British Museum Explores Celtic Identity

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The Battersea Shield. Bronze, glass. Found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge, London, England, 350-50 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Battersea Shield. Bronze, glass. Found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge, London, England, 350-50 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum


For many of us, the Celts are an enduring fascination. Their art, their mysterious culture, and the perception that so many of us are descended from them makes the Celts one of the most popular ancient societies. So it’s surprising that the British Museum hasn’t had a major Celtic exhibition for forty years.

That’s changed with Celts: Art and Identity, a huge collection of artifacts from across the Celtic world and many works of art from the modern Celtic Revival. The exhibition is at pains to make clear that the name ‘Celts’ doesn’t refer to a single people who can be traced through time, and it has been appropriated over the last 300 years to reflect modern identities in Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere. “Celtic” is an artistic and cultural term, not a racial one.

The first thing visitors see is a quote by some guy named J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote in 1963, “To many, perhaps most people. . .’Celtic’ of any sort is. . .a magic bag into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come. . .anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight.”

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Kickstarting a Belated Black Gate Story: The Imlen Bastard

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Avery

"Aliosha Popovich" by Kate Baylay, from a collection of Russian Fairy Tales. Used by kind permission of the artist.

“Aliosha Popovich” by Kate Baylay, from a collection of Russian Fairy Tales. Used by kind permission of the artist.

Back in the age of print magazines, I made my first professional sale to a fellow named John O’Neill who published a gorgeous quarterly called Black Gate. We went through three deep revisions on that manuscript, a process we both enjoyed enough that, after I finally produced a version of “The War of the Wheat Berry Year” good enough for John to buy, he asked if I had anything else featuring that heroine. And I did. To our surprise, my novella “The Imlen Bastard” needed only a little polish to be ready for print. And so it took its place in the publication queue. Forthcoming from Black Gate, I said of it in my author bio all over the internet, for a few years.

Those years were hard on print magazines, and they weren’t much kinder to online fiction markets. “The War of the Wheat Berry Year” appeared in BG‘s last print issue. Ultimately, John stopped publishing fiction online before “The Imlen Bastard” could make its debut here.

But to me it’ll always be a Black Gate story.

So when I found an artist, Kate Baylay, whose work felt like my favorite old BG print covers — luscious, menacing, full of subtle story implications — I knew I’d found the right cover artist for “The Imlen Bastard.” Everything else I wanted to do with the self-publishing project that has grown up around the novella came together for me quickly after that. Best of all, Kate Baylay embraced the manuscript, and we’ve had so much fun going over the story together to find the most iconic moments for interior illustrations.

Then I enlisted superstar editor Betsy Mitchell — now retired from Del Rey after a career of editing people like Naomi Novik, Michael Chabon, William Gibson, and Octavia Butler — to give the novella an editorial boost. I figured, there’s a difference between standing as the longest piece in a magazine issue and standing alone as a book. I’m still kind of amazed that she took me on as a freelance client, when she’s in a position to work only on manuscripts she really enjoys. So that boded well.

At first, we all agreed that I’d launch a Kickstarter campaign over the summer, but then I got shortlisted for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. I held off on self-publishing for a few months so I’d know whether to say Finalist or Winner in my promotional material. After the award, I needed to readjust my hubris levels — a story that’s done me the kindness of coming to me to be written deserves the best promotion I can give it, and now I had to work up more brazenness than ever before on my stories’ behalf. Brazenness is harder than it looks. This month, with the thank-you notes for the award all written and sent out, and a trophy to feature in my Kickstarter video, it was finally time.

I clicked on the launch button at noon. You can find the campaign here.

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Art of the Genre: Kickstarter, Why I Hate Stretch Goals and You Should Too

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

11708033_10154052455508976_1237746949710068474_oOver the past three years I’ve written a lot about Kickstarter. In fact, I went back and looked at the Art of the Genre archives and found a rather impressive eight articles dedicated to the subject:

The Art of Kickstarter,
The Art of Kickstarter #2
The Pillaging Of Kickstarter
Why and How I Build a Kickstarter
The Pillaging of Kickstarter #2
Front Loading a Kickstarter
The Joy and Pain of Kickstarter (and how backed projects still fail)
Kickstater, It Really Shouldn’t Be About the Stuff We All Get

In those you can find all kinds of advice, statistics, opinions, and introspection, (or as my non-fans like to say, my sour grapes). But if I’ve learned anything over the course of my time on the platform, it is that it is constantly changing.

Sure, there are some static rules, but even those have some latitude if a developer happens to get lucky. And let me tell you, there is a lot of luck involved out there, as well as blind devotion.

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Art of the Genre: Bill Willingham Loved the Ladies, Even if TSR Wouldn’t Always Let Him Show Them…

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Check out the lady below Elric in this Willingham done for White Plume Mountain.  Bet you didn't realize it was cropped, did you?

