Saturday, June 23, 2007

The A List

I'm working today, but I pulled a 1 to 9:30 slot, and went to bed waaaay early last night, so work, at this point, seems a far off, distant rumble well beyond the horizon and I almost feel like I have a Saturday off. Not really, of course, but for the nonce, let me dream.

Mike Norton has a list of what's in the upcoming AVENGERS HeroClix set. It's over at his blog. Go look at it.

Now -- taking The List slot by slot --

A new Ultimates Cap seems utterly ridiculous to me, especially as a common. I hate them. I want them to die.

Ditto that for Ultimates Iron Man. And I want to ditto it for Ultimates Captain Britain, but, hey, maybe he has a cool dial and I can swap sculpts on it, or something.

Gargoyle? Holy SHIT. ::ralllfffff::

Nice to see some generic Guardsmen. Pity their dials suck so bad.

We've been over the new Moon Knight prior to this.

Crossbones? ::shrug::

I'd like to see the new Wonder Man. If he has the red safari jacket, or, alternatively, his original Masters of Evil togs, I'm in.

Hulkling, Patriot, and Stature can all, every single one of them, BITE me.

Shang Chi is cool.

Happy to have Piledriver, although I have to say, the Wrecking Crew seems to overall be pretty much Teh Suck. Piledriver's GIRLY SLAP (heh, nice one, Mike) power would be okay with Armor Piercing, but it makes him pricey.

Stingray, I assume, is going to be the dolphin symbol equivalent of a Guardsman. Be interesting to see something with a Dolphin symbol on a flight stand...

U.S. Agent? Errrrr...

Luke Cage? I assume he'll be bald and have a bad Bendis chick character clinging to his leg. Noooooo THANK you.

Living Laser? At 91 points he could be nicely done. I'll hope.

Blazing Skull, and the other Invaders/Liberty Legionnaires, I'm very happy about. Hoping for good execution.

Darkhawk? Fuck.

Dragon Man? Oh baby! Double sized, please.

Toro? 'course.

Iron Widow? Somebody shoot me. No, somebody shoot Tuttle. That's the ticket.



No Grim Reaper, but fucking Lionheart?

Ah'm a'gonna KEEL someone.

Yeah, Black Panther. Ultimates Quicksilver... should be a hockey puck. Another Ultimates Scarlet Witch? Bleah. Ultimates Vision? Bleah again, but, you know, potential for sculpt switching if the base doesn't have an annoying TA. Ultimates Wasp... bleah.

Taskmaster... whatever, dude.

Iron Lad and Ronin... Ah'm a'gonna keel MORE people.

Red Skull... yeah, yeah, Cosmic Cube, too stupid to use it efficiently, gotcha.

Ultimate Abomination? What?

What's wrong with the old Baron Zemo?

Bucky? By himself? Cool.

Ultimates Falcon. Say, bite me.

Thin Man? Golden Age Liberty Legion? Yeah, I'm okay with that.

Giant Man? YEAH, baby.

Spitfire and Union Jack? More Invaders?? YEAH, baby.

Ultimates Namor? Ah'm a'gonna keel so MANY people...

Starfox? Well... okay...

Molecule Man? Um... nice to have the fig, no way to do the powers right, though.

Hey, THERE's the Grim Reaper! Kewl! I hope he's in the black costume. And doesn't look dead.

Thunderstrike? Excellent.

Namorita? That's fine.

Wiccan? No! Continue to bite me.

...I'm sorry, I have to backtrack a minute... it's VERY COOL that we're getting a Grim Reaper in this set. He'd BETTER have a good sculpt and a playable dial. He'd BETTER. If Seth Swordsmans the GR, it will make me very unhappy.

Yondu. Fab. Must have multiple targets. Where's Charlie?

Two Gun Kid? Heh. Hopefully with an Avengers TA. He and Jonah Hex can share the same space on my shelves.

Winter Soldier? Jesus, Bucky gets three figs in this set, and he's SUPPOSED to be dead.

Red Armor Spider-Man. Oh, bite me, bite me, BITE me.

Citizen V? Two Zemos for the price of one?

The Colonel? Wasn't he in BOOGIE NIGHTS?

Ares. The stench lingers.

Ultimates Hulk! I'll kill everybody. I will.

Hawkeye? Well... but you know it's going to be that rotten Young Avenger. Oh, so much death to deal. OH, so much.

A new Scarlet Witch? Cool.

A new Quicksilver? Um... was something wrong with the AW version?

Classic Silver Age Wasp sculpt! Crappy crappy dial and no special powers and Seth just sucks and suck and sucks, but, hey, now I can sculpt shift onto better dials.

Cap and Bucky... 138 points? Get outta town! Well, they're a legendary team; I just hope this new Duo Characters power doesn't end up being a waste of time.

I guess I want about half the set, and won't get hardly any of it... ah, well. Such is life.

It is, though, a criminal offense against the name AVENGERS, how crappy half this set is.

I Have Said It. It Is True.

(That may be my new closing line for every entry. You just love it, don't you? Admit it.) ;)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fragile egos

I've recently finished Neil Gaiman's latest anthology, FRAGILE THINGS. With one exception, I like the material in it well enough. (That one exception is unconscionably vile and fills me with sputtering, incoherent rage whenever I let my mind dwell on it for so much as an instant, but never mind, we'll get to that later.)

Still, while I like Gaiman's writing fine (for the most part) there's something about Gaiman himself, the man behind the prose, that irks me enormously. Or, at least, there's something about the way he presents himself in the lengthy introduction to this book, where he talks at length about all of the stories in it -- how he came to write them, what they mean to him, etc.

