On Monday, the legendary Syd Mead—easily one of the greatest illustrators/futurists of our time—passed away. He was 86. Normally, I use this series to highlight artists who I think need more attention. But I thought to take a moment to recognize someone who’s work influenced not only me but a generation of designers, artists, filmmakers, and architects to look forward and envision a better future.
“We don’t go into the future from zero, we drag the whole past in with us.”
Mead left an incredible impact and his legacy is enormous. So many speculative fiction properties were shaped by his neo-futuristic style: Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit, Star Trek, Star Wars, even Gundam and think how many of those have gone on to influence a new generation of creators. There’s a wonderful vibrancy to his work and it continues to resonate.
The city of Lovat in my Bell Forging Cycle, was heavily influenced by my experience with Mead’s paintings as a student—especially his work on Blade Runner. Something about his cramped and claustrophobic street scenes inspired me and they stayed with me years later when I set down to write. I’ve shared some of my favorites pieces below, perhaps they’ll inspire you as well. As always, you can click to view them larger.
If you like Syd Mead’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.
Today marks the birthday of the second book in the Bell Forging Cycle and the most divisive: Old Broken Road. I say divisive because it gets a lot of interesting reactions from readers, some folks love it, some do not. It’s certainly the creepiest and most “Lovecraftian” of the three. It also won’t be the last time we see Waldo Bell adventuring beyond the levels and warrens Lovat. Book Four (whose name is out there for those bold enough to look) promises to take us into parts beyond, but probably not in the way you’re imagining.
Divisive or no, 2017 has been a good year for Old Broken Road. Earlier this year, and thanks to a BookBub sale it was propelled to the Amazon Best Seller list, and I ranked among Amazon’s Most Popular Authors in Science Fiction and Fantasy for a brief time. It was a good month, February.
So Happy Birthday, Old Broken Road and thanks for a great year. Remember! All month long you can pick up a signed version of any of my books and receive free shipping from my store. (US only, sorry.) Just use the code: BFCMONTH on checkout. The code expires Halloween at midnight.
If you’ve missed it, I’ve been posting a lot of Bell Forging Cycle related content this month. Make sure you check out some of the following posts:
Welcome to Wild Territories, the series where I delve into the expanded lore and explore the inspiration behind small little details scattered throughout my Lovecraftian urban fantasy series, The Bell Forging Cycle. These posts will be spoiler-free, but you’ll probably appreciate them more if you have read any of books in the series. You can buy them here.
In the last entry, we explored The Mysterious Shamblers of the Scablands, and I asked everyone to vote on what topic they would like me to explore in this entry. The votes are in, and in this piece ,we’re going to examine something a bit different. Please join me as we explore part three of Wild Territories: Faiths and Creeds of Lovat.
There is a lot of ground to cover and this is going to be a long article, so if there is a particular religion you’re interested in, use one of the links below to jump to that specific entry. At the end of each feature there will be a link to bring you back to this menu.
Mentioned In:The Stars Were Right, Old Broken Road, Red Litten World Known Members: Priestess Samantha Dubois, Hagen Dubois, Bishop Dubois Places of Worship: Saint Mark’s (The Stars Were Right) (Pictured)
“The Reunified Church is as old as anything in our ancient world.”
Shortly after the Aligning, most of the fragmented denominations of earth’s former faiths were destroyed or significantly reduce in number. Under the caring and watchful leadership of Ebenezer Alvord, the dispersed congregations were eventually reunited under a single banner, The Reunified Church, eventually establishing a hierarchy of bishops, priests, monks, and nuns. Over the years, their influence widened as congregations began to crop up across the Territories. Missionaries, called Road Priests/Priestesses, crisscross the trails and highways riding small chapelwains pulled by teams of oxen. From these mobile churches, missionaries lead simple services, serve out rust wine, and hear confessions for small communities scattered throughout the Territories.
Historically the Church had existed in Lovat since its rebirth. During the city’s tumultuous early years the Reunifieds were more militaristic and fought an extended religious war against the Hasturian Faith. These ‘Doctrine Wars’ lasted half a century, and as a result, many of the Reunified churches and cathedrals developed a fortress-like appearance. Walls and battlements ring the buildings and armed guards have been seen walking the walls, ever vigilant. While the church has become more peaceful in recent years, it still retains a small but powerful standing army, and Priest and Priestess alike are required to take self-defense classes.
