San Diego Comic Con (E I E I O)

Among its many claims to fame, The San Diego Comic Con is a way to visit people I would never get to see otherwise. Jaime Carrillo and the lovely Ana were the first people we saw entering the hall, or at least the first place we went. Since I have only ever seen them inside the hall I made the daring suggestion that we go to dinner to see what we look like under different circumstances. It worked. They were not site-specific holograms after all.
Other friends live close enough to visit for Super Bowl Parties, however it took me until SDCC to visit Todd Lockwood to sign the paintings we collaborated on earlier this year. LockwoodDragonsThe Badali Jewelry booth was our sanctuary this year, the place we went when things became too overwhelming and we needed hugs. Not that they weren’t always swamped with customers (and selling out of fantastic new pieces) but they always had a moment for poor weary travelers. The busy Stacy ducked out of the crowds of people long enough to give me a hug and tell me the odyssey of getting the huge dragon on top of the Weta booth. We only ran into Brent Weeks once and that was at the airport where Venetia twitter stalked him. Venetia was able to spot Seanan McGuire from her glorious hair and we were lucky to see catch Amy McNally during her brief visit. Venetia also got to see her dear friend Sarah and fall in love with a new adorable baby. The Shiftlett Brothers were safely in their box fort and we admired their newest piece in progress this glorious barbarian/viking statue we wanted to get for Drew and Cat.

ShiftlettJohn Picacio was one of the stars of the show this year which meant we only got to talk to him and his lovely assistant Tara briefly but they were undeniably winning the con. Someday I hope to be so savvy. There was a panel about the upcoming Neil Gaiman documentary just brimming with lovely and talented people, including Cat Mihos and Les Klinger. Peter Beagle and the indispensable Connor Cochran were in Artists’ Alley and we spent enough time with them to ensure that we will indeed see them again soon, although Venetia has decided she wants to live at Peter Beagle’s elbow so that she can always listen to his stories.

If you’ve talked to Venetia or I about books recently, you may have heard us rave about Red Rising which is definitely the Next Big Thing™. I was suspicious at first upon reading it because I hate being pandered to but I quickly gave up and surrendered to enjoying the book. I especially always appreciate it when plot twists aren’t quite what I expected. Pierce Brown was doing several signings at his publishers booth and we end up standing in line twice. The first time was to meet him and get a book for a friend, the second time because we realized we have a lot more friends we would like to give his book to.

Also on the author front, I finally got to meet Sam Sykes in person. A most upstanding young ne’er-do-well, I suspected I would like him from the twittery volleys we exchanged and was happy to further appall Seanan McGuire with some punning conversation with Sam.

I also made one of my very rare purchases for authentic screen-used gloves and mask made by WETA Workshop used in the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008). Some prices (even at SDCC) are too low to be ignored.

PrinceCaspianAnd while Keith is an old friend, we met several of his compagneros ’round the fire pit Saturday night – including singer Marian Call and her posse from the great state formerly known as Seward’s folly!

Last, but certainly not at all least, we encountered an intriguing sign attached to a table of goodness that said that for $20, Bill Plympton will draw your picture. How could we resist! Venetia couldn’t stop smiling for her portrait, even after Bill said she could stop.

CartoonVenetiaWho IS this guy?

I am always astonished by the sheer volume artists whose work is on display and for sale – especially the really GOOD artists. Every year I take at least one whole day, and usually additional returns, to wander – not just through the designated “Artists’ Alley, but through the entire Convention floor. This year it was my great pleasure to “discover” the already brilliant and successful Viktor Kalvachev. His work does not fit into one style or description and his sketches are superb. His finished cover pieces contain many of the subversive elements I especially enjoy – the kind of art work you can study and think about but also can enjoy just at a glance for it’s aesthetic value.Circe_0011(Image: DC Comics cover for Men of War Vol2 by Viktor Kalvachev)

Viktor is the kind of person who knew his comic would make a great video game, so he started a company in France to produce it. When I commented on how good his blood stains were, he explained that the trick was to study the blood stain reference – the sheen, the shapes, the volume – and then draw his own.

Some links for more information on Viktor: a good interview with him about his work and another interview about Blue Estate and it’s look and feel.

Les Cités obscures

In 1988 I was thunderstruck in Paris by the giant (and hugely expensive) series of graphic novels called Les Cités obscures. On Thursday afternoon of this 2014, we walked into the vasty hall in perfect time to see its artist, François Schuiten, signing and drawing in copies of his newly-translated-into-English book, The Leaning Girl. Upon learning that I was an artist and a fan, he drew this picture – in ink, without any preparatory pencil work – in the front. Author Benoît Peeters also signed and Steve Smith, his devoted publisher captured the scene. It seems he had taken photos of the previously-drawn pages and not one was the same as mine of of any other.SchuitenYou don’t have to put on the red light

The local police decided to put on a show the second to last night of the convention. Twice, on successive street corners. This is how it “worked”: For cash money deposited in a clear box on a stand, any willing person could get themselves (pretend) arrested. But not just any arrest, no no. The sort of arrest that involves being manhandled and throttled with batons. What a… hoot? So, instead of keeping the bottlenecks madness of the night to a minimum, this bunch of jokester cops-for-hire made the traffic far worse. And like the train wreck it surely was, people could not look away. Either time. And the young fans getting their photos taken during mock arrests? What street cred! And the cops? It was a debacle on every level, but perhaps most of all for rule of law.

San Diego Zoo – How we do vacation

In order to combat the exhausting drone of the convention this year, we decided to make it our vacation and spend a few extra days in town. Venetia started a subtle and focused campaign for the zoo by saying the word “zoo” periodically throughout the weekend. We had a late but large breakfast to prepare ourselves and took the bus on the corner of our street straight to Balboa Park. We entered the zoo at a few minutes to noon which means I can say with certainty that we were at the zoo for 9 straight hours. I can only describe how much my feet hurt by describing to you how the bright red color on the soles of my feet radiated up along the sides of my feet as well. We saw almost every single exhibit in the San Diego Zoo with very few exceptions. Venetia’s highlights were the playful polar bears, the elegant and mysterious secretary birds and the flamingo disco party she was insistent on visiting at the very end of the day which firmly put our trip into the exactly 9 hours of zoo. After that, it was a relief to get on the plane for a few hours the following day just to rest our feet!

FlamingoDiscoPartyFake geeks

Many of us have read the inane whining and vapid protests of young entitled boy fans talking about “fake” geek girls. San Diego at this time of year is the adamantium melting-pot where law interns and all manner of European exchange students put on their geekiest to pedal wee thrones of Westeros, peddle tchotchkes they know little and care less about, or seat diners in fantastically overpriced restaurants. Heck, every mannequin is wearing a WonderWoman tiara and every shop is stocking Wolverine and Hulk merchandise it might normally sneer at. All of San Diego is a “fake” geek, because that’s where the money is. There are hostesses indistinguishable from casual cosplayers, and tattooed local drunks  who may or may not have any idea which gaming character they resemble.

Soaking in this debauch of 3-color lunacy for a week, and daily wandering through a convention where most of the founders of the feast are utterly unknown and where art dealers make multiples of profit on comic pages that netted their creators precious little, has led me to reconsider the protestations of the clueless. It’s not fake fans they should be concerned about, it’s the fake executives, the fake money men who pull the strings. Because those guys? They’ve never cared a jot for the material and they probably never will….

Final Notes

While nothing that happens in Hall H stays in Hall H, most of it gets to YouTube faster than it can move about the sales floor of the convention. It’s interesting to be so close, and yet so far (and, as a long-time fan, disappointing not to hear more of Doctor Strange and The Inhumans). I saw the Avengers posters at a distance on this, the last day of the convention. But heard no context about any of it.

The piece de resistance on the last night of the convention was on the TV in our hotel. It was the first Thor movie. Dubbed into Spanish. While the Norse Gods seemed marvelous to me growing up, and fun (if more than a little absurd in the hands of Stanley Lieber – I mean, c’mon he’s a fiery hard-drinking redhead!), seeing Rene Russo, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, and Chris Hemsworth in Spanish is just somehow… better?

