Obituary: Origins Award-Winning “Traveller” Game Designer Loren Wiseman

Game designer, publisher and editor Loren Keith Wiseman passed away on February 15, 2017. According to family members, he was found in his home and the cause of death is reported to be from heart failure. Mr. Wiseman is best known for his work in creating the Traveller science fiction role-playing game. His career in the tabletop gaming industry dates back to 1973 and continued until his death. He was 65.

A photo of Loren Wiseman from his Wikipedia page

Original “black box” deluxe set for Traveller scifi RPG circa 1977

Games Designers Workshop and Traveller

Mr. Wiseman co-founded Games Designers’ Workshop (GDW) on June 22, 1973 with Frank Chadwick, Rich Banner and Marc Miller in Normal, Illinois. At the time, the concept of a role-playing game was just starting to take form. The company focused on historical-themed card and board games until 1977 when it published Traveller, one of the first science fiction RPGs. TSR had published Dungeons and Dragons only three years earlier and this new field of gaming was undiscovered country. GDW bridged the gap between miniatures gamers, role-players and board wargamers.

Origins Award-winning module for Twilight: 2000 game.

For over a decade, Traveller was the “go-to” ruleset for people wanting to role-play science fiction settings. In addition to using GDW’s own setting, many gamers ran home-brewed Star Trek and Star Wars adventures for their weekly dining room table gaming sessions. Mr. Wiseman being credited with setting a lot of the early “feel” of the game. Traveller is considered the forerunner to many of today’s SciFi RPGs.

Loren Wiseman with actress Virginia Hey at a convention in a photo dated January 11, 2011.

He served as editor of GDW’s publications supporting Traveller for 77 issues. In addition, Mr. Wiseman became line editor for the WWIII-themed Twilight 2000 RPG following its publication in 1984. His adventure module Twilight: 2000 Going Home won an Origins Award in 1986 as “One of the Best Games of the Year.”

Post-GDW career

Following GDW’s dissolution in 1996, Mr. Wiseman was brought on as art director and line editor at Steve Jackson Games (SJG) where he created the new version of Traveller using SJG’s GURPS ruleset in 1998. He continued to contribute to the product line with his writing and editing. He was inducted into the Origins Hall of Fame in 2003.

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So Cal Art Exhibit by SciFi Hall of Fame Artist Michael Whelan

With a career spanning over 40 years, it is very likely that you know Michael Whelans’s artwork even if you don’t know his name. His paintings have graced the covers of the books of a literal who’s who of SciFi and fantasy authors. The list includes Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, C.J. Cherryh, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Michael Moorcock and Melanie Rawn in addition to those of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. Del Rey, DAW and ACE are among the number of publishers who have commissioned him. Going beyond literature, Whelan also painted the cover artwork for The Jackson’s “Victory” album as well as Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” among others.

Over the course of his career, Whelan has won 15 Hugo Awards, three World Fantasy Awards, and 13 Chesleys awarded by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. He has also been named Best Professional Artist 30 times by the readers of Locus Magazine. The Society of Illustrators and the Science Fiction Writers of America have also bestowed awards upon him. In 2009, he became the first living artist to be inducted into The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, citing his “Imaginative Realism” style as breaking from the surrealism that prevailed on SciFi novel covers during the 1950s and 60s.

Michael Whelan is one of the most important contemporary science fiction and fantasy artists, and certainly the most popular. His work was a dominant force in the transition of genre book covers away from the surrealism introduced in the 1950s and 1960s back to realism. — From the Science Fiction Hall of Fame citation, June 2009

Now, his artwork is on display through May 25, 2017 at the Riverside Art Museum in the Mission Inn District of downtown Riverside, California. Beyond Science Fiction marks the first time that Whelan will be exhibiting his non-commercial work alongside his commercial paintings. While he’s had a number of retrospective exhibits at various conventions, Whelan said, “This is the first one in an art museum.”

A total of 50 pieces of artwork will be on display including his early iconic covers for Stormbringer, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Foundation and Robots of Dawn. The artwork for King’s Dark Tower novels will also represent is more current work along with the cover artwork for the recently published A Memory of Light from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Making their world debut will be a number of his private illustrations including In a World of Her Own and The Red Step. Also appearing are several “palette gremlins”. This is a series of paintings which were inspired by blobs of paint on his palettes that suggested an image upon which he expanded. He completed one a week through 2016.

