[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As part of my continuing effort to justify the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription I have, I’ve been playing with my Audition audio software and learning how to use it. Today I learned how to make a multitrack file! Go me. I also played with the various filters in the software to distort and shape sounds.

All of which is to say I recorded a song today and it is very very noisy indeed. It’s “Here Comes the Rain Again,” which is my favorite song from the Eurythmics. Here it is (and no, it’s not actually nine minutes long, I don’t know why the media player says that. It’s, like, five):

Yes, that’s me singing. No, Annie Lennox doesn’t have a thing to worry about.

In case you’re curious, every noise on that track either comes out of me, or out of an acoustic tenor guitar. Audio filters are fun! Let’s just say I let my Thurston out to play, and if you get that reference, congratulations, you’re old too.

No, I’m not giving up my day job. Relax. But I do enjoy playing with sounds. This is fun for me.

In any event: Enjoy the noise.


Four Weeks of Travel…

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:30 am
[syndicated profile] schlockmercenary_feed

Posted by Howard Tayler

On Wednesday, July 26th, I fly out of Salt Lake City for a series of events. On Monday, August 21st, I fly back into Salt Lake City and then hook a ride back to my house.

My house, my bed, my 4-monitor PC, my lit-from-four-sides drawing table, my kitchen, my food, okay yeah my kids, my couch, my TV…

Four weeks.

FOUR WEEKS.

I’m not looking forward to this. Sure, I’m totally looking forward to the events themselves, but concatenating them in this way is throttling the joyful anticipation a bit.

The events in question? WXR 2017 on a cruise ship near something called “Europe,” WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, and GenCon Indy in Indianapolis. I get a few days of rest between each event, and that rest is theoretically enhanced by me being not on airplanes to and from my house. Also, it’s more cost-effective.

During this time it is possible that I’ll drop of the internet and forget to do things like review movies (which I won’t be seeing anyway, I guess) and participate in social media stuff.

Fortunately, the thing most people expect from me—a steady, daily supply of Schlock Mercenary—will continue for the duration of my trip. As of this writing I’m 42 days ahead, and the server’s queue of comics has been populated to the point that it can (and will!) automatically deliver comics each day without any help from me.

If you’re coming to WXR 2017, WorldCon 75, or GenCon Indy, and you happen to meet me, you now know why I look like a piece of lost meat-luggage that is three weeks past its sell-by date.

Blacklight Sunset

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:44 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Because sometimes it’s fun to play with Photoshop’s sliders and see what you come up with. This is what happens (in part) when you push the “dehaze” slider all the way to the right. The real sunset didn’t look like this (it looked like this), but I think it might be cool to live on a planet where the sunset did look like that, every once in a while.

Enjoy the weekend, folks.


July 22, 2017: Farewell, Geek Chic

Jul. 22nd, 2017 05:51 am
[syndicated profile] daily_illuminator_feed
Geek Chic A few of us here at SJ Games have talked – gushed, really – about our custom furniture from Geek Chic. It is a very sad duty, therefore, to report that Geek Chic recently had to close operations. Details are scant at this time, but founder Robert Gifford's statement about the closure was posted on the Geek Chic home page (which currently seems to be down, but it's also shown on their Facebook page), along with a promise to update that page with more information as circumstances permit. (If the page comes back up, click the "Products" link to see all the cool stuff you could have had, if only.)

Robert and the entire Geek Chic team were a fixture* at conventions for many, many years, and I can say from personal experience, as a customer and a fellow industry professional, that they were a delight to work with. Other companies have sprung up in the "bespoke gamer furniture" market that Geek Chic pioneered, but they were first. It's going to be weird to go to Gen Con this August and not walk through their booth.

Best of luck to the entire Geek Chic team, and particularly Robert and Brenda. We'll see you around.

Andrew Hackard

* Pun absolutely intended.

Mid-July update: I wrote this back in late June. Since that time, Geek Chic has hired an attorney and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There's a discussion on reddit (warning: link leads to reddit) going over the filing in some detail, along with the usual fulminations that make reddit such a beloved site. (Warning: link leads to WIkipedia.) The takeaway seems to be that they ran out of money in the bank to pay the bills, but there are definitely some surprises in the filing. –AH

Warehouse 23 News: Fantastic Fighting . . . Realistically!

Add more than a dozen armed and unarmed fighting styles to your fantasy campaign with GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles. In addition to specific styles for knights and mercenaries, discover how elves, dwarves, or even animals can wade into battle. This guide is just a download away, only from Warehouse 23.

