REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong, character-focused story that serves as an excellent introduction to the Pathfinder universe

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Salim Ghadafar, reluctant minion of a Goddess of Death, investigates a set of missing souls, and so becomes caught up in machinations ranging from Heaven to Hell and the mortal plane between.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:: Strong, focused characterization; intriguing and diverse settings.
CONS: A couple of subplots don’t hold up quite as well as the rest of the book.
BOTTOM LINE: Solid, entertaining fiction that works for both those already familiar with the Pathfinder universe and newcomers.

Read the rest of this entry

James L. Sutter is the Managing Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He is the author of the novels Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine, the former of which was #3 on Barnes & Noble’s list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and a 2013 Origins Award. He’s written numerous short stories for such publications as PodCastle, Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the #1 Amazon best seller Machine of Death. His anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published short stories of science fiction and fantasy luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, he’s published a wealth of award-winning gaming material for both Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Find more essays and free stories at jameslsutter.com, or let him know all the ways he’s wrong on Twitter at @jameslsutter.

What Authors Owe Fans

by James L. Sutter

In 2009, Neil Gaiman posted the now-famous blog entry “Entitlement Issues…,” in which he declared that “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.” This was in the context of a larger statement about fan entitlement and what authors of series owe their fans, of which I think the most pertinent part reads:

“You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you. No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading… When you see other people complaining that George R.R. Martin has been spotted doing something other than writing the book they are waiting for, explain to them, more politely than I did the first time, the simple and unanswerable truth: George R. R. Martin is not working for you.

In the rest of the post, Neil argues both that authors need downtime to let their brains recharge and-more interestingly-that the author-audience transaction is in fact complete as soon as a reader pays money for a book, regardless of whether it’s part of a series. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Gaiman’s mouth, yet presumably if George Martin lost interest and simply never produced the last book of A Song of Ice and Fire (or pulled a Dark Tower and took 22 years to finish the series), Neil would say that’s the artist’s prerogative.
Read the rest of this entry

In episode 257 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester sits down with author/editor James L. Sutter.

Read the rest of this entry

Did You Hear James L. Sutter on The Functional Nerds Podcast?

James L. Sutter, author of The Redemption Engine, joins John Anealio and Patrick Hester this week on The Functional Nerds Podcast.

Listen below, or at The Functional Nerds, or subscribe to The Functional Nerds Podcast through iTunes.

Read the rest of this entry

MIND MELD: Worthy Media Tie-ins

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

From Star Wars to X-Men, Halo to Star Trek, many media franchises also offer tie-in novels, giving fans another way to enjoy their favorite worlds and characters.  But which media tie in novels are the cream of the crop? we asked some experts:

Q: Many movies, TV shows, comic books, and even video games have gotten the novelization or media tie-in treatment. Be it a direct novelization of the original property or an original story based on the characters, what media tie-in books have been a worthy addition to their franchise?

Here’s what they said…

Tricia Barr
Tricia Barr writes about fandom, heroines, and genre storytelling at her blog FANgirl and contributes to her Star Wars expertise to Suvudu.com, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Blog and Star Wars Insider magazine. She has completed her first original novel, Wynde, a military science fiction epic with a twist of fantasy.

Over thirty-five years later, many fans do not realize that A New Hope, known simply as Star Wars back in 1977, used a novelization and Marvel comics to generate considerable pre-release buzz. The Prequel Trilogy continued this tradition, with April publications of the novelizations in advance of the May movies. When Episode III novelization author Matthew Stover stepped on stage for his book panel at the official franchise convention Star Wars Celebration III, after the book’s release and before the film opened, he was greeted like a rock star. The impending release of Revenge of the Sith certainly helped spur on the fan hoopla, but it was the way Stover masterfully wove together the fall of the Jedi Order and its hero, Anakin Skywalker, that excited a fandom that had survived the Dark Times – the period between the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy – by reading books and comics. The standing-room- only crowd of novel enthusiasts appreciated the way he had turned a visual story into powerful prose. While much of the Revenge of the Sith novelization maintained the traditional third-person-limited point of view narrative, Stover ventured into second-person explorations of the key characters like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku, and Padmé Amidala. He also explained at his panel why the battle scenes that took place on Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk were not included in the novelization: to maintain the thematic focus on Anakin Skywalker’s fall. While there were no Wookiees in the book, Stover used a recurring metaphor of a dragon to foreshadow the story’s conclusion.
Read the rest of this entry

Fantasy novels based on a roleplaying game? You betcha. There’s no shortage of book series that suck money from devoted fans tie in to popular gaming franchises, such as the novels that accompany World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Warhammer 40k, and, of course, Dungeons & Dragons. Paizo‘s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game introduces the world of Golarion which, as many fantasy worlds are, is full of monsters, magic, dungeons, piles of treasure, plenty of traps, and–most importantly–an endless stream of “adventurers” who got conned into believing that the best way to make a living is to throw themselves headlong into danger and pray they come out the other side with all their wiggly bits intact. With Pathfinder Tales, Paizo has unleashed a growing variety of authors on the reality they’ve created to see what stories they can conjure.

