Movie Review – The Marvels

There is a ton of talk about this movie online. Honestly, it is to the point that I’m wondering about that old saying “whether it is bad or good… as long as they are talking about you” still applies. After one weekend, this has underperformed at the box office, and while many people have listed their own theories about why this has occurred (smarter and dumber people alike), it seems to me we’ve gotten away from the key part of watching a movie.

Did you like it?

Yes.

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Thanks for coming to the blog!

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OK. The first Captain Marvel really occupies an odd place in the MCU as it came out after Infinity War but before End Game but took place in the 90s, which put in a position where it didn’t really fit into the current storyline and acts as a prequel to much of the MCU (other than say the first Captain America movie). It introduces more of the Kree (since Ronan in Guardians was really the only Kree we’d met otherwise) and sets up something that within the comics is a HUGE deal: the Kree/Skrull conflicts.

I enjoyed the first one, but I must admit, I haven’t gone back to do a rewatch so it might have been seen through rose-colored glasses as we all waited for End Game.

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With Marvels, my concern was how well would people who haven’t watched the tv shows understand who these characters are. We’d watched WandaVision, so Monica’s story was familiar to us, but we haven’t had a chance to watch Ms. Marvel. And while I am familiar with the comic version, I haven’t really read much with her in it. Luckily, I think they did a pretty good job of introducing both, even if Monica has a leg up due to Captain Marvel being Aunt Carol.

The sequence which gets the movie started is them switching places whenever one of them uses their powers at the same time as another of the trio. Which creates a breakneck series of fights which does a nice job of illustrating each of their power sets. When the three are finally all together, the embarassingly cute interaction Ms. Marvel has with the other two women is infectious. It also does a nice bit of contrast to one of the things people complained about with the first one – that Captain Marvel was too stoic. In fact, that is kind of her character arc here. Someone who has seperated herself from the rest of the universe, someone doing a job only they can do, and just being utterly alone. Faced with a “team”, she balks at it because it is so against her nature. Yet as things continue, she has no choice but to literally and figuratively embrace these two souls. It was this underlying thread that still made it HER movie in so many ways.

Dar-Benn

On top of everything else, though, this movie feels like something where everyone is having fun. The actors look like they are into it. The writer clearly understood this was supposed to be more about the three heroes and their developing relationships between one another rather than the larger plot. Which may be the one bit of “bad” about the movie for me.

I don’t know if they completely knew what kind of villain they were portraying here? Is Dar-Benn your classic cosmic world destroyer in the vein of Ronan? Is she someone who is only trying to do her best to restore her homeworld back to from the brink of annihilation? Or is she someone who is bent of revenge against a sworn enemy?

Now, that sounds like the beginning of real depth for Dar-Benn, but it is here that things seem to get confused. She is all these things, but we only find out about the revenge against Captain Marvel near the end of the movie which makes it seems like it was her ultimate motivation. However, this came across as more of a “oh, ok” moment rather than a “WOW” moment. I wish they would have put something more into that, even an exchange between her first officer saying something about getting revenge is how she’s picking her targets.

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The cosmic side of Marvel has so much to explore and these characters could allow them to do just that. And could even seed some additional ideas for a Fantastic Four movie (Annihilus is out there).

The comic book nerd would hate for the lower box office to hurt these explorations in the future. There is a ton to enjoy about this movie, and if the first one didn’t quite hit right, this one has a feel very different to that one – it may be more in your wheelhouse.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2023 Recap – Part 2

You can find Part 1 here.

Saturday

We’d left off half-way through our gaming day…

 

Mothership

This is the 3rd time I’ve played Mothership (I’ve run it once, we played it at Gen Con this year, and now Dragon Con). Each time has leaned into a different style. One was more suspense/horror, one was a scalvaging mission dealing with pirates, and this one was a race against time as the colony we were on slowly disentigrated. As we all noted, the actual adventure ended a little early (maybe 45 minutes early), but due to the way things were run with us bouncing from various points on the map, trying to get to the Space Port, it felt like a full session.

I also appreciated the Warden (GM) letting us know not to bother picking the Scientist character class as we built our characters since this adventure was more focused on combat/speed. Too many games don’t let you know something like that, and then you have to just make your way through the adventure without the skills truly needed to succeed.

The Warden also simplified the initiative system, just going in clockwise order. You had 2 actions – you could move and shoot, you could shoot twice, or you could move twice. All of that did a great job of keeping the game moving with a heightened level of tension throughout.

Mothership really can be whatever you need it to be, and since character creation is so strightforward, it might be a perfect convention game.

After that we ended up going out to eat, finding out that some places shut their kitchen down 2 hours earlier than you would think. And here I thought that was only a Indianapolis policy.

Sunday

We woke up bright and early because Chad Shonk had a Star Wars panel at 10 AM. Let me say that by day 3 of any convention, 10 AM might as well be 6 AM for how excited I am to wake up that early… but I braved the morning and we made it down there about 10:10. The panel was on the High Republic books/comics/etc, which I have close to zero knowledge on. I’m good with the various live-action shows Disney Plus puts out, and back in the day I collected most of the old Dark Horse comics, but once the rebooted those stories, I used that as a perfect time to jump off the bandwagon.

However, this time frame interests me in not only how they’ve rolled it out, but also because it truly is a time period that hadn’t been explored. So even if I wasn’t sure about all the details and characters the panel talked about… it did get me back in the mode to start reading those novels and see if they can grab me like the old ones once did.

