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Nov 20, 2018 Blog

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below!

Raleigh is a Sales Coordinator for the Online and Digital Sales team. He likes when a book can surprise him, frighten him, or change how he thinks.

Check out the books he’s excited for that will be published in early 2019:

Nov 15, 2018 Blog

To kick off the season of giving while also celebrating National Family Literacy Month in November, zulily, the online retailer obsessed with bringing special finds to its customers every day, is teaming up with Penguin Random House to help provide books to children in need across the U.S. 

Zulily is leading its third annual holiday giving campaign, launched November 1 and planned through December 12, 2018. Special sales events during the campaign will feature a curated selection of children’s books and each Penguin Random House book purchased labeled with the “BUY 1, GIVE 1” badge will trigger a new children’s book donation, up to 100,000 books, from Penguin Random House to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and other essentials to children in need nationwide.

Visit here for full campaign details.

Nov 15, 2018 Blog

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below!

Leigh Marchant is SVP, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Random House.

Nov 9, 2018 Blog

Amazon.com announced its selections for the Best Books of 2018, naming Tara Westover’s Educated (Random House) the #1 pick for best book of 2018 and Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone (Wendy Lamb Books) the editor’s pick for best book in the children’s category. 

Amazon’s annual list features the Top 100 books of the year plus Top 20 lists across various categories ranging from biography, literary fiction, and mystery to children’s and young adult. All lists are hand-selected by Amazon’s team of editors—first by choosing the best books of every month and then, finally, the best books of the year. To see the full lists of Amazon’s Best Books of 2018, click here.

The Amazon Editorial Team’s Top 10 Picks of 2018 list also includes  Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black (Knopf), Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River (Riverhead), and Tommy Orange’s There There (Knopf).

See the winners below:

 

Oct 30, 2018 Interviews

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018.

We caught up with Sylvain Neuvel to discuss the Themis Trilogy, alien languages, and a bit of cosplay.

 

 

 

 

Keith Rice:  All right, so Only Human came out in May and it closes out the Themis Files trilogy.  How does it feel to be done?

Sylvain Neuvel:  Weird.  It’s very weird.  Finishing that book was an emotional moment.  There was  a lot of crying involved in the last chapters, just knowing that I might never see these characters again. And it’s kind of stupid, because they were there, they will always be there.  They’re in the books, they exist.  But it was strange, and also Sleeping Giants was my first novel, so I’ve spent my entire writing career in that universe.  Getting out of it is a scary thing, though it’s also exciting.

KR:  Did you envision the story as trilogy when you started or did that come about – –

SN:  Well, originally, I thought it might be more of an open series, but It’s a rarer thing in publishing nowadays to have just a like a real open-ended series like, say, James Bond.

KR:  Sure.

SN:  And so, well, quickly I figured out it would be a trilogy and I kind of knew how I wanted it to end, so I went for it.

KR:  Given that do you plan to go back into the world of Themis Files at any point? Is that something you’ve thought about?

SN:  I would love to someday.  There are other things I want to do.  I’m working on something now and so it’s nice to take a break and just let the story do its thing.  I’m not there [on revisiting Themis Files].  But if people want it, if there’s a demand for it, I’d love to come back to it someday.

KR:  How would you describe the Themis Files to readers that haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet?

SN:  It’s a strange one to describe.  It’s science fiction but it’s also very grounded, it happens here, and the format is, I think, as important to the experience as the story itself.  It’s told in the form of interviews, between a mysterious interviewer and the main characters of the book.  So, it’s pretty much three books of nothing but dialogue. It’s a very different reading experience than what most people would be used to.  In terms of story it’s like everything I do, it is grounded in science fiction. Book one is a search for giant metal body parts buried underground by an unknown civilization thousands of years ago.  And it has a lot to do with first contact, but it’s also an exploration of what it means to be human.  Human nature in general, or what makes you you and not me, and identity, and other themes that are very human.  So, even though there is alien life involved, it’s very much about us and not them.

KR:  Your take on aliens was one of the more fascinating aspects for me.  They aren’t that different from us.

