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Email Difficulties

Some of you have mentioned having trouble reaching the Black Tome Books email box in order to send in your submissions for Paris By Gaslight. Please remember you can always send them to my usual email address or even via message on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/brandonblack.author

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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.
All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.

CONtraflow Panels

I will be attending the CONtraflow convention this weekend, Friday, September 30th, through Sunday, October 2nd at the Airport Hilton.

My panels:

Getting Started As an Editor. Learn how to get into the profession of bringing out the best in writers’ work.
Ben Bova, Toni Weisskopf, Brandon Black (moderator)
Friday, 7pm, Panel Room 4

The Five Colors of Mana as a Philosophical System. A look at the five colors of mana in the game Magic: The Gathering as a philosophical system replacing the D&D alignment system as a means of describing a character’s personality, ideology and goals.
Brandon Black
Saturday, 11am, Panel Room 3

Making the Move from Fan Fiction to Original Fiction. Panelists discuss how to go from cover artist to writing stories based on your own ideas.
Brandon Black, Jim Gavin, Chris Hayes
Saturday, 7pm, Panel Room 1

Cultural Appropriation or Building Diversity: An Exploration Of Issues Involving Real World Cultures In Fantasy and Science Fiction. Panelists take an extended look at the challenges of promoting diversity. (80 Minutes)
Kirsten Corby, Chris Hayes, Louise Herring-Jones, Kimberly Richardson, Eris Walsh, Vas
Littlecrow Wotjanowicz, Brandon Black (moderator)
Sunday, 11am, Event One

So You’ve Written A Novel, Now What? The panelists discuss how to find to prepare your manuscript for submission, whether an agent is right for you, and how to find the right publisher.
Trisha Baker, John Hartness, Toni Weisskopf, Brandon Black (moderator)
Sunday, 3pm, Panel Room 1

Steampunk panels:

How Can Steampunk Grow As A Genre? The term “steampunk” first appeared in the late 1980’s, although of course the precursors of the sub-genre go back much further. With the steam explosion in the 21st Century, the panelists discuss where it can from here.
J L Mulvihill, Stephanie Osborn, Kimberly Richardson
Friday, 7pm, Panel Room 2

I, Steampunk. An introduction on the wide and wacky world of Steampunk involving the literary,
cinematic and cultural sources of the movement. In addition the crew of the Adventurers League of G.E.A.R.S. Will attempt to dispel many long standing rumors and myths about steampunk and the culture that surrounds it.
League of GEARS
Friday 4pm, Panel Room 4

Quack Medicine. A discussion of the continuing profession of quackery and pseudo-science in the medical field, from its early routes with snake oil salesmen to more modern issues.
League of GEARS
Saturday, 9pm, Panel Room 1

Steampunk Props and Costumes. Members of the Adventurers League of G.E.A.R.S. will regal you with tales of daring do deep within thrift shops, trash bins and strange basement shops as they inform you just how reasonably you can assemble your first Steampunk costume. Topics will include upcycling, custom fabrication and thrift store treasure mining, even if you’re not a Steampunk some of the techniques and concepts discussed here are useful to the generalized costuming trade.
League of GEARS
Saturday, 11am, Panel Room 4

Victorian Dance Class. If you’ve ever wondered what the appropriate dances would be for a Steampunk Cotillion, concert or tea dance, your curiosity will be satisfied here.
Rebecca Smith
Saturday, 8pm, Panel Room 2

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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.
All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.

Hags can be lesbian too

Despite everyone with a webcam recording their group playing D&D, there aren’t too many groups actually worth watching. I had the great pleasure of watching such a group play live last night at +1 Gaming.
At one point, our heroes were planning on assaulting a windmill thought to be occupied by a hag covey. They listed their options:
1. “Go in guns blazing,” as they put it.
2. Use stealth and reconnoiter the place before doing anything.
3. Attempt to negotiate with the hags to see if they had any of the artifacts the players were looking for and if they would part with them willingly in trade.
I pointed out they had a fourth option: Take the male character with the highest charisma, strip him naked, cover him in honey and throw him to the hags and loot the place while they were distracted.
A female player immediately objected saying, “That’s so heterocentric!”
I lost it and died laughing — her objection was not to my plan to sacrifice one of the party — her objection was that no women were being considered for the plate!
Honestly, though, it would be hilarious for them to toss in some poor dude and for the hags to toss him right back out again and point to one of the girls in the party and say, “You can keep him! We want her!”
I guess I’ll have to try to be less heteronormative in my thinking.
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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.
All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.

