November 23rd, 2009


R.I.P. Horus Nimblefingers

Today was the third adventure of an ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaign I play on occasion with author David Wellington (as the DM), comics writer Fred Van Lente, Orbit Books' sales and marketing guru Alex Lencicki, and my girlfriend.

These campaigns are brutal. Lethal, even. I guess that's what you get when your DM is a horror novelist. My character, Horus Nimblefingers, was the only remaining character from the first adventure. All the others died, and most of their replacements did too. Unfortunately, today Horus finally bit the big one, impaled twice by the scimitars of some underground (and possibly randy) lizard people, and then thrown against the wall like so much spaghetti by their giant stone god--after poking out the god's ruby eyes, of course, thinking that a statue couldn't possibly come to life. Good times.

Anyway, Horus' teammates then looted his still-warm body, the bastards, and discovered among his possessions--a police badge! Horus was undercover, sent to infiltrate the Thieves Guild and bring the head of the guild, Cutbill, to justice! Not that it matters anymore, since all the other thief characters are already dead. I think that whole plotline is going by the wayside now.

Oh, and my girlfriend's halfling character, No-Face McButt, got turned into a crippled and mostly headless zombie. But she's still one of the good guys.

Anyway, Fred Van Lente live-Twittered the game again. Check it out if you like.

"Currently dueling to the death in the Sex Palace of the Lizard People. Film at 11."

Doctor Who: "Waters of Mars"

Thanks to my secret inside source, I got a sneak peek at "Waters of Mars," the second of four 2009 Doctor Who specials that are taking the place of a regular season.

No spoilers here--it won't air on BBC America until Saturday, December 19--but I will say that it's quite good overall. I didn't like it much at the start, though. It struck me initially as just another Russell T. Davies zombie episode, and the incidental music is pretty bad, reminiscent of the awful music used during the serials of the 1980s. But by the halfway mark the episode pivots into something much more interesting, an exploration of what happens when the Doctor meddles with important moments in history. Can he prevent something from happening? Can he make things happen? It gets especially cool in the last few minutes when the Doctor goes absolutely apeshit crazy, and then in the final moment we get a completely unexpected visit from a previously seen character.

Being a lifelong Who fan, I especially enjoyed the Doctor's passing reference to the Ice Warriors, the vaguely turtle-like creatures who built an empire on Mars in the distant past, and who were first seen on the program in the serial "The Ice Warriors" in 1967, when Patrick Troughton played the second Doctor. It would make sense that in returning to Mars the Doctor would mention the Ice Warriors, and it's these little moments of attention to detail that bring out the nerd-joy in me.

I'm hoping that the passing reference means they'll show up again sometime soon.

Also, it's just been announced that the third special, "The End of Time, Part One," will air on BBC America on Saturday, December 26!

The Harlequin Horizons Saga: New Moon

On Saturday, the Horror Writers Association (HWA) stepped into the fray and joined RWA, SFWA and MWA by releasing a public statement expressing their disappointment in Harlequin over the ridiculous Harlequin Horizons pay-to-be-published vanity program they plan to start including information about in their rejection letters (or maybe it's just called Horizons now, since Harlequin already backtracked approximately a millimeter by offering to remove their name from the program--but not stop the program itself).

I don't know if the following is HWA's statement in its entirety, it's just what was left in the comments of my previous post on the matter:

HWA asks that Harlequin acknowledge that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, because no editors will be vying for or editing the manuscripts. HWA supports the basic principal that writers should be paid for their work, not pay because they aspire to write.

The HWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint in an attempt to disguise the relationship with Harlequin, changes the intent. We call on Harlequin to discontinue this imprint immediately. If this matter does not find a positive resolution, the HWA will take appropriate action, which may include removing Harlequin from the list of HWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Stoker Award.

Deborah LeBlanc
The Horror Writers Association

I'm glad to see HWA taking a stance, even if it's several days after everyone else. While HWA's relationship with Harlequin is nowhere near as strong as RWA's, or even SFWA's or MWA's, I reckon, the cumulative stance of these four major writers organizations against Harlequin's questionable business decision have a collective weight that makes it all the harder to ignore. Here's hoping the Horizons program gets dropped entirely in the next few weeks, or sooner.

On a side note, I didn't know HWA had a list of approved publishers! I'm told it's something they're currently working on, and I think it's a great idea. I also didn't know HWA is going to start disqualifying vanity press publications from Bram Stoker Award eligibility, but I think that's kind of a great idea too.