Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023: Schemes and Dreams

I wasn't going to bother with the New Year thing -- I barely mentioned it last year -- but, since the timing lines up with a couple of announcements I've been waiting to make, I figured that post might as well do double duty. 

The Announcements

First, I put together a new edition of Stars, Specters, and Super-Powers. I did it mostly because it had always bothered me that I rushed it out with such an awful cover. I also had one more story I wanted to add, one that I thought about including the first time but, for reasons I don't remember, left out. Since I was doing all this anyway, I thought I could add a couple more things to make it worth a second look: an RPG scenario I had written up based on one of the stories, and a comic book plot that inspired one of the others. And I threw in the art my brother drafted for a page of that comic book plot. 

The other announcement is audiobook formats for both Stars and Losing Lanterns. I used AI readers because they were free. Think what you will of that. All I'm going to say is, I write my own stories and pay real artists to draw the pictures. A program that converts text to speech is basically just a another kind of printer. Someday I'd love to hire a calligrapher instead, but it's wonderful to have this in the meantime.

Both books in all their various stores and formats can be found at: 

The Other Stuff

After a fun game of The One Ring at BASHCon, I almost fell back into running RPGs. Boring story for the most part: by coincidence, I missed the first session and that made me think about the fact that it was a mistake to be doing it at all. The thing about RPGs is, I'd like to be using the miniscule amount of time that's actually mine either writing or semi-passively relaxing. Role-playing games are neither. They accomplish nothing and, if you start to relax, everybody gets mad because you're not contributing.

More recently, it occurred to me that what I'm really tired of is the pseudo-social ritual of video-chat gaming. For gaming to be more than just the needy bastard of productivity and relaxation, it needs to be in person. There needs to be hanging out, snacking, ordering a pizza or even pausing to go out together. It needs to be a party. I guess that's why I still enjoy it sometimes at conventions. 

Projects: I've kinda been all over the place creatively, but I can't think of any way it could help me to talk about that. It never has before. I'm actually not sure why I tell you people anything at all. I've already written the other stuff, though, so I might as well publish it. 

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Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Invasion

This is my favorite Doctor Who Christmas special. I wouldn't argue that it's the best, but somehow it's special to me. Maybe it's some random association or because it was the first (for me, anyway), or maybe it's because he pops up at the end so bright and hopeful and excited about the future. 

"It's all waiting out there. And it's brand new to me - all those planets and creatures and horizons! I haven't seen them yet, not with these eyes. And it is gonna be... fantastic!"

(I haven't watched this year's special yet.)


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Tuesday, November 14, 2023


I was watching what appears to be the last episode of Loki and thinking, this guy doesn't deserve to be called Loki. He's a tool of authority, just taking the options someone else offers him, like a player in a bad GM's pre-scripted adventure. 

I don't think it'll be too much of a spoiler to say that I was pleasantly surprised that he *did* end up creating his own path, as any Trickster worthy of the name will. There was an ugly authoritarian angle to the way it worked out, but we can only expect so much from corporate art. It was never gonna be Losing Lanterns.

Three out of four stars. Robin says check it out.

"It’s full of death and destruction and injustice. Do you really wanna be the god who takes away everyone’s free will so you can protect that?"

"But what good is free will if everyone’s dead?"

"And who are you to say we can’t die trying? Who are you to decide we can’t die fighting? You’re replacing one nightmare with another. I grew up in apocalypses. I’ve lived through enough of them to know that sometimes it’s okay to destroy something--"

"If… If there’s hope that you can replace that thing with something better."

Loki from Wagner: They are hastening to their end, they who imagine themselves so firmly enduring. I'm almost ashamed to share in their dealings! How strongly I'm tempted to change myself again into licking flames, consuming the ones who once tamed me, rather than blindly passing away with the blind, were they ever so godlike! That's not such a bad idea! I'll think it over. Who knows what I'll do?

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Monday, October 16, 2023

Rough Beasts 'n Stuff

I was reading Yeats' "The Second Coming" again and I keep getting stuck on the Sphinx rising up to be born in Bethlehem. You could read it as the Age of Leo moving on to the Age of Pisces, but that's not prophesy; it's history. Also, it skips a lot - a WHOLE LOT - of time. Between Leo and Pisces, there's Cancer, Gemini, Taurus, and Aries, each of those covering thousands of years. Unless it's Leo devouring Pisces. Time moving backwards by nonsensical leaps. The world wobbling off its axis. I mean, we've already established that things are falling apart, right? He makes a double reference to chaotic things being "loosed" which, if unintentional, would be kind of sloppy. Desert birds (like Thoth's symbol, the ibis) are reeling in confusion.

