Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Small Traditions Are the Important Ones

Did you have a merry Christmas? A happy season? A delightful Festivus?

As usual, I had too much to do and not enough time in between them. A lot of driving around, and few days in which I do not have a responsibility to be somewhere. Work is pretty heavy, and that's good for the store, but it takes a bit of a toll on me. The writing has fallen by the wayside, and tomorrow I head down to Massachusetts to be with friends. We'll see how much writing I'll get done.

But rather than concentrate on the negative, I'll put up some of my stranger Christmas traditions. Every year, for example, we go to the World's Best Grinder place and get an awesome grinder.

Those of you who do not live in the New England area may not realize that a sub is a grinder in these parts. Dunno why. But the important thing to realize is that the sandwiches made by Elmwood Pizza are without a doubt the best in the world. I don't know why. It may be the Polish tradition that adds a special mix of spices to the oil. All I know is that their grinders are incredibly savory. The meat is acceptable, the veggies nothing to crow about. But every cold grinder we have gotten there has been a treasure. The Queen of Science and I get one every Christmas (I put a six incher in her stocking one year. The smell of it permeated the car and gave me away), and they are as excellent as we remember.

For me, it's a little treat that's the taste of Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Falling Out of Love

My relationship with certain media franchises can best be described as a romantic one. Certain things I just fall in love with: Godzilla, the undead, Klingons, Fallout, the Diskworld, Ancient Egypt, Cthulhu, Wing Commander, and many others. Some stay. Godzilla, for example, is something I can return to many times a year with complete enjoyment.

Every now and then, however, I fall out of love. Something switches, either in me, or the franchise, and it loses its luster. It happened a few years ago with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Le Comte Saint Germain, I'm sad to say. I'll always look back on those books with fondness, but I don't think I'll ever read a new one. It's kind of sad, because it's a part of my life that I enjoyed, and now am leaving behind me.

Over the last two months, I've fallen out of love with Warmachine. Which is a pity. I played the game pretty much on a weekly basis for two years, and spent a lot of time painting up my little miniature army. I like the painting, but the game has evolved into something that is unbalanced. It has become frustrating to play. Much as I hoped Mark 2 would fix the problems that annoyed me, the game still had problems which made it unplayable for me.

The sad part is, the loss of me has resulted in the implosion of Warmachine in Bennington. I was the guy who started off Warmachine, and it appears that without me, there isn't enough interest to sustain itself. Partially I feel guilty because this means the store has a lot of stock that is going to just sit on its shelves. And I don't get to socialize with some of the Warmachine players anymore. I've started a mini painting night, and that's providing me with a good hour and a half of serenity, the aspect of the hobby I enjoyed most.

What am I painting, you ask? Tyranids from Warhammer 40K. And yes, I can already see the signs of love. I bought the older Tyranid books in order to have a sense of their history. I've even bought a novel that involves them, but in my defense, I know the author.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The December Blues

So, the job search is going into heavy drive, so I don't have the time I would like to devote to this blog, or writing in general, anymore.

This sucks.

And it's the Christmas season, so there's a lot of extra scurrying around buying stuff and being secretive and mailing stuff. Plus I've added another work day at the Grotto.

Once I'm done with the revisions to "N is for Neville" and "Between Two Living Gods" I will be getting back to Hag. I will thus be having less closure on my writing for the next three months. This is, I think, going to be a couple of difficult months.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trifecta of Excellence: A Game, A TV Series, and A Book

Despite several near-disasters, it's been a good week. Wednesday could have been very bad, but it turns out I am competent enough to replace the motherboard of my own desktop.

This week has been very good to me is the excellent media I've been soaking in. It's difficult to get excited about new stuff these days, because so much stuff out there is crud. I'm pleased to mention three excellent examples of the media I spend a lot of time with: a books, a television series, and and a computer game.

The Fallout Game of the Year edition has been wonderful. I have already played through the main plot of Fallout, but I missed a large number of the side-quests, and the additional content offered by the downloadables has been amazingly fun. Killin' inbred hicks from Maryland? Yeah, I can get behind that. Murdering slavers in the industrial wasteland that was once Pittsburgh? Surprisingly fun. Me and my Power Armor getting abducted by a giant tin-toy alien mother ship? That was pretty cool. The game has a lot of interesting story and development. The plots and subplots are solid, and are sold to you in different ways. Not a lot of repetition in Fallout 3, although sometimes, the combat is a little overdone. Random encounters add length to the game, but not a lot of interest. Fortunately, it never becomes a Diablo grind of waves upon waves of monsters that exist solely to die, give you experience, and drop stuff for you to sell.

Rome is one of the best TV series I've ever watched. Although it's got some historical inaccuracy, mostly for the sake of drama and the convenience of keeping the same actors, it also is steeped in history. It's the little details that are so fascinating: watching the Town Crier read out the news and then pause to advertise a sponsor; seeing the swirl of ethnicities and peoples in the dirty streets of Rome; feeling the rise and fall of family prestige based on so many minor factors. It's delightfully complex and horrible and relentlessly human all at the same time. The sets are gorgeous, the acting top-notch. The plots got a little bit soapy toward the end of season two, but entirely enjoyable. This is excellent television.

When the Santa Fe Good Taste Factory recommends something, I listen. If he recommends something, it's usually quite good. Not that my other friends don't have good taste, but the Good Taste Factory suggests it, I'm guaranteed to like it. The Gone-Away World arrived in the mail during a period in which I was having trouble reading books, partially because I was reading some crap I felt obligated to read and report on. And I'm having trouble with my own writing, which always effects my reading. The Gone-Away World is not the sort of book I usually read. I like strong plots with muscular prose, something with a sense of where it's going. Gone-Away World is loaded with digressions, strange introspection, a semi-halpess protagonist who wanders through his own life. However, the prose is brilliant. A quote: "Garbage in, garbage out. Or rather more felicitously, the tree of nonsense if watered with error, and from its branches swing the pumpkins of disaster." I went on this ride with author Nick Harkaway because I was seduced by his prose, and the funny, strange, human way he has his protagonist think and put things together. An excellent book, probably the best one I have read this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Armistice Day

On 11/11/1918, the guns fell silent.

War is a quintessential human sport. It is such a tremendous undertaking, so inconvenient and difficult that if we did not love it so much, it would never happen. And when we wage, we want to keep the reality of it from the people in whose name we do so. Strange, isn't it?

The Secrecy News website found or assembled a PDF of this report on why certain photographs from the Great War were censored. It's quite an amazing read, loaded with pictures and explanations of why such pictures were not released. What great pains militaries take to make sure that those who are not involved in the fight do not see what soldiers do, see how soldiers die. Even as they act in the name of those who should not be exposed to these horrors.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How the Process has Changed

It's been a frustrating couple of weeks, partially because of the story I've been writing. This story required a lot of background: who the Caananites were, what they spoke, and differentiating between a qedeshem and a qedeshot (qedeshem is male). And while the research was fun, working with an only semni-familiar culture can be frustrating. How many goats was Pharaoh likely to bring with him on a campaign of conquest? I'm more interested in the logistics of how the force was concentrated than how the force fought, which is not so much what the average chronicler or diarist is going to talk about. They write about the glory of the campaign. I want the nasty, gritty details about how it happened. There's a scholarly book on Tuthmosis' campaigns which likely would clear up a few of my questions about the composition of Tuthmosis' force, but I'm up to my eyebrows in unread books, and $75 is a bit steep.

