Thursday, September 08, 2016

50 years of Star Trek

It's 1991, and I'm sitting in the crowded Shrine Auditorium in LA. My parents scheduled a trip to visit my aunt and uncle so that we'd be there for the 25th Anniversary Creation Star Trek Celebration. The only part of the con I attended was the main event -- a showing of the teaser trailer for ST VI: The Undiscovered Country, followed by the Original Series main cast members and Gene Roddenberry on stage together. It would be the last time they would all appear together in one place.

The Undiscovered Country was billed as the farewell to the original cast, one last send-off before turning the future of the franchise over to The Next Generation. If you haven't seen it or don't remember, the teaser was a series of scenes from the Original Series as if they were projected on the surface of the Enterprise. It was a powerful and special moment seeing those scenes together in the loud appreciative audience of fellow Trekkies.

Star Trek had an enormous impact on me. I literally grew up watching these characters every week, and traveled the galaxy on adventures along with them. I watched the movies, collected starship blueprints, read articles in Starlog, and made up my own fan theories. Seeing that teaser was the highlight of the trip. I thought maybe someday it might be available on VHS to watch again. I couldn't have guessed then that "in the future" it would be available anytime on YouTube on a networked pocket computer more powerful than a Starfleet communicator.

What I find most compelling about the Original Series besides the great storytelling and action, even more so than the later series, is a vision that the future can be better. We can work together to make it so, like the crew of the Enterprise -- not in spite of our differences, but because of them.

Happy 50th to Star Trek, and to all of us who kept it alive. Live Long and Prosper.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A mid-year update

I was reminded over the weekend that I haven't posted since the beginning of the year. What is happening right now:

Getting ready for Gen Con: As always, the time before the con gets shorter and shorter, even if I try to prepare earlier to avoid the crunch time. Although in the past I tried to keep my schedule fairly light, making it easier to wander the halls and play in whatever pops up, in recent years it's become busier. This year my schedule is packed.

I'm running three demo games for Pelgrane Press, two sessions of Night's Black Agents ("Four Days of the Bat" in the morning and "The Van Helsing Letter" in the afternoon) and one session of Trail of Cthulhu on Saturday morning ("The Innsmouth Investigation").

Friday night I'm running Trail of Cthulhu off-the-books for a group of friends, then playing with the same group in our annual Pathfinder game on Saturday night. I hope to pop into various other panels along the way.

Mrs. Kaiju will be hosting a writing workshop on therapeutic expressive freewriting, and co-hosting a presentation on using women's medieval history as flavor for fantasy fiction writing and gaming.

Game writing: I have been watching 80s/90s sci-fi and cyberpunk movies to get inspiration for a cyberpunk RPG project, and then I had the idea flash into my head for yet another hack of a popular rules-light hack game which would be faster to develop and finish first.

Secret Santicore 2015: Compiling and editing entries took much longer than expected, and therefore missed the window of availability for our layout folks. I'm learning Scribus with the goal of completing layout and pushing the project out the door next month before we begin planning for this year's Santicore.

Today is Gary Gygax Day and (coincidentally) Awesome Gamer Day. Celebrate appropriately! Meanwhile I'll try to get back to a normal posting schedule.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Today marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of pulp writer Robert E. Howard. It has become a tradition on this date for Howard fans to read a favorite story and raise a toast.

Howard wrote something for every interest: sword and sorcery, hard-boiled detectives, weird horror, historical fiction, boxing, westerns, pirates, and poetry.

This will be a big year for Howard fans who are also tabletop gamers, with the adventure board game being released soon and the Kickstarter for the new RPG from Modiphius scheduled for next month.

I'm going with my wife to an open-mike poetry night at a local coffeehouse so I might not have a chance to read a story this evening. Maybe I should bring the first Del Rey Conan volume along and recite "Cimmeria" for the crowd.

For more information on his life and career, start with the following sites:
I highly recommend Mark Finn's Howard biography, the Locus and World Fantasy Award-nominated Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard available as an expanded edition from the REH Foundation.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Three film articles

For the last blog post of the year I wanted to highlight three web posts that I have read recently on the history and current state of two distinct branches of home video releases: Hammer Horror films and Shaw Brothers kung-fu films.

DVD Savant’s Guide to the New Wave of Classic Hammer Blu-rays -- Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant, hosted an guest article in October by an anonymous film industry transfer expert and Hammer fan about Region B (UK,  Europe, Australia) Blu-ray releases and how they compare to each other and US discs. Many of these titles are not yet available on Blu-ray in the US.

How The North American Release of the Shaw Brothers Movies Was Botched -- An in-depth article from January 2015 detailing the history of how the Shaw Brothers kung-fu films were released in the US, from the first theatrical release in 1973, the bootleg VHS copies in the 80s, the Celestial Pictures DVDs of recent years, to the current TV broadcasts on the El Rey Network.

