What do a lurcher rescue site, a journalist on Egyptian travel, a scientist’s view of RPG dice, and a blog about the writers of Weird Tales magazine have in common? We can’t be sure, except that they’re all worth a visit, and perhaps they embody the spirit of greydogtales. Eccentricity, curiosity and taking a chance. So come with us, dear listener, and have a look…
DICING WITH HOBBITS
Firstly the curious case of the d2. Years ago we used to be heavily involved in role-playing games. Seemingly endless sessions, some lasting until 4 in the morning, taking on the mantle of one fantastical figure after another. A lot of over-acting was involved. We mostly used the Dragonquest and the Powers & Perils systems, just to be wild and free from AD&D for a while.
Greydog’s favourite character was born of his distrust of hobbits. Sebastian Killingworth Sidewinder was an anti-hobbit.
Of humble origins on the edge of the hobbit world, born of a family of brigands, he didn’t comb his feet or look forward to a nice pie. His most likely interaction with noble elven folk was to rob them blind. Dwarves he viewed as hobbits after too many gym sessions. Humans were, of course, his favourite prey. Early in life he had discovered that a) most humans didn’t take hobbits seriously, and didn’t expect you to be a bastard, and b) if you came up behind them and knifed them in the kidneys, height no longer mattered.
Developing his own network of thieves, Sebastian ruled wisely. In the sense that he was wise enough to knife anyone who looked like a threat to his command position. And he was quite lucky with his dice rolls. This all came flooding back when we read a recent post at Skulls in the Stars. This fascinating blog described itself as “The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction”. With such a tag, we were always going to enjoy it. As the author says:
“The blog covers topics in physics and optics, the history of science, classic pulp fantasy and horror fiction, and the surprising intersections between these areas.”
The latest post there, The Geometry of Weird-shaped Dice, is a fascinating exploration of the sort of dice used in role-playing games. It’s erudite and scientific, but entirely accessible to anyone who’s ever argued over what a d120 said as it teetered on the edge of a rulebook. And instead of tossing a coin, now you can replace loose change with a two-sided dice, which is much cooler.
In the case of mercenary hobbits, even the d2s would have been fixed. Much more here:
The site also includes many and various posts on gaming, dark fantasy and classic horror amongst the science posts. This is also seems the time to repeat our recipe for hobbit pie:
- One plump hobbit
- One turnip, a couple of potatoes, one small onion
- Half a pound of bacon
- Handful of fresh thyme and sage; pepper
- Flaky pastry to cover
- Throw the turnip really hard and stun the hobbit
- Gently saute the onion, bacon and potatoes
- Add herbs and pepper
- Cover with pastry and cook for 45 minutes
- Eat with fresh crusty bread
When the hobbit regains consciousness, tell him that the pie’s all gone, and then laugh at his stricken expression. Gosh, you didn’t think I was going to suggest actually eating one of those hairy little horrors, did you? You’d be picking fur and toes out of your teeth for days…
TRAVELLING FOR EGYPTIAN GOLD
On to the next candidate. We were excited to find out last Autumn that Matt Bright’s new small imprint, Twopenny Press, was producing a collection of tales called Clockwork Cairo in 2017.
“An anthology of Egyptian-themed steampunk stories, it will take you an adventure from the steam-powered souks of Cairo, to the clockwork bazaars of Alexandria and the shadowy mysteries of the pyramids.”
In fact, jlg was quite keen to be involved, but time and other projects got out of hand. However, we werealready in the process of researching late Victorian and Edwardian travel for various other reasons, including the Last Edwardian series. While doing so, we came across another ace blog/site which is a fascinating resource of period material, Egypt in the Golden Age of Travel.
“As a new arrival in Cairo in 1988, Andrew Humphreys found the city’s hotels an appealing mix of the practical and the peculiar. An appreciation of contemporary hotel life led to a fascination with the hotel life of the past, and to the book Grand Hotels of Egypt and its follow-up On the Nile. Andrew, a journalist, editor and publisher, now lives in London but remains a frequent visitor to Egypt and an avid frequenter of its grand (and not so grand) hotels.”
We happened to share interests in one or two key travellers, including Amelia B Edwards, a pioneering early female Egyptologist who was also a writer of supernatural tales. Following our discussion, he wrote more about her here:
Andrew was extremely helpful over some period detail for future Edwardian fiction, and we recommend you have a look at both his site, and his books. The site has some marvellous stories of the past, so dig around there.
Matt Bright’s Clockwork Cairo will be out in May 2017, we believe, and we hope to say more nearer the time.
LURCHING TO VICTORY
This site as it is, greydogtales, wouldn’t exist with our late and mad grey lurcher, Jade, from Battersea Dogs Home, or our sane but weird longdogs Django and Chilli. In keeping with our “let’s do it” attitude, these latter two wonders only got to us because of the work of Lurcher Link in West Yorkshire.
At the time we were looking for one manageable dog to add to the herd. Then we glanced over the rescue dogs at Lurcher Link. Which was silly – so many dogs! And we noticed that a lovely woman in Essex was having to give up two of her dogs. She was hoping that they could be housed together if possible. It was clearly insanity to take on two large adult deerhound/greyhound crosses which we’d never met. So we made enquiries…
Without Lurcher Link we couldn’t have done it. They rigorously home-checked us, pointing out quite correctly that our brown labrador was too fat (she was) and that part of our fencing was too low. Every comment showed that that their primary concern was the welfare of the dogs (no-one wants fat lurchers), not our amusement, and that really impressed us. They helped co-ordinate the transfer, and even set up a foster arrangement, backed by their full support.
As is obvious, we went from foster to completely committed within days, but the presence of Lurcher Link allowed us to be sure about what we were doing. It made organised sense of what could have been a bewildering mess, and we’ll always be grateful. You can find out more about their work, their dogs and all sorts of interesting lurcher stuff here:
ZOMBIES ARE NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS
Finally, you may remember that every so often we go off on a trek looking at supernatural creations, avoiding hobbits wherever possible. Two examples are our Flying Dutchman excursion, and our three-parter on the true origins of the ghoul:
Somewhat by accident we came across another such excursion on a site called Tellers of Weird Tales, run by Terence E Hanley. In fact we poked our cold, wet noses in, as Mr Hanley was embarking on a fine voyage through the world of the zombie. He had already been investigating the earliest origins of the concept, prior to its mid/late 20th Century incarnations. Inevitably this involved looking at William Seabrook’s book The Magic Island (a key source for the film White Zombie), and references in literature before that time.
We chipped in to mention Hesketh Prichard’s (extremely biassed and racist) volume Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and About Hayti (1899-1900). A dubious book with some appalling political views, but it does include an unusual chapter by a white man observing Haitian folk magic at the time.
(Hesketh Prichard – nicknamed Hex – was, with his mother, the author of the Flaxman Low occult detective stories, which we’ve covered here a number of times.)
Tellers of Weird Tales has now more explorations on the theme, and their hunt for usage of zombi and zombie continues in a most interesting fashion. Check out the various articles there, and if you have time, note that there are hundreds of pieces on a wide range of noted Weird Tales authors, artists and related topics on the site.
Now we need to check if anyone has written a story about zombie hobbits. In Cairo. Playing dice with some lurchers…