Archive for the 'philomath' Category

Dec 21 2011

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Cover art for Lance of Earth and Sky! Plus, get Clockwork Phoenix on Kindle

We're sliding into the holidays, and there is prettiness to share! Behold, Dehong's latest lovely creation:


(Click the image to open a larger version.)

You can now preorder Lance of Earth and Sky on Amazon also. :)

It's truly an honor to have another cover from Dehong. I understand he's been very busy with Time Voyager (and their MMO coincidentally titled Chaos Gate!), so it's especially fortunate that he was able to make some time for Andovar. :)

Also, you can now pick up Clockwork Phoenix on Kindle for $3.99! The anthology was critically acclaimed and has some great stories in it from Laird Barron, Leah Bobet, Michael J. DeLuca, and others -- including my fableish thing "Root and Vein", which got a nice call out from this recent review at Dark Cargo.

Reviews continue to come in for Sword of Fire and Sea and I have been inexcusably lax in getting them all compiled onto my website. But That Bookish Girl says "Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman was an incredibly exciting and compelling read." -- and SFFWorld.com weighs in on gryphons and more: "Through her characters, Hoffman imbues the Gryphons with a true sense of awe, and an initial feeling of them being the Other."

I hope you are all winding toward a great holiday season, and an even better 2012.

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Oct 22 2011

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Goodreads Giveaway of Sword of Fire and Sea

Poking my head in here since it looks like Goodreads has approved my giveaway -- must have missed the email!

On Halloween entries will close, so get it while it's hot! Three copies up for grabs.

More news... soon. :) The game is afoot! Also, in Andovar news, this past week I received the countersigned contract for Shield of Sea and Space, which means: IT'S A TRILOGY!!! Lance of Earth and Sky comes out April 2012, and I turn in Shield in June.

But I know you're really here for giveaway details. Let's see if this works!





Goodreads Book Giveaway



Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman



Sword of Fire and Sea



by Erin Hoffman




Giveaway ends October 31, 2011.


See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter to win


No responses yet

Oct 22 2011

Profile Image of Erin

Goodreads Giveaway of Sword of Fire and Sea

Poking my head in here since it looks like Goodreads has approved my giveaway -- must have missed the email!

On Halloween entries will close, so get it while it's hot! Three copies up for grabs.

More news... soon. :) The game is afoot! Also, in Andovar news, this past week I received the countersigned contract for Shield of Sea and Space, which means: IT'S A TRILOGY!!! Lance of Earth and Sky comes out April 2012, and I turn in Shield in June.

But I know you're really here for giveaway details. Let's see if this works!





Goodreads Book Giveaway



Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman



Sword of Fire and Sea



by Erin Hoffman




Giveaway ends October 31, 2011.


See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter to win


No responses yet

Sep 09 2011

Profile Image of Erin

1988, Game Piracy, and the End of an Escapist Era

It's been awhile since I last wrote for the Escapist, so I'm glad it appears I haven't forgotten how to do it. "1988: the Golden Age of Game Piracy", went live today. Many thanks to Paul Reiche for providing insights; in addition to his actual quotes, his perspective pivoted the article away from a first draft that had a rather different tone.

I had intended to post about the article with some "bonus features" in the form of a section that was ultimately removed (rightfully) for being too academic. Maybe I'll post that another time, since I'd really like to know whether I was properly applying some economic theory.

But instead I'd like to draw your attention to this post from Russ Pitts, "Goodbye is Still Goodbye".

As you might gather, Russ is moving on from the magazine, and while I've worked with a great number of wonderful folk in the last five years, I don't think any of them would disagree that Russ's departure in particular marks the end of an era.

My first article for the Escapist back in 2006 was a rather impetuous call to arms for the modern game industry, when the E was quite a different place. It had almost none of its current features and was instead "purely" focused on what would become its "feature" articles; there was a beautiful graphic cover and full spread art for each feature. Even then, in the magazine's youth, I thought it was a tremendous honor to write for them, and over the years I do believe they remained the best and most thoughtful source of game journalism in the US. They aimed to set a standard of excellence, and Russ was a big part of that success.

