Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

New Release: All Made of Hinges – A Mormon Steampunk Anthology

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 27, 2018

I’ve got another short story out, today! All Made of Hinges – An Anthology of Mormon Steampunk has launched, the first of three volumes. The ebook is out now, with a paperback edition to follow shortly. I haven’t focused on short stories very much this last year, but I still love them and was very pleased to be included in this anthology.

Okay, so what is “Mormon Steampunk?” We’ll start with the “Steampunk” side. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know. My first published stories were steampunk. In the broadest sense, it’s Victorian-era speculative fiction, or spec fic taking place in a setting much like that of the mid-late 1800s. BUT… in general Steampunk has a bit more of a feel / flair to it that separates it from something like Weird West or Victorian-Era supernatural horror. It is generally a fictionalized era–alternate history–where the wild failed inventions of the time actually worked, and the wild imagination of authors like Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, and H. G. Wells are reality. In many cases, the world is a bit more idealized. And if it’s over-the-top and gonzo in its wild liberties taken with history, all the better.

Okay, so what is “Mormon Steampunk?” This series was spearheaded by Dave Butler, best known lately as the author of the excellent Witchy Eye series. He also wrote City of the Saints, a wild ride around the “Kingdom of Deseret” (Utah) which included over-the-top fictionalized versions of several historical characters and some wild technology like flesh-eating clockwork scarab beetles. Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the “Mormon” church) was founded in the 1800s and had set up their own provisional in the Utah Territory to escape persecution and conflict. The church sent missionaries all over the world, and of course there were the controversies surrounding polygamy, doctrine, and leader Joseph Smith’s run for President, and … lots more. The history is interesting, but the folklore and rumors of the era even more so. (And if you read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days… yes, there are Mormons & Missionaries in that, too).

So the idea here was to have Steampunk involving Mormons – the church and its members. The trick was, as very explicitly noted in the submission guidelines, that this is a work of fiction and that the stories were not intended to be either “anti-Mormon” or to strongly suggest that the theology is true. These were to be fictional works about fictional Mormons (even if they had real-life counterparts) and is intended for a wide audience. They had no interest in the religion of the authors. If you’d be offended about a story of cultists trying to reanimate the corpse of Brigham Young, however, this might not be the book for you.

Otherwise, hey… game on! Get ready for some wild tales. My story, “The Pipes of Columbia,” takes place during the Columbia Exposition in Chicago–the 1893 World’s Fair.  This was the Epcot of the late 19th century, and where the world’s first Ferris Wheel was built (which could carry 60 people per car and over 2000 people at a time…). It was also where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir made their big touring debut. Interestingly enough, this story is coming out just a few weeks after the choir changed its name after 125 years. The story involves a stolen shipment of bizarre organ-pipes and a dangerous mesmerist.

Anyway – if this piques your interest, check it out! The ebook is only $2.99.  Other authors include D J Butler (the man himself!), John M. Olsen, Elizabeth Mueller, Scott E. Tarbet, Stephen L. Peck, and six others.  Get ready for some wild steampunk rides!

Filed Under: Books, Short Fiction, steampunk - Comments: Comments are off for this article

Steam Autumn Sale

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 21, 2018

Hold onto your wallets! The Steam Autumn Sale is here. Now, I’d really appreciate it if people took advantage of Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon being 60% off… less than $5… to help offset the amount of money I’m likely to spend this weekend on Steam games that I might eventually get around to playing.

For those unfamiliar (!!!), Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon is an old-school style RPG with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Yes, it’s comedy. No, it’s not easy. But I have it on good authority that it’s a lot of fun. 🙂

Anyway, I hope you all have a fabulous weekend. Here in the U.S., we’re celebrating Thanksgiving, and I have a TON to be thankful for. And you folks are part of that. So, thank you!


Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Deals, Rampant Games - Comments: Read the First Comment

Author Spotlight: Jodi L. Milner, Author of Stonebearer’s Betrayal

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 2, 2018

Unsurprisingly, I have a lot of writer friends these days, to go along with all my game developer friends. (Side note: It’s also interesting how often those two groups intersect). I met Jodi when we were both writing stories for anthologies from Xchyler Publishing. Xchyler’s authors were scattered all over the globe, but somehow we had a concentration of authors from Utah. That’s also unsurprising, considering the concentration of speculative fiction writers in the state. It’s something of a running joke here.

Anyhow, Jodi and I share the same publisher once again – Immortal Works. (Yeah, we writers talk about publishers and give recommendations / warnings about publishers all the time, too.) Her new book, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, is coming out in less than two weeks, and I wanted to talk to her about it and what she’s doing. She’s a big fan of the Witcher novels, which I haven’t read, so as a fan of the game series I wanted to ask her about those, too. So… here. I hope you find it interesting / entertaining:

RC- Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

Jodi: I’m a bit of a patchwork quilt. There’s a chaotic piecework of motherhood, writing, volunteering, and music stitched together with sheer determination. Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor of all things. I made it all the way to college thinking it was my path. After taking a few premed classes I realized the parts I loved about medicine were only 2% of the job, and the rest was stuff I couldn’t stand. So, I took up veterinary nursing instead. No regrets there, and puppies! My other hobbies include martial arts, travel, and violin, although I don’t get much time these days to do any of them.

I didn’t start writing seriously until my second child was born and I desperately needed an outlet. I’d always dabbled, but never allowed myself to pursue the dream of publishing a book of my own until then. It’s been quite the journey ever since!

RC – What else have you written and had published?

Jodi: My first short story “Breath” was published in 2015 in Xchyler Publishing’s fantasy anthology The Toll of Another Bell. “The Skull Collector” was shortlisted in SQ Magazine’s 2016 international short story contest and published in edition 31. My one and only published poem “The Clicker Clack Man” can be found in The Hunger, a Collection of Utah Horror. Two of my random flash fiction pieces are in writing conference anthologies. I’ve also had two stories featured in Immortal Works Flash Fiction Friday.

RC – Okay, tell us all about your new book!

Jodi: Stonebearer’s Betrayal is an emotional coming-of-age story filled with magic and danger. In it, Katira is dragged into a reality that she once believed to be only legend – the existence of immortal Stonebearers and the power they hold. Their ancient society is being threatened by a demon bent on revenge and Katira must be brave enough do what’s necessary to protect her family.