SN:  No.

KR:  What led you to that?

SN:  Well, there’s advantages in making aliens closer to us, there’s a reason why, you know, every alien on a TV show, you know has at least two arms and legs, because we can hire an actor to do it.  This particular case I wanted them to be among us.  So, they had to be hiding in plain sight, it’s kind of difficult if you’re a giant amoeba or big blob of goo.

KR:  And I know you’re a linguist as well.  Do you have any plans to dive into a language for any of your books?

SN:  Well, Only Human does have some alien language bits in there.

KR:  True, but I meant on a larger, or I guess more Tolkien-esque scale?

SN:  Actually, I did write grammar and a lexicon.

KR:  Oh?

SN:  Well, I know that I’m a freak and I couldn’t just improvise those like ten lines [laughs].  So, I pretty much wrote the whole language just so I could put those two lines in the book.  Someday I’d like to share that lexicon and grammar with the world. For example, they could read the dedication at the end of the trilogy, which is in the language.

KR:  I know you’re a big cosplay fan and we are at NYCC.

SN:  Yeah.

KR:  What’s your favorite or your best costume?  One that you’ve put together?

SN:  That I made? I will say my Grandizer robot costume.  It was super fun.

KR:  I imagine the proportions were a bit tricky on that one.

SN:  Yeah, I mean, I made a Vader costume that I spent about a year on, but with Vader you have a costuming group, you can go with references online, you can know which actual parts of what were used to make it.  It gets tons of references, so you know things basically down to the millimeter. With Grandizer you’re looking at an anime made in the 70’s.  If you look at the show, in one scene, you’ll have say, seven spikes on his fist, and in another scene you’ll have nine and in another there’ll be three.  Because the guys drawing it, they’re just going super-fast. Plus there were a lot of technical challenges.  He has a tiny head, so, I managed to get the proportions better.  I realized that with a head so little my costume shoulders are about at my chin level, and I see through the mouth of the robot so the head can be higher, and it makes it more proportional, plus I have to build it from scratch.  There’s no references, no nothing. So, it was a lot molding, and sculpting, and fiberglass.  It was a lot of fun to make.

KR:  Sounds like it.

SN:  Yeah.

KR: I’m going to put you on the spot just a little bit.  If you had to recommend three novels , three books, for fans of the Themis Files what would they be?

SN:  Well if you’re in it for the giant robots, Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Teiryas just came out and it’s actually pretty fantastic.  It’s book two of a series, but it’s more of a standalone novel. If you’re in it for the science, because there’s a lot of it in the Themis Files, I really like the The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka. It’s based on a simple sci-fi premise, but I really wish I’d come up with it.  I was jealous of the idea.  It’s a great, great book.  Similarly, Quantum Night by Robert Sawyer is another book with tons of science. Sawyer sort of researches everything.  He has a bibliography at the end if you want further reading on brainwaves and all sorts of interesting things.   The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch, it’s a great book. It’s really a great book.  I was kind of wary at first because it involves time travel and it’s not usually my favorite, but it’s so well done, I think everyone should read it.

 

Check out Sylvain Neuvel’s Only Human!

Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

Oct 21, 2018 Interviews

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018.

We sat down for a quick chat with Seanan McGuire about her October Daye Series, Thylacine’s, and the Halloween when she formed the basis for an actual local legend.

 

 

 

Keith Rice:  The October Daye series is sitting at, like, 12 volumes now. Right?

Seanan McGuire:  Right.  13 will come out next year.

KR:  Great.  Okay. So, how would you describe it for readers who haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet?

SMOctober Daye is what happens when you give a trained folklorist an urban fantasy series and no hard limits.

KR:  What was your inspiration for Toby Daye, for the character?

