Interview with Hal Johnson, author of Immortal Lycanthropes

During a road trip across the state this last summer, fellow nerdbrarian Sheri and I entertained ourselves by reading aloud from Hal Johnson’s excellent YA novel, Immortal Lycanthropes, the story of a bullied and disfigured thirteen-year-old who discovers that he’s an immortal were-creature. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that my accent for Spenser the Scottish were-elk was reportedly excellent. Hal was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the book, YA writing, and tabletop gaming for the blog. More information about Immortal Lycanthropes is available on the author’s website.

Immortal Lycanthropes1. We both thoroughly enjoyed Immortal Lycanthropes and want to get the most obvious question out of the way: Where did the idea for the novel come from?

This was an idea I made up when I was a little kid. I’d been reading a book about weasels, and I started to pretend, the way kids will, that the different members of the weasel family could assume human form, and what that would be like. I know this sounds moronic, but I was like ten. Or at most fourteen, I don’t know.

I drew some pictures of the weasel guys, and imagined an adventure or two, wereweasels (you know, werestoats and werebadgers) versus other werecreatures, but I had a problem with the action scenes. The sad truth is that no matter what awesome power you have, you’re probably better off just shooting your opponent. If you’re a martial artist, you can study half a lifetime to learn the quivering palm death touch; or you can practice for five minutes with an M-16, and you’ll be just as deadly. I wanted to imagine a werebadger fighting a wererhino, not the two of them in human form shooting at each other. So I invented the proviso that any of these wereanimals could only be killed by the teeth or claws or horn of another wereanimal. I guess that’s a spoiler, but roll with it.

So that was the idea I had when I was a kid, and I forgot all about it after a while. Years later I was pitching ideas to an editor at Houghton Mifflin, and everything I proposed got nixed, until, in desperation, I started dragging up ideas that has stayed buried for decades in my subconscious. Immortal lycanthropes was the one that made him stop turning his head away from me in disgust.

I threw out almost everything from my juvenile flights of fancy except the high concept part of only dying from the claws, etc. This isn’t the book the ten-year-old me would’ve written; it’s probably got a lower body count, and it has more anarchists.
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The Monday MOOC: Society, Science, Survival

Photo Credit: Grmisiti
Photo Credit: Grmisiti
Next week, a team of faculty from University of California Irvine begin an eight-week interdisciplinary exploration of AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie series The Walking Dead, entitled Society, Science, Survival.

The course will feature interviews with experts, as well as exclusive interviews with cast members, as the class explores topics like social order and structures, the spread of infectious disease, the role of public-health organizations, and post-apocalyptic nutrition. Oh, and if you’re one of my half-dozen readers, you can use the friend code 38LLXL when you enroll and possibly help me win swag.

Nerdstarter: The Overspending

I may have a kickstarter problem. Several gaming-related projects have arisen over the last few weeks that seem worth supporting, all of which have already met their funding goals.

Fantasy Frontier from Gamelyn Games
Fantasy Frontier from Gamelyn Games

There are only a few days left to get in on the RPG gaming table, and you’ll have to be handy with a little light carpentry to make it worth it, but for a relatively small pledge, you’re promised plans for a clever table topper that allows all of your players their own space for books and snacks, while providing an elevated platform for your battlemat or board game.

Gamelyn games is kickstarting Fantasy Frontier, a gorgeously rendered Euro-style board game in which players pilot fantastical airships to explore and settle an uncharted frontier. Players gather resources, build townships, and fight off their rivals while collectively building a map that’s unique each game. And the artwork is stunning. Five days left on this one.

Fellow nerdbrarian Sheri was bemoaning the lack of Regency-themed games when we stumbled upon Marrying Mr. Darcy, a strategy card games in which players take up the role of a Pride and Prejudice heroine, each seeking the attention of available suitors. I’m really rooting for this one to make the $30,000 stretch goal: the bonus Undead Expansion Pack.

And, finally, for those still kicking themselves for having missed Reaper Miniatures’ original, record-breaking Bones kickstarter, they’ve returned with Reaper Miniatures Bones II. The project has already broken the million dollar mark, with over three weeks still remaining. So if you need scores of more unpainted minis cluttering your hobbit hole, here’s your chance.