Arkhaven Comics is very pleased to announce that the digital edition of Alt★Hero:Q issue #1 Where We Go One is now available in CBZ and Kindle formats.

AH:Q backers should check your email, as we have sent out emails with download links to both formats to all the backers. Please note that these were only sent out to AH:Q backers, not backers of the original ALT-HERO campaign.

If you are an AH:Q backer who did not receive an email, please check your spam trap and your social media trap on Gmail before contacting us. If you still cannot find it, then please email us and we will add your email to the mailing list. Please note, however, that if we add your email to the list and discover that it is already there, then the problem is on your end which means there is nothing we can do about it. We would also suggest whitelisting the @castaliahouse.com address to increase the likelihood that you will receive the emails properly.

If you are not a backer, then you can purchase Alt★Hero:Q issue #1 Where We Go One for $2.99 at Arkhaven Comics, which includes both formats. The Kindle version should also be available on Amazon later today. Backers should note that we will not be sending out the individual print editions until all six issues are available in print and can be sent together.

This post is a deep dive into Gnome themed wargame products and I was surprised how much is currently available.

The biggest surprise came while conducting non-gnome related research in the S&T Magazine Library . I found an article previewing S&T Magazine #42 (Gnome – Orc War) but the magazine that went to print had nothing to with gnomes.  When I inquired, the preview article was removed and I never received a response.  You have to hand it to Jim Dunnigan, for some reason The Orcs Are Dead edition was cancelled but he quickly pivoted to produce a well received game on a totally different subject.  S&T even used the gnome cover art as the design for the new magazine cover while the original Gnome and Orc War concept has been long forgotten…….

Gnome Miniatures

Last week’s post featured Splintered Light Miniatures Gnome Army set and the Gnome Wars, miniatures rule set and figures.  Initially, my online searches returned an abundance of garden gnomes but I managed to dig up quite a few offerings.  By the way, I’m not a garden gnome fan but some of these will be interesting to CH blog readers.

Old School Miniatures alpine gnomes taking a well deserved break.

This week I found the Alpine Gnomes series from Old School Miniatures.  It’s worth clicking on the Old School link just to check out the alpine dwarves, featuring dwarf ski troops (I kid you not), some equipped with muskets along with their St. Bernard mascot.  Old School gnomes have less of a traditional garden gnome influence as Splintered Light’s offering and the alpine concept is readily apparent in their dress.  The gnome miniatures are 15mm, so best used with 28mm figures from taller races.

Here is a link to their “studio” gnome army.  I’m close to ordering a few units, especially the fox riders and will do so after painting my current set. Expect to see more posts about Old School in the future, especially if they keep producing conceptually brilliant figure ranges.

This post on the First Edition of Warhammer is interesting. Gnomes were represented, albeit just one page in the rule book and a few units (scroll down after clicking the link).  The 1st Edition Warhammer gnomes HATE goblins and “are not natural horsemen”.  Makes sense to me.  According to this message board, gnomes were part of the Warhammer universe at least up to the 3rd Edition.

Individual gnome figures here and a range of what I’ll say are manga influenced gnomes are available here while Reaper Miniatures has a sizable range.

Board games on the next page.

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This Sunday Ben Wheeler discussed the execrable Hugo nominees while I joined in later to talk about the much more interesting subject of – you guessed it – anime. It was fun! Take a listen:

Lit-Crit (Jewish Review of Books): It’s a bit surprising to come across Harold Bloom’s confession that the literary work that has been his greatest obsession is not, say, Hamlet or Henry IV, but a relatively little-known 1920 fantasy novel. After all, Bloom is our most famous bardolater.  When I took an undergraduate class with him at Yale, he announced his trembling bafflement before Shakespeare’s greatness in almost every lecture. In the course of his career, Bloom has named a handful of other literary eminences who compel from him a similar obeisance—Emerson, Milton, Blake, Kafka, and Freud are members in this select club—but one does not find David Lindsay on this list.

 

Writing (McSweeneys): I had a whole gaggle of 100-point bucks in my sights, sleeping peacefully on their feet, like cows. The way they were lined up, I could take down the whole clan in a single shot of gun, clean through their magnificent oversized brains. That’d be enough (deer) meat to last Nora and the baby through the harsh Amarillo winter. I shifted my weight in my hidey spot, snapping a twig and pouring more pepper on the fire by muttering, “God dammit all to hell.”

 

Gaming (Modiphius): Conan the Brigand is the complete guide to the nomadic brigands of the Hyborian Age, providing the gamemaster and player characters with all the resources to run campaigns that embrace the path of the brigand, or are affected by it. Here within these pages are all the resources needed to bring to life this outlaw world!

New material to expand your Conan campaign, with brigand-themed castes, stories, backgrounds, and equipment, allowing you to create your own unique brigands, nomads, and raiders.

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Criticism (Brian Niemeier) – Nonetheless, I can sympathize with the rocket scientists, engineers, and network admins who groan at authorial violations of physical laws. That’s because I contend that the single most hamhandedly misrepresented and abused science in all of fiction is mine, the queen and mistress of all sciences, theology.

Now, hard SF usually provides a respite from the relentless drumbeat of theological illiteracy pervading the rest of pop culture, if only because hard SF tends to studiously ignore theological questions. The worst you get is a Big Men with Screwdrivers Meet Scooby-Doo story like Star Trek V.

When any other genre deals with theology or a related discipline like ecclesiology, soteriology, pneumatology, etc., it subjects your local theologian to a trial of Christian patience.


Science Fiction (John C. Wright) – The basic limit of Hard SF is the writer cannot violate no known facts of science: Venus is a sulferic hell with a temperature to melt lead, for example, and if the daughter of a monarch of Mars is going to look like a nubile maiden from Europe or India, except with bright red skin, there had bettter be some explanation involving parallel evolution or mutual interplanetary ancestors.

Now, working within these limits is fun, and it is fun to do research and get all the details of travel times and distances to nearby stars correct, or to make sure that what you are saying about higher mathematics or exotic matter properties or Einsteinian frame-dragging effects of rotating black holes is correct according to the latest theory.

But it is also fun to write about a nubile space princess being saved from an evil dinosaur of Venus.


Anime (J. D. Cowan) – We talk a lot about forgotten traditions and warped ones, but how about those still holding the line? You would be surprised just how well following a formula that works could hold tight for so long but as those in Generation Y know, Japan had managed it for an absurdly long time. Nowhere is this more obvious than in their most popular export: the shonen story.

In March a milestone was hit for two of Japan’s most popular magazines. While much was made about Weekly Shonen Jump reaching its 50th year of creating hits in 2018, this year marks the 60th anniversary for both Weekly Shonen Magazine and Weekly Shonen Sunday. It is hard to imagine from our perspective how a tradition could go for so long. These magazines started well after their format had all but went extinct overseas and yet they are still going to this day and running series that continue to get exposure all over the world. If you know Japanese entertainment then you know at least some of them.


Gaming (SEGA) – The Total War franchise pays homage to Predator with the latest Total War: Warhammer II DLC trailer.


Awards (The Emperor’s Notepad) – Commenting on my last post, where I gave a harsh beating to the previous Hugo short story finalist, Alexandru Constantin mentioned that he “can’t get past the stupid titles.” Yes, I have thought about that too, and it’s a common issue with these award-worthy stories or those that give off some kind of literary aspiration: they usually have humongous titles. It’s like they are trying to compensate for something, or perhaps it’s a way to mark the story as one of their own. It reminds me of that amusing observation about the length of a country’s official names correlating with how undemocratic it is (e.g., People’s Democratic Republic of Something or Other.)


Pulp (Hollywood in Toto) – Even if you’ve never read any of Leigh Brackett’s stories, or if the name sounds unfamiliar, you probably know her work.

Try “The Big Sleep” for Bogart fans, “Hatari” and “Rio Bravo” for John Wayne addicts and “The Empire Strikes Back” for everyone else.

Brackett’s career spanned several decades as a screenwriter, but to the science fiction crowd (George Lucas included), she was the Queen of Space Opera.

Brackett began making a name for herself in the pulp magazines of the ’40s. While you might sometimes hear these days that Brackett skated as a woman in a men’s field with her “masculine sounding name,” it was common knowledge among scifi readers that Brackett was a woman.


Criticism (Misha Burnett) – Superscienceis something that is impossible in our world, but which follows definite and consistent rules within the story. Superpowers in comic books, the abilities of vampires and werewolves, magic spells in urban fantasy series like The Dresden Files and The Rivers Of London, warp drives and phasers in Star Trek.

Superscience can be a lot of fun. Writers often construct scenarios where one superscience power is pitted against another one, or a hero must use his ability creatively to solve a problem. These are the kinds of plot elements that make for great late night drunken conversations at cons. Could the Hulk beat a sandworm? What would happen if Rogue from X-Men touched Sylar from Heroes? Could a Dalek become a vampire? (Exsanguinate! Exsanguinate! Exsanguinate!)

And while Superscience is often defined as (small m) magic in the story world, it is really just a variant form of technology in terms of how it works in the plot.


Amazon Woes (John Van Stry) – So, once again Amazon screws up at the end of March, deleting all new releases for a sizeable number of Authors. My last two books are now gone and there’s no way to get them back until Amazon figures out how to restore a backup.

 

I grew up reading a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you are age fifty or more, chances are you did too. When you are thirteen, Edgar Rice Burroughs is the man.

A trip to the local Waldenbooks or B. Dalton Bookseller in the 1970s up through the middle 1980s would generally have a shelf or more of Burroughs paperbacks. Burroughs has faded away since then. Del Rey did some Tarzan doubles in paperback in the mid-1990s that petered out. He is not the foundational author that he once was. He was a gateway writer to fantastic fiction for many.

Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Baen Books) is an anthology of modern writers using Burroughs characters and settings in new stories. The trade paperback was published in October 2013. The mass market paperback at the end of 2014. The movie John Carter was out in March 2012 so perhaps the movie was the impetus for this book.

I can remember looking at this book first in trade paperback and then the mass market paperback when each came out. I also passed as the roster just did not hit my excitement level. Finally, I thought I should get it. The mass market edition, my preferred form, is out of print. Neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble had it. Amazon still has a few copies of the trade paperback.

Mike Resnick and Robert T. Garcia are the editors. Resnick I know having read his Burroughsian sword & planet Ganymede novels and a few of his space operas. Robert T. Garcia is someone I do not know. A check at the internet speculative fiction data base shows he edited the magazine American Fantasy in the 1980s. A magazine that eluded me at the time.

 

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Ryan ran afoul of an overzealous church in his fantasy world. But after losing his head, the church’s goddess, as an apology. brings Ryan back as the heart, soul, and guiding mind of a dungeon. Aided by the celestial fairy Erin, he now builds and maintains the premier dungeon for would-be adventurers, complete with devious traps, skeletal monsters, and a strange sense of fair play. But bad bone puns and an actual underground fight club for monsters keep Ryan unaware of the goddess’s true plan for him–as the trainer for the paladin chosen to reform her church.

Johnathan Smidt’s Bone Dungeon is the latest in a series of quirky litRPG fantasy web novels hosted by Royal Road to make the jump to print. Like many of its contemporaries such as Everyone Loves Large Chests, Bone Dungeon flips the script on the tried-and-true adventuring party by shifting the point of view. In this case, what if a dungeon was alive, with a guiding mind? What would that be like? The result, like many gimmick novels, is a thorough examination of what many readers might think a one-note gag, combined with a deep dive into the game mechanics of Smidt’s fantasy world. But what should have been Exposition: The Novel is enlivened by the interplay between Ryan and his assistant Erin, adding notes of humor and mutual infatuation to the nuts and bolts accounting needed to turn a dungeon from a hole in a wall into a full-fledged raid encounter.

And, yes, that includes Skeleton Fight Club, another should-have-been one note gag that has plot and character relevance, as Erin does not always approve of Ryan’s methods.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Bone Dungeon is just how innocent the story is. No matter if the writer is Russian, Chinese, Japanese, or American, web novels and litRPGs tend to be colossal exercises in wish fulfillment, especially when romance and sex are involved. 2018’s mix of raunch and harem was fueled in part by the rise in popularity of these stories. Instead, Erin and Ryan are stricken with a case of puppy love, with both wanting to bring out the best in each other and in the dungeon they are building. Much of Ryan’s character growth is driven by trying to avoid losing Erin’s approval and living up to her high esteem of him without letting himself be whipped. But both remain unaware of each other’s affections. It’s innocent, it’s cute, and it’s blissfully devoid of bawdiness.

But Bone Dungeon’s good nature is not limited to Ryan and Erin’s growing partnership. Keenly aware that his survival depends on a sense of fair play towards the  adventurers that quest through his halls, Ryan enters into a strange and unspoken agreement with the local Adventurer’s Guild. His challenges make their recruits stronger, and their failures fuel his own growth. Ryan and Erin gleefully look forward to how each party navigates the bone-laden halls and skeletal monsters, and how the adventurers grow through each encounter. A strange sense of cooperation builds between dungeon and adventurers–including the aforementioned chosen one–which comes in handy as even dungeons can face dangers of their own.

Bone Dungeon is a delightful and quick read, and, at a time where most young adult stories are choked by the fantasies of burnouts and crazy cat ladies, it is a rare story appropriate for ages 9 through 99 that avoids being twee.

Arena mech combat, alien ugly ducklings, deep space salvage, and genetic manipulation feature in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction.


BattleTech: Not the Way The Smart Money Bets (Kell Hounds Trilogy #1) – Michael A. Stackpole

Brothers Morgan and Patrick Kell have just landed on Galatea, the mercenary planet known for its brutal arena ’Mech combat games. They intend to found their own merc unit, building it from the ground up, but there are a few obstacles in their way. The first is a corrupt general fronting for the second, a local crime lord named Haskell Blizzard who crushes anyone he sees as a threat. And the Kell boys offering lucrative contracts for the best ’Mechwarriors and techs on the planet is a definite threat to his illegal empire.

But what Blizzard doesn’t know is that the Kell brothers have faced long odds before, and come out on top every single time. And with the help of some old and new friends, they’re going to take this crime lord down using his own tactics against him.

When the chips are down, the smart money is always on the brothers Kell.


Cannon Publishing Military Sci-Fi / Fantasy Anthology: Spring 2019 – Presented by Cannon Publishing

The military experience is timeless, and echoes down from our past and into our future. Along the way, not everything is as it seems. Thirteen stories from established and new writers in the field of Military Science Fiction and Military Fantasy bring you tales of the terrors of combat and the even greater fear of the unknown in Cannon Publishing’s first Bi-Annual Military Anthology. Includes works by:

Alex Piasecki ~ During the Iraq War, a United States Marine Corps fire team goes to the rescue of a young boy and encounters an ancient evil. It will take massive firepower and violent action to get out alive, if they can. A Joint Task Force 13 story.

Lucas Marcum ~ Trapped in the hull of a badly damaged starship, a young sailor must make difficult decisions to save her ship and her crewmates. A story set in the best selling Valkyrie universe.

Jason Cordova ~ Out of time, the war for Earth rages as scientists struggle to stop two cataclysmic events from happening simultaneously, and possibly save the world while they’re at it.

Yakov Merkin ~ . Another day at the most boring, dead-end job in the Galactic Alliance’s Legion Navy turns out to be the day that you might get killed.


Do No Harm (Four Horsemen Universe: The Omega War #9) – by Robert E. Hampson , Chris Kennedy , and Sandra L. Medlock

When Todd’s critically damaged ship dropped out of hyperspace near the Human colony world of Azure, he had no memory of his past. He didn’t know who he was, or even what he was, and the Humans didn’t either. That didn’t stop the colonists of Azure—they took him in, anyway…even though they didn’t understand how he could do some of the things he could do.

Todd and his descendants consider themselves Human—eight armed and water-breathing—but Human, nonetheless. After seventy years living among Humans, Todd’s descendants are going back out into the Union to make their mark—from fifteen-year-old Verne, who’s a little short to be a mercenary, to Harryhausen, who wants to be the most famous PI in the galaxy. Eventually they learn that the rest of the Galactic Union knows them as Wrogul, intelligent octopus-like beings known for science and the ability to perform surgery like no other race can.

These Wrogul do more than just practice medicine, but they still intend to do no harm. Unfortunately, the Humans, whether they have two arms or eight, have powerful enemies… and the Wrogul may have no choice.


Don’t Call Me Ishmael (The Fallen World # 2) – Chris Kennedy

Don’t call him Ishmael. Or do; he really doesn’t care. Just don’t call him Fred.

No matter what you call him, though, he has a problem. Well, several of them. Ishmael—for want of a better name—woke up in a world that had changed. The Corporations—the wielders of power in a society not long from now—brought about the end of civilization as we know it, nuking each other to the point where it collapsed.

Ishmael doesn’t know any of this, though; in fact, he doesn’t know anything about himself when he wakes up in this shattered world. All of his autobiographical and episodic memories are gone, and along with them, any knowledge of who he was or anything in his past.

Worse, he has made enemies of some very important people, and they are after him. They are armed and he is alone and in…well, he doesn’t know where he is, either.

Can Ishmael stay alive long enough to recover his memories—to find out who he is and how he fits—or will he be just another casualty of This Fallen World? Read More

Tubemonkey, by Jerome Bixby, appeared in the Winter 1949 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

It’s no big, scalable concept like The Dead-Star Rover, but Tubemonkey does offer some compelling fodder for your space rpg.

At some point, there’s a chance that space radiation will fry your brain and turn you into barely cognizant half-wit. Despite your idiocy, you may still retain your pilot skills, and still have some moments of lucid clarity. Such a condition might make you the ideal mark for space crooks who need pilots who don’t ask questions or really understand what’s going on, just that you’re getting a shot at space one more time.

Rhiannon is one such poor fellow—his mind and memory are shot, but he’s a capable pilot who keeps himself occupied in the sims (“rocket games”). His only real friend is a dog named Sergeant Atoms. When someone comes to him with the opportunity to get back into space again “to help win the war”, poor Rhiannon jumps at the chance.

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Unlike my prior posts on orcs and elves I don’t have a nomination readily at hand.

I have to admit my surprise as the concept of gnomes in a fantasy setting (wargame, fiction or film) is something that has always interested me but I’m coming up short.  All I can offer is gnomes in early D&D (alchemist NPC or illusionist player character) and maybe a cameo appearance in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth.

I hope CH blog readers are more learned in Gnomic lore than I…

What I can offer are the excellent gnomes from Splintered Light Miniatures. I’m over half way done painting an army set and as the figures near completion I’m glad I have finally addressed the lack of gnome representation on my gaming table. Since Splintered Light specializes in a wide range of fantasy and Dark Age figures I’ll incorporate the gnome version of “Which is Your Favorite…” under this week’s Wargame Wednesday banner.

If you want to see the gnomes done in a professional paint job, click on the army set link above. The set does not come with the gnome “cavalry” (snail riders) or Splintered Light’s interpretation of gnome artillery (flower catapults).  My gnomes have been recruited for serious business and will not need the snail or flower auxiliaries.

The figures have excellent detail and are sold with a minimum of sprue remnants or poorly balanced figures.  This was a good deal as there are 26 15mm gnome figures plus 10 large, nasty looking mushrooms for $25. Add the $7 shipping rate (U.S. / $22 international) and each figure/mushroom sells for less than $1.

 

While conducting research for other projects I’m finding rumors and old traditions of gnome involvement in various wars.  I’m focusing on vague references to a Teutoburg Forest type massacre of an orc regiment sent on a flanking maneuver through gnome territory.  More on that later.

Update:

Gnome Wars – Australian Light Cavalry

Found Gnome Wars miniatures and a rule set from Brigade Miniatures. Seems the rule set and game universe has Gnomes fighting WW1.  Here is a link to a true Gnome fan and it looks like quite a few gamers are interested in this little known aspect of the First World War. I’m digging the Sikh gnomes charging German trenches in that last link.

For D&D and role playing games check out Dragon Magazine #61.  Long time Dragon editor Roger Moore has two articles in there.  One on the gnomish “point of view” or basic gnome ethnology according to Roger and another on gnome theology, both based on his well referenced readings of D&D rules.

There is still a terrible lack of knowledge concerning Gnome ethnology here at the CH blog so I will probably revisit the topic.

Thanks to T. Everett mentioning Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International Gangsta Gnomes.

 

Off topic – The Battle of the Bulge series continues on my blog as the Germans approach St. Vith.

Image result for the rising of the shield hero“The Rising of the Shield Hero” is everything wrong with the isekai genre. It just pretends otherwise.

The show is a trick. It pulled the wool over your eyes. The first twenty minutes or so are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in the genre. They do basically everything wrong – give us a boring protagonist whose only trait is “kind of nerdy”, make his reaction to being forcibly kidnapped into a fantasy world bizarrely blase, and make the fantasy world itself as generic a medieval setting imaginable. Everything it does it does badly, and the worst of all is that reaction. Almost every protagonist of these sorts of stories reacts the same way to being ripped from their homes and families against their will – bland acceptance. It is bizarre, and strikingly unrealistic. This kid had a job. He had a family. And his reaction is seriously just going to be “Eh, let’s see what’s up?”

“Log Horizon” had a similar problem, but because “Log Horizon” is actually a great show that manages to push itself beyond wish fulfillment fantasy it explores the backstory of its protagonists and recognizes their inherent tragedy, which at least lightens the blow. To be so obsessed with an MMO that you’re not even unhappy about being stuck there implies something seriously messed up about your real life – and we do, in fact, learn that our protagonist Shiroe used to be suicidal. “Log Horizon” knew its characters weren’t normal. “Shield Hero” completely ignores this, and it’s absurd. Read More

This Sunday authors Ben Wheeler, Ben Steven A. M. Freeman, and I, Anthony Marchetta, had a casual livestream where we discussed everything from our current works in progress to anime to just our lives in general. Since we all get along well and enjoy talking with each other the discussion went on for a few hours, but if you want to check it out in chunks throughout your day I think it’s a fun listen.

Enjoy!