Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Here's a good Space: 1889 miniatures blog by Keith Frye, combining battle reports with conversions, painting tips, and reviews of Space: 1889-suitable figures, all with good photos. It's called Burning Sands of Sytris Major. Snappy title.
There's a recent review of RAFM Martian irregulars, which is timely. I'll have some good news about the RAFM line of 25mm miniatures soon. But in the mean time enjoy this blog. Here's a link and I've added it to the permanent links.
Monday, August 20, 2012
It has been a while since I've done a craft-of-writing piece and since I'm struggling with the rewrite of The Forever Engine it seemed an appropriate time to share my thoughts on an issue which confronts (or ought to) all novelists -- their villain. There will be no spoilers in this piece, so no need to worry about that, but that also means it will address the broader issue of villains rather than the specific villain in The Forever Engine -- although the challenges are the same.
For starters, let me say that as a reader I have no patience with cardboard cutout villains, who are evil for evil's sake and whose principal motivation (that I can see) is to give the protagonist an excuse to whup up on the villain's legions of loyal minions. Why they are so loyal to this psycho is often a mystery worth considering, but that's usually the smallest problem I have with that sort of story.
For me, stories really work well when the villain is as interesting as the protagonist -- maybe even more so. Think of how many really great stories were made great by the stature of their villains: Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs, Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Iago in Othello, Dracula in Dracula, and for that matter Media in Media. So I see a four-fold challenge facing authors when it comes to their villains.
Challenge One: What do They Want?
Protagonists have over-arching goals. Villains do as well. What is their life goal? What end-state do they seek? Most importantly, why do they seek it? For their goal and motivation to be engaging it seems to me they have to see themselves as the heroes, the good guys. From their point of view, this is their story. I think the film Open Range is one of the five or ten best westerns of all time, and part of that is due to the villain (Denton Baxter) played by Michael Gambon. In a different story, perhaps one set a decade or two earlier and dealing with "taming the savage west," he'd be the hero. The fact that he's lived past his usefulness and has been unable or unwilling to adapt to changing times makes him definitely a bad guy, but one with some tragic aspects as well. How different is he from the protagonists of The Wild Bunch, or even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?
Challenge Two: What Do They Have To Do To Get What They Want?
This is a bit more mechanical than the above but still involves some artistry, as well as the need to tie the villain's actions into the genre. Ideally the villain's necessary actions should be the window to the genre. In Open Range the villain's goals -- protect what's his -- manifest themselves in the struggle between fenced in pasturage and free-range cattle drives, and so show us an issue at the center of a turning point in the history of the west. In a science fiction story the villain's methods should be at the heart of the scientific curiosity of the story.
Challenge Three: Why Are The Villain's Actions So Potentially Catastrophic The Hero Must Stop Them At All Costs?
This is a tough one, but it becomes the heart of the story. It is the essence of the story's conflict and ultimately separates the hero from the villain. Since it's the heart of the novel, how big the conflict is determines the scope of the novel itself. If what's at stake is the hero's life, okay. We understand a person wants to survive in the face of a deadly threat, but that doesn't make them a hero, does it? That's not that big a story. Does the villain threaten other folks we care about? Bigger story. Does the villain threaten a way of life? Bigger story still. Is justice on the line? Is truth on the line? Will something of value to mankind be lost forever? These are bigger issues, and make the story itself bigger.
James Scott Bell defines a novel as "the story of how a character deals with the threat of death." The issue may be physical death but, as I noted above, that's often the least involving motivation for readers. But there are many forms of death. Professional death from failure in the character's chosen career. Emotional death from the loss of loved ones. Moral death from the betrayal of the character's core values. Spiritual death from the loss or abandonment of the character's defining principle or faith. Psychological death from the loss of sanity (see H. P. Lovecraft). Death of pride. Death of happiness. Death of hope. All are more involving than the simple issue of physical survival. What the villain threatens constitutes the stakes of the novel, and the bigger the stakes, the more engrossing the story.
Challenge Four: It All Has To Make Sense
This one, ironically, is the toughest of them all. A villain who has a giant organization working with him and whose goal is to destroy the world makes no sense. He's actually in the world. What does he get out of this deal? And yet you see this over and over. A human who betrays his race to alien exterminating conquerors "for power" makes no sense. Power over what? Power over whom? But you see this as well.
More subtly, the way the villain goes about achieving his goal has to be the most logical and sensible approach (at least for him). If he's going to set off an atomic bomb in New York City when he could as easily achieve his goal by robbing a convenient store, that's a problem.