SM:  So, the very first book in the October Daye series, Rosemary and Rue, starts out with Toby being turned into a fish and left in a pond at the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco for 14 years.  And that inspiration for that was that I got stuck on top of one of the moon bridges in the Japanese Tea Gardens. They are basically direct, straight up and down circles and I climbed one like a fool and then could not get down and was just watching this one very large Calico koi swim back and forth and thinking, gosh, that fish must have a very peaceful life.  It’s not afraid it’s going to die on top of this bridge.  It can do whatever it wants.  Wouldn’t it suck if that fish used to be a person?  And the whole series kind of unspooled from that point of how miserable can I make this fish that is way too happy when I am frightened.

KR:  So, October Daye, the InCryptid series, they all fall pretty broadly under urban fantasy.

SM:  Really broadly, yeah.

KR:  What draws you to that niche of writing fantasy?

SM:  As I mentioned, I am a trained folklorist.  I went to the University of California Berkeley–Go Bears–for a folklore degree.  And fairytales, if you look at them in the context of the time when they were first being told, are the urban fantasy of their day.  When Little Red Riding Hood was a new story that people hadn’t heard before, you probably did have a grandparent or other relative who lived on the other side of a big forest.  You probably had heard of people walking into those woods alone and getting savaged by wolves or bears or something else that lived there.  It was an immediacy in the same way that Charlene Harris’s vampire books have an immediacy because there were these vampires.  They might be living next door.  There are these wolves.  They might be living in the forest between you and your grandma. So, I just really like fairytales and wanted to write today’s fairytales.

KR:  So, your first novel was published in 2009 and you’ve been going at a dizzy pace ever since.  How do you juggle your long running series, your music, sleep?

SM:  I don’t sleep much.  When “Hamilton” was big, literally every single person I have ever met in more than an immediate and casual sense, sent me a copy of “Nonstop” because they thought that was very funny.  And that I hadn’t heard it 90 times by that point.  It helps that when I was making choices about my life, I said I am a better aunty than I would be a mom.  I don’t want children of my own.  So, I have cats but no kids.  I also am not married at this time.  I think it’s absolutely possible to maintain my level of output with children, but you have to have a spouse that’ll be up for at least 50% of the child-rearing duties.  So, there are juggling acts I don’t have to perform.  And that’s not better or worse than anyone else’s choices.  That’s just–you don’t want to leave me alone with the baby.  I would do something silly like assume it was a cat and just leave it on the floor with a bowl of Captain Crunch while I went off to write a novel.  I don’t sleep enough.  I get yelled at a lot for not sleeping.  I don’t play enough Overwatch, but I do my best.

KR:  I know you love travel.

SM:  I do.  Well, love is a strong word sometimes.

KR:  What’s the one place you want to visit and haven’t had the chance?

SM:  I have not yet been to Tokyo which is a little silly when you consider that Tokyo contains everything I love.  It has a Disneyland that I haven’t been to.  It has Pokémon Centers and I own so many Pokémon plush that my friends joke that going into my bedroom is like stepping into the tall grass.  It has entire stores devoted to fancy dolls and I’m a fancy doll collector.  So, Tokyo is really on the big bucket list.  Second on the list is wherever in Australia I can actually finally find a live Thylacine to prove that they are still out there.

KR:  Okay.  So, last question.  We’re coming up on Halloween.  What’s your all-time favorite horror story?

SM:   My all-time favorite horror story?  My all-time favorite horror story is actually the one I pulled off accidentally.  I grew up very, very poor. I grew up so far below the poverty line that you couldn’t see it on a clear day.  And this meant that Halloween was serious business because for Halloween I could get candy the same as the kids whose parents could afford to buy them candy.  And this means I planned for Halloween like I was planning the siege of a small fictional nation.  I drew up maps.  I would actually and creepily – and I acknowledge as an adult that this was a creepy thing for child-me to do – I would sit in the grocery store and watch to see who bought the good candy and see if I recognize them as the parents of any of my classmates, so that I could prioritize their neighborhoods.

I would generally leave the house about six p.m. and stay out until all the pumpkins were off.  And my mother was very distracted.  I had two sisters, one 6 years younger and one 7 years younger.  So, by the time I was nine my mother was not keeping a very close eye on what I did.