After that was a quick stop at the Art Show and a visit with Amanda Makepeace. I’ve known her since high school, but over this last decade her talents have reached truly awesome levels.I was so happy to hear she had won the Hank Reinhardt Award, which is a lifetime achievement award that honors someone that has made significant contributions to fandom culture in Georgia. So amazing.

Lastly, we made our way to the Firefly panel where they avoided talking explicitly about the show, but didn’t shy away from saying the names of certain shows they’d been on. We actually got a handful of great stories about Ron Glass which were both sad and funny and really the perfect type of story to tell at the panel. The other thing I always take away from the cast is how much they appear to truly like/love each other. From the physical touching here and there, to the inside jokes, to the shared text chain… I always like to think that the people on my shows are friends (even if I know that isn’t the case), but here, I think it is very true.

There was another panel I’d hoped to jump to, but it was about 3 hours later, and I hit the wall. I hated cutting things short, but between all the walking, waking up “early”, and knowing that if I didn’t listen to my body I’d end up with Con Crud (or worse), we called it. All told, I think the Saturday gaming is likely to become a annual thing, helping to break up the weekend very nicely, and really letting me experience even more the con has to offer.

***

One last thing before I go.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

Escalators

I was reminded of the scene from Mallrats where Brodie ends up ranting:

“Listen, not a year goes by, not a year, that I don’t hear about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid which could have easily been avoided had some parent – I don’t care which one – but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator.”

Apparently, in 2023, people no longer understand fundamentals of using the escalator.

First, you have to clear the area in front of where the escalator ends. You see, unlike regular stairs where you can potentially hang out, these “moving stairs” are going to dump more and more people ontop of you. So when you don’t move quick enough, I end up bumping into you… that doesn’t give you liscense to give me a dirty look. YOU need to move it!

Second, when you are getting on the escalator, you normally allow the person at least one step of distance. If you don’t know the person, you do NOT get on the same step as me. I’m not sure why you would think that was a thing we were suddenly doing. But maybe I missed the memo.

Third, reread the quote above. Almost had a little girl (say 4-5 years old) in her pretty princess costume get run over because she didn’t step off at the end, instead tried to slide off for some reason. Luckily, she didn’t fall, and I had given an extra step to seperate us… thus avoiding disaster.

Look, I just want to have a fun convention, but apparently all of you need to go back to class and figure this mechanism out again.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2023 Recap – Part 1

After my early August trip up to Gen Con and the record setting attendance that convention set, I was very curious as to how Dragon Con would end up feeling. After only going for one day last year, Courtney and I had our 4 day passes with a sure-fire plan in place on how to attack the convention.

Friday

Step 1 – Arrive around 11 AM on Friday and get our badges, praying that the lines were mercifully short.

Step 2 – Go see the Lucifer Panel, praying the lines were mercifully short.

Step 3 – Head over to the America’s Mart and venture into the Vendor’s Hall, praying the lines were mercifully short.

Step 4 – Make our way through the 4 floors while not going into too much debt… and praying any lines were mercifully short.

The first part went off without a hitch. I’ve mentioned it before that back in the day the badge pick-up line was insanely long. It didn’t matter when you showed up, you were going to be there for a solid 2 hours no matter what. However, at 11 on Friday morning we spent a total of maybe 5 minutes in total. Note, I still question why they can’t just send us our badges in the mail and cut out this step entirely (and before someone says “counterfeiting”, I’d argue that Gen Con has nearly as many people and still manages to do it).

The Lucifer Panel had a small line… so no real issues there. The panel itself was good, if a bit strange. With the Writers/Actors strike, the panelists can’t really talk about any shows they were on. Which makes it a bit of a word play dance when answering any questions about their lives. In a truly funny moment near the end of the panel, DB Woodside said the name “Lucifer” in a clear reference to the show. The entire room did an audible gasp. But Lauren German was quick on her feet “He meant from the Bible” which received a nice laugh.

The third part was our first experience with a line. It was wrapped around the building, in and out of the loading/unloading area… and while it was constantly moving, it was still 50 minutes of our lives we won’t get back. Luckily Atlanta’s weather was cooler than many other Labor Day weekends (I don’t think it got above the mid-80s on any day). Even so, that line kind of sapped us a bit immediately.

The Vendor Hall itself was full of the normal wares. Anything from Cosplay to comic books to loot boxes to artists wowing with their works. The majority of my purchases centered around half-off or $5 trades, and a number of reader copy comics from the late 70s (The Champions and What If) that I really had no choice on whether to purchase or not.

There were a handful of panels we had tagged to go and see, but we didn’t leave the Vendor’s Hall until around 6:30 and by that point Courtney’s back had enough (and my calves were barking as well).

Saturday

This was the first year of a brand new plan. One I’d actually wanted to try last year and couldn’t execute because I only ended up going for one day. Egg, Lee, and myself (the Gen Con crew) would see how Dragon Con did their gaming. The thought was that this would keep us in one location, limiting not only our walking, but fighting any lines. Saturday normally has the most people anyway, so trying to deal with the extra people over the years has become less and less fun. Plus any opportunity to game is a good one.

