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Saturday, December 31, 2011

HNY!

Happy New Year from the heart of Mnemosyne Complex...you'll have a chance to learn more about that in the coming year over at Hereticwerks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mr. H on the CC

We recently ran across an article by James Hutchings (of Teleli and Age of Fable,etc.)  that discusses and explains the use of Creative Commons for writers (and game bloggers as well...). The article is available at the Full Moon Bites blog and they are having a give-away offer of James' excellent recent publication 'The New Death and Others.' The article is worth reading, and it's a nice offer for a free book -- and the book is a wonderful read as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weird Adventures Now Available in PDF-format!



Trey Causey's Magnum Opus Weird Adventures is now ready for immediate download as a PDF at RPGnow andDrivethruRPG both.
  • It's 165 pages (black and white with 4 full color maps) featuring: 
  • City Confidential--A guide to the 5 baronies, numerous neighborhood, and weird locales of the City. 
  • A guide to the Strange New World beyond the City, including the mysterious jungles of Asciana, morbid and insurrection-torn Zingaro, the gambler-haven of Faro City, and much more. 
  • Thirty new monsters from "Black Blizzard" para-elemental to "Zombie, Cuijatepecan." 
  • Adventure seeds and a mini-crawl through the City's largest (and weirdest) park. 
  • Art by old school stalwarts Johnathan Bingham, Chris Huth, and Stefan Poag, plus great work for comic artists Reno Maniquis and Adam Moore, among others. 
We highly recommend this book -- it is a highly enjoyable read, even if you never ever use it in a game.

It is simply gorgeous, filled with excellent artwork, and a real pleasure to flip through. Trey's setting truly comes alive before your very eyes and before too long you'll be caught up in his imaginative tour de force. The City is an amazing place. You won't regret your time spent there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Legion

Eye-Spy a  New and Improved Emerald Empress...
The Legion of Super Heroes is one of those classic comic book mash-ups of super heros and far future sci-fi, with more than a few bits of fantasy tossed-in for good measure. When it works, it's a heady, intriguing and engrossing milieu filled with loads of interesting characters. And a few really lame ones. Matter Eating Lad? Bouncing Boy? Yeah. Okay.

The one major thing that always bothered me as a young nerd reading my first copies of the Legion of Super Heroes comics was that there was no continuity with the past. For all the great many super heroes in the Legion there wasn't a 30th century Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern. Nope. Not any of them. And that felt weird, in a bad way. Did they all get destroyed by Darkseid perhaps? Sounds like a better story than quite a few that were getting peddled back then. Still kind of does...but nah. Nothing quite so grandiose. No one had given any writer permission to create a far future version of the classic, major players of the DC universe back then.

Of course that changed. We had Batman Beyond--which was an animated depiction, not originally a comic book. We had the DC 1,000,000 event. And now, we have Legion member Mon-El becoming the Green Lantern of the 31st Century. But where's the Legion version of Batman? Did I blink and miss it/them?

The Legion of Super Heroes is a great idea. But it has always been backwards.  The series has always tried to build itself up and then retro-fit into the rest of the DC universe, when in fact they should have extended the modern day continuity forwards, at least in big chunks, much as they eventually did for the DC 1,000,000 miniseries. The legacies and dynasties and descendents of the various modern day super heroes projected outwards to the 31st century--that's a lot more interesting than just having yet another stupidly named 'hero' show up with yet another silly power. Even if they are some sort of alien or robot. What is the Spectre or Phantom Stranger like in the 31st Century? That would be interesting to find out. How well did Batman stay ahead of the curve with his gadgetsand toys? Have cloned Batmen(TM) taken over most of the mundane police efforts as a special arm of the Science Police? And isn't that a scary name--Science Police. Very Orwellian. The cool part of the whole Legion set-up is that it just begs a thousand different questions and lends itself to all sorts of speculation and a wealth of interpersonal dynamics that would put your typical soap opera to shame. Just plotting out a family tree would get plenty complicated...and full of bizarre opportunities for developing super heroes that would partake of aspects of established characters like say Aquaman or one of the New Gods, which begs the question of where are the New Gods in the 31st century--are there New New New Gods now?

Maybe that all has been addressed fully and completely and I just missed it. I haven't been following the Legion very much for a while now. I recall the old issues of the original Legion of Super Heroes when time travel was a common element and the stories were filled with aliens, lame aliens, cool aliens, robots, more aliens, psychic powers, all sorts of technology, and again more time travel. I always liked those slightly goofy stories from the Seventies. A lot has happened since then, all sorts of character development, complicated plots, elaborate ret-cons...it can feel a bit overwhelming to anyone trying to get caught-up with what's been going on with the Legion since the good old days. There's something cool about the core concept of a group of far future super beings, out protecting the galaxy from nefarious forces and all that. Those old issues were fun. Next time we go to the local comics shop, I'm going to have to check on what's going on with the Legion these days.



Below is an old interview with Keith Giffen talking about the Legion of Super Heroes with Newsarama. Giffen has some interesting observations to make regarding the designing of the 30th/31st century.
Giffen: You know how great it is to draw a book and you don't have to reference anything except the costumes?
Nrama: Because it's in the 31st Century and you can make things up?
Giffen: Yes, but you know, it's important to get that right, to make it feel like the future. I used to say that in the 30th Century, if it has wheels, it's wrong. Now, if you push a button, it's wrong.
Nrama: So you have to modernize it even more since last time you drew it?
Giffen: Yeah, because last time I did it, half of the stuff I was drawing in the Legion, thinking I was so clever back then, we're actually doing now! You know? So yeah, it does take a certain mindset to say, OK, a thousand years from now.... if you took someone from a thousand years ago and brought him into our current world, he would think we were a world of wizards. It would be beyond his comprehension. It would be like magic to him.
Now, I can't really go in and do that to the Legion of Super-Heroes because readers have to have some kind of base upon to suspend their disbelief. So I'm bound by certain conventions. Like in the book now, they may fly off to wherever they have to go or board a spaceship to get somewhere, even though I'm sure that, by that time, especially since we've established that teleportation exists in the DCU, they would just go through some type of portal. But you have to find a comfortable middle ground where I can feed the reader familiar things before going in and messing with it.


