Thursday, December 29, 2011

Yeah, so this domain is registered with GoDaddy

EDIT 2: As you probably noticed, the site was down for a while yesterday. (cricket, cricket...) Ahem. Yes, well, the downtime had to do with the change in registrars, and we should now be up and back for good. Whew!

EDIT: Change of plans. My friend Kage told me that it's actually really easy to transfer domains to NameCheap, so I went with that. Looks like I'll get to keep after all. Hm, maybe that means I should post more...

Original post below:

So as you no doubt no already, GoDaddy is incredibly unpopular right now for their support of SOPA. If you don't know what SOPA is or why it's bad, then you haven't been on the internet lately.

Alas, this very site is registered with GoDaddy. Luckily, the domain expires in a few months. I don't have my heart set on keeping this domain, so I'm just going to let it run out without renewing.

Don't worry - the blog will still be here at I may even re-register the domain with a different service, if that's even a thing that people do. Right now, I just don't want to give GoDaddy any more of my money.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Han is always wrong

What do I do on my lunch break? Make up new memes for my own amusement. Think of this as a viral ad for my post(s?) about Star Wars: The Old Republic, coming soon/eventually.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"The Secret World" video game trailers are great urban fantasy shorts

I recently came across the CG trailers to the "Secret World" video game. It's going to be an MMO set in the modern world, with an urban fantasy twist. The MMO itself looks like any other MMO, though they have an interesting gimmick where the gameplay intersects with real-world social networking and  websites you can visit.

The gameplay videos consist of groups of people standing around big monsters, shooting the monsters with guns and/or colorful blasts of magic. Meh, I have no interest in the game itself.

What does interest me are the CG trailers. If you ignore the fact that they're trailers for a video game, they make really cool short videos about some characters in an urban fantasy world.

You can watch the first three in any order, but you should watch all three before you watch the fourth.

The First Video - A woman comes home and makes a milkshake.

The Second Video - Another woman walks through a playground at night and finds a feather.

The Third Video - A man finishes his drink at a bar and goes to the restroom.

The Fourth Video - I won't say anything for fear of spoilers.

These videos make me want to read (and write) some hardboiled urban fantasy. Maybe after my National Novel Writing Month novel is done I'll have a chance to return to this idea!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Graveyard Book

When I first left college, I went on a reading spree through Neil Gaiman's major novels, including American Gods, Anansi Boys, and Neverwhere (which I loved so much that I read it in a day), along with some collections of short stories and most of his Sandman graphic novels. Then, with my hunger for Gaiman sated, I stopped for a long time. In that time, The Graveyard Book came out and won just about every award a YA book can win. I had always meant to read it, and as Halloween approached, I decided it was time I finally cracked it open and looked inside.

From the Dust Returned

I have had a hard time getting into Bradbury. His work is very poetic and his stories show astounding imagination, but I have trouble investing in the stories in the same way I get invested in something by Gaiman or Pratchett. From the Dust Returned is the story of a singular house, inhabited by a unique family. Once a year, the distant relatives arrive, flown in on the wind or running on wolf's legs or flapping on bats' wings. The story begins with one such family reunion and deals with the changing times and their effect on this family.

A Night in the Lonesome October

In my mind, there is a sliding scale of Halloween. At one end there children dressed as Spider-Man and princess fairies. On the other end, there are gory heads on spikes with blood oozing down. If you ask me, Halloween is at its best when it's in between. Halloween is the time for Draculas and Frankensteins, when bats go eek-eek and ghosts go woo-oo-oo! And no book captures that spirit quite so well as Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Berk Bonus Species: Skeeros

Demon Squirrel by SeaWhisper
Every Berk resident knows to be on the lookout for attack squirrels, with good reason. But just as sheep must have a shepherd, so do attack squirrels have Skeeros. Maybe the Skeeros are more like sheep-dogs. Sheep-squirrels. Squirrel-squirrels. Skeeros are squirrel-people who keep packs of attack squirrels.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites. Because pets need to fight the supernatural, too!

