Category Archives: Crossposted

Force Multiplication, and Death by Cliché

We just got word that our pallets of Force Multiplication: Schlock Mercenary Book 12 will be arriving sometime “in the next week or so.” If you want your copy shipped soon, now is the time to place your order.

A great many of you have already placed your orders, and are reading this and asking what OTHER book you can maybe order. Well, as it happens, my friend Bob has a book out! You may remember Bob from his guest-review of Hardcore Henry. That’s his blog style, and while it’s not the same as his literary voice, the snark does shine through.

DeathbyClicheDeath by Cliché is Bob Defendi unchained. It is the story of a game designer who attempts to sneak out of the worst role-playing session ever, and ends up in the game itself, starting with a room “lit by flaming brassieres.”

This may be misleading. Death by Cliché is not full of puns and dad jokes¹. It’s a funny, frightening, poignant, and exhilarating exploration of a world in which RPG clichés and sloppy game design are the governing principles, the unseen hands pulling the strings.

UPDATED TO ADD: My 21-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son both grabbed copies² from Bob last night. Five hours later—FIVE HOURS LATER—they both got grouchy when we insisted that it was time for lights to be out so the old people in the house could go to sleep.

Which is to say that my review may not have gushed to the level that this book deserves for some readers, including a junior majoring in illustration and a junior-high student majorly invested in Minecraft.


 

¹There are puns and dad jokes in the book. I won’t lie. They’re there. Not everywhere, but there. Usually as the set-up for something that is actually funny.

²He only meant to give us one copy of the book at Writing Group on Thursday, but he had a stack, and my children, even the adult ones, can be grabby.  

Warcraft

WarcraftI have a lot to say about this film, in large measure because it did some surprising things, and it did some difficult things, and almost everything it did was done well. That stuff merits discussion.

It’s worth holding off on a lot of it, however, because there would be spoilers, and one of the things I loved most about this film was that it surprised me several times. There were a couple of plot points that I called well in advance—tropes that have too much narrative force to be denied, even in subversion—but that didn’t sully my satisfaction with the story.

Let’s start with this: Warcraft clears my Threshold of Awesome, and if I lose geek cred, or a measure of one of the other credibilities I enjoy, by having had more fun watching Warcraft than I had watching this year’s superhero films, so be it. You can read the rankings for yourself. As of this writing the furries are winning at movie (Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootopia), and video games are runnering up (Angry Birds, Warcraft, Ratchet & Clank.) Superheroes are making a good show of it, but through a combination of retreads, joyless slogs, and shaky-cam, they’re the ones losing geek cred.

My biggest concern with Warcraft, at least going in, was how the trailers suggested that female orcs would be depicted as green-skinned, sexy humans with cute, pouty tusks, while the males were big and scary. That attractive lady-orc in the trailers (played by Paula Patton) is not really an orc. The orcs consider her an abomination, and I’m not spoiling much, because we get that reveal the moment she shows up on screen. The actual female orcs are still kind of built like humans, of course, but those lady-orcs most resemble human males on a solid regimen of steroids and gym memberships. With not-as-cute-but-still-pouty tusks.

And my point here is that the creature design made sense, and kept me rooted in the story. On top of that, the orc characters were so very well rendered that I simply accepted them as people, rather than CG, was able to let them get on with their movie.

I very much liked how magic was used in the story. I have no idea what the current rule set is for magic use in the World of Warcraft game (I haven’t visited Azeroth since Warcraft II¹) so I can’t speak to whether the film was true to the game’s rules. It was, however, true to the rule set for good storytelling. There were limits to it, there was a cost, and as its secrets were peeled back there were story-critical reveals that were heaps of fun.

World of Warcraft players will probably catch dozens of nods, cameos, and Easter eggs. They might also rage-quit over the mistreatment of their favorite whatever. None of that had any bearing on my enjoyment of the films. I caught a couple references, and liked them a lot, but they worked fine without context, too.

And I guess that’s what amazed me the most about this film. It does not assume that we have any knowledge of the universe². Characters are introduced and developed from scratch, and there were a lot of them to keep track of.


 

¹Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, which was released in 1996, and which I may have noodled around in as recently³ as 2005. No, I have not played WoW. 

