Kenneth Hite's Journal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
Kenneth Hite's LiveJournal:
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Thursday, April 25th, 2013|
|C C2. C C2E2. E2, C2, E2!
In case it had somehow missed your attention, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) is this weekend! Yay! In between NOT buying the rest of the Terry and the Pirates
hardcover compilations (do you hear me I said NOT buying), I'll be on two panels. Stop by, and see HOW FEW Terry and the Pirates
hardcover compilations I've bought!The State of Play in Tabletop Roleplaying Gaming
Saturday, April 27
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Speakers: Kenneth Hite, Matt Forbeck, Will Hindmarch
From bold indie sensations like FIASCO and HILLFOLK to the rumblings of D&D NEXT (5th Edition), this panel brings you up to speed on the ever-wider world of tabletop role playing games. A panel of professional RPG Designers (Matt Forbeck, Ken Hite and Will Hindmarch) will discuss the state of RPG play, design and the industry, and they will look as far into the future as they can. They'll spotlight great games you might have missed and highlight designers to watch.Crowdsourcing: Kickstarting Your Way to Success
Sunday, April 28
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Speakers: Jason Wood, Kenneth Hite, Matt Forbeck, Ryan Browne, Ryan Stegman, Will Hindmarch
The emergence of Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing services has revolutionized and reinvigorated the marketplace for creator-owned projects. Creators are finding an entirely new audience for their works, and crowdsourcing is breaking down the barriers in comics, prose, gaming, technology and design. Join us as Jason Wood – Co-host of the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast and backer of several dozen Kickstarter campaigns, moderates an all-star panel (Stegman, Browne, Forbeck, Hite, & Hindmarch) of Creators who have successfully funded projects that have far exceeded their goals. Learn the Dos and Don’ts of a successful project, from inception to delivery, from people that have done it many times over.
So the good people at Osprey have begun spinning up the mighty publicity machine for my first book from them, The Nazi Occult.
The question I am most often asked about this book is "is it fiction?" Well, that's a hard question to answer.
I designed the book as a narrative history that incorporates and unifies the many legends of the Nazi occult, building it up by layers from over sixty different sources, many of them summarizing or recapitulating further works of widely ranging reliability and sanity. Plus lots and lots of Google Translate.
I began with the absolute substrate of real, provable Nazi involvement with the occult, as found in the works of Real Historians (tm) like Michael Kater, Heather Pringle, Hans Thomas Hakl, and the late great Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Everything I found out about the real Nazi occult is in the book. I left nothing out.
Then onto that, I layered information from generally reliable or well-researched books by occultists or researchers of the fringe, such as Ellic Howe, Nick Cook, Joscelyn Godwin, and (believe it or not) Peter Levenda.
Then I piled up nonsense, uncritically seined or imagined by conspiracy theorists and goofballs like Trevor Ravenscroft, Peter Moon, and whoever it is that has that giant website on Maria Orsic and the Nazi connection to Aldebaran. (Which now seems to be down. Of course it is.)
Then I added a soupcon of relevant shout-outs to the relevant fiction. Sharp-eyed Hellboy
fans will notice a thing or two, for example.
Then I made up enough material to fill in the blanks, reconcile the many contradictions, and create a convincing-seeming narrative history, including almost all of the specifics of the "Hexensoldat" unit, Sonderverband Z.
Perhaps the best way to explain it is to show it done. Osprey has put up an excerpt from the book here,
complete with Darren Tan's terrific illustration of my tribute to the "three guys standing there" subgenre of Osprey art. (The three guys in the illo are an Ahnenerbe archaeologist, an Ahnenerbe-SS rune magician, and a Hexensoldat of Sonderverband Z.) The excerpt deals with the Marineforschungsabteilung (Naval Research Institute; MFA). Herewith, I shall Nevins myself:
Admiral Canaris established the Marineforschungsabteilung (Naval Research Institute; MFA) as a secret office of the Abwehr devoted to unconventional reconnaissance methodology. Its initial missions were theft of British radar and sonar secrets, and the deployment of concealed weather stations in the North Atlantic.
This is all true, including the secret weather stations.
Headed by Otto Friedrich Muck (who invented the snorkel in 1942), MFA employed a number of Thulist mystics as part of its general concern with Arctic matters, but did not prioritize occult researches until a series of events in 1938 surfaced coincidentally.
It was not headed by Muck, although he was involved with the real MFA. I picked him because after the war he became a major proponent of Atlantis theory. I don't know that it involved Thulist mystics, but it made sense that it might. They got everywhere.
The first was a March 1938 contact with the astronomer and astrologer Wilhelm Hartmann of Nuremberg Observatory, a member of the Vril-Gesellschaft who demonstrated the possibility of harnessing comets by electrical force.
Hartmann is real; he really believed that, but he had no contact with MFA. (That I know of.) The Vril-Gesellschaft never existed, at least under that name, but has gained currency thanks to Willy Ley's article describing real Nazi interest in the (fictional) vril-force. There was at least one esoteric publishing group in Nazi Germany dedicated to publishing vril secrets. I mention it by name in the book.
Then in May came the report of Untersturmführer Paul Birkert, who had led a meteorological and geological expedition to Greenland in August 1937 after the Ahnenerbe rejected his proposal. He described Eskimo angakoks who could accurately describe conditions in the South Pacific in their dreams, and he returned with artifacts taken from fortress walls crushed by glacial ice -- relics of Thule itself. These relics matched material from the Von Lorfmon expedition to the Cape Verde Islands in 1912, and from the wreckage of U-29, lost in 1917 and salvaged by an expedition to the Azores in October 1938. These three widely separated finds convinced Muck of Thule's reality.
Birkert is real, and really went to Greenland after being rejected by the Ahnenerbe. The Eskimo angakoks are taken, of course, from Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu." The Von Lorfmon expedition is from Robert E. Howard's Atlantean-Yellow-Menace novel Skull-Face.
The U-29 is from Lovecraft's story "The Temple." The expedition to the Azores is based on the International Gulf Stream Expedition in 1938, headed by the oceanographer Georg Wüst, whose soundings on that and a previous expedition convinced Muck in real life that Atlantis existed.
In 1940 after the fall of Norway, the MFA pushed for a sorcerous and meteorological station on Spitsbergen, another likely Thule remnant in the Arctic. In September 1943, just such a team landed on Hopen Island under cover of Operation Zitronella; it included at least one Hexensoldat, a veteran of the Navy's Brandenburger special forces.
Real: MFA, Brandenburgers, Spitsbergen, Operation Zitronella, meteorological station therein. Occult: Thule connection. My imagination: "one Hexensoldat."
During the battle of the Atlantic, the MFA (now commanded by Fregattenkapitän Hans A. Roeder) kept a house full of pendulum dowsers and astrologers in Admiral-von-Schroeder-Strasse, near Abwehr headquarters. By swinging a special pendulum of Thule material over a map of the Atlantic, a trained dowser could locate Allied shipping. The seers (such as the Tarot-diviner A.F. Glahn) who used the techniques derived from the Greenland Eskimo shamans had a much higher success rate, but died or went insane at an alarming rate. The Pendulum-Institut's star diviner, the elderly Ludwig Straniak, nearly died of a stroke during the cruise of the Bismarck. In 1943, Roeder moved the Pendulum-Institut to the island of Sylt off Schleswig-Holstein, likely to keep his astrologers out of the clutches of the SS.
