Monday, 26 November 2018

Awards eligibility post 2018 - some short stories you might wish to consider

It's that time of year when award nominations are considered - and so here, I round up first of all the stories from Inklings Press that you might want to weigh in your thoughts as you make your nominations, and then a story or two of my own. But first, let's talk about Tales From Alternate Earths 2.

Tales From Alternate Earths 2 is, as you can tell from its title, a sequel - and the first anthology earned two Sidewise Award nominations, for Daniel Bensen's story Treasure Fleet, and for the tale Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, by Brent A Harris and Ricardo Victoria. Daniel went on to win the Sidewise Award - while Brent went on to earn a second nomination for his novel, A Time of Need.

Both authors return for this second volume.


The Goose's Wing, by Daniel M Bensen, tells the story of a world in which 10th century Andalusian polymath Abbas ibn Firnas really does invent the glider - reshaping the world as humanity conquers the distances that separate us. He soars into this new world, aloft on board a glider, but still about to plunge into a cauldron of prejudice and rivalry.



Pillars of the Past, by Brent A Harris returns to the shifts in American history that he loves to explore - in this instance an America which never split from Britain - but where the strains of colony life linger into a modern day torn apart by a desire for independence, and the troubles of terrorism. What choice would you make if the price of your vote might be your lifeblood itself?


Andy & Tina, by Gideon Marcus turns our attention to the Soviet astronaut program, where the Andy & Tina of the title are Valentina Tereshkova and Andrian Nikolayev, lovers and cosmonauts. Gideon reimagines their world - and sets it to a soundtrack by an alternate universe version of The Kinks. There are lies, there is deception, there is romance - and there is a truth kept from the world by these star-crossed lovers. 


The Matthew, by Christopher Edwards, revisits the discovery of the New World, but with a different path, or perhaps a different course might be better said. The Matthew was sailed by John Cabot to Newfoundland in 1497 - and this story considers the consequences of that journey, had it gone a different way. Suppose Columbus wasn't the man hailed with that discovery, how might things have changed? 


The Emperor of the North, by Rob Edwards, considers a world where global warming isn't the fear - but global cooling. Gripped in an eternal winter, that crushes its hand around the Earth further year by year, how might we live? How would we survive? And who would be there to tell the remaining survivors about what comes next? 


The Accused, by Casia Courtier, visits a distorted Earth where the Salem witch trials kept their grip on the nation - and where knowledge and literacy became the Devil's tools. When books are banned, when their pages are burned, what do people risk for the words that speak to their hearts? 


The Fairy Courts, by Jeff Provine, bursts to life with a hall full of mythology. Jeff is a collector of folklore, and here he showcases a world where creatures out of myth stalk our own halls and corridors - and where an exhibition of caged cryptids burst loose, and havoc follows in their wake. 


The Dust In The King's Library, by Cindy Tomamichel, loops through time and considers the consequences of trying to make an adjustment to our own history - particularly the circumstances surrounding a certain mad king, and a poisoning. But if we change our own history, where do the dominoes fall? What are the consequences if we dare to write a new page in our history, there in the King's Library?


1969: A Space Oddity, by Jessica Holmes, is our next entry and... well, we don't know how to break it to you, but... the Moon landings were faked, you know. Really. Well, maybe. And Jessica has a story to explore just such a possibility. Part Wag the Dog, part Wizard of Oz, she introduces us to another man behind a curtain, spinning a lie. 


Lueger's Wager, by Bonnie Milani, presents a classic conundrum - what if the path of Hitler could have been stopped, or changed? Bonnie transports us back to a time before Hitler set on the course he followed in our world, but still a time full of prejudice, hatred and the cauldron of conditions that formed his vile outlook. What would it take to change things? A bullet? An army? Or just a few words? 


Under Pressure, by... well, me. I'm not one to toot my own horn, but while I'm busily borrowing the Inklings Press horn, I might as well toot out an extra note. Under Pressure is my story set in a world where Jacques Cousteau's dream of an undersea city comes to pass - only to face the dangerous tides of politics... and murder. History is a swirl of tides - and one change in current might not be all that is needed for such a dream to come true. 

