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Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eight

December 20, 2018 12 comments

My eighth book of Christmas is another mythology title: Thor: Viking God of Thunder, which was my first title for Osprey’s Myths and Legends series.

Thor

The original sources for Norse mythology are surprisingly limited, so I had the space in this book to retell all of the major stories in which Thor takes part, and to mention those in which he is a secondary character. It was interesting to see how, in the Christian era, the myths were shorn of religious content and became, effectively, early superhero stories: Thor’s battles with the giants of Jotunheim read very similarly to the ’60s slugfests of Marvel and DC comics.

This comes as no surprise, of course, considering Thor’s success as a superhero in recent decades. Marvel was not the first publisher to use him in comics, but the Marvel Thor is the most enduring version. In addition, he has given his name to a radioactive element (Thorium), several Norwegian and German warships, and two American rocket systems.

Most notoriously, of course, Thor’s hammer has been adopted as a symbol by some neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, following the swastika – a universal design which in Scandinavia represented one of Thor’s thunderbolts – which was co-opted by the Nazi Party in 1920. We would all do well to remember that these are stolen emblems, and those who use them have no right to them – and equally, that not all those who use them are racists or fascists.

Here is what some reviewers had to say about the book:

“If this book is any indication of the quality of this new series, readers are in for a treat.”
– Kirkus (starred review)

This book is a nice, concise, beginning look at the legends of Thor. All tales that include him are at least briefly mentioned here, though most are told in full with extra bits of information to add depth to the reader’s understanding.
– Goodreads

Like all Osprey titles, the book is gorgeously illustrated, and the plates by Miguel Coimbra are outstanding.

The book’s page on the Osprey web site is here. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Four

December 16, 2018 11 comments

It’s another Osprey book today, this time from the Myths and Legends line. This series of books set out to do for mythology what Osprey’s main lines have always done for military history: provide compact, authoritative, and well-illustrated reference works. I wrote two titles for that series, and Theseus and the Minotaur was the second.

index

Everyone knows the story: maze, monster, fight, and home in time for tea. But there’s a lot more to the myth of Theseus than that.

For a start, the Minotaur was not the first enemy that Theseus faced. On his way to Athens, he dealt with six foes who terrorized the road, ranging from a rampaging pig of immense size to a deranged smith who insisted that passers-by try his bed – and then racked them or lopped bits off until they fit perfectly!

After reaching Athens and being recognized by his mortal father, King Aegeus (who would give his name to the Aegean Sea), he defeated a rampaging bull; avoided being poisoned by the evil sorceress Medea (who had set her sights on Aegeus after leaving Jason of the Argonauts); and routed a powerful faction of nobles who had designs on the throne of Athens. And remember how I called Aegeus his mortal father? Theseus had a divine father, too: the sea-god Poseidon, who had slept with his mother on the same night. Those Greek gods!

Theseus went on to become King of Athens, but that didn’t slow him down. When he wasn’t consolidating Athenian power across Greece and laying the foundations for the city’s domination of the Classical Age, he was kidnapping princess Helen from Sparta (long before anyone from Troy set eyes on her), going to the Underworld to kidnap Persephone, the wife of Hades, and having all sorts of adventures elsewhere. In fact, as the Official Hero of Athens (TM), he was retconned into a wide range of myths, until the Athenian boast “nothing [happens] without Theseus” became true.

The book is stunningly illustrated, including some magnificent plates by José Daniel Cabrera Peña. Here is what some reviewers had to say:

“Stories like Theseus and the minotaur laid the ground for the fantasy adventures we all enjoy, and understanding them a little better can only help you to appreciate their modern legacy that much more. Lavishly illustrated in full color original paintings accompanied by images taken from the span of recorded history, Davis’s book is truly an outstanding work.”

– Suvudu.com

“A very good addition to an interesting and informative series

– Goodreads

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Three

December 15, 2018 12 comments

Today, I am showcasing another book I wrote for the Dark Osprey line: Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide. As always, you can find links to various online retailers on the My Books page.

This was a companion volume to two previous titles, covering zombies and vampires. In the first, author Joe McCullough had established the fiction of the Nightmen, a fictional U.S. Army unit specializing in supernatural warfare. Using this as a basis, I examined werewolves in film, folklore (including historical trials), and elsewhere.

The first thing I discovered was that there are many different kinds of werewolf. As well as the classic movie version – the “viral” werewolf – I identified shamanic werewolves created by spirit travel, sorcerous werewolves created by witchcraft – by far the most common kind in records of medieval trials – werewolves created by divine and saintly curses, and those arising from delusion and other mental illness. I also looked into other animal shapechangers, such as Native American skinwalkers and Japanese hengeyokai.

I had almost as much fun with the various werewolf-hunting organizations worldwide. In addition to the Nightmen of the U.S. Army, you will find the Tyana Society founded by Benjamin Franklin, which did much to combat British Freemasons in the Revolutionary War; Britain’s Talbot Group, founded during World War II for commando and anti-supernatural operations; the Japanese yokai jingcha, the aristocratic Zaroff Society, among others. The obligatory Nazi werewolves are covered, as are the ulfhednar berserkers of Norse traditions.

