Monday, March 12, 2018

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 3


Midsouthcon 2018 continues! If you missed the previous posts, here they are:


Kaffeeklatsch with Mike Resnick

(A smart blogger would have thought to take a photo of this event.)

These informal breakfasts with individual guests of honor are common at Midsouthcon, though this is the first time I went to one. It was great, and I’ll be going to more in the future. The six of us eating with Mike grilled him about his career, how he got started editing (it was tabloids), his interest in Africa, the other places he’s visited, the ups and downs of dealing with Hollywood, and his working hours (he’s pretty much a night shift worker).

Panel: Short Story vs. Novel

with Bill Webb, Juanita Houston, Herica Raymer, Allan Gilbreath, and Mike Resnick.


This panel explored the differences between writing short stories and writing novels. A few of the items discussed:

  • Mike prefers short stories (having written about 300, compared to about 70 novels). One reason is that he likes writing humor, and finds it hard to extend that into novel length without becoming unfunny.
  • Bill writes novels by starting with the scenes he knows will happen, putting them in order later and adding the rest. He says he “writes the cool stuff first.” He also doesn’t edit until the writing is done, and likes using writing sprints.
  • Juanita starts in the middle. She and Herica are pantsers rather than plotters. Herica says she visualizes her novel and “transcribes what she sees.”
  • Bill sells short story collections on Amazon, and figures he earns more there than he would if he sold them traditionally.
  • Mike said that when you read a bad story, one that makes you say “No, you idiot,” sit down and show that you can do it better. He says that some of his stories were efforts to do just that.
  • Mike suggests being careful and clear with transitions between viewpoint characters. “Never make the reader work unless you want him to.”


  • Regarding the need to target a reading level or age limit when writing, Mike said he never worries about that. “I assume I’m writing for grown-ups, and if they can’t understand it they probably shouldn’t be reading literature.”
  • When asked about his work schedule, Mike said, “I write, and every now and then I sleep.” (He did elaborate that he writes every day.)
  • Mike says he only takes a few days to write a story. “I’m running out of time.” He then admitted that “the mechanics come a little easier” now, after decades of practice.
  • Mike talked about writing softcore porn when he was younger, as did plenty of other science fiction writers at the time, including Marion Zimmer Bradley. He said a book would take him 4 or 5 days and earn $700 to $1000, for an annual salary of $24,000 if he wrote 25—higher than the average salary of the day. This taught him to meet deadlines and how to differentiate characters, because the ones in these stories looked similar and did similar activities!
  • Mike’s final advice: “Writers write, and those who aren’t gonna write talk about it."


As a side note unrelated to writing: if you’re on a panel at a con, I recommend you remember what year you’re living in before describing the state of California as “the land of fruits and nuts.” Not cool.

Gaming: New York Slice



How could a pizza-lover not try this game? I saw a lot of people playing it, and eventually got a few minutes to give it a shot. The challenge in this game is to divide up the randomized pizza in such a way that other players can't get too many of the slices they need to complete sets. The most exciting thing is that my friend Jenny ended up winning a copy in the raffle!

Gaming: KnitWit



I didn't know what to expect from this one, but it turned out to combine spools and loops of thread with a word game. It was pretty clever. I didn't win this one either, but I blame the noise level in the game room around raffle time. (If you think you see a pattern where I make excuses for not winning games, you are totally imagining things.)

Panel: Comic Book Scripting: From Plot to Page

with John Jackson Miller


John lived in Memphis when he was younger (like me) and has come to every Midsouthcon since the mid 80s (also like me), so it’s strange to me that I didn’t meet him until this year! I knew of him mostly as a novelist, so didn’t learn until this panel that he got his start in comics, in around 2003. John said that most kids’ mothers threw their comics away, but his mom—a librarian—made him put his in order.

John’s panel was a good one, demonstrating the basics of comic scripts. He talked about Marvel style vs full script, and what kind of things he likes to leave up to the artist, and how he breaks down what goes on which pages and different ways of dividing that into panels.


Final Costumes!


Let's end this with one last duo of cool costumes:


Did you go to Midsouthcon too? I want to hear about your adventures in the comments!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 2

MidSouthCon 2018 continues! If you missed the previous post, here's a link: Day 1.

Day two of Midsouthcon, on Saturday, is always the biggest day—because it’s the only full day for this con. It’s also the day of the costume contest, which gives me more photos to show off.