So how do game dynamics and rule books translate into novel-length plot and characters?

Pretty durn well, actually. So strap on those boots, grab your walking stick, and prepare to journey through three such literary concoctions from the Pathfinder Tales library. Oh, and you might want to make sure your first aid kit is freshly stocked with healing potions. Just in case.

Read the rest of this entry

James L. Sutter is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic, which Barnes & Noble ranked #3 on its list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as the co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Escape Pod, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death, and his anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published stories of SF luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, James has written numerous roleplaying game supplements and is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing. For more information, check out jameslsutter.com or follow him on twitter at @jameslsutter.

Rejecting Creationism: Building Better Monsters Through Evolution

Creationism is a hot topic these days. There are constantly fights over whether it should be taught in schools, debates within religions about whether or not creationism can incorporate the idea of evolution, and so on. Yet whether you believe in creationism as literal truth or not, there’s one angle you may not have considered.

Creationism is a crappy way to design monsters.

I don’t just mean for science fiction, either–since science fiction has science right in the name, it’s hardly surprising that readers of that genre are going to expect any aliens and monsters they run across to conform to the principles of evolution. Yet even in fantasy–perhaps especially in fantasy–a little evolutionary theory can go a long way toward making your monsters and setting more interesting and engaging for the reader or player.
Read the rest of this entry

In episode 108 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates sit down with a mega panel of authors and editors to discuss Sword and Sorcery for the modern reader.

Read the rest of this entry

[GUEST POST] James L. Sutter on Technology in Fantasy

James L. Sutter is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic, which Barnes & Noble ranked #3 on its list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as the co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Escape Pod, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death, and his anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published stories of SF luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, James has written numerous roleplaying game supplements and is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing. For more information, check out jameslsutter.com or follow him on twitter at @jameslsutter.

Technology in Fantasy

The other day a fellow developer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and I are were arguing about spinning frames–those mechanical devices for spinning fibers into thread. He was wondering if it was bad form to put such a machine in Pathfinder, given that much of our world has a classic medieval fantasy feel, and spinning frames came about during the Industrial Revolution.

“Let me get this straight,” I replied. “This world has wizards who can stop time and make wishes come true. It has priests who can perform miracles and talk to gods. It’s got creatures who are physical manifestations of theoretical ideas, self-made immortals, folks who regularly come back from the dead, and heroes who literally ascend to godhood through their own actions. And we’re worried that it’ll seem too weird if somebody discovers a more efficient way to spin yarn?”

Put in those terms, it sounds silly, yet the question of technology is a huge one when building a fantasy world. Some people prefer technology that precisely matches that of a given real-world historical era. Others see nothing wrong with mixing and matching, combining swords, laser pistols, zeppelins, and dinosaur-pulled chariots. Some feel that technology itself should be the defining feature of the world (hence the ever-popular steampunk genre). Yet whatever path you choose when designing worlds for your fiction or RPG setting, there are a few important technological issues to consider.
Read the rest of this entry

James Lafond Sutter is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. He is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic, which Barnes & Noble ranked #3 on its list of Best Fantasy Releases of 2011. He’s also written numerous short stories for such publications as Escape Pod, PodCastle, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, Black Gate, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death. His anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published short stories of science fiction and fantasy luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, he’s published a wealth of gaming material for both Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. When not writing or editing, James has performed extensively with various bands and other musical projects ranging from punk and progressive metalcore to folk and musical theater. James lives in Seattle with several roommates and a fully functional death ray. For more, check out www.jameslsutter.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameslsutter.


Charles Tan: First off, how did you first get acquainted with speculative fiction? With tabletop gaming?

James L. Sutter: I’ve loved speculative fiction for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest book-related memories is buying Richard A. Knaak’s The Crystal Dragon (because it had not just a dragon but a holographic dragon on the cover!), but I suspect I was reading it even before that. I know that by the time I was in third grade I’d read all of Michael Crichton’s science fiction. So it really has been a lifelong affair for me, and one which gets more robust every year.

Gaming and I have had a more tumultuous relationship. I first discovered roleplaying games in fifth grade, when my teacher Mr. Tivnan taught several of us how to play first edition D&D on our lunch breaks. After that campaign finished, none of us really had any idea how to acquire RPG books, so instead we began creating our own roleplaying games based on everything from the wild west to Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels. Eventually some of us got hold of the real deal–things like D&D and Battletech and Warhammer–and those games defined our summers up through the end of high school. After that, I lost touch with gaming for a few years as I focused on writing and playing in bands. It wasn’t until I started working at Paizo in late 2004/early 2005 that I really rediscovered my love of gaming again, and I’ve been playing regularly ever since.

Read the rest of this entry