Extra Life! You know….for kids!

IMAG0402_ZOE006_SHOT

M’boys. Ready for action.

I’ve never been particularly athletically inclined. I did a little bit of basketball in middle school (I was terrible), the usual PE stuff in high school, and for a very brief period in college, some jogging and biking.

In high school though, I did discover and gravitate towards a certain group activity that in the 80’s was sort of a subcaste in terms of popularity strata, so far off the accepted social map as to be nearly clandestine (we gamed with a guy on the football team who the first day made me swear never to tell anybody he played -a secret I have upheld to his grave), and that was roleplaying games. First Dungeons and Dragons, the old gateway drug, then Cyberpunk, Rifts, Shadowrun, and Vampire: The Masquerade.

In college I ‘graduated’ from playing games to running them. I ran a West End Star Wars game for about two years, and I truly believe that this past time was instrumental in my development as a writer.

Thak fails his Wisdom save.

Thak fails his Wisdom save.

There’s something about tabletop roleplaying that develops the storytelling ‘muscle.’ It’s not just a buncha guys and gals huddling over a table snickering about elves. I really believe it’s a re-enactment of the primal form of human entertainment; sitting around in a group, telling stories to each other. Now we’ve got lightbulbs instead of a fire, and we chow on cylinders of Pringles and Diet Coke (though in my heyday it was Captain Morgan’s rum) instead of smilodon meat and fermented fruit juice (well, in some circles, that probably hasn’t changed much).

What part of "interactive gaming" is not a lie?

What part of “interactive gaming” is not a lie?

Roleplaying games sharpen the mind, quicken the pulse, and they’re a riot. Best of all, a tabletop game can’t be done alone, which dodges a troubling trend in entertainment geared towards youth. I love video games. As a multiple-kid-parent with a full time job and a burgeoning writing career, plug and play has been a godsend in terms of my own personal relaxation. I even worked in the video games industry for a little while. However, despite the interactive gaming tagline, you’re basically just staring at a screen for hours on end. The anonymity allows a lot of unsupervised, underage kids to spew a lot of horrendous garbage they would never dare say to a person whose eyes they could look into, and conversely, rather than teaching a kid to deal with somebody they might encounter in life who doesn’t have any social skills for whatever reason, you can just mute the little a-holes. Again, kind of foments universal disconnect rather than advancing the whole brotherhood of man concept.

IMAG0130But then at the beginning of this year, a friend of mine coaxed me back into rpging (D&D specifically) at the Local Gaming Store, and it’s been a revelation. Much more satisfying than vegging out to GTA (though I still do that too when I have the time).

Anyway, then Extra Life came along. As I mentioned, I have never been athletically inclined. I don’t run unless I’m being pursued or chasing down one of my toddlers, so I’ve watched the charity marathons some of my friends participate in a bit wistfully. I’d like to do something like that, I’m sure they’re having fun doing it, but it’s just not in my wheelhouse.

But this is.

Here’s the nitty gritty, straight from the mouth of the Extra Life bot -

“My local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital treats thousands of children each year, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. These kids are facing scary stuff like cancer, cystic fibrosis, and injuries from accidents to name just a few.

On October 25, 2014, I’ll be participating in this huge worldwide celebration of the social impact of gamers of all kinds from video games to board games and tabletop RPG’s! It’s my sincere hope that you’ll find it in your heart to support my efforts with a monthly pledge or one-time gift that will go directly to my hospital.

Your donation is tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids.

I need your help to reach my goal.  Please make a safe, easy donation online today.  Click the “Support This Participant” button on this page to get started.  Thank you so much for supporting my efforts!”

My friend and I will be participating in a 24-hour marathon session of the new fifth editions of Dungeons and Dragons this October the 24th at a local gaming store, JJ’s Gaming Lounge in Chatsworth. It’s a mad little endeavor that I hope will raise awareness of the heinous problems the less economically fortunate and infirm children of our country face daily when it comes to finding the affordable healthcare many people with more stable lives take for granted.

I’m blessed that my own kids are healthy and that the safety net of a medical plan is there for them if they need it. I want to show that gratitude now by giving back in a small way. My chosen charity is the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, altruistic folks who can always use a helping hand helping others. I believe the D&D team for Extra Life has already pledged something over one million dollars total, so it’s not just a lark.

Please, if you have the means and are so inclined, catch the link below for a similar version of what I just posted here and the more-important donation button.

-Hasta pronto.

http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=113334

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Lock And Load! World War Cthulhu on sale!

Dark Regions Press’ WORLD WAR CTHULHU is available for purchase.

