Touch Me Not, a surreal 18th century manual on how to raise the Devil, and then send him treasure hunting

Last year, the UK occult arts publisher, Fulgur Limited , celebrated its 25th anniversary. Initially focused on the work of the early 20th century British occult artist, Austin Spare, over the years, the imprint has published some of the most beautiful and significant books at the confluence of art and magic and has been the leader in the modern so-called talismanic publishing scene. What the Devil is talismanic publishing? It's an approach to publishing that incorporates magical practice into the act of publishing itself.

The concept originated with occultist Aleister Crowley in the late 19th century. He sought to treat his small press published books on magic and poetry as talismanic objects. Where any book nerd might argue that a finely designed, high-quality printed and bound book is already a magical object, talismanic publishing takes this to another level, with the selection of papers, inks, colors, fonts, and dates and times of publishing often being chosen with magical intent and a special level of consideration being given to the "out of box" experience and initial opening of the book. I have had talismanic books arrive with hand-calligraphied addresses, special perfumed paper wrappings, wax-seals, hand-drawn sigils, and more. Some may roll their eyes at all of this as woo-woo marketing gimmickry, but when this treatment is done well, it lends itself to a unique and elevated experience for anyone who loves bewitching books.

A great case in point is Fulgur's gorgeous new tome, Touch Me Not, their full-color facsimile of the infamous late 18th century grimoire, A Most Rare Compendium of the Whole Magical Art. Read the rest

Fantastic new promo video for this season's Power Racing Series

One of the great joys of being involved with Make:, Maker Faire, and the maker movement over the years has been watching the creation, growth, and evolution of the Power Racing Series. For those who don't know, the Power Racing Series was started by Jim Burke (who was, for a time Make:'s lead designer) when he was at the Chicago hackerspace, Pumping Station: One. The first race was in 2009 and was all PS: One members. The second race, at the 2010 Detroit Maker Faire, was the start of the PRS and Maker Faire's partnership which continues today. Now, the US-spanning PRS circuit includes races at Maker Faires across the country.

Basically, the Power Racing Series is teams of adult kiddie car hackers modifying Power Wheels (and other powered kid vehicles) and racing them in a LeMons-style race. The hacker teams can only spend up to $500 to modify and upgrade their car. It's all in good fun and basically an excuse to collaborate with other makers to try and push your tiny ride to the limit. And to have a crackin' good time in the process. Prizes are given out for things like the most Moxie Points, your ability to take risks, swerve into your weirdness, and pander to the crowd.

There are 9 races taking place this season, starting at Maker Faire Bay Area this month (May 18-20) and ending at the Maker Faire Orlando in November (Nov 10-11). Check out this wonderful video that Jim Burke posted to his YouTube channel a few days ago to promote Season 9. Read the rest

What Jack Kirby proposed for the plaques on the Pioneer space probes

By way of the Daily Grail comes this fascinating bit of Pioneer spacecraft history. Kirby was among the artist asked to submit ideas for the plaques to be flown on the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes, launched in the early 1970s. Kirby's submission was vastly different than the very literal pictogram designed by Frank Drake, Carl Sagan, and Linda Salzman-Sagan and flown on the missions. Jack was not comfortable with the idea of giving some future Galactus GPS directions to our house.

I would have included no further information than a rough image of the Earth and its one moon. I see no wisdom in the eagerness to be found and approached by any intelligence with the ability to accomplish it from any sector of space. In the meetings between ‘discoverers’ and ‘discoverees,’ history has always given the advantage to the finders. In the case of the Jupiter (Pioneer) plaque, I feel that a tremendous issue was thoughtlessly taken out of the world forum by a few individuals who have marked a clear trail to our door.

My point is, who will come a-knocking – the trader or the tiger?

In describing his approach to the art he submitted, he wrote:

It appears to me that man’s self image has always spoken far more about him than does his reality-figure. My vision of the plaque would have revealed the exuberant, self-confident super visions with which we’ve clothed ourselves since time immemorial. The comic strip super-heroes and heroines, in my belief, personify humanity’s innate idealism and drive

Personally, I don't think we want "underwear perverts" (as Warren Ellis has called spandex supers) representing us, but you've got to love the idea of communicating "exuberant, self-confident super visions" of ourselves. Read the rest

First look at Strange Angel, the CBS series based on the life of occultist, rocket pioneer, Jack Parsons

After much anticipation, we finally get a first look at Strange Angel, the ten episode CBS All Access drama series based on the life of rocket scientist, JPL co-founder, and occultist, Jack Parsons. The series is loosely based on the book, Strange Angel, by Boing Boing pal, George Pendle. It remains to be seen how loose. And how far from reality they take the occult and sex magic aspects of Jack's life. Parsons was a member of British occultist Aleister Crowley's O.T.O., and for a time, ran the group's Agape Lodge, a hotbed of sex, drugs, and edgy classical, in Pasadena, CA. The series premiers on June 14th.