The Riverside Art Museum is located at 3425 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA, 92501. Exhibit hours are normally Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m. Admission is $5 general; $3 students and ages 65 and older with ID; free for museum members, military and their families with ID and children under 12. Free general admission and different hours take place on the first Sunday and Thursday of each month. For more information visit the Riverside Art Museum’s page on the Whelan exhibit.

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Peggy Rae Sapienza to Receive Posthumous Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award from SWFA

SFWA Logo

Peggy Rae Sapienza at Capclave in 2007. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is pleased to announce that Peggy Rae Sapienza has been named the recipient of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award to honor her activities in support of science fiction and fantasy.

The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is given by SFWA for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community. 

Sapienza joins the ranks of previous Solstice Award winners, including Octavia Butler, James Tiptree, Jr., Tom Doherty, Carl Sagan, and Stanley Schmidt. The award will be presented at the 52nd Annual Nebula Conference and Awards in Pittsburgh, PA May 18th-21st, 2017.

 

If anyone was born into science fiction, it was Peggy Rae McKnight (1944-2015), whose father, Jack McKnight famously missed most of the 1953 Worldcon because he was creating the first Hugo Award trophies. She attended her first science fiction convention in 1956 and met her first husband, Bob Pavlat at her first Worldcon in 1960. Over the years, Sapienza was active in fanzine fandom as well as convention running. At Constellation in 1983, she and Pavlat received the Big Heart Award, shortly after Bob died. Science fiction wouldn’t release Peggy Rae. Active in local convention running, she also worked many Worldcon press offices and created the modern Worldcon fan concourse.

In 1998, she chaired Bucconeer, the Baltimore Worldcon, and the following year married John Sapienza. She was proud of her role in Nippon 2007, the first Japanese Worldcon. In 2012, Sapienza was named a Guest of Honor for Chicon 7, that year’s Worldcon. She also co-chaired the 2014 World Fantasy Convention before her death in January 2015. The Peggy Rae Sapienza Endowment at Northern Illinois University is named in her honor and helps support the SFWA Collection at the library.

During the 2000s, she became active in helping run events for SFWA, including the New York Reception and the Nebula Weekends. She co-chaired the 2010 Nebulas in Cocoa Beach and then chaired the Washington Nebulas in 2011 and 2012. She continued to help SFWA run its events and publish its magazine until shortly before her death.

SFWA will announce a second recipient of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award on January 31st.

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from May 18th-21st and feature a series of seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. On May 19th, a mass autograph session will take place at Pittsburgh Marriott City Center and is open to the public.

The Nebula Awards recognize the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, membership in which is open to all professional science fiction and fantasy authors. The first Nebula Awards were presented in 1966.

In addition to the Nebula Awards, SFWA will present the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

To find out more information and to register for the SFWA Nebula Conference, please visit nebulas.sfwa.org

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On ‘The Event Horizon’: Arisia GOH Ursula Vernon

Ursela Vernon, award winning creator of Digger, Hampster Princess, and Dragonbreath.

Last weekend Krypton Radio was at Arisia in Boston, Massachusetts, and we had the honor of recording the Guest of Honor panel for Ursula Vernon. She’s the author of a series of fantasy children’s books called Dragonbreath  and The Hampster Princess, is the creator and publisher of the Hugo Award winning web comic series called Digger, and is a writer and artist who has captured the imagination of fans all over the world.

Today’s episode of The Event Horizon is a recording of that panel, presented in its entirety. Ursela is bright, engaging, and relentlessly funny. Tune in tonight at 9 pm PST, 12 am EST to hear it. You can also hear the episode at the following additional times throughout the coming week:

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 4 pm PT / 5 pm Mountain / 6 pm Central / 7 pm ET
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 4 am PT / 5 am Mountain / 6 am Central / 7 am ET
Saturday, Jan 28, 2017 4 am PT / 5 am Mountain / 6 am Central / 7 am ET

After that, you’ll be able to get the episode on iTunes and Stitcher (and on the show page here on Krypton Radio) as a podcast.

We happened to be in Boston, by the way, because Executive Producer Susan Fox and Station Manager Gene Turnbow were also Guests of Honor at Arisia! Arisia is the largest science fiction and fantasy convention in the New England area, and the 2017 convention had an attendance of roughly 6,000.