There's a pretty good Denzel Washington film about a runaway train, called "Unstoppable." The villain is a senior executive at the railroad who will not listen to the voices of reason and experience and mishandles the attempts to solve the runaway train problem. But he isn't stupid; he's an experienced railroad man who's simply so used to being the smartest guy in the room he can't credit anyone's ideas but his own. So far so good.
So at one point he gets another engine in front of the runaway train to slow the train to the point that a replacement engineer can be lowered onto it from a helicopter. The train can't be slowed quite enough, the replacement engineer on the cable gets smashed through a window and seriously injured, and other bad things happen. It's a very dramatic and exciting sequence, but ruined (for me) by one nagging question: why not put the replacement engineer in the engine in front of the runaway train, so when they matched speeds and effectively coupled to it, he could just step from one engine walkway to the other? Remember, the villain isn't stupid, but in this case he is required to act as if he is simply so the story can go on. Not very satisfactory writing, in my opinion.
There are few things more annoying to me than a plot propelled forward primarily by the stupidity of the villain, unless (as in the film Fargo) that's kind of the point of the story. So the hardest part of all this, in my opinion, is making all these moving parts fit together as if this is the only way in the world they possibly could. If you can pull that off, that is good writing.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Rod of Highlander Studios released his first British 15mm Space: 1889 infantry at Historicon, the British Firing Line. As nice as his personality figures are, the bulk of the figures you'll put on the table will be grunts, and you can't have a proper army without the Poor Bloody Infantry. Here are two looks at the new castings.
Here's the link to the Highlander Studios Space: 1889 online store.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Uhrwerk Verlag has released the limited-edition hardcover version of their new Space: 1889 game. The general market version should be close on its heels. Here is a nice video preview of the game from their web site. It's in German, of course, but you can enjoy the pictures.
Here's a link.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Conspiracy of Silence, the first book in the second season of Space: 1889 and Beyond, is now live. I just got this email from Jay Hartman, Editor-in-Chief of Untreed Reads Publishing:
Conspiracy of Silence has officially gone live! It's available for immediate purchase and download from:
The Untreed Reads Store (http://bit.ly/Pqrzz3)
Apple's iBookstore (32 countries)
Barnes and Noble (worldwide)
DriveThruRPG.com (new retailer for Space: 1889 & Beyond!)
Lightning Source (North American distributor)
We are in the process of sending out the coupon code for all of the people who purchased the Season Two Pass.
I'll be attending the CelestiCon Game Convention out in San Francisco (actually Fremont, CA, but close enough) over the Labor Day weekend. This is my second year as guest of honor at the convention and I look forward to it as more fun than work. It's a great part of the country and a very friendly convention staff and crowd -- all very welcoming.
I'll be running Mars Needs Steam as well as Men Under Fire (my new World War II skirmish rules) along with a lot of help with troops and terrain from Rick Schuldt. When it comes to terrain and troops, Rick's a true artist. We're shipping a number of vehicles and special units out, however, so some of the Mars Needs Steam game will look at least a little familiar.
I'm also giving a couple talks while I'm out there, one on Secrets of the Battle of Borodino (along with old friend Dana Lombardy) and the other on my revisionist and (I am sometimes told) controversial views on Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire. I also just got word that Dave Nilsen, one of the old crew from Game Designers' Workshop and just about the best game designer/developer I ever worked with, will be there as well. If you're in the area it's definitely a show to attend. Hope to see you.
Here's a link to the convention homepage.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
I know this isn't a lot of warning, but today's the last shot at a season pass from Untreed Reads for the second season of Space 1889 and Beyond.. All six books for only $17.00. It's a great deal. Here's the link. Make tracks while you still can. The offer ends at midnight Pacific time.
As you knowm, we ran two very big Mars Needs Steam games at Historicon. You've seen a lot of pictures of the various Mars Needs Steam games we've run so I'll try to concentrate on new things in these pictures.
Starting with the Russians.
Starting with the Russians.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Me and Christin. Her hussar busby has a death's head skull, but with one cybernetic eye (of course) which you can just see by the plumes. It's more clear in the picture at the top of the post.
Me and Tom. That is a genuine archaeologist's pith helmet, by the way -- used by Tom when he was an undergraduate in archaeology.
Thanks a bunch, you two. Those were serious ass-kicking games. Pictures from the games tomorrow or the next day.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Season two of Space: 1889 and beyond is just about here, and Untred Reads is offering another season pass. More about that soon. But in the mean time here is the press release from Untreed Reads followed by a preview of Conspiracy of Silence, co-authored by Andy Frankham-Allen and myself.
Coming mid-August 2012
The second exciting series of steampunk adventures!
Everything Arthur Conan Doyle thought of,
but never published – because it was too fantastic!