I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is about Gaiman's self presentation in this introduction that annoys me so much, so while I'm thinking about that further, let me talk about some of my own short stories, and how they were written, and what they mean to me --

WITH A REBEL YELL, SHE CRIED 'MOE, MOE, MOE' -- Award winning writer and editor, and my closest closest friend for 30 years, Brian Aldiss, called me up out of the blue one fine Sunday a few years ago and said he was editing an anthology of stories in which the idea was to take famous pop culture figures and immerse them in some sort of equally famous, but utterly incongruous, fantasy settings. I wracked my brains and couldn't come up with a thing, until I was sitting up late one night in Wayne Knight's ski lodge at Aspen with my golden retriever Thoth-Crinagoras (in part named after one of my favorite classic Greek poets, Crinagoras of Mytilene, whose brilliance is easy to overlook if you've only ever read his work in English translation, which, of course, most of you only ever have, so I can understand if you disagree with me here, although you're wrong) and the phone jangled and it was my good good friend Jerry Bruckheimer calling for me. Jerry wanted to talk to me about directing my own screenplay adaptation of my best selling and award winning novel BUDDHA WAS A HINDU, AND A VERY GOOD ONE, TOO, and I was pitching this idea that had just come to me for a sequence where Abraham Lincoln would fall ill just before giving the Gettysburg Address and Buddha would have to put on a disguise to take his place, and there was a Three Stooges movie on the telly, and it all just jelled in my head. I typed the story up in fourteen minutes flat while Kylie Minogue knelt on the floor beneath my typing desk praising my evocative prose style in her sweet, breathy, husky neo-brogue. Intermittently.

And of course, that story won the Hugula Award for Best Science Fiction Fantasy Written While Being Serviced By A Semi-Obscure Australian Starlet for 2004.

Hmmmm. Okay, I'm thinking, and I'm thinking, and I still can't figure out what it is about Gaiman's short story introductions that I find so aggravating. Something in his tone... I can't quite pin it down. Well, fine, let's just talk about the stories, then.

A STUDY IN EMERALD is one of the coolest short stories I've ever read, no lie. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, or a follower of Lovecraft's Elder Deities mythos, you'll enjoy this story, and if you're an admirer of both fictional worlds, you'll just adore it. The ending comes as a real surprise, too, and, unlike most surprise endings, this is a very pleasant one.

THE FAIRY REEL - poem. ::shrug:: I don't read these things for poems. Sorry.

OCTOBER IN THE CHAIR - Nicely told, for what it is, which is, in the end, pretty pointless and anti-climactic rubbish.


FORBIDDEN BRIDES OF THE FACELESS SLAVES etc etc etc - Interesting. Nowhere near as funny as Gaiman thinks it is, though... pretty much endless, not particularly novel, and not very humorous, variations on the same tired schtick from start to finish. Fun to watch him play with the language, though. It nearly always is.


CLOSING TIME - Um... weird. Interesting. I'm not sure the ending Gaiman puts on it can possibly work within the context of the story, however badly he wants it to.

GOING WODWO - I'm just not going to mention the poems any more.

BITTER GROUNDS - Very readable. Nonetheless, this is one of those stories that, along with several of Gaiman's SANDMAN arcs, really makes me think that what Gaiman wants to be, more than anything else, is one of those authors like James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon, that nobody can even remotely begin to understand ten consecutive words they've written, but everyone pretends they can and it's all quite brilliant, because they're afraid they'll be thought stupid otherwise. Gaiman's prose style is as lucid as ever, but you get to the end of this particular story and you haven't got more than a vague idea what the hell has happened, or how it ended, really, but it's all been presented in a way that's supposed to make you think you're the one who has the problem. Me, I read a piece of fiction I don't understand, I tend to blame the writer; communication is a writer's JOB. But I'm often surly; I admit it frankly.

OTHER PEOPLE - Gaiman seems to be of the opinion that this is some brilliant little self contained story thing like Fredric Brown might write. I think, um, well, the ending is entirely predictable from the form, and, as a bonus, makes no sense. I mean, sure, the guy shows up in Hell and there's this horrible demon who is going to torture him for all eternity and, after a while, the demon vanishes and he looks in the mirror and discovers that HE has become the demon, and then, the door opens and the original guy walks in again, but... sure, okay, so he gets tortured for eons and turns into his own torturer, and now he's been sent back in time to the start of the sequence and he's going to torture his original self for eons again, but then... when his original self turns into him again... where does 'he' go? Does he go back and start again as the original person, or... No. It doesn't make any sense. Sorry.

KEEPSAKES AND TREASURES - I liked this story quite a bit. You pity the main character, and loathe him, all at the same time. And the central narrative itself is interesting, too. It's kind of like SANDMAN meets, I don't know, LAYER CAKE.

GOOD BOYS DESERVE FAVORS seems rather pointless.

THE FACTS IN THE DEPARTURE OF MISS FINCH is... well... fun to read, I guess, but anyone who is surprised by anything that happens at any point in the story hasn't read much Gaiman, or fantasy in general, prior to this. But it does give Gaiman a chance to go one some more about how important a writer he is and how much in demand his work is, in Hollywood, and, you know, throughout the world, a bit at the start, so that's all right.

STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS - Well, it's all well written, and it accomplishes the task of letting Gaiman tell us just how wonderfully close his friendship with some pop star is, but, again, while it's all very evocative and wonderful, I prefer an actual story.

HARLEQUIN VALENTINE - It... I... um... I don't know what to say about this one. The reversal in the middle seems forced, and honestly, the story just doesn't work for me very well. But this may be a case where the flaw really is in me. Gaiman seems to like these stories where characters abruptly shift identities right in the middle, and the rest of the world shifts right along with them without ever noticing that things have ever been different, as if all of life is just a dream, and there is no objective reality. I understand that's an interesting basis for some good (as well as some spectacularly bad) fiction, but I've never been fond of the notion. I'm an objective truth kind of guy.

