Showing posts with label Television. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Television. Show all posts

Friday, December 27, 2019

[From the Archives] Episode 24: An Interview with Jeff Mariotte and a Discussion of Vampires and Other Things that Prefer the Night

On October 15, 2007, Jeff Mariotte visited our show for a short 15-minute interview that helped us kick off a conversation about Vampire movies and television shows, as well as other nasty things that go bump in the night. Jeff Mariotte is a former editor-in-chief at IDW Comics and the co-author of two published 30 Days of Night media tie-in novels. In this interview, Jeff discusses his comic book series Graveslinger, his 30 Days of Night media tie-in novels Immortal Remains and Rumors of the Undead, as well as his novel Missing White Girl. After the interview, Shawna Benson, Eric Lytle, and Christian Lindke discuss there favorite vampire stories on film and television.

This is the episode where Shawna Benson coined the phrase Friday Night Death Slot referring to how networks increasingly scheduled shows they thought would fail on Friday evenings.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Geekerati Monday Geekosphere Snapshot 12/16

It's time for another snapshot of the Geekosphere! Today's post features products and posts of things I thought might be of interest to my fellow geeks.

Cat Themed Dice Trays from Cozy Gamer.

First and foremost are these cute as a kitten Cat Dice Trays from Cozy Gamer. Ever since I backed the first set of Symbaroum products, and received their mouse pad material dice tray, I've been a big fan of having dice trays at the table. They minimize the number of times you are on your knees looking under the table for a die that went wild. These trays are cute and look extremely durable. I know I'll be checking them out!

The AD&D Fiend Folio was a collection of strange monsters pulled from the pages of White Dwarf magazine's "Fiend Factory" column edited by Don Turnbull. Like many other gaming legends, Turnbull's contributions are sometimes overlooked. His coordination of postal Diplomacy games helped to build gaming communities and presaged modern internet based gaming. The "Fiend Factory" column contained a wild array of monsters. Some were classic monsters by different names, others like the Githyanki would go on to become classic D&D monsters and influence later fantasy fiction. While many of the monsters have been incorporated into the Monster Manual, and other monster books, this new volume of creatures contains many who have been left behind. As an added incentive to buy it, the proceeds for this product go to Extra Life who uses donations to fund Children's Hospitals.

From Deadline: " Legion M has acquired Brian Staveley’s bestselling fantasy epic The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne and brought Weta Workshop aboard to begin the visual concept work for a one-hour fantasy drama series that will share the title of the bookshelf trilogy’s first entry: The Emperor’s Blades. "

"But one thing I can predict about this ninth Star Wars episode is that it won’t make everyone happy. That’s fine, mind you, but the Star Wars franchise finds itself in an odd position of being a singular pop culture juggernaut where everyone has their own ideas of what Star Wars should be. The Rise of Skywalker can’t possibly be all things to all fans."

"...the company went all-out on the toys, including an app-controlled Porsche."

We chatted briefly with Keith Baker about the new game during our last Geekerati Radio Episode, but more details are emerging.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Robert Hewitt Wolfe's THE GOBLIN CROWN Continues a Long Standing Fantasy Tradition

It is a sign of the times that it took me three years to discover The Goblin Crown by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. I'd like to put most of the blame on the fact that we live in an era where there is more genre content being produced in a year than can be easily consumed in a lifetime and a good deal of that content is self-published, Kickstarted, or patron supported. I'd like that to be where I place the blame, but it was more likely due to the fact that I am in the process of earning my Ph.D. and don't have as much time to delve into the Science Fiction and Fantasy mid-list and new author stacks as I used to have.

While Robert Hewitt Wolfe's is an accomplished television writer whose credits range from Star Trek: The Next Generation to Elementary and include The Dresden Files (which gives him significant geek cred) and the underappreciated superhero show Alphas. The vast majority of Wolfe's television writing has been genre work, so it is not surprising that his first novel The Goblin Crown would be a Fantasy novel that is heavily steeped in genre tropes.

The Goblin Crown is the first volume of a series of (at least) three books in which Wolfe tells the tales of three high school students as they are transported into a fantasy realm. These teenagers are  the socially awkward Billy Smith, the angsty Lexi Aquino, and the prototypical quarterback Kurt Novac. These students must find a way to work together and combine their unique talents to help save the day for a desperate and outnumbered people, who are on the verge of extinction as war ravages the realms. These people are currently being rallied by a charismatic leader in a last desperate push for survival.

The twist? It is the Goblins who need saving from a massive human army. Goblin prophecy states that when Goblins most need them, a king from another world will arrive to save them and one of these young adventurers is destined to be that king.

What Works? 

Wolfe's talents as a writer are quickly apparent as he doesn't hesitate to make the main antagonist of this volume as psychologically complex and compelling as any of the protagonists. Wolfe's use of point of view characters is spot on for maximum emotional effect. We allowed to see into the mind of a hopeful Goblin named Hop who has quested into the depths of Mother Mountain to see if a new Goblin King has been sent. We become acutely aware of the worries and stresses of young Billy and Lexi as they adapt to this new world. Most importantly we get to experience the torment of General Sawtooth who wants to preserve his people, even as he knows he may have been misled by The Dark Lady and that his people may be doomed. The characters are compelling and have clear motivations that set up the conflict to come.

As mentioned earlier, Wolfe's basic conceit is that our young protagonists have been transported into another world. This is a common trope in fantasy and science fiction that is some variation of the "Trapped in Another World" trope and the "Down the Rabbit Hole" trope. While this is a common trope, it is one that has been used to great success by to many authors to list here, but that list includes like Edgar Rice Burroughs, L. Sprague de Camp, Michael Moorcock, and Andre Norton. For the trope to be successful, the conceit must be delivered quick and painlessly. The author must not make the reader wait too long before being transported into the magic realm and God forbid the author spend too much time describing the how and why the transportation works. Best to pull the veil away in a rapid and compelling fashion.

Let's examine a couple of archetypical examples of the genre.