Expanded Elements

My Elements piece is thus far my most popular piece of writing and has proven valuable to myself and others so I would like to expand on more recent painting breakthroughs. In mid-2013, I painted a piece called “Glorianna” for the new Starstruck volume (which I am currently hard at work painting). Here are some of the lessons I realized in this painting:

No Expectations:
I’d started with no expectation of making a finished piece right away (see the video on Creativity by John Cleese). In my insanely busy work life (yes, I once did 1000 pieces one year and this year I’ve completed one Small God a day for 365 pieces in the past 365 days), that is itself shocking.

Don’t Jump at the First “Success”:

Verloona3I’d done a quick sketch of Verloona first (the obvious bad [and vain] girl pin-up of the Starstruck characters), but rather than finish it, I thought I’d try another subject – the character I am the most simpatico with: Glorianna. I thought to set her up as a tall/thin Nouveau Mucha piece, with nods to John R. Neill.

Go With It:
But when the piece started to come together as a Pre-Raphaelite piece (the two pieces below are NOT mine, and never could be. But I love the Pre-Raphaelites deeply) instead, I did the smart thing (for a change). I let it.

CrystalBallWaterhouse1902ReferenceSend Roughs/ Get Input:
I sent a rough (I historically hate rough work and try never to show it) to Starstruck’s author Elaine Lee for her thoughts about moving it to finish. She found it agreeable, and I asked her for information so the background could become something other than a generic clearing in generic trees.

Glorianna9Do More Roughs:
Originally she was standing on the same plane as the background. Through the process of fixing her back arm, and making a working background I made many permutations until I could choose the very best versions.

Don’t Get Attached:
Historically it’s not the reference that I’ve found hardest to shake- rather it’s fidelity to the details of the character, milieu or environment. In this case, it wasn’t so hard for me to riff on Michael Kaluta’s wonderful character design. In part because, unlike most comic characters (and animated characters), she’s a real person who wears more than a single set of jammies. And having discussed the background with Elaine, I knew I was drawing something outside the extant range of the comic. So a sigh of relief there.

Don’t Overwork:
I’ve been doing this professionally for more than 30 years, and until this month, I’ve never felt secure in my work. Ever. But after a lot of introspection, I’ve stripped down my paintbrushes and gotten serious about not being a control freak. Yes, there are still some small details to hone (her Krystal necklace is important), but leave well enough alone! This piece took less than 2 full workdays – and that alone could be cause for my next point:

Be Happy with Happy:
This sounds a bit ridiculous, but I find artists too seldom spend time enjoying their successes.
But I am delighted with this piece and what it means to me. So there. :p

GloriannaWide2

Everything Wrong is Right Again

Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily, that is what fiction means”.
But when an author combines the real and the fictional so well, when he mixes the ingredients so deeply that one cannot quite remember whether it was Whistler, Sickert or Hallward that is the one Victorian Painter who is not like the others, and when everything and everyone is in his and her place (or is it someone else’s?)… fiction can mean still more.

MugnainiMugnaini

When I was a lad I read Ray Bradbury, and of his many indelible stories Usher II and The Exiles held a special resonance.
These were not fiction, they were… something else. Bradbury was a magician, and The Exiles (and others) an incantation. A summoning. Magic on the printed page.*

JohnnyAlucardIn Kim Newman’s latest – Johnny Alucard – the marvelously-named author Kenneth Anger believes in this sort of magic. Of words made flesh. Of Cinema writ large. Maybe writ in blood.
Maybe it’s untrue, but why would that noted liar and magician Kim Newman lie to me? And does it matter if he has?
This is where those lines – between truth and fiction, between facts and gossip, between fiction and magic – blur to the point of uselessness.

I’ve loved Newman’s Anno Dracula since I read it decades back.
I read it again (this time aloud) after last year’s trip to Brighton for the World Fantasy Convention.
I’d been fortunate to meet up with the author there, and returned with signed books.
But I put off the reading of this newest work (the fourth “real novel” in this series) for months. And even now, I’m going slowly.
The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last….

AnnoDraculaI’m only at page 300, and while I have some thoughts about how I might end it, there’s nothing to say that Newman will agree, or even stick the landing.
And it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not about the destination, truly. It’s not a question of whether it ends in dust and disarray. It IS those things – red dust specifically: “Drac”.
It’s a series of short stories and novellas that pretend to be a novel. Just like how Uncle Bradbury used to make ‘em.

I remembered my qualms about Anno Dracula. “Really, a book about Vampires? Who cares?”.
Well, me for one. Neil Gaiman (as the new Titan Books edition of the novel makes clear on the spine) for another.
I had qualms about starting Johnny Alucard for a very different reason – because the book would wrap around that second Age of Victorian Values – The Age of Thatcher – the very period that had inspired Anno Dracula in the first place. And, I think, the key to so much of its power.
A vampiric ouroboros, I worried that this confection must collapse under the weight of its own referents like a flan in a cupboard.

I was wrong to doubt. At first, I simply enjoyed its game of flashback and substitution. The magic of movies at their most intense.
The ouroboros seemed bent on swallowing its own tail (well… tale) and draining it dry, but I went with the arterial flow. Why not?
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, unmade – remade – made as an alternate history’s Dracula in Ceaucescu’s Romania?
Splendid!

A swan song for Philip Marlowe outside Poodle Springs was charming, but brief. And light.
An aperitif? A sorbet? Or were we getting as lost in the West as the “vipers” themselves?

And then another change of scene, some light…. necking?
The Dude? The Slayer? And a certain rumpled detective?
What!?!
Well, all I’m saying is that I wouldn’t leave town if I was you.

BuffyColomboTheDudeAnd that’s when I realized that this wasn’t an ouroboros at all. There was no end in sight, certainly not in the fanged mouth of Maggie Thatcher.
No, not a coiled serpent, more a sort of Moebius Strip. It wasn’t covering the same ground or coming from the same place. Rust never sleeps. Anywhere.
Through the Looking Glass? More like ‘Through with the Looking Glass’.
And just as well, mirrors are bloody useless to a vampire…. A vampire needs an audience.

Like Swann’s famous contract at The Paradise, “All item’s excluded are deemed included.”

 

* In my mouth (during a public reading) his words proved merely a recipe – a list of delicious ingredients that I was utterly incapable of presenting properly. But in the proper hands…

UnDoomed Kickstarter Games

While I do not yet have a copy of ‘The Doom That Came to Atlantic City’* I am pleased to say that many fine people are receiving theirs, and sending me photos online to prove it.
I know that some folks have already played, and several already have favored permutations!

That said, I did receive a different Kickstartered game that I worked on – ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ by Jonathan Liu and Hoke’s Games. Here’s a shot of Venetia with my winning card:

Hokes

*Please have no concerns for me, I think it only proper that mine will be shipped after all the backers have theirs! Besides, after a 25 year development period, the short one that remains is surprisingly tasty. :)

 

The Book of Endless Pages

This month I had the opportunity to do a fun side project.

EndlessPagesCrop THE BOOK OF ENDLESS PAGES INTERVIEW: LEE MOYER

Shawn Speakman: How were you approached to do this incredibly unique yet hilarious project?

Lee Moyer: After a meet-up at Powell’s, my assistant mentioned that Tracy (one of Portland’s most knowledgeable and devoted bibliophiles) had a cover project in mind, and wondered whether I might be interested.

I loved everything about it. I love the opportunity to work in other people’s sandboxes – matching styles, working with typography, and being a little subversive if I can – in short, it was was right up my street!

Shawn Speakman: You have an incredible body of work that ranges from pin-ups to fantasy covers to gaming. Do you have a favorite area of the publishing world that you like to work within?

Lee Moyer: Thank you! I love working on any and all aspects of books:

• Covers, because I love the books within, and I want to do justice to the author’s hard work (paying especial attention to the spine of the book. There is no more important real estate on one’s shelf than those few precious inches!)

• Maps, because – whether the Dragon Kingdom of 13th Age or China Mieville’s New Crobuzon – nothing makes new worlds so real.

• And Design. I love creating symbols, working with type, and fitting all of the elements of a project into a single elegant design – much of the challenge of “Endless Pages” was matching Brandon’s genuine wraparound cover.

Happily, Brandon’s real book is filled with interior illustrations, and endpapers that would be the envy of many other covers. While many people in publishing are worried about the end times, it is so refreshing to see a book like Words of Radiance where the publishers seem to understand that books are objects of beauty and reverence above and beyond. I greatly enjoyed reading Brandon’s essay on what this book means to him, how he is pushing the limit of what “epic fantasy” can mean, and how fully he is creating this world in all it’s aspects (art, maps, symbols, short stories, poems and languages) for his readers.

