Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LARPing, Another look.

After last years disastrous experience with SOLAR (Southern Organization of Live Action Roleplaying) I was a bit hesitant to try another organization. Georgia rather oddly boasts a really large number of weekend event style LARP groups. I've even heard rumours of an actual "LARP Town" being built some where in north east Georgia. Why this is I'm not sure, but it's true none the less. My own guess is it's simply because while the state is mainly boring, it also has a very large number of suburban centers.. perfect for producing the sorts of people who might want to LARP.

Basically my experience with SOLAR was that, while the actual human beings who played it were all quite friendly, the game world itself was highly competitive and not very friendly to new players. In addition to having no sleep before going to the event last year, and then coming down with the flu after the event.. I came away with an all together poor impression of it.

However, after finding out about the wealth of other groups I decided I'd give another one a shot. Instead of going with another "Local" one like SOLAR, I'd go to the big mother of LARP's. NERO. Short for New England Roleplaying Organization, and the parent of SOLAR, and Alliance LARP on the west coast, both due to internal schisms. You can see a bit about the NERO organization on the west coast by watching the documentary "Monster Camp" if you have Netflix.

The documentary "Darkon" really didn't help as it showed just how out of touch with reality some people are. Two players featured in that Documentary actually ceased being friends in real life over a dispute their characters had had in game. That kind of thing is so not for me.

On the other hand films like "Role Models" didn't really help or hinder but rather reinforced my own feelings towards it. While the fun that the characters had in the movie was accurate, so were the powergamers such as Ken Jeong's King Argotron.

I went into it with no small amount of trepidation, I didn't want to invest my time or energy or money into another abysmal weekend like SOLAR. So I did serious research into the NERO game, I got in touch with people who played it and asked lots and lots of questions. It payed off.

The NERO experience was vastly different, and in my opinion superior to SOLAR in just about every way. The game mechanics were pretty much the same, but the level of interaction of the people who actually ran the event was far more in depth. The "Marshals" ran plenty of Modules for players both new and advanced which were fun and involving. They stressed the role-play aspect in addition to the combat aspect.

The people were friendly and the other players were helpful to us mere newbies. No one came and KO'ed us to get our pitiful stash of 5 silver that new players start out with like they did in SOLAR, and the Marshal's worked really hard to work in some modules that were the right level for new players. Every time we turned around some one was offering to help us out some how, when asked, they all stressed that new players are the life blood of the game and without them it would shrivel and waste away. Judging from the number of people who had similarly poor experiences with SOLAR I saw I wasn't alone in my estimation of them.

The only problem faced by the event was that it simply bucketed down rain all weekend. Leading to us playing in the cold and wet. Tornado risk was pretty high and we get being shepherded into the Tavern in case one touched down near by. A Cabin was nearly struck by lightning, not to mention the risk of Pneumonia. This of course was well outside of the NERO marshal's ability to control.

I plan to go back to another event at some point in the future. I really did have a good time. But it does admittedly take a good bit of getting past ones own self denying rationality to play. It's not something for those lacking in imagination. If you go into it and all you see is people in pillowcases bashing the crap out of each other with pipe foam.. then its probably not ever going to be your sort of thing. But if you can suspend your disbelief, and really move back into the realm of make believe you undoubtedly had as a child.. then it can be a great deal of fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Castle

This is an interesting little movie. It was pretty low budget, even by australian standards, but boy did they buy a lot with their money. The laughs in this film never really stop, and I routinely quote lines from it. And it has a pretty interesting cast. Beyond the main stars, it features a very early Eric Bana, and an Anthony Simcoe with no Makeup on.. since the only thing most people would have seen him play in the U.S. is D'Argo on Farscape that should be fairly unique to any fan of that series.

The basic premise is that years ago, Darrel Karrigan (Micheal Caton) bought some cheap land at the bottom of a runway, near some high voltage lines and built a house on it. Over time he built a successful car towing business and raised a family. He turned his home into his Castle. But as Airports are wont to do, it now needs to expand. That means the Karrigan's and their neighbors have to go.

Compulsory Acquisition. In the U.S. it's called Eminent Domain. Same Principle. Government comes in either for their own ends or to further the ends of a business in some way.. and decides they want your land and will buy it from you whether you want to sell or not. Usually they offer below market value. But they never recoup you for sentimental attachment to the dwelling.

