Archive for September, 2011

One week from today

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

One week from today is October 6, and you’ve got some big events to stick in your calendar.

Number one: I will be the keynote speaker at the UVU Book Festival. I’m speaking at 9am on the subject of “Where do you not get your ideas?” My basic premise is that ideas are easy to come by, and the tricky part is turning them into stories–which I will then explain how to do. The Festival costs 50 bucks, which is a pretty good deal for all the awesome writing instruction you’re going to get, so if you’re in the area come on down.

Number two: my brother’s book, an awesome SF thriller about a mysterious boarding school, comes out that day. The title is VARIANT, and the launch party will be that very same night, October 6, at 7pm at The King’s English bookstore in SLC. Rob will do a reading, we’ll have some cool giveaways, and you will love it. Trust me, and I’m not just saying this because he’s my brother: you REALLY want to read this book.

October 6 is going to be a big day, and you only have one week. Mark your calendars now.

Dear Game Companies: Maybe we need to see other people for a while

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I love games. Not so much video games, though I do play them occasionally. I’m talking about boardgames and card games; the kind of games where you read a rulebook and sit down with your friends and move little thingies around on a table. I LOVE them. And I am buying too many of them, and I need to stop.

Let’s take a look at the list. In the past few months I have acquired Nightfall, Battleship: Galaxies, Conquest of Nerath, Rune Age, Gears of War, Ikusa, and Star Trek: Fleet Captains. Over the next three months I am eagerly looking forward to Mage Knight, Legend of Drizzt, Risk Legacy, and Civilization: Fame and Fortune, and that’s after winnowing the list down to a still-not-necessarily-manageable size (I cut out all the Conflict of Heroes games, for example, and two different Napoleonic wargames). Dear game companies: I realize that I’m probably single-handedly propping up your industry with my addiction, but I need to take a breather. Can you please stop making awesome stuff? I barely have time to play the ones I have.

I’ll be reviewing all of these games over the next few days, because I love you so much, but first let’s talk about the ones I’m not buying. This week sees the release of two new sets of incredibly popular collectible games–both games that I love–and I have made the painful decision to not buy into either one of them. The first is HeroClix, a superhero-themed minis game (ie, “toy soldiers”), which is releasing a new set with a Superman theme–all of Superman’s greatest allies and enemies, together in one set. There are a few figures in this set that I’d like to have, but nothing that I need, so I’m just saying no altogether. I’m not a Marvel-is-better-than-DC guy; Green Lantern is my favorite superhero, and the new Wonder Woman comic is one of the best I’ve ever read. I just have no real interest in this set for some reason. The Legion of Superheroes figures look cool, though, so maybe I’ll–no. I will be strong. No more HeroClix until December, when the Hulk set comes out, and I’ll have to make another very painful decision.

The other collectible game I’ve been looking at is the mother of them all, Magic: The Gathering, which I like a lot but haven’t played in a long time. They just released their new set, called Innistrad, which has a gothic horror theme that I absolutely love. The art is evocative and gorgeous, the monsters are spooky, the villagers are terrified–how could I not try it out? So I went to a prerelease and tried it out, and…I don’t know. It didn’t work for me. It’s the same old Magic, which is good and bad; the new theme just didn’t come across in the gameplay. If I want to play a horror game I have Nightfall, Mansions of Madness, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Last Night on Earth, and so on. If I want to play a game of Magic with some horror tropes pasted on, Innistrad is an option, and I know that if I invested a ton in it I could build a really meaty theme deck about werewolves or possessed children or whatever, but for now I’m going to stay away. I have to make some choices, and Innistrad doesn’t make the cut. (I may change that tune when the next set comes out and develops the theme further, but we’ll see. I doubt it.)

