I’m Going to Be a Speaker at Glasgow International Fantasy Convention!

Last month I saw a post on the SFWA website calling for papers and presentations for GIFCON, the Glasgow International Fantasy Convention, and decided to submit a presentation on my Rats in the Walls project. Now, I found out I’ve been accepted–I’m going to Scotland to be a speaker at the con (March 29th-30th)!

“The Rats in the Walls,” inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft, was something I put together for the Twitter Fiction Festival, but it quickly became something bigger. It received some coverage by folks like The Dusty Rebel and ANIMAL New York, and it kept me sane while I was unemployed. Otherwise, I might have been up in a clock tower with a rifle rather than drawing chalk summoning circles.

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Here’s the abstract for the presentation:

The Rats in the Walls: Storytelling That Blurs History, Reality, and Fantasy

Two years ago, an anonymous figure in a white mask began appearing in Lower Manhattan, handing out cryptic messages and drawing occult diagrams in chalk. ‘Kilroy’, as the figure called himself, claimed to be the spokesperson for an enigmatic group called ‘THE RATS IN THE WALLS’, which was planning an apocalyptic event that would shake all of NYC. In reality, this was the beginning of a carefully planned, city-wide fictional narrative played out over two months and multiple mediums, including scavenger hunts, original video, and live performances.

“The Rats in the Walls” project incorporated elements of New York history, graffiti culture, and the work of H.P. Lovecraft to create an innovative, meta-textual storytelling experience that turned Lovecraft’s signature obsession with cosmic horror and local history into a narrative that blurred the boundaries between fantasy, reality, and urban legend. My presentation would take the form of a faux-journalistic account of the history of the Rats in the Walls, beginning with Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” (which will be treated as history) and ending with the fictional apocalyptic event Kilroy and the Rats brought about in 2015.

Along the way, the presentation will illustrate how the project incorporated elements of alternate reality games (ARGs), alternate history, worldbuilding, and metatextuality. The importance of live storytelling, the use of technology to create dynamic narratives, and the practical challenges and methods that come with allowing wide-scale audience participation will also be addressed.

I’m Going to Be a Speaker at Glasgow International Fantasy Convention!

Five Years Worth of Sketches: Ritual Magic, Death Masks, and Helmets

This weekend I finally started digging into about 5 years worth of sketches and thumbnails doodled in the margins of my school notes. The majority of the sketches are for helmets, masks, and faces, but there are some symbols and ritual magic designs.

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Most of the helmets on the left are meant for Redcaps, which are elves that have warped their bodies into killing machines. Their helmets usually have a grinning skull motif, like death masks. On the right are robes, designs, and a mask for a necromancer. The almond-shaped mask design is one of the oldest masks I made.

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Most of the designs on the left are ritual hook designs, surrounded by symbols. I’m not sure what I’ll use them for yet. The other symbols scattered around the page are for necromancy. On the far bottom-right corner is a sketch of the god of death, Erroth.

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I’ve been experimenting with creating a language of symbols for magic based on Chinese or Japanese pictograms. The two blocks in the center and left are some automatic drawing examples. On the right is a design based around the mask of the god of death.

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More helmets on the left, and death masks on the right. The mace in the middle is a take on the Gae Bolga, the famous weapon of Cuchulain, the Irish hero.

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These are some assorted drawings of faces, including the skull-like face of a necromantic character and the alien-like neck and head of Absurdity, which is an embodiment of chaos.

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Outer Places, GIFCON, and Clarkesworld Magazine!

Three big pieces of news!

First, I’m taking on the temporary title of Interim Managing Editor for Outer Places, the sci-fi/science site where I work! My official title is Staff Editor, but until a new managing editor is found, I’ll be taking on that role and managing OP’s output and marketing. I’ll probably be heading out to SDCC, WonderCon, and NYCC this coming year to help cover events and speak on new panels too, which is amazing!

Second, Clarkesworld Magazine accepted my new pitch for an essay on magic and worldbuilding! For the past several years I’ve been bugged by magic in different books and games, especially The Elder Scrolls, because it’s often treated like a science where mages can ‘experiment’ and harness ‘magical energy.’ The way I see it, treating magic like science will inevitably create a domino effect within the fantasy world that leads it to turn into a world like ours, one where magic is harnessed like any other natural phenomenon. Magic will stop being magic, and Middle-Earth will become just ‘Earth’.

