... Illustration by Kieran Yanner ... Set Sail with The Ship of Ishtar Monday, November 2, 2009This week we released the newest Planet Stories book, The Ship of Ishtar, by A. Merritt. Not only is this my personal favorite of the 22 books we have released since the launch of Planet Stories about a year and a half ago, but it's also an interesting look at the Planet Stories process, and how in many ways we here in the office are learning just as much about the history of the most important...
Illustration by Kieran Yanner
Set Sail with The Ship of Ishtar
Monday, November 2, 2009
This week we released the newest Planet Stories book, The Ship of Ishtar, by A. Merritt. Not only is this my personal favorite of the 22 books we have released since the launch of Planet Stories about a year and a half ago, but it's also an interesting look at the Planet Stories process, and how in many ways we here in the office are learning just as much about the history of the most important early authors and books in the science fiction and fantasy fields as our readers are.
I often received letters of thanks form Planet Stories readers for introducing them to authors like Leigh Brackett, C. L. Moore, or Henry Kuttner. Most of these authors began their careers in the 1930s and early 1940s, publishing their stories in the pre-war pulp magazines like the original Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and similar magazines.
In order to locate and restore the oldest, most complete texts of the tales we've published so far, I have accumulated a respectable selection of pulp magazines. One of my absolute favorites was called Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Along with its sister magazine, Fantastic Novels, editor Mary Gnaedinger culled the vast archives of the Munsey Magazines (primarily Argosy and All-Story in their various forms and spin-offs), collecting the best fantastic material for affordable reprints. In some ways FFM was the "original" version of our Planet Stories book line, only in this case they reprinted work from the first three decades of the twentieth century almost exclusively.
Two things strike me as fascinating about these magazines beyond the actual stories they contained (many of which were brilliant) and the fact that a woman was setting the original "canon" of science fiction and fantasy in an era when many other women had to hide behind pseudonyms to get their work published at all. Beyond those two substantive issues, the things I find most fascinating about these magazines are the art, and the reader letter column.
The art stands out particularly because most of it (especially early on) came from the peerless pen of Virgil Finlay, for my money the finest illustrator ever to work in the pulp field and one of the greatest American illustrators of all time, period. Finlay's distinctive scratchboard style, fine figure work, and juxtaposition of light and dark tones is breathtaking more than six decades after it was originally commissioned, and his work brings a continuity to the canon of Famous Fantastic Mysteries that might otherwise have been less clear, different as the stories published in the magazine may have been. Many of Finlay's works have been reprinted over the years (and a Google image search will turn up hundreds more), but like the authors whose work he illustrated, he was amazingly prolific. Many of his illustrations appear only in their original pulp form, so opening a "new" issue of FFM rescued from a used book or magazine shop can often feel like digging for visual treasure.
Beyond the stories and illustrations, tacked onto the ends of the magazines and presented in tiny type, came the letters to the editor, often dozens at a time. In the course of praising or criticizing a given issue's content, these letters often include praise of authors and stories that are nearly forgotten today. How many readers other than the most dedicated literary archeologists know much about authors like E. Charles Vivian or Charles B. Stilson? Beyond King Solomon's Mines and perhaps She, who can name the titles of further adventures of H. Rider Haggard's character Allan Quatermain or the dozens of other high-adventure fantasy novels he wrote in the late nineteenth century? FFM published many of them, and the letter columns are filled to bursting with suggestions on even more minor or forgotten works that were fading into obscurity (rightly or wrongly) more than 60 years ago. Of course, even back then, fantasy fans could agree on very few things.
One thing almost everyone seemed to agree on, however, was the overwhelming quality and beauty of language in the works of A. Merritt, particularly his groundbreaking fantasy The Ship of Ishtar.
Merritt's influential 1919 novel The Moon Pool has been in print more or less consistently since it was first published, and it was one of several stories in the very first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries that solidified the magazine as a major success that would last more than a decade (not bad for a pulp focused almost exclusively on reprints!). He was a major stylistic influence on authors like H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, C. L. Moore, and Henry Kuttner.
Prior to coming across praise for his works in the letter pages of FFM, I'd never really heard of him. I came to Lovecraft decades ago, and in subsequent works by the above-named authors I always identified the florid, lush description as particularly Lovecraftian. In fact, Lovecraft was a great admirer of Merritt, and it's clear that Merritt's style was a huge influence upon him.
Listen to what HPL said about Merritt in a letter to a friend, praising the Merritt novel The Metal Monster: "[Merritt] has a peculiar power of working up an atmosphere and investing a region with an aura of unholy dread... the most remarkable presentation of the utterly alien and non-human that I have ever seen. Merritt is certainly great stuff—he has a subtle command of an unique type of strangeness which no one else has been able to parallel."
