The Games of Gen Con 2019

Saturday, August 17th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

WarChickenIslandThe summer conventions are winding down, as school starts back up. I have previously mentioned games I discovered at Origins Game Fair earlier this summer, and our intrepid leader John O’Neill has hinted at some of his own exploits in the wilds of Gen Con. John and I usually run into each other when we’re both at the same convention, but Gen Con is massive enough that it’s no surprise our ships didn’t cross paths, particularly since I’m usually busy enough moving through the exhibit hall and participating in demo games that I rarely make it these days to many of the Writer’s Symposium activities … held in an entirely different hotel, as Gen Con has spread tendrils, Cthulhu-like, throughout all of downtown Indianapolis.

This year I’d like to begin my discussion of Gen Con gaming discoveries on the weird end of the spectrum, with War for Chicken Island. This successful Kickstarter funded with over $160,000 and is slated for an October 2019 release. They had a prototype at the Draco Studios booth, but weren’t running complete demos, so I can’t speak to the game play. But this is a game where you fight for control of an island of chickens, using miniatures of crazy battle-ready chickens. I don’t need a full demo to know that I’m interested.

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Lost in the Halls at Gen Con 2019

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I’m here on site at Gen Con for the first time in…. wow, I don’t even remember. Fifteen years, at least. Last time I visited Gen Con it was in Milwaukee, if that’s any clue. It now fills (and substantially overfills) the spacious halls of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, where tens of thousands of gamers meet friends, play games, try out new games, play the legendary NASCRAG tournament, and wander through the jaw-dropping Exhibit Hall.

I’m here for the first time in over a decade because I was invited to speak at the Writers Symposium, on topics like Submitting Short Fiction, What Happens to a Story After You Submit it, and Does Advertising Work? I’ve been very impressed at how well organized the Symposium is — it’s run like an excellent mini-convention just for writers, inside a much larger enterprise. And it’s attracted some top-notch speakers, including Howard Andrew Jones, Bradley P. Beaulieu — whose talk on Tension on Every Page was really terrific — the charming Anna Smith Spark, Black Gate blogger Clarence Young, writer and interviewer Seth Lindberg, Tor.com editor Diana Pho, and many, many others.

Of course, we’re here in the name of games, and games new and old were everywhere. The enormous Exhibit Hall (pictured above) was filled with hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of game companies showing off their wares. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time in the Hall as I wanted — and you could spend weeks in there, believe me — but I did find countless treasures, many in the generously stocked Goodman Games booth at the far end. Over the next few weeks I’ll share the details here. But in the meantime, I have to run to my next panel, Reviews and Reviewers: How to Find Them, How to Keep Them. Wish me luck!


Goth Chick News: Feeling at Home at the Oddities and Curiosities Expo

Thursday, August 1st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

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We here at Goth Chick News have the pleasure of covering several trade shows annually, dealing with a variety of topics on and near the horror industry. Many of these concern haunters both professional and amateur who pour their money and talent into one month a year when the U.S. embraces all things scary.

But as the band Ministry told us in 1986, for some every day is Halloween, and in 2018 a show came through Chicago which catered to this crowd in particular. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend its premier in the Windy City but corrected that in late July when the Oddities and Curiosities Expo came back through town, drawing together precisely what its name implied; two show-floor levels of artists specializing in the odd and curious.

Targeted toward “the lovers of the strange and unusual,” the O&CE describes itself as…

The first and Original Traveling Oddities event. We have expanded from 2 cities in 2017 to 8 cities in 2018 and now for 2019 we have 16 cities! We want to support local/national vendors, dealers and small businesses by giving them a place to sell and feel welcome. We have vendors on all spectrums of weird, creepy and unusual. Our goal is to bring like-minded people together and have events that people truly enjoy.

Organizers Tony and Michelle have partnered with Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a taxidermy school, suspension artists (read, people hanging from their piercings) and over a hundred vendors and craftspeople to put on an exposition which more than lives up to its name.

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The Games of Origins Game Fair

Monday, July 29th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Shadowrun Sixth World Box-smallMy first science fiction convention was 2001’s Eeriecon III, in Niagara Falls, NY. This was a literary convention, where almost all of my time was spent lapping up the wisdom of authors and scientists, discussing worldbuilding, sociology, magical systems, story structure and narrative, and all manner of other things of interest to writers, both old pros and aspiring novices.

These days, I make less of those literary conventions, and have migrated more into gaming conventions with the family. Less intellectual stimulation, perhaps, but it’s a much more active environment, with more to do. And though the intellectual discussions are perhaps not as rigorous (rule lawyering aside), there is no shortage of mental stimulation … let alone sensory stimulation … at these gaming conventions.