Appropriate for kids 13 and up, interesting enough for adults to enjoy.

RC – Bonus Question! You are a fan of the Witcher book series. What got you into those?

Jodi: It all started while I was researching a scene. I found a picture of Geralt carrying a grown-up Ciri on his back. The combination of the scars, the armor, the twin swords, and those viper eyes captured my imagination. I hunted down more information and started to watch the gorgeously rendered cut scene videos on YouTube of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It seems like attracts like, the story of Geralt of Rivia is a close mirror to the story of one of my main characters. All the emotional notes that I’d been working to reach were played out in Geralt’s story so I was riveted. After obsessing over the videos, I wanted to read the books and see if they lived up to my expectations, because if they did, they’d easily become new favorites. So far, I’m not disappointed (although I could do with a touch less politics, and a little more Geralt fighting monsters).

Growing up, Jodi L. Milner wanted to be a superhero and a doctor. When she discovered she couldn’t fly, she did what any reasonable introvert would do and escaped into the wonderful hero-filled world of fiction and the occasional medical journal. She’s lived there ever since.

These days, when she’s not folding the children or feeding the laundry, she creates her own noble heroes on the page. Her speculative short stories explore the fabric of dreams and have appeared in anthologies and magazines, while her novels weave magic into what it means to be human.

She still dreams of flying.

Jodi can be found online at http://jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JodiLMilner, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JodilMilnerAuthor/

Stonebearer’s Betrayal will be released on November 13th at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



Filed Under: Books, Interviews - Comments: Comments are off for this article

Happy Halloween! And NaNoWriMo Begins at Midnight Tonight.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween. Definitely a favorite here at the Barnson household. This year we are celebrating by attending a Lore podcast event at Brigham Young University. It’s gonna be fun. 🙂

And… even scarier… NaNoWriMo begins at midnight. And since I’m a bit of a night owl, I’m gonna try to get a bit of progress done before I go to bed. Then it’s off to the races. Last year, I managed to write nearly 60,000 words in the month of November. They needed some revision, of course… a draft is just a draft… but that was Blood Creek Beast, which is due out in March.

It is funny how my attitude has changed a bit. I mean, I’ve never taken the idea of NaNoWriMo seriously (I still don’t, really). And November is far from an optimal month. Ever. However, now I think every month should be NaNoWriMo (even with a full-time job, at least when it’s not requiring the 12-hour days), or at least close to it, even when I’m also editing. I aspire to be that productive.  I proved to myself that 2,000 words per evening isn’t that big of a deal. On a good night, I can blow past 3,000. I’ve done a bunch of writing this year, but NaNoWriMo is a great excuse to commit and give me a shot in the arm.

So yeah. That’s what it really is for me. An excuse to go Turbo mode, and commit time to something I really want to be doing, anyway. I’m not going to complain. 🙂 As far as I’m concerned, you make your own goal (50k words is a great suggestion!), and the only way to lose is to not write at all if that’s what you wanted to do. Anything else is progress.

Have a great Halloween, and for those participating, happy NaNoWriMo.

Filed Under: Events, Writing - Comments: Comments are off for this article

Scary Shows Season – Late Edition

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 30, 2018

Okay, so normally I do a thing around Halloween about the scary shows we’ve been watching, and what I’ve thought. This month has been a little crazy (the overworked kind, not the psycho-killer-with-a-knife kind). But hey, just in case you wanted to catch some good scary shows, here are my impressions on what we’ve managed to catch.

Personally, we’re not big fans of gore, shock-horror, “torture porn,” Satanic horror, or anything like that. Our favorite films are usually supernatural thriller / horror. We want to be spooked, scared, chilled, but not grossed out. So far this season, we’ve managed to avoid all but one serious stinker, so it’s already an improvement over the last year or two (where, with a few shiny exceptions, everything we saw was crap).

A Quiet Place: A family lives in silence on their farm on an Earth invaded by impossibly fast, powerful, but blind predators with incredibly accurate hearing. This one is probably the winner for the season. I heard a lot of hype about how good this one was, and so I was prepared to be disappointed. It couldn’t POSSIBLY live up to all that praise, right? Well, it did, at least in my mind. Solidly put together, few missteps, and it ended at what I thought was the perfect point, refusing to overstay its welcome. It stars and is directed by John Krasinski, one of the stars of The Office. (He’s also in Amazon’s Jack Ryan series, which is also excellent and defied my expectations.)

Train to Busan: A fantastic zombie apocalypse film from South Korea. I’m not a big zombie movie film. I don’t hate them, and I have some favorites in the subgenre (usually comedies), but they nailed this one pretty well. And yeah, it’s all fast zombies. ON A TRAIN. But no Samuel L. Jackson. But good, tense, and not too gory.

Split: I don’t trust M. Night Shyamalan anymore. Not since Lady in the Water. This is the first one I’ve really liked since The Village, I think. A man with multiple personalities (the film lampshades the discredited nature of this condition nicely) has had several nasty, dangerous personalities reappear…. preparing the way for a previously unseen “beast” to emerge within him. He / they kidnap three girls, and they struggle to escape before the monstrous transformation.

American Poltergeist: This one was by far the biggest stinker of the bunch, but it was so unintentionally funny that I couldn’t hate it. Everything about the movie is bad, but at least it keeps moving … in a lurching, old-school zombie kind of movement… so it’s not as boring as some horror movies on Netflix that look like 18 minutes of story mixed into 90 minutes of of footage that is supposed to cause tension or something. But I won’t go so far as to say this one is in the “so bad it’s good” category. It ain’t.

The Haunting of Hill House: This has disrupted all other scary-show watching this year. We’re about two-thirds of the way done with it, so it might still suck. But so far, in spite of being “Netflix Slow” in points, it’s kicking butt. Especially with the extra game of “spot the ghost,” because they are often there in a scene, if only for one camera shot. They are just part of the setting… until they become part of the plot. Anyway, the show seems to be true to the spirit of Shirley Jackson’s novel, albeit not so much on the details. But so far, it’s excellent Halloween season viewing.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The trailer looked great. We watched one episode so far. I’m somewhat intrigued and everything seems to be done pretty well (and I love Michelle Gomez!), but the Satanic references and some confusing, muddled motivations in the first episode are just a little much. I liked some of the ideas (probably based on the source material) and the horror-comic style, but I finished the first episode without feeling a lot of interest in seeing the second. I’ll probably give it at least one more episode to win me over, but right now the feeling is “meh.”