Shadowrun 6E

I’ve never played Shadowrun in any edition, but it’s been one of those that I’ve been interested in. The Cyberpunk world with bits of magic thrown in for good measure is always intriguing. Egg summed it up – the more dice you roll, the more fun you are having. Shadowrun using d6 to resolve in game issues where you end up rolling as many dice as you can based on your various stats (a 5 or 6 are successes). I think I was rolling 8 dice at one point in assisting another character, whereby every success I had added a dice to his roll. Lee ended up with around 14 d6. However, in his typical “con game” mode, he would only have maybe 3 successes. Probability was not on his side.

The adventure was an extraction of a prisoner just outside of Savannah, Georgia. We then spent about 1/3 of the time meeting NPCs and leveraging those contacts to try and make things go as smoothly as we could during the mission itself. Of course, there was bound to be issues along the way, but overall our planning paid off and our target was delivered to a safe house for our client. It was a fun time.

I did have one critique of the pre-generated character sheet though. And this isn’t limited to Shadowrun, I’ve seen it in plenty of games. There were entirely too much going on. I was a Rigger, which means I dealt with Drones. But I probably had a dozen different ones listed on the page. Considering this is a one-shot adventure, I’m not sure I need all that extra stuff. I didn’t end up using most of it… and some of the time it felt like something I couldn’t be sure if it was more of a reconasance drone or a battle one.

In general, I think that character sheets should be fairly bare bones. The more “stuff” listed, the more potential for confusion.

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That’s it for this week. Next week will be part 2 with Mothership and Firefly and… Escalator Safety.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Black Mirror: Season 6 Review

My previous reviews can be found here: Seasons 1&2 and 3, 4, and 5.

As I wrote last time, “For those not in the know, Black Mirror is an anthology show. Each episode stands alone to tell a story about how our technology or something perhaps not too far from our grasp affects people.”

After a long wait, we managed to get a 5 episode season this year. And while it has its ups and downs in terms of the actual episode stories, what was more surprising was that these mostly looked backwards as opposed to where technology might lead us, this instead tried to show us where older technology might fit into our lives (and potentially make it a better or worse experience).

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Ep 1 – Joan is Awful

This episode is probably my second favorite of the season if only for how unique the initial premise is. A woman named Joan suddenly finds her life broadcast on the Streamberry App. It is cleverly done by cutting back and forth between our Joan and the TV version of Joan (played by Salma Hayek).

Initially Joan tries to find a way out of it, but that goes nowhere since apparently those “Check the box to say you’ve read the Terms and Conditions” are really well written to the point that they can just use your likeness for anything. She then decides to try and be as over the top as possible to maybe get the show off the air (it is disgusting what Joan does). But at every turn she finds more and more obstacles.

Seeing as how AI artwork and imagery is currently a big deal in Hollywood as well as for any artist trying to ensure their works isn’t stolen… this episode feels exceptionally timely. The best Black Mirror episodes are the ones where the leap in how technology is being used/portrayed doesn’t feel all that strange. This one has that in spades.

Ep 2 – Loch Henry

Sadly, this is my least favorite of the season, and not because it does anything particularly wrong. The basic set-up is that Davis and Pia are a pair of film students who come back to Davis’s home town and decide to investigate a serial killer who not only did his crimes there, but was indirectly/directly responsible for Davis’s father’s death. During the investigation which follows, they begin to learn more and more about what really happened all those years earlier.

It is very straightforward to the point that the reveal near the end didn’t feel like a reveal at all. Instead, it was more of a thing that really was the only way the story could have gone (considering the various hints the episode drops throughout). And maybe that’s why it’s my least favorite. It weirdly didn’t feel like it was taking any chances with the plot.

 

Ep 3 – Beyond the Sea

1969. A pair of astronauts, David (Josh Hartnett) and Cliff (Aaron Paul) are in Deep Space on a mission for six years. Luckily, they have technology which allows them to still be in robotic replicas back on Earth. However, when David’s replica is destroyed and his family is killed, he begins to spiral into a severe depression. So Cliff offers him the ability to use his replicant. What follows is some of the best acting you’ll see as Aaron Paul is effectively playing 2 different characters. And considering that there is only 4 main characters in the episode (with Kate Mara playing Cliff’s wife and their son being the last), this one feels like it belongs on a stage more than it does on the screen.

While I’m not sure I like the overall ending, it was definitely one which forced me to really think and feel what each of the characters were thinking and doing in each moment.

 

Ep 4 – Mazey Day

Set in 2006, this follows a paparazzi named Bo who is on the hunt for a picture of one of the larger acting stars who during the filming of her lastest movie did too many drugs, got behind the wheel of a car, and killed someone. And ever since, her life has spiraled completely out of control.

I appreciated the idea of the camera being the real focus point for the technology. With the mobile phones we carry around in our pockets, you can forget that it wasn’t all that long ago you had to carry an entirely seperate device to take pictures of any real use.

This episode is fine. I don’t mean to damn it with faint praise, but had it not been for the final act twist, I’m not sure what I would have thought about it (or would I have really given it any further thought). Instead the twist puts evertything into a different light and changes the story being told from one genre to another (and yes, I’m trying to be as vague as possible here).

EP 5 – Demon 79

The last entry this season was Demon 79 and I have to say this was my favorite episode of the year. Though, I’m not entirely sure how or why the technology aspect really plays during this episode, I didn’t care.