World War Cthulhu: A Collection of Lovecraftian War Stories

World War Cthulhu: A Collection of Lovecraftian War Stories

Buy from Amazon

You can read an excerpt from my short story THE BOONIEMAN right here.

Each of the stories has an accompanying illustration from M. Wayne Miller (who also did the cover for my Van Helsing in Texas novel TEROVOLAS). Here’s the one for THE BOONIEMAN. A ting of beauty, ain’t it?

wwc

How do you kill a senses shattering monstrosity from beyond the outer dark? Easy. You just don’t lead it as much.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

De Horrore Cosmico At Kickstarter

6c586547735714014eda8f29c8cfc9f8_largeGolden Goblin Press is into the final seventeen days of their kickstarter for He Horrore Cosmico, six scenarios the the Cthulhu Invictus game. In their own words:

Long before ivy grew on the walls of Miskatonic University or the Deep Ones first came to Innsmouth, centuries before the mad Arab penned the dreaded Necronomicon, the malevolent powers of the Cthulhu Mythos plagued mankind. During the Age of the Antonines (96 AD–192 AD), when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power, dark and unknowable forces were at work.  Ancient wizards sought ways to cheat death, explorers stumbled on the remnants of alien civilizations, foul cults practiced unholy rites, and inhuman creatures sought to mix their blood with ours.

Across Rome’s vast empire, a few brave men and women rose up to meet these threats for the greater good of mankind. They carried light into the darkness, dispelling a poisonous taint which grows best in the shadows. With steel and spell and burning torch, these heroic investigators of the ancient world defended their civilization from the fearsome powers of the Cthulhu Mythos. Golden Goblin Press is proud to offer up six of their adventures.

58634b4826cb1310d0efd57fb05efddc_largeOnce GG Press hits the $23,000 stretch goal, they’ll be putting out a companion fiction anthology edited by Brian Sammons and featuring nine stories of Lovecraftian horror set in Roman times to fire the imagination of players and GMs.  The lineup for that book consists of -

Vulcan’s Forge, by William Meikle
To the Fertility of the Empress, by Christine Morgan
A Plague of Wounds, by Konstantine Paradias
Time Devours All, by Pete Rawlik
The Unrepeatables, by Edward M. Erdelac
Signs of the Black Stars, by Penelope Love
Lines in the Sand, by Tom Lynch
The Temple of Iald-T’quthoth, by Lee Clark Zumpe
The Seven Thunders, by Robert M. Price

My tale, The Unrepeatables, is about Damis of Nineveh, the lifelong friend and companion of the renowned mystic and miracle worker Apollonious of Tyana, and an ex-legionnaire insinuating themselves into the estate of a famous charioteer to investigate rumors that he is profaning the secret and sacred Eleusinian Mysteries.

More about the story as the book is funded – which means, hey, if you like Roman history and Cthulhu, go kick Golden Goblin Press a buck or two. They’ve got some really killer swag for backers, including Lovecraftian lare (household god figurines – which feature prominently in The Unrepeatables), custom Roman coins, and more.

DT Moviehouse Review: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

After a prolonged hiatus, it’s time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Today I review the timeless classic, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.

Directed by George Roy Hill

Written by William Goldman

Tagline: Not That It Matters, But Most Of It Is True.

bsposter

What It’s About:

In the waning days of the American West, notorious bank and train robbers Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) see the writing on the wall for their way of life and head for Bolivia and a fresh start with schoolteacher Etta Place (Katherine Ross).

Why I Bought It:

bandsdThe first trip I ever took the West Coast was with my parents. We did the tourist thing, walked Hollywood Blvd, and hit the wax museum. On the way out, my dad and I were pulled aside by the photographer in the gift shop, who put us in front of a screen (I think it was blue, maybe green) and snapped our picture, then put our heads on the bodies of Butch and Sundance, in that famous pose where they’re leaning against some crumbling Bolivian backdrop, possibly on the last day of shooting (no pun intended). And for probably the only time in my life, it was a perfect fit. My dad was Redford, and I was Newman. My mom bought it on the spot, and it’s hanging still in the basement of their house on the stairs going down to his model Santa Fe railroad layout, next to a framed photograph of the real life Hole In The Wall Gang I picked up somewhere.

I had never seen the movie at that point. I was maybe thirteen or fourteen and didn’t care a whit for westerns.

