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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Seven

December 19, 2018 11 comments

My seventh book of Christmas is another multi-author anthology from the excellent Stone Skin Press. In The Lion and the Aardvark, no fewer than seventy authors give their takes on Aesop-style fables for the modern age. While all of the stories will raise a wry smile from adult readers, most also make nice bedtime stories for the young’uns, teaching them a few things about pride, critical thinking, and other important matters just as Aesop’s originals did.

Aesop cover

My contribution was a tale I called “The Lemmings and the Sea,” which was based on a story my dad told me when I was small: that lemmings threw themselves of cliffs not to commit mass suicide, but out of overconfidence: after all, they had successfully crossed every body of water they had encountered so far. I turned that idea into a story about the risks of following leaders uncritically when they urge us to stay the course.

Here is what some reviewers said about it:

Another solid anthology product from Stone Skin Press. If you haven’t been reading  their collections, I strongly recommend you do so.
 – Goodreads

“I have always loved Æsop’s Fables, so leaped upon a modern collection of similar tales with eager glee! And I have not been disappointed.”
– DriveThruRPG

…and the book’s page on the Stone Skin Press 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 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 Five

December 17, 2018 11 comments

Continuing to showcase some books from the My Books page in the run-up to Christmas , here is an excellent but overlooked anthology to which I contributed a few years back: The New Hero, volume 1 from Stone Skin Press.

NewHeroCoverBLOGSIZE

If you haven’t heard of Stone Skin Press, allow me to recommend them. Their anthologies of fantasy, science fiction, and general adventure stories are intriguingly concepted, well-written, and lovingly curated. Creatively, they are yet another feather in the cap of gaming and fiction luminary Robin D. Laws; commercially, they deserve much, much better exposure than they have achieved so far.

In addition to the two volumes of The New Hero, Stone Skin Press has published Swords vs. Cthulhu; Shotguns vs. Cthulhu; The New Gothic; Gods, Memes, and Monsters; and most recently, #Feminism. Their web site can be found here.

The concept of The New Hero is the iconic hero, a trope that has received little love in recent years. Hollywood prefers the dramatic hero, whose journey can form the storyline of a movie – which is why so many superhero movies were origin stories, until Marvel got into the game – while the iconic hero takes the stage fully-formed, and instead of being changed by the world, remains true to him (or her) self and strives to change the world for the better. This is the hero of the pulps, of noir, and of comics: Batman rather than Luke Skywalker, and Conan rather than Frodo.

Since I am so well known for fantasy and horror, the offer of a spot in The New Hero offered me the chance to spread my wings a little – both figuratively and literarily (see what I did there?). As an airline brat and a lifelong vintage aviation geek, I have always loved the air adventures of the inter-war pulps, as well as earlier air adventures like Jules Verne’s Robur novels.

Eschewing magic and super-science – but allowing myself a dose of dieselpunk and a slightly loose hand with historical technology – I created a straight-ahead airpulp yarn called “Against the Air Pirates,” in which two-fisted aviator Mike Finnegan takes on a rogue German zeppelin in the Pacific of the mid-20s. I pitched it as “Disney’s Tale Spin written by Robert E. Howard.” It was a lot of fun channeling the spirit of old movies like Only Angels Have Wings and Flying Tigers, and I hope to write some more of Finnegan’s adventures someday.

Beside my modest contribution, the two volumes of The New Hero include the work of twenty-six other authors. Some names will be familiar to fans of modern fantasy and horror; more, like mine, will be familiar to tabletop gamers.

The covers, by Gene Ha, deserve a special mention. The cover for volume 1 is drawn in the style of Attic red-figure pottery from Classical Greece, which often included heroic scenes from mythology; the cover for volume 2 is reminiscent of a Japanese story scroll. Both feature vignettes showing the heroes from every single story in the book: if you look at the image above, you will find Mike Finnegan right above the word “Hero,” engaged in a desperate duel against the zeppelin’s captain.  Every time you read a story, you’ll find yourself searching for its hero on the cover.

Here’s what one reviewer had to say:

“This isn’t just a collection of short stories, it is a thoughtful analysis of what it means to be a hero, what a hero actually is. … Read these tales. They’ll give you more than the mere entertainment of well-crafted stories, they’ll give you something to think about.”