After everyone on the block refuses, a mysterious man begins showing up and making veiled threats to the homeowners. Darrel's son pulls a shotgun on him, but their neighbor Faroouq threatens back. He's from Beirut you see... and deals with the threatening man by saying "You know friend.. I know friend.. you're friend beat me up.. my friend blow you to fucking sky!" After this Dale, decides to fight.

At first its all just petty stuff, but eventually he decides to fight legally. He's unfortunately not the brightest fellow in the world, and dosen't really have a lot of money. So he hires the pretty low level solicitor who represented his son on a B&E charge.. a charge that was upheld by the court and that son is still in Jail.

When he goes for the court case, he happens to strike up a conversation with a man who has come to see his son's first case. The man, Lawrence (Charles 'Bud' Tingwell) happens to be a retired QC, or Queens Council. A QC who also happens to be a Constitutional Law specialist. They begin a friendship, and he agrees to represent the neighborhood in case, using the Malbo and the Tasmanian Damn's cases to build their own. Finally settling on the term "Just terms" in Australian Constitution.

Long story short, they win their case, it becomes precedent in Australian law, the airport will have to expand in a different direction and everything works out fine. It's a nice story.

For whatever reason this movie has been pretty hard to come by on DVD. As far as I know in fact its not even actually available in Australia for purchase. The US version has also been edited some what. They didn't really change the slang, but they changed the names of foods, TV shows that the characters watch, and replaced words like "Cladding" with "Siding" in reference to the building material. They also replaced all the music. So if your a purist then you will either have to suffer through the Americanized version or do without. But to me, It didn't bother me, and I've seen both versions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

This is one of my favorite bands. Though I have a lot of favorite bands. So I should probably say that right now, ELP is in my top five favorite bands. I was raised in a house where the music of the 60's and 70's was constantly played. All the greats. From the Allman Brothers to the Warren Zevon. I've got a vast catalog of LP's from that time period.

So I'm gonna share a couple of my favorite ELP tracks.

Touch & Go ~

Lucky Man ~

Saturday, March 19, 2011

King's Dragon, Crown of Stars Volume 1 - Kate Elliot

Released in 1997, this tells a tale of political intrigue in a some what unique and oddly egalitarian setting. It's definitely odd at first, and rather incongruous. The writing is quite good, and its obvious the author put a lot of effort into her research of the real dark and middle ages before writing this first volume of what, like all fantasy series that came out in the 90's, was supposed to be a trilogy. Soon this ballooned into a shelf sagging behemoth of 7 volumes.

I'd never really planned to read this series, but My sister had read it and left the books behind when she moved out. And instead of bunging them off straight to the trade-a-book I thought I'd give them a try first. Needless to say, I don't normally feel my sister has much in the way of taste when it comes to.. well.. anything actually.. so I was a bit surprised by this. It's not a bad novel, and if the series stays at least on par with this it won't be a bad series. It seems to me however that far more time is spent on back door political dealings and pages of characters navel gazing than anyone actually doing anything.

I've seen this series compared sometimes with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, also occasionally with Tad Williams' Memory Sorrow and Thorn. I can some what see the resemblance, but they are all 3rd cousins at best. So far however, Elliot has stayed on the side of stark contrast closer to Williams rather than crossing to the dark side that is the various shades of grey approach that GRRM is so good at. This series has obvious good and evil characters. That isn't to say that sometime in the next 6 volumes their positions on various issues won't change.

The World building is top notch, but the modern gender ideas are sometimes very jarring when compared to what the actual time periods that inspired this series were like. That may be one of the books biggest flaws. This novel feels too much like a historical novel for me to really see it as a Fantasy..

Some of the characters are good, some aren't. Some are just bland, and those are the ones who seem to get a large amount of pages dedicated to them. I'm sure all the stuff they ramble on about, the history of the church, the history of the kingdoms.. It's all probably very important to the plot. But it tends to come in such boring segments it sometimes makes me feel as If I'm back in high school history class. In other words, this novel makes frequent use of the dreaded infodump. Sometimes its handled well.. some times less so.