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Friday, October 06, 2023


Have you ever thought, hey, I've got this wound, and it's starting to heal. If I leave it alone, it should be fine. Also, if I claw the shit out of it, it might radiate pleasure like those hot peppers only ever hinted at. Maybe it'll bleed like a firehose, and the wrongness will get me off. Maybe after this one it will be over.

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Monday, October 02, 2023


I've been listening to Bonfire, by Krysten Ritter on the drive home after work and just finished it tonight. I loved it.

I generally avoid books by famous actors because I hate the thought that they might be written by a ghost writer who, while paid, will never get credit for giving some rich person yet another thing to brag about. Not that it would affect whether or not the book was good, of course. 

Anyway, I looked into Ritter's background and I think it's plausible that she can write for herself. She's sold screenplays. And it's not like what you're known for has to be the only thing you're good at. Most of the people I've worked with at my day jobs, even customers I chatted with at my old comic book store, had no idea I was a writer. 

The book is written in a noir detective novel style, which I think she almost overdoes sometimes, but I'll always pick a book with too many poetic phrases over one with too few. I think there was plenty of Jessica Jones still skulking around in her brain when she wrote this. It's also written in present tense, which put me off at first. It's kind of like when you're watching a good cartoon with a weird animation style, though. Eventually, you don't even think about it. Also, telling the investigation story in present tense makes it easier to keep up with because there are a lot of flashbacks.

The protagonist is an environmental lawyer who is returning from Chicago with some of her colleagues to the small company-owned town she grew up in, Barrens (a little on-the-nose for a town in Indiana, but whatever). They're investigating the possibility that this company, Optimal Plastics, has been dumping dangerous chemicals and covering it up. Combined with the event from the prologue, it doesn't sound like there's much more to learn, but there are a lot of surprises coming, and they aren't goofy, last-minute Murder by Death style surprises; they make sense.

Abby, the main character, is not Jessica Jones, but she has some of the traits that make Jessica appealing. She's a loner who thinks for herself; she doesn't mind a drink now and then; and she doesn't have a problem with one-night stands. She's not perfect, but unraveling her flaws is part of the fun of the book, so I'm just gonna leave that alone.  

I guess what it boils down to is, if you like noir, you'll probably dig this. Also, if you've ever lived in one of those small towns that some corporation rules like a feudal lord, you'll find it particularly easy to root for the hero. 

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Friday, June 02, 2023

Shadows of the Pure Story

I was watching Season One of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds again, in anticipation of the Season Two. Someone had mentioned some issues with the established Original Series canon and that was swimming around in my brain. I don't care all that much about canon, generally. In fact, unless you're a theologian or something, I will probably tune you out as soon as you say that word. Anyway, I found myself thinking through prequels and the changes they inevitably make to the storyline.

Strange New Worlds is about the Enterprise's travels before the Original Series. If you try to pretend you're watching a continuous series starting with Strange New Worlds, though, inconsistencies start to show up. There's the strictly visual parts, of course, like the way the various locations inside the ship look, that everybody seems to have much roomier quarters now than later, the different uniforms, and stuff like that. 

There are actual story issues too. Like, in "Amok Time," (original series) everyone is shocked that Spock is sort of married. Uhura and Chapel are both there, and they shouldn't be surprised at all. Chapel, especially, after "Spock Amok" (current series). Nobody seems to have heard of the Gorn in "Arena" (original series) and they show no recognition even when they see who Kirk is fighting. Lots of people talk about the Gorn throughout Strange New Worlds, though. You'd think someone might have said, "Hey, isn't that one of those guys who used to lay eggs in us all the time?"

I don't see these things as weaknesses, though, and I think I've figured out why.

Imagine telling stories as a sort of Plato's Cave scenario. Somewhere outside is the pure story, the story everyone is trying to tell. Neither the original episodes nor the prequel episodes are the pure story; they're just the closest their writers (and special effects people) are able to get to it. It's okay for minor inconsistencies to pop up as long as you're honestly trying to translate your part of the story, because it's impossible for any medium to convey the pure story; our stories are only shadows. 

