It’s a New Year

A Cold Fire Within SSP Logo


The year that just ended is a difficult one for me to summarize. It was not the best year of my life, nor the worst. But it was possibly the most complex, with a number of major events and changes. As we get older, time seems to accelerate, and it often seems like years slip away. This year wasn’t like that for me, for the most part. The beginning of the year feels like it happened years ago to someone at a much different point in their life–and then there were years of experience in between then and now.

I started the year with a promotion, one that promised to upend my life just as much as if I had changed employment entirely. It more than fulfilled that promise. It was difficult and rewarding work. I learned a lot about what I am capable of. I also learned a lot about what my limits are. I went in there expecting it to break my heart, and I wanted and needed it to. Again, it more than fulfilled that promise.

Halfway through the year, I was offered another promotion, one that would yank me from the new trajectory and what my life was shaping up to be. It was not an easy decision overall, but circumstances lined up to where I decided to seize the opportunity. It’s taken me longer to adjust to this position and it’s responsibilities.

It was also a big year on the creative front. My first book as sole author, A Cold Fire Within, came out, the culmination of a lot of work and patience. It’s a bewildering feeling to see it in the world, and it means more to me than I would have ever imagined. I also helped set up a new publishing imprint, Stay Strange Publishing, as editor, and I and my partners saw our first release.

While at NecronomiCon Providence, I had the first major episode of atrial fibrillation in a couple of years, and I had to go to the emergency room. This was frustrating and distressing on a number of levels. I was on a working vacation at a convention I always look forward to, with friends I hardly ever see. My episode came about from ridiculous circumstances. In the past, it had been from physical exertion. This time, it was from minor stage fright performing karaoke. Waking up alone in my hotel room and still feeling my pounding, jittery heartbeat was terribly demoralizing. As I recently wrote, I have a plan in place, replacing the current one of treating my condition medicinally with a surgical solution.

And hardly least, I fully came out as genderqueer. This was something I had been considering for a long time, and I had already begun the process in 2018 in certain contexts. I’ve more or less understood who I am and what my perspective on gender, sex, and sexuality is for over twenty years. It has primarily been something internal rather than something to publicly acknowledge, and I had basically always thought it would remain that way. But experiences over the last few years led me to finally be explicit about this fundamental aspect of my life.

There are other significant events that took place for me this last year that had a profound effect on me, but these are the ones I can share publicly. It certainly seems like plenty.

I know a lot of people who have had a difficult and overwhelming year. I thank everyone who stood by me in my own struggles and offered their support. I can only hope that I have and will do the same for you.

Farewell, 2019, you messed-up monster of a year.



♪ Mommy-To-Be
Please let me be a
Mommy-To-Be ♪

That’s the jingle to the toy I dreamed of eight years ago that I was reminded of over on Facebook. It’s a harness with which a child can simulate pregnancy. When that child is ready, they can give “birth” to the baby doll inside.

Right before the “commercial” for Mommy-To-Be, I had already briefly dreamed of finding cosmetics for babies in what is apparently the worst department store in existence.

Stay Strange Publishing’s First Book

SSP LogoIt is my honor and pleasure to announce Stay Strange Publishing‘s first book, releasing on 8/19/19. Stay Strange has long been renowned for its contributions to outsider music and culture, helping to keep the sleepy border town of San Diego from slipping into absolute torpor. Now, Sam Lopez, Stay Strange‘s impresario, has joined with Patrick Loveland and me to add textual bizarreries to its assault on normalcy.
You’ve got a few ways to preorder this collection. The coolest way is through Stay Strange’s Bandcamp page, where you’ll get the physical book and a complimentary poster reproducing the vertiginous cover art, shipped free within the continental USA. You can also purchase print and ebook versions from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Here’s an important note: the printed version includes illustrations, and that is but one more reason to bring one into your happy home.
I also plan to have some copies at NecronomiCon, so you’ll have an opportunity to look one over if you’re attending.
I am proud to be playing a key role in this great new venture, and I am proud to edit this collection spotlighting Patrick’s time- dimension-, and genre-spanning work.

A Momentary Convention Encounter

I wrote this last year on social media, and I was reminded of it when San Diego Comic-Con International, possibly the most crowded and chaotic of pop-culture convention events in the world, ended this year. I edited one sentence that I had agonized over.

Comic-Con 2018 is over, leaving only memories. Here is one such memory of an intimate encounter I had on the dealer’s room floor.

We both strained toward each other, surrounded by sweating, pressing bodies. We had different goals in mind, but luck brought us together. Our eyes met—just for a moment—and I looked away. Then, it happened. As I tried to veer out of your hobbling path, your belly pressed into the back of my hand. Your soft flesh quivered against my unyielding knuckles, spreading to envelop them…filling every space they offered. I felt the heat radiating from beneath your T-shirt, running from my hand, up my arm, and to my core. Your husky body stood in place. My lean hand did not move. How long did this last? It felt like forever, with neither of us allowing our eyes to meet again—with neither of us voicing our desires.

