to see.

Dec 28: The Self-Made Mind: The Art of Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith, an untutored genius self-educated in both poetry and pulp, also turned his restless mind to art. In everything from his simple line sketches and watercolor landscapes, to his carving and sculpture, Smith demonstrates the same characteristics of baroque intricacy, imaginative grotesquery, and dark humor that are a hallmark of his writing.

Dec 29: New In The Online Store: Tales From The Magician’s Skull #0

This may be #0, but it’s certainly far more than zero.

Back by popular demand, resurrected from the dim corridors of lost time, it’s TFTMS #0! This special issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull was only available to Kickstarter backers — but now it’s back and available as a PDF! It’s filled with stories and articles about sword-and-sorcery fiction, and features a spectacular cover by legendary artist Ian Miller! Let’s take a look!

Jan 3: Classic Covers: J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was the book that launched a thousand trilogies, and made Tolkien’s name synonymous not just with modern fantasy fiction, but publishing mega-success. With more copies, in more languages, in more editions, than anything else in its category, and with an entire sub-industry spun out of publishing various notes, unpublished drafts, and side-excursions of its author, The Lord of the Rings remains the gold standard by which all other secondary worlds, and all other fantasy blockbusters, are judged. With covers ranging from the iconic to the iconographic, the literal to the surreal, many even featuring the art of the good Professor himself, and with editions spanning leather-bound limited-run collectibles to utterly ubiquitous mass-market paperbacks, copies of Tolkien are as ever-present and universal in the physical world of books and book collections as the tales they tell are ingrained in the imaginations of modern readers.

Jan 7: A Kind of Elvish Craft: Quotations from The Lord of the Rings

“To make a Secondary World . . . commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labor and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed narrative art, story-making in its primary and most potent mode.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”

J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal lecture/essay “On Fairy-Stories” is nothing short of a manifesto of his art, and a spiritedly reasoned elaboration of his Theory of Story — specifically Fairy-Stories, or tales of the Land of FaĆ«rie.

Jan 11: Reading About Robert E. Howard

It’s safe to say Robert E. Howard has passionate fans. And this passion goes beyond buying stacks of books and old comics and limited edition resin sculptures, beyond pilgrimages to Cross Plains or Valeria cosplay, beyond, even, mimeographing ‘zines in their basement or writing fiction inspired by Howard’s example. For you see, Howard’s fans have dared to set their sandalled feet upon the tumbled jeweled thrones of literary criticism, and they’ve been trampling such thrones for decades. Here’s a look at just some of what they’ve been saying.

 




Monday, December 27, 2021

Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog - Dec14th-24th Roundup

 Tales from the Magician’s Skull Blog - Dec 14th - 24th Roundup

Bill Ward champions this at: https://goodman-games.com/tftms/



Dec 24 Adventures in Fiction: Fritz Leiber By Michael Curtis
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
We’ve talked a lot about Fritz Leiber, whose birthday we’re celebrating today, over the last few years. Leiber, born December 24th, 1910, is most widely known among gamers as the man responsible for the fantastic Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories. In the years running up to DCC Lankhmar, a lot of ink has been spilled discussing Leiber’s most famous creation. Today, however, we’re going to examine some of Leiber’s other work and see how we can apply it to our games—especially DCC Lankhmar.

Dec 21 Classic Covers: Michael MoorcockBy Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
With more than a half-century of prolific, diverse, and wonderfully inventive writing in everything from classic sword-and-sorcery to surreal alternate history to sword-and-planet pastiche to counter culture lit fic, Michael Moorcock has seen more editions of his work than you can shake a demon-possessed sword at. And while Moorcock freely hops from genre to sub-genre to whatever-he-feels-like, he seems to have inspired a similar variety of artistic interpretations of his work, sometimes very at-odds with traditional branding, and at others pitch perfect examples of publishing trends. As wild and inventive as his fiction, the following mad collage of images just scratches the surface of the wide array of covers that have helped Moorcock’s books leap from the shelf and into the hands of eager readers since the 1960s.

