Thursday 5 October 2023

Equal Rites


Sometime earlier this year I noticed that there still remain several gaps in my Terry Pratchett collection. Well, there are gaps in most of my 'collections', not being a particularly obsessive collector, and having developed a philosophy that 'buying stuff off eBay' is not the same as the hobby of 'collecting', which in my mind, at least is an activity that involves wandering around second hand bookshops and car boot sales, usually fruitlessly, looking for items of interest. 

Shepherd Ashley's article "A Stroll Across the Discworld" and the accompanying excerpt from The Light Fantastic published in White Dwarf #82, October 1986, was probably my introduction to The Discworld, and not being at all adverse to comedy in science fiction / fantasy having watched Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy on TV and having, as far as the Mad-magazine humour went, thoroughly enjoyed Henry Beard and Douglas Kenney's Bored of the Rings. Discworld is similar in some ways to Bored, not all the jokes are obvious to the uninitiated, rather than now obscure 1960s brands and fads - The Light Fantastic and Colour of Magic references a vast swathe of once popular fantasy literature - Anne McCaffery's Dragonriders of Pern, Fritz Leiber's  Fafherd and the Grey Mouser, Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné and Howards Conan the Barbarian. Similarly Douglas Adams Hitch-Hikers Guide To the Galaxy's parody of the Encyclopedia Galactica being a reference to Asimov's Foundation series passed me by first time around. Nonetheless the stories and linguistic knockabout humour work even without getting all the references, but the overall sense of erudite parody the  long suffering reader of fantastic fiction, must be missing for some readers. Certainly re-reading those books now, I get more of that aspect than when reading them when first published. 

Pratchett being hugely prolific made his books an easy Christmas or birthday gift for young Zhu, which probably explains some of the gaps. Those Discworld books being published outside of the Zhu celebratory Wheel of the Year, others perhaps loaned to reliably absentminded friends or otherwise left on fairground rides and ending up in the Dungeon Dimensions or wherever. The extended world of Discworld merchandise, the Clarecraft figurines that cluttered up the front of bookshops or the Science of Discworld and it's ilk, never really appealed and or involved in any fandom, I just, you know, enjoyed the books. In the same way I could listen to Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine without wearing a 30 Something T-shirt or regularly watching Red Dwarf without a Smoke Me a Kipper I'll Be Back for Breakfast written on my back, in large friendly letters, which apparently huge numbers of the population of 90s Britian couldn't resist.

As it is, the specific books I enjoyed were the paperback editions published by Corgi from the mid 1980s to the early 2000s, with the original Josh Kirby and later Paul Kidby covers. One reason is that Kirby's artwork is great in and of itself. There is undoubtedly some nostalgia there, but there's also the insane gribbly details that dance in front of your eyeballs like eruptions of molten wax. Something of Russ Nicholsons work for Dungeons & DragonsFighting Fantasy and Warhammer, with it's highly wrought texture of globular detail and also an exaggerated cartoonish aspect, the sharp bright clear autumnal colour and kinetic energy. Somewhat adjacent to the covers Paul Sample was being commissioned to do by Pan for Tom Sharpes comic novels, that somehow places Pratchett's Unseen University just past the bookshop with blacked out windows and the clientele of men in dirty macs, around the corner past the post-office selling traditional seaside postcards, down the road a bit, turn left at the junction from Porterhouse College. it would be nice to have a matching set in that style, even if the last eleven or so books don't quite fit, without some serious photoshop work.

Having had the opportunity to hunt through the infamous  Hay-on-Wye this summer, not a sausage was found. Oh, there were several hardbacks, and one signed first edition, but none of the Corgi paperbacks. None. I wondered where they'd all gone. The self-styled Book-Town is not what it was, many years ago I'd picked up a first edition (late impression) copy of The Silmarillion for under a tenner (there are hordes of them out there), and waded through piles of mimeographed Dungeons and Dragons zines, and in that befuddled way not purchased any and stood agape at improbable milage of disheveled and suspiciously musty copies of John Normans Gor novels. Nowadays it's mostly crammed with overstock of those special embossed, sprayed edges faux leather editions of Young Adult books, glass cases of genuine ancient collectable first editions and a couple of shelves of stock that hasn't moved in 40 years for good reason.  Pratchett was the  best selling author in the UK during the 1990s, over 100 million copies of his books are out there, lurking, somewhere, but apparently not in second hand bookshops. But the dreaded eBay currently lists over 11,000 results for Pratchett. So perhaps they're all making their slow, solemn pilgrimage across the slippery silicon purgatory of cyberspace.