What do you do if you have a supernatural problem? You call a paranormal investigator, right? Depending on your preferences, that could be Hellboy, or Harry Dresden, or Abraham van Helsing, or Ginko... but what if you're a suburban pet? Then you had better howl for the Beasts of Burden.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Berk Bonus Factions: Canadian Berserkers, Hermits, Yoga Zombies, Streetfood Vendors, Graffiti-Bots

So what's next for Berk? I intend to write a novel set in Berk for National Novel Writing Month, but there is half a month between now and then. I realized after September ended that there were several things I still wanted to get down in writing about Berk before starting my novel. It feels like there is a lot more in my head than in the posts. I know I'll never be able to get it all in writing, or even really figure out what exactly I imagine, but I'll try to get some bonus posts up between now and November, and maybe a few short stories to take the setting for a "test drive."
Lumberjacks at Work, by the awesome Scott C.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Sixth Gun

Just look at this cover! LOOK AT IT!
What do you want from your Weird West stories? Zombie Confederates? Check. Native American legends come to life? Check. Supernatural six-shooters? Check, check, check, check, check, and check! Werewolves? Okay, for werewolves, you should check out High Moon instead. But for those other elements, you can't go wrong with The Sixth Gun. My wife bought me a copy of the first volume for my birthday, and all I can say is, that woman knows what I like.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Berk Legend: The Song of The Steve

Image from
Now listen, young Gipsters, and I'll tell you the story,
Of the man who planted the seeds of our glory.
He lived long ago, yet blesses us today,
Bringing us wonders to show us the way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sample Adventure: The Beloved Company, Continued

I will be sending out the continuation of this adventure via email. Let me know if you'd like a copy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sample Adventure: The Beloved Company, Part 1

Man, didn't those old D&D modules have great covers? Image from Wikipedia
Will you brave the dangers to explore the Beloved Company, rumored to hold technological treasures? The Beloved Company building is located above a nest of Yoga Zombies, so looters stay away from it, but perhaps it contains dangers more diabolical within its wall. This adventure is intended for 3-5 player characters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Notorious Villains of Berk: The Steve, Queen Raider MacRaider

The Steve appears to a faithful believer. Image from
If you thought Kittenbot 3000 was scary, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Well, okay, Kittenbot 3000 is pretty scary. You might want to take off that yarn sweater before heading out into the Deep City. Kittenbot 3000 may attack you anyway, but at least it'll be a little less ironic. Because, y'know, kittens and balls of yarn.

Notorious Villains of Berk: Xander Bonaparte, Berkeley, Kittenbot 3000

I wasn't sure what picture would work for this post, so I found this cool picture on Wikimedia Commons
As if the good citizens of Berk didn't have enough to worry about, what with gangs of raiders, mutant animals, and feral mutants living all around them, there are a few especially nasty characters around who would like nothing better than to see Berk destroyed forever.

Berk Sample Character: Professor Clanky, Robot

Robot design by Onorio D'Epiro; image is from
Name: Professor Clanky
Species: Robot
Faction: None (joint Librarians/Brofessors affiliation)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Berk Sample Character: Felix "Noobsniper666" Mansetti, Former Gibson

Felix only wishes his bike was in this good condition. Image from Wikimedia Commons
Name: Felix Mansetti
Species: Human
Faction: Freelance (formerly Gibsons)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who's Who in Berk - Faction Leaders (Brofessors and Redwood Deputies)

If you showed this picture to a Brofessor, he or she would have trouble recognizing the ruined and half-rebuilt campus of the post-post-apocalypse. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Nobody really runs Berk, of course. The city is in constant danger of being wiped out by raiders, mutant creatures, and worse, so there is not much time to create much of a ruling body. Recently, the city has had a bit more breathing room, thanks to improved coordination between the various factions and a united effort to send adventurers after the raider bases and mutant lairs. This has given the faction leaders a chance to meet on occasion to coordinate how best to defend the city. Whether this is the start of a new Berk or just an opportunity for the factions to annoy each other in new ways remains to be seen...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who's Who in Berk: Faction Leaders (Librarians and Russian Werewolves)

This town ain't gonna run itself. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

If you were to ask the average passerby on the street in downtown Berk who runs the town, most people would point to the Library and tell you that the Chief Librarian is in charge. Any nearby Russian Werewolves would hotly contest this, as Berk is a conquered territory run by the General of the First Vladivostok Werewolf Aiborne. If a passing Brofessor were to hear the exchange, he or she would quickly point out that the the Professor of the University is in charge. To make everyone happy, these posts will try to describe the various faction leaders.

