Saturday, April 30, 2011

Conan the Barbarian

Conan by Cinar
Last week I finished my first Conan book.

When reading several of the Tarzan novels I was surprised to find that the common conception of the character, Tarzan, is far from Burrough's actual portray. Screen media would have us believe Tarzan an un-educated feral man. It was the very same thing with Conan the Conqueror. He was very well spoken and quite intelligent, he was a king after all. My previously limited exposure to the franchise was mostly the Schwarzenegger films which portray him as rather uneducated.

The plot relied on an over abundance of coincidence (very much like Burroughs' writing) and many of the scenes in this one book started to look repetitive. In spite of that, Howard's writing is often unpredictable which was refreshing.

I could not help but note many slangs and terminology that marked the story with an after recorded history. For example at one point characters were discussing Purgatory. It is possible that the religious of the Hyborian age would have a concept of Purgatory, but rather unlikely. Other lines of dialog jolted me out of pre-history.

The shortcomings of this kind of literature is the nature of pulp fiction, as that is what Conan is and cannot be faulted for being so. Howard's writings are a solid cornerstone to the fantasy literature genre, of that there is no question.

Dark Horse Comics currently has the Robert E. Howard license and are producing Conan ongoing. They are doing an amazing job with the property. Perhaps there never has been nicer comic book representation of Conan- not that Marvel's handling of it was bad. They're run is renowned. Any Conan comic fan needs to check out the Dark Horse run.

Incidentally, Dark Horse also is doing a nice job with Howard's other properties, namely Solomon Kane.

Conan the Barbarian comes out in August 2011. I expect the film to be not very good. One reason is this awful fad of 3D. There is so much emphasis on 3D with Conan that I fear the cinematic quality suffered, just to make sure the effects were in there. I'll still see it. Even if the trailer is pretty bland. He speaks like a typical barbarian would here. Not so much in line with the books so far. Jason Momoa is cast as the barbarian here as well as the new HBO series Game of Thrones. Suddenly he's typecast!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Dungeon Master

I saw this over at Stargazer's World and thought it hilarious enough to share here. Looking deeper it may not be meant as hilarious and that might be a nice change.

Here's what the film's site says:
After they discover they were both fantasy geeks as kids, Shane and Cooper decide to spend a night playing Dungeons and Dragons. But they canʼt remember the rules, so they invite a true gamer to help them. When he shows up in a cape, things get awkward very quickly...
Director's Statement 
We developed the story for The Dungeon Master to explore what is "cool" and what is "geeky" in a world where adults regularly collect action figures and dress up for conventions. Even the most tolerant and open-minded folks seem to have a point where they snap - where they look at a Star Trek fan, or a video gamer, and want to scream, "Can't you just be normal?!"

We were fascinated by the fact that in our culture, we don't judge people if they wear the jersey of their favorite basketball team everyday of the week, or obsess over fantasy football, or paint their faces in their team's colors... but good old fashioned geeks are still fair game to ridicule.

Also, The Dungeon Master is based on a true story. Mostly.

When we were kids, we were both geeks - we played Dungeons and Dragons and all sorts of other things that make you a social outcast as an adult. As teenagers, we discovered how uncool girls thought these activities were, and so we let them fall by the wayside.

We couldn't remember all the rules, and so we invited a friend-of-a-friend to come and help us. When this person came to our big game night, he was - in many ways - a stereotypical, awkward geek. We all got along fine and had an OK time, but the next morning the two of us realized a couple things: 1) that we felt compelled to make fun of this poor guy, and 2) that we were doing so out of of our own insecurity.

We were too cool. Our irony was a self-defense mechanism - and we were letting our insecurities get in the way of having a good time. We were acting like self-loathing snobs who go to a dance, and then stand on the sidelines and make fun of the people dancing. If we were honest with ourselves, we wanted to participate in a geeky activity, but we were still scared of being perceived as geeks. The Dungeon Master was our way to dramatize this tension and weave it into a fun, revenge-of-the-nerds narrative.

Stylistically, we wanted to shoot the short in a way that gave nods to both a hipster, mumblecore sensibility (handheld, improvisational - dripping with irony and sarcasm) and big budget fantasy films (sweeping, rich in color - earnest). We wanted our visual style to cross from one to the other and grow more beautiful as the story pushes our identification away from the judgmental cool kids and towards the brave, lonely geek in a cape.