In "Solomon's Stone," author Sprague de Camp transports his protagonist from our world into the Astral Plane. The protagonist, Prosper Nash, is transported by the will of a demon he and his friends summoned at an evening's dinner party.
Prosper Nash felt a tremendous shock, as if a destroyer had dropped a depth bomb on him. While his mind strove to keep a grip on his body, he could feel that body being pulled out of his mental clutches--going--going--gone!

He was moving with great speed--or falling; it was like an express-elevator plunge, only more so...

Keep your head, J. Prosper. Let's take a look at this astral body of ours first.
-- L. Sprague de Camp "Solomon's Stone" Unknown Worlds vol. 6 no. 1 (1942).

It's quick and too the point. Sprague de Camp gives us a little more of the "whys and wherefores" of travel beyond the veil of the mundane in his more famous Harold Shea "Enchanter" stories, but he still gets us there quickly.

There, on sheets of paper spread before him, were the logical equations, with their little horseshoes, upside-down T's, and identity signs. 
His scalp prickled a trifle as he gazed at them. But what the hell! Stand by for adventure and romance! He bent over, giving his whole attention to the formulas, trying not to focus on one spot, but to apprehend the whole:

'If P equals not-Q, Q implies not-P, which is equivalent to saying either P or Q or neither, but not both. But if not-P is not implied by not-Q,  the counter-implicative form of the proposition--'

There was nothing bu six sheets of paper. Just that, lying in two neat rows of three sheets, with perhaps half an inch between them. There should be strips of table showing between them. But there was nothing--nothing...>

It is through this focus on a logical equation that Harold Shea is transported to Midgard's border and where is adventure begins. L. Sprague de Camp's tales were inspirational to Gary Gygax as he worked on the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game, and that work in turn inspired Andre Norton's Quag Keep, which uses magical lead miniatures as the conceit (and does so much quicker than de Camp). One of the most iconic versions of the Trapped in Another World trope is Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, which sees Civil War Captain John Carter transported to the fantastic world of Barsoom through sheer force of will.

As I stood thus meditating, I turned my gaze from the landscape to the heavens where the myriad stars formed a gorgeous and fitting canopy for the wonders of the earthly scene. My situation was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination--it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it an on that far gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw me as a lodestone attracts a particle of iron.

My longing was beyond the power of opposition; I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space. There was an instant of extreme cold and darkness...
And...BOOM! He's on Mars. It's powerful imagery that makes no logical sense. We are given no plausible reason for the transportation to work, but it does and it is magical. This is the kind of conceit Wolfe uses in his book as Billy wills himself into another world:

What do I do? Please, please, Billy prayed silently, I have to get her out of here.

At that moment, Billy saw real light, a shining cell phone, illuminating the culvert.
Unfortunately, it was carried by the last person Billy wanted to see.

"What are you idiots doing?" It was Kurt. And he sounded furious.

Billy tried to catch his breath, push past the pain, and lift Lexi, anything to get her away from Kurt. To get Lexi to safety.

I need to get out. I need to be anyplace but here.

Then, suddenly, as if in answer to Billy's unspoken wish, the world around him shifted, warped, and bent. His stomach lurched. His ears popped. And just like that--

Billy was somewhere else.

Wolfe's description of transportation here is a combination of Burroughs and de Camp and it works nicely. You have the desperation of the scene, the compulsion to get away, and that's enough. Wolfe doesn't spend pages describing how and why the kids are transported, just that Billy wants to go and so they do. This is a fantasy novel and that comes with suspension of disbelief. When the trope used is a common one, such suspension is easy and granted eagerly. Don't spend time describing how and why, that only opens up the critical eye and limits the visceral experience. Wolfe understands this and takes us away quickly.

The reader is exposed to the world of the Hanorian Empire and Mother Mountain, which isn't given a world name in The Goblin Crown, at a nice pace. It's clear by his inclusion of Burroughs-esque use of language (and language acquisition) that Wolfe has a mapped out a compelling fantasy world. It may lack the Mythopoetic realism of Tolkien's Middle Earth, but it is logically consistent and has a history that mirrors the migrations, expansions, and invasions of real Earth history. If you don't find echoes of actual historical engagements between cultures in the backdrop of this story, you aren't paying attention. Wolfe has set up a clash of civilizations that views both societies as "human," with all the virtues and flaws that entails, which allows him to explore moral complexities.

While the majority of The Goblin Crown takes place within Goblin society, readers are given enough of human history to see a broader world. This first volume spends its time building Goblin society, and it's a rich one. We are given glimpses of the Goblin worship of  the Night Goddess and the justness of the religion's matriarch. These are not Warhammer's mindless Goblins. While they are still the untrustworthy, sneaky, and vicious Goblins we are used to, they are also a gentle, family minded, and caring people. Wolfe humanizes the Goblins without demonizing the humans and it makes the impending conflict more powerful.

One of the most developed aspects of the world, is the underlying magic system of the races. Humans, who worship the sun, have fire based magic and Goblins, who worship the Night Goddess, have cold based magic. Each system has strengths and weaknesses and both systems of magic come with the risk of madness and death if they are overused. We as readers are able to learn the intricacies of the magic system through the interactions between Lexi and a Goblin Wizard named Frost. After being transported to the new world, Lexi discovers that she is a Fire Mage and that her fiery temper may well lead her down the road to destruction.


As entertaining as The Goblin Crown is, I read it in an afternoon and ordered the sequel immediately thereafter, it isn't a perfect novel. 

Even as one of the novel's major is how well developed the majority of Wolfe's characters are, there are holes. While General Sawtooth, the major antagonist of the novel, is offered as a point of view character, Kurt Novac isn't. Given that Kurt is one of the core four characters (maybe five if you count Frost), having to rely on his conversations with other characters to reveal his inner thoughts is a bit of a letdown. We get Lexi, Billy, Hop, and Sawtooth as point of view characters. Leaving Kurt out of this list maked it seem like the author was attempting to prolong a mystery that wasn't really a mystery. Was the only reason Kurt wasn't used for point of view to leave us wondering who the Goblin King really was? Given the title of the novel, and the copy on the back cover of the book, one hopes not. Kurt needed to be explored a little more, especially since the character does evolve and shift from antagonist to one of the heroes as the book progresses.

