Hot damn I’ve been itching to get my hands on Anna Smith-Spark’s third book The House of Sacrifice since I fell in love with Marith and Thalia in The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying. This swirling epic of broken characters and bloodshed, of healing and ruin, of dragons and conquest and battle told in Smith Spark’s truly unique voice just grabs you by the throat and drags you in.
To help support Anna’s release, we’re running a big ol’ giveaway. Get on board and get involved and help us kick this book off into space.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself. You're an author and reviewer of Lovecraft fiction on Tor's website, correct?
I’m the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series, Winter Tide and Deep Roots. I also write short stories, some Lovecraftian and others… really not. My latest, “The Word of Flesh and Soul,” is about a woman trying to get a graduate degree in the Language That Drives Men Mad, dealing with departmental politics and body horror. It’s up on Tor.com, which is where most of my stuff ends up lately.
The Lovecraft Reread is a collaboration with Anne M. Pillsworth, who writes Lovecraftian YA. We started with Lovecraft’s own stories, and have expanded to cover weird fiction from the 1890s through about last week. Following Jo Walton’s distinction, a review analyses what people might like or dislike about a story, while a reread is more about personal reactions. So sometimes we’re doing something that looks suspiciously like a review, and sometimes my personal reaction is a mini-story from the point of view of a shoggoth. We talk about the things that are problematic, but we also get very squeeful about our favorite tropes, and count how many times the word “cyclopean” shows up in each story.
2. Can you describe your relationship with H.P. Lovecraft's fiction and creatures/characters?
We have screaming, pot-hurling fights that end in passionate make-up fiction.
3. How did you come up with the concept of the Innsmouth Legacy series?
I came to Lovecraft sideways: my college friends played call of Cthulhu, had plush elder gods, read the Illuminatus Trilogy. So I knew all the jokes and references, and eventually decided I should read the original stories. My wife started reading a “Best of” collection aloud while I made dinner every night. We’d comment on the stories as we went through them, snarking about the language and speculating about the cosmic histories. I’d known going in that Lovecraft was a bigot, but I hadn’t realized the full scope of it. For a lot of stories it was just another thing we made fun of—the “degenerate Dutch,” really?—but “Shadow Over Innsmouth” left me open-mouthed. I thought I knew the whole story by osmosis, but no. It starts with the government raiding Innsmouth and sending everyone to concentration camps. And it starts with the premise that this is a good thing.
For some obscure reason, if you put characters in concentration camps, I’m likely to assume they’re the good guys.
4. Can you tell us about the novels in the series (Litany of the Earth, Winter's Tide, and Deep Roots)?
The series follows Aphra Marsh, one of the last survivors of the Deep One internment camps, as she tries to rebuild her life. “The Litany of Earth” is the first piece, a novelette that’s available for free on (you guessed it) Tor.com. It takes place shortly after she’s gotten out and is living with a Japanese-American family who essentially adopted her when they arrived in the camp during World War II. A federal agent asks for her help investigating a cult, and she agrees largely because she wants to be around people who worship her gods again. But the cultists don’t necessarily have a great understanding of what magic can and can’t do…
In Winter Tide, Aphra goes to Massachusetts to try and reclaim Innsmouth’s books from the library at Miskatonic University. Along the way she gathers found family, connects with some very old blood family, and tries to track down a body-shifting Russian spy who may or may not exist.
Deep Roots brings Aphra and her friends to New York looking for long-lost cousins, and puts them in conflict with the alien Mi-Go.
The series as a whole plays with the whole set of assumptions behind cosmic horror. It’s not a “nice” version of Lovecraft’s world—the universe is still an unimaginably vast, uncaring place, full of forces that may destroy you and your civilization without even noticing. But it’s a version where those terrifying forces include other humans, where everyone (including the abominations) has their own goals and perspectives, and where the protagonists react to the uncaring universe with something more thoughtful than either xenophobia or nihilism.
5. Please describe Aphra Marsh for us. What makes her tick?
Aphra lost most of her family-on-land in the internment camp, and she’s driven by the desire to preserve her remaining family, and to build a new community to replace the one she’s lost. She has a very strong sense of duty as the surviving “eldest on land,” and sometimes wants to protect people even when they don’t want to be protected—her brother Caleb, for example, often has very different ideas about what his own duty entails. They were both raised in the worship of the elder gods, but he lost his faith in the camp while she still gets a lot of comfort from it.
She’s very rewarding to write because she has a Thing about turning her back on antagonists—it feels dangerous, so she’s constantly running toward danger because she thinks it’s the safest option. She’s also very willing to stand up to authorities even when she respects them, and has no compunctions about telling a centuries-old Deep One elder or a billion-year-old librarian that she thinks they’ve got the wrong end of the stick. She’s very serious about everything, though, so I have to surround her with people who’ll fill in the snark gap.