Sexualization and the charge thereof

I had the pleasure of reading through an early draft of a friend’s story that he’s preparing as a submission to an anthology I’m editing. He introduced a trope that is usually associated with fan service but did so in a way that “took the high road” and did not sexualize a very often sexualized trope. And I’m cool with that.

I think it’s the word “sexualize” that I’m not cool with.

I had been posting some fantasy pictures to my D&D party’s online facebook group until two of the members objected. To make a long story short, I think (they weren’t very clear about their objections and I was too annoyed to ask for specifics) they objected to the female characters in the depictions being sexually attractive. The term “sexualized women” was mentioned.

I don’t get this term. It implies that something has been done to the women, or the pictures, or both, that wasn’t inherent to either the women or the pictures beforehand. The pictures I shared were of two models, both women who had arranged for someone to take pictures of them in cosplay, all on their own. These were not women who had been hired to wear skimpy costumes for the sake of pleasing men. These were women who chose to portray themselves in fantasy costumes for their own pleasure and that of those they shared their pictures with. And I, for one, don’t see that as a crime, and certainly not a sin.

I don’t see a sin with males enjoying pictures of attractive females or heroes getting it on with sexy princesses and that sort of thing in stories. Rather than remove descriptions and situations of women in sexual roles in fiction, I’d like to just adjust the balance and make sure that there’s more beefcake to balance the cheesecake. I’d like to make sure there’s as many heroines getting it on with sexy princes they’ve saved as heroes with alien princesses. The old Frank Frazetta paintings had as much half-naked Conan-type barbarian men as half-naked fantasy women, you know? That’s what I think would be fair. Fantasy is called fantasy for a reason.

Usually when I say that, someone lifts their nose and gets all snooty and says something to the effect of “fantasy doesn’t need naked women to be successful.” I agree. But I like naked women and I don’t have a problem saying so. What’s wrong with finding beauty in the human form? What’s wrong with enjoying sex? Fantasy is entertainment and I’d rather have more entertainment than less.

So — anyway — while I won’t ask the author of the story in question to change his work (I’m really biting my tongue not to mention specifics but I don’t want to give away spoilers), it’s his choice and I respect that. Besides, he is a really good writer and there are other aspects to fantasy writing than naked sweaty people.

I’ll just be sure to add more naked sweaty people to my own work, so prudes of the world be warned.

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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.

Vive La Revolution!

With regards to Paris By Gaslight, two authors have asked me if stories may be set earlier than the 19th century, so as to set their stories within the French Revolution and I just want to let everyone know that while we usually restrict stories to the 19th century, in this case, an exception can be made and so, please feel free to set your story during the Revolution!

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.

Extensions

As most if not all of you know by now, New Orleans regrettably lost its bid to throw WorldCon 2018. As such, there is no pressing need to rush out the next set of Black Tome Books and since several authors have contacted me privately request extensions, I’ve decided to formally push back the deadlines for both Paris By Gaslight and The Other World to Sunday, October 2nd.

We will be doing another By Gaslight book after Paris By Gaslight with submissions starting perhaps in December and running through March perhaps. We’ll also be doing a non-steampunk anthology next year as well; currently the plan is heroic fantasy.

Cheers,

Brandon

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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.

 

All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.