Almost all of this paragraph comes to us from the memoirs of Wilhelm Wulff, Himmler's astrologer. Roeder is real, as is the address. Pendulum-magician Straniak was real. He really did nearly die of overwork as noted. Tarot-diviner Glahn is real, he was also a pendulum-dowser, and he really did die in 1941. I added the "Thule material" to the pendulum, but the rest is as Wulff told it. Those Greenland Eskimo techniques are, again, my extrapolation from Lovecraft.
In September 1942, Canaris moved the MFA from the Abwehr to a billet under the larger Kriegsmarine Amtsgruppe Forschung, Erfindungs- und Patentwesen (Navy Office Group Research, Inventions, and Patents; FEP), possibly to disguise it from bureaucratic SS poaching. This proved prescient when Ernst Kaltenbrunner purged Canaris' Abwehr completely after July 1944.
And this is just real history. Ta-daaa!
|Friday, April 19th, 2013|
|My Appendix N
This was a meme awhile back in the ludoblogosphere, but one I didn't participate in then for whatever reason. But for some reason not unassociated with an increased urge to escapism this week, I felt like doing it today.
For those who don't know, "Appendix N" was Gary Gygax' attempt to acknowledge the fantasy authors who gave him "particular inspiration" for what became Dungeons & Dragons,
its various canonical early campaigns and adventures, and Gary's brand of fiction. (It's here,
if you'd like to read it.) So that's what this is, too; my acknowledgement of the authors whose fingerprints I can most easily, and most often, trace in my own game writing and associated essays, fiction, etc. (Maybe you've seen another pattern in there. Feel free to tell me in comments who else I sound like I'm
N.B.: This is not the same as "the best" or even "my favorite." It's just whose DNA shows up in my writing's paternity tests, as best as I can tell. Lord knows I'd prefer it if my stuff read like Alan Furst or Charles McCarry instead of Robert Ludlum. Not every seed grows a tree: I devoured every word written by Edgar Rice Burroughs during my pre-adolescent prime, but my writing and gaming hasn't turned out much like his in style, content, or theme. Also, that means writers I've only relatively recently discovered (the "Parker" novels by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake, for example) won't show up because I haven't had time to slavishly imitate them yet (though "Bad Beat for Aaron Burr" was my attempt to do just that).
Like Gary, I omit movies, TV shows, and other games. Unlike Gary, I include "books of mythology," broadly understood, and three comics writers in my Appendix. (Yes, Gary included Gardner Fox. But as a novelist, not for his superb comics scripting.) For the challenge of the thing, I'm keeping this list down to the same number of authors -- 29 -- as Gary's original. This may be overstating the case; my friend kaynorr
is fond of saying that all my games are either riffing on Declare
and the challenge for my players is figuring out which one before I do.
And so, as Gary said in 1979: "For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you."
* Anderson, Poul
* Bellairs, John
Block, Lawrence: "Burglar" series
Davidson, Avram: "Esterhazy" series; "Adventures in Unhistory" series; "Peregrine" series; et al
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: "Sherlock Holmes" series; "Challenger" series; "Horror of the Heights" et al
Ellis, Warren: Planetary
Fraser, George Macdonald: "Flashman" series
Graves, Robert: The Greek Myths; The White Goddess
Heinlein, Robert A.
* Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series; "Solomon Kane" series
* Leiber, Fritz: Our Lady of Darkness; Conjure Wife
; "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series et al
Lewis, C.S.: "Narnia" series; That Hideous Strength
Ludlum, Robert: The Bourne Identity; The Matarese Conspiracy
* Lovecraft, H. P.
Morrison, Grant: "Invisibles" series; "Doom Patrol" series; et al
Pournelle, Jerry: "CoDominium" series
Powers, Tim: Anubis Gates; On Stranger Tides; The Stress of Her Regard; Last Call; Declare
; et al
Tey, Josephine: The Daughter of Time
* Wellman, Manly Wade
Wheatley, Dennis: "Black Magic" series
Wilson, Robert Anton & Shea, Michael: "Illuminatus" trilogy; "Historical Illuminatus" trilogy
* Zelazny, Roger: "Amber" series; et al
* Author also on Gary's list; titles may vary from his selection
|Sunday, February 24th, 2013|
|Ken Thumbs Up
With the Oscars due in just a few hours, I should make sure to steal their thunder all BAFTA-like with my own traditional Top Ten 2012 Movies I Saw. I'm glad I left it this long, because I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild
earlier today, and wouldn't you know -- bang onto the list at the big Number Seven spot. (Which makes my list from the podcast
slightly obsolete.) So anyway, with that last-minute substitution here goes:Moonrise Kingdom
Dark Knight Rises
Damsels in Distress
Zero Dark Thirty
Beasts of the Southern Wild
A pretty good list, and we don't get to A- until Number 10, and we stay in A- country all the way through Number 19. The next ten, for the curious: Safety Not Guaranteed, Lincoln, Django Unchained, Looper, John Dies at the End, Keyhole, Black’s Game, The Avengers, Shut Up and Play the Hits,
The Bs start with Lawless
at Number 20, and grading on a curve, don't stop until Number 27 and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,
which is on the B-/C+ bubble, but let's go ahead and let it slip up to B-. Worst? Barely beating out Skyfall
for that coveted spot was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,
unless you count the 2012 release of the turgid and sneering Snowtown,
which I saw in 2011. But then I didn't see any real dogs this year, which is either down to dumb luck or rude cunning on my part.
What about the Ten Best 2012 Movies I Haven't Yet Seen? This is even a bigger guess than usual, but let's say: Life of Pi
saw without me and loved) followed by Magic Mike, The Gatekeepers
(which if it were about Mossad instead of Shin Bet I would have already seen), Cosmopolis, The End of Time, Silver Linings Playbook, Pitch Perfect, Wreck-It Ralph, Dredd,
and (with great trepidation, as the only other Leos Carax film I've seen was his crappy third of Tokyo!
) Holy Motors.
But here, scores can really change: when I made this list last year, I didn't even put Mike Flanagan's terrific lo-fi Machenesque horror film Absentia
on it, and that would have been the eighth best 2011 film I saw if I'd seen it that year instead of last month.
|Tuesday, February 19th, 2013|
|And life and the Fields, and the huge and thoughtful night
Since the beginning of modern record keeping,
I have gone 4-5 against Fields Book Store, pound for pound the finest occult bookstore in the English-speaking world. Next year, I shall win by forfeit -- Fields is shutting down their physical location
after 81 years. After the end of February, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in San Francisco will be an upstart named City Lights. Fields will still sell books, but only through its website,
which means I won't be able to justify blowing $100 there merely through the age-old mystery of physical propinquity.
But this year, Fields and I fought down to the wire. They got the aforementioned triple digit out of me, without even resorting to their Pantheacon booth (which they might not have had, and which we didn't have time to visit anyhow). But their victory was Pyrrhic indeed: it came through a 50%-off sale on their used books, a noble sacrifice to Thoth-Dionysos, in the manner of Decius Mus. "I promise you my death, if only I may conquer." And they will, and they did.
Many of those used books were perfectly ordinary; the kind you might find in any well-stocked and eccentric Bay Area bucherei: The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T'ung-Chih Restoration 1862-1874,
by Mary Clabaugh Wright; Elements of Japanese Design,
by John Dower; News From Tartary,
by Peter Fleming; The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution
, by Deborah Harkness; From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East,
by William Dalrymple; even the Arkham House hardback of Mr. George and Other Odd Persons,
by "Stephen Grendon" (actually a pseudonymous August Derleth).