In the early 20th century, Merritt was considered, if not the most popular fantasist (that honor probably goes to Edgar Rice Burroughs), certainly among the top two or three fantasy authors in America. A journalist by trade, Merritt edited the prestigious American Weekly for Willian Randolph Hearst, and was one of the best-paid journalists in the world, bringing in an annual salary of $100,000 at the time of his death in 1943.
His busy career left him relatively little time for fiction writing, limiting his output to fewer than a dozen novels and about the same number of short stories. All are infused with powerful, vivid imagery, an unparalleled sense of place, and unforgettable characters.
This month's Planet Stories release, The Ship of Ishtar, is considered by most critics the finest of Merritt's masterworks, a precursor of the sword and sorcery genre that would come to inform the birth of fantasy roleplaying, and one of the most important fantasy novels of the early twentieth century. Merritt was the late Gary Gygax's favorite writer, and up until the month of Gary's recent death, he kept pushing me to publish some of his works. I wish Gary could have survived to see us get to The Ship of Ishtar, but I know he would have been happy to have one of his favorite tales presented to the audience of fantasy enthusiasts he helped to create and maintain.
The Planet Stories edition of The Ship of Ishtar features Merritt's complete, preferred text for the first time in more than 60 years. It also includes 10 beautiful prints by Merritt's favorite artist and friend, Virgil Finlay, collected into a single volume for the first time ever. Prominent modern author Tim Powers provides a compelling introduction, and the book comes wrapped in a beautiful, pulpy cover by artist Kieran Yanner.
Illustration by Virgil Finlay
I am enormously proud of this book. Many of you have sent me letters of thanks and encouragement for introducing you to some of the classic authors we've covered so far in Planet Stories. And if not for Planet Stories, I may not have discovered this book, so I offer my own thanks to Gary Gygax, and my own invitation to all of you to order the book and give Planet Stories and A. Merritt a try.
One of the world's finest fantasies awaits!
Erik Mona, Publisher
At the World Fantasy Convention
San Jose, California
... Infernal Sorceress Nominated for Origins Award Wednesday, April 29, 2009Here at Paizo we're pretty darn proud of our Planet Stories line of fiction. Reviving classic fantasy and science fiction by the likes of authors such as Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, and Gary Gygax has been a labor of love for Publisher Erik Mona, Senior Editor Pierce Watters, and Editors James L. Sutter and Christopher Paul Carey. It's with great pride, then, that we announce that Gary Gygax's Infernal Sorceress...
Infernal Sorceress Nominated for Origins Award
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Here at Paizo we're pretty darn proud of our Planet Stories line of fiction. Reviving classic fantasy and science fiction by the likes of authors such as Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, and Gary Gygax has been a labor of love for Publisher Erik Mona, Senior Editor Pierce Watters, and Editors James L. Sutter and Christopher Paul Carey. It's with great pride, then, that we announce that Gary Gygax's Infernal Sorceress has been nominated for an Origins Award! Take a look at the back cover copy:
"The underworld of the Iberian Peninsula is a dangerous place, filled with cutthroats and swindlers, and no pair is more infamous than the gaunt man known as Ferret and the broad-shouldered mercenary Raker. Yet when the swashbuckling comrades are framed for the one crime they didn't commit, the scoundrels are faced with a choice: bring the true culprits to justice, or dance a gallows jig. In order to do so, they'll need to pull out all their tricks, stretching magic and muscle to their limit as they invade castles, battle subterranean monsters, and bluff their way through courts of nobles and shape-shifters in their search for revenge. Yet can even this canny, ruthless duo prevail against the beautiful witch that plots their downfall?"
Gary's writing style was certainly unique, and for those interested in his influence on the modern English lexicon, this article by Stephen Chrisomalis is worth checking out. Among other things, the article discusses how he popularized the little-used words eldritch and psionic, and effectively created the word dweomer whole cloth. Well worth the read!
... Thugs, Delhi-style Tuesday, December 2, 2008Even more than his writing or game design, Gary Gygax is known for his imagination. The number of his unique creations—monsters and gods, spells and artifacts—that have entered the collective consciousness is truly mind-boggling. Yet like all great artists, Gary's inventions didn't spring full-formed from nothing, but rather were rooted in part in his deep love of history. For in order to create new mythology, you have to understand...
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Even more than his writing or game design, Gary Gygax is known for his imagination. The number of his unique creations—monsters and gods, spells and artifacts—that have entered the collective consciousness is truly mind-boggling. Yet like all great artists, Gary's inventions didn't spring full-formed from nothing, but rather were rooted in part in his deep love of history. For in order to create new mythology, you have to understand the existing ones.