I've been percolating the idea of a pure story behind the story for a while, because, in a slightly different form, it was the idea behind the next novel I want to do and, to a lesser extent, The Nameless Way. (I'm still working on The Nameless Way. I've just organized some notes about the other one in a Scrivener file so I can write down ideas  as I come up with them.)

Anyway, there was this space opera comic strip I did when I was eleven or so years old, just a grid on sheets of notebook paper. There's a considerable stack of those that I've somehow managed not to lose over the years. What I've been planning to do with those is study it like it's a bad translation of a great story, a transmission I was trying to relay, but couldn't get right. 

Obviously, that's not what happened, but the conceit takes some of the pressure off. I don't have to make up the story; I just have to translate it.

That's the idea, anyway. I've gotta finish The Nameless Way before I can go start something else, and, at the speed I've been going, who knows if I'll ever pull that off.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Comfort Redux

When I wrote that post about comfort movies, I thought I was making up the term. I had never heard it before. It wasn't all that long afterward that I started hearing other people using it, and then it was all over the place. I am almost completely certain this didn't come from me. I just don't have anywhere near the reach it takes to accomplish that. So, obviously, I wasn't the source of that term, and I probably wasn't even the first to use it.

I'm not really going anywhere with this, except that the zeitgeist can be a really creepy phenomenon sometimes.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Hippies in SciFi

Jack Kirby: Hippies are super-heroes.

Star Trek: Hippies are charming with a bizarre mixture of scary underhandedness and child-like naivete. 

Tolkien: Hippies (tree-herders instead of just tree-huggers) are serving the Dark Lord if they don't give it up and join the war effort. 

Star Wars: What he said. If you're happy, it's probably because you're evil. 

Farscape: What's a hippie? Is that one of Crichton's weird Earth-monsters?

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Hippies make their living by selling drums made from the skin of peaceful aliens they've murdered.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

This Is

I have to question the ethics of any author who writes "The End" without destroying the universe.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2023

BASH Con 2023: Many Paths and Errands Meet

I went back to BASHCon this year, after couple of years away. I might have gone last year, if I had known it was happening before it was almost over. 

Tom and I left Indianapolis Friday afternoon and, despite some car trouble, made it to Toledo in time for Jerry's D&D game. Once we got into our room, though, we looked out at the sideways thunder-snow and suggested putting it off. Jerry ended up running it for some peeps at his house, instead. We ordered pizza and salads and stayed in.

On Saturday we got registered for the con. It was probably the fastest it's ever been, but we found out later that this was because nobody was there, because somebody thought it would be a good idea to schedule the event for UT's spring break. Didn't much matter, though, because we weren't relying on con guests for players.  

We got some coffee and our crew (sadly, minus both Cory and Paul, who couldn't make it this year) trickled in. The first game on the convention grounds was Tom's Crawlspace scenario, Florida Man II: Sinkhole. I played a water department worker who Tom described as a cross between Ellen DeGeneres and Kramer from Seinfeld. I had a lot of fun with that, turning every statement into a breathless declaration of impending doom with names like "Level 5 Aquatic Eruption Event," acting like my job at the water department gave me some kind of emergency authority, and trying to get the National Guard called in. I guess it was a lot more Kramer than Ellen. The scenario itself was more comedy than horror, but that was more our doing than Tom's.

I asked Jerry for the file for his cool Crawlspace character card and he did me several steps better by bringing a stack of them printed on cardstock and already cut to size. 
Tom and I hung out with Liam and had lunch at Phoenicia while Jerry ran some errands. I picked up a new dice bag with Smaug and the Lonely Mountain embroidered on it. There wasn't much in the dealers' nook. Craft stuff, dice, and a few board games. That was about it. 
My adventure started in Bree. I love Bree. One thing that's different in this edition of The One Ring is that the default focus is on Eriador, which was always more interesting to me, instead of Wilderland. After a little roleplaying, the party was headed off to Sarn Ford to investigate a dead horse and some unusually bitey brigands. 

One thing I wanted to do with this session was try out the Journey mechanics. I thought they worked well, although I was a little too distracted by my own unfamiliarity to come up with good scenes as the rolls came up. There was a decent ruffian encounter mixed in with my fairly obvious omens. Liam's character killed one of the ruffians in cold blood after the fight was over, earning himself a Shadow point. Murder-hoboing is not encouraged in this game.