Following on from the success of the first series, Untreed Reads Publishing is proud to present the second series of six books based on the world-renowned Role Playing Game, fully licensed from creator, Frank Chadwick, and headed by best-selling author Andy Frankham-Allen.
The series begins mid-August, and will be released bi-monthly, thus running for a whole year. Once again we’ve brought together some of the best names in fantasy fiction as well as some relatively new names to bring you a series that will continue to re-shape the popular steampunk universe first created almost twenty years ago.
This series our heroes, “Professor” Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset are joined by two others on their journey through the aether. Captain Jacob Folkard, the commander of HMAS Sovereign, and another familiar face. There is much turbulence and change ahead, as secrets are unveiled, mysteries revealed, with the fate of the
British Empire hanging in the balance. Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. Join Nathanial, Annabelle, Folkard and guest as they travel from one corner of the Space: 1889 universe to another, from the conspiracies that eat away at the heart of the British Empire to the underworld of Ceres, watch them as they encounter pterodactyls in the clouds above Venus, join them on their longest journey between worlds where it seems their darkest fears follow them all the way to Phobos and the mysteries contained inside that moon… Where will their journey end? Nothing is certain, except that by the end of series two the 1889-verse will be shaken to its very core!
At the end of the last series, Nathanial and Annabelle found themselves in something of a tight spot. Annabelle lost one of her legs due to the machinations of the manipulative French man, Le Boeuf, on an experimental heliograph station, and Nathanial found himself placed under arrest for the destruction of said station. It seemed things were looking up for them after they helped rescue Annabelle’s increasingly mad uncle, inventor Cyrus Grant, and foiled a Russian plan to secure the moon and the alien Heart at its centre. But as series one closed, Annabelle was disheartened by her uncle’s deterioration, despite the support of Lieutenant George Bedford, first officer of the Royal Navy’s flagship HMAS Sovereign, and Nathanial was left to ponder his own future. He hopes that his actions on Luna will give his innocence some credence, but is concerned about the reception awaiting him on Earth… No one but he and Annabelle survived the destruction of Peregrine station, so who is behind the charges levied against him?
Series two begins mere hours from where series one left off, with the series creator, Frank Chadwick, joining forces with series editor, Andy Frankham-Allen, to bring you a tour-de-force in Space: 1889 adventure!
The Stories1. Conspiracy of Silence by Andy Frankham-Allen & Frank Chadwick
2. To Ceres by Steam by Paul Ebbs
3. Leviathans of the Clouds by Steven Savile & David Parish-Whittaker
4. The Forever Journey by Oli Smith
5. A Fistful of Dust by Sharon Bidwell
6. Horizons of Deceit by Jonathan Cooper
Andy Frankham-Allen (left, series editor and co-author, Conspiracy of Silence) is a Welsh-born author of many short stories, both for Untreed Reads and the Big Finish’s official range of Doctor Who anthologies. In 2005 he co-authored the last in Noise Monster Productions range of Space 1889 audio dramas, and in early 2011 Untreed Reads published the first novel in his new real world dark fantasy series, The Garden, which was nominated for the Rainbow Award, Best Full-Length Supernatural Novel 2011. He continues to write short stories and novels, with upcoming projects including a novel in Crossroads Press’ Scattered Earth series, and non-fiction Doctor Who book for Candy Jar Publishing, as well the second book in The Garden series. On top of all that, he’s also the series editor for Space: 1889 & Beyond.
Frank Chadwick (right, series creator and co-author, Conspiracy of Silence) is no stranger to the Victorian science fiction field. He is the creator of the Space: 1889 universe, with the first in a series of role-playing adventures, board games, and miniatures rules appearing over twenty years ago. He is known throughout the gaming industry as one of its most prolific designers, with over a hundred published games. He is also well-known in the history and military affairs field, with over two hundred books, articles, and columns. His 1991 Desert Shield Fact Book reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but he still lists steampunk as one of his first and greatest loves. As well writing one and a half novels in the first series of Space: 1889 & Beyond, his forthcoming works include two novels with Baen Books, How Dark the World Becomes and The Forever Engine which is set in the Space: 1889 universe.
Paul Ebbs (left, author To Ceres by Steam) has written various Doctor Who related things for the BBC, Big Finish Productions and BBV, and as a TV writer he’s written for such notable shows as EastEnders, Casualty, The Bill and Dead Ringers.