Shawn Speakman: I’m sure you’ve seen Brandon Sanderson’s reaction to the new dust jacket. How does that make you feel to see the joy it brought him?

Lee Moyer: I was utterly delighted by Brandon’s reaction!

While I do not know him well, I feel he is one of the hardest working authors in the business and I respect that so much.

For more on the story and to see Brandon Sanderson‘s great reaction to the book cover, visit Suvudu.com!

EndlessPages

2013: Art Year in Review

2013 was delightful in its variety. And while I cannot show (or in some cases even mention) some of that work (due to confidentiality agreements and other arcane processes), it all made for a challenging and rewarding year. Below is a short tour of the year’s many images:

Check These Out: 2014

2014CoverAs I’ve done each of the last 3 years, I painted a pin-up calendar in collaboration with a non-profit. This year it was The Clarion Foundation for their Writer’s Workshop – a fitting group for Literary Pin-Ups. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with so many talented authors and I am quite pleased with the result of our collaboration. Pat Murphy wrote a splendid piece about working with me on her painting.

The 2014 calendar I did is eligible for a Hugo as Best Related Work.

2014CalendarCompilationFULLCovers:

Good Intentions & Natural Consequences by Elliott Kay

IntentionsFinalEviscerated: Feminism’s First Daughter by AJ DeFaria

eviscerationfinalThe Best of Joe Haldeman by Joe Haldeman for Subterranean Press

BestOfJoeHaldemanCD Covers for the eponymous Copper & Coal and for Horsetamer by Julia Ecklar

2013CDcoversStarstruck by Elaine Lee, Michael Kaluta (and me).
2013’s successful Kickstarter campaign was the easy part – I’ve still many a page to paint!

Starstruck copyConventions:

Lower left: Norwescon program cover, Lower right: Keycon program cover

fgddfgsThis is the “quilt” of pre-existing images I made for Norwescon, the first of the conventions it was my honor to serve as Guest of Honor this year.

CenterfoldFLATAmbercon Northwest T-shirt Design

Amber20130finalGames:

13th Age and 13 True Ways

http://www.pelgranepress.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/13thAgeCOVER.png

13thAgeIcons13th Age (which I Art Directed and painted with Aaron McConnell) did come out in 2013.
And while its follow-on book 13 True Ways isn’t out yet, below is the cover in progress (with several obvious instances of Aaron McConnell’s excellent pencil work still on display):

13TrueWaysThe Doom that Came to Atlantic City, a game I’ve been playing and talking about for decades, is finally set to appear (with rules by Keith Baker and pieces by Paul Komoda) in Q1 of 2014 from Cryptozoic. And in addition to adjusting the assets to create a print-and-play version, I reworked the assets for the final printing. Here are some of the card backs:

DoomI worked with Patricia Smith on 15 pieces for Rich Baker’s game Primeval Thule.
I look forward to seeing the final book!

PatPosters:

Andy Prieboy in Los Angeles

zAndyFlattererMacBeth in Philadelphia

MacBethFinalLakewood Center for the Performing Arts

Lakewood2013Northwest Children’s Theatre

NWCT2013

Collaborations:

With the marvelous Aly Fell:

AlyFellCollaborationPainting over the pencils of Mark Dos Santos in the style of JC Leyendecker:

SIFMiscellaneous:

My annual live-painting carney-sideshow at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival
This year the audience suggested The King in Yellow at a Sushi Bar.

KingInYellowSushi copyKitty and Drew knew winter was coming. Judging by her photos of Boston, she was right!

Vikings28Glorianna was painted for the Starstruck Kickstarter.

GloriannaWide2Before guesting at the North American Discworld Convention in July, I had begun a series of Small Gods, inspired in part by Terry Pratchett. But that was months ago, and at the rate of one per day, I have now completed more than 200. I post them daily on:

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.43.28 PMThey can be purchased on my new web site at www.leemoyer.com/smallgods

BlogSmallGodsI have on occasion taken the opportunity Small Gods resents to work a little beyond my 1-hour time-limit to create paintings, like the Small God of Holiday Turduckling below.

JohnMaddenEatsDucklingsI had some real breakthrough pieces in 2013 and I am looking forward to seeing where my work goes in 2014. Already on the agenda: 2 covers, an alphabet book, an overview of Hobbiton, a whole lot of Starstruck, and the desire to find a literary and merchandizing agent for the high-concept books I want to see published in 2015!

2013: The Year in Pictures

CyclingClausCard4“Life is for LIVING.” – Sir Noël Coward
“Huhnnn!” – James Brown

As 2014 comes in on the wings of hope and relief for so many, it’s time for the annual reportage of the year past, the year of travel. Six countries in all – and many cities, states, and provinces into the bargain. And for every thing that went wrong, numberless others went right. Isn’t it odd that we are utterly used to “went wrong” but that “went right” sounds odd to us? Oh what self-important creatures we humans are, always foiled by cruel fate, but bold in forging every piece of our own good luck!

Overview of the year:

We started off in January and February with a month-long adventure to New Zealand and Australia (stopping in LA en route ~ delivering samples to ad agencies and seeing friends.)

MapFlat2We visited Glow-Worm Caves, Hobbiton and WETA Workshop. We took a tiny plane over the Southern Alps of New Zealand, went Zorbing and zip-lined down Gravity Canyon, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, marveled at the flying foxes and blue fairy penguins. We visited even more agencies than we’d imagined, and ate much less lamb than we’d expected. AustraliaNZCompilationWe stayed with Stacy and Eric in Wellington, Jason, Kim, and Iona in Melbourne, and John and Pippa in Canberra, saw Trey Ratcliff in Queenstown, friends of Venetia’s in Melbourne and Sydney and made many new friends along the way.

FriendsDownUnderI also found my Guest-of-Honor-suit in Melbourne, thanks to Lauren’s kind attentions in Anton’s, and starred in one of Trey Ratcliff’s brilliant photographs with Venetia.

TreyRatcliff2013(Photo by Trey Ratcliffhttp://www.stuckincustoms.com)

For a brief and lovely time in February and March (and before travel interfered with her schedule), Venetia went running with our friend Scott. Now that she can actually breathe, she is very excited to see how her running stamina/enjoyability index will improve.

In March, I introduced Venetia to The Up series (which we now recommend to all of our author and story-telling friends). We watched the series together culminating in a trip down to Corvallis to see 56 Up. I also got to show Venetia Who Framed Roger Rabbit at our beautiful Hollywood Theater and she is now a fan, especially of Jessica Rabbit.

As a result of being Art Guest of Honor at Norwescon, I met Andri Magnason, the Philip K. Dick Award nominee who wrote Venetia and my’s favorite book of 2013: Lovestar.
I had a lovely time at Norwescon and look forward to it again this year.

April was the Month of Starstruck. Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta (aided and abetted by Tym Stevens) set up their Kickstarter campaign and I painted the cover, patch & t-shirt designs, and a few scenes from the story itself. I somehow also managed the solo painting of Glorianna (below right) – it was something of a breakthrough for me discovering how much I actually love painting, how easy and enjoyable it can be, if one will but let it. Now some wags among you might think this could have been achieved as many as 35 years ago…. and I’m not saying they’re wrong. Not at all.
But I’m very grateful it happened at all.

StarstruckThe month of May saw another HP Lovecraft film festival and a trip to Canada to be the Art Guest of Honor at Keycon, in Winnipeg. They had a splendid line-up of guests there, and many of them were good enough to take me up on my invitation to come visit me in Portland: Scotia (who ran Keycon’s splendid art show) came to see us in August and a great majority of the Keycon guests (dubbed “The Illuminaughty”) will be having an extended slumber party at my house in May 2014 for the World Horror Convention.

This was also the time that I worked up a proper poster for Andy Prieboy, one of my favorite musicians. I can only hope this recent group of concerts will yield a recording of its own!

In June, I proposed that Venetia cut her hair and after a week of skepticism, she realized what a brilliant idea it was. We documented the whole process and she is happier than ever with her new hair. The masses of long hair going not to Locks of Love (who have not managed their growth at all well, and cause much charitably donated hair to go to waste), but to Pantene (whose record is much better).