My love for the genre came much later, after I’d burned through Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, John Ford, and the Duke and came the long long way around the barn back to the great American westerns of the late sixties and seventies, of which is this is one of the very best.

butchRewatching this movie is like slipping on an old coat, or seeing a couple friends from the old bunch. You know, the guys you were inseparable with in high school – only neither of you has changed. This is a flick carried on the shoulders of two giants in, if not star-making, star solidifying roles; Paul Newman as the irascible, likable Butch Cassidy, and Robert Redford as the winsome, steely eyed  Sundance Kid.  It’s impossible to imagine William Goldman’s words coming out of any other pair of actors. The charisma, the affability of the two leads is irrepressible, inimitable. Newman and Redford are one of the greatest pairings in movie history, right up there with Bacall and Bogart, Flynn and DeHavilland, Tracy and Hepburn.  This is the touchstone of male buddy movies. Without it Shane Black could never have a career.

If it sounds like I’m taking this one up inordinately, it’s just that there’s nothing to  really say about BC&tSK except praise.  The word classic gets bandied about for every superhero movie and Disney cartoon that comes down the pike – but this is the real deal. A bona fide Hollywood classic. If you haven’t seen it, your repertoire has a great big hole.

butch_cassidy_and_the_sundance_kid_enough_dynamiteButch and Sundance is the father of bromance movies. It’s a platonic love affair between two guys who are so good together the people they rob step out of cover just to see them do their shtick.  The lawmen that should be arresting them on sight offer them a place at their table. They’re the ideal romantic outlaws, stealing from the modernizing, corporate juggernaut of the advancing railroad and somehow never having a dime to retire on because they frankly suck at it. They don’t kill anybody, take no personal effects, and spend what they earn like water on the myriad of fairweather friends and women who appear out of the woodwork after they pull a job and fade away when the money’s gone. It’s their fallibility that makes them loveable. For as renowned a train and bank robber Butch is, sometimes he uses too much dynamite. For as deadly a gunfighter as Sundance is, he can’t hit the broad side of a barn if he’s not bending, spinning and twisting while he shoots, like some kind of proto-Jon Woo heroic bloodshed protagonist.

I call it a love affair. It’s definitely about the relationship between Butch and Sundance (I think, without any of the homoerotic subtext that you’d expect), but moreso, it’s a love affair between them and us, the audience. It doesn’t take long to fall for Butch and the Kid. They’re devilishly good looking, but again, their fallibility makes them seem real, like a pair of guys you’d like to hang out with, not movie stars aping real people. Katherine Ross has an admittedly light role as schoolteacher and Sundance’s paramour Etta Place, but she’s almost like the blank protagonist character in a video game. She’s the audience, wooed by these two guys into participating in their crazy lives for the thrill. But she’s also, I think, a stand-in for Goldman and George Roy Hill. Everybody falls for Butch and Sundance. You just can’t help it. The filmmakers can’t help it. I think the actors couldn’t even help it. That’s why Newman’s charity for mentally disabled youths was called Hole In The Wall, and Redford’s continuing film festival is named for Sundance.  These are such well written parts. It’s a lightning strike. Perfection.

The rest of the cast is a cornucopia of familiar faces, all memorable even in their minute roles. The Addams Family’s Ted ‘Lurch’ Cassidy as Butch’s enormous, ambitious, and surprisingly clever underling Harvey Logan. Strother Martin rasping through Sweet Betsy From Pike. Jose Torvay, the bandit with the watch from Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, playing a bandit again here. In the opening scene where Butch defuses an ornery gunfighting gambler with a mere mention of Sundance’s name, you can just about make out Sam Elliot’s left hand as he vacates the card table.

butchcassidy-420x0One of the more ingenious elements is Burt Bacharach’s swinging, playful score which on paper sounds like a recipe for disaster, but plays perfectly, lending the three montage sequences in which it’s specifically brought to the forefront a fun, airy quality, particularly the song, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, which plays over a brilliant scene of Newman and Ross just playing around on a bicycle. There’s an underlying sadness to the musical numbers too in their down moments, which matches the images excellently. There’s a sad clarinet and accordion duet during the travel montage in which, via a series of still photos, we see Sundance and Etta dancing at a New Year’s ball on the passenger liner while Butch looks on a little sadly, then dozes in a chair. Very lyrical without a word spoken.

I once heard James Coburn tell a story about working on Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid in which he said that the day before they were to shoot Kristofferson’s death scene, Sam Peckinpah confided to Coburn, “I just don’t wanna kill him.”