Three used biographies, however, began to shade me toward eliptonic hues: The Dream King: Ludwig II of Bavaria,
by Wilfrid Blunt; Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours
, by Fredric Cheyette; Ann the Word: The Story of Ann Lee, Female Messiah, Mother of the Shakers, The Woman Clothed With the Sun
, by Richard Francis.
And two of the used books were full-blown barking eliptonic goodness: 'Shakespeare' by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare,
by Mark Anderson (oh NO
he wasn't) and -- hold on to your wigs and keys -- The Vengeful Djinn: Unveiling the Hidden Agenda of Genies,
by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and her almost-too-wonderfully-named co-author Philip J. Imbrogno. The title really sells it, but let me hammer home this book's astounding quality by quoting the first line from the back cover blurb: "If you fear one thing in life, fear the djinn." MIKE DROP. I get the sense that Philip J. Imbrogno took the rest of the day off after coming up with that line.
And I got one more book, a not-used book. A new book. (Well, 2008.) A full price book, because this contest, this affair, this glorious February Classic, deserved to go out as it came in: on the "Occult Nazis" shelf. I bought The Secret King: The Myth and Reality of Nazi Occultism,
by Stephen Flowers and Michael Moynihan. It's primarily a biography of Himmler's pet drooling clairvoyant Karl-Maria Wiligut, but includes some translations of Wiligut's writings and an essay surprisingly (albeit mostly accurately) minimizing the claims for occultist influence on the Nazis. A million household uses, in other words.
But this was the last time I would move that ladder and climb those steps, past "Wicca and Magic," past "Left-Hand Path," stopping just short of "Crowley/Thelema." The last time I would think "If I fall and break my neck, mollpeartree
will never forgive me for dying like a ninny trying to reach a 'Nazi Occultism' shelf." This was the last time that Fields would get to win.
4-6. Not a bad record, Fields. So long, and thanks for all the Nommo.
|Sunday, February 10th, 2013|
|Git 'R DunDraCon
Once more I flee the gray miseries attendant on February in Chicago for the temptations of sunlight, seafood, sushi, and suchlike in the scenic San Francisco Bay area. Specifically, this weekend I sprawl across the less-scenic San Ramon Marriott, home of my much-beloved DunDraCon!
As always, they have me panel-ing to my (and hopefully the attendees') heart's content, the details of which panel-ing are available should you ask. Go ahead, ask. C'mon. Ask. I'm not going to wait around here all day, you know. (Indistinguishable murmur from crowd)
I'm glad you asked!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15How to Get Into the RPG Business
Friday, 4:00-5:00 PM in Tri Valley 2Presenters: Chris Rutkowsky, Kenneth Hite, Jason Walters, John Post, Charlie Krank
Presentation and Q&A with game publishers on getting into the RPG business. This seminar repeats Saturday at 6pm, albeit without me.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16City Building
Saturday, 3:00-5:00 PM in Tri Valley 2Presenters: Anders Swenson, Mike Blum, Kenneth Hite
City Building is the long-running seminar where we explore the urban experience as it is translated for the many times and cultures found in our RPGs. This year, we will address a number of issues, including these possible topics listed below.
* Criminals and Enforcement: how does the city find criminals and catch them? What escalation happens when criminals (player-characters, heh) become too tough for the lowest level of public order enforcers to handle? What are some criminal groups besides the usual "Thieves' Guild"?
* Public Accomodations: probably 75% of RPG encounters happen in places where the public can gather and have a conversation -- taverns, bars, and so forth. What sort of places might these have been in various past cultures -- how large, what do they offer besides shelter from the weather and a place to talk?
* Transport: so you're in a city -- how do you get around? Are there buses, sedan chairs, magical carpets? In a future city with routine teleportation or antigravity, will there even be roads that we would recognize?
* Declining and dead cities. The seeds of many adventures lie in the past, and many cities and even dungeons are built of layers of outdated past construction. Why do neighborhoods and cities decline? What are the effects and consequences?War College: Alternate Histories
Saturday 6:00-7:30 PM in Salon CPresenters: Dana Lombardy, Kenneth Hite
Dana and I talk alternate histories, most likely alternate military histories, focusing on their design and use in gaming. Bring your favorite what-ifs!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17What's Cool
Sunday 10:00-11:00 AM in Tri Valley 2Presenters: Bruce Harlick, Kenneth Hite
Long time Grognards Ken Hite and Bruce Harlick talk about all the cool games on the shelves right now!What's New with Pelgrane Press?
Sunday, 11:00 AM-Noon in Tri Valley 2Presenter: Kenneth Hite
Pelgrane full-time contractor Ken Hite lays out the projected publications of Pelgrane Press for products like the Dying Earth RPG, GUMSHOE,
and moreWhat's New With Indie Gaming?
Sunday, 4:00-5:00 PM in Tri Valley 2Presenters: Ken Hite, Carl Rigney, Jason Walters
Ken Hite, Carl Rigney, and Jason Walters discuss what is new in the world of micro-published and self-published tabletop games.
Hope to see all of my West Coastal folks there!
|Friday, January 18th, 2013|
|Lynn Willis, RIP
Chaosium breaks the sad news
that Lynn Willis passed away today.
He played a key role in the refinement and balance of the Basic Roleplaying
system, which makes him one of the crucial designers of RuneQuest
and Call of Cthulhu,
as well as the other lesser lights driven by BRP.
He also co-designed the Ghostbusters RPG,
which is the second-best licensed RPG ever created, and incidentally provided the die pool architecture for Shadowrun
and for the White Wolf Storyteller engine.
He also played a key role as shepherd and guardian of Call of Cthulhu
for its first twenty years. My personal favorite edition of the game, the Fifth, is his final statement on what the game should contain, and contains probably more Lynn Willis text than it does Sandy Petersen text; Lynn's text amplifies and illuminates Sandy's brilliant core while leaving the central game design clear and explicit. Indeed, much of the moral power of Call of Cthulhu
comes from Lynn's careful writing; much of its vast flexibility in play style and even adventure approach flows from the books he edited in the line thereafter. His last great Call of Cthulhu
product as Line Developer was Chaosium's last great Call of Cthulhu
product: Beyond the Mountains of Madness.
Every Call of Cthulhu
product you've ever loved from the first edition to 1999 exists because Lynn Willis made sure its text was coherent, made sure its gameplay was sound, and made sure it got to print. And there's a strong possibility that the thing you like best about it was added or correctly shaped by Lynn, not by the credited author.
An enthusiastic reader with a wide range of interests, he also helped inaugurate and shape Chaosium's fiction line, which by itself probably saved the company at least once.
He didn't do the convention circuit, so I only met him a couple of times, at the Chaosium offices. He very much liked a few ideas I pitched him, but sadly my pitches coincided with one of Chaosium's dry economic spells, so we never got to produce the massive Undying Mars
campaign setting we both dreamed of. He was a gentleman, funny and interesting, and I regret the emails we never exchanged and the talks we never had more than I regret the game book we never produced.
|Warp 23, Captain
In the Heisenbergian social media kultursmog that surrounds us, I can never quite remember who knows what. Oftentimes, I'm the one who doesn't know what, which doesn't help.
For example, I don't know what I'll be doing at WarpCon 23
in Cork, Ireland next weekend (January 25-27), but I know I'll be there. I mean, it's Ireland, so I know I'll be drinking whiskey, but probably not as an official convention activity. Although it is an Irish con, so who can say?
