A jumbled history that never was

That’s how I describe Steampunk. I spent the last weekend at WildWestCon 8 at Old Tucson Studios. Yeah- I should’ve publicized it more, but it’s basically a costume convention with just a dash of literature and almost no gaming. I moderated some panels to earn my keep.

I’ve never been much for wearing costumes at cons. The few times I’ve tried it, years ago,  they were all thrown together last minute, and consequently more troublesome than impressive. I wear loud tropical shirts and tell people I’m a time traveler – but one that’s completely burned out.

Then I started dating the costumer I met at a Con.

Before we get to that, though, I have an announcement. You might want to stand back a bit there….

Go Action Fun Time is LIVE at Drive-Thru RPG!!!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/268196/Go-Action-Fun-Time-Basic-Rules

GAFT basic rules cover

Go Action Fun Time is an open-ended, rules-lite role-playing game invoking action/adventure cartoons. You can play basically any character you want and have them run amok through any setting. Adventures can be played in one session. Characters can pop in and out without affecting continuity. And sometimes … dinosaurs.

Teen-age superheroes from the past, present or future – real or imagined – have been thrown together to compete (as a team) (in theory) in a reality game show produced by chaotic and perhaps insane gods called the Executive Producers. These heroes now travel randomly through time, pursuing the strange and crazy challenges given to them by the Producers, and perhaps righting wrongs along the way.

It’s just $4.99 – because I want people to have a copy of the rules. These are very basic: no fancy typeset or watermarks, a few illustrations, all by my hand, some just pencil over graph paper. But this is all you need to start playing.

Where and when were we?

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Crank Hazard and friend.

I discovered recently – with some coaching, that I can put together a reasonable cowboy outfit out of means at hand. Not totally period ( I cannot abide actual cowboy boots) but it doesn’t have to be. Steampunk is forgiving like that.

I found myself inventing Crank Hazard, a cowboy, of sorts, who repairs time machines by way of trade. That’s fun and all, I can blather on command about the imaginary machinations of time travel, but Crank’s name is not on the cover of any of the books I am trying to promote at these events.

So I’m still trying to find that line.

More on the Steampunk genre here:

The term “Steampunk” originated in the late 1980s with a cheeky letter to Locus Magazine from science fiction author K. W. Jeter. Jeter was trying to find an accurate description of works by himself (Morlock Night), Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates), and James Blaylock (Homunculus). While Jeter coined the word, it was William Gibson and Bruce Sterling that brought the genre attention with the book The Difference Engine (1992). Best known for their offerings in cyberpunk, Gibson and Sterling took their intimate integration of man and machine back to 1885. In this alternative Industrial Revolution, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine is not merely a curiosity but the norm, and now his Analytical Engine comes to fruition. The book centres around the struggle between the working class Luddites (who fear technology) and the upper-class “enhanced” elite.

Moderating panels, I learned:

  • Steampunk actually began with the dime novels of the day, where authors, desperate for new angles, would occasionally insert fantastic and rarely scientific elements.
  • BUT the TV show Wild Wild West was the first recognizable entry into the genre to gain any popular traction. And it predated the term “Steampunk” by several decades.
  • Technology does not let you make costumes and props any better necessarily, but it does let you make them faster.
  • The resource triangle: Good, Cheap, Fast. Pick 2.

 

Over at Curious Continuity, we talk about Warped Drives.

That’s all I have for word-count.

Non-linear time does not enable productivity.

Now we know.

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Things I have done so you don’t have to

As usual, I have been busy: travelling, making things, dramatically reducing the amount of vegetation surrounding my house. Since this is supposedly an author blog, let me lead with that news.

I have uploaded Go Action Fun Time to Drive-thru RPG  and now await their approval.

GAFT basic rules cover

Yes – my artwork. If you think you can do better, contact me. 

It is only a PDF for now. That was enough of a maze without trying to reformat for e-pub or mobi.  I now know there are six different formats of PDF. And PDF/A is bad. Well, it’s fine, but the security features will lock up the bots at Drive-Thru. Also, compressed or linked JPEGs and transparencies are bad because Apple is i-fussy. I’m not clear what any of that is, so I don’t have to worry?

You, loyal reader, do not have to wait for Drive-Thru’s blessing to get this product. Contact me directly, and I will hook you up. With a commitment to playtest it for me, it would be free.

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Bongo at a river-side park in BHC.

I journeyed to Bullhead City on RC Lurie business, so you don’t have to. Bullhead City is a cluster of hills on the banks of the Colorado River, across from Laughlin Nevada – where all the money comes from. On top of each hill is a 55+ trailer park. The exception is along AZ95, the main drag, which is an extended strip mall. You might infer how much I enjoyed my stay.

I’ve actually been there twice. The first stint I stayed at a $40/night motel, where nothing was open after 11pm (I arrived at 10:30pm) and my door didn’t quite lock. They had a fridge and microwave but no coffee. I found coffee in the lobby in the morning, and I survived.

On my return trip, the client put me up in a casino.

Casinos are crappy places to stay when on business. The Avi Casino, south of Laughlin proper,  gave me a room with no fridge, microwave or coffee. It’s like they don’t want you spending time in your room at all.