In a local charity shop, having spied a Granada Asimov I already own (Buy Jupiter, a collection of Asimovs mildly humorous non Robot/Foundation writing, with a wonderful Peter Andrew Jones on the cover doing a fine Chris Foss impersonation). Along the Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelf there is a suspicious void next to a large, oversized, black hardback Pratchett. Night Watch, if I remember correctly. Sounds come drifting across the brick-a-brack.

"Yes. I'm collecting them. I like the old covers better than the new ones."

"Oh. I remember reading these in the nineties, my little neice was always enchanted by the covers. So much colour and detail."

"Here's the list of the ones I've got, and those I haven't"   

"Oh. you've done quite well then."

By now it's quite clear just why there is a void where the Pratchett had once been. Somebody has nabbed them first.  Sudden thoughts cross my mind - aha! a fellow collector - I'll introduce myself,  we could swap notes, keep an eye out for each others lists, maybe swap books - ironically I have a spare of The Truth, I say ironically because well, there's only one truth, isn't there. So I look over, to the source of the discussion.

The conversation is emanating from the lady at the checkout, tall, iron grey hair, twinset, probable owner of a nice. And a teenage girl, large thin-rimmed glasses, baggy black cargo trousers, oversized black hoodie. If I had been on a train of thought, it ground, screeching to a halt, having almost the precise effect that a teenaged Jenny Agutter hoped to have on steam engines by frantically waving at them. There is no way that I, a middle-aged man can encroach upon their conversation without appearing like an even more creepy weirdo than the kind of creepy weirdo who stares at gaps on bookshelves while eavesdropping on other peoples conversations. Never mind. I fully acknowledge that my intrusion into that exchange, as an adult male would be inappropriate. No, instead I adopt the flâneurs privilege of the outsider, observing the mechanics of society at a distance: the shopkeeper and customers shared admiration of Pratchett and Kirby's art, a casual bond between strangers and across generations. Perhaps this is really what mass culture, popular art, does best, the function it serves, those tiny moments of connection.

Browsing through the rest of the books I'm not really interested in, no lime green spines, just to make sure the girl has the time and space to leave the premises and walk down the street without feeling like she's being followed. Same way one doesn't walk behind women at night, but instead cross the road or wait in well lit areas for a bit.  And I wonder if for some reason that I've developed a paperback collecting and reading habit that is otherwise naturally the domain of teenaged girls.  I should really be hunting down oddly specific editions of Will Self, John Grisham or Ken Follett or whatever fashionable pulp the publisher ordained priests at the Telegraph or Guardian suggest grumpy middle aged men should be reading these days. 

What it must be like reading Equal Rites for the first time today, seeing Esk and Simons jouney to the Unseen University? Perhaps without the literary contexts of visiting the Island of Roke, chased by a shadow, or even Cackle's Academy with its rivalries and misdemeanours, but almost inevitably having wandered through the stagnant, hollow and dismally derivative halls of Hogwarts School. Or for that matter, what might any of it mean now? Living in a time when, while prejudice still persists, the once hallowed space between mens and womens colleges of Oxbridge are no longer institutionally entrenched and debated as they were when it was published, and the dismantling of these visible barriers no longer  topical as it once.

Thursday 14 September 2023

On the Workbench

Currently there are three sets of Vlätkrig Fantasy Paper Minis being actively worked on at various states of development, the Eotnas Helawort, The Rangers of Hölavej and 'The Raven Coven'.

Set Six: Eotnas Helawört

Stage: Layout

This is something of a companion set to the Vackreth Deorghast, consisting of large wooden magical contructs, or zoomorphic Ents / Treant type creatures, based on traditional British / European 'game', or animals that are hunted for sport. Inspired by the Ents of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the anglo-saxon herbals and Robert Holdstocks Mythago Wood.

As with the Vackreth Deorghast, some proceeds from the sale of set will go to an animal welfare charity.

The set will contain 6 individual Eotnas Helawört:

  • Staenyöruk - Stag 
  • Barlokösht - Boar
  • Droþaygros - Grouse 
  • Rhûvyârb - Wolf 
  • Köshlyþa - Fox 
  • 3x Kânengro - Hares

Eotnas Helawört will also contain a sheet of Clochán an Aifir inspired hexagonal béton-brut scatter terrain.