HairCut1_1We drove down to Corvallis to give a talk on Kickstarters to their local group of business creatives. We stayed with the lovely Lainie and had a marvelous brunch with Patricia Smith.

Then Venetia took a road trip back to Montana to be a bridesmaid at her friend Joanne’s mountain wedding. She and Trevor were (and are) adorable, and their wedding managed to chill the bridesmaids while insuring sunburns all around.

Joanne'sWeddingI stayed home to finish a job and was struck by inspiration to start my Small Gods series which has become a major part of this year. Today, January 1st of 2014, is the 200th Small God, although I was certainly not thinking of the New Year’s numbering when I began it. Small Gods are now available for sale on my website and have their own Facebook page.

BlogSmallGodsAfter Venetia returned home, we began our Journey to the East Coast, starting with Roanoke, Virginia where I spoke and held a workshop for Todd Ristau’s astonishing MFA program – The Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University. Venetia got to see her first No Shame Theater performance, and I enjoyed performing my piece No Nude Bathing.
I toured her through many of the areas that I once lived and, with the exception of my parent’s old house in DC which has of course been torn down that an oversized McMansion might take its place, she has now seen everywhere I’ve lived on the East Coast.

EastCoast2013CompVenetia’s  first time in Washington DC was of course a real treat, featuring a whirlwind tour of many museums, and the Bungalow’s classic Independence Day Soiree. We are looking forward to returning this year and hopefully spending much more time at the Smithsonian.

But after a too-brief stay, a Carlyle Grande dinner with 2 tables of wonderful friends, and the hospitality of the Barkers, it was off to Charm City (by way of Ellicot City). It was my privilege to be the Art Guest of Honor for the North American Discworld Convention. Many old friends were seen there, and new ones too. The expensive early morning trip to the ER (for a stabby ear infection) was more than made up by meetings with old friends Sally and Yvonne. And a trip to the Baltimore aquarium with Yvonne and Dirk. I had a splendid time meeting people, butting heads with the estimable Bernard, and drawing even more Small Gods.

In Philadelphia, we visited dear friends Kyle and Trillian, and I set out with Trillian in the muggy summer heat on a scavenger hunt to find materials to build them a bookshelf. As you can tell from Kyle’s photo below, the mission was a success and the bathroom now sports its own library.

the-lee-loo-libraryAfter a quick turn-around in Portland, we were right back on the road to San Diego for the Comic Con. We were hosted by the Haxos and were guardians of a sort to Jack Vance’s lovely granddaughter. This marked Venetia’s first visit to the madness of the ComicCon and she enjoyed it far more than she expected to. We spent an acceptable amount of time on Coranado Island and much more time eating exquisite food and sightseeing with the Badali sisters. My ComicCon encounter with Hugh Jackman was hilarious, and my signings for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund well worthwhile.

August was one of our two months of guests and I spent much it happily taking folks sightseeing. To my utter shock and dismay, Eric Chevalier, the person who was producing The Doom that Came to Atlantic City declared he was walking away from the project and had somehow spent all of the backer’s money – all 122,874 dollars of it. Designer Keith Baker and I spent much of that month dealing with the crisis and putting together a print-and-play version for our backers. After some agonizing weeks, the day was happily saved by the amazing people at Cryptozoic Studios. I am incredibly grateful to them, and touched by the outpouring of offers of help and support from others in the industry. I spent weeks thereafter working to hone the assets to make the game even better. The people who supported my game deserve it!

DoomCryptoVenetia’s August held a number of interested events: she was called for her first-ever jury duty. Her disappointment at not being called for trials might well surprise the many who strive to avoid that very duty. However Amanda Palmer’s timely surprise appearance at Powell’s more than made up for that lack.

NinjaGigIn September, I began the 3-month labor of love that is my 2014 Calendar, this year working with the Clarion Foundation, collaborating with the authors of their choice. It was, as ever, a delightful experience. But I hope next year to start rather sooner. We shall see what develops.

Two major concerts this month, first international cabaret performer Meow, Meow in the grand Schnitzer Auditorium, and then a debut of Pink Martini‘s new album with special guest performers Meow, Meow, the Von Trapp Children, Storm Large, and China Forbes.
This second quite free, staged in Pioneer Courthouse Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”.

We had even more guests this month, this time Venetia’s dearest friends. I got to meet Joanne and her new husband Trevor and play with their sweetie pie dog. Sarah and Oot Rothfuss were a delight to have in the house and we enjoyed many Portland adventures with them. Young Master Rothfuss commissioned a special dragon from me which I painted while he and his mother watched – one which has become a very popular Small God:

SG113printIn October I finished the calendar in the very nick of time, and then it was off to England via Iceland. Andri Magnason threw the dinner party of the year after a tour of the Power Station where he writes. Iceland was as magical as imagined and I am looking forward to seeing how the Northern Lights influence my art in this coming year. More about Iceland HERE.

IcelandoverviewDiscworld friends Richard and Amy took us on a Dickensian tour of London and we talked about travel and parades with Jessica Rabbit whom we had met earlier in the year in Australia.

We met up with Maha and her wife Sinead in Oxford and by utter chance in our wanderings we came across the Bodleian Library and the most surprising and exceptional exhibit: Magical Books. Then to Birmingham, more precisely Solihull, where Liz and Matt delighted us with musical horror from around the world and we mourned the death of Lou Reed. The biggest surprise of Birmingham was the multicultural shopping – we spent wonderful day searching through of Islamic Charity Shops with Liz and meeting many helpful locals who were very happy to help Venetia find exactly the right attire (“No dear, try these instead. The Mughal colors work better with your skin”). While the wedding suit I tried on was too dear, Venetia left with some stunning outfits.

The World Fantasy Convention in Brighton was all about the people. I had more fantastic meals – the food was pretty good too – than I could hope to remember. Happily I’ve already documented them in previous blogs. One of the major highlights was meeting The Indelicates.  Every bit as interesting as their records suggest, we hope to see and hear much more of them in the near future.

England2013There was still one last convention for 2013: Ambercon Northwest. We were extremely pleased to introduce Kat to the raven Aristophanes during the tour of Portland before we all headed for the wonders of Ambercon at Edgefield. Then, in order to really make 2013 a good year for Venetia, she went in for surgery on her nose. Earlier in the fall we discovered she had a deviated septum and was barely breathing at all through her nose. The surgery was a huge success and, despite a few weeks of imposed idleness, Venetia is now breathing well and deeply for the first time in her life.

CalendarProofBecause Venetia was incapacitated for the rest of November, our multi-talented friend Jaym graciously agreed to help us with Thanksgiving. The unanimous highlights of Thanksgiving dinner this year were the sausage and apple meatballs. And our friends of course!

November also brought author Peter Beagle and his tour of his film The Last Unicorn to Portland. It was great to see Peter and to discuss art and business with Connor.

And finally, to round this busy busy year out, a comparatively quiet December.
I watched football while I drew Small Gods. Venetia baked apple pie and apple crisp.
For Christmas this year we traveled to Seattle for a week. I saw many people (though only a small percentage of everyone I know in the area. There seems never to be a sufficiency of time). While I gallivanted, Venetia house sat with a sweet dog and less-sweet chickens and read, on average, one book for each and every person I talked to.

Houseguests
January: Jaym Gates
April: Nathan Bardsley
May: Rich Gain, Venetia’s sister Tara and her boyfriend
July: Jaym Gates, Bhil and Fritz
August: Heather & Eric, Scotia, K Wiley, Jacob & Henni, Chris Pramas
September: Rob, Lisa and Bonnie, Joanne & Trevor, Sarah, Oot and Sarah’s mom
November: Connor Cochran and his wife, Jaym Gates

Books
Andri Magnason’s: Lovestar
Terry Pratchett: Lords and Ladies, Pyramids, and our favorite (naturally) Small Gods
Pierce Brown‘s Red Rising – 2014’s most-anticipated book? A terrific read. With more books to to come. We hope to meet up with Pierce in the new year.
Robert Rankin’s madcap The Japanese Devilfish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions

Noteworthy Movies
Cloud Atlas
Thor 2 and Iron Man 3
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Up Series (with the new 56 Up as the latest installment)
Big Trouble in Little China

ShowFlyerFinal2014 SCHEDULE
(2013 went to plan, so we’ll pretend that this is 100% Accurate)

January 18: Pin-up Gallery Opening 6:30pm
April 11-13: HP Lovecraft Film Festival
April 17-20: Norwescon
May 8-11: World Horror Convention in Portland
May 24-26: Potential dates for my 50th Party
July 23-27: San Diego Comic Con
August 14-17: Considering GenCon
August 29-Sept 1: Considering DragonCon
September/October: Vienna, Budapest and Prague? Here’s hoping!
November 6-9: World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC
Christmas in Hawaii? We shall see.