Worse, the series is slow. Slow and Slow. You plod along, huffing and wheezing and groaning under the exertion of slogging through the navel gazing infodumps.. and suddenly you will hit an icy patch and skid for 3 or 4 chapters and feel exhilarated and think.. Finally, it's going to get started. But then you hit a gravel patch and slow down again and regain control, and then slow down some more as you come to a pedestrian crossing. The book didn't begin to really pick up plot wise until there were less than 100 pages left. It's definitely all set up. But it left me feeling rather tepid towards the rest of the series. If the rest are like the last 100 pages of this one, then it will be a snap to finish. If they are on the same format as this book with the first 500 pages being set up for very little reveal.. it will be a snoozefest. I suppose I'll see when I get to reading the second book. I hope it stays moving at a good clip, as I'd really like to like this series.

Though not in the least the authors fault, the cover art on this series is, in a word, horrible. It's not even just bland like a Darrel K. Sweet cover.. It's just downright bad. The UK Editions, and Especially the French Editions.. have vastly superior cover art.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rotfuss

Ok so I didn't make it through this volume as quickly as I did "The Name of the Wind". This isn't a bad book.. but its definitely suffering from "Middle chapter-itus" where the first book is to hook you so its got all the build up.. the second book's job is to get you some place.. to position you for the ending which will close up that setup stuff during the third book.

The other thing this book does that some what disappoints me is that the experiences that Kvothe is now sharing with the reader are perhaps leaking in to the second day's story and should have been included in the first days story.. what else is he omitting or choosing not to say? It's casting doubt on his whole story for me. It's difficult to measure how I feel about this.. I've seen lots of other reviews remark on Kvothe being an "Unreliable narrator" but I'd never really seen any indication of that in Name of the Wind. But its there in good quantity in Wise Man's Fear.

Furthermore the book is meandering, it uses up a lot of pages to not really tell us a whole lot.. the first half of the book is a lot more entertaining than the second half.. which basically contains a whole lot of Sex. Brandon Sanderson felt it was sufficient enough in quantity to include a disclaimer on his review of the book. I probably would do the same. Name of the Wind was a PG rated romp comparable to Dragonbone Chair. But Wise Mans's fear is pushing a PG13 rating.. it dosen't show you the sex, but its there going on behind the words.. sort implied like in TV sitcoms. Screen goes dark, next scene, two characters in bed giggling over something. that sort of thing. While part of this is important, it mostly just winds up feeling gratuitous.

And considering the main venue for fantasy novels.. I'm not sure if having your main character get laid something close to 50 times in one novel is a selling point or a detractor. I assume though since its #1 NYT bestseller.. it just proves.. sex sells.

Its really difficult to talk about the book without giving away loads of spoilers, and since this book just came out, rather than having had several years to be out.. I'm more cautious of spoilers with it.

I'm really anxious to read the last volume, whenever it manages to get released. So he's not lost me entirely. However, I am uncertain whether I would continue reading Rothfuss unless he stayed with at least the same world that these stories are set in. That was perhaps my only real complaint with Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Was that when the book ended, the door to Osten Ard closed. And while I've enjoyed some of his other short works, I've been hesitant to jump into either Otherland, and some what anxious to get into Shadowmarch now that its complete.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Elfish Gene - A Second look.

Alright, I'll admit it, I don't lie when I say that this blog is full of Melodrama and Hyperbole. I've never lied about that. I'm very apt to shoot off a post and then have to walk it back. This is one of those situations. I allowed my anger at the forward of the book to colour my opinion of the entire book. And since the author was nice enough to stop by and address some of the problems I'd had with his book, I felt the least I could do was to sit down and re-read it once I'd calmed down.

I did so.

I'm still not a fan.

This time, I ignored the forward, it improved the work as a whole. I didn't find the rest of the book nearly as insulting. I also kept it in mind that this was just one man's story and was in fact, based on a true story. Where as at first, my imagination ran wild and I couldn't think of it as anything but characters. I found his descriptions of Coventry especially well done, likening the whole place to a half empty car park. That was sort of my opinion of every one of those miserable 50's "Urban center" cities I've every visited in the UK. I find them endlessly depressing in a way that I find quaint villages and ruins inspiring and uplifting. When I imagine the world that Winston Smith lived in, it looks a lot like Harlow. So this brings me to the next topic.

I can say, without doubt, even with all of Young Mark's problems. I'd have loved to have had some one like that to play D&D with. Most of the people I've managed to play with either view it with such an eye towards Irony they are constantly cracking jokes.. or are so bored they keep wandering away from the table. That being said I also feel he was pretty shabbily treated just because he was enthusiastic about something. I can identify with that situation. It's something I've dealt with a lot. Maybe that was also part of my anger at the book. It cut too close to home.