The second area for critique is very much related to the first. The initial narrative misdirection regarding who and what the Goblin King is and how it is chosen was unecessary. While this misdirection leads to some very important narrative outcomes, and allows the point of view character to learn more about the world and their new abilities, it felt like a bit of a cheat. This is exacerbated by the fact that it's pretty obvious. It's a mystery without a mystery. It's like guessing who the murderer in a typical episode of Matlock is. We all know it's the Guest Star. What makes Matlock interesting isn't the who, but the why. Had the misdirection explored the why of the Goblin King, it would have worked. Instead, it was primarily a vehicle to move the characters from one location to another.

Final Thoughts

Setting aside these two relatively minor critiques, The Goblin Crown was a fun ride. It has a narrative and cast of characters that appeals to our inner child with a complex moral backdrop that engages our more cynical adult minds. If you love fantasy for all ages, or have a tween who is looking for a series to start, you couldn't do better than The Goblin Crown. Wolfe draws inspiration for Edgar Rice Burroughs, de Camp, Tolkien, and classic children's tales and creates a world worth exploring.

And explore this world is something I'll be doing over the next couple of weeks. I'll be writing up statistics for some of the main characters for a role playing game. I haven't decided on which game to use yet, but I'm leaning toward Genesys, Shadow of the Demon Lord (hey, he's planning a Kid Friendly Version), The Index Card RPG, or Symbaroum.

Monday, June 03, 2019

From the Archives (09/03/2007): The Pulps and Their Modern Legacy -- An Interview with Win Scott Eckert Discussing Barsoom, Hyboria, and Urban Mean Streets.

Listen to this blast from the past as the Geekerati panel discusses Win Scott Eckert's book Myths for the Modern Age and the long lasting legacy of pulp fiction. It's a conversation about John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Shadow, French Pulps, and Dashiell Hammett. Who could ask for more?

Win Scott Eckert is one of the leading experts in pulp fiction and one of his major contributions to the continuation of pulp fandom has been his work on the Wold Newton Family and its universe of tales. The Wold Newton Universe was a creation of Science Fiction Grand Master Philip Jose Farmer who asked an interesting question, "What if many classic tales of fiction, literary and pulp, all happened in a shared universe?" Farmer uses the real world occurrence of a radioactive meteor landing in Wold Newton England as the cornerstone event of his shared universe, a universe in which Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Elizabeth Bennet, John Carter of Mars, Doctor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and many more reside. Our conversation with Win begins with a discussion of his book on the topic, but expand into a conversation about what made the pulps successful and why they continue to inspire creators today.

During the Overtime segment, Shawna Benson discusses an unaired pilot for a new Phillip Marlowe show. It is currently available on YouTube if you are interested in seeing whether you think the networks should have picked it up.

In this archive episode, I've re-edited the episode into segments using's functionality. All future episodes will be edited into segments and new episodes (our first one is coming next week) will have distinct segments with unique and consistent introductions.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Blast from the Past: The Geekerati Crew Discuss Alien Invasions in Film, TV, and Games

It will have been 12 years this August since the Geekerati Team live streamed our Alien Invasions episode. Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts.

How well does it hold up?

Do I need to do an updated one that discusses upcoming Alien Invasion films like Rim of the World?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Los Angeles Gamer Gallery: A New Series at Advanced Dungeons and Parenting

Los Angeles Gamer Gallery is a series of posts discussing the Los Angeles gaming community and some of the wonderful people who play and promote games in Tinseltown and abroad.

Why the Los Angeles Area?

Though the Los Angeles area has long been a vibrant part of the role playing game community, it is often overlooked in histories of the hobby. In my experience the Midwest and Bay Area tend to dominate histories and discussions of the people involved in the promotion of the hobby, because TSR and Chaosium. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I took a few days to drive around the area to seek out game stores and gaming groups. I had expected to find some, but not too many. After all, Los Angeles is a big city with a lot of distractions, beautiful weather, and all sorts of entertainments. Such a place didn't seem to me to be a good growth environment for people who gather around a table to tell collaborative stories. Okay that should read, "to gather around a table to tell collaborative stories without money being involved," as a large part of Los Angeles' economy is based on sitting around tables and coming up with stories collaboratively. I expected hard core gaming to develop in small towns with long winters, where people are looking for constructive things to do with their time that have to take place indoors.

Yes, those were my assumptions. Yes, they are overly reductive and bad assumptions. But I came from a small town with cold winters, and those were my assumptions. What I quickly discovered was that the Los Angeles area had a rich gaming community, one that has been central to several developments in the gaming hobby.

Shortly after the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game was created, members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society began playing the game and writing about it in their long running fanzine APA-L. In 1975, authors of APA-L branched out to create Alarums & Excursions under the editorship of Lee Gold. Alarums & Excursions is one of the most influential, if not THE most influential, fanzine in gaming.
  1. It was gamers at Aero Hobbies who created the Thief class for D&D in 1974. 
  2. Students at CalTech played a version of the game called Warlock that was published by Balboa Game Company. 
  3. John Eric Holmes, a professor at USC, wrote the first Basic Set of D&D and in his book Fantasy Roleplaying Games can be seen playing D&D at Long Beach's War House game store.
  4. While Superhero 2044 is the first published superhero role playing game Jay and Aimee Hartlove's Supergame was the first point build superhero rpg that was fully playable out of the book. Like Champions, the Hartlove's work is clearly inspired by Superhero 2044 in how its combat system works.
Southern California influenced the early days of the hobby and remains the home to a vibrant and innovative gaming community to this day. I'll leave discussion of Southern California's place in the history of games to those who already make it their career to document gaming history, what I want to do with the Los Angeles Gamer Gallery is to write short posts that highlight members of the community who inspire or intrigue me.

