Art of the Genre: David Trampier, 1954 – 2014

Friday, March 28th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

1509880_10153982624460584_2120060224_nToday is a day of mourning for those gamers who were brought into the industry during the ‘great launch’ of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 1978. That year the AD&D Player’s Handbook hit the market, and nothing in the life of role-playing would ever be the same again. One reason, and certainly one of the most recognizable not named Gygax, was the cover art by David Trampier. On Monday, March 24th, Mr. Trampier passed away in southern Illinois at the age of 59.

That age in itself is a tragedy, but one that can only be further exacerbated by what could have been for a man many gamers considered the great white whale of RPG fantasy artwork.

More words than can easily be counted have been written about Trampier over the years, most hypothesis and some truths, but in the end all we know now is that he is gone.

As an adept in the industry of RPG artwork, I’ve made it my life’s calling to track down bygone artists. But Trampier was never one of them. Sure, I’ve spoken in depth to his relations, and even as late as last August had a lengthy conversation with a group of RPG power brokers on the best course of action to approach him, including old friends on a road trip and private detectives, but in the end Trampier was even too far removed for me, and honestly I can’t say whether that now makes me happy or sad.

What I do know it that in the late 1980s, during his run with the Wormy comic for TSR’s Dragon magazine, Trampier suddenly went off the grid.  At the time, he’d have been only 34 years of age, and smack in the middle of his prime as an artist. Now, 25 years later, he is gone, and not a single shred of artwork was produced by his hand over the course of those intervening years.

Now that brings me profound sadness.

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Explore the Echoes of a Vanished Product Line in Lost Empires of Faerûn

Friday, March 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lost-Empires-of-Faerun-smallI’m still processing the boxes of gaming loot I brought home from the Spring Games Plus Auction. Honestly, this could take a while. You may want to get a coffee or something.

I find it fascinating to watch the items that set off a bidding frenzy. The Descent games I talked about last time, for example. Or absolutely any expansion sets for Wizard of the Coast’s out-of-print Heroscape — lordy, yes. I wish I had a closet filled with those babies. I’d retire to Bermuda.

But it’s no fun to bid on stuff that far out of my price range. Gape while everyone else bids like crazy? Sure. But bid yourself? No. It’s like asking the Homecoming Queen to Prom. Sure, everybody’s doing it, but it ain’t easy on your self-esteem.

But you know what is fun to bid on? Cheap stuff, and especially cheap stuff that was once very expensive. Like premium D&D products that are now one or two editions out of date and selling at rock bottom prices. Items like a brand new copy of Lost Empires of Faerûn, which originally retailed for $29.95 and which I snapped up for 6 lousy bucks.

Let me paraphrase from the back of the book. Something, something, secrets of past empires of the Forgotten Realms, comprehensive sourcebook, new feats, stuff, prestige classes, magic stuff, equipment stuff. Can I use this to put together an adventure in 10 minutes when I manage to forget game night switched to Friday? Yes? I’m sold.

Apparently, the book also contains gaming advice on ruins, including rules for how to build and sustain a ruin-based campaign, a bunch of detailed adventure sites with maps, artifacts, and some new monsters. You had me at “ruin-based campaign.” Take my money already.

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Do You Have the Time?

Friday, March 28th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Time-MachineSpider Robinson, in his brilliant and moving story “The Time-Traveler,” pointed out that we’re all time travellers really. We’re all moving into the future at the rate of one second per second.

As those of you who read last week’s post might realize, Robinson’s talking – in a way – about a subjective experience. The protagonist of the story experienced the passage of ten years of time in a manner completely different from that of the rest of the world. To the other characters (and the readers) the present is merely the present, because they (and we) had experienced the intervening years in the normal way. Because the protagonist hadn’t, it felt to him as though he’d stepped ten years into the future.

If that sounds a bit confusing, I urge you to find the story (it’s collected in Callaghan’s Crosstime Saloon) and read it for yourself.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Island of Fu Manchu, Part Four

Friday, March 28th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

island titanisland zebraSax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal was first serialized in Liberty Magazine from November 16, 1940 to February 1, 1941. It was published in book form as The Island of Fu Manchu by Doubleday in the US and Cassell in the UK in 1941. The book serves as a direct follow-up to Rohmer’s 1939 bestseller, The Drums of Fu Manchu, and is again narrated by Fleet Street journalist, Bart Kerrigan.

