All posts by Jaym Gates

[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Jaym Gates on Her Own Damn Game

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Jaym Gates! – Sarah Chorn

Jaym Gates is an editor, author, and communications specialist. She’s edited the anthologies War Stories, Broken Time Blues, and is working on Genius Loci. She is also the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She is active in ensuring a safer, more respectful environment in SF. Follow her on Twitter as @JaymGates, or online at

My Own Damn Game

by Jaym Gates

My first Dungeons and Dragons game was with four industry veterans. Not just guys who had played for years, but guys who had actually developed the game. Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end.

Fortunately, the two running the game were merciful and gave me a chaos-oriented paladin. Our host had mead and scotch for us to bolster the usual snacks. It turned out to be handier than he’d perhaps planned. The Game Master (GM) began drinking heavily about two minutes into the game because one player wouldn’t stop punning, one had somehow ended up with a cross-dressing rogue, and I was being myself, which is just never good for anyone trying to run a serious game. We romped through the first half of the adventure, puns and lipstick flying, trying with all our might to break the GM.
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[GUEST POST] Jaym Gates Reports on the East Coast Game Conference

Jaym Gates is an editor, author and publicist, as well as the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has work appearing in the Chicks Dig Gaming anthology (out in November) and the Origins Writers Track anthology. More information can be found at, or follow her on Twitter as @JaymGates.

Conference Report: East Coast Game Conference

East Coast Game Conference is a yearly video game industry convention held in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April. The conference, in its fifth year, schedules seven simultaneous tracks on subjects from Mobile Games to Education and provides video game professionals, academics and upcoming developers with an engaging program and opportunities for networking and collaboration. The conference is presented by the Triangle Game Initiative, a non-profit trade association of video game companies in North Carolina and the International Game Developers Association, a non-profit trade association of video game developers.

At the core of the two-day conference are seven simultaneous tracks of talks and panels covering a wide range of game development topics appealing to programmers, artists, designers, producers, students, academics and business executives.

I first heard about the conference from writer Richard Dansky, who invited me to attend the brand-new Writing track he was organizing. I seldom attend panels, but Rich teased me with some of the things he was going to have scheduled, and I couldn’t resist.
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[GUEST POST] Dave Gross Presents Chapter 3 of “Pathfinder Tales: Queen of Thorns”

To give people a taste of the Pathfinder Tales novel line, Paizo’s fiction editor solicits short prequels for the web fiction page. These stories allow us authors to show a glimpse of what happens to our heroes between books. I appreciate the opportunity to go darker or funnier or just a little different from the novels while showcasing the same protagonists.

I love them.

Paizo also posts chapter excerpts from the novels, often from the middle of the book, with glorious full-color artwork.

I hate them.

Well, I love that Paizo is showing off beautiful art and a sample chapter, but why is it never Chapter One? That drives me crazy! I wrote the chapters in order, damn it, and I think the first one is a pretty good introduction to the story. Why can’t that be the excerpt?

So I complain, as anyone who’s read my editor’s blog knows all too well. And he responds with perfectly reasonable-sounding explanations like, “We wanted to show off some action, because we like your fight scenes.” (That’s a dirty trick, the appeasa-flatter.) Or maybe he’ll say, “We loved this character and wanted an excuse to commission a painting of her.” (I loved her too, so I’m thwarted.)

But, damn it! I still want everyone to read Chapter One (and Two and Three) before Chapter Four. And so I keep complaining, and my editor keeps posting lists of things authors should never say to editors, and so it goes.
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[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Jason Erik Lundberg on His New Collection ‘Red Dot Irreal’

Jason Erik Lundberg is a USian now living in Singapore, and the author of several books of the fantastic — The Alchemy of Happiness (2012), Embracing the Strange (2012), Red Dot Irreal (2011), The Time Traveler’s Son (2008), and Four Seasons in One Day (with Janet Chui, 2003) — one children’s book — A New Home For Jia Jia and Kai Kai A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha (2012) — and more than a hundred short stories, articles, and book reviews. He is also the the founding editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, series editor of Best New Singaporean Short Stories, and editor of Fish Eats Lion (2012), A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008), and Scattered Covered Smothered (2004). His writing has appeared in venues such as Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, the Raleigh News & Observer, Qarrtsiluni, Sybil’s Garage, Strange Horizons, Subterranean Magazine, The Third Alternative, Electric Velocipede, and many other places.

His short fiction has been nominated for the SLF Fountain Award, shortlisted for the Brenda L. Smart Award for Short Fiction, and honorably mentioned in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. From 2005-2008, he facilitated an occasional podcast called Lies and Little Deaths: A Virtual Anthology. With his wife, artist-writer Janet Chui, he runs Two Cranes Press, a critically-acclaimed independent publishing atelier established in 2003. He is a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and holds a degree in creative writing from North Carolina State University, and is an active member in Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and PEN American Center.

Jaym Gates: Jason, thanks for taking the time to discuss Red Dot Irreal your new collection from Math Paper Press. “Bogeyman,” the first story in the collection, is an action-packed steampunkish tale of magic, romance and adventure. Was this story inspired by any historical tales?

Jason Erik Lundberg: Not from any specific tales per se, but I was inspired by legends of the Bugis, who were a seafaring ethnic group in the mid-1800s and were known to be quite fearsome throughout the Indonesian archipelago. I’ve lived in Singapore for the past five and a half years, and I love the idea that such a squeaky clean paternalistic country was once a popular haven for regional pirates (although quite likely different from the ones presented in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie). I also found it fascinating that the stories brought back by British sailors about the ruthlessness of the Bugis led to the more generic term “bogeyman” as a way to frighten children into behaving themselves.