We should have moved on, and, perhaps, we were always two male-bodied people in motion, each in our own directions—neither of us truly coming together with the other. This moment—this fleeting eternity—was all we would ever have. This collision of flesh—this hesitation—was everything and nothing. As our halting, passing embrace continued, I felt your supple belly languidly drag itself across my hand. Your flesh flowed and rippled, lingering as if you never wanted to lose my touch. One last moment, and then your skin sprang free from the edge of my hand. You moved on, leaving me unsure which way to go in all these strangers.

San Diego Pride 2016, 2019, and Beyond

This last weekend, I participated in two San Diego Pride events with the San Diego County Library: outreach at Trans Pride and marching in the parade. This morning, Facebook showed me what I wrote on social media during Pride weekend in 2016:

Happy Pride weekend, San Diego. Never stop, never rest. Your enemies will not.

In the early 1990s, I attended my first Pride parade. I cried when, for a moment, I was overcome by a glimpse of a world better than the one I had been told to settle for.

In 1999, someone threw a teargas canister during the parade. I saw a distant white mass of smoke drifting down the street. An announcer in the stand across from us calmly but urgently spoke into the microphone: “This is teargas, people.” Moments later, it was on us. In seconds, I was reduced to fumbling instinct–unable to see, disoriented, in pain. I had no idea where Arianne was and no way of doing anything to ensure her safety. I didn’t know what was going to happen during the chaos to the pregnant woman who had stood near us or any of the children in the audience. I felt along the wall until I could dimly see again and went down a side street where residents mobilized and provided water and support. Four people were hospitalized, including a three-year-old girl. Many other adults and children, including a pregnant woman, were treated for respiratory, skin, and eye complications. The terrorist responsible was never found.

Last year, I marched in the parade for the first time, with the San Diego County Library, during the downpour.

This year, as with every year, there were numerous reasons to come together. I didn’t march, though I did wave joyously at my coworkers as they went by.

After the Orlando massacre, I saw someone take umbrage at a post that stated that the shooter was born and raised in America and that the toxic stew that he swallowed whole didn’t have just one ingredient, and which followed with examples of the long history of atrocities visited on this community. He asked how could the most horrendous shooting in US history happen during the time when we are the most tolerant? One ready possibility is that of backlash. Forty-seven years ago, you didn’t have to massacre homosexuals in their “hideouts”; you could harass them there while wearing a uniform. Forty-three years ago, you could throw the ones who “flaunted” it in an institution. Thirty-six years ago, you could ignore a health crisis and let it weed people out. Eighteen and twenty-three years ago, you could destroy them one by one if they stepped out of line. Move forward to the day when gay people have had the temerity to become fully visible, to demand that they be treated with the same dignity as any other person in society. The expansion of rights such as marriage equality is progress. But while we pat each other on the backs for how enlightened we’re becoming, let’s not forget that those on the other side are not going to go quietly, hanging their heads in defeat. They will enact legislation to bar people from safely using public restrooms. They will shoot a hundred people because two men kissed each other in public. You don’t have to look outside our borders or dominant culture to find people who hate us because of our freedoms.

Miskatonic University Podcast Episode 175: How Adair You


MU Podcast InterviewI was invited to join the hosts of the Miskatonic University Podcast again, this time to talk about many of the things I have been up to recently. We spend some time talking about my recently released Pulp Cthulhu campaign, A Cold Fire Within. Then we discuss the Kingsport issues of The Arkham Gazette and how my trip to Marblehead provided inspiration for a new NPC that Keepers can drop into their game. After that, we talk a little more about my part in An Inner Darkness from Golden Goblin Press, a scenario anthology that sheds light on society’s ills of the 1920s. That segues nicely into my first announcement of the episode: “A Dread Gift of Flame,” a fundraiser in conjunction with Stygian Fox Publishing in support of the trans community. And then I make another announcement: I’m working as an editor with a new imprint, Stay Strange Publishing.

This was my third time participating in the podcast. The first time was in a conversation regarding Robert M. Price’s controversial keynote speech during the opening ceremonies of NecronomiCon Providence 2015, in which he declared that Lovecraft’s writing foreshadowed our modern culture wars and clash of civilizations. The second time was shortly after 2017’s convention to talk about psychic powers and weird science in Pulp Cthulhu and how those optional rules feature in A Cold Fire Within.


The Cover for A Cold Fire Within

A Cold Fire Within

“Brendan Sterling sought answers in experimental past-life regression. Unfortunately, his mind isn’t the only one seeking answers in the past….”

On Sunday, May 12, I woke up to find this amazing cover all over the place. The PDF is scheduled to be out at the end of the month, with the hardcover to follow once it’s ready. My name is alone on that cover, but of course there are so many more names inside of those who helped bring this to realization in a way I simply would have been incapable of otherwise.