This desire to explore and create variations of differing real-world belief systems is undoubtedly part of what led him to write Death in Delhi. While the previous Setne Inhetep books—The Anubis Murders and The Samarkand Solution—had allowed him to do great work imagining alternate versions of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, Gygax was always looking for new ground. And he found it—a whole subcontinent of it, in fact—with Death in Delhi.
One of the more interesting points of Indian history, and which plays an important role in the novel, is the concept of Thugee. While historians continue to clash on the extent of the practice, and what role the British played in expanding and disseminating the stories, the Thugs of India were part of a tribal system of organized crime centered around the worship of Kali, Goddess of Destruction. Descending in wild charges or carefully infiltrating parties over a period of weeks, gangs of Thugs would attack caravans traveling long distances and slaughter every man, woman, and child, strangling them with yellow handkerchiefs. The spoils would then go to the Thugs, who would carefully bury the bodies and remove any trace of evidence, making it seem that the caravan simply disappeared. It's from this tradition of mass slaughter and robbery, which some have estimated cost millions of lives over a period of centuries, that we get the modern English term "thug."
Of course, if there's something that sinister in our India's past, then you know Magister Setne Inhetep and his bodyguard Rachelle are bound to encounter it in Gygax's own Lands of the Peacock Throne.
For more information on Thugee, check out what Wikipedia has to say, or pick up a copy of Death in Delhi and go straight for Gary's own take on it.
Because the only thing stranger than fantasy is history.
Fresh from the Delhi Tuesday, November 18, 2008The holidays are swiftly approaching, which means it's crunch time around the Paizo offices as we race to get a bunch of awesome new products out the door before all of us take time off to spend with our loved ones (parents, spouses, Fallout 3). ... The upside? We've got some quality books coming out just in time for the gift-giving occasion of your choice! It's especially true of Planet Stories—in addition to Henry Kuttner's The Dark World...
Fresh from the Delhi
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The holidays are swiftly approaching, which means it's crunch time around the Paizo offices as we race to get a bunch of awesome new products out the door before all of us take time off to spend with our loved ones (parents, spouses, Fallout 3).
The upside? We've got some quality books coming out just in time for the gift-giving occasion of your choice! It's especially true of Planet Stories—in addition to Henry Kuttner's The Dark World and Leigh Brackett's masterful Hounds of Skaith, December will see the release of Gary Gygax's Death in Delhi, the final of the three standalone novels featuring Setne Inhetep, magical magistrate in the service of Pharaoh himself. This time, Setne takes us east on an adventure through the heart of an ancient India analogue filled with castes, corruption, and bloodthirsty gods. We'll talk more about Delhi in weeks to come, but for now, check out this scene snippet from Setne and Rachelle's treacherous journey to the lands of the Peacock Throne:
When it occurred, though, the attack didn't come in a creeping manner. It was heralded by a wailing cry which froze the blood of any victim not asleep. There was a silent rush of menacing figures. It was impossible in the confusion of moonlight and shadow to tell how many thugs were there. More than half a hundred, perhaps twice that number, and one at least was capable of using potent heka. Whatever casting he sent at them, both Inhetep and Rachelle were suddenly themselves again. That is, their Hindi disguises were gone, and for the few heartbeats' time the change required, neither could do aught but stand dazed, feeling the effects of the transformation.
"Thugs!" he managed to should to Rachelle. "Stranglers of Kali!"
There was no free passage for the attackers, however. In a mere matter of heartbeats after the time the practitioner among the crazed strangers activated his casting, Magister Inhetep had triggered one of his own dweomers. There appeared a sudden smoke arc as a hundred separate sparks winked into being. For a second these motes glowed, in the next they brightened into a multi-hued array of blossoming fires, and but a second after that each began its dance.
A flight of them whizzed high in angry amber lines, making sounds as hornets do. Others fluttered like butterflies with wings of flame. There were a dozen bright blue serpentine paths traced along the ground, and violet arcs as if grasshoppers were alight and on the move. Bright green embers jumped toward the onrushing attackers as might insane frogs bent on meeting the assailants in midair. Some spiraled aloft to spin and spit scintillating jets, which whirled crazily as their erratic flight carried them outward from the wizard-priest who had invoked them, while silvery and golden balls bounced and rolled forth in a determined fashion. Then, finally, all hell broke loose...