So, the Halloween when I was 11, I got this long white, nightgown from the Goodwill.  I painted every exposed inch of my body with talcum powder and then went over that with craft glitter.  And it turns out that while I did not quite glow in the dark. I came very, very close to glowing in the dark.  This was not good enough for me, so I mixed up some fake blood and pretty much painted myself in fake blood from the knee down and from the wrist down.  And I had flip-flops on, so it looked like I was barefoot.  So, you have this glowing white, blood-dripping figure.  And that might still have been okay except for the part where to get from the last good neighborhood, which was Bel Air Heights, back to the neighborhood where I live, which was Maclear Courts, I decided it would be a really good idea to walk through the dry storm culverts because it hadn’t rained in a while.  And that would cut off four or five blocks of my trip and a good deal of traffic.

So, I went under the road, walked through the storm culvert and then popped up as if from the ground on the side of the creek that faced the Court.  And the man who had been coming around the curve up the street, saw me suddenly appear with no warning whatsoever, not looking like a small child trick or treating, but looking like the dead person from the culvert.  And he crashed his car into a tree.  And it was in the papers the next day.  This man was contesting a drunk driving charge because he hadn’t been driving drunk.  He literally saw a ghost come out of the storm culvert.  And that is my favorite horror story because the kids in that neighborhood still tell it, like there’s a whole urban legend now that this one storm drain is haunted by the ghost of a girl who was killed by a car.  I’m like, no, it’s haunted by a candy hungry 11-year-old and a five dollar nightgown from Goodwill.

 

Check out Seanan McGuire’s Night and Silence

Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

Oct 19, 2018 Interviews

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018.

We sat down with Peter Tieryas to talk about Mecha Samurai Empire, alternate history, and what to eat when fighting Nazis.

 

 

 

Keith Rice:  So Mecha Samurai Empire just came out, what can you tell us about it?

Peter Tieryas:  So, it is a book about giant Mechas fighting big Nazi monsters.  And it’s a very personal story in that it’s about being Asian-American, and sort of growing up in a place where, literally, on the other side of the continent there is a group of people who want to see their destruction solely based on their ethnicity.  Anyone who doesn’t fit the Aryan Nazi mold should be eliminated.  How do you grow up in that world, right?  Like, what is your view of the world when you’re acutely aware of your race.  And that became the central metaphor.  The best alternate history gives us a different context and a different view of our own world. There’s a lot of entertainment, there’s a lot of action, but also, hopefully there are deeper questions about identity, about ethnicity, and about diversity.  It’s also loosely inspired by Man in the High Castle.

KR:  Okay, so this is set in the world of The United States of Japan?

PT:  Yep.

KR:  What led you to expand on that world?

PT:  When I wrote The United States of Japan, I had a deep desire to sort of explore World War II from the Asian side. Growing up I heard all these stories about World War II from the Asian side.  Just really fascinating things.  And when I came to America there was nothing about this perspective, just no information available. It was always focused on more of the European side, you know?  Like what happened with the Nazis, and General Eisenhower and Hitler. I kind of challenge people, how many generals do you know on the Asian side?  Who were fighting the Chinese, who were fighting for the Philippines, right?  Even on the American side, for the average person, there’s very little actually known about World War II.  What battles do you know about? I had this desire to tell a story about that.  So when I wrote it, it was very structured.  It takes place over a couple of days it’s a roller coaster.  You just start and it keeps on going.  But when I was finished, I kind of wanted to know more about the world.  What happens after those days are, right?  What do people eat, how do people hang out, what’s day-to-day life in that alternate history like?  That reminded me – that’s what I really wanted to know about in  Man in the High Castle as well.  What is this world about?