The final quarter of the novel sees Rohmer really deliver the goods with Kerrigan and Sir Denis Nayland Smith successfully infiltrating the Haitian voodoo ceremony of Queen Mamaloi. While similar scenes had occurred in the past at various clandestine gatherings of the Si-Fan, the sequence most closely resembles the gathering of the followers of El Mahdi in 1932’s The Mask of Fu Manchu. Rohmer’s mastery of the art of suspense writing makes the reader believe the heroes are in genuine danger. While this is no small feat, considering the number of times Rohmer had penned similar scenes in the past, part of the success here is down to the climactic revelation of the voodoo Queen Mamaloi.

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Goth Chick News: Something Wicked Is Coming Back This Way…

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Something Wicked this way comes poster-smallOkay, at this point it’s pretty clear that Hollywood is out to remake every story that ever freaked us out as kids.

Last month, we heard Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) is finally set to direct an IT remake after five years in development hell. That was OK, since it’s not like clowns were ever going to be funny and harmless again anyway.

But this week, we learn that Disney is taking another run at their 1983 film version of Something Wicked This Way Comes and once again I heave that sigh which basically says ‘there they go f’ing up another classic.’

Not that the movie version of Something Wicked is entirely a “classic” that did well the first time around – because it didn’t.

Bradbury actually scripted the original film, but he and the director Jack Clayton had a difference of opinion over the tone of the movie. Clayton wanted something more “family-friendly” and Disney had a revised draft produced without Bradbury; but the first cuts of the film tested poorly. Additional effects and a new score were added and Bradbury was brought back in to write new material.

But it was too little too late. Bradbury always claimed much of his intentions for the movie were destroyed and Disney barely broke even.

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The Art of Shamanism

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Shaman’s costume and drum, next to a photo of a sacred tree.

The eastern Spanish city of Valencia is rich in museums. Besides the usual archaeology, history, and military museums, there are quirky ones like the Toy Soldier Museum and the one true Holy Grail at Valencia Cathedral. There are also several art museums and galleries. While visiting last year, I came across an exhibition on shamanism at the Valencian Museum of Enlightenment and Modernity.

Titled “Between the Worlds: Shamanism in the Villages of Siberia,” the exhibition brought together more than two-hundred objects on loan from The Russian Museum of Ethnography. Most were collected around the turn of the last century, before the Communist Revolution led to a national effort to stamp out shamanistic practices.

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New Treasures: The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Iron Jackal-smallChris Wooding’s Ketty Jay novels come packed with witty dialog, high-flying adventure, and a hearty dose of steampunk fantasy — not to mention some great covers (see the British editions of the first three here). The previous volumes, Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain, were published in the US by Bantam Spectra; with the third Wooding switches publishers to Titan, bringing a new look to a series that has been compared to Firefly. If you’re on the hunt for a new series that includes sky pirates, quirky characters, and swashbuckling fantasy, this might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Things are looking good for Captain Frey, roguish captain of the Ketty Jay and her dysfunctional crew of layabouts. Accustomed to living on the wrong side of the law, running contraband, robbing airships and generally making a nuisance of themselves, Frey’s rag-tag bunch of no-hopers is finally on the rise from bottom-feeding freebooters to bar-room celebrities. And, just for once, nobody is trying to kill them.

Even Trinci Dracken, Frey’s one-time fiancée and long-time nemesis, has given up her quest for revenge. In fact, she’s offered him a job — one that will take his crew deep into the desert heart of Samarla, land of their ancient enemies, where the secrets of the past lie in wait for the unwary. Secrets that might very well cost Frey everything.

Join the crew of the Ketty Jay on their greatest adventure yet: a story of mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases and death-defying races, murderous daemons, psychopathic golems and a particularly cranky cat.

Chris Wooding is also the author of Malice, Storm Thief, and over a dozen other books. He has announced that the fourth volume in the series, the upcoming The Ace of Skulls, scheduled for release in August, is also the last.

The Iron Jackal was published by Titan Books on March 11, 2014. It is 480 pages, priced at $14.95 for the trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.


Firefly, A Retrospective — Part 7

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

The Firefly cast, out of uniform

The Firefly cast, out of uniform

Hey Independents! Well, today we get to the end of the first and only season of Firefly. Alas, it’s a bittersweet experience, but let’s load up and dig in for the last three shows.