600full-butch-cassidy-and-the-sundance-kid-screenshotWe don’t want to see Butch and Sundance get their inevitable comeuppance. Yet when the boys brutally gun down a gang of Bolivian bandits, we know they’ve somehow crossed a line they won’t return from. It’s the heartbreak of the movie that is telegraphed by the bicycle salesman and the relentless, never in focus superposse led by the ominous night tracking Lord Baltimore and Joe LeFors in his white skimmer, and by Jeff Corey’s Sheriff Bedsoe, who warns them, “Your times is over and you’re gonna die bloody. All you can do is choose where.” Etta tells them before well before parting ways, “I won’t watch you die. I’ll miss that scene if you don’t mind.” And whether by some mercy of Hill or reluctance of Goldman, we are spared the final heartbreak of say, The Wild Bunch. Butch and Sundance are surprised by Bolivian troops and after a desperate rush for the horses, are repelled and wind up surrounded by the Bolivian Army. Already bleeding from a half dozen wounds, Butch suggests they try Australia next. They trade a quip about LeFors and rush out shooting. We hear the Bolivian commander give the order to fire, we hear the crash of the guns, but like Bruce Lee forever leaping at the camera in the final shot of Fist Of Fury (no doubt lifted from this), the boys are washed in sepia, not blood, and we get to remember them as we loved them, game and daring, framed in the same daydream magic tones of the clever, old timey cinematograph opening credits.

This movie made legends of the real Butch and Sundance as much as it did the men who portrayed them.

It’s also, on a personal note, a movie I will forever associate with my father.

Best Bit Of Dialogue:

Butch 7 End“If he’d just pay me what he’s spending to make me stop robbing him, I’d stop robbing him!”

Best Scene:

The escape from the superposse via the jump from the cliff is hilarious, and deserving of the description classic, but my personal favorite is the moment Butch and Sundance first attempt to rob a Bolivian bank. This has been Butch’s big brainchild the whole movie, and their reason for retreating the heat in America for this tiny but booming South American nation. The first time they try to size up a bank, they are discouraged by a friendly teller who fends them off with simple Spanish, which neither of them can speak or understand.  This necessitates Etta having to tutor them in Spanish. Sundance neglects his lessons for amorous pursuits with her, and Butch scrawls his answers on a crib sheet in the next room when she quizzes them.

They burst into their first job, guns drawn, Butch yelling “Estu es un robo!”

The patrons raise their hands and go to the wall, Sundance covering them.

Butch fumbles through a couple false starts of Spanish, then furiously digs out his wrinkled crib sheet and reads;

“Manos arriba!”

Sundance, exasperated, yells;

“They GOT ‘em up! Skip on down!”

“Arriba!”

“SKIP ON DOWN!”

“Todos ustedes arrismense a la pared!”

“They’re AGAINST the wall ALREADY!”

Butch squints at the paper.

“Donde es….AWWWW You’re so damn smart, YOU read it!”

He flings it down and stalks forward with his gun. Sundance empties the drawers and they run out of the bank, bickering all the way, Sundance muttering “A goddamned CRIB SHEET.”

Would I Buy It Again?

Undoubtedly.

Next In The Queue: Cabin In The Woodsishot-2205

My Coolest Story From Comic Con 2014

Sergio Out Take 3I’m a bit late in posting this, but I wanted to share the coolest thing I saw at San Diego Comic Con two weeks ago. I took no pictures (wish I had) so I guess you’re gonna have to take my word for it. But Sergio Aragones is a genuinely nice man, and I think he’ll bear this story out if you just ask him.

Whenever I go I invariably see celebrities, and my daughter and her friend always grill me about who I saw. This year crossing the street I could’ve reached out and slapped Chris ‘Captain America’ Evans on the shoulder (and got my arm broken by his entourage for it), I shared a train with Anthony Head, and spied Robert Carlyle on the corner with his little girl hanging on his arm.

But I haven’t braved the colossal lines of Hall H since they announced the title for Revenge Of The Sith, and I don’t really go to star watch anyway. It’s Comic Con. I go to buy comics and just generally gawk and mingle.

So I’m a big Sergio Aragones fan, a big Groo The Wanderer fan. I don’t think you can be a fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan without liking Groo – or you shouldn’t. It’s wonderful social satire centering around a bumbling barbarian parody of Conan. One of the first comics I ever collected, and filled marging to margin with astounding art. For those that don’t know, Sergio Aragones is one of the best artists working today – a living legend. He’s an Eisner Award winning cartoonist who began his career doodling in the margins of Mad Magazine and he’s probably the fastest cartoonist alive. He’s….aw heck, just look at these samples.

aragones3 aragones4 aragones5 aragoneswoodstock1_3

Mad #500-028-29The way Sergio fills a page is nothing short of extraordinary. A running joke in the pages of Groo was the exasperation of colorist Tom Luth who had to inject color into these staggeringly detailed crowd scenes….a task involved enough to drive anybody insane, but which Luth performed admirably on a monthly basis for a number of years. Sergio packs his splash pages with dynamic individuals and a myriad of hidden side jokes.  The only artist that comes close to what Sergio does, in my opinion, is Geoff Darrow.geoffReally, if I had the money to commission them both, and if they were willing, my dream is to have two pieces of art hanging side by side on my wall, one featuring Groo slicing his way through one of Geoff’s backgrounds, and the other of Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy fighting through an army of Sergio’s cartoon denizens.