The Dungeon Master Trailer from The Strong Brothers on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Doctor Who Exactly

Doctor Who is back on the air!

Many episodes of the previous season were like the episode of this season. They are like surreal mysteries. We're given just enough hints and at the same time we trying to keep up, learning the rules of this world's reality and are continually surprised. Its like a psychedelic Sherlock Holmes. The Impossible Astronaut starts with an uneasy, uncomfortable tension between all the companions and the Doctor. No one knows what's going on, especially the Doctor.

This episode guest stars one of my favorite character actors that has been appearing in some good things lately. I first saw him as Badger in Firefly. He next appeared (and ended up being my favorite character of the whole series) as Romo Lampkin in Battlestar Galactica. Even caught him in a great episode of Burn Notice. And here he is as a very likable character in Doctor Who, Canton III. An interesting bit here- Mark's father appears in the episode as an older version of Canton. He and his father both appeared in a Star Trek AND Doctor Who.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Airborn, Skybreaker and Cloud Cats

Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series is in my blood now. Loved the first book, Airborn and thoroughly enjoying the 2nd- Skybreaker. There is a third which I look forward to reading in time- Starclimber.

The series is wholesome pulp fun that is family safe adventure. There is a genuine Jules Verne or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle feel to it. Leather and pistols, pirates and airships, adventure and zoology. Yes. Instead of a grail or ark- archeology, this adventure mixes zoology in!

The setting is an alternate historical Earth. Very similar to our familiar history with a lot more airships in it as a means of global travel. There is an elemental gas called hydrium which is even lighter than helium that allows for the prominence of so much air travel.

The first book of the series introduces a creature the protagonists name 'the cloud cat'. It is described as a large white panther with bat-like wings. It is suspected that the creatures could live their entire lives without ever touching the ground. The characters encounter many of the creatures and they play a prominent part in the story's plot. They are delicate and ferocious.

I managed to find a few images created by fans depicting the cloud cat...
Cloud Cat Concept by ashkey

Cloud Cat by xClown
Cloud Cat sketches by Rhynn

A Different Kind of Cloud Cats by Rhynn
Kenneth Oppel is an award winning author from Canada. His writing style is extremely clean and cinematic- at least for the Airborn series. My mind constructed scenes and shots so easily. It seems as if Oppel carefully words his writing. Never wasting words. He wrote his first book, Colin's Fantastic Video Adventures, while in high school in 1985 which ended up in the hands of Roald Dahl who recommended it to his agent.

I listened to the audio book version of both Airborn and Skybreaker. The production for both are higher than most audio books I've heard with a full cast audio recording. There are some subtle sound effects and musical hits at the beginning and ending of chapters, but thats all. Nothing too jarring. The production lets the narrator describe almost everything else. The cast of voices is top notch, also. Fantastic quality.

Oppel's Airborn series could easily fit into GURPS Infinite Worlds- Britannica-6. I'd love to write up the bestiary for the series using GURPS sometime.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wise Man's Fear

I have finished reading Wise Man's Fear.

  This review is going to be VERY full of spoilers. You are warned.

Young Kvothe by fattylumpkin50
I anticipated Wise Man's Fear to be the 2nd act of trilogy- the Empire Strikes Back of sorts- where the protagonists find their struggle or are left in a bad way. I don't think it can be compared like that. This is not at all cinematic like that.

The book as a whole feels like a series of episodes. It could easily have been chopped into three separate books. Maybe four. It has over 150 chapters with several interludes where the story jumps from a present day to flashback.

Like the first book- The Name of the Wind, the foundational plot continues as an innkeeper dictates his biography to a chronicler who scribes it all down on paper and the innkeeper's mysterious student/assistant. Both books are written in 3rd person until the innkeeper tells the story for the chronicler wherein the book shifts into 1st person narrative. While Name of the Wind is the tale told on the first day and the events around that act, Wise Man's Fear naturally follows the events before and after the tale told on day two (of three). Peppered throughout both books the narrative is interrupted by the events in and around the now older Kvothe's inn painting a darker and more grim reality than that of the biography.