Also, as a writer and a reader, I'm very wary of undefined characters with strange, dreamlike powers that can do whatever the plot requires at any given moment, but who can somehow never seem to do anything that would be inconvenient to the writer, ever, under any circumstances at al. Gaiman is very fond of these characters, and it's a flaw and a weakness and he should give it up but he won't. He's much better at writing stories about these kind of characters than, say, Chris Claremont is, but that's because Chris Claremont writes like a man who is getting hit on the head with a hammer over and over again while trapped in an aquarium that is slowly filling with overused motor oil, and Gaiman writes like a very talented, if unfortunately somewhat lazy, writer.

THE PROBLEM OF SUSAN -- If you love THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA even a tiny little bit, even the merest fraction of how much I love THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, then you mustn't read this story, because if you do, you will want to find Neil Gaiman and trap him in an aquarium slowly filling with overused motor oil while hitting him over the head again and again and again with a large hammer. Or, better, a small hammer; one just large enough to hurt quite a lot without actually knocking him unconscious or killing him. That way he stays alive in constant pain until the distilled petroleum product slowly fills his lungs and he drowns horribly with much the same smell in his nostrils and taste in his throat as dinosaurs floundering down into tar pits did, and for writing this piece of vile and abominable insect shit he deserves to, too. I have never really understood, on an emotional level, the concept of 'blasphemy' until I read this story, and now, I can also understand the Spanish Inquisition, and not the one with the comfy chair, either.

HOW DO YOU THINK IT FEELS? is an oddly satisfying little story where everything fits together very well. You can't really feel sorry for the narrator, who is actually quite an appalling fellow, or his paramour, who isn't much better.

MY LIFE is much, much funnier than that whole FORBIDDEN BRIDES mess.

FIFTEEN PAINTED CARDS FROM A VAMPIRE TAROT is every bit as pretentious and, you know, trying SOOOOOO hard to impress Goth chicks, dude, as it sounds, but, I admit, much more fun to read than I expected, for all of that. Still, I like a story to have a story in it, if you know what I mean.

FEEDERS AND EATERS is a genuine horror story. Not some nasty, brutal, witless Clive Barker thing that isn't about anything except a grisly central image, but a genuine horror story, like people used to write, when other people actually bought horror.

DISEASEMAKER'S CROUP and IN THE END both exasperated me, but sometimes I'm a bit dull.

GOLIATH is, actually, a very cool story, if, ultimately, an entirely depressing one. It's sad when someone actually finds out the objective truth, and the objective truth sucks pretty hard.

PAGES FROM A JOURNAL etc etc etc is... um... well... there's not much to it. I found it disappointing. But I'm like that, really.

HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES is one of those maddening stories where something extremely cool and important happens and the narrator of the story didn't see it and can only hint at whatever it is and the author never gives you any more information than that and it's just fucking AGGRAVATING. Because without the really cool thing that probably even the author doesn't really know anything about, the whole thing is just this lengthy description of an interesting party where nothing much goes on.

Still, as a wannabe myself, it's nice to know that you can get away with shit like this, once you're famous enough.

THE DAY THE SAUCERS CAME is a poem I'll mention, because I really enjoyed it.

SUNBIRD is very interesting, but, again, if you can't figure out how it ends a hundred words into it, you're just not trying very hard.

THE MONARCH OF THE GLEN is a novella featuring Shadow from AMERICAN GODS. I was very disappointed in AMERICAN GODS, and I guess I like this novella a little bit better, but Shadow is still kind of a whiney jerk.

I should note that for all my bitching above, I very much enjoyed reading this anthology while I was reading it. I found many of the stories in it ultimately disappointing, but Gaiman is always fun to read, and, well, I read for pleasure, so, there you are.

I just expect better from Gaiman, because, well, he's capable of it, and when he's just dicking around pointlessly as he does for most of this volume, it's always a disappointment, and, pretty much, a waste of talent.

And he seems rather full of himself. A toady would rush in at this moment to say, well, if anyone deserves to be full of himself, it's Neil Gaiman, but in all honesty, that just doesn't work for me. Hubris is always ugly, and arrogance is never merited. I'm sure it's very nice to be Neil Gaiman, so sure, in fact, that I don't need to have him tell me, over and over and over again.

Addendum: I meant to mention this the whole time I was writing the above entry, and then I got to the end and the kids were clamoring to get on the computer and I had to get ready for work and I just hit PUBLISH POST and forgot about it -- "With a rebel yell, she cried Moe! Moe! Moe!" is the brilliant work of the brilliant Mike Norton; I saw it on his HC Realms profile right before I wrote this thing and laughed uproariously at it (he has a picture of Moe Howard, and under it, in italics, that particular legend) and it was indelibly imprinted on my brain at the time I was typing this thing, and I really really did mean to credit Mr. Norton, and then I didn't, and I'm very very sorry.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Traveling twice the speed of sound

It's been even more hectic than usual lately... since the wedding, really... with kid stuff and grown up stuff and life stuff in general... SuperDramaTeen's graduation, end of school and summer break stuff for the other two, incipient child support tussles with the bio-dad, hassles with the local bureaucracy, and I'm in the middle of redrafting a short story for some editors who seem to want to use it, but, you know, not if it bears even the remotest resemblance to the form in which I originally submitted it, apparently. (I suppose this is normal; I just wish I stood to make more than $20 off it... but... still, I can only hope it leads to bigger and better things.)

So if I'm behind on email or there's a comment of yours hanging somewhere on the blog I haven't responded to or I seem to be snubbing you in some other fashion I can't conceptualize right now, please understand that it's not intentional. I'm just, as that crazy redheaded guy from ROBOCOP once said on X-FILES, up to my ass in alligators. With no end in sight at the moment.