Set in 1979, the story focuses on Nida, who deals with some manner of both racism and sexism in her day to day life. We see flashes of moments where she shows us what she’d like to do to her coworkers (driving their head through the glass display), we understand this is the fantasy she allows herself. But when she stumbles upon a relic which summons a demon to her side, her world twists into something completely foreign.

You see, the demon informs her that she must kill one person a night for the next 3 nights or the world will end.

It was in this moment, I suddenly had 3 versions of what might play out:

1 – Everything with the Demon is simply another hallucination from her fantasy mind. Something she’s built in order to regain some level of control. There is no Demon and now she is truly wrestling with her own concious.

2 – Everything is real except for the Demon’s story about needing to kill people. Instead, he is trying to prey upon Nida in order to corrupt her and gain his (bat?) wings.

3 – Everything is real, including the End of the World clause, and that means Nida is going to have to kill.

The episode does a great job of straddling those three ideas for a lot longer than you might think before finally revealing the true nature of everything. I was extremely engaged while watching this one, and it may be in my top 5 episodes of the show

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The only bummer now is that it might be 3 years or so before we get more episodes.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Book Report – Demon Copperhead

During this last year of reading the same books as my mom, I have gone into them knowing very little about what they may or may not be about. I don’t know what genre they are or even how long the books are going to be (reading on a Kindle I figure out as I go by the percentage). This is the opposite of books I have picked out for myself, since I’m normally looking for some tag-line or plot synopsis which may catch my eye.

All this means is that I am sometimes in for a bit of a ride as I wrap my brain around the book she’s picked.

Which brings us to Demon Copperhead (by Barbara Kingsolver).

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Demon Copperhead is the nickname of our title character. As we read along, we follow his life from very early on (while the story itself doesn’t really start until he’s elementary school age – we do get some stories about his birth as well). Demon lives in the middle of nowhere Lee County, Virginia. It is one of those places we all can likely imagine in our mind. A small town where the people who live there have been there for a long while. Their grandparents lived (and died) there, and so have their parents, and eventually so will they. They love their local football team. They grwo up, make friends, fall in love, and sometimes… they become addicted to drugs.

Demon’s mother is an addict. As time goes on and Demon grows up, he finds that the call of getting high becomes the thing to do. Whether it is something simple like weed to the big heavies.

And this is the key here. This is not what I would call a Beach Book. There is a reason summer is the time to release the blockbusters where the pagentry is what you atre interested as much or more than the actual plotlines. Books are much the same. You want a beach book to be something you can just enjoy. You don’t want to have to ponder the fundamental questions of the cosmos and you don’t want to try and figure out if your main character is going to survive the next couple of pages.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Demon Copperhead is instead a book that forces the reader to sink into the muck with Demon as he loses his family, gains a new one, and then throws all that away as well. It is not a book where you are grinning while you are reading it. Instead, I had many times where I mentioned ot my wife “I’m beginning to wonder if anything good is going to happen to this kid.” And while a regualr novel might have allowed a happier point sooner than this one did (I swear we were over 100 pages in before anything “good” occurred).

That can make the read take a little longer. Because while the writting is stellar, it also asks a ton from the reader. And since it wants you to live all that bad, when the good does finally occur, there is cause for celebration… but like everything in this kind of life, the moments of glory and happiness are far apart. You have to cherish them when you can before they turn to ash in your mouth.

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I would close by saying this book represents a slice of America you may only have seen glimpses of in your life. Maybe only through tv or books, but it exists. So to have this novel exist gives a voice to many who may have been forgotten over time.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Best Show You’re Not Watching – The Lazarus Project

A few years ago I came up with an idea for a book. I’d always been a fan of time travel… of What If stories… of Groundhog Day shenanigans… and this idea combined them all in a way that just made sense to me. I sat down to write this story about a man who lives his life only to die and have everything restart sometime in his adulthood. The world would be different, an alternate timeline would have been created somewhere along the way, but most of the fundamentals would still hold the same. So while the Allies might have still won World War II, you might be married to someone else in this new world.

How unnerving would that be? How would you go about trying to find a way to center yourself within this new life? What about your friends? Your family? The woman you were once married to… do you have to leave all of that behind this time?

And what about next time things reset? Or the next life?

And then what if you found out you weren’t the only one experiencing this?

All of those thoughts and feelings about our actions in the world and how each of us are sometimes tied together in ways we would scarcly believe… all of that went into my novel: The Echo Effect (available here for purchase). I’d not see a version of all of this in anything I’d consumed until I started watching The Lazarus Project.

What I discovered was a show that I might have written in another lifetime. The basic plot is that George is a regular guy – he develops apps for a living (or he hopes for a living). He has a girlfriend who he is massively in love with. And in the background of this nice, pleasant story, the news is beginning to talk about a virus spreading. A few months pass and some very familiar images begin to show up in his life: masks, excess deaths, fear, paranoia… until the day that his now pregnant girlfriend gets sick and dies.

And then the world resets about 9 months.

Only George doesn’t forget what happened before. Yet he’s the only one. So he starts preparing for the worst, scaring his lady and friends, and basically acting like a crazy person. It isn’t until a woman shows up (Archie) who informs him he’s not the only one who can remember the previous timelines. That she works for a Lazarus Project who has been tasked with ensuring the big, world ending threats, don’t end up destroying the world. She tells them that the catch is they can only go back to July 1 of the current year, and if the clock strikes midnight on June 30, then that new July 1 becomes a new Save Point.

