137: Barbed wire made of glistening hard candy

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Hullo.

This week I went to Athens, where I can confirm they have some well old stuff.

D10
Roses
Links
Like Comics, but without pictures
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Issue 10 of DIE is out, with an excellent alt cover from Anna Dittmann, which concludes SPLIT THE PARTY. This is the Ash-focused issue, and the definition of A Lot. It’s bringing parts of the Dictator into the spotlight which have been implicit before, and made explicit here. Perhaps “explicit” is worth underlining there. In terms of DIE issues, I suspect this is one closest to what I consider the heart of the book, in its juxtapositions between real world ennui and fantasy horror. Stephanie killed on it, working in hugely difficult circumstances, and I hope you find it interesting.

There’s a short preview here and you can get it from your local comic shop or digitally.

The collection is out in February, so speak to your retailer if you want it. You can also do this by clicking pre-order buttons on sites. The future is a hell of a place.

There’s also other DIE things afoot. Let me list them.

Firstly, Image have lobbed the whole issue to read on their site. If you want a longer taste, you can. Go read here.

Secondly, there’s an amazon code which lets you have 25% off the book. Enter 25DIERPG at checkout to get it. There’s a limited number of activations for it, so when it’s gone, it’s gone. Perhaps suitable if you’re looking for a Christmas present? I don’t know. I am a total grump.

Also in the back of DIE 10 I mention the DIE RPG arcana may be out after the issue arrives. Basically, “Before Christmas” seems a safe bet. I’m doing my last tweaks after lunch, and then it just has to pass through proofing. The problem there is that there’s various things backed up for C – the WicDiv final hardcover, The DIE collection and (eeek!) Ludocrats issue 1, all of which are higher priority. But we’ll have it to you as soon as we can.

When is the series back with the third arc, whose title is announced in the backmatter of this issue? We’re not 100% sure yet. We’re aiming for May, but we’ll know for sure later in this month as well. We’ll keep you informed, via words like this one, and also this one.

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On Monday night, I was wrapping up my time at Athens con having dinner with Chrissy. The restaurant is playing a seemingly random mix of interesting pop, bouncing between decades at random. It hits Rose by Outkast, which provokes one of the usual sort of excitable rants as you can imagine (“Just playing!”) and reminded me of the Phonogram B-side I did with David Lafuente way back in the Singles Club days.

The B-sides were, as the name implies, short pieces we did in the back of the single issues. I just deleted the “experimental” from the previous sentence, as that oversells them. They were just a bunch of short ways to look at Phonogram’s filter. Like all Phonogram, they were filtered and heightened autobiography. This one was about about 2-3 seconds of Roses getting stuck in my head, for a whole transatlantic flight.

Clearly, having told this story, I woke up the next day with the same 2-3 seconds stuck in my head. They have remained there, on and off, ever since.

So I figured it’s a good chance to show it – David managed to fit this in just before he went off to work for Marvel, and Christina Strain did a masterwork in colouring it - looking at it now, I’m thinking this is the first time we started inching towards Dionysus in WicDiv. It was great to do these comics. Phonogram was a fun time, except for the ongoing poverty.

That I have been listening to this when writing this little bit is the definition of high danger activity with my brain.

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A couple of books I read recently.

I’ve been meaning to try Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children novellas for a while, so finally started Every Heart A Doorway. That was yesterday. I proceeded to clear enough space that I could devour it before night. It’s a magic portal, and like the book’s cast, I wanted to spend all my time there before I was inevitably expelled.

It’s set at a school for (mostly) girls who have returned from visiting their various portal fantasy worlds and are both clearly traumatised by the whole experience and crave nothing more than to return to the world that was everything to them. All the cast would disagree with the first part of the previous sentence. They would say that it’s the real world that has traumatised them. There is a lot here, and the book plays its hand deftly.

And then the violence starts.

The world building is precise, elegant and evocative, speaking to the breadth of the genre with small, deft touches. Its prose makes me want to write things like “Barbed wire made of glistening hard candy” and I want to wrap myself up in it and bleed. Its deeply contemporary while also speaking to the tradition its born from, full of likeable, believable monsters. I suspect if you like any of my stuff – especially DIE – you’ll adore this deconstructive fantasy. Suffice to say, it makes me jealous.

Yes, I’ve already bought the second one.

James D’amato apologises for the title of The Ultimate RPG Gameplay Guide any time I’ve heard him talk about it, which is understandable – partially you can see anyone shying away from the “ULTIMATE!” but more importantly it undersells the intelligence and breadth of what the book covers. It’s essentially gathering together a lot of best practise, transferable lessons from improv and safety tools from the current state of the conversation, and wrapping it beneath one cover, complete with lots of exercises, wit and accessibility.

I’m someone who has read a lot around the topic so am familiar with a lot of this, but to see it gathered together and organised is striking, and makes you re-examine your own choices (as well as sharpen your own thought when you disagree with it). Hell, there was one major thing in here which I realised was at the root of most of my frustration when role-playing goes awry, which I’m going to try and integrate into my play (It’s an OOC communication one, perhaps unsurprisingly). To stress, the book is for both players and gamers, and is absolutely modern – that you may be running an online Actual Play is integrated into the game’s thinking.

In short: if you’re the sort of person who’d consider reading a book on being a better role-player, this is the book to read.

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Gemma Press were my hosts over the weekend at Athenscon, which was a wonderful experience. It’s what you always hope for when visiting a destination you’ve never been to – a chance to meet folks who’ve read your stuff who you’ve never met, a chance to see the details of the local comics scene, a chance to taste another place while abstractly working. Thanks for everyone’s hospitality.

Also, the Greek translation of THREE looks beautiful. It’s just been released, which does feel like the end of a chapter – ever since THREE was collected in 2014 we wanted to have a Greek edition, and it’s now finally there. It also was a chance to look at a book which I haven’t thought in depth for quite a while, and take it in with a little distance. The distance made me realise what a strange, ludicrously researched thing it actually was – while I’ve never gone as deep ever again, you can see its fingerprints all over a lot of the work that follows. If you’re talking about my own aesthetic, it marks one extreme boundary of that territory. Taking it in and looking at it makes me want to return there, and see if there’s anything further out there.

(If you’ve never read THREE, consider this my plug to go and have a nose. Available from all good book and comic sellers, etc. Its my story about a Spartan slave hunt. That’s the simplified way to explain it, as if I start talking about Helots, I’d never stop.)

Work wise? Still Once & Future, really, plus DIE Arcana and various of the other projects. It progresses. With Athens out of the way, it’s now just a straight line from now until Christmas and I’m planning to get a lot more finished. December is always one of the most productive times of year for me, somewhat oddly.

I like endings.

Kieron Gillen
London
4.12.2019

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