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You Like Me Because I’m a Scoundrel

I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was...

Powerful Words from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Anton Strout

Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland...

Only Days Left to Back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology!

There are only a couple days left to back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology on Kickstarter! Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Mercedes Lackey & Dennis Lee, Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Anna Spark Smith, Cullen Bunn, Walidah Imarisha, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Clay Sanger,...

Warlock 5 Author Interview: Cullen Brunn

Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn. But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat...

Kane Gilmour on The Rise of Kaiju Prose

As we cruise into the middle of 2018, it might be difficult, surrounded as we are with great kaiju novels and anthologies, comics, and Pacific Rim Uprising rampaging across theater screens, to recall a time when kaiju fans were at a loss for good material. And while...

What’s In a Character’s Name?

Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you're more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in...

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

In addition to wearing the Editor in Chief hat here at Outland Entertainment, I also write about pop culture in enough places that I've found it useful to follow the news. While this is particularly relevant for geek news, there are some headliners you just can't...

Press Release: Blackguards Anthology Gets Facelift

Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories. Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry…

A Letter to My Past Self

Dear Greg (in 1986), So you’ve just turned fourteen, and you’ve just entered your freshman year of high school.  I wanted to send you...well, not a pep talk, exactly.  You’ve never liked or trusted those; they’re treacherous, and too often they’ve been empty promises,...

Fighting The Voices in My Head

This article by fantasy author Melanie R. Meadors first appeared Geek Mom: Geek Speaks...Fiction! Here, Melanie tells us about how she fought the voices (of the characters) in her head…and lost. When editor Marc Tassin invited me to write for the anthology, Champions...
You Like Me Because I’m a Scoundrel

You Like Me Because I’m a Scoundrel

I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was pretty nifty. (It was even more fun as a segment in later Star Wars video games). But there was some core element of Star Wars I felt was just absent.

It didn’t take me more than a few times watching it to realize that what the film didn’t have was Han Solo.

I don’t mean Han Solo literally. What I wanted was a loveable rogue. (You’ll note that I found a TV Tropes link for the character type–that’s how common it is). It’s all well and good to have the earnest hero in the center of things. That’s kinda their job. But there needs to be someone around with a smirk and a wink and a hard edge—a little too cynical to believe in the mythic importance of everything around them (even if they’re later proven wrong). Sometimes it’s their job to undercut the narrative, to give it a little breathing room so the audience can laugh. Pretty typically, their witticisms are the ones people leave the theater quoting. They’re not in this story for the higher mission of the plot. They’re in it for some selfish reason.

But not really. Because when the chips are down, they show up to help save the day.

Or, actually, they don’t.

Even though I grew up with the Han Solo type of scoundrel and grew into the Malcolm Reynolds kind of scoundrel (as a freelancer, “I do the job, and then I get paid” became a mantra for me), I’ve developed a bit of a taste for the varied palate they can offer. Around the time I was loving Firefly, I was also reading Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. Which centers on a character who is, effectively, a crime lord in at least a portion of his novels. He’s an assassin. He’s not a nice man. But he’s affable, the kind of narrator you want to follow on whatever mission it is he’s undertaking. And, even when it’s not really the right thing, you want him to win.

I followed Mark Henry’s “Amanda Feral” series, which is narrated by a zombie socialite. Who eats people. Sometimes they’re not even bad people, it’s just that she’s a zombie, and. Well. It happens. And while the whole experience of hanging out with Amanda is kind of like being a spectator to a train wreck, it’s a glorious spectacle.

More recently, there’s Marvel’s Loki, whose Road Movie-like dialogue with Thor was the best thing about Thor: The Dark World. Never quite knowing what side Loki is on is a big part of his appeal—but, even moreso, that he’s ambiguous with charm. If you want to talk about a fan favorite character—I think it’s probably a safe bet that there’s more fan fiction about Loki on the Internet than any of the Marvel heroes. (I’m not going to actually go count them, but I stand by my suspicion).

And while characters like Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart from Ilona Andrews’s “Kate Daniels” series are absolutely the heroes—they’ve got a bit of a edge on them as well. Kate, a former mercenary, private investigator, and also the daughter of one of the universe’s big evils, isn’t always good at playing nice. Curran, who for much of the series is the leader of all the shapeshifters in Atlanta, creates a code for his own people, but doesn’t always play nicely by the rules of non-shapeshifters. They’re a pair for whom the default response is to hit the problem with a sword, and to do so with a gleeful, maniacal smile that makes bystanders scared for their lives.

Fantasy and science fiction thrive on the morally ambiguous characters who can reel you into their stories and make you want them to win, even when they’re the bad guys. While I’m no psychologist, I suspect there’s something cathartic about rooting for the scoundrel. When you’re part of a community (a family, a town, a nation), it’s important to follow the rules—but it’s not always fun. Diplomacy is hard. Sometimes just getting along with other members of your community is hard.