6. H.P. Lovecraft is both a hugely influential author and someone with problematic elements in his work. Do you think he's still relevant? If so, how do we deal with these contradictions?
So many problematic elements. I find him fascinating because his bigotry is so deeply embedded in everything he wrote, even the good stuff that’s rightfully influential.
Alas, the bigotry doesn’t make his work less relevant these days. But it does increase the challenge of engaging with his work. You can certainly use Lovecraftian tropes without that engagement, and many people have done that to good effect. But because his fears are so deeply embedded in those tropes, it’s hard to leverage their full visceral power without facing down the prejudices that originally birthed them. I like turning his ideas inside out and using them to understand the horror not of the things he was afraid of, but of his fear. For a lot of us, other humans’ fear is one of the biggest existential threats out there. Lovecraft was terrified of New Yorkers walking down the street speaking languages he didn’t understand; I’m terrified of what people do when they find different cultures threatening.
7. Why do you like Deep Ones so much versus, say, ghouls or Mi-Go?
I honestly love all these species and sub-species that Lovecraft came up with—his worldbuilding is so intriguing and I always want to fill in the gaps and turn the perspective upside down. The Deep Ones work as a focus because the raid—the fact that they’re hurt so badly—provides a great starting point for plot and characterization.
Ghouls and Mi-Go both feature prominently in Deep Roots. The Mi-Go basically encapsulated Lovecraft’s terror of multicultural society. In “Whisperer in Darkness” they describe themselves as cosmopolitan, which is still a word that gets used to insult urban communities. The fear behind that story is that if you hang around with people of other cultures then everything that makes your culture special will vanish, and everything that makes you able to go out and act on the world—you might as well be a brain in a jar! Which is of course bullshit. But the Mi-Go also offer a genuinely terrifying trade-off, where you can see the universe and learn all its secrets, at the cost of having any ability to take action on your own. Aphra is very in touch with her own body and very attached to specific places, so they make a good foil for her. I also loved writing the interactions among the brain-in-jar people, who have sort of online meeting-of-minds relationships with each other in the midst of this alien situation.
Ghouls are just fun. How many allies will tell you, “It’s dangerous out there, take this,” and hand you a random fingerbone?
8. Does it bother you Aphra Marsh tends to be portrayed as conventionally attractive on the covers of your books or would you prefer her to look more like the Deep Ones of Lovecraft's writings? Or are you arguing the narrator's prejudices may have made him think worse of the Deep One's looks?
I would love to get an illustration of Aphra as she looks in my head—I tend to think that Lovecraft’s narrator described them accurately, albeit rudely. But then, people of the air look pretty creepy to people of the water, with their tiny eyes and necks that look like they’ll snap if they turn their heads too fast.
However, I do in fact respect the desire of my publisher and cover artist (the brilliant John Jude Palencar) not to use a portrait of someone whose face is basically in the uncanny valley, given that the failure mode (and possibly the success mode) is that it looks like Palencar has forgotten how to draw faces, and then we don’t sell any books.
It does exasperate me that whenever I search for “Innsmouth look” as a visual reference, the men look about right and the women look like pin-up models with bulgy eyes. I’d like, just once, a good picture of a pre-metamorphosis female Deep One that isn’t all about the sexy.
9. How do you handle the Cthulhu Mythos in your world? Are they just misunderstood aliens or are they flawed in their own way? Or is it just the Deep Ones are as human as humanity?
The Deep Ones are as human as any person of the air, and as prone to grace and horror as anyone else. (The people of the rock—the K’n-yan—have gone down a particularly toxic road in terms of culture and power sources, and are more prone to horror than some. Of course, that never happens anywhere else…)
Lovecraft’s gods—when he wrote about Them, They were the big scary thing, and so They were real and solid (or gaseous, in some cases) and very interventionist. Since I’m writing from the point of view of Their worshippers, the scary thing is that They’re just as distant, and just as unlikely to protect Their chosen people from destruction, as any other pantheon humans have worshipped.
10. Who are your next favorite characters after Aphra?
Really, I love all of them. The ones who fill the “snark gap” I mentioned above are particularly fun to write. The Yith possessing Professor Trumbull is constantly impatient with humans for being too slow or too focused on trivialities, and she was also convenient because every time I realized I’d screwed up my historical research, I could just let her talk about DNA or whatever else hadn’t been discovered yet. Time travelers are great; I really missed having one in the second book. But then I got to write Shelean. Shelean is culturally a mad scientist, so even when she’s saying something very sensible, she sounds like she’s about to break out into maniacal laughter.