For those keeping track of these things, though, I did get a brief, preprinted, unsigned, boilerplate rejection from TOR for the reworked version of TIME WATCH (the one with the female POV) I submitted six months or so ago. So, you know, I've got that going for me. ;)

I should get some Father's Day loot when the SuperKids get home from their biodad's in a little while, though, and when you're in a position to get Father's Day presents from the SuperKids, there really can't be much of anything significant wrong with your world. Honestly.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Surf's up

The best laid plans... SuperWife and I had plotted out an inexpensive movie date for this afternoon, heading over to the cheapie second run multiplex for an afternoon matinee of Hot Fuzz. Three minutes out the door, she asked if I'd prefer to see Rise of the Silver Surfer instead, to which I responded in my best Cartman voice "Yes, I want the cheesy poofs!" So screeching homeward we went to change into our Fantastic Four t-shirts, after which, we set off once more, this time in an entirely different direction.

While I liked the first Fantastic Four movie better than I expected to, there were still as many elements of it that irked me as pleased me. This was nonetheless a wonderment to me, since I'd anticipated there being very little in the film that I'd like at all, and was pleasantly surprised to find so much of the Silver Age Fantastic Four core concept surviving onto the screen -- for all that the scriptwriters monumentally fucked up Dr. Doom's origin and the Invisible Woman's essential personality, nonetheless, the interrelationships between the characters and the essential 'feel' of the team came through much more intact than I'd ever thought they would.

So I was pleased by all that, and while the first movie wasn't quite consistently good enough for me to want to own a copy (Sue as an astrophysicist, and Victor Von Doom as a ruthless American corporate predator, were simply too much for me to swallow without choking), nonetheless, I enjoyed it a lot more than I'd ever thought I would.

Rise of the Silver Surfer is, at least for me, a better film on every level, easily as good as the first Spider-Man film, and orders of magnitude better than the second, as it avoids the lethal trap of most sequels to successful first movies -- it is in no way, shape, or form imitative of its predecessors. This particularly installment in the FF video franchise is completely different from the unfortunately almost humdrum origin-sequence-leading-to-a-big-climactic-battle that we saw in the first FF movie.

Audiences that know nothing about the Silver Age Fantastic Four will still be able to dig heavily on this film, simply on the basis of all the eye candy -- hot looking women in very little clothing, fabulous special effects, some reasonably funny comedy bits tossed in here and there, and a couple of super cool fight scenes. Those of us who are avid fans of the Silver Age FF have a lot to love in this movie, too, as the story arcs from Reed and Sue's wedding through the first, classic appearance of Galactus and the Surfer up through a later, equally classic story in which Dr. Doom and the Surfer meet for the first time... while, along the way, we get to see a pretty decent cinematic rendition of the Fantasticar and even a fabulous visual tribute to the Super Skrull.

Andre Braugher chews the scenery satisfactorily as a gruff, geek hating Army general reluctantly working with the FF to stop the Surfer, and among his staff we find a character diehard FF fans will easily recognize, whose presence may promise something for future storylines, or, on the other hand, could simply have been a red herring to lead the more knowledgeable in the audience astray as to the eventual conclusion of this film.

For me, the best thing about this film was that all the bullshit I'd disliked the most in its predecessor hardly mattered any more. There were no flashbacks to badly distorted and stupidly altered origin sequences for anyone, and Sue Storm's aggravatingly modern ultracompetent bitch personality was mostly missing entirely. Jessica Alba is still spectacularly miscast in the role (no slam to her acting talents, she's simply wrong for the part on every level), but the character itself is much closer to what it should be, and every other character in the film is pretty much spot on. Victor Von Doom is rather more glib and flippant than he'd ever really be in this movie, but his relationship with the good guys comes through pretty well, and all that aggravating detritus about him being, you know, Michael Milken in powered battle armor is pretty much immaterial at this point.

And, honestly, the Silver Surfer is just fabulous every second he's on screen. This really IS the Silver Surfer; while Reed, Ben, and Johnny have always worked well in their on screen incarnations, this franchise's greatest success story to date in terms of accuracy to the original source material is this film's rendition of Norrin Radd.

I've heard some disappointment expressed at how the movie portrays Galactus, but it didn't trouble me at all. The comic book Galactus simply wouldn't work in a live action film, and I thought the much more cosmic visualization we saw in this movie worked beautifully.

Gay abandon

So, SuperDramaTeen, being who she is, really wanted to go to the River City Gay Pride Parade last night. She had all these grand plans for who she was going to go with, but, in the end, all her careful scheming came to naught and she was left moping around the house, badly wanting to attend the event, but not wanting to go alone.

I couldn't blame her; I've gone to a lot of stuff alone in my life -- malls, movies, parks, the beach, parties, weddings, all that kinda shit -- and that's always at least a little bit depressing, but attending this sort of mass event where there are always thousands of other people there, none of whom are alone... well, that's an entirely different magnitude of despair. And this Gay Pride Parade and associated events afterward? About as bad as it could get, for a solitary attendee. To mingle at this affair by yourself for any length of time and not come away feeling suicidal, one would need to be the Unabomber.

But wait, you say. Yr. Humble Narrator seems to be speaking with an unaccustomed assurance about said event, and how could that possibly be? Wellllllll... see, I kind of wound up there last night. For a couple of hours. Because... er... well... my oldest daughter really really really wanted to go, but couldn't find anyone to go with her, and I didn't want her to be sad. So, off I went, traipsing merrily like Dorothy down the Yellow Brick... er... I mean, striding manfully (MANFULLY, mind you, DAMNED manfully, at that) like Kurt Russell in TOMBSTONE down a dusty Arizona street towards an inevitable date with a carnage strewn destiny.

