John Picacio is a World Fantasy and Hugo Award-winning illustrator who is currently reimagining Loteria, the classic Mexican game of chance. His first Loteria artworks are now available as a set of large-format, special-edition cards from Lone Boy.
Welcome to the fifth installment of The Loteria Match Game, sponsored by SF Signal. I’m your host, John Picacio.
How many of you know the game of Loteria (AKA Mexican Bingo)? If you understand how traditional Bingo works, then you’ll know how to play Loteria, even if you never have. Bingo uses combinations of letters and numbers to play, while Loteria’s agony and ecstasy is all about the shuffle of a 54-card picture deck. Players have a ‘tabla’ or placard featuring a random selection of picture icons, and the game-caller shuffles the cards and announces an icon (or creates a rhyme suggesting it, if you’re fancy). The first player to have a line of called icons across, down or diagonal on their tabla – wins!
Loteria is a deeply popular national pastime in Mexico, and within Mexican-American communities. The game is an intrinsic part of my culture, and I’ve played it since I was a child. The classic cards are produced by Don Clemente / Pasatiempos Gallo, and those are the pictures you see celebrated here.
I’m currently producing my own imaginings of these classics with the Loteria Grande Card series, and I’m proud to announce here that these artworks will be featured in my first book as a writer/illustrator, after almost twenty years as a full-time cover artist for science fiction, fantasy and horror clients. The full deck of fifty-four is a work in progress and labor of love, but the first eleven of my artworks are available right now as a limited-run, special-edition collectible card set, while supplies last.
The Loteria Match Game is merely a fun invention (it’s not the narrative that I’m writing and it’s not the way you play Loteria), but it demonstrates how much possibility these icons have. Over the next few days, I’ll continue matching fifty-four sf/f authors, artists and creative luminaries with icons of the classic Loteria.
¡Andale! Let’s get started!
Worldbuilding. Every writer I know loves that word. Enter Pat Rothfuss — mega-successful author and even more successful human being. He owns and operates Worldbuilders, a charity that uses “the collective power of readers, fellow authors and book lovers to make the world a better place.” Simple and gamechanging — to the tune of over $2,000,000 raised for Heifer International since 2008. Save your world today.
Note to self: Purchase the documentary disc The Drybrush Master. I keep forgetting to do that, and I need to do so. Greg Ruth is one of my favorite artists and like Rothfuss, another genuinely decent human. Even if he were the scum of the earth though, I’d still have to admire his draftsmanship and brushwork. He’s that good at what he does. Right now, he’s co-creating a new graphic novel about Geronimo called Indeh, along with collaborator Ethan Hawke (yup, that Ethan Hawke), and I can’t wait to experience it once it’s done.
I’ve heard nothing but good reviews about this book, which is the final one in the Broken Empire trilogy. I hear Mark Lawrence namechecked by fans who love the work of George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and Glen Cook. His buzz is crazy good. That said, let’s talk about this cover art. This is my favorite Jason Chan work. I admire his other stuff, but this one always felt like an evolution, a confirmation that this guy has a identifiable versatility that’s invaluable when fashion morphs so quickly. I don’t understand the decision to put those giant white blobs on top of his art. Despite that, this is still a fantastic cover composition!
“Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte, Necromancer Eric Carter’s return to Los Angeles hasn’t gone well, and it’s about to get even worse.” Broken Souls is the second novel in Stephen’s Necromancer series and it’s full of demons, dark magic, and gods of death, but this isn’t your average urban fantasy read. “I wrote Dead Things and Broken Souls as noir novels first and urban fantasies second. I see it less about the magic in the books being dark and more about the characters’ choices and consequences being dark.”
Word on the street is that the author’s next magnum opus Hungry Ghosts might feature an appearance of Loteria cards within the narrative. Will it be “El Alacran”? No one but him knows for sure. We need to know. But if we don’t, then why link him to that icon?
Check his birthday, starwatchers and deathwalkers. November 5th.
Has there ever been a comics series that’s been graced with more amazing covers than Fables and its spinoffs? Iconic work by James Jean, Joao Ruas, Mark Buckingham, Adam Hughes, and more — it’s a remarkable series of images. I think this cover by Dan is one of the best of them all. He’s the ringmaster of Muddy Colors, one of the best art blogs anywhere, and he’s the winner of multiple Chesley Awards, two Spectrum Medals, and a six-time Hugo Award nominee. (Honorable mention shoutout to writer Kevin Andrew Murphy who is the creator of Rosa Loteria, a character in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe.)
The Book of Life was one of my favorite films of 2014. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably seen the promos and merchandise featuring La Muerte, one of the film’s major characters and a nod to the tradition of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s “La Calavera Catrina”. Here’s Jorge talking about the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and the spiritual core of the film, “It’s a holiday that’s always been very close to my heart. And I believe that even though I came from Mexico, the message is really universal. And the message is this. As long as we tell the stories of those who are no longer with us, as long as we sing their songs and tell their jokes, and cook their favorite dishes, say their names out loud, they’re here. They’re here with us. And the moment we don’t talk about them and we don’t say their names then they really are gone. So Day of the Dead is all about celebrating those who are no longer with us. But it’s also sort of a challenge to those that are alive to do something memorable so that when you’re gone people will talk about you.”
There once was a time when people would ask me for names of professional female fantasy artists, and she was one of the few that I could name. Thankfully, those days are gone, or at least getting better. I never looked at a Julie Bell painting and thought about her gender though. I always looked at them and thought, ‘wow, that’s so good.’ The best work cuts through everything. What you see and what you feel is what’s right there in front of you. Her work has evolved and elevated over the years, and I think she’s one of the definitive fantasy realist painters out there, regardless of gender.
He’s an artist, writer, and director and when I make the distinction between ‘creatives’ versus ‘creators’, he’s always one of my examples of the latter. I love what Shaun Tan does. I think I own all of his picture books. (Thank you, Justin Ackroyd and Slow Glass Books.) His pictures are deceptively simple, but never simplistic. They’re the kind of deep, rewarding dreams that you return to experience again and again. “I use text as the grout between the tiles of the pictures. I always overwrite and then trim it down to the bare bones.”
Without this book, my ‘El Venado’ Loteria Grande art would be VERY different. It’s a visual love letter to the Grisha Trilogy and sharp-eyed fans should be able to pick out some key story icons and symbols embedded in the composition. Her new book Six of Crows debuts this October!
MAÑANA!! OUR SIXTH AND FINAL INSTALLMENT!! Find out which writer can annihilate the planet with a houseplant and discover which author wears La Corona!