11. Do you have any other Neo-Lovecraftian authors you'd recommend the work of (you've certainly read enough)?
I was completely blown away by Sonya Taaffe’s “All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts,” which is far and away my favorite modern take on the Deep Ones. That’s in Dreams From the Witch House, which is an absolutely brilliant anthology. I love Livia Llewelyn’s stuff as well: visceral and terrifying and not the least bit safe for work. I also highly recommend Sarah Monette’s Kyle Murchison Booth stories, which add deep psychological realism to the standard Lovecraftian protagonist, and the Lovecraftian space operas that she writes with Elizabeth Bear.
12. What would you like readers to take from your books?
Normally my answer to this type of question would be that if I must tell readers what they should be getting, I’ve failed as an author. But in general, I’d like readers to take from my books the worth of looking at perspectives other than their own—and the fact that some types of willful ignorance and bigotry are wrong regardless of perspective. I also want to share a sort of hope, a willingness to act in the face of an uncaring universe and uncaring fellow humanity, without having to claim that the universe is on our side in order to act.
13. What can we expect from you next?
Imperfect Commentaries, my first short story collection, is coming from Lethe Press in July. It’s got all my Neo-Lovecraftian stuff, including my very first published story which was about why the elder gods want to eat the world. Plus miscellaneous deleted scenes, poems, and secret story origins.
I’m currently working on a near-future science fiction novel tentatively titled The Fifth Power, about the people finally solving climate change having to deal with a crisis they’re completely unprepared for—the arrival of aliens who want to rescue humanity from Earth, by force if necessary. It has very little in common with the Innsmouth Legacy books except for lots of queer found family, an obsession with water, snarky aliens, and a serious hopepunk aesthetic. So basically the same except that it takes place 70 years in the future instead of 70 years in the past, and everyone is Jewish instead of Aeonist. If all goes well and I manage to meet my deadlines, that should be out sometime in 2020.
Thank you for your answers!
February 21st marks the release of Master of Sorrows, the debut novel of Justin Call. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy which I devoured in less than two days, and I'm confident that it will prove to be one of the greatest debuts of the year. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to take part in Justin's blog tour and post a review today to celebrate the release, but life got in the way, so I asked Justin to answer two simple questions instead (let's call it a super-mini-interview). Rest assured though, a review of Master of Sorrows will soon be posted on BookNest, so keep an eye open for that! But for now, let's see what Justin had to say:
Hello Justin, and welcome aboard! Master of Sorrows has one of the most unique and surprising plots I've read in the last couple of years. What exactly inspired your novel?
The inspiration for this novel (and the rest of the book series) arose from a single question: ‘What if the hero was the reincarnation of an evil God?’ I liked the concept of writing a coming-of-age story from the villain’s perspective, of seeing the character grow from a naïve adolescent and then evolve into a full-blown baddie.
Except that real people rarely see themselves as villains. Real people believe they are the heroes of their own stories and tend to vilify those whose world views clash with their own. This is fine for real life, but subjective morality complicates storytelling. Many fantasy novels avoid these complications by making their protagonist an obvious hero and their antagonist an obvious villain . . . but I feel such attempts are dishonest to the narrative. Other fantasy novels address this challenge by inverting expectations. In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, for example, there are few truly heroic characters; instead, the world is painted in grey and characters regularly shift between being antagonists and protagonists. The villains at times possess unsung virtues while the heroes are burdened by damning vices, cruelty, or weakness. This resonates more with normal life, I feel, yet it also carries a nihilism that I find to be both false and destructive. There is good in the world, just as there is also evil. Likewise, I believe there is a divine influence in our lives (whether we acknowledge it or not) and that our lives are filled with meaning and purpose. In that sense, we are all heroes (or potential heroes) but not all of us are active protagonists in our stories.
Which brings me back to my first question: ‘What if the prophesied hero was the reincarnation of an evil God?’ Or, if I remove the subjective morality tags, ‘What happens when a protagonist is given two conflicting moral narratives?’ Further, ‘Does he embrace one and reject the other?’ Probably. In fact, I’d say it’s inevitable. The twist, though, comes when the protagonist discovers he once served the opposing narrative (and he is now on the opposite side of that narrative). In such a story, the hero would probably develop empathy toward his previous incarnation . . . but would that change his heroic path? Answering that question is the inspiration for my novel. My goal then is to write a coming-of-age story that follows the tropes of the epic fantasy genre but to also subvert those tropes by presenting a protagonist who could be either a hero or a villain. Time will tell if I get it right.
Time will tell indeed. One last question for you -we wouldn't want to tire you with this last-moment interview-. Who are your favourite authors and why?