Much of the Reunified faith is a continuation of its ancient Abrahamic religious heritage with a belief centered on a single divine deity. Since the Doctrine Wars, several splinter denominations have eventually spun away from the faith, notably the Reformed Movement, Salamshalla, Reunified Orthodoxy, and the Brethren. While core beliefs in each sect remain similar, overall, the church is considerably different from its pre-Aligning roots. Many of its post-Aligning practices, holidays, traditions, and saints would be unrecognizable to early pre-Aligning practitioners.
Today, many Lovatines respect the church, but Reunified history is not without controversy. While all sects of The Reunified Church openly welcome all species, that has not always been the case. Early in its formation, the church held to a strict human-only policy and banned non-human species from its services. The Purity Movement, a splinter sect of Reunified Brethren led by the charismatic Conrad O’Conner, claim to trace their roots back to the early Reunified Church and continues to preach human superiority and exclusion. Something the church and its sub-sects have vehemently disavowed.
An estimated 28.7% of Lovatines claim some connection with the Reunified Church making it the largest religious organization in the Territories.
Arriving with the emergence of the dauger sometime after the Aligning, The Followers of the Cold Shepherd, more commonly known as the Hasturian Faith, is structured similarity to the early Reunified Church. However, it is ‘Ministers’ not Priests or Priestesses who lead congregations and church members refer to one another as ‘sister,’ ‘brother,’ or the gender neutral ‘sibling.’
The faith centers on the worship of Hastur, a deity of some mystery. Hastur’s origins are strange, and the church’s religious text—The Pallidon—isn’t clear on the subject. Congregations are divided into two wings that teach two separate origins for their god; Monarchists preach that Hastur was once a king of a great golden city while the more Continue reading Faiths and Creeds of Lovat→
Last weekend, I finished reading Aldous Huxley famous dystopian novel, Brave New World. It was as good as I remembered and was a pleasure to re-read it during in my “Year of Classics.” But, this isn’t a post about classic dystopian novels; this is a post about storytelling and swag. Say whhhaaaat?
Allow me to explain how I got here. Within the novel, Huxley references “feelies” a sort-of hybrid source of entertainment where all senses are stimulated. While musing over this, I decided to do a little research. So I quickly googled the term and was surprised to learn that “feelie” was not only a Huxley invention (or a college-rock band from the eighties) it was also a slang term used in video games, particularly for a type of swag.
A feelie was the name given to the bonus content included with the boxed versions of video games in the late eighties and early nineties. Props, booklets, coins, runes, histories, cloth maps, and much more. These started with Infocom titles such asZork, Planetfall, and the game version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Now, I realize that tchotchkes or swag is common across a lot of industries, and it’s something that crops up in the book industry as well. Go to any convention and you’ll come away with a haul, bookmarks, pens, bottle openers, tote bags, stickers, rubber bracelets, flyers. It’s popular and plentiful. I always have loads of swag at my table; I know many other authors do as well. Swag in its most rudimentary form is effectively an advertisement; feelies go a step further. They add a little something extra.
For example, Brandon Sanderson sells vials of allomantic metals similar to the ones allomancers imbibe in his Mistborn series. Hugh Howey once gave away Fallout Shelter passes (that doubled as USB drives) from his Wool series. In my own work, you can picture the dust-covered roaders of Bell Caravans wearing patches while on the trail. You get extra information from Wal’s notes scrawled on the Map of the Known Territories. There are hints at the history of the city in the illustrations on the Syringa postcard. These details are what separates a feelie from typical swag, a good feelie helps to expand its world as well as enhance it, they assist in making a fictional world feel real, they establish it as a place you can touch.
I’ve been a big fan of this approach for a long time. To me, it’s another aspect of worldbuilding. Only instead of with writing you’re doing it with objects. The feelie reminds me of an alternate reality game, going beyond the page to establish a real-world presence for our fictional creations and increasing immersiveness. My books have always been seeded with a little something extra so why not carry that over to other outlets as well? I’ve scattered extra stuff throughout websites, in bookmarks, in posts on this blog, and on Tumblr. The Bell Caravan patches come with Caravan Employee Registration documentation, stamped by the Lovaine Caravan Authority, of course, and signed by Wal. (It’s also full of subtle little references.) I find this attention to details adds little extra for the reader who is willing to put in the time. There’s something very engaging when you introduce someone something tangible to connect them to a piece of fiction. To me, that is much more interesting than a tote bag or tee shirt with a book cover on it.
I’m cooking up a few new ideas as well, so there’s always more to come. I’ve been dreaming up feelies for my secret fantasy project, and I have some great ideas for the Coal Belly series, and The Bell Forging Cycle (as I mentioned, some of the latter is already out there, providing one is willing to put in the legwork to discover it.) I love making stuff associated with my world, and I love sharing those creations with readers. (I even give away swag packs for free.)