... Ferretfolk! Tuesday, July 1, 2008Yes, you read that correctly. Ferretfolk. ... Under the auspices of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax created a number of iconic races, whether out of whole cloth or by combining a various different mythological and literary sources. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when, in his final novel, he did it one last time. At first, I balked—up to this point, Infernal Sorceress had been a fairly hard-edged and gritty fantasy romp. What were a bunch...
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Yes, you read that correctly. Ferretfolk.
Under the auspices of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax created a number of iconic races, whether out of whole cloth or by combining a various different mythological and literary sources. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when, in his final novel, he did it one last time. At first, I balked—up to this point, Infernal Sorceress had been a fairly hard-edged and gritty fantasy romp. What were a bunch of talking weasel-people doing here? Yet once I got past my initial knee-jerk reaction (which said that such things were better off left in one of Brian Jacques's Redwall novels), I realized that, in fact, they fit the story perfectly. After all, what's the point of fantasy if not to mix things up and make the reader question their standard assumptions? In throwing in something totally out of left field, Gygax was rattling my cage and reminding me that there's more to the genre than just the same old white-bread elves and dwarves we all know and love. And besides, their accents are totally adorable.
So with that said, I thought I'd offer you all the first (and quite possibly last) appearance of the ferretfolk:
Below, Ferret stared a second in horror. What little light there was danced and swayed wildly, but it was sufficient to show him the ugly mandibles and head of the steelback as the monster came up into the cave. The hole's exit was a tight fit for it, but the myriapod was forcing its hard body through it all too quickly. Each segment through gave it two more legs with which to haul the rest of it out to get at its prey. "Oh, crap! Now what?" Ferret cursed as he turned to look for a really fast means of getting up to the passage he wasn't sure would save them from the hunting giant centipede. At that moment a braided leather rope dropped in front of him. Ferret needed no urging, and he swarmed up hand-over-hand. "Where'd you get the rope, Ra—"
His jaw fell slack as he saw the welcoming committee awaiting him. One of that number jerked him all the way inside, pulled him out of the way, as two others rolled a rounded boulder to the brink of the tunnel. "—ker?
His companion was as shocked as Ferret. Raker gave his head a slight shake as if to say, "I haven't the slightest notion," and then stared at the two lithe forms which were just in the process of shoving the big stone over the edge. They heard a thump and a sharp crack followed by scrabbling noises which slowly died away.
"Gottum!" One of the creatures who had sent the boulder down chittered in something which sounded vaguely like human speech as it turned and showed a mouthful of sharp fangs to the two men.
"That's trade talk," Raker murmured, referring to the pidgin Phonecian commonly used throughout much of Ærth to conduct business.
"Sure, talk pretty fine with hewmuns allatime now and then, but no Stoatie. Nonono. Thurr we are—Ferretfolk you name we, us say Thurr." The creature trilled the r's as it pronounced the name of its folk. "See dead manyfoot?"
The creature talked as fast as it moved. Ferret couldn't believe this. They did look like huge, slender ferrets, down to their buff fur and black "masks." He gaped, then asked rather stupidly, "Real ferretfolk?" He had heard of them but never believed they existed. "I am called Ferret."
The one who had hauled him to safety ignored the question. "Come. See it broken. Good."
Both men went to where the creature proudly pointed with its nose, stared down to see the steelback below, forepart a gory ruin under the boulder. "You sure squashed the shit out of that head!" Raker said with enthusiasm.
"Bad thing, manyfoot. Kill hewmuns, kill you, kill Thurr, too, so we allatime kill 'em first. Pretty good, sure?" And as it rattled that off the creature showed its teeth again in what was surely meant to be an imitation of a human smile.
... The Lost Gygax Novel Tuesday, June 24, 2008Ever since we started, there's been a question as to whether or not Planet Stories would begin publishing original fiction—and if so, when. After all, one of the structural foundations of the line to date is that we publish not just great sci-fi and fantasy, but important sci-fi and fantasy. How can you possibly know ahead of time that a new work of fiction is going to be culturally significant? ... Turns out, sometimes that question is...
The Lost Gygax Novel
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Ever since we started, there's been a question as to whether or not Planet Stories would begin publishing original fiction—and if so, when. After all, one of the structural foundations of the line to date is that we publish not just great sci-fi and fantasy, but important sci-fi and fantasy. How can you possibly know ahead of time that a new work of fiction is going to be culturally significant?