Steven Savile (right, co-author, Leviathan of the Clouds) has written for Doctor Who, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Slaine, Fireborn, Pathfinder and other popular game and comic worlds. His novels have been published in eight languages to date, including the Italian bestseller L’eridita. He won the International Media Association of Tie-In Writers award for his Primeval novel, Shadow of the Jaguar, published by Titan, in 2010, and has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award on multiple occasions. Silver, his debut thriller reached #2 in the Amazon UK e-charts in the summer of 2011 selling over forty thousand copies in the process. He wrote the story for the huge international bestselling computer game Battlefield 3, which sold over five million copies in its week of release, and he served as head writer on the popular online children’s game SPINEWORLD which have over one million players. His latest books include Tau Ceti (co-authored with International Bestselling novelist Kevin J. Anderson), Each Ember’s Ghost and the novelisation of the computer game Risen 2: Dark Waters.
David Parish-Whittaker (left, co-author. Leviathan of the Clouds) was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest for emerging talent in speculative fiction for his short story A Warbird in the Belly of the Mouse. He’s previously written tie-in fiction for the Rezolution miniatures ruleset by Aberrant Games, to be published in an upcoming anthology. His short fiction has also appeared in Every Day Fiction. He currently writes videogame analysis and reviews for Geekosophy and Bag of Games. When he’s not writing, David works as a captain for a national airline. In previous incarnations, he has been a naval flight officer, traffic watch pilot, glider tow pilot and aerobatic instructor. He is a rated commercial glider pilot, and holds an H-2 hang glider rating. In his off hours, he plays a replica medieval harp for the Goliards, an early music group specializing in 13th – 15th century music, mostly to cement his geek street cred.
Oli Smith (right, author, The Forever Journey) spent two years as a freelance writer working on novels, audio books, comic strips and video games for the BBC series Doctor Who. Now he works as a creative producer for London-based video games company Mediatonic and spends his evenings playing board games. He still likes writing, retro sci-fi and RPGs so it looks like Space: 1889 has got him covered.
Sharon Bidwell (left, author, A Fistful of Death) was born in
on New Year’s Eve. The first short
story she submitted — Silver Apples of the Moon— was accepted by
Roadworks Magazine. The editor announced her as ‘a writer who is going places’
and described the story as having ‘both a Sci-fi and horror element,’ and being
‘strong on characterisation, and quite literary, in terms of style.’ With a
repertoire of twisted tales and a love of cross-genre writing, it surprised
everyone (including herself) when she branched out into erotic romance. These
works have been critically acclaimed and often described as ‘deeply
passionate’. London ’s
worlds are vivid, unexpected and sometimes intensely magical. She is the author
of the best-selling gay romances ‘Snow Angel‘ and the sequel ‘Angel
writes whatever her warped mind can come up with. Although her longer works to
date mostly involve a variety of wonderful men finding true love…or at least
some loving, she’s quite capable of writing something darker, grittier, and
even outright twisted. Sharon
Jonathan Cooper (right, author, Horizons of Deceit) was born in
in 1981. He started his career in theatre, writing plays from the Birmingham
REP and the King’s Head in Islington. He has written extensively on the web on
film, TV, video games and other assorted geekery, including a stint producing
reviews and opinion for Mirror.co.uk. He has
written and produced two short films with another two in production and has had
short stories published internationally – he is also, according to the BBC –
one of the top 200 comedy writers in the UK. Horizons of Deceit is his
first full-length science fiction piece, and he remains bizarrely proud of the
day Steven Moffat threatened to set his eagles on him.
Adam Burn (left, cover designer) has been drawing from an early age, and has been working with digital art for at least seven of them. He is a freelance artist who has worked for Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games. He was, most recently, the Senior 2D Artist for Taitale Studios on their forthcoming MMORTS game, Novus Aeterno. Steampunk is a new genre for him, but one he’s finding his way around quickly, and he is responsible for the covers of series two, as well as the revamp of the Space: 1889 & Beyondlogo.
Exclusive: Conspiracy of Silence (prologue)
“AETHER PROPELLOR SECURED and ventral mast shipped, sir.”
“Very good, Mister Barry.” Lieutenant George Bedford, acting captain of HMAS Sovereign, the most modern aether battleship in the Royal Navy, took a quick scan of the bridge instruments and engine room repeaters before turning back to the young sub-lieutenant. “At what would you estimate our drop, Mister Barry?”
Barry had only worn the single thick stripe of a sub-lieutenant for eight months and
hadn’t known him
as a midshipman. The youngster had a good level head on his shoulders, Bedford
had learned that much about him several weeks earlier when the two of them had
dropped half a dozen Saltators—giant lunar red ants—with revolver fire when the
monsters had boiled unexpectedly out of the hatch of a cutter on the docking
bay. His technical skills were another matter, but they were coming along. Bedford
Barry squinted through the lens of the horizontal inclinometer, aimed out the bridge’s starboard observation blister, consulted his pocket watch, waited ten seconds and took a second reading through the lens. He paused, doing the calculation in his head.