Talking Over Thai

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:09 am
[syndicated profile] not_a_blog_feed
So a couple of months ago, while I was out at Stokercon in Long Beach, on the mighty Queen Mary, I went out with Scott Edelman for Thai food (yum), and he recorded our conversation for his EATING THE FANTASTIC podcast.

The food was great, and the talk was fun. You can check it out at:

http://www.scottedelman.com/2017/07/21/down-drunken-noodles-with-george-r-r-martin-in-episode-43-of-eating-the-fantastic/

Scott and I both emerged from comics fandom of the 60s, so be forewarned, there's a lot of talk about the Good Old Days.

Another week in the life of GURPS

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:56 pm
[syndicated profile] dr_kromm_feed
This week is named Antony. The news:

• We released Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic. More on that here.

• I worked on a whole bunch of Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game-related matters.

• I started revising my little writing project in response to reviewer feedback.

• I reviewed a number of queries and outlines from freelancers.

New Books and ARCs, 7/21/17

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:53 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As we ease on into another summer weekend, here are the new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. What do you like here? Share your feelings in the comments!


[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Here’s Sugar curling up with a good book, in this case the ARC of Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my upcoming collection of essays about writing and the writing life, which comes out in December from Subterranean Press. And you can win it! Here’s how:

Tell me in the comments which Beatles song I am thinking of right now.

That’s it!

The person who correctly guesses which Beatles song I am thinking of wins. In the case where more than one person correctly guesses, I will number the correct guesses in order of appearance and then use a random number generator to select the winner among them.

“Beatles song” in this case means a song recorded by the Beatles, and includes both original songs by the band, and the cover songs they recorded. Solo work does not count. Here’s a list of songs recorded by the Beatles, if you need it. The song I’m thinking of is on it.

Guess only one song. Posts with more than one guess will have only the first song considered. Posts not related to guessing a song will be deleted. Also, only one post per person — additional posts will be deleted.

This contest is open to everyone everywhere in the world, and runs until the comments here automatically shut off (which will be around 3:50pm Eastern time, Sunday, July 23rd). When you post a comment, leave a legit email address in the “email” field so I can contact you. I’ll also announce the winner here on Monday, July 24. I’ll mail the ARC to you, signed (and personalized, if so requested).

Kitten not included.

Also remember you can pre-order the hardcover edition of Obit from Subterranean Press. This is a signed, limited edition — there are only 1,000 being made — and they’ve already had a healthy number of pre-orders. So don’t wait if you want one.

Now: Guess which Beatles song I am thinking of! And good luck!


Wild Cards and Werewolves

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:36 pm
[syndicated profile] not_a_blog_feed
Another new post just up on the Wild Cards blog.

This time our blogger is David Anthony Durham, and his subjects are Spartacus... and werewolves.

Ahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

http://www.wildcardsworld.com/on-the-trials-and-tribulations-of-werewolves/

Agent to the Stars, 20 Years On

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:10 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So, on July 21, 1997, which was a Monday, I posted the following on the alt.society.generation-x newsgroup:

Thought y’all might like to know. I’m happy, pleased, tired.

96,098 words, cranked out in a little under three months, working
mostly on weekends, grinding out 5,000 words at a sitting.

Learned two things:

a) I *can* carry a story over such a long stretch;

b) like most things on the planet, thinking about doing it is a lot
worse than simply sitting down and doing it. The writing wasn’t hard
to do, you just need to plant ass in seat and go from there.

I did find it helped not to make my first novel a gut-wrenching
personal story, if you know what I mean. Instead I just tried to write
the sort of science fiction story I would like to read. It was fun.

Now I go in to tinker and fine tune. Will soon have it ready for beta
testing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That novel? Agent to the Stars. Which means that today is the 20th anniversary of me being a novelist. Being a published novelist would have to wait — I date that to January 1, 2005, the official publication date of Old Man’s War — but in terms of having written a full, complete (and as it eventually turned out, publishable) novel: Today’s the day.

I’ve recounted the story of Agent before but it’s fun to tell, because I think it’s a nice antidote to the “I just had to share the story I’d been dreaming of my whole life” angle first novels often take. The gist of the story was that my 10-year high school reunion was on the horizon, and having been “the writer dude” in my class, I knew I would be asked if I had ever gotten around to writing a novel, and I wanted to be able to say “yes.” Also, I was then in my late 20s and it was time to find out whether I could actually write one or not.