The present Mark's semi vilification of past Mark is rather odd. I regret having done or not having done lots of stuff, and granted I'm only 26, I've had less time to regret them than the Author. But I don't feel bad about having missed out on being promiscuous in school, I don't regret having stayed out of trouble by sitting at home and reading a novel instead of out shooting at stop signs with a shotgun or wasting my Friday evenings sitting on the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of McDonald's. As you can plainly see, The author's environment was very different from mine.

The concept of Loitering, Vandalism, and promiscuity is basically synonymous with having a social life in my neck of the woods. It's either do that, or you aren't being social. I chose not to be, because the alternative offended my morals. The Author had a some what greater availability of past times to take part in, and chose one of the few that wasn't acceptable.

I'm sorry Young Mark, that you missed out on that liverpuddlian liplocking during your trip to Wales. I'll admit I'd have done the same thing, so I won't be bothering any arm chair psychoanalysis. I'd have likely been so busy doing rubbings of bronzes to ever pay any attention a mere girl anyway. Of course, I once had a girl straight up proposition me for sex in the bathroom at work, and turned her down cause I'd "Already been on my break". I don't have a famous track record with women in other words. It's something I can sympathize with, but that I also don't really care about enough to worry about. To others, missing an opportunity like that might be the closest thing to an 8th deadly sin as they can imagine.

The lines are very clearly drawn in my world, I see myself as having been a natural ally of Young Mark, in his choices of wearing a cape and listening to Heavy metal (I don't understand whats bad about Heavy metal though?) I don't really have any use for Punk, I get angry at people for making stupid choices, I don't get angry at amorphous concepts such as "Society"... Maybe its the inherit irony of the genre. You are in a band which writes songs vilifying society, all the while taking advantage of the safety and security you are afforded by living in a society in the first place.. I guess I just don't get it. I can't fathom taping over Bowie though.. So I still find myself agreeing with quite a few of the "characters" which Young Mark left behind him as his likes and dislikes changed.

I also was left very curious by the number of his acquaintances who considered themselves fascists or Nazis. That's probably cultural here.. where I come from those sorts attend cross-Lightings (burnings) on Friday nights and don't spend much time reading (unless its the turner diaries) let alone playing Dungeons and Dragons. I'll admit to being a rather conservative person myself, I don't like it when power lines get the right of way over 150 year old Oak Trees. I dislike it when one of the many small granite homes in the area is demolished to put in another shopping mall. I dislike when History and tradition is thrown away in the name of "Progress". I dislike it when stuff changes. I can't remember the last time I ever re-arranged furniture in my house.

I still feel there are quite a few bits peppered throughout the book which seem mainly to denigrate, I realize though that these maybe I took out of context looking for something to be angry about. The author is not alone in this however. The Irrational part of me gets mad at Bill Bryson on occasion when I read about him going into yet another Curry Shop or Spaghetti restaurant in "Notes from a Small Island" in lieu of a Chippy or something more quintessentially British*. Something he didn't do in "Neither Here nor there", "A Sunburned Country", "The Lost Continent", or "I'm a Stranger Here Myself". But the Rational Part realizes that it's just because he lives in a country I find endlessly fascinating and want to experience more deeply. To me, it's traditional, to him it's mundane.

So, while I'm not nearly as angry about the book as I was. I still cannot say I'm really a fan of this particular work. I may have to change my position on his Fiction. I've not made up my mind yet.

So, What do you think, Did I give it a fair enough shake? Did I tone down the Vitriol and hatred enough to get a better grasp on the book?

I'm going to go and read Legacy of the Drow now.

*I realize that Chicken Tikka Masala was voted the #1 food in Britain some years back, I can respect that, It's delicious, But its not and never will be British cuisine as far as I'm concerned. I'll take that opinion to the grave with me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Elfish Gene - Insufferable and Insulting

Having come across this some time ago on a spotlight table at Barnes & Nobel, around about the time that the new Red Box D&D came out.. I can say without a doubt now that it's placement there was a member of staffs idea of a Joke. The Joke however, wasn't funny.