If you are unfamiliar with Parsons, here is an article I wrote for Make: magazine years ago, focusing on Jack's amateur rocketry roots. Read the rest

Exploring the politics and history of alternate universes at the Templin Institute

If you haven't seen any of the videos produced by the Templin Institute, then you are in for a real treat. Templin is a shadowy online organization of deep sci-fi, fantasy, and game geeks who post a prolific number of extremely well-done documentary video essays covering the histories, politics, factions, cultures, and characters behind dozens of sci-fi and fantasy universes.

I have binge-watched dozens of episodes covering aspects of Star Wars, Star Trek, Fallout, Mad Max, Dune, Harry Potter, Warhammer 40,000, Aliens, and many more. They do a really impressive job of putting together these essays using film clips, screen caps, concept and fan art. The writing and narration are also well-done and extremely informative. I learned a lot, even about fictional universes that I already know way too much about.

Recently, the Templin Institute has announced a crowd-contributed sci-fi universe that they are creating themselves. They are going to allow their viewers to submit planets, races, factions, and the like, and the best/most popular ones will be incorporated into the world and future videos. I love this idea. I just hope it doesn't take too much away from their weekly coverage of existing fictional worlds.

You can follow them on their YouTube channel, Twitch, and Facebook. And you can support them on Patreon, if you like what they are doing. Read the rest

What's new in tabletop gaming? (April edition)

Last month, I posted the first of what I hope will be a series of Boing Boing articles looking at the latest tabletop miniature, board, card, and roleplaying games, and some of what's going on in tabletop gaming culture. Here is some of what's been holding my attention this month.

Mythic Battles: Pantheon Monolith Games, 1-4 Players, Ages 14+ I was bummed when I thought I wouldn't have an opportunity to plug this game here on Boing Boing. Mythic Battles: Pantheon was a Kickstarter exclusive game in 2016, a campaign in which Monolith/Mythic Games raked in nearly US$2.7 million. I was lucky enough to be one of the backers. The rewards for the base game and stretch goals amounted to two gigantic doorstop boxes filled with some of the most gorgeous, detailed minis, boards, cards, and other components I've ever seen. There are few recent games (see Rising Sun below) that are lovelier than Mythic Battles. A board game/miniatures hybrid, Mythic Battles pits (usually) 2 players and their hosts of Greek gods, titans, monsters, and heroes against each other.

I cannot tell you how much I love this game. Besides the beautiful miniatures and components, which are all highly evocative of the setting, Mythic Battles: Pantheon has some really unique and interesting game mechanics, mostly driven through an activation deck and special "Art of War" cards, which serve as wild cards that allow you to perform a number of special actions. This really is ultimately a deck management game. Read the rest

Deciphering "wee old lady" library book code

Georgia Grainger, a Scottish librarian, began a fascinating Twitter thread earlier this week:

Turns out from the ensuing comments that this is a rather common practice. Read the rest

Is Stormy Daniels being shadowbanned on Twitter?

This afternoon, Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress and director to whom Dear Leader's lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid hush money weeks before the 2016 election, tweeted the following:

It's true. If you search on her name, and hit the Latest tab, you see lots of Trump-linked tweets and tweets where Ms. Daniels is mentioned, but not a single one of the recent Tweets from Stormy Daniels herself. [Note: her posts don't appear when you click the "Latest" tab, but her posts do appear in the "Top" tab -- Mark]

Hey Twitter? What's up with this? Is she being shadowbanned? It actually appears to be a redirect to Trump tweets. Who might be doing this?

Image: mkhmarketing/Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Read the rest

Watch the world's oldest board game, The Royal Game of Ur, being played

Last year, in celebration of International Tabletop Day, the British Museum did several videos of Merlin the Magician, er... Irving Finkel, the Assistant Curator of Ancient Mesopotamian script, talking about and playing The Royal Game of Ur, an over 4-millennium-old game from Mesopotamia.

Finkel has spent the lion's share of his life trying to decipher the history and rules of this ancient, 2-person racing game. The museum had a copy of the board (which Finkel made a replica of as a child), but had no idea which rules set went with it. Fortuitously, among the museum's 3500 clay tablets, Finkel eventually managed to uncover an analysis of the game, written by a Mesopotamian astronomer, and from there was able to reverse engineer the rules (and matched the rules to the mysterious gameboard artifact in the museum's collection).