Want to read all these stories to judge for yourself? You can pick up Tales From Alternate Earths 2 at mybook.to/AlternateEarths2

Also for your consideration... I would also like to mention Inklings regular Ricardo Victoria, who has been laser focused on his novel this year, coming out in 2019 - but he was included in an audio anthology over at The Wicked Library. His tale The Scratching leads their first Tricks and Treats collection - and you can listen to that here.



I mentioned Rob Edwards above - and he has another story (pictured above) to consider - his tale The Equinox Transfer. A confrontation on board a flight between the ancient and the rules that bind them. It's in his Mic Drop collection, which I really enjoyed - you can check it out at myBook.to/MicDrop

Oh and one bonus story to offer...



The Clockwork Cowboy, by Leo McBride. One of mine again, this time in the Writerpunk Press anthology Hideous Progeny, a collection in which the writers take on classic horror stories and give them a punk twist. I take on Frankenstein, and reshape it in a Weird West setting where Tesla's talents are put to use, and a cowboy made of clockwork ticks slowly to life. Will it be in time to save Aggie and her father from the town thug? You can find out by picking it up here: https://www.amazon.com/Hideous-Progeny-Classic-Writerpunk-Project-ebook/dp/B07D27MR5G

That's it - my only other published stories this year have been flash fiction pieces, which are probably too short to consider, though if you want to read them, you can follow the links to read What We Become, How I've Come To Hate The Sky, Where You Last Expected, and Killer App

Here's to some more stories published next year - especially if baby lets me get to the keyboard just a little more often! 











Friday, 23 November 2018

BOOK REVIEWS: Road Kills, by Isaac Thorne; Abandoned, by Tim Walker; The Ballad of Halo Jones, by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson; Generational, by Norman Turrell; Light's Rise, by Yvette Bostic; The Lift; Darkly Dreaming, by Chloe Hammond

Welcome, readers! Our latest selection of reviews covers Roman history and roaming killers, soaring space ships and snarky space heroines, angelic warriors and, perhaps, a devilish girl. But first, let's hit the road, with Isaac Thorne. 




Road Kills, by Isaac Thorne

I had the pleasure some time back of reading and reviewing Diggum, a short story by Isaac Thorne about a gravedigger with murderous intent - and promised myself I'd come back for more of his work.
Road Kills is a collection of his short stories, neatly ordered with a theme of tales that could take place out on the road, where the flash of headlights up ahead could bring a welcoming face or a dangerous stranger.
Some tales are linked - such as the saga of the pretty girl who snaps and goes on a murder spree through several of the stories here - others are standalone.
Particularly creepy was Bedside Manner, telling the story of a little boy haunted by the literal ghost of his father's past mistakes, full of the cloying fear that comes with a childhood bedroom plunged into darkness and parents absolutely failing to realise that the monster really is in the closet.
Hoppers is a revenge tale... about bunnies. For Buffy fans, maybe Anya's fears were well founded.
And sometimes the road is less travelled, such as the detour into space for Safety First, a story of first contact about to go horribly, horribly wrong.
Diggum reappears here too in two forms, both the original short story and a screenplay version. It's the best of the tales to be found in this collection, still as creepy as the graveyards its words frequent, but Bedside Manner is a strong challenger. Not all tales quite caught me - I wasn't keen on the social media-inspired Dislike, and the trio of stories about the killer girl Tiffany weren't my bag. But that's okay, any short story collection will have tales you love more than others.
Sometimes, you catch a single work by a writer and investigating further disappoints - that's far from the case here. I want more.

AI Rating: 4/5

Road Kills is available on Amazon here.


Abandoned, by Tim Walker

Blimey, this is thorough in its exploration of British history! Much credit to author Tim Walker for a well researched story looking at the time of the Roman withdrawal from Britain - and the consequences it means for both sides involved.
Abandoned looks at the early part of the Dark Ages, and you can see the amount of effort the author has put in to ensuring accuracy.
The story hops through several of the characters involved in the era - which while helping to cover the scope of events of the time does have a tendency to dilute how we feel about the central characters. Also, I felt it could have used, to quote Elvis, a little less conversation, a little more action. The early part is slow but picks up as sides move into conflict with one another.
Stick with it and you'll find yourself drawn into the details of the battle, as the cut and thrust moves beyond the shaping of empires to the visceral desire to protect family.
In the end, this is a love letter to history, and a credit to the author's passion for his subject.

