Burninating the Galaxy

Nearly 10 years ago now, I wrote two sci-fi short stories for Inferno. This magazome was Games Workshop first publication through the Black Library, a then-new section of the company set up to publish fiction in the various Warhammer settings. I did two stories set in their Warhammer 40K universe and one in their Warhammer fantasy world. Soon after I was hired at WotC, so I stopped writing for Inferno and haven’t done much fiction since (concentrating instead on game design). In 1999 both of these stories were reprinted in an anthology titled after one of my stories (Into the Maelstrom), which was quite cool. I figured that was the end of my stories until I got this package two days ago.

Since Green Ronin works with GW designing RPGs for their Black Industries imprint, I periodically get packages with the latest novels and background books. As I opened up the most recent package, I noticed a big (700+ pages) trade paperback entitled “Let the Galaxy Burn”. This, it turns out, was a big omnibus collecting “the best SF short stories ever written for Black Library.” I was quite pleased to see that both my stories (The Black Pearl and Into the Maelstrom) are in the collection and the latter is the closing story of the book. I guess this explains why they asked me for new bio a few months ago!

If you are hankering for hot 40K action, “Let the Galaxy Burn” ought to be arriving in bookstores soon.

Conquests New and Old

Nicole and I spent Friday to Monday at a new local convention, Conquest NW, which took place down by the airport. We’d been to other cons run by the same folks in LA and San Fran last year, we like what they are doing, and are trying to support their efforts. For once we were at a con near our home base, so there were no worries about over or under shipping product. When I realized Friday night we might need more of two particular titles, Nicole was able to bring some extras from the office Saturday morning.

There were a couple hundred attendees, which isn’t bad for an inaugural show. Having done several small shows in the past year, I am re-thinking our strategy a bit though. Most of the conventions we go to have an attendance ranging from 4,000 to 25,0000 people. At such events it is a no brainer to get a booth and sell direct. I’m not sure that’s the best thing to do at shows with less than 1,000 attendees though. I spent 20 hours over the weekend manning our booth and I don’t think that was the best use of my time. At the next one of these small shows, I think we might try teaming up with a local retailer to sell our books, and then concentrate on running games and doing seminars. I suspect that’d not only be more effective, but it’d also free up time so I could play some games for fun (hard to do that when you are at a booth for 8 hours).

Amusingly enough, the only after hours game I got to play was…poker. I had woken up Saturday at 6 am for no good reason and then worked the booth all day. After dinner I wanted to do something because I knew if I went back to the hotel room I’d fall asleep. I knew James Ernest was up for doing something, so I tracked him down. Somehow at a hobby game convention we ended up with a seven-player poker game. Now I’m a passable poker player, but James is an expert. In fact, he, Mike Selinker, and Phil Foglio recently authored a book called Dealer’s Choice: The Complete Handbook of Saturday Night Poker. A SeaTac hotel is not Las Vegas though and it was a friendly game with players of all skill levels. We mostly played Texas hold ’em and seven card stud, though there were a few oddball games thrown in to mix it up. Around midnight I started telling myself I’d cash out after the next hand. That went on until 2:30 in the morning. On the upside, it did keep me awake and I ended up doubling my money. Of course, I’d rather have played a minis game or tried out a new board game, but I’m funny that way.

I did come home with a new board game at least, GMT’s Command and Colors Ancients. This takes Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system, first introduced in Avalon Hill’s excellent Battle Cry civil war game and then made even better in Days of Wonder’s Memoir ’44 WWII game, and adapts it for hot Rome vs. Carthage action. GMT is more of a traditional wargame company than Days of Wonder, so it is perhaps not surprising that they’ve made their game rules more complex (presumably) to better simulate the ancient battlefield. One of the big things I liked about Battle Cry and Memoir ’44 was their ease of play though. You can play either game in less than an hour and the rules are quick to pick up. Command and Colors Ancients takes the basic system and expands it out (offering 7 types of infantry, for example, where the other games had 1). The result is more complicated than the previous games, but still markedly less so than a traditional wargame. Once I get a chance to try it out, I’ll be able to say if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Even with the extra rules though, it seems like you can fight battles like Cannae and Zama in under two hours and that’s still pretty attractive.


I watched this shockumentary last night about neo-nazis called Skinheads USA. I had Tivo record it because I thought it was something new, but when I went to watch it I discovered it had been made in 1993. That makes it so out of date I’m not sure what the point of showing it was except to contribute to the general fear mongering of the media (“Tonight, learn how a common household cleaner can KILL YOU!”).

