Blog? What Blog?

Oh yeah, this blog.

So for the past month or two, I’ve been writing gaming fiction and even some gaming crunch for The Onyx Path. I don’t know how much more I can say at the moment, but it’s kept me busy…mostly because it’s a new experience for me, so I’ve put in quite a bit of time on the work to make sure it’s good.

I get the impression that people who’ve been doing this for a while can produce material a lot faster than me; a number of them work on several projects a month. I’m not at that level of productivity yet, but I hope they’ll keep hiring me—it’s a good group of people to work with, and feedback comes more quickly than with fiction writing.

Still, I am writing fiction, every morning for several hours. I’ve also been doing some editing, and I’ll be leading workshops at When Words Collide in Calgary, Aug 9-11, and VCON in Vancouver, Oct. 11-13.

In the meantime, I intend to start posting regularly again. And as a start, let me announce that I’ll be at Ad Astra in Toronto, but only on the Saturday, July 13. Hope to see lots of people there!

Idle Thoughts on Role-Playing

I’m embarking on a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign with a number of people who go to the same Kung Fu school as I do. I’m the Dungeon Master, which means I’m the one who sets the stage for the players and who referees the game if necessary. Since four of the five players are beginners, I’ll also be helping them understand the rules, and orienting them a bit in terms of their odds of succeeding or failing.

(Spoiler alert: even though it’s called Dungeons & Dragons, beginning level characters should not try to slay a dragon. They will fail. However, I have a policy with brand new players: I promise that their characters won’t die in the first three sessions. If they really do try to slay a dragon, the dragon may just beat them up, take all their stuff, and leave them naked outside the nearest town. Or more likely, the dragon will singe them a bit, then say, “Okay, if you don’t want to die, you have to agree to run an errand for me…”)

As I said last week, I love planning campaigns. I love dreaming up new worlds full of wild and wonderful things. Also, since this campaign will only be the six of us sitting around a kitchen table, I love stealing stuff from my favorite books, comics, movies, TV, etc.

In my real writing, I can’t steal egregiously…but at the kitchen table, I can. So in the past, I’ve stolen from Doctor Who, Michael Moorcock, Star Trek, H.P. Lovecraft, and many many many more sources. For me, creating a campaign is a form of fanfic: as over-the-top as I can make it.

But one of the best things about role-playing is that the game isn’t just what I steal and what I invent on my own. It’s a joint creation of everyone at the table, all of them smart and devious. Players always invent their own goals and backstories—stuff that goes beyond what I could dream up on my own. We work together, developing the story from all that material. This means that a role-playing campaign emerges unpredictably from interactions between everyone present. Like good improv theatre, nobody knows what’s going to happen until it happens.

Role-playing is also an excuse to get together with friends. Perhaps that’s the most important feature. Of course, we could just get together and talk…but we probably wouldn’t, and certainly not week after week. Playing the game is fun, but it’s also a pretext to socialize and surprise ourselves in the process.

The next session for this group is Friday night. I may or may not report what happens; I’ll have to talk to the others about it. But if you’ve ever thought you might be interested in role-playing, I strongly encourage it. And perhaps I’ll talk more about role-playing games in the near future.

[Disclaimer: For a lot of you reading this, role-playing games are probably old hat…but given that some readers haven’t played RPGs before, I’ll write these posts assuming no prior knowledge.]

[Dragon picture by Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons]

Just a rabbit picture

I had to take a new picture of Bowen for a group I’m part of, and hey, why not post it here too?

(Rabbits generally look very deadpan. That’s just how their faces work. And actually, it’s not easy to get rabbits to sit still for a picture. Deep in their bones, they know the world wants to eat them…so if you focus on them too long, they decide maybe it’s time to be somewhere else.)

Sharing, May 7, 2019

Links? I got ’em.

Convention: When Words Collide, Aug 9-11, 2019, in Calgary
For a long time, I’ve loved the concept of When Words Collidge. It’s a convention specifically aimed at genre diversity: science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, and more. It’s a great way of expanding your horizons beyond your favourite niches…and this year, I’m going to be one of the guests of honour! Yay! So come out, say hi, and enjoy the convention.
Role-Playing: A New Dungeons & Dragons Campaign
I’ve been talked into running a new D&D campaign for a group from my kung fu school. I didn’t take much persuading…and now I’ve been cackling to myself for more than a week as I design the arc of the campaign, with a whole bunch of surprises built in. I can’t give details, of course—at least one of the players reads this blog. But starting any new tale gets my juices flowing, whether it’s a novel, a short story, or a campaign. [*Insert sinister laugh here.*]
Season: Spring
Today, most of the trees on my street suddenly acquired leaf buds. Within a week, the trees may actually look like trees. About damned time! And it means that I can get out and start running (okay, jogging) again.



Sharing May 1, 2019

Let’s get back to this, shall we?

Books: The Slough House series by Mick Herron
I’ve been burning through the books of this series one after another. Slough House is the place where MI5 agents are sent when they’re burned out or incompetent, but for one reason or another can’t just be fired. They’re given boring and meaningless desk jobs in the hope they’ll give up and quit…but of course, things don’t stay that simple. In each book of the series, the “Slow Horses” as they’re called stumble into serious cases that the rest of the Security Service has overlooked. Not only are the books exciting thrillers, they’re written in a delightfully snarky tone of voice that makes me laugh a lot. Highly recommended.
Place: Banff
The last time I was in Banff was 1979, but I had a chance to get back there last week. The town has completely changed, but the mountains haven’t. Neither has the smell of the air. I should get back there more often.
Movie: Avengers: Endgame
It’s not at all a perfect movie, but it does what it had to do: serve as a gala ending for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Technically, the forthcoming Spider-Man movie is considered the end of Phase 3, but no matter how good that movie is, it’s more of a palate cleanser than a climax…although it could still go out with a bang as I suggested in my recent speculations.) I’ve seen a lot of people point out weaknesses in Endgame, many of which I agree with, but still—it worked for me.

