It is hard to believe, but we once again find ourselves in that very special time of year here in Chicago. It’s August, temperatures push well past the 90 degree mark, Labor Day looms just around the corner, and Midwesterners from a 150 mile radius (or more in some cases) descend on the city in unforgiving, unbreathable, highly form-fitting, man-made fabrics.
Yes dear Black Gate readers – its once again time for Chicago’s Wizard World Comic Con.
Though Wizard World never officially discloses attendance numbers, local media reports that the 2014 event has drawn nearly 100,000 visitors to the Rosemont Convention Center during its four day run. And like we have done for the last six years, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I are wading into the fray that has literally backed up traffic almost to O’Hare airport.
With weathermen ominously reporting daytime temperatures would “feel like” 115 or more, Chris shows up dressed for battle in his Black Gate polo shirt and a kilt, commenting about how on this day above all others, a breeze is necessary.
This isn’t the first time Chris’s Utilikilt has made an appearance and it won’t be the last. At least I am happy to report most Hollywood starlets could take a lesson from Chris on entering and exiting a low-riding vehicle without acquainting the free world with what lies beneath – if you get my meaning.
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Last weekend in London was LonCon 3, this year’s Worldcon. The convention, which has been held in various cities around the world since 1939, is where the Hugo Awards are given out and where fans from all over the globe meet up.
It was my first Worldcon, and while I’ve been to large conventions before such as World Fantasy and Eastercon, not to mention several local conventions such as Tuscon, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was five fun days of events, conversation, and camaraderie.
The Loncon staff did a fine job making everything run smoothly. A handy pocket guide steered me around the huge convention center without a hitch, and twice-daily newssheets kept me up-to-date on any changes.
There were only a couple of small minuses. First off, the dining options at the ExCel Centre were overpriced and generally substandard. Not that this is unusual for a convention center, so I don’t blame LonCon for this!
Also, the ExCel is huge and has all the ambiance of a shopping mall. But as Robert Silverberg pointed out, “Cons aren’t about venues, they’re about people.”
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Every year, one of the most enjoyable booths to attend at GenCon is the Paizo booth. And I’m certainly not alone in that belief. Last year, the massive rush at Paizo to get copies of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords base set (more on this later) resulted in a line that snaked its away across a massive section of the Exhibit Hall. This year, they had to actually have a line out in the hallway to even be admitted into the booth, to avoid cluttering up the Exhibit Hall itself with all the desperate Pathfinder fans. And there were certainly a lot of great products to inspire a spending frenzy this year.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
The flagship product coming from Paizo Publishing is the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Pathfinder always has a ton of great releases coming out on an extremely aggressive schedule – a range of adventure modules, player companion supplements, campaign setting supplements, and so on – but here are some main hardcover rulebooks slated for the next few months that are of particular interest to anyone who plays Pathfinder.
Advanced Class Guide (Amazon, Paizo)
This new book provides details on 10 new hybrid classes, which are designed to meld together traits from two of the core and base classes from previous supplements. For example, the hunter is a hybrid of the ranger and druid, a martial character who is able to channel animal powers and bond more closely with their animal companion, but still wield spells. The bloodrager mixes the combat features of the barbarian with the mystical bloodlines of the sorcerer. The brawler is a fighter who gains several of the unarmed combat benefits of the monk, but without the spiritual aspects.
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Yesterday, I spent some time talking about some new games that are becoming available from smaller game publishers. Several of these had their origins in Kickstarters … and that’s becoming such a common thing that it’s worth devoting a single post just to Kickstarter-based games. This model by which fans can directly support their games that are under development is growing more and more popular among the GenCon crowd. It seems like most of the smaller, independent game companies have been going the Kickstarter route.
We’ll start with the new games and products that have already been successfully funded on Kickstarter:
Dungeon Dwellers - This is a cooperative dungeon crawl-themed card game, which I stumbled upon while trying to get across the Exhibit Hall on Sunday. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t have time to play a demo of the game, despite the fact that it looked like a lot of fun. Fortunately, their website has a number of videos showing how the game is played for those who are interested.
Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis – This steampunk exploration card game was so new that they didn’t even have copies to sell at GenCon because it was held up by U.S. Customs. (People who have backed games on Kickstarter have no doubt gained an amazing appreciation for how diligent our nation’s Customs officials are … at least when it comes to slowing down delivery of games.) They did, however, have demo copies and a great booth that drew a lot of attention and traffic to make use of those demos. The game can be played either cooperatively or competitively, as well, which I always consider to be a bonus. Again, their website has a great video talking about the game, though, so check it out.
