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The Lampworks Lamplighter

The Year that GenCon Went Virtual

There is a magical world where elves, androids, Jedi Knights, and superheroes hang around together and where fantasy and science fiction stories play out all day long. Normally, that world is in Indianapolis around the start of August each year, and it's called GenCon, the largest board game convention in the US. Around 60,000 people attend each year.

GenCon is about more than just games. It's a celebration of creativity, a place for gamers, designers, authors, artists, performers, costume makers, and craftsmen. For instance, "Author's Row" is an area devoted to sci-fi/fantasy authors both new and well-established. The Exhibit Hall is the size of a small town, with over 500 vendors and visitors in spectacular costumes. During my trip to the con in 2017, I made the contact that led to the artist who created the cover of Sellenria.

This year GenCon was online. My wife and I signed up with low expectations because GenCon seems such a physical experience. But, like so many aspects of the creative world, if you suspend a little belief, you can find the magic within. GenCon Online bore more than a passing resemblance to the real thing and even evoked some of the same feelings of wonder.

Visitors could meet vendors, artists, authors, etc., and talk with them about their products, try their games, or watch previously recorded videos of same. Artists of all sorts were doing live-streamed demonstrations, and chat channels and other live feeds offered a chance to play or watch thousands of different games, demonstrations, and seminars. I even did a game design class taught by faculty from the USC Interactive Media and Game Design department.

Something no one had counted on was the many people who came this year who wouldn't ordinarily have come from all over the world.

The last session I watched was a pre-release game where a badger, a possum, and a cat were all on a quest to find a murderer. The story was being laid out and guided by a gamemaster, while the players were the 3 animals. There was an assassin's guild in this world called the "Silent Paw," which seemed to be behind the whole dastardly deed, but when our heroes caught up with the murderer, he wasn't from the Silent Paw after all, he was just pretending to be one of them. He was... Wait for it... Yes... The Faux Paw!! Several thousand people watching this all over the world groaned in unison.

-Dan


Knots

Cover of Knots on Amazon M Resche crossed a bridge and can't go back. He can't even find the bridge. He was in Geneva, but now he's in a quaint town from a century past, with strange lands all around. A vast (and fatal) geomantic game gone wrong has scrambled the map. A local mage wants him dead and a rival wants him as a pawn. The Fractalist priest is enigmatic and the Jeweler may not be what he seems. And his cat just makes wisecracks about it.

A cast of peculiar and only conditionally-trustworthy people will appeal to readers of Zelazny or Gaiman, as will a magic system based on knots and fractals. If you love math, you’ll enjoy the puzzles. If you hate math, just tell yourself that it’s all magic.

Sellenria

Cover of Sellenria on Amazon It came as a shock to archaeologist Stenn Gremm to find that his ancestor had been a warlock. As a scientist, Stenn didn't believe in magic.

But when a monster from legend shreds his equipment into dust, Stenn is forced into roles for which he hadn't prepared. Apprentice to an assassin for one, advisor to the heir to the throne for another.

When archaeological digs are conducted via telepresence, he didn't expect to get dirt under his nails and blood on his hands. Now his fate hinges on his ability to embrace his greatest role: the new warlock.


What we're reading

Cover of Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking


— T Kingfisher

I haven't had this much fun with a book since the last Terry Pratchett novel I read.

Mona is a wizard who works in a bakery. Her one skill is to get bread dough to do what she wants. But when the city comes under attack and almost all the other wizards are assassinated, Mona rises to the challenge.

With smart, slightly dark writing, witty characters, and a homicidal sourdough starter, this is a joy from start to finish.

Cover of The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist

— Brandon Sanderson

A steampunk world where magic is done with geometrical figures. You either are a Rithmatist – have the ability – or not. Joel is not, but he has a passion for the art and science of the craft. When young Rithmatists in training begin disappearing from the Academy, Joel feels driven to investigate, no matter the danger to himself.

Cover of Ghost Talkers

Ghost Talkers

— Mary Robinette Kowal

The Spirit Corps gathers intelligence from the front in WWI – by summoning and interviewing the freshly-killed ghosts of soldiers. But the Germans may have learned of their existence, and planted a spy – or a saboteur. Historical fiction|romance|murder mystery|spy thriller|ghost story. This novel stirs all of that seamlessly into an entertaining tale, and also touches on the racism and sexism of that era without being preachy.

Cover of Silver Ship and the Sea

The Silver Ship and the Sea

— Brenda Cooper

Six genetically modified children have been orphaned in a colony on an isolated world that abhors what they represent. Yet their reluctant guardians are morally bound to raise and care for them. As the children grow older they begin to learn more about their world, the colony, and themselves, and their new knowledge proves both thrilling and frightening. And just beyond reach, past the Grass Plains, lies the ever-present starship, shining silver, tightly sealed, waiting. A Young Adult tale by Brenda Cooper of adventure on a dangerous world.


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Windwalker: Bonds of the Forsaken

— H.G. Chambers

My heart is full to bursting from all the feels!
- Shelly on Amazon

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Space Pirate Roberts

— Jay Toney

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Space-Shifters of the Firesnake

— Rayner Ye

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The proposal seems too good to be true.

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Can she smash his interstellar human trafficking ring and stay alive?

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Belladonna

— Sian B. Claver

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