2015 will see me as Art Guest of Honor for Boston’s Arisia (Boston Waterfront, January 16 – 19 2015) where I will join Writer Guest of Honor N.K Jemisin and Fan Guest of Honor Colette H Fozard.

Fall Travels Part 2: England & The World Fantasy Convention 2013

Calendar Proof!

On Friday the calendar proof arrived!

Blog_Proof2Venetia and I looked through it and all the images are vibrant and look gorgeous which means that today (Monday the 18th) it is going to press and printing.

Blog_Proof1You can order the calendar through the Clarion Indiegogo Here.
For a limited time only!

UPDATE: The calendar is now on sale HERE.

But now, back to our previously scheduled travel journal.  We begin with:

LONDON

After a short morning flight from Reyjkavic and the necessary adjustments to my phone, we began our trip from Heathrow into London proper. The long tube ride punctuated by the posh recorded voice of an eloquent woman saying, in the loveliest way possible, “Cockfosters. This is the line to Cockfosters” at every one of the many stops.

When our nebulous plans for adventures in the north fell through, we sought housing advice from our friends on Facebook, and the Sapphire Hotel (recommended by Brook) proved a lovely choice, at a good price for London, good location close to the underground. Sadly however, they had room at the inn for only the first night of our impromptu London bivouac. It wasn’t long after our arrival that we fell into a…
Nap. Surprise! We awoke in time to meet up with our International Discworld friends Richard and Amy. From Charing Cross and Nelson’s fabled Column, we through the Strand, stomped by the Savoy, and dodged as artfully as we could through ancient tunnels filled with Friday Night revellers and spilt ale.
After a Bistro dinner and delightful tale-telling, we wandered east to St Paul’s Cathedral (sight of shenanigans in Robert Rankin’s recently-read The Japanese Devilfish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions) by way of the Twinings Tea offices and Fleet Street, admiring architecture high and low.

EnglandWFC'13_045After Cornflakes in the Sapphire Hotel (not much else we can eat these days it seems, with eggs and gluten counterindicated by doctors), we packed our bags and headed up the street in Shepherd’s Bush (is it just me, or does everything in London sound like a euphemism?) to the vastly more-expensive Ibis Hotel. Given how limited our choices were, I suppose we should thank our stars we found a room at the inn at all. Then, duly ensconced, we headed out to lunch near the National Theater at Waterloo with Jessica Rabbit, who we had met en route to Cairns Australia earlier in the year. We had an absolutely splendid time with her – walking about with the tourists in the food markets and hearing tales of East Indian parades, talking US politics and UK Remembrance Day.

EnglandWFC'13_082When we tried to travel to the Docklands for a long-anticipated meeting with Aly Fell, we were foiled. The Docklands Light Railroad was closed, and our attempts to circumvent the closure were met with an almost farcical lack of knowledge and savvy by the staff of the train lines. So, we made the sensible decision and called it a day. We got amazing (and gluten-free) Ethiopian food upon our return to the Bush (do they call it “the Bush”? We would in the US I think). Ethiopian seems like one of the best cuisines for current diet, though gluten is often mixed with teff for injera, so even it is not foolproof.
After our daily allotment of napping, we lounged in bed, wrote blogs and drew Small Gods and wondered if aliens would soon be arriving in our bathroom pod.

EnglandWFC'13_108Oxford

When planning our trip to Oxford, Shepherd’s Bush proved a very lucky headquarters indeed. Rather than schlepping our baggage to Victoria to hop the Oxford Tube (a 2-level red omnibus, natch. because really, why call something by its name when fostering (cockfostering?) confusion is so much more fun?), we discovered that the coach stopped a mere 2 blocks from our latest hotel. And while seats were at a premium, we found room across an aisle and made excellent time to Oxford. (We were able to remember our stop by the rhyme “Oranges and lemons, the bells of St. Clemens”.)

I had met Maha many years ago in Laurel Maryland, but I hadn’t seen her since her days in the south of France, and I’d certainly never met her wife Sinead. While they had not loved their time in Oxford (where Class is less something one attends than something one is born into), they knew it well and were exceptional tour guides. And while I had not expected to even be in Oxford (we’d met them there only because they had attended a weekend wedding), the timing proved incredible.

EnglandWFC'13_229As we wandered the city and campus (technically one of the campuses), we came across the Bodleian Library, and the most surprising and exceptional exhibit – Magical Books. It was not a large exhibit, but oh what a trove!
JRR Tolkien’s original illustrations for ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’, manuscripts from Susan Cooper, drawings by CS Lewis, JK Rowling’s drawing in a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ labelled “Snape contemplates the unfairness of it all”, John Dee’s marble Magickal Table, illuminated Bestiaries, and books books books. We’d have taken pictures inside if allowed, but this photo of the outside board will have to suffice:

EnglandWFC'13_206After a look to the Oxonian halls that served as Harry Potter sets, we took a all by the park where we saw cattle seemingly unchanged since they’d been the subjects of paintings hundreds of years earlier. We saw deer and cranes, and what Maha assured us were loads of entitled young bounders in boats, rowing.

EnglandWFC'13_285 copyWe took our food (and beer for our hosts) in an alleyway Oxford bar that’s existed forever and set off at sunset in Sinead’s car for the Solihull home of Liz and Matt. The drive passed swiftly, and a discussion of the UK’s regrettable User Interface led to her revelation of the worst sign she’s seen in her time there. See if you can parse it:
“AMBER GAMBLING SNARLS TRAFFIC”.

We arrived in time for takeaway Indian dinner, and a Sunday evening tradition: a group of musical aficionados gather by their laptops and listen to music from around the globe. This week, in honor of horror and encroaching Halloween, each member had contributed a song that truly scared them. And the variety was great – The Bonzo Dog Band fought Eurotrash metal. Children screams and wailed. The uninflected voices of sober scientists gave terrifying news and people shivered in rooms from America to Norway.

And saddest of all, we learned that Lou Reed had died. Strangely, Liz had chosen a song of his for the folio, and we raised a toast to him. Later we watched ‘University Challenge’ (which I would not do again. It felt like the loathsome rich kids in the ‘Seven Up’ series wailing on the much nicer and much poorer ones. Besides, my time of caring exactly which year something happened is long past), and ‘Only Connect’ which I loved and enjoyed playing along with. Though having Matt and Liz and Venetia on our team was surely the key to the Home Team’s victory. We ended the evening with ‘Nevermind the Buzzcocks’, the first time I’ve ever seen it new.
I enjoyed the music magazine ‘The Word’ while I was there too – especially the lead articles on Ray Davies and Richard Thompson. Such a delight to be in the home of such music lovers!

Liz greeted us at noon the next day with a tray of food we could (and indeed would) eat! The variety was astonishing and delicious. Venetia made the acquaintance of Nutella, and the two hit it off admirably.

LizBirmingham_12(Photo by Liz)

After breakfast and talk we ventured forth with big plans to see the sights of Birmingham, England’s “Second City”. But we did not take in the grandeur of the classic artworks and ancient churches, not even a little. Instead we stopped in Sparkhill intending to run an errand or two, and found ourselves entranced by the wonderful shops food and people. While Liz helped Venetia try on suits and saris in the Islamic Charity Shop, she had a dreadful pause to think “oh no. I’ve left Lee out there with all those devout Muslim ladies!” She needn’t have worried of course. After some respectful conversation about mirrors and their mountings, Liz found me “holding court”.

EnglandWFC'13_014Most happily, the ladies in question were so enchanted with Venetia’s pixie self in the first outfit, that they sought out others they felt would be better choices for her complexion- returning swiftly with dresses in “more Mughal” colors. Happy as we were for the excellent expert advice, the Eritrean woman behind the counter was even happier – she hadn’t any more idea how to fold the sash than we had. I suspect everyone there will be talking about that day for some time to come. I hope so anyway!