Berk Sample Character: Annie "Oakleaf" Dell

There's more where these came from. Image from Wikimedia Commons
Name: Annie Dell
Species: Ent
Faction: Redwood Deputies

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Berk Locations: Cyberdome

Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Gibson gangs may be semi-nomadic, erecting temporary camps and moving on when they have picked an area clean. Other Gibson gangs are completely nomadic, living out of RVs and trailers that follow the main pack. Yet others have permanent residences of sorts in the Unsettlement and strike from there. No matter where a Gibson lives, though, he or she has a second home at Cyberdome.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sample Berk Character: Aleksander Kolyarov, Russian Werewolf

Image a composite of images from Wikimedia Commons

Name: Aleksander Kolyarov
Species: Russian Werewolf
Faction: First Vladivostok Werewolf Airborne

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Berk Species Profile: Ents

Ancient Tree and Jackdaws by Zhou Wenging. Image from Wikimedia Commons
Residents of Berk have a reputation for being easy-going and carefree, and a large part of that is because of the Ents. Ents are philosophical plant people who have practical views on life. They enjoy collecting things, learning, and sharing their wisdom. Ents love their town, and their tough bodies make them excellent defenders of their friends and homes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Berk Faction Brofile: Brofessors

Panoramic View of Berkeley in 1910, from
Before the First Event, the city that would become Berk was well known as a college town. Learned professors taught their young pupils the sciences and the humanities, while the young people did their best to fit as many poor decisions into four years as they could. In today's Berk, the Brofessors have accepted the challenge to keep university culture alive by embodying both of these ideals in a single group of individuals.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Guide to Berk: Vehicles

Miles per gallon? What's that? Image from Wikimedia Commons.

If you're going somewhere in Berk, there's a good chance you'll walk. Gasoline is rare, and anyone who has it is going to spend a lot of time (and probably most of the gasoline) just trying to keep it. Keeping animals is expensive, too, and there are few places to get a decent horse in Berk. Still, people have to get around, and goods need to be shipped from place to place, so there are all sorts of vehicles in Berk. Some are old-fashioned, while others are a new take on an old idea.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Berk Locations - The Sunken City

Image from
The city of Berk slopes down toward the ocean so that the western part of the city is actually underwater. If you keep going west over a section of empty water (which some Librarians refer to as the Former Bay), you will find the Sunken City. Very little of the city still remains above ground. Only the slimy tops of some ancient skyscrapers show that there is more going on under the waves.

Berk Species Profile: Cuttlefolk

Image from victoriapeckham's Flickr
Visitors from the Sunken City, the Cuttlefolk are some of the quieter denizens of Berk. Good-natured and industrious, Cuttlefolk are welcome to sell the goods they salvage from their underwater home.

There is also a small but thriving population of Cuttlefolk who live in the partially submerged section of Berk to the west of Downtown. These Cuttlefolk interact daily with their "dry" neighbors to the east. Most Cuttlefolk work as craftspeople and merchants, but there are also Cuttlefolk entertainers, Librarians, explorers, and even guards.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Berk Locations - Redwood

The carpenter just ordered a shipment of pine, but all the houses and furniture are built of oak.
Yet another image from Wikimedia Commons.
Ents have a reputation for being mellow and friendly, so when people hear that there is a city of Ents in the wasteland east of Berk, they assume that the city is an easy target for Gibsons, wasteland monsters, Vegan Cannibals, and the other dangers of the wasteland. When people learn that the town has a quaint Wild West vibe to it, they further assume that the town is delightfully old-fashioned. This is true, if you consider a Winchester delightful.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guide to Berk: Weapons

If you see this sign in Berk, don't stop. Run, because you're about to be beaten with it. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
While in Berk, it is a good idea to be armed at all times. You never know when you might run into a pack of Gipsters after your unfiltered cigarettes, some Vegan Cannibals who hate you for being made of meat, or a grumpy Bearcoon who thinks it's dinnertime. Often just the act of carrying a blade or sidearm and looking like you can use it is enough to convince most prowling gangs to go after easier prey, at least in the more habitable parts of Berk. In the Deep City or the Unsettlement, if a gang looks at you funny it's best to kill a few to show them you mean business, and then kill the rest just to be sure.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guide to Berk - Monsters

Okay, imagine these guys, but the size of bears coming in through your basement window because they have collapsible skeletons... (image from Wikimedia Commons)
Some people believe that, since the First and Second Events, there are no cute animals left in Berk. This is not the case. Some of the remaining animals can still be considered cute; it's just that they'll tear your head off if you give them half a chance.

Most of the animals have been mutated by the radiation left over from the First Event. All of them have developed a bad attitude as a result of having lived in Berk for generations. They are bigger and tougher than their pre-Event counterparts, and they have no fear of humans. In fact, for some, the sound of an approaching human is the sound of a dinner that delivers itself.