And she offers him a seat at the table to help them avert the civilization endings.

The thing I love about this show is that within the first episode I was all in on George and his plight. Maybe it was due to writing a book that felt somewhat like a twin to this story, but I could really sympathize with his struggle to try and retain his sanity at the beginning. And then later when he is forced to do some really, really, terrible things… I still found myself rooting for him to find a way out of the mess he’d made. Even if that meant falling short of his true goal.

Each episode trys to focus on various other characters who are apart of the Project. In this I’m reminded of the flashback sequences from Lost. Here, they look at some of the aborted timelines, where we see the issues each of them have stuggled with in the past while also doing a nice job of still connecting to George’s journey throughout. These are flawed humans dealing with some level of shit which can only wear and tear on your pysche.

These shows do a masterful job of making small connections mean nothing when they are introduced, but soon enough you begin to see how every little thing connects. Sometims you expect it and other times you will be completely caught off-guard by how a reveal in act 1 of an episode suddenly changes everything about something you previously thought you knew and understood.

The only bad thing I have to say about the show is that it is only 8 episodes so far, and the cliffhanger they left us on after season 1 had me completely in shock wishing my DVR had one more episode. However, from what I’ve read, they are in the process of filming right now, so the wait may not be quite as long.

If you like any of the shows or movies I referenced above… if you like really good science fiction with solid character work… if you like paying attention and having it pay off later – then this is the show for you.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Plot

As a writer you are constantly searching for the next plot, the next story, the next character… the next work you are going to be pouring your soul into. I have a bunch of old and in-progress files on the computer with short story ideas. Sometimes there is a little meat on those bones… stories I come back to from time to time and work on. In some cases they are still in that folder because I haven’t quite figured it out. Maybe I have the beats but not the ending. Maybe I have the ending but no idea of how to get there. Maybe it is little more than a concept or tagline. Something just waiting for inspiration to strike so that it can become a real story.

Whether you are able to write a book in a few months (weeks?) or it takes decades (still waiting on a couple of series…), you feel like there has to be something out there which has never been seen. Something which will put you on the map and finally get you to the best seller list (or maybe just your local library… whatever your goals might be). It’s the Great White Whale. And that singular idea is enough to keep many constantly rattling away on their keyboards into the deepest parts of the night.

Which brings us to The Plot (by Jean Hanff Korelitz).

***

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Jacob Bonner is a writer who has lost his way. He’s someone who had their first novel come out to a little bit of fanfare. Nothing huge, but enough that he thought he was someone. Then his second book doesn’t do anything. And now, only a handful of years later he has fallen into a measure of obscurity. He now teaches other writers at colleges, doing the bare minimum to help them pursue the dream that he is sure he deserves.

Until one of his students comes in with an idea for a book that he hasn’t heard before. This is the ONE. Something that will make his student famous. Something that will ensure everyone will be talking about it.

For Jacob, it helps sink him into further depression.

Time continues on and he looks up that writer… only to discover he died without ever actually publishing a novel. So Jacob takes the PLOT and writes the book. And it is everything he wanted. The fame, the money, the book tours… and so much more. Things are going great until he gets an email which says “You are a thief.”

***

What’s interesting about the novel is the author employs a technique I haven’t actually see in a novel since I read Misery by Stephen King: we get to read excerpts from the stolen book throughout our journey with Jacob. It’s a bit jarring at first, I must admit that I wasn’t sure why we were getting to see what the book was going to be about because in my mind whatever THE PLOT actually was would either end up in a couple of directions:

We never actually get to see what it really was because nothing Korelitz presents as the actual Plot wouldn’t live up to the ethereal idea in the readers head.

Or we get to see what it is and are disappointed by whatever it is because we’ve built it up as something which doesn’t exist.

So to include the pages from the novel within the novel felt a little like filler at first. A distraction from the overall plotline we are following: who sent the email? That’s what I wanted to know and every chapter that we spent on the other novel broke up our journey.

Being a writer, I should have had more faith in the web Korelitz was creating throughout the narrative. Slowly, we begin to see how what Jacob has written helps inform us reading The Plot of what might be going on between the lines of both pieces. It ends up working out pretty well, though there is a part of me that wonders if a couple of the sections could have been trimmed and then spread out a little bit more.

***

The funny thing is that Jacob is searching throughout for something that will propel him into the life he always wanted, but I could see his story as being told on the big screen. Movie life imitating printed life?

Is that even a thing?

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

After spending the last two blog posts talking about Marvel’s Phase 4 movies, I finally managed to get out and see the first movie to kick off Phase 5: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. While the Phase 4 movies and shows gave us glimpses of where (when?) we might be heading… it is here that the big storyline for the MCU really kicks into gear.

It’s an interesting choice to use an Ant-Man movie for this purpose as the first and second movies were really elaborate “caper” movies. They played things more for the laughs. And yes, while Marvel movies love their comedy bits, I feel like the Ant-Man movies lean into the full comedy with a touch of science fiction. So if you were to tell me which Marvel character would be best suited to provide us with Kang the Conqueror, I would have probably leaned more toward a Thor movie or Guardians of the Galaxy or even The Eternals (if you had to). In the comics, Kang is traditionally a full Avengers team opponent, so no matter who had first contact with him, it should potentially leave us with the idea of “We’re going to need the whole Avengers team to deal with this.”