My process has changed in the last year. I used to write the story, then immediately run over it for a revision. Right now, I'm letting the story sit, generally for as long as it takes to revise a previous story and then write another one, before I get to the serious revising.

Bradbury was right. Write a lot and your work will improve. I used to have the problem of going back to a story after a couple of months and remembering exactly what all the words were, and being unable to rewrite effectively because of that. Now, because there's a fair amount of verbiage pouring out of me, I've forgotten a lot about stories I've written, so revising them is a lot easier. In what I would have said was an impossibility two years ago, I sometimes forget the names of my protagonists.

But there's one way to tell if the process has improved my work. Will it sell?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brian Keen Must Die!

"By Way of Thank You"
by John Goodrich

What really killed Brian Keene wasn’t his writing, but taking a break from it.

He had been spending a lot of time in the nearly-inaccessible concrete bunker in the bowels of the defense installation he called The Compound. His home, his safe haven from the hordes of ravening FUKU, as well as semi-human zombie fanciers. Here he wrote his books and stories, and, on occasion, posted to the Internet.

He’d just finished a particularly difficult scene, and figured he deserved a bit of down time. Maybe he would go look at That Message board.

“FINALLY PUBLISHED!” was the thread’s title. With more trepidation than hope, Brian clicked.

“YeAZ BiTcHeZ!” gushed the post. “The Crapola anthology series took my story. Cost me $200 for the processing, but they really liked “Zombie Slumber Party Slaughter.” They said I could be the next Stefanie Myer with my talent. All I need is to get sdome notice, which I’ll get once Crapola hits the stands! Who’s a thought it, published on my first story!”

Brian ground his teeth. He’s typed this response so often his fingers already knew where to go as he thought about what to have for lunch.

“No. Look, kid, money flows to the author.” The words ripped across the screen like a jackrabbit with an M-80 up its tailpipe. “These assholes at Crapola are ripping you off. They aren’t distributing your story. Nobody worth anything reads Crapola. You’ve just flushed your money down a dirty but well-worn toilet.”

He clicked the “send” button, and wandered around the site to see if there was any worthwhile conversation to be had.

A few minutes later, the thread had been lengthened by a single response. He took a deep breath, readied himself for the usual ignorant rebuttal, and viewed the thread.

“Don’t be h8tr, dudzor” the message ran. “I’ve been working on this writing thing for six weeks, and you old guyz don’t like to see the new guyz coming up to kick ur assez. Yeah, I didn’t make any momney off the sale, but people can and do read the Crapola anthologies. That’s why they charge so much—they get great distribuition. In a couple of months, someone else will pick up my storey, and I’ll get a contract for a couple of books. They said I will be the horror’s next Sephanie Meyer.”

“You fucking idiot!” He didn’t type it, he screamed it at the screen. Not for the first time, he wished for a device that would let him slap sense into someone through the Internet. Since he didn’t have one, he was just going to have to school this numbskull with words that would probably bounce of his thick skull. But he had to try.

The light in the bunker flashed. That was the doorbell. He only switched it on when the wife was out… dammit. She was out shopping. Food or clothes or something. He wished he’d paid more attention to where she was going.

Nothing to do but go see who it was. He considered dropping the intruders sight unseen into the pit trap that he reserved for Jehova’s Witnesses. But it might be someone he wasn’t expecting. Someone he liked.

He looked through the peeohole. They were lawyers. They didn’t even have to open their mouths and he knew they were lawyers. They wore stereotypical pinstriped suits, with the red power ties that should have died in the ninties. Their hair was immobile, even in the November breeze.

What the did lawyers want with him? Not pushing the button to dump them into the oubliette took more willpower than had gone into his first book. Lawyers. He took a deep breath, calmed himself, and checked the loads of the weapons cache. When he was ready, he opened the door.

“Mr. Keene?” The lefthand lawyer was wearing sunglasses on an overcast November day. He clearly thought he was Mr. Smith from the Matrix. “Mr. Brian Keene?”

Brian let out a small, dejected sigh. He was about to be served.

“Yeah that’s me.”

“We are the representatives of PublishNorthAmerica, the publishers of Crapola. We understand you’ve been advising one of our authors not to pay for publication. Not to mention the slanderous ways in which you attack out client, PublishNorthAmerica, whenever they come up.”

“Wait a second. Didn’t your little trip out here cost a little bit more than you made from any of those little guys? You guys charge more by the hour than that guy paid you.”

“You have been a thorn in our side for some time, Mr. Keene. Now it is time to rectify that.”

Keene’s easy smile was confident, and the smirk on the lawyer’s face faded.

“What’s black and brown and looks good on a lawyer?” the author asked.

The lawyers exchanged glances, wasting valuable time as the Rotties charged them. A gruesome gurgling was followed by the wet crunch of bone, and then a sloppy licking sound.

As the dogs were about their work, Brian noticed the black van that was parked on the street. Even as he was wondering how much more cliché his visitors could be, the van’s side door opened, and two more men in black suits stepped out. The left one even had sunglasses.

“Fuck this.” Brian pulled a pistol off the wall and unloaded. The two went down in crumpled heaps. This was going to be a big mess.

The black van’s door opened again, and a squad of black-suited figured leaped out, this time carrying an array of assault rifles and pistols. He could almost hear the Propellerheads music as they charged, firing with all the accuracy of Hollywood Nazis.

Bullets smacked against walls, and the concrete of the Compound echoed with thunder as Brian returned fire. They were all on the ground in a few seconds, and Brian was reloading.

The van vomited more black-suited bodies, as if they’d stowed some sort of clown car in it. But their tactics were movie simple: run forward, guns blazing. Running and gunning, they were as accurate as a Dan Brown novel, cliché as an exploding car.

Wait a minute.

Brian pumped four shots into the van’s engine block.

True to form, it exploded in a fireball that would have made ten kilos of plastic explosive proud. The van vaulted backwards, nose over end, before coming to rest in a smoking, burning heap.

The quiet was sudden end eerie, the only sound the panting of the Rotties and the greasy crackle of flames devouring burning van.

Not much later, The Wife drove up. He watched her cascade of red hair as she slung the kid, then threaded her way across the corpse-strewn yard.

“Half the county heard that explosion,” she said. “And there was only one place it could come from. You’ve got quite the mess to clean up.“

Brian rolled his eyes. “Me? But this isn’t my fau—“

Her glance was so sharp he never felt the cut. Just fell to the ground, the world turning black.

“I warned you before,” she said, somewhere beyond the black cotton that smothered the world. “Never mess with the redhead.”

Today is Brian Keene Must Die day. Brian will be killed in dozens of horrifying ways in blogs across the blogosphere for a very good cause. Please consider making a donation to the Shirley Jackson Awards.

Someday I’ll be one of the cool kids and hear about these before they happen. I owe Brian for a very good headbanging that I desperately needed a few years ago. Thanks, Brian.

What a Halloween weekend should be

The Queen of Science and I traveled to Connecticut for a good friend's party, and it was most excellent. The costumes were great. We had a magnificent Genghis Khan, a delightful Snow Queen, a touch of steampunk, more birds than anyone anticipated, several devils, and a really awesome pair of French Maids. Even better, the conversations were quite interesting: the Snow Queen knows a very diverse group of friends, and at any point, there were at least two interesting conversations going within earshot. She is also a divine cook, and a hostess of the diligent, attentive old school.

Side note to college-aged trick-or-treaters: wearing a T-shirt that tells us which college you are going to actually reduces the likelihood of receiving candy.