I also know I'll be bringing my last copy of the Dune RPG
for the Diana-Jones-Award-winning Irish charity auction, so if you have any interest in owning that Holy Grail of licensed game books, you might want to make your way to Cork.
|Tuesday, December 11th, 2012|
|Night's Zak Agents
So last weekend I flew to Los Angeles to run Night's Black Agents
for artist and game designer (Vornheim
is amazing) Zak S, impresario and writing mind behind the terrifically interesting and useful old-school game blog Playing D&D With Porn Stars.
The idea being to run a new-school RPG for Zak and, well, porn stars. Zak, I should mention at this juncture, lives in Hollywood in a 1920s apartment complex straight out of Tim Powers (who he's never read -- I know
), which added not a little to the louche atmosphere. I almost expected Sternberg to show up.
As it was, only two porn stars showed up, Zak himself and his girlfriend Mandy Morbid; porn stars being unsurprisingly hard to wrangle. (Think of trying to get your own game group together for an out-of-schedule game. Now assume your game group primarily comprises very attractive women who live in Los Angeles and have better things to do. Satine had to go to a marathon showing of all three Lord of the Rings
movies, for instance. So, not so different, really.) So we filled out the roster with more mundanely employed players, of agent WALTHER and, via Google+ hangout, agent REILLY.
So, game group assembled, I ran a new demo-scale four-hour scenario tentatively called The Bratislava Rendition,
and it went over smashingly well. The players had already created characters, but hadn't really been checked out on the rules; we did a bit of learn-by-doing investigation that conveyed the fundamentals of GUMSHOE to everyone; time constraints meant a prelude firefight in Syria had to be cancelled, but people picked up on the combat system pretty fast, too. I managed to lose track of my own dhampir in the fracas, but no worries: Zak brought him back for the sequel!
Yes, in a spate of enthusiastic ludic madness, Zak decided he'd try his own hand at running a sequel adventure to mine the next day. Fortunately(?) Zak's character Milosz had died during the first adventure, so we only had to replace REILLY with another Google+ hangouter, Mandy's sister agent KAMINSKI. I built a French DNRED agent and former paratrooper and we tracked the sinister vampire conspiracy from Bratislava to Fitzrovia, where they had captured REILLY. It turned out the CIA were not just liars, but vampire-infiltrated liars, which came as very little surprise to any of us.
Zak's take on the GUMSHOE system was a good deal more constrained than mine, with a few mechanical changes; when I explained that the goal of the "never fail" system was not just to advance the story but to make players feel confident and powerful, his old-school D&D
instincts emerged in a savage grin and something like the phrase "Not on my watch, they don't." So the Fitzrovia adventure was more claustrophobic but still strong: Zak's old-school instincts also led to a veritable sandbox of encounters and clues well suited to driving spy-sequel play. By the firefight at the end, players were using the full menu of Thriller Combat Options as though born to them; I introduced nothing, and explained (under Zak's watchful eye) the power-gaming potential of these marvellous toys as WALTHER and Mandy dug them out of the books. In the end, Mandy killed the weaselly CIA-Hungarian fascist-dhampir with a Technothriller Monologue (and a clip of gold-jacketed bullets bought with the last of her Preparedness points) and we lived to fight again another day.
Zak has posted his own version
of the weekend's games, combining as is his wont delightful Actual Play reporting and strong, focused meditation on game design as it intersects with game play. For this kind of response to my game, and for his delightful hospitality and GMing, and for his recommendation of the fantastic John Banville novel The Untouchable
(a superb roman-a-clef of Cambridge spy/art critic Anthony Blunt) all thanks and praise to Zak; many thanks to the other players, regardless of stardom; thanks to Simon for funding this particularly avant-garde exercise in guerrilla marketing; also, thanks to Christian Lindke (why not thank him yourself by buying Cthulhu Claus Holiday Cards
this season?) for driving me from LAX to Chez Zak and back via the amazing house-cured pastrami at The Oinkster in Eagle Rock.
|Wednesday, December 5th, 2012|
|Nesting, for Now
The news having broken in November's issue
of See P. XX,
I should mention here in the Principality that I have taken a full-time gig with Pelgrane Press. It's a six-month deal with options on both sides to renew, and given the amount of stuff simonjrogers
wants me to write, produce, oversee, and develop for Pelgrane I suspect we both have more than six months in mind already. My first day, officially, as a Pelgrane full-time contractor was Dragonmeet Saturday, December 1, which is the way to do a first day in my book.
I've been frantically clearing my decks of other major commitments, with general success, and passing up opportunities for other new major commitments, with some regrets. My free time is my own, still, and I hope to be able to prioritize Day After Ragnarok
development in it, possibly this winter; there are one or two other high-profile items that will have to fit in there, though, such as the new Delta Green
; my columns for Weird Tales
likewise continue. But since I won't have to spend any time or energy stumping up new freelance work, I might actually get more stuff done on these crucial fronts. We shall see.
What this also means is that I get to front-burner projects for Pelgrane that might never have solidified at all while I had to balance everything else -- if all goes well, for example, my game of werewolves and counter-insurgency may become an actual thing; or robin_d_laws
and I may get to do our Regency fantasy game ("Lord Darcy meets Mr. Darcy"). Lots of other projects bruited about while I was in London, and not all of them can be blamed on Simon's delightfully firm belief that wine makes publishing conferences better. But for now, more Trail of Cthulhu
and more Night's Black Agents
projects to develop. And that's enough for this post, and likely enough for (the first?) six months.
|Thursday, November 29th, 2012|
|Dragonmeeters of PElgRaNe
I'm just a short sleep and a brisk workday away from a prompt Lufthansa wheels-up for the Second-Greatest City in the World, namely London. And what, you may ask, will I be up to in that Priyanka Chopra of cities? And how can you be part of it?
Why, it's as simple as coming to Dragonmeet,
where I shall be joined by the estimable robin_d_laws
and the euphonious simonjrogers
at the Pelgrane stand for much of the day and then, as something of a piece de resistance,
for this swank event:15.30 – 16.30 Ken and Robin and Simon Talk About Stuff
Game design luminaries Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws return, along with Pelgrane Press publisher Simon Rogers, to answer all your questions about Surrealist cats, the dramatic folk of the hills, redacted Dracula, Vance in Space, and what unknown things next walk in gumshoes.
Pin them down on Eternal Lies, 13th Age, Owl Hoot Trail,
and Deathless China,
or refresh your ability pools in Publishing, Playing, Podcasting, and Prosody. This once in a lifetime opportunity comes but once a year!
Other folks will also be at Dragonmeet, should that somehow not be enough for you, adorably spoiled creatures that you are. Look at you, running around red and shouting, sticky with ices. I shouldn't wonder if James Wallis, Steve Jackson (UK) and Ian Livingstone (OBE mind you), Mike Mason and Paul Fricker remain somewhat distant and polite, one might even say merely sociable, if you're going to behave like that. Graham Walmsley won't mind how sticky you are, as he's moony with youngish love.
Anyhow, I hope to see you there!
|Wednesday, October 31st, 2012|
|Night's Black Chat
This tortured pun (oooh -- spooky, boys and girls!) is by way of mentioning that tomorrow, November 1, I'll be doing an RPG.Net chat on the RPG.Net IRC channel or chatroom or whatever it is the kids call it now.