Ant-Man 3 then has to really pivot from those first two movies. The sidekick friends are missing from the film to instead focus on the surrogate Pym/Lang family which has developed in the time since End Game. Really, there is no opportunity to spend much time with anyone else, as we quickly find our heroes all trapped in the Quantum Realm doing their best to navigate this alien world and find their way back to each other.

All the while, the threat of Kang the Conqueror hangs over them (and the world).

This is very much a superhero movie with BIG STAKES.

Michelle Pfiefer’s Janet Pym is effectively a co-lead within the movie. She is the only one of the five who has any real idea of what might be in store within this world, and therefore literally takes the lead trying to reunite the family and find a way home. Which works well for the most part… however, her character does the trope of not telling her family about Kang and the danger he represents for nearly half the movie. This isn’t a case of a story where maybe the character with “knowledge” doesn’t know whether she can trust the people she is with… no, she’s with her husband and daughter. But instead of taking ten minutes to let them in on the big problem they have, she instead dodges the question.

Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man also gets to play the big hero in this movie. It’s another place where you can really see where this character has started back in Ant-Man 1, and where he’s ended up. He’s someone who is content to not play hero. He’s someone who lost 5 years with his daughter. Someone who also was directly responsible for saving everyone who were Blipped. He’s an Avenger. And while they play that bit for laughs, with that designation, he’s someone who has to help others (or, at least he should).

I really liked the various alien creatures ont he world. Many of them had very cool and unique looks to them that I almost wondered what a Quantum Realm tv show should look like. There was an oddity to some (much) of it and while many of those characters offered some humor, for the most part I thought it worked.

However, what didn’t work for me was MODOK. Without getting to in the weeds (and spoilery), MODOK is a character that comes off as a complete joke. Everything is played for laughs, which makes little to no sense considering he is a Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing. Leading up to his appearance he is called the Hunter. Someone who is not only dangerous, but is basically death for those who encounter him.

Yet, that is never shown. Instead it is one character making fun of him after the next. There is a never a moment I really feel like he should be taken seriously. And while I’m not a big fan of the character in the comics, there might have been a way to do him justice… this wasn’t it.

***

So does this work as the launch of Phase 5? Does this movie start the ball rolling for the Kang saga?

Yes. I think that Kang is shown as a very credible threat. Someone who is not only powerful, but he’s powerful on a scale completely different from Thanos. Where Thanos sought to change the fundamental nature of the universe, Kang is someone who snuffs out timelines. He arrives and he conquers. Because that is who he is. It isn’t for some misguided attempt at a noble reason. It is because he can.

And that is someone who the Avengers (and Fantastic Four and maybe the X-Men) will need to be brought back together to stop.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I’m a sucker for a few types of stories. Time travel, parallel worlds, time loops… and Deal with the Devil stories. I’m fascinated by the portrayal of the Devil in these tales. Sometimes he comes across as a sheer power of evil that only hopes to catch the deal-maker in a Monkey’s Paw-style wish fulfillment. The type that is going to rules lawyer you into the worst version of the deal you could have made because words have power… and specific terms can allow for precise parameters. Other times we see a version that is less adversarial. A version that is merely a being doing a job, trading a wish for a soul, the basic bartering system. A being who is both above it all, and also very much a mirror to reflect our own wants and desires.

Other times you get the best of both worlds, and it is left up to the seller to figure out exactly what kind of deal they’ve made and exactly what kind of being they have made it with.

That’s where we find ourselves with Addie LaRue. She’s a person who made a deal that is twisted into saving her from an impending marriage (that she does not want) to becoming an immortal who can do pretty much whatever she wants… with one caveat:

No one will remember her.

She can interact with people. She can carry on conversations with people for hours upon hours, but once she leaves their sight… they forget her.

Image by Edar from Pixabay

Throughout the book, we alternate chapters set in the present (2014) and in the past, beginning in the 1700s and slowly working their way to catch up with the present time. We’re told her story in these little bits and pieces, filling in some of the gaps in her present-day existence. V.E. Schwab does a deft job in not lingering too long in any one time period, though, it might have taken a little too long to get to the deal (not sure of the page count before the moment, but as a reader you know it is coming and yet it felt like it took a couple of chapters too long to get there). That being said, once the Deal happens, the book begins building steam as we rocket to the next big moment:

Addie meets someone who doesn’t forget her.

Throughout the novel, we get to see exactly how the life of someone who is forgettable actually might work. Schwab doesn’t shy away from the more unsavory portions of her life when she pretty much has to do whatever she can to get through a day. And this is the part of the novel that really contrasts with every other story about immortal beings. Most of the time they are able to enjoy their existence, day in and day out, even if the days pass into months and then into years and decades. Here we get someone who really has to experience her life one day at a time. She has no home, no clothes save for the ones on her back, no friends, no family, and potentially nothing holding her back.

All along the way, she gets to deal with somewhat yearly visits from the Devil (Luc). A bit of a contest between the two of them, for it is his job to collect her soul, but how do you convince someone who is immortal to give up on that? The confrontations range from verbal sparring to more of a carefully constructed dance between two beings who are playing a game on a level the rest of us will never know or see.