Yeah, yeah. That's the ticket.

SuperDramaTeen seemed to have a good time, although we wound up coming home earlier than planned because there just wasn't much going on. She bought a t-shirt and a rainbow necklace from vendors there. Alas, I had no money, else I would have brought home a t-shirt for SuperWife proudly emblazoned with SORRY, GIRLS, I SUCK DICK, which I imagine was meant for a slightly different target demographic than that of my lovely spouse, but which would still be entirely appropriate in her specific context.

We watched the parade, which was, to my perhaps overly critical eyes, a pretty shabby affair -- you want to seriously see Sexual Deviants On Parade with something like a big budget behind it, you need to attend the Tampa Gasparilla Night Parade, something I've never done, but, as I lived in Tampa for seven years, have seen many pictures and heard many tales of. River City's Pride Parade seems to mostly consist of tired dykes and hard done looking fags perched on and crouched paranoically in motorcycles and the backs of small convertibles, waving wearily to the small but enthusiastically cheering crowd. A few paraders lethargically toss out miniscule strings of beads, a few others scatter the occasional stingy handful of Dubble Bubble or Tootsie Rolls onto the pavement at their feet, much like elderly farm wives tossing feed to their chickens... the only participants who seem at all enthusiastic about it are the Christian Gays, thrusting their JESUS LOVES US TOO signs vehemently in every direction like battle axes at the slavering Hun, and the trannies, who in my limited experience always seem to be either dementedly, near maniacally cheerful about everything, or about to commit ritual seppeku with their own nail files.

After the parade petered out, SuperDramaTeen and I adjourned to a nearby park area where various vending booths had been set up and a pretty good lesbian rock band was attacking the nearby atmosphere with various classic remakes and a few decent original tunes. We wandered about, more or less aimlessly. SuperDramaTeen had promised to purchase me some Gay Fried Dough if there was any to be had and I wanted to have it, but it had been Chicken Tender night at Castle Anthrax, and SuperWife's homemade chicken tenders are the stuff that dreams are made of, so I wasn't at all hungry, and the Gay Fried Dough went by the wayside.

Which was good, as it freed up SuperDramaTeen's meager funds for the purchases I have already detailed. We also scoffed up a reasonable amount of free swag, including a small inflatable ball puzzlingly imprinted WALKIN' WITH JESUS, a Gay Frisbee (a gift from a generous couple of quite pretty girls, who each had one and didn't mind sharing) and a few other odds and ends I can't remember right now. (I had a Tootsie Roll, but some deaf gay guy standing near me at the parade motioned imperiously that I should give it to him, and he was astonishingly homely, so I did, lest the same bad fairy who had cursed him turn her ire on me.)

What I noticed while I was there -- and this will seem unkind, mostly, I suppose, because honest observations of this sort pretty much are -- is that the proportion of attractive/average/ugly people in a nearly all gay population is startlingly skewed from the mainstream towards, well, shall we say, the unhandsome. I mentioned in passing to SDT while we were listening to the rock band that if Hollywood ever shot a big budget version of this event, every single person in attendance would be totally hot... but the actuality was nearly anything but that.

There were, every once in a while, good looking people of either gender wandering around (the pleasant couple who shared one of their frisbees with us among them), but they were as lost in that crowd as a few grains of pepper would be in a sea of salt. But while attractive people were, perhaps, proportionally slightly under-represented compared to a more mainstream crowd at, say, a busy theme park, what really struck me was the lack of normal, average looking people. Everywhere you looked there were human eyesores on two legs; truly, staggeringly ill-favored individuals covered the ground like an infestation of ambulatory toadstools.

I was proud that my daughter was so beautiful, but I always am, of all my daughters, and, in fact, their indisputable beauty is among the least wonderful of their attributes, as they're all smart and funny and kind and sweet, too; at the same time, I felt so dreadfully bad for most of these people, and had to wonder, how many were truly gay or bisexual, and how many were simply so desperate for affection that they'd willingly left the mainstream -- or been all but forcibly exiled from it -- to search for love and acceptance elsewhere, among other outcasts like themselves?

Whenever I see a handicapped person, I always wish I had the power to make them whole; to regenerate their wasted or missing limbs, to make their eyes or their ears or their vocal cords work, to give them back the gifts that cruel fate seems to have robbed them of. Last night, I felt that way for hundreds or thousands of people, based only on their appearance. And it made me wonder, how badly must our society treat the truly unattractive among us, that some of them at least would trade that kind of mass contempt for the in-built bias nearly every normal person feels against homosexuals?

Moving on beyond all that heavy shit, though, the band was pretty decent. They closed out their set with a rendition of "Proud Mary" notable only in what it lacked compared to CCR's version, and, well, the fact that in the first verse, instead of "Left a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day", these chicks sang "working for A man every night and day", which rather startled me with just how much contempt for an entire gender (instead of, you know, the ruling wealthy ownership class) you could pack into a tiny three letter substitution like that.

I had no idea what the band's name was, but while I was listening to their unfortunately lethargic rendition of their last number, I though to myself that maybe this was their signature tune, and the name of their band was Proud Mary, which strikes me as an excellent name for a gay rock band, male or female. But on the way out of the park SuperDramaTeen advised me that they were the Blue Umbrellas, which is, I suppose, an okay name, but Proud Mary would be way, way better.

For all of that, I had a pretty good time hanging with my eldest girl, and am glad I went if only so she could. And as an added bonus, when SuperWife picked us up to drive us home, she informed me that SuperAdorable Kid had been distraught and inconsolable for the several hours we were gone, weeping and wailing about how much she missed me. Who'd 'a thunk it?

