... The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 2) Monday, March 16, 2009Today we continue the series on Paizo's Appendix N with the second part of my interview with James Jacobs, the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder. We pick up where we left off, as James finishes discussing his most important literary influences and closes the interview with an explanation of his favorite horror films. ... James: Stephen King's Dark Tower books were particularly influential, as they are as much magic and...
The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 2)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Today we continue the series on Paizo's Appendix N with the second part of my interview with James Jacobs, the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder. We pick up where we left off, as James finishes discussing his most important literary influences and closes the interview with an explanation of his favorite horror films.
James: Stephen King's Dark Tower books were particularly influential, as they are as much magic and science fiction as they are horror. What's neat is that all of his stories are interconnected, like Lovecraft's. Names and locations reappear and become part of King's mythos—which also includes nods to the Cthulhu Mythos. I think King very successfully straddles the fine line between homage and pastiche, as it's easy enough to write in the style of Lovecraft and other classic horror authors, but much harder to use those themes while writing with your own voice. Stephen King does this admirably.
F. Paul Wilson, and particularly his character Repairman Jack, was another big influence. The series of stories featuring Repairman Jack are like modern-day X-Files, except that one of the primary themes is the idea that it's just one man versus cosmic horror.
Ramsey Campbell was another influence; he's a British author who began his career writing Lovecraftian horror fiction but later moved on to more psychological horror themes such as madness, ghosts, and deranged murderers.
The Descent, by Jeff Long, really captured my imagination. Without giving away too many details, the novel is essentially about a real-world Darklands. Humans live on the surface of the world, oblivious to the fact that "other" descendents from our common ancestors live beneath them; in the novel, Long explains that, over the course of human history, these creatures have served as the basis for humanity's shared myths of devils living beneath the earth.
David: That's quite an extensive list of fiction! But you're even bigger movie buff, correct? Tell us about the movies that most influenced you.
James: There's probably too many to name all of them; I have a wall of DVDs in my apartment. In terms of movies, my main interest is still horror. When I was a kid, my dad and I would watch Creature Features, a TV series that aired a new monster flick every Saturday night. So my love of horror movies began at an early age. My two all-time favorites are, without a doubt, Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing.
To rattle off other big influences, there's The Blair Witch Project, Godzilla (which asks the question "what if the atomic bomb was actually a creature?"; there is a scene in the movie where a bunch of kids are horribly burned and crying for their moms, not realized that they've been killed—it's super-grisly), Jaws, the Exorcist, Lord of the Rings, Schwarzenegger's Conan, Psycho, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Lilo & Stitch (Stitch served as a primary inspiration for Pathfinder goblins, both in terms of look and personality), and the classic 1950s horror film Tarantula.
Whenever I assign adventures to freelance authors, I like to point them to movies that will give them an idea of the tone we are shooting for—it's much faster for authors to find inspiration by watching a 2-hour movie than to read an entire book, although if they have time in the sometimes too-short deadlines we give them, books can remain a great source of inspiration. For instance, I told Richard Pett to check out the old Hammer Horror movies when he was writing "The Skinsaw Murders" and pointed Nick Logue at The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Deliverance for "The Hook Mountain Massacre."
Overall, I would have to say that my two biggest inspirations are H. P. Lovecraft for books, and John Carpenter for movies.
Thus concludes my interview with James Jacobs. Thanks for taking the time to discuss your biggest inspirations, James, and thanks for reading, Paizonians! Come back again as we continue to expand Paizo's own Appendix N!
... Science Fiction's Original Badass Tuesday, February 5, 2008I'd edited the thing twice, so I really should have expected it. Still, when Erik dropped our advance copy of Northwest of Earth down in front of me, the resounding whump it made was immensely satisfying. You have to understand that this thing is thick—a book measured less in pages than in pounds. And at the same price as all our other Planet Stories installments to date—$12.99—Northwest Smith is a steal for...
Science Fiction's Original Badass
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I'd edited the thing twice, so I really should have expected it. Still, when Erik dropped our advance copy of Northwest of Earth down in front of me, the resounding "whump" it made was immensely satisfying. You have to understand that this thing is thick—a book measured less in pages than in pounds. And at the same price as all our other Planet Stories installments to date—$12.99—Northwest Smith is a steal for those of us who, like me as a kid especially, strive to make each dollar buy as many words as possible.
Really, though, Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith would be worth the price if it were half its size. Decades before Han Solo shot Greedo, thirty years before Captain James Kirk laid eyes on his first seductive alien, there was only Northwest Smith: a hard-bitten spacefarer with a penchant for smuggling and mercenary work, quick with his heat gun and even quicker with his shot glass, Accompanied by his shrewd Venusian sidekick, Northwest paved the way for countless science fiction heroes who chose to operate just outside the bounds of the law. With one broad stroke, C. L. Moore created one of the most cherished archetypes of the genre.
But then, why should we be surprised? After all, C. L. Moore was something of a trailblazer herself. In a time when female authors were marginalized at best, and almost nonexistent in genre fiction, Catherine Lucille Moore kicked down the doors and made the speculative fiction audiences take notice. First published in Weird Tales in 1934, she quickly rose through the ranks of the pulp authors, publishing alongside contemporaries like Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, continuing to excel even once her gender became widely known. Another of her creations, Jirel of Joiry (whose complete collected stories are available from Planet Stories as Black God's Kiss), was the first female sword-and-sorcery protagonist, a battle-thirsty, take-no-prisoners sort of warrior who showed the fantasy world that some of those clichéd "damsels in distress" could take care of themselves just fine, thank you very much.