AI Rating: 4/5

Abandoned is available on Amazon here.


The Ballad of Halo Jones, by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson

I'm not even going to pretend this is a new book to me. I read this first of all issue by issue back when it first appeared in 2000AD. Those issues were much treasured, and well thumbed - so when the complete collection appeared on Kindle, I wasn't hard to convince.
Halo Jones is the heroine we need. Caught in a dead-end world with a family of best fit rather than genetic history, she's trapped. Bored. Almost numbed by an environment that stifles innovation, crushes emotion, drowns out aspiration in a mire of vid soap operas and at its worst leaves hollowed out drum-drum-drummers tuning out the world to listen to a non-stop beat.
But Halo Jones is different. Halo Jones wants out.
It's glorious to revisit the story after all this time, seeing the sub-plots as they play out, noticing the groundwork being laid for tragedy.
Through it all, Halo shines. It's a darn shame that Halo hasn't soared beyond the boundaries of the comic pages - barring for a title appearance in a Transvision Vamp track. She's kickass without being obviously badass. She's a feminist hero in a time when they were few and far between. She's the girl who got out.
The complete collection features three books in total - and they are left poised waiting... waiting... waiting for more. They'll never come now, I'm sure. Moore and Gibson have spent too many years since they left Halo hanging, and rights squabbles seem to have abandoned her on the shores of a distant planet.
But it's brilliant. She's one of the finest comic book characters ever created, and I've loved every moment of being able to hang out with Halo Jones once more.

AI Rating: 5/5

The Ballad of Halo Jones is available on Amazon here.



Light's Rise, by Yvette Bostic

Recently, I read the prequel to the Light in the Darkness series - of which Light's Rise is book one, and it was so entertaining I wanted to read more.
It's an innovative series - starting in the Napoleonic War when a young Austrian soldier finds himself confronted by literal demons. Not inner demons, but the human-consuming kind, and is soon enlisted in a war very different from the one he enlisted for.
He becomes part of a somewhat-superhuman team doing battle with demons across continents and across decades as the underworld creatures seek to subvert the world locked in warfare for their own ends.
The soldier, Darian, finds himself imbued with his own powers which he can use in the battle, as he and his comrades strive to save humanity.
The story is Christian-themed, but not heavily so. The hints of good v evil in the story are subtle and not preaching, and the whole thing reads as a light adventure - I could see it doing awfully well as a manga.
Dashing along at a fair clip, it's a real page-turner - and the finale sets up the next step in the series with... well, that would be saying, wouldn't it?

AI Rating: 4/5

Light's Rise is available on Amazon here.



Generational, by Norman Turrell

Norman Turrell is a thoughtful writer - and Generational is a tale that asks questions of our future.
Set aboard a colony ship orbiting Earth and preparing for its voyage, the story dwells less on the nuts and bolts of the science of the ship, and more on the social science of the humans aboard it.
An early, off-kilter encounter introduces lead character Leyton to a young woman whose role is, as she puts it, a breeder. Or more colourfully a "ghetto-ho" or "ship's bike". She seems unstable, and Leyton is whisked away from her - an early sign that not all is well aboard the ship.
Leyton becomes the explorer guiding the reader as the slightly twisted society on board is revealed - freed from the structures of society down below, the ship has developed its own paths, becoming possibly a powder keg ready to blow... or the only hope of Earth's survival.
It's an unusual story - and I think of that as a good thing. What shape will our future be, what route will our philosophies take us? These are the questions at the heart of Generational - a tale that asks the unexpected.

AI Rating: 4/5

Generational is available on Amazon here.