– RPGNow.com

…and the book’s page on the Stone Skin Press 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 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.

 

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

July 1, 2015 18 comments

Call_of_Cthulhu_RPG_1st_ed_1981

I had been playing AD&D for about four years when the first edition of Call of Cthulhu was published in 1981. Although I wasn’t terribly familiar with Lovecraft’s work at the time, I liked the fact that it was a horror game set in the real world of the 20th century. Initially I thought it could be used to play Hammer-horror style games, but as I read more Lovecraft I quickly came to realize how perfectly Call of Cthulhu was designed for Lovecraft’s more cerebral style of horror – and most importantly, I think, how first edition Call of Cthulhu forced players to think beyond combat as a first response.

Although my college gaming group continued to focus mainly on AD&D, I started to run an occasional Call of Cthulhu campaign. As I’ve already said in various places (including the previous post), Call of Cthulhu went on to become a major influence on my writing for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Although Games Workshop published various titles for Call of Cthulhu during my time there (the best, in my opinion, was the hardback rulebook with bestiary art by Tony Ackland), I only got to work on one GW CoC product, and that was before I joined the staff. At work my time was fully taken up, at first by WFRP and later by other games, so everything I wrote for Call of Cthulhu, I wrote on my own time. I did send an adventure to Chaosium around 1986-87, and I got a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen saying he wanted to use it in the Second Cthulhu Companion, but it was cut at the last minute and it languished in a to-be-developed pile until 2015, when I finally got the opportunity to develop it into a tie-in novella for the Arkham Horror boardgame called The Dirge of Reason. 

Dirge of Reason

 

Although my bibliography for Call of Cthulhu is shorter than for many other games, I still regard it as one of my favorites. Although opportunities to write for it didn’t come my way very often, it’s still a great game and, as I’ve said before, a milestone in the history of tabletop RPG design. I think of it as the first game of the second generation, when RPG design crawled out of the dungeon, stood upright, and began to do more than just hit things with swords.

Fiction
The Dirge of Reason, Fantasy Flight Games, 2017 – author Buy it here
The Investigators of Arkham Horror, Fantasy Flight Games, 2016 – contributor Buy it here
Cthulhu Britannica, Cubicle 7 Games, 2014 – promotional postcards (Kickstarter)

Products
Achtung! Cthulhu: Under the Gun, Modiphius Entertainment, 2019 – author Buy it here
Cthulhu Confidential, Pelgrane Press, 2016 – editor Buy it here
Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft, Rogue Games, 2015 – co-author Buy it here
Green & Pleasant Land, Games Workshop 1987 – contributing author

Articles
“Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic,” blog, March 2016 Download free here
“A Green, Unpleasant Land,” blog, January 2016 Download free here
“Out of the Ordinary,” Shadis #41, Oct 1996
“Mind Over Matter,” Shadis #38, Jul 1996 Download free here
“Spirit of the Mountain,” White Dwarf #99, Apr 1988
“Trilogy of Terror,” White Dwarf #97, Feb 1988
“The Worm Stones,” Fantasy Chronicles #5, November 1986 – co-author
“Ghost Jackal Kill,” White Dwarf #79, Aug 1986
“Crawling Chaos,” White Dwarf #68, Sep 1985 – contributor
“Haunters of the Dark,” White Dwarf #67, Aug 1985

Video Games
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Bethesda Softworks 2005 – pickup writer (in-game documents)

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends

Lemmings and Zeppelins

February 16, 2013 3 comments

It’s long been my intention to write more fiction, and the first fruits of that plan are finally available. As of yesterday, the Stone Skin Press webstore is open for business.

If you haven’t heard of Stone Skin Press, you should check them out. The themes for their anthologies are never less than intriguing, and their people know what they are doing. Right now, four anthologies are available in electronic form, and preorders are open for the dead-tree versions. I have stories in two of their volumes: one features lemmings and the other involves a zeppelin.