Northwest of Earth marks the first-ever complete collection of Northwest Smith stories, including even the rarely-seen "Nymph of Darkness" (a collaboration with Forrest J. Ackerman) and "Quest of the Starstone," a rollicking cross-genre romp in which Moore and husband Henry Kuttner (a groundbreaking SF author in his own right) pair Smith and Jirel together against an evil wizard capable of moving between worlds.
I could talk all day about how important to the genre these stories are, the manner in which they seamlessly blend ray-gun science fiction and cosmic horror, but perhaps you'd rather hear about it from someone more reputable... like, say, H. P. Lovecraft himself? In his personal letters, Lovecraft has this to say about Moore's work:
"These tales have a peculiar quality of cosmic weirdness, hard to define but easy to recognize, which marks them out as really unique... In these tales there is an indefinable atmosphere of vague outsideness and cosmic dread which marks weird work of the best sort. The distinctive thing about Miss Moore is her ability to devise conditions and sights and phenomena of utter strangeness and originality, and to describe them in a language conveying something of their outre, phantasmagoric, and dread-filled quality."—H. P. Lovecraft
So there you have it. Even seventy years ago, the authors of the day understood that this C. L. Moore person was a breed apart—someone of imagination and prose far beyond the standard pulp author. We're putting out a lot of great books this year, but it's with distinct and especial pride that we're releasing Northwest of Earth. I hope you enjoy it.
And now, because everyone loves free samples, a teaser:
For a minute—for two minutes—nothing happened. Then, watching the wall, Smith thought he could discern the shape of the symbol that had been traced. Somehow it was becoming clear among the painted characters. Somehow a grayness was spreading within the outlines he had watched his own hands trace, a fogginess that strengthened and grew clearer and clearer, until he could no longer make out the traceries enclosed within its boundaries, and a great, misty symbol stood out vividly across the wall.
He did not understand for a moment. He watched the grayness take on density and grow stronger with each passing moment, but he did not understand until a long curl of fog drifted lazily out into the room, and the grayness began to spill over its own edges and eddy and billow as if that wall were afire. And from very far away, over measureless voids, he caught the first faint impact of a power so great that he knew in one flash the full horror of what he watched.
The name, traced upon that wall with its own metal counterpart, had opened a doorway for the Thing which bore the name to enter. It was coming back to the world it had left millions of years ago. It was oozing through the opened door, and nothing he could do would stop it...
... Monster of Madness Thursday, January 17, 2008We had expected, upon looking back, to see a terrible and incredible moving entity if the mists were thin enough; but of that entity we had formed a clear idea. What we did see—for the mists were indeed all too maliguly thinned—was something altogether different, and immeasurably more hideous and detestable. It was the utter, objective embodiment of the fantastic novelist's 'thing that should not be...' ... ...It was a terrible,...
Monster of Madness
Thursday, January 17, 2008
"We had expected, upon looking back, to see a terrible and incredible moving entity if the mists were thin enough; but of that entity we had formed a clear idea. What we did see—for the mists were indeed all too maliguly thinned—was something altogether different, and immeasurably more hideous and detestable. It was the utter, objective embodiment of the fantastic novelist's 'thing that should not be...'
...It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter. Still came that eldritch, mocking cry—'Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!'"
KARZOUG FHTAGN! Friday, November 30, 2007I've mentioned before my...
KARZOUG FHTAGN! Friday, November 30, 2007I've mentioned before my fondness for H. P. Lovecraft and his mythos of insane and malignant Great Old Ones, and starting in Pathfinder #4, the world of Golarion gets its first real taste of the Cthulhu Mythos—pictured here is a hound of Tindalos, one of the new monsters in this volume's bestiary. ... These strange time-traveling, soul-eating monstrosities were invented by Frank Belknap Long back in 1929 in his short story, The Hounds of...
Friday, November 30, 2007
I've mentioned before my fondness for H. P. Lovecraft and his mythos of insane and malignant Great Old Ones, and starting in Pathfinder #4, the world of Golarion gets its first real taste of the Cthulhu Mythos—pictured here is a hound of Tindalos, one of the new monsters in this volume's bestiary.
These strange time-traveling, soul-eating monstrosities were invented by Frank Belknap Long back in 1929 in his short story, "The Hounds of Tindalos," but they should be no strangers to those familiar with the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game published by Chaosium (itself one of the longest-lived continually-in-print RPGs ever—check them out at chaosium.com). Any self-respecting gamer looking for more inspiration on the hounds of Tindalos (or cosmic horror of any flavor) should certainly check out the huge line of books and adventures that have been produced for Call of Cthulhu for more. The actual game stats for the hounds as they appear here are pretty different than those from the Call of Cthulhu version, of course, but flavor transcends rules.
We'll be returning to Lovecraft country later on in Rise of the Runelords, getting a glimpse of the realm of Leng and unknown Kadath in Pathfinder #6, and now and then you'll be seeing other name drops occur. Yet don't expect don't expect Golarion to fall too completely into the clutches of the Great Old Ones. When the mythos rears its ugly head (or tentacles, or tongue, or color—whatever passes for a "head" in each monster's case) in Golarion, they have to be justified by the adventure's story and needs. In addition, that particular element needs to be something that doesn't feel out of place in the sword and sorcery genre. It also needs to not be tied to Earth. For example, Cthulhu himself is pretty much stuck in R'lyeh, which itself is located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean (at South Latitude 47° 9', West Longitude 126° 43' for those of you with boats and death wishes)—it doesn't make sense to have him show up on Golarion, so don't expect his wiggly mug to pop in any time soon. Things that travel through the dimensions (like hounds of Tindalos) or come from remote corners of the universe (which are equally as far from Golarion as they are from Earth, really) or are from other realms entirely (or, in the case of Leng or Kadath, are other realms) are all fair game.