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.

Anything but politics

Which, so you know, is a struggle.

We went to Palm Springs (actually Cathedral City, but they are separated by a sidewalk) for Thanksgiving, because family. We now know the chair lift that takes you near the top of 8000 foot San Jacinto mountain costs $27/head. I’d tell you more, but that stopped us right there.

If you want to visit Joshua Tree National Park, the best way in is the south entrance. On what a ranger told us was the busiest day of the year, we entered without wait or charge. The visitor center was jacked, but the entrance was unencumbered.

We saw a tarantula. Joshua Tree is actually kinda sparse on huge wonders you can see from the car. It’s a hiking/climbing destination, and I had the wrong crew for that.

Stopping in Quartzsite for sustenance, we visited the Hi Jolly Memorial – so you don’t have to.

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My Rheem gas water heater went 14 years before the bottom rusted out, so I bought another one. If you have an old house, like mine, it is worth it to hire a plumber to replace the corroded, seized valve. But replacing the tank itself can be done by anyone of average handyman competence, and a buddy.

My dog has been laying in the same spot for a third straight day with “Old dog vertibulosis” which is basically vertigo. We have medicine for it. It’s yet to really work. We shall see. The folks at Madison Animal Hospital took us in  minutes before closing on a Sunday night as we clamored in with this 70 pound senile dog that we supposed to be near death. They were very helpful.

At Curious Continuity, ghost universes aren’t the same as time travel.

At Fantastical History, I whine about how deep POV ruined my literary vision for a fairty tale.

And at The64, I announce the novel that will actually happen.

Rejoice in a manner befitting your people.

Also this:

 

Now you know.

Lessons from our 2016 vacation

In late July 2016 (about two months ago) my family took what might be our last vacation as a single nuclear family, heading across California and then up the west coast into Oregon. All told we spent 14 days on the road and traveled just shy of 4000 miles.

Here’s some of what we learned, in approximate order of occurrence:

We learned that the Salton Sea is ringed with a layer of dead fish – and all the magic that comes with that.

In Bishop, California we learned that if you’re not in town before 9pm on a Sunday night, your choice for dinner is Denny’s.

We learned that Yosemite National Park is aswarm through July with bugs; that they are more paranoid about bears than Yellowstone (we were asked to put even our toiletries in bear lockers); that by 11 am, Yosemite valley is flooded with tourists, like Las Vegas/Disneyland densities; that stocking the lakes with trout decimated the local frog population – which aggravates the mosquito problem, that the rangers make really strong coffee, that Tuolumne Meadows – where we camped – has one of the few general stores that is less than an hour’s hike from the Pacific Coast Trail – so consequently it was often filled to overflowing with backpackers; and that Glacier Point is totally worth the drive.

We also learned in Yosemite how our 2009 Hyundai Veracruz handles twisty mountain roads (decently, to our fortune). This sort of driving would turn out to be the rule rather than the exception.

We learned we really, really like our Veracruz for this sort of expedition. The only drawback is that there is an electric motor for every damn thing, and when they fail, the thing fails. Our sun-roof is now sealed with duct tape because it locked up without quite closing. We also learned that no one on the internet seems to know anything about the sun-roof on this particular model.

We learned from Penny’s relations in San Jose that it is possible to become just as trapped by high real estate prices as by low real estate prices.

We learned that the John Muir Woods are overrun by local joggers, and you can’t just expect to park there and look around.

We learned that Point Reyes National Seashore is a worthwhile detour, even though your best hop is at least five hours, and that it is riddled with hiking trails and fearless deer.

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Bongo (and the rest of the family) at Point Reyes National Seashore

We learned that the California coastal redwood is the tallest tree in North America, but it’s inland relation, the Sequoia, is the largest by mass.

As the highway leaves any small town, and goes down to a single lane, you will find yourself behind the ubiquitous LTDS = Local Truck Driven Slowly.

We learned that you can BBQ oysters, and that you can make them into a hamburger.

The the southern coast of Oregon is beautiful in every direction; and that nothing ever really dries there. Ever.

Ben learned that hammocks are defenseless against mist.

We learned that the ocean is colder than the rivers.

Penny and I discovered that we could be totally happy living in Coos Bay, Oregon – if we could find a way to make a living with our big city skill sets. (More a problem for me than Penny).

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Bongo in Empire, OR, which may or may not be a part of Coos Bay.

 

We learned that you can’t take a bad picture of Crater Lake, but you can spend more in their snack bar than we did in a Lost Coast tourist restaurant and I had oysters and whisky on the Lost Coast.