There are many, many games that I want, but I trimmed the fat and kept only the absolutely coolest, must-have games on my “get this” list. Mage Knight is ostensibly based on an old fantasy minis game by WizKids, the same people who make HeroClix, but the new one is a boardgame far removed from both the mechanics and the flavor. What makes it so appealing is that it’s designed by Vlaada Chvatil, a Czech game designer who combines the “efficient use of resources” mentality of European games with the “dragons and robots beating each other up” mentality of American games. In Mage Knight he combines fantasy questing with territory control, sprinkled with a bit of deck-building (the gaming world’s hot new thing), used in what appears to be a very cool and clever system. I desperately want it, but I have yet to convince myself that I need it, no matter how clever it looks. I have quest games and army games and deck-building games a-plenty, and I don’t think I need any more. That said, it’s still on my “get this” list for now.

Legend of Drizzt is a dungeon-crawler in the same series as Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon, which I have praised effusively in the past. They’re very simple, even slightly abstracted, takes on dungeon delving, with cooperative mechanics based on 4th Edition D&D and a very slick monster automation system that scales well for different numbers of players. The games are simple and fun, perfectly filling the slot between “I want to play a fantasy adventure” and “I don’t have time for a big game.” Legend of Drizzt is exciting because, well, it has Drizzt, and Wulfgar, and Artemis Entreri, and all the other characters I know and love from the Bob Salvatore books. How could I not get this game?

Civilization: Fame and Fortune isn’t really a full game, it’s an expansion for the board game version of Civilization. It will add new nations, new mechanics, new map tiles, and most importantly a new player, bringing the total to five. I realize that I shouldn’t be complaining about this, because some people have no game group at all, but my game group is so big and active that we rarely ever get a four-player game on the table. Five is still problematic, but the game is a lot of fun and this will help us play it more often. Hooray!

The final game on the list is the weirdest, and the one I’m most excited about, and the one that if you’d told me a month ago I’d be excited about it I’d have slapped your dirty mouth. Risk, despite the fact that pretty much everyone in the world has played it, is a horrible, horrible game: the balance is off, the mechanics are silly, and meaningful strategy is virtually impossible. There have been a few versions I enjoy, such as Godstorm and 2210, but none of them stand high enough in their category to overshadow something like Conquest of Nerath or even Rune Wars. I never play Risk because there is always, invariably, something more interesting to play instead. So how could someone make me excited to play it again? By adding what is essentially a world-shaping campaign mode. Risk Legacy, due sometime in December, has the most brilliant gaming concept I’ve heard of in ages: physically altering the board, and the game itself, as you play it. Do you build a city in a certain space? Then you get to name it, and every time you play on that board that city will be there–until someone destroys it. Continents will be named by their conquerors; battles both glorious and horrific will be remembered by later generations; rules will change and grow as the game world goes on, and your battles will affect not just the current game but every game thereafter. You are creating, then, a literal legacy each time you play the game. Lots of boardgames have campaign modes (though not nearly enough of them), but I’ve never seen this type of thing reflected so extensively. It’s an almost sinful idea, writing on the gameboard and ripping up the cards, but that’s part of the allure. A game that never resets itself, where your decisions can never be unmade. I’m fascinated. I’ll probably buy multiple copies of this one, because that’s the kind of innovation I love to support.

So now you know what I’ll be spending my money on and/or getting for Christmas. What about those seven games I listed first, the ones I’ve already played? Watch this space, and I’ll review them all.

Sleeping Beauty in the Rye, a tale of #BannedBooksWeek

Monday, September 26th, 2011

This week is Banned Books Week, a time for us to look back on our long history of closed-minded foolishness and wonder, among other things, what kind of person would ban Charlotte’s Web. Someone who hates spiders? Or maybe someone who loves spiders and doesn’t want to see them die in fiction? Or maybe it was someone who loves bacon, and thinks the gross depiction of humans not eating a pig was too terrible to inflict on our young readers. Those are honestly my three best guesses; if you’re a crazy person espousing another reason I haven’t thought of, please let me know because I’m very curious.