Marvel Predictions

It’s been ages since I posted anything, and my apologies. Things got busy for a while. But my schedule has calmed down, and since I went to Avengers: Endgame last night, allow me to speculate on future Marvel developments.

Note: No spoilers here for Avengers: Endgame. However, I will refer to future Marvel movies that have been announced or described as in development.

So I liked Endgame a lot, but it got me thinking about what might come next. Obviously, there will be a lot more Marvel superhero movies, considering how much money they’ve been making since the first Iron Man. We already know about Spider-Man: Far From Home coming in July, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 coming in 2022. We can also safely predict Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, and Doctor Strange 2. Marvel has also announced a Shang Chi movie, although I have no idea what they’ll do with it.

But the most interesting future movie is The Eternals, which stars Angelina Jolie (among other people) and is scheduled to start filming in August. The Eternals were invented by Jack Kirby, but they’ve never had a high profile in the Marvel universe. The only Eternal who ever got much play in the comic books was a guy named Thanos. Yes, that Thanos. But his fellow Eternals are almost never seen.

Who are the Eternals? They’re a godlike race created by an even more godlike race called the Celestials. The Eternals were created to look after Earth until the Celestials come back to judge the human race. At that point, the Celestials will decide whether to let humans live or to destroy them because they don’t measure up to the Celestial standards. The Celestials have done this to a lot of other planets, and so far they’ve destroyed them all.

So here’s my prediction: the Celestials will be the unifying threat for the next MCU plot arc, similar to what the Infinity Stones have been in past movies. Over a number of movies, we’ll find out about the Celestials. We’ll get hints that they’re coming to judge us, and eventually they’ll show up. They’ll give us a thumbs down and start destroying the planet. The final Avengers movie of the next arc will be dealing with the Celestials one way or another.

We’ve already seen tidbits of the Celestials. The Guardians of the Galaxy hang out in Knowhere, which happens to be a dead Celestial’s head. The Eternals movie will surely show us much more about them…and of course, if the movie is a success, there will be more Eternals movies to further the plot. Guardians 3 could sow more seeds by showing us a planet that was destroyed by the Celestials some time in the past. Also Black Panther 2 might link in with the Celestials—in the comics, there’s a connection between the Celestials and Wakanda’s vibranium deposits. There’s also a Celestial buried on Earth; it could be discovered in any forthcoming movie, either as a side plot or as a single Big Bad for some movie.

Other predictions: I want to avoid spoilers, but there are plenty of characters available at the end of Endgame to form a new version of the Avengers. You might also add Daredevil, Luke Cage, et al now that their TV series have been canceled. Further characters might be added. For example, Monica Rambeau will almost certainly be showing up sooner or later, since young Monica was introduced in Captain Marvel.

No doubt there will be several Avengers movies before the big one against the Celestials. There might also be a Young Avengers movie. We already have Cassie Lang at an appropriate age and Clint Barton’s daughter could easily become a young Hawkeye instead of the canonical Kate Bishop. Other young heroes would include Spider-Man (obviously), Shuri (obviously), Ms. Marvel (whom I’m sure they’d love to put on the big screen), and possibly America Chavez. They could also bring in one of the Novas. The Guardians have already met the Nova Corps, so it would take very little set-up for a Nova helmet to find its way to Earth.

Then there are the X-Men who are now within the Marvel fold. Marvel hasn’t yet announced what they’ll be doing with the X-Men, partly because they’ve been holding back on all announcements about most upcoming movies, and partly because they don’t want to undermine the forthcoming Dark Phoenix movie by talking about what comes after. But I’m willing to bet Dark Phoenix  will be the last in the current X-Men continuity. Marvel will reboot the X-Men to get them into the MCU, and they’ll do the reboot sooner rather than later.

I have this fantasy about a post-credits scene in the July Spider-Man movie where a new student enrolls in Peter Parker’s high school. Kitty Pryde, anyone? Half the audience would explode. (Although it would also be fun for the new student to be Negasonic Teenage Warhead.)

To set up another fantasy, I’ll note that Hugh Jackman is finished playing Wolverine. Therefore the new Wolverine could be played by any actor. We might know in advance that Actor X plays an unspecified part in some movie (just as we knew Jude Law was in Captain Marvel, but we had no idea who he played). Actor X may seem like a mere background character until at a crucial point in the movie, SNIKT, and the claws come out. That would be an awesome moment; I’d love it if Marvel took us by surprise like that, and it could happen in any of the upcoming movies.

Speaking of Wolverine, I’d love if Dafne Keen returned as X-23. However, I don’t think it will happen. Logan is just too far out of continuity for Keen to make the jump. Of course, a different X-23 might well appear somewhere. We can hope.

So there are some predictions and fantasies. I have no idea if any of these speculations will come to pass, but it’s always nice to lay down a marker so that I have a chance of saying, “I told you so.”