I didn't buy it right away, I didn't have the money. But I was looking for some more novels which fall within the genre known as "Lad Lit".. I'm a big Nick Hornby fan.. and Mark Barrowcliffe's name just kept popping up. I'm glad I didn't buy it then.. I had way more fun with the Red Box.. Now that I've read it though, I can say this book is absolutely not worth the money, the effort that went into it, or the time I wasted reading it. I certainly will not be reading any of his other books.

It's nothing but condescension aimed at people who read Fantasy, Play D&D and generally don't choose to fit into societies grand cog layout. The author seems to feel that one should endeavor to "Get better" from your "Sickness" that is being a fan of Fantasy.

I came upon this miserable tome, after having finished off all of Nick Hornby's books I could lay my hands on. Barrowcliffe is frequently compared to Hornby, and their writing styles are similar. But where as Hornby tends to not cast aspersions on those with obsessions.. and in fact the bulk of his characters do. Music in High Fidelity, Skateboarding in SLAM and football in Fevre Pitch, he dosen't lash out at people who happen to have other interests. Barrowcliffe however dosen't hide the fact that he is ashamed of his youth. He feels it's best to ignore and move on, and never to mention it in polite company except to make fun of all those other "nerds" who still play it or attempt to spend a few hours away from their boring and miserable lives filled with mortgages, ill health and car payments. That's unacceptable to Barrowcliffe, he feels that if you do that then you have something wrong with you.

Tommorow, I'm going to return this volume to Barnes & Noble. Then I'm going to use the money to buy some R.A. Salvatore just to spite this guy.

If you want a good book about growing up as a fan of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and gaming, Read Ethan Gilsdorf's "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks" and give your money to some one who dosen't hate you just because of your choice of past times.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss.

This was a very exciting read, I finished the bulky nearly 700 page tome in two long marathon sessions and even nature seemed on my side to help me finish by throwing a temper tantrum of a rainstorm to keep me inside when I had planned to go out.

Patrick Rothfuss has created, what I feel, is the best Fantasy novel I've read since Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Unlike last years failed attempt at reading the Blade Itself, which I found to be lacking some what and undeserved of all the hype.. I really can't recommend The Name of the Wind enough. And if the whole series is as good as the first volume, which I will soon find out as I'm just about to crack the cover on Wise Man's Fear It may take it's place in my top 5 fantasy novels ever.

It's also one I'm glad that I chose to read in spite of my misgivings. After having seen the book and author endlessly listed amongst the throng of new grim & gritty authors I'd begun to fear this would simply be yet another example of that. I'm really glad that those fears were unfounded, and I'm really looking forward to what else happpens in this series. I hope the wait will not be too long for the third novel in the series.

I've seen people complain that Rothfuss's character is unbelievable.. I don't find that. They trot out the old "Mary Sue" label.. Kvothe is not any more a mary sue than Hermoine Grainger is. He's a deep character, shows remorse for his inaction in an earlier time of crisis when he should have helped some one. All in all he's a pretty well rounded human being who buckles down to get what he wants instead of moaning or trying to manipulate others.

His world is full of honest people, who though they all know they can't help everyone, will show compassion and sometimes try and help those they can. Kvothe is endlessly aided by lucky strokes from well meaning people. And not above getting his hands dirty scrubbing pots or cleaning a hearth for a meal if he has too. It's very refreshing to see this, to me, reflection of the real world, revealed in this book rather than yet another bleak and grimy world were people would as soon kill you as look at you. Though I realize it's not fair to compare the situations, since Kvothe's world seems to be one of, if not plenty, at least sustainability, and so that may go some what to engender the more comradely feelings people show him.

In a way, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to have ever mentioned this. But since I'm currently also reading the Harry Potter series for the first time.. some similarities are striking to me. The Name of the Wind is sort of an alternate universe Harry Potter, where instead of getting by on his famous name earned for surviving his parents being killed, Kvothe survives and then has to make his own name. He seems to have the cheerfulness of Ron Weasley (and the colouring) and the can do with enough elbow grease attitude of Hermoine Grainger. Even when being balked by Master Hemme (his own version of Snape) or verbally lacerated by Ambrose (a Draco Malfoy turned up to a frighteningly obnoxious 11) he dosen't let any of it stop him. These comparisons may not be fare, and I'm sure Mr. Rothfuss didn't intend them.. but at this exact time in space, I find them especially striking.

It's difficult to say much else about the book without giving something away, and that would certainly cheapen the experience some what for some one who hasn't yet read it. And at this point my copy of Wise Man's fear is calling, and I'm anxious to oblige it.