Joe Blancato and Jon Martin (both also by now departed) made my introduction to the magazine, but Russ was the consistent editorial steady hand on the wheel throughout -- even, interestingly, when he'd moved on to fresher pastures to grow the magazine's new video content. Where many game magazines have a very well-intentioned but limited tunnel vision view of the industry and the market, Russ had a worldliness that gave the magazine breadth and, I think, greater relevance. He published some tremendous stuff, and as the magazine grew and changed -- even when it transitioned away from some of the thoughtfulness and cultural forward-thinking that had first earned it my loyalty as a reader and a writer -- I always respected his ability to ride the leading edge of a wave that made new careers even as it destroyed many others.

So, as Leah would say, tip your hat, folks; the times they are a-changin'. There is little doubt that the Escapist will remain a powerhouse in game media for many years to come, and even less doubt that Russ will go on to even greater adventures. But among other things, Inside Job, the quality of life column I wrote from 2007-2008, wouldn't have existed without him, nor, I'm sure, would many of my feature articles. I am a better writer as a result, and I will always think back on the production of each -- even when edits and deadlines plus a "real" job resulted in all-nighter catatonia -- with great fondness.

You can keep up with Russ's rather strange blog here, and peruse records of his own odd internet notoriety.

No responses yet

Sep 09 2011

Profile Image of Erin

1988, Game Piracy, and the End of an Escapist Era

It's been awhile since I last wrote for the Escapist, so I'm glad it appears I haven't forgotten how to do it. "1988: the Golden Age of Game Piracy", went live today. Many thanks to Paul Reiche for providing insights; in addition to his actual quotes, his perspective pivoted the article away from a first draft that had a rather different tone.

I had intended to post about the article with some "bonus features" in the form of a section that was ultimately removed (rightfully) for being too academic. Maybe I'll post that another time, since I'd really like to know whether I was properly applying some economic theory.

But instead I'd like to draw your attention to this post from Russ Pitts, "Goodbye is Still Goodbye".

As you might gather, Russ is moving on from the magazine, and while I've worked with a great number of wonderful folk in the last five years, I don't think any of them would disagree that Russ's departure in particular marks the end of an era.

My first article for the Escapist back in 2006 was a rather impetuous call to arms for the modern game industry, when the E was quite a different place. It had almost none of its current features and was instead "purely" focused on what would become its "feature" articles; there was a beautiful graphic cover and full spread art for each feature. Even then, in the magazine's youth, I thought it was a tremendous honor to write for them, and over the years I do believe they remained the best and most thoughtful source of game journalism in the US. They aimed to set a standard of excellence, and Russ was a big part of that success.

Joe Blancato and Jon Martin (both also by now departed) made my introduction to the magazine, but Russ was the consistent editorial steady hand on the wheel throughout -- even, interestingly, when he'd moved on to fresher pastures to grow the magazine's new video content. Where many game magazines have a very well-intentioned but limited tunnel vision view of the industry and the market, Russ had a worldliness that gave the magazine breadth and, I think, greater relevance. He published some tremendous stuff, and as the magazine grew and changed -- even when it transitioned away from some of the thoughtfulness and cultural forward-thinking that had first earned it my loyalty as a reader and a writer -- I always respected his ability to ride the leading edge of a wave that made new careers even as it destroyed many others.

So, as Leah would say, tip your hat, folks; the times they are a-changin'. There is little doubt that the Escapist will remain a powerhouse in game media for many years to come, and even less doubt that Russ will go on to even greater adventures. But among other things, Inside Job, the quality of life column I wrote from 2007-2008, wouldn't have existed without him, nor, I'm sure, would many of my feature articles. I am a better writer as a result, and I will always think back on the production of each -- even when edits and deadlines plus a "real" job resulted in all-nighter catatonia -- with great fondness.

You can keep up with Russ's rather strange blog here, and peruse records of his own odd internet notoriety.

No responses yet

Jul 18 2011

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Meet Thalnarra! One hour left!