Here is what some reviewers had to say:

“I can’t imagine anyone with even a passing interest in horror and werewolves passing on this particular book, but if you’re considering doing so, then well…. just think very, very carefully before the next full moon.”

– Unbounded Worlds

I don’t usually take notes when I read a book for entertainment, but in this case I did. … [A] well-researched, lavishly illustrated and clearly organized book.”

– Goodreads

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

Colonial Horrors: Denver Life Interview and Appearances

October 9, 2017 2 comments

Hanna Smith of Denver Life magazine recently interviewed me about Colonial Horrors. You can find the interview here.

I’ll be at The Bookies bookstore in Denver on October 29th for a reading and signing. It’s at , a block east of South Colorado Boulevard: I’ll be there from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Halloween night I will be reading and signing at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover bookstore in LoDo. The address is 1628 16th Street (at Wynkoop), and I will be there from 7:00 pm.

I will be updating this post with more information, link, and reviews as they become available.

If you aren’t in Denver, you can find the book at your favorite bookstore or e-tailer. I have posted some links on the My Books page.

 

2016: The Year in (belated) Review

March 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Here it is, March already. How did that happen?

While a lot of the most popular posts on this blog are about the old days (and especially my Games Workshop days), I also like to keep readers up to date with what I’m doing now – so go to My Books and BUY! BUY! BUY!

Ahem.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at what came out in 2016.

GAMES AND BOOKS

Dawnbringer
Danish game developer Kiloo is best known for their hit mobile game Subway Surfers. They hired me to help develop the setting and characters for this high fantasy swipe-and-slash game for iOS and Android. You play a fallen angel battling demons in a ruined world, and searching for redemption along the way.
Kiloo’s Dawnbringer page
My earlier post about Dawnbringer

Of Gods and Mortals: Celts
The first army supplement for Andrea Sfiligoi’s mythological skirmish game, and yet another chapter in my ongoing love affair with Celtic history and myth.
Ganesha Games’ Of Gods and Mortals page
My earlier post about Of Gods and Mortals: Celts

The Investigators of Arkham Horror
I contributed five stories to this gorgeously-presented collection based on Fantasy Flight’s acclaimed Cthulhu Mythos boardgame.
Fantasy Flight Games’ page
My earlier post about The Investigators of Arkham Horror

Nazi Moonbase
All the Nazi super-science conspiracy theories I could find, collected and wrapped up in a unifying narrative that also explains the urgency behind the Cold War space race.
Osprey Publishing’s Nazi Moonbase page
My earlier post about Nazi Moonbase

Cthulhu Confidential
I edited the text of Robin Laws’ thought-provoking solo Cthulhupulp game, where the Mythos is arguably the least of the horrors.
Pelgrane Press’ Cthulhu Confidential page

 

ARTICLES

Pyramid 3/92: Zombies
I contributed “The Viking Dead” on Icelandic draugur and haugbui, as well as a systemless look at several varieties of “Indian Ghouls.”
Buy it here

Pyramid 3/87: Low-Tech III
“Tempered Punks” contains some systemless advice for dealing with gadget-happy players whose modern knowledge wrings unbalancing power from old-time technology.
Buy it here

Fenix, Kickstarter special edition
I contributed a systemless article titled “Mummies: A New Approach” to support this bilingual Swedish-English roleplaying magazine. It includes seven mummy sub-types based on the ancient Egyptian multiple-soul concept, along with descriptions of ancient Egyptian mummy amulets with powers to affect both the living and the undead.
Fenix Kickstarter page

Fenix #6/2016
My Call of Cthulhu adventure “Spirit of the Mountain” takes the investigators into the Wild West.
Fenix back issues page

Fenix #2/2016
“La Llorona” discusses the famous Southwestern ghost, with notes for Speltidningen’s Western RPG. I’m told that an English-language edition of Western is in the works: I’ll have more to say about that in the future.
Fenix back issues page

Aviation History, September 2016
I indulge my love of vintage aviation with “Aussie Battler,” tracing the rushed, post-Pearl-Harbor development and surprising career of Australia’s home-grown (and largely improvised) CAC Boomerang fighter.
Aviation History magazine

Freebies
I posted a couple of new pieces in 2016, including “Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic” (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and “A Green, Unpleasant Land,” which presents some previously-unpublished British Call of Cthulhu adventure seeds I wrote in early 1986 for Games Workshop’s supplement of a similar name.
Go to the Freebies page

 

 

Of Gods and Mortals: Celts

December 7, 2016 1 comment

cover

My interest in Celtic history and lore started in my teens. I had been reading Penguin translations of Greek and Latin literature for a while when I discovered the Irish sagas such as The Tain and the early stories of Cu Chulainn. A wave of Irish rock was hitting the UK: Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher were having their first hits around then, and a band called Horslips released two epic concept albums based on Irish mythology: The Tain (1973) and The Book of Invasions (1976). In 1978, Jim Fitzpatrick published his lavishly-illustrated Book of Conquests, and I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. In 1979, I went to Durham University to study archaeology, intending to specialize in the British Iron Age: the Celtic-dominated era that was brought to an end by the Roman invasion. (I refuse to call it a conquest – they never got us out of the hills, by Touatis!)