A Legion of Links

The Legion of Super Heroes Animated series

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's Inside the Tome Free PDF Now Available From Rended Press

Our Inside the Tome Community Table is now available from Rended Press as a free PDF.
You can find it HERE.
Thanks again to Matthew Schmeer for assembling things into a PDF and making it available.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Expansion Joints


Expansion Joints started life as EXPANDERS! over at Porky's Expanse, but has since been taken-over by the Nine Worlds, Ten Thousand Things blog. Expansion Joints is a 15-word-limit Flash Fiction project open to any and all comers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering The First Kingdom by Jack Katz

"Our choice: the caves or the stars…”
Jack Katz
The First Kingdom is very special to me.

I remember discovering a copy of The Fist Kingdom: Issue One in the newsstand rack at the old Shinders that used to be on the corner of Block-E in downtown Minneapolis. It was snowing, close to Christmas-time, and I pulled the slightly crinkled copy of this weird comic/magazine thing from a box of back-issues and discount stuff. The cover was garishly colored and hyper-detailed. It caught my eye right away--I knew that this was something special. When I opened it up, I was disappointed, at first, that it was all in black-and-white. I had grown up reading ratty-edged four-color comics at the barbershop in Princeton, and I only bought color comics from Harold's Poke & Tote in Zimmerman. Here I was in the Big City and I wasn't going to buy scruffy old black-and-white junk. But I did. You see, like many another comics-nerd before me, I made the glorious mistake of actually reading the words interspersed amidst the incredible artwork of Jack Katz. There was a story to all this complicated, hybridized science fictional/sword & sorcery pageantry. A big story. One that encompassed and spanned millennia of drastic disasters, incredible marvels, and the struggles of human beings to become more than just opinionated savages. It was awesome, heady stuff. Intoxicating. It opened up vistas previously unimagined and totally unsuspected to my tender young mind. I wanted to know more.

So I added The First Kingdom to my pile which included a copy of The Fantasy Quarterly that included the very first appearance of Elfquest, some Famous Monsters of Filmland back-issues, and a copy of W. Paul Ganley's Weirdbook, which  I had only been able to get via the mail prior to that trip. My first sale of an illustration was to the very kind and considerate Mister Ganley only a year or two before. He opened the doors to a whole underground world of small-press publishers, 'zines and all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff that ran parallel to the comics, comix and stuff like Ackerman's FMOF. It meant a lot to me. It got into my blood. It still has a hold on me to this day. Thank all the gods.

 The First Kingdom was awe-inspiring stuff. I managed to collect eight or nine of the issues before it just wasn't available outside of mail-order sources and as money tightened-up as I neared High School and beyond, choices had to be made and Omni & FMOF won out over Elfquest and Eerie won out over The First Kingdom, but mostly because of the availability of Eerie down at the Zayre's in Coon Rapids, or Omni being always ready to go at the corner drug store in Elk River. For a while I subscribed to the Ackerman-zine. But, beyond a handful of tattered and fraying copies that I guarded jealously, The First Kingdom eluded me. It may have eluded my grasp, but it haunted my mind and echoed over and over again in my brain the way that something truly unique, original and wonderful does when you're a kid and you've encountered it for the very first time.

Jack Katz influenced my way of looking at things as much or more than Jack Kirby did. Not in the sense of imitating them, but in digging into the same rich source matter and seeing what I could do on my own, in my own style. I spent hundreds of hours trying to draw creatures, monsters, machines, and characters that I could make distinctly my own, the way that Katz & Kirby were able to do so effortlessly (I thought naievely). It would never do to imitate them, to do what they did. That would be just plain wrong and completely stupid as well as totally missing the point of what they did in their work. They were original. They were creators. They didn't copy--they invented. I took that to heart at an early age and have followed the path illuminated by that lamp ever since without looking back.
“Had I been permitted to continue my New Gods series, both [Jack Katz] and I would be galloping neck to neck in regions still unexplored by the average storyteller. However, the task has fallen to Jack, who is wading through a wealth of early dawns...exotic and sensual characters fill his pages with a ritualistic muralism, a pantheon format which reminds one of stately gatherings carved in stone by Grecian sculptors.”
Jack Kirby
From the introduction to
The First Kingdom #10


The First Kingdom is an essential old-school treasure, one of the first works of art to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that comics could be for adults. It also proved that comics, like humanity, must accept no boundaries in achieving its ultimate potential.”
From Stone Age to Starships:
Evolving Comics with The First Kingdom

 The First Kingdom is one of those anomalously-weird Seventies experiments with the whole notion of what a graphic novel might eventually become or look like. As far as I know, it was the first. Unique and utterly original, The First Kingdom broke new ground on a number of levels, not the least of which was having to negotiate the maze of the underground comix scene just to get distribution. There just wasn't any other way to get this serialized novel featuring loads of artwork out to the masses outside of the underground comix channels. Thankfully Bud Plant saw the gleam of genius in The First Kingdom and picked it up and tried to get it out there.