At the University. Very much like the 2nd half of the first book, it was nice to be back at the university. There is a great scene of Kvothe performing for the crowd at the Eolin Tavern establishing him as a bit of a rock star. Again, we are watching Kvothe trying to juggle his limited finances. I found the conflict with Devi some of the most interesting parts of the first half of the book. She seems to have become a much more interesting character. Not sure what it is, but that Devi has become one of my favorite characters in this series. More antagonism with Ambrose. The scene where the gang plots to get the ring back was classic and had a real comfortable feel to it- an 'everyone's here' thing going on. And Devi was included! Kvothes classes with Master Elodin were great as always. Another interesting character developing nicely is the ghostly waif- Auri who lives in the 'underthing' of the University.

Bast by fattylumpkin50 
In Severen. Events that make it best for Kvothe to leave the school for a term or so were played out nicely, if not a bit sudden. I found it jarring, but a pleasant turn of events. Here Rothfuss develops the series' setting a lot, fleshing out the neighboring lands with a lot of original creativity. Kvothe lives in luxury and we learn the ways of the noble class. The dynamics of Kvothe's relationship with Stapes was wonderful. And the verbal sparing with the Mayor is enjoyable. I really liked the rings and all the political nonsense.

Then we get to some good old fashioned fantasy adventuring when Kvothe is picked to lead the mercenaries. Adventure party and all. Here we are introduced to my other favorite character in the series- Tempi. Tempi gives us a good deal of intricate humor. There is also a love story here that is observed externally by Kvothe for once. This 'episode' is some of the best plot in the book as it contains the most action as the party methodically searches vast forests for tax steeling bandits. We see the outside world's opinion and fears of the arcana. Over the course of time the characters spend together, they become close and even fond of each other- right a long with the reader. Its around this time that the book has a very strange turn. Kvothe loses himself in the Fae.

The Fae. Perhaps the hardest part of the book to keep up with because it's the most abstract the series has ever gotten. I sometimes wondered if this really was happening, are you really taking us this way, Pat? The tone of the book changes here as our protagonist is suddenly introduced to sex. A lot of sex. Kvothe is a whore. All of a sudden there was more sex in this book than I don't even know what! Also, up until this part the series has maintained a very solid sense of realism to a degree. Here there is a lot... a LOT of fantasy. There are elements of the Silmarillion-like fantasy. Eventually we make it back out to the real world.

Briefly, Kvothe is with the mercenary party again. When the book moves on from this group, Kvothe is sorrowful with us as we don't see them again (except Tempi while Kvothe follows him home to Ademre).

Name of the Wind People by Sir-Heartsalot - Tempi, Kvothe, Elodin, Cinder, and Haliax
Ademre. It is in this strange country that our protagonist takes his spiritual journey. Ademre is more civilized than the rest of the world in their own view, but this makes them quite alien from anything familiar. This episode is very kung-fu without almost any Asian cinema tropes. Like a pendulum swinging, from the fae to the very hard realism. An interesting contrast, perhaps. Kvothe learns the ways of forbidden martial arts. Very cool stuff. Not Bruce Lee/Karate Kid at all.

Back at the University. All is well. Established security. The character is changed in wealth. This is a big change since his poverty drove so much plot before. Kvothe's party was kind of cool. The gang's all here thing again. I'm scared its for perhaps they're all together for the last time.... we'll have to see.

Lastly, like most of my literature input these days, I 'read' Wise Man's Fear mostly on my commutes to and from work, etc, via audiobook. Voice talent Nick Podehl returns to read for us, this guy is top of the line quality. There are many different cultures featured in this series and Podehl uses a variety of accents for each culture. And then he maintains that same accent for different characters of the same culture. It was amazing and enhanced my enjoyment of the book a great deal.

Wise Man's Fear debuted on the New York Times at # 1. Read this book. It is masterful fantasy storytelling. I believe these will be pretty big some day.

Elisabeth Sladen-- February 1st, 1946 - April 19th, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen passed away yesterday, lost her battle with cancer. She was a talented actor best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith, the companion of the Doctor in Doctor Who.