My Celtic obsession followed me into the games industry, and now I could back it up with some actual learning. I wrote articles for two Celtic-themed issues of TSR UK’s now-legendary British AD&D magazine Imagine: my adventure “The Taking of Siandabhair” was reprinted in a “Best Of” issue and you can download it from my Freebies page. In 1986 I created the Fimir for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, basing them on a mix of creatures from Irish and Scottish legends including the evil Fomorians. Despite some very controversial aspects of the background I created for them, they still have fans today. When I left Games Workshop in 1990, one of my first freelance projects was the HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd edition. I also wrote an adventure for Mongoose Publishing’s Slaine RPG, based on the 2000AD comic property: back at Games Workshop, I pushed hard for a Slaine RPG to go alongside their Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper games, but to no avail. And a few years ago, I snuck some Welsh, Irish, and Scottish lore into the single-player campaign I wrote for Kabam’s hit mobile strategy game Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North.

The latest fruit of my Celtic obsession is a sourcebook for Andrea Sfiligoi’s excellent tabletop skirmish game Of Gods and Mortals. If you like mythology and miniatures, you should definitely check this game out. The rulebook, published by Osprey Publishing and widely available, is slim and affordable; the rules themselves are simple enough to pick up quickly and powerful enough to make for some interesting challenges. I liked it so much that I contacted Andrea out of the blue and asked if we could collaborate.

Brigid, by Andrea Sfiligoi

Brigid, by Andrea Sfiligoi

Celts was released today as an e-book via Andrea’s Ganesha Games web site (where you can also find several freebies for OGAM), and over the next few weeks it will become available in dead-tree form and via all the usual e-tailers. I am very pleased with it. I’m always happy to have another Celtic-themed project under my belt, and Andrea’s art for the project is fantastic. He (yes, it’s a male name in Italian) is ludicrously talented: a first-rate game designer (working in his second language, no less) and a talented artist to boot. Anything he does is worth your attention.

To tempt you further, here is the back cover blurb:

The first warp-spasm seized Cu Chulainn, and turned him into something monstrous, horrible and shapeless…

This supplement for Of Gods and Mortals delves deeper into the myths of the Celts. Within its pages you will find:

  • More options for existing units, along with brief descriptions of their roles in Celtic history and mythology;
  • Statistics and rules for six new Gods, 18 new Legends, and 10 new Mortal troop types, based on myths and folklore from across the Celtic world;
  • Ten new traits, including a range of warrior-feats from the Irish sagas;
  • Detailed rules for Celtic war-chariots;
  • Optional warband lists to help you build a mythologically consistent warband;
  • Allied forces for more force customization options;
  • New scenarios, based on the greatest battles from the Celtic myths and sagas;
  • A detailed bibliography for more information about the Celts and their gods.

Let the red rage descend, and feed the Morrigan’s crows with the bodies of your foes!

Links

Of Gods and Mortals: Theseus

Osprey Wargames’ Of Gods and Mortals page

Ganesha Games’ Of Gods and Mortals page

Of Gods and Mortals Facebook group

Osprey Google+ community

North Star Miniatures official Of Gods and Mortals miniatures

Chupacabra: A Mystery Solved

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

This story broke several months ago, but today the BBC News web site carried the most thorough and cogent account of the chupacabra mystery – and its solution – that I have seen so far. Here is the link:

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20161109-the-truth-about-a-strange-blood-sucking-monster

 

Image by Alvin Padayachee, from Wikimedia Commons

Image by Alvin Padayachee, from Wikimedia Commons

 

While I have loved mythology, folklore, and monsters from an early age, there are few things I find more satisfying than when science and common sense provide an explanation for something that was previously regarded as supernatural. To my mind, a scientific explanation does not make the world a duller, less magical place, and a myth is no less interesting or beautiful for being debunked: it still provides an insight into humanity’s lifelong struggle to explain and understand the world around us.

And of course, the chupacabra will probably remain a potent image in fantasy and supernatural fiction and games. Rightly so: it has earned its place every bit as much as any ghost or ghoul.

Here are some links to game adaptations of the “fantastic” chupacabra:

Game stats for the Pathfinder fantasy RPG, from Paizo Publishing.

The Chupacabra dice game, from Steve Jackson Games.

Rogue Games’ Colonial Gothic Bestiary includes game stats for the chupacabra as well as other legendary American creatures.

If you know of any more great chupacabra resources for gamers and fantasy fans, feel free to add them in the comments below.

UPDATE: January 15, 2018

I just read a disturbing twist on this tale. In the early 20th century, sarcoptic mange was deliberately introduced into coyote populations in an attempt to wipe them out. This makes it quite possible that the chupacabra is a man-made monster.

For this story and many others about the War Against Coyotes, I highly recommend Dan Flores’ book Coyote America.

A quicker read, from the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, is here.

To me, that is scarier than any cupacabra monster story.