The New Hero is a two-volume collection based around the idea of the iconic hero. Distinct from the dramatic hero whose story is a journey, the iconic hero stands firm in what he (or she) is, bringing order to an imperfect world. Think Conan rather than Frodo, or Batman rather than Luke Skywalker. My story “Against the Air Pirates” is a tribute to the airpulp sub-genre: I pitched it as “Disney’s Tale Spin written by Robert E. Howard.” I am, and have always been, a vintage plane geek.

The Lion and the Aardvark is inspired by Aesop’s Fables, and consists of 70 short-short tales with a modern twist. My tale “The Lemmings and the Sea” is about leaders and their visions, and how staying the course might not always be the best idea.

Shotguns v. Cthulhu does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a collection of action-adventure tales set within H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. If you like Howard’s muscular take on horror – whether or not you also like Lovecraft’s more cerebral approach – you will like this book.

I’m hoping for great things from – and for – Stone Skin Press. In a world full of Major Fantasy Trilogies and sparkly vampires they are taking the road less traveled and returning to the roots of fantasy and horror fiction, the short story. They are people who know what they’re at, and I found them very pleasant to do business with. I would recommend them to anyone who is interested in writing short fiction for themed collections.

But I have to go now. They have just announced a new book titled The New Gothic and issued a call for submissions. A storm is rising, and it’s a long walk across the lonely moor to the dark old house….

Just in Time for Christmas

December 14, 2012 2 comments

December has been a busy month, but I can’t talk about any of that. Not yet.

Here’s what I can talk about, though: a lot of things are finally seeing the light of day this month, and that’s very exciting.

New Fiction

I’ve already posted about the Aesop-inspired anthology The Lion and the Aardvark, which includes stories from 70 – count ’em, 70 – of the best writers out there. I have a short-short tale in there called “The Lemmings and the Sea,” and I can’t wait to see what my 69 co-writers have come up with.

The Hobbit Social Games

I should have posted before about The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth and The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age. I’m very proud to have worked on these two social strategy games tied into Peter Jackson’s new movie. By the bye, Apple has just named Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North as the top-grossing free iOS app of 2012. That was my first project for Kabam, and it’s great to see it doing so well.

I’ve also been involved with two tabletop RPG products that are out just in time for Christmas. Although I don’t work much in that medium these days, I’m proud of both of these new releases, for different reasons.

Colonial Gothic

The Colonial Gothic 2nd Edition Rulebook was released on 12/12/12 at 12:12:12, in reference to the 12 Degrees roleplaying system that powers it. It has been a long, hard labor of love for Colonial Gothic creator Richard Iorio. I’ve offered support and feedback, but the work is all his.

You may not have heard of Colonial Gothic, or of Rogue Games. I first met Richard at GenCon more than a decade ago when we were both working the Hogshead Publishing booth, and we kind of stayed in touch. When I first heard about Colonial Gothic in 2009, I was so impressed by the idea that I offered my services. Since then the Colonial Gothic line has swelled to eight books and a number of e-books, and the game has gathered a small but passionate following.

According to Richard, the Colonial Gothic concept started out as “Cthulhu 1776,” but it has come a long way since then. It now covers the whole history of Colonial America and the War of Independence. The work of H. P. Lovecraft still inspires the growing Colonial Gothic mythology (and I wish I could talk about a new development in that direction), but there’s more: scheming Dan-Brown-style Freemasons, Bigfoot and other cryptids, local legends like the Jersey Devil, Native spirits, and much, much more. If you liked Sleepy Hollow (the story or any of its movie versions), National Treasure, The Last of the Mohicans, The Patriot, or The Brotherhood of the Wolf, you’ll enjoy Colonial Gothic.

The second edition rulebook will be vital to the line’s future growth: previous editions were plagued by typos and minor inconsistencies, and Richard has taken the time to go through and fix everything. The rules have been reorganized so that information is easier to find; typos and inconsistencies have been fixed; and Richard has done wonders with the layout. It’s also 100% backward-compatible with the entire Colonial Gothic line. Richard has worked incredibly hard on this and the hard work shows.

The third instalment of the acclaimed Flames of Freedom campaign is planned for 2013, along with a couple of other things that, frustratingly, I can’t talk about yet. Keep an eye on Rogue Dispatches for announcements.