geoff-darrow-conanembiggened

Anyway, all gushing aside, I always make it a point to stop by Sergio’s table when I’m at San Diego. It’s always a treat to see what he’s up to, and just listen to him, and once his wife baked a plate of awesome brownies for everybody.  This year I was in line to pick up a copy of his new Groo Vs. Conan comic (something I’ve anticipated for decades), and he was telling a story to the guy in front of me out of the pages of Sergio Aragones Funnies, his anthology series of illustrated autobiographical anecdotes (he has led a fascinating life). I had read somewhere his father had once been a line producer on movies in Mexico, but he was talking about his dad’s work on the movie Animas Trujano, which featured his (and my own) idol Toshiro Mifune as a Mexican revolutionary.

animas-trujanoMifune is one of the all-time great Japanese film actors, who solidified his place in history in movies like Yojimbo and The Seven Samurai. He was the John Wayne to Akira Kurosawa’s John Ford, like DeNiro to Martin Scorcese, and if he’s been in a bad movie I’ve frankly never seen it. Apparently Animas Trujano, as absurd as his casting may sound, was no exception – Sergio said it was nominated for the Mexican Academy Award, and a little internet digging confirms this.  Sergio told us Mifune didn’t know a word of Spanish, but learned his lines phonetically, like Shih Kien in Enter The Dragon. As we were geeking out about this cool little inside story, Sergio pulled the topper, the thing that put this neat little moment over the edge for me. He reached into his thick, worn wallet, dug a bit, and produced one of those old Kodak photographs where the colors are mostly orange and a bit blown out and there’s a white border around the image – those kind you don’t see anymore and is basically only preserved in Instagram filters and crackling old photo albums.  In the picture are two sun reddened men with their arms over each other’s shoulders buddy style, smiling at the camera through their brushy black whiskers. From the peon costume of one of the men it looked almost like a behind the scenes still from a Sergio Leone movie, as if Gian Maria Volonte had taken a break in his Indio costume and taken a shot with a friend on the crew.

“Here’s a picture of my father on set with Mifune,” he said. “He really looked Mexican.”

Totally blown away. Knowing my tastes as readers of this blog may, it was like all the stars of my fandom aligned perfectly at once in some kind of Great Conjunction. I was standing at San Diego Comic Con, talking with one of my all-time favorite artists, looking at a candid, unpublished photo of one of my all-time favorite actors.

I felt weird asking to take a picture of him holding a personal photo of his dad, so I didn’t. But next time you’re at Sergio’s table, if you’re a Mifune fan, ask to see it.

animastrujano2

 

 

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

From Pompeii To The Endeavour

Visited the California Science Center yesterday to see the Pompeii exhibit.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Ancient Roman artifacts were very elegant and striking, but the last room with its casts of dead men, women, and children left me a bit shaken. The physical attitudes of a group of three people who expired on a set of stairs, the last apparently huddled behind the legs of another, and that of a young pregnant woman turned on her face, one hand to her belly…. I couldn’t help but project myself into the lives of those long deceased citizens facing what must have amounted to Armageddon. With no word for volcano in the ancient Latin language and no mass communications lines to inform them of natural phenomena they did not personally have knowledge of, what must they have experienced on that final terrible day when the ambivalent mountain in whose shadow they’d lived their lives suddenly burst open and vomited fire and hot ash into the sky? It must have been horrifying; mind-splitting. They must have died in abject terror; what an ant suddenly exposed to focus sunlight through some unfathomable child’s magnifying glass must experience – to have your life choked off by something completely beyond your comprehension.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe ended the visit with a look at the space shuttle Endeavour, a really awe-inspiring sight in its own right. When you walk in the shuttle is like an immense bird only a few feet overhead, a bit battered and weathered from its journies.