The fun kicks off at 6:59pm Central Daylight Time (23:59 GMT) and I'll kick around for a couple hours or so. I'm happiest to talk Night's Black Agents,
'cos it's new and shiny, but I'm happy to chat about whatever Hite-related fantods bemuse you.
To join #rpgnet chat: go to http://www.magicstar.net/chat2/
, select your handle, log in, and type "/join #rpgnet"
Read you there!Updated:
The chat went pretty well; the log is here.
Thanks to Dan and RPGNet!
|Tuesday, October 30th, 2012|
|I Metatopia In My Pajamas
blew up huge! I was a guest at its first year, and had such an amazing time that I was sure it could never happen again. I mean, how do you make a game convention for game designers work, where the main activity is talking game design and playtesting game designs? I still don't know, but I suspect the answer is: let Vinny run it.
Anyhow, it's back and way bigger than ever -- more games, more designers, more everything. If you don't mind a post-hurricane landscape, and are interested in game design, I urge you to come out to Morristown, New Jersey this weekend and dive in yourself. Darren Watts has headed up a major expansion in the seminar track, with the results you see before you. Herewith my Metatopia schedule:Friday, November 2
7:00PM - 8:00PM: "The Coolest Game You Never Heard Of" presented by James Ernest, Kenneth Hite, Jason Morningstar, Cam Banks, Nathan Paoletta, Brennan Taylor & Others. Join our Guests of Honor and several additional talented designers for a discussion about their favorite obscure game that influenced them. What did we learn, why do we love them, and why do they remain obscure? This discussion will address both role playing and board/card games. Visit the IPR booth to buy your copies after the panel!
8:00PM - 9:00PM: "My Dearest Failure: Games That Didn't Work and Why" presented by Jason Morningstar, Kenneth Hite & Rob Donoghue. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Join us for a discussion of games that never got made despite the best of intentions, and what lessons we can learn from the wreckage.Saturday, November 3
11:00AM - 12:00PM: "Mission Statements and Elevator Pitches" presented by Kenneth Hite & Bill White. "What's this game about?" You have 20 seconds or less to sell your product to interested parties. How do you make the most of that time? There's an art to it that can be practiced and refined, and the answers can help keep you focused as you finish the design.
2:00PM - 3:00PM: "An Hour With Kenneth Hite" presented by Kenneth Hite. Join Guest of Honor Kenneth Hite for a discussion of the principles of setting design. The setting - be it a whole galaxy or a single palace - helps define your game. Setting constrains plot and defines character; it's what the designer brings to the table before anyone else sits down. This seminar takes setting design down to its fundamentals, and builds up from there.
4:00PM - 6:00PM: "The Role Playing and Story Games Roundtable" presented by Kenneth Hite & Jason Morningstar. Led by several of our special guests, this discussion will focus on the art of designing role playing and story games and the elements necessary to catch the players' imaginations. Particular emphasis on new concepts and how to push the envelope.
6:00PM - 7:00PM: "Should You Self-Publish?" presented by Kenneth Hite, Amanda Valentine, Nathan Paoletta & Darren Watts. You've designed, prototyped, playtested, refined and now it's time to decide: Publish it yourself, or make a deal with an existing publisher. Come discuss the pros and cons of both approaches. Sunday, November 4
2:00PM - 3:00PM: "Writing History Into Game Design" presented by Kenneth Hite & Bill White. Our panelists speak to how they've personally used historical events to inspire and influence their game design, and how they've seen it done to good effect by other designers.
|Thursday, October 25th, 2012|
|CIFF Me Not Upon The Eyes
Once more I emerge, blinking mole-like, from the end of another Chicago International Film Festival. Once more, his_regard
was my nigh-unflinching companion, ably backstopped on International Julius Caesar in (International) Prison Day by gnosticpi
. Don't think I don't notice when the rest of you don't come out for these, because I totally do. I'm just too confuselated by my banged-around sleep schedule to mention it.
Anyhow, this year was another pretty strong year for the Fest, or at least for my experience of it. There weren't any out-of-the-park home runs, no Mother
or A Dirty Carnival
or The Host,
but there weren't any utter disasters either. Hey, Chicago International Film Festival, do you notice what that list of out-of-the-park home run films has in common? That's right, they're all South Korean films. Weird, huh. You remember how many South Korean films you had this year? That's right, one.
Compared to eleven
French films. Now, France still punches way above its weight cinematically, but an 11-to-1 ratio of French to South Korean films is simply indefensible. It disqualifies any international film fest from any claim to relevance in this century. Hell, Cannes
screened a lower ratio of French to South Korean films. I understand that CIFF gets some grants from the French consulate in Chicago, but that just means they maybe need to hit up the South Korean consulate for some sugar, too. Rant over. Mike drop.
Once more, I break things down Robin Laws style
in the clear light of reminiscence. The theme, as I had expected going in, was surveillance paranoia.The BestThe Exam
(Peter Bergendy, Hungary) A 1950s secret policeman is, unbeknownst to him, scheduled for the titular exam to prove his own loyalty. Superb piece of period psychological suspense, complete with its own fashion coded under-narrative of snappy leather trenchcoats vs. sweaters. The opening credits perfectly set the tone, which never lets up; like all good spy movies, it takes place inside the character as much as outside. It also won the Gold Hugo in the New Director's Competition, which means (as almost never happens) I and the Fest agree on something.Room 237
(Rodney Ascher, USA) This documentary about various wrong-side-of-the-looking-glass interpretations of Kubrick's film The Shining
makes the brilliant decision to (almost) never show the various paranerds explaining their theories, which are instead depicted (almost) entirely by footage from The Shining,
other Kubrick films, or other films entirely. Man, was this great -- it's a perfect lesson in bisociation, in the very real limitations of postmodern thought, in film criticism, in so much more. The only reason it doesn't go above The Exam
is because I suspect I'm the ideal target audience for it, and may be embracing it as a fellow enthusiast rather than purely on its considerable merits.John Dies at the End
(Don Coscarelli, USA) Has Don Coscarelli ever made an actually bad
film? This one, based on the novel (or part of it anyhow) is a superb example of his craft, care, and almost unique ability to combine humanity, horror, and humor -- often in the same shot. Plot summary? Hmmm... how 'bout "William S. Burroughs' Dude Where's My Car?
(King Vidor, USA) This 1928 silent rom-com was a show-piece for the delightful Marion Davies. She wasn't the cutest girl on screen (her mean sister Jane Winton, the functional Baxter of the story, was smoldering hot) but her acting and comic chops absolutely showed us why William Randolph Hearst fell so hard. In general, King Vidor is great, and so is great silent film. The ending is a little arbitrary, but no moreso than any contemporary rom-com.Black’s Game
(Oskar Thor Axelsson, Iceland) Essentially an Icelandic Goodfellas
with no real flaws at all as a film. Acting, directing, editing, writing, it all clicks. It only drops down here because (unlike A Dirty Carnival
) it doesn't quite
make the case for its own indispensability within the gangster genre, and the protagonist (Stebbi "Psycho") doesn't quite
bring off his own independence of action.The Land of Hope
(Sion Sono, Japan) A robin_d_laws
Best TIFF Film! Saith Robin: "After Fukushima repeats itself at another nuke plant, a farm family on the literal edge of the evacuation zone struggles with the aftermath. Sweetly drawn--and therefore, all the more harrowing." If I have a cavil, it's that the movie never quite transcended itself, finding that core unifying element in all the human drama that makes, well, Goodfellas
better than Black's Game,
for example. But still, an A- is an A.Dragon
(Peter Chan, Hong Kong) The rest of the movie never quite lives up to a bravura sequence of forensic chi detection in the first act turn (forensics as retroactive surveillance paranoia?), but there's lots more good stuff before this wuxia noir finishes up. (The title of this movie in Chinese is, no kidding, Wu Xia.
