Recommendation: Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

When I heard that a biography of Gary Gygax, the father of Dungeons & Dragons had been published, I of course rushed to get it. Just for the off chance that you are unaware who Gary Gygax is, as I said, he is the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, the first tabletop (pen & paper) role playing game.


Thus, he created a genre that would spawn everything from Advanced Dungeons & Dargons, to Star Wars the Role Playing Game, to Magic the Gathering and every computer and online role playing game you have ever played. He set it all in motion, it started in a small house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Gygax is the godfather of one of the greatest popculture phenomena of the 20th century.



Now for the content of the biography: Empire of Imagination tells the story of Gary’s life and it tells it in a very fitting way: Like an adventure. Every chapter has an intro from a scene of a role playing adventure that reflects the situation Gary is in at the moment. It is just beautiful and sets the mood. The biographical data is deep and broad, I learned plenty about Gary’s life that I had never heard of before, like him being a Jehova’s Witness. I also found the genesis of the first Dungeons & Dragons set fascinating, but I am not going to spoil it for you if you have no idea about the history of role playing games. Let’s just say, even before role playing games, you could be a game nerd and there were plenty around and Gary was one of them.

I guess Michael Witwer took some liberty imagining some of the scenes in the book since some of the information in the book is probably very hard to come by, especially with 40 years of time passing between Gary coming to prominence and the event. It does not matter, though, after all, Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons is about a guy with a highly active imagination, so there can be imagination in the book as well.

The biography is also really engaging, well done, Michael Witwer, you really feel with Gary. It is like you are looking over his shoulder the whole time. You are not a distant observer or historian, you are part of his life. You dive into this biography as if Empire of Imagination was a novel and Gary the protagonist. Every time something good happened to Gary, I cheered inside. I felt warm inside my chest when he got married or when one of his children was born and every time his tumultuous handed him lemons, I felt sad. When Lorraine Williams reared her ugly head and booted Gary out of TSR, I was seething, but like every epic adventure, there is some light at the end, a recovery and it ends with Gary passing on a living legend.

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons is a book no geek or role player of any sort should miss out on. Get it! It is an excellent read and you owe it to the creator of the genre to read the story of his life. It is also a very motivating tale, because Gary always managed to work himself out of bad situations by his own strength.

So many layers to this book, such an epic life, Gary lived, so many lives he touched…



Heavy Metal is everywhere: Interview with Algerian Death Metal Band TRAXXX

Heavy Metal is a global phenomenon, truly global. Alas, the majority of bands most metalheads know about are from Europe and North America, with Sepultura from Brazil and the odd Japanese act thrown in for flavour. It does not end there, not by far. I guess a few of you will be surprized that there are Metal bands in the Muslim world, and excellent ones, really exellent ones. Metal is prevalent enough that Algeria recently hosted a Heavy Metal Festival, and after reading the article in the Guardian, I got in touch with one of the bands which played at the festival, TRAXXX. They are a native Algerian Death Metal band with a lot of talent on their side and they agreed to give me an interview. I hope this interview gives them some exposure, so please share it liberally on the web.



Please introduce yourselves, tell us something about yourselves

Hi we’re TRAXXX a death melodic metal band based in Algeria, the band founded the bass/vocal and the drum players (Omar and Mustafa).



Lead guitar (Yanis)


Second guitar & Darbouka percussions (Sherif)


Bass/Vocal (Omar)


Keyboard (Mehdi)


Drum (Mustafa)



Where can we find you on the web?

We have a facebook page : TRAXXX on Facebbook

Myspace: TRAXXX on Myspace

And some tracks on Youtube and Souncloud.


When did Traxxx get started?

We started in 2005


Have you played in other bands before?

Yes of courses everyone in the current lineup was in band before they joined Traxxx


How big is the heavy metal scene in Algeria?

Metal appeared in the 90’s in the black decade of Algeria bands are receiving more exposure now, as a result of their proximity to Europe. Rock and metal peaked in the 90s, it seems. This came at a time when Algerians were searching for a distraction from the burdens that came with their lives during that tumultuous decade.


“In the early days, we were only few metal heads and it was really difficult to get music but now with Internet everything is much easier.



You recently played at Fest 213, how big of an event was that?

We can say it was the real professional Metal Fest they did in Algeria. Not because we participated, because the organizer was very professional, even with few means they had.


They had brought two excellent bands (ARKAN, ACYL) from France and they did a great show. We didn’t have a metal fest since the last concert of Myrath in 2012.



The conservatives in Algeria do not like Heavy Metal very much (just like in Europe) have you personally encountered any hostility?

I don’t think so, TRAXXX has not encountered any hatred or something like that, we just don’t have, but it is still hard, since we do not have many organizers for events or labels who promote our kind of music.


It is so hard because we do not have the base for Metal here in Algeria we have to buy our instrument from abroad, mastering and mixing our materials from the outside. That is why the movement is going forward only slowly.



What inspires your music, what are the lyrics about?

Our lyrics are about a lot of topics: Psychology, politics, emotions, but mainly about the history of our country, Algeria.


What musicians inspire you?

Our music is inspired by many bands and everyone of us has their own inspiration, too: Metallica, Dio, Iron maiden, Opeth, and many Algerian and middle eastern traditional music. We are trying to mix metal with our traditional instruments.