I'm nearly finished with Neil Gaiman's newest anthology, FRAGILE THINGS, and have a post in mind about how much Gaiman irks me, on several levels, but that will have to wait for another time. I know you'll all be looking forward to that, though.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

And today's contest entry is...

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition

—Rules text:

All characters in play have somehow been devolved into super-gorillas! All characters have Super Strength in every attack slot, in addition to any other Attack powers they may have. All instances of Outwit and Shape Change are replaced by Battle Fury.

Cover to the unfortunately unpublished MAJOR ATTITUDE'S WAR JOURNAL #3 by the Late Great Jeff Webb. ::sniff:: I miss ya, buddy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


No new card ideas got sent off to WizKids yesterday by me, as I was working on another project instead: updating Doc Nebula's HeroClix House Rules into a full, complete set of game regs, with my own modifications layered on.

Step 1 was globally copying WK's own official rules .pdf. That was easy. Step 2 was going in and editing it -- deleting their rules where I didn't like them and adding in my own where it was appropriate. The result is a master rulebook; not just my modified rules, but everything you need to play, all in one place. (And if you think Step 2 was as easy as it seems when you're just reading about it afterward, well, um, no, not so much. But without electronic files and word processing technology to work from, it's the kind of project that would take years and cost millions of lives, instead of just a little over a day, so I'm grateful that I could do it at all. Now if someone would actually just read the fucker, I'd be ecstatic.)

I realized too late that I should not be deleting WK's original rules where I didn't like them, but probably putting them in parentheses, or a larger font, or something, with a great big "these rules SUCK so I'm not using them" note on them, so people could see what I was taking out, as well as what I was putting in. Unfortunately, I'd already deleted several paragraphs of nonsense about power actions and Soaring characters always being adjacent to grounded characters even though they can never actually attack grounded characters and dumbass horseshit like that, and by the time this occurred to me I couldn't remember exactly what I'd taken out.

I could have gone back and started over, and I considered that for like .09 picoseconds, and then decided that that was a really stupid idea and got over it.

I did, however, put all my additions in bold, so at least people casually scanning (ha ha, yes, I kid myself like this all the time, I know, I know, as if anyone will ever read the crappy thing at all, casually or otherwise) will be able to see those modifications easily. Still, anyone who is very experienced with WK's rules may end up missing where I've removed a great many of them which suck, and think they're still in there sucking. I wish I'd thought of that before I got halfway through with the project, but sometimes I'm just not very smart, and I've had to learn to live with that. Oh, well. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

I also got word yesterday that an entry I'd written for an online short story contest has made it into the final judging. According to the email, the contest received 30 submissions; my story has made it into the final 9. That's nice, I suppose. I never win these things, but at least I'm a better writer than 21 other wannabes out there.

SuperDramaTeen came home from her dad's early last night; as she's eighteen now, she can come and go like the wind, and I guess she's decided to alight here for the next couple of days. I think she likes having two different households she can shuttle back and forth between pretty much at whim. It's nice having her back, for however long she decides to stay this time. Although it does make it harder to get on my X-Box when she's in the house... she bought some extremely violent Mafiosi/fighting game called BEAT DOWN and is practically living with the controller in her hand these days.

Today we all headed over to Frankfort, the state capitol, to get SuperDramaTeen's birth certificate, so we could then get her an adult I.D., so we could then get her minor's savings account closed down and her money transferred into a grown up checking and savings account. A lot of driving hither and yon, quite a few things crossed off the to-do list, a happy oldest stepdaugher and a SuperWife so pleased and proud she's nearly busting open with it. All told, one of my better days lately, although it's certainly not very exciting to the outside eye, I grant you.

I've ground my way through much of the in stack I've had on the back desk since, like, Christmas. I've finished OLD TWENTIETH by Joe Haldeman, THE SKY PEOPLE by S.M. Stirling, and CAMOUFLAGE, again by Joe Haldeman. Right now I'm working my way through RED LIGHTNING by John Varley, which is a sequel to his RED THUNDER, which I read sometime last summer, I believe.

Haldeman and Varley are among my favorite writers, but honestly, I think they're both pretty much coasting on past accomplishments and extremely skilled writing styles these days.

OLD TWENTIETH was just kind of boring; without Haldeman's direct, very precise prose skills pulling me along, I don't imagine I could have gotten more than a third into it. As it was, the settings and characters were all pretty boring and the plot itself never moved very fast, nor did anything much ever happen in it; basically, it was an interesting idea with mediocre execution and a plot twist at the end that I, at least, saw coming for the last seventy pages of the novel.

Varley is very much the same kind of writer Joe Haldeman is, which is to say, they're both very much in the Heinlein school -- direct, bombastic point to point prose, very straightforward, with lots of technical exposition and generally interesting characters doing interesting things in interesting places. Where Haldeman continues to get my business on the strength of books like THE FOREVER WAR, MINDBRIDGE, and ALL MY SINS REMEMBERED -- stuff he wrote like thirty years ago -- Varley is in much the same boat, since I'll buy nearly anything he writes simply because a long time ago, he wrote TITAN, WIZARD, and DEMON. Both Haldeman and Varley have produced some major, major turkeys since -- the WORLDS duology, THE HEMINGWAY HOAX, and the two sequels to the FOREVER WAR are true stinkers Haldeman has penned, while Varley has shat out clunkers like STEEL BEACH and THE GOLDEN GLOBE, and, well, RED THUNDER wasn't such a much, either -- yet I keep reading their new stuff, as hope simply refuses to die. With Haldeman, there's some justification for this, since both BUYING TIME and TOOL OF THE TRADE were pretty good, relatively recent books by him.

With Varley... I dunno. I buy his stuff, it's crappy, and yet, I keep buying his stuff. I think he wrote something about a frozen mammoth I've been smart enough to stay away from, though. RED THUNDER was okay; kind of like ROCKETSHIP GALILEO, but with a more interesting cast and better exposition.