She will be missed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Skybreaker and the Ornithopter

I mistakenly thought the word ornithopter was an invention of Frank Herbert from his wonderful DUNE series. Turns out it was actually invented about 450 years earlier by Da Vinci, from the Greek words for bird (ornitho) and wing (pter).

An ornithopter is an aircraft that designed to derive its propulsion and support from flapping wings. Leonardo Da Vinci created many versions of ornithopters in design on paper and in model. It makes appearances in science fiction and pulp fiction. Ornithopters appeared in DUNE as said before, they also were in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Even Star Wars featured some in Revenge of the Sith with the Wookiees defending their homeworld, Kashyyk with wooden dragonfly-like Ornithopters.

The word showed up on my radar from a new book I started today- Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel. This is the 2nd book in the Airborn trilogy, and sequel to Airborn ending with Starclimber. This cinematic adventure series is aimed at a young adult audience. The setting is a very solid steam-punkish alternate historical Earth. There is a great emphasis on airships, a natural setting for ornithopters, etc. In the first chapters of this 2nd book there are several references to the aircraft.

It appears that there were plans to make a film adaptation of Airborn in 2008 that has since been dropped and no plans since then for the series. So perhaps we have an undiscovered series that won't be corrupted by Hollywood.

Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie

A pig's gotta fly by lastscionz
Will there be a Porco Rosso sequel?

At this time, no there will not.

The internet is aflame with news of a sequel to Porco Rosso (and I played my part in kindling it). Unfortunately the news is false, or rather, misinterpreted. Miyazaki is working on a manga sequel for Porco Rosso, but this will not be a film. As much as I wish it were going to be, I'd like to try to turn the tide of this toward the truth.

GhibliWiki had the following clarification:
Our poorly worded earlier news article on Miyazaki's interview in Cut magazine gave the impression that Miyazaki was planning a film sequel to Porco Rosso when in fact it'll be a manga as announced by Model Graphix. Hoshino was asked about the film at the Rome press conference and while his response was not a direct denial ("Next work will be announced later this year in Japan. Please look forward to it.") we're confident that the December 15 announcement will not be Porco Rosso 2.

Porco Rosso by JaimePosadas
The Last Sortie will be a comic (manga) set in the Spanish Civil War and sounds like it will be a sequel to the Ghibli film- Porco Rosso.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dark Tower update

Too often lately finding these updates seem to report that such and such project has come into money problems and they're shelved or something like that. I read these updates with that hesitation only to be pleasantly surprised that the project is moving along.
The Gunslinger by trev-solo

On the other hand the other project that my mind equals to the scope of the Dark Tower is the Game of Thrones series and that is about to debut just a few days! If that turns out as good as the 14 minute preview then Dark Tower is very do-able.

What there is to report is who has been casted as Roland- Javier Bardem. While I'm not too familiar with his work, I am relieved that it will not be Christian Bale. There is the co-writer/producer from Heroes and Battlestar Galactica- anyone attached to BSG is welcome for this project, in my opinion.

It also appears that there will be a film as well as a series. I'm not exactly sure how that will work. But Ron Howard is to direct the film and perhaps some of the series- maybe the whole first series (which implies that there are already more than one to come!).

Tangent- I want to take a moment and talk about the sculpture of the Gunslinger by trev-solo. He put together a rotating image if you'd like to see more dimensions of it here. I can't believe how good this is. By his own description, the creator feels this no longer represents Roland as he created it after reading Drawing of the Three. He said it was one of his first realistic sculpts. Perhaps its because trev chose to use Lance Henriksen as the model (who I didn't cast as Roland when I was in the books- but perhaps I should've) and maybe its because it just looks so darn cool, but I do really like that piece of work.