Sunday morning, I staggered on sleepy legs to be script doctor and director of photography for Iren Bear's "Thanks Wargamers" video. I'm amazed at how little time it takes for Iren Bear to put together something solid and well-edited on Youtube. In it, he thanks the voters for his win (see previous post). This video also is the first to feature him, and features a hilarious cameo from Mrs. Iren Bear. Give it a watch if you're at all geeky: Iren Bear writes a concise, funny video.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Yeah baby!

So the battle report is well on its way to 7,000 views, and people are now discussing how to make their own batreps in the same fashion. I'm hoping we see a spread of this style of watchable battle report, rather than the usual point the camera and talk at it. Part of the camera's role is to take out the dull and trivial parts, like the dice rolling. And this video pares that down, as well as providing a sense of story for the viewer.

I was a on-location gopher, secondary special effects department, script doctor, and voice actor, but the real credit goes to Iren Bear.

And yeah, I like the dancing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"More than Once a Year Makes Them Nervous"

Woah. It has a graphic. I'm sort of climbing out of a bad patch, thanks to yesterday's non-productivity, doses of Futurama and Rome, and cracking The Gone Away World (thanks, Nick!). Nothing serious, but there's a few things in my life that are going to change. But this post has to do with the panel. I'll post about my life later.

It's a little nerve-wracking to know that the panel is coming up in less than a week and a half. Must do some brushing-up on Dracula (where is that quote? Is reading from the Unicorn edition a good idea or just bragging?) Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Laurel K. Hamilton, Nancy Collins, Suzy McKee Charnas, a touch of Leonard Wolf, perhaps quote Frank Langella. Peg the dates of Hotel Transylvania and Interview with a Vampire. I think I'll need some notecards. And when did that "Demon Lover" ballad get written down?

But the real question remains; is there anything that humans won't have sex with?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thrill the World!

Today is Thrill the World day, when thousands of people go out and perform Michael Jackson's Thriller dance, somewhat simultaneously, all around the world. It's an interesting confluence of 80s pop culture, zombie flash mob, and internet organization. This year it's a little strange since Michael is dead.

As for myself, I thrilled the world last week in a different fashion. I finally played my zombies vs. Cthulhu game of Horrorclix. Again appropriate because Horrorclix is currently dead (but dreaming... NECA recently acquired the license). While Cthulhu lost without even eliminating a third of the fielded zombies, it was fun to see some 26 zombies slowly marching on the Great Old One. The Wizkids sculptors made those little zombies very evocative.

Great Cthulhu wonders which snack to have first

Monday, October 12, 2009


So, I'm speaking on a panel about Paranormal Romance. I'm not sure if I'm more surprised about the engagement itself, or the subject.

Last month's New England Horror Writers newsletter, (the one that has me on the front page) had a note that Colgate bookstore in Hamilton, NY was looking for someone to participate in a panel, tentatively called ""Fangs, Fur and Fey: Perspectives on Paranormal Fiction." They wanted someone who was more of the horror bent than romance. They were having some difficulty getting a horror writer, although the romance folks volunteered quickly.

What's up with that? Horror writers often complain that they aren't getting the exposure we deserve, so why wouldn't they want to get on a panel like this? Is there an undercurrent of elitism in horror?

Their loss is my gain. I sold myself as someone who has read into the roots of paranormal romance, having read Anne Rice, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Laurel K. Hamilton, Nancy Collins, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer religiously. I've also read some of Leonard Wolf's literary criticism of horror, so I've got a bit of the analysis to back me up.

So if you want to see me talking horror and romance, I'll be at

the Colgate Bookstore
3 Utica Street, Hamilton, NY. 13346
Saturday, November 7th. 2 PM

Gods willing, and with a bit of preparation, I won't make an ass of myself.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Watching Movies, the Old-Fashioned Way...

Hathaway's Drive-In in North Hoosick had a end-of the season closer we couldn't resist: Up followed by Star Trek.

We aren't really drive-in people. The heyday of cars and movies was a bit before our time, and we're not really that in love with our car. It's a small, efficient box that gets us from point A to point B. But it's fun to go and see a film in a venue that is past its prime, to get a whiff of the way things used to be.

The intermission video was particularly interesting. The animated bits looked like they came from Jay Ward Productions (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame). The non-animated parts were also interesting. Mostly, they were an exhortation to visit the snack bar (where the drive-in makes most of its money). Offering hot dogs and burgers was one thing, but watching a 60s-era bag of popcorn get a small pail of butter poured over it was horrifying.

Hathaway's utilizes the two traditional methods of getting the sound to the customer: stands with wired speakers on them (you hang them on your door) and a low-wattage broadcast that can be picked up on the car radio. The speakers are clearly the original material, large aluminum boxes the size an internal DVD drive. We hung it on the steering wheel, it was too chilly to keep the window open. The drive-in is not, incidentally, the best place to see a film with a lot of audio magic. The speaker is mono, so unless your car radio is awesome you're going to lose the audio designed for Dolby Digital or THX.

Fun was had. We cuddled under blankets to keep warm, watched Star Trek for the fourth time on the big screen.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Well, this kind of sucks. Once again, I have a problem I wanted to have a year ago. My review and rewrite process has run into a bottleneck. I'm writing too fast or something.

I'm polishing several some stories I wrote earlier this year, and I'm bottlenecked by the review process. I've got five stories, all in various positions of revision. The writing group won't meet again until October 13th. In the meantime, I've got at least three stories I want them to look at. I've also reached a squeeze with the on-line review process. I can only have three stories up, and I've got three stories up. And I need them to look at 'Secret Sisterhood' as soon as I finish polishing it.

Whine, whine, whine. It's difficult to be me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's Raining Good Reviews...

Brian Sammons, a good writer who knows Cthulhu from a Cthonian, has posted a review of Cthulhu Unbound at Nanci Kalanta's Horror World.

"I really liked John Goodrich’s The Patriot for many reasons. First and foremost, it is well written and very creepy. Second, it’s a war story, and I love war stories when they’re done right. Third, it’s set in a war mostly forgotten today, World War One. From start to finish, this tale is simply great, but as for that finish, it’s a doozy. While it is tough to pick my absolute favorite of this anthology, this one would be one of the contenders."

Guess who owes Brian and probably Nanci a drink?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Personal First

I wrote the story I'm threatening to send to William Jones's High Seas Cthulhu II anthology in seven days. That's a personal first, especially considering that there were children in the house for the last two days.

So now it goes through the process of critiques, both on-line and individual. I don't think that the local group will get to it this Tuesday; we're preparing for the Sweating Ink-themed reading on the 17th. Most of the group will want to read their stories to the group before we read to the putative audience at the North Bennington Library.

So now, it's time to polish, polish, polish.

The submission backlog continues apace. Today I send a package out to Asmiov's.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Battle Report!

Iren Bear has put together yet another awesome battle report for Youtube. I provide the voices and a few of the special effects, but it's really all him.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

And Now the Dreams

Whenever I'm coming off a big pile of stress, I get very vivid dreams I can remember. Most of the time, I sleep soundly, and don't remember my dreams. The week or ten days following something stressful, this changes. So last week was a big one for strange things happening in my sleep.

These aren't anxiety dreams or nightmares, they just seem to be my brain letting off some steam after being put through a wringer. But the nature of them has changed since I noticed this trend twenty years ago. I used to get just flashes of nonsensical scenes mashed together with weird emotional cues. Now I seem to get plots. Not necessarily good plots, but events to definitely chain with each other.

Hm. There's an observation about amateur neurolinguistic programming in there, but I'm not sure what it should be.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh Shit

I stocked a copy of Space Hulk last week. I was going to ask the store owner to hold it aside for my brother, but he wasn't in, so I didn't. I put it on the shelf.