The most recent of these gaming conventions I attended was the mid-June Origins Game Fair, in Columbus, OH. This was my second year making that convention, and I’ve got to say that I somewhat prefer it to the more overwhelming GenCon. There is a bit less spectacle, a bit less overt consumption (you can, for example, actually walk through the exhibit room without colliding into people … usually), and more of an emphasis on just playing fun games.

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Convention Report: Robert E. Howard Days 2019

Thursday, July 4th, 2019 | Posted by James McGlothlin

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Robert E. Howard (1906–1936) is most famously known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian. But he was a very prolific pulp writer of various genres who created several other memorable characters including Solomon Kane and Kull, gracing the pages of Weird Tales and various other pulp magazines of the 1920s and 30s.

To celebrate the importance of this writer, Robert E. Howard Days exists as an annual event (first weekend of every June) that brings together Robert E. Howard (REH) fans and scholars to celebrate the life of this great pulp writer. This event takes place every year in the small town of Cross Plains, Texas, the hometown of REH. The primary locus of events takes place at the Robert E. Howard Museum, which was actually the home of REH and his parents, and the place where most of his greatest stories were written.

After years of planning to attend Howard Days, I finally bit the bullet and made the road trip to Cross Plains (from Minnesota!) After arriving in Abilene late Wednesday, I got up early Thursday morning in order to drive to Brownwood (30 minutes or so south of Cross Plains) to go to Greenleaf Cemetery where REH’s grave resides.

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Goth Chick News: At the Midwest Haunters Convention

Thursday, June 27th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

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For the past 30 years, TransWorld Tradeshows LLC has hosted the Haunted Attractions Association show (HAA) where professional haunt content providers come together to show off their new offerings. Though 2019 actuals aren’t yet available, an estimated 9,000 guests from around the world piled into the St. Louis America’s Center, which has hosted the HAA for the past 10 years.  The tradeshow floor space itself has tripled since the show moved to St. Louis from Chicago in 2009, which is understandable when you think about Halloween now being a $9 billion industry, with most of that money being made in the month of October.

And though the HAA is the largest event of its kind, it requires professional credentials to attend; credentials Black Gate’s ‘big cheese’ John O. is more than happy to give us, ensuring that for two days every February, BG photog Chris Z. and I will be out of the office, enabling the ‘upstairs staff’ to smoke cigars indoors and hold their annual strip D&D game.

Don’t ask.

However, this has left Chicago bereft of a significant haunt-industry trade show. TransWorld’s other big event, the Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC) which unlike the HAA is open to the public, is a show we’ve talked about covering for years, but it was held in Columbus, OH. That meant signing up to a 12-hour round trip car journey, which in and of itself isn’t horrible, until we considered the sort of overnight accommodations our Black Gate expense account would allow us… in Columbus, OH. While we were considering the viability of sleeping in the car, Transworld made the incredibly convenient decision to move the MHC to a Chicago suburb.

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Goth Chick News: The Time We Went on the Mother of all Haunted House Bus Tours

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

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Though there is no denying that the opportunity to talk to you about my favorite genre each week is in general the most awesome job ever, there are certain Goth Chick News situations which transcend awesomeness into full-on unbelievable. Just such a situation occurred last week when Black Gate photog Chris Z and I were invited to join the Midwest Haunters Convention’s pre-convention, haunted house bus tour.

The MHC, which unlike the HAA is open to the public, is a show we’ve talked about covering for years, but until 2019 it had been held in Columbus, OH. That meant signing up to a 12-hour round trip car journey, which in and of itself isn’t horrible, until we considered the sort of overnight accommodations our Black Gate expense account would allow us… in Columbus, OH. While we were considering the viability of sleeping in the car, the show organizers, Transworld, made the incredibly convenient decision to move the MHC to a Chicago suburb.

Insert fan-girl squee here.

In advance of the show, MCH organized a Haunted House Bus Tour consisting of a 13-hour odyssey to visit four of the top, professional haunts in Chicagoland. These attractions would be fully staffed and operational (on a Thursday in June by the way) for the enjoyment of the guests who would experience each of them twice; once as visitors do during “the season” in October, and once with the lights turned on and all the magic revealed.

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NASCRAG: 40 Years at Gen Con

Sunday, May 5th, 2019 | Posted by David Mitchard

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If you’ve ever been to Gen Con, you know it can be an overwhelming experience. More than 50,000 people surge through the halls of the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, attending thousands of individual events, often at the tops of their lungs. It’s a gathering that’s grown exponentially from its humble roots as a wargaming get together in the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva to become the premiere game convention in North America.

