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.

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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 sexygrammar.com 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.

An Update on Recent and Upcoming Releases

Here I am, hard at work on fresh horrors, courtesy of Nick Gucker

Two New Releases

In the last few months, two previously announced Call of Cthulhu books through Kickstarter have made their way into wide release.

Fear’s Sharp Little Needles from Stygian Fox is a collection of short scenarios (around 2,500 words each) set in the modern day. There are over twenty writers in it with me, so there are bound to be some favorites in there. Some of the scenarios, including my own “Waiting To Be Born,” can easily be run for one player. As a solo experience, mine becomes survival horror as the investigator wakes up in dire straits (if you survive–my partner didn’t when I ran her through it). There’s a more conventional hook for a group of investigators available, as well.

Devil’s Swamp from New Comet Games is a source book and scenario collection based in the Bridgewater Triangle, an area of reputed paranormal activity in Massachusetts. My scenario, “Deeper Than Skin,” was a stretch goal for its Kickstarter campaign.

What’s Coming Next?

That’s a good question, and I don’t have an answer myself. I have five scenarios, two articles, and a book-length campaign (and probably some things I’ve forgotten), waiting for publication from a few different publishers. I also have a couple of orphaned scenarios that I’d like to have come out at some point. The majority of these haven’t been announced publicly yet, so there’s not much more I can say yet, other than that I eagerly await their release into the world.

I’m play-testing the scenario I’ve written most recently, and it’s been a great experience. This one is quite dreamlike in many ways, and I got to exercise my imagination with it. Like a lot of what I’ve written over the last couple of years, I took the opportunity to expand beyond my previous horizons, trying new things, which I hope are successful. I sometimes wonder if what I’ve written is horrific enough, but I think I was successful this time. I asked a player what she wanted to do after being attacked by the villain. In response, she said, “I projectile vomit in her face.” I suppose that means it’s effective. It’s not all disgusting, though; the players had to make a number of hard decisions in an extremely difficult situations.

Me, as Envisioned by Nick Gucker

I attended the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon in Portland, Oregon, again this year with my partner. Nick Gucker, whose art you may have seen in the numerous books he’s illustrated, was drawing custom illustrations. I’ve picked up some of his art (prints, stickers, T-shirts, and illustrations) at previous conventions, so I was interested in having him do something unique for me. I didn’t have any particular desires in subject matter, so I finally decided to see what he could do with me as that subject. Later that day, he revealed the result, and I was delighted.