Now back to the Dark Tower series- here is the article updating the project...
The Dark TowerThere are plenty of reasons to be excited for Ron Howard'splanned "The Dark Tower" adaptation, and now here's another one to add to the pile. "Heroes," "Battlestar Galactica" and "Falling Skies" writer/producer Mark Verheiden has been tapped to co-write and produce the planned NBC TV series segment of "Dark Tower" along with producer Akiva Goldsman.
First, here's what we know. Javier Bardem has been chosen from a pool of hopefuls to play the Gunslinger, with names like Naomi Harris rumored for other roles. Ron Howard will be directing the initial "Dark Tower" film and the first season of the television series, with the director of the later movies and seasons to be determined at a later date. Goldsman will write both the first film and the series, and now Deadline has the news that Verheiden is co-writing the series, with Stephen King and Brian Grazer along as producers as well. Sounds like a solid enough plan to us!
But who is Verheiden? What makes him a smart choice for "The Dark Tower"?
Verheiden is someone who's been around for a while, dabbling in episodes of the "Timecop" TV series and "The Strip," as well as contributing to "Smallville" as a writer and producer in the show's early years. He left the series in 2004 to work on "Battlestar Galactica," and then moved on to "Heroes" in 2009 before currently landing on "Falling Skies."
It's quite the filmography, and it helps that he has quite the history as a comic book writer, too, well known for his work on "The American," the "Aliens" and "Predator" comics series and issues of "The Phantom," "Stalkers" and "Evil Dead."
Despite his accomplishments, we can't ignore his work as the writer of "Black Market" (widely regarded by fans as the worst episode in "BSG's" acclaimed run) and the later seasons of "Heroes," which few would describe as the pinnacle of television writing. Setting those blemishes aside, we're intrigued by the possibilities Verheiden brings to the table. "The Dark Tower" is a series that has spanned across all forms of media -- from the novels to comics to video games to now films and a TV series -- so all of Verheiden's previous work certainly lends credence to his ability to lift Howard and Goldsman's project to greatness.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dragonriders of Pern

What a strange and wonderful mix of sci-fi and fantasy the Dragonriders of Pern series is. The series is vast (though I've only read about 4 of the 22 books). Most of the setting pits the protagonist against the forces of strange nature. There are no big bad guys.

Pern has had at least two attempts at making it to small screen, but both never made it to production- and its a good thing, too, some of the people weren't treating the property with the respect fans would want.

There has always been a very strong following, one reason for this was how active the late Anne McCaffery was with her fans on her chat room and message board. She'd hangout with fans quite regularly.

If this attempt to make it to screen goes through we'll be watching to see how accurately the producers keep to the source material. We will keep you posted...
Dragonriders of Pern, one of the biggest-selling science fiction novel series, is being turned into a live-action feature. David Hayter has been set to write the script for Dragonflight, the first novel in a series that includes 22 novels generated by Anne McCaffrey. Steve Hoban's Copperheart Entertainment has teamed with Hayter and Benedict Carver's Dark Hero Studios and Angry Films partners Don Murphy and Susan Montford on the project. Entertainment One is also a partner and has gotten the project off the ground by acquiring distribution in Canada, with talks ongoing to acquire numerous other territories that will include the UK and Australia.
The first book was published in 1968. It focuses on an elite group of warriors who take to the skies on the backs of giant, fire-breathing dragons with telepathic powers, as they to save the exotic planet of Pern from a terrifying airborne menace.
Hoban said he first tried to acquire McCaffrey's series 14 years ago when he was an executive at IMAX. Several years later, it built steam but was postponed by another flying dragon project, Eragon, which didn't breathe much fire. The series kept going though, and now spans 22 books. It came together with the current players. Hayter's sci-fi/fantasy script credits include X-Men and Watchmen, while Murphy and Montford's work includesTransformers, At the Mountains of Madness and the upcoming Shawn Levy-directed Hugh Jackman starrer Real Steel. It was Hayter and Carver who brought in Entertainment One's Patrice Theroux. Hoban said that the conceptual art has been generated and Hayter should have a script later this year. The plan is to get the flying dragons off the ground by next year. McCaffrey continues to write her dragon series, at age 85. The books span several thousands of years and generations of characters, but Hoban said there is plenty to launch a franchise.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Dr Zaius and Zera by BrainMainolfi
I haven't been a huge fan of Planet of the Apes. I had thought it really cheesy until I actually watched the very first film. That was a great movie. Saw some of the following films which weren't as good as the first. And the 2001 reboot attempt affirmed its cheese. Looks like they're trying to reboot the franchise again. Reboots are hit or miss for me. Almost always it's a miss. But once in a while it is such a hit that it makes up for a bunch of the misses- Battlestar Galactica, I'm looking in your direction. So that said, I am looking forward to what a reboot of Planet of the Apes might be like.