Check out the lady below Elric in this Willingham done for White Plume Mountain. Bet you didn’t realize it was cropped, did you?

Former TSR Artist and now comic writer sensation [Fables] Bill Willingham wanted to be Frank Frazetta, or so I surmise. I’ve always been a fan of his work, dating back to those early days in the RPG field when he was a member of ‘The First Four’ at TSR.

Along with Jim Roslof, Jeff Dee, and Erol Otus, Bill managed to produce some absolutely lovely interior illustrations and acrylic covers for the first sets of D&D modules, once the business took off and TSR could afford color. His tenure there, which ended with a blow up concerning the termination of artists that removed both he and Dee from the company, ended up being the best thing for him as he went on to relative fame and fortune in comics, a place that his talent certainly spawned from.

I sat with Bill at a seaside café back on 2009 when ComicCon was still a monster, but not the headache it is today and we discussed his work in the field. Nothing too in-depth, and sadly he was unable to add his art to my Art Evolution project because it had been too many years since he’d done that kind of work. Still, he looked over all the other artists who had donated work and was most pleasantly surprised to see his old friend Jeff Dee in there. Obviously Dee was ‘the kid’ during his time in the burgeoning TSR ‘pit’, and at 19 there was no doubt that was the case, but Bill seemed to have a twinkle in his eye for Dee’s version of Lyssa in the project, and I was at least happy to somehow connect the two again, if even for a just a nostalgic moment.

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Art of the Genre: The Art of Sad Puppies

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

What is the Wizard's First Rule?

What is the Wizard’s First Rule?

Before I get into this, I want to first make it clear the John O’Neill goaded me into writing today. When I mentioned that I found myself siding with Larry Correia, and God forbid Vox Day, on the hot topic of the week [Hugo vs Puppies, which we recently summarized here], John baited me with this gem:

And I’m fascinated to hear that you take the Puppies side in this…. hard as I try, I’m not able to warp my head into their liberals-have-stolen-the-Hugos-year-after-year-with-their-lies-and-secrets way of thinking. I’ve been trying to find someone to do a Puppy-friendly take to counter my posts… you interested?

I told him, and I quote:

LOL, I’ve no real depth to anything I would write, just a gut feeling, and in the end I’d probably alienate the bulk of any fellow BG bloggers I’ve come to know over the years. Now obviously that doesn’t mean anything to me as my fans are gamers who don’t give a rat’s ass about the Hugo, but still, it could get very ugly, very fast.

And it’s true, I write Art of the Genre, not Words of the Genre, so I’ve really no dog in this fight, but as someone who is on the outside, and enjoys breaking down numbers, my opinion did provide some puppy love. So I started thinking a bit more on my view.

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Art of the Genre: The Top 10 Campaign Adventure Module Series of All Time

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Did Bloodstone make the list?

Did Bloodstone make the list?

I’m not really sure when I played my first adventure module, although I think it was at my first D&D Club meeting in 8th Grade. My only clear memory of actual adventure, while I sat in that library on Wednesday evenings after school, was trying, and failing, to enter the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. So, I assume that G1,2,3 [well, at least G1] was my first ever module, and I think that is interesting because it means my induction into gaming came from the adventures that define what campaign modules should be.

Having recently begun my own quest to create a campaign series of modules, I’ve decided to put my epic game of Risk with Ryan Harvey on hold, tell Kandi to hold all my calls, and pray that Goth Chick doesn’t show up unexpectedly wearing a corset and stockings that would most assuredly derail my Black Gate L.A. productivity for the day.

Why would I do this? Well, to create another Top 10 list of course! This time around, I’m not looking at the best modules of all time, but instead looking at the best/greatest campaign series of modules of all time. Yes, so without running my deadline further into the red, let me get started.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that this is my list, and therefore shouldn’t be judged as some kind of ‘true’ entity. My views are certainly colored by the experiences I’ve had with most of what you see below, and at one time in my life I’ve owned them all.

As for Bloodstone, I’ve played it as recently as 2007, but that said, I can neither confirm of deny the fact that it did or did not make the list. I do, however, hope you enjoy what I’ve created below and that it does bring back a few good memories to you all!

So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Art of the Genre: The Art of the Iconic Character

Monday, March 9th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Predating Paizo by a decade and a half...

Predating Paizo by a decade and a half…

By Webster’s definition, Iconic means ‘of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an icon’, which in essence reminds me of looking for the Wizard’s 1E D&D Protection from Evil spell only to be told to ‘see Cleric spell of the same name’, unless, of course, you know the word Icon means ‘a person who is very successful and admired’.

Now, having established the meaning, I intend to look at the evolution of ‘Iconic Characters’ [thus Iconic Character Classes] in the RPG setting.

It can be universally accepted that Paizo coined the phrase ‘Iconics’ with the release of its Pathfinder Adventure Paths [and their beta versions from Paizo’s Dungeon Magazine], but that is simple semantics.  In reality, the first true ‘Iconics’ were from the Wizard of the Coast release of D&D 3rd Edition, namely Krusk, Jozan Vadania, Tordek, etc.