There are some interesting mechanics here, including using 4-sided dice that have two white tips. An upright white tip counts as a 1. The Royal Game of Ur looks really fun, and surprisingly exciting to play. Finkel points out that it's the kind of game that, when one player falls behind the other, it actually gives them a momentary advantage and that creates a kind of back and forth, quickly changing fortunes dynamic that makes for a tense game. Finkel also points out that the original board had a built-in drawer to house the dice and playing pieces, a design that's still used in chess and other boards over 4,000 years later. Read the rest

Gamer makes edible polyhedral dice, scores a crit hit

German pastry chef, gamer, cosplayer, and Twittizen, Sonja decided to make a batch of edible candy RPG/polyhedral dice. She posted pictures on Twitter and all the nerds came running to her yard. Realizing she might have a hungry market on her hands, Sonja has quickly opened up an Etsy store, the cleverly-named, Sugar and Dice.

Batches of the dice are Isomalt sugar and are edible. They can either be "eaten as a hard candy bonbon or dissolved into a hot cup of tea or coffee." Sonja points out that they are not balanced and not perfect on all sides, so they can't really be reliably used in gaming.

A set of 7 dice (1 each of d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d100, and d20) will run you £18, shipped to the US (and take 1-2 weeks). Not exactly penny candy, but a cool novelty and a unique, fun gift for a gamer friend. I will definitely be getting some. A set of these will make a nice gaming night prize. Read the rest

Historical Dungeons and Dragons artifacts and an unreleased pilot for an 80s D and D radio show

I am a huge fan of Jon Peterson's beautiful doorstop of a tome, Playing at the World, an exhaustive history of D&D, RPGs, and wargames. So, I was delighted to discover his YouTube channel. Even though he only has a few videos on it, I found them all very interesting.

In "A History of D&D in 12 Treasures," Jon looks at 12 artifacts (I assume from his personal collection) that help in understanding the early development and history of D&D. It it so cool to see early correspondence between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, early newsletters, rules for pre-D&D games that influenced D&D, and of course, the first printed, 3-booklet edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Before there was Critical Role, HarmonQuest, D&D With Pornstars, and Wizards of the Coast's own Dice, Camera, Action, there was The D&D Radio Show. Or, there would have been if it had ever been broadcast. Back in the 1980s, TSR created a pilot for a D&D radio show that never saw air. Jon got a hold of the pilot episode. It's fascinating to ponder what RPG entertainment, now in its infancy, might be like today if it had taken hold over 30 years ago.

In this video, Jon sits down with fellow D&D history nerd, Bill Meinhardt, to go through the early boxed set editions of D&D to discuss how you can tell which printing is which. Read the rest

The psychedelic nightmares of the pop-up Necronomicon

I'm a big fan of Oakland psychedelic artist, Skinner. Back in 2016, I posted here on Boing Boing about his incredible animated video for High on Fire's "The Black Plot."

I also love the work that pop-up book artist, Rosston Meyer, is doing with his Poposition Press. Last year, I did a review of his collaboration with Japanese pop artist Junko Mizuno, for her book, TRIAD.

So, imagine my excitement when I heard that Meyer and Skinner were collaborating on a pop-up book illustrating scenes from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The resulting tome is truly a mind-twisting artifact. Skinner's Necronomicon renders five scenes from Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time, The Call of Cthulhu, At The Mountains of Madness, and The Colour Out of Space. Each pop-up spread also contains two quotes from the work that drop down from the outside edges of each page. The whole effect is one of wonder, high-weirdness, and the kind of eyeball-popping, slavering insanity you would expect of anything associated with Lovecraft. And Skinner.

Here is a video tour of the book from the Best Pop-Up Books YouTube channel.

You can order Skinner's Necronomicon directly from Poposition Press. Read the rest

What's new in the world of tabletop gaming?

I've been getting a lot of review copies of games sent to me lately, so I thought, periodically, I'd share some of what looks interesting and fun to me with Boing Boing readers.

Stuffed Fables Plaid Hat Games, $60, 2-4 players, Ages 7+

Stuffed Fables, by Mice and Mystics designer, Jerry Hawthorne, is a cooperative story-telling miniatures game that literally takes place inside of an illustrated storybook. I love the backstory here. The game is played within ten adventures that take place in a little girl's bedroom (with each adventure triggered by a milestone event in her life, like moving into a big girl bed). As she sleeps at night, her nightmares come to life and crawl out from under her bed.To defend her from these boogeymen, her beloved stuffed animals ("stuffies") come to life and go to battle against these monsters from her nightmares. The little girl remains none-the-wiser about the epic battles that take place as she slumbers. While the game has a fairy-horror theme, and awesome miniatures to fit that theme, it's not very dark to play. It's rated 7+, and that probably holds true in practice, although the rules and game mechanics might prove a little too fussy for younger attention spans. The plastic miniatures (23 of them), the storybook/gameboards, and all of the rest of the components are gorgeous and very much fit the dreamy/fairy-horror theme. I'm planning on doing a Stuffed Fables game night at my house soon and requiring players to come in PJs and bring their own stuffies. Read the rest

