“The First Quest” AD&D Double LP

I mentioned the other day that it was interesting the Engel RPG got an official RPG album of music, and suggested this was an interesting idea whose time had not yet come. Afterward, I remembered seeing ads in Dragon for some bellydancing music that got repackaged as RPG music albums: 

Grabbed from the post “The Ads of Dragon: Music for Adventure Gaming” at Grognardia. Click for source.

I wonder how many people sent off for these LPs, and whether they were happy with what they got? I never did, but Internet to the rescue, you can hear it now:

Anyway, a sale post recently (back in September) on one of the game-related auction groups I follow on Facebook led me to the most unusual RPG/music album tie-in I’ve ever heard about, and this one goes all the way back to the mid-80s: “The First Quest”.

The album is basically electronic music—of the sort that got made in the mid-80s—and hasn’t aged well, but I do think it’s interesting that not only was it a double-LP, but that the liner notes were essentially a playable adventure for the system. A batshit one, going by the summary available online, but still—a full adventure with maps, some very basic encounter writeups, and so on. Apparently Part/Album 1 is a wilderness exploration/trek thing, and Part/Album 2 is a dungeon crawl, with the latter being more detailed in the notes. These appeared on the paper sleeve inserts that protected the LPs from the cover:


Both these images are from the Blogonomicon post linked below. You can click on the images to see the full-sized images. There’s more like this to see at the Blogonomicon post.

If you’d like to see the summary and more images from the album—as well as download a copy of the MP3s (the second pair of links, down in the comments, is better, not in terms of the music but because it includes the narration segments), and learn a little more about what happened behind the scenes that allowed the album to get made, there’s a worthwhile post over at Blogonomicon. (Again, that’s where I got the images above.)

Oh, and there’s more scans (though many resemble the ones at Blogonomicon) over on this post at 2 Warps to Neptune that includes an image of the art that adorned the inside of the gatefold cover (reposted below), along with more images and information, some (but not all) of which reproduces a comment at Blogonomicon by someone involved in the creation of the album.

Here’s that inner gatefold, which longtime gamers will recognize as Jeff Easley’s work (just like the front cover):

That leaves only the music. If you prefer to sample it on Youtube instead of downloading the whole thing in two MP3s  using the links at the Blogonomicon post (linked above), you’re in luck: at least some of it got uploaded by that same blogger and is available on Youtube. I’ll warn you, though: the blogger’s comment that it is “especially mediocre” is quite fair and accurate, even if we bear in mind how primitive synthesizers were in 1985. 

In any case, for those whose curiosity hasn’t yet been quashed, here’s an embedded playlist: 

Johnny Appleseed, Apple Genetics, and Burnt Orchards

One of the podcasts I listen to quite a bit is Stuff You Missed in History Class. They recently ran a “classic” episode demystifying the life of Johnny Appleseed, as John Chapman has become known. 

Now, all I really knew about him was from the Disney cartoon and one volume about the man in the Value Tales books. (Remember those? The one about him was titled The Value of Love.) Given that, I found it surprisingly interesting, though it turns out it’s pretty hard to demystify the life of someone about whom a lot of stuff has been made up… and who went to some lengths to mystify his own life in the first place.   

Anyway, besides the fact that the man was a Swedenborgian (!) vegetarian who was against grafting apple cuttings—he was opposed to cutting up living things, even though made apple cultivation much more of a crapshoot—I learned that in any case,  apples just a hundred and twenty years ago mostly sucked: they weren’t the nice, sweet, big fruit we’re used to, but instead were small, sour, and not that nice… and if you grew apple trees from seeds, it really was a crapshoot in terms of what kinds of apples you’d get: because of the bizarro nature of apple genetics, the old saying about apples not falling far from the tree? It’s totally wrong. I’d figured apples had been ‘roided up in the past century or so, but I’d underestimated just how much.)

So why were people growing them? Why did people appreciate Chapman’s apple seed-planting?

Because they just wanted to get drunk. See, apples (at least the kind he was planting) were pretty much used for nothing much else at that time, because most people hated the sour flavor and saw them as not much good for anything else. Chapman was a popular guy, in part, because he was bringing the gift of booze to the frontier, and presumably that outweighed what the other settlers presumably saw as all his “weird religious talk” and other “eccentricities.” 

Now, I was already aware that in the new world, barley cultivation didn’t take off in anything like the amounts needed for a decent brewing industry to exist in the late 1700s. There are accounts of colonials in New England complaining of persimmon beer, which seems to be more like a fermented mix of persimmon juice and barley beer (heavier on the former, apparently). But I hadn’t given much thought to the idea that apples might have been pressed (ahem!) to pick up the slack, becoming a crop that, at least on the frontier, was primarily cultivated for the production of alcohol. 

That also explains why, though probably some of the apple plants alive today are the descendants/clones (through grafted cuttings) from some of trees Chapman planted, many of the orchards established by Appleseed were destroyed long before the apple trees themselves would naturally have died: the first chance they got, Temperance adherents burnt them right to the ground. 

Ride the Star Wind, and More…

Ride the Star Wind, a short story collection combining space opera, the Lovecraftian, and the cosmic weird, is now available:

You can get it from the publisher, or get a paperback or ebook from Amazon.com.

It includes a bunch of great, weird stories by great, weird people, some of whose names will surely be familiar to those who read Lovecraftian fiction. Among them is my own story, “Vol de Nuit,” which is one of the few space-opera-esque things I’ve actually written. I’ve got some story notes up, as usual, under the Story Notes section of this site.

Nick Gucker, who I believe did that amazing cover above, also illustrated my story in a wonderfully creepy way:

I’m looking forward to seeing my print copy, as the book looks absolutely gorgeous. 

As for other news: well, I took some time off my almost-finished novel to copyedit a forthcoming book of Korean SF stories in English translation (forthcoming from Kaya Books). Along the way, I ended up significantly reworking one of the translations—Park Min-gyu’s “Road Kill”… indeed, so significantly as to receive a co-translation credit. Along with that story, my wife Jihyun and I translated two other great South Korean SF stories for the book: “Our Banished World” by Chang-gyu Kim and “Ready-Made Bodhisattva” by Sunghwan Kim. Though copy-editing is always work, I really enjoyed the stories in the book, and think they’re an interesting selection of older and newer Korean SF. Probably the biggest revelation to me was Yun I-Hyeong, whose work I knew very little about despite having met a few times: her story in this collection is just outstanding, though of course many of the other stories are also great. 

I’ll say more about the collection when the book comes out, which I think is scheduled for sometime next year. I have some other publishing news, but I’ll save it till the ink has dried a little. 

This aforementioned copyediting work—plus a sudden, brief burst of activity on another unrelated project—account for my long silence here, by the way. Deadlines sometimes have that effect. Hopefully I’ll get a few new posts up here soon, while I return to work on my nearly-drafted novel.