Beyond the smaller issue of why someone would ban Charlotte’s Web (which is honestly, despite my jokes, one of the most frequently banned books in the US), is the much larger issue of why someone would ban any book at all. I assume that fear is the biggest reason, when you get down to it: fear that someone, most likely an impressionable child, will read a certain book and take from it an idea you perceive as dangerous, either to their personal well-being or to society as a whole. Catcher in the Rye, for example, is banned in part for language, and in part for two separate scenes of almost-sex: one where the narrator hires, talks to, and eventually sends away a prostitute, and another where he is nearly (but not quite) molested by a teacher. Shocking circumstances, certainly, but overall pretty amazingly tame when you think about it. Would you want your child to read a book about a boy who almost gets molested? Not really. But think about it this way: would you want your child to read a book about a boy who recognizes a dangerous situation, confronts the molester, and responds appropriately by leaving immediately? Hell yes. That’s EXACTLY the kind of thing I want my children to read. Don’t take that away from them.

Let’s take a look at what I consider to be the greatest metaphor of sexual education ever told; you know it as Sleeping Beauty. A girl is born and someone tells her parents “You better be careful, because when she hits puberty she’s going to be confronted by a situation that could alter and maybe even destroy her life.” Her parents have two choices: teach her how to handle that situation, or hide it from her and pretend like it doesn’t exist. They choose the latter, but inevitably the child encounters the situation anyway–you can’t pretend forever, and sooner or later the bad stuff is going to happen. The poor girl has no idea what this thing is, or what it’s for, or how to use it, and it’s no surprise to anyone when she immediately uses it wrong. Her life is ruined, and the warning comes true, not because the person who made the warning placed a curse on her, but because the girl’s parents failed to prepare her for the realities they knew she would eventually have to face. And then fairies come in and solve everything.

Imagine how differently the story of Sleeping Beauty would be if her parents had just cowboyed up and done their job: “Hey there, daughter, this is a spinning wheel. It’s an integral part of our life and culture, and you’re going to have to use it one day, but it can be pretty dangerous if you use it wrong. Have a seat and let me explain everything you need to know so you can be safe.” Her parents CANNOT protect her from everything, it’s literally impossible, but now she has the knowledge and the tools she needs to protect herself.

This is the part where you either agree with my metaphor or find some nit-picky fault with it, such as “parental intervention isn’t the same as not banning books.” Granted. The simple act of not banning a book is equal, in this case, to not hiding the spinning wheels. All that’s going to accomplish is to expose Sleeping Beauty to the danger much earlier and more frequently. What makes the system work, and what makes Sleeping Beauty safe, is when you, the parents, take the time to teach and explain and talk. “This is what a spinning wheel is, this is why it’s good, this is why it’s bad, and this is how you can use it safely.” That last part about using it safely can be anything you personally believe in, anywhere from “I don’t care, go crazy” to “make sure you wear some protection” to “Complete and total abstinence from spinning wheels until you’re married.” I’m not trying to promote a specific agenda here, I’m trying to get parents to take an active hand in teaching their children. Hiding the truth, and hiding from the truth, is not going to work. It never has. If you ban a book to protect your children, sooner or later they’re going to encounter exactly what you’re afraid of anyway, and they won’t be ready for it, and there won’t be any fairies around to save the day. You have to do it yourself.

Maybe you have more objections. Maybe you say that you can teach your children about the world just fine without JD Salinger’s help, thank you very much. That’s fine, I’m sure you can, but that doesn’t give you the right to take that opportunity away from anybody else. I don’t want you to control what my children read any more than you want me to control what your children read. If you, as a parent, decide that your children shouldn’t read Catcher in the Rye, more power to you. You know them better than I do, and I’m delighted you’re taking an active hand in their education. But if you, as a concerned neighbor, decide that NOBODY should read Catcher in the Rye, screw you. You don’t get to make that decision for my kids, or for me, or for anybody else, no matter how much smarter/holier/worthier you think you are.

I’m not trying to say that every banned book is an educational wonderland of upstanding moral fortitude. Sometimes a book is just nasty, and believe me, I’ve read a few of them, but I still don’t want to ban them, because that’s not my decision to make. If everyone has the freedom to explore their own media and make their own decisions, then instead of a lazy, ignorant community that lets other people think for them, suddenly we have a well-read, well-informed community of literate decision-makers, who have not only the freedom but the experience necessary to analyze their media, judge its value, and react as they see fit. If you read Catcher in the Rye and hate it, you know what? Awesome. I’m not going to argue with you, because you’re the kind of person who reads books, and that means you’re the kind of person capable of making your informed, personal choices. I like that in a person. Maybe we should hang out.

