Ultraviolet Books

All-new PARANOIA novels! Smart science-fiction satire based on the bestselling roleplaying game set in a darkly humorous future. For the Kindle, Nook, iPhone/iPad, and other e-readers.
Research & Design

ePub test subjects wanted

ePub-enabled citizens! Ultraviolet Books asks a favor. We have spent the week wrestling with the ePub format, and now we’re prepared to declare conditional round-one victory. Please download this free ePub preview of Chapters 1-4 from Gareth Hanrahan’s Reality Optional (1.7MB). Examine the preview in the ePub-compatible ebook reader of your choice, such as the Barnes & Noble Nook or one of the free Nook reader apps, an iPhone/iPad, or any Kobo reader. Do you notice anything strange in the file’s formatting? (Note: The correct answer is “no.”) If so, please let us know by email (ultravioletbooks (at) Gmail) or use our contact form.

For the record, Kindle users can download the free Kindle preview of Chapters 1-4 from Gareth Hanrahan’s Reality Optional (2MB) on our free downloads page. There, at least, we’re a bit more confident about the formatting.

PARANOIA: 2011 in review

(Cross-posted from the official PARANOIA development blog.)

Chronometric innovations introduced during Year 214 by The Computer’s loyal servants in Central Processing have been, through traitorous sabotage, unevenly applied. In particular, the new mandate to report all times to femtosecond precision has met with unexpected resistance, possibly due to consequent variance in reports due to the time elapsed in writing, reading, or speaking said times. CPU has determined a need for additional education. For these and other reasons, our friend The Computer has ordered Year 214 to be repeated, commencing promptly at 214.00.00.00.000000000.

The big news for PARANOIA in 2011 — at least I hope it will turn out, in retrospect, to be big news — was the launch of the new line of official novels from Ultraviolet Books. As I mentioned in the original Ultraviolet Books launch post, these books are never-before-published novels written by Famous Game Designers long associated with the roleplaying game. Inexpensive (holiday sale price US$2.99 apiece) and DRM-free (not copy-protected), they feature new covers by The One True PARANOIA Artist, Jim Holloway. Three novels have been posted in Kindle format on Amazon:

I’m editing the fourth book now, an introductory promotional anthology called The Computer is Your Friend. Soon I hope to post ePub versions of all these on many bookselling sites. Follow @UVBooks on Twitter for updates.

There will be more Ultraviolet novels in 2012 and, if all goes well, in the years beyond. In these books we’re hoping to continue a tradition of smart science fiction satire in the mode of Philip K. Dick, Robert Sheckley, John Sladek, and Pohl & Kornbluth. In my view that tradition has subsided in recent decades. The audience is relatively small, and for a publishing conglomerate the finances don’t make sense. But for a small, scrappy band of High Programmers — on our own! backs to the wall! fighting The Man! — the business case is more attractive.

The main obstacle right now is a shortage of reviews on Amazon. If you’re inclined to read one of these novels and post a review, contact me at allenvarney (at) Gmail and I’ll send you links to free downloads of all three books. If you’re not inclined to write a review, you can find the Kindle versions of all three novels in the Ultraviolet Books Amazon store, which is spartan right now but at least includes links to current PARANOIA roleplaying books.

Speaking of which: The roleplaying year for PARANOIA was unremarkable. The only Mongoose Publishing releases were the two hardcover compilations of past missions, Flashbacks Redux and Flashbacks Redux Redux. The latter, through traitorous sabotage, accidentally reproduced the same My First Treason mission already included in Flashbacks Redux. Mongoose Publishing CEO Matthew Sprange has announced a corrective Materials Treasonously Deleted volume that will be issued free to all purchasers of the errant volume.

(The following opinions are mine alone and don’t necessarily represent those of Mongoose Publishing or the owners of PARANOIA).