Set Seven: Rangers of Hölavej

Stage: Ideas and Sketches

A Mid/Low level, over-burdened adventuring party featuring members of Gnörf, Köbling, Haemogoblin and Gáldaethra, and perhaps some new types (probably Orcneas or Dökkálfar ), all with elements of uniform costume or accoutrements. Inspired by Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring as the eponymous company leave Lothlórien , as a mythological mirror to world war one trench warfare, along with Terry Pratchett's The Watch (Guard Guards et. al.), Gary Chalk and Joe Dever's Order of the Kai from the Lone Wolf Series and various 1980's Dungeon Adventurer Starter Set miniatures.

Set Eight: 'The Raven Coven'

Stage: Ideas

A 'druidic' / nordic magical cult, featuring Gnörf, Köbling, Haemogoblin and Gáldaethra members. Themed magic-user types that can be added to the other sets as an additional 'character class' or as a wizard for a warband / army. There will be 13 figures, probably one male and female of each, and in the case of the Galdethra, two female, which leaves five others which might be new creatures (probably Orcneas or Dökkálfar ). Inspired in part by the pseudo-historical Witch Cult of Margaret Murray and its fakelore derivatives, and contemporary historical understanding of Norse magic (seiðr), especially Neil Price's The Viking Way.

...and Beyond

Stage: Ideas

Also loose ideas for ranged weapons sets for the Gnorf, Kobling, Haemogoblin and Galdaethra sets...

Existing Vlätkrig Development

Meanwhile the current sets are still to be expanded.
  • + VTT tokens for all existing products. These are now mostly done and ready to upload.
  • + Colour! Hand colouring and preparing VTT tabeltop tokens
  • + mini-game / pamphlet zine. A standalone scenario / rules for each set that can also be combined with other sets. 

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported, followed, shared and downloaded our Vlatkrig fantasy paper miniatures so far. If you have any thoughts on these planned additions to the range or if there's anything you'd like to see added to the series, let us know in the comments below!

Friday 28 July 2023

Vlatkrig Set Five: The Galdethraja Alliance

Vlätkrig Set Five: The Gáldaethraja Alliance contains 6 unique, hand-drawn, black and white antlered elvenfolk characters for you to print, cut-out and play or use with virtual tabletop software.

The Gáldaethraja Alliance sheet 1 contains six different characters of a single gender, multiple cultures and ethnicities with varying arms and armour:

Myrré Volkāncraeft - war-axe and shield  

Aenjleoht Kyr-Tör - daemonic greatsword

Skáld Sifvíför - spear and shield

Ajenliá Daeþys - spear and shield 

Virjulinja Ülfilija - sword and shield 

Ammalyþr Pünkhyrstj - bow and dagger

Alongside the seven Gáldaethra characters is an additional sheet of scatter terrain featuring: Wattle Fences, Runic monoliths and Crystal shards, as well as a simple to follow instruction sheet.

Vlätkrig Set Five: The Gáldaethraja Alliance can be downloaded from, at the regular price of £1.99 at:

Gáldaethraja Fest - 50% OFF all Vlätkrig Sets

To celebrate the launch of Vlätkrig Set Five: The Gáldaethraja Alliance, we are reducing all Vlätkrig sets on by 50% over the launch weekend (28-30th July 2023) , including:

  • Vlätkrig Set One: Gnörf Wardens of Legend
  • Vlätkrig Set Two: Haemogoblin Könkerors
  • Vlätkrig Set Three: Köbling Hûdraeth
  • Vlätkrig Set Four: Vackreth Deörghast
  • Vlätkrig Set Five: The Gáldaethraja Alliance

So whether it's the stalwart Gnörves, crazed Haemogoblins, sneaky Köblings or fearsome Vackreth Deörghast now is the perfect time to round out your Vlätkrig collection with the few missing sets, or to jump straight in and grab the whole range in one go.

Shop the sale at: Gládaethraja Fest on

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Vlatkrig Set Four: Vackreth Deorghast

The Deörghast are the vengeance driven undead revenants of animal genocide, who have crossed the filth choked river that once separated the world of the living and the realm of the dead.

Vlätkrig Set Four: Vackreth Deörghast contains 5 unique characters, representing different undead animal species based on endangered British wildlife* for you to print, cut-out and play.

Cörach Gjölich | Water Vole

Mawdech Sythmús | Hazel Dormouse

Nythöch | Adder

Þyrneoten Draenoch | Hedgehog

Chamblaka | Bat

* 25% of each sale of Vackreth Deörghast will be donated to Wildlife Charities to help build a future for these species.

Vlätkrig Set Four: Vackreth Deörghast  is now on sale from priced £1.99.