David Eddings (because he was the first fantasy author I read and because I love how Gods, men, and prophecy influence each other in his stories); Robert Jordan (because of the depth and breadth of what he contributed to the genre); Brandon Sanderson (because of everything he’s taught me via reading his stories, listening to his lectures and podcasts, and studying his writing methodology and magic systems); R.A. Salvatore (because the strangeness of Menzoberranzan’s dark elf culture gave me something to aspire to); Edward W. Robertson (because reading Dante Galand’s story showed me how to make an anti-heroic necromancer still seem heroic); Patrick Rothfuss (because his stories are uniquely beautiful and worth aspiring to). I would also give a second nod to Sanderson and Rothfuss because their writing styles and outputs are so different, yet I frequently find similarities between their writing and my own, which gives me two good measuring sticks for guiding me as I find my own voice, style, and preferred writing practices.
Outside of authors who have personally influenced my writing, some of my favorite contemporary authors (beyond those noted above) are Ed McDonald, Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, and Peter V. Brett. They've all built fantastically detailed worlds with their own unique magic systems, and they've all managed to suck me in with their writing to the point that I've read several of their books (in some cases, all the books they've written thus far).
Master of Sorrows is out on February 21, 2019. You can pre-order it HERE.
Michael ‘sits’ down for an interview with Brian Lee Durfee, author of the upcoming epic fantasy, The Blackest Heart.
Fantastic news, folks! We've got an interview with M.L. Spencer about her awesome finale to the RHENWARS SAGA. I've reviewed every book in the series and loved them all.
So tell us about the RHENWARS SAGA. What's it about?
The Rhenwars Saga is about an overpowered mage--the last of his kind--who is tasked with the job of defending a Western-type society called the Rhen from an invasion of an “Enemy” horde from the Northern “Black Lands”, an intentionally Mordor-esque region on the map. The mage, Darien Lauchlin, commits terrible atrocities in order to defend his homeland. But then, in a turn of events, he is taken to the Black Lands, where he discovers the Enemy are a people living in perpetual darkness, who will die without a means of escape. Darien switches sides and soon begins using his appalling power to help the Black Landers invade the Western nations he had formally sworn to protect, committing more atrocities in the process.
What is the set up in DARKFALL?
By the time we get to Darkfall, we have seen Darien’s character go through a tremendous transformation from hero to a haunted man driven by desperation. He has now become a demon, tasked with fighting for the other side against his former allies. This has caused him tremendous mental anguish. However, Darien has now resolved this inner struggle, and he is committed 100% to his new cause.
Can you tell us about Darien and Kyel?
Kyel Archer was Darien’s acolyte, who has become the mage Darien had always wanted to be. Of the two, he is the more traditional hero-type character. He sees both sides of the war as equally human and deserving of protection, while Darien swings from 100% support of one side to 100% support of the other. In Darkfall, Kyel stands against Darien and resists him as much as he is able, while keeping his oaths, morals, and integrity intact—which is no easy thing to do.
Who are the villains in the book?
There really are no true villains in the Rhenwars Saga, at least none that exist in that state permanently. Villains become allies and protagonists become antagonists fluidly throughout the course of the series. The main “villain” in Darkfall is Zavier Renquist, an ancient mage whose goal is the protection of magic. He wants to go about doing this by releasing the equivalent of Iblis (think of Satan-but-not-really) from the Netherworld. To most people, this solution sounds worse than the problem. But not to Renquist, who sees magic as worth any price.
How did you subvert traditional fantasy expectations?
The first book in the series is written to resemble a very typical Lord of the Rings setup, where you have the beautiful Western civilization filled with white people who are resisting an invading horde of evil creatures from some dark area on a map (these creatures being evil because, well, evil.) You have all the typical fantasy tropes: a dashing, powerful hero with a broken heart. His noble fellow-adventurer who trails after him like a faithful puppy-dog. And the beautiful love interest who remains steadfastly by his side through it all. This should end as expected, right? Boy falls for girl and they share a never-ending true love. Our hero repulses the invading horde with the help of his faithful Samwise-type friend. Good triumphs and Evil is vanquished. And they all live happily ever after in the Great White West.
Nope. Not in this world.
It turns out the invading horde are very human, with a very real and dire problem. They are not white, but brown. They are not invaders, but refugees. Not evil, just desperate. Our Western society is not as good and pure as we thought, but rather barbaric and sanctimonious. Our hero is a damaged man capable of atrocity. Romances devolve into betrayal and heartbreak. Friends and allies become enemies, oaths and loyalties are shattered, and there is no Happily Ever After for anyone. The Rhenwars Saga de-fantasizes the fantastic and brings it crashing into reality.
Can you describe the Westerners and the Darklanders?
The people of the Rhen are the typical people we are used to meeting when we open a fantasy novel. The Rhen resembles Western Europe, filled with kingdoms, towns, temples, and all the usual trappings.
The people of Malikar (The Black Lands) are based on a Middle Eastern society, both Bedouin in the outlying areas and the Ottoman Sultanate in the northern region. They have a strict code of honor, a rich culture that has adapted to the lightless conditions they have been forced to suffer, and are highly disciplined.