This is a very quick post to call your attention to Thalnarra, who waits for you in the magical land of ebay! Thalnarra is one of Melody Pena's Windstone griffins, hand-painted to look like your favorite gryphon fire priestess. In many ways Thalnarra is the centerpoint of Andovar as a world; I hear frequently from readers that she was their favorite, so it's amazing to see her "in the feathers" here.

Melody did such an incredible job. If you've ever seen a Windstone in person you know that photos don't do them justice, even when the photos are amazing (there are more in that album, and on ebay). I want to gush about this for thousands of words, but I also want you to actually read this and then click right over to the ebay auction and try your luck.

Honestly. If you had told me five years ago that Melody would be painting one of her amazing griffins to look like a character I'd invented, I would ask you to share whatever you were smoking.



Stay tuned next week for a post about the making of Thalnarra, and to congratulate her new owner. :)

No responses yet

Jul 18 2011

Profile Image of Erin

Meet Thalnarra! One hour left!

This is a very quick post to call your attention to Thalnarra, who waits for you in the magical land of ebay! Thalnarra is one of Melody Pena's Windstone griffins, hand-painted to look like your favorite gryphon fire priestess. In many ways Thalnarra is the centerpoint of Andovar as a world; I hear frequently from readers that she was their favorite, so it's amazing to see her "in the feathers" here.

Melody did such an incredible job. If you've ever seen a Windstone in person you know that photos don't do them justice, even when the photos are amazing (there are more in that album, and on ebay). I want to gush about this for thousands of words, but I also want you to actually read this and then click right over to the ebay auction and try your luck.

Honestly. If you had told me five years ago that Melody would be painting one of her amazing griffins to look like a character I'd invented, I would ask you to share whatever you were smoking.



Stay tuned next week for a post about the making of Thalnarra, and to congratulate her new owner. :)

No responses yet

Jun 23 2011

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Where to get signed copies!

For those of you kind and intrepid and incredible folk who have been interested in signed copies of Sword of Fire and Sea, here are some answers!

First, you can come to the next signing, which will be July 23, 2011 at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. If you can't make it there, I'll be at Westercon July 2-4, Dragon*Con September 2-5, and World Fantasy Con October 27-30. I may be adding a couple of more trips; when I have them finalized I'll be updating this page with them.

Secondly, you can order signed copies anytime from Mysterious Galaxy! Mysterious Galaxy is a fantastic independent science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror bookstore in San Diego (my hometown!). They've been around since 1993 and have been keeping genre alive and building one of the best genre fiction communities in the country.

I have many memories of peeking into Mysterious Galaxy's windows (there's a Japanese restaurant in the same center that my family has been going to for years), so it was particularly awesome to "launch" Sword of Fire and Sea there officially. And despite it being my first signing, I don't know how you could ask for better support: they advertised the heck out of the event, and Maryelizabeth provided terrific advice over facebook before I came down. Patrick and David were wonderful throughout, making sure everything ran smoothly and providing a convention's worth of stimulating science fiction and fantasy conversation in just a couple of hours.

So there are your answers! Go forth and buy books from a terrific San Diego institution! There are more photos from the signing on the Andovar facebook page (but you're already a member there, right?), and on Flickr.


Kiba, fresh in her summer coat, says: shop from sources who put good things into the world!

No responses yet

Jun 23 2011

Profile Image of Erin

Where to get signed copies!

For those of you kind and intrepid and incredible folk who have been interested in signed copies of Sword of Fire and Sea, here are some answers!

First, you can come to the next signing, which will be July 23, 2011 at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. If you can't make it there, I'll be at Westercon July 2-4, Dragon*Con September 2-5, and World Fantasy Con October 27-30. I may be adding a couple of more trips; when I have them finalized I'll be updating this page with them.

Secondly, you can order signed copies anytime from Mysterious Galaxy! Mysterious Galaxy is a fantastic independent science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror bookstore in San Diego (my hometown!). They've been around since 1993 and have been keeping genre alive and building one of the best genre fiction communities in the country.