Mecha Samurai Empire initially began as an attempt to just explore the world and see what it’s about.  The very first thing I wrote was the alternate history Pledge of Allegiance, which is like, “I pledge Allegiance to the United States of Japan, and to the Empire for…”  When I first wrote that, it kind of became a guiding philosophy for me.  So, you’ll see, it’s like America, and it’ll feel very familiar, but at the last minute there’ll be a little twist and where you’re like, “Whoa, this is a completely different world.”  They completely distorted or misinterpreted, or reinterpreted what we view as certain ideas and philosophies. That, to me, was really fascinating. So, for example, one idea that came up is that they look at The Great Gatsby, which was written in the twenties, and it was an indictment of that era, right. But in normal history, after World War II there was the boom, and everything recovered and America became a behemoth.  In the alternate history of The United States of Japan, America lost, so there was never that boom.  So, they look at Fitzgerald as almost a prophet of the end of the America.  It’s stuff like that, those weird little details.

KR:  Okay, so there are a lot of moving parts under the hood here.  You’ve got alternate history, there’s gaming, there’s mecha. What were your biggest influences coming into this story?

PT:  There’s a bunch, but I think the biggest from a story-telling perspective was Hideo Kujima.  He did Metal Gear Solid, Zone of the Enders, but what fascinated me about Metal Gear, was that despite the title, it’s not really about metal gear.  It’s about the people involved, and how they’re going to use metal gear.  That, to me, was really  important when I was writing about the mechas.  When you watch a really good mecha movie, if it’s just about the action, the first minute is really exciting.  Then after a while you start going, “Oh, I’m used to this.”  And it almost becomes boring.  It’s like mecha porn.  Or you just become so inured to it. What really differentiates it is if you care about the characters.  And I think with Metal Gear, you go find a boss and the boss has this very strong personality and you remember their personality as you’re fighting them. In the same way I wanted these characters to be memorable.  So that’s where I spent a lot of time – just really focusing on the character interactions.  What does each battle mean? The way they fight, how does that represent who they are?

I also took a little bit of inspiration from “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” – the original game- because each of those characters had so much personality.  So, there’s a character named Honda.  He has big bushy eyebrows that he moves.  And for people who know “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!” they know when he does the his hurricane charge, he actually takes four steps.  So, they actually analyze this mecha data, and they realize, “Oh, every time he does that charge he takes four steps,” They use that to beat him.  And in a little ironic twist, the “Punch Out” referee is Mario, right, he’s Italian.  in the Axis world, Germany and Japan are at odds with each other, but Italy always plays the peacemaker.  In the mecha tournaments, there’s an Italian guy who’s the peacemaker. That’s a nod to Mario and “Punch Out”.  From a literary perspective, obviously Phillip K. Dick, that just goes without saying.  Cordwainer Smith is another one, I just love his storytelling.  Rieko Kodama is another.  She did “Phantasy Star II.” It was one of my very first exposure to science fiction, through that video game.  Where it’s actually about a Utopia that’s really cool and amazing, and then the whole Utopia starts falling apart, and then you find out at the end that humans are the bad guys.

KR:  Right.

PT:  That’s one of the very few instances – in a movie, book, or whatever – that I can remember, where the villains are ultimately humans.

KR:  Are you planning to explore more of Mac’s story, or moving on to something else within the world of United states of Japan

PT:  Yeah, so I actually turned in the first draft of the next book to my editor.  It’s a completely different story, completely new characters.  It is following the aftermath of the Berkeley massacre, and the whole battle.  It’s basically a revolution takes place within the United States of Japan.

KR:  What three books would you recommend for fans of Mecha Samurai Empire? 

PT:  I would say Sleeping Giants is a big one.  I really like the works by Project Itoh.  He did the adaptation of “Metal Gear Solid IV”, but also Project Harmony and Genocidal Organ. Those are just really great.  But between those three, maybe I’d say Genocidal Organ. It really stands out.  And then, while I don’t know if it is necessarily connected to the United States of Japan and Mecha Samurai Empire but, Cameron Hurley’s work. I really love her work, Apocalypse Nyx is great. And then obviously Man in the High Castle, but, you know, that goes without saying.

KR: I’m going out on a limb and assuming you’re a gamer.

PT:  Yep.

KR:  What are you playing right now?

PT:  We recently had a baby, so I’ve had to stop.  But the last game that I played was “Spec Ops: The Line.”.  That was an intense experience.  That was, just, like, wow, you know?  Just the world-building and everything.