LizBirmingham_8The next day we slept in while the rest of the house got cleaned, venturing downstairs late, eating and relaxing (and making some Small Gods in advance of the busy convention weekend). But most of all we were watching movies – a rare treat for us indeed. Despicable Me, Big Trouble in Little China, and the most recent Muppet movie. All in the comfort of Liz and Matt’s home.

LizBirmingham_13(Photo by Liz – Daily Small Gods)

World Fantasy Con 2013 in Brighton

We took the almost unbelievably cheap first class train from Birmingham into London, eating and drinking in right high style, even as I mourned Thatcher’s privatization of the common weal. Strange to think that it has been so long since my 1988 trip, when her menace was ever present. Now her bitter greedy legacy, like Reagan’s in the US, is a fact not just an omen.

When we changed trains (and stations) in London, we spotted a comrade in arms (well, in books) also looking for the first-class car to Brighton. Ewa (pronounced “Evah, like forevah and evah”) was heading south to volunteer and made a most delightful traveling companion. Wherever we needed to be over the weekend, she was always there, one step ahead of the game. The volunteers were splendid, and overall the convention was a delight. Some details, hints and tips:

Should you come to Brighton, do not stay at the “Hilton” Hotel Metropole. While lovely in some particulars (the architecture in the old lobby and breakfast spaces, stairs and bar) the convention space was a pretty ghastly affair – non-Euclidean and a nightmare for anyone with impaired mobility. and our room was a bad joke- an overheated sauna that could not be cooled, a bathroom backlit for one’s shaving convenience, toilets that didn’t flush until the 8th try, faucets that could have used a proper Vice-Grip to use, windows that opened a mere 4 inches, surly service, a convenient built-in drinks refrigerator just to “hold” your drinks, not to actually cool them. But perhaps the egregious scalping of internet service (15 pounds per day here, but free at the less pretentious TravelLodge, natch) was worst of all. No communication with the outside meant no updates, reportage, tweets or any of it. So the account that follows is one from my dim exhausted brain, rather than accurate or up-to-the-minute as I had hoped in advance.
I did hear great things about the nearby Granville though.

So many lovely people that I cannot begin to list them all. But starting at the beginning, we bid Ewa goodbye and got registered. The hard-cover program book lovely, but both outdated (neither China Mieville nor Alan Lee made it to the show) and deeply impractical for foreign travels given the tiny book bags provided. After a much needed nap we arose for the Early party and took in the lay of the land.

Halloween dawned with breakfast in the big hotel dining room where we were placed next to birthday girl (and fashion plate) Shannon Page and artist (or is he still author?) Mark Ferrari. Both had come from Portland, but had come a week early to the country and spent far more time in the mighty Metropolis of London than we.

We’d gotten much of the art show hung by the time we met Simon and Julia Indelicate for lunch. Brighton is their old stomping grounds and we spent not just lunch but the better part of the afternoon with them – traveling through town, picking up last minute printing, and admiring the shops. Every bit as interesting as their records suggest, we hope to see and hear much more of them in the near future.

EnglandWFC'13_023That said, before Andri’s house party in Iceland, we’d not heard of the onerous tariffs that the US has placed on foreign musicians. Quite horrible for The Indelicates as well, locked out of the US by trade restrictions. The US – Where trade is apparently everything unless it’s creative….

By the time we returned to the Hotel, the joint was jumping. No longer a few lost souls wandering aimlessly, the volume level was very high and people were getting into the spirit of the convention.

Dinner on the first full day was taken with Todd and Rita Lockwood, because seeing people from the Pacific Northwest is clearly easier in Brighton. Delicious lamb and rice and fool….

There was no trick-or-treating, but a few brave souls dressed up and made the evening a little more jolly than it otherwise would have been. The censorious and scolding tone of the Convention’s messaging happily forgotten for a little while.

Ben Rosenbaum turned up here and there, I wish I’d taken a good picture of him with Ted Chiang, talking like undergrads on the giant staircase. We got to speak at greater length on Sunday, and I hope a curious game may result in the coming months. :)

I got to show the ineffable Mary Robinette Kowal the pin-up I’d painted from The Year Without a Summer for the Clarion Pin-Up calendar. And the night of the Mass Signing, We got signatures in the 2013 version from Robin Hobb, Pat Rothfuss and toastmaster Neil Gaiman (whose kind words about my portrait if his wife were most appreciated). Sir Terry Pratchett was briefly glimpsed, but his time is without price, and we are delighted he made it at all. Were that Ray Bradbury had been able to join in around this literary Halloween Tree….

Mary introduced me to author and blue-haired book maven Nene from Malmö in Sweden (the second of the long weekend’s birthday celebrants), and I hope to see much more of her in future. Knowing she will be present in Wisconsin come May tempts me to Wiscon and House on the Rock, but plans for my impending 50th birthday party might make that untenable…. Bird lover that she is, I was delighted to introduce her to her Hawaiian namesake in a rare moment of internet function.

The dinners (and occasionally lunches) seemed to fall in thematic patterns – Portlanders (David, Kate, Shannon, Mark), Art Show Staples (even though we went with John Picacio and Tara, we found ourselves across the empty Indian Restaurant with Les and Val Edwards and the Zipsers), DC 2014 World Fantasy Con planners (Peggy Rae, Colleen and …), DC Friends of mine unknown to one another (Nancy Greene and the Zipsers) and finally the infamous Frenemeses category- one from Tel Aviv, one Jerusalem (each would rather die than live in the others city), one Brooklyn, one Riverdale (“you’re such a Jersey Girl” says Barry the agent to Laura Anne Gilman, his client), one birthday Swede, our duly-appointed member of the press in PreRaphaelite glory, and me. Mad fun in a BBQ restaurant that, in striving for verisimilitude with is US counterpart, served obscenely large portions to the shock and awe of all present.

In the midst of the madness, I took the time to participate in a fun and quirky project by Shanna Germain and Monte Cook: We Are All Strange.

The Art Show space was as well arranged and run as possible, given the peculiarities of the space. Brava to Val Edwards – there was no drama, no fretting and the clear understanding of a dab hand at work. The couches and tables a terrific idea, and the artwork quite impressive – though we all missed Alan Lee, and admit to some disappointment that Greg Manchess left his things at home, it was a real treat to see the works of Pennington, Edwards, Picacio up close. While the Artists reception felt under-attended, those who did attend we’re attentive and interesting. I enjoyed showing Neil Gaiman the portraits of “Good Omens” stars and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and meeting the wonderful Frenchmen who purchased my work. And it was the French who did, the British didn’t (beyond Neil) seem to care much (a fellow from the Isle of Man suggested it might be too spicy for the UK, but really? Pictures of Doctor Who and Small Gods? I suspect the real answer is a dearth of wallspace, love of books, and an economy that’s still a bit dodgy). Happily, the French Publishers Bragelonne bought 2 of my pieces for their offices, and I greatly enjoyed my conversations with them. Perhaps we can work together in the future. I do hope so. Especially if my intermittent discussions with Centipede Press about doing a book about the sculpture of expatriot Henry Clews Jr. one day come to fruition….

Seeing people from so many countries with a common bond led many to discussions of Family, and reunions we in evidence everywhere one looked. Overall, I’m glad we went and I hope that next year’s version will bring so many from overseas.

Postscript: Plane Home

Overheard as the London plane disembarked in Iceland: An adorable woman in sweater, coat, and fuzzy technicolor hat to the African Man who’d been seated next to her watching “Wolverine”:

“It doesn’t GET cold in Australia. This coat is too tight at the arms. Must be my massive guns…. Do you know Harry Potter?” He does.
“Well, it’s kind of a… thing in my life. I bought a BIG mug while I was there. The woman at customs didn’t like it. ‘What IS this?’ It’s a mug I replied. You drink out of it…. She was SO unhappy with her life”.

We arrived safely in Seattle, where we were rescued at our very low ebb by Rob. How lucky to have such fine friends!

Doom Update

I received a splendid update today from the fantastic Cryptozoic regarding The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. It even has pictures! If you would like to see the grotesque beauties in person, Cryptozoic will be demoing the game at Board Game Geek Con in Dallas, November 20-24.Please go visit (and play!) if you’re in town!

