26 February 2017


A noteworthy recent article from The Onion: “Grown Man Refers To Map At Beginning Of Novel To Find Out Where Ruined Castle Of Arnoth Is Located.” (Um… what’s so funny about that?)

On a more serious note, I very much doubt that I would have become as enthralled with fantasy fiction and role-playing games were it not for maps. I love them!

Professor Tolkien’s maps of Middle-earth inflamed my imagination as a young lad reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings almost as much as the stories themselves. When I listed my top five favourite fantasy artists of all time in this blog, number four was Pete Fenlon, simply because of his wonderful maps for ICE’s Middle-earth line during the 1980s. Here is one sample:

This map of the ‘Young Kingdoms’ made the world of Elric feel alive and exciting to me when I read Michael Moorcock’s novels as a teenager:

Here is the (somewhat superior) version of that map included in the Stormbringer RPG:

One of my favourite contemporary fantasy writers is Joe Abercrombie. His ‘First Law’ novels are superb. But something that vexed me greatly about the original trilogy was the lack of any maps. I vaguely recall that Abercrombie gave some half-baked rationalization for not including maps, but thankfully he subsequently has relented on this matter. The short story collection Sharp Ends provides readers—finally!—with an ‘official’ map of the ‘First Law’ world.

Maps: they exist for a reason people!

23 February 2017

The ultra-cool dwarf and the seven planets

Okay, this is (apologies in advance) ultra-cool:
Astronomers have found at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away ...
The seven exoplanets were all found in tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Estimates of their mass also indicate that they are rocky planets, rather than being gaseous like Jupiter. Three planets are in the habitable zone of the star, known as TRAPPIST-1e, f and g, and may even have oceans on the surface.

(More here.)

For a 'hard' (or 'hard-ish') science fiction setting -- one in which there is no faster-than-light travel -- a single solar system with 3 life-supporting planets (and four other earth-sized ones, capable of being settled) sounds ideal.

The only downside to this discovery is that it makes me worry (once again!) about Fermi's paradox. (Alastair Reynolds's "Revelation Space" novels provide a cool -- but quite disturbing -- explanation for Fermi's paradox. Well worth reading, if you haven't checked them out yet!)

10 February 2017

Crypts and Things Reloaded has arrived

Actually, the new edition of Crypts and Things has been out for a while now, but my hardcovers arrived only last week:

I have yet to delve into this new version (while I was a Kickstarter backer, as far as I can tell I never received the PDF version last autumn, and I was a bit slow in ordering in my physical copies). However, once I have a chance to look properly through the book over the next few weeks, I’ll post my thoughts here.

(Of course, it’s hard for me to be objective when it comes to C&T, as it draws upon some of the house rules that I developed for Swords & Wizardry many years ago.)

Based upon a quick skim, it looks like Newt Newport has added a lot of cool stuff to this version! And the new art is quite impressive.

Praise Crom!

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).