) Well worth it for fans of either.Sleep Tight
(Jaume Balaguero, Spain) Less ambitious than Dragon,
but better accomplished, in the school of "seemingly innocuous person in your life is PURE EVIL" horror film made famous by Single White Female, Step-Father,
or Poison Ivy.
In this example (as with Poison Ivy
or the 1960 Korean film Housemaid
) there is both a class and a sexual angle -- the EVIL ONE is a doorman and the victim a cute single girl on the third floor -- but predatory male sexuality is way scarier than predatory female sexuality, which richly tangles the class angle. From the director of [REC],
also, which ought to be enough recommendation for anyone. Caesar Must Die
(Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Italy) Real-life inmates in Rome's Rebibbia Prison prepare to perform Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
The result is less Looking for Richard
than a really strong, stripped-to-the-bone version of Julius Caesar.Don’t Click
(Kim Tae-Keyong, South Korea) After all my bellyaching about Korean film up top, it's kind of a shame that the sole Korean film at the Fest wasn't any better than this one. It's surveillance horror, firmly in the tradition of Ringu,
rather than paving any real new ground in the genre, which is why it's down in the middle of Recommended, rather than up top. It's got some interesting stuff going on with the "social lynch mob" fears and with Korean culture generally, but it prefers trippy camera work and "creepy mediumistic ritual" to anything super-ambitious along those lines. Still, even a Korean B-picture is better than most other countries' attempts.Jeff
(Chris James Thompson, USA) Re-titled The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
by IFC, which bought this creepy documentary by the time I saw it. Three people damaged by Dahmer -- the detective who interviewed him, the medical examiner who had to deal with the crime scene, and a neighbor lady -- tell their stories interspersed with subtle, oblique re-enactments of Dahmer preparing for his crimes. Well worth seeing for its restraint and its creativity, two features not often encountered together in true crime.Shadow Dancer
(James Marsh, UK/Ireland) No-budget BBC/Irish Film Board effort put all its bank into its actors: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, and Gillian Anderson only scratch the surface -- everybody in the movie is utterly real, believable, and broken. There's barely a story: Clive Owen is the handler of an IRA asset he's forcing to inform, who finds out (surprise) his bosses are duplicitous British jerks. But this A-to-B plot is strong, and runs confidently until the even-stronger ending. It's just more like a really good TV episode than a full film. And the title is stupid.Gimme the Loot
(Adam Leon, USA) Petty grifters try to score $500 in the Bronx to fund a massively cool tag. A sweet film about petty criminals failing to do any crimes, it winds up being a great sense-of-place movie for the Bronx, to boot. I really liked it, but I can see other people sticking on the occasionally muffled acting and the relatively contrived story.Fuckload of Scotchtape
(Julian Grant, USA) A note-perfect noir crime story based on short fiction by Jedidiah Ayres suffers a good deal from the one-note tone of the songs, by Tom Waits wannabe Kevin Quain. Musicals need to vary their beats just like car chase movies do. But still, the story, acting, and wonderful industrial-Chicagoland setting go a long way especially on a subzero budget.GoodYuma
(Piotr Mularuk, Poland/Czech Republic) This crime film about rootless Polish youths raiding German stores after the fall of the Wall would be all the way up in Recommended (though its basically passive protagonist would have kept it away from the Best anyhow) if I hadn't stuck around for the director's Q and A, in which I learned that the director had not intended the ending to be redemptive. I don't want to give anything away, although it's not the kind of film that depends heavily on surprises -- but let's just say that eyebeams
would approve of the director's intention for the ending, given his very different understanding of the psychology of the Western. I, however, don't feel you get points for invoking a mythology you don't understand correctly. Considered entirely as yet another example of the Nouvelle Vague, it probably could go up into Recommended on its own merits, so feel free to think me an unfair meanie for dropping it down into "Good."The ABCs of Death
(Various Artists, Various Places) 26 directors do 26 horror shorts, one per letter, on the theme of death. You get what you expect out of a melange like this one, which suffers from having Nacho Vigalondo deliver the strongest film of the bunch all the way up in "A." Most of the Japanese efforts are just inane, with the rest settling for EC Comics level storytelling -- that said, one or two of them are very inventive, and both the meta-films work surprisingly well. If it weren't for a few real stinkers in the mix, I'd put it up in Recommended no problem. La Playa DC
(Juan Andres Arago, Colombia) It's a film about three brothers in an impoverished neighborhood in Bogota: the eldest goes to America and returns, the youngest gets mixed up with drugs, and the middle brother is our protagonist. Yes, the film unfolds exactly as you think. That said, the setting and society of the film are excellent "sense of place" deliveries, and the technical aspects better than usual for developing-world microbudget cinema.OkayStringCaesar
(Paul Schoolman, UK) Three prisons worth of inmates plus Sir Derek Jacobi for some reason dramatize the early life of Julius Caesar. The concept steps on itself way too much, and the director seems far more delighted with his own cleverness than he deserves for a man who can't spell "Bithynia." But when it works, it works well, and the energy and impossible society of the prison make a surprisingly good window for the chaotic, murderous, socially constrained world of first-century B.C. Rome.Consuming Spirits
(Chris Sullivan, USA) Weird animated backwoods Gothic set in rural Pennsylvania works well when its weird dialogue and strange social observation fits the subject matter. But it can't find a second tone when it needs it, and the sketchy animation in the remembered past actively contradicts the film's Gothic message that the details of the past confine and define us. Still, I liked the writing voice, which sounded like Garrison Keillor on meth.Bad Seeds
(Safy Nebbou, Belgium/Luxembourg) Two students kidnap their English teacher and one of them (ta da!) turns out to be a psychopath. And then not much happens. And then the fourth act turn kind of has to happen, because even in Belgium you can't just leave people in a shack forever. And then it's over.King Curling
(Ole Endressen, Norway) A broken-down former curling champion must pull himself together to play one last meet for the sake of his coach, who lies dying. I strongly suspect that if you can speak Norwegian, you will get the tonal hints and ironies that surely must be somewhere in this self-parodying sports comedy. The central comic actor, you could tell, was funny to someone, but only the broadest humor in the film translates across languages, and this ain't Harold Lloyd.WeakAgenbite of Inwit
(Ken Nordine, USA) If you like listening to the honey-over-gravel voice of Ken Nordine, this film lets you; he narrates word jazz while his own trippy digital animations play over decent-enough jazz music (and once over an endless Jerry Garcia riff). Sadly, except for a reading of "Miniver Cheevy," the words are pablum at best. Think of it as the aural equivalent of watching Megan Fox do stuff for an hour. One sense is gratified, even sated, while the brain must perforce entertain itself.
|Saturday, October 20th, 2012|
|All the Better to Eat You With, Comrade
So today in Twitter or some damn place I ran across a reference to a wolf-pack attack on Paris in 1450
that, as I looked into it further, may have actually happened in 1439.
(Or, per a Fortean Times
message board, in 1420.) The number of Parisians devoured was either 14 or 40. Note that the sources given so far are Wikipedia and a novel by the author of The Fox and the Hound.
