Dec
13

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Thinking of Pete

ham-1The late, great Pete Ham died in 1975 by his own hand one night after drinking an absurd amount of scotch, crushed by the bankruptcy engendered upon him by a crooked business manager. His best friend, the talented Tom Evans, always thought that Ham must have changed his mind at the last minute owing to the way he found the body, but we’ll never know, and we’ll never know what the two might have gone on to write together if Pete hadn’t killed himself. Their band, Badfinger, had gotten royally screwed by their business manager but it’s possible that they could have recovered had they turned to the right people for help.

Depression in combination with alcohol is a deadly mix, and it unfortunately led to the death of Tom Evans eight years later. Sometimes, in fits of despair, he would tell his wife or his friends that he wanted to be where Pete was. Read More

Dec
7

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Joyous Gifts

adventure-legosAs I bring the family gift shopping to a close this season I’m finding presents on my mind. My children are teenagers now and just aren’t as easily excited by gifts as they used to be, and I suppose the same thing is true of me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so thrilled by a gift that I grinned from ear to ear and ran off to enjoy it for hours at a time.

(I mean gifts in the traditional sense, not “oh, the love of my child” or “the gift of life” or some permutation thereof.)

I wonder if that change in joy level is because as we age we’re less surprised even by the things we like. I mean, even when I received a copy of a rare pulp collection it still wasn’t like discovering that toy I was mad for when I was five actually under the Christmas tree. On the other hand, that pulp still brings a smile to me whenever I pick it up, so it’s not as though the joy has gone. It’s just not as intense. Read More

Dec
5

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Last Stop for Ki-Gor

molunduOver the last few days I finally finished the last unread Ki-Gor novella in my possession, Slave-Caverns of Molundu, and after setting it down I think I’m done reading jungle man adventures for a while. It wasn’t quite as good as the first three, and, as I’ve mentioned, too many jungle stories in a row kind of wear on me/emphasize the ridiculousness of the whole genre. This adventure started strong, but didn’t have as much variety or out-and-out weirdness as the best ones. There were also occasional signs of hasty composition, like a word repeated too many times in a row.

On the other hand, it did have a great, driving pace, the characters were suitably heroic, and there were strong action scenes. And as a final reward, there were occasionally paragraphs of great descriptive power. Like the following: Read More

Nov
30

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Story Play or Game Piece Play?

game-pieceThe Old School Renaissance is immensely appealing to me. I like a lot of the “simpler is better” philosophy behind the design of adventures and rulesets, and the emphasis on creativity. But I keep bumping my head on one of the common conceits. I think it’s best summed up by this line from the famed module Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1, in which the writer Patrick Wetmore declares, in an advice section for players, “You will probably die at some point. Possibly  repeatedly. That’s okay, rolling up a new character is quick and easy. Don’t take it to heart.”

The thrust of this kind of gaming is centered on problem solving and discovery, and I believe — I can’t be sure — character development and narrative must be de-emphasized. I’ve seen some people playing this way, and the characters are only loosely role-played and the players don’t really speak with their voice at the table. If one is removed from the board, they just drop in a replacement character and keep going.

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Nov
28

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Return to the Jungle, Ki-Gor Style

silver witchIf your to-be-read pile is anything like mine, sometimes stuff leaps ahead for no good reason. For instance, I have a score of books I’ve actually been looking forward to for years and have never gotten to. Sometimes it’s a matter of taste (maybe I’m not feeling like a pulp adventure) and sometimes its just timing, or that I’m saving THAT book for a long airplane trip because I’m positive I’ll like it (such is the fate of Nathan Long’s third Ulrika book, and Tim Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark).

But sometimes it’s just a whim. I drop by James Reasoner’s excellent blog from time to time, and on November 18th he posted a review of a Ki-Gor story. He kind of liked it, and I dropped in to say that if you like THAT one, just wait, because they get weird and wild and far stronger pretty soon… and that got me and my pal John Chris Hocking talking about Ki-Gor again. He decided he’d finally get around to reading one of my favorites, “The Silver Witch” and I decided to heck with my TBR pile, that I’d tackle a handful of Ki-Gor stories I’d never gotten around to.

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Writing

Pedal to the Paizo

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I have lots of cool things on my radar, but my blog is apt to be quiet for a bit. There are only a few weeks left before…

Step One

Monday, March 4, 2013

I had been writing fantasy and science fiction for years before it finally dawned on me that if I was really serious about it I really ought to…

Invocation of the Muses

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One of Steven Pressfield’s main topics of focus in The War of Art is the fight against what he calls Resistance — the unrelenting struggle a writer faces…

Plague of Titles

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I thought I’d pen a quick note just so everyone knew I was still alive. There’s a lot of activity here at Jones central, and some of it…

Pulp Virtues

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of the treasures I had in the form of one-of-a-kind pulp adventure books. In amongst the mad rush of…