I have many memories of peeking into Mysterious Galaxy's windows (there's a Japanese restaurant in the same center that my family has been going to for years), so it was particularly awesome to "launch" Sword of Fire and Sea there officially. And despite it being my first signing, I don't know how you could ask for better support: they advertised the heck out of the event, and Maryelizabeth provided terrific advice over facebook before I came down. Patrick and David were wonderful throughout, making sure everything ran smoothly and providing a convention's worth of stimulating science fiction and fantasy conversation in just a couple of hours.

So there are your answers! Go forth and buy books from a terrific San Diego institution! There are more photos from the signing on the Andovar facebook page (but you're already a member there, right?), and on Flickr.


Kiba, fresh in her summer coat, says: shop from sources who put good things into the world!

No responses yet

Jun 08 2011

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Ecco the Dolphin and the Secrets of the Universe

Looking for answers? Dianetics, The Secret, The Seven Deadly Foibles of Unrepentant Sociopaths? The revelations that you seek are in Ecco the Dolphin.

Produced by Ed Annunziata and developed by the international Novotrade International team (later Appaloosa Interactive), the first Ecco the Dolphin came out early in the age of Sega Genesis. Dolphins and whales in general were high on the mainstream consciousness through the 70s and 80s, with Songs of the Humpback Whale debuting in 1970, the first human-recorded sounds of whale communication, and going on to sell a multiplatinum thirty million copies in the following decades. The record burned through our hominid brains, a universal call for the sacred mysteries of nature, and it's a short hop from there to the illustrative work of Robert Wyland, whose depictions linking whales and far galaxies look like concept art for Ecco.

What makes Ecco really stand out, though, is that as a game it was so phenomenally well crafted. And, like most exceptionally well made video games, it contains the secrets of the universe.

I unpacked the Sega Genesis (not my family's original -- a used system picked up on ebay a couple of years ago) for a little book launch party this past weekend, and as inevitably happens when I'm left alone with a Genesis, when the party was over I fired up Ecco II: The Tides of Time.

I've played this game many times (though admittedly rarely all the way through). This time around I was struck by two things: 1) the flow and progression of this game is actually completely brilliant; 2) how in the world did they get away with shipping a game that was so incredibly hard?

Realization #2 is perhaps what Tides of Time in particular is so well-known for, which is unfortunate. The game is hard. But the best games are. The very best games are the ones that are brutally hard but don't allow you to put them down. This is a delicate, stunning balance, an invisibly momentous achievement -- the challenge pushes you to your absolute limit, but with every play you feel yourself getting just a little bit closer. You never, at any point, truly feel that you can't win. And riding that knife-edge of balance and challenge is wickedly difficult. How the team managed it in the wild west of this still relatively early console development I have no idea, but there is something magical about this period in game history, something that produced genius. Although Ecco II is my go-to has-everything game, if you put a gun to my head I'd still have a hard time telling you whether it, Phantasy Star IV, or Sid Meier's Pirates! Gold should be declared king of the Sega Genesis.

But in spite of all that, I couldn't help but marvel at how really rather absurdly difficult even the first few levels of Ecco II are. I cruised through the first two, marveling again at the challenge and simplicity of the vibrating-crystal puzzle in the third level -- and by the time I hit my first failed run at "Sky Tides", I was developing some serious respect for my twelve-year-old self for having the tenacity to beat the game. I was also astonished that I'd done it. I went up against the "Tube of Medusa" a round dozen times before I stopped, in astonishment, and wondered how in the hell anyone managed to push through these levels.

That was when I googled "Tube of Medusa" and found these brilliant play-through videos. I watched the end of the game first, partly because I didn't know that's what it was (it was the most popular video -- doubtless for the thousands of people who played but never finished the game). And then I went back and watched from the beginning, cackling to myself with glee when he thought the crystals puzzle was difficult. And when he thought "Skyway" was a pain. And when he died over and over again for the next entire video against "Sky Tides". And when he went up against the Medusa, died, and found himself rolled back to "Skyway" and completely lost his shit. If you've ever played any of the Ecco games you owe it to yourself to watch these videos.