The First Kingdom is a close relation to Elfquest in that it bravely blazed an eccentric, unconventional and idiosyncratic trail out beyond the accepted boundaries of mainstream comics publishing. In Elfquest (http://www.elfquest.com/) Wendy & Richard Pini explored a Non-Tolkien-esque Fantasy that dared to include such things as sexuality, honest emotional depth, real character development (Rayek actually becomes more than just an a**hole, eventually...), family-ties, loyalty, and more. In The First Kingdom, Jack Katz explored post-cataclysmic attempts to rebuild civilization, slavery, definitions of humanity, ethics, eugenics, and a host of the sorts of things that you almost only ever find in Olaf Stapeldon novels. The concepts dealt with in The First Kingdom were complex, very deep stuff, full of thorny contradictions and philosophical implications. It required the reader to think, to engage and to look deeper, past the boobies and little monsters in the margins. It was a grown-up work of art and literature that masqueraded as a comicbook tart. It remains unchallenged in terms of the sheer scale of the story, the lush details of the art, and the overall unmitigated ambition of the one man who wrote it, drew it, and independently published it all on his own, back in a time before anyone had ever really attempted anything of the sort other than maybe William Blake. And I think that you can actually make a case for some similarities in the way that Blake and Katz approached their respective projects. Not exactly in terms of content necessarily, but definitely in quite a number of compelling ways that perhaps some scholar of the funny books might someday tackle seriously in academia.

Not only did The First Kingdom go where no one had gone before comics-wise, it managed to accomplish something that few have ever come close to matching ever since--Jack Katz spent 12 years of his life assembling and illustrating and writing his magnum opus which comprises a set of 24 over-sized black-and-white comics. Here's a sample image of one of the pages from The First Kingdom that was featured at Madinkbeard's blog:


 Wow! There are so many 2-page spreads throughout the entire run of the series that it sometimes resembles a coffee table artbook split-out into a serialized 'zine format.  The level of detail rivals the work of George Perez, but in a style that is distinctly all its own. The jam-packed panels are intense and almost give you carpal tunnel just looking at them. It is an incredible tour de force of virtuoso originality that remains a landmark in the history and development of the graphic novel as an adult and serious artistic medium. To state that The First Kingdom was groundbreaking is an understatement, it opened doors and blazed a trail that has since become increasingly well-traveled by those who have come after Mr. Katz.

No one had ever before done what Jack Katz did. He abandoned mainstream comics and devoted himself to completing what many consider to be the first real graphic novel, bringing out two issues a year until the entire series was complete. He did this independently, in a semi-underground manner. Indeed, The First Kingdom was distributed for years by Bud Plant, the foremost mail-order source for underground comix there was during the Seventies & Eighties.

The mainstream just wasn't ready for The First Kingdom, at least not in 1974.

"The function of genius is to furnish cretins with ideas twenty years later."
Louis Aragon,
"La Porte-plume,"
Traite du style, 1928
As far as many of us are concerned--I am hardly alone in this sentiment--Jack Katz was, and is, a genius.

Jack Katz Links
You can purchase autographed copies of various publications by Jack Katz via the official JackKatz site, including the first two (of the four planned volumes) of the collected anthologies of The First Kingdom produced by Century/Mecca Comics.

Single copies of the original series of The First Kingdom can be purchased from Mile High Comics - or you can take your chances on eBay -- but how long these old school treasures will remain available is unknown.

Law & The Multiverse

Ever thought about the legal ramifications of some of the more off-the-wall antics of your friendly neighborhood superheroes? You know you have. When bullets ricochet off of Superman's invulnerable chest or the Health & Human Services folks look into that little matter with the kid in a birdy suit that Batman runs around with, or Homeland Security wants to discuss illegal immigration and/or a green card with a certain amazon princess--what would happen? How would this sort of stuff play-out in the Real real-world?

Well now we can finally find out. Two lawyers, James Daily (Missouri), and Ryan Davidson (Indiana) have teamed-up to create the Law & The Multiverse blog. Both are actual-factual practicing attorneys who have taken it upon themselves to sort out the various and sundry legal implications faced by various comic book superheroes on a regular basis. It's an incredibly cool look into just what would happen if this stuff were actually taking place here and now--and that makes it an incredible resource for Writers, Editors and especially Game Masters who are running scenarios for Mutants & Masterminds or some similar superhero RPG.

To quote from the Law & The Multiverse About Page:

"If there’s one thing comic book nerds like doing it’s over-thinking the smallest details.  Here we turn our attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers.  Just a few examples: Are mutants a protected class?  Who foots the bill when a hero damages property while fighting a villain?  What happens legally when a character comes back from the dead?"
Here are some sample posts to give you an idea of what these guys are doing:
Very cool stuff. And as you would expect from a blog done by a pair of lawyers--it comes with a legal disclaimer:
On this blog we discuss fictional scenarios; nothing on this blog is legal advice.  No attorney-client relationship is created by reading the blog or writing comments, even if the authors write back.  The authors speak only for themselves, and nothing on this blog is to be considered the opinions or views of the authors’ employers.
These guys need to be on the speed-dial of every comics writer & editor (and publisher) in the business!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Motivational dysfunctions: The Free PDF

Matthew over at Rended Press has taken our old post on Motivational Dysfunctions and converted it into a nifty Free PDF which you can find by going to his blog, Rended Press, or by going straight over to the file at Dropbox. Thank you Matthew!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

World Toilet Day

Happy World Toilet Day!
More details: http://www.worldtoilet.org/wto/index.php/our-works/world-toilet-day

If you're rolling dice and moving little figurines around on tables--consider going and slaying some nasty monsters in the sewers in honor of World Toilet Day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mighty Samson

Mighty Samson
No longer blonde & no eye-patch,
but still kicking post-apocalyptic butt
...sort of...
Mighty Samson isn't as well known as Magnus: Robot Fighter, but he is a major-league pugilist par excellance whose stomping grounds are the irradiated and jungle-infested ruins of N'Yark some 500 years hence, give or take a millennium or whatever now that the title has been re-booted by Jim Shooter, just like Turok, Magnus and Doctor Solar have been Re-Shooter-ized.