It seems obvious the commercial tabletop roleplaying business — the traditional three-tier model of publisher-distributor-retailer — is stagnant and probably moribund. When RPG.net forum members post questions like “Is the hobby doomed?” (as they do with increasing frequency), some naysayers always pipe up with, “People have been saying the hobby is doomed since the 1980s” — as if that somehow proves the field’s vitality. I never understand this; people have been saying “the RPG field is doomed” for 30 years because, hellooo, the commercial field has been visibly, provably dying for 30 years. The two temporary episodes of commercial vitality (White Wolf in the early ’90s and the OGL fad) were intermissions, impermanent stalling actions in the long gradual decline of the player base since the D&D fad of 1979-82. The bright spots today, such as Pathfinder, the Old School Renaissance, retro-clones, and the effervescent indie scene — and some other isolated examples in this cheerleading RPG.net thread, “RPGs are NOT doomed” — aren’t bringing in large numbers of new players and, more to the point, aren’t earning much money.

One recent example: The finale of Greg Tito’s three-part Escapist article series, “The State of Dungeons & Dragons: The Future,” cites the sad condition of the field’s flagship game and speculates briefly about a 5th edition rumored to arrive in 2013. Raise your hand if you think a new edition of D&D will bring lots of players back to tabletop roleplaying. Uh-huh.

But for PARANOIA, at least, there has been one hopeful sign. Though the fan site Paranoia-Live.net continued quiet in 2011, the last High Programmer still standing, Phial, has recently acquired root access from longtime P-L.net doyen Andy “Jazzer” Fitzpatrick. Phial is leading an overdue site redesign — nothing ambitious to start, but well conceived and helpful — that may restore vigor to PLN Sector. My congratulations and best wishes to Phial and all the loyal PLN citizens. Stay tuned.

State of the Mongoose 2011

At the Mongoose Publishing forum, Mongoose CEO Matthew Sprange gives his annual overview of Mongoose’s past year and the one ahead. Matthew has cheery news about Mongoose’s new website, the Legend (nee RuneQuest) and Traveller RPGs, Lone Wolf solo books, and the company’s miniatures lines, including a Star Fleet Universe sublicense from Amarillo Design Bureau. There is hardly anything, good or bad, about PARANOIA:

Overall, the RPG market has a pulse but that is about all can be said for it (though there are high points). We think the bottom mark has been reached but that has been said many, many times before. [...] PARANOIA core books continue to be relatively strong, month in, month out, the supplements… not. A continuing conundrum for us. [...]There is a lot more happening in the Star Fleet Universe. We are currently discussing several projects, from novels through to iPhone games, and there is even talk of a PARANOIA/Star Fleet Universe crossover where players take the role of hapless away teams….

State of the Mongoose 2011

PARANOIA: 2010 in review

The impressive and timely finish of Year 214 of The Computer has prompted nostalgic recollection across Alpha Complex. Who can forget the many landmark victories of loyal citizens against the retreating Communist threat? Who can fail to shed a tear for the noble spirit of sacrifice and camraderie engendered in loyal citizens by the ever-growing Communist threat? Let us recall and celebrate the signal achievement of [NAME DELETED by order of Internal Security], whose actions against the [DELETED] menace have proven to be [DELETED]! In that spirit of remembrance, of happy optimism and courageous vigilance, The Computer’s loyal servants in Technical Services have reported Communist sabotage of certain timekeeping devices that require reset, and therefore Year 214 will be repeated. Give thanks for this exciting opportunity!

In February Mongoose Publishing produced Gareth Hanrahan’s High Programmers — the last of their three 25th Anniversary PARANOIA rulebooks. Using a unique and highly original system unrelated to the other PARANOIA rulebooks, High Programmers revealed how to play the highest of the high, the psychopathiest of the psychos, the ULTRAVIOLETs who rule Alpha Complex.

Soon afterward, Mongoose also published Gareth’s collection of High Programmers missions, None of This is My Fault (which, almost in passing, revived and updated Sam Shirley’s 1988 West End Games adventure The Iceman Returneth), as well as a new mission collection for Troubleshooters, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Termination Booth.

These fine books proved to be Gareth’s grand finale as a Mongoose staff designer. He has embarked on a successful freelance career, with many supplements in the pipeline for Pelgrane Press, Cubicle 7 Entertainment, and others. Cubicle 7 has just published The Laundry RPG; Gareth was a principal designer. And he’s still writing freelance for Mongoose. The upcoming issue 88 of Mongoose’s free in-house magazine, Signs & Portents, includes Gareth’s newest PARANOIA mission, “Security Theatre.”