Only it turns out I didn't. Because the product is not out yet, and because it doesn't look like I remember.

Holy shit. I know it didn't happen, but I can remember it, I remember being surprised that it was thinner than expected, and I remember the cover art, which was the same art for the computer game which I bought more than six years ago. It is nothing like what the game's cover art used to look like, nor is it like what the game will look like when re-released.

Holy shit, I still can't believe it didn't happen. I remember it. Images and emotions, like I remember kissing the Queen of Science this morning.

And I'm worried. Yeah, stress and all that, but I've never remembered something that didn't happen.

Not Again Soon, I Think

Carmen is a success. Not a financial one, not yet, but certainly an artistic success. Although the audiences have not filled the theater, they have applauded long enough that we have taken two and three company bows. So clearly, a lot of something is going right.

It is not, however, a personal success. I'm not enjoying the performances. I spend a lot of time backstage, and I think about what I want to be writing. Which I would be doing, if I wasn't in this opera. Don't get me wrong, I'm working with remarkable people who are very artistic and completely not divas. They're all down-to-earth and very practical about their work, and good fun to be with.

But I'm not enjoying it. I'm not getting a thrill out of audience attention, I'm not serene and satisfied at the end of the performance. It's just work. Hot, time-consuming, unpaid work during which which I am frequently uncomfortable. What am I getting out of this again?

It feels like acting, like writing, is something a lot of people aspire to, and those who love it will pursue it. As a result, there is a glut of wanna-be-actors, and directors feel that can do as they wish because there's always someone else who wants to act (or, in this case, sing).

It's significant that I didn't audition for this part, as the majority of the rest of the cast did. In fact, I understand the competition to get in this was pretty fierce. But I didn't have to audition, I just walked into the part.

Not again soon, I think.

On a different topic, David Conyers has a thoughtful essay on why he enjoys collaboration. I don't link to this specifically because he mentions me, but he does mention me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's All About Me

As from Commentary! The Musical.

I have managed to work my Carmen character, Lilas Pastia, from background character to the major force for all the unpleasantness in the opera. Before, I was simply the tavern-keeper and Carmen's pimp, the stock character of the crooked tavern-keeper cut from the same cloth as Les Miserable's Thenardier. Now, I push Zuniga (Don Jose's commander) onto Dom, Jose's knife, and blame him for it. In the next act, when we fight and he kills me in a fit of vengeance, my death has become the defining break between him and Carmen.

So the spiral of operatic death in this production of Carmen is all my character's fault. Not bad for someone who doesn't sing, and basically came in as a bit part.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lots of Work

Yeesh. With the writing and the working and the opera, I haven't had much time to say anything on this blog.

I've been watching some more Godzilla, and discovering the magic of composer Akira Ifukube. I didn't realize how much his scores contributed to the Godzilla films I liked until I realized how affecting that trumpet riff from Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster is. Other composers seem dated or just plain strange, witness the the samba-influenced work of the late 60's and early 70's Godzilla films. Ugh.

But I got a major worry off my chest; I've started submitting stories to venues again. This morning I sent "N is for Neville" off to Dark Faith anthology.

Carmen opens in less than a week.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cormac McCarthy's The Road

It took me two days to read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It's been some time since I read a Pulitzer Prize-winner. I've read Executioner's Song and intend to read Klavier and Clay, especially since Michael Chabon has a story in an upcoming Lovecraft tribute anthology. I expected some excellent writing.

Just after I'd cracked the book, I walked down to the post office with it in my hand. I never go to the Post Office without a book, and I think you know why. On that day I was told twice, both time by older (over 65) individuals whom I did not know that the book was depressing. I did not retort that because I had read a lot of Harlan Ellison post-apoc stuff, I was expecting hugs and puppies. I like post-apocalyptic stories. I've enjoyed the Fallout games, as well as Canticle for Liebowitz, I am Legend, Gate to Women's Country, as well as Beyond Thunderdome, Damndation Alley, and various other films. I would call myself well-read in the genre, but I've got some background in it.

Unfortunately, The Road tugs on a heart-string I don't seem to have. As with Dan Simmons' Children of the Night, the story tugs very heavily on the child in peril theme. Which, apparently, doesn't work with me. So there is a dimension to the story that was clearly missing for me, especially as the whole book is the relationship between the unnamed man and his child.

However, I had a lot of difficulty getting past the inconsistencies in the story. One might say that the story is a fable, and therefore the details don't matter, but the details do matter.

Problem; they are constantly discovering dried corpses. At the same time, it is constantly raining. Now, it never rains when they discover the dried corpses, but some are leftover from the cataclysm (never mentioned). How is it that these dried bodies survive in such a wet environment? Wet encourages rot, unless all the microbes are gone. Which, I suppose is a possibility. There are no living trees in the book, no living plants at all, and no animals, either. To me, it seems strange and unlikely that all the plants are gone. Without them, what is producing the oxygen that the humans breathe, especially after large areas were burned, consuming much oxygen?

Ecosystems change, adapt, and abide. The real problem with a nuclear war or other major disaster is not that it will destroy all life on earth, but that it will wipe out humanity. We are far more sensitive to changes in condition than the entire ecosystem of the Earth. Mass extinctions have happened before, and life always has found a way.

The Devil, as they say, is in the details. And while the plot of The Road was engaging, and the use of language clever, the above details threw me. I try not to be a hard-science asshole, but this bothered me, and lowered my opinion of the book.

As post-apocalypse literature, I thought it was OK. Gate to Women's Country beats it by a country mile.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Open Letter to the SF Community

The Carl Brandon Society has just blogged an Open Letter to the SF Community with some resolutions for discourse in the SF community. Three simple, well-worded points should stand for all Internet discussions, not just those in the SF community.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am swearing off, forever, penny-a-word publication. FOR EVER. If I relapse, everyone reading this blog has permission to slap me.

My latest publication, from penny-a-word publisher Living Dead Press has managed to get in hot water through pure ignorance. They made a post to Shocklines promoting the book. However, it was soon noted that The Book of the Dead is the name of a seminal Skipp and Spector zombie anthology from the 90s. Charitably, I could say that LDP is paying homage to the older anthology, but much more likely, they just didn't know about it.

And it turns out they included a pair of stories that include references to George Romero's X of the Dead films, for which they did not seek out or receive permission. Which it treading on intellectual property, and actionable.

LDP's response? They've already deleted their posts on Shocklines (preserved in a Tomoview thread) as well as the Amazon review that mentions the film tie-in (which can be found on the Shocklines thread).

This tempest means that this anthology is not going to get read. My story is not going to get read. And my publishers have managed to piss off John Skipp, who I met at NECON less than two weeks ago, and was a tremendously nice guy.

This is what I get for not listening to Brian Keene's advice. I need to value my writing more, and not sell it to clowns.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Pimp's Life

I've had three rehearsals for Carmen, and it's been interesting.

This is an hour-long version, perhaps an hour and a half. Highlights from Carmen." It includes the bare bones of the plot, but all the famous arias. Escomillo sings part of "Toreador" into my right ear.

I'm having to resist the urge to make my character, non-singing Lilas Pastia, thief, pimp, landlord, and all around bastard child of Thenardier and Fagan, into the only comedy this opera has. I've been officially given the only 'bit of business' in the opera, and it would be rather easy to convert a few entrances into subtle, dark humor. I am resisting.