Neither being what you might call definitive, although I'd put my money on the novel, so far, under the general rule lectio difficilior potior
if for no other reason.
Anyone who's got a fuller or more confidence-building source is welcome to chime in, by the way.
But now things get even more tenuous, as I edge still farther out onto the speculative ice. A review on the Mannix novel's Amazon page
) steps up the game still further, to wit:
Wolf attacks on humans were not uncommon in Europe before modern times, and, even in modern times, in the aftermath of WW2 the wolf population exploded in eastern Europe and Russia. They became such a threat that the Soviet Army mounted a campaign to exterminate them, killing over 100,000 wolves between 1945 and 1950.
Attempting to trace this wisp of a story, I did turn up the series of wolf attacks in Kirov
(fmr. Vyatka) in 1944-1951, which is a specific case of the general phenomenon adduced by reviewer Bryan O'Driscoll, but by itself can't possibly add up to 100,000 wolves killed in five years by the Red Army.
The existence of a People's Revolutionary Wolf Purge would not only do my grim ironic heart good, but would also come in very handy if I ever get around to writing a werewolf game of any sort. (Specifically my GUMSHOE game of werewolf counter-insurgency, Gegen Werwolf
.) Which is why I appeal to you, my beloved readership -- if you've got a lead on said putative pursuit, I would fain run it down.
|Monday, October 15th, 2012|
|The Man With The Golden Geek. Award. Nominations.
Having won the 2011 Golden Geek Award for Best RPG Supplement (for Bookhounds of London
), I can assure you that it is a handsome, credible thing to have. And that it merely whets the appetite for more of the same. Which is why I should note that I've been nominated for two or four 2012 Golden Geek Awards, depending on how you count them.
My two legitimate nominations are:
RPG of the Year for Night's Black Agents
(It will get a shot at nomination next year by the arcane rules of BGG, if you, like me, worry that too few people have bought or played NBA
to overcome its very strong competition.)
Best Podcast for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.
(And if you didn't know I have a podcast, let this exercise in lede-burying be your tipoff. Follow that link to an auditory wonderland of me and robin_d_laws
talking about stuff.)
I think it's fair to say that layout lord and primary artist Chris Hüth is the real nominee for "Best Art and Presentation" for Night's Black Agents
is the real nominee for "Best RPG Supplement" for Bookhounds of London
Limited Edition Package (complete with ephemera, WWI kit bag, and magickal talismans). But I appreciate your vote in those categories as well, as I'm sure do they.
to vote for two or four! Voting is restricted to supporting users of boardgamegeek.com or rpggeek.com, or to people who pay in GeekGold or buy an avatar, and if you don't know what those latter two mean, now at least you know what an actual barrier to entry looks like.
But if you do know any of those things, and you do like Night's Black Agents,
I'd appreciate you rating it
Goodness, this has become unseemly. Here's io9.com talking about weird vampire myths
to play us out.
|Wednesday, October 10th, 2012|
|My Chicago International Film Festival Schedule
Don't worry, there will still be a bad pun when I do the wrap-up review post in two weeks or so. Anyhow, this is our CIFF
schedule as his_regard
and I have it so far:Friday, 10/12
8:00pm Bad Seeds
(Safy Nebbou, Belgium/Luxembourg) It's either a weirdly generation-reversed Rope
or a grim, nightmarish Teaching Mrs. Tingle
as two students kidnap their English teacher and one of them (ta da!) turns out to be a psychopath.
10:30pm Don’t Click
(Kim Tae-Keyong, South Korea) Can you believe there's only one
South Korean film at the Festival this year? I know,
right? Anyhow, this one is a YouTube-era Ringu
with surveillance paranoia thrown in just as a bonus for me.Saturday, 10/13
2:00pm The Exam
(Peter Bergendy, Hungary) We've had good luck with the former Sovbloc, all told, at these shows, Hungary usually being better still. This one sounds great: a 1950s secret policeman is, unbeknownst to him, scheduled for the titular exam to prove his own loyalty. Again with the surveillance paranoia; the blurb makes it sound a little bit Prisoner,
to boot. I will weep openly if this one isn't good.
(Peter Chan, Hong Kong) The title of this movie in Chinese is, no kidding, Wu Xia.
So I think we know what we're getting. But it's a wuxia noir, apparently: detective pursues hero to discover which triad he learned his kung fu from.
11:00pm Sleep Tight
(Jaume Balaguero, Spain) From the director of [REC]
which ought to be enough recommendation for anyone. But it's about a doorman! A doorman, I tell you! Taut thriller, guy in a breath mask in the promo still, absurdism, and scene.Sunday, 10/14
4:30pm The Land of Hope
(Sion Sono, Japan) A Robin D. Laws Best TIFF Film!
"After Fukushima repeats itself at another nuke plant, a farm family on the literal edge of the evacuation zone struggles with the aftermath. Sweetly drawn--and therefore, all the more harrowing." If this film topples me into full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder three months early, I'm blaming him.
8:30pm La Playa DC
(Juan Andres Arago, Colombia) Poor kid searches for his missing brother in a bad neighborhood of Bogota. This one is on me, as our potential "sense of place" film for the show. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But CIFF isn't always about the safe play, people. Don't call me a hero.Tuesday, 10/16
7:00pm Consuming Spirits
(Chris Sullivan, USA) Weird animation about weird Americana. It's backwoods gothic, and even if it turns out to be othering and condescending (I know, what are the odds?) it should be pretty wack to watch.Wednesday, 10/17
8:10pm Gimme the Loot
(Adam Leon, USA) Petty grifters try to score $500 in the Bronx to fund a massively cool tag. This could be tiresome, or it could be as unexpectedly fun as Whole Train
was. Either way, it's only 81 minutes long.
11:00pm John Dies at the End
(Don Coscarelli, USA) Note the director's name. 'Nuff said. Oh, okay, paranormal street drug, ultraterrestrial invasion, Paul Giamatti, yadda yadda yadda.Thursday, 10/18
8:00pm Fuckload of Scotchtape
(Julian Grant, USA) Wasn't this supposed to be an international film festival of some kind? Oh well, America's a nation. This one is from the great state of Chicago, in fact. And it's a "neo-noir musical crime drama," so take that, haters.
11:00pm The ABCs of Death
(Various Artists, Various Places) A.k.a. "Meathooks, Je t'aime." 26 directors do 26 horror shorts, one per letter, on the theme of death. chebutykin
saw this at one of her eight or twelve film fests and liked it well enough, and if it can tweak the refined aesthetic palate of such a jaded connoisseur of the Grand Guignol, I'm sure we'll all have a good time.Friday, 10/19
7:00pm Black’s Game
(Oskar Thor Axelsson, Iceland) If you've seen one Icelandic narco-thriller, you've seen them all, but this one will, in fact, be the first one I've seen. And man, check out the knifechete thing
the guy in the still is holding. Tell me you wouldn't go see this movie on that basis alone.
9:45pm Room 237
(Rodney Ascher, USA) A documentary about various wrong-side-of-the-looking-glass interpretations of Kubrick's film The Shining
. In other words, a film that obsessively over-focuses on those who obsessively over-focus on a film about obsessive over-focus made by an obsessively over-focussed film director. I intend to respond to this film with obsessive over-focus. Also, btw, a robin_d_laws
Recommended Film. If you're scoring at home, this counts as meta-surveillance meta-paranoia.Saturday, 10/20
In lieu of film, this night I will attend live radio drama in Hyde Park by the Hyde Park Community Players.