Luc is dealt with as a “someone” while also reminding Addie (and the reader) that he is more of a “something”. And like the titular character, I found myself wondering about his interactions with her, trying to determine how genuine he was or wasn’t. Even though the book isn’t about him, he is both this seen and unseen force always lurking in the background (or directly in the foreground). You can’t defeat him in a traditional sense, so you have to hope that Addie is able to outsmart him.

It is nice to see a version of the Devil shown in a complex way. He should be a being that is above the everyday things of the world, but also one who seemingly preys on the unsuspecting. However, they are the ones who make the deals. He never forces anyone to do anything they didn’t want… even if they don’t always understand the true meaning behind the contract they “signed”.

***

As we approached the end of the book, I had determined a possible ending for the novel, and it turned out I was both right and wrong… which I think is probably the best way for it to have ended. It’s nice to have a little bit of a surprise.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Tales of the Walking Dead – Season 1 Review

I’ve been thinking about anthologies a fair amount recently. From short story collections to old-school television shows, these shorter narratives can help to illuminate a story idea that can’t or shouldn’t be told in a longer format. In addition, when you are dealing with a shared universe like The Walking Dead, something like Tales of the Walking Dead should not only allow you to tell stories that wouldn’t fit within the regular series but also allow you to expand the world along the edges. These should be stories that could only exist within this universe. They should not be horror stories for the sake of horror stories.

I should come away with the idea that these are Walking Dead Horror stories.

 

EP 1 – “Evie / Joe”

I would consider this the quintessential Walking Dead story: The Travel Story. Much of the main show is about our characters going from Point A to Point B. Sometimes they are looking for supplies or a new home, and other times they are looking for a singular person. “Evie/Joe” is exactly that. Our two main characters meet once Joe is on the road. Like many other times, we can see the initial distrust bloom into an odd couple friendship. They are both looking for meaning in the dead world: Evie through trying to find her boyfriend and Joe through trying to find someone who he communicated with prior to the end of the world.

Overall this episode is less “scary” and more of a fun story. It’s the perfect lead-in for the series.

 

EP 2 – “Blair / Gina”

The spoiler for this episode – it is a Groundhog Day situation. The episode takes place at the very beginning of the outbreak where no one knows the world is about to end but viewers get to see all the tell-tale signs of impending doom. At the center of it is a story of two women who work together… who hate each other… and who find themselves reliving the same day over and over. Try as they might, they can’t seem to break the cycle, nor can they stay away from each other.

As a character study on two very different people (one beat down by the life she’s created for herself and the other beat down by her boss), this works really well. It plays both for horror and laughs, but really the horror is that it will take the apocalypse for either of them to start trying. However, while I’m a sucker for Groundhog Day-style storytelling, this one is a bit jarring within the bigger universe. At no point in the series are we led to believe some form of weird physics or magic is alive and well. And going back to my original idea, this could have taken place in any horror anthology as nothing makes it strictly Walking Dead.

 

EP 3 – “Dee”

I must admit it was strange to find a very familiar character as the centerpiece of this episode: Alpha of the Whisperers. Where in the show we saw her origin story, this episode deals with the time between her “beginning” and joining the Whisperers.

Given what we know about Alpha (or “Dee”), her obsession with keeping her daughter, Lydia, safe is on full display here. What’s interesting is that we know her only as a villain, so I admit it colored my perception of her throughout this story. It seemed as if the writers understood that idea as well as they presented the viewer with numerous opportunities for not only the other characters on the show to not believe her but us as well. It also gave a little more insight into how she might be OK with allowing her daughter to stay with the Alexandrians later on (the loving Mother).

While this was a story that could have been told within the main show, I can understand not wanting to stop that narrative for an episode like this. In light of this, I have to wonder if future seasons might use this format to shine a light on some of the lesser-known characters we’ve met on the way.

 

EP 4 – “Amy / Dr. Everett”

My favorite episode of the season, and the one which fulfilled the promise of what this show might or might not be. Dr. Everett is a biologist who has decided to study the Walkers. He’s marking their migration patterns, the idea they might display different traits/functions among the overall group/herd. Set in this odd area of America where a portion of the land has been cut off. This allows him to see how the land has begun to come back. The animals are thriving.

All without human interference.

This was an episode that leaned into the world’s overall lore, but also managed to expand some of the concepts in ways I hadn’t considered. Is it better if humans weren’t around? For the Earth, it appears the answer is yes.

 

EP 5 – “Davon”

An episode that swung for the fences, but I fear didn’t quite connect for me. Told in a series of flashbacks, the story focuses on Davon, a man who wakes up with gaps in his memory and is handcuffed to a dead person. Who then starts calling him a murderer. Throughout we get to see glimpses of what happened, slowly seeing how Davon ended up in a very isolated village, and how he found himself hunted by those same people who brought him in.

I’m not sure why this one didn’t click for me, but I think part of it was it felt more like a story that could have been told about any isolated community. The only Walkers we really saw were at the end, and while they did get a bit of mileage out of the “is the dead woman in his head or is it a zombie or…”, ultimately it could have been told in any horror anthology.

Image by Sandy Flowers from Pixabay

EP 6 – “La Dona”

What happens when you mix zombies and a haunted house story? You get something that is a bit different than anything we’ve seen in this series. Many times in a normal haunted house story, you have to suspend disbelief on why the characters would stay in a place that might be driving them insane. However, in this, we have a situation where going back out into the Zombie infested world is also insanity. Might you do your damnest to try and find a way to make it work? Might it be worth it to ignore all the odd and horrific dreams?