The myriad heat panels that cover it are very like an intricate mosaic from the floor of one of Pompeii’s atriums, perfectly interlocked shingles whose individuality are only perceivable upon close inspection. Nearly two thousand years in the span of an hour or two. I couldn’t look at the two without thinking that one was the pinnacle of human achievement and the other one of the deepest troughs of human tragedy. Did the children of Pompeii, who probably didn’t understand the volcanic eruption that killed them ever conceive of the world 2000 years in the future in their daydreams?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPeople live and die, new people are born. Do we feel cheated when we expire that we won’t see the progress of humanity? Is every individual a single piece in the advancement of all of humankind? The shuttle doesn’t mourn the loss of one or two heat tiles, and the artisans of Pompeii did not abandon their portraits in the face of a handful of broken tesserae.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Dionysus (Bacchus) Enthroned

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Ptolemy II

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Unidentified bust of a forgotten Roman

Bit depressing I guess, but it was kind of an emotional seesaw to go from sorrow to elation SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESpompeiithat quickly.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Household Lare

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

My Panel At San Diego Comic Con

The Thursday schedule for San Diego Comic Con 2014 is now up at their site, and if you scroll down to the 7pm slot you’ll see a familiar name…..

Word Building -

Robert Roach (Menthu, The Roach), Gini Koch (Alien Collective), Ed Erdelac (Terovolas),Nathan Long (Blackhhearts Omnibus), and Nancy Holder (Wicked Saga) discuss structure and storytelling, the use of pacing, and how certain creators use a timeline to build flow. Moderated by Jeffrey Twohig.
Thursday July 24, 2014 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Room 32AB
So if you’re in the neighborhood of Room 32AB that evening, come by and give a listen.

On This Day Richard Matheson Found What Dreams May Come

Today is the first anniversary of the day one of my five favorite writers of all time passed away.

little_girl_lost_chalk_portalMy first exposure to Richard Matheson was undoubtedly the Twilight Zone, where he delivered such classic episodes as the Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, Steel, Death Ship, and for me, the unforgettable Little Girl Lost, about a girl who tumbles through a spot in her bedroom wall into a pocket dimension.

Matheson famously split Captain Kirk into two halves via the transporter in The Enemy Within on the original Star Trek.

enemey-within-kirkThe first novel of his I can remember is I Am Legend. My high school English teacher had an old paperback copy of it sitting on the shelf. The cover art was of a man reaching up to heaven howling with a stake and a mallet in his hands as dozens of grasping hands clutched at him from the shadows. The cover copy read “The Last Man Alive On A Planet Of Vampires.”

It would be years before I read it, but it always stuck with me. It’s a seminal work, singularly most responsible for the zombie craze.

iamlegendI think the first book I read of his was The Shrinking Man, a harrowing, surprisingly existential story about a man shrinking to subatomic size.

The next, I think, was The Memoirs Of Wild Bill Hickock, a ‘found’ journal of the famous gunfighter debunking the myths of his life. I relished that book, one of the first westerns I ever read, and was astounded to make the connection at the end between this and ‘the guy who wrote for The Twilight Zone.’

Then I read What Dreams May Come.

It’s probably one of the finest, most life affirming novels I’ve ever read about the possibility of the continuance of the human soul unfettered by denominational dogma. A book I cherish, constantly recommend, and hope to pass on to my own children.

beardlessMatheson constantly surprised me. When I found out he’d written a World War II memoir, The Beardless Warriors, I rushed out and got it.  It’s a powerful first person account, deftly bringing a modicum of comprehension to the total insanity of war.

Another book that holds an honored place in my library is his collection of western short stories, some weird, many rivaling even early Elmore Leonard, By The Gun.

And prose wasn’t enough. Matheson was an accomplished screenwriter, penning such great flicks as The Devil Rides Out, and Somewhere In Time (based on his own novel, Bid Time Return).

Last year the world lost a very great talent.

Nothing further to add, except if you haven’t read Matheson, do so.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Richard-Matheson/e/B000AQ285E/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403582681&sr=8-1

 

 

Star Trek Continues

ld_star_trek_cast_ll_120820_wmainI’m an old school Trek fan. Specficially TOS (The Original Series), the classic 60’s show with Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly, Doohan, Nichols, Takei, Koenig et al. I love the interplay between the characters, I love the killer retro look and sensibility, the appealing primary color palette.  If you haven’t checked out the Animated Series, it’s like a lost fourth season, with much of the same talent both in front of and behind the camera returning. DC Fontana and some of the other writers handle scripts, all the principals return to voice their characters. I discovered it a few years ago on Netflix Instant and it was like going home again for a little while.

But TOS lasted three (four with TAS) seasons and that’s it.

My wife is a big Next Gen fan, but I’m not. The sterile look never really grabbed me like classic Trek, and while the characters and stories are great, I never latched onto them like the original. I got some enjoyment from Voyager and Deep Space Nine, and from the last season of Enterprise when it started doing what it had originally promised, but I’m not a fan of the new movie universe at all.

Nothing ever quite took hold of me like Classic Trek.

star_trek_tos_zps73d073cdA fellow writer, Bobby Nash, was raving about this fan production Star Trek Continues, the other day on his Facebook page, and the stills intrigued me, particularly the re-enacted pose of the TV Guide cover featuring Kirk and Spock looking up at the camera with their arms folded. It was a nifty insider homage, I thought, and the actors playing Kirk and Spock really looked the part.