So, who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

We've certainly heard plenty of reporters and cable news talking heads marble-mouthing their way through "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School" over the past week. It definitely doesn't want to roll off of the tongue. But who exactly is the school's namesake, Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

Turns out, Marjory Douglas was a bit of a badass in her own right, a writer of some repute who became a relentless advocate for preserving the Florida everglades. She was also an outspoken suffragist and civil rights advocate. She died in 1998 at the age of 108. Read the rest

Erik Davis talks Jack Parsons and "Babalon Rising"

In light of the forthcoming Ridley Scott-produced miniseries on the life of U.S. rocketry pioneer, JPL co-founder, and occultist, Jack Parsons, it's wonderful to see this brilliant discussion of Parsons, at least the occult dimensions of his work, making the rounds.

On this Occulture podcast, host Ryan Peverly welcomes Boing Boing pal Erik Davis to discuss two significant academic papers that Erik has recently published about Parsons, "Babalon Launching" [PDF], exploring the odd interplay of techno-science and occultism in Parsons' work, and "Babalon Rising," which examines Parsons' relationship with the divine feminine and the form of witchcraft he was developing before his untimely death in 1952 in a home lab explosion. It is fascinating to speculate how modern witchcraft might have been different if Parsons' (and wife Cameron's) witchcraft had come to fruition in the early 1950s alongside Gerald Gardner's brand of Wicca. Erik and Ryan are joined in the discussion by Miguel Conner (host of Aeon Byte/Gnostic Radio) and Jeff Wolfe (Secret Transmissions).

If you are unfamiliar with Parsons, he's an extremely important figure in both the development of American/California aerospace and modern occultism. The best book on Parsons, the one the miniseries is based on, is George Pendle's Strange Angel. The book Sex & Rockets, by the pseudonymous John Carter, delves more deeply into the occult and hedonistic aspects of Parsons' life. Read the rest

In search of an awesome general interest gaming magazine

Last year, I went on a bit of a quest. For years, as a tabletop gamer who played Warhammer 40K almost exclusively, I subscribed to White Dwarf (or "White Dork" as my late wife used to call it). This is the slick and expensive Games Workshop publication that exclusively covers WH40K and other GW games. But as my ravenous game appetite expanded to wanting to pig out on all manner of miniature, board, RPG, and card games, I began to look for magazines that covered all of these. To my surprise, I discovered that there weren't any. Or, at least, I couldn't find one.

There are a number of excellent and beautifully-produced tabletop wargame magazines, such as Wargames Illustrated and Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy. And there are mags that cover board and family games, such as Casual Game Insider. And then there is GTM, Game Trade Magazine, a magazine targeted at your FLGS ("friendly local game store). But where was the magazine that covers all forms of analog gaming? There's a tabletop gaming revolution going on. So where is the house organ?

Here it is. Tabletop Gaming magazine. This very handsome UK-based monthly covers all manner of board games, RPGs, card games, historical wargames, miniature games, dice games, party games, you name it. I didn't even have high expectations for the contents of such a magazine, but Tabletop Gaming delivers a very well-designed and well-written publication that examines every aspect of the gaming hobby. Feature articles cover new games being developed, aspects of game history, culture, art, design, the gaming industry, even the psychology and science of gaming. Read the rest

Suffragetto, an early 20th century board game, pitted suffragettes against the cops

Several years ago, the Bodleian Library mounted an exhibition called Playing with History. It featured one game enthusiast's historical collection of games and pastimes with an eye toward how games have been used through the ages to address the issues, challenges, and ideals of the time. One of the more fascinating games in the collection is Suffragetto, a board game from sometime around 1908/9 (the release date is debated).

Suffragetto was created by members of the militant British suffragette group known as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). A piece on Suffrajitsu explains gameplay:

Players enact the roles of either the suffragettes, represented by 21 green markers, or police constables, represented by 21 dark blue markers. The suffragettes’ object is to occupy the House of Commons with six markers while defending their home base of the Albert Hall against the police, whose object is, likewise, to occupy Albert Hall while defending the House of Commons.

Apparently, the Bodleian Library copy of the over 100-year-old game is the only one known to exist. But, thanks to Suffrajitsu, you can play an online version, and thanks to GA Tech, you can also download and print the game, including the box art. Bone up, kids. We might be playing this on the streets again in the near future.

[H/T Laura Spitale McGough] Read the rest

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