Monthly ArchiveSeptember 2011

Reader Mail 30 Sep 2011 12:43 pm

Pictures, events, and cards for you!

Robynne has been blogging about some of her favorite pieces of mail we’ve received, but we’ve gotten so much more great stuff than we’d ever be able to feature here — so she’s also been adding pictures to a Flickr set! For example.

Bearstache Books presents: Machine of Death Mail-In Program Results

There’s a lot more to come, but these first hundred pictures or so can be a taste. A nourishing taste akin to a full meal. Thanks, everyone, for all the kind mail, and feel free to keep it coming!


NUMBER ONE – If you live or will be in the Los Angeles area, please save the date for the evening of October 26 November 17. We have plans.

NUMBER TWO – Please click below.

Uncategorized 24 Sep 2011 02:22 pm

Strange Horizons is giving away a hardcover!

Just a reminder that Strange Horizons, one of the best science-fiction magazines still publishing today, is giving away a hardcover edition of Machine of Death as part of their annual fund drive. This isn’t just any hardcover either: It’s one of only two known to exist that’s signed by all three of the editors!

You can view the full fund drive prize list and make a donation on their site. Machine of Death is listed all the way down at the bottom of the prize list. They included an image of the more recognizable trade paperback cover, but the book being given away is in fact a hardcover. (Shameless self-promotion time: Right below Machine of Death you’ll see another book that I had a hand in this year: The Time Traveler’s Pocket Guide. Both are great prizes!)

There are only two weeks remaining to support this very worthy, very excellent and totally non-profit science-fiction magazine. It’s my understanding that the staff at Strange Horizons are all volunteers and that donations are primarily used to fund paying writers and artists, and for the cost of keeping the site up and running. And since Strange Horizons was the first professional market to publish one of my stories (all the way back in 2003), it’s obvious that they have excellent taste and extraordinary foresight in picking the work they publish.

Reader Mail 17 Sep 2011 09:41 pm

Will Draw For Death Card

It’s always fun to see drawings that different people have sent us in exchange for death predictions. All of these original, unique works have been bestowed upon us, and we are their humble keepers. (Click the images for bigger versions.)

This drawing came with a note on the back, saying,

This is Mr. Winston (the turtle) and his friend. I hope you are having a pleasant day today. Thank you,

Lauren Coffin

P.S. – That is really my last name! I love it.

So polite! Thanks for the opportunity to get to know Mr. Winston and his yellow-beclad friend. And “Coffin” is a sweet last name.

This drawing is like an action scene at the opening of a movie. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m intrigued enough to want to find out, and in the meantime there’s plenty for me to look at.

I don’t know who this lady is, but I like her. I’m not sure if her name is Death Card, like she’s a super hero or a wrestler or something else that requires a unique pseudonym, or if the artist was just really excited about getting a death card. These are the sorts of mysteries that we encounter every day here at MOD. Anyway, check out the calligraphy on the envelope this woman arrived in. Fancy!

Would you like to draw us something, or just mail us an old drawing you have sitting around? We’d love to hear from you! Don’t be shy. We’re nice people. Honest.

Podcast Episodes &Talent Show 16 Sep 2011 12:19 pm


“AFTER MANY YEARS, STOPS BREATHING, WHILE ASLEEP, WITH SMILE ON FACE,” by William Grallo. Read by Bradley McLaughlin. (19 min)

“You gotta be fucking kidding me!” says one of Jill’s friends, leaning forward to get a better look at my shirt.

On Toe Tag Night no one wears tags on their toes. What we do is use a template on our PCs and print a graphic of a toe tag, which we then wear attached to our clothing somewhere, like on a t-shirt. The graphic looks like the toe tags you see on dead bodies — or at least on dead bodies in movies — and yes, sometimes people also include a cartoony image of a toe, or a even a whole foot. Often bloody. Printed on the tag is your Name, and How You Are Going to Die.

For mine, I had to use a smaller font size.

Download the MP3 Subscribe on iTunes
Direct podcast feed:

William Grallo is the son of Lou. He was the winner of the Will Inman Award for Poetry and a runner-up for the Ursula K. LeGuin Award for Imaginative Fiction. He has had fiction published in Rosebud magazine and online at

Bradley McLaughlin is a musician and film editor from Seattle. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he works on feature films.

In the book, “AFTER MANY YEARS, STOPS BREATHING, WHILE ASLEEP, WITH SMILE ON FACE” is illustrated by Scott C. This podcast episode was edited by Matt Schwartz.

At our Talent Show on April 26, 2011, Brad also performed an original song that he wrote based on this story!

Machine of Death Talent Show – Brad McLaughlin from Vimeo.

Games &merch 10 Sep 2011 03:20 am

Card Games Update

UPDATE: Due to some kind of feed error, this post is showing up for some people a week late. SPX was the weekend of Sept 10-11, and the game testing was Sept 13-14. We’ll do more gaming events soon! All the other info is correct.

This weekend Matt and I are at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, along with nearly a dozen of the Machine of Death artists! We’ll be signing books, administering free prediction tests, and offering — for the very first time — Official MOD Game Card Decks.

Recently we mentioned we were working on a Machine of Death card game. This is a bit of a simplification — it’s only true if you consider a deck of Hoyle cards to be a “card game.” What we have created, instead, is a series of card-based game kits.

When I first printed up the Machine of Death prediction cards, I only expected that an average person might encounter the cards singly — you might get one with an order from TopatoCo, or maybe you sent away for one by mail (offer still valid!), or perhaps you had a prediction test performed in person by us.

But when I picked up the order from the printer, and fanned out all the different cards to look them over…it felt an awful lot like I was holding a deck of playing cards.