To quote from the Dark Horse site:
Five hundred years after the end of the world, amid the ruins of a once--great city scourged by mutated monsters, marauders, and savage subhuman predators, the primitive N'Yark tribe ekes out a meager, fragile existence. But from among them rises a champion, gifted with prodigious strength--a warrior who can strike dead the most fearsome beast and stand alone against an army. Singlehandedly, he holds at bay the ravaging barbarian hordes of Jerz, thwarting the dark ambitions of beautiful, ruthless Queen Terra. At stake is the future of the world. Mighty Samson is the last, best hope of humankind.
For the first time in a quarter century, Mighty Samson returns to comics, reimagined by legendary writer Jim Shooter and illustrated by Patrick Olliffe (Untold Tales of Spider--Man, Spider--Girl, 52).
* This bonus--sized first issue includes the very first Mighty Samson story from 1964!
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Format: FC, 48 pages
Price: $3.50
You can find the online version of the first issue of Mighty Samson (from 1964) at the wonderful Gold Key Comics blog. Yeah, it is kind of dated in some respects, but it is a lot of fun and it predates Thundarr, Kamandi, and most of those other post-apocalyptic Neo-Barbarians by a comfortable margin since Kamandi appeared in 1972, and Thundarr was an Eighties-thing. And it's a lot of fun, mostly because it doesn't take itself too seriously. At least the original series didn't waste time on such things as quasi-Biblical allusions like the re-boot does. But then, Mighty Samson always was a title that has been plagued from the get-go with cliches, thread-bare tropes, and dialogue that would make Ed Wood wince. But the painted covers were always kind of cool and very much in keeping with the Gold Key Aesthetic. And the core idea of a circus-style strongman running around in the weird wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world is just begging to be realized as something more than a parody of some mentally-stunted buffoon with Steve Reeve's biceps and none of his acting ability. Ouch.

Unfortunately, the new and not-so-improved Mighty Samson does not feel all that improved. Jim Shooter did a decent job on the recently rebooted Magnus, but with Mighty Samson it feels jumbled and rushed and confused. It could have been so much better, and Shooter really could have brought this character to life similar to how he has recently handled Turok, but instead this time out it looks like he dropped the ball.

And that's a damn shame.

Unlike most modern post-apocalyptic (post Mad Max, really) settings & stories, Mighty Samson wasn't a cynical anti-hero. He was a powerful force for right that backed it up with his considerable might. Mighty Samson was about a noble not-so barbarian who was trying to make the impossibly screwed-up world he inhabited a better place. He helped people. He defended the weak. He was a one-eyed Lone Ranger in a loincloth, eye-patch and without the revolver or even the horse. A D&D player would easily recognize Mighty Samson as a paladin. And he was a good example of how a paladin would operate in the post-apocalyptic nightmare world that is so often the domain of rogues, thieves, cut-throats and mutants.

The original Mighty Samson reminded me a lot of Andre Norton's Daybreak 2250 more than any other literary source. Though there are some major differences, the two works had a similar feel to them. Very clean-cut, very Fifties-esque. Most definitely: Safe For The Workplace.


Norton's protagonist mostly had to worry about mutant rats. Mighty Samson had an incredibly varied menagery of mutant creatures to fight each issue, and many of them didn't even have any tentacles.

My advice is to skip the reboot. Go back to the original. It wasn't broken, so much as it was--and is--very much a product of its time and probably ought to stay that way. Not everything is suited to being updated.

Look Ma--no tentacles!
Some Mighty Samson Links

Hmmm...blue-skinned flying winged-people...Almuric? Nope. It's Mighty Samson.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moving Forwards (Revised: 11/22/2011)

After 13 years of using Netherwerks as an online identity and the name for our rpg-oriented studio, we've decided that we are going to let the domain name lapse and move on. Three Netherwerks/Netherworks are two too many. We wish the other Nether-folks the best of luck in their endeavors. We've never interacted with any of them, but we do know that they have very good taste when it comes to selecting a name for their studios.

In any case, we've kind of out-grown the Netherwerks brand, and we feel that it is high time for a change, so we're taking this opportunity to re-evaluate all of our outstanding commitments and re-assess all of our ongoing projects. We're at a good spot to refine and reinvent our studio from the ground up, to reinvigorate our enthusiasm, and to restructure our various internal processes so that things flow more smoothly. We'll be taking some time to prune-away a good bit of the digital dead wood we've accumulated and getting our proverbial ducks in a row. There are a LOT of little (and some not so little) changes to attend to over the next few weeks, so bear with us as we shut down some of our online mad scientist experiments that have become dead ends or distractions. There are also a bunch of things that need to be moved around a bit in order to better revitalize our core endeavors. It is time to re-focus on the stuff that really matters most to us.

You can find most of the old Netherwerks content at Hereticwerks.


Friday, October 7, 2011

One Big Idea: 100 Year Starship

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has set-up ('seeded') the The 100 Year Starship™ Study. This is nothing less than a direct and concerted effort to "develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible." 

Yep. The folks at DARPA want us to start researching how to actually build starships and go boldly forth into the cold void of space and start colonizing planets. According to the About page, this study owes its origin to a desire to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general populace. But not just rekindling a sense of wonder will be enough. They seek to encourage people to seriously begin to ask "Why Not?" and they intend to encourage people to not just consider this stuff, but to get busy with research and development focused on the challenges inherent in long term, long distance space travel with an emphasis on making it technologically achievable and economically viable.

Being DARPA, the military applications of all of this renewed 'sense of wonder,' and 'Why Not' asking will be the real emphasis and goal, but any number of the 'useful, unanticipated consequences' of this research  could lead to tons of life-improving and even life saving advances, not just new ways to blow enemies to tiny bits. It sounds like a think-tank for science fiction authors, but it is really a lot more than anything quite so prosaic as that.

