January 12, 2017

"Ancient Red" by Larry Elmore

I went to Wizard World Con in Richmond last September and Larry Elmore, the famous Dungeons and Dragons artist, was a guest there. He was selling prints. I picked up a copy of his "Ancient Red," a painting that adorns the 1983 version of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons boxed set. I love this painting. The way I imagine dragons has been shaped by this painting. I find so many details of this painting appealing: the rictus snarl on the dragon's face, the scintillant hoard of gold it seems to guard, and the warrior wearing a horned helm holding up his sword to defend himself against the dragon's oncoming claw. If you look closely at the treasure hoard you will see fine details: a few chests, several vases, a bejeweled crown, an overflowing sack of gold. Elmore's illustrations are some of my favorites, right up there with Franz Frazetta. I chatted with Elmore very briefly at Wizard World and he told me that when he worked at TSR the employees often played Dungeons and Dragons. He said that his character was a red-haired dwarf warrior who had the sore fate of always dying. When he died he would have his follow adventurers resurrect him, but they would make him pay them back for this service, and this annoyed him. He also said he knew Gary Gygax. We didn't get a chance to talk too much about this interesting topic.

January 10, 2017

My Marscon 2017 Panel Schedule

Friday 5pm – What Makes a Good Narrator or DM? - This panel could be made up of writers and DM’s who could talk with input from all in attendance about how to be a good DM. Panelists: Charlie Stayton, Jason Carney, Travis Sivart

Saturday 12noon – All I need to know I learned from D&D - Panelists discuss how D&D can and has had an impact on their day to day life in the real world. Panelists: Charlie Stayton, Jim Minz, Jason Carney

Saturday 7pm – Fantastic Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings - Powerful, mysterious, sometimes evil, and often magical beings exist in the fantasy realms of Middle Earth, Shannara, Rivia, and other universes. This panel will discuss how races of magical beings, such as elves, dwarves, and halflings, are used differently through these types of fantasy worlds. Panelists: Jason Carney, Monica Marier, Rachel Hixon

Saturday 9pm – Rogues, Rebels, and Rapscallions: Questionable Morals in SciFi & Fantasy - There is something truly captivating about a rogue character. Panelists will dissect some fandom-favorite rebels like the Marquis de Carabas, Han Solo, Captain Tightpants, Kvoth, and more. Panelists: D.J. McGuire, Holly Harding, Jason Carney, Melissa Scott, Emily Leverett

Saturday 11pm – Guilty Pleasures: Enjoying Problematic Media - We all have our favorite fandoms: Arrow, Harry Potter, etc., but what happens when we notice our favorite show, book or movie lacks diversity? This panel is an open discussion about how to continue enjoying our favorite books, television shows, or movies etc., while also confronting the things we find problematic within them. Panelists: Author Charity Ayres, Tabitha Grace Challis, Nicole Jamison, Jason Carney

Sunday 10am – Strong Heroines and Villainesses in Pop Culture - There are many female characters in various series and fandoms. Some are well-rounded and others not so much. Panelists will be discussing topics from personalities to abilities, from Hermione Granger and River Song to Poison Ivy and Lady Deathstrike, and why strong females are important in any world. Panelists: David Lee, Jessica Lee, Holly Harding, Tabitha Grace Challis, Jim Minz, Jason Carney, Emily Leverett

Sunday 11am – Dark Heroes - Not all heroes travel the straight and narrow. Between right and wrong, there can be a great deal of gray area and some of our favorite heroes navigate this gradient terrain. Being a hero is not always easy, and these panelists get to the root of these dark heroes. Panelists: David Lee, Jessica Lee, Aela Lee, D.J. McGuire, Jason Carney, Melissa Scott

January 8, 2017

Roger Zelazny's Sign of Chaos (1987)

Just finished Roger Zelazny's Sign of Chaos, the eighth book in the Amber Chronicles. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to book nine, Knight of Shadows. Sign of Chaos wasn't my favorite Amber novel (Nine Princes in Amber is). Its major flaw is the rambling plot. I get the impression Zelazny didn't revise significantly and probably made up the story as he drafted. It's strange, because this the labyrinthine nature of the plot is also a part of the unique pleasure and distinctiveness of the series. It's fun to try and figure out all of the subplots, the motivations behind the many characters, the alliances within the alliances, and so forth. One annoying element for me, though, is how the narrative necessitates that the protagonist be kept in a state of ignorance. So, the reader is kept in a state of ignorance. To an extent these Amber novels are equal parts mysteries and fantasies.

January 7, 2017

Review of Metre, Rhythm, and Verse Form by Philip Hobsbaum

I've read several books from this series by Routledge, The New Critical Idiom. So far I haven't read one that hasn't been worth the attention. This one is good overview of metre, rhythm, and verse form that relies upon analysis of several examples. Hobsbaum describes specific verse forms but also discusses their dynamics, the way they emerge in response to previous forms, and how they change over time. The chapter on blank verse was very insightful. Hobsbaum also helped me rethink "free verse." I did not understand free verse at all. I considered anything that is lineated and presented as poetry as free verse. Hobsbaum argues that this is not the case. He has a more constraining definition of free verse. For him, free verse is almost always anchored in a latent metre, rhythm, and verse form and yet deviates for specific effects.