The Nature of Good and Evil in Dungeons and Dragons (and what to do about it)

This is from 5th Edition D&Ds Basic DM Rules: “Humanoids are the main peoples of the D&D world, both civilized and savage, including humans and a tremendous variety of other species. They have language and culture, few if any innate magical abilities (though most humanoids can learn spellcasting), and a bipedal form. The most common humanoid races are the ones most suitable as player characters: humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Almost as numerous but far more savage and brutal, and almost uniformly evil, are the races of goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds.”
I’ve been unhappy about racism in D&D for some time. It didn’t take me long to see the connections between how humans treat orcs in D&D and how the British treated the Scots, the Irish, pretty much everyone else on the planet. ‘They’re evil. They’re inferior. It’s okay for us to conquer them.’ In D&D, you can kick the door in on someone else’s home, kill them and take their stuff and it’s okay because ‘they’re evil.’ That’s just nuts.
So — what do I do about it? I had planned a D&D world that was much more cosmopolitan, where different races got along, at least in some locales and when they didn’t, it would be absolutely clear that it was because of simple racism. I never thought I’d like a racist character but I’ve got an elf mage I’m working on who’s totally racist and yet, works for me as a character. He’s got the whole snooty elf superiority complex thing going on and he’s a wandering mercenary. I like it because it explains what such a character is actually doing. I mean, after all, if elven society is so much better than any other society on the planet, why isn’t he back there instead of wandering the world? The answer is: he only considers his actions as a mercenary acceptable because he ISN’T visiting death and destruction upon fellow elves for money. Killing humans, or orcs, or dwarves, or trolls, well, that doesn’t count. As long as he isn’t killing elves, he’s free to wander the land, blasting people with magick and getting paid to do it.
Drow, in particular, or rather their depiction, pisses me off too. The only dark-skinned race in D&D to get any depth of culture or politics or religion and they’re evil. They’re a subterranean race but they are dark-skinned — because they’re evil. Logic would make them albinos as they are in Warhammer but evil trumps reason in D&D — they have to be marked with dark skin like black people in Mormonism.
5th edition FINALLY made playing Drow a standard PC option. I remember when 5th edition first came out and I was so excited to see that and I looked forward to playing a good Drow character and then when I got to +1 Gaming, Jeremy Henson (and I’m not picking on him) was trying to persuade people to play anything BUT drow because drow are traditionally evil — even though a few good individuals are known to exist. I didn’t listen and played a good drow anyway. I’ve spent too many years playing a black human in D&D from Fabled Offmapia because neither commercially created fantasy worlds nor DM homebrewed worlds had an African continent equivalent. Dark-skinned people have a right to play heroes that remind them of themselves too.
Anyway — my doubt. I was cool with just making a cosmopolitan world where different races can get along or not as they see fit and it isn’t because one side is automatically good and the other automatically evil, except I read this article where someone was complaining about the “Klingonization” of orcs. He was referring to orcs in World of Warcraft being treated as people and not monsters and they’re not being ‘evil’ just a barbarian culture that’s been in opposition with humans and dwarves and elves for so long that it’s become habitual. In other words, exactly the kind of thing I was planning on. Except it reminded me of how I feel about demons.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its sequel series, Angel, watered demons down into aliens. They weren’t manifestations of supernatural evil. They weren’t all inherently evil. Many, if not most of them, were just people who wanted to live their lives and not be noticed. Yes, there were some who had great power and abused that power for their own desires but there’s people like that too. I hated that view of demons, not because of it’s symbolic portrayal of diversity but because you took a fearsome category of monster and turned it into a homeless guy who just wanted to be left alone. And I can see how some people would feel the same way about orcs.
You could say the whole utility of orcs in a game like D&D is that they’re supposed to be irredeemable and they are a continual menace, like they are in Warhammer 40K and thus there can be no peace with them and thus “There can only be war.” And that’s entertaining and this is supposed to be entertainment so it’s okay. “They’re supposed to be monsters; let’s treat them like monsters.”
So I’m not really sure now. I like the cosmopolitan world but fantasy is ultimately about — well — fantasy — sex and violence — killing the bad guy, getting the girl, tossing gold coins and gems into the air and partying well into the night to celebrate your victory. What do we lose if we make fantasy mirror the real world and every enemy is only an enemy because they look different from us or because of their deep-seated psychological problems stemming from childhood?
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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.
All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.