KR:  And that twist is just killer.

PT:  Yeah, yeah.  I think I finished it the week before our baby came.  “Persona V” was the big one I played before that.  That just took forever but I really wanted to enjoy it. I actually played through with my wife.  I was very influenced by “Persona”.  What I love about the world-building in “Persona” is that you have to save the world and everything’s going to chaos, but you can also go find a really good ramen, or you can go on a date at a carnival. I love that.  So, in Mecha Samurai Empire, there are food excursions.  Sure, there are Nazis, but you still have to eat, right?

 

Check out Peter Tieryas’ Mecha Samurai Empire

Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

Oct 16, 2018 News

We are excited to announce that Penguin Random House has become the first book publisher to sign onto the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, part of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), which informs utilities and other suppliers what industry-leading, multinational companies are looking for when buying renewable energy from the grid. The program, which is supported by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), launched in July of 2014 with just 12 signatories. Penguin Random House is now the 78th company to sign.

Through our paper certification process, LED lighting program, and energy offset programs, among other programs, Penguin Random House continues to improve and implement “green” practices across our operations. Since 2014, we have already reduced our carbon emissions by 10%, and we remain committed to reducing carbon emissions by 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2025 through improvements to our company’s infrastructure and energy-saving capacity.

Oct 16, 2018 Interviews

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018.

We caught up with Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, and Jon Peterson to discuss their upcoming book Dungeons and Dragons and Art and Arcana, the process behind the book, and of course, the history of D&D.

 

Keith Rice:  Okay, so you guys are promoting Dungeons and Dragons and Art and Arcana.  What can you tell us about it?  Michael?

Michael Witwer:  So, Art and Arcana is a complete, comprehensive visual history of the Dungeons and Dragons brand.  Not just art, but also advertising, ephemera, and all kinds of other imagery that really tells the visual history of the story from beginning to end.

KR:  How’d the idea come about?

Kyle Newman:  The idea came about because I was back in Dungeons and Dragons, started playing 5th edition, and was ravenous for more material.  I said where is the book?   What have I been missing for the past 10 or 12 years.  Where’s the art book?  Where’s the history book?  And there wasn’t one.  So, I was like, I’ll make the book.  How am I going to make the book?  And I reached out to Michael, I was a fan of Empire of imagination.  And I knew his brother Sam [Witwer] and Michael and I had known each other peripherally on Facebook. I said, would you be interested in doing this?  And he was like, “Absolutely and my friend Jon would be great too, Jon’s a D&D historian.”  So, we started to assemble this group, and Sam was like, “You’re making a book with my brother and I’m not involved?  And I fricking love Dungeons and Dragons, too.”  And I was like, “Well of course, man if you have time, let’s all do this together.”  He was so passionate, so resourceful.

We just formed like, a super-team, and all brought different expertise to it.  I saw the idea of the book, but didn’t know exactly what it was going to be.  Is it going to be more history, more art?  What’s the balance between image and word?  Are we going to use native art, are we going to show product covers?  We had to strike that happy medium and curate something special.  So, it wasn’t just the most beautiful-looking art, but it was the most important art.  Not only what came out of our discussion organically and figuring out what the book was going to be.  So, I would say that’s how it came about and then from there once we solidified our idea, we met in Los Angeles, we put a lot of images up on a screen, we went through them, we discussed the merits of each thing, and we stared to formulate the spine of what it would be.  And then there was the archaeological stuff, which I think Jon can speak to, like, the actually the hunting down of things.

KR:  Well, actually my next question goes into that.  So, you guys had unprecedented access to the archives at Wizards of the Coast, right?  What was that like?