What were you going for in your epic? Themes and ideas behind it?
The Rhenwars Saga is an allegory for the modern-day relationship between the West and the Middle East. Rhenwars was conceived after 9/11, when I was still trying to wrap my mind around why anyone would want to fly an aircraft into a building (or three). So I started trying to understand the conflict between the West and the Middle East from both sides of the War on Terrorism. After learning a bit about the area’s history with the West, cultural climate, religious perspectives, etc., I was able to get a better understanding of both sides of the picture, and how each side believes they are morally justified in employing sometimes atrocious tactics in order to advance their political agendas. It’s really a very fascinating topic, how two sides can view themselves as justified and morally righteous, while labelling the other side as malevolent and morally bankrupt. It all comes down to a perspective shift.
How has response been to the books?
Mixed. I get a lot of reviews on Book One complaining that it is very generic. Unfortunately, some people don’t go on to Book 2, where you find out the “point” of the entire series. With the launch of my Box Set, more people are reading through, and the response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. I’m getting a lot of fantastic feedback from readers who say they love the direction the Saga goes in, and that it is wonderfully different from any fantasy series they’ve ever read before. There seems to be a great deal of excitement over it.
Any advice for self-publishers?
Advertise your book. And do so in ways that get you the best return for your advertising dollar. Above all, don’t try to sell your book to other authors. Sell it to readers.
Is it true there's a collection available and on sale?
Yes! The entire Rhenwars Saga is available as a box set for only $0.99 right now, which is a steal!
What's next for you?
Right now, I am committed to helping a fellow author who passed away finish his series, so I will be helping to ghostwrite that over the next several months. After that… Well, that’s where it gets complicated. I had a new series in a different world planned, world-built, and ready to go. But then I started getting a lot of feedback from my readers that they really wanted another Rhenwars series. So I am now writing a spinoff series that takes place roughly 20 years after the Rhenwars Saga.
Can you recommend any other authors and their work?
Absolutely! I love the works of C.T. Phipps, Richard Nell, Eric T. Knight, JA Andrews, Jesse Teller, Frank Dorrian, Rob Hayes, and Sean Hinn.
Pick up your copy of the series here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KLXCH5X/
Hey my fellow tabletop gamers,
We have a great new interview today with MATTHEW DAWKINS, Onyx Path Publishing's best writer and content maker. Today, he's here to talk to us about the company's newest Kickstarter for THEY CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA. It is a retro-scifi 1950s B-movie influenced roleplaying game.
You can check out the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/they-came-from-beneath-the-sea-a-tabletop-roleplay/updates
1. What is the premise of THEY CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA?
The premise of They Came from Beneath the Sea! is that you get to play the strong-jawed veterans, plucky journalists, mad scientists, and grizzled everymen of the 1950s, where the Cold War is starting to boil and suddenly, without warning, aliens invade our perfect towns! It's a game strongly set in the world of B-Movies of the era, which can be played as seriously or as farcically as the table desires.
2. TCFBTS is inspired by 1950s B-movies. What ones in particular did you draw from? Why did you choose this as a format? What made you think this would be a great game? (three questions in one, I know)
There are so many fantastic B-Movies. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) is of course a classic, but don't overlook It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), the former of which is a magnificent Ray Harryhausen piece and the latter is a Roger Corman oddity. Of recent movies, I strongly recommend the work of Larry Blamire, especially The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) and The Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007). Both really evoke the humour present in these kinds of movies. I enjoy this format for cinema, but it took many playtest iterations to land upon it as an RPG medium. I've found groups love to have fun and laugh around the table, and a game that encourages that is a rarity in this market.
3. What sort of rules system does this game use?
We use the Storypath System (d10, dice pools, standard difficulties of 8) for They Came from Beneath the Sea!, as established in Scion, Trinity, and Dystopia Rising. However, our version is slightly modified to account for some of They Came From's unique powers and features.
4. How would you describe the game's tone? Funny? Horrific? Horror comedy?
The tone of this game is what you make of it. I've now run so many games of it with different tone and flavour, I can honestly say They Came From can be horrific or comedic, or any mixture of the two. While the game is set up to allow you to make a funny game, it doesn't dictate to you what good humour is. We're very conscious of allowing groups to find their own levels of fun.
5. Do you think fans of the Fallout or Bioshock games will like this game?
There's definitely a little of the Fallout tongue-in-cheek humour to this game, especially with all the talk of atomic devices in day-to-day life. I love BioShock, but we've not really attempted to emulate any sort of genetic splicing-Randian horror. Not yet, anyway.
6. Will the communists in the game be evil baddies or sensual slavs seduced by the heroes or heroes themselves?
While the default setting of the game is 1950s America, making "commies" default bad guys in the eyes of G-Men and other stalwart American "patriots", this game doesn't dictate that all communists, Soviets, Russians, or indeed any other group acts in a set way. Think of how they're portrayed in your favourite movie of the era and roll with that in your game.