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Bongo at Crater Lake National Park

We learned that by day 10, your teenage kids are totally OK with you leaving them in the hotel for a few hours in order to have a couple drinks in a local bar. Totally OK. “Go on, you guys. Have fun. We’re fine.

We learned that 850 miles is perilously close to the most you can drive in a crowded van without everyone losing their mind.

We learned that you can spend $100 in Farrell’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and still not really enjoy yourself. This has nothing to do with the food quality or the service. It has to do with the over-sized portions of everything, and – yes – the cost.

We learned that even when it’s 100F in LA, our kids still want to go to an amusement park.

We learned that two straight weeks of vacation is long enough.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qb-Uw4C46eJCMGwqBSMbHv7hWFY&usp=sharing

 

CopperCon 31 and a few other lessons

First – I’ve actually updated other blogs.

Are we lost yet profiles Elden Springs and my upcoming book signing / workshop.

DIRECT LINK TO THE REI EVENT

And at Writing Made Visible, there are some reposts about the accelerating sales of  e-books.

Small cons are great – because you can actually talk to people!

Buy some light groceries and keep them in the hotel room.

The art carries the story in a comic book (or graphic novel, or any variant). Words only get what little space is left over, so every word has to count. No small talk.

There is no standard for comic book scripts. Unless you’re writing for Dark Horse Comics. Their format is here.

Marketing (or anything else) via social media – a few rules:

1) Be social first! Pitch your crap second. The other way around just gets you deleted.

2) If you’re not comfortable with the format, don’t use it. You’ll likely suck at it anyway.

3) If you’re marketing yourself as a writer – write well. Spells words correctly.

4) No amount of social media presence will make up for a shoddy product.

The current estimate is that half of all star systems have planets, and the average may be 1-10 planets per star.

We find an awful lot of “Hot Jupiters” – gas giants closely orbiting a star – which goes against our model of how solar systems form. We know why we keep finding them – they are relatively easy to spot. We have no idea why they would exist at all.

Planets orbiting pulsars are very easy to find, even as small as the Earth. But the pulsar’s radiation makes life pretty much impossible.

Piratey sword-fighting was all about shorter movements with shorter swords (crowded ships and all).  And footwork – you live or die by footwork.

I’m over adapting anything to D20. It’s no longer supported for 3.5, and I have no urge to learn 4.0. I’m pushing forward with the game. Amen.

I’m thinking about writing it in Tiddlywiki. Seriously.

There might be a separate blog for that later on.

Finally New Scientist looks into the quantum-mechanics of human thought.

Now you know.

The pain in my ass and driving to LA

I have an acute lumbar strain. I’ve been suffering with this for a week. Its’ getting better, but slowly. I’m no longer 24.Though literally a pain in my ass (though mostly right above my ass), the experience has been instructive:

I’ll never really know how I did it. I suspect it awas a combination of abuse over several days – as the situation became gradually worse over several days.

If you can stand up, sit down and walk on your heels and then on your toes – you likely have just a muscle problem. You haven’t screwed up your spine.

A hot bath has been the single most effective treatment I’ve found for it. A hot shower, on the other hand, makes it far worse. Standing in one place and turning in a tight circle (and what else do you do in a shower?) all aggravate my situation.

Chronic pain drives my beer consumption up by 50%. (So that’s three beers/night instead of two – before anyone plans an intervention.) And so you know, Ibuprofin, even at 800mg, is not contraindicated with alcohol. I’m fine. Stop blocking the TV.

A week later, I’m at about 70% (up from my low of 45%), and it only hurts when I do something (like stand, or walk). It no longer throbs at night – and I’m fairly stoked about that.

And I can sit indefinitely – which is quite fortunate. Because I only missed a day and a half from work. There was nothing that preventred me from being able to drive a 16′ moving van to LA to fetch some followspots.

In California, the sign says “trucks and vehicle towing trailers – 55 mph”. The normal speed limit is 70 mph. I now know that “truck” in this sense means something with more than two axles. I didn’t know that on the way in – so I split the difference and averaged 65 mph.

No one wants to see your Ryder moving van in a weigh station. Drive on by. (I actually learned this lesson years ago).

Sometimes I have sat on a Phoenix freeway and thought “this is almost as bad as LA…”. And I was wrong.

If your company issues you a gas card for a particular brand of station, take some time, use the internet, and find all the locations for that brand along your route. There was a Shell station in Quartzsite, and had I known that, I would have saved myself a hundred rads of stress. I coasted into the Tonopah Shell on fumes, and only because I turned off the AC for the last 50 miles.

The guy comp’d my refill of coffee, though. That was cool.

Now you know.