Dealer’s Room


This is always a highlight of the show for me. Yes, I did buy some dice, but it didn’t count, because they were for my wife! (If I sound defensive, it’s because some unbalanced people have implied that I already own enough dice.) There weren’t many RPGs available for sale, and none I needed, but I did score a copy of the Necronomicon. I thought about buying The Captain is Dead or Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, but snoozed too long and they sold out.


Panel: What Does an Editor Do?

Panelists (left to right): April Jones, Ellen Datlow, Toni Weisskopf, Mike Resnick, and Tommy Hancock.


A few tidbits from this panel:

  • Toni (publisher of Baen Books, who has been there for 31 years) says that an editor’s job is to “protect readers from crap.”
  • Ellen (editor at Omni for 17 years, anthology editor since around 1989, and currently editing for Tor) said that when she solicits stories for an anthology, she has had as many as a third of the writers end up dropping out.
  • Mike (who is currently editing “Galaxy’s Edge” magazine and has edited 45 anthologies) suggests not sending query letters for short stories.
  • Ellen gets questions about how she is an editor but not a writer. She used the analogy of a room decorator, and said that she can’t decorate the room, but she’s great at redecorating it.
  • Mike said that it’s important for an editor to know what their audience is looking for.
  • Toni said that in her mind every mark on a manuscript is a suggestion to the writer, and that sometimes suggestions are general (such as “My eyes glazed over here.”)
  • Regarding getting started as an editor, the panel recommended starting as an assistant editor (Mike), volunteering to read slush (Ellen), and taking unpaid work for a while (Tommy). Tommy warned, though, “Don’t make a career of not being paid."


Game: Greek Gods

We got in some more time at the board game library today.


We tried playing this one but couldn’t figure out the rules in the time we had available. Next!

Game: The Captain is Dead


This was a fun one! It took a while to set it up and understand what we were doing, but once that was done we liked it. It’s a cooperative game where you’re the crew of a starship that’s been struck with disaster, and you have to work together to fight off enemies and hold the ship together long enough to fix the drive and escape. I had to get to my next game before we finished this one, but my fellow player Jenny said that even though they lost, she plans to buy the game.

Paranoia (2017 edition)


Kerry Jordan, my favorite Paranoia GM, ran an introductory game of the latest edition of Paranoia. I’ve read this version but this was my first time playing. It was a surprisingly low-lethality adventure, I think because we started it without mutant powers, secret societies, built-in rivalries, weapons, equipment, or team roles. So I can't really report on much of the game. (This was an adventure from the core box itself, so I hold Kerry blameless for the lack of clone churn.) I kinda liked the cards, and as usual my wife demonstrated that she was born to excel in a world like that of Paranoia. (Which is good news, considering the way our government is going!)

Costumes

Let's wrap this up with the best costume photos I took today...




Photo credit: Young Mr. Garrett



[ Back to Day 1 ]

Friday, March 9, 2018

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 1


As I do most years, I’m attending Midsouthcon again this weekend. (If you are too, let me know so I can say hi!) Mike Resnick is one of the guests of honor, and I really hope I get to meet him.

Here’s how the first day of the con went for me.

Masks

I kicked off the con by playing an RPG in the very first gaming slot (2pm Friday). The game was one I'd been wanting to try: Masks: A New Generation by Magpie Games. It uses the Apocalypse World engine that I liked so much in our Dungeon World adventure at last year's Midsouthcon.

My wife played her standard character type.

We spent at least half the time crafting our characters and their relationships and team dynamics, which seems in line with a lot of Powered by the Apocalypse games. I felt an affinity for the Janus playbook, the one our GM Jesse likened to a Spider-Man type, burdened with a lot of secret identity conflict. I used this to create Melting Pot, a political-minded (and patriotically-dressed) hero who is active in student government and has the ability to melt into a liquidy goo and also take on the properties of anything he touches. The last hour of our adventure happened at a place I chose--a women's rally--where the Greek god Dionysus showed up to turn things into a wild drunken party.


Board Game Library

We spend the rest of the evening checking out board games from the con's board game library. I like trying games I haven't played before, and usually find something I like enough to eventually add to our own collection.

Yes, that's Audrey II in the foreground.