Rooting for the guy who doesn’t have to follow those rules? Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. In all the varieties possible.

As Han says, “There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

In addition to wearing the Editor in Chief hat here at Outland Entertainment, I also write about pop culture in enough places that I’ve found it useful to follow the news. While this is particularly relevant for geek news, there are some headliners you just can’t miss. In this case? It’s the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry of Wales and American actress (ret) Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. While I’d love to get swept up in the romance of the moment, I’m also a fan of mixing my real-world with some SFF—which is why I came up with these four ways to prep (with a side order of geek).

  1. Watch Meghan Markle’s SFF works

Although she’s best known for her role on USA drama Suits, the princess to be has also dabbled in SFF appearances. She appeared as a guest star on the 2008-09 revival of Knight Rider. Catch her as Annie Ortiz in the episode “Fight Knight.” She also appeared as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup on Fringe in the 2009 episodes “A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects.” And though this film itself isn’t SFF, Remember Me features Markle with in scenes with star and SFF regular Robert Pattinson.

  1. Get hooked on Royally Yours

If you love a good prose serial the way I do, the obvious choice for royal wedding prep is the new serial being launched by in tandem Serial Box and Rakuten Kobo, Royally Yours, which launched May 2. This six-part feel-good romance mini series intertwines relationships of several different characters in the style of Love, Actually as a fictional royal wedding takes center stage. The serial is created by a team of writers, including Megan Frampton, Kwana Jackson, Liz Maverick, Kate McMurray, and Falguni Kothari, in a television-like environment.

  1. Get the latest on podcast Spilling Royal Tea

If you’re more interested in the real-time news TMZ style, you can tune in to Sean Mandell (TMZ) and Craig Robert Young (British actor) as they cover the latest wedding developments and put them in a historical perspective. Are Harry and Meghan sticking with tradition or striking it out on their own? Sean and Craig answer the questions with commentary in every episode of Spilling Royal Tea. Episodes drop every Thursday until the May 19 wedding celebration, and the series is very bingeable. There’s a “Best of” playlist through Spoke, where you can check out the season’s highlights. Of particular interest for our readers might be “Old Royal Weddings Were Shady AF,” because sometimes the real world totally beats fiction when it comes to being ridiculous.

  1. Check out the best SFF royal (and seriously cool) weddings

If you’re not really following the upcoming nuptials, but the romance puts you in the mood to revisit other happy couples, it might be time to reread or rewatch some excellent weddings from SFF favorites. I wrote an article for Den of Geek that’s chock full of suggestions (and summaries), but here are a few I didn’t fit into that post:

  • Pick up that classic princess bride story, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, or rewatch the classic film. “Mawwiage… Mawwiage is what bwings us togeva today…”
  • Worf and Jadzia Dax’s wedding plans don’t always go smoothly in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 season 6 episode “You Are Cordially Invited,” but even though the Klingons aren’t initially a big fan of Dax, by the end, even the staunchest opponents from Worf’s House welcomed Dax into the family.
  • Another Star Trek couple married in Voyager season 7 episode “Drive”: Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres.
  • While this one doesn’t last, it’s always fun to return to the Firefly episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” There’s a sweet ceremony in which Captain Mal unknowingly gets married to con-artist Saffron, making for great comedy while endangering the whole crew.

What are your favorite SFF weddings? Give us a shout out on social media and let us know!

Bringing You Stories, However You Like Them

Bringing You Stories, However You Like Them

There’s a saying that goes around (books are written on this topic, and serious research done by anthropologists) that storytelling is what makes us human. If storytelling is that core to our identities as people, it’s no surprise that we like to ingest stories in so many different ways. We consume click-bait headlines that lead us to (probably) true stories, our favorite movies through our preferred streaming systems, high definition video games or tabletop RPGs, the latest issues of a comic or latest updates of a webcomic, and (gasp!) print books.

And you know what’s fun? When you can see stories in more than one format. I am an old school Star Wars fan, and as a teen I hit the sweet spot of getting my Star Wars in multiple formats (before, of course, the explosion of new Star Wars stories). Not only did I watch the films over and over again, but my public library bought every single new Expanded Universe (EU) book as it was published. I devoured them. I was ecstatic when Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade got married in a comic (the only Star Wars EU comic I still own). Eventually, being a grownup got in the way of keeping up with the EU, in part because so many books got published, but I still dabbled. And I loved it.

Fast forward not only to the new Star Wars canon (I have Elizabeth Wein‘s Cobalt Squadron on my desk, and if you’re not reading the Marvel run on Star Wars that started in 2015, you are missing some awesome stuff), but to my job at Outland Entertainment. Creative Director Jeremy Mohler and I have had a lot of discussions about our visions for the company. We have these fantastic comics, anthologies, and games that we publish, and we love them. But what could we do to make those projects even better?

And this is our answer: Let our readers dig into our stories in all of the formats they want.