The whole show centered on this small skinhead group in Alabama, which has been defunct since 1997 (not that the show tells you that). Basically, it’s one guy in his 30s who has a house out in the woods where a bunch of young skinheads estranged from their families live. Here they are free to have birthday parties for Hitler, shout out “white power” and “sieg heil” endlessly, shoot assault rifles, and plan their race war. (“Holocaust 2, coming soon to a town near you,” one of them jokes). There’s a reason we refer to these guys are “boneheads” in the punk scene. They are just really dumb to start with. There’s a scene where they are all sitting around the house watching Triumph of the Will. The leader says, “Look at that, see how happy the German people are.” Yeah, dude, you’re watching a propaganda film, of course the people look happy! It’d be like trying to judge the success of collective farms in the Soviet Union by watching their propaganda films. “Look at those peasants, they are so happy!”

The sad thing is that you can see how some of the same factors that get kids into punk also drove these young guys to become skinheads. Abusive families, the corporatization of America, no prospects, political alienation, etc. They just draw all the wrong conclusions. They complain, for example that all the good jobs are leaving the country. But they blame it on immigrants instead of the corporate leadership that makes such decisions (because most such leaders are white, of course). Then they trot out old saws like ZOG (the Zionist Occupational Government, who are supposedly running the show in Washington you see).

So yes, it’s nauseating all right, but it’s also pathetic. When they hold a rally to proclaim Alabama a new homeland for the white man, there are maybe 20 people in attendance and they are far outnumbered by cops and protesters (the reaction shots of the black police officers who have to work the event are priceless). Even later when the skinheads have a “unity rally” and join forces with the KKK, they get perhaps 40 people to attend. If it’s supposed to scare me that a handful of crackpots are holed up in the Alabama woods, the documentary really missed the mark. It is positively laughable that these guys think they are the heirs of the Third Reich. As the Dead Kennedys so eloquently put in their classic anthem “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, “In the real Fourth Reich you’d be the first to go!”

Of Sci-Fi Shorts and Pink Doors

Just got back from a fun day out with Nicole and Michelle. It was Michelle’s birthday and we assured her we’d find something fun to do. As it happened the Science Fiction Museum was sponsoring its first annual Sci-Fi Short Film Festival. There had been many entries and they were showing the top 20 films today, in two, two-hour sessions. Earlier in the week, Nicole asked if we should get tickets in advance. I said, “Bah, what are the odds there’ll be big crowds for a festival of sci-fi shorts?” Forgetting of course that Seattle is nerd central. So we arrived a half-hour before it was supposed to start and there were two different huge lines. We waited out in the cold and wind (and damn, was it windy today) and luckily managed to get tickets. The Cinerama is a big theater (it seats 800) and there were maybe a 20 empty seats in the house by the time it started. Even the organizers seemed stunned and overwhelmed by the turnout.

The films were quite varied and generally of a very high standard. Many were American, but Canada, England, Australia, and Israel were also represented. I really didn’t know what to expect and was quite pleased to see so many good shorts. I may write up a little more on the individual films tomorrow, but suffice to say it was well worth the trip. After the second session they had author Greg Bear on hand to give out the juried awards while they tallied the audiences votes. Bear turned out to be very well spoken and he seemed genuinely excited by the success of the event and the quality of the films. It is a surety that they’ll do this again next year and I will gladly go again.

It was nearly 10 by the time we got out and we were starving. We then spent nearly half an hour dragging Michelle to various restaurants, only to find they were about to close. We finally ended up at the Pink Door, a very good Italian place down by the Pike Place Market. We had a lovely meal that capped off the evening nicely. All in all a good time and a welcome break from work.

The Fane Moratorium

OK, I am officially declaring a moratorium on the use of the world “fane” in fantasy RPG books. Sure, it was one of those cool Gygaxian words we all enjoyed looking up back in 1980, but it has become so overused as to be ridiculous. If you want to abuse a different Gygaxian term, may I recommend glaive-guisarme or hobilar?


Oh man, it seems the 2nd Avenue Deli in New York City has closed. Lame! That place was a Lower East Side landmark, a classic NY deli if there ever was one. There are some sad pictures of the signage being taken down here:


I guess I should be happy that I ate there on my last visit to the city, even if the trip itself was a debacle. Those of you who have read my Realms of Sorcery designer notes may recall how ill I got on that trip. Well, when I could finally even consider eating again, it was the 2nd Avenue Deli I walked to for some matzoh ball soup to comfort me.

I’ll grant you this isn’t the end of the world. Katz’s is still there on Houston St. and they always had better pastrami anyway, but this is another piece of old New York gone, no doubt to be replaced by a boutique or a corporate chain restaurant. Every time I go to NYC now more and more of the city I knew is gone. At least CBGB is still hanging on. Yeah, it’s a dive and always has been but it is the literal birthplace of punk rock and I can’t count the number of great shows I saw there, from Government Issue and Scream to Ed Gein’s Car and the Radicts to Alloy and the Ex.


So goodbye to the 2nd Avenue Deli and good luck to CBGB.