It could also lead to some rather startling discoveries since this project explicitly seeks to address some questions such as:
  • How do organizations evolve and maintain focus and momentum for 100 years or more?
  • What models have supported long term technology development?
  • What resources and financial structures have initiated and sustained prior settlements of "new worlds?"
DARPA is supported in this effort by NASA Ames Research Center, who will act as the execution agent on DARPA's behalf.

You can find out more at the 100 Year Starship site: http://www.100yss.org/index.html

This is a real study, backed by DARPA and NASA and taking place right now.
They are trying to figure out how to make all that funny Buck Rogers Sci-Fi stuff about traveling to the outer reaches of space and back again to actually work.
Considering how short a time it took the DARPA Grand Challenge Contest to produce viable working models for driverless vehicles...this study might be able to spur some similar advances that could bring about some results much earlier than a century out from now. Maybe we won't have to wait 100 years for a prototype starship.

Who knows where this study might lead...

The most recent Press Release is below:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                            October 2, 2011
Public Symposium Focuses Attention on Future Scientific Challenges
The 100 Year Starship Public Symposium wrapped up today in Orlando, Florida. The event
promoted a compelling dialog among academia, business, the public and government about
issues related to long term, long distance exploration. The event was convened with the intent
that the knowledge gained would be directly relevant to the Department of Defense (DoD).
“We achieved our objective,” said David Neyland, DARPA Tactical Technology Office
Director. “Discussions at the event were both rigorously technical and profoundly thought
provoking.”
Symposium attendees were exposed to presentations such as “Nuclear Thermal Propulsion,”
“Combined Imaging, Power Generation and Distribution, Propulsion and Communication
Subsystems” and “Pulsar Navigation and Maser Navigation.” Not only were attendees able to
hear from industry luminaries, they were encouraged to share their own ideas.
Neyland continued, “For DARPA, our mission is the warfighter, and the scientific advances that may come out of an aspirational goal such as what we’ve started here could lead to advances in defense. Energy innovations could mean our soldiers don’t have to carry 45 lbs. of batteries with them in theater. If we can innovate food production for long-term flights, we can generate food at forward operating bases even in harsh environments. And of particular interest to me, the event’s discussions about metamaterials and propulsion have direct relevance to next-generation DoD platforms.”
By tapping new audiences, the DoD will benefit from fresh insights that can help it solve some
of the most profound challenges in supporting and protecting men and women in uniform.

-ENDMedia with inquiries, contact DARPA Public Affairs, DARPAPublicAffairsOffice@darpa.mil 

Sir Arthur on Predicting the Future



Arthur C. Clarke. 1964.
The future is more likely to be unbelievable...
...and already all around us...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Mole People (1956): Courtesy of Google Video

Here, for your viewing pleasure is the movie The Mole People, which for some reason is available in its entirety. The introduction alone is worth sitting through once. The rest of the movie...well...that's a matter of taste and expectations. Don't expect a lot and you'll be pleasantly lulled to sleep. Expect a lot and you might as well watch something like The Monolith Monsters...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Monolith Monsters (1957) Courtesy of Veoh

So here's another classic B-movie from the Fifties. This time the monster is some sort of extraterrestrial / meteoritic gravel that grows really, really big (becoming rough-hewn even cyclopean monoliths...) and then fall over and crush things too slow to run out from under them.

Really.

I'm not making it up.

Just add water...

RPG Brainstorming: Underground Playground

You Tube continues to provide a lot of fun resources for re-thinking stale old tropes or for incorporating real world stuff into fiction and games. A lot of the actual and factual is ten times more unbelievable than anything made-up. If you can look past the breathless proponents of various agendas and whatever theories, and just examine the ideas involved in some of this stuff, it starts to provide all sorts of great fodder for developing any number of scenarios and adventures for just about any style of paper-and-pencil RPG. Case in point, let's take a look at this documentary 'Underground Species and the Hollow Earth.' It'll make a nice appetizer for the Hollow Earth and related post(s) coming up shortly.

Part One:


Aside from the 'Sky God(s)', UFO-nauts, and all that stuff, the actual and very real underground city carved out of the soft stone of Cappadocia is quite interesting. Whether these chambers were built as a refuge against invaders or to hide-out from disastrous environmental events, to escape from warring extraterrestrials, or something even more plausible, they really are down there and this is something that could be brought into an RPG setting from deep antiquity to far future, and it could easily be adapted to alien worlds as well.

The connection to the American southwest caught our attention. Do these underground cities have some so far unexplored/unexplained connection to that gigantic Krell-inspired secret base overseen by the Tic Toc Corporation?

The Native American myths/tales/accounts of living underground, warring aliens, ant-people, snake-people, etc. are also quite intriguing...

You don't need the UFOs to make this work, but you get them lumped-in anyhow as a sort of bonus.

Part Two:


Bingo! Now we get Conspiracies, aliens living underground and doing vivisections of unwary visitors, government cover-ups, and more. Pure RPG gold! But the Southwest isn't enough--we also get the Andes to go investigate at Erich Von Daniken's behest. Hall's actual-factual 1976 expedition had 100 guys including an American astronaut, and they went down into those caves looking for golden artifacts of possibly alien origin...they didn't find the golden treasure, or did they? The Metal Library is too good an idea not to use it. And then there are all those dead explorers...what if some disreputable necromancer was digging them up to interrogate their corpses about the truth of these treasures, 'failed' expeditions, etc.? Creepy, weird and just pulp-enough to be a lot of fun...