A couple of notes:

One: The director brought her dog, who got upset when the stage fighting began. He didn't attack or growl at anyone, but he got in the middle of it, and barked. I was reminded of the kid in the middle of a Thanksgiving family argument begging for everyone to get along.

Two: There's a moment in which my character roughs up Carmen. We've rehearsed it a couple of times, and I'm having difficulty getting physical with the actress who plays Carmen. I'll watch it without a qualm, but I appear to have very deep reservations about violence against women.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Only One NECON

Necon 29 was, again delightful. Attendance was down a bit due to the economy, and many friends were missed. But many other friends were there, and friends I hadn't met before. I bounced between many conversational circles, and did a bit of tech work to make sure Matt Bechtel's "State of Necon" address didn't go off more than 24 hours late. I received my first Valuable Prize, which I traded up a couple of times. Jack Haringa now has my Valuable Prize.

I am now the proud owner of a copy of the Big Book of Necon, which contains many stories and moments from Necons past.

A few notes: Dallas makes an astonishing goon.

Every year that passes makes me more impressed with Gary Frank's ability with a guitar. He can play anything. I did not expect to sing a Pink Floyd song at 2 in the morning, much less get into it.

Doug Winter is damn funny. And he's a lawyer. How does that work? Does he suppress it in the courtroom, and let it all out only at Necon?

I need to take the Monday after NECON off.

Coming back from Necon and diving right into opera rehearsals did not make this my easiest week ever.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Everyone Loves a Good Review

But not as much as I love a positive review of my work.

Bob Freeman recently posted this review of Cthulhu Unbound on the Monster Librarian website. It runs like this:

H.P. Lovecraft’s intricate mythos of chthonic alien monstrosities and human madness is an industry onto itself, spawning role-playing and computer games, pastiches in all shapes and sizes, and influencing literature and film ad nauseam. The latest anthology to drape itself in the cloak of Lovecraft’s dark creation comes from Permuted Press. Cthulhu Unbound, the first of two volumes, attempts to unshackle the mythos from preconceived boundaries of the genre, but the anthology that is uneven at best. Some of the tales are quite good, such as Kim Paffenroth’s “The Covenant” and D.L. Snell’s “Blood Bags and Tentacles”, but most fall embarrassingly flat. The crowning achievement in the anthology goes to John Goodrich’s “The Patriot”, a ghoulishly creepy war story that was atmospheric and a delight to the end. The anthology is worth the price of admission for those three stories alone. For public or private collections.

"Crowning achievement"

I'll take that.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Helping the Less Fortunate


So, on Friday, I spent twenty-six (we have a phone that times calls) minutes over three different phone calls, helping a man mourn the passing of his X360.

Twenty-six minutes. I didn't sell him anything, but I did get to hear about the history of said X360, as well as that of his Wii. And his opinion of the relative merits of the Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox on-line communities. During those twenty-six minutes, I was also working ringing out customers, and really would have liked to get to receiving some of the games that had come in.

Because you tan talk to the Bartender to Geeks when no one else will listen to you witter on about your games.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Dunno if it's the season, or a low time in their cycle, but the SFF Online Workshop reviewed me twice in five hours. With my last two submissions, I waited two weeks or more before anyone decided to write an opinion.

I don't believe either of my reviewers is known to me... Maybe it's just that college is out and there are a lot more potential writers reading and reviewing. Maybe I'm getting more interesting.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Another meme, so I can ply you with more lies...

Matociquala sez its time for the first lines meme. So let's see:

New York’s endless parade of pedestrian museums, stodgy libraries, dull theaters, redundant opera, unimaginative concerts, and boring ethnic restaurants had long ago lost Neville’s interest. "N is for Neville"

People packed the small room to listen to Mark’s speech. "Darwin's Cosh" (A bit shit isn't it?)

Len lay on his belly, overlooking a huddle of filthy shacks. The ammonia reek of chicken shit was like sandpaper up his nose. "God of Chickens"

Robert was a coward, and he knew it. "Too Short For an Angel"

George Orne and Harry Whitfield were chopping up a stump when George glimpsed movement out of the corner of his eye. "Queen Anne's Lace and Juniper"

Dudley hated taking the bus. It was full of niggers, faggots, retards, and worse. "Not an Ulcer"

Tamara “Psycho-Therapist” Lee grunted and went down as Maria “Sister Mary Maniac” Eddiston slammed into her. "The Sisterhood"

Dramus’s head snapped up when the intruder alarm went off. "A Certain Society of Concerned Citizens"

Falling snow turned the wet tree-trunks beside of the road into a faded, black and white photograph. "Beanie Baby"


Azubuike had been in the reek of bodies, sweat, shit, and despair for so long, she couldn’t smell them anymore. Hag

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Know the rules, respect the laws

I’m doing my duties as the Bartender to Geeks, and I’m listening to two gamers talk about combat. One of them keeps repeating a word that sounds wrong: feent. It’s only when he says that you do it to set up the next attack that I realize he’s talking about a feint. This I recognize as the standard nerdboy (I include myself) need to sound out a word that they’ve never heard. OK.

I go over and correct him. I do not say that it’s a French word imported after teh great Vowel Shift and therefore has Continental vowel pronunciation. Because that would have been, you know, too much.

Later, the some other guys are talking about Internet porn and rule 34. One of us has the temerity to say that there’s no site devoted to hot girls in the shower playing electric guitars. Approximately thirty seconds later, I was able to demonstrate his wrongness. Do not doubt Rule 34.

Arm-wrestling With Technology

So, the Queen of Science got an MP3 player for her birthday. On the ghosts of Oppenheimer and Darwin, that was the damned longest continued struggle with technology I've ever had.

The Queen has a laptop which she uses for basic stuff--word processing, etc. We don't connect it to the net much, so we've kept it with the same basic Windows XP that it came with. Well, last generation's MP3 player can't work without Service Pack 2 and the most recent version of WMP. We're on dial-up. I'm sure you can see where this is going.

At noon (we started the SP2 download at 8), I go to work where, we have high-speed. Additionally, woot has just delivered one of the 4 gig USB drives. Oh good, I'll just download it at work, then take it home. Only the USB drive doesn't work. I spend some ten minutes trying to figure out why it doesn't work, and eventually borrow a different drive to put the stuff on.

Installation takes its time. We check yes to the EULA we don't read, we install SP2, we install WMP. We install the program that makes the MP3 player go. We plug the MP3 player in, according to instructions. The computer cannot figure out that the fuck it is. Contrary to the instructions (thanks, manual writers!) we eventually figure out that we have to install the MP3 player as a piece of hardware. And viola, a mere thirteen hours after it was unwrapped, we listened to the first MP3 off her new player.

Ain't technology grand?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

After Twenty-Five Years... a Return to the Stage

Well. I have been invited to play a bit part in the Hubbard Hall production of Carmen.

Yeah, Carmen. The opera. The director asked for someone to be a swaggering gypsy who can fence, and somehow, they came up with me. And I said yes.

I am, I have to admit, nervous. The last time I was on the stage, George Orwell's most famous book had special edition.


August 13 pay what you will open rehearsal
August 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 at 8pm
August 23 at 2pm
$30 nonmember / $25 members / $20 students

I blame PD Cacek for getting me into this mess.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Revision, revision, revision: The writer's life for me.

Yeah, in addition to blowing the faces off super-mutants, ghouls, raiders, and Enclave soldiers, I'm also doing the glorious grind on "N is for Neville." I've gotten good feedback on it (workshopped it on Tuesday), have done major revisions on it twice. The story continues to improve, mostly as I remove superfluous prepositional phrases on each pass. Fortunately, it can rest until I get some more feedback on it.

