On Space Opera

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Space Opera has been a sub-genre that’s excited me since I discovered the subgenre of Science Fiction at about 12 years of age, when I first discovered Babylon 5 on television. Truth be told, I knew of it much earlier through Star Wars, but I didn’t recognize that as space opera until much later. All I knew at the time was that I loved the sense of wonder and exploration of alien cultures mixing with our own, watching as vast interstellar wars captured my imagination.

What is Space Opera and what differentiates it from other science fiction? Continue reading

Star Trek Beyond Expectations

I went into Star Trek: Beyond unsure if I was even going to see the movie. The Star Trek reboot has been wholly underwhelming so far, Justin Lin (Fast and Furious) did not instill confidence in me as a serious director, trailers looked atrocious.

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Star Trek (2009) created a new Trek universe, one with more action and less science that resembles more of a Star Wars type of set up. JJ Abrams who helmed the writing and production admitted he was a fan of the latter series and not so much the adventures of Captain Kirk that many of us fans had grown to love. On first watch, I thought the film was fun and enjoyed it, but as I delved into it, it missed the spirit of Star Trek, made blatant characterization errors (especially with Old Spock) and felt like a nostalgic caricature more than a film in its own rite. Abrams has a habit of doing this, and I have similar feelings with The Force Awakens. There is one thing he is a master at, however, which few could deny – casting. The cast did such an excellent job, we had hopes for a launching point for at least a watchable series.

Then came Into Darkness. And as the title aptly put, that is what the writing delved into, unable to find its way back out. The movie was a convoluted mess, trying to get to 10-15 minute action scenes and slogging through having to have a plot as if it were a nuisance. Add to it strange role reversed Wrath of Khan rehashes, Spock fist fighting on top of a space ship and a bizarre 9-11 truther plot… it was a pure disaster. I’d all but written off the franchise.

So my expectations were very low coming into this movie, and I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it and thought this picked up how Trek 2009 promised the franchise would blossom, and positively. What’s important is this franchise actually feels like Star Trek again. There were some nice homages to the original trek through it as well. Spoilers begin here.  

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Summer Reading List

As most authors, I’ve found it’s a bit harder for me to want to read adventure-style Science Fiction or Fantasy while I’m in the middle of writing. It led me to a period where I didn’t read a ton over the first 6 months of the year. I hope to change that this summer! I’ve already read some pretty good books, SF related or not:

1. The Only Rule Is It Has To Work – by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller. A GREAT story about running an independent league baseball team. Funny, witty, enough sabremetrics to keep me interested. Probably my book of the year so far.

2. Big Data Baseball — Had fun with this too, a look at the Pirates 2014 season.

3. Clockwork Dagger – by Beth Cato. This is a fun steampunk adventure that I’d been meaning to read for awhile. Light and quick.

4. Fountains of Paradise – by Arthur C. Clarke. Oldie but a goodie, Hugo winner that got everyone talking about space elevators. One of his better ones from a character perspective too which is where his writing usually lacks. Holds up over time!

5. City of Angels – by Todd McCaffrey. Just re-released by World Fire Press, this is a nice thriller about an AI that discovers the ultimate earthquake is about to hit LA.

Good stuff all around. Now back to writing!

New Star Trek Series: Captain Casting Wish List

Baycon is coming up this weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area ( http://baycon.org/bcwp/ ), with the theme “It’s all about the Space” featuring guest of honor and star trek alumni, David Gerrold. Because of this, and some speculation I saw, I decided to put my list together of who I’d like to play the next captain in the forthcoming CBS series.

In my list I intentionally stayed away from big name movie actors who aren’t likely to be interested in a role, and from the obvious NATHAN FILLION! that everyone seems to be clamoring for.  If this were 10-15 years ago, my choice would have 100% been George Takei’s Sulu Adventures, which was my dream show for a long time. It looks like from the rumors we’re going to get that era (The original movies era), so here’s five people I’d cast in the role, in no particular order:

1. Mehcad Brooks – He is the only reason I watched Supergirl beyond the first episode. His acting chops are superb, bringing an incredible weight to what otherwise is a popcorn show. Sisko has always been my favorite captain of Star Trek, and while this Brooks wouldn’t reprise the passion and fire that Avery brought to the show, he would do a stellar job.

2. Ben Browder – Everyone mentions Nathan Fillion in the discussion, the illustrious Captain Tightpants. However, sci-fi had a charming, funny man in tight pants  before Nathan Fillion, and he’s definitely reached that mature gentleman stage of life where he’d be a nice bridge between a Kirk and Picard archetype.