Reading a bit on it, I realized the crew behind the web series had managed to raise in excess of $120,000 on Kickstarter (Kirkstarter they called it) to get the show running and I was understandably curious.

So I caught the first episode on Youtube (Pilgrim Of Eternity – check it out HERE). It was a sequel to the Who Mourns For Adonais? episode, in which the Greek God Apollo turned out to be a powerful alien being which required the subservient worship of humans to thrive. At the end of that classic episode Apollo is defeated by Kirk and crew and fades out, calling to his fellow exiled Olympians.

startrekcontinues-cast1Right from the get-go I could see where that Kirkstarter money had gone. They have perfectly recreated the 60’s era Enterprise set. The bridge, the corridors, the crew quarters, even the Jeffries’ tube made an appearance. The costumes were spot on, and most importantly, the lightning was perfect. This looks like a hi-def episode of Classic Trek, precisely like the remastered editions that came out a few years ago, right down to the aspect ratio.

I’ve seen some very well-produced fan films of Trek, Star Wars, and superheroes. There is some very impressive work out there, but one uniform problem I’ve had with them is the quality of story and acting. You can have a technical, visual masterpiece on the screen, but if you can’t capture the mood and story of the original, all you’ve got is a pretty copy of something far superior – like a digital photograph of a white sand beach in sunny Puerto Rico. The postcard is never quite as nice as being there with the sand in between your toes.

Now, the STC cast play their parts well. It took me maybe thirty seconds to accept this wasn’t Shatner, Nimoy etc. before I started being drawn in by the story.

Yeah, the story.

In a fan production.

It was pretty cool, and full of nods to the original show without coming across as fan service.

They got Michael Forest to reprise his role as Apollo (here physically diminished by an energy drain) and he picked up the part like he’d only played it the other day, yet with the experience that comes with age, actually making the role…better than the original.

I showed it to my wife.

“The acting’s not bad,” I said. “And the story’s pretty….good.”

So we cued up Lolani.

Man!

lolaniThe show took off for me at this point.

The STC guys took the old nudge nudge wink wink boy’s club trope of the green skinned Orion slave girl and brought it into modern day context without destroying the sixties framework. They took an eye candy character and gave her nuance and heart, and presented as subtext a condemnation of the poor treatment of women passed off as cultural more existing today. THAT’S Star Trek! Plus, they brought in Lou Ferigno….as a quality, imposing villain….in green body paint!

Plus, Vince Mignogna, who I kind of dismissed as passable in the previous episode, shined in this outing.

ferignoAnd the third episode, The Fairest Of Them All, set in the mirror universe, is even better!

In this one Mignogna once again impressed me with his tyrannical Kirk counterpart, but Todd Haberkorn, knocked it out of the park as Spock. I admit my first impression of him in the part was, well, he doesn’t quite have that resonant but flat voice and he’s a little more human looking than Nimoy. But I forgot all that in this episode. He’s got Spock down pat. There’s a great scene where he and his former captain part ways, and Kirk screams his name as the shuttle doors close….loved it.

The rest of the cast hasn’t escaped my attention either. Grant Imahara was seriously echoing the dark version of Sulu in this one, and the lovely Kim Stinger had me from the first singing in the galley as Uhura. Chris Doohan, son of James Doohan, carries on the Scotty role his father originated so admirably it borders on uncanny, and Michelle Specht is a welcome addition as ship’s counselor Elise Makennah.

stc_fairest_06If I have any criticism it’s more Bones, my favorite character. I haven’t quite seen enough of Chekov to make a judgment either way.

Yeah, the whole show has me giggling in a good way.

This is a labor of unfettered love for 60’s era Trek and if you’re a fan like I am, you need to check this out right now. This is stellar work, I think even transcending the appellation ‘fan film.’

I can’t wait to see more (and I hope they open up for script submissions!).

It’s probably the greatest gift a Trekkie could ask for.

Check their website here.

http://www.startrekcontinues.com/

The Reverend Mr. Goodworks And The Yeggs Of Yig Appearing In Steampunk Cthulhu

Up for preorder from Chaosium Books and editors Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass is Steampunk Cthulhu, featuring stories from Jeffrey Thomas, Adam Bolivar, Carrie Cuinn, William Meikle, John Goodrich, Lee Clark Zumpe, D.J. Tyrer, Christine Morgan, Christopher M. Geeson, Thana Niveau, Leigh Kimmel, Josh Reynolds, Robert Neilson, Pete Rawlik, and including my story The Reverend Mister Goodworks and The Yeggs of Yig.