Jon Peterson:  I mean, it was fantastic.  I can’t say enough about how generous the Wizards team was to us with their time.  So, there’s this original company TSR that was bought by Wizards of the Coast.  Unfortunately before that acquisition, though, things ended up scattered to the nine winds, because nobody really knew that they would turn out to be collectible.  Now in a few cases, things that got, like, lost in a warehouse for decades eventually turned up.  The cover of the original basic set, for instance, which is something that Wizards did still have, because somebody found it basically behind a box on some loading deck and fortunately some of their people recognized what it was.  But, for a lot for that stuff from the early days, the 70’s, nobody knew this would be important.  Fortunately, I’ve worked with a collecting community, I’m a collector of D&D memorabilia.  We knew a lot of the right people to go to to find both pristine product, but also the people who owned a lot of the original art.  And for some of it, it’s just a process. It just goes on and on, you turn over rocks and you hear a rumor that this exists, and maybe this person has it, and you do outreach and at the last minute it all just came together.

KR:  Jon, what was the oddest thing you found pulling this all together?

JP:  The oddest thing that we found pulling this together, hmm?

KR:  If you had to pick one.

MW:  That’s a good question.

KN:  Artistically or informationally?

KR:  Either/or.

JP:  So probably the one that we have to single out for this is the original Tomb of Horrors, this 1975 adventure.  Now, everyone knows this famous module, this deathtrap module that came out in 1978 that’s called The Tomb of Horrors.  It’s the place you go for characters that you want to die.  You know, you don’t want to play them anymore. It’s full of arbitrary traps, poison gas, pits, spikes, monsters that come in droves, you stick your hand in the devil’s mouth and it gets disintegrated. It’s a terrible thing.  But one of the fascinating things about Tomb of Horrors is that it started as a tournament. And the reason it was so lethal is because they were trying to find a winner, right? And back in 1975, at Origins One, they ran this tournament called The Tomb of Horrors.  What we found, and what we have actually reproduced in full facsimile, for this special edition of Art and Arcana is that tournament version from 1975, with a hand drawn map by Gary Gygax with all the original descriptions, that’s something that would really blow peoples’ minds.

KR:  Anyone want to add anything?

MW:  Yeah, I’ve got one for you.  So, when it comes to some of the original art, again, as Jon kind of intimated, a lot of this early stuff is homebrew stuff.  They didn’t realize they were making history when they were developing it, right?  A lot of times if you would draft material that you rejected for the original box set of Dungeons and Dragons, you’d probably throw it out.  So, it’s a miracle that some of this stuff survived.  And we were actually lucky enough to gather a few draft pieces that never made the final cut.  We had a witch made by Cookie Corre which didn’t make the final cut, and we have this really peculiar piece called the Big Eye.  Kyle had mentioned the idea of rumored pieces that may or may not have existed.  Well, Jon and I had both heard independently that there was once a something akin to a ground beholder, as it was described to us, that Greg Bell had done. Greg Bell, being one of the original artists, he was just a teenager when this was all happening.  He was asked by Gary [Gygax] to do something that was similar to what we would define as a ground beholder, a beholder connected to the ground.  Well we had looked up and down and sideways and we had never come across anything that looked like this.  Well sure enough at the eleventh hour we found an art collector that had a tremendous trove of art and within this trove – and by the way, John and I had both interviewed Greg Bell individually and he didn’t have any recollection of such a thing – and yet, at the eleventh hour we get this piece that is in fact a ground beholder by Greg Bell with Gary’s handwritten annotation that says “don’t use”, and “no”.  We were able to reproduce that for the book.  So, to say that’s peculiar?  Absolutely.  Unique?  Absolutely.

KR: Kyle, do you have anything?

KN:  I honestly think the seeing the five probably most important pieces – the Monster Manual, the Dungeon Master Guide, the Fiend Folio, etc.  Seeing all those books in their native form, that art, and being able to put them in this was great. I love seeing that all together.  I think it’s really important. I think fans are going to get a kick out of seeing it without all the logos and everything in its native artist form.

KR:  All right one last question to wrap things up.  Favorite class?

MW:  Bard.

JP:  Magic User.

KR:  Kyle?

KN: I got to go with Wizard, but I’m loving Clerics, too.

 

Check out Dungeons and Dragons and Art and Arcana

Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

Oct 15, 2018 Blog

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below!

Elda, Penguin Publishing Group

Elda Rotor is Vice President and Publisher of Penguin Classics.

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