The videos themselves are a tight illustration of this frustration-challenge-triumph progression that is so well done in the Ecco games (the first two anyway -- I loved the story of Defender of the Future, but just never quite bought the 3D interpretation of Ecco). The games drive you absolutely mad -- but you keep playing, not out of some deeply planted masochistic impulse, but because the game is persistently telling you: just a little longer. Just try one more time.

And this gets to the heart of one of the most powerful lessons that games as a whole teach.

Games, especially physics simulators like Ecco, are encapsulated constructions of our perception of the nature of reality. We simulate the rules of the universe in small packages in an attempt to understand how it works, how we work. The artistic insight and understanding achieved through games is therefore an insight that emerges from the process of experiencing the simulation -- a core truth about our experience of life itself.

There was no doubt in my mind that as a kid I absorbed deep and powerful things from Ecco. The sheer beauty of the game was an insight all on its own -- the way its music and physics feel and graphics lull you into this trance-like flow state. And this beauty and flow is emphasized again through the game's mechanics, which require such a precision of movement and reflex that it cannot be conscious. In playing the most difficult parts of Ecco, you will bang your head again and again if you are distracted, or too self-conscious. You succeed when you let go, when you let reflex take over, when you are absorbed in the game.

Ecco II could not be what it is without its incredible difficulty. And it makes me wilt a little inside to think that games like this would have an awfully hard time being made and published in today's market. Ecco's difficulty did repel many gamers, who weren't sufficiently hooked through the opening to rise to the challenges it offered. (To this day, if you google Ecco what you'll find are a lot of gamers complaining about how hard the game was, which they translate to "it sucks" -- and then wonder today why games are so much easier than they used to be [and then complain about that].) But another point of interest for me is that I often find that some of the most brilliant, creative, and inspiring young women I know today loved Ecco as a kid. It spoke to something in all of us, something so powerful that it made us beat a game that to this day is infamous in the history of stupidly hard games.

So here, in short, are critical lessons that Ecco teaches:

1) Fail. Fail a lot. Then win. Every success book will tell you this, but Ecco actually shows it to you. The problem with the books is that their message often reaches us as patently false. Sure, the people who "win" at various things in life almost always have a long string of failed attempts behind them. But so do the people who continually fail. The critical variation here is: fail a lot, but get just a little bit better every time. That is how you win. And that just a little bit better is the sweet taste of success that gives us courage in the face of failure.

2) Paying too much attention throws you off your game. You need to let go and release your intuitive mind. First you strategize, but when you perform, you let go. An astonishing amount of fail comes from over thinking.

3) Explore. Sometimes the thing that you're looking for is tucked away in a corner that you'll only find if you're thorough and meticulous.

4) Know your tools. Think ahead. If you take the time to map out your surroundings and develop a plan, you drastically up your odds.

5) Go slow. If you rush into the unknown you will almost always die. Going slow and keeping control -- cultivating disciplined patience -- gets you where you want to go faster than rushing, even though this is unintuitive.

6) Analyze your failure. You can sometimes brute force your way through a challenge by sheer luck, but if you stop, take a breath, and think, you can usually observe something about the way your environment is behaving in reaction to your attempt that will be the key to your success. There is always a key. There is always a secret. And the faster you acknowledge and alter your mistakes, the faster you succeed.

7) Master your emotions. The thing that makes most challenges seem unwinnable is your own reaction to the challenge. Adrenaline is only productive in certain situations. Most of the time it just gets in your way. Breathe.

These seem like simple things when they're listed and told, which is the nature of lessons. You can rarely effectively absorb them from a list or a collection of words. But a game allows you to experience the lesson, to perform the metaphor, and so many of our intrinsic learning systems kick in as a result that the realizations are hundreds of times more powerful.

If you listen through those youtube videos, you can hear Hidenozuke going through this process, which is fascinating and fun.

I do wish he'd do a run-through of the first game. Though any reasonable physician, I suppose, might not allow it.

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