The book is due out June 16th and features a killer cover from Daniele Serra, who also did the cover for my novel Coyote’s Trail.

Readers of my Merkabah Rider series  may recognize the name The Reverend Mister Goodworks from the final book in the series, Once Upon A Time In The Weird West.

Also known as The Reverend Shadrach Mischach Abednego Carter, a former train engineer who, after a horrific crash, is partially reconstructed with steam engine parts and becomes a battling preacher dedicated to the destruction of evil, the Reverend Mr. Goodworks plays a sizable part in the events of Once Upon A Time In The Weird West.

NehushtanThis story can be considered a prequel spinoff which directly ties into the the last MR novel, and provides some insight into the character.

I actually wrote this some time before I published Once Upon A Time In The Weird West, so I’m excited to see it in print at last. It involves the servants of the Lovecraftian deity Yig (obviously), and ties into the Old Testament story of the Nehushtan.

yigIn this story, the Reverend encounters a distraught pregnant Mexican woman fleeing across the desert at night. Although she begs him to kill her before they are born, the Reverend delivers her children, only to be attacked by them as they slither from her womb; a pair of vicious serpent-human hybrids. He sets out to find those responsible for this abomination….

Here’s an excerpt.

_______________________________________

The Reverend lurched into New Valusia sometime before noon, the sand grinding in his knee joints. It was little more than a few communal frame houses, some gardens, and a couple outbuildings, all arranged around a two story farmhouse with a veranda.

On the porch stood a strikingly tall, lean, yellow haired woman in a white and purple robe. She folded her sun freckled arms at his approach.

Several of the New Valusians in white cassocks rose from their various tasks to interpose themselves, bearing only shovels and hoes as weapons. The Reverend was forced to halt or else plough through them.

He stood quietly, a head taller than their tallest, and surveyed the small crowd.

“Which of you is Susannah?” he bellowed at last.

“I’m Sister Susannah Coyle,” said the woman on the porch. “What brings you here?”

“The Lord brang me here,” drawled the Reverend, unfastening his coat.

“Well, the Lord welcome you.”

“Not your lord, bitch,” growled the Reverend.

He threw open his greatcoat like a knightly tabard.

Beneath, his body was flat black with steel accents, like the shell of a richly ornamented locomotive engine. Indeed, his chest resembled the face of a locomotive, with the dim lamp set in the center. His torso was further festooned with dancing pressure gauges and valve wheels, like a harness of little metal daisies. His heavy, ironclad legs bristled with pistons and driveshafts that plunged and hissed as he moved.

There was a thick bandolier belted around his blocky waist. Hanging from the belt was an old LeMat pistol. He brought his left arm up sharply, accompanied by a series of mechanical whirs and clicks. The sleeve was split down the middle from elbow to cuff, allowing the arm to emerge from the fabric unencumbered. His right hand went to his elbow and jacked a brass lever there. A strange amalgamation of octagonal rifle barrels, three in number, and situated in a kind of pyramid one atop the other, appeared at the end of the metal arm.

The Reverend rightly assumed any of these New Valusians walking around of their own volition were acquiescent in the hell the young woman he’d buried had been put through. He had no compunctions about firing into their midst, but he directed his aim at the statuesque Susannah Coyle, furiously levering his tri-repeater arm and cutting loose with a rapid barrage.

The New Valusians weren’t used to facing gunfire and scattered, dropping their makeshift weapons in their mad flight.

Susannah Coyle didn’t budge. To his amazement, the fifteen bullets he had flung in her direction all stopped and hung suspended in mid-air a few feet from the porch, spinning in a tight group.

When he lowered his smoking arm, frowning, he became aware of a deep thrumming in the air.

The door to the house opened and two muscular white-clad men armed with primitive, two-handed stone headed mallets appeared.

“The Pacifier Field,” Susannah explained, flicking the spinning bullets one by one with her finger until they bounced down the porch steps and rolled harmlessly in the dust at the Reverend’s feet. “An electromagnetic generator. It protects our Nesting House from those who do violence. It’s on its most agreeable setting now, but when I order it directed against your person, it will repel all your metal components, even from each other. That suit of yours will come apart and fly to the compass points.”

“It’s not a suit,” said the Reverend.

————————————————-

Steampunk Cthulhu is up for preorder now on Amazon.com.

Steampunk Cthulhu: Mythos Terror in the Age of Steam (Chaosium Fiction #6054)

Steampunk Cthulhu: Mythos Terror in the Age of Steam (Chaosium Fiction #6054)

Buy from Amazon

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,140 other followers