However, many people are reporting that it is a prequel and not a reboot. But the story premise sounds a lot like the premise of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes So that doesn't make sense either. That would make this upcoming film a remake.

Who knows? Either way, I'm actually looking forward to it. The setting is awesome- the first movie showed us that. So the cool factor potential is in there somewhere.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Serendipity Books

This afternoon my son, Jack, was looking at a book I had when I grew up. Cap'n Smudge. The book sent me back in time and I fondly recalled how much I enjoyed those books. The Serendipity Books were some of my very favorites, before I dove into comics and games. These books may have paved the way to those things, igniting the imagination.

Apparently, Cap'n was the only one to survive our childhood to make it to my child's hands. Fortunately, the books are still around and there are many many more since I was reading them.

In 1974 the Serendipity books series came to be, written by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James. These children story books were about animals, mythical creatures, and some original creations telling tales and teaching moral issues for the young in a creative and colorful way. In one book the mythology created was big enough that many kids from our era believed there really was a Wheedle on top of Seattle's Space Needle with a glowing red nose! Today there are 70 books in the series all written for kids between k-3 grade.

Another thing I appreciate about the books- though I had no notion of it then, is that there is a level of continuity in the series of books. Each book stars it's own character, but other characters who've already had their own book make appearances (i.e. there is Serendipity, herself, on the cover of Cap'n Smudge's own book!). That kind of thing really appeals to my geek-flag-ness.

I know we had the first four books- SerendipityWheedle on the Needle, and The Muffin Dragon. I vaguely remember moral messages and lessons embedded in the stories, but what I liked the most was the art. I loved the art. 

So here is another piece of the puzzle about why I am a geek. And these books go on the wish list for our kids.

While gathering resources for this post I came across a relatively recent news story that featured Cosgrove and the Serendipity books...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time Jam: Valérian and Laureline

Last month I discovered and posted about the long running French comic Valérian and Laureline with mention of the French/Japanese cartoon. Since then I've had opportunity to view several episodes from said series. And I'm in love. Again, the entire series is freely available on YouTube at the time of this post.

The first impression of Time Jam is that it is definitely a Japanese anime in appearance and animation. It could easily be a product purely from Japan, but I believe the French sci-fi element is clear. The alien creature design is refreshing. The artists provide a wide variety of humanoid aliens as well as creatures that come from the far corners of one's imagination.

The show is pure space opera pulp. Many of the things I enjoy visually were also triggered (or developed) by the Star Wars franchise. The technology levels are pretty much the same. Perhaps many of the tech in Valérian is beyond Star Wars. A Long Long Time Ago... seemed like the galaxy was past it's peak. There's so much variety in Valérian that some stories capture that past peak feel, while others are set in worlds at their prime. One aspect that Time Jam: Valérian and Laureline has as an advantage over the Star Wars milieu is we can enjoy that sci-fi tech level, but still retain the social commonalities and customs of our real world where Star Wars was separate and any modern catchphrases or English text has no place in that setting and is poor continuity or cinema error. Valérian enjoys this freedom like Star Trek does.

Another point of higher quality is the incidental soundtrack. With Japanese anime, music is often top of the line. As anime becomes more and more recognized as a serious medium, higher quality becomes the norm. Still, there have been more than a couple of times where I note that the music in this show is often just great. There are points in the music that are reminiscent of John Williams or other similar musicians (taking something for Star Wars would probably be OK considering... see last month's post).

I'm very glad to have such easy access to the series. I only wish there were more available comic book-wise. As I compose this post I realized that I do, in fact, have two English language copies of Valerian comics published in the later '90s from Fantasy Flight- Heroes of the Equinox. It seemed that their book never really took off, but I recall talking to the Christian about the series, not appreciating it until almost a decade later.

Time Jam is not the first time there was an attempt at making an animated Valérian and Laureline film or show. The first was tried in 1973, but didn't get much further than notations, etc. Next, Mézières created concept art for one episode in 1982 entitled Asteroids of Shimballil, but the show was never made. In 1991 a three minute pilot episode was created but nothing came of it. Another attempt was made in 2001 and again, nothing came of it. Finally, Time Jam debuted in France October, 2007.