3. Michael Ealy –  He’s already played an android “Spock”-ish role in the short-lived Almost Human, alongside Star Trek veteran Karl Urban (who I would put on this list himself if he weren’t already McCoy). This show was vastly underrated, and the dynamic that Urban and Ealy had made for really good fun and drama. Find him someone like Urban for a first officer and it’d be great.

4. Tanya Allen – There was a little known sci-fi show independently produced in Canada called Starhunter. Tanya Allen gave a great performance in this science fiction, and would be a great semi-unknown to bring into a role like this.  She’s dynamic with a lot of depth,  and makes Starhunter worth watching.

5. Daniel Dae Kim – The star of Lost and Babylon 5: Crusade has a better science fiction resume than most, and he is a stellar actor. He’s had enough big roles in TV that he could fill a spot like the captain’s chair with a command performance.

Who would you pick?

Top 5 Games of 2015

Those of you who know me well or follow my writings through Doomtown: Reloaded know I’m quite a bit of a gamer. I don’t really do video games, partially because I stare at a screen enough for day job and writing, partially because I have pretty bad tendinitis in my wrists/elbows so video games will cripple me, but I love board games, dice games, card games. I try out tons of them regularly and here’s what 2015 brought to the table!

5. Epic (White Wizard Games)

http://www.epiccardgame.com/  White Wizard Games’ second foray into making a nice little small box set that’s playable out the box and great for casual gamers with a bit of strategy. Epic basically takes Magic The Gathering, removes mana, and removes crappy cards. They add in the cool allied abilities (with a twist) from Star Realms to make a really smooth game. Now the game can be drafted, constructed, you can just use all the cards of one of the 4 colors for a deck or do what I do — shuffle the cards and deal each player 30 cards off the top. If someone knows magic, this game is easy to pick up, and if not, it’s a better version of the game that’s much more casual. Lots of fun!

 

4. 7 Wonders: Duel (Asmodee)

http://www.coolstuffinc.com/p/217594  I’m staying away from expansions on this list, because these are games out the box but this is its own game.  Most of my games here will be 2-Player games because I find i mostly have 2 players to play with. This game is also easy to set up, quick to learn to play (both of which are pluses for me) and you draft all the way through. It’s got 3 different win conditions, which is fun for me, though one is much easier to attain than the other two. You set up little tiles and draft for resources which get you to victory points is the crux of it.

 

3. Tail Feathers (Plaid Hat Games)

 

http://www.plaidhatgames.com/games/tail-feathers This game is going to get a little less plays than the others from me because it takes a bit to set up and requires a bit more time to play (I typically like “lunch break” games where I can play in 30-45 minutes, this is about 90 minutes a play).  It’s at its heart a skirmish miniatures game but you’re flying birds around, transporting mice from tree to tree in order to destroy your opponents’ nest. Birds that get entwined with each other go into “death spirals”… mice can float across the map on leaves cut from trees, it’s about as cool as it gets. There’s a story to it too which started in the game Mice & Mystics, but that’s not required to play this game (and the story is wonderful). I really love the quality of the mice and bird components, they’re very pretty. It’s super, super fun, a bit difficult to get the hang of but I look forward to playing it more.

 

2. Above and Below (Red Raven Games) 

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/172818/above-and-below Red Raven Games’ designer and artist is someone I follow like a rock star. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s put out, but this game really takes the cake. It’s worker placement like most of his other games, with his unique brand of art style that makes everything pop. But there’s a twist! You get to roll dice and go on these little choose your own adventure quests in a story book. That makes the game. It’s awesome, and we’ve played it far more than other board games this year.

 

1. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn (Plaid Hat Games) 

http://www.plaidhatgames.com/games/ashes I wasn’t in the market for a new deck building game, by which I don’t mean a deck builder, but game where you build your decks prior to the game then play against an opponent a la Magic, Netrunner, Doomtown. I play far too many as it is (all of them) and frankly don’t have time. I picked this up anyway because the art was so gorgeous I had to have it. What I found was a game that is again similar as a Magic variant, but with the best fixes I’ve ever seen for balance. Mana has been replaced by dice, which both thins the deck so you are always drawing useful cards and makes it so everyone has an equal amount of resources per turn. The strategy then becomes how BEST to use the resources not who gets the perfect draw of resources, which is much more fun. It solves the “bad hand” by you picking your starting hand as well, so you’ll always have what you want for your matchup. The dice offer other mechanics as well and it is very, very smooth. You’ll have to change your mentality for strategy a bit because that exact amount of resources that both players have access to means that you need to maximize your strategy to a greater amount. It’s such a slick game on every front, I can’t speak highly enough about it.