2010 brought some obstacles. When Google’s Blogger service treasonously shut down this blog and many others (they say it was for technical reasons), we commenced a rocky transition to Blogspot that is still causing problems. (The last nine months of archive links are, um, broken.) After a four-year delay, I finally managed to produce the WMD bonus material .PDF and posted it as a free download on the leading fan site, Paranoia-Live.net. As though jinxed, Paranoia-Live went down in early May. But the site surged back a couple of weeks later and is still, knock electrons, poking along pleasantly enough. In fact, the future is brightening for JParanoia, the free client/server application for playing PARANOIA online. In November High Programmer NoryB unexpectedly announced he intends to release the JParanoia program as open source.

It’s been a tough year and a nightmare decade. The commercial roleplaying market is increasingly challenging, and the delta of the increase will rise in the years ahead. But so long as paranoia remains strong in the world, PARANOIA will remain strong. Stay strong with it, and all will be well.

Flashbacks Redux cover

Mongoose Publishing has posted the cover (by Chris Quilliams) for the forthcoming updated Flashbacks Redux mission collection.

The most popular XP-edition [supplement] is back, in its 25th Anniversary guise! Filled with hand-picked classic adventures from all previous editions of PARANOIA, Flashbacks Redux is gaming hilarity at its greatest. Re-live the most terrifying moments of “Me and My Shadow Mark IV,” or revel in the confusion of YELLOW Clearance Black Box Blues.

These and many other classics are found in Flashbacks Redux, all suitably trimmed, tweaked and tailored for the latest edition of PARANOIA: Troubleshooters.

State of the Mongoose 2010

On the Mongoose Publishing forum, Mongoose CEO Matthew Sprange has posted his latest annual overview of the PARANOIA publisher’s status. The lengthy State of the Mongoose 2010 discusses plans for Mongoose’s many roleplaying lines in sober and pragmatic terms. Here is Matthew’s discussion of PARANOIA:

This one has been a funny old fish for us. We announced that, as part of PARANOIA’s 25th Anniversary, we would be breaking the game into three ‘flavours,’ covering Troubleshooters, Internal Security and High Programmers. The idea was that core books for PARANOIA have always done exceptionally well, but the supplements never followed suit. With three core books, PARANOIA would naturally become a more frontline product set.

It has so not worked out that way!

Troubleshooters sells as well as a core book for PARANOIA ever has, but Internal Security and High Programmers, both complete core books, do about 20% better than an average supplement.

This is very frustrating for us because these two are damn good books — High Programmers especially is a work of art from Gareth Hanrahan, and it deserves far more attention than it has received. After all, allowing players to use ULTRAVIOLET-level characters with all the power and resources of Alpha Complex at their disposal – what is not to like? The cover, done by Chris Quilliams, has especially nailed the game. In fact, PARANOIA creators Eric Goldberg and Greg Costikyan have said they consider that cover to be the best of any PARANOIA book, published at any time.

And yet gamers are still treating the game as second-fiddle to Troubleshooters

For 2011, there will four books released for PARANOIA, roughly one every quarter. Two will be brand new adventures (likely for Troubleshooters and High Programmers). The other two will be fulfilling a commitment to keep the classic PARANOIA adventures in print, and have the titles Flashbacks Redux, and Flashbacks Redux Redux. They won’t have the same content as the original Flashbacks books, and will include not only the earliest PARANOIA adventures, but some of the favourites from the XP years as well. The first is due to appear in January and will include YELLOW Clearance Black Box Blues and, my personal favourite (and taking centre stage for the cover art, again by Mr Quilliams), Me and My Shadow Mark IV.

We remain interested in expanding PARANOIA to other territories, but the question always comes back asking what we can do with it. We remain fairly convinced that there is a decent PARANOIA graphic novel or comic strip in there somewhere but, despite several draft scripts, we still have not found the hook.

We’ll keep plugging away at it though. That is the new Mongoose mandate!

Matthew concludes, “Mongoose has taken some knocks over the past few years but the important thing is that, to quote Morpheus, we are still here. Not dead yet. Not all of our peers can say the same thing.”

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