To accompany this release, Zhu Industries has also compiled an 'Appendix N'  inspirational playlist of Industrial, Crustpunk and Grindcore for your listening pleasure, available on Spotify at Deörghast Spotify Playlist

Friday 14 April 2023

Vlatkrig Set Three: Kobling Hudraeth

Köblings are small sneaky types that emerge from the undergrowth to waylay unwary travellers and skulk through ruined metropolises after dark, enforcing their irrational territorial claims with arrogant thuggery.

Köbling Hûdreath

Vlätkrig Set Three: Köbling Hûdreath features 12 (!) printable Köbling characters of a variety of gender identities and ethnicities - all armed with Shànks, wearing Hûddis and carrying Dæmond-Skylds.













As ever, there are also some scatter terrain included in the set as well.

Launch Weekend Offer - all Zhu Industries products on - including Planström Floorplan System, and the first two Vlátkrig sets have been reduced from £1.99 to Pay-What-You-Want (or free, if you like) from 14th-16th April 2023.

Download from here:

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Vlätkrig Set Two: Haemogoblin Könkerors

Haemogoblins are those slightly deranged manic sorts often found hanging around ruined cities in small gangs fighting and robbing from each other and anyone one else who cross their paths. Their snottily aggressive attitudes often belies a cruel sense of humour.

Vlätkrig Set Two: Haemogoblin Könkerors features 6 printable Haemogoblin figures, each armed with their flailing weapon known as a Kon-Kah, and a shield. 

Tuk-Kah Jeng-Kyns

Ben-Nee Gree-N

Alh-An Ump-Frees

Trish-Sher Yaates

Kaff-Ey Ard-Greafs

U_Dahami Pah-Tewl
Terrain Elements, barricades made from bits of iron fence, stones and shields.

Barricade 1

Barricade 2

Barricade 3

Thursday 9 March 2023

Vlätkrig Set One: Gnörf Wardens of Legend

Here at Zhu Industries, we've been been busy developing a range of 2d print-and-play, flat-packed, digit fantasy paper miniatures. So far we have released two sets into the wild, The Gnorf Wardens of Legend and  The Haemogoblin Könkerors.

The first set The Gnorf Wardens of Legend contains seven paper figures and a sheet containing 3 pieces of scatter terrain.

Gnörves are the weird crusty folk that can be found skulking in hedgerows and generally minding their own business. A cantankerous and curmudgeonly sort, as likely to be grumbling amongst themselves as performing their solemn duties as caretakers and tenders of the the Edgelands, the borders between the cultivated places and the Great Wilds of the world. 

Myk Lynksch

Arkallar Dat Karl

Steorra Adze-Wielder

Yani Vintersdottir

Kehaar Störmyre

Yargh Fett Küppah

Jeramiah Krawhbane

Terrain pieces, include two hedges, based on traditional hedge laying techniques and a coppiced ash tree.

Laid Hedge 1

Laid Hedge 2

Coppiced Ash Tree 

Although Vlätkrig is very much grounded in a personal take on the traditional fantasy genre, and old school gaming, the models are heavily influenced by the card figures in Warhammer 2nd Edition designed by John Blanche and the various thematic Citadel Box sets (such as the Night Elf Patrol, or Dwarfs Kings Court, for example). I hope the figures are as much use as 'counts-as' models for other tabletop fantasy worlds, as they are a doorway into the strange world of Vlätkrig.

There are several more sets at various stages of development, including the Haemogoblin Konkerors which have already been published and I'll do a similar blog-post on those in a while, some Koblings (kind of suburban lesser night goblins), and a modular Ziggurat which may be Planström instructions, or new designs. When all those elements are done and dusted it will be enough to play Rick Priestley's Ziggurat of Doom scenario for Warhammer 1st Edition. Beyond that goal, plans for Vlätkrig include adding background narratives, scenarios, and some skirmish rules to the current sets. Preparatory sketches are already underway on some unusual undead types, some and the invocation of mysterious Ætheladaru.

Vlätkrig Set One: Gnörf Wardens of Legend are available from priced £1.99:

Thursday 2 March 2023

Hieronymus Bosch Tabletop Miniatures


Miniatures sculptor Andrew May (Meridan, Otherworld, Crooked Dice, Impact! Minitures and many others) is running a short Kickstarter to launch a set of 10 multipart miniatures inspired by the works of Heironymous Bosch.

It goes without saying these figures would make for an amazing and unique warband for Warhammer Realms of Chaos, steeped as it is in the Late Gothic historical-imaginary, and a highly atmospheric Frostgrave warband, or just a nice modelling and painting project to explore some of the original art history references that continue to influence and shape the worlds of fantasy hobby wargaming.