²Well, almost none. From the outset it looks like most other Tolkien-derived western fantasy settings: “monsters and magic in Medieval Europe.” There’s far more than just that going on in epic fantasy these days, which is part of why reading new books is so cool. 

³So, not very recently. Eleven years.

Deep Discounts and Quick Commissions at the Sal Velluto Benefit

My friend Sal, who was among the first comics industry professionals I met, is fighting cancer, and a bunch of us are getting together to help out.

This Saturday I’ll be at Dragon’s Keep in Provo, Utah. I’m bringing books, miniatures, and art supplies.

  • The Blackness Between, 1st Printing — $5.00 (retail $15)
  • Massively Parallel, scratch-and-dent — $10 (retail $25)
  • 11-book sets, with slip cases —$200 (retail $230, but I only have four of them)
  • Schlock Mercenary miniatures from Garden Ninja — Make an offer (discontinued, retail $10-$20)
  • Pencil-and-Ink commissions  — $10 to “whatever” depending on what you want.
  • Sharpie sketches in books you buy — FREE!

All proceeds will be going directly to Sal Velluto. I don’t know if Dragon’s Keep will be able to run credit cards through the register for this stuff, so maybe plan on bringing pockets full of cash.  Better artists than I will be doing sketches, too.

We won’t be able to ship anything, so this opportunity is limited to the locals.

Serendipitous Departure

I really like it when I get the chance to properly say “thank you.”

On Thursday I discovered, after walking around the Phoenix Convention Center, that my barely-bruised-but-no-seriously-I-smashed-it finger was swelling up just enough to put pressure on a nerve. This was resulting in severe hand pain, plus a pulsing conduit of fire that played merry hell with the neurochemicals I depend on in order to be happy.

With my slightly swollen hand hanging by my side I was miserable and depressed to the point of being almost non-functional.

My friends suggested that maybe I should get a sling, and this seemed like a great idea, except that I was in an unfamiliar place, in a hotel, and was deeply depressed. I scraped up just enough presence of mind to talk to a hotel staffer who was doing crowd control around the elevators. Her name was Erica.

Erica put out a call to see if the hotel had any slings. When they did not, she hailed a cab for me, and handed the cab driver a voucher that would get me to CVS. She handed me another voucher which I could use to summon a cab to get me back to the Hyatt once I had what I needed.

The cab driver, a very friendly man whose first name I can’t remember the spelling of, and whose last name was Singh, zipped me over to the CVS pharmacy, and told me exactly what to say when calling for pick-up.

At CVS I found what I needed, strapped my arm into a sling, and began feeling better inside of about two minutes. Rather than call for pickup I walked the four blocks back to the hotel, and I arrived happy in spite of the blistering heat of the Phoenix afternoon.

I left a thank-you message for Erica at the desk. One of her aides (apparently she is a staff member with an office, and aides) left a message for me the next morning, but I didn’t get it until late Friday night, and Erica had gone home for the weekend.

Monday morning, before I hailed a cab to Sky Harbor, I checked at the desk to see if Erica was back in the office. She was, and she very enthusiastically greeted me, asking if we could get a picture together. I agreed, and then I took it up a notch by drawing a picture of Erica as an airborne, first-aid-kit-carrying superheroine. It kind of made her day, but really *I* was the one whose day was being made. I like getting to properly say “thank you.”

I collected my luggage and hailed a cab. The cab driver looked familiar.

“Did you drive me to CVS on Thursday?”

“You are Mister Tyler?”

(close enough.) “Yes!”

I shook his hand in both of mine and thanked him. Once aboard I said “this time around I will get to pay you for the ride myself,” and he laughed. I may have overpaid him a bit upon arrival ($40 for a $15 flat-fare ride,) and that’s no substitute for being able to draw a picture, but it would have to do.

I don’t like being injured, and I don’t like needing to ask for help from complete strangers, but once the crisis has passed (my hand no longer hurts my brain now) I very much DO like being able to express my appreciation for that help to some new friends.

It is Monday, and the serendipity of this morning’s departure has set a pretty high bar for the rest of the week. I got to say “thank you” to Erica and to Mr. Singh, and I’m still smiling about it.