The Enemy Within, Again

Many months ago, Fantasy Flight Games caused an enormous stir when they announced a new campaign for 3rd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It was the title that got people excited: The Enemy Within. The new Enemy Within is not an adaptation or an updating of the original, but a whole new campaign that explores the same themes through new adventures. The entry I wrote about it back in March remains the most-viewed entry on this whole blog.

After the frenzy that greeted the announcement, there was a long, long silence. Based at least in part on my feedback when I saw the galleys, The Enemy Within went through a lot of editing and development. Now, at last, it has been released.

When I started writing my part of the campaign, I worried about how I would top the completely unforeseen success of the original Enemy Within. I came to the conclusion that nothing could ever top the fond memories that many people have for the original adventures, memories that are tied up with where they were in their lives when they first played them. It’s impossible to recreate that; I just took my two chapter briefs and wrote the best adventure I could.

Since the new Enemy Within was announced, a few people have asked me about running it with 1st or 2nd edition WFRP, and also about running a mash-up of the old and new campaigns. I think both are possible. Although the three editions of WFRP have different rules, the setting and the cast of monsters are the same: with a little work on the GM’s part, stats can be massaged into the preferred edition. When I was writing, I made a conscious effort to write a good WFRP adventure, rather than focusing on the 3rd edition rules.

A mash-up “Total Enemy Within” campaign is equally possible. The new campaign has a strong structure, and if I were running an Enemy Within mashup I would use that as the main plot. The original adventures, up to and including Power Behind the Throne, can be added as side-plots and complications: Death on the Reik, in particular, could flesh out some of the travel sections, which are somewhat abstract in the new campaign. I can even see ways to add Something Rotten in Kislev and Empire in Flames, but going into any detail would involve spoilers so I’ll refrain for now.

Reaction to WFRP 3rd edition has been mixed. In its own way, the WFRP community is riven by an edition war as savage as anything D&D/d20 has seen. I expect at least a few people will eviscerate me online because the new Enemy Within doesn’t live up to their long-held memories of the original, because it’s 3rd edition, because of any number of things. I hope that a lot of people will like it, or at least find something they like in it. I will say that it looks good, and I will be excited to hold it in my hands.

The Lion and the Aardvark

December 6, 2012 1 comment

Stone Skin Press’ anthology The Lion and the Aardvark has now shipped to UK bookstores, and just in time for Christmas. You can find it at Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk, Foyles, and other bookshops.

I can’t wait to see this, and not only because it includes my short-short The Lemmings and the Sea. I was intrigued by the concept ever since Robin Laws approached me to write something. I remember reading a children’s edition of Aesop’s Fables at the age of about seven, and being amazed at how insightful they were (even if I couldn’t have articulated that thought back then) as well as loving all the talking animals. I loved having the chance to try my hand at writing something in the same style. But mainly, I just can’t wait to see what the other 69 contributing authors have done.

The roster includes some big names from the gaming world like Greg Stafford, Ed Greenwood, Sandy Petersen, and John Kovalic, as well as writers like Matt Forbeck, Jonathan Howard, and Chuck Wendig. It’s a wide and eclectic group of people, each of whom is bound to come up with something great. I’m proud to be among such company.

The book looks nice, too – a satisfyingly chunky hardback with a lion and an aardvark gold-stamped into the cover underneath a simple but appealing dustjacket. Rachel Kahn’s internal art has a light touch that is perfect for the subject matter.

I’m told that an announcement about North American distribution is expected any day now. I really hope it will be in time for Christmas-gifting on this side of the Atlantic.

The Pyrates are Coming!

October 17, 2012 4 comments

As regular readers (and tabletop game geeks) will know, Robin D. Laws is an industry luminary. He consistently comes up with challenging and innovative ideas that are also fun to play. He’s also an accomplished author and a newly-minted fiction publisher, which means he knows one end of a story from the other better than most.

So when he announced the Kickstarter campaign for his latest project, the DramaSystem roleplaying game, I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued when I learned that the system would launch with an Iron Age setting called Hillfolk.