The big problem with parental responsibility, of course, is that it’s hard. The king and queen in Sleeping Beauty would have had to spend 16 years teaching their daughter instead of hiding the truth and trusting some fairies to make it all work out. That’s hard, and I know it; I have 4.9 children of my own, so I know exactly how hard it is. But they’re my children, and I need to be willing to act like a grown-up and take responsibility for them. Someday soon I’m going to have to read a book I don’t want to read, and/or a book I completely hate, because my daughter wants to read it, and I need to be involved in her education. I am not going to enjoy this process, and I may very well wish that someone would just take it out of the library altogether to save me the trouble. But someone else is going to love it, and maybe even learn from it, and I can’t take that away from them. They deserve the same right I had to love it or hate it at their own discretion.

Let’s increase the amount of wisdom and responsibility in the world. Celebrate Banned Books Week by going out and reading one.

Epic Puzzles & Games Magic Midnight to Morning

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Epic Puzzles & Games in West Valley, UT, is hosting a pre-release tournament introducing the new gothic themed set of Magic, the gathering from midnight to morning.

Epic Puzzles & Games
Date and Time: September 23rd, 2011
Time: Friday at midnight to Saturday morning!

Come to the tournament, open the shiny new cards, and play a few games; as soon as you kill a demon, shout it out and win a prize:

The John Cleaver Award: The first person to kill a demon wins a signed copy of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.
The Mr. Monster Award: The first person to kill two demons wins a signed copy of MR. MONSTER.
The Serial Killer Award: The first person to kill three demons wins an I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER T-shirt.

If you’re a Magic player of any kind, hardcore or casual, Pre-release tournaments are a blast–they’re very fun, very laid-back, and a great way to see the new cards. The new set, Innistrad, is full of imperious vampires and slavering werewolves and frightened peasants with pitchforks. Come by and hang out this Friday night at midnight. It’s going to be awesome.

Variant by Robison Wells ~ Book Release

Friday, September 23rd, 2011


Don’t Miss Rob on Oct 6th, 2011 for his Book Release Launch at The Kings English!

The Kings English ~
Address: 1511 South 1500 East
The Kings English Book Shop
Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Phone: 801-484-9100
When:Thursday
Time October 6th, 2011 @ 7:00 p.m.

Local author Robison Wells will read from and sign his debut book for young adults, Variant. Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, said this dystopian novel was a “chilling, masterful debut.”

Wells lives in Holladay with his wife and three kids. He recently finished graduate school, during which he read and wrote novels when he should have been studying finance.

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

My photo, shopped:

Secret Projects and Cool Events

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Cool event first: I’m a huge gaming nerd, as you may be aware, and Magic: the Gathering is releasing a new, gothic horror-themed set this weekend. You may be able to guess where this is going. I talked to my friends at Epic Puzzles & Games in West Valley, UT, and not only will I be playing in their midnight Prerelease tournament, I’ll be giving away some prizes. You see, the set includes a lot of demons, so players at the tournament will be able to earn cool stuff by killing them, kind of like unlocking achievements in a video game. Come to the tournament, open the shiny new cards, and play a few games; as soon as you kill a demon, shout it out and win a prize:

The John Cleaver Award: The first person to kill a demon wins a signed copy of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.
The Mr. Monster Award: The first person to kill two demons wins a signed copy of MR. MONSTER.
The Serial Killer Award: The first person to kill three demons wins an I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER T-shirt.

If you’re a Magic player of any kind, hardcore or casual, Prerelease tournaments are a blast–they’re very fun, very laid-back, and a great way to see the new cards. The new set, Innistrad, is full of imperious vampires and slavering werewolves and frightened peasants with pitchforks. Come by and hang out this Friday night at midnight. It’s going to be awesome.