So, to sum up, if you've not read this yet, Please consider doing so.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Making Headway on the Hybroean Apocrypha.

So after an unfortunate shutdown of a couple of months, I've gotten back to work winnowing away my pile of Conan Pastiches. They are definitely not something one should take in large doses, as they are repetitive and mind-numbing for the most part.

It was a project that started out with all the best intentions, but it just quickly became a project in which I was having to force myself to slog through books which, at best Dull and at best just plain Bad. They all tend to reek of the feeling that if they had just been about 100 pages shorter they likely would all be thought better of to some extent.. and it's a shame that Tor saw the need to force the 290 - 310 page format onto the authors.

Speaking of repetitive and mind-numbing, I'm Right now working on Steve Perry's Conan the Fearless.. which oddly enough.. Isn't that bad... at least when compared to his later (though chronologically earlier) works that I've already read.

It's still not going to be as easy as I thought it was going to be when I started out. It's turned into another case of me hearing the warnings and ignoring them and rushing into madness to see for myself. That's really something I've got to work hard to curtail in future.

So if you have any interest, the first couple of installments are currently up with more to follow in the days ahead.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ratings and books.

First things first, I refuse to use the word "Censor", its a loaded word that basically is an automatic death sentence for any sort of intelligent conversation. It will not be uttered in this conversation again.

I had read a forum thread about this concept, of Rating books, based on content, and as was predictable, the forum in question was 100% against the idea.. but the thread originator also used the C-Word.. so it was a forgone conclusion.

On the other hand, I'm not so quick to dismiss the idea of book publishers self rating their books. And I'll use as an example, that if you go into a Barnes & Noble, in the Fantasy & Science Fiction section.. you will find the works of Laurel K. Hamilton next to Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin, Micheal Moorcock and Richard Morgan, Shelved to the side of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, And Joe Abercrombie and R.Scott Bakker creeping decidedly close to Piers Anthony and Terry brooks.

None of these books, some of them with extremely adult themes, comes with any sort of warning at all what you will find contained in them. And before anyone accuse me of it, I'm certainly not calling for the Author to tone down their writing. But I do feel that the Publisher, being the one in the best positional to know.. might put some sort of Age Range on the books. Most stores of course don't have an "Adult's Only" section.. so moving stuff like Bakker and Morgan and Hamilton to a different section isn't really an option.. You could of course move the more kid and teen friendly books to the Young Adult section.. but then that would likely cut off a lot of the Adult purchases of them.

I know in the past that Barnes & Noble has considered instituting some form of "In store" rating system.. but that would require them to actually read every book they stock.. when in reality they would probably issue ratings based on the Publishers blurb.. which would still result in Morgan's gaping sphincters getting shelved next to Aslan the Jesus Allegory Lion.

Not wanting this to turn into a 'But think of the Children' diatribe.. I will be bluntly honest about it.. I just want to know what I'm buying before I spend money on it.. I realize I can always return a book to the store if I'm unhappy with it.. But I'd rather just avoid it in the first place. I think it is this feeling more than anything that has made me so reticent to buy into the hype about new authors. I got burned a few times, and now feel as if the whole section of the store is something of a Minefield, apt to explode a welter of gore on me at any moment. The funny story is, I bought the Steel Remains because it was from Del Rey, purveyers of milquetoast fantasy. But boy oh boy was I surprised, and not in a "Oh what a lovely birthday party I had no idea about" but more in a " what the hell am I reading, get this crap away from me" sort of way..

Even without a rating system this more or less used to be easy to figure out, if it had a cover done by say, Darrell K. Sweet you knew it would more or less be OK to give to a younger person. Where as if it was cover art by Frazetta or Vellajo you knew it was more for older teens. Now though, everyone is in a race to see just how blurry and dark they can make their cover art, it's all sort of blurring together in a very dark (if far more attractive) style of art.

I'm not asking for a whole lot, meerly some sort of indicator of what might be in the book I'm about to buy. TV shows do that, Movies do that, Albums do that. They tell me up front what sort of entertainment it is I'm about to buy. But Books, could basically contain anything, And I really never want to make the mistake I made with The Steel Remains again.