That’s a story that really looks at the world and says “how can we push things”.

***

While not every story in anthology has to work, I think it is important to figure out why or why not they might have worked within the framework we’ve been given. It’s something that I’m thinking about for my own work.

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Book Report – The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway is a book where the destination (the end of the titular Lincoln Highway) isn’t the important part of the journey. It gives the characters a goal, to be sure, but this is a novel about the obstacles and potential growth of the main players of the story.

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed the book overall. It definitely falls into that “Great American Novel” category which is one I don’t read very much (or at least not since college). However, there were some choices the author made that made me think about how novels and movies are structured and had me pondering whether or not they were techniques that added to the story or not.

So in that sense, this will be less of a book report and more of me pondering if something worked for me or not.

I definitely like to read for “enjoyment” purposes, but I’m also always looking for things that other authors do that I can learn from. One of those things that Amor Towles did in this book was he had two main POV characters: Emmett and Dutchess, but he wasn’t afraid to occasionally give one of the other characters the POV for a chapter or two in order to illuminate the story from a different perspective. Now, this ends up doing a couple of things, he’s able to show us exactly how others see our main characters and allows us to see a larger part of the world he’s trying to build.

The only problem with this is that in doing this, by spending that time on these other characters, do you gain more than you potentially lose? For example, in the book, one of the characters we meet is the author of a book on mythological and real (legendary) characters in which Emmett’s 8-year-old brother is obsessed. At one point, Billy ends up meeting this author, and it is a very cute scene. However, it ends up leading to a short chapter where this author is the POV character (showing where he ends up after his meeting with Billy). Again, it is a nice scene, but had it been a movie, I would likely expect such a chapter to end up on the cutting room floor.

Of course, books are able to dwell into such things, they have the space to “breathe”, but I’m always wondering (when I’m writing) whether the chapter is advancing something? Is it advancing the overall plotline? Is it advancing a character arc? Or is there another purpose altogether? When I’m making edits, are these beats something important to the story or is it leading us down a tangent?

The Lincoln Highway had me asking those questions (among others) a couple of times. These side characters, while important to meet and understand, may not always need to have their own chapters. Especially when you consider there were 4 leads. Could some of that information have been shown through one of them? And if not, is the moment worth having?

The other thing Towles did was not use quotation marks when separating dialogue from the rest of the narrative.

Normally you might get something like this:

“He shot him.” Terry wrapped his arms tightly around Jimmy.

However, in The Lincoln Highway, we get this:

-He shot him. Terry wrapped his arms tightly around Jimmy.

Now, when 99% of the things you read do things one way (use quotations) and suddenly you come across a work that does something completely different, it can be very jarring. And while I was able to effectively ignore it as I read along, I couldn’t help but wonder why change something if it isn’t broken. Because not having the quotation marks there sometimes made it awkward when you have a sentence like:

-What do you think you’re doing? Jimmy asked me. I wish I knew what was going on.

In the above sentence, the portion after the period… is that continuing Jimmy speaking? Is that inner narration from Terry?

Who knows? Because it effectively could be read either way.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jimmy asked me. “I wish I knew what was going on.”

Or

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jimmy asked me. I wish I knew what was going on.

So, I’m not sold on using new notation to do something worse than what we currently have.

Finally, and this is a spoiler, so…

***

***

The book is set up as a journey to the end of the Lincoln Highway and a potential reunion with Emmett and Billy’s mother. And we never get there. In fact, we travel the other direction for the entirety of the book, and only effectively start at the New York City end of the Highway. Throughout, Emmett has a lot of inner turmoil involved with how he views his mother (who abandoned them before the book begins). And yes, had we gone to the end we might not have had a satisfactory meeting with her either. But it is another odd choice to build something up and then not deliver on the implied promise. It makes me wonder if there was a point in one of the drafts where the boys did reach the coast, and they did get their reunion. Maybe he just could never make it work?

Something else to keep in mind.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Book Report – Cloud Cuckoo Land

Normally, when I choose to read a book I have a bit of an idea of what I’m getting myself into. If I pick up a Stephen King novel, I have a vague idea of where he might lead me (likely some form of horror or in the case of The Dark Tower, a twisting weird fantasy/western that seeks to answer all the questions of the universe). George R. R. Martin and the A Song of Fire and Ice novels (fantasy worlds where the world-building involved will make you wonder if the author has the time to write a book in between writing histories for his world).

But the thing with a book club is that you aren’t always picking the book, so when my mother picked Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, I decided to go in completely cold. I didn’t look up reviews, I didn’t look at a general synopsis for the novel… heck, I don’t even think I looked at the dust jacket.

Completely blind.

I’ve read hundreds of books over the years. I like to consider myself a writer. So, I generally can get a good idea of where a story might be going. Not that I “figured out” all the twists or the big ending of a story, but more like “I bet that this character is going to do X thing and that will spur Y.” Nothing complicated, but you notice the familiar themes in stories.

I was about 50 pages into this book and didn’t know where we were going.

You see, the story takes place in 3 different time periods (during the Byzantine Empire, present-day, and then in the future on a spaceship). What in the world was going on? How in the world are these things going to connect?

I was about 150 pages into this book and still didn’t have a good feel for where we were going