7. What can you tell us about the enemies of the game?
There are so many! The writers on this book knocked the Threats out of the park. We have gill-folk, crab people, were-lobsters, teenage shrimp, centopus, the Prefecture of the Pod, the Sirens of Ness... So many! There are plenty more than that, each divided into the brackets of Destroyers, Invaders, Enslavers, Spies, and Primordials. Each has its own ecology and motivations, and they don't necessarily get on.
8. What sort of heroes will be the players be expected to play?
Heroes will tend to be the kinds of characters portrayed in B-Movies of the 1950s and 1960s. A little wooden, a little hammy, but ultimately earnest in their beliefs and ambitions. You'll have everything from the small-town sheriff just looking to get a restful night's sleep, to the blue collar everyman wanting to defending his patch of land. There are five Archetypes: Everyman, G-Man, Mouth, Scientist, and Survivor.
9. The 1950s are a frequently satirized period of history. Will this book engage in any social satire?
There's definitely some social satire. In some of the fiction within the book, men underestimate women, communists are taken as uniformly black-hearted villains, governments want a pacified populace, and scientists are unpredictable lunatics. In most such cases, expectations are thwarted with the foolish party soon taken to task. Also, Joseph McCarthy gets eaten by a giant clam.
10. What are some of the Kickstarter rewards which donors will be able to get?
The Kickstarter is the best place to look for such things, but at bare minimum we're offering the PDF of the game, through to the book, a Director's screen, and cards for your Quips and Cinematics. If the Kickstarter hits stretch goals, we might see additional supplements or artwork for the game, among many other things.
11. Do you see this as a potential ongoing series of books or a limited collection of them?
I could see a whole series of They Came From games if this one were successful. Spitballing here, but I could see a Hammer Horror-influenced game, a Goosebumps-inspired game, and others that take inspiration from other forms of cinematic media. I'd love to do one based on Italian giallo cinema, but I understand that would have a limited audience (outside Italy).
12. Describe to us a typical adventure of this game in your view.
The typical adventure sees your characters reacting to a rapid invasion of bodysnatchers such as the crab people, or a ship offshore going missing and your heroes having to investigate the whereabouts of its crew. Adventure thus unfolds!
13. What projects will you be working on after this?
I have a few V5 books to develop, the Contagion Chronicle to get finished, and a bunch of projects for companies other than Onyx Path such as an unannounced Chaosium book, Solemn Vale for Dirty Vortex Games, and pushing forward with my Onyx Path media role! If you've not subscribed to Onyx Path on YouTube and Twitch, please do so! Content will be thick and fast come 2019!
I am happy to announce that BookNest is done with the first round of this year's SPFBO. Like last year, our team, consisting of 3 guests (Rob J. Hayes, Dyrk Ashton & Lynn Kempner) and 3 of our very own members (C.T. Phipps, Michael McLendon & Katerina Papasotiriou) read and reviewed all 30 books assigned to us, picking 6 Semi-Finalists in the process. You can see all 30 reviews HERE. The 6 Semi-Finalists are:
Runeforged by Justin DePaoli
Orconomics by Zachary J. Pike
The Stars Were Right by K.M. Alexander
We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson
The Tainted Crown by Meg Cowley
The Curse Recalled by J.E. Merritt
I was then tasked to read those Semi-Finalists and pick the best one among them to represent BookNest.eu in the 2nd round of the SPFBO, as our Finalist. Over the course of the last 4 days, I eliminated 4 of those Semi-Finalists on our FB Group (The Stars Were Right, Runeforged, The Tainted Crown, The Curse Recalled) and now I'm here to let you know which one of the final two (We Ride the Storm, Orconomics) will be our finalist. Without further ado:
In a surprise plot-twist, I've decided that my very own anthology Art of War: Anthology for Charity will represent us on the se... Alright, alright. Here's we go:
We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson is one of the best books I've read this year. With a personal score of 8.5/10, I think it's capable of winning this year's SPFBO (As a comparison, last year's winner finished with a 8.1/10 avg rating). Alas, it has the misfortune to be paired with Orconomics, one of the best books I've read in my life. Therefore, my pick for BookNest's Finalist for this year's SPFBO is Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike, sent forward with a perfect score of 10/10.