Turns out, sometimes that question is easier to answer than you think. When we set out to create Planet Stories, some of the first books we signed were the three Setne Inhetep books by Gary Gygax, The Anubis Murders, The Samarkand Solution, and Death in Delhi. Publisher Erik Mona had always enjoyed Gygax's Gord the Rogue stories (one of which we've now republished in Worlds of Their Own), and we felt that it was important to kick things off with Gygax, considering that, after Tolkien, he's probably had the most pervasive effect on modern fantasy of any author. If you stop to think about it, that's an enormous claim, but it's true—how many books in the fantasy section of your bookstore (or on your shelf at home) have their roots in Dungeons & Dragons? Certainly it was Gygax's work that had the biggest influence on all of us, and that put us in a position to one day start a fiction line of our own. And as Gary's health declined and interests had of late turned away from writing fiction, we believed that Death in Delhi, the last Gygax book to be published, would be his final literary legacy.
That is, until a year ago, when Erik called Gygax to see if he might perhaps have some unpublished short fiction sitting around that we could slip into an anthology somewhere. Obligingly, Gary dug around in his files, then came back and said that he did indeed have a few short stories—but he'd also discovered a complete unpublished novel he'd forgotten about, set in the same world as the Setne Inhetep books but far from Ægypt and starring completely new characters. Apparently TSR had turned it down for being too similar to Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar books (despite the fact that Leiber's son saw no problem with the manuscript), and the whole experience so frustrated Gary that he mothballed the novel completely. Would we, he asked, perhaps be interested in publishing it?
Needless to say, we leapt on the opportunity. Called Infernal Sorceress and introducing the characters of Ferret and Raker, the book is Gygax at his finest, chock-full of swashbuckling action, intricate magic, and strange monsters. And unlike Setne Inhetep, whose razor-sharp mind generally sees him on top of any given situation, this book's protagonists are more like Gord—smart and capable, but never quite to the extent that they think they are, always running from the situations their quick blades and loose morals get them into.
Written just after Death in Delhi, Infernal Sorceress is the true last Gygax novel in every sense, making it both the culmination of a life's worth of writing and the final adventure from the man who taught the world not just how to make believe, but that it was okay to do so. That, in fact, we should never have stopped. And that, more than anything, makes it an honor to be publishing this book.
How do you know an original novel will become important to an entire genre?
... Wizard's Duel, Gygax-style Tuesday, April 15, 2008In my last blog post, I mentioned that by far my favorite part of all the Gygax fiction I've read is his interpretation of that most classic of fantasy tropes: the wizard's duel. While we got a taste of such things in The Anubis Murders, the original Dungeon Master takes the art to new heights in The Samarkand Solution, showing us the sort of arcane power and creativity Magister Setne Inhetep is capable of when pushed to the limit by an...
Wizard's Duel, Gygax-style
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In my last blog post, I mentioned that by far my favorite part of all the Gygax fiction I've read is his interpretation of that most classic of fantasy tropes: the wizard's duel. While we got a taste of such things in The Anubis Murders, the original Dungeon Master takes the art to new heights in The Samarkand Solution, showing us the sort of arcane power and creativity Magister Setne Inhetep is capable of when pushed to the limit by an another wizard-priest as adept as himself. To see what I mean, check out the following excerpt from The Samarkand Solution, in which the magister and Inspector Tuhorus fight for their lives in the Blood Temple of the Serpent God, Aapep:
In the meantime, the conjured snake came at Inhetep, rose, and as a fiery redness split its jaws, the iron length lashed forward. Livid crimson venom spurted forth in a thick jet. It struck a shining disc which had appeared in an instant, splattering into burning droplets, and hissed into nothingness as the molten stuff shot into a harmless spray before the magister. But then the iron head of the cobra hit the silvery shield, and the disc split into metallic shards, which fell chiming to the stone and disappeared.
"Useless!" cried the gloating voice of Aapep's servant.
"Melodious!" countered the magister, and as he spoke the chiming sounds of the falling bits of silvery disc continued, were drawn out, and their tinkling became deeper. A plangent three-note sequence grew from that, and it resonated in rhythmic waves which filled the cavernous temple. "You pet cobra seems charmed!" he called out, for the iron monster was now swaying before him as if it were some strange metronome. Left, right, back and forth it went, but never quite in time with the three sounds which now rolled and pulsed throughout the grim underground temple. Faster and faster went the unnatural snake as the waves of sound peaked and sank and charged. The reverberations were renewed, restated, and repeated, so that ever-closer notes formed an impossible mesh around the dark priest-mage's metal monster of death.
Knowing that his magick was failing, the man was about to try and withdraw the iron snake, or send it in a destructive rush to overwhelm his foe, when he caught a glimpse of Tuhorus out of the corner of his eye. Letting go of his mental link with the cobra, the evil kheri-heb spun and flung a shower of fiery darts in the direction of the policeman. Then he continued turning and ran, disappearing down one of the tunnels beside the wall of Aapep.
