A free Knots short story, game reviews, book reviews, and more.

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The Lampworks Lamplighter

SF & Fantasy News & Reviews

In this issue

  • Holiday Wishes and a free short story
  • A game review: SpaceCorp
  • Reviews of epics from Brandon Sanderson and Tad Williams
  • A Viet space opera from Alliette de Bodard
  • Featured promotions to help you find new authors to follow

Midwinter Knots

As 2020 draws to a close, we want to say thank you to all of our loyal readers. This has been a year like no other, the sort of tale for which you sincerely hope no sequel will ever be made. It appears that we'll turn the corner on the virus, and with luck, on the economy. There's more to do, on climate action, on equality, on moving from discord to discourse in our public forums. Perhaps this is the year we can say we made a start on those.

Whatever you celebrate – and we have readers all over the world, so we know that includes Christmas, Hanukka, 正月, the solstice, and probably Beltane as well — we wish you the very best of fortune in the new year.

As a gift for the end of the year, I've written a new short story in the world of Knots. Escher and Emeline have brought a tree into the house to decorate, and Trefoil the cat must investigate, of course. There's something not quite right about this tree — they've brought trouble into the house along with it. It's up to Trefoil to guard the house against the mayhem that ensues. If he doesn't get put outside first.

Free download from StoryOrigin


One of the enduring themes of science fiction has always been that one day humankind will leave its home on earth and expand into the cosmos. We will explore and colonize the moon, nearby planets and then make our way to ever more distant destinations. As we grow and learn from our experiences, our technology becomes more sophisticated, allowing ever grander endeavors.

Many board games tell stories; there is a genre of games that seek to capture the wonder and glory of an epic future as humans leave home and reach for the stars. Players can run their own tabletop space program, competing against rivals in a long-term race across the solar system and beyond. The games employ realistic technology and present players with risks extrapolated from known science. At the lighter end of the spectrum, games are abstract, accessible, and easy to learn and play. At the higher end, you might feel they require an astrophysics degree, needing mastery of complex rules and taking a dozen hours or more to complete a single game.

SpaceCorp weighs in near the lighter end. Players control corporations that explore and expand across space in search of success and profit. The game plays out over three eras: first the inner solar system, then the outer solar system, and finally the nearest stars. Each era plays differently as technology evolves and history unfolds. Players vie for cards that grant them the technologies to build the spacecraft, equipment, buildings, and breakthroughs to try to be the first to colonize or develop new areas. No prior understanding of spaceflight or planetary science is required. Still, by the end of the game, players will come face-to-face with concepts such as overcoming gravity fields, the benefits of Lagrange points, strengths and weaknesses of different types of propulsion, dangers of radiation in deep space, and the thrill of discovering life on other worlds. Technology increases dramatically from era to era. There is a real sense of growing, building, and expanding, with difficult choices to make along the way.

Learn more about SpaceCorp and check out some longer text and video reviews at BoardGameGeek.com


What reviewers have said:
Knots is a compelling story filled with unexpected characters, plot twists, literal location twists, mystery and redemption.
It's rare to find a story that defies convention/formulae and confidently goes where it needs to go.
Loved the book and the writing style such as the excerpts from the archives that connects back to the story (or maybe even to real world events).
Buy on Bookshop.org amazon


It came as a shock to archaeologist Stenn Gremm to find that his ancestor had been a warlock.
What reviewers have said:
This book delighted on so many levels. It's smart, insightful, and wise. The many passages I highlighted are to remind myself how to be a better person.
... this story bolstered my faith that someone can still write decent sci-fi.
This story contains all you expect from SciFi: alien creatures, epic battles, and strange worlds; but even more it's a story about the best in people, whether human or otherwise.
Buy on Bookshop.org amazon

What we're reading


Tad Williams

Otherland starts out with a soldier in the trenches of World War I, a professor in a South African university, a god holding court in ancient Egypt, and a barbarian in a cheesy role-playing game. The professor's brother is comatose after an encounter in virtual reality, launching her into an investigation of powerful forces who are shaping the world for their own gain. Hang on, because some of these threads don't tie together until nearly the end of the book, but tie in they do. This is book one of a four-book epic, and book two is already on my kindle for next month.
Buy on Bookshop.org amazon

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson

Epic is a word for lesser books. This is a 1200 page tome of culture and conflict in a very different world that is scoured by titanic storms every few days. Life is adapted to harsh conditions including the Chasmfiends (a giant crustacean) and Rockbuds (a plant), and so have the people. The mightiest warriors carry Shardblades and wear armor of Shardplate, which make them nearly invincible. The story follows a king who sees visions of the past, a scholar who plots a theft, and a former healer who became a soldier and then a slave. These people are destined to bring about a new age, if the world can survive the war that will create it.
Buy on Bookshop.org amazon

Seven of Infinities

Aliette de Bodard

Sunless Woods is a mindship - a living ship - that has made a long and illustrious career out of being a thief. Vân is a poor tutor with a scandalous secret. When a visitor dies in the quarters of Vân's student, Sunless Woods is drawn to the mystery, which might lead to more corpses. Much larger corpses. In this extrapolation of Vietnamese culture into space, memory implants become the literal voices of the honored ancestors who guide you, and mindships are dragons - vast, ancient, wise, and unpredictable.
Buy on Bookshop.org amazon

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