 

And that’s it! Some analysis on my psyche: I really like card games, I really like 2-player games as can be seen. Good strategy is paramount. Rolling dice makes everything better. What’s amazing is this is the first year in awhile that an AEG game didn’t make the list. I have a feeling Dice City will be an honorable mention (I mean dice! and a city! it’s dice city! what more could I ask for?) but it’s still in the wrap as it’s a Christmas gift for me. I’m sure some are surprised Game Of Thrones 2.0 isn’t on here too — honorable mention for sure.

 

 

Blog Neglect Correction!

Well I haven’t posted here in forrrrrever. Sorry about that, folk! Things over on my side have been rather busy. I have at least 4-5 new Doomtown: Reloaded fictions out that rather than link individually, can be easily found here as they’ve been compiled by an awesome fan: https://doomtownarchives.wordpress.com/  It is missing the “Dirty Deeds” set rulebook fiction, which is in print and in stores now, but otherwise is up to date. Of course, have several more coming out at later dates.

I had a short story come out in Evil Girlfriend Media’s Naughty or Nice Anthology, edited by the Hugo Nominated Jennifer Brozek, and featuring some of my favorite living authors. This is a really neat anthology, an adult twist on different Christmas folklore. You’ll not likely find such an interesting collection anywhere else. My contribution was a story that explores Krampus’s dating life in the modern world, and it’s hilarious if I do say so myself. The coolest part is this anthology’s first 2 months of profits go to charity to help with Cystic Fibrosis, which is a really tough medical condition for those who don’t know. For all of the above reasons, worth checking out: http://www.amazon.com/Naughty-Nice-A-Holiday-Anthology-ebook/dp/B017GFLTJW

And then yesterday I just finished writing my third novel — which will be my first to be published next year. I can’t say more just yet, but it was a lot of fun. Now onto editing… I may be doing a series of blogs going over the process of creating this, once it’s announced.

Now that all those are finished and out there, I aim to have some interesting blog topics over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Writing Through Tendonitis

Anyone who knows me well knows I have terrible tendinitis in my wrists. I type a lot for the day job, and on top of that my favorite hobbies are: playing piano, playing guitar and writing — of which I type about 120 words per minute or so, which is probably in no small part due to the piano playing. What does all this mean? It means I overexert my hands, wrists and forearms almost every day.   Continue reading

Doomtown Frontier Justice Set Review

Doomtown: Reloaded Frontier Justice – The Definitive Set Review!

At least definitive to me.

I go by card by card assigning a grade to each card in the set. Did this for the first two and people have contacted me saying they missed it, so here we go. I usually like to post these up at http://www.gomorragazette.com but the main site’s down right now, so I’ll drive some traffic to my own page instead!

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That’s Entertainment!

Okay, so I stole the title of this blog from my good buddy, Robert Neilson’s short story collection, which I’d super link right here to promote but I seem to be unable to find it online. He stole it, likely, from the song from The Band Wagon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik8igCUb2i8    Ahh… Fred Astaire. The good ol days where fun was fun. Now what was I blogging about?

Entertainment.

I’ve noticed a lot of our fandom (by “our” I mean mostly fantasy/scienc fiction or speculative whatever you want to call it these days) seems to forget what books, movies, stories, tv, the internet, games are here to do. Certainly our culture’s had a lot of heavy moments these last few years, and of course that has to be acknowledged to some degree. But especially in the speculative elements — we’re providing an escape, levity from the harsh realities around us. We’re providing entertainment. And the key component to entertainment, though it’s obvious, is to entertain.

With how much finger pointing I see in fandom all the time, it becomes as bogged down almost as much as the awfulness that is our real political system. Every person is questioned and dissected into tiny semblances of their identity. Every work has the same done to it. Even the professionals dig at each other in these ways. And there’s no fun in that.

So let’s have some fun. I’m looking forward to reading some quality stories based on VERY funny ideas on an upcoming short story anthology I’ll be working on. The aforementioned Robert Neilson’s book had a lot of quality amusement moments as well. I want more of that in my life, and less of the negativity.

So, readers. What’ve you got that’s fun and brightens your day?