Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Guest Post: The Pathfinder World of Golarion

The Pathfinder World of Golarion
Experience it — Even if You Don’t Play the Game
by Chris A. Jackson

Under the noses of an armada of warships, a pirate corsair ghosts beneath a crumbling megalithic viaduct on a mission not for plunder, but revenge. A debonair noble lord and his roguish assistant pursue a dreadful necromancer to retrieve and arcane tome that should never be read. A desperate young woman delves steaming tropical seas in search of treasure, and salvation.

Sound interesting?

These are some of the Pathfinder Tales of Golarion, a place I both work and play in. Golarion is the fantasy world created by Paizo Publishing for their Pathfinder role-playing game. I’ve played the game for years, but the game itself is not my work. I’m one of the lucky writers who create Pathfinder Tales stories so that both fans of the game and readers of fantasy can experience the wonders of Golarion. The stories use the game elements as a backdrop, but even if you don’t play the game, you can enjoy the novels and the world.

The Inner Sea Region, an area of 43 nations surrounding a “Mediterranean-shaped” sea, is the locale for most of the Tales. Vast and varied, from frozen glaciers to steaming jungles, but don’t worry about getting lost; each novel has its own map of the area where the story takes place right in the front cover, and a handy glossary of terms that might be new to a reader unfamiliar with the monsters, magic, and mythology of the world.

So what’s so great about Golarion and the Pathfinder Tales? More than anything, variety. There are tales in the icy north, and the tropical south, mountains and deserts, cities so ancient that they are built upon the catacombs of vampires, and dark markets where anything from the tears of a god to the dying scream of a virgin prince can be bought or sold. There are nations of slavery, nations ruled by undead, nations of shining freedom and democracy, nations ruled by those who have sold their souls to devils, and nations which have forsaken the gods altogether. With a diversity of heroes, pirates and spies, paladins and noble lords, desperate alchemists and wizards, and even rogues and their smart-mouthed sentient swords, virtually anything is possible. And you don’t have to know a single game rule to enjoy them. In fact, if you want a taste of the Tales for free, drop by Paizo’s web fiction page and give some of the short stories a read. Most of the Pathfinder Tales authors are represented there, and you can get a feel for their style, and see their characters rendered in the accompanying art for each chapter.

So, writing in the world of Golarion has become a labor of love for me. I get to play in a world I love, and publish stories about characters of my own creation. The fans of the game and non-gamer readers both enjoy the stories. The authors are given an amazing amount of creative freedom to tell tales that are not always “good vs evil” or “rescue the princess” in theme. The heroes are varied in morality, race, sex, sexuality, and ability, with depth and emotion driving their actions. My own include a former slave pirate captain who longs only for freedom, his snake-bodied lover and navigator, and a seductive courtesan who is much more than she seems. The editors at Paizo are great to work with. In fact, the entire Paizo crew is an incredibly cool and inclusive bunch of people. Every year, the company puts on “PaizoCon” where gamers, fans, authors, artists, and artisans meet to have fun, play, trade ideas, and just hang out.

My third Pathfinder Tales Novel, Pirate’s Prophecy, just released, so if you like sea stories, pirates, spies, romance, and intrigue, consider giving it a try. No need to start at the beginning, though if you want to read the tales in order, begin with the short story Stargazer, then Pirate’s Honor, Pirate’s Promise, and finally Pirate’s Prophecy. The fourth Pirate’s tale is in the works and should be out next year. Who knows what will happen next, but any story told in Golarion will be a rollicking tale indeed.

More about the author:

CHRIS A. JACKSON is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise. His self-published and small-press work includes the Scimitar Seas and Weapon of Flesh series, which have won three consecutive gold medals in the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year awards, as well as becoming Kindle best sellers. Jackson has also written a novella set in Privateer Press's RPG fiction line. He lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean. You can find him at jaxbooks.com or @ChrisAJackson1.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Vintage Science Fiction: The Great SF Stories 25

Title: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25
Edited by: Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
Pages: 381
ISBN: 0886775183
Publisher: DAW
Published: 1992
Genre: Short Stories / Science Fiction
Source: Owned

In 1963, the world was in a state of turmoil and change. racial unrest and civil rights marches, President Kennedy's assassination, the establishment of the "hot line" between Washington and Moscow, the discovery of the quasar, and the first human organ transplants, all were seminal events. And the concerns of the time, the fears about where humankind might be heading, and the hopes for a better future are reflected in masterful stories by some of the science fiction's all-time greats.
When I started looking for something to read for the Vintage Science Fiction not-a-challenge hosted by the Little Red Reviewer I was rather perplexed to find that most of my collection consists of books from the 1990s onward. Luckily I stumbled on one title with sufficiently yellowed edges – a sure indication of a suitably geriatric book (or inferior paper) worthy of being called vintage.