But then, intriguing is what Robin does. When he announces a new project, everyone sits up and takes notice. The campaign has now reached its nineteeth – count ’em, nineteenth – stretch goal and shows no sign of slowing down in its sixteen remaining days. Of course, Robin, being a man who Knows What He’s At, has offered some pretty spectacular stretch goals. Some of the greatest names in tabletop roleplaying are helping out: names like Michelle Nephew, Kenneth Hite, Matt Forbeck, Chris Pramas, James Wallis, and John Tynes – and, as they say, many more.

And then he asked me if I wanted to do something. Well, how could I spurn company like that?

So as of today, my Pyrates setting is officially the 20th stretch goal. I pitched it as “Firefly of the Caribbean” and that sums up what I’m thinking pretty well. When Robin first contacted me I sat down and came up with almost 20 ideas, but Pyrates was the first and we both agreed that it’s the best. I’m hoping you’ll like it too.

If you love the sound of shivered timbers and aim to misbehave – or if you just like innovative and thought-provoking roleplaying games – check out the Hillfolk Kickstarter page and marvel at the wealth of creativity on offer from a galaxy of top-flight writers. And me.

International Short Story Day


Today is International Short Story Day. Why today? Because it’s the shortest night of the year. Kind of cunning, don’t you think?

One of many events to mark the day will be taking place at The Book Club in London, starting at 7:00 pm. That’s where Stone Skin Press will be launching a preview edition of The New Hero, their inaugural story collection. Renowned game and fiction author Robin D. Laws has put together an impressive roster of writers (and a great cover artist) for this volume of iconic hero tales – and he also asked me to pitch in a story.

My airpulp yarn “Against the Air Pirates” features a rogue German zeppelin in the inter-war Pacific: I pitched it as “Disney’s Tale Spin written by Robert E. Howard.” More on my obsession with vintage aviation can be found here.

The story was a lot of fun to write, and I hope that some day I’ll be able to revisit Louie’s Place and see what Mike Finnegan and the other regulars are up to. Meanwhile, though, I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands and see what wonders the other writers have come up with.

“The New Hero” Cover Revealed

October 19, 2011 2 comments

Artist Gene Ha has taken the hero theme to heart and given the world a twist on ancient Greek pottery (Attic Red-Figure Ware, to be precise) for the cover of Stone Skin Press’ anthology The New Hero. As I said in an earlier post, I’m very happy to have had a story accepted for the collection.

I learned as an archaeology student that this style of pottery often bore mythic and heroic images, and Gene has included an element for every piece in the book. It’s a very impressive piece of work.

And if you’re interested, my story Against the Air Pirates is reflected in the second row, right hand side.

Airpulp

May 14, 2011 13 comments

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will be able to tell you that I’m a plane geek. Specifically, a vintage plane geek. More specifically still, a 30s and 40s plane geek. I can bore the pants off anyone with trivia about obscure WWII fighters like the Commonwealth Boomerang and lost designs like the Grumman Skyrocket. If the Westland Whirlwind had been fitted with Merlin engines instead of those wimpy Peregrines, would the Mosquito have even flown? After all, the Whirlwind would have been exactly what de Havilland did with the Hornet a few years later. All right, I’m stopping. I can hear your eyes glazing over even at this distance.

I suppose it was inevitable. For one thing I grew up in 60s Britain, where films and comics bombarded a whole generation of boys with heroic images of WWII. Commando Comics, 633 Squadron, The Battle of Britain, The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, The Longest Day, the list goes on and on. Add to that the seemingly endless Saturday-morning TV reruns of The Dam Busters and the wartime exploits of John Wayne, and it’s no surprise that I spent much of my youth running around the playground shouting things like “achtung, Spitfeuer!” and “squadron scramble!” I knew with an absolute certainty that if I couldn’t grow up to be the pilot of Thunderbird 1, I wanted to fly Spitfires.

Added to that, I was an airline brat. My parents met at a BOAC staff dance in the 50s, and my dad continued to work at Heathrow (or “on the airport” as we in the know liked to say) until the 70s merger that created British Airways. By the age of seven I had been around the world twice, with a surprising number of legs flown on planes with actual propellors. I knew a Boeing 707 from a de Havilland Comet from a Lockheed Constellation from a Bristol Britannia from a Vickers Viscount, and thought the clean-winged, high-tailed Vickers VC-10 was quite the most beautiful plane ever built.