Darkly Dreaming, by Chloe Hammond

This is an unusual vampire novel. Two divorcees (or near-divorcees) are wrestling with the problems of mid-life, jettisoning their unfulfilling husbands and struggling with work and the prospect of trying to have children - when an encounter leaves them forever changed. They become vampires. Beautiful, ravishing vampires.
They proceed to try to make sense of their lives as they chart their unlife. Their vampire existence brings new passion, occasional accidental lesbianism, and a desire for growth. Eat, Prey, Love, you might say.
I must say this book is not for me - I feel I'm very much not the target audience. It's mildly racy and it's deeply wish fulfillment at work, but if that's what appeals to you, you might want to dip into the first pages preview.
I'm giving it three stars - but not being the intended reader for this, I wouldn't take that as a criticism. I like my vampires darker and more dangerous, whereas with this, being undead has never been so life-affirming.

AI Rating: 3/5

Darkly Dreaming is available on Amazon here.


The Lift, 9 Stories of Transformation

The Lift started life as a spin-off from the Wicked Library podcast - which I've reviewed elsewhere on the blog - but now it has sprung into life as a collection of short stories. Volume one of such in fact, with the tantalising promise of further volumes. 
There is more than a theme at work here, with each story revolving around the character of Victoria, a little girl who plays a music box and offers people a ride in her lift to places which... well, which vary according to the passenger. 
In Brothers' Keeper, for example, two bickering brothers relive the spectres of their carnival past, while creator Daniel Foytik takes a swing at Trump in Buying America. Human Monsters, meanwhile, ventures into an apocalyptic landscape. The settings are abundant, Victoria is the constant. 
The highlight stories for me were Meg Hafdahl's The Barren, a hard-hitting contemplation on infertility and the choices we make; the splendid Cake, by Nelson W Pyles, with that conversation we can never have, with one we have lost - even harder, with one we lost long before their death to the bitter split of a family; and The Final One, by Charles Rakiecz, a time-twisting tale of cause and effect in the crucial moments of personal history. 
Much love has also been poured into the anthology in terms of its presentation - artwork of the music box, poetry and sketches, and even the sheet music for the theme tunes of Victoria, and the sound of the music box itself. 
For that extra love, the book earns an extra star in my ratings - bringing it to a hearty five out of five. 

AI Rating: 5/5

The Lift is available on Amazon here.
You can hear the podcast here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

OUT NOW: My Dream Woman Audiobook, by CH Clepitt, narrated by Natalie Husdan


CH Clepitt is a smashing writer - follow the keywords at the bottom and you'll see I've raved about her books before, from the Crew Chronicles through to her novel I Wore Heels To The Apocalypse. Her latest series is now available as an audiobook - and I offered a spot of space to the blog for CH to tell you all about it herself. Take it away, CH! 


My Dream Woman Audiobook

My Dream Woman, written by C H Clepitt and narrated by Natalie Husdan is available now as an audiobook.


When your dreams are real there’s nowhere to escape!

Andi is just holding it together. Working two jobs means she doesn’t need to rely on anyone, but doesn’t have much of a life. In her dreams, however, she is a hero: battling monsters and saving innocents. When her dream woman turns out to be very real, Andi’s life begins to spiral out of control.

Step into an exciting urban fantasy that will have you on the edge of your seat. Think The Book of Abisan, only sexier!

Author’s note:

I loved writing My Dream Woman and was thrilled with the response it received from readers. Hearing it brought to life was absolutely amazing, and Natalie Husdan does a superb job - every single character sounds just as I imagined them.  I could not be more pleased with the finished version.

Narrator’s Note:

My Dream Woman was so enjoyable to narrate because there were numerous different characters to voice and the writing switches continuously between the real world and the dream world of the main character Andi. The action scenes were fast-paced, exciting and frequently humorous, something I've not voiced before and I found the attraction and love story that grew between Andi and Dionne quite unique and moving. Anyone into romantic, action or fantasy fiction will enjoy My Dream Woman; it's a fluid read with a satisfying ending that leaves you wanting to read more in the series.