Oh, and the proofs came in for Tales Out of Miskatonic University. Proofs can be a bit humbling. While it shows how much I have learned in the past year, it depresses me to find so much that I would change in a story.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Long Time, No Post

Well, I haven't been keeping up with this blog in June. I do have an excuse. Over April and May I managed to crank out the initial drafts of four stories. I'm not saying they're awesome stories, but the bones are laid down, and now the polishing begins. And I've got a special market in mind for an older story, and a kind hired gun has helped me to clean it up. So back to the grind.

In my copious spare time, I've been going here:

And doing a lot of this:

It's been ten years since a good Fallout game, and I'm really enjoying myself. I wish Bethesda could have introduced a few new elements, which would have created a sense of difference between the East Coast and the West Coast. I also understand that they were relaunching a beloved franchise, and didn't want to take a lot of chances. That said, though, I'm enjoying the heck out of myself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What a Weekend!

Memorial Day was crazy crazy crazy. But we did run down to the Rock of Ages home to see friends. The Queen of Science and I love the Rock of Ages family, they're our age, they're parents, and they really didn't change at all after they had their kids. And they've got interesting, engaging children.

In a moment of rare unity, all of us, four adults and two kids, aged nine and six, gathered around the computer screen and sang. You know, like people used to do in the old days, singing together, gathered around the radio, or the phonograph? Of course, what was sang was incredibly geeky...

A good time was had by all.

Of the whole weekend, there was really only one false note. I saw this disturbing piece of equipment:

Yes, that's a Hello Kitty sewing machine


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taking a Stand

I missed by a day, but this is important.

There has been a lot of discussion about race and race issues in science fiction. I've tried to ignore it because I didn't think it touched my writing. I have characters who are of color, as well as queer ones, sort of randomly sprinkled into my fiction, and I thought that was enough. And then I read this incredible essay by Nalo Hopkinson about her experience in science fiction. And I realized that I wasn't doing enough. The problem of the perception of race won't go away if people of good conscience ignore it, and worse, to do so myself is disrespectful to my friends.

Race and race relations need to be discussed. It can't be 'gotten over' and ignoring it has resulted in bad situations, oppression, and the belief that it will just go away. It won't always be pretty, and it hurts to realize that I've been going about this wrong. But this is more important than my hurt feelings.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Derby!

In what I hope will become a yearly tradition, Kim Paffenroth and I went to see the roller derby team that he sponsors, the Hudson Valley Horrors. This time I brought my camera and took some very bad photos.

Roller Derby is interesting. There aren't a lot of non-sexualized contact sports for women out there, and watching them in an aggressive sport is fun. Because we know Kim, we're supporters of the Horrors, but Albany has its own team, the Department of Public Hurts. Slightly closer are the Hellions of Troy, who within easier reach than our own state's Green Mountain Derby Dames, who just finished their first season.

Game-wise, the Horrors got their collective assets handed to them by the extremely team-oriented Suburban Brawl. The Brawl had some impressive moves, including the team-mate sling, in which they would grab a teammate's hand and pull them ahead, giving them a momentum boost. They were also consistently faster off the mark than the horrors, and had pin-point accuracy in body-slamming the Jammer (the person who scores the points by lapping members of the other team) off her feet. Following my thought that Derby is more about treachery and teamwork than being young and fast, we're pretty sure the star player of the Brawl, Hard Core-Vette, was an original Disco dancing queen, a possibility reinforced by her victory dance on her final jam.

A good time as had by all, not the least because Kim is a lot of fun to talk to, and he signed the books I shoved under his nose without complaining. The punk sensibility of derby tickles me still. Who wouldn't be a fan of the New York Shock Exchange? Wrestling seems overhyped and over 'roided in comparison. Who cares about such dull names as Triple H when you can cheer for Ann Sane or Pinky Swears?

The Queen of Science has decided her 'derby name should be "Decked-Her Horrible."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blew Him Away

Two positive reviews for Cthulhu Unbound were added to Amazon on May 13th. One with four stars, and a five-star review by Matt Carpenter, reviewer of scores of Cthulhu Mythos collections.

Matt gives the anthology five stars, and, as is his wont, reviews each story individually. In the beginning of the review, Mr. Carpenter states that I pushed Permuted Press to send him a reviewer's copy. I did, but they weren't that difficult to convince. Mr. Carpenter likes Cthulhu anthologies, and he seldom gets much thanks for posting his extensive reviews. I thought it was time to give a little back. Anyway, here's the important part of his review:

“The Patriot” by John Goodrich - Mr. Goodrich has a story in the upcoming Cthulhu’s Dark Cults from Chaosium but otherwise I am uncertain about his publication history. This is a ghoulish yarn set in WWI, reminding me a little bit of Curran’s “The Chattering of Tiny Teeth” from the book Warfear. On its own merits this was a very creepy and well written piece that I enjoyed until the end...and the denouement just blew me away, it was so good!


There's also this story-by-story review by Episkopses Vulpine the XXIII which is fairly positive overall ("The collection was alright, while there wasn't any one story that made me go all squamous with glee, neither were there too many clunkers."). Here's what he had to say about mine:

'THe Patriot' by John Goodrich set the stage in WW I and No Man's Land. Why France has been very good to the ghoulishly inclined. Another rather good story.

I'll take that.

Friday Night at Nine... Now on Wednesdays

We picked up the entire run of the X-Files. All nine seasons and the movie (lacking the second film, but we're not much bothered), for about thirty dollars more than we paid for a single season, back when they first came out.

Nothing else typifies the nineties as much as this show. We watched the first two episodes last night, and it brought back a lot of memories. I look forward to watching the seasons pass, and watching the cellphones shrink as the show goes on.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fallen to the Dark Side

I always wondered how it was that Warhammer players ended up with three of four armies. I mean, isn't it difficult enough to really get one army down pat and play that particularly well? Apparently it isn't.

And now I know. Because I bought a few tyranid models, specifically because I wanted a force that looks like


Why these colors? Because when I was watching Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, I thought to myself... "Tyranids would look great in that color scheme. I know I haven't fully succeeded, the skin coat needs to be darker, more charcoal than the light gray it is. But I'm quite pleased with the red highlights, though. Here's a screen cap of Destoroyah for comparison:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Farewell to a Mighty Dynasty

I've finally divined much of the reason for my recent unproductiveness: Rome: Total War.

It's a marvelous game, sharing many elements with my previous problem time-waster, Civilization 4. One difference, however, is that Rome: Total War presents the player with a dynasty with which to control the Roman World. Each member of the family has different attributes, and I'm sorry to say that at least twice, the House of Pharaoh was led by a man whose moniker was "the mad."

But it's a wonderful game. A great combination of elements which range from commanding armies in the field to a larger map-based portion from which the player surveys the known world and plans their conquests. I learned a lot from playing. Asia Minor is a hellacious place to get mired into, but ultimately a good, productive stronghold once it is entirely subjugated. With enough money, Byzantium can be bought. Who is running which city is important.

And the Egpyptian archers in Rome: Total War are awesome. One difference between this and Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War is the brightness of the costumes. Rome is a lot less colorful, giving the gameplay a more gritty, realistic feel. You don't want to mess with Pharaoh's Bowmen:

I intended to play it through just once, just to see the Pharaohs of Egypt conquer the Known World and take Rome. However, the combination of complex elements, managing the major cities, plotting to reinforce this city while dealing with that army made the game time-consuming. Enjoyably so, but it wasn't good for my productivity, especially since I faced a difficult project.