Shaping Your Doom

doom_atlantic_city_pr_box_web_2_Dear Kickstarter Backer,
We’ve been making some great progress towards creating a beautiful game to send straight to your door. We wanted to keep you in the loop and show you some fun insider photos of what it takes to make a board game!

Miniatures from Another World

DoomPanda2_1_0034f1Check out these incredible resin models that the factory has created. These are based on the sculptures by Paul Komoda that we sent to them. The factory used these to create the actual molds for the plastic figures.

We have the proof copies of these figures in the office now and will be bringing them with us to Board Game Geek Con in Dallas Texas this week!

The detail on these guys is simply amazing. We wanted to retain as much of it as possible while keeping these figures tough to avoid damages in shipping. We also needed to  keep the costs within the realm of sanity.  After some discussion with the factory, we were able to narrow it down to the correct weight and blend that we feel will provide the durability and cost effective solution we required. We can’t wait to show you the final product!

DoomPanda5_1_It really helps to work with great factories that have a ton of experience so they can offer helpful advice. The factory we’re using for Doom has created several other great games with miniatures and was recommended to us by some industry friends.  We know they’re going to make these figures as scary as possible!

What’s next?

We’re getting some more bits and pieces back from the factory soon and will be able to send lots of pictures with our next update. Once all the parts have been approved, we’ll also have a pretty good idea of when the release date will be for the game. We know you’re very excited to find out more so we’ll keep you up to date as much as possible.

Thanks again for funding this game and we look forward to offering you more updates in the near future!

-Adam Sblendorio
Board Game Brand Manager
Cryptozoic Entertainment

Fall Travels Part 1: Iceland

2014 Clarion Calendar

My 2014 Literary Pin-Up Calendar will benefit the Clarion Writer’s Foundation – the very same charity that brought Liz Argall to the states, and has been such a cornerstone to the writing careers of so many stellar talents, in both the writing and the teaching. As with the last two, it is a labor of love. And while the work of the redoubtable Neil Gaiman again graces its pages (this time it’s Neverwhere‘s Hunter) all the other authors are new to the project – from Kim Stanley Robinson to Kelly Link. And I got to illustrate Damon Knight‘s classic ‘To Serve Man’ into the bargain.

Here’s the link!

AdArtPre-Trip

I’ll spare you the tale of the miracle last-second finish, the broken tooth, and the drive up to Seattle.

The birthday dinner with Rob and Lisa’s family for Tessa Tweet, returned from college with friend Talia and sporting a Nabokov shirt, was a much jollier affair – filled with delicious curry, cake and cacophonous laughter.

The next morning we commenced the actual packing – making sense of the piles of unsorted foolery we’d tossed into the car in Portland the previous evening.

Chris Pramas, rocking the new neck scar from his successful spinal surgery, joined us for lunch in a curious neighborhood in West Seattle. But the North American fun was as short lived as the day itself.

Iceland

Tuesday came to us in Iceland. We watched the sun rise (barely and with exquisite autumnal slowness) from the giant window in the front of the bus to Reykjavik – dark and volcanic Iceland giving way to a curious city with just enough Dr. Seuss to temper its IKEA.

Iceland1The Best Western deserves credit for letting us check in so early and suggesting we enjoy breakfast before the inevitable nap. Though we’ve long been used to Venetia’s gluten-free diet, this was first time out in the world figuring out my new food restrictions. Corn flakes with brown sugar, ham and oranges did the job. The nap would prove fiercesome… and habit-forming. But we arose in time for the 12:30 tour.

Our brilliant young tour guide spoke French as well as Icelandic and English, but with no Francophones present, it was pure intelligible data. Amid her recitations she suddenly exclaimed “this is my husband and two year old daughter”. She was quite surprised to find them outside the big concrete church that occupies the city’s highest point. It looks deceptively large from a distance but feels comparatively small close up. And oh that autumn wind!

Iceland2We were startled to learn that Iceland, so progressive in many ways, has no separation of church and state, and that tax dollars regularly roll into church coffers. We were disappointed to learn that those politicians responsible for Iceland vast banking crisis were once again in charge of the island nation, but voters everywhere seem to have short memories. Even here, in a land small enough to see cause and effect with comparative clarity, and through one’s efforts, effect change.

Iceland reminded me of Duncan Jones’ film ‘Moon’ in some ways, and it’s no shock that Hollywood’s ‘Oblivion’ (which also reminded me of ‘Moon’) was shot here. It is a beautiful and fierce place – one that I think every writer of hard science fiction would do well to visit. Where else would they take the 4 enormous hot water towers that supply the reserve geothermal power to run a city and pop a glass dome and spinning restaurant on top of them? We did not enter the Viking recreation “Madame Tussaud’s” museum either, but it made us think strongly of our Norse-loving friends.

Iceland3The city is largely crisp and clean, however there was graffiti everywhere (well everywhere but the trains anyway – it seems that a history of Danes left them with no trains). Apparently waiting until winter to mark one’s territory old-school just wasn’t on. When does it get too cold for the taggers? When do children start being admitted to emergency rooms frozen to their spray cans? And why, in a country so small, is there not an obvious way to dissuade them? Perhaps because there is so much heavy industry. Maybe unlike America, the punks steal their spray cans from the docks rather than buy them in a hardware store.

Iceland4While Iceland’s national politics continue dismal, the city’s anarchist mayor is changing their political culture any way he can. An actor and performance artist pal of Björk, he’s taken city hall to areas heretofore unknown. Sure, a big city mayor might pop on a red dress for a gala in Portland or San Francisco, but actual cosplay? This mayor in his Luke Skywalker get-up would be right at him at the San Diego Comic Con! And after a full term, he still maintains the 30% popularity that got him and his “Best” party elected the first time.

The massive performance hall the ‘Harpa’ ended our trip and proved to be V’s favorite building. It remained unfinished when the economy tanked, but happily for all they found the will (and kroners) to finish it properly.

Iceland10What could follow such a spirited tour of the city? Only one thing. More napping.
And then another very different tour (if “tour” is even the word I want here, perhaps “quest” would be better)… In Search of the Northern Lights!

At our first hotel pickup, the driver parked on an incline and came back to help someone with a bag or two. As the bus very slowly started rolling backward down the hill, we passengers (strapped in by Icelandic law) were startled:

V: Um, I think we’re moving…
Lee (loudly to the driver): We’re moving! WE’RE MOVING!
Just another example of our well-oiled collaborative style. ;)

But unlike our previous tour, this one pretty much involved driving east in the dark, and hoping the guide, a crotchety old chap who whistled like a quieter Nordic version of Peter Lorre in ‘M’ and easily set the Icelandic record for sarcasm, wouldn’t too often interrupt the silence of the night, the bright clouds and nearly-full moon. Hoping all the while that there would be the perfect opening in those clouds, and that the moon would not outshine any aurorae. We finally stopped at a man-made pumice parking patch paved amid ancient lava flows where at least 2 other buses would also alight. No Northern Lights had been seen in this part of Iceland for the previous 4 days, and the internet held dire prognostication for this night as well. But there was an opening in the clouds to the north, and it seemed worth squinting into gap as best we could, huddled among the masses of foreigners, yearning to see the lights. At first we couldn’t see anything at all, but our splenetic tour guide wisely took pictures to locate them (as his camera’s abilities were beyond even his own) and pointed out the very hazy cloudlike shape in the sky.

But it was incredibly cold, and was that patch his camera detected really a hint of lights, or just reflection of moon light on the breaking clouds? Eventually, the clouds cleared enough for us to see the low wide horizontal smudge that was the Aurora Borealis.

iceland111It wasn’t the bright colors one sees in retouched photos, but it did ebb and flow in intensity, and was certainly interesting in a quiet sort of way. After watching the horizontal bar fill in, be briefly joined by another small bar beneath the vastness of the newly-revealed Big Dipper, and then ebb away – the cold finally overpowered us. We’d come, we’d seen, and if we didn’t exactly conquer, well, that was all in the game. But then…
Just as we were heading back to the bus…

Pow!

Northern lights!