I'm not sure of the identity of this anonymous author. While this person does seem to know insider information about the home video industry and appears to match what I have read elsewhere, sources are not cited, and Celestial Pictures has said the article contains "a ton of inaccuracies." I might also quibble with the author's opinion of certain films and their importance to collectors, but that could be a matter of my own incomplete knowledge.

Diggin' Kung Fu with Johnnyray Gasca -- This interview from 2013 details the other side of the previous article and as a counterpoint, being a first-person account of 42nd Street grindhouse movie theaters and the origin of SB Video, which supplied the VHS boots found in stores all over New York City and elsewhere in the 1980s, contributing to the legendary status of Shaw Brothers films in the US. A fascinating look at an otherwise hidden world.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Happy 100th Birthday, Leigh Brackett

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leigh Brackett, one of the great authors of fantasy and sci-fi's Golden Age. I haven't read as much of Brackett's work as I should, but I'm working to correct that. And maybe later this week I'll watch Rio Bravo as a tribute.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

October means Halloween

It's already October. September just disappeared. One day you're coming back from Gen Con, the next day the leaves start turning and Fall's chill is in the air.

My attention has been on research and writing on a gaming project that I'm pretty excited about. More details soon, I just need to get it wrangled and done before the deadline at the end of this month.

Secret Santicore is on track again this year with only a slight delay. The call for volunteers will go out soon, then for requests shortly after.

Today is the US street date for Warner's first set of four Hammer Horror blu-rays, and their 30s/40s/50s monster film collection is available on the 27th. Each title is also sold separately. It's my understanding that each has received restoration and new masters, for an improvement over the DVDs. I plan to get the Hammer singles over time, with Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed on the way as I type this. Not so sure about The Mummy yet -- I might go with the UK edition.

I am utterly stunned by the number of deep catalog and cult film releases on blu-ray this year. Kino, Twilight Time, Warner Archive, Shout Factory, and others have all been busy. I've had trouble keeping track. A roundup highlighting this work would make a great end-of-the-year series of posts.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

My Gen Con 2015 haul

I didn't spend as much time browsing through the Exhibit Hall this year as I would have liked, but I did get to my top priorities -- and a few unexpected pieces.

Blowing Up the Movies by Robin Laws was a stretch goal for the Feng Shui 2 Kickstarter, and although I had the ebook version I wanted the print copy on my shelf.

Sigh Co. offers a ton of Lovecraft-related shirts, and their 1930s Prairie-style Miskatonic University T-Shirt stood out.

Green Ronin had several boxes of older material for $2 each, so I grabbed the Revised Edition True20 rulebook along with the Warrior's and Adept's Handbooks. Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave had already sold out -- I flipped through their display copy of Fantasy AGE and it looks good.

Steve Dempsey generously chatted with us for a bit about Night's Black Agents and Trail of Cthulhu at the Pelgrane Press booth. Shortly after that, I picked up the Trail rulebook in anticipation of a future ongoing Gen Con campaign (along with a 13th Age Escalation Die).

The Goodman Games booth is where I spent most of my dealers' hall time this year, with two separate visits. On the first round I picked up a print copy of Black Sun Deathcrawl, along with  Sailors on the Starless Sea, Crawl #1 and Crawljammer Issue 1. The second time I got a great combo deal on the Wizard Van t-shirt and one of the last skull logo shirts, and the adventures Against the Atomic Overlord and The Rock Awakens. This gave me the chance to roll the giant d20 twice, for which I was rewarded with the 2013 Gen Con Program Book and...

my choice from a stack of foamboard-backed promotional posters, in which I found this poster of the Frozen in Time sketch cover. I had it signed by Joseph Goodman and artist Doug Kovacs, but I missed Michael Curtis (next year!). Also pictured are issues 2 and 5 of The Gongfarmer's Almanac, an in-house zine produced for Gen Con. The picture is missing the swag bag of free Dungeon Crawl Classics goodies, including a pad of blank 0-level character sheets.

Already thinking about next year!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Kaiju Movie Marathon this Saturday

This Saturday, July 18th, Shout Factory TV and Famous Monsters of Filmland are hosting a free 24-hour live stream marathon of Godzilla films, Ultra Seven and Ultra Q episodes, with introductions by kaiju expert August Ragone. See the link for the full schedule (auto-play video on the page, but it was muted when I looked at it). It's also being streamed on the Pluto TV app for mobile and TV devices. (US and Canadian IP addresses only)

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Age of Ravens nominated for Best Website ENnie Award

Lowell's site is full of campaign ideas, gaming tips discovered during actual play, and he's been doing a great service by producing a valuable ongoing resource of  histories of RPG genres. Take a look at some of his previous posts.

I will be voting Age of Ravens as my #1 choice for Best Website at the ENnies.