Inspector Tuhorus used his blade to bat aside the pair of flaming darts which knifed toward his face. Another seared his chest as it hissed past. His shirt burst into flames where the fiery missile had touched it, and his short cape was likewise set ablaze by another dart which passed through its cloth. Then he was struck in the body and limbs by yet more of the things. He fell to the floor, writhing in pain, rolling to extinguish the fire which now played over him with greedy, searing tongues.
The storm of sound engendered by Inhetep's counter-heka reached a crescendo, and those ringing notes shook the iron snake; it flew suddenly in ten thousand pieces, each a tiny meteor that burned hellishly for a split second, then winked into nothingness. After the massive pyrotechnic display, the waves of metallic sound ceased, and the red light was replaced once again by the faint wash of moonlike glow from beyond. The magister had seen the attack upon Tuhorus, for his casting needed no concentration to sustain its effect. Setne was hurrying to help the policeman when something else distracted him. The six stone statues began to move with ponderous steps, and the sinuous depiction of the serpent-dragon started to come alive....
... Don't Mess with the Wizard-Priest Tuesday, April 1, 2008He's back! After taking several months to introduce you to some of the other legendary authorsin our Planet Stories line, we've come back around to the source and released The Samarkand Solution, Gary Gygax's successor to The Anubis Murders. Though the book stands alone (and indeed, all of the Gygax novels we're publishing can be read in any order), this adventure once more follows the adventures of Ægyptian Magister Setne Inhetep,...
Don't Mess with the Wizard-Priest
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
He's back! After taking several months to introduce you to some of the otherlegendaryauthorsin our Planet Stories line, we've come back around to the source and released The Samarkand Solution, Gary Gygax's successor to The Anubis Murders. Though the book stands alone (and indeed, all of the Gygax novels we're publishing can be read in any order), this adventure once more follows the adventures of Ægyptian Magister Setne Inhetep, wizard-priest to Pharaoh himself.
Temporarily bereft of his bewitching bodyguard, Rachelle, Setne heads down to the city of On for some rest and relaxation, only to run across the path of a notorious assassin. As the nobles around him begin dropping like flies, Setne is quickly drawn into a web of intrigue that finds him working both with and against the local government and the evil church of Set. In a city where seemingly everyone is guilty of something, a treasonous conspiracy is forming that could shake Ægypt all the way to the halls of Pharaoh's palace. But can Setne get to the bottom of things before he himself becomes the next victim?
For those who enjoyed The Anubis Murders, I think it's safe to say that you'll enjoy The Samarkand Solution even more. Gygax truly hits his stride in this book, and the biggest selling point for me is the introduction of Inspector Tuhorus, the hard-bitten city cop assigned to work with Setne. The only thing better than one quick-witted protagonist is two of them, and it's fun to see someone make the ever-confident Setne a straight man against his will. If The Anubis Murders broke some molds by presenting an honest-to-goodness mystery in a fantasy setting, The Samarkand Solution pushes the envelope even farther by adding an element of the classic "buddy cop" film. Toss in Setne's desperate attempts to avoid the attentions of the—*ahem*—affectionate and beautiful Lady Xonaapi, and the novel ends up somewhat racier than its predecessor as well. But really, for me, reading a Gygax novel is all about the magic, and Samarkand certainly doesn't disappoint on that count, as can be seen in the following excerpt:
A gigantic mass of living flames shifted, hot-violet spots fixing themselves upon the magister as if they were eyes. In fact they were eyes, and red-orange fires parted and a mouth spoke. "You come to your death, fool! Run away, little man, or I shall sear your flesh and boil your blood ere I consume you!"
"If you thought you could do that, efreet, you'd act, not boast," Inhetep shouted back. "Return now to your infernal realm, or it is I who will quench you!" Although the magister had expected to encounter some form of creature from the Spheres of Fire, this near-demoniac in its most potent form came as a surprise, but he didn't allow the monster to have an inkling of that. Even as he spoke, the ur-kheri-heb made preparations to carry out his threat.
The towering creature of hellfire form reached out to grab its antagonist, then withdrew its fiery arm with a shrieking howl as it contacted the freezing water. Its cry hurt Inhetep's ears, and the hemisphere trembled, bulging in where the efreet had struck it, then restored itself to smoothness again. It was noticeably smaller. "Son of a newt!" the fire being roared. "I'll soon have you out of that bubble and fry you slowly for your presumptuousness!"