Find out more and Listen to a sample here: http://www.chclepitt.com/dreamwoman/

Audio Links:



Thursday, 8 November 2018

FREE STORY: What We Become, by Leo McBride




I was a shame to my father as a child. 
He wanted me to be a warrior - he said I was too soft. Instead, I played in the court gardens at Argos. I chased butterflies as he scowled and said I would amount to nothing. 
He might have been right if it hadn’t been for Demetrios. My father boasted of ruling kingdoms - but the gardens were the realm of Demetrios. He was the chief gardener, and he took me under his charge. He took my whimsy and shaped it into love. He showed me how to sow, to prune, to cultivate. He showed me that things grow - as did I. 
My youthful arms became muscular. I stood tall and strong. My father had discounted me for so long in my youth - now he saw new possibilities for me. He put a sword in one of my hands. He told me to stand with the Hero of Argos. He told me to write my own legend. 
I missed the gardens as we sailed, and talked long about them to my companions as the winds and waves buffeted our ship, while we huddled below and waited for Poseidon to find another target for his wrath. Finally, we reached Sarpedon, and our Hero led the way. 
Perseus surged ahead of us into battle, the sun gleaming off his mirrored shield, his sword aloft, stabbing the sky in defiance. How could we lose? 
I could not imagine failure - until the tunnels, and the whispered stories of the horror of Medusa turned out to be true. One by one, we fell, until only a handful of us were left.
Medusa was ready to spring upon Perseus as his back was turned. I shouted a warning, and her gaze fell on me instead. She turned me to stone. 
And yet, inside I still existed. Motionless, I waited. Motionless, I lingered upon my failure. Motionless, I remembered. 
I remembered those days as a child, running freely in the gardens - back when I knew only happiness and my father knew only shame. I was a failure then - to him, if not to me. Was I a failure now? I had fallen - had Perseus triumphed?
I remembered something else too. I remembered what I learned in those gardens. “Aren’t they beautiful?” I shouted as I chased those butterflies. Demetrios laughed. 
“Not always,” he replied, and showed me some grubs on his fingertips. “This is how they start out.”
“But how?” I asked, with the simplicity of the child I was. He showed me the husk of a cocoon, explained how the grub changed. 
“Things change,” he said, “things grow. Just like you will. What you are now isn’t what you will become.”
I sit, frozen inside my stone cocoon. I begin to feel the stone flake. It crumbles away from my eye. I can see. 
I am becoming. 

THE END

Author's note: So hey, how did this flash fiction piece come to exist? Well, there's a smashing group on Facebook called Rhetoric Askew. Lovely people, and with a friendly group of writers, artists and more. Quite often, they post pictures with a challenge to members of the group to write something - a poem, a flash fiction, etc - inspired by the image. You can see the image that inspired this piece here - though you might need to join the group. Which would be a fine way to discover all that the group has to offer. Have a good weekend, all! 
Leo