At school, my art teacher needed the patience of a saint, and not just because I couldn’t draw to save my life. I taught myself to draw the planes from my extensive collection of Airfix models – but only from the side, by copying the outlines in the painting guides. I worked them into every assignment, no matter how much I had to twist and turn. “Home from Abroad” – probably intended to get us to draw happy holidaymakers coming back from the Costa del Package Tour or the far corners of the Commonwealth – ended up as a night-time shot of a Lancaster coming in with one engine on fire, from a rigid side view.

One of the most treasured comments from my English teacher was “you follow very closely the style of professional writers of this kind of story,” affixed to a – though I do say so myself – fairly tense and atmospheric few pages about an RAF fighter squadron in the Blitz waiting for the order to scramble. “The Storm” became about an Australian bush pilot fighting to land his elderly DC-3 on a tiny Pacific island in the teeth of a cyclone. And on and on and on.

I tell people I cried when I learned that the RAF no longer flew Spitfires. I don’t remember if that’s literally true, but my obsession abated a little as I entered my teens. The Farnborough Air Show was still a regular birthday outing, but I found the world was full of other intriguing things like archaeology, progressive rock, beer, girls, amateur dramatics – with girls – and later, roleplaying games. But I still couldn’t be kept out of an aircraft museum and to this day the sight of a World War II plane in the air brings a tear to my eye. Even watching the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight go over Buck House for the Royal Wedding did it. A couple of my classmates went into the RAF – one even flew for my boyhood heroes the Red Arrows – but in my heart I knew I was far too attached to my own opinions to last long in a military environment. I spent three soul-crushing years as a bank clerk and went to college to study archaeology before my urge to write reasserted itself and I ended up in the games industry.

As a game designer and writer, I still gravitate toward vintage aviation in general and World War II in particular. At MicroProse UK I hung models of a Mustang and a Thunderbolt over my desk as part of a hearts-and-minds campaign to support my endless stream of proposals for a WWII title. It didn’t work. I spent hours – in the name of research, honest – playing Aces of the Pacific and Aces Over Europe, and wrote plaintive letters to Dynamix, the developers, begging for a job. That didn’t work either. Although I wasn’t an official member of the development team for the game that became Microsoft Fighter Ace, I bombarded the modelers with source material and minor corrections. I even came up with the title, something of which I remain absurdly proud.

Along the way, I watched Disney’s Tale Spin and countless old air movies like Only Angels Have Wings. I enjoyed Crimson Skies immensely, although I thought it would have been better if the planes had been a little less fanciful. There are plenty of cool designs that never made it into production and service, after all. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow remains a guilty pleasure, though again I would have preferred to see Cap in something like a Grumman Skyrocket instead of his standard P-40. It was good enough for the Blackhawk Squadron.

Then a few months ago, something marvelous happened. I received an email from tabletop gaming luminary Robin Laws telling me that his company Pelgrane Press was launching a fiction arm called Stone Skin Press and inviting me to contribute a story to their inaugural compilation, The New Hero. The theme was iconic heroes, and that was all I needed to know. Within minutes my mind was off in the South Pacific of the inter-war years, battling megalomaniacs in rogue zeppelins and winding up at Louie’s (it has to be called Louie’s) for drinks as the sun set behind the palm trees. The New Hero has turned into two volumes, but my story Against the Air Pirates made it into the first. To say I’m happy about it is an understatement – indeed, to call it an understatement is an understatement – and I can’t wait to find out the release date. Make no mistake, you’ll see plenty of gloating here when I finally hold it in my hands.

Air pulps died out in the 50s, and the brief pulp resurgence of the 80s focused on the two main subgenres: adventures and detective stories. Nowadays we have steampunk and dieselpunk, and a lot of people have assumed from its title that Against the Air Pirates is a steampunk yarn. In my wildest dreams, airpulp will come back some day, just like a two-fisted pilot flying out of the fireball that engulfs the villain’s lair. Hey, I can dream.