These characters were really the first to take players through the game by repeating their exploits in both artwork and description.  Created by artists Todd Lockwood and Sam Wood, players from a whole new D20 generation were introduced to this new system and cut their teeth with the WotC Iconics.

However, I would contend that perhaps the definition of Iconic doesn’t have to depend on players of RPGs actually knowing the character’s name, but rather recognizing their image.  If that is the case, then the role of character class Iconics goes back much further.

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Art of the Genre: Kickstarter from Opening to Close

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

High Res CompressSarah Avery asked me recently if she could pick my brain on Kickstarters, and although once I replied she never took me up on the offer, I still enjoy talking about certain details of campaigns. Today, as I face the final leg of my current and 9th Kickstarter for AotG, I’m going to talk a bit about the ebb and flow of a campaign.

All Kickstarters share at least two universal facts: that you will have your greatest pledges at the campaign’s opening and closing, as well as a dead zone in the middle where pledges are hard to come by.

Today, The Folio is in its final 24 hours, a time period that is nearly as important as the first 24 hours after launch. It is the ‘now or never’ moment for backers, especially those you’ve managed to reach through the campaign but they hedged with the old ‘I’ll get back to it closer to the end.’ This thought process is two-fold, the first being that backers tend to have a better understanding of what they can spend closer to the date in which money will be withdrawn from their accounts, and second, that they often like to see what kind of success (and stretch goals) a project achieves before they jump in.

For me, The Folio is fully funded, which is the good news, and for those backers of the project, we are all pushing for that first stretch goal that will help create a second module in The Folio series. Thus, the final 24 hours become paramount to seeing just how ‘good’ the project really did over the course of its life.

However, most projects are made or fail in the first 24 hours after launch. It is in these first hours that the true barometer of just how many backers you have is seen. Most folks like to see at least 50% of your backing come in the first 24 hours, which can be a daunting sum. For The Folio, I hit 25% in the first day, and added another 5% on day two, so the road was much longer and harder than many successful projects you see out there. That said, 30% in two days is still a great way to begin and I had confidence that with those numbers we’d survive the lull, which we did.

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AD&D Figurines: Youth In a Box?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

DSC04791A few weeks back, a friend (quite unexpectedly) handed me the boxed set of AD&D miniatures pictured at right. I say “unexpectedly” because so far as I know, this friend had no idea that I ever played D&D. Nor were the figures intended for me; the note she enclosed made it clear the box was for my fourteen-year-old son, “just in case.”

My son was marginally interested, but not seriously so. I, however, was kind of downright sorta hypnotized.

Confession: I never gravitated to miniatures. My twin objections were, first, that the figures never, ever looked the way I pictured either my characters or those of my fellow gamers, and second, they were small enough that painting them to my own exacting standards was next to impossible.

I had Testor’s model paint, of course (most boys I knew in the late seventies and early eighties did), so accessing a mouth-watering color palette wasn’t the issue.

Application, however: yipes!

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Art of the Genre: A Call To My Readers!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

AotG needs its readers!

AotG needs its readers!

It’s the holiday season here at Black Gate and I wanted to thank all my devoted readers for my multiple ‘#1 Monthly Post’ plaques that hang on my office wall for the year.  Art of the Genre is a wonderful way to connect with you all and I truly hope we can continue to lead Black Gate content statistics in 2015.

I also wanted to ask for your continued support with a pledge to my current crowd-funding campaign for the AD&D 1E module, The Folio, that is currently a ‘Staff Pick’ over on Kickstarter.  I need your help to see this project reach its goals.  The content presents the feel of an old school Dragon/Dungeon Magazine while also having a fully removable cover like the TSR classic modules of old.

I’ve put in the work, gotten this thing done and ready to print, but I need my readers to make it a full reality.  In fact, I wanted to share some quotes about the project from my office mates here at Black Gate L.A. so you get a good understanding of the commitment already behind the project.

Editor-in-Chief John O’Neill: ‘It’s in shrink right?  Then yes, I’ll pledge, so I can have an excuse to never read it!’

BG Horror Correspondent Goth Chick: ‘I had to pledge for two copies because the coffee machine in the basement keeps leaking and I needed something to mop up the spills with.’

BG Movie Reviewer Ryan Harvey: ‘Honestly, I pledged so Scott would stop knocking on my door every day to ask if I’d done so yet.’

BG Secretary Kandi: ‘I was promised a starring role in the film adaptation if I pledged.’

BG Gaming Correspondent James Maliszewski: ‘If it isn’t Holmes, I don’t want it, and get out of my office!’

Seriously, with friends like these, I NEED MY READERS!  So give yourself a gaming gift this season and back The Folio and I promise you won’t be disappointed!    Just click on the banner below!

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