Thanks again to all my play testers for journeying with me across space and time and places that are neither: Arianne Adair, Erik Brandvig, Brandon Drake Forcier-Reed, Rose Forcier-Reed, J Kenneth Johnson, Mark R Loveland II, Patrick Loveland, Maxwell Mahaffa, Jay Mueller, Ben Plont, and David Ruiz.

Thank you to my editors, Lynne Hardy and Mike Mason for your diligence and support.

Thanks to the Mariusz Gandzel for that cover. Thanks to Kristina Carroll, Emanuele Desiati, Andrey Fetisov,
Doruk Golcu, Victor Leza, and Pat Loboyko for the interior art. And thanks to Matt Ryan for cartography.

Thank you to Nicholas Nacario for layout and Keith Mageau for proofreading.

And thank you to Gail Marie Christiansen Smith. You supported me as best you could, no matter how hard I resisted and despite the frustrations I heaped on you. You taught me to read when no one else would. You were endlessly proud of me when I was incapable of being so. You did what you could to understand a confusing and confused kid and the confusing and confused adult I became. I wish you could have seen this.

Farewell to Another Dreamer on the Nightside

Last night, I heard of Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire’s death from friend and editor Bret Kramer. This morning, my Facebook news feed contains numerous images and remembrances of this singular individual. So, I throw one more picture of ye Queen of Eldritch Horror into the void in the vain hopes that it should finally be full. I took it of Wilum holding a copy of the author’s sumptuous Centipede Press collection, THE TANGLED MUSE, in 2010.

I did not know Wilum well. We spoke briefly at conventions, and we occasionally interacted online, including a brief correspondence a few years ago. But I greatly admired Wilum’s work, a delirious, atmospheric brew of Poe, Wilde, Byron, Baudelaire, and Lovecraft.

Wilum understood the allure of the monstrous and the grotesque and shared that mystique with us in a wealth of stories. W. H. Pugmire was many things: prose-poet, too-humble “dweller in Lovecraft’s shadow,” punk, queer, Mormon, recluse, gender nonconformist, warm-hearted and gracious soul, icon. Now, perhaps, WHP is nothing. Now, perhaps, WHP is everything.


Interview with the Sexy Grammarian

For those who didn’t catch it on social media, I was the author interview on in November. This was a great opportunity to talk about what I do and how I work for a general audience, the majority of whom have never played a table-top role-playing game. Each month, the wonderful writer and teacher Kristy Lin Billuni features an interview on her website. I chatted with the Sexy Grammarian about my process, why I’ve chosen role-playing games as my primary form of expression, and what I’m looking at doing next. I’ve been laying the groundwork for that personal project and hope to be able to devote more attention to it soon.

Here is the link to that interview: Creator, Performer, and Audience: Interview with Christopher Smith Adair


What Should We Do with Our Darlings?

There’s an old saying in writing: Kill your darlings. William Faulkner gave writers this piece of advice, to essentially purge the things that you adore from your manuscript. Don’t hold on to things that are weighing your work down. They’re often the little things, ones you feel precious about but are not essential to the story. You may be enamored over your own cleverness or attached to something that has some deep meaning to you. But the reader may not care, and the darlings may ultimately detract from the overall work.

Identifying these darlings can be tricky. In practice, at least for me, the time to fret about them is when I’m looking at the divide between the word count I’ve been given and the amount of words I’ve written. Something has to give, certainly, so identifying things that simply aren’t necessary is key. Writing, in many ways, is the act of carving down and honing the words.

The metaphor, however, has always struck me as a little creepy, and it also puts me in mind of Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons”:

There are, of course, lots of ways to kill those we love, literally or figuratively. We can also reject and abandon them because we believe it’s for the best.

I’ve found that when I consider my darlings that simply eradicating them isn’t always the best solution. Better is to try to come to an understanding with them–to learn what they actually want to be. Rather than either making them fit into my story the way I initially expected them to or discarding them, I try to meet them on their terms. I am often surprised, discovering that they are more beautiful and complex than I had assumed.

Often, my darlings are tied into some piece of history I’ve uncovered during research for a Call of Cthulhu scenario. There are sometimes too many interesting details to adequately put into a scenario. Recently, I was working on a scenario and ran into this problem. There was a historical detail that wasn’t integral to the plot but would have been significant background color. To adequately include it seemed to require an additional NPC and a sidebar explaining the subject. Having an extra NPC in and of itself wasn’t an issue, since the scenario takes place in an isolated town and the investigators will likely interact with numerous townsfolk. But I needed to trim things down, so I turned my Saturn eye toward this NPC and the historical details he embodied. While I considered it, it struck me that this NPC could be combined with another one. Both NPCs would be stronger and more interesting for it. That interesting historical detail was incorporated fully and briefly into the character’s background instead of needing a lengthy digression in a sidebar.

If I foster and support my darlings, maybe they fit just fine. It was only my view of them and what I wanted them to be that was wrong. And, yeah, I think this is something to be mindful of for parenting and other relationships.