Friday, 2 November 2018

FREE STORY: How I've Come To Hate The Sky, a flash fiction by Leo McBride


She was the first. But not the last. They found her body in a New York park, surrounded by her killers. A Murder of Crows, screamed the headlines. It was an oddity. An unusual event. At least, it was then.
The reporters turned to the scientists, asking how could this happen. The scientists brushed them off. It was a million to one incident, they said. All but one scientist, who quietly pointed out that crows were among the smartest of animals and asked what if they had learned something new.
The next day brought two more killings, both in the same incident. An old man was attacked in the street. A police officer tried to go to his rescue. The crows killed him too before they fled, taking his eyes with them.
A curiosity became a shiver of fear throughout the city. Scarecrows appeared on the lawns of the people who had them, in the windows of apartments for those who did not. The talk shows were no longer talking about how weird the first killing was, but rather filled with the voices of worried callers, asking what was going on.
The mayor said it was just a rogue group of birds, and experts were being consulted. Not that there were experts in this.
Day three brought ten deaths. All separate incidents across the city. This wasn’t one rogue group of birds - or at least, not any more.
The mayor issued a bounty, $100 reward for each dead crow. The environmentalists cried out, the hunters showed up.
The fourth day was the bloodiest yet. The hunters took to the streets, loaded up with their rifles, and the crows came for them. All the deaths that day were among the hunters. The crows suffered casualties, but there always seemed to be more. 35 hunters died that day.
People shut their doors, peered out their windows and listened to the TV news. The governor declared a state of emergency that night, and called in the national guard.
They called it the Central Park Massacre. The national guard rolled right into town, lined up neatly on the grass of the park, and began to die. The troops were trained to fight other soldiers, not the quick arrows that gathered above, so many that the midday sky grew dark. Then they fell, in a rain that turned red as they struck their targets.
The only survivors were those sealed inside their armored personnel carriers, and they fled from the screams of their comrades. The crows stood attendant above the massacre, massed on the trees of the park, defiant.
People didn’t dare to go out after that - and when they did, they were picked off one by one.
The president boarded Air Force One to come and take charge of the situation personally, but the TV anchor, stranded in the studio for days now, reported the plane went down - all four engines hit by a bird strike.
Trapped indoors, starvation and shortage of medicine started to take its toll. No more deaths one by one, now they came faster. Risk the birds, or die indoors.
Those who were lucky enough to get to their cars found they had no way of getting out to refuel. They couldn’t drive far enough to get away from the birds. The lucky ones were those who managed to get to indoor garages of malls big enough to find shelter.
The remnants of government started a rescue operation. Where to go? There was only one option - the underground shelters, stocked up on military rations long enough to consider alternatives. The few survivors reached there. Most didn’t.
 We live underground now. Cultivating food where we can, and peering out reinforced windows at the surface world denied to us now. They say we’re lucky, that we ought to be grateful. But I sit and stare out the windows each day. They ask me if it’s because I miss the old world, the way it used to be, but it’s not. I come to remind myself how I hate the sky.

By LEO McBRIDE

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Hunting for something spooky? Here's five lesser known horror movies - and a ghost hunt with prizes too!

There's a smashing group of writers called the Sparkly Badgers of Facebook - if you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me joining in when work allows with their Monday #sparklybadgersunite hashtag chat.

The group has joined forces for a competition to win copies of, ooh, well, lots of books - the ones below.


There's an event on Facebook too for Halloween - right here: https://www.facebook.com/events/373362076545635/?__mref=mb

To have a chance of winning, your ghost hunt involves finding a ghost through a series of blog posts - including this one! The ghost hunt starts at www.cbvisions.weebly.com - with each ghost having a letter. Click the ghost to go to the next blog, put the letters together and... well, come join the event to find out more. Tales From The Underground is my contribution to the pot, which includes my story Professor Algernon Whitlock's Exotic And Fabulous Grand Tour of the Underworld.

You miiiight even find a ghost in this very post. If you're lucky.

Also while we're in the, um, spirit of Halloween, let me recommend five lesser known horror movies to you - that might just fit your mood come the night itself.

First up is a properly scary movie, the Spanish horror movie [REC]. There was a US remake of this as Quarantine. DO NOT SEE THE REMAKE. The original is great, the remake tepid. It's a found footage movie - and one of the best of its type.




Second, we delve further back, all the way to 1957, and a Dana Andrews chiller that goes by a couple of names. It's called Night of the Demon, or sometimes Curse of the Demon. Don't get it mixed up with an appalling recent exploitation horror flick called Night of the Demons though - that's awful. This one is adapted from an MR James story, Casting The Runes, and involves a demon used as assassin. If you're a Kate Bush fan, you might even recognise the line "It's in the trees! It's coming!" 




Sticking with black and white, we're going further back, all the way to 1942, for the fabulous Simone Simon horror Cat People. There's a more modern remake of this, that mostly involves people not wearing clothes. But this has real naked terror. For its era, it's very sensual - and the lead character wrestles with questions of identity. It's an unsettling movie, even in this age of more full-on horror.





Back to the 1980s now, and Pierce Brosnan proving he can act - though his French accent sometimes wobbles. Brosnan plays an anthropologist who explores tribal cultures - only to discover a tribe of modern nomads living in LA, living outside the law, and waiting, waiting to be noticed by their next victims...