But wait, there's more! Elongated skulls. There 'might' have been some sort of connection between the old cultures of South America and ancient Egypt, with the space aliens forming a trifecta of cool, pre-historic weirdness that could easily lead into Churchward's Lemuria, Donnelly's Atlantis, Cayce's Bimini, Blavatsky's Root Races, Velikovsky's whole Worlds in Collision thing, Sitchin's Annunaki and more. Plus you get humans or proto-humans or hybrids with elongated heads...

What Fun!

Part Three:


Cenotes in the Yucatan. A cave like no other. Mysterious underground temples out in the jungle, some submerged underwater. Broken columns with strange inscriptions deep under water leading to massive underground temple complexes...now that's cool!

Stalactites sharp enough to slice through flesh. Cold, dark, hordes of bats, the whole trip through the chambers to Xibalba sounds like a megadungeon entrance...

A 'Road to the Stars' could be interesting. It may or may not be clear that anyone has arrived from outer space, but it is a rather intriguing reference that could easily inspire some extraterrestrial shenanigans for those elongated skull people, and other, possibly competing human-related and non-human parallel civilizations...

And then we get to the North Pole and the Hollow Earth. Yay! (about time...)

Edmund Halley took this theory seriously. It explained how the magnetic poles could shift. Then he went farther, speculating about multiple nested spheres and who might be living down there.

John Symmes gets a mention, but they gloss over the good Captain so we'll return to him in another post.

Verne's novel 'Journey to the Center of the Earth,' gets a nice nod. But Verne's fictively-useful notion of extinct life forms surviving deep down below in the hollow earth is cool (Burroughs made it a central part of his Pellucidar series), but eventually dry geology lectures and the allure of dinosaurs down below loses out to advanced ray-gun wielding psychically-empowered technological civilizations with flying saucers that got all the publicity and coverage in pseudoscience and fiction. The producers of this video really gloss over a lot of stuff at this point, missing out on Shaver's derro, glossing over the Mt. Shasta channelers and other folk who claim to be in communication with telepathic beings living deep within the hollow earth, missing out on the non-epic that is Gene Autry's The Phantom Empire...and they miss out on the Vril and all those connections as well...and instead leap ahead to Admiral Bird and Operation High Jump...an actual, real-world expedition that bears a lot of similarities to At The Mountains of Madness...

All in all, a nice bit of brain candy for developing loads of RPG stuff. Just keep your salt shaker and tin foil hat well within reach...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

...An Age Undreamed Of...


“Hither came Cthulhu, the Vhoorlian, be-tentacled, swollen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer and a dreamer, with cyclopean melancholies and gargantuan girth, to tread the jeweled thrones of Earth under his slimy pseudopodous feet.”

H. P. Lovecraft, The Squamous Sword of Cthulhu (unpublished), 1933.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mapping Barsoom...Some Handy Articles at the ERBzine site

Burroughs’ Barsoom and Lowell’s Mars:
A Map for the Interpretation of Barsoomian Geography
by Leathem Mehaffey
http://www.erbzine.com/mag14/1438.html

Seven Wonders of Barsoom
by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
I: The Pumping Stations (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3308.html)
II: The Twin Cities of Helium (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3307.html)
III: The Hot House Cities of Okar (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3306.html)
IV: Kamtol in the Valley of the First-born (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3305.html)
V: The Hidden Cities in the Forest of Lost Men (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3304.html)
VI: The Field of Jetan at Manator (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3303.html)
VII: The Temple of the Sun (http://www.erbzine.com/mag33/3302.html)

There are more than 14 additional alternate and runner-up Wonders of Barsoom detailed in a follow-up series of articles listed at: http://www.johncarterofmars.ca/articles.html

This is great stuff, especially if you're at all curious about Barsoom's topography, or would like to build a usable map of Barsoom for gaming or even a bit of fiction...like for the forthcoming Heroes of Mars project...from Pulp Empire...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stories in the Ether (Vol.1 Available)

From the folks at Nevermet Press:
Stories in the Ether, Issue 1 is now available from Amazon Kindle, the Apple iBookstore, RPGNowDriveThruStuff, and Lulufor $4.99. The journal is available electronically as an ePUB from all our retail channels, as well as a beautifully presented PDF exclusively from RPGNow and its sister sites. We will continue publishing new stories, for free, weekly on our blog - but this new format will allow you to enjoy three months worth of amazing fiction and art from the convenience of your favorite eReader. The ePUB on sale at Lulu is fully compatible with all major eReaders including iBooks on iPad and iPhones, as well as Barnes & Nobles' NOOK. Kindle, and Kindle DX, owners should visit Amazon's Kindle Store for Stories in the Ether. 
The first issue of Stories in the Ether includes 13 short stories of steampunk, science fiction, and fantasy by authors Therese Arkenberg, David Bell, Charlie Britten, Matt Delman, Tim Kane, KA Masters, David Perlmutter, Gary Phillips, Michael Morrison, Jason Rolfe, Dawn Vogel, David Wright, and Lee Clarke Zumpe. The amazing cover artwork comes from J Lonnee and the interior features art by Rob Torno and Matt Lichtenwalner.
Looking for print? Well, the first four issues of Stories in the Ether will be rolled into a single, large print anthology in 2012 and sold through our distributor to retail bookstores and game shops. For a preview of the look and feel of the printed book, take a peak at the PDF version of the eBook at RPGNow.com.
I want to thank everyone who has sent in their feedback regarding this new project and the current direction of Nevermet Press. We're very excited about Stories in the Ether and we're happy to see that the excitement is catching! 
Writers & Artists Wanted
Nevermet Press is always on the look out for new writers and artists looking to show off their talent. If you are interested in contributing stories or art to Stories in the Ether, or in writing for our RPG blog, drop us a line at submissions@nevermetpress.com. We'd love to hear from you. Also, please share this with your friends and have them stop by and take a look too.

