Category Archives: Geek

An ode to the role-playing games of my misspent youth

So, OK, not really an ode. More like a roundup.

The other day I saw that Beth Elderkin over at io9, my all-time favorite geek site, did a nifty retrospective on the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, which is based, of course, on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I remember playing it when I was in high school and college, and I credit CoC with introducing me to Lovecraft’s stories.

Yes, that means there’s a direct thread from Call of Cthulhu to my story “On a Kansas Plain” in the Cthulhu Fhtagn! anthology from Word Horde. I sold a story because a role-playing game introduced me to Lovecraft’s work.

And I’ve done a couple of direct tie-in stories for games, too. There’s “Tiger,” in last year’s The Endless Ages Anthology for Vampire: The Masquerade, and “Crisis of Faith” for Paizo’s Pathfinder setting, which uses the d20 rules made famous by the granddaddy of them all, Dungeons & Dragons.

Oh, and I interviewed Gary Gygax and Steve Jackson during my reporting days. I’m never not gonna link to that.

So yeah, games mean a lot to me. They were my very first introduction to the whole idea of worldbuilding, and character. I admit, I wasn’t much of a Dungeon Master/game master/referee/whatever, but I did try my hand a few times. Plot’s hard, of course, especially when you’re, like, ten.

Here’s a fun little list of games that had an influence on me, and a few I simply played and thought were cool.  Continue reading

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Like gaming? Check out Adirondicon on October 14!

If you’re a fan of table-top gaming — board games, card games, strategy, RPGs, the whole bit — and if you’ll be around the Albany, N.Y., area on Saturday, October 14, I have a good idea of what you should be doing.

The first annual Adirondacon is taking place that day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. — that’s right, twelve straight hours of gaming goodness. The event is sponsored by First Stall Productions and the Adirondack Tabletop Gamers and Game Developers, and it’ll cost you just $5 for adults and $2 for kids. The proceeds go to the Bernard and Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center.

So it’s for charity, which means you get to play games all damn day for a good cause. This does not suck.

The convention will have a number of organized games throughout the day, as well as open gaming and a large lending library full of games to play on your own. We’re talking Magic: The Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Star Trek Attack Wing, Pathfinder, Arcadia Quest and a bunch of stuff I ain’t even heard of. Plus, I hear tell of food and prizes and swag for sale, too.

Sadly, I won’t be able to make it, but games are awesome and charity is even more awesome. So check out the Adirondacon website to get your badges and sign up for games. (You can also just wander in if you’re not sure of your plans yet or you’re just, you know, lazy.) They also have a Twitter and Facebook presence if you want to reach out to them. It’ll be at the Elks Lodge in Queensbury, N.Y., right near Glens Falls and about an hour north of Albany.

Have fun!

#SFWApro

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Review! Podcast! Interview with other authors!

The march continues! There’s a few items that have hit the Internet over the past few days about MJ-12: Shadows, and naturally, I wanted to share.

First up: Dan Hanks over at Fantasy Faction reviews MJ-12: Shadows. Among the very nice things Dan said was this:

MJ-12: Shadows is a blast of a read. It takes a narrower plot focus than the first and strengthens our relationship with the main heroes, while simultaneously introducing a whole host of new characters and superpowers—and weaves it all through some fascinating, disturbing, but apparently pretty accurate moments in history. From beginning to end it’s a fun, inventive, action-packed exploration of super spies operating in the shadows of history, and an almost perfect sequel.

I will not argue with this one whit. Thanks, Dan!

Next up: I’m over at the Skiffy & Fanty “Signal Boost” podcast to talk about the book with Paul Weimer, and he’s always a good interviewer. You can check it out here, or download from your favorite podcast source. The podcast also includes a separate chat with fellow author Patrick Hester talking about Samantha Kane: Into the Fire, which you should totally check out as well.

Finally: Over at the KT Literary blog, I participated in a Three Authors in Thirty Seconds post with agency-siblings Don Allmon, author of The Glamour Thieves and Spencer Ellsworth, author of A Red Peace. It’s funny and awkward and everything you’d expect from three geeky guys geeking out. Also, their books are also awesome and worthy of your book-buying dollars.