Not much remains of the early Gen Con these days. Its heart is the same as always, of course. Gamers who want to spend time with other gamers. A community of folks who think a little differently than the mainstream. But the particulars have evolved over the years. In addition to the wargames and board games and roleplaying games, there are video games, cosplay, collectible card games and so much more. And gamers aren’t outcasts these days. The crowd is a mix of races and sexes and orientations that the gamers of the 70’s could not have imagined. Good signs of a healthy and still developing hobby. But if you look very carefully, amidst all the hub-bub and growth, you can still find a few things that have endured.

One of those enduring things is NASCRAG; the National Association of Crazed Gamers. NASCRAG is a gaming group that has been putting on RPG tournaments at Gen Con since 1980. Think about it; 2019 will be our 40th consecutive Gen Con.

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Support Songs of Giants: The Poetry of Pulp, Illustrated by Mark Wheatley

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Giants The Poetry of Pulp banner

I spent this weekend at the Windy City Pulp & Paper Show and, as usual, I met a lot of great folks and discovered plenty of fabulous books and artwork. One of my most intriguing discoveries came when Christopher Paul Carey introduced me to Mark Wheatley, the renowned comic writer and artist behind Mars, Breathtaker, and Comico’s Jonny Quest. Mark had launched a Kickstarter for an ambitious project titled Songs of Giants: The Poetry of Pulp, an illustrated book featuring some of the greatest pulp writers of all time. Here’s what Mark told me about it.

It’s really gratifying to see how poetry in general is popular these days. When we launched Songs of Giants about a month ago on Kickstarter we had no expectation that the Poetry of Pulp would be so popular. But we are now at 200% of our goal. This means that everyone is getting great extras with stretch goals and we expect to add a few more before we’re done. My personal favorites are the audiobook and the signed limited-edition prints. And I’m very much looking forward to adding the three portrait set of our masters of Pulp poetry, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H. P. Lovecraft.

Having Jack McDevitt, one of our very best current writers of science fiction, write the introduction to Songs of Giants is a huge personal perk for me. I have loved Jack’s books for many years. And he actually evokes that sense of wonder that was so prevalent in the Pulps in his own writing today. Ultimately though it’s obvious from his introduction that he truly understands pulp and poetry and I think he gives us some good insights.

Songs of Giants is a terrific project, and the unlocked stretch goals already include a complete audio book, exclusive bookmark, a Robert E. Howard music video, multiple signed art prints, and much more. It wraps up in three days, but there’s still time to get on board. Here’s a closer look at that gorgeous cover art.

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Total Pulp Victory: A Report from Windy City Pulp & Paper 2019

Sunday, April 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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A few of the $1 paperbacks I brought home from Windy City

I returned from the 2019 Windy City Pulp and Paperback Show a few hours ago, weary and happy. It was another fabulous convention, and once again it proved to be the undisputed best show in Chicagoland for those who love vintage books and magazines.

This was the 19th annual convention. It was founded in 2001 by Doug Ellis, and I’ve been attending ever since Howard Andrew Jones and John C. Hocking made the long trip to the 7th Windy City way back in 2007. This year I spent most of the show with friends, including BG bloggers Bob Byrne, Rich Horton, and Steven Silver, as well as local booksellers Arin Komins and Rich Warren, who had a booth and a few spare chairs and were kind enough to let us hang out. There was lots of great food and terrific conversation, and we toasted absent friends, including Howard Andrew Jones, Jason M. Waltz, Barbara Barrett, and especially bookseller and all-around great soul Dave Willoughby, who passed away last year. Dave personified the friendly and welcoming nature of Windy City better than anyone else, I think, and he was profoundly missed.

I made numerous great purchases at the show, including an assortment of Arkham House hardcovers from Doug, some marvelous books from the Glenn Lord estate (purchased from his widow, Lou Ann), a couple of recent Dark Adventure Radio Theater releases from Greg Ketter, a box of vintage SF digests in great condition — and some really wonderful treasures at the auction, including a copy of the 1990 Donald Grant illustrated edition of Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness, several stacks of pulps, and an absolutely magnificent set of 1927 Weird Tales, bound in two volumes.

But as usual, most of what I took home with me was paperbacks. Lots of paperbacks. I found a few that I was willing to pay a premium for, including some Clark Ashton Smith collections and horror anthologies, but the vast majority of them — well over 200 in total — were less than $1 each, including all those I spread out on my kitchen floor to photograph when I got home (see above).

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