My first post, which will be posted shortly after this one, will be David Nett. I chose David because he exemplifies the way a lot of Southern California gamers incorporate their gaming experience into their lives in interesting ways.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Judge Dredd: Mega-City One in Development from Rebellion and IM Global Television

Fans of Judge Dredd received some potentially good news today with the announcement that Rebellion and IM Global Television will be producing a television show that takes place in the Dredd-verse called Judge Dredd: Mega-City One. From early press materials, including the interview with Producer Brian Jenkins and Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley embedded below, it appears that the main character of the show will be Mega-City One and not Dredd. From a creative standpoint, this is will allow showrunners and writers to explore a wider array of stories, and delve deeper into Dredd-lore, than might be possible if the creative team focused on Judge Dredd. Not that there aren't many great tales featuring the Judge, but the comic's biting commentary on American culture will be stronger if the city is a strong character.

Jenkins and Kingsley show a lot of enthusiasm for the project in their interview, but they admit their own novice status as film and television producers and highlight their partnership with IM Global Television. Founded in 2007 by Stuart Ford, IM Global Televsion has recently announced a number of major television projects in development including Judge Dredd: Mega-City One and series based on Glen Cook's The Black Company and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s science fiction novel Cat's Cradle. It's a relatively ambitious line-up for the relatively young company, but IM Global's President Mark Stern has a solid resume of work on genre properties from his time at the Syfy network where he was President of Original Content.

It's still very early in the development process, but as someone who owns many Judge Dredd collections, board games, and rpgs, I'll be looking forward to seeing what Rebellion and IM Global Television put together.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chatting with The Big Bang Theory Screenwriters on Geekerati

Sometimes I forget how blessed my life is, living as I do in beautiful southern California. There are times when I need to take a break from grumbling that not enough people listen to the Geekerati podcast I do with Shawna Benson, or wondering why no one has spontaneously noticed that I would be perfect as a voice on their latest animated series. Today is one of those times when I remind myself that no matter how challenging and intimidating my life might be I pretty much live in "Pops Town" as depicted in one of the Hallmark puzzles by Robert Blair Martin. A heavily populated version of Pops Town, to be sure, but one none the less. The Los Angeles area can be a scary place if you don't know anyone, but it also happens to be filled with wonderful people who can make this megalopolis feel like it's just the right size.

Let me walk you on a brief tangent about this aspect of L.A. before we get back to the main point of this post...getting you to listen to the Big Bang Theory interviews Shawna and I did on Geekerati.

My wife Jody and I moved down here so that she could attend film school at USC and I could begin pursuing graduate education. We moved to Los Angeles from Reno and we immediately experienced culture shock. Let me tell you, unless you are from a big city it is quite shocking to be surrounded by so many people. The Reno/Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of roughly 425,000... or roughly 3 Comic-Cons. The Los Angeles Combined Statistical Area - or as someone who lives in Glendale and commutes to Riverside for my Ph.D. classes calls "L.A." - has roughly 18 million. That's roughly 120 Comic-Cons. That is a lot of people and when Jody and I first moved down here it was mind-boggling. We lived in Crenshaw at the time, and finding any place that wasn't crowded was a quest suitable for 16th level Rangers and not wide eyed newbs from the Sierras. Though we did discover that the "vacant lot" where Elizabeth Short' body was found is a 9 minute walk from the Crenshaw Krispy Kreme.

How crowded is Los Angeles you ask?

There is so much light pollution in the area that Jody and I describe the Los Angeles day as having two parts, "Day and Dim." There is no night, only dim. There are so few stars visible that we wondered why they bothered to maintain the Griffith Observatory, though at the time the Observatory was closed for renovation.

Our first Christmas in Los Angeles, we made the mistake of heading over to Universal City Walk to get a feel of L.A. at Christmas-time. For Jody, who grew up in Nevada City where they have Cornish Christmas/Victorian Christmas every year, venturing into a pseudo-mall that has a Santa hat wearing King Kong as its only acknowledgement of the season was horrifying. It was anti-Christmas for her. There was no snow. There were no Christmas carols. It was 70 degrees. We later learned that the Southland celebrates Christmas - and so many other wonderful celebrations - magnificently, it's only Universal City Walk that is terrible...except at Halloween when it is appropriately horrifying.

For our first year, we were very lonely in a very large place. Then something magical happened. We wandered from our cave and managed to meet some Angelinos. Some where natives, but most - like us - were transplants. Some of them were semi-famous, but most were normal people getting by. I'd like to take a moment to highlight a couple of lynch pin people who have made our day to day lives in L.A. wonderful: Bill Cunningham, Shawna Benson, Wes Kobernick, Joel Allan, Eric Lytle, Luke Y. Thompson, David N. Scott, Julie Scott, Kate Coe, Dale Launer, Scott Kaufer, Caryn Mamrack, Kevin Burke and Nicholas Santillan. These names only scratch the surface of people who have been more than generous with their time and energy to both Jody and me...and are people I can name without feeling like I am "name dropping." I would mention some of the people in my gaming group, but it is my hope that I have been able to do for them what the above people have done for me and Jody.

These people make Los Angeles feel like a very small town. Small in the cozy way and not in the gossipy loss of privacy way.

It is through these people, and some of un-named individuals, that I have had the ability to get some great guests on the Geekerati podcast that Shawna Benson, Bill Cunningham, Wes Kobernick, Eric Lytle, and I started in 2007. Of the many great guests, the "gets" that most surprised me in that I was able to get them at all were writers from the biggest comedy on television...The Big Bang Theory. There are really only three "gets" that I would geek out more over, William Shatner, Bruce Campbell, and Nathan Fillion. I'll add them to my bucket list.

