Hello from San Diego!

Some thoughts on fandom, books to read, and more.

Hello from San Diego!
Image: Andrew Liptak

I'm at San Diego Comic-Con! Being on Eastern time, I was up at 4am, so I've been getting ready for the day. My flight out yesterday went off without a hitch: both legs were on time, and my luggage followed me. I met up with Amara, my editor, got my badge, hung out at the Saga booth for a short while, then met up with an acquaintance, Jordan Morris (creator of the podcast Bubble), and met some new people while I was at it, and turned in.

Because I'm... me, I hauled along a small library with me: books to read, and books that I'm hoping to get signed while I'm here.

While on the plane, I blew through Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons by Ben Riggs, which I enjoyed, with some caveats. It's a very ... chatty book, one that's part nerd history and part business book. I don't know that the voiceiness helps either side, but it's a fascinating history of TSR, the company that created Dungeons & Dragons.

It isn't a blow-by-blow history of the game, but rather a look at how TSR's mismanagement took it from being one of the fastest growing companies in the US to ruins. It makes for an interesting story, and I'll likely have some longer thoughts down the line.

I also started earnestly working my way through Adam Christopher's Shadow of the Sith, which I'm really enjoying. More thoughts to come at some point on that as well.

Good Citizens

Last week, a cosplayer friend of mine, Colin Adams posted up a fantastic video that he put together as a bit of a training thing aimed at members of the 501st Legion, with a stark message: we need to be better citizens within the cosplay community.

He cites some examples that I've seen floating around over the years: a persistant complaint that there are members of the legion who're "bad apples" that will essentially shoot down any effort that someone makes when they make their own Star Wars costume. "Oh, you won't get approved with that," is a summary of what those statements are. It's not a good look for perspective members, because it lends an image of the group as an elitist and snobby organization that has a holier-than-thou attitude toward non-members.

I've seen this in person (and I'll admit, I've probably expressed my share of judgement over the years, although I can only remember times when I've been asked about someone's costume or advice about joining), and it's a frustrating thing to persistantly see occur. I've found the Legion to be a welcoming and supportive environment, but it's a daunting thing to join because there are a set of fairly rigid standards for membership.

There is an attitude that runs through the group about accuracy. There's a place for that, but I've also not a fan of rigid adherence to building the most accurate costume ever. Frequently, I see folks building costumes shoot down folks' efforts because they don't adhere to the highest standards that we offer, and it's incredibly discouraging to see people give up because of those judgements or attitudes. It's so very, very easy for folks to find that their own particular talent for building a high-quality costume gives them power over those who are just starting out, or who don't quite have that eye for detail, and will judge/condemn accordingly.

This is an organizational culture thing, and when folks prize accuracy and a strict adherence to the rules over the people who're joining, that's a problem. It's also worth remembering that the 501st isn't the end-all-and-be-all of Star Wars costuming, and we as members shouldn't treat it as such. The 501st is a vibrant and positive community (with some problems, like any organization), and the reason for that is the people, not the costumes they wear.

Further Reading

A good top 10 list of fantasy novels.

Writing for The Guardian, author Brian Attebery compiles a list of ten 21st century fantasy novels, and it's a solid list. It feels like all too often, you'll get a bunch of white authors with one or two from a marginalized community thrown in there, but this one isn't that: it's a real recognition that some of the best works in fantasy out there are from folks writing from different perspectives, and they're bringing some intriguing stories to the field.

Dungeons & Dragons: the movie

There have been a ... lot of attempts to get a D&D movie out to the public, and those times have been utter failures. Hasbro and Paramount are making another go of it, with an adaptation starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez. On Thursday, the studio released the trailer for the upcoming film:

It looks like a lot of fun! A bit like Guardians of the Galaxy, with a band of misfits fixing a mistake they made. It also looks like it'll inject a good amount of comedy into it, which I think is an essential part of any D&D campaign. I was hoping for something a little more meta, but I'll take it.

Here's the 2022 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist

The folks behind the Arthur C. Clarke Award has released their shortlist for excellent books published in the UK. I'm rooting for Arkady Martine's A Desolation of Peace, but it looks like a solid grouping of books.  

Here are the finalists for the 2022 World Fantasy Awards

In other award news, World Fantasy Con unveiled its finalists for its upcoming awards, and it's a great lineup of titles.

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is getting an adaptation

Given the acclaim of this novel, I'm honestly surprised that we haven't seen this adapted yet, but it does feel like we're entering a period of Neil Gaiman Adaptation Rennaisance in the coming years: we've got Good Omens 2 coming from Amazon, Ansansi Boys after that, The Sandman coming in a couple of weeks, and now this.

It's a great little book, and it should lend itself well for Disney+. (Obviously, there are the usual caveats about adaptations and options in play here.)

That time D&D and Middle-earth almost crossed over

I mentioned finishing Slaying the Dragon, and this is an excerpt from that. It's a really astonishing ancedote about some of the blunders that TSR made over the years. They were in talks with the Tolkien Estate to launch an official D&D and Lord of the Rings crossover RPG. There was a hangup though: TSR insisted on being able to write tie-in fiction, which Christopher Tolkien immediately shot down, and it killed the deal.

I have to imagine the impact that might have had. It certainly could have brought more people to D&D from the books, although I imagine that existing players were already well familiar with Tolkien's novels and world. (There's since been an official RPG out there, so it's clear that that was a good idea in the first place.)

There is a little context here needed about the tie-in books: they were a huge business for TSR: they sold well above the official game rulebooks, because they were cheaper, sold in bookstores, and had a huge audience, while RPG manuals ... you bought them and didn't need to buy them again. So, I can see why TSR would want their own line of Middle-earth adventures, and why Tolkien's estate was not willing to do that.

THR's deep dive into the making of House of the Dragon

James Hibbard has a huge curtain-raiser for the upcoming HBO Max series House of the Dragon. He's the guy behind Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, a big oral history book about the making of Game of Thrones, and this piece (and a Part 2) sheds some good light on how the network began approaching the daunting task of continuing the world. And here's a full trailer for the upcoming season. I imagine that we'll get some additional news about the series during tomorrow's panel.  

Amazon grants Wheel of Time a third season

Not a huge surprise, but the adaptation of Wheel of Time is continuing through at least season 3. Season 2 is set to debut later this year (I have like 30 minutes left to watch in season 1), and the studio debuted a behind-the-scenes reel for that upcoming season.

That's all for today: I've got a busy schedule this morning! I've got a signing at 11, a panel at 3, and a signing after that. If you're at SDCC, let me know – I'd love to say hello.