My brain takes a tangent considering what RPG system I'd use if I wished to run a game like Valérian and Laureline or something like it. I noted that the initial premise of the series, not necessarily the cartoon- at least not 8 or 9 episodes in, but traveling through time and space and visiting alternate timelines lent itself to GURPS Infinite Worlds. I wonder if the Valérian and Laureline is a bit too space opera or pulp for the likes of GURPS, though. On the other hand, the show doesn't glorify guns-a-blazing. There'd be more roleplaying which I think would be supported by the system better than other more tactical systems. Obviously, GURPS Space would be heavily used and maybe a dash of GURPS Tales of the Solar Patrol.

My own suspicion is that the newest rendition of the Doctor Who franchise's companion- Amy Pond was created with Valerian's Laureline in mind. Watching Time Jam the Laureline character reminds me of Amy Pond quite often. Not only in appearance, but also in attitude and mannerisms. Both characters are the sidekick to a traveler of time and space. This idea is based on nothing I've read or seen other than both shows and the similarities noted about each.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

HBO's Game of Thrones 14 Minute Preview

The first 14 minutes of HBO's Game of Thrones looks pretty much exactly how I saw it in my brain years ago when I read the book.This preview is wonderful, however 14 minutes is almost worse than having a 2 minute one. 14 minutes is plenty to draw you in and then you're cut off.

So this gives us a very good look at the casting of House Stark. So far it looks fantastic. Arya looks great, I'm not sure if Sansa was featured (if they did, she was far less beautiful than I pictured- I'll have to watch it again). The boys- perfect. Ned and Catelyn were perfect (I always mentally casted Catelyn with the same face I saw Jessica Atreides and Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan- redheaded and powerful). This show should be pretty good. Only 11 days, 6 hours, and 13 minutes to go...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear fan art

I am deep into Wise Man's Fear and loving every word of it.

When in a series like Patrick Rothfuss's King Killer Chronicles, I will often run a search for the characters on DeviantArt and have no problem finding a wide range of interpretations of the characters. This assists me when trying to 'cast' the characters in my own head- using a collective collection. I'll find details that were missed repeated by the images. Much of the fan art amateur with a lot of heart. There is always a collection of astounding pictures. Depending on the popularity of the series, sometimes a handful, others pages and pages. I'm amazed at how many very talented artist out there. Occasionally there will be some official art from a cover or commission. I wanted to take a moment to share some that I found from The Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear.

Kvothe by Sandara
There is a quiet stillness to this picture that makes it feel old. This could've easily been the cover for The Name of the Wind.
Name of the Wind by Rikkenian

This is the image of Kvothe that I have taken for my mind's eye. That face and expression- it is so easy for me to picture that kid doing the things the story portrays. That portrait reminds me that Kvothe is still just a kid. Arrogance mixed with a lot of getting in trouble. Perfect.  

Kvothe by FreshPaint

These four are from myleafyentrails

Many have the opinion that I'm cheating because I'm taking in the book via audiobook. That's fine for them. What a wonderful format for literature. It makes me actually look forward to my commute. The production quality is outstanding. The book is performed (rather than narrated) by Nick Podehl, who also read The Name of the Wind. His characterization is remarkable. Nick uses accents quite well for some of the setting's cultures. His ability to speak for female characters is natural and less awkward than many other narrators I've listened to in the past. It was very fortunate for Podehl to be able to read both books and I hope he is contracted to continue the series when the time comes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gaming Groups- How Do They Work

Yesterday marked the first session with a new group running a typical dungeon crawl using Pathfinder. This is only my 2nd time running Pathfinder (and any real d20 system) as I consider myself still a noob GM. The first time behind the GM screen went about 3 awkward sessions about a year ago before I pulled chute and bailed.

On almost every level this time around was vastly better than that one. Why? I suspect the people in the group has a whole lot to do with it.

Gaming by JadeLotus
We all got together once before for everyone to meet each other and discuss characters, campaign decisions, and schedules, etc. So yesterday's game was the first actual play with the new group. My brother is playing in this game and this is his first time in any real RPG. It has been a treat to have him join in on my hobby. The rest of the group is quite experienced with a variety of roleplaying systems and a couple are actively in the business of creating games. A couple of the guys were new to me and me to them. They have been a real positive force helping my brother figure out what's going on at the table. That also frees my attention to focus on running the game. The chemistry feels good. The spirit around the table has been very light and lots of laughter.