The Event Horizon – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wifi!

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Have Thargoids Finally Invaded ‘Elite: Dangerous’?

Could this be the return of the Thargoids? Humans in Elite: Dangerous have made First Contact.

As some players of Elite: Dangerous have already learned, we have recently had our first encounter with the alien race, likely the race known as the Thargoids. DP Sayre, a player on the Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous discovered what were classed as “Unknown Ships” while making a hyperspace jump to Aries Dark Region XU-O b6-3. His Federal Corvette appears to have been shut down externally after being dragged out of hyperspace, and perhaps scanned by the new ship, though we cannot say for certain. This altogether fascinating event  was recorded on January 5th, 2017 at 8:38 PM in DP Sayre’s timezone. The motives of the new life forms have yet to be ascertained.

Wait! Before we delve too far into hypothesizing, what are Thargoids?

How Thargoids appeared in the original game ‘Elite’ in 1984.

According to the Elite: Dangerous Wikia, Thargoids are the second sentient race to be encountered in the entire Elite video game series, the first being standard humans. Their ships have a distinctive octagonal shape, unlike any other ship the player has seen in the game. Thargoids have been encountered in the first three games in the series, especially in the third installment titled Frontier: First Encounters. In all three of these games the Thargoids are a considerable threat to pilots. Thargoids are often capable of pulling players out of a hyperspace jump and into witch space, which is the area you enter during said hyperspace jumps. They then drag you through witch space into normal space, and often shoot at you on sight.

In these previous games, it was considered extremely rare to survive contact with the Thargoids, unless you were following a certain line of missions in Frontier: First Encounters. Now, in Elite: Dangerous, it seems very little has changed about the experience of being interdicted by one, other than being shot out of the sky. Instead, after being violently dragged out of a hyperspace jump within 100 light years of the Maia system, the player experiences a total shutdown of their ship’s systems. After being left spinning out in the black, the player is then greeted by the Unknown Ship, with an octagonally-symmetric character to their ships similar to the original Thargoid ships. After a few seconds, the Unknown ship turns to face the player, opens up, and appears to scan the player’s vessel. After the scan, the Unknown Ship flies past the player, sending them into another spin cycle before the player’s ship controls are back online. If the player were to scan this alien craft, they would learn that it is entirely unknown, and gives the player an Unknown Ship signature, which is likely to become useful later. The Unknown Ship then warps out of normal space, unable to be followed, even with the assistance of a wake scanner.

Players have attempted to shoot at this Unknown Ship, but to no avail; this ship is equipped with shields stronger than any shield that could be obtained by a player. Luckily, the only potentially offensive function of this ship is to totally disable systems, which is similar to the EMP generated by the Unknown Probe after scanning it with the Discovery Scanner equipped on most ships. If these Unknown ships were to directly attack players, it is very likely it will be able to immediately disable ship controls and keep them shut down, just long enough to whittle their hull  integrity to zero. If we consider how impervious these ships appear to be, it seems it would take an entire wing of pilots to take a single Unknown Ship down, but getting too close would spell imminent demise. Perhaps we will not be using conventional weapons at all, instead using something to disrupt their own systems?

Another theory says that perhaps these aliens are not hostile at all, and instead merely curious. They may not have encountered humans very often, and they seem to be curious. All they appear to do is pluck pilots out of hyperspace and scan them, perhaps not even aware that their mere presence shuts down ship systems. The EMP that shuts our ships down may even be an accident, a by-product of the Unknown Probe and Unknown Ship scanners.

Speculation is all we can do for now, as we only have information from previous encounters with alien technology in the game, namely the Unknown Probes, Unknown Artefacts, Barnacles, alien ship crash sites, and ancient ruins found on distant planets. If you wish, you can look at previous studies by the Canonn Research Group, a player-made and player-run group dedicated to studying potential alien life in the Elite: Dangerous game, on the Frontier forums, or on their private message boards. Both can be found on their website, but to access their private boards you must become a member of the Canonn Reasearch group via their website.

Whether or not these ships actually belong to the Thargoids has yet to be confirmed, but their behavior is eerily similar to Thargoid behavior in past games. In the first two games, Thargoids were actually at war with the humans, and it’s very likely this may be the case in Elite: Dangerous, as well.

Fly safe, Commanders.

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