I initially wrote this story as a challenge for a pirate-themed anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer called Fast Ships, Black Sails. And they quite rightly rejected it; the pirates are largely off-stage for most of the story, only making an appearance near the end. However, to my surprise, Bill Schafer bought it for Subterranean Magazine right afterward, and I was honored that it was published in the magazine’s final print issue.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Michael Marano on “Stories From the Plague Years”

Michael Marano is a former punk rock DJ, bouncer, and the author of the modern dark fantasy classic Dawn Song, which won both the International Horror Guild and Bram Stoker Awards. For almost 20 years, his film reviews and pop culture commentary have been a highlight of the nationally syndicated Public Radio Satellite System show Movie Magazine International. His non-fiction has appeared in alternative newspapers such as The Independent Weekly, The Boston Phoenix and The Weekly Dig, as well as in magazines such as Paste and Fantastique. His column “MediaDrome” has been a wildly popular feature in Cemetery Dance since 2001. He currently divides his time between a neighborhood in Boston that had been the site of a gang war that was the partial basis of The Departed and a sub-division in Charleston, SC a few steps away from a former Confederate Army encampment.

The first printing of Michael’s collection, Stories From the Plague Years sold out very quickly. He sat down with SF Signal to talk about the reprinting, and some of his inspirations.

Jaym Gates: What inspired the choice of stories in Stories From the Plague Years? What themes tie them together?

Michael Marano: Well, truth to tell, there wasn’t much “choice” to the selection of the stories. The stories are all my non-novel-length works that I’d written up to the point that Stories from the Plague Years had been published. I write slowly, so I’m not that prolific. The “Plague Years” refers to the really awful days of the 1980s and early 1990s. There was a particular kind of despair that killed and maimed a lot of friends of mine, and it nearly killed me. I’m talking about despair that manifested itself through drugs, AIDS, suicide, urban violence, lack of medical care. A lot of that maiming wasn’t physical. A lot of it was mental. I think that despair was rooted in the anxiety and hopelessness caused by the Cold War climax that took place in the 1980s. When Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberg was telling Harvard students with a straight face that the A-Bomb might bring back Jesus, and the nuclear war policy shifted from preventing nuclear war to winning nuclear war. I mean, why not shoot up, give up, have unprotected sex if the guy with his finger on the button is joking about bombing Russia in five minutes? What I do with the stories is kind of treat in horror and dark fantasy terms this very dystopian inner reality that existed back then. The stories are arranged in such a way that you can see an overall thematic arc if you squint right, from inward-focused, destructive rage to fighting to live for the sake of others you love.

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REVIEW: The Bones of the Old Ones by Howard Andrew Jones

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Bones of the Old Ones is a damn good tale that not only pays homage to the masters, but sets its own print on the genre.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Dabir and Asim find themselves battling dark sorcery again, but this time, the stakes are much bigger than one city.

PROS: A fast-paced, intriguing tale with engaging characters.
CONS: While it is a stand-alone novel, it is much more enjoyable if the first has been read.
BOTTOM LINE: I only hope we’ll see many more like this, and that Sword and Sorcery’s new face is here to stay.
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BOOK REVIEW: Strangeness and Charm by Mike Shevdon

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong third book in a detail-rich, unique urban fantasy series.


PROS: A rich plot and strong character-development make this Urban Fantasy offering fresh and enjoyable.
CONS: At times, it wavers under a little too much historical detail, but in the end, those details enrich the story. Definitely need to read the previous books to fully appreciate this one.
BOTTOM LINE: Overall, a strong, enjoyable read.

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REVIEW: Shadow’s Lure by Jon Sprunk

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong Sword and Sorcery flavored with Epic Fantasy.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Nimea and the surrounding nations are threatened by a faceless threat from the north. Standing against this threat are a young Empress, a tortured swordsman, and a boy struggling with fears of cowardice.

PROS: Well-plotted with a steady pace and good character development.
CONS: Drags just a little in the middle.
BOTTOM LINE: Readers expecting the quick-read sword and sorcery will probably be stymied by the bones of epic fantasy Sprunk uses to flesh out the story. For epic fantasy fans looking to expand their libraries with faster-paced work, this is a good place to start.
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REVIEW: Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick

REVIEW SUMMARY: A rollicking, weird ride through a vibrant, post-apocalyptic world.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Darger and Surplus are con-men following rumors of a secret library. Their plans hit a few snags, and they end up caught in a vast conspiracy of mad straniks, Russian aristocrazy and human-hating android relics.

PROS: The writing is brilliant; the text has a distinctly Russian flavor, without being colloquial; the setting is one-of-a-kind; tropes are skewered left and right.
CONS: It is intense and decidedly weird; if you like traditional SF, this book is not for you; an erotic scene between a genetically-modified dogman and an engineered human that provokes…some uncertainty.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a love-it-or-hate-it book, the literary equivalent of Turkish coffee: intense, rich and complex.
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REVIEW: The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams

SUMMARY: A solid first effort, with a great amount of potential. Looking forward to more.

SYNOPSIS: Silk Road fantasy. Sarmin’s life has been confined to a tiny room, but as his brother begins to show signs of The Pattern, Sarmin finds himself becoming far more important to the survival of the kingdom.


PROS: Good voice; unique setting; intriguing characters.
CONS: Pacing wobbles at points, and there are tinges of exoticism.
BOTTOM LINE: Definitely worth the read, and looking forward to the next ones.
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REVIEW: Tell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris

REVIEW SUMMARY: Worth the money, and it’s not just for kids.


SYNOPSIS: Tell Me a Dragon is a beautifully-illustrated kids’ book, but would be as at home on a coffee table as in a nursery. The art is beautiful, and the writing is poetic.

PROS: Lush, pretty and appealing.
CONS: Too short!
SUMMARY: Worth the money, and fit for the coffee table.
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