Anyway, RED LIGHTNING isn't bad so far, but it isn't great, either, and that's all I have to say about that.

CAMOUFLAGE was a pretty interesting book and I had a lot of fun reading it. It went fast, almost fast enough to keep me from noticing how stupid a great deal of the plot was, or how much Haldeman was cheating, keeping vital information about certain characters off the radar screen until the last couple of pages, just so we wouldn't know who the villain really was until he was ready to spring it.

In the end, though, all the smooth exposition in the world couldn't hide that the resolution to the big alien vs. alien fight the whole book had built up to was kind of stupid, and the premise of the entire book was even stupider -- yeah, I'll accept that a million years ago, a single representative of one shapeshifting alien race landed on Earth and has been trapped here ever since, going through shape after shape and identity after identity as it slowly learns how to be human... but two of them? Completely unrelated to each other? From entirely different species, both of which are shapeshifters, and both just happen to land on Earth without any knowledge of each other? And one is a vicious psychotic who loves to kill and torture and maim, while the other one is just a confused outsider who gradually learns how to love and be loved?

I don't know. It nearly sounds stupid enough to be something I'd come up with. Haldeman's writing style is so practiced, smooth, and pleasurable to read that he can make nearly anything work while you're reading it (except, maybe, OLD TWENTIETH) but afterwards, the holes in the fabric show pretty badly. To me, at least.

Still, what the hell, it was way better than 1968.

Now, THE SKY PEOPLE -- well, S.M. Stirling is a very prolific author, and this is pretty clearly meant to be a lightweight effort on his part, more a fun little Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche with slightly more sensible physics than a serious piece of work like, I don't know, the Draka books or the Islander trilogy. Within that context, it works just fine -- Earthmen go to Venus and find it's a savage, primitive paradise populated by saurian predators and exotically beautiful humanoids still living in the Stone Age. Whacky adventures (including French saboteurs, cannibal cavemen armed with AK-47s, velociraptors, packs of predatory pterodactyls, gigantic domesticated wolves, and much, much more, all mixed in with lighter-than-airships, which are rapidly coming to be a Stirling staple) ensue. It's a fun romp, if ultimately a pretty shallow one. I find myself looking forward to the second book set in this particular metareality, IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS, set on a Burroughsian Mars, with reasonable enthusiasm.

Remaining in the pile from Christmas is just the Neil Gaiman anthology, FRAGILE THINGS, which I really should get to next -- it's just that, being a hard cover, it's always on the bottom of the stack, because paperbacks get piled up on top of it. Still, it's got seniority over the two books sitting on top of it, DEAD WATER by Barbara Hambly and RAINBOW'S END by Vernor Vinge. (The former is a Benjamin January novel, so it will almost certainly be good, while the last I can't even remember anything about, but Vernor Vinge hasn't disappointed me yet.)

Aaaaaand... when I start out on HeroClix and end up with what I'm reading lately, you know nobody's going to be reading THIS entry. Ah, well. We go to blog with the army we have, not the army we'd like to have, or something like that.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blast them, Ray! Blast them with POWER!

So, WizKids is running a 'Create A Card' contest. They'll pick four winning entries and include them in the MONSTERS AND MUTATIONS HeroClix expansion, due out sometime this fall.

I'm not going overboard or anything. Since I heard about this yesterday, here's what I've submitted:

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
—Card name: STRAFING RUN
—Prerequisites (if applicable) wing movement mode
—Point cost (if applicable) 10 points
—Rules text:

When this character is Soaring, it may make a ranged attack against any grounded character within half its range value. Give this character one click of unavoidable damage after the attack resolves.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
—Prerequisites (if applicable) Enhancement
—Point cost (if applicable) 10 points
—Rules text:

This character may increase the range of adjacent friendly characters by 1 or increase their own damage value while making range attacks by 1, as free actions.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
—Prerequisites (if applicable) Shape Change or Skrull TA
—Point cost (if applicable) 10 points
—Rules text:

Roll 1 d6 before this character makes any attack roll. On 5-6, reduce target's defense to 0.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
—Card name: HYPER SENSES
—Prerequisites (if applicable) Super Senses
—Point cost (if applicable) 10 points
—Rules text:

Characters with Hyper Senses treat all other characters as if they are on open, grounded terrain.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): battlefield condition
—Card name: NIGHT AND DAY

Rules text: Roll 1 d6 at the start of each turn. 1-3 All Stealth is countered until the end of this turn. 4-6 Characters with Stealth cannot be targeted by power actions while on Hindering Terrain.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): battlefield condition

Rules text: Reduce the number of lightning bolts on a character's dial by 1, to a minimum of 1.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition
—Card name: SNIPER ALLEY

Rules text:

Soaring characters may target grounded or hovering characters with range attacks. Any line of fire drawn to a character with Stealth from a non adjacent square or from a Soaring character ignores all Hindering Terrain modifiers. Characters with Stealth occupying Hindering Terrain may not be attacked from adjacent squares by grounded or hovering characters.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): special object (one use object)

Rules text: When a character moves on to PYM PARTICLES, remove PYM PARTICLES from game. Roll d6: 1-3 if character is not a Giant, character is now a Giant. If character is a Giant, it is now Colossal. 4-6 If character is not a Giant or Colossal, subtract 3 from character's Damage Value, add 3 to character's Defense Value. If character is a Giant, character loses Giant status. If character is Colossal, it is now a Giant.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): special object (immovable object)
—Card name: REALITY RIFT