In fairness, the casino cafe (Feathers – I think) is open 24/7 and I was able to get a decent breakfast and out the door in half an hour.

I had a better time in Las Vegas, as you might imagine. I don’t gamble to speak of, but I drink, and prefer to drink with nerds. For that, Vegas features the Millenium Fandom.

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Yes – I have a girlfriend.

True confession: I have never been much for cosplay. Cheryl (my girlfriend)

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Cheryl 

 is an actual costumer, though, and views these events as marketing among other things. I now own a pirate shirt, and several other items of clothing I would not otherwise possess.

I’ve done worse things for romance.

 

Closer to home:

I have finally bottled the mead I tossed last summer. It is sweet and fruity and bubbly – like magic unicorn sweet and fruity. I’m mildly disturbed. It’s called Wildflower, and she be recovering from bottle-shock by late April, early May.

 

The internet promised me that replacing my two exterior doors would cost about $800. I’ve had bids from $1800 to $3600. So … that’s a little more. Curiously, the two estimators who quoted me around $1800 took the most measurements and asked the better questions.

It likely come down who provides the better actual door.

There is a 4-6 lead time with door installation.

The tool of choice for removing dandelions from gravel is a pick-ax. A 30 gallon garbage bag stuffed full of decapitated dandelions weighs the better part of 50 lbs. I filled 9 bags.

My arms still hurt.

Now you know.

Goofing off is maintenance. Yeah. That’s it.

I have managed my sleep schedule poorly over the past few days, and here I am still awake. And it is not so much what I have learned but what I must remember: relaxation is maintenance.

There are studies. You’ll have to look them up yourselves – I’m on like 3 hours of sleep.

I have binge-watched the final season of House of Cards so you don’t have to. At it’s best it was kinda a mirror-universe West Wing with a little bit of Godfather. The last season is more Godfather than West Wing, until it just hits the side of the shark tank and descends into soap.

Spoilers: they are all eaten by sharks.

Is it wrong that I was kinda rooting for Doug Stamper? I guess because he was not beholden to any interests other than his own insanity.

Earlier this week, useful things were done.

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The enemy of productivity

If you are worried that I will drown poor Vet Bill in a bucket, don’t. We are warming up to each other. Currently, most of my problems with her are kitten problems rather than psycho-stalker problems. I have removed her from my desk four times while writing this post – and counting.

You can still have her if you want – but there is no emergency.

(I see that smirk.)

I have the house to myself, and mostly back to the way I want it. But I still have a lot of soda and chips that I will not eat. Open to suggestions.

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Point Reyes National Seashore

Over on Are We Lost Yet? I recall backpacking at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

I am about to throw the kitten off my desk again. Excuse me.

Over on Curious Continuity, we review the first half of the new Doctor Who season.

 

And on Fantastical History, I explain how folktales about Jack are based upon his autobiography. Or the other way around. 

 

Maybe I’m tired for good cause?

I have thrown Vet Bill off for the 6th time.

Now we know.

 

Back to Old habits: sports and wringing groups.

Here are some things we learned since our last entry, in no particular order.

My daughter has gone back to NAU where she belongs.

Clay Buckholtz is now firmly the #3 starting pitcher for the Diamondbacks, who are inexplicably leading the NL West at this writing. You can point to Paul Goldschmidt if you want, but the real reason they are ahead of the Dodgers and Rockies is solid pitching and league leading interior defense. If Nick Ahmed doesn’t win a gold glove this year something is rigged.

Feels good to be jabbering about sports here again.

I have kinda committed myself to producing a distributable PDF version of Go Action Fun Time by month’s end, which may impair other projects. I am looking at making it a Drive Thru RPG product to test the market if no other reason. I’m pretty happy with the text (V 1.4) but there are a lot of details regarding layout that will suck up a lot of time.

We have some notes from tonight’s writer’s group.

One of our alumni has pushed a project into print!

Ivy Millicent Learns About Diabetes was work-shopped in our group a few years ago.

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Alas, the phrase “in the limelight” has nothing to do with plague bodies being tossed into glowing lime pits. That would be awesome, but the internet disagrees.

Limelight comes from the chemical lighting process that replaced gas lighting in theaters by the 1860’s, and was the standard for lighting vaudeville and melodrama until practical electric lights came about by the 1920’s.

Finally, the Zapfino font:

 

zapfinoone

Available here.

Now we know.

After the Shuffle

Before we begin, I need to shout something. Stand back a pace. Thank you.

I WILL BE AT CRIT HIT NEXT SATURDAY RUNNING GO ACTION FUN TIME!

Game 1, 10am Saturday: The Blistering Death of the Congo

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Game 2:  8pm Saturday: The Fox Who Hunted Back

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(These are the games I was scheduled to run at Comic Fest but did not go off for reasons.)

Ok. The actual blog starts …. now!

If you spend any time on Facebook following my antics, you will already know that Earl has moved back in. This time until November, and that required moving my life around.

For new readers, Earl documents most of his life on Facebook, and I have been dragged along in that wake. So one of many reasons I resist making this blog about Earl and his antics, is that they are recorded in reasonable detail elsewhere.