Having decided I was going to write one, I decided to make it easy for myself, mostly by not trying to do all things at once. The goal was simply: Write a novel-length story. The story itself was going to be pretty simple and not personally consequential; it wasn’t going to be a thinly-disguised roman a clef, or something with a serious and/or personal theme. It would involve Hollywood in some way, because I had spent years as a film critic and knew that world well enough to write about it. And as for genre, I was most familiar with mystery/crime fiction and science fiction/fantasy, so I flipped a coin to decide which to do. It come up heads, so science fiction it was, and the story I had for that was: Aliens come and decide to get Hollywood representation.

(I don’t remember the story I was thinking for the mystery version. I’m sure death was involved. And for those about to say “well, you didn’t have to stick with science fiction for your second book,” that’s technically correct, but once I’d written one science fiction novel, I knew I could write science fiction. It was easier to stick with what I knew. And anyway I write murder mysteries now — Lock In and the upcoming Head On. They also happen to be science fiction.)

I remember the writing of Agent being pretty easy, in no small part, I’m sure, because of everything noted above — it wasn’t meant to be weighty or serious or even good, merely novel-length. When I finished it, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “Huh. That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I should have done this earlier.” In the fullness of time, I’ve realized that I probably couldn’t have done it any earlier, I wasn’t focused enough and it helped me to have some sort of external motivation, in this case, my high school reunion.

Once finished, I asked two friends and co-workers at America Online to read the book: Regan Avery and Stephen Bennett, both of whom I knew loved science fiction, and both of whom I knew I could trust to tell me if what I’d written was crap. They both gave it a thumbs up. Then I showed it to Krissy, my wife, who was apprehensive about reading it, since if she hated it she would have to tell me, and would still have to be married to me afterward. When she finished it, the first thing she said to me about it was “Thank Christ it’s good.” Domestic felicity lived for another day.

And then, having written it… I did nothing with it for two years. Because, again, it wasn’t written for any other reason than to see if I could write a novel. It was practice. People other than Regan and Stephen and Krissy finally saw it in 1999 when I decided that the then brand-new Scalzi.com site could use some content, so I put it up here as a “shareware” novel, meaning that if people liked it they could send me a dollar for it through the mail. And people did! Which was nice.

It was finally physically published in 2005, when Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press published a limited hardcover edition. I was jazzed about that, since I wanted a version of the book I could put on my shelf. The cover was done by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, who among other things knew of the book because I was one of Penny Arcade’s very first advertisers way back in the day, advertising the Web version of the book (those guys have done okay since then). Then came the Tor paperback edition, and the various foreign editions, and the audiobook, and here we are today.

When I wrote the novel, of course, I had no idea that writing it was the first step toward where I am now. I was working at America Online — and enjoying it! It was a cool place to be in the 90s! — and to the extent I thought I would be writing novels at all, I thought that they would be sideline to my overall writing career, rather than (as it turned out) the main thrust of it. This should be your first indication that science fiction writers in fact cannot predict the future with any accuracy.

I’m very fond of Agent, and think it reads pretty well. I’m also aware that it’s first effort, and also because it was written to be in present time in the 90s, just about out of time in terms of feeling at all contemporary (there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remaining, to pick just one obvious example in the book). At this point I suggest people consider it as part of an alternate history which branched off from our timeline in 1998 or thereabouts. Occasionally it gets talked about for being picked for TV/film. If that ever happens, expect some extensive plot revisions. Otherwise, it is what it is.

One thing I do like about Agent is that I still have people tell me that it’s their favorite of mine. I like that because I think it’s nice to know that even this very early effort, done simply for the purpose of finding out if I could write a novel, does what I think a novel should: Entertains people and makes them glad they spent their time with it.

I’m also happy it’s the novel that told me I could do this thing, this novel-writing thing, and that I listened to it. The last couple of decades have turned out pretty well for me. I’m excited to see where things go from here.


Enough

Jul. 21st, 2017 07:57 am
reynardine: (xtra_fine)
[personal profile] reynardine
I've decided to start looking into bariatric surgery again. I tried for it seven years ago, even taking the nutrition course necessary, but the hospital (University of Iowa) turned me down as a candidate because I have bipolar disorder. Since that time, there have been more studies done that show that bipolar patients are just as likely to follow post-operative directions as anyone else.

I will have to get documents from my psych doc, but I think he will cooperate. I still have episodes (that doesn't go away) but I recognize them and deal accordingly.

I'll be talking with my primary doctor next week about this, and have an informational meeting set up the week after that with a surgeon to see what options are available locally and also to get a handle on what the costs might be.

My father, who had tried for the surgery some time ago, found out the hard way that most doctors have an upper age limit (usually 55 to 60 years old), so if I plan to do this, I only have a few years to act.