Happy Death Day: This one was a pleasant surprise. It’s a smart, sharp movie about a stalking killer wearing the baby mask of the worst college sports mascot ever… mixed with Groundhog Day. Every time our girl Tree gets offed by the bad guy, she wakes up and has to live the same day over… only this time, she hopes to solve her own murder from previous incarnations and actually survive. It doesn’t go well, and what’s worse, she doesn’t have “infinite lives” – her body is showing signs of the previous mortal injuries and she is growing weaker with each iteration. And her killer is really good at chasing her down. She also goes through her own personal Phil Conners-esque transformation / character arc after dying… a lot. Anyway, this is a relatively clean (PG-13) flick and a lot of fun.

Tucker & Dale Versus Evil: Yes, I talked about this one a few years ago. We re-watched it, mostly to get the taste of American Poltergeist out of our mouths. Tucker & Dale Versus Evil is straight-up black comedy that inverts the “killer hillbilly” genre. It stars Alan Tudyk, and if you can handle most horror-comedies with moderate gore, it’s definitely worth a watch.


Have a happy Halloween, folks!

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The Virtual Reality Cockpit

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 24, 2018

One of the things I discovered flying a World War II warbird in Virtual Reality is just how small those cockpits really were. This is true of many modern fighters as well. After years of seeing the front panel stretched out from screen edge to screen edge. Sure, I used to live near Washington DC and I’d visit the National Air & Space museum as often as I could. But I was smaller (and skinnier) then, and you couldn’t usually go into the cockpits. Dropping down into the VR versions and re-discovering just how cramped the pilot’s “office” was is an eye-opener. I understand what the fighter pilots mean when they say they are “strapping on the plane.”

This feels especially true when you are searching for the bandit you just lost sight of (hint: if you don’t know where he went, check your six). While there’s a great deal of freedom to move your head around that you don’t get in the normal computer flight sim experience, if you don’t want to “cheat” and stick your head through the glass, there’s not a lot of room. The top of the canopy, where I am often looking in the middle of turning or scissoring with my opponent, doesn’t seem that far from the tip of my nose. It makes sense, and it’s cool… it’s just kind of fascinating.

Modern general aviation aircraft feel rather spacious by comparison. It probably doesn’t hurt that most of them have a copilot seat to the side.

VR definitely presents scale better than traditional rendering. Everything feels like it has to be rendered larger to scale right in a traditional first-person perspective game (and, of course, your running speed is scaled accordingly, and then quadrupled). But in VR, scale is exactly right.

Another thing I’ve noted: I can play a civilian flight sim like X-Plane for an hour with no significant ill effects in VR, even though it can’t hit 90 FPS on my system. Cruising around in an aircraft in VR is not an issue. Serious sustained dogfights in a flight sim in VR will hit the limit of my endurance within 10 minutes or so. In all likelihood, I’d be blowing chunks in a real aircraft with that kind of maneuvering, so we’ll call it “realism.” When I’m in a faster plane against a more maneuverable opponent, the engagements can last a while, and there are times in VR when I give up and head for home (or just quit the game and take off the headset). I remember pushing it too far looong ago playing Descent when it first came out, how terrible I felt the rest of the day, and how I was still feeling slightly queasy the next morning. So yeah, I don’t feel inclined to try and push my tolerance too far anymore.

By far, the coolest thing about VR flight sims is that it captures the sense of flying better than anything short of a million-dollar commercial flight simulator. Or, obviously, a real aircraft. Over the weekend, I let a friend (who is also a private pilot) try out X-Plane in VR. He flew the Cessna 172, an aircraft he is quite familiar with in real life. Aside from being disoriented by trying to physically reach out and touch controls, he was blown away by how much it felt like the real thing. He said, “I feel I have a purchase coming up in the near future. How much is the game?”

I said, “The game is only about $60. But the VR gear can be $500 or more, and you need a decent computer to run it.”

He laughed and said, “Five hundred bucks? That’s almost as much as a couple of hours of plane rental and gas these days.”

Okay, yeah. Cheaper in the long run. 🙂 I’d still prefer a flight in the real thing when I can swing it. But it’s not like there’s any way I’d ever get to fly in an actual F-15 or battle over the skies of France in a Sopwith Camel in the real world. So I’ll take the virtual skies.


Filed Under: Flight Sims, Virtual Reality - Comments: 9 Comments to Read

Writerly Update and NaNoWriMo

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 23, 2018

The day job is ramping up the pressure, so it is a challenge to get much done during the off hours. But I’m going for it.

As I mentioned before, the latest StoryHack (#3) is out, featuring my urban fantasy story, “Shoot First.” This story was a fun one to write, as it features the protagonist from “Dead Last,” in StoryHack #0. Links and further information can be found at StoryHack.com.

I just signed a contract for a short story that will be appearing in an anthology of “Mormon Steampunk,” coming from Immortal Works Press. I’ll have more details soon. It’s my understanding that it’ll be out “soon.”  My story, “The Pipes of Columbia,” takes place in an alternate history version of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair – the Columbia Exposition. Like I said, more details to come!

The next book in the Blood Creek series, Blood Creek Beast, is now (mostly) out of my hands. The final revision is complete, and now it’s going through the formatting, getting a cover, and all the marketing-related activities needed to prep it for launch. I don’t have final release dates yet, but there should be enough time to finish reading Blood Creek Witch!

I will be at the Local Authors & You event at the Viridian Event Center in South Jordan on November 2nd.  I’ll have a short reading from Blood Creek Witch, and I’ll be at my table saying hi to people and signing books. If you are in the neighborhood that day, stop by and say hi! There are lots of great authors to meet and plenty of awesome books to discover.

