Three things today:
1. I'm pretty sure I'm not a prima dona, but I've been prima dona-adjacent plenty of times in the course of my acting career. Because of my extensive experience with prima donas, I was able to advise John Scalzi on the matter yesterday, via an IM conversation that he's reprinted on his blog:
Me: I just want to burnish my credentials as an insufferable prima donna, you know?
Wil: Dude. Come spend some time with me. Learn at the feet of a master.
Me: “Fix me pot pie!”
Wil: Good, but try: “Are you fucking kidding me? Where’s my pot pie?”
“I came all the way here, and you can’t even make a fucking pot pie?”
Then you sort of shake your head, like you’re really disappointed.
Yes, I'll be at LosCon, but probably for only the one panel with John. If there's a sudden and unexpected explosion of Awesome next weekend, that's probably why.
2. While Propelling this morning, I came across one of the single greatest things I've ever seen in my life: The Genesis of Doctor Who, from the BBC Archives:
Explore the origins of a TV legend with this collection of documents and images. It's now the number one family favourite, but 'Doctor Who' had a difficult birth, emerging from the imagination of some of BBC Drama's top minds.
Here, we tell the story of the creation of 'Doctor Who' from the very beginning, starting with a report on the possibility of making science fiction for television and leading up to the moment a new drama series is announced in the pages of 'Radio Times'.
Please prop this story at Propeller. I'd kind of like to keep my corporate overlords over there happy, for the usual reasons.
3. Since I first turned it on, iTunes Genius has been the opposite of the generally accepted definition of genius. Instead of it, I've relied on totally random shuffle to amuse myself when I'm not listening to one of my many carefully-designed playlists (all those years making mixtapes paid off, apparently.) I kept checking back, in the hopes that it would get a little closer to awesome, and recently, the Genius playlists have been considerably smarter and more useful (as I figured they would be, as they aggregated more user data). Today, Genius said, "Hey, you have this playlist with New Order, Sonic Youth, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Jam? You'll totally like the soundtrack to Marie Antoinette." I took a look, and iTunes Genius was totally right. As I said on Twitter, I'm late to the party, and I have no desire to see the movie, but you can do a lot worse than the soundtrack to Marie Antoinette.
That's probably it for today. I'm racing against yet another deadline on yet another awesome project that I can't wait to announce.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties (you know, those years where you're invincible and know everything?) my friend Dave and were crazy about the LA Weekly. We'd pick it up every Thursday, and then sit in his house or my apartment, listening to records (actual, vinyl records) and reading it cover to cover. I think it's safe to say that the Weekly's voice and editorial point of view in the early 90s was a significant influence on me.
A couple of months ago, my former editor at the Suicide Girls Newswire became the editor of the Weekly's blogs, and she asked me if I'd come and write for her again.
I was really excited at the prospect of writing for a publication that I'd been reading for over 15 years, but as soon as I accepted the job, the performance anxiety kicked in. I got really nervous about writing for a new audience, especially one that I know nothing about (if I could hop in a time machine and go back to 1991, I'd be all set, but currently? I'm kind of shooting in the dark.) It's intimidating, like finally getting to play for a team you've watched your entire life, and I'll admit to being really overwhelmed by the whole thing. When I worked on my column yesterday, rewriting it for the millionth time, I realized that, for the first time in a long time, I was afraid to suck.
It was a lot of work, and I'm not entirely sure I struck the notes I wanted to strike, but my first column just went live a little bit ago. It's called Crosstown Traffic, and it's about Los Angeles as a microcosm of 21st century America:
I’m an Angeleno by birth, rather than by choice (a bit of a rarity, it seems). I grew up in the Valley, I worked in Hollywood (in both the geographical and mythical sense) for most of my life, and I’ve driven at least ten miles on our freeways for every resident in the county, most of them sitting in traffic on the 10 during rush hour.
Two things are certain when you live in Los Angeles: you’re going to deal with people who can’t drive in the rain, and you will meet people who have come here from all over the country. Some of them are chasing a dream, some of them are running away from a nightmare. Some are here to get discovered, some are here to disappear. And, sooner or later, all of them are going to be between me and where I want to go. When I’m late. On a Friday. Sitting on the 10 during rush hour. Well, at least if it’s raining they’ll know how to drive.
Speaking as a third-generation Angeleno, I’m glad they’re here, because I think we’d live in a pretty boring city otherwise.
My column will appear every Tuesday morning. If you think it doesn't suck, I'd be extremely grateful if you'd tell your friends about it, link it, and do all that stuff that makes my bosses happy, and glad they hired me.
(I'm stealing a move from John Scalzi and closing comments on this post, to encourage comments over my post at the Weekly.)
I've been damn busy, and it looks to remain that way for the near future. I'm not complaining. However, I have, as the old saying goes, many spinning plates in the air, and my feet are tangled in a mob of lemurs.