Suddenly a blaze on the horizon of retreating clouds fired up and up. It was joined by others all rising, blazing and eventually, fading sweetly away as other shapes crossed and sparkled in the sky. And all the while the Big Dipper, that enormous shape so familiar in the sky, was dwarfed in every aspect.
Several minutes and many configurations later I leaned into to Venetia and said “this is the best planetarium show ever.” And quickly appended “but with the whole PLANET!” The two most surreal and beauteous moments were the Forum – where a long row of vertical pillars were topped by a bold horizontal line, and the Arch – wherein the back of the ladle and stars of the Big Dipper’s handle formed a perfect arched top to two huge pillars of the aurora that stretched up past them into the night sky. If Hollywood (or even Bollywood) had scripted the show we got, I dare say I shouldn’t have believed it. Not since I saw Night on Bald Mountain as an 8 year old child have I been so awed.

On the speechless ride back, I silently thanked our lucky stars and thought at length about the arbitrary nature of the universe, about the work of Nicholas Roerich, and about how my own work might change accordingly.

On Wednesday we were up at 7:30am for breakfast and swiftly packed onto a bus for the Golden Circle tour. By the time we transferred on, the bus was almost full, leaving us the only two seats toward the back.

First, we headed south-east, leaving Reykjavik to heavy cloud cover, and listening to our new guide share the history of this fascinating island. The Icelandic horses and sheep are rightly well known, less known is that their attempts to raise pigs all failed, and none remain. Many charming summer houses, small and tidy, dot the landscape, and the guide clearly enjoyed tales of the elves who live in the countryside as well. I did not anticipate a stop for tomato soup in a vast greenhouse (one never knows about the kickbacks wily tour guides arrange), but the soup (just herbs and tomatoes with basil plants one could cut and apply at will) was good, so why worry? The point of the stop (beyond the obvious commerce) was to show how Iceland’s command of waters warm and cold made it an effective garden spot. The endless rows of tomato plants producing massive bounties on almost no soil was indeed interesting. Their importation of bees (one of whom clearly found both Venetia and I irresistible) without a desire for the complication of a hive (lady bees are useful, but male bees just make things complicated) seem prone to unwanted interruption and unsustainable in the long run, but so far they seem have outsmarted nature on this strange moonbase of an island.

Iceland12Next we visited Gullfoss or Golden Falls, this massive waterfall is an astonishing multilevel diagonal cataract, and but for the dogged efforts of Sigríður Tómasdottir this important site would even now be a giant Hydroelectric plant….

iceland13We looked down from the upper palisade at obnoxious tourists who’d chosen to ignore the careful guidelines for their safety and trod out onto the snowy and icy rim of the chasm. While we found their behavior galling, I must admit that their stupidity has given our photos a fine sense of scale….

iceland14Looking at the sweet little creek above the waterfall, one might be forgiven thinking that no danger lurked, but as the sun shone free of the morning clouds, the spray of the falls was visible for quite a distance.

Iceland2013_139-1Bigger still, the enormous glacier visible to the north swallowed a mountain the way the ocean wraps around the land. But the glacier’s “sea-level” is not level at all, rather, it’s a hard-to-fathom diagonal. Quite disorienting and wonderful.

Iceland2013_099-1As we were exiting through the latest in the long line of gift shops, we saw a figure who reminded us of Journey, the game we had played in New Zealand. We named her Aurora and brought her with us.

photoUnaccountably, as we shared the local lamb stew, on view in this massive tourist dining hall was an episode of Scooby Doo featuring Harlan Ellison and Cthulhu. Ah, the profundity of our cultural exports!

We’ve been to geysers before, but this was the original accept-no-substitutes Geysir. The same fools who tempted the edge of the icy falls made themselves clear here as the obnoxious father modeled idiot behavior for his teen offspring. He crossed the ropes and thrust his hand into the hot water. He and his children walked all over the geysers. Even as the largest among them fired off a spectacular plume every ten minutes or so. It was lovely, but compared to Yellowstone quite tiny.

iceland16We napped a bit en route to the site where the plates of 2 continents (Europe and the US) meet, and where the citizens of Iceland meet for the Althing.

iceland17I longed for a close look at the falls to the north, but time was short and we walked south to the old camping and meeting site where the crag opened up and gave a view of the waters and plains below.

Iceland18The Obnoxious Tourists (TM) continued to be obnoxious of course, and we silently thanked the powers that be that they weren’t American….

After brief nap at the hotel we awoke at 7:30 to prepare for dinner with author Andri Snaer Magnason, who we’d been lucky to hear read at last year’s Norwescon.AndriHe pulled right up to the hotel on the sidewalk, startling Venetia. But in a town where there is so much snow, and so few parking spots, it seemed to work fine. Before dinner, he took us to his work place: the Power Station! A coal-burning back-up for the city’s power, it had been rendered obsolete some years earlier as Reyjkavic moved inexorably to geothermal and had lain idle. It was even said to be haunted, which might well have spared it some break ins and vandalism. When Iceland’s economy cratered, many lost their jobs, and the Station beckoned to unemployed creatives and became Iceland’s home to:

Deathstar acoustics!

Pagan altars!

Dials and levers and electricity (still working?) for film and television.

iceland9After the tour Andri and his wife treated us to a dinner party in their home. Their own children were largely inconspicuous, but the two and a half couples they’d invited made for great dinner conversation. They numbered a jazz player and composer, theater director, artist, designer, and craft artist among them. Andri’s wife upholds the long Magnason medical traditions as a nurse. All spoke flawless English and kindly did so while we were there – humoring our sadly monoglot ways.

I could try to describe the warmth and beauty of the scene, but suffice it to say that it resembled nothing to me so much as a scene of the ideal European house party you might see in a film – all the people handsome and well spoken, piles of sushi and home-made rhubarb crumble, obvious long-time affection and mutual respect. In short – the party of the year!

After the first guests had left, we moved down to the living room, and talked about design, music, Small Gods, and Andri’s books as he kindly signed copies for us. All the while, their youngest daughter lay sleeping in her improvised tent under the wooden stairs with their sweet brindled whippet (described by Andri as half kangaroo, half koala), a leg occasionally arcing out from the blanket before disappearing again. We got back to the hotel at 1, amazed to have seen so much of Iceland’s past and future in a single day.

On Thursday, we slept in until 8:30 (living the high life!?) ambled to breakfast (corn flakes, the official breakfast of the dietarily restricted!), checked out and and stowed our bags.
It was snowing lightly as we walked downtown, and the city was quiet. As we window-shopped, we noted the stylish Icelandic clothing stores, but luckily for our wallets, nothing was open before11am, except the wool store where we tried on silly hats.

iceland20We met Andri at the big central church, seeking shelter inside for some short period before he arrived. I wonder if drawing Small Gods in church is any more blasphemous than drawing them elsewhere? When Andri arrived we went to a vegetarian place so full that we were forced to the meat buffet across the street in retaliation. After lunch we grabbed our bags, and the bus to shuttle us from one hotel to another. This time the hotel, Northern Lights Inn, was an hour south of Reyjkavic. And while we were excited to visit the Blue Lagoon, first we needed a serious nap.

iceland21The hotel shuttle dropped us at the Blue Lagoon just in time for sunset, and reflected colors in the milky blue water outside were amazing. Venetia had a wonderful time taking pictures.

iceland5One of the Lagoon’s traditions is making mud masks for one’s face. Venetia’s hands were small enough to get through the cracks to the mud bucket without the tiny scoop so she slathered us both with mud. This meant it took a really long time to dry, and that we looked like golems. She got too cold to let her mud mask set fully, but enjoyed the sensation of its removal all the same. As the darkness came on, we explored all the bits of the lagoon – the soaking areas, the grotto, the bridges and the entire perimeter. We had all manner of fun in our explorations, but were occasionally surprised by outcroppings of stone and rocks from the bottom.

We encountered a wedding party in matching swimsuits and flowered swim caps, the men dressed identically to the ladies, save for their bow ties. The Blue Lagoon is very expensive, and while this tends to dissuade the natives from visiting (there are countless other, more convenient and vastly more affordable springs) it was clear that exceptions were made for big events. As well the man wading into the lagoon balancing a huge tray of cocktails might have told us, were he not struggling so valiantly not to spoil a drop.
We stayed until closing, and while Venetia was sad to have left our silver Ambercon thermos, I wonder what Icelander might be using it even now.

The next morning we arose in the black of night and e glow of the nearby power plant, stumbled through the morning ritual of cornflakes, and hopped on a plane to England. Part One of the trip was over. What would next lay in store? All we knew for certain? More napping.