This first one we tried was Macroscope. The goal is to be the first to identify a drawing through small holes that each player reveals in turn. I stunk at this game. It was still pretty fun, but I think I'd like this one better as a video game, because adding and removing the tokens covering the holes each round, and having to carefully slide out the drawing when it's revealed, were both tedious acts of manual dexterity.

Macroscope

Then we played Hoard, in which you compete to steal as much of a dragon's treasure as you can before he wakes up. I wasn't amazingly horrible at this game.

Hoard

That's it for day 1, though I want to show off how my wife was the star of the show with her new meeple earrings...


Watch for my Day 2 update tomorrow...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New Star Trek Adventures Books: Command Division & Beta Quadrant

Image: Modiphius

Modiphius just announced product details and release dates (well, release months) of the next two books for the Star Trek Adventures RPG. The books are the Command Division Supplemental Rulebook and the Beta Quadrant Sourcebook.

The Command Division Supplemental Rulebook provides "new material for characters in the command or conn departments." This includes (from the Modiphius website):

  • "Detailed description of the command division, including its role in Starfleet, the various branches within the command division, the role of Fleet Operations, life as a command division cadet, and details on starship operations.
  • Expanded 2d20 Social Conflict rules, enhancing social encounters and galactic diplomacy.
  • An expanded list of Talents and Focuses for command and conn characters.
  • Over a dozen additional starships and support craft to command and pilot, including the NX, Nebula, Sovereign, and Steamrunner classes, as well as many shuttle types and the indomitable Work Bee!
  • Advice on creating command division focused plot components for your missions to test the mettle of your captain and flight controller. 
  • New rules on running Admiralty-level campaigns that let you command entire fleets, as well as information on commanding starbases.
  • Detailed descriptions and game statistics for a range of Command and Conn focused NPCs and Supporting Characters."

(Fanboy note: OMG Nebula class! An admiralty campaign!)

The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook provides "an in-depth look at the Quadrant both the Klingon Empire and Romulan Star Empire call home." Details from Modiphius:

  • "Information on the Federation’s presence in the Beta Quadrant, including the homeworlds of Andoria, Earth, and Vulcan.
  • Material about the Klingon Empire and its history, including information on its core words of Qo’noS, Boreth, Khitomer, and Rura Penthe.
  • Information from the Romulan Star Empire on their history and politics, and information about their worlds Romulus and Remus.
  • A host of new Federation species to choose from during character creation, including Benzite, Bolians, Efrosians, and Klingons.
  • A selection of alien starships, from the Klingon Empire, Romulan Star Empire, Gorn Hegemony, Orion Syndicate, and civilian craft.
  • Guidance for the Gamemaster on running missions and continuing voyages in the Beta Quadrant, with a selection of new Non-Player Characters to enhance encounters."

(Fanboy note: OMG Bolians! Gorn! Orions!)

Both books release in May of this year, and you can preorder on their individual product pages.

Command Division | Beta Quadrant ]

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Our Friends the Machines & Other Mysteries

Image: Fria Ligan

I nearly forgot to mention that the first book of adventures for Tales from the Loop is now available. It's called "Our Friends the Machines & Other Mysteries."

Here's a summary of the contents from distributor Modiphius:
"Toys suddenly developing intelligence. A mystical mummy roaming the beaches. Weird events in the local video store. A mixtape full of mysteries. Four wondrous machines. A guide to creating your own setting for the game. All of this and more is included in this volume, the first official module for the multiple award-winning Tales from the Loop RPG. This book includes: 
  • Our Friends the Machines. A mystery about a product launch of a new line of action toys that suddenly takes a turn to the weird.
  • Horror Movie Mayhem. The ’80s was the decade of moral panic, when everything new was dangerous and corrupting. In this mystery the Kids will investigate what is really happening in and around the local video store.
  • The Mummy in the Mist. There are whispering rumors that it is back again. The mummy down by the lake. Roaming the beaches by night, looking for something, hungering after something. It will be up to the Kids to solve this mystery.
  • A mixtape filled with mysteries. Eight short mysteries based on classic pop songs from the era.
  • Blueprints, background and adventure hooks for four advanced and iconic machines from the world of the Loop.
  • Hometown Hack. A guide to creating your very own setting for the game, complete with the Norfolk Broads, a UK-based Loop."

Our Friends the Machines & Other Mysteries is available now in print and PDF from Modiphius, or in PDF from DriveThruRPG.