Berk Species Profile: Robots

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Robots are a common sight in Berk. They can be everything from automated street sweepers with the intelligence of house kittens chasing balls of fluff to dedicated soldiers and guards with advanced squad tactics. Some are among the wisest of the Librarians, while others enjoy nothing more than drinking used motor oil with some Gibson gangs or gaming with Russian Werewolves in a game that involves at least a deck and a half's worth of cards.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Berk Species Profile: Russian Werewolves

Russian Airborne patch from Russian
The nations of the world all fell around the time of the First Event, so the city of Berk does not fall under the jurisdiction of any country. Don't tell that to the Russian Werewolves, though; they're nice guys, so let them hold onto their delusion.

According to the Russian Werewolves, Russia sent a battalion of werewolf paratroopers to invade America around the time of the First Event. These paratroopers landed near Berk and proceeded to capture the city in the name of Mother Russia. The rest of the invasion and the capture of America had to be called off, though, because there was no America left to capture.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Berk Faction Profile: Gibsons

Image from Wikimedia Commons
The wastelands surrounding Berk are home to gangs of raiders, and none are more widespread than the Gibsons. For the Gibsons, it's all about the mirrorshades and the motorcycles. These nomads horde technology, raiding settlements for whatever electronics they may have, along with food and other supplies. Gibsons prize video games above all other technology. To them, the world is one big first-person shooter, and everyone else is a valid target.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Berk Species Profile: Tofu People

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Visitors to Berk soon notice that many of the city's residents are unusually pale. On closer inspection, these residents have curiously flat faces and soft flesh. These are the tofu people, a species of people who mainly live in Berk and the surrounding area. Though they are not as numerous as the human residents of the city, tofu people come from all walk of life and are a common sight in all parts of Berk.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Berk Faction Profile: Librarians

The patron saint of Librarians. Picture by anry
There is no doubt who are the biggest badasses of Berk. In a city surrounded by raider gangs and mutant monsters and crawling with killer gangs, the absolute top of the badass foodchain is a small group of librarians.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome to Berk

A friend of mine is running a "Write 15 Minutes a Day" challenge this month, so I will be participating by fleshing out a fictional city I have been working on. This may be the setting of some stories and/or an RPG campaign, so please comment on what you think works, what doesn't, and what else you'd like to know about the city of Berk.

Welcome to Berk, a post-post-apocalytic city. There's something for everyone: great street food (if it's fried and on a stick, it has to be food, right?), a world-class library (it even has books!), people of all shapes and sizes, forgotten technology (if the beeps start to get faster and faster, put it down and walk away quickly), and weapons from poisoned knitting needles to miniguns that speak the Queen's English. You'll want to keep those weapons handy at all times, because the city is home to yoga zombies, cyberpunk biker gangs, cannibals made of tofu, and more.

We hope you'll enjoy your stay.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

RPG Items with real-life components

I once sat in on a session of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign where the Dungeon Master had created an innovative way to get his players into the game. When he gave some of his player characters magical items, he gave the players a real-life item that corresponded with the in-game item. The one that I thought was especially clever was a chess set that, in game, one of the characters was playing against a ghost. The character would move a piece, and then the ghost would move a piece. In real life, the DM used a small magnetic chess set to represent the magical chessboard. The DM would make the ghost's moves, and the player would make his character's moves.

Another item in this campaign was a magical deck of cards, and each card did something different. This is similar to the famous D&D item, the Deck of Many Things. In this particular version, the deck was for a D&D card game, but other DMs may want to experiment with tarot decks, 52-card playing card decks, and any other decks they may have.

This inspired me to try my hand at creating some D&D items that could have real-life components. This seems like a great way to get the player into character, while also offering a unique memento of the RPG campaign. The idea is to come up with something that any DM can make without having to be an artist or spend a lot of money.

The Dune Sequels - Safe to Skip

***This review has spoilers for Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune.***

When I was in high school, I read two of the great works of SF: The Lord of the Rings and Dune. I recently re-read The Lord of the Rings and Dune, so I decided to continue on with the sequels to Dune, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. I loved Dune: the characters, the setting, the mix of technology and superstition. I had heard that the sequels were not as good as the original, and that the books after the first three got really weird. Plus, there were books written by Frank Herbert's son Brian and coauthored by Kevin J. Anderson. Based on their reputation, it sounds like Brian Herbert totally pulled a Christopher Tolkien, if you know what I mean.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thor: This movie, I like it! ANOTHER!

Thor is more than just the latest Marvel superhero movie. It may not be X-Men or Spider-Man or Iron Man, but it doesn't waste its time trying to be. Instead, it focuses on a likable hero, an engaging plot, a compelling villain, and of course setting up The Avengers, but more on that later.