We had Executive Producer David Goetsch on our show in early 2008. In that episode we discussed a number of topics, but I remember one thing fairly distinctly. It was Goetsch's kind tolerance of me telling him that TBBT had better not commit a BOSTON COMMON. For those who don't know, BOSTON COMMON was a sit com starring Anthony Clark who played a geeky hick who is madly in love with much cooler Traylor Howard. Needless to say, they get together in Romantic Comedy fashion at the end of the short - due to it being a mid-season pick up - season. The show was picked up for another season, which apparently made the writers panic because they broke the couple up in order to "recapture the magic." As an aside, Traylor Howard went on to star in TWO GUYS, A GIRL, AND A PIZZA JOINT which starred two geek favorites (Nathan Fillion and Julius Carry), someone geeks love to hate (Ryan Reynolds), and a highly under appreciated comic actor (Richard Ruccolo).

Since its launch, TBBT has been Jody and my favorite modern sit com, it falls somewhere behind FRAZIER and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW on the all-time list. Jody has even written a spec screenplay for it, which is a double edged sword for a struggling screenwriter. You've written for what you love, but you don't tend to have people read specs for their own show. This isn't for "IP" reasons. It's more due to the fact that if you don't get the characterization perfect - in the minds of the shows creators - they might be very resistant to your interpretation. This is true even if your screenplay is funny. That's one of the reasons writers submit screenplays for similar shows, or other popular shows. You want to demonstrate you can write in the genre, but you don't want to claim you understand the characters better than the show's creators.

Anyway, enough of the build up. You will find the two episodes we interview TBBT writers embedded below. If you need any proof of the show's geek cred, just think about the fact that they were willing to spend time with a fellow geek to chat for over an hour...twice...and hopefully again.

Interview with David Goetsch

Find Additional Blogcritics Podcasts with Geekerati Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Interview with Maria Ferrari

Online Entertainment Radio at Blog Talk Radio with Geekerati Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Friday, May 17, 2013

Television Viewing Behavior Study

I am currently in the process of collecting data for my MBA thesis.  To that end, I have designed a survey.  I don't normally post solicitations like this and this will not be a regular occurrence. 

You are being invited to participate in an opinion survey regarding a Television Viewing Behavior. The survey will run for one week only, therefore your timely participation is greatly appreciated. If you are interested in participating, please follow the link below.

You can right click and choose “Open Link” or paste it into your web browser to get to the survey.

You will be asked to read an Informed Consent, which will explain the study I am conducting as an MBA student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The survey contains 17 questions and should take approximately 20 minutes of your time.

Your participation is strictly voluntary and all your responses are completely anonymous.

Christian Lindke
MBA candidate, Principal Investigator
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
You are allowed to share the link with others.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Greatest Event In Television History

Jeff Probst, Paul Rudd, Jon Hamm, and Adam Scott team up to do a send up of the "greatest event" specials of the 1980s.  The key to getting this kind of parody correct is to have the parody be a good version of what is being made fun of and this is damn near perfect.

RIP Jon Hamm.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

All Too Rare Geekerati Podcast Update

I post surprisingly few updates about the Geekerati podcast that Shawna Benson and I do on a fairly regular basis. I think that it is time for a change on that front. Shawna and I have been doing the podcast, along with a couple of other co-hosts like Bill Cunningham, since 2007 and will be live streaming our 126th episode this evening. We average 2,400 downloads an episode with most falling between 1,000 and 5,000 depending on who we have as a guest in a given week. We have had one or two episodes with over 40,000 downloads, but those were with guests who had very large followings and who heavily promoted their appearance on our humble show.

We live stream the show on Wednesdays at 8:30pm Pacific, although this has changed over the years to match our busy lives, and episodes are available for download on the website or on iTunes immediately after the show finishes airing. We recommend listening to the show on the website and putting up with the advertisement at the beginning of the show, as this helps us recoup some of the costs of hosting the show with Blog Talk Radio. The live streaming format has certain advantages for time crushed people like Shawna and me, but it does come with the requisite risks of technical glitches. We have certainly had our share of those. If you want to hear how throttled bandwidth affects Skype audio, check out our conversation with Stephanie Thorpe about the Elfquest Anniversary.

Over the years Shawna and I have had some fantastic guests, including:
  1. Matt Forbeck (Game Designer) -- Matt's actually been our most frequent guest, with Shelly Mazzanoble coming in at second. This makes them our favorite guests.
  2. John Rogers (Leverage, The Core)
  3. James Lowder (Game Designer and Editor)
  4. Marc Bernardin (Alphas)
  5. Susan Palwick (SF Author)
  6. Tim Minear (Firefly)
  7. David Goetsch (Big Bang Theory)-- Back in 2008 even.
  8. Aaron Ginsburg (Thrilling Adventure Hour)
  9. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
This is far from an extensive list. Shawna and I are quite proud of what we've been able to do with the show. So why don't you join us tonight as we chat with Clark Perry to discuss the upcoming show DEFIANCE.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Game of Thrones Title Sequence Circa 1995

Do you remember the classic Sword and Sorcery television shows of the 1990s?

Does your heart flutter fondly when you think of Xena, Hercules, and Young Hercules?

Are you a Lucy Lawless fan for life?

If you answered yes to any one of those questions, then this "fan trailer" for Game of Thrones is for you.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Glimpse at the Downton Abbey SNES Game

To this day I'm still a big fan of the old style "adventure" games where your avatar is sent on a variety of often meaningless quests in order to complete a grand narrative. Every now and then, I'll reinstall one on my PC or download an updated version for my smart phone. They are quite fun.

Someone took the time to imagine what one of these games would look like if it were based on the popular brit-soap Downton Abbey.  The show is quite wonderful, and I think I'd like this game as well.

Now if only I could find an Eric Goldberg/Greg Costikyan designed "Paragraph Based" boardgame version of Downton Abbey to go along with my old Star Trek one and my copy of Tales of the Arabian Nights.

And before you ask, the answer is yes. I do own a copy of SPI's ill fated Dallas roleplaying game. Would you like to come over an play a game some time? We could film it and submit it to Geek and Sundry.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Like the crew over at Tor books, I'm of two minds regarding the new Seth Green (and the Robot Chicken Crew) animated series STAR WARS DETOURS.  Basing my opinion solely on the trailer below, this show is either a humorous tangent from regular STAR WARS that I can share with History and Mystery or it will be yet another disappointing attempt at humor related to a franchise I have adored since childhood.