The bill features Lucille Fletcher's radio play Sorry, Wrong Number
and adaptations of Saki's "Open Window," Mary Wilkins-Freeman's "The Shadow on the Wall," and H.P. Lovecraft's "The Terrible Old Man."Sunday, 10/21
3:00pm The Patsy
(King Vidor, USA) A 1928 silent rom-com starring Marion Davies. I shall remain alert for pioneering gender-switched notions of the Baxter.
(Piotr Mularuk, Poland/Czech Republic) Just after the fall of the Wall, a bunch of young friends in Poland decide to become outlaws, because why not? Why not, indeed. It will be interesting to see if a film in the grand tradition of Nouvelle Vague nihilism can be justified by a literally soul-less setting and then redeemed by the tropes of the Western.
8:15pm Shadow Dancer
(James Marsh, UK/Ireland) Clive Owen is the handler of an IRA asset he's forcing to inform. Everyone suspects everyone and nobody tells the truth. More surveillance paranoia, too, I'll wager.Monday, 10/22
(Paul Schoolman, UK) Three prisons worth of inmates plus Sir Derek Jacobi for some reason dramatize the early life of Julius Caesar. his_regard
thought only one Julius Caesar Prison Movie (see below) was enough for some reason, but if anyone reading this wants to hit this show, I will totally go with.
6:15pm Caesar Must Die
(Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Italy) Inmates in Rome's Rebibbia Prison prepare to perform Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
You know me and Shakespeare.Tuesday, 10/23
9:00pm King Curling
(Ole Endressen, Norway) A broken-down former curling champion must pull himself together to play one last meet for the sake of his coach, who lies dying. You never can tell with Norway, but I think
this is a parody.Wednesday, 10/24
6:30pm Agenbite of Inwit
(Ken Nordine, USA) Legendarily honey-and-gravel-voiced word-jazzman Ken Nordine has been the voice of the Fest for the past 47 years. This is some kind of thing where he talks, and probably there are trippy visuals to go with. You know the drill.
All films at the AMC River East 21 in the scenic East Loop, so everybody come on down and see 'em with us!
|Friday, October 5th, 2012|
|This Martini Was Definitely Stirred, Sir
It perhaps belatedly occurs to me that the "Martini, Straight Up" build of Night's Black Agents,
in which you play spies still on the books at some agency or other, still errs slightly on the side of the lone wolf model. So consider this Official Optional Errata to that model:
in the "Martini, Straight Up" build, if you're not playing in Mirror mode, you can
put experience into Network. Like Bureaucracy, you cannot put experience into this ability if you gained Heat during the operation -- because the people you met "off the books" in this adventure won't respect your tradecraft if you made the papers.
As for Cover, in any Mode the agency supplies that for most missions. The Director should provide a mission-specific Cover pool of (usually) 3 to 5 points per player, which one can call the Agency Cover pool. Agents can spend "normal" Cover points on Agency Cover tests, and vice versa. But, anything the agents do using Agency Cover can be tracked by their agency. In Mirror mode, any time an agent uses his Agency Cover pool, he gives his agency 1 Trust point.
I'm sure Pelgrane Press will whip this up on their site in no time, but as a generous public service to you, the blog reader, I insert this link to Night's Black Agents
on their site. I'm a giver.
|Wednesday, August 29th, 2012|
Surely somebody has noticed this already. This is too obvious. This is like "Joseph Harker was a set designer at the Savoy Theatre" obvious.André Castaigne
was a French artist and illustrator who worked in America from 1890 to 1895, then returned to Paris the same year that Robert W. Chambers published The King in Yellow.
His time in Paris overlapped Chambers' (RWC moved to Paris in 1886 to study art), he and Chambers were both regularly published in American magazines such as Harper's
and he illustrated The Maids of Paradise,
one of Chambers' early (1902) novels. I don't think it's at all a stretch to say Chambers took the name of Hildred Castaigne, the protagonist of "Repairer of Reputations," from his acquaintance (Paris drinking buddy? Fellow Hastur cultist?) André Castaigne.
But I can't find any mention of the connection on the Net, and Joshi doesn't mention it in the Chaosium omnibus of Chambers' weird fiction he edited, and it's not like Joshi to leave out something just because it's obvious. So yeah, maybe I've actually contributed something to Chambers scholarship, and future generations of academe will have to figure out how to cite a LiveJournal entry.
If I'd been curious about the name "Castaigne" before this, maybe I could have given the future generations a hand with the citation by mentioning this tidbit in my Foreword to New Tales of the Yellow Sign
by our very own robin_d_laws
. But I wasn't. I'm just amazed that apparently nobody else was, either.
There was also a Bishop of Saluces named Gabriel de Castaigne, who published at least four alchemical treatises (including L'Or Potable,
for those looking for a yellow signifier) between c. 1600 and c. 1615, but that seems like more of a stretch.
|The Conklin Out of Time
For years and years, people have been asking me where I first read H.P. Lovecraft, and for years and years, I have been giving the same answer:
I discovered Lovecraft thanks to the Groff Conklin anthology, Invaders of Earth. I was reading it when I was eleven or so and, like most Conklin collections, it was mostly taken from stories that had appeared in Astounding or other Street & Smith mags – which is to say, John W. Campbell-style, jut-jawed, human-centered, Earth-triumphant sorts of stories. In the middle of that comforting sea of righteous victory, rose the black island of Lovecraft: “The Colour Out of Space”. I read that story at three in the afternoon, with bright sunlight coming through my suburban picture window, and it scared me out of a year’s growth.
Smash cut, as they say in the screen biz, to me in Myopic Books last week holding a copy of Invaders of Earth
and, preparatory to showing wordwill
my personal bullet-pock in Crime Alley, checking its table of contents to find where Lovecraft's story appeared. Only to find -- dramatic sting -- that "The Colour Out of Space" does not appear in that anthology.
I remember that anthology like it was yesterday. I remember that yellow-orange cover with the blasé-looking Earthmen. I remember the red edges of the pages, the couch, the light, the impact of Lovecraft's first line hitting me like a meteorite: "West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut."
And it is not there. It was like St. Paul finding a ticket stub in his robe saying he never went to Damascus, but was on his way to Toledo instead. It was like Proust asking his mom for her madeleine recipe and her saying "Oh Marcel, dear, I never made madeleines. Too much fuss. No, you loved ginger snaps as a boy." That memory -- formed at age eleven, at nearly the peak of my pre-vodka photographic memory powers -- is a lie. I was so stunned, so battle-axed by that discovery, that I forgot to buy the copy of Invaders of Earth
at Myopic, my original copy having gone the way of all flesh and most paperbacks some time ago. (And yes, smart-asses, I did so
own and read Invaders of Earth.
You think I'd make up a story like "The Waveries"?)
So now I've double-checked with the source,
and the only Conklin SF anthology to include "Colour Out of Space" is his 1952 Omnibus of Science Fiction.
I likely read "Colour" not in the full 1952 edition (which I now own in hardback, but hadn't even heard of back then) but in the 1956 abridgement Science Fiction Omnibus.
At least it still has a yellowish cover.
However, in happier news, while doing the Googling around for this blog entry I finally figured out which edition of The Dunwich Horror
I found in a box of my Dad's books in the garage in 1979 or so, devoured, loaned to my best friend Kevin, and never saw again: it was the Lancer 1969
So maybe that's two books to look for in the WorldCon Dealer's Room this weekend.