The Message (Episode 12)

The crew is at a bazaar, with Simon and Kaylee having a date until Simon ruins it by being Simon. Mal is having a hard time finding a fence for the Lassiter pistol (see last week’s installment, episode 11). They check the local post office, where Jayne has a package from his mom – it’s the hat!!! (You Browncoats know what I mean. For everyone else, just Google “Jayne’s hat.”)

Mal and Zoe receive a crate. A sarcophagus, actually. Inside is the corpse of a young man. His name was Tracy. Mal and Zoe fought beside him in the war. In a brief flashback, we get the distinct impression this kid was kind of a dunce, but a lovable one.

Mal takes the coffin onboard Serenity and finds an audio recording. It explains that Tracy got into trouble and expected to be killed. He wanted Mal and Zoe to take his body home. While the ship and crew take off for the kid’s homeworld, some scruffy-looking federal agents bust into the post office looking for the sarcophagus. The post master tells them who took it.

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The Eucatastrophic Gesta Romanorum

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Gesta RomanorumSomewhere in Europe, probably around the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century, someone put together a book of tales. Likely this someone was a cleric who wanted to compile a manual to use in sermons and preaching. The texts were written in Latin and featured stories of all sorts: romances, travellers’ tales, fragments of Pliny and Herodotus and Aesop. A number were brief and didactic, if not prosaic, describing some uninteresting event or propounding a riddle a nearby wise man quickly answered with too pat an explanation — but others of the tales were filled with miracles and adventure and magic, with angels and saints and knights and dragons. Each was given a detailed moral, with every incident and character shown to have allegorical significance. Whether because it boasted wonder-stories, because it made those wonder-stories Christian parables, or both, the book quickly became immensely popular. This being well before the age of print, manuscripts proliferated, gaining and losing stories along the way.

Most of the tales claimed to take place in “Rome,” which superficially meant little: there was no attempt to create any sense of place or setting. A story might be said to take place in the reign of a given Emperor, but even if said Emperor happened to share a name with a recorded ruler of Rome, the Emperor of the tale typically had nothing to do with the Emperor of history. At any rate, this conceit gave the collection of stories a name: Gesta Romanorum, The Deeds of the Romans.

The book was first put in print in the late fifteenth century and an English translation appeared in the first decade of the sixteenth, by which time the book had already had tremendous influence on European literature. It had presented writers like Chaucer and Boccaccio and John Gower with narratives and narrative seeds that they’d develop in their own writings. It continued to be popular through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: the longest single story in the book is a version of the romance of Apollonius, Prince of Tyre, one of the most popular tales of the Middle Ages, and it seems that the Gesta’s version directly or indirectly inspired Shakespeare’s take on the story, Pericles.

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The Fantasy Novels of Lucius Shepard: The Golden

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Golden Lucius Shepard-smallLucius Shepard was known chiefly as a science fiction writer, and for good reason. His most popular books, including Green Eyes and Life During Wartime, were science fiction and so was much of his most acclaimed short fiction.

But to disregard his fantasy contributions would be a major oversight. Shepard died earlier this month and to commemorate his profound contributions to the genre, we will survey his fantasy books, beginning with his third novel, 1993’s The Golden, a tantalizing mix of mystery and horror subtitled A Sensual Novel of Vampires and Blood Lust.

In the mid nineteenth century, vampires gather at Castle Banat, one of their most sprawling and ancient warrens. Their five-hundred-year breeding project has produced the Golden, a mortal of perfect blood, and they’ve come to drink from her in a ceremony that will incidentally make her one of the Family. When the girl is found murdered, the clan’s shadowy patriarch calls on the detective Michel Beheim to solve the crime. But Michel has been a vampire for only a short while, and though he was a talented investigator among mortals, he is ill-prepared for the task. Soon he is fighting to survive the bizarre terrors of the labyrinthine castle and the schemes of vampires who guard a secret that may forever alter the world of the undead.

The Golden won the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel in 1994.

The Golden was published in a limited edition hardcover by Mark V. Ziesing books in April 1993 and in a mass market paperback by Bantam Books in August 1993. It was 291 pages in paperback, priced at $4.99. It is currently out of print, but a digital version is available for $6.99.


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