Dec 20 Adventures in Fiction: Zenith the Albino By Terry Olson
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
Many of us come to Gygax’s Appendix N to explore the works that inspired both the D&D of our youth and our favorite fantasy RPGs of today. We read these literary progenitors for both insight and inspiration, and we begin to recognize their themes, plot-twists, villains, and heroes being adapted and personalized by today’s authors. But the writers whom Gary Gygax read were not writing in a vacuum. Surely they were adapting and personalizing the themes, plot-twists, villains, and heroes that they were reading. Who inspired them? Answering this question by reading further back in D&D’s ancestral chain, by going “back to the roots of the genre as deeply as possible” (as Moorcock puts it), is what we call “Appendix N Archaeology.”

Dec 19 Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery By Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
In Flame and Crimson (2019) Brian Murphy has crafted no less than the first book length history of the sword-and-sorcery genre, from its origins and antecedents right down to its reflection in the popular culture of the present day. It is a work both indispensable and long overdue, one that fills a gap in our collective bookshelves while establishing an academic and historical baseline for discussion of sword-and-sorcery going forward. But Murphy also accomplishes the most difficult task of all, balancing the need for critical rigor with readability, and the result is a book that not only provides a compelling and comprehensive view of its subject, but is also as fun to read and impossible to put down as the classic stories referenced in its pages.

Dec 18 Adventures in Fiction: Michael Moorcock By Terry Olson
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
On the 18th of December, we celebrate the birthday of Michael Moorcock—a big writer with big ideas (regardless of what he thought a handful of decades ago). It’s difficult to rank Moorcock’s diverse achievements in terms of importance or influence. He’s impacted gaming through his Elric stories, he’s been a prolific writer of the Eternal Champion and Multiverse themes, he’s been an influential editor that helped change (dare I say, “improve”) the face of Science Fiction, he’s written comics, and he’s written lyrics for and performed with major rock bands! Perhaps most important of all, he’s inspired generations of great writers, such as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Thomas Pynchon.

Dec 18 Adventures in Fiction: Sterling E. Lanier By Jim Wampler
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
Yesterday was the 93rd anniversary of the birth of Sterling E. Lanier. He wasn’t just a favorite author of E. Gary Gygax, nor was he merely a cited influence on both the Dungeons & Dragons and Gamma World role playing games. For those things alone he would still be notable and of interest to role playing gamers everywhere. Sterling E. Lanier was the quintessential polymath. His personal interests ranged from skin-diving and boating to bird watching and conservation causes. He was also a naval and military history buff.

Dec 17 The Mad Dream Dies: Karl Edward Wagner’s Bloodstone By Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
Aliens, lost civilizations, superscience vs. sorcery, perilous expeditions, a warrior maid, sentient crystalline entities, virgin sacrificing witches, bandits, ambushes, teleportation, a magic ring, cosmic visions, possession, a conjured tsunami, desperate battles, a jungle-shrouded city, cross and double-cross, devolved frogmen, a field tracheotomy, wall-leveling green lightning bolts, a world-threatening power, amphibian-crewed hydrofoils, lost tomes brimming with secret knowledge, a reconfigured semi-solid army of the elder dead, and an immortal juggernaut of a man at the lonely center of it all – it’s Bloodstone!

Dec 14 Heroic Fantasy Quarterly’s 50th Issue By Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
The Skull and his various minions, flunkies, lieutenants, and, yes, even interns would like to send a hearty congratulations to our sword-brothers over at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, on the occasion of their 50th issue! Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is an online magazine specializing in adventure fantasy of all kinds, from eponymous tales of heroism and epic fantasy, to sword-and-sorcery, dark fantasy, and skulldugging daring-do. If you love Tales From the Magician’s Skull, you’re sure to thrill to our mighty sister publication, who have been in the game for over a decade of consistently excellent fantasy publishing!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

TFMS Blog Roundup (mid-Nov thru mid-dec)


The Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog continues to crank out content.