The fact is that I weigh almost 300 lbs. I've had some limited success with diets, but the weight always comes back, especially when I have to take seroquel. I look and feel extremely unattractive, my hips, knees, and ankles are badly stressed, and it's difficult to find clothing that fits anymore.

Enough is enough. I know the surgery can work--both my brother and his wife have had it. They still have to work at keeping weight off (that never ends), but the surgery gave them the running start they needed.
[syndicated profile] schlockmercenary_feed

Posted by Howard Tayler

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is easily the least enjoyable film I’ve seen this year. It started off pretty well, and then our main characters took the screen and the movie began to plummet through my ratings, landing squarely at the bottom long before the final credits rolled.

At least two people walked out of the showing early and did not return. Perhaps they could no longer stand the embarrassment of continuing to watch the movie, or maybe they stepped out to use the restroom, and found that the smell of disinfectant was such a refreshing change they prolonged their excretory lounging by an hour.

Harsh? Yes, that’s pretty harsh. The movie earned it.

I really wanted to enjoy this movie. I was prepared to ignore major failings in order to get an awesome space opera fix. I brought my extra-strength suspenders of disbelief, and tried to pretend I didn’t care about character motivation, but it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. I found myself actually cringing in my seat, physically curling up in a sort of full-body wince, over and over, right up until the last scene, which was one of the worst of the film.

Here is a quick list of the movie’s top failings:

  • Infodumps! And not just maid-and-butler dialog, either. There were scenes that played out like a bored kindergarten teacher reading a Wikipedia article to a room full of robots.
  • Dane HeHaan¹, who played Valerian, sounded like he was doing a Keanu Reeves imitation, except he left out all the emotion.
  • Cara Delevingne², the actress who played Laureline, totally convinced me that Laureline was an android.
  • Half of the film’s dialog was throwaway lines like “bring thrusters up to full” or “scanning for DNA now.”
  • The romantic arc was obviously written by somebody who has never been in love, but who has heard lots of nice things about it, and maybe read a saucy book once.

There were some things that the film did well, of course:

  • The special effects were nice.
  • It was projected in an establishment that serves popcorn.
  • It was about the right length for a movie.
  • The colors were vibrant, and were on the screen instead of in my lap.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets deserves top billing in a future season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was only slightly less painful to watch than Cry Wilderness or Starcrash. It clears my Threshold of Disappointment⁴, obviously, and does so with such aplomb that I almost feel like apologizing to Transformers: The Last Knight.


¹ Dane Dehaan is a fine actor. I can only surmise that the director very vehemently demanded the most wooden performance possible.
² Cara Delevingne was one of the best things about Suicide Squad. Again, it’s my theory that Besson⁴ required her to pretend to be a replicant with poor social camouflage, and trouper that she is, she nailed the performance.
³ Some people will love this film, and will be quite angry at how disappointed I am with it. It’s important to realize that our reactions to art are mostly due to what we bring with us. The art only activates what’s already in our heads and hearts. I really wish I had a bag full of “You’ll love Valerian” with me in the theater, but I did not.
I have loved some of Besson’s other work, particularly The Fifth Element, which is still one of my all-time favorite films. 

Chapter 63: Page 22

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] gunnerkrigg_feed
Cool beans.
---------------------
I've started regularly posting small autobio strips to my Patreon page for Patrons only! Head over and take a look, or even consider supporting me and the comic if you want to take a little look behind the scenes.
[syndicated profile] daily_illuminator_feed
Super Summer Retail Kit Your training is complete - time to become a full-fledged hero! Best place to do that? Your local game store giving a Super Summer Game Day this weekend, July 21-23!

Take on the villains of Super Munchkin Guest Artist Edition, featuring the stellar illustrations of Lar DeSouza! But we didn't stop with a fun game day; you get some promo swag, too, including Munchkin bookmarks and promo cards like Sailor Bacon! Plus, if you share pictures of playing during the event on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #PlayMunchkin, you'll be entered to win some exclusive loot, like signed cards or a signed copy of Super Munchkin Guest Artist Edition

In addition, if you're attending San Diego Comic Con, Lar will be at booth 1231, giving away his own Sailor Bacon promo. If you ask nicely, he'll probably give you a signature, too!

So swing by your participating friendly local game store (check with them which day they are playing) and #PlayMunchkin at the Super Summer Game Day before it's up, up, and away! 

Hunter Shelburne

Warehouse 23 News: Get Wild With GURPS

Make GURPS quicker and easier with GURPS Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills. Unleash your skills' full potential with plenty of examples, new options, rule clarifications, and more. Download it today, from Warehouse 23.

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