Four Bullets for Dillon now available


Four Bullets for Dillon is now available!

From Dillon's own blog:
"A lost city in the Cambodian jungles run by a pint-sized tyrant wearing a gem-encrusted belt buckle; Beautiful women who lure Dillon and his rival, rock musician Sly Gantlet, into a clash of alpha males and a deadly set-up; a deceitful queen and a backstabbing friend; a quest for an evil artifact linked to the betrayer of Christ. Four Bullets for Dillon includes four hard to find and never before seen stories ripped from the life of global adventurer and instigator, Dillon."
Four Bullets for Dillon  includes the story, Dead Beat in La Esca, that was co-written by Derrick Ferguson and Joel Jenkins and features Dillon's first encounter with Sly Gantlet. It is a hilarious cross-over not to be missed!

And remember that with proof of purchase of Four Bullets for Dillon you'll also get the 10 page illustrated "Dillon And The Escape From Tosegio." Details can be found here.

Get it at Amazon.com
or 
Get it via Pulpwork Press.


If you are a fan of the old pulps or are curious about the New Pulps, this is a great book to get you started.

Check out the Pulp Magnet column on Dillon (http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/09/dillon.html ) and watch the New Pulp Fiction site for our up-coming interview with Dillon's creator Derrick Ferguson!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Atlas Unified...Let's Hope It Works...

This Recent Article over at The Scoop makes the new Atlas Unified cross-over mini-series sound really interesting...
http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/public/default.asp?t=1&m=1&c=34&s=265&ai=113290

So far, I've been very disappointed with the slow pacing, clunky dialogue and sense of never really getting anywhere that has dogged the new Atlas titles...but I still hold out hope that things will start to pick up as people find their rhythm, the characters re-find their voices, and things develop some momentum. This crossover might be just what they need to get it all to start really working...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two Tables of Terror

First the Editor-Texan posted a deceptively innocent looking Random Table based on cliche' and Seventies' module-marketing acumen which you can find here. Then the inimitable illuminatus of immolation himself posted an alternate Random Table that can be found here (at his proudly and loudly NSFW blog).

Two Random Tables. Two relatively simple exercises in the randomization of grammatical constructions derived from the accumulated and distilled remnants of old, obscure texts as viewed through an empty beer glass darkly...

The horror.

The sheer unmitigated horror.

But the Howard-esque melancholy of the Editor-Texan would not let him leave well enough alone.

No.

Having written the unspeakable and codified the writhing chaos of eldritch forms of deprecated grammar best left in the fetid depths of the hoary mildewed regions of dimness, he flung forth a challenge into the empty and uncaring universe. A hoarse shout across the digital aethyrs that called forth numberless legions of abominations and things best left to the imaginations of the dead.

The Tables are to be Used.

They would unleash untold alliterative terrors upon an unsuspecting world.

And we might just answer that call...

If you dare, you can learn more here.

But be warned.

This may look like 'just' another contest, but mark you well that the wild ass is sacred unto Set...and not all is as it may seem...

You can see the revised results of our efforts at the Hereticwerks blog.

Artweaver: New Version in Beta-Test.

Artweaver is an amazing program for digital painting and more. You can still get the free version or upgrade to the ArtweaverPlus version really cheaply.  This is a very good digital art software package that just keeps on getting better. If you are on a tight budget, or want an alternative to the Big Name software, take a look at this software, give a try and see for yourself. We still use it a lot, and it plays nicely with Photoshop.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comics from beyond the grave...

I think we'll need to order this as it doesn't ever appear at our local shops...

Unspeakable...yet cute

It's Kid-thulhu.

The stars must be right, or something...

Link: http://www.tummelvision.com/

SF Gateway (Press Release)


SF Gateway Press Release

Gollancz, the SF and Fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, announces the launch of the world’s largest digital SFF library, the SF Gateway, which will make thousands of out-of-print titles by classic genre authors available as eBooks.

Building on the remarkable success of Gollancz’s Masterworks series, the SF Gateway will launch this Autumn with more than a thousand titles by close to a hundred authors. It will build to 3,000 titles by the end of 2012, and 5,000 or more by 2014. Gollancz’s Digital Publisher Darren Nash, who joined the company in September 2010 to spearhead the project said, “The Masterworks series has been extraordinarily successful in republishing one or two key titles by a wide range of authors, but most of those authors had long careers in which they wrote dozens of novels which had fallen out of print. It seemed to us that eBooks would offer the ideal way to make them available again. This realization was the starting point for the SF Gateway.” Wherever possible, the SF Gateway will offer the complete backlist of the authors included.

The SF Gateway will be closely integrated with the recently announced new online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which provides an independent and definitive reference source of information on the authors and books included. Direct links between the Encyclopedia and the Gateway will provide easy access to eBook editions, for sale through all major online retailers.

The Gateway site will also act as a major community hub and social network for SF readers across the world, allowing them to interact with each other and recommend titles and authors. The site is planned to include forums, blogs, regular promotions, and is envisaged to become the natural home on the net for anyone with an interest in classic SFF.

Authors featured in the launch include such names as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Alice B. Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr), Robert Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm and Connie Willis. A full list of authors so far under contract is appended to this announcement; negotiations are in an advanced state for many more.

The SF Gateway was conceived by Orion Deputy CEO and Publisher Malcolm Edwards, who commented: “It’s clear that publishers need to show that they can respond to the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution imaginatively, particularly when it comes to backlist. The SF Gateway is just such a response, creating what we hope will become a destination website which will promote the books and authors it features in an active way. We hope it will not only be a success in its own right, but that it will provide a model for future developments in backlist publishing.”