Rules text: This special object cannot be moved or destroyed once it has been placed on a map. When a character moves onto REALITY RIFT, roll a d6: 1 - Remove character from game. Award victory points to opponent. 2 - Remove character from game. Replace with another randomly chosen character. 3 - Place character back at its starting square, on its first slot. 4 - Character is dealt a d6 unavoidable damage. 5 - Character is Regenerated. 6 - Remove REALITY RIFT from game.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): special object (light object)
—Card name: ROCKET-PACK

Rules text: If thrown at an opposing character, this object acts as a FUEL TANK. If a character without the wing movement symbol moves onto this object, treat that character as if it has the wing symbol until this object is removed or destroyed. If this object is destroyed, treat it as a FUEL TANK.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition

Rules text:
Characters may only manipulate object tokens if they have both Super Strength and a damage value of 4 or higher showing on their dial.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition

Rules text:
All Feat and Battlefield Condition cards other than this one are nullified. BACK TO THE BASICS may not be canceled by any other card.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield condition

Rules text:
All map features marked as Hindering Terrain are considered Blocking Terrain for this game.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
—Prerequisites (if applicable) Characters must all have the same TA
—Point cost (if applicable) 25 points per character, -5 per character after first, minimum 10 points per character
—Rules text:

If character has two action tokens at the end of a turn, character may remove one action token. If character has one or fewer action tokens at the beginning of a turn, give it an action token. Character may use Probability Control, Outwit, or Perplex as a free action until beginning of turn. Give character one click of unavoidable damage at the end of the turn.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Object token
—Card name: Exo-skeleton

Rules text:
Move character on top of Exoskeleton. This character now has Super Strength until Exoskeleton is destroyed or removed.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Object token

Rules text:

Characters adjacent to this object roll 1 d6: 1 - take 4 clicks of unavoidable damage 2 - take 3 clicks of unavoidable damage 3 - take 2 clicks of unavoidable damage 4- Gain Super-Strength and Battle Fury for remainder of turn 5 - gain Poison with Armor Piercing for remainder of turn 6 - gain HyperSonic Speed for remainder of turn

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition

Rules text: Cancels out ORDINARY DAY. Opponent attempting to play Ordinary Day may substitute another Battlefield Condition in its place. You may play one other Battlefield Condition in addition to Extremely Weird Day.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition

Rules text:
Characters must roll 4-6 on a d6 to move adjacent to opposing characters. Characters adjacent to friendly characters must roll 4-6 on d6 to move away from adjacent friendly characters.

Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
Creator's e-mail address:
Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
Card name: POLYMORPH
Prerequisites (if applicable): Character must be represented by more than one distinct power dial. At least one of these power dials must have the power Shape Change on it, OR, at least two different power dials representing this character must (1) show different movement types (boot, wing, dolphin) and/or (2) show different damage types (fist, giant).

Point cost (if applicable): Pay the cost of the most expensive figure, then average the costs of all additional figures representing this character for this game. If only one additional figure is used, pay half that figure's cost.

Rules text:

Before game begins, place one figure representing this character in the starting area. Whenever the figure in the game has its dial turned in either direction, turn all off board figures representing this character the same number of clicks in the same direction (do not advance any figure past its starting click into KO slots). At any time during subsequent turns of the game, as a free action, player may switch one of the off-board figures representing the character for the figure in the game. Off-board figures may not be placed on the board if KO slots are showing on their dials.

Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
Creator's e-mail address:
Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
Card name: WARP IN
Prerequisites (if applicable): Phasing/Teleport
Point cost (if applicable): 25 points
Rules text:

This character is not placed on the board at the start of play in the normal starting area. Instead, this character's controller chooses any open square on the board during any turn after the first. Roll 1 d6. 1-2 Figure is placed on board in any open square. Give figure an action token, it may take no further action that turn. 3-4 Figure is placed on board in any open square. This is a free action, but figure may take no non-free actions for rest of turn. 5-6 Figure is placed on board in any open square. This is a free action, and figure may take any normal action for normal cost. Once this has been done, remove WARP IN from game. Only one instance of WARP IN may be played per character per game.

If character with WARP IN is a Transporter, or has the Passenger Feat Card, it may carry one other friendly figure with it into the game. This friendly figure also remains off the game board with WARP IN figure until they are both brought into the game simultaneously.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition

Rules text:
All characters without wing symbol, Leap-Climb, or Phasing/Teleport reduce their movement by 1.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Battlefield Condition
—Card name: RUINS

—Rules text:
Before play begins, each player may place three rubble tokens in map squares containing blocking terrain. These squares are now hindering terrain for the remainder of the game.

—Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
—Creator's e-mail address:
—Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): Feat
—Prerequisites (if applicable)
—Point cost (if applicable) 10 points
—Rules text:

Choose a character. When this character is KOed, do not remove from board or award victory points. Instead, place three action tokens on this character. Opponent who KOed this character may remove one action token at the start of his/her turn. When KOed character has no further action tokens, remove character from board and award victory points. While KOed character remains on board, it may be Healed or Regenerated as normal.

Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
Creator's e-mail address:
Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): feat
Prerequisites (if applicable): Characters must have same team ability
Point cost (if applicable): 5 points per character
Rules text:

Choose more than one character with same Team Ability. When two or more such characters are adjacent, and one of these characters is KOed, it instead remains on its final slot before being KOed. Choose an adjacent character also using this Feat Card and KO that character instead.

And, lastly, one I just sent:

Creator's name: [the Bunnyman]
Creator's e-mail address:
Card type (feat/battlefield condition/special object): feat
Prerequisites (if applicable): DEFENDERS Team Ability
Point cost (if applicable): 5 points per character
Rules text:

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY may begin the game on any open square on their side of the board. Guardians must begin on adjacent squares.

I imagine I'll keep sending three or four more a day until the 6/24/07 cut off date.

If WK doesn't hire me now, it won't be because I didn't goddam well try.