It turned out that the book in question, Isaac Asimov presents The Great SF Stories 25, was actually published in 1992. Luckily the anthology consisted of stories published in 1963 so I was all set to go.

The table of contents reads like the who’s who of early science fiction and it was interesting to read stories by some lesser-known authors which I hadn’t encountered before.
Fortress Ship by Fred Saberhagen
Not In The Literature by Christopher Anvil
The Totally Rich by John Brunner
No Truce With Kings Paul Anderson
New Folk’s Home by Clifford D. Simak
The Faces Outside by Bruce McAllister
Hot Planet by Hal Clement
The Pain Peddlers by Robert Silverberg
Turn of the Sky by Rey Nelson
They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To by Alfred Bester
Bernie the Faust by William Tenn
A Rose For Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny
If There Were No Benny Cemoli by Philip K. DIck

Six stories really stood out for me. The best story in the collection turned out to be The Pain Peddlers by Robert Silverberg. It is a rather macabre tale of a TV executive preying on the pain of others in order to get the rights to broadcast that pain to his viewers allowing them to experience the pain themselves via intensifier helmets. In the end he gets what he had coming.

No Truce With Kings by Paul Anderson was my second favourite story. An otherworldly force is interfering in the politics of mankind leading to a civil war in a post-nuclear America. A powerful and evocative tale about freedom, belief and the cost of fighting for those beliefs.

New Folk’s Home by Clifford D. Simak was a strange one and I’m not really sure why I ended up liking it so much. While going on one last adventure before checking himself into an Old folk’s home a retired law professor discovers a mysterious house. A house that might just hold the key to his future. Who knew a story revolving around law could be so interesting?

Hot Planet by Hal Clement falls more firmly in the hard SF category. A scientific expedition to Mercury is endangered by sudden volcanic activity. I loved the focus on the scientists and the fact that they use science to resolve the situation. A modern audience might say they scienced the shit out of it.

They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To by Alfred Bester reminded me a lot of I Am Legend. The last two survivors of the human race cross paths in a devastated world. While the conclusion of the story was mostly predictable the impact of the story is in the differing ways these two people try to cope with the trauma of their existence. I also liked the somewhat odd touch that the characters felt compelled to leave IOUs in all the shops they looted.

Finally there was A Rose For Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny - a very touching and poignant tale that stays with you. The story grows in impact the longer you contemplate it. A gifted poet and linguist from Earth is sent to study the history of the Martian race. While reading their sacred texts he makes a startling discovery and unwittingly plays a part in fulfilling a prophecy that leaves him scarred.

Overall I enjoyed the collection of stories on offer. While some of them didn’t age all that well, particularly those relying heavily on the political climate and beliefs of the time, most of them still had the ability to resonate with me on some level. One thing I found exceptionally jarring, aside from the dated technology (vacuum tubes and tapes!), was how often the stories involved smoking. This was particularly ironic when, in one of the stories, a character gave a Martian a cigarette and proceeded to instruct her on the divine joy of smoking only for it to be later revealed that said Martian race is actually on the verge of dying out. I guess a couple of smokes couldn't hurt. 

The Verdict:
Isaac Asimov presents The Great SF Stories 25 is a very enjoyable read with some superb short fiction to discover. Some of the stories are very much a product of their time and haven’t aged well, but most have stood the test of time surprisingly well. If you are at all interested in vintage science fiction, then this anthology would be a good place to start.

The Rating: 6 (Good)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Watch Ep 1 and 2 of The Shannara Chronicles

You can now watch the first two episodes of MTV's adaptation of The Shannara Chronicles on Youtube. (Provided that viewing is available to your region.)

This looks like it will be the next epic fantasy series on TV. I know what I'm doing for the rest of the day...


So after watching the first two episodes here are some initial thoughts. The series is visually stunning. I love how they created something where almost every scene blows you away with how beautiful and detailed the world is. From the start it's apparent that this is a post-technological world where magic has replaced the technological relics of old. If

It's a bit too early to comment on the characters since so many of them are introduced in such a short span of time. That being said, I already have a few firm favourites. It's refreshing to see some truly strong female leads who can go toe-to-toe with any of their male counterparts.

The Shannara Chronicles is every bit of fantasy that you don't really get to see in something like Game of Thrones. It's filled to the brim with magic, epic quests and newfound heroes called to stand and fight against a rising tide of evil.

This is definitely a series you want to watch!

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