As for NaNoWriMo… November is looking like hell for me with the day job, and getting anything done after 12 hours of work can be difficult. But dang it, I’m going for it anyway. I’ve been writing the third book in the Blood Creek series, which was put a little bit on pause while I worked on revisions for Blood Creek Beast. The clock is ticking to get it done, as well as the final book in the series, so I’m taking advantage of November to push. I’m not super-active with the “official” org page, but if you want to buddy up with me there, I should be easy to find. I have learned that having some active buddies all pushing the word counts together in friendly, very loose competition can help.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, Storybundle.com is running its annual NaNo Writing Tools Bundle. The only one I have read from this bundle (so far) is Dean Wesley Smith’s How to Write a Novel in Ten Days, which is largely a reprint of his blog updates on his process of writing a ghost novel. There are no deep, dark secrets in there, but there are some interesting tidbits of knowledge to glean from how a pro writer might schedule their day. Anyway, if you are a writer or aspiring writer, check it out and see if the bundle is of interest to you.

And as always, have fun!

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The Simple Joy of Ferris Bueller

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 15, 2018

Okay. I’m showing my age here. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a film that came out when I was still in public school. In case you haven’t seen it, it is the story of a high school kid in the mid-1980s who plays hooky with two of his friends, and pretty much has the ultimate vacation week in Chicago packed into a single day. And he gets away with it, because he’s amazingly good at winning friends, influencing people, and pulling off audacious stunts. All the time, he is pursued by a nasty principal and his jealous sister, anxious to catch him in the act so that he can suffer the full consequences of his deception.

The plot is ridiculous. It’s pure wish fulfillment as a kid, nothing more. I’ve read an earlier script that was quite a bit darker than what ended up on the screen in the final cut (Charlie Sheen’s character being one of the last vestiges of the original plan), but IIRC it was still pretty ridiculous and over-the-top.

What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

I have seen some fan-theories that suggest that the whole adventure–and maybe Ferris Bueller himself–was entirely the product of Cameron’s fevered imagination. The rationale? Because it’s impossible. There’s too much stuff to pack into a three-day vacation, let alone a few hours. And of course, it’s crazy to imagine one kid pulling all this stuff off.

John Hughes is sadly no longer with us to ask, but this is the same guy who later brought us a bunch of Home Alone movies with the same level of insane, ridiculous plot. Sure, in contrast with some of his more serious teen films, it’s more over-the-top… Ferris Bueller’s Day Off marked the beginning of a change of style for the popular filmmaker. Again, the darker original script suggests that he had something a bit more in-line with his more angsty teen films like Pretty In Pink or The Breakfast Club.

But this fan theory is… well, dumb, unimaginative, and downright nasty. You may as well assume that all of the Spider-Man movies are Peter Parker’s fever dream when he’s in a coma from radiation poisoning, because a human inheriting a spider’s powers is ridiculous. By that rationale, every single modern-era film with fantasy or science-fiction elements can have the same fan theory: “It was all just a dream.” BORING. Unimaginative. Lame. For that matter, any story in which the hero triumphs in spite of rather spectacular odds can be downgraded to just being someone’s dream or imagination run wild. I remember making that joke the first season of the TV show 24, because there was no way somebody could drive across Los Angeles during rush hour in the ten minutes or so the show indicated.

That is a nasty perspective to have. I hate the idea of relegating everything fantastic, impossible, or even improbable to the realm of lame. Sorry, fan theory people… you have to work a lot harder than that!

Filed Under: Movies - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

StoryHack #3 is out!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 12, 2018

StoryHack #3 came out this week, featuring another Donovan Flint story by yours truly. This story, entitled “Shoot First,” takes Donovan Flint and his fellow agent on a hunt for a magical artifact which can kill in a heartbeat.  Of course, my story is one of many excellent stories in this issue, including an actual Jungle Adventure (taking place in Brazil instead of Africa, for a change…). How’s that for some good ol’ pulp flavor?

JD Cowan and Jon Mollison are a couple of familiar names if you have been following some of the pulp-style anthologies and magazines over the last couple of years, but this issue seems to have a pretty good mix of “regulars” and fresh faces. The stories run a range from the aforementioned jungle adventure and urban fantasy, to high fantasy, SF, and crime drama. I’m reading through the stories now and enjoying them greatly.

Anyway, if you pick it up, I hope you enjoy my little yarn, as well as the rest of the stories! Have fun!

StoryHack #3 is available as a physical paperback here.

Or, if you prefer an eBook, you can get it here.


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Bard’s Tale 1 – Completed!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 11, 2018

As much as the original Bard’s Tale fired up my imagination as a kid, I’ve always regretted never completing the game.  I’ve tried to remedy this on several occasions over the years, creating several new crews of characters, watching them die horrible deaths–often before they’d taken more than 20 steps from the relative safety of the Adventurer’s Guild. As fun as the game is, it is also pretty frustrating.

I don’t remember exactly how far I’ve ever gotten. Though I have vague memories of my party getting wiped out by the 396 Berserkers, I don’t remember much of anything beyond the sewers from playing it on my Commodore 64 back in the 1980s. And I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to the Catacombs on subsequent attempts.

Until now.

The new Bard’s Tale Trilogy (which currently just includes BT1, with the other two and a legacy mode coming soon)  removes most of the frustration from playing the classic 1985 RPG, as I mentioned last week. It provides a much cleaner, more modern interface with tool tips that doesn’t require you to look things up in the manual constantly (important, since the new manual wasn’t available when I started). The graphics have been updated, which is nice. Some gameplay elements have been smoothed out, retrofitting the original game with features from the later games, smoothing out the XP curves (I think), etc. The game now allows you to save and load anywhere, automaps for you, and provides cures in the temples for some conditions that were incurable in the original release.

It is the last sentence that could be considered the greatest hit to the authenticity of the remake. Much of the difficulty of the original release was based around navigational hazards in the maps (especially teleporters, spinners, and traps), and a really steep “death penalty.” It wasn’t permadeath, as in a roguelike, but it meant sacrificing characters or replaying large chunks of the game over and over. It was “Nintendo hard.”  I don’t have time for that these days (and considering the lack of completion, apparently I didn’t back in the day, either). So I welcome the elimination of these “challenges” which to me feels more like filler and padding.

The result? After thirty years, I’ve finally beat Bard’s Tale I. Mangar is defeated. Only half of my party survived the end of the battle, but we took him down! It might not have been exactly the same experience as those who played the older versions, but I’m still chalking this one up to the Victory column.

Now I’m looking forward to Bard’s Tale II!

Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Retro - Comments: Read the First Comment

Fly the Unfriendly Skies for Free!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 27, 2018

Okay. Just in case you wanted to see what a modern, hardcore-realism jet combat simulator was like, Eagle Dynamics is offering a “free weekend” to play two (and a half) of their newest products: The F/A-18C Hornet and the Persian Gulf map (both of which are still in “early access” stage), as well as the carrier-launched Russian Su-33 (currently available in the Flaming Cliffs 3 expansion, and soon in the Modern Air Combat package). This will be available both on Steam and on the Digital Combat Simulator website (https://www.digitalcombatsimulator.com/).

DCS World itself is a free product, but ordinarily you only get to fly an Su-25 variant (an air-to-ground attack aircraft) or a trainer version of the World War II era P-51 Mustang (one with no weaponry). This free weekend goes on sale tomorrow (Friday), but you may want to start the download of the rest of the DCS World package nowish if you want to give it a go. This gives you a chance to play with some hotter, newer jets with powerful air-to-air capabilities for free, and see how it runs on your machine.

I guess they are trying to broaden their audience with offers like this, and the upcoming Modern Air Combat. Good. I remember when combat flight sims were one of the more popular computer game genres. Nowadays, they are more niche, but there’s no reason they can’t be a bigger niche.

The F/A-18C is a powerful naval multi-role fighter, an upgrade in the late 1980s from the original F/A-18A, and was in production until 2000. It can carry a variety of air-to-ground weaponry, as well as advanced U.S. air-to-air missiles like the AIM-120C and AIM-9X. The Su-33 is an upgrade of the powerful Russian Su-27, modified to fly from an aircraft carrier in the mid-1980s. While it originated as an air superiority fighter, it can also carry air-to-ground weaponry.  (I guess I should say “air-to-surface”, because these two naval fighters don’t always have the ground under them). This makes them a pretty reasonable match-up, and the Persian Gulf map is a great fit for carrier-based conflicts.

After the weekend is over, this whole package will be available at a discounted rate for three weeks.  This time they promise that if you already own part of the package, you can get the other part as a discount. We’ll see. Anyway, as far as the package is concerned, I’m going to embed the promotional video here because it’s dang cool.

The Su-33 still has the same kind of “professional flight model” as all of the DCS aircraft (except, for now, the MiG-29, which should be updated soon).  However, that’s not the complicated part. If anything, a more realistic flight model makes the aircraft easier to fly. They behave predictably even when you put them in weird situations. However, the Hornet has an advanced control model, which means nearly every control in the cockpit is modeled, interactive, and should work just like the real aircraft. Since the F/A-18C is a complex beast, you can assume you won’t be mastering it over the course of a single weekend. The Su-33, on the other hand, has the old “standard” control system common to all of the Flaming Cliffs aircraft (which goes all the way back to the “Lock On: Modern Air Combat” days circa early 2000s). This means you don’t get a fully interactive cockpit (you must instead use keyboard / mouse / controller commands), and certain systems are either somewhat simplified or not modeled. It’s still a long, long way from Ace Combat, just not up to the level of fidelity as F/A-18C or similar premium modules.

Fortunately, for any aircraft, you can also choose simplified avionics and other options / cheats, which vastly simplifies the experience. Especially since using the radar, navigation, and targeting is something like 75% of the difficulty of flying these planes in combat. I recommend turning a bunch of these options on as you are learning the basics (including unlimited ammo, unlimited fuel, and labels). You can work your way up to greater difficulty later. Learning how to cold-start a jet aircraft isn’t something all players want to learn to do. 🙂 Especially not during a free weekend trial.

So… if you are interested, here’s a chance to check it out. Have fun!


Filed Under: Flight Sims - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Impressions: The Bard’s Tale Trilogy – Remastered

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 24, 2018

I first played The Bard’s Tale on the Commodore 64 many, many years ago (when it was new). I’d played Wizardry on friends’ computers, but it still hadn’t made its way to my beloved C-64. The Bard’s Tale was not only a great substitute, but it tried hard to be a superior title. Graphically, it was certainly more impressive, with full color graphics and limited animation in a first-person dungeon crawler. It had some really neat features that made gameplay and character development more interesting (at least for spellcasters). At the time, it was clearly a major entry in computer role-playing games.

I put many, many hours into it. And I died. A lot. I grew frustrated – in part from the game, in part from the limitations of its interface (quite common in similar games back then), and in part due to the notoriously slow disk access on the Commodore 64.  Sadly, just at the point where I was finally making decent progress, I… quit playing. It wasn’t a conscious act, I just never returned to my last saved game. But it inspired me, and one of my few assembly language programming projects on the C-64 was to create a similar graphics window painting a full-color first-person perspective scene in a city for a dungeon crawler like Bard’s Tale.

I got even less far in Bard’s Tale II. Years later, I revisited some of those early dungeons in Bard’s Tale Construction Set (which were included with the demo campaign), and then I used an emulator to replay the original games–but never to completion, despite my best intentions. The older graphics didn’t bug me, but some of the old interface conventions, limitations, and rough edges really slowed it down for me. And for some reason, I can’t get into creating my own maps on graph paper anymore.

Now, in conjunction with the release of Bard’s Tale IV (which looks pretty awesome, BTW, but I’ve only played a little of it so far), they’ve released a “remastered” edition of the original Bard’s Tale trilogy. Currently, only the first of the three games (“chapters”) has been released.  The second is due in fall, and the third in winter. In spite of my schedule the last couple of weeks, I’ve put several hours into the remaster.

And you know what? IT IS AWESOME! And I think I’m finally going to beat the entire trilogy this time around. 🙂

Besides graphics improvements and more modern interface enhancements, there have been a large number of “quality of life” improvements added to this version. This includes a built-in automap function, somewhat less grinding (there’s still plenty of it, don’t worry), revised balance and improved mechanics from later games retroactively applied to the earlier game(s), more information and mechanics available at your fingertips, the ability to use the seventh slot for a player character instead of only summoned / recruited creatures, the ability to load or save from anywhere in the game (except in combat), and so forth.

In short, it is now up to the standards of a modern indie game. After putting a few hours into it, I have to say that I think this is a really sweet “remaster.” The updates have really sanded down the rough edges that always got in the way of having fun in the past. We’re left with a really solid CRPG that had some really impressive, advanced concepts for its time. In my mind, it’s removed a lot of the barriers to “having fun.”