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This year marks my sixth year of attending GenCon to represent Black Gate, and one thing that I always enjoy is finding some more esoteric, outside-the-mainstream games to suggest to people.
I definitely have some solid booths I attend every year — Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, Cryptozoic, and so on — but those are generally games that people will hear of through normal advertising and marketing channels. If I can shed some light on a game that’s being overlooked or is just starting up, well, that’s the sort of thing that Black Gate was really built to do.
With that in mind, I’m going to start my GenCon coverage by discussing some of the less well-known games and publishers that I came across this year, but which have new and upcoming games that might be of interest. I’ll cover the big guys over the next few days, but I definitely want to get the word out on these as soon as possible.
A lot of these games are so new they aren’t even available for purchase online yet, but I’ll provide information as they become available.
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This weekend, I have the pleasure of attending the DETCON1 in Detroit, the North American Science Fiction Convention. I have never been to a NASFIC, but it rose on my list of cons after seeing how sincere the organizers were in having a diverse body of panels and panelists. Not just from a standpoint of age and background, but the mediums that are represented too. I will be doing four panels, two of them on Afrofuturism.
Pretty cool. Still, I feel trepidation. When you go on a vacation (and that’s what con-going is), the real world does not stop. And in the real world, the host city Detroit is in dire straits. With property so cheap, gentrification is at an extreme level. Corporations are buying up whole blocks. Citizens who can’t pay their water bills are getting the utility shut off.
It is nice that the city can attract events like NASFIC or the recent Allied Media Conference. But I hope that we aren’t so busy celebrating spec-fic to at least acknowledge that we’re in a city where the poorest people don’t have water.
I don’t know why anybody reads The Hunger Games. You want dystopia, just read Reuters.
But that’s the irony of dystopia. Writers make novels about the types of issues that marginalized communities face every day, and pass it off as something that could only happen in the future.
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The scene of the crime, where you have to determine a bullet’s trajectory
The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes began its run last year in Portland and has set up shop here in Columbus, OH, from February through September of 2014. It will be moving on to St. Louis, Dallas, Santa Ana, and Denver before the final stop in Seattle in October of 2016.
The Exhibition capitalizes on the massive popularity of the world’s first private consulting detective. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1886, Holmes has never been more popular worldwide than he is over one-hundred and twenty years later.
It is a traveling Holmes museum and includes a mystery that you attempt to solve by examining clues and conducting tests. And the various items, which are all enclosed in glass cases, are absolutely worth seeing.
The show is hosted on the second floor at COSI: the Center of Science and Industry. After being instructed that you cannot take food or drink in, take pictures or use your cell phone inside, you are given your Notebook for solving the mystery.
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Um… what the title said. This will be my first Worldcon and I’d love to meet up with other Black Gate readers and writers.
I’ll be attending the entire con and sitting on a few panels, too.
Drop me a line in the comments section and let’s get something organized!
In 1962, Peter S. Beagle began writing a fantasy novel he called The Last Unicorn. Published in 1968, the book was both serious and whimsical, a kind of extended fable about a unicorn who found she was the last of her kind and adventured through a medieval fantasyland, possibly Irish and possibly not, in search of the wicked king holding all other unicorns captive. The tone embraced both the comic (one of the major characters is an incompetent magician named Schmendrick) and the dreamlike (as in the terrifying Red Bull who emerges as a crucial antagonist). The book’s a tremendous accomplishment, a vivid working-out of classic fantasy themes.
In 1982, Rankin/Bass Productions released a film version of the book, with a screenplay by Beagle. The designs had a nice touch of art nouveau, the voice cast was strong (including Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Jeff Bridges, and Christopher Lee) and the plot was remarkably faithful to the book. That approach had its strengths and weaknesses: the fable-like quality of the original story was lost. On the other hand, the literalness of the adaptation gave the film a quality of strangeness of its own — by maintaining the shape of the book, it created a shape unlike most other movies.
Beagle is currently touring with a digital 2K print of the Last Unicorn movie, presenting it at showings with a question-and-answer period and an opportunity to buy Beagle’s books and Last Unicorn-related merchandise. The tour will go on through April 2016 and will visit Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, the UK, and Germany, as well as cities across North America. An extensive Canadian leg of the ongoing Last Unicorn tour has just wrapped up; I saw a showing of the film in Montreal, on Sunday, May 18, and took a few notes.
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This weekend is WisCon here in Madison, WI, and I know I will not be the only one attending! Who else among the Black Gate crew will be there?
Post in the comments, and perhaps we can arrange a meetup!