The people working on the project give one hope that the cartoons will be funny and entertaining.  Green, Matt Senreich, and Todd Grimes have a good track record, but I keep getting this nagging feeling that comedians who work well together when "edgy" might not quite click when doing more "kiddie" fare.  Just watching the preview, I have noticed quite a few pop culture references that are supposed to have comedic impact.  Most of them will have either History or Mystery turning to a chuckling father and asking questions like, "Dad...why are you laughing?  Is it funny that Han Solo put on a hat?  Are hats funny?"

We are currently in a golden age of entertainment for kids my daughters' age -- they are both 4 btw -- and this might be a great addition to a long list of great shows.  A long list that includes DOC MCSTUFFINS, GRAVITY FALLS, PHINEAS AND FERB, IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES, AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES, SUPER HERO SQUAD, and MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC to name but a few.  To pull two of the shows out for special consideration GRAVITY FALLS and MY LITTLE PONY manage to insert pop culture references for the adults while crafting interesting and entertaining narratives for kids, but STAR WARS: DETOURS seems -- once again just based on the preview -- that it will be closer in tone to SUPER HERO SQUAD.  This isn't a bad thing as the twins enjoy SHS, but what really gets them excited is EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES.  They like the real drama and real emotion of that show.

When I examine why I feel any trepidation to this show at all, it seems to stem from something hinted at in that last sentence.  I'm torn between whether I think the next STAR WARS project should be comedic or serious, and I think I might be leaning toward serious.  Though I am always ready for well done humor, and adore shows I can watch with my twins...

You see the fanlema I'm facing?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Advanced Dungeons & Parenting?

As you may have noticed, this week I changed the name of the blog from Cinerati to "Advanced Dungeons and Gaming." There were a number of reasons I made the change, but I thought that I would share some of them with you.

First and foremost is that the name Cinerati didn't really do a good job of conveying the kinds of posts that were most common on the blog. There are still movie related posts like this week's post featuring the trailer to RZA's upcoming Kung Fu film, but the majority of posts on this blog are game and pop culture related and I wanted the name of the blog to reflect that. Though this blog started as a response to what I thought was a poorly thought out and reactionary article by Thomas Hibbs that a friend had shared with me, time has made this blog less and less theatrical focused.

One of the main reasons that this blog has become less cinema focused is the birth of my twin daughters Mystery and History (they're the surprised girls in the upper right-hand corner of the title card).  Since they have been born, I just haven't been able to go out to the movies as much as I used to.  What was once a weekly affair -- going to see two or more films -- has become a once a quarter if I'm lucky affair.  I still watch a ton of movies, thanks to Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Redbox but I find myself less able to get super opinionated about things I watch on the small screen months after a theatrical release.

Since the twins were born, I've been playing a wider variety of games with my gaming group.  We still play D&D -- as we have for the past 12 years -- but now there are sessions of Savage Worlds, Cyborg Commando, Marvel (many editions), and other games to fill in the gaps.  Not to mention the increase in board gaming that has been happening in recent years.  It's been quite wonderful and I love chatting about games and gaming.

I also love playing games with my twin daughters and seeing the world of pop-culture through their eyes.  I never really understood just how much I wanted to share my passions with someone until I watched my daughters playing with a Star Wars coloring book.  When History saw Yoda, she immediately described him as "Darth Vader's Goblin."  At that point, I knew I had won at life.

My daughters love the new My Little Pony, Doc McStuffins, Phineas and Ferb, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Star Wars, Captain America, and Iron Man.  History likes to dress up as Iron Man and Mystery likes to dress up as Captain America.  They both like to dress up as princesses (Aurora and Belle in case you're wondering).  It's truly magical watching my daughters express their imaginations and tell stories, and I am happy to let them tell me whatever stories they want.  I believe that a parent should set very few limits to how a child expresses its imagination.  I don't like it when some people say that "blue isn't a girl's color" or "there can only be one Captain America."  I want my daughters to find joy in whatever they find joy in.  I find it heart warming that a lot of that joy comes from "exercising their imagination show they can play with daddy and the fellas when they get bigger."

Expect to see the usual pop culture fare here at Advanced Dungeons & Parenting, but also expect to see some posts about my pop culture experiences with History and Mystery.

Friday, January 13, 2012

12-Sided Die: Should You Be Game for this New Webseries?

Earlier today, the team @12sideddie blasted the internet with a solicitation of their new gaming themed web series 12 Sided Die.

12 Sided Die is a web series directed by Daniel Murphy and written by Curtis Fortier that is aimed at the table top gaming community. According to the show's website, the show is:
A hilarious new web-series about romance, geeks, and graph paper.

Our hero: Curtis Foster, Permit Processor by day, Level Fourteen Wizard Warrior by night.

If theres one thing Curtis loves most on this Earth, it's playing a rousing game of "Swords and Swordsmen" with his friends Chris and Eric.

Sadly, the group is growing older... Eric is newly married, Chris is a father, and the time between games is growing larger with each passing day.

So, on their eve of their first game in over six months, when the stakes have never been higher, Curtis is convinced that nothing can get in his way.

Except, perhaps, a surprise distraction of his own: his neighbor Cynthia.
But is the show hilarious, and does it really capture geek romance?

The answer to this central question is maybe. The first episode of the series (embedded below) suffers from a significant dose of what I like to call "pilotitis." This is the slight awkwardness that many pilot episodes suffer from which fails to capture the full potential of the idea underlying the show, or the talent of the creators and performers of the show. A good historical example of pilotitis is Star Trek. The show's original pilot was pretty bad, but by the time they reworked the show for the second pilot the show's potential really shined through.