So far, I find the game is still punishingly difficult at low levels. However, this is offset by the quality of life improvements. Being able to save / load freely (and quickly) really helps, and I think there are lower XP requirements means you can escape those hellish lower levels pretty quickly. Hopefully, you’ve learned how to try and run away by that point. Even at higher levels, the game will sometimes throw groups of monsters at you that you just can’t beat. Random chance is still a significant factor, but at least now you can save frequently and have better control over other things to help mitigate the disasters.

Now, some will say that this isn’t the “real” game.  That this isn’t capturing the “true” essence of The Bard’s Tale circa 1985. And maybe they are right. But for me, the true “old school feel” isn’t in the inability to save or load anywhere, or the uselessness of rogues in the original release of the first chapter, or in taking twice the grinding to level up. If that is what it defines it for you, there is always the emulated version of the original, or the upcoming “Legacy” mode for this game, which promises to take away your automaps, your ability load anywhere, and many of the other ‘quality of life’ enhancements. It’ll keep the new graphics and UI though.

So far, my forays into the dungeons below Skara Brae haven’t taken me as far as my original expeditions on my C-64, but I’m only about 9 hours in. This should be a reminder that old-school RPGs were typically pretty epic in length. In these old games, you don’t typically blitz through a dungeon level in a single trip, and then activate a two-way teleporter at the end. No, these dungeons were experienced in repeated forays, mapping a bit, and then pulling back before resources dropped too low so you could survive the trip back to the entrance.

There’s something very satisfying to me about this style of RPG gameplay. Now, I don’t know that The Bard’s Tale was ever a great example of the style–the series had its flaws and I don’t think those have entirely gone away with this remaster. But it’s still a classic game, and it’s still a really good CRPG well worth playing today–even in the modern era with lots of great competition. Now, with new graphics, a cleaner interface, and performing well on modern machines, I think The Bard’s Tale is better than ever.

Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Impressions - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

FanX 2018 Report

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 10, 2018

I’m not exactly sure how to begin.

I went to this FanX (formerly Salt Lake Comic Con) with the intention of doing little more than working the booth and selling books. This is my first FanX with my novel, Blood Creek Witch, rather than just anthologies that contained one of my stories. I didn’t really know what to expect, but based on previous conventions, I conservatively took the best total sales I’d ever had at this con with multiple titles combined (in some cases offering 2 different books at a discount), added about 50%, and figured that should be more than enough. I joked about selling out, thinking it was wildly optimistic.

I sold out halfway through the convention.

But while it sold extraordinarily well, it wasn’t just Blood Creek Witch. I sold out of everything else I’d brought except for a single copy of StoryHack that had gotten slightly warped from sitting in the box wrong.  Our shelves were starting to look pretty bare of everything by the end of the third day, and I heard from several other authors at other booths that had done extremely well. Whatever alchemy FanX came up with this time, I hope they keep it up! As for me, I wish I’d brought at least twice as many copies of Blood Creek Witch, but I’m happy with how things went.

Next time, I may bring tons of copies and only sell a half-dozen. Who knows?

Anyway, I still stayed with the booth most of the time, talking with people and costume-watching. That really is half the fun of a convention like this. I attended three panels, and didn’t end up going to see any of the big celebrities. I didn’t even go to see David Tenant, but my wife did. While I spent most of the time at the booth, I still ended up missing a few people who dropped by to see me. There’s probably some law of the universe that states that all the things you were waiting for will happen while you’ve finally left on a break.

As usual, though, the con was in part a fun family reunion with extended members of my geeky tribe. I love that. I got to hang out with old friends, including some that I haven’t seen in a few years, and those that I rarely see outside of conventions like this. It was also great spending time with the awesome people at the Utah Speculative Fiction / Immortal Works booth – Kelly, John, Beth, Ben, Scott, and several others. We swapped stories, had a bunch of laughs, and had late-night dinners after the show floor closed at local restaurants. We made new friends talking to people at the booth (ours and others). I wish I’d had more time to hang out with people, but the convention could have lasted six days and I still wouldn’t have been able to do that.

After three days, I had very sore feet and legs, but some good memories.

Some highlights I just want to jot down, some of which may be a little cryptic:

  • Free craft soda refills
  • Pac-Man dog leashes (yes, our dog is now wearing one. She has no clue)
  • Pep talk from Dave Butler
  • Hearing how Utah Jazz legend John Stockton helped push Brian Lee Durfee on his career
  • Some comments by Cheree Alsop and other panelists about why action & romance (“Swashbuckling and Swooning”) go together so well
  • Chatting with Dan and Maria over dinner about amusing celebrity green room moments
  • Hanging out with an old friend, Jonnalyhn, from college
  • “You’re a monkey!”
  • Talking with the Operation Underground Railroad people. These guys are superheroes in my book, winning a real-life battles against despicable evil.
  • Jason King of Immortal Works proving he is awesome in a clutch
  • “He’s right behind me, isn’t he?” (x2)

Filed Under: Books, Events - Comments: Comments are off for this article

FanX Weekend!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 6, 2018

Hello everyone! This weekend (starting in a couple of hours), I’ll be at the FanX Comic Convention in Salt Lake City, booth 2424. If you are going to be there, drop by and say hi! I’m planning on being at the booth most of the time, at least until my book sells out. Hear that optimism? “Until my book sells out,” not “If my book sells out.”


Life is an adventure.

Filed Under: Books - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

The Golden Wall of Science Fiction

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 4, 2018

I grew up reading stories from the “pulp era.” I also grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons (well, once I turned 12… so reading predated the playing by a little bit). Until I read Appendix N by Jeffro Johnson, I didn’t realize there was a connection between the two. When I first started playing D&D, it was pretty much “anything goes.” Science fiction, fantasy, horror, whatever…  it all worked. Old-school D&D was like that… as was old-school pulp. I didn’t consciously realize this, it was just the attitude reflected in the rules and game modules, in the articles and letters in Dragon magazine, Polyhedron, and similar periodicals (ah, the days before the Internet). It was on the covers of Heavy Metal and White Dwarf magazine. And it was part of my favorite films, the original Star Wars trilogy, featuring space wizards with magic swords battling it out with space ships and giant walking robots blasting it out in the background. Awesome stuff.