Link: https://goodman-games.com/tftms/
Here are the posts from late Nov thru mid-Dec, with blurbs:

Dec 10 Preserving the Flame: A Review of Phantasmagoria Special Edition Series #5: Karl Edward Wagner by Brian Murphy
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
What makes Karl Edward Wagner’s best writing so powerful? I believe he was chasing a dark muse, dangerous and unpredictable, vital and vivid. The one we see on the page of “Into the Pines,” a story which alone makes the new Phantasmagoria Special Edition Series#5: Karl Edward Wagner, worth its price tag: Out into the pines Renee led him. The pines whose incessant whisper told of black knowledge and secret loneliness.

Dec 07: Adventures in Fiction: Leigh Brackett by Michael Curtis
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...
Our Appendix N Archeology and Adventures in Fiction series are meant to take a look at the writers and creators behind the genre(s) that helped to forge not only our favorite hobby but our lives. We invite you to explore the entirety of the series on our Adventures In Fiction home page.

Dec 07: Classic Covers: Leigh Brackett by Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
The sad truth is that Appendix N is overwhelmingly a boys’ club. Much of the blame can be assigned to the fact that science-fiction and fantasy writers prior to 1960s were by and large white men. It was a tough club for a woman to break into, resulting in many female authors with an interest in writing science-fiction and fantasy working under either pen names (such as Andre Norton) or their initials (like C.L. Moore). A few managed to find success and publication without obscuring their femininity, proving that gender is meaningless when it comes to writing rollicking good sci-fi and fantasy. Leigh Brackett was one of these women who earned her place in the club without needing to hide her identity.

Dec 03: A Chicago Archaeologist in King Thiudahad’s Court: A Look at L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall by Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
In a flash, unassuming archaeologist Martin Padway finds himself displaced in time, slipping from the Rome of Mussolini’s Italy in 1938 into the Rome of the sixth century, AD 535 to be exact. With nothing but the contents of his pockets, a lifetime of learning, and off-the-charts levels of audacity, he sets about not only securing a life for himself, but staving off the collapse of the entire classical world. Fortunately for Western Civilization Martin Padway – who will no doubt be revered in some alternate historical timeline as Martinus Paduei – has an almost John Carter-like suite of superpowers at his disposal. Padway is no fighter, however, and his power has nothing to do with gravity (though he does happen to spill the beans on Einstein’s General Relativity a millennium and a half early…), but rather consists of an encyclopedic knowledge of Procopius’ Gothic Wars, enough Classical Latin and Modern Italian to pidgin his way through the language of the day, and a pretty sharp memory of High School chemistry. It’s a good thing, too, because all of Italy is about to be plunged into a destructive, decades-long war that will achieve nothing in the long-term beyond a further degradation of civilization itself, and Martin must scramble to prevent, even reverse, the coming fiasco . . . Lest Darkness Fall.

Nov-30 Short Sorcery: Poul Anderson’s “Witch of the Demon Seas” by Bill Ward
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
Corun of Conahur, once prince of a conquered people, now pirate and rebel, has been captured and brought to Tauros, the seat of imperial sea power for the Thalassocracy of Archaea. Imprisoned, facing certain doom, he is offered a chance to preserve his life in the service of new masters, the sinister sorcerer Shorzon and his beautiful and terrible daughter, the witch Cryseis. As one of the few adventurers ever to return alive from the forbidden realm of the Sea of Demons, one who actually conversed with the mysterious inhuman Xanthi and lived to tell the tale, Corun is uniquely valuable to the sorcerer’s unrevealed plans. Thus begins Poul Anderson’s novella “Witch of the Demon Seas,” a straight-ahead blood and thunder quest over phosphorescent seas in a barbarian-crewed galley into ruined alien lands with the fate of an entire planet at stake.

Nov 27: Adventures in Fiction: L. Sprague de Camp by Jeff Goad
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...
Our Appendix N Archeology and Adventures in Fiction series are meant to take a look at the writers and creators behind the genre(s) that helped to forge not only our favorite hobby but our lives. We invite you to explore the entirety of the series on our Adventures In Fiction home page......Did you know that L. Sprague de Camp coined the terms “extraterrestrial” and “E.T.”? It’s true! While the noun existed before de Camp, he was the first to use it to describe alien life in a 1939 article for Astounding Science Fiction. This is one of many examples of how De Camp’s impact on the genres of science fiction and fantasy far exceed his level of contemporary fame.