A Map like thing, Mach 2

I've updated with some more examples, trying to diversify the authors a bit more, I'm still trying to work in exactly where i feel David Gemmel should go but I'm not quite sure yet.. I'm also going to be trying to work in people like Patricia Mckillip and a couple of divergences in order to accommodate adding writers such as Charles Saunders who basically started an entire sub genre of a sub genre..

I'm also going to be adding Chambers, Machen and Beirce to the top row.. Anyway, feedback is appreciated and will help improve the final product.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The works of Keith Taylor.

I first got interested in his work because of his co-authoring several of the Cormac Mac Art pastiches with Andrew J. Offutt. So over the past few years I've been purchasing the various volumes of Keith Taylor's two fantasy series, Bard and the Dannans.. well I've got them all.. that is to say all but one.. and it's left me wondering just why it's so expensive.

The book in question is Bard V, Felimid's homecoming. It typically sells for about 75$.. needless to say, even if this were Tolkien I'd not shell out 3/4ths of a Benjamin Franklin for a paperback.. So the question is why is it so expensive in the first place? I'm wondering if the fact most of the auctions and Amazon sales originate in Australia and the United Kingdom indicate that it wasn't ever released in the US? That would explain why none of the auctions originate here.. but it would not really alleviate why it's such an expensive volume. His work "Lances of Negesdul" though less expensive than Bard 5, is still routinely sold for 50$.. I find it odd that, and no offense to Mr. Taylor, a relatively unknown author's works would command such high prices.

It also begs the obvious question that if the book wasn't released in the US, why not? The Bard books seem to have sold fairly well since I come across them quite regularly in my used book store trolling. I've found the first 4 frequently, and generally come across at least 1 or 2 of the Dannans books on a semi-regular basis.

But this brought me to another thought, What happened to Mr. Taylor, I know he wrote several, very good, articles for the Cimmerian, but It seemed like he had a very promising run ahead of him. Is it just a case of an author who was used to writing relatively short works, failing to make the jump to the "Fat Fantasy" that got started in the early 90s? Either way it's a shame, as I would have liked to have seen more from him.

It's perhaps not a terribly important quandary.. certainly not one the media will be investigating any time soon.. but it has been bothering me. I suppose though I'll just have to try and hunt it down the next time I manage to get to the UK.. since the ludicrous prices it sells for online, hoping that it hasn't seeped all the way down to the humble used paperback stores... For now though my curiosity towards both Lances and Bard 5 will have to remain unfulfilled, and I can hope that maybe, one day, their will be a reprint of these.. Certainly between the 5 Bard books there would be more than enough material to produce a rather attractive Omnibus volume.. But like my hope for a Thongor omnibus.. or more Brak stories.. I suppose it won't happen.

Some of Karl Edward Wagner's Kane paperbacks are much the same, but they were published in the US, multiple times even, and they still tend to cost upwards of 15$ or more per book.. But nothing like Bard V. But beyond these two authors.. and maybe a few Robert E. Howard collections. Which for the most part if you don't want to pay for, the stories can be had in another less expensive collection.. though there are a few posthumous collaborations in the BAEN run from the 90's which you can't get anywhere else.. Beyond those however I've never really had any problem getting any 60's, 70's or 80's paperbacks at prices I was content to pay.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's only a Model

Ok, now, before any one jumps me for having put something in the wrong place.. this is ONLY A PROTOTYPE.. and when I get access to a proper Computer again, rather than my netbook.. I will undertake to make it a bit fancier.

So here goes, this is my first draft of my fantasy Road Map... I intend eventually, to have it laid out something akin to the London Underground map, in order to make relationships more complex, I'm also looking for more examples to go in my "Unheroic" fantasy category, apart from Steerpike and Tanith lee's birthgrave.. which may actually count as Science Fantasy.. I'm not sure what else to put there.

Were on the road to rock.

The First, Kick Axe is one of those 80's bands which you've undoubtedly heard their music but probably have no idea who they were. I can guarantee you've heard their music if you've ever watched the 1986 film, "Transformers: The Movie", They did the bulk of the music under a pseudonym of Spectre General. They covered another mostly forgotten 80's hair metal band, King Kobra's song Hunger in that film as well.

Even still, while I can't say I'm a huge fan of King Kobra, they were alright and had a few decent songs.. they alas went totally tango uniform when their singer, Mark Free, decided he wanted to become Marci Free instead.

Kick Axe on the other hand, still sometimes tours the Canadian rock circuits.