At some point, I became a purist. Fantasy was fantasy and science fiction. I sneered at an aquantance’s D&D campaign that featured knights wearing powered space-armor and lasers. Nevermind the fact that I’d had plenty of fun years earlier playing the science-fiction-themed official D&D module, “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks,” or that I still used the totally broken SF-themed psionics rules for 1st edition Advanced D&D. At this point, young Jay Barnson thought he knew everything about everything, and damn it, science fiction was different from fantasy! I resented how the later entries in the Wizardry computer game series (and the early Might & Magic titles) mixed space ships & magic. How silly! Okay, maybe they weren’t handled well, but I was against the principle!

And then I got older. More experienced. Played more games, watched more films, read more fiction both modern and classic. And the voice inside my head finally said, “Screw it.” Probably the same voice that heard Clarke’s Third Law too many times: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I realized the wall between science fiction and fantasy was a lot thinner than I’d thought. Where had it come from?

The answer is, in part, John W. Campbell. A science fiction author to who took the helm of Astounding Stories (formerly Astounding Stories of Super Science) in 1938, changed its name to Astounding Science Fiction, and emphasized science-driven stories as opposed to pulp adventure stories with vaguely scientific rationale to make the plot work. This wasn’t entirely a new approach. That wasn’t too dissimilar to Hugo Gernsback’s approach with launching Amazing Stories more than a decade before. Interestingly enough, by this point, this marketing decision set Astounding Science Fiction apart from Amazing Stories, which was in my perspective the point. Campbell made the focus on harder science stick, in part because he paid top dollar for stories, compared to the rest of the pulp market.

Campbell ran the magazine for a long time afterward, eventually dropping the “Astounding” and rebranding it “Analog,” the name by which it is known today. But the beginning of his tenure marked what is frequently called the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.” This all came at the right time, as the severe belt-tightening of the Great Depression came to a close, and the specter of World War II arose. People were desperate for an inexpensive escape, and pulp adventures filled the bill nicely. The relative optimism of science fiction of the era didn’t hurt. The idea that men with screwdrivers could engineer solutions to seemingly insurmountable evils as well as any hard-hitting action hero was refreshing and welcome. Campbell’s marketing focus came at a good time. Science fiction grew in popularity, and other magazines sprang up emphasizing science fiction with various levels of Campbellian “hardness.”

It is my belief that this exerted a pretty strong influence over the writing community. As a writer, you need to maximize your chances of both making a sale and selling to the highest-paying markets. It’s how you put food on the table. Since the “slicks” rarely purchased stories with unrealistic elements, your best bet would be to target Astounding and to try and meet Campbell’s standards. Even if you were rejected, you could then submit elsewhere. Amazing Stories might still publish something that felt like an Astounding story, but the converse was not true. So the “Golden Age” erected a wall between “Science Fiction” and everything else. If you didn’t meet Campbell’s standards, not only was your story not Astounding material, but it might not even *gasp* be science fiction at all! Oh, noes!

That didn’t stop Planet Stories or Amazing Stories from publishing all kinds of character-driven tales of space princesses and heroic derring-do throughout the solar system and galaxy at large, or calling it science fiction. So it wasn’t a universal change. Snobbish readers referred to these “other” stories as “Space Opera,” hoping to smear it with association to “Soap Operas” and “Horse Operas,” but today the description has lost most of its negative connotation. So there. The assumption persists that the harder SF of Campbell’s tenure was superior and more “mature” than that of the earlier or competing pulps.

At once point, the assumption was almost uncontested, but there’s vocal disagreement today. But that’s only by the people who actually read those older stories…

But that’s primarily where the modern division between science fiction and fantasy came from. The “Golden Age” was a golden wall. Was it a good thing? I’m not sure. For me, I think it was a good thing insofar as it gave a boost to “hard” science fiction, yet remained porous and easily crossed. Where it caused the snobbishness and this idea that fantasy chocolate and science-fiction peanut butter should never be mixed, maybe it wasn’t so great. For my part, most of the science fiction I’ve read came after Campbell began his reign, and there’s a lot I love. Some of that might never have been written had Campbell not encouraged it through his high bounty on hard SF.

But then, what is “hard” SF? What qualifies? Honestly, a lot of the stuff that seemed pretty hard back in the day and tied into then-modern theories of how the universe worked come off as being pretty bizarre and fantastic today. A lot of the stuff written in the mid-20th century is alternate history today, dealing with timelines that never came to pass, theories long disproven, and mixing antiquated technology with things that still don’t exist. Even Andy Weir’s “The Martian,” a recent classic of hard science fiction that has enjoyed well-deserved mass-market popularity, is starting to feel a little quaint with the latest science and technology. When I was a kid, planets were thought to be rare, and dinosaurs didn’t have feathers. Science is a journey and methodology, not a destination. This makes it ripe for imaginative stories, but not so great for hard divisions between it and fantasy.

But I’m all for fuzzy, blurred lines, inviting all kinds of variety across the spectrum by virtue of their existence. I don’t want to argue about whether Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s godlike Q or premise of “we’ve evolved past needing money” is more or less fantastical than the Jedi and the really strange size / distance scales of Star Wars. I don’t think The Martian or Interstellar are inherently superior to Guardians of the Galaxy or Wonder Woman by virtue their scientific plausibility. I want stories in the middle and at the extremes.

And yeah, I’m okay with D&D games with powered battle-armor, and with the Dark Savant orbiting a fantasy world in a space ship. It’s all good fun.

Filed Under: Books, Dice & Paper, Retro - Comments: Comments are off for this article

PTFC Challenge #3 – Red Nails

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 30, 2018

For the final entry in the Continuing the Pre-Tolkien Fantasy Challenge, I wanted to finish with one of my favorite pre-Tolkien fantasy stories… one that I haven’t read in years. I re-read it for this challenge, and while my take on it was different from my teenaged memories, I found I was no less delighted by it. The novella is one of the quintessential Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, Red Nails. It was also, sadly, the last complete Conan story written by Howard, published posthumously after his death.

But man, what a story.