Now: on to the secret project. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ve probably seen some cryptic comments about fezzes and mustaches and trips to costume shops. What does it all mean? The answer, as with so many of the weird things I do, involves Brandon Sanderson.

Brandon has a large, unfinished room in his basement, initially intended as a movie room, but he has decided to finish it as a sitting room/game room/writing room, decorated in the style of an old explorer’s club: old-timey globes, weathered maps, antique navigation equipment, artifacts from real and alternate histories, and portraits on the walls of the club’s esteemed past members. The portraits, of course, will be pictures of us with big bushy mustaches and pith helmets, holding blunderbusses and standing in front of dinosaurs and doing other similarly explorer-ish things. It’s going to be awesome.

So Brandon and Jordo (his brother, and the producer of Writing Excuses) and Peter (Brandon’s assistant) and some other people in our circle of weirdos started growing out beards and preparing for the photos. I didn’t want to do a big beard or mustache, though, because I tried that a year or so ago and really didn’t like it. I was, however, growing out my hair, so I decided to go a different direction with my costume: long hair, a pencil mustache, a white suit, and a fez. My dad has a replica Walther P38, the sidearm a lot of officers used in World War 2, so I threw that in as well. The result was a cool sort of Moroccan hit man kind of look that worked perfectly. It all came together last night, and the photos turned out great.

Point that thing somewhere else

The photo we chose for the actual portrait is currently being photoshopped into a variety of scenes: an archeological dig, a casbah, a street market, and so on, to see what we like best. I’ll post it here when it’s done. Shooting the photos was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what the other guys do for theirs.

Dungeon Crawlers Radio Interview

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Dungeon Crawlers Radio will be interviewing Dan at 6:00 p.m. on the 24th of October, 2011. Revan and the others at the radio station specifically will be discussing Dan’s latest and greatest. Find out more, much more on the 24th of October, access the event at www.dugeoncrawlersradio.com.

UVU Book Academy 2011

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Dan will be addressing current and aspiring writers as the key note speaker during the 2011 UVU Book Academy Conference on Thursday, October 6, 2011.

If you are interested in attending all the information for this years Book Academy is located on the UVU LINK.

And now: the cover of PARTIALS

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

I’ve talked about it, I’ve dropped hints about it, and I’ve even asked for your help coming up with future-y swear words and apocalyptic terminology. Now it’s time to show you the cover, so without further ado:
PARTIALS

I love this cover. It’s simple, evocative, and gorgeous; I love the typeface, the color palette, the whole thing. My only comment to the designer was that instead of on the side, my name should be in the center, as the girl’s lower back tattoo, but they didn’t go for that. Probably wise, as the character’s actual lower back tattoo says “This Space Left Intentionally Blank.” I’d hate to have a non-canonical cover.

The title, and the little catchphrase above it, refer to the Partials: a race of artificial people engineered in a lab, designed to go overseas and win a war for us. They won, and they came home, and after several years of oppression and marginalization they rebelled. Part of their attack was the release of another engineered organism, this time in the form of a virus that wiped out 99.994% of the human race. The few survivors in North America gathered in, or were herded to, Long Island, where they’ve tried to rebuild their lives and discovered that the virus is still there, as deadly as ever, and so far none of their children have been born immune. The book begins eleven years later, as a young medical intern named Kira begins to tries desperately to cure the virus and save humanity.

The book is awesome: lots of science, lots of adventure, a fair amount of romance, and a healthy dose of things blowing up (including at least one major landmark, which was perversely fun to write). It comes out on February 28 from Balzer & Bray, and I’ll be touring both online and in real life. Mark your calendars, tell your friends, and stock up on canned food and ammunition. The apocalypse is coming.

(Addendum: Why is this book with Harper instead of Tor? Nothing weird or saucy; Harper approached me to ask if I was interested in writing a YA post-apocalypse series, so I came up with this and they loved it. I will continue to publish with Tor, and in fact my next book with them, THE HOLLOW CITY, comes out in July of the same year.)