Start with the cards, figure out the game

So our crack team started brainstorming. What kinds of games would be possible with a deck of death prediction cards? Guessing games were an easy first stop — we’ve now played Celebrity Cartoonist Draw & Guess many times, and it’s always a treat. (For example, in Toronto!)

But a deck of prediction cards isn’t a game in the way that Uno is a game, or Apples to Apples is a game, or Magic: The Gathering is a game. There are no inherent rules or logic to the cards; they’re just inert items, props waiting to be imbued with meaning. A stack of prediction cards is like a deck of regular playing cards, or a set of dice, or poker chips: tools.

This is incredibly exciting, because it suggests that there isn’t a “Machine of Death card game.” What there could be is an entire Machine of Death dimension of games. And we’re really, really excited to tap the collective gaming consciousness to see how many fun and amazing things sufficiently creative people (like us, and you, and everyone reading this) can do with a simple set of MOD prediction cards.

Here’s what we’ve done to get started

• We’ve designed and printed four decks of prediction cards. “Set A” and “Set B” are each collections of 50 cards each, with general predictions ranging from “OLD AGE” to “SAWBLADE” to “HUBRIS” to “SKIN FALLS OFF.” In addition, we have created four themed sets (“Pirate”, “Adventure”, “Space”, and “Noir”) of 25 cards each, and packaged them in pairs. So these are two more 50-card decks, each containing two sets of 25 themed cards. Each deck comes packaged in a sturdy tin for easy transport.

• Every death on every card has been given unique attributes: Drawability (a difficulty handicap for games like Draw & Guess), Likelihood, Painfulness, and Epicness. Since these attribute values vary from card to card, they may be used in gameplay.

• Every deck also comes with five blank cards (identical backs to the other cards, but unprinted fronts). These cards may be used as wild cards, or may be customized by the user into unique deaths, or even some entirely different type of card! Also available will be a complete set of 50 blank cards, to allow players to do more extensive customization.

• So far, we’ve devised a list of around 15 games that we’re currently play-testing. Some are simple adaptations of existing games (such as Draw & Guess). Other game types that the cards lend themselves to are memory games, storytelling games, debate games, and (using two identical decks) matching games. Not all the ideas are ready for prime time just yet; many will require further testing. But we’ve set up as a sort of Master Rulebook, to share the rules for the games we think are great so far — and we’ll be adding more new rulesets there as our testing continues.

Existing games + MOD cards = YES

• We also want to encourage you to play around with the MOD cards on their own. If you come up with a cool game mechanic, let us know! We now have an army of play-testers at our disposal, and we’d love nothing more than to create a huge repository of new, fun games crafted and refined by the MOD community — you are the most creative bunch of people around. (We know — we’re reading all your stories!)

• We also think there’s totally potential for MOD cards to be used in a role-playing context, or as part of a more elaborate combat-type game that might require the creation of more classes of cards or other additional material. These are advanced ideas that we’re hoping to workshop over time (and we’d love to hear your ideas too). We encourage you to add MOD cards to your existing gaming and see if they can add a new dimension anywhere. There is no game, from Solitaire to Settlers of Catan, that couldn’t be deliciously upgraded with the judicious addition of infallible death-predicting technology!

Hitman on a Budget

I want to make a special mention of a game that I created called “Hitman on a Budget.” It’s a dice-based role-playing game that I’ve tested a few times now, and it’s super fun with a group of about four to six people. One player gets to be a sort of game leader (the “Bureau Chief”) while the other players are hitmen competing to kill targets revealed by drawing random death cards. I’ve posted the full rules on the Rulebook — and the great thing is, you can play it right now! Because it’s a storytelling-based game, the cards are just there to add an element of randomness…but the Bureau Chief can just as easily choose deaths from her imagination, or use random dictionary words. All you need is a pair of dice (or a dice app!) and some friends, and you’re set. Let me know if you find it fun!

Okay give me these cards already

As I mentioned at the top, we’ll be selling card decks at the Small Press Expo this weekend, and we’re planning to put them up online later this month.

Game testers who have already applied through our form will be contacted by September 16 if we decide to use you for this testing round.

We’ll also be holding some local play-testing events in Los Angeles throughout the month of September (at the MOD West LA World Headquarters). The first two will be Tuesday, September 13 and Wednesday, September 14 from 8:00 – 10:00 PM. If you’d like to come, please RSVP to either by leaving a comment on this post! We’ll email you with further details. Each event will be limited to 8 people. Feel free to RSVP to both if you know you can make it to both! But please only RSVP if you’re sure you can make it. We’ll have pizza and play some games!

A challenge to leave you with

It wouldn’t be Machine of Death if we didn’t leave you with a new challenge, right?

Of course you know that you can get individual, personal death prediction cards by mail, just by sending in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Robynne has been detailing many of the cool things you’ve sent in, and in fact there’s so much cool stuff here in the office now — much more than we could ever blog about — that she’s now working on creating a Flickr set to show it all off. More on that later on.

Like I said, I know you guys are creative. So here’s what I’d like you to do:

Create a custom death prediction card, and send it to us.

It should be the size of a standard US business card — 3.5 x 2″. It should be no heavier than thick cardstock. It can say whatever you like on it, and look however you choose, but somewhere on the card it must include the words:

WINNER! #___

And leave a blank for us to hand-write in a number.

Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll take photos of, and blog about, all the cool cards we receive. Then we will insert them randomly into MOD card decks for other people to find. If someone finds your card in their deck, we’ll give them a prize.

Send your finished death prediction card to:

Machine of Death Custom Card
2554 Lincoln Blvd #214
Venice CA 90291

If you include a SASE, we’ll send you back a li’l thank-you too. Start working right away, because we want to start shipping these decks this month! Leave a comment if you have any questions!

Now…go play “Hitman on a Budget”!

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