The Horrible Mr. Punch from Puppetland

Mr. Punch, sculpted by artist Samuel Araya. Sam is creating several sculptural puppets whom he then photographs and uses in his mixed-media compositions for my new edition of Puppetland.



My Other Other Project: Café Nordo

Besides my day job, family, and creative work, the other big part of my life is being chairman of the board for Café Nordo, a nonprofit theatre company in Seattle that combines storytelling and food in an innovative and very artistic way.

I was a fan of Nordo before I ever got involved with them, but I’ve now spent more than a year leading the board during a very intense and productive period of expansion. We ran a capital fundraising campaign that brought in almost $300,000, enough for us to finally get a permanent home for the company: Nordo’s Culinarium in Pioneer Square.

On April 15th we open our first show in our new home. Don Nordo del Midwest is inspired by Don Quixote but is about an idealistic, itinerant chef traveling through the midwest. There are fights, laughs, assorted revolutions, and nine courses of amazing food.

Seattle’s City Arts magazine just published a great feature about our company and our new home. Please give it a read.

And then buy some tickets!

After Puppetland

I have very little time for writing of any sort other than email. For some months now, what time I have has been devoted to the new edition of my 1995 experimental storytelling game Puppetland, which I successfully Kickstarted last fall with Shane Ivey of Arc Dream Publishing.

The new edition of Puppetland is a big project. I have done a lot of work on the core rulebook, as well as new work driven by stretch goals from the Kickstarter: new locations, characters, scenarios, and more, including a new essay and a storybook. All of which is thrilling, and time-consuming.

There is a farther shore. Beyond Puppetland is my other passion project, a novel called Magonia’s Shadow. I wrote the first draft in the fall of 2013 and it still has a long way to go. But I think about it often and it is the lighthouse I am navigating towards.

Magonia’s Shadow is a science-fantasy YA novel that I have been thinking about and making notes towards for many years. Longtime readers of my website may recall the series of “Dispatches from Magonia” that I wrote in the late 1990s. That was where this project began, in those experiments, and in a book I read at the time about the creator of LA’s amazing Museum of Jurassic Technology.

A lot of water has passed under this bridge. But it is the one I will walk across when Puppetland is done, the one I think about week after week, the one that I hope will define the next stage of my creative life.

And it starts like this:

The Sky Gods trumpeted an hour after dawn. A vast reverberating bass note sounded across the land and the two great figures on the horizon, who stood above everything, even Ascension Mountain, throbbed with life. The note started down deep and welled up, the bodies of the Sky Gods trembling, and then the glory poured from their mouths and began to fill the sky with life. The sun warmed the glory and it expanded, cottony tendrils lifting free of their million pods and turning the falling motion of the glory into a drift, catching zephyrs and following them wherever they went. The glory spread far and wide, absorbed into warm moist loam and unthinkingly consumed by a million creatures and soaking into the rich sweet bodies of water that broke up the undulating landscape in between the sensuous curves of the hills and the stark rocky protrusions of the peaks. The Sky Gods sounded and the glory spread and it was time to wake up, time to get clothes on, time to help Daddy on his last day of life.

Marla was already awake, had been awake, since before the sun. Had maybe not slept. She was not sure. Sleep was a thief of consciousness so quiet you did not know what he stole. She had gone to bed weeping and slept fitfully and now here it was, the call of the Sky Gods, and she had to get up and play her part.

Her mother was already up, feeding Daddy a bowl of strong broth. Daddy was tied to a chair, arms bound, so he could not break off his horns in his sleep.

Trench Warfare: Comedy Gold

I’ve been working for Microsoft since March of 2008. A lot of water has passed under that bridge, but an oddball highlight was the time I convinced them to finance a comedy radio serial about trench warfare.

It was all to promote an Xbox LIVE Arcade game called Toy Soldiers. To do the job, I hired the very talented folks at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, old friends of mine who have produced a number of audio dramas and some excellent short films. We worked on the script together and they produced the serial in three parts. It’s quite silly, and I think it’s still a lot of fun.

My Dad spent his career as a radio announcer so I grew up around a radio station, immersed in the technology and the history of radio. I wrote and produced a number of short radio dramas as a kid using the station’s recording studios, so this project was a natural one for me. We had a great time making it. Did it meaningfully impact the sales of the game? Well, maybe not, but if you aren’t having fun then you’re doing it wrong.

“With some imagination, we could turn war into something everyone could enjoy!”

My KIY novella has been reprinted

Cyaegha #12

Fourteen years ago I published my King in Yellow novella Sosostris through Armitage House in a 100-copy limited-edition chapbook. It was the culmination of a decade of KiY rumination and experimentation that included two other Armitage House chapbooks, Broadalbin and Ambrose. Sooner or later I’ll get around to revising and reprinting the trilogy, but at least Sosostris has returned, albeit in an even more limited form.

Graeme Phillips is the Scottish publisher of the Cthulhu small press zine Cyaegha. The new issue, #12, reprints Sosostris for the first time since our chapbook. Cyaegha is limited to just 75 copies, however, so if you want one you should visit his website promptly and place your order.

So There I Was Sitting in a Bookstore Cafe

Looked up from my laptop and at the end of the aisle ahead of me, face out, is a book I published fifteen years ago: A Cthulhu Mythos Bibliography & Concordance by Chris Jarocha-Ernst. Then before I could even start typing this, I looked up and a friend of mine was standing there grinning at me. Apparently this particular bookstore-cafe was the right place to visit tonight.

Puppetland 1st edition ebook available now

Puppetland BoH PDF CoverCan’t wait for the new edition coming in 2015? You can get the first edition of Puppetland published by Hogshead in 1999 right now from the Bundle of Holding, alongside other fantastic indie games like James Wallis’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Emily Care Boss’s Breaking the Ice, Vincent Baker’s Dogs in the Vineyard, and many more, all for one low price.


This Puppet Is . . .


Artwork ©1999 Raven Mimura

In Puppetland, there are no numerical attributes and no dice. Characters are described using a common set of descriptors plus a few custom ones, a bit similar to Over the Edge.

When I first designed Puppetland, my standard descriptors were a bit scattered. For the new edition we recently Kickstarted, I’ve revised that substantially to use a unified system. I think it may resemble that of the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG, but sadly I never actually read it and am unsure.

Anyway, here’s a look at that section of the new Puppetland rulebook.

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