When did you discover Heavy Metal?

Mostly when we was a teenagers between 12-14 years of age.


Have you already released an EP or album?

Yes did, and we’re working for An album which called Legacy of Chaos.


Can we purchase your music somewhere?

You can find our music for free on Soundcloud and Youtube


Thank you, Mustafa, for taking the time to answer a few questions, it has been an honour and a pleasure.


And now, to finish this off, here are two tracks for you to enjoy, Death Metal with Algerian folk influences!






Doctor Dinosaur helps you keep things in perspective

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan famously stated „We are made out of star dust!“. This is evidently true, since the elements we are made of were forged in the fiery hearts of supermassive stars and supernovae.

Now in comes Doctor Dinosaur and forces a massive reality check upon you:




Have a nice day!


Image (c) (fair use), go there for more Dinosaur wisdom!


Happy Discovery Day, Lucy!

Today in 1974 (I was already around at the time), a team of scientists organized by Yves Coppens, Maurice Taieb and Donald Johanson discovered the most complete fossil skeleton of a member of Australopithecus afarensis found to date.


It is significant because it provided first evidence of an early bipedal hominid and filled a gap of knowledge concerning human evolution. As befits a discovery of this magnitude in this day and age, Google has honored the discovery with a Google Doodle which features an animation and some concise information on the discovery. Enjoy!


Your browser does not support the video tag.


Interview with Steampunk author E.C. Jarvis

Following up on the book feature of E.C. Jarvis‘ debut Steampunk novel The Machine (see below) I also had the opportunity to interview E.C., which was quite a pleasure. I also found it highly interesting we both have a completely boring, mundane and uncreative job in our respective background.

But now, without further ado, here is the interview:


E.C. jarvis
E.C. Jarvis (used with kind permission)



Please give us a quick introduction about yourself


I am a grumpy old man trapped in an English woman’s body. I dislike most things, driving, other people driving, queues in shops, other people in queues in shops… you know what? I could be here all day doing a list, let’s just say the list of things that don’t make me angry on a frequent basis is very short and mostly includes my husband and four year old daughter, and our hilariously stupid cat.


As George Bush Jr once said, “I have opinions, strong opinions – but – I don’t always agree with them.” I’m not a fan of the man but this quote is so profoundly wonderful in a way I’m sure he has no concept of.

Where can we find you on the web?

From what I gathered, The Machine is your first foray into steampunk, is that correct? (if not, what was it?)

Yes it is. I saw a prompt for a short story on a writing website that required the story to be steampunk. I had no idea what it was or what I was getting myself into, but after some research I found myself hooked.




What other genres have you covered with your works?

Let’s say most of my writing is fantasy. So within that you have sci-fi, steampunk (obviously), epic fantasy, and erotica, all of which I have written/am writing.


What got you interested in steampunk?

A fantasy world with airships, machines, and an impeccable dress code? What’s not to love? I know that a lot of steampunk stories are written as an alternative history, but I feel the genre has so much more scope. It’s a very divisive genre in some places, there seems to be some contention as to what is, and what isn’t steampunk, but I ignored the fussy people and just wrote the story as it felt right. I don’t see the point in worrying yourself so much over matching someone else’s definition of the aesthetic. If you try and enclose a genre into a tight box then you block out a world of possibility and who wants to do that?


Is there something you find particularly appealing in the genre?

I like that it has a great fan-base. The cosplayers, the readers and writers, it’s all there, a plethora of inspiration and complete commitment to the style. Whomever calls steampunk lovers by any derisive name, I shall happily punch in the cog pocket, there is nothing wrong with having passion for a subject and steampunk people are nothing if not passionate.


You are in accountancy as your day job, are you planning on getting rid of that dayjob for good one day? I know, this is a nosy question, but we are sort of in the same boat. I used to be a bank clerk…

Totally. It pays the bills, but it’s only fulfilling in that I have an odd affinity for excel spreadsheets (I’m the goddess of excel), aside from that I have no love for the job. If I could spend all day every day writing, living inside my own head and tapping out those weird imaginings onto the page AND have that pay the bills, I’d be one very happy lady. It’s that or turn to drink and live in a box etching wobbly musings on the walls of my box house in crayon.


How prolific are you as a writer?

Getting to be. It’s tough when you work full time, have a family and life just gets in the way. I have written two full novels (and two half novels) this year, so I think that’s pretty good going. Like anything, the more you do it the easier it gets, it’s becoming a habit.

Where do you get your inspirations from?

I have a small imaginary friend called Dranos who whispers in my ear at 8.23 am every day… Or, you know, the usual, movies, books, life. I daydream a lot and I also practice lucid dreaming so stuff just pops into my head, floating around, usually when I’m nowhere near a computer or writing apparatus. – my muse probably thinks it’s hysterical to taunt me so.


Are there any other settings/genres you wish to explore in the future and are there any other novels, short stories or just fragments of ideas you are working on at the moment?

I have an erotica novel lined up after book three of this series is done, then I’m onto sci-fi. Also there’s a YA fantasy rattling around in the back of my brain somewhere.


What are your plans concerning future projects

Write. Publish. Sell. Success. Repeat.


Thank you, E.C, it has been a pleasure. I hope you will rather sooner than later be able to get out of accountancy altogether and be  a full-time writer.