I rose bleary a little too early this morning and read the sad and somber story of “The Last Days of Shandakor” by the incomparable Leigh Brackett. Shortly Bill Ward and Fletcher Vrendenburgh and I will be discussing it on the site, so if you have a copy of the tale I hope you’ll join us. It’s found in several Brackett collections, among them the nearly perfect “best-of” paperback Sea-Kings of Mars and the absurdly affordable Martian Quest e-book.
I say nearly perfect because A.) It contains NEARLY all of my very favorite Brackett short stories. I’d take out one or two and replace them with others, but it’s a great one-stop if you’ve liked Brackett and want to get a better sense of her before plunging into buying the expensive Haffner Press hardbacks. I own them, but I might not have if I hadn’t been familiar with this volume already.
B.) The darned thing has irritating typographical errors, the kind that crop up when the original manuscripts have been scanned and then not proofread carefully enough.
‘Tis the first day of winter. We should be seeing some icicles any day, if we haven’t already…
With the cold snap in full swing I’ve been looking into my game closet at the increasingly large stack of games-to-be-played. It’s not nearly as high as my books-to-be-read pile, but it’s starting to get embarrassing. Some of these games are pricey and took a lot of effort to track down (they were out of print) or to get trade deals for. And yet many are unplayed or even in shrink wrap, on the off chance I decide I want to trade them away for something else.
I’d been thinking that my collection was starting to get out of hand, but after I poked around a bit I realized that I’ve got nothing on the real game aficionados. I have a few dozen — some friends, acquaintances, and like-minded folks have HUNDREDS. But then maybe they collect those rather than cats or porcelain figurines, and maybe they don’t have other hobbies.
I’m putting finishing touches on a review of a new Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons product titled Volo’s Guide to Monsters. I happen to think it’s pretty swell, but I thought it would be a good idea to see what other reviewers have written about the text, to make sure there’s not some glaring problem I missed.
It turns out that no, there isn’t, unless I’m a special snowflake. Hence the ranting hat. While there were a number of intelligent, rational reviews that seemed to have found what I did, there were also several that called it out for perceived weaknesses — i.e. the book didn’t address their special field of interest. While the monster guide has a big selection of new player classes, someone faulted it because it didn’t have another, different kind. While it had hundreds of monsters, someone else faulted it because it didn’t have a certain KIND of monster.
I’m reminded of those Conan fans who complained so mightily about the art in the Roy Thomas run on the new Dark Horse comics that they didn’t happen to notice how good the STORY was — how clever Conan was and how much he was acting, you know, like Conan would in a Robert E. Howard story. Read More
The 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