Now, how about you? What do you think of feelies? Do you prefer them to regular swag or do you find them silly? What has been your favorite feelie you’ve purchased or received? Are you a creator who has made something extra for your world? I’d love to see your creations, and I’m sure others would as well. Feel free to post a link in the comments and share them with all of us.
A while back, I mentioned that the some of the free tchotchkes I make up for my book launches and conventions was starting to arrive. Well, on Thursday the last of it showed up in the post. That means Red Litten World swag packs are now available! Swag packs can be acquired at conventions, by purchasing signed copies of my books from my store, or ordered individually. They’re technically free, the dollar I charge at my store is to cover the cost of shipping. Or, you can send me a SASE I’ll happily send ’em to you. (Details on the Free Stuff page.) Let’s take a look at Red Litten World‘s swag…
The Red Litten World Bookmarks:
Each pack includes three bookmarks unique to Red Litten World. There’s the title bookmark featuring the lettering of Jon Contino and the Gustave Doré etching. The gargoyle bookmark features a quote from Wal taken from the book. Finally, there’s the Cedric’s sign a new location that will be revealed in the book. (There’s a fun animated version of this over on Tumblr.)
The Red Litten World Stickers:
Behold! The first colored swag for The Bell Forging Cycle! It’s not that I am averse to color, a lot of the black and white tone I set here and over on Instagram is really just a branding decision. (Also, black and white just looks sharp.) The Red Litten World title sticker is straight forward. I thought the “i got fed at Ced’s” was too fun not to do. (I’ll go into its design in a moment.) The story behind the elephant sticker is a secret. To find out more you’ll just have to read the book. Finally, there is the seal of Lovat which is a symbol that get’s stamped on Caravan Employee Registration Packets and other official city documentation.
The Red Litten World Button:
I love buttons, and the “i got fed at Ced’s” message works so perfectly in this format. I wanted it to have 70s vibe to it, mimicking the buttons and slogans that were popular during that era. The font is Caslon Black, which was designed by David Farey in the 90s and is influenced by a Caslon similar to the one used on this Carole King album. Design-nerd explanations aside, it’ll look groovy on your jean jacket.
I’m really happy with this whole set, the stickers might be my most favorite sticker set of the whole series. I like expanding the universe of The Bell Forging Cyclein weird and interesting ways and I think these little items go a long ways towards that goal.
What do you think? What’s your favorite? What’s your least favorite? Are there any other cool little giveaways I should try? Leave a comment and let me know!
For a while now, I had had readers ask me about a map forThe Bell Forging Cycle. Between The Stars Were Rightand Old Broken Road, Wal covers a lot of ground. However, I didn’t want to do any old fantasy map. The Bell Forging Cycle is, well… it’s unique and it deserves a unique treatment. So, with the release date announcement for Red Litten Worldlooming, I figured this was the perfect time to share the official map. [Spoilers Ahead: If you haven’t read Old Broken Road be warned, the following images contain spoilers.]
Picture yourself as a caravan master eager to lead your first company down the Big Ninety as soon as Lovat and Syring put away their differences and the Grovedare reopens. As a favor to you, Wal offers to tell you what he knows (for the cost of a meal, of course.) So you agree meet at a diner in the city. The place he picks is a hole in the wall named Cedric’s Eatery. It’s located in Denny Lake, a cramped warren in north-central Lovat. The diner itself is located below the street, in the entresol between Level Three and Four. You’d have never found it on your own.
Wal’s there, sitting at one of the high-backed booths as you enter. He smiles and waves you over. You both order some food from the limited menu and Wal dives into what he knows. He talks about schedules, dealing with the rowdy clients, popular waystations, and so on. So you can follow along, you’ve brought along a well-worn map you picked up from a roadside depot that covers the major trails between Lovat and Syringa. As he talks, Wal grabs a pen and begins to annotate his favor spots for food, known bandit camps, and even his recent experience on the Broken Road. The result is this:
Tada! An annotated Bell Forging Cycle map of the known Territories. It’s too big to really show properly in the narrow column of the blog. You’re not going to get much out of it unless you click on the image and view it larger.
What do you think? I had a lot of fun making this and I hope it helps you visualize the world a little bit more. It won’t be the last map we see, as the series progresses, I’m planning to reveal more of the world little by little. But for now, next time you’re on the trail, and if you have a hankering for the best bánh mì in the Territories you’ll know where to look.
I’ve gone ahead and made this map available as a downloadable background as well. You can click on any of the links below, or head over to the Free Stuff page and find it (and other goodies) there.