With that, the flame-limbs struck down upon the shielding water, pounding upon it again and again. The monstrous thing howled in pain as it sought to destroy Inhetep's protection, but it was enraged and determined. Inside his watery shell, Inhetep worked desperately. He had to both maintain his defense and mount an offense against the efreet. No mere defense could prevail for long in such conditions as these. He worked with precision even as the water which protected him hissed and wavered and shrank to little more than a few inches of liquid but a foot above his sweating head. There was a sudden eruption of steam, and as vapors of superheated stuff rose round Setne, the priest-wizard called out, "Now, thing of perdition, you are doomed!"
... Gary Gygax: Remembered Tuesday, March 4, 2008The galley proofs for Gary Gygax's novel, The Samarkand Solution, are sitting on my desk right now, ready for the final check-off before we send the book to the printer. Sitting above my desk, packed into little cardboard sleeves, are dozens of copies of Dragon, the original RPG magazine for which Gygax served as publisher in its earliest days. Until recently, I served as publisher of that magazine, and it always made me proud to know I was...
Gary Gygax: Remembered
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The galley proofs for Gary Gygax's novel, The Samarkand Solution, are sitting on my desk right now, ready for the final check-off before we send the book to the printer. Sitting above my desk, packed into little cardboard sleeves, are dozens of copies of Dragon, the original RPG magazine for which Gygax served as publisher in its earliest days. Until recently, I served as publisher of that magazine, and it always made me proud to know I was following in Gary Gygax's august footsteps.
Gary died this morning in his sleep, bringing to an end a decades-spanning career that created an industry and brought joy to millions of people. The game he created with Dave Arneson&Dungeons & Dragons&has had a more profound influence upon my life than any other factor save my family, and his passing has affected me deeply.
When I was a kid growing up with D&D, Gygax's name was on the cover of just about every official product. He wrote the best adventure modules, he set the template for all future campaign settings with the World of Greyhawk, and perhaps most importantly he introduced a generation of kids to a game that was more than a game. I've met many of my closest friends in the span of my entire life because of Gary Gygax.
Last year, I launched Planet Stories, a line of fantasy and science-fiction trade paperbacks aimed at reprinting some of the classic works of sword & sorcery that inspired Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy gaming in general. In the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, a fascinating work that surely serves as Gygax's masterpiece, Gary thoughtfully included Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading, a list that included such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Jack Vance, and more.
So in addition to my friends and my career, I also owe Gary Gygax an unpayable debt of gratitude for introducing me to the greatest fantasists who ever lived and a lifetime of excellent reading. Planet Stories is, in some small sense, my attempt to repay that debt by bringing many of these fine authors back into print to be enjoyed again. Like Paizo Publishing itself, Planet Stories exists because of Gary Gygax. I chose to honor Gary by including several of his own exciting fantasy novels in the Planet Stories line, including the imprint's very first release, The Anubis Murders.
It was the release of The Anubis Murders at last year's Gen Con Indy that brought me and Gary together for the last time. As the show's Guest of Honor, Gygax had more than a full schedule, but he was able to carve out a couple of hours a day to sit at the Paizo booth and sign autographs of his book while sharing thoughts and memories with his fans. And the stories those fans told were just incredible. For a full hour I listened as gamer after gamer approached Gary and told a variation of the exact same story: "Thank you for a game that has brought me so much joy. Thank you for a game that has brought me so many friends. Thank you for making such a positive impact on my life."
Sitting next to Gary at last year's Gen Con made me realize what a huge cultural impact Gary Gygax had made on all of us. Never before have I seen such honest appreciation. Never before had I been so moved and so proud to be working with a man who had made such an impact on my life. On all of our lives.
When a friend passes away, it is easy to be sad, to think about what might have been had he lived another year, another ten years. But my friends, I am here to tell you that Gary Gygax knew what a difference he had made in all of our lives, and he was proud to have made it.
Not bad for a life's work.
I'll miss you, Gary Gygax. We all will. Goodbye, my friend.
Gen Con Field Report Day Two Friday, August 17, 2007The second day of any four-day convention is typically referred to as the slow day. Retailers and manufacturers complain that nearly every year their business is down, the crowds are down, and Friday is generally a light day. Eager four-day attendees are typically seen swarming the Dealer Hall on Thursday to get the awesome Gen Con exclusives (such as Paizo's alternate Pathfinder #1 cover) and those folks are more inclined to game and rest...
Gen Con Field Report Day Two
Friday, August 17, 2007
The second day of any four-day convention is typically referred to as the "slow day." Retailers and manufacturers complain that nearly every year their business is down, the crowds are down, and Friday is generally a light day. Eager four-day attendees are typically seen swarming the Dealer Hall on Thursday to get the awesome Gen Con exclusives (such as Paizo's alternate Pathfinder #1 cover) and those folks are more inclined to game and rest on Friday. Then the two-day crowd hits with the four-day crowd on Saturday and the show floor turns into a zoo.
