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Posts from October 2009

I've recently resolved to read the classic works of horror, at least one each year, and always in October. I honestly can't remember what it was last year. I've already read Dracula, though I'm up for a re-reading.

But this year it was Frankenstein. I've long eyed the book and known I had to read it...but I just never got around to it. I always suspected it was something more—and perhaps in some ways less—than the clumsy giant depicted by Boris Karloff in the old 1931 film.

Well, no more. I finally read it. Anyone who's read The Darkwood Mask probably won't be surprised that I loved Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

In particular, The Essential Frankenstein (The Definitive, Annotated Edition of Mary Shelley's Classic Novel), and I think it made all the difference. I learned a great deal about Mary Shelley, the time she lived in, and the opinions of many famous authors through this book.

So then I went and gushed about it on Examiner.com in the form of this article: Classic Halloween monsters in fiction: Frankenstein's monster

Long as my article is, it feels rather truncated. There's a lot more to say about the story, such as Shelley's many descriptions of the settings: Geneva (Switzerland), where the Frankensteins are from; Ingolstadt (Germany), where Victor went to university and made his Creature; Scotland, where on an island he made the female creature; and the Arctic Circle, where Victor pursues the Creature and the story comes to a slightly ambiguous end. The constant contrast of bitter emotion and frigid climates (the "mountains of ice") makes the story all the more dramatic.

So, like, consider picking this book up someday. Get an annotated version, if you can.

posted on 10.28.2009

Some time ago, Jeremy L. C. Jones of KoboldQuarterly.com (and a very personable fellow) approached me and asked me if I'd do an interview for the website—not to be confused with the Kobold Quarterly magazine itself. (Previously KQ has also interviewed Joseph Goodman, Harley Stroh, and Aeryn Rudel—all acquaintances of mine through my Goodman Games work.)

I thought that was just peachy, and of course it's nice to talk to the folks over at one of the most popular RPG websites around. Kobold Quarterly, run by game designer Wolfgang Baur, was the first print magazine to spring up when Dungeon and Dragonn magazines transitioned into a strictly electronic existence.

Unconventional Dreaming: A Conversation with Jeff LaSala

Which brings up another thing. I've been largely remiss on visible Savant progress in the last few months due to (1) a large number of circumstantial life speed bumps and (2) RPG projects I had to clear from my plate. But I am returning at last to this book, which is still in its infancy.

But not for one second has my interest faded. This is still a book set in the quintessential world of my imagining, and so it's time to get back on track. Stay tuned for the next installment of Savant Scrawlings.

posted on 10.18.2009

Sidedown and I now present you with....

Downcast Epside No.109: Jeff LaSala's Hallowcast 4

Go to the Downcast site to play it right off the page. Or subscribe to the Downcast podcast and snatch the mp3 for yourself in iTunes.

Hallowcast 4 is 45 minutes of Halloween-themed music blended together in one big horrible admixture, woven with little movie clips and other goodies. I promise you, you'll never hear Mel Tormé and Rob Zombie in the same podcast ever again.

The only warning I'll give you is:

You better not have weights tied to your feet.

And...if you missed them, I've also curated the previous three Halloween episodes of Downcast. Grab 'em (right click and Save As) or just play 'em below. We're talking a total of 2.7 hours of excellent scary music, probably a good 60% of which you've never heard. Take advantage!

Downcast Episode 69: Hallowcast 1

Downcast Episode 70: Hallowcast 2

Downcast Episode 94: Hallowcast 3

posted on 10.12.2009

Marisa and I are now returned from this year's pilgrimage to Salem, MA. I suppose "pilgrimage" would be a more appropriate term for a Wiccan making a trek to the Witch City, for whom it could be a religious trip, but for us it's more about homage to our anniversary and our favorite holiday. Salem is the Halloween Capital of the World, after all.

And if you don't believe it, have a look at some of the pictures I've taken there in the last few years. Click here to see more than 70+ photos.

Halloween aside, Salem is chock full of cool histories, from the literary (author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter while working at the Customs House at the wharf†) to the maritime (Salem was the launching point for thousands of trade ships that spanned the globe). Old colonial houses, witchcraft hysteria history, museums galore, specialty shops, and festivities/fun houses all month long every October.

Bottom line: cool town, worth visiting at least once in your life—especially in October. For my wife and me, we've gone every year ever since our first pass through the day after our wedding on Halloween '04.

I have one gripe, though, and this isn't about Salem as much about plenty of native New Englanders: Not everyone is obsessed about baseball. Got that?

While we were buying tickets for one of the fun houses, the ticket seller asked where we were from. When we told him the Bronx, he said, "Man, can we stop with the Yankee fans today?"

I couldn't care less about the Yankees or the Red Sox. Even if I was a football or baseball enthusiast‡, I just can't be passionate about laundry. It's not your enthusiasm that bothers me, sports fanatics. It's your assumption that everyone else must be just as enthusiastic that does. (It would be like me going up to complete strangers and asking, "So what's your favorite race/class combo? Do you prefer low-level play or epic gaming?") Yes, yes, it's all in good fun. But is there a list I can put my name on to opt out, please?

The closest sports rivalry I've participated in (peripherally) was Army-Navy, but that's only because I was raised under the doctrine that the Navy was evil. You'll have to take that up with my parents, who will no doubt confirm it. But probably not their parents, who were shipbuilders and yeomen affiliated with the Navy during World War II.

Anyway, thank you Mom and Dad for making this year's Salem trip much more enjoyable!


† Not to mention the house which was the loose inspiration for his novel House of the Seven Gables.

‡ I seem to have been born without that sports-fragment of the XY chromosome.

posted on 10.10.2009

The month of Halloween is here at last—and anyone who's even a semi-regular to this website probably knows that Halloween is not a single day event for my wife and me.

October is the twilight of the year, appropriately cooler and darker but also colorful and vibrant for all that. It was 51° outside this morning, which is just about right. Yay for long sleeves again!

This has been the most turbulent of years. It didn't start that way, but I've already witnessed enough grief and hard times, mostly for friends mine, but things haven't been the easiest on us either.

A lot's going to happen this month: some good, some bad, some necessary. Both my in-laws are having surgery done (necessary), and the last vestiges of some unpleasantness from the summer must be dealt with (bad).

But among the good:

  • And after a long string of obstacles, I'll be back working on my Savant project again. You can expect the next entry of Savant Scrawlings soon.
  • Marisa and I will be taking our annual October pilgrimage to Salem, MA in just over a week, this time with my parents in tow. I'm very excited about that.
  • My seemingly annual installment of the Sidedown podcast (Downcast) will appear in a week or so. Hallowcast 4!
  • Also, in honor of Halloween, every single day this month I will post up at least one photo appropriate to this time of year in this Facebook album, which I've made public.

My heart goes out to Max, who continues his fight, and to Andy (aka Beezer), a friend and someone seriously undeserving of what he's going through. Prayers would be appreciated for both.

Happy October!

posted on 09.30.2009