I'm utterly perplexed by the fact that none of the Big 5 has acquired the rights to publish Pike's work, but I'm confident that it will be so by the end of this year's contest. Orconomics is not only better than most of the self-published books out there, but better than most of the traditionally published ones as well (Although the difference between Self-Published books and Traditionally Published books has significantly thinned throughout the years, and the way an author gets his book out there is no longer an indication of its quality, if it ever was). Orconomics is well written, fast paced, with great flow and even greater prose, and most importantly, it's a great story to boot. It's full of heart and joy, but also regret and pain. It is, as GRRM would say, how Fantasy ought to be written. I would also say it's unique, but that it isn't. For it is quite similar (and I hope I'm not doing it a disservice here) to one of my favorite fantasy books ever: Kings of the Wyld. As a matter of fact, I was joking with Nicholas Eames the other day, that if he hasn't in fact ghost-wrote Orconomics himself, then surely Zachary Pike ghost-wrote Nick's books instead. I considered including a full review in this post, but then again I wouldn't be able to tell it better than Dyrk Ashton did. If you want to know more about Orconomics, you can read Dyrk's review HERE.
Now, some of you may have noticed that something didn't add up in what I said above. When I mentioned We Ride the Storm, I said that it's capable of winning this year's SPFBO. But how can this be, you'll wonder, if it's been eliminated, with Orconomics being BookNest's Finalist? Simply said, We Ride The Storm can be someone else's Finalist, for I am pushing it through as a Senlin Safety Net Candidate. For those who are not familiar with the term, the Senlin Safety Net is a safe mechanism, for the rare occasion where one of the Judges has more than 1 book in his batch capable of winning the contest. How it works? I simply push it through as a candidate, and if one of the other Judges isn't happy enough with the books in their own batch, can take it up and promote it to the second round of the SPFBO as their Finalist instead. You can learn more about the Senlin Safety Net HERE. So, worry not, fans of We Ride The Storm. All hope is not yet lost. The book can still make it through, as long as one of the other Judges decides it's better than what their own batch has to offer!
Thank you all for joining me here today. Huge congratulations to Zachary Pike, and best of luck to Devin Madson with her second chance! I'm looking forward to the rest nine Finalists in the Second Round of the SPFBO!
I am one of the biggest fans of Chicago by Night 1st Edition that exists. For those who wonder what the hell I'm talking about, it is a supplement created in 1992 for the tabletop role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. The premise was the city of Chicago was secretly controlled by vampires ranging from the beautiful Annabelle to the unliving Al Capone. Further figures like Critias of Athens, Helen of Troy, and Meneleus were also undead inhabiting the Windy City. You, as newly created vampires, had the job of navigating the city's complicated politics in order to avoid another sunrise.
Eventually, the focus of the game changed as it became less about city-based gameplay and more about globe-trotting adventures between sects. Chicago by Night had a good half of its vampire population slaughtered by werewolves and after a follow-up edition, Chicago by Night 2nd Edition, ceased to be relevant to the setting for the rest of the original line's history.
However, the legend of Chicago by Night would not die. With the return of Vampire: The Masquerade after a decade-long absence with the Vampire 20th Anniversary line, it was to my delight they managed to bring back the supplement. I had done a read through of the supplement on RPG.net and also had been touting it for years. I wanted to see how old friends, fictional or not, had adapted to the 21st century.
Presently, they're raising money for the supplement on Kickstarter. They've already passed the funds necessary for the supplement but are now raising funds for supplements to the setting. I hope people will chip in a bit and pick up a copy if they have any interest in vampires and role-playing games. What I've seen so far of it has been awesome.
Thankfully, Matthew Dawkins, one of the writers of the supplement has decided to sit down with me and give an interview about this awesome book. He was a chief contributor to Beckett's Jyhad Diary and is the man behind the excellent Gentleman's Guide to Vampires Youtube video series.
Here's a video introduction to Chicago by Night 5E.
And here's the interview.
1. What inspired making a 5th Edition of Chicago by Night?
Chicago was the iconic city for Vampire: The Masquerade for the longest time, so it made sense to revisit it, give it a facelift, a lot of new plots and characters, and bring it forward into fifth edition.
2. What was your thoughts on the original supplement?
I'm a big fan of a lot of the old city sourcebooks, with Chicago being in my top three. Chicago was the template that many books went on to follow, and my hope is that any city sourcebooks following this one will match or build on its design.
3. Do you have a favorite Chicago-area supplement to that period? (Diablerie: Mexico, Milwaukee by Night, Succubus Club, Under a Blood Red Moon, Ashes to Ashes, Blood Bond)
My favourite supplement for that period and location would be Milwaukee by Night, which still ranks as my #1 city sourcebook. I love it due to its simplicity. It has a lot of stereotypical characters in its pages, but I enjoy that, and consider it an excellent introductory book for anyone looking to get into Vampire.
4. Did you prefer 1st Edition or 2nd Edition?
I don't really have a preference between first and second edition Chicago by Night, as they both have a lot of strong elements. The thing I feel is missing in second edition are the chronicle hooks at the back of first edition, but it makes up for it with a more diverse, interesting cast of characters.
