Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Patrick Rothfuss presents me with a conundrum.

Longtime Fabulist readers will remember that I took a somewhat dim opinion of his debut novel and took to the blog to voice said opinion. I stand behind my previous conviction – The Name of the Wind is sloppy, indulgent and highly overrated.

The more I hear about the actual man, the bearded legend, however, the more I start to admire him.

It's things like this, this and this, that make me feel as though I've personally insulted someone's who's a fast-growing and power stable in the nerd community. Every time I catch an appearance by the man, I want to follow his career all the more, despite the fact that, so far, the only work of his I've actually read I openly detested.

Is it possible to hate the book, but love the man? The reverse is certainly true of Orson Scott Card and Ender's Game – perhaps Wise Man's Fear will somehow surprise me and I can call his work a wash.

Man, am I replete with nerd world problems as of late.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nerd World Problems

Small gripe. (A few Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy spoilers beneath.)

Under the missus' tutelage, I've been, at a snail's pace, absorbing both New Who and Douglas Adams (exemplified, in this case, by Life, the Universe and Everything) and something, a commonality across both forms of British science fiction, has arisen to irk me.

Both series unfold a setting that promises to be absolutely mind-boggling in size, establishing all known time and space as potential backdrop for the adventures of their main characters. Both series, however, spend a distressing percentage of their time in modern day (or approximately modern day) England.

This irritates me.

Now, with Doctor Who, there are some allowances to be made. As a television show, they're certainly and notoriously on a shoestring budget and it's substantially cheaper to shoot in Cardiff or Sussex or Coventry than the furthest reaches of interstellar space. This, as an independent filmmaker, I can appreciate.

Why I don't think they're entirely excusable, however, is that they make almost no effort to explain this phenomena, the Doctor perpetually visiting a relatively narrow band, both chronologically and geographically, with such regularity, that nine of the thirteen episodes in Series II take place somewhere in the UK. That's practically 70% of the show. If extended interstellar travel's beyond your budget, maybe you should limit the powers of your protagonist somewhat. A time machine that could only travel through various periods in England's history still sounds like an exciting show and doesn't frustrate me nearly as much as the squandered potential all of explored and unexplored space does.

HG2G is, however, drastically more offensive since it's a goddamn novel, precisely the type of medium broke science fiction writers turn to when they wish to be unconstrained by budgets and logistics. Yet, for a series that literally destroys England and earth along with it in the opening pages, Adams, it seems, will concoct any foreseeable reason to return to the comparatively boring and, indeed, by his own description, "mostly harmless" planet of his birth.

It's first destroyed, rebuilt, re-visited in its prehistoric infancy and eventually re-visited days before its destruction yet again.

I'm sorry, British science-fiction luminaries, but Dorset? Fucking boring compared to Tatooine. Actual fact.

Friday, August 23, 2013


My generous employer, upon discovering that I was a gamer, gifted me a very special gift:

These bygone babies.
From left to right, we have:

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (1977) by Gary Gygax, the first hardcover roleplaying book in existence.
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual II (1983) by Gary Gygax
  • Fiend Folio: Tome of Creatures Malevolent & Benign (1981)
  • Dark Sun: Dragon Kings by Timothy B. Brown (1991)

My eleven-year-old eyes first fell upon a D&D manual in the Mall of America Barnes & Noble. While the hobby floated nebulously somewhere in the my awareness (I have distinct memories of asking my clueless mother what game Jason & Marcus were playing one Sunday), but first contact was officially established when I exhumed this volume from the shelves in the year of our Lord 2000.

Subsequently, I've very little practical experience with the earlier iterations of this hobby that's become so constitutional to my storytelling and social life. The missus and I briefly playing a bewildering session of D&D Basic, whose rules, I'm lead to believe, were uncovered primarily from pot shards and building foundations unearthed by modern archaeologists. Even without the practical experience, to simply leaf through the texts, all bestiaries with one exception, and see the game's first clumsy and wholly original iterations of monsters and mythologies now ingrained indelibly in my own mind, is incredibly invigorating.

The Dark Sun book I find especially bracing, as Athas is a world I hope to lead player characters to one day.

I'm currently casually leafing through the original MM, every page containing iconic monsters – ettin, gelatinous cube, gnoll, lich – plus some utterly bizarre and forgotten beasties – ear seeker, eye of the deep, intellect devourer, morkoth, peryton – and that same feeling of awe and mystery that I felt as a teenager perusing the 3.0 Monster Manual, imagining encountering, or more likely, pitting these creatures against my PCs.

I was given stern instructions, upon receiving this gift, to one day continue the tradition and pass the books onto a gamer younger than myself. I can only hope that, be it discovery or nostalgia, it inspires some excitement in whatever new mind next inhales these ideas.

Mooncrash PCs, be warned. Brain moles, huecuva and meenlocks may well be headed your way.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You Have Failed Me (For The Last Time)

This was the last and most successful version of this.

File this one under "Scenes I'll Never Write In Screenplays" (whose acronym, SINWIS, is practically as cumbersome as the phrase it stands for). Whatever traction this scene once had, the slaughtering of an underling by a disappointed superior officer, is officially lost on me, along with tossing items overboard to lessen the load of a ship, a student appearing inattentive in class but actually knowing the answer and, most saliently, the passing vehicle disappearing act.

I play with the trope somewhat in Hull Damage (Bald Tizor, for the curious) and, to some extent, in Galactic Menace, with Nemo substituting the Big Bad in both cases, but I staunchly refused to allow Boss Ott to succumb to such a tactic.*

The example that finally tipped me over the edge here was The Hobbit actually, with Azog the Defiler quite unnecessary dispatching some orc minion for failing to locate the party of dwarves. As cute as the inclusion of Weathertop was, the scene itself ran so sour in my mouth from misuse. I imagine that once, in 1980, Vader choking out Captain Needa and Admiral Ozzel was the height of unflappable badassery. These days, if you don't murder a few witless boobs before brunch, you hardly deserve your fascist prick membership card.

No more villains choking out, defenestrating or especially, especially stabbing their minions in the bellies with swords while whispering one-liners in their ears for me.

*In fact, with Boss Ott, I made a conscious effort to separate him from the cartoonish and laughably idiotic depiction of Jabba, his Star Wars counterpart, whom the EU depict as the canniest gangster of them all, but ROTJ depicts as a brainless, vengeance-minded buffoon, surrounded by sycophants equally as clueless. I was determined to make Boss Ott a competent character and I hope he's all the more frightening and intimidating as a result.