Nov 26: A Look at James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose by Fletcher Vredenburgh
https://goodman-games.com/tftms/2021/...

I abandoned reading fantasy for six or seven years. I had become bored with epics and found myself uninterested in the new, supposedly transgressive, books. But around 2010 I decided to actively seek out and write about sword & sorcery on my blog Stuff I Like. At some point in my search I encountered James Enge’s old website, where he was offering a free download of the Morlock story “Traveller’s Rest.” Assuring readers I wouldn’t give any plot away I wrote, “And the escapade I’m not going to write about is exciting, creepy and covered with the right amount of nuttiness.” Soon after, I read “The Red Worm’s Way” in Rogue Blades’ monstrously good collection, Return of the Sword (a book any true S&S aficionado should own). My short review of that story reads: “Morlock Ambrosius and corpse-eating monsters. Enough said.” Those two stories led me right to Enge’s first full-length novel, Blood of Ambrose.

Monday, November 22, 2021

More Tales from the Magician's Skull has funded!



More Tales From The Magician's Skull

The Kickstarter campaign ritual ended successfully, with 640 backers that unlocked an 8th story in the 2022 Special Issue! Expected years more of S&S printed on high-quality paper, fully illustrated, with statistics for RPG for each story, and engaging covers.... expect greatness!


The Skull Expresses His Gratitude (which doesn't happen often)

More Tales From The Magician's Skull -- Kicktraq Mini

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

More Tales from the Magician's Skull - Kickstarter is live!



It's live! Pledge to the Skull! The Kickstarter is live! Extend your subscription or get just a few issues...up to 9 more! The Special issue depends on our involvement. Every 200 backers yields another story in that. 

Link to Kickstarter: "More Tales From The Magician's Skull"

Link to 40min Overview on Twitch


A magazine of all-new swords & sorcery fiction in the classic pulp style! Now pursuing issue #7 and beyond!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Tales from the Magician's Skull #6 - Review by SE

Tales from the Magician's Skull #6 by Howard Andrew Jones

S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tales from the Magician's Skull #6 (Cover Illustration: Doug Kovacs) ramps up an already impressive line-up. Editor and author Howard Andrew Jones and publisher Joseph Goodman must be possessed by this Skull character, which is fine by me. 

BTW, there is a Kickstarter ready to launch this week to fund issues #7 and beyond. Sign up here to be notified.

Listen here to what the Skull has them creating:

Like the first five issues, the print copy of #6 is an ~8.5x11 inch masterpiece printed on high-quality, textured paper. Fully illustrated again, of course. PDFs have always been available too, but this issue is also available in ePub from the publisher (Amazon and DriveThruRPG also offer versions). Also, this issue continues the great tradition of enabling readers to play RPG versions of the stories with statistics for items/characters provided by Terry Olsen.

And rise from your chair, mortal dogs (that's Skull speak), #6 has an officially licensed pastiche of Fritz Leiber's Fafhred and the Gray Mouser tales, brought to you by veteran writer Nathan Long. His story has the famous duo attempting to steal books from a secretive clan of sorcerers; honestly, it felt just like "Leiber," with an entertaining, weird adventure that works in humor to break the tension.

Hocking, Enge, and Malan continue to extend their series that have been anchors to the magazine to date. All the contributions are episodic (i.e. stand-alone). However, Hocking has a knack to impart more character progression with his Benhus than traditional, episodic action heroes of the pulps. His style is to ramp up slowly over a few pages, and then roll it into epic madness. Hocking delivers again as he had before. And Enge Morlock's character is a wonderful, troubled man; I feel empathetic and attached to him as he struggles with inner and real demons--great stuff. And Malan's Parno and Dhulyn make an entertaining pair of mercenaries.