Having grown up with shared world projects that spread across media formats, and having written fiction, comics, role-playing games, and interactive novels, taking Outland in a transmedia direction made sense. We already had three formats we were publishing. Tying them together and giving readers more of the worlds and characters they loved across all our platforms has given us a mission. It’s also made us look at each project we take on and say, “How would this look as a game? Or a comic? Or a novel?”

If you’re a table top gamer, you may already be looking forward to the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG, a game based on Matt Forbeck’s fantastic novels (which we’ll be bringing out in omnibus format, complete with a brand new Max story). Matt is also on board to create an S&S comic. All three formats: one awesome world to explore.

If you’re a comic fan, you may have picked up Nightfell. We’ve started development for an RPG in that setting, as well as a novella to dig deeper into the world through prose. If you’ve come to us through fiction, such as the Blackguards anthology…well, we might just have some surprises in store for you coming up.

In the meantime, I’ve got a little bit of Star Wars reading to catch up on.

About Alana Joli Abbott

Alana Joli Abbott is the author of the novels Into the Reach, Departure, and Regaining Home, the interactive multiple choice novel app Choice of Kung Fu and was the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II. Her game writing has been featured in Steampunk Musha, the award winning Serenity Adventures, and Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Alana has visited ancient ruins around the world; sung madrigals semi-professionally; and recently earned her black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. She lives near New Haven, CT.

 

Where Do Kaiju Come From?

Where Do Kaiju Come From?

We’re pleased to highlight Alana Joli Abbott, who will be editing our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!

I have a three year old, so big monsters, in the form of dinosaurs, are a staple around my house. These creatures have strange names, roar, and stomp a lot. Most of the time, all of this happens through toddler filter, so my resident Tyrannosaurus Rex only comes up to my waist. But it’s safe to say that big monsters are very present in my life.

Before working on Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II, I didn’t know much about the origin of big monster stories in modern mythology. Were they dinosaur holdovers? Related to their fantasy-cousins, dragons and giants? Where do kaiju come from, anyway?

One of the things that I think is so cool about mythology is how it can evolve. Although I’ve found hints in articles that kaiju are the heirs of monsters from Japanese folklore, the truth is that they’re a specifically science fiction construct, even though they feel much older. While some kaiju might have an Elder Gods, Lovecraftian flare, kaiju were actually born in the 20th century—a mix of a filmmaker wanting to make bank on the popular Hollywood monster movies and the horror of atomic reality.

In the early 1950s, Japanese citizens were understandably wary—if not terrified—of the consequences of atomic weapons, having suffered two devastating bombings in 1945. Survivors of the bombings were named hibakusha, and were typically shunned due to public misunderstandings about radiation sickness and contamination. In 1954, fears of radiation were heightened again when twenty-three sailors aboard the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru got too close to the fallout of a thermonuclear test at Bikini Atoll. All twenty-three crewmembers suffered acute radiation syndrome. Although all but one recovered, those who were unable to hide their exposure to the radiation were shunned like the hibakusha, and the incident led to a growing fear of contamination in the fish. The fear was reasonable—the “danger zone” from the testing sites declared by the U.S. government underestimated the range that the weaponry would impact, and the fallout spread into an “expanded zone” that included the range of several fishing boats.

What would those fish do to people who ate them? What else might radiation do to the creatures inside the danger zone? Those very present fears, combined with the Japanese box office success of King Kong, created an opportunity for filmmaker Tomoyuki Tanaka to create a relevant, resonant genre of films. Gojira (Godzilla) released the same year as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru and it struck such a chord among Japanese and international viewers that the genre has continued to thrive and grow. The original Godzilla might have been a metaphor for nuclear weapons, but he later became something of a hero, defending humanity against other monsters.

So, Godzilla is the official start of the kaiju—but the idea of a large, prehistoric danger being awoken by the misdeeds of humanity? That’s an old, old story, and continues to be a staple of the SFF genres inside the kaiju medium and beyond. And perhaps it’s also a good thing to remember around my three year old: beware the wrath of the prehistoric imagination!

About Alana Joli Abbott

Alana Joli Abbott is the author of the novels Into the Reach, Departure, and Regaining Home, the interactive multiple choice novel app Choice of Kung Fu and was the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II. Her game writing has been featured in Steampunk Musha, the award winning Serenity Adventures, and Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Alana has visited ancient ruins around the world; sung madrigals semi-professionally; and recently earned her black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. She lives near New Haven, CT.

About Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II

A few years ago, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters smashed onto the book scene, collecting stories from some of the best writers of monsters in the business. Now, the age of monsters continues on with the follow up anthology, Kaiju Rising II, featuring stories from authors like Jeremy Robinson, Marie Brennan, Dan Wells, ML Brennan, Jonathan Green, Lee Murray, Cullen Bunn, and more! If you love movies like Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Kong, you won’t want to miss it. Support this anthology from Outland Publications on Kickstarter now, keywords Kaiju Rising.

We’re pleased to highlight Guadalupe Garcia McCall, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!