This story as much about Valeria of the Red Brotherhood as it is about Conan. The story uses the third-person omniscient view which is out-of-fashion these days, freely moving into the heads of the two main characters. At least Howard does it well. I’m going to assume you already know who Conan is, but if you haven’t read at least a couple of original Conan stories, rather than his popular modern representation, than I’d argue you really don’t know who Conan is. This novella would be a great start! Howard himself called it, “the grimmest, bloodiest, and most merciless story of the series so far,” and “the bloodiest and most sexy weird story I ever wrote.”

In this story, Conan meets up with the pirate Valeria of the Red Brotherhood as they fled pursuit. Well, she was fleeing pursuit, he killed the man who was pursuing her. They meet up on this tall bluff in the jungle, Conan explains what a great service he’s rendered for her by killing her pursuer, and is sort of expecting her to fall into his arms in gratitude. Valeria is having none of this, and draws her sword to drive the … ahem… point home. Conan recognizes her skill and backs off, but still proceeds with the trash talk, which she returns.

He stepped toward her, and she sprang back, whipping out her sword.

“Keep back, you barbarian dog! I’ll spit you like a roast pig!”

He halted, reluctantly, and demanded: “Do you want me to take that toy away from you and spank you with it?”

“Words! Nothing but words!” she mocked, lights like the gleam of the sun on blue water dancing in her reckless eyes.

He knew it was the truth. No living man could disarm Valeria of the Brotherhood with his bare hands. He scowled, his sensations a tangle of conflicting emotions. He was angry, yet he was amused and filled with admiration for her spirit. He burned with eagerness to seize that splendid figure and crush it in his iron arms, yet he greatly desired not to hurt the girl. He was torn between a desire to shake her soundly, and a desire to caress her. He knew if he came any nearer her sword would be sheathed in his heart. He had seen Valeria kill too many men in border forays and tavern brawls to have any illusions about her. He knew she was as quick and ferocious as a tigress.

Their little argument is interrupted by the appearance of a monstrous creature described as a dragon. It’s that, or some kind of oversized dinosaur. They immediately forget their differences and band together in mutual defense. Their fight & flight take them to the gates of an ancient, city-sized fortress. The few inhabitants are survivors of a long-running, bitter feud between two tribes, bent on nothing more than the annihilation of each other. The tribe that enlists the aid of Conan and Valeria intend to pit their superior skill at swords against the other tribes’ reliance upon dark sorcery unearthed from the catacombs of the city. For every enemy slain, they drive a red, copper nail into an ebony column to mark their victory.

Naturally, when two decadent, dying races are steeped in such hatred and focused on nothing but destruction, there’s not going to be much of a happy ending no matter which side the mercenary pair might team up with. The story is full of interesting characters, but the backdrop of two dying cultures in the halls of a fortress built by an even longer-dead race is compelling. It drips with detail, but never too much.

Valeria isn’t quite the super-powered creature that Conan is, nor can she match Olmec, prince of the Tecuhltli tribe, for brute force. She is described as being stronger than the average man, and in skill and speed there are few men alive who could equal her, let alone beat her. She and Conan fight side-by-side, and have to rescue each other in nearly equal measure, so it’s clear that this adventure requires both of them. She is reckless, but she isn’t quite the hyperactive psychopath that Bêlit is Shemite was. Valeria is a pirate and mercenary, aggressive without being foolhardy.

One major battle scene pits Conan, Valeria, and men and women of both tribes  in a single, bloody conflict:

These crashed into the fray with the devastating effect of a hurricane plowing through a grove of saplings. In sheer strength no three Tlazitlans were a match for Conan, and in spite of his weight he was quicker on his feet than any of them. He moved through the whirling, eddying mass with the surety and destructiveness of a gray wolf amidst a pack of alley curs, and he strode over a wake of crumpled figures.

Valeria fought beside him, her lips smiling and her eyes blazing. She was stronger than the average man, and far quicker and more ferocious. Her sword was like a living thing in her hand. Where Conan beat down opposition by the sheer weight and power of his blows, breaking spears, splitting skulls and cleaving bosoms to the breast-bone, Valeria brought into action a finesse of sword-play that dazzled and bewildered her antagonists before it slew them. Again and again a warrior, heaving high his heavy blade, found her point in his jugular before he could strike. Conan, towering above the field, strode through the welter smiting right and left, but Valeria moved like an illusive phantom, constantly shifting, and thrusting and slashing as she shifted. Swords missed her again and again as the wielders flailed the empty air and died with her point in their hearts or throats, and her mocking laughter in their ears.

Neither sex nor condition was considered by the maddened combatants. The five women of the Xotalancas were down with their throats cut before Conan and Valeria entered the fray, and when a man or woman went down under the stamping feet, there was always a knife ready for the helpless throat, or a sandaled foot eager to crush the prostrate skull.

Brutal. Dark. Awesome.


Red Nails has some of the flashiest sorcery in the Conan stories. You’ve got a frickin’ lightning-wand and a glowing skull that renders victims helpless, and pipes that induce madness. You have giant snakes summoned from the depths, and ancient dragons resurrected through dark magic. You have witches that can compel with a gaze. And you have lots of swords. Yeah, this story is quintessential Sword & Sorcery, not just Conan. Tolkien’s wizards are slow-burning forces of nature with subtle magic. The sorcerers and witches of Conan’s world run hot and crazy.

If you are a Dungeons & Dragons player, the fortress city of Xuchotil is as archetypal dungeon as the Mines of Moria. With three tiers and towers above ground and who knows how many dank and dark levels in the crypts below, it is full of hidden passages, ancient torture chambers, lost magical items, monsters, and SCADS of treasure–to the point where the jewels and precious metals are esteemed valueless by the current inhabitants. Green fire-stones and the occasional indestructible skylight provide light through some of the chambers, but not all. There sounds like there is a lot more to the city than can be described in this story, but rather left to the imagination of the reader. Or an imaginative Dungeon Master.

And yeah, of the three stories I read for this challenge, this is my favorite, and remains one of my favorite Conan stories. Maybe it will become one of yours, too. You can find it online at Project Gutenberg, or over at Wikisource (complete with the July 1936 Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover that is totally inappropriate by today’s standards…)

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. There was plenty of excellent fantasy out there before Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series hit the bookshelves, and while I still love LotR, I would love to see more of the preceding works get remembered. There’s plenty to enjoy.

Filed Under: Pulp, Short Fiction - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

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