New shirts, dude. New shirts.

Our new shirt designs went live tonight! Take a look and let us know what you think here.

One particular design I’m personally REALLY into is the ‘Dreams are engines’ shirt. It’s the whole point behind Grailrunner. It’s what we do here.

Let me admit something to you. Every morning, within a couple of minutes of opening my eyes, I reach over and grab my phone. It’s not that I’m so busy or important that urgent messages are waiting…more like a ridiculous and quite useless craving for trivia or entertainment or anecdotes or memes to mention later. Useless.

And one reason that’s a problem is the negativity and spin all those apps and feeds bring me. It’s like downloading bricks and mortar into my head every day to build walls between people. Useless.

So that particular image…this one here…is important for a few reasons. Anybody who’s spent time with us knows our Salt Mystic line hosts lost, forgotten worlds tucked away in artificial spaces accessible through sparkling gateways. That’s one thing. But we’ve been plastering that message of positivity and inspiration for years now. I look at this picture here of an explorer, a wanderer, sneaking in places he’s maybe not supposed to be, and dreaming of something miraculous just up those stairs.

Wow, that’s totally me.

Anyway, go buy a shirt. Look good and be cool.

Madessa: Surveyor & Cartographer For The Oriel Webway

Madessa stepping into an unknown oriel world

Occasionally, we include flash fiction from the Grailrunner archives here. Today, the spotlight is on a character named Madessa, who features prominently in the Salt Mystic core rulebook. Enjoy!

She’d answered him twice already, but the guard just kept squinting at Madessa suspiciously with his helmeted head cocked to the side, “You’re with the what’now?!”

For the third time, “The Reignition Society…Sisters And Brothers For The Free And Open Mapping Of The Oriel Webway. And I made a promise.”

He prodded her again to keep her hands in the air, “Where I can see them! We’ll see which bin the Castellan wants to toss you into, clownface girl!”

They stood in the ponderous shadows of a rising stone temple swarming with workers, amid smiling and bustling crowds of villagers pushing carts. The carts bore stone and mortar and gilding plates,and produce and dried meats for those on the towers. They were building a soaring marvel where a poorer temple had once stood and burned down a generation ago. It was a celebration of unity and the most exciting thing that would happen to many of them.

The Castellan apparently not being available, the guard tried sounding official again, “What’s an oriel? You keep saying that!”

Madessa glanced down the dusty road at larger silhouettes on the horizon, grinning so slightly at what looked to be an elephant with a passenger basket and cargo hanging off its sides, “An oriel is a pocket of artificial space, created thousands of years ago. You live in one. All this. It branches off from the real world, where I’m from.”

She looked at his puzzled, hideous face and smiled, “I map them.”

“You’re a cracked egg, is what you are! Who created all that then?!”

“They called it ‘The Infinite Republic’. Countless worlds just outside our space inside their bubbles and sometimes forgetting that’s so. The Society wants to rebuild some of that. Just the good bits. I’m for real, dude. Surveyor and cartographer. I just came to get the skinny on this rebuilding operation you’re up to here. This will make a great navigation point. I’m gonna need some of that gold though.”

The guard glanced at the cart, laden with donated bracelets, necklaces, armlets and earrings for the casting pit. He spat at her, laughing viciously.

“I made a promise”, she said as she lowered one hand and pointed with the other. Following her pointing finger, the guard saw the laden elephant charging wildly. It was headed directly towards them.

Panicked, he looked back at her to see what power she had over this.“What promise?!”

“I promised the people on that elephant some of this gold.” Madessa snatched a handful of gold and slipped into the crowed just as the chaos set in. The Society had wonderful aspirations.

They just didn’t have any money.

(c) Brian Bennudriti

If you could use some Star Trek optimism right now…

I love reading introductions by people like Harlan Ellison and Stephen King almost as much as their books. There are cool insights into how they think in there, what pisses them off, and the sorts of trouble they maybe got up to when they were normal people. Not sure which intro of Ellison’s it was, but I recall that he got sideways with Gene Roddenberry once when the draft script of ‘City On The Edge Of Forever’ had crew members doing drugs or something…being regular folks, basically, with problems and shortfalls and whatnot.

Not my point, but stick with me here.

What I’m saying is Star Trek at its core was supposed to be a super optimistic picture of what could be. The troubles they have in those stories aren’t meant to be of their own doing. Roddenberry was saying we’d get past all that noise. Our troubles would be external to ourselves: things we run into out there in the great beyond. That’s why they didn’t want Ellison monkeying around with troubled people and vices. It’s a beautiful picture, actually, and one that inspires a host of people to do amazing, paradigm-shattering things out in the real world today.

Somewhere though, Star Trek lost its mojo. My opinion – don’t tweetblast me! I’m not seeing much these days in science fiction that inspires anybody to do anything but rage against things. To be honest, I think there’s a place for raging, but there’s as much of a place (if not more) for painting relatable portraits of what we could aspire to be. In our mad rush and culture war to help everyone see themselves as they are in their fiction, we’ve left behind the idea of giving people aspirations of who they might one day be.

I wrote a letter to Arthur Clarke once, when I was a little dude. I asked him what a tesseract was and told him I loved his stories. The reason I thought I’d ask him that is the guy inspired me. He just made me want to hop into the pages and marvel at the machines and dreams in his pages alongside his characters. We never mailed it, unfortunately. I don’t think my dad felt the need to pay postage to Sri Lanka.

Seriously, read Fountains Of Paradise for an elevator to space, or The Deep Range for guys in mini-submersibles herding whales, or Rendezvous With Rama to discover a marvelous and maddeningly well-designed alien artifact, or City And The Stars for people who can just opt out of thousands of years at a time. It goes on, man. It goes on. The guy makes me just shake my head and chuckle at his wild ability to make me want to be there…to see those things…to build those things!

So as I’ve sat over the last few years writing short pieces for a collection, there were so many times in an airport, on a train, in the car, or staring out a rain-fogged window that I intentionally summoned those same emotions to inject into the stories. I wanted to inspire myself with what might be. Sure, I built terrors too! I killed a lot of people and made a mess of the future. But I kept dreamers and wonder-workers and brave souls who genuinely aspired to forge better things…to overcome all that sought to swallow them and seduce them.

We went live just in the past couple of weeks. I’d be incredibly honored if you clicked over and took a look. It’s a collection of flash fiction and short stories, compiled such that the chapter endings include vignettes that collectively pose a riddle. The whole work is a puzzle to solve. Hopefully, it’s one that brings a smile to your face when it’s worked out (or if you cheat and read ahead!).

Take care, my friends. Dreams are engines.

Be fuel.