Built to the latest standards of HTML5 and CSS3, the SF Gateway site will use responsive web design to ensure a rewarding user experience across a range of mobile and desktop platforms and operating systems. Both the SF Gateway and the previously announced Encyclopedia of Science Fiction are being developed by STEEL, a London-based full service digital agency with over 15 years experience, whose clients include
AOL, BBC Worldwide, Debenhams, FT.com, Greggs and TalkTalk.

The project has been praised by authors for connecting new generations of readers with classic stories they may not, until now, have been able to enjoy.

British Science Fiction Award-winner Alastair Reynolds said: “When I first started reading SF seriously, as a teenager growing up in Wales, one of the first walls I hit was the realisation that many classic and influential works of the field were either out of print or so hard to obtain that they may as well have been. SF is a forward-looking genre but its past has always been as fascinating as its future, and for that reason the SF Gateway is an exciting and groundbreaking venture, which should prove an enormous asset to the
field.”

Double Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Pat Cadigan added: “This is exactly what I've been hoping for now that the digital book is becoming more widespread. I have always said that the eBook will not be the death of the physical book – the eBook will save so many wonderful books from being lost. We have to remember that what we read is the book – what we read it on, whether ink and paper or pixels on a screen, is just the interface. I'm honestly thrilled about this new project and delighted to be on the list.” The SF Gateway will be officially launched by Gollancz in September as part of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of its SF list. For more information, please go to www.sfgateway.com, where updates on the project will also appear.

SF Gateway is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SFGateway and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/SF-Gateway/171262786268228
Please direct enquiries in the first instance to Jonathan Weir on 020 7520 4314 or jonathan.weir@orionbooks.co.uk

SF GATEWAY AUTHORS
as at 20th July 2011
Poul Anderson
Barrington J. Bayley
Gregory Benford
Michael Bishop
James P. Blaylock
James Blish
Marion Zimmer Bradley
John Brosnan
Fredric Brown
John Brunner
Algis Budrys
Kenneth Bulmer
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Pat Cadigan
John W. Campbell, Jr
Terry Carr
Arthur C. Clarke
Hal Clement
D.G. Compton
Michael G. Coney
Edmund Cooper
Richard Cowper
John Crowley
L. Sprague de Camp
Samuel R. Delany
Philip K. Dick
Gordon R. Dickson
Christopher Evans
Philip Jose Farmer
John Russell Fearn
Alan Dean Foster
Mary Gentle
Mark S. Geston
Joseph L. Green
Colin Greenland
Nicola Griffith
Joe Haldeman
Harry Harrison
Frank Herbert
Philip E. High
Robert Holdstock
Cecelia Holland
Robert E. Howard
Raymond F. Jones
Leigh Kennedy
Garry Kilworth
Damon Knight
Henry Kuttner
Tanith Lee
Murray Leinster
H.P. Lovecraft
Katherine MacLean
Barry N. Malzberg
Phillip Mann
David I. Masson
C.L. Moore
Ward Moore
Edgar Pangborn
Frederik Pohl
Rachel Pollack
Tim Powers
Mack Reynolds
Keith Roberts
Eric Frank Russell
Josephine Saxton
Bob Shaw
Robert Silverberg
Clifford D. Simak
Dan Simmons
John Sladek
Cordwainer Smith
E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith
Norman Spinrad
Olaf Stapledon
Theodore Sturgeon
William Tenn
Sheri S. Tepper
James Tiptree, Jr
E.C. Tubb
George Turner
Harry Turtledove
Jack Vance
Ian Watson
Ted White
Kate Wilhelm
Connie Willis
Robert Charles Wilson
Gene Wolfe

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Free Online Comic at Pulp Machine

Pro Se Productions has released a blast from the past by making available a ten-page comic from Tommy Hancock's personal vaults. Tom Morrow and His Three Days is a comic originally assembled ten years ago as part of a project that unfortunately evaporated before it could come to fruition. It was written by Tommy Hancock and illustrated by Stephen Holcomb. This Tom Morrow story only recently re-surfaced and the folks at Pro Se Productions decided to share it with their readers for free.

http://pulpmachine.blogspot.com/2011/09/free-online-comic-from-pro-se-press.html
So go check out this free online comic and give the Pro Se Productions crew some feed-back. Should the story of Tom Morrow and His Three Days be continued? Go see what you think and let them know!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Planet Pulp

The Planet Pulp blog is hosting a fictional travel poster show, featuring works much like the above poster for Arrakis (Dune) that was done by artist Clay Sisk (http://www.siskart.com/ ). We highly recommend that you check it out. the link is: http://www.planet-pulp.com/

Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Double Indemnity

See the entry for this movie at the IMDB:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036775/
Last night we went to see Double Indemnity at The Heights. This is a classic film noir study of betrayal, counter-betrayal and murder featuring Fred MacMurray, Babara Stanwyck and Edward G. Bobinson.

The dialogue was snappy, if dated in places, but then when you have Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler co-writing the script, it's hard to go wrong.

The one really peculiar, almost Lovecraftian aspect to this movie that really stood out, but didn't ruin it by any means, was the main character's use of a dictaphone to record his confession...it was just like one of those terrible instances in HPL's fiction where the intrepid investigator into the unknown pauses to fill out his journal, complete with the Monty Python-esque 'Aaarrgghh!' at the end.

But this wasn't a hard-boiled re-telling ofThe Diary of Alonzo Typer, by any means.

Thankfully.

Of course, if the femme fatale character that Barbara Stanwyck played had been swapped-out with Lavinia Whateley, well, that would have taken things in an entirely different direction...one that would be a great deal of fun to see explored.

Film Noir and Lovecraft go together really, really well. The Trail of Cthulhu rpg seems to lend itself to exactly this sort of mash-up. We're seriously considering picking it up and running a game or two of crack-pot film noir inspired eldritch madness...
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