Today was slow for us, but we're only able to say so because yesterday was such a huge hit. Pathfinder and GameMastery Modules continue to do very well and I'm pleased to report that our first three Planet Stories novels (The Anubis Murders, City of the Beast, and Black God's Kiss) are selling very well and their positive reception has been exciting to see.
Speaking of The Anubis Murders, Gary Gygax was on hand this afternoon for 90 minutes signing copies of his book and generally anything people asked him to sign. "Keep on the Borderlands" got several Gygax-o-graphs as did the original hardcover Monster Manual, current editions of the core system, badges, convention on-site books—you name it. Someone jokingly asked Gary to sign their baby and he would've done so, graciously, had they not told him it was a joke. He was a nice guy and it was a real honor to meet him. One quick story about his session in the booth today: a guy walked up, looked at his book and said, "Hmm, Anubis Murders, I'm not familiar with your work. I'll have to go look it up." Gary gave him a stern, reproachful look and said, "Try Dungeons & Dragons." Needless to say, the guy looked very sheepish as he fled the scene.
We also had the pleasure of Wayne Reynolds' presence in our booth today, signing copies of the poster included with Dragon #359. He modeled Pathfinder #1 for us, as you'll see below.
The number one question on everyone's mind, of course, was "What does Paizo think of 4th Edition?" We heard this often and our response was the same each time: we're excited to see it, but we know just as much about it as you do. I can report that WotC intends to have an OGL with 4th Edition and that Paizo's eager to learn more, but that does not put us closer to a decision—it only puts us in need of more research and discussion. Rest assured, the moment we make a decision we'll scream it to the four corners of the multiverse.
And now, pictures!
A beholder watches over the crowd as they prepare to hear WotC's 4E announcement.
Eric Boyd says farewell to the final print version of Dragon magazine.
F. Wesley Schneider and Michael Kortes talk about Paizo's products.
Erik Mona, Gary Gygax, and Greg Vaughan.
Amber Scott (Medesha on the messageboards) holding up her very own copy of Paizo's Gen Con exclusive Pathfinder #1.
The following is a picture-by-picture example of the many forms of the martial arts employed by the mighty and unstoppable Nicolas Logue as he GMs the Seven Swords of Sin Dungeon Delve.
Dyn-o-mite. (I recorded five minutes of Nick running the delve. It'll be on YouTube and this blog very soon.)
Tim Hitchcock, Nicolas Logue, and Michael Kortes talking about GameMastery and Pathfinder.
The incredibly talented Wayne Reynolds modeling the covers he sketched and painted.
Jason Bulmahn demos "Stonehenge Roulette," the game he wrote for the Stonehenge Library.
Tomorrow: Larry Elmore stops by to sign the final Dragon cover!
From the Guy Who Started It All Friday, June 29, 2007While there was much debate over which of the fun and historically significant books in our Planet Stories line should take the crucial first few slots, picking the lead-off hitter was easy. As the internationally recognized father of fantasy gaming, Gary Gygax has done more to help advance and establish the modern concept of fantasy than almost any other figure, placing him alongside such notables as J. R. R. Tolkien in terms of historical...
From the Guy Who Started It All
Friday, June 29, 2007
While there was much debate over which of the fun and historically significant books in our Planet Stories line should take the crucial first few slots, picking the lead-off hitter was easy. As the internationally recognized father of fantasy gaming, Gary Gygax has done more to help advance and establish the modern concept of "fantasy" than almost any other figure, placing him alongside such notables as J. R. R. Tolkien in terms of historical impact. Yet for all that, surprisingly few people have ever read Gygax's original fiction. When the chance arose for us to republish several of his novels, we leapt at the chance.
In the first of these books, The Anubis Murders, Gygax opens the doors on an eerily familiar medieval world, a world of warring wizards and murderous intrigue that stretches from the pyramids of ancient Ægypt to the mist-shrouded cities of Avillonia. Someone is murdering and blackmailing the world's most powerful sorcerers, and the trail of blood leads straight to Anubis, the solemn god known by most as the Master of Jackals. Enter Magister Setne Inhetep, personal philosopher-wizard to the Pharaoh, and his beautiful and deadly bodyguard Rachelle. Can Setne use his magic and supreme powers of deduction to untangle the mystery before he himself becomes the next victim?
The Anubis Murders hits shelves everywhere this August, beginning with a promotion at Paizo's GenCon booth which will feature Gary Gygax himself, meeting and mingling with those who carry on his legacy. So pick up a copy, sit back, and see the world of fantasy through the eyes of the master.