I'm always surprised this hasn't become something of a cult hit - the visuals are great and the ending as creepy as can be.



Finally, a Disney movie. That's right, a Disney movie. In fact, a Disney movie so scary it led Disney to set up its adult film division. It's Something Wicked This Way Comes, the movie adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel - and it's simply great. It's about a circus that comes to town - Coogan and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Circus - promising to fulfill your dreams, at the tiny price of your soul. It's also as warm a movie about the relationship between father and son - a father a bit too old for his liking, a son bursting to grow into adulthood - as you will find. Jason Robards is brilliant as the father, Jonathan Pryce sinister as the head of the circus. Enjoy, with a little fear in your heart.





BONUS MOVIE: This one's well known, but getting on a bit now - it's the Hammer Horror adaptation of Quatermass and the Pit. Martians, the devil, scientists and the end of the world, all wrapped up in a lovely Hammer horror bow. Great fun.


Friday, 26 October 2018

Greg Stafford, Runequest and me


Greg Stafford in Helsinki, Finland on July 21, 2005

I never met Greg Stafford. The closest I ever came was encountering some of his writing in an old Runequest list when I was back in university and greedily printing out everything to do with the game that I could on piles of computer paper.

But when he died earlier this month, I felt a real loss, for his work has been such a key part of my life for so long that it hit home hard.

I started roleplaying back in the 1970s. My first game might have been the old blue book of basic Dungeons & Dragons, but it was Runequest that really caught my imagination. Greg Stafford was its creator, and the imagination behind the world of Glorantha in which the game took place.

My first copy of Runequest was the second edition, back in 1980 or so. I was about seven or eight at the time, and I fell in love with the game. One of my favourite childhood presents was the Christmas gift I unwrapped containing the Cults of Prax and Griffin Mountain books for the game. I fell into those pages and didn't emerge all day. Runequest was something different, something special - and Glorantha with it.


The second edition of Runequest - the boxed set of which was my first experience of the game. 

Unlike many other game systems, Glorantha offered a coherent world. This was a place of concrete locations, not nebulous villages and taverns. There were defined cities, established holy places, nests of chaos to beware of - all with shifting lines of control as rival factions fought for territory. Players didn't choose character classes, but found themselves choosing allegiances. The dragons to beware of were empires, the heroes often the underdogs, the resistance. And often overwhelmed.

Into this landscape came the players - often fighting their way through traditional dungeons but often with different goals. Sure, there was treasure to divvy up, magical items to strive for, but often the advancement came through the faiths the players chose to side with, working their way up the ranks of the cults who could offer them the magic they strove for. Advancement came through being part of the society around them. That was kind of revolutionary back in the day Runequest was published.


Runequest has returned to print, oh joy of joys, and you can check it out here.

Ultimately, Runequest became the longest running single campaign of a game I played in. The players who joined in my campaign at university ended up playing the same campaign and, barring the odd fatality here and there, the same characters for a decade. Long weekends were devoted to exploring the byways of Glorantha - from the plains of Prax, to the depths of Snakepipe Hollow, from the wilds of Balazar, to the parts of the world we created for ourselves. The characters outgrew the basic rules, so we made up our own extensions to them to allow the players to explore the world of Heroquesting. All of it was brilliant, all of it rooted in the work of Greg Stafford, and those who joined him as the world flowered into a broad landscape.

There are so many gaming moments from Runequest that bring a smile to my face all these years later, from the fumbles that just fell right (hit nearest friend with a Flameblade just as a comrade drags themselves through lantern oil beside you is an unfortunate one), to the mythology that becomes punchline ("Let's go down Wakboth Way." "NO!" "Why not?" "Wakboth's the devil!" "Well... hush my mouth.")

It's had a lasting effect too in my writing - my characters Rasten and Weasel both started out as NPCs in my Runequest campaign. One a hero, one a villain, now exploring a world of my own and partnered up in the story A Taste For Battle and lurking around the back of my brain for a fantasy saga that one day I'll write.

So thank you, Mr Stafford. We may never have met, but you let us play in your playground, and I - and my gaming colleagues - loved every minute of it.