12 Sided Die has a good concept. It's a show about gamers and romance, but it is also a show about the difficulties of balancing a hobby with real life. Anyone who has played games, or had a passionate hobby, in their post-college/high school years understands how difficult in can be to find the proper balance in time to meet all your obligations and still find time for your hobbies. For example, I love playing board and role playing games. I also love running around the park with my wife and daughters, the allure of spending time with History and Mystery (our 3 1/2 year old twins) is a pretty significant obstacle to making time to play games. I am thankful that the girls really like the people who come over to game twice a month, and even more grateful that my friends like spending time with the girls. To be honest, if they weren't willing to let the girls "watch" us play it would be a deal breaker. History and Mystery would win out in the battle of hobby vs. family and which provides more joy. That said, my group does enjoy having the girls come around and the girls love to play with our "little men." It's that kind of tension, though other tensions as well, that underlie the dramatic/comedic conflicts of 12 Sided Die. Just add a dose of 30 something and single/looking for a relationship, and you've captured the show perfectly.

Back to the show's pilotitis. It leaps out at you from the first scene. The lighting during the play session in the opening is a distraction. The room looks unnaturally yellow, when it should be lit to look like a normally lit apartment. The problem is that they filmed a normally lit apartment, and normally lit apartments don't look like normally lit apartments on film. This scene is also a tad overacted. While Christopher Gehrman's over the top performance as the dungeon master can be forgiven, as he's playing an over the top dungeon master, Curtis Fortier's performance in this scene needs to be backed down a little. Not his "in character" performance, but his "I'm so excited about where the game campaign is going" performance, the same should be said of Eric Vesbit's performance in the scene as well. As the show progresses, the actors seem to fall into more natural rhythms and I don't see this being a problem in the long haul. It is just something that needs to be pointed out. As Hamlet would say:

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue:but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it
offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to
very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who
for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would have such
a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it
out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

It should also be noted that the sound design is a bit off. There is an overuse of score, and the individual sound edits don't always match up with what I'm supposed to be hearing. This is particularly acute during a scene in which Curtis makes himself some "Strawberry Milk."

The show's strongest suit is in the story, it has a nicely done cliffhanger that is timed almost perfectly. This is a tale of a group who hasn't met to continue their game for almost 6-months given their current responsibilities, what happens when a new romance enters one of their lives? It's a nice touch, and well done. Kristina Lynn Bell is a nice choice for the romantic interest. I was a bit concerned with her introductory performance. Her acting to the audience "behind the fourth wall" started out a tad over the top, but by the end of the scene she won me over. The camera angles were bit off, but her performance really started to hit a sweet spot.

All of this can be written off as pilotitis, and I will certainly return for a second episode. The show as it stands did leave me wanting to see what happens next. It really left me wanting to see what happens next.   So...what happens next?!

But there was one thing that I couldn't quite write off as pilotitis, and it affected the verisimilitude of the entire show. That was the use of "made up game mechanics" that didn't quite sound like real game mechanics. I can understand, and appreciate, the desire to avoid violating other people's copyright. But in a d20 license world, there is no reason for a character to utter the line, "I'll cast my Pyro spell." Especially when one could just as easily say "I'll cast my Fireball." Heck, even in a pre-OGL world, you could have gotten away with that. This was magnified by the fact that the writers were willing to include real world references to Coke and Mountain Dew, but stumbled at the mention of concepts that would most appeal to their target audience. Don't be afraid to say D&D. Even better, if you want to have a little "geek cred" as Erik Mona and crew at Paizo if you can use the Pathfinder brand as your game of choice. If they say no, it doesn't matter. The rules are Open, just avoid Golarion specific references.

All of my criticisms are written with the understanding that these people are working really hard to provide something entertaining that they really believe in (see Jody Lindke's recent blog post on the subject).   But they are also written in the hopes that the show will address small problems and continue to improve.  There is something here.  Something that is already worth watching, for gamers, but it is something that could appeal to an even broader audience if it continues to improve on its strengths and address any weaknesses.  Entertaining people at all is hard.  The 12 Sided Die crew have already succeeded in entertaining me, now I want them to blow me away.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Because My 80s Nostalgia Won't Die: Psych -- "Flashback" Don't You Forget About Me

I can't help it. Whenever I hear the "Classic 80s" Simple Minds tune Don't You Forget About Me, my mind grows nostalgic and I remember the angst ridden teen that I was who believed that The Breakfast Club was one of the most important films ever made. It was a film that portrayed all the "cliques" that had existed for prior generations of high school students, cliques that still exist but that aren't as rigid as they were in the annals of high school history. The Breakfast Club showed us that no matter your clique, you shared teen discontentment and frustration.

 There were at least four characters in the film who I believed represented me, or who were aspects of my personality. I think this was true of many Gen X-ers, and probably a lot of teens today.

 I may not still believe that The Breakfast Club is one of the great works of Art in Western Civilization, but I do think it is a darn good film and holds up pretty well. I fully admit that could be by nostalgia goggles clogging up my judgement though...

 Anyway, to the reason for the post. USA's television show Psych is gearing up for its new season and their promo is based on the old Simple Minds video.

 It's pretty genius.

As always, the Psych creative crew has managed to touch all my nostalgia buttons, while still making me feel young and hip. The Shawn and Gus characters are still to young to be as nostalgic for the 80s, but James and Dule and show creator Steve Franks are right in the sweet spot to share the same nostalgia.

 My favorite thing about all of this? That everyone looks like they are having fun.


Monday, July 25, 2011

The Face of "Television" is Changing and Becoming "Internetelevision"

For the past few years, I have been talking about how our television viewing habits are being changed by the internet and how soon most of our viewing choices will be made "on demand."  Providers of digital narrative viewing entertainment will be able to reap great rewards from the system, even as it shatters some of the older models.  The studios, big and small, will likely benefit by the changes and affiliate stations will suffer as people move away from "command" television of the kind that local affiliates provide, and move toward "on demand" television where the viewer is empowered to watch shows directly from the provider.  The content provider and the distributor system will change, but likely not be completely eliminated as trusted "content hubs" will make finding new content easier for viewers.  The overall shift will likely empower creators and viewers and lessen the power of distributors -- though the need for effective marketers will be significant.

