The writing of Sellenria II is moving along. It takes up the story of how Stenn’s ancestor Jonan came to be on Sellenria and explores how events can be surprisingly different than the legends told centuries later. Here, Perrhen is telling of the legends of even more ancient figures in the Kir Leth civilization.

“Gleomere was Polnedra’s greatest creation. In some tales, that was literally true, in that she shaped him to be beautiful, and admirable, and quick, and intelligent, and then imbued him with a portion of her own creative spirit.

If this were a normal year, I would be in Japan with my family. I call my wife’s mother’s house “the last house at the end of the rice fields before the mountains.” It’s in a small village at the edge of a populous river valley. Beyond it are steep hillsides, often planted with rows of tea bushes. Wild boar and monkeys make their home there, requiring a defensive perimeter around the family gardens to stop their depredations. There is probably a local legend of the gaijin who once a year walks over the mountain to see the temple on top and the ruins of a castle that stood there four hundred years ago. The few other hikers stare, but bow when I wish them akemashite omedetou – happy new year – as I pass. Even up here, small shrines and buddha statues are tucked along the path, hiding among the gnarled tree roots.

As 2020 draws to a close, we want to say thank you to all of our loyal readers.

This has been a year like no other, the sort of tale for which you sincerely hope no sequel will ever be made. It appears that we’ll turn the corner on the virus, and with luck, on the economy. There’s more to do, on climate action, on equality, on moving from discord to discourse in our public forums. Perhaps this is the year we can say we made a start on those.

Whatever you celebrate – and we have readers all over the world, so we know that includes Christmas, Hanukka, 正月, the solstice, and probably Beltane as well — we wish you the very best of
fortune in the new year.

We often talk with each other about what books we’ve read, so this month we decided to share our list of all-time favorite sci-fi and fantasy books with you. We have similar interests, such as historical fiction, sci-fi grounded in real-world science, realistic characters, and epic fantasy world-building, so there was some overlap. We also learned some things about each other and ourselves. We seem to both gravitate toward classical sci-fi and “Golden Age” authors such as Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury, and our shared enthusiasm for Neil Gaiman’s works rang out clearly in the fantasy arena. But we each found something new in the other’s picks as well.

Connecting Science Fiction and Historical Fiction

The wind softly moans through the chinks in the drystone walls. The 2,000-year-old broch tower entrance is half sunk in the ground, and I bend low to scramble inside. Centuries of use as a resource for building stones have reduced it to a shadow of its former self. Still, as I emerge onto the rubble pile inside the old ruin, lit by the fickle sunlight of a Scottish afternoon, a familiar feeling begins to grow. Looking out across the water lies the island of Mousa, with its archaeological treasure clearly visible against the sky – another broch tower, dramatically different than the one in which I stand, for it is the only one in existence that is largely undamaged, standing over 40′ tall. Not a single other person, or indeed any hint of the 21st century at all, can be seen in any direction from this low promontory by the sea. There is a sense that comes in places like this for me, an almost palpable feeling of a connection to another time. Mixing passions for archaeology and science fiction together, my mind turns to wonder (again) about the idea that all of time might, in fact, be happening at once. Our limited ability to process time causes it to play sequentially in our heads like a movie. If true, they could still be here, these iron age people, still living their lives, and if I could peer around the right extra-dimensional corner at just the right moment, I might catch a fleeting glimpse of someone from another age drifting past, catch the scent of their smoky peat fire and hear the murmuring of speech in a language long lost.

Escape the Dark Sector

In these days of spending remarkable amounts of time at home, board games can be a fun diversion, so here’s a mini-review for a quick-playing mini-adventure game!

Trapped on an alien space station, you and your companions are imprisoned in a detention block and your ship has been impounded (and why is this you might ask? Don’t ask. It’s not important.) You must escape, running through the corridors of the space station, taking advantage of every opportunity to better equip yourselves, defend yourselves, or make the best of a situation. Some people you meet will be quick to offer assistance. Others will be just as quick to draw a blaster or report you to the authorities. If you overcome the dangers, traps, monsters, cyborgs and other nasties, and (literally) play your cards right, you just might survive the trip to the launching bay. Where the boss monster and final battle awaits!

When I first wrote The Starship and the Citadel I didn’t start out calling it a series. It was a standalone story with a beginning, middle, and end. The main threads are wrapped up by the conclusion of the book, although there are a few deliberately unanswered questions (who is The Other)? But as I finished the epilog there were already stories I wanted to tell. Stenn’s ancestor, Jonan, had changed the world and brought to life legends from a long-ago war. What was his journey from starship engineer to dark warlock? How did Rowena ad Aulem become the general who opposed him? As Perrhen says, in his usual inscrutable way:

“It can be akin to a great rockfall that blocks a river. The rock did not ask to fall there, but still the river goes a different direction. One valley dries up, a new valley begins to form. All that live nearby, on either path, must adjust. The rock is mitthragentor, those who live nearby are mitthragorn. Jonan is mitthragentor.”

Imagine if the Lord of the Rings had been laid out as a pile of 3×5 cards: characters, plot lines, events, and turning points. Now imagine shuffling those cards and dealing them out on a table. What is the likelihood of them making sense? This is the challenge of creating a narrative board game. The designer wants to avoid “railroading” the players, but also wants to tell a story that the players experience as though they were characters in that story.

There is a drawer, every house has one,
where the old keys gather.
They huddle in their camps,
telling of the lost door, valise, or drawer
that they can open, if only they can find it again.
Some are seconds, or thirds, copies of copies,
but still they remember in their teeth
that there is a lock for them out there.
Somewhere.

The Year that GenCon Went Virtual

There is a magical world where elves, androids, Jedi Knights, and superheroes hang around together and where fantasy and science fiction stories play out all day long. Normally, that world is in Indianapolis around the start of August each year, and it’s called GenCon, the largest board game convention in the US. Around 60,000 people attend each year.