So I say farewell to my mighty dynasty of conquering Pharaohs. Your experiences and sacrifices will someday live on in stories.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Latest Click on the Ratchet

On Easter Sunday, I received word that I had been accepted into the Cthulhu 2012 anthology from Mythos books. This is a professional-level anthology which pays five cents a word.

Fame, fortune, and young nubile fanbase, here I come!

The Tiny Town Blues...

The Queen of Science was off visiting relatives last week, so I was alone doing the usual weekly stuff. This led to certain unusual times for doing things, such as the weekend shopping at 9 Wednesday evening.

After the are groceries unloaded, I walk move up to watch the cashier ring stuff through. She looks at me and says,

"Guitar Hero: Metallica is out tomorrow, right?"


This is the first half of the Warmachine battle report my brother put together last month. I'm pretty impressed... it's the distilled action of what happens in a Warmachine game, without the dice-rolling, the animated argument, and the tedious waiting for a player to make a decision. It establishes a good narrative, the background music is excellent, and it moves along at a good clip. Enjoy.

Two points I'd like to make. One, this wouldn't have looked half as good if the models weren't painted.

Two, I suggested the Adventures of Baron Munchausen reference.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sometimes Good Customer Service is Shutting Up

A discussion is being had in front of the counter. One of the two is discussing how his wife was once dissed, and that she has never let him forget it.

He turns to me.

"Are you married?"

"Yes," I say.

"Then you know what I'm talking about."

And I do not open my mouth and say, "No I don't, because I married a sane and rational person."

Because sometimes, good customer service is not telling the customer that he's being an asshat.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Big Four Oh!

April 7, 2009. The weather is cold, the rain is interspersed with snow and sleet. I am officially forty.

And it's awesome.

I've recently learned that I am not the only child of the eighties who thought I would never be this old. Reagan's hawk posturing (later softened) led me to believe that there was going to be at least a 'limited nuclear exchange' at some point in the near future, and I would be dead before I was thirty-five. If you didn't live through the eighties, read Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, watch Quiet Earth or read the rulebook for Gamma World. In school, we read Benet's By the Waters of Babylon, and The Planet of the Apes was a regular on television. So according to my inner seventeen year-old, every day after thirty-five has been a bonus.

But that's not the best reason to celebrate today. This morning I received a miscellany of comments from friends, organized by the Queen of Science. If an individual's wealth is measured by the friends he has and the company he keeps, then I am rich beyond Gordon Gecko's wildest dreams of avarice. I have the best friends and family in the world, and I married an incredibly wonderful woman. I am both humbled and moved by this gift of love. Thank you, my friends.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Finally Figured Out My Current Job

For those gentle readers who are not aware, my current job is a cashier/counter person at the local game store. And I'm coming to realize that part of my job is being a bartender to geeks.

When there's no one else to talk to, there's always the bartender. If you want to talk about Naruto, your Magic: The Gathering deck, Warmachine, Warhammer, or your D&D character, the bartender is always there. He'll listen, and on occasion give encouragement, because there are few enough places to talk about these things with people who understand, or at least sympathize.

There will be the occasional story told here, generally with the names changed, which will be placed under the "Bartender to geeks" label.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wargods of Egypt: Rise and Fall, Civilizations at War

Well, the Egypt thing just isn't going away. Over the last couple of months, I've picked up a couple of computer games that allow you to command the forces of Ancient Egypt.

Rise and Fall, Civilizations at War is a colorful game about raising armies and then throwing them at your opponent. It is also a firm believer in the heroic leader concept: your general is the stompiest badass on the field. In addition to the usual resources of gold and wood, Rise and Fall also uses the concept of glory. Glory can be used to increase to upgrade your hero's level, or to level up units. In Egyptian fashion, the more prestigious your units are, the more clothing they tend to wear. And the more graphically pretty they are.

Gameplay is otherwise bog-standard real-time strategy. Build structures that allow you to recruit forces. Some troops work better against other sorts of troops (spear-carriers do well against cavalry, for example). As an archery fan, I am sad that I can't get the sun covered by arrows effect of massive arrows in the air, but the Egyptian chariot archers that use fire-arrows satisfy me well enough. I tend to avoid the camel-mounted units, since the Egyptians did not use domesticated camels.

Rise and Fall is a good game to play I want to spend an hour beating down Romans or Persians. Once the rather short campaigns are done, all that's left is to play skirmishes against the computer on the various provided maps. Which is too bad, because the on-line community hasn't created a lot of them.

Still, the gameplay is engaging, the graphics are solid. Here's a pic of the Egyptian Ramses among his elite khepesh-wielding troopers:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Unbound Unleashed

I have copies of the first volume of Cthulhu Unbound in my hands. It should be available at your local bookstore on March 30th, but if you want copies early, there's a book party tomorrow, Saturday the 21st at Bennington's South Street Cafe, 5-7PM.

Contents are as follows:
"Noir-Lathotep" by Linda Donahue
"The Invasion Out of Time" by Trent Roman
"James and the Dark Grimoire" by Kevin Lauderdale
"Hellstone and Brimfire" by Doug Goodman
"Star-Crossed" by Bennet Reilly
"The Convenant" by Kim Paffenroth
"The Hindenburg Manifesto" by Lee Clarke Zumpe
"In Our Darkest Hour" by Steven Michael Graham
"Blood Bags and Tentacles" by D.L. Snell
"Bubba Cthulhu's Last Stand" by Lisa Hilton
"Turf" by Rick Moore
"The Menagerie" by Ben Thomas
"The Patriot" by John Goodrich
"The Shadow over Las Vegas" by John Claude Smith
"Locked Room" by CJ Henderson

"The Patriot" is about a man who gets a macabre history lesson while dying in the muddy No Man's Land of World War One. I think it's got the best ending of anything I've written.

For a quick preview, I present you with another Wordle of the story. I like this the composition and atmosphere of this one better. Click on it to see a larger version.

Wordle: The Patriot

My next project is to make up some "Signed by local author" tags to stick in the books I put on the counter of the Gamers Grotto.

What did You Do This Weekend?

I was incredibly geeky. My brother came up, and recorded a battle report for a Warmachine fight against the Master Painter and his mercs. Here's the first part of the battle report, which look to be more interesting that the battle itself.

Thanks, Iren Bear. This looks awesome.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Most Eldritch

This awesome lady and her sign were seen at a Chicago counter-protest of the Westboro Baptist Church:

Today is full of win.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Problems with Pundits

I try not to blog my politics. There's a hundred better-informed political blogs out there. However, the pundit problem is starting to piss me off. I see a lot of people blindly accepting their conclusions, then repeating those views on message boards and in conversations.

There are several problems with this.

1) First and foremost, no one should take what anyone says without thinking about it. This is so basic that it should be obvious.

2) No pundit has ever had to compromise with another lawmaking body. Democratic laws are made by compromise. A pundit never has to worry about what the members of other branches of the government have to say about it. The majority of their proclamations are unusable for this reason.

3) Hypothetical enactments never run into unintended consequences. When Idi Amin Dada (yes, I'm comparing the average ego-bloated pundit with a mass-murdering dictator with a massively overinflated ego. Often, I feel the difference between the two is opportunity) threw all the Asians out of Uganda, it seemed like a great idea to him. However, he didn't realize he'd gotten rid of his country's middle class, which was disastrous for the economy. Ooops. Since pundit proclamations never have to deal with reality, their hypothetical solutions never have unforeseen consequences.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Free Fiction

So I've been updating my website, a nip here a tuck there, changing the title of the anthology that was renamed six months ago. And while checking for webrot, I discovered that the 2007 Horror World gross-out contest I placed in has gone away.