Mele offers up his "Azatlan" milieu, which is akin to Robert E. Howard's Hyborian World (a harmonized blending of anachronistic European/North-African/West-Asian cultures), but with a focus on South/Meso-American flare. Necromantic rituals feel fresh here. This complements Howard's champion Hanuvar who goes undercover in the Dervan Empire (which radiates a Romanesque feel). Varied stories, characters, and lands make this a splendid issue.

TABLE OF CONTENTS with official snippets.
1) CALICASK'S WOMAN by John Hocking (A TALE OF THE KING’S BLADE): “I can’t hold them back for long,” gasped the apprentice. His face had gone pallid and sweat dripped from his chin. “Stand by the opening and try to take them one at a time. Perhaps we can… where are you going?!”

2) THE FEATHERED SHROUD by Howard Andrew Jones (A TALE OF HANUVAR)
The water behind the soldier erupted, and Hanuvar lunged past him to jam the pitchfork at a shovel-shaped reptilian head. The tines bit deep, and the dark water reddened.

3) GUILTY CREATURES by Nathan Long. A TALE OF FAFHRD AND THE GRAY MOUSER
"In the circle, Mouser stared cross-eyed at the tip of Kalphin’s blade, knowing death was coming to him at last."

4) SHADOWS OF A FORGOTTEN QUEEN by Greg Mele. A TALE OF AZATLAN
"I’ve seen a maiden’s veins opened as she is led through the fields, watering the new crops with her life’s blood in honor of Majawl, Our Lady of Maize, and lit my own father’s funeral pyre. But what manner of man owned books made of human flesh?"

5) COLD IN BLOOD by James Enge. A STORY OF MORLOCK AMBROSIUS
"She moved with a lithe, muscular dancer’s grace as she walked around him to enter the room. Her hair was a waterfall of starless night. Her eyes were the stars, shining with tears. Morlock had seen a more beautiful woman, but not recently."

6) ISLE OF FOG by Violette Malan. A DHULYN AND PARNO ADVENTURE.
"Dhulyn judged from the way his mouth moved now that he was screaming. That was easy to fix, she thought, as she brought her sword up and sent the head bouncing and rolling across the tiled floor."

ARTICLES
A PROFILE OF FRITZ LEIBER by Michael Curtis
Leiber replied, “I feel more certain than ever [that this field] should be called the sword-and-sorcery story.” And thus a sub-genre, while not quite newly born, received a name for the first time…

THE MONSTER PIT by Terry Olson
Enter the monster pit! Down here in the pit, we provide tabletop RPG fans with playable DCC RPG game statistics for the creatures in this issue of Tales From The Magician’s Skull.

THE SKULL SPEAKS by the Skull Himself
He asks us to prepare to celebrate Sword & Sorcery on October 23rd, 2021, a day slated to begin an annual Day of Might celebration. 


View all my reviews

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Day of Might - Oct 23rd marks a S&S Holiday

Grab a candle, gong, and S&S magazine/book now, and prepare to celebrate!

As notified via the Tales from the Magician's Skull blog, the Skull commands you to celebrate Sword & Sorcery today. Listen to his video transmission.



Check out Liam Lyceum's Video, as he explains how to celebrate:

But Liam is one of the few. What are you doing to celebrate S&S?

The Skull suggests you click here to be notified of a future publication!


But wait, there is more. Listen to Joseph Goodman and Howard Andrew Jones celebrate the Day of Might:


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Special Tales from the Magician's Skull issue AND Sat. Oct 23rd is The Day of Might

 

Special Issue, Available only through the October 2021 Kickstarter

With intern#331, I scried the future by reading the bones in the Skull’s scat (recall, we clean out his chamber pot). Noting the arrangement of osseous matter, extended ligaments, and larvae-ridden marrow, it seems likely that 

(1) the remains are from intern#127 and ....

(2) The KS will offer a special issue not available in print through any other channel. (It will be available in PDF elsewhere, but the print version will only be available through this KS.)

People who have already subscribed can extend their subscriptions via the KS. Click here to be notified of the ~Oct 24th Kickstarter:

Click here to be notified!

Also, the day prior to the launch, Sat. Oct 23rd, expect some video extravaganza.  See here an excerpt clipping from Tales from the Magician's Skull #6: