Conventions (Ken Lizzi): I have just returned from a long weekend spent in a hotel near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport where I joined 500 or so like-minded individuals playing games. The North Texas RPG Con was my first gaming convention. I’m minded to return next year. I had fun. I ran into some old friends from various states, made some new friends, shared stories, and played games. I even managed to sell a book or two. (A reminder: you too could purchase a book or two, should you be in the mood for two-fisted fabulism.)
History (Special Ops): The Vietnam War era is known for producing numerous heroes, and among them, Charles Mawhinney, commonly known as Chuck, stands out as one of the most lethal snipers of that time. With an impressive record of 103 confirmed kills, Mawhinney’s exceptional marksmanship and courage in the face of danger have made him a legendary figure.
New (DMR Books): This summer the campaign to reprint Arthur D. Howden Smith’s excellent Saga of Swain the Viking will conclude with the fourth volume: Swain’s Justice. In this collection, Swain Olaf’s son finally crosses swords with the one man who ever defied him and escaped with his life: The murderer Olvir Rosta. For decades Olvir has evaded Swain, but now his pursuer has finally caught up with him. The bitterest blood-feud the North has ever seen will come to an end—but who will survive?
H. P. Lovecraft (Catholic 365): There is no question in my mind that Mr. H.P. Lovecraft is one of the great American writers. Certainly he is one of the most influential; there has hardly been a horror or science-fiction tale since that has not owed something to his influence (though it’s true most of his progeny are better at copying the surface features than the substance of his work). He was also a master stylist with gorgeously erudite prose conveying the grisly horrors of his fertile and warped imagination.
Paperbacks (Bloody Spicy Books): Now, William W. Johnstone is interesting to me. He’s a MONSTER in the realm of paperback fiction. Every bookstore I go to has a glut of used westerns by him. Besides that, he’s so that, that he continued to write even have he died. That’s dedication, folks. Obviously other people write under his name now, though it’s SUPER-DUPER TOP SECRET who exactly puts fingers to keyboard to produce the new Johnstone’s for Wal-Mart’s excuse for a book aisle. It’s going to be one of those nice paperback mysteries that will haunt paperback aficionados for years to come.
Fiction (Big Palookas and Little Green Men): I was so excited to see this story come up next in The Big Book of Adventure Stories, readers. I’ve seen at least six different film adaptations, ranging from the serious 1932 film, starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong (and which was shot at night on the same sets Wray and Armstrong were on by day shooting KING KONG!) to the cheesy 1980s sci-fi bimbo-rama SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY starring Brinke Stevens, and which was once famously condemned on the Senate floor by Jesse Helms. And of course, by 2013, the theme of a wealthy man hunting other men for sport has become almost cliche.
RPG (Grognardia): I find it a great irony that, while Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu has undoubtedly played an outsized role in the increased visibility and recognition of the works of H.P. Lovecraft in popular culture, the game itself owes more to August Derleth’s idiosyncratic interpretation of HPL’s Mythos than it does to the views of the Old Gent himself.
Games (Walker’s Retreat): A Missed Opportunity There are precious few tabletop role-playing games in the Pink Slime mold that can justify their existance. Palladium Fantasy is not one of them. From the beginning, well before it was revised to conform mechanically with RIFTS, it was clear that this game was Kevin’s homebrewed tinkering with D&D until it became barely recognizable as such.
Games (The Last Redoubt): I’ve made little secret of how I’ve come to dislike Pathfinder. Oh sure, the core system all in itself can be played properly, assuming you spend hours on your character sheet or invest in a handholding database program like Hero Lab, but even with that, the setting is strongly encouraging of the type of play involving intricate backstories, and combat-focused, on – rails gameplay with closely tailored challenge levels.
Animation (Wasteland & Sky): Every industry today works on an overly corporate belt loop of product without regard to much aside from cost cutting. We’ve talked about how kid cartoons aren’t even made for kids today, but not so much why every cartoon looks the same. Sure, it’s cheap, but its never been this blatant before. What is the moment that lead to this downfall?
Cinema (Kairos): “What’s the best Matrix movie?” is a question no one asks. Because the answer seems obvious. But it’s not. Because what everyone misses is that the film which handles the style and themes of The Matrix better than any other isn’t an official Matrix installment at all.
Publishing (DVS Press): Books from major publishers have suffered stagnation and decline since the 1990s, but contrary to popular belief, this is not because schools are failing to teach kids to read. The hegemonic nature of the corporate system has a specific weakness that is also its strength, which is the concentrated power of management. Since trends are subject to the whims of a small number of people, all one needs to do to shift trends and culture is capture the management positions of the corporation, and that’s what happened in the literary world.
Writing (John C. Wright): This is of course what my professors taught me in English Lit 101. And it is somewhat true. The Western genre is defined by its setting. The Romance and Mystery genres are defined by the types of conflict the tales will deal with. Speculative fiction may be defined by the fact that we as authors and fans typically agree that nothing like the story that we tell has ever happened—though one could well argue that speculative fiction isn’t a “genre” in the classical sense anyway.
But I contend that over the past 120 years, and particularly in the last 20 years, the literary mainstream has evolved into a genre with its own earmarks.
Weird Tales (Tellers of Weird Tales): In 1924, a young girl of Chicago discovered science fiction in the pages of Weird Tales magazine. She had already seen a real-life fantasy land. Her mother had written about it:
We were in a fairy forest, trees gray with lichen and green with cushioning moss, trees dripping with ferns and garlanded with vines. When the sun shone through that forest the moss gleamed with golden richness.
Cinema (The Obelisk): When I think of the depiction of monsters in film, I think of the name Ray Harryhausen. In this age of CGI and burgeoning AI, the legacy of Harryhausen’s work is fast receding in living memory and for the modern popcorn muncher, it’s probably fair to say that stop-motion, latex-covered automaton creatures, no longer pass muster. But this, perhaps, says more about how our imagination is being blunted rather than sharpened.
Review (With Both Hands): I recently re-read Jurassic Park for the first time in decades. When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Michael Crichton’s books, and the movies based on them. I read every book of his that I could find. After a while, I drifted away, looking for variety in my reading. Without giving it much thought, I thought that perhaps it was just a juvenile phase.
Cinema (Frontier Partisans): The British actor Ray Stevenson died suddenly at age 58. No word on cause of death — he was hospitalized after a sudden illness while shooting a movie in Italy.
Stevenson delivered two iconic Frontier Partisan roles — as Roman Legionary Titus Pullo in HBO’s Rome and as Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, in STARZ Black Sails. He had a knack for humanizing homicidal swashbucklers. His Teach was not only a fearsome pirate — he was a man who poignantly wished for a son. While he was not a main character, he was a massive presence.
Fiction (Paperback Warrior): Richard Burton Matheson(1926-2013) was a multi-genre author best known for his horror and science-fiction works. In 1944, Matheson was 18 years-old when he joined an American combat division during WW2. He drew upon this harrowing experience to write his 1960 war novel, The Beardless Warriors.
Sherlock Holmes (Chimney Sweep Reader): In the days following the disappearance of both Sherlock Homes and Professor James Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, a new criminal mastermind has come on the scene. Clarence Devereux, a crime boss from America has decided to take over Moriarty’s criminal empire, filling the void. On his trail is a senior Pinkerton investigator by the name of Frederick Chase who joins forces with a Scotland Yard detective named Athelney Jones.
Comic Books (Bounding Into Comics): G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero writer Larry Hama recently shared that he was blacklisted from both Marvel and DC Comics following his now iconic run on the Marvel Comics series among a number of other grievances.