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Earl upstaging me, as is oft his habit.

In the process of moving furniture about and stopping to fix things that were hidden by the previous arrangement, I feel like a got a lot done, but not much of that was writing. However, that dust is clearing, and I hope to start making word count again.

I learned enough at Leprecon that it merits a separate post.

OK, one antic: Earl threw a party a my house and was kind enough to invite me. Again, I refer you to FB for any details. As a result, I have more seafood and beer than I am likely to consume before it spoils – and I am really quite fond of seafood and beer.

I recite this fact to soothe myself when I grow anxious about the bet I just made with one of my last credit cards.

Desert Financial doesn’t offer credit cards anymore, but I had one with their name on it and a fairly large balance. And I thought I was auto-paying minimum payments to that account for a good five months before the actual financial institution that runs the credit card called me wondering where their money was.

Let me save you an hour on the phone and three separate visits to the branch: they were stashing it in a savings account I forgot I had.

So I didn’t lose the money, but the minimum I was paying was about half the actual minimum, and now I’m five months behind. That put me in range of their settlement formula. I took that deal.

So now I have until the end of September to come up with just under a month’s pay to settle the card. Which is plausible but by no means certain. Success relies upon finding some side-work, and avoiding disaster. I have not relied on dumb luck like this for my finances for at least ten years – I am out of the habit.

But this week at least, I have plenty of beer and seafood.

If you take that as an invitation, well. Earl is likely home.

Some random facts:

Lamb poop does not particularly smell.

Firefly the boardgame is complex but well designed, and playable while still holding tight to the flavor of the show. It is a master-class in game design – that will consume your entire evening.

 

The Verse that ate your entire evening

Diet Coke can clean just about anything, among its many other documented uses.

But if you made it to the bottom I’ll confess a secret: I do not buy beverages for a party that I will not personally drink, absent of a specific, advance request.. If you poison yourself with diet soda, bring your own.

The Ladder of Poor Decisions

I dimly recall reading somewhere that, on a broooaaad average, half of US management decisions are wrong. I’d love to cite that source, but it was something I picked up working backstage at a university in  the early 90’s and skimmed through while waiting on a cue.

That’s poor documentation for an insight that has informed my approach to managing and dealing with managers most of my adult life.  Even so, I have found this to be roughly true. We are only right about half the time – on the first try.

In my RPG systems (I’ve written three) I assume that an average person will succeed at a common task (that they have no particular expertise in) about half the time. This more or less works out.

Now, this is hard to pin down because most of us do not keep score about when we are right or wrong. Some experts think we should start, but most of us don;t actually balance our checkbooks, so good luck with that.

At a recent writer’s group, we received well meaning if unsolicited advice about how we go about making poor decisions. Complete with a hand-out.

Ladder of Inference

Adapted from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Serge

We work our way up this ladder of loosely defined terms whenever we make a decision, or so the presentation went. Experience informs data which informs Meaning and so forth. On average, though, we go up this ladder in about six seconds, which does not leave a lot of time to fully consider all the steps, particularly the lower ones.

Which may go a long way towards explaining our half-wrong problem.

But there’s an even chance that’s not the problem at all.

Our friends the octopi (a frequent subject of this blog) have a completely different approach., as this well-animated TedEd video explains:

Now you know.

 

A Beanstalk Review and a Parade of Other Notes

First, the good news: My novel Beanstalk and Beyond received a review from a publication that people might actually read, namely the Nameless Zine.

Reviewer Chris Wozney writes:

I am quite impressed by this blending of fairy tales and historical setting. The author is himself a wanderer, and he imbues this story with some of the compulsion a wanderer feels for the roads and ways that lead out to the world beyond one’s doorstep.

I will choose to believe he has read some of my hiking guides, rather than discovering their existence while Googling my name. No-shh! Don’t wreck this moment for me.

Now the break even news, everyone forgot I was going to run Go Action Fun Time at Rincon, including me. I found the commitment in one of my many notes this afternoon, but was relieved to find I am not actually scheduled for any game or event.

I don’t have an episode ready to go. (And I’m likely out of money).

If you go, give them my regards, and no hard feelings, OK?

Bad News: the primary purpose of an HP printer is to extort ink sales from the user. If they happen to successfully print a document along the way, that is an unexpected bonus. My HP Deskjet 3520 is skipping every six lines because it believes I am using counterfeit ink (I’m not). Multiply this user experience by several million, and you understand why Carly Fiorina will never be president.

NOTES FROM WRITER’S GROUPS:

The #30 for the Arizona Diamondbacks is currently worn by LHP and bullpen resident T.J. McFarland.  Previous owners of note have been pitchers Todd Stottlemyer and David Hernandez.

The Devonian period began 416 mya, and ended with a as-yet-unexplained massive marine extinction 319 mya. Curiously, the first land plants that evolved during thgis age survived the extinction. Also, of note, the first distinct insects apear.

Flowering plants will not appear until 120 mya.

Free Companies were the only clear victors in the Hundred years War.

Finally, authors Jamaica Kincaid,  and PJ O-Rourke.

Now you know.