What I discovered through all this is how much a group's success is dependent on the members that form the group. From just one session I am optimistic about the members of this group.

So a game group's success, in which I mean their ability to use a game system, stay together, and generally have an enjoyable time- how much of this is based on the group's chemistry. Can one person who doesn't sync with the others destroy a group? It seems like a table top role playing game, when it's working, is similar to a band performing live music. A jam session. Everyone knows their part, it takes practice, you improvise off the actions of your band mates, for the most part everyone is gelling together to make one good thing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Paizo's Japan Relief Auction

Paizo has a special auction up and running on eBay at the time of this posting. There are seven items, currently. Three copies of the Special Edition Core Rulebook, three copies of the Special Edition Bestiary and one 17" by 11" original painting of a new Iconic Character introduced in the upcoming Ultimate Combat book. These Special Edition books look really nice. Here's the auction description of the Bestiary...

This special edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary has been limited to fewer than 100 copies, and available only to Paizo staff members. But now, you can own a copy, too! With gilt pages and gold foil cover lettering, and signed by the entire Paizo staff and cover artist Wayne Reynolds, this collectible first printing merits a special place on your gaming bookshelf.
Proceeds from the purchases of this limited edition Bestiary will be donated to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami disasters of March 11, 2011. Check our other Japan Relief auctions for more exciting ways to contribute!
This item will ship in late May to allow the book to be personalized to the winning bidder.

The Paizo blog explains the details to the auction.

Paizo Annouces Japan Relief Auction

Thursday March 31, 2011
Yesterday we published on the blog the official "Meet the Iconics" for Nakayama Hayato, the iconic samurai from the city of Oda in distant Minkai. The son of the chief falconer and his wife, Hayato—whose name means "falcon"—quickly proved just as proficient with the dangerous birds as his father, emulating their proud and fierce natures. In time, Hayato grew to become a powerful warrior, rising to the position of head samurai of the Nakayama holdings. When his master's son died in a drunken duel at the age of twenty, Lord Nakayama began to look more and more to Hayato as a son, even allowing him to take the family name. Hayato no longer lives in Minkai but now makes his home in the Inner Sea region, upholding the samurai code he has sworn.
In yesterday's blog post we announced that, in partnership with Wayne Reynolds, Paizo would auction the original painting of Hayato, along with staff-signed Special Edition copies of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and Pathfinder RPG Bestiary. These special edition copies of the rulebooks are limited to fewer than 100 copies each, and available only to Paizo staff members. But now, you can own a copy, too! With gilt pages and gold foil cover lettering, and signed by the entire Paizo staff and cover artist Wayne Reynolds, this collectible first printing merits a special place on your gaming bookshelf. All proceeds from the auctions will be donated to the Red Cross Society, an organization with extraordinary disaster response capabilities. It has mobilized eleven teams to heavily damaged communities in Japan to provide assessments and first aid and to supply emotional support and relief.
"All of us at Paizo have been devastated by the recent events in Japan, and when Wayne Reynolds contacted me with the idea to auction his original Pathfinder art, I knew this was a tangible way Paizo could help those impacted by the destruction," said CEO Lisa Stevens. "We're hoping to harness the power of our fans in an effort of goodwill to help those in need."
Hayato will appear in August 2011's Ultimate Combat, a 256-page hardcover reference that reveals the martial secrets of the Pathfinder RPG rules like never before. Hayato represents the samurai class, a warrior with more honor, dedication, and resolve than any other. Trained from an early age in the art of war and sworn to the service of a lord, the samurai holds a position of power and respect. In him, the common folk see honor and sacrifice. He is an honorable warrior, dedicated to the realm and the leaders that guide it.
To take part in this special charity auction please visit the Paizo eBay storefront and the Paizo website at
Hyrum Savage.
Marketing and Organized Play Manager

It seems like there are a lot of RPG gaming companies that have been doing charity fundraisers and whatnot lately. I think this is a wonderful trend.
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