“I make the drop fifty-five fathoms per second, sir.”
“Fifteen percent buoyancy, aye, sir,” the petty officer answered and went to work on his forest of levers, each controlling the angle of one of the liftwood louvers which covered much of Sovereign’s lower hull.
“Mister Barry, my compliments to Lieutenant Boswell and he may light the coal boilers at his discretion.”
They wouldn’t have enough atmospheric oxygen for the boilers for another ten minutes or so, but Boswell, the chief engineer, knew that well enough. The sun was still visible above the curvature of the Earth and would remain so all the way down through cloud-free skies. Although it was not yet day in
England, the eastern sky would already be pink and the sun would
rise full up in the hour their descent from orbit would take, racing as they
were toward the dawn. The solar boilers would do until Boswell put the black
gang to work, would probably suffice until the last ten minutes of the flight,
when they would penetrate the near-permanent cloud and smoke cover over Greater
London. No solar boiler yet made would work down under that grey-brown shroud.
More than that, she held memories. Were it not for his assignment to HMAS Sovereign, he would never have met and befriended Nathanial Stone, and would not now be delivering him to the police for trial as a traitor and saboteur. He would never have met Cyrus Grant, one of the greatest scientific minds of the age, now reduced to confusion and madness by their experiences on Luna. Most importantly, he would never have met Grant’s niece, Annabelle Somerset.
NATHANIAL WATCHED AS the line of Russian former captives was led to the steam omnibus waiting at dockside. The irony of their situation and his washed over him like a cold wave. Former enemies of
they, along with British personnel, had been captured by the alien Drobates on
Luna, and all had been rescued by ’s
daring raid, leading fewer than a dozen Royal marines and naval ratings. Now
the Russians would be released, amidst much public fanfare, to the custody of
the Russian ambassador, who would in turn express the heartfelt gratitude of
the Tsar. Bedford
In the subsequent fighting which had nearly cost all of them their lives, the Russians had done nothing to help while Nathanial, with a captured Drobate electric rifle, had held a long, dim tunnel against an alien horde, and had done so nearly alone and with little expectation he would escape with his life. Now British soldiers helped the Russians into the steam omnibus, showed them every courtesy, while a quartet of hard-eyed constables marched purposely toward Nathanial, obviously intent on taking custody of him from the two Royal Marines who guarded him.
Nathanial had at least expected to be met by some sort of government official, have the charges explained. Instead a black police four-wheeler loomed behind the constables. Were they really simply going to pack him up and cart him off to prison with no further ado?
Nathanial looked for any sign of his friends. Captain Folkard, who had relieved himself of command of Sovereign after the disastrous events on Luna had played themselves out, was nowhere to be seen on the dock, but Nathanial spied Annabelle making her way to him on the arm of Lieutenant Bedford, both of them limping.
had suffered a
nasty sprain of his ankle on Luna and Annabelle… Months earlier Annabelle had
lost her right leg above the knee and now wore a mechanical limb designed by
Nathanial and built using Drobate technology over the course of the last few
weeks. It seemed to serve her well, the only bright spot in this uniformly
bleak scene. Bedford
“Is this Stone?” the leading constable asked.
“Of course it is,” Private Jones answered, bristling slightly. “And what of it, then?”
“It’s all right, Private,” Nathanial said. “It is clear enough they are here for me. If you gentlemen would be so good as to give me a moment to take my leave of my friends, I would appreciate it.” He addressed this last to the leading constable.
Instead the man gestured to his assistants. “Seize him and put him in the van.”
“No! Just a moment, please!” Nathanial entreated but to no avail.
Two constables pinned his arms to his side and pulled him toward the black carriage. A few yards away Annabelle cried out and broke free of
reached out to him. The leading constable made as if to stop her but Jones’s
rifle was suddenly in his hands at high port. Bedford
“Touch the lady, friend, and you’ll be chokin’ on your teeth,” Jones growled and the constable took a step back.
“Nathanial,” Annabelle said and thrust something round, flat, and metallic into his hand, “take this and remember—never lose hope.”
The constables pulled him away and he saw George Bedford comforting Annabelle as the doors on the back of the van closed and plunged him into darkness. He looked at his hand and saw a small gold watch, gleaming dully in the faint light which entered through the overhead ventilator. He recognised it as the pocket watch her father had given her—which contained on its inside a daguerreotype of her deceased parents; the only thing she retained from that former life.
Never lose hope.