MJ-12: Shadows — Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | Mysterious Galaxy

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The Doctor, Confederate, and the echoes of history

Well, the culture wars sure came home to roost this week, didn’t they? One step forward, one step back.

First, forward! The 13th Doctor — the time- and dimension-hopping, body-regenerating protagonist of Doctor Who — is going to be a woman, and it’s damn well about time. Pun intended. Women, of course, make up slightly half of the human race, after all, and I think it’s safe to say that Gallifreyan Time Lords (and Ladies!) are similarly proportional in gender, lest there be a shortage of little Time Lords/Ladies. So the fact that it took the 14th iteration of the Doctor (there was a War Doctor between #8 and #9) to get a woman is a statistical outlier, to say the least.

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Heading to Wyoming to gaze at the stars and learn a whole bunch

May was a particularly busy month, with trips to Pittsburgh for the Nebulas and Richmond, Va., for vacation — and, of course, work and writing and all that jazz. June is starting off on a very different note — I’m heading to the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop!

Getting accepted to the workshop was incredibly cool. It’s designed for established science fiction writers to get a crash-course in astronomy and space sciences, and our schedule looks amazing. We’ll be talking about planetary formation, various types of stars, galaxies, dark matter…you name it. And we’ll also be talking about how we might apply our newfound knowledge in stories.

Oh, and we get to go check out the Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO), a 2.3 meter telescope, seen above. This is real-deal science, y’all. Not bad for an English and government major.

I’ve talked to past Launch Pad attendees, and they had nothing but excellent things to say about it. I’m honored to have been chosen to go, and I’ll be among quite a diverse and accomplished group of scribes. There will likely be beer at some point.

It remains an open question as to whether I’m going to blog much during the week, but you can bet I’ll be doing my thing on Twitter, so if you want to follow my antics, I’d try there first.

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Signed copies of all my books up for auction to benefit Con or Bust

Now you can get all my books — including an advance reader copy (ARC) of MJ-12: Shadows — via the charity auctions set up by Con or Bust starting today.

I’ve got two lots up for bid this year. The first consists of signed mass-market paperback copies of the full Daedalus trilogy — The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis and The Venusian Gambit — which you can bid on here. The second is a hardcover copy of MJ-12: Inception and the ARC of MJ-12: Shadows, which you can bid on here. And yes, I’ll sign every book.

This is the first time anywhere you can get your hands on MJ-12: Shadows. We haven’t even released the cover images yet — though stay tuned for that soon — so you can get a good jump-start on the series before Shadows comes out in September. And of course, I remain super proud of the Daedalus trilogy and the reception it’s received over the years.

This is the fourth year I’ve supported the Con or Bust auctions. Con or Bust provides free SF/F convention passes to people of color, which is a beautiful thing indeed. Science fiction and fantasy needs more voices and different perspectives, and this is a really solid way of bringing more people into the fold.

The bidding started this morning and will last until Sunday, May 7 at 4 p.m. EDT. So you have some time. That said, the money goes to a most worthy cause, so bid early and often! There’s some super-cool stuff up for bid — lots of signed books, some manuscript critiques, jewelry, art, a signed Farscape script, delicious treats…just check it out. Support a great cause and maybe get some awesome SF/F swag!

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Believable, credible villainy

I’ve been meaning to write this up ever since I recorded the Skiffy & Fanty podcast on Fantastic Four, because I think the biggest problem with that film wasn’t the casting or the special effects — it was in the way the villain was written. In fact, I think the movie is an object lesson in how not to write a villain.

Julian McMahon is a decent actor, but as Victor Von Doom, he’s given pathetically little to do, and the stuff he actually does carries so little motivation and weight, it’s comical — and not in a good way. In short, Doom funds Reed Richards’ space experiments, which go wrong and gives everyone — the Four, plus Doom himself — strange superpowers. The Fantastic Four, of course, ultimately decide to use their powers for good. No problem there, because that’s who they are.

What does Doom do? Well, given that Richards’ experiments were deemed a failure and waste of millions of dollars, the board of Doom’s company ousts him. So Doom exacts revenge on one of the board members by killing him. And…well, that’s that. And as Doom becomes more metallic and his lightning powers increase, he decides that Richards and his friends are to blame, so he decides to kill them too. And the Fantastic Four stops him.

End of story…such as it is.

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