I began imagining this future before anyone offered streaming video content, but after reading The Future of the Mass Audience in a political science class as an undergrad.  Since I started talking about the topic -- which was a topic for a couple of early Geekerati podcasts -- we have seen the rise of Hulu, Netflix streaming, television stations streaming their own shows, FunnyorDie!, and many DiY Web Series of varying quality -- some quite excellent.

Now one of the leaders in the field is moving forward toward the purely on demand future.  It is one thing for television networks to provide their content online after it has aired through traditional channels, it is quite another for a streaming provider to purchase and produce a high end show strictly for streaming.  That provider is Netflix and they are looking into the possibility of providing two upcoming on demand televisions shows in the near future.  The first is House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and the second is an unnamed show by the Kenji Kohan (the creator of "Weeds).

Change is in the wind, and that change looks very interesting indeed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Falling Skies -- Alien Occupation TV Done Right?

The vast majority of "Alien Invasion" SFnal storylines follow a very familiar pattern. The aliens arrive, sometimes pretending to be friendly. The aliens attack. The aliens defeat us. We keep fighting. For some reason, either because of some gimmick or because of human tenacity, the aliens are defeated/leave. We all rejoice.

This pattern is used in H.G. Well's "War of the Worlds," Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Moon Maid," Larry Niven's "Known Space," Jerry Pournelle/Larry Niven's "Footfall," Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers," L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth," etc., and too many movies and television shows to list. The fact that it is formula doesn't mean that it isn't good. It is a tried and true formula that allows for narrative excitement while also allowing for a cathartic happy ending. When done extremely well, it also allows for sfnal commentary on modern human affairs.

The new TNT series "Falling Skies" is the latest television addition to this storied tradition. In "Falling Skies," the aliens have already invaded, destroyed most of the world's large cities, and crushed the military might of Earth. All that remain are ever increasingly small bands of humanity. Groups that get smaller as the aliens begin scanning for smaller and smaller communities. In the first episode, we are informed that the aliens are now tracking and attacking communities of 500 citizens and may soon move on to communities of 300 people. When the aliens encounter communities, they kill all the adults and capture the teenage children in order to put the teens in "mind control harnesses." The overall purpose of the harnesses is unknown, but hinted at. The aliens have established permanent bases, in the form of large structures, and their flagships have left our world to unknown locations. The initial shock and awe of the alien assault is over, "Falling Skies" is a tale of occupation and resistance.

"Falling Skies" follows the struggle of one band of the human resistance. That community includes a number of key players.

Porter -- the former military officer who believed that his fighting days were over and must now command a group that has all too few fighting men and women.

Captain Weaver(Will Patton) -- the military man who wants to take the fight to the aliens, and who resents the "civilian baggage" he is responsible for -- forgetting why it is that soldiers fight in the first place.

Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) -- a former professor of American History who has a deep knowledge of military history, but lacks practical experience in the art of war. He has read his Caesar, but had not used a firearm before the invasion.

Anne Glass (Blood Moongood) -- a pediatrician turned omni-doctor, who must minister to all the medical needs of the community.

There are a number of other important players, but Mason, Glass, and Weaver form provide a nice conflict triangle for the first two episodes. Weaver is solely concerned with preparing for combat, Glass is concerned with the health of the community, and Mason tries to balance the needs of society with the necessities of war.

Professor Mason provides the lens through which the narrative of the show progresses. He believes that the struggle of the survivors against the aliens is analogous to the American Revolution and believes that if we fight hard enough that it becomes a more expensive/difficult for the aliens to remain than the benefits they gain from occupation, then they will leave. It is Mason who describes the strategy needed in a way that exactly mirrors the traditional sfnal alien invasion tale. It also happens to mirror George Washington's strategy against the British.

The first episode is an engaging introduction to the stakes of the series. The survivors need food, and they need to find out why the aliens are capturing human children. Mason, and a small squad of the resistance, backtrack into the area the community is fleeing to find food and to see if they can locate any harnessed children. It is hoped that they can rescue the children, and find out what the harnesses are for. So far, all attempts to remove the harnesses from children have resulted in the death of the child and no increase the understanding of their purpose. The episode is engaging, and hints that "Falling Skies" can be an occupation/invasion story of the best kind.

It is in the second episode where the edges begin to fray, and the show risks becoming a retread of previously explored narratives -- and uninteresting narratives at that. In the second episode, "The Armory," the resistance is exploring an Armory in pursuit of additional weapons. They soon discover that there are more dangers than the alien "Skitters" that wander the post-invasion landscape. There are also wandering marauders who are on holiday from 80s post-apocalyptic narratives. The marauders of "The Armory" are led by the morally ambiguous ex-con John Pope (Colin Cunningham) who has found that the lawlessness of the post-invasion world suits his brutal nature.

[rant]Why is it that we always have to have the "morally ambiguous leader of wasteland marauders" in these stories? Can't we just do without them? Maybe have the morally ambiguous threat, or even sinister threat, lie hidden in the civilian population rather than as a leader of a roving band of maniacs.[/rant]

As disappointing as the John Pope narrative is, all hope for a good series is not lost as the upcoming third episode adds some interesting narrative conflicts. "The Armory" also includes some good character growth in the Weaver, Mason, and Glass characters.

I have pretty high hopes for the show. I also have a prediction regarding why the kids are being harnessed. I think that the children are being harnessed so that they can become the "pilots" of the alien's dreaded Mechs.

"Falling Skies" combines many elements of past human/alien conflict stories, including some similarities to the "Tripods" trilogy/quadrology of books by John Christopher. In fact, it is the fact that "Falling Skies" has tropes from so many of my favorite alien occupation stories, rather than just one series, is one of the key reasons I have hope for the series. It seems as if the writers of the show are steeped in the tropes of the genre and are comfortable using them, rather than thinking they are reinventing the invasion genre.

I eagerly await the next episode, "Prisoner of War."

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thundercats Ho!

I am overjoyed that I live in a world where I will be able to share new episodes of Thundercats with my twin daughters.