Until I have some spare creative energy, or something worthwhile to say, the best I can do is point you to my friend Cherie's superawesome Steampunk long-short-story/novelette in the Fall edition of Subterranean Online, Tanglefoot:
Stonewall Jackson survived Chancellorsville. England broke the Union’s naval blockade, and formally recognized the Confederate States of America. Atlanta never burned.
It is 1880. The American Civil War has raged for nearly two decades, driving technology in strange and terrible directions. Combat dirigibles skulk across the sky and armored vehicles crawl along the land. Military scientists twist the laws of man and nature, and barter their souls for weapons powered by light, fire, and steam.
But life struggles forward for soldiers and ordinary citizens. The fractured nation is dotted with stricken towns and epic scenes of devastation–some manmade, and some more mysterious. In the western territories cities are swallowed by gas and walled away to rot while the frontiers are strip-mined for resources. On the borders between North and South, spies scour and scheme, and smugglers build economies more stable than their governments.
This is the Clockwork Century.
It is dark here, and different.
Want to know how awesome Cherie is? She's currently nominated for a rather prestigious writing award . . . against Ursula LeGuin. Not bad for your first time, Cherie.
I'm back to the salt mines. Have a nice day, and watch out for the lemurs. They're motherfuckingeverywhere.
Hey guess what? I'm writing the Geek in Review for the Suicide Girls Newswire again. Instead of a weekly column, it'll be monthly, and a new column will go up on the second Wednesday of every month.
Today's column is called "... when the MCP was just a chess program."
The earliest video games didn't just encourage us to use our imaginations when we played them, they forced us to. Yar's Revenge, the best-selling original title on the Atari 2600, has simple yet entertaining gameplay, but it was supported by an extraordinarily rich backstory, turning it into one chapter in an epic struggle for cosmic justice. When I was 9, I wasn't just chipping away at the shield while I readied my Zorlon cannon; I was helping the Yar extract revenge on the Qotile for the destruction of their planet, Razak IV, as illustrated in the comic that came with the game.
When I was 10 or 11, I arranged a TV tray, a dining room chair, and a worn blanket to make a small tent in front of our 24-inch TV set. I carefully moved our Atari 400 onto the tray and plugged Star Raiders into the cartridge slot. I flipped the power on, picked up the joystick, and booted up my imagination as I sat in the command chair of my very own space ship. For the next hour, I was a member of the Atarian Starship Fleet. I was all that stood between the Zylon Empire and the destruction of humanity. Through my cockpit’s viewscreen (developed at great expense by the RCA corporation back on Earth) I blasted Zylon starships and Zylon basestars, and I would have defeated them all, if my meddling mother hadn’t made me stop and eat dinner!
When I was writing the GiR before, the powers that be at SG always made sure the newswire was SFW. As far as I know, they're still doing that, but your corporate firewall probably doesn't know or care, so consider yourself warned about reading at work.
The shit ass economy claims another victim, and this one will hit close to home for a lot of geeks. Topps announced that "WizKids will immediately cease operations and discontinue its product lines."
Allow me to be the first to say (on this blog, anyway) well, shit.
WizKids Games is an awesome company. They're best known for their Heroclix and Horrorclix games, but my personal favorite is their Pirates game. Pirates packs an entire game into something the size of a pack of trading cards, including Dinky Dungeons-esque dice. It's really fun to play, and scales well with gamers of varying experience levels.
HeroClix and HorrorClix are really fun tabletop minis games that take all the bookkeeping and stats of a wargame and put them right into the base of the figures. I got Nolan into 40K via HeroClix when he was in 6th or 7th grade, and I've heard similar tales from countless other Geekdads. As I write this, a HorrorClix Great Cthulhu sits on top of the bookcase behind me, keeping watch over everything I do, ready to devour me if I ever slack off.
I don't know anything about the business behind this decision, but I wonder if this has more to do with Topps consolidating and returning a focus to trading cards, instead of WizKids' games not selling well or enjoying popularity among gamers. In fact, I kind of hope that's the case. According to GeekDad, "Topps will immediately pursue strategic alternatives so that viable brands and properties, including HeroClix, can continue without noticeable disruption." Hopefully, gamers won't experience much of a disruption, but I'm sure the people who work at WizKids and lost their jobs will notice one, and that sucks. I've been lucky enough to meet several WizKids employees, and they're all great people.
I hope that WizKids will find a way to stay together and keep putting out their unique games, not only because they're fun on their own, but because they are perfect entry points for GamerDads like me, who have a vested interest in creating the capital-G Gamers of tomorrow.
I've struggled to put some eloquent words together all day, and I just can't make them work, so I'm just going to take the three that were important to me and put them down now: thank you, veterans.
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