Third, I submitted a presentation proposal to GIFCON, the Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations convention, outlining a lecture I want to give on ARGs and The Rats in The Walls, my April 2015 project. I got an email last week that my proposal is under consideration, and that I should hear back around mid-January. We’ll see!

Finally, two of my friends got me a new poster:

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Looking forward to 2017!

Outer Places, GIFCON, and Clarkesworld Magazine!

I Just Published a New Piece on Multiverse, TSR’s Blog!

Back in college, I used to keep a sticky note attached to my laptop titled “Things Chris Mahon Believes In”. In order, they were:

  1. Ursula LeGuin’s “Wizard of Earthsea”
  2. Princess Mononoke
  3. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  4. Milk

The sticky note was there to anchor me, and remind me why I do what I do. I used to read and write a lot about moral philosophy, and a lot of my writing is still informed by that, but day-to-day, I always found myself returning to stories for inspiration and a reason to get out of bed.

Thanks to Outer Places (the sci-fi website where I work), I got to write a piece on my seven favorite sci-fi/fantasy movies and books for TSR’s blog, Multiverse! You can read the article here, but here’s the list:

  1. Wizard of Earthsea
  2. Dune by Frank Herbert
  3. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  4. Princess Mononoke
  5. Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
  6. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  7. End of Evangelion

This list isn’t definitive, but it’s a good chunk of what I love. There’s no H.P. Lovecraft on there (because most of his work is short stories and novellas) or Paranoia Agent or Serial Experiments: Lain (both TV shows), nor is there any manga/graphic novels (Vagabond or Uzumaki or V For Vendetta or Prophecy), and I couldn’t include things like The Seventh Seal or Man of LaMancha because those films aren’t technically fantasy.

Still, it’s a good shortlist and amazingly cool that it’s been published. It’s now “ON THE RECORD.” Woop woop!

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I Just Published a New Piece in The Portalist!

After sending in a pitch to Open Road Media’s new sci-fi/fantasy site The Portalist back in November, I wrote up a listicle on the 5 Most Elaborate Sci-fi Alternate History Books, including H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, PKD’s Man in the High Castle, and William Gibson’s Difference Engine. Now it’s live on the Portalist site! Huzzah!

Today I also sent in my third non-fiction pitch to Clarkesworld Magazine on the topic of magic and worldbuilding in fantasy–we’ll see what they say. My last two essays with Clarkesworld were on “The Candlelit World,” about mythology’s influence on fantasy, then “Paradise Lost,” about the history of the genre. They’re a fantastic publication.

In the meantime, I’m still working on my new short story with Yute, incorporating some of the ideas I picked up from my new book on wabi-sabi and the Japanese tea ceremony.

I Just Published a New Piece in The Portalist!

New Books! Wabi-Sabi and Tibetan Buddhism

So I swung by the Spoonbill & Sugartown Bookstore in Brooklyn today while running errands and some cool books. The bookstore itself was fascinating and had a lot of cool, eclectic titles, including the Atlas Obscura and the new Non-Stop Metropolitan. There was a surprising amount of stuff on magic and mysticism, which caught my eye. In the end, though, I picked out these two to help me with my Buddhist-inspired fantasy worldbuilding.

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, and Philosophers

“An updated version of the seminal 1994 classic volume on the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

Wabi-sabi is something I’ve always wanted to read more about, but all I could ever find was the Wikipedia page. I’m really interested in its connection to Zen Buddhism.

Wabi-sabi, as I understand it right now, is an aesthetic and life philosophy that centers on incompleteness, flaws, and authenticity. It has a lot in common with Daoism and Buddhism, and can be extrapolated to everything from dishware to clothing and architecture. I’ve always thought it was cool how people found ways to turn living into an art, especially when the that ‘art’ is tied up with the inevitability of death and decay.

 

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

“A newly revised and updated edition of the internationally bestselling spiritual classic, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, written by Sogyal Rinpoche, is the ultimate introduction to Tibetan Buddhist wisdom. An enlightening, inspiring, and comforting manual for life and death that the New York Times calls, “The Tibetan equivalent of The Divine Comedy.”

I’m kind of wary of bestselling books written by self-identified Buddhist monks (especially the Dalai Lama), but I thought this would be a good reference point for creating a philosophy about life and death for my world. One of the things I’ve realized is that I don’t have much in mind for burial procedures or rituals, let along day-to-day philosophy.

Tibetan Buddhism also produced the Bardo Thodol, which I still haven’t read, but want to.

New Books! Wabi-Sabi and Tibetan Buddhism