I didn't know much about Thor when I went into the theater. I knew that he was an Avenger, and that he wielded Mjolnir and had storm-based powers, but I was mostly familiar with other incarnations of him: Ultimate Thor, Thor in 1602, Thor in the Ultimate Alliance video game. I had never actually read a "regular" Thor comic. I hadn't even planned on seeing it in theaters, but I heard a lot of good things, both from friends and from Rotten Tomatoes, so I thought, why not?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Priest Movie Review

When you go to see a movie like Priest, you know what you're going to get. In the tradition of films like Underworld and Daybreakers, Priest exists only to deliver over-the-top supernatural action. But does it do a good job of it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gladstone's School for World Conquerors, Issue 1

Click here for a followup to this post covering the first arc of the series

The new comic book series "Gladstone's School for World Conquerors" is about a school for superpowered kids, and I'm a sucker for stories like that. The X-Men, with Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, is the most well-known example. There was also the live-action Disney movie "Sky High," the comic book series PS-238 by Aaron Williams (the guy behind Nodwick), and no doubt countless others. I even wrote a superhero school novel for my first National Novel Writing Month novel. I'm also a big fan of the Teen Titans cartoon, which is not about a school, but it has the same wild energy of "Gladstone's School."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Movie Review: Summer Wars

Summer Wars is a film that fits a lot into two hours: there's action, romance, humor, tragedy, and wisdom. The film tells the story of a young man, Kenji, who agrees to accompany his classmate Natsuki to her grandmother's estate. When he gets there, he discovers that Natsuki plans on passing Kenji off as her fiancee for her grandmother's 90th birthday party. Natsuki's grandmother is a formidable woman who is proud of her samurai ancestry, so poor Kenji will have his work cut out for him if he is to impress her. But after the initial shock of being introduced to Natsuki's large family wears off, he realizes that he's never been part of such a vibrant and charming family before.

This sounds like the setup to a charming, light romantic comedy, and it sort of is, but there's something more to it: Kenji is a math whiz who works on Oz, a sort of mix between Google, World of Warcraft, and AT&T. While he's staying at Natsuki's grandmother's, Kenji receives a mysterious message that was sent to his cell phone asking him to solve a math problem. Kenji solves the problem in a night, then learns in the morning that Oz's supposedly unhackable security system has been compromised. As the intruder takes over more and more of Oz, it becomes a race against time for Kenji to undo the damage and restore Oz before the communications chaos causes permanent harm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: Bitter Seeds, by Ian Tregillis

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis is a novel that takes place during the Second World War and features the struggle of the British Secret Service against a new threat: a Nazi experiment to give a group of teenagers superpowers. Faced with a power they cannot hope to oppose, the Secret Service calls in a group of British warlocks for assistance.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Эльфийская Рукопись (Elven Manuscript)

Эльфийская Рукопись (Elven Manuscript) is a Russian fantasy metal rock opera. The band, Эпидемия (Epidemia), tried to make a rock opera based on Dragonlance, but when they couldn't get the rights, they decided to make up their own story.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: Leviathan and Behemoth

First, I should note that my wife deserves all the credit. She's the one who first read Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan and Behemoth, and she insisted that I read them, too. It took very little persuasion, as I love the illustrator, Keith Thompson, who not only draws the inside covers (sadly not some of the actual covers) but also has gorgeous full-page black-and-white illustrations throughout both books.

The premise of the books is that the First World War is about to break out, but instead of using trucks, planes, and tanks, the Central Powers use walking war machines, whereas the Allied forces use specially-bred war monsters. The war is thus between the "Clankers" and the "Darwinists," and it's as much a contest between the machine-minded Clanker outlook versus the unnatural ecosystems of the Darwinists as it is about the imperialism and nationalism that led to the historical Great War.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Young Justice Looks Like it's Going to Rock

I would sum up Young Justice as being somewhere between Teen Titans and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited. That's high praise indeed, as I am a huge fan of both shows.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: North 40

I should start by pointing out that the cover above is a total misrepresentation of the story. The Goth girl and the chubby guy in the Cthulhu Lives t-shirt start things off, but they don't really figure much into the whole plot. Two of the main characters, Sheriff Morgan and Wyatt Hinckle, can be seen in the background, while the third, Amanda Walker, is nowhere to be seen. That strikes me as odd, as a scythe-wielding young woman on the cover strikes me as something that can be used to sell comics, but apparently Goth girls rate higher.

But I digress. North 40 was written by Aaron Williams, whom some of you may know as the mind behind the popular Nodwick comic. But while Nodwick, along with Williams's other comics, PS238 and Full Frontal Nerdity, are light-hearted comedies, North 40 is decidedly a weird horror comic. And if the tentacles on the cover didn't already give it away, the horror is of the cosmic/Lovecraftian/weird variety.