5. What can players expect from this supplement?
Players can expect rules for playing the Lasombra, lots of interesting Kindred with whom a character can form alliances or rivalries, benefits and drawbacks for operating out of certain parts of the city, and a beautiful campaign setting in which to grow a character.
6. What was the design philosophy for updating Chicago and its characters to the year 2018?
The core design philosophy was to ensure this book had the horror of the Beast, Humanity, and Hierarchy. Bleeding out from that we strived to introduce a diverse cast of characters with multiple interesting agendas, plentiful plots a Storyteller can introduce to their chronicle, and to make the book feel exactly as Chicago should.
7. Do you have a favorite character from the book?
My favourite character is a new Nosferatu named Adze. He's a lot of fun and teases the possibility of Chicago moving away from the Camarilla.
8. What sort of changes can we expect to the setting with the transition to 5th Edition?
There's a new Prince, some new Primogen, old foes might have fallen, new ones may have arisen. The changes to the Camarilla and Anarchs in fifth edition sends ripples across Chicago as well, meaning previously quiet clans receive prominent position while others, once powerful, sink into the shadows.
9. The Lasombra clan will be detailed in this book. Can you explain why they'll be included in this book, in or out of universe?
I pitched for the Lasombra to be included in this book for a few reasons: 1.) I wanted them playable in V5, 2.) There's a strong metaplot reason for them to be in the North American crown jewel of the Camarilla, and 3.) It adds an exciting plot vein to this book.
10. The Kickstarter lists some additional supplements that have already been unlocked. Can you tell us a bit about them?
The Chicago Dossiers will be books largely consisting of in-universe artifacts you can print and use for your chronicles, though there's the hope it will receive expansion so we can include some more characters and loresheets in there too. Let the Streets Run Red is a chronicles book a little like the Succubus Club sourcebook of old, with as many as four decent-sized chronicles, the first being set in Chicago, the last (if we reach it) going out as far as Milwaukee and Indianapolis.
11. How has your experience been on writing for 5E?
I've enjoyed my work on V5 a great deal. Certainly, it's had its stresses from time to time. That's natural for a new edition of a game, especially when a new team has been put together. It can also sometimes prove tricky to create something that exactly matches what the licence owner (White Wolf, in this case) would like to see. But all in all, I'm very pleased with how V5 has turned out, and especially how Chicago is looking.
12. You wrote about the Ministry (formerly the Followers of Set) for the Guide to the Anarchs, right? What can we expect to find out about them in that book?
The Ministry have gone through a bit of a re-brand, ostensibly accepting a plethora of non-Caine faiths into their ranks and re-embracing their polytheistic roots. They're the spiritual arm of the Anarch Movement, providing advice to fellow Anarchs on how to temper their Beast by working for a higher power, while of course profiteering from other vampires' spiritual corrosion. I've heard a lot of good things from fans of the Setites who were apprehensive about the Ministry, but enjoy the fresh coat of paint the clan's received.
13. What projects will you be working on after Chicago by Night?
They Came from Beneath the Sea!, the Contagion Chronicle, Book of Oblivion, Mummy: The Curse, and Shunned by the Moon are the big projects on my list right now. There's also the stretch goals following the Chicago by Night Kickstarter, but we won't get started on them until we know how big they're going to be.
In the first stage, nine popular Fantasy Blogs (Bookworm Blues, Fantasy Book Critic, Fantasy Book Review, Fantasy-Faction, Grimdark Magazine, The Fantasy Hive, The Fantasy Inn, The Grim Tidings Podcast & The Weatherwax Report), three big Fantasy Imprints (Gollancz, Harper Voyager & Orbit), and two well-respected Agents (John Jarrold & Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Literary Agency) helped us create the Longlist for this year's BookNest Fantasy Awards by nominating their favorite books in each of the first three categories (Best Traditionally Published Novel, Best Self-Published Novel, and Best Debut Novel), published between October 1st 2017 and September 30th 2018. In the second stage, the culling began, and the public chose which ten books from each category would made it to the Shortlist. In the third and final stage, again with a public vote, the winners were chosen, and we're happy to announce them right now!
You can learn all about the Awards and the Winners in the video bellow. And don't be afraid - there are subtitles for those who can't use sound!
Congrats to those who won the engraved swords, & best of luck next year to those who didn't!.be
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have been a guest judge for Booknest in this year's SPFBO competition. The brainchild of Arch-saint of indie authors, the Almighty Mark Lawrence, the SPFBO has become one of the most significant things to happen to self-publishing since, well, maybe ever, and Booknest has waved the torch high for indie books for quite some time. I have to thank Petros T. for asking me to do this. It's been a hell of an honor to be involved.
My task was to read five of the thirty books in Booknest's group, and forward my choice for semi-finalist. Time for a rolling of drums...