So I now offer you the chance to read my gross-out story "Champagne" free on my website. And yes, it really is pretty gross.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Still Don't Get It...

As I'm shoveling four inches off the driveway, I still can't understand my obsession with Ancient Egypt. A hot desert land that worshiped the burning sun. What's up with that? Well, back to shoveling...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Semiotics First Thing in the Morning

Semiotics is awesome because it allows me to break stuff down and gives me a vocabulary to express my thoughts. After taking another bite of Basic Semiotics last night, I woke up this morning with this in my head: “Diablo and World of Warcraft are unappealing to me partially because they present truncated and broken mythemes. There is never any resolution to the plot, only the dispatcher endlessly dispatching, the hero endlessly slaying and gaining a reward. But the acquisition of the object is not the conclusion of the plot, it is a tool to solve the problem.”

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Inappropriate Appropriation

When an artist or a writer borrows, it's usually a good idea to put a twist on when they've 'homaged,' lest they be seen as derivative, or get landed in a lawsuit. This came home to me when this showed up in my mail:

Watr, Famine, Plague, and who?

This is a depiction of the famous for horsemen of the Apocalypse, War, Famine Plague, and Death. But the picture really looks a lot more like War, Famine, Plague, and a Nazgul. Look at the guy on the left. His buddies are all in Roman costume, with the crown of olive leaves around Plague's head, and the Roman blade in War's hand. But Death? Pure frikkin' Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings.

Death, on close-up From Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings

Nice way to hide your inspiration, Mr. Anonymous artist.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Ladder is Not the Proper Tool, But Consider This Other One

I have repeatedly been told, by people I respect that there is no ladder. A new writer doesn't have to start down at the bottom of the pay heap and move upward. A story will go as far as it can, regardless of the author's previous credits. It's why $10 and $25 and even penny-a-word markets drive Brian (and Jack Haringa) insane.

I believe them. So while I reject the ladder, I resolved to metaphor a different tool; the ratchet. I resolved not to sell any story for less than I had sold a previous story. And it worked. I've sold stories for increasing amounts of money, and now I've actually sold something for "pro," five cents a word.

This leaves me with a small problem. Weird Tales only pays three cents a word, and I'd like to get in those pages. So, do I give up my dream of appearing in Weird Tales, or do I go against my self-imposed ratchet?

I'm currently dodging this decision by writing a novel. I hope I'll have an answer in four months.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Suddenly Hungry for Mythic Egypt

I love Ancient Egypt. The culture was so different, the metaphysics so elaborate and the works of architecture so interesting. I love a culture that puts up a big stone stele every time Pharaoh does something noteworthy.

And I love books that posit that Egyptian cosmology works. I own a fair number of books have taken Egyptian inspiration and applied them to already-existing game worlds and game systems.

Hamunaptra sets 3rd edition (or is it 3.5?)D&D squarely in Ancient Egypt. It's full of nuggets of culture, including the calendar, notes on the gods and their domains, and creates a very different setting from traditional D&D. The box set, and it's been a long time since I bought a D&D box set, is a great alternative for anyone who doesn't want to follow the usual tropes of medieval fantasy. I like the authors' take on how to create atmosphere that feels different from the usual D&D. Great Sphinxes take the place of dragons, being the most terrifying creatures around. Like the best dragons, they are also accessible, ready to speak and bargain with petitioners. Of course, anyone who negotiates with an entity calling itself the Father of Terror had better watch what they say. Hamunaptra is a must-read when I'm in the mood for some Mythic Egypt.

Sadly, Wargods of Ægyptus is a wargame I will never be able to play. The game is too narrow to be of much interest to the small wargame community in Bennington. Which is a pity, I think it would be really cool to line up ranks of bronze-age children of the gods and let them fight it out. Crocodile Games did a very nice job with the sculpting of the pieces, but also differentiating the factions from each other. Each of the force follows a different Ægyptian god, both in physical form (usually an animal head) as well as in temperament. The crocodilian children of Sobek are brutal and effective fighters, where the feline Basti are decadent pleasure-seekers. Also, the mythic Ægyptian setting they created for the game is delightful. Who wouldn't want to investigate the Oasis of Tears, or the Shrine of the Dreaming Lords? A marvelous game to read, which provides me with much Ægyptian inspiration.

Games Workshop's Tomb Kings is a source book for playing an Egyptian-themes undead force in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles game. GW has a more developed world than Crocodile Games, and the Tomb kings seldom fight each other, usually challenging other, more traditional fantasy races such as the human knights, Orcs, or vampires. This gives them a very specific place in the world, and they are tied into the Old World's history. They are also all undead. Wargods of Ægyptus gives the player the option of playing an undead force, but the Tomb Kings are all mummies and skeletons. The Tomb Kings are also more heavily magical than their Ægyptian counterparts, giving the forces a very different flavor.

What started this all was Paizo's recent release of Osirion, Land of the Pharaohs. Osirion is an Egypt-analog in Paizo's Pathfinder campaign world. Unlike Hamunaptra, Osirion is part of a larger world that includes a great deal of medieval fantasy. It is part of a larger world, and has kept pace, culturally and technologically, with its medieval neighbors, although it retains many of the trappings of Egypt; a God-king called Pharaoh, pyramids, sphinxes, and a culture thousands of years old. It's also more heavily fantasy than Hamunaptra. The Pharaoh, for example, having the traditional pacts with clans of elementals, as well as demons and angels. The capital of Sothis is build around the carapace of an scarab beetle large enough that the Imperial Palace is contained in it. Osirion is also the setting for several Pathfinder adventures. Both Imprisoned with the Pharaohs and The Pact Stone Pyramid involve pyramids, and there's nothing wrong with that. Both are pretty entertaining reads.

I like that there's a plethora of books that explore the themes and ideas presented by Mythic Egypt. I think game books are often overlooked as sources of inspiration. Setting books are nothing but ideas and background without any connecting narrative.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Staring 2009 with a CRUNCH!

Mood: Filled with the desire to stomp Tokyo

There are certain media properties that I come back to, year after year. And I'm starting 2009 with a celebration of Godzilla. This is the first year that Toho might resume production of Godzilla films after a five year hiatus.

Godzilla films are, on the surface, about a gigantic, radioactive lizard stomping a city in Japan, traditionally Tokyo. And there might be some conflict with another gigantic aberration of nature along the way. The metaphor in Godzilla has long been the the titanic forces unintentionally unleashed by our technology. In the original film, this was clearly nuclear testing, but that's gotten muddy in the subsequent films.

The important part is Godzilla stomping on a city. I don't know if it's my closet misanthropy that loves seeing the works of man tumble in a fictional setting in a safely fictional setting. I don't like watching earthquake footage, although I could watch tornado videos all day. Destruction without killing, perhaps.

For me, the best Godzilla sequences show Godzilla against the backdrop of reality. This was done best in Godzilla 2000, which gave a good sense of a huge radioactive lizard intruding into the real world.

Likewise, Godzilla vs Destroyah, where Godzilla stomps on Hong Kong. He's inconsistently sized, but seeing the Big Guy with his nuclear heart overheating was a big shock.

Unlike many G-fans, I don't like all Godzilla films. The one where he's upstaged by the giant, goofy-looking robot? I don't think so. The cheesy ones just don't appeal. My faves remain the original Godzilla, Godzilla 2000, and Godzilla vs Destroyah.