At one point, I came back from refilling my water bottle to find everyone taking turns saying this one name to each other, then to me. I thought maybe I had had a stroke and could no longer process language, but it turned out they were trying to remember an NPC.

They found some undead things and tracked them back to their lair, where apparently an orc was running things. After they had killed the orc and were digging through the hoard, a voice from somewhere in the cave started talking to them. It turned out to be a human-sized bat creature, a vampire, hanging from the ceiling. I picked this particular creature because of Tom, who likes to make fun of the story in The Silmarillion where Sauron turns into a vampire. She nearly killed them all, but Jerry's dwarf finished her off before she could. Maybe Tom learned to respect vampires a little more. Yeah, I know; probably not.  
I thought it went well, overall. Back when they came out with the 5e D&D version, I had been a little disappointed. I went in thinking it would have the familiarity of D&D with a bit of customization to make it fit Middle Earth, with both aspects stripped down a little to make the combination manageable. This was probably an unrealistic expectation. The D&D adaptation turned out to have all the complexities of D&D with new subsystems from The One Ring (previous edition, which I think is mostly the same as the current one) kludged on top, resulting in a pile of homework that I still get tired just thinking about.

The One Ring is a really elegant system. I love the way all the different pieces interlock without getting too complicated. I love that there's a simple, logical, rules-based reason you don't see a lot of people clanking around the wilderness in full armor. I wasn't sure about the Journey rules at first, but I'm sold. I feel like it really captures the tone of Middle Earth. The black & white art is good. The color art is dark and smudgy and just not much fun, but mileage variance and all that. The book is solidly put together and, a rarity in the age of Kickstarter, not absurdly bloated. It's not petite by any means, but it's more manageable than most of them.

I could actually see myself coming back to running video-chat games with this one. Jerry ordered a copy of the game, so there's another incentive. 

Everybody got together for a late night dinner and there was much rejoicing. On Sunday, Max ran a 5e D&D game set in an alternate history post-Civil War America with magic and stuff, which was fun. I love it when I get to solve a mystery. After that it was off to El Vaquero for the victory lunch and then the ride home.

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Friday, January 20, 2023

Fire Up the Ephemera Furnace

Back in 2010, Elder Tunnels published a short adventure of mine called "The Ephemera Furnace." The villain in the piece (well, sort-of villain) is a mostly-dead knight whose priests held back his soul and kept him "alive" using a device that extracts the emotional energy from sentimental objects and converts it into magic fuel. 

Here in the far-flung future world of 2023, I'm finding myself short on cash, so I've fired up my own ephemera furnace on eBay, selling old collectibles. Some of them were mine, some were Mike's, and some were just things left over from our long-extinct comics & games store. I sold comic books first because I had some valuable ones and they're easy to ship. Now I'm adding toys to the catalog. 

The latest batch includes two of the original Mattel Star Wars toys (Dewback and Scout Walker) and a beat-up Rodan from the Shogun Warriors line. These were all Mike's. He liked big stuff, which made his stuff good display items for the store, which in turn meant that they ended up, mostly intact, in my storage shed.

Rodan was special. Mike loved giant monsters. I'm glad he lived long enough to see Pacific Rim. Instead of fighting Shogun Warriors (I'll also have some of those up for sale soon), he liked to start off having his titans menace smaller-scale toys. It was a dark day for He-Man and friends when Rodan and Godzilla came for Castle Grayskull. 

Rodan is also a popular collectible, though, and it's not like I was getting anything out of keeping him buried in the shed, so into the Ephemera Furnace he goes. At least, in a new collection, it'll be part of someone's life again.

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Saturday, January 07, 2023

Digging for Something

I don't really have anything interesting enough to merit a 2022 retrospective post. Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe I'm just not interested enough in sharing.

Anyway, I've been selling some of my old collectibles on eBay, and Tom suggested that I might do blog entries about the stuff I'm selling. Right now I've got a clump of Gold Key Doctor Solar comics and Barry Windsor-Smith's Storyteller run up for auction. Seems a bit late to write about those. I don't know much about Storyteller because I haven't read it and never much cared for Barry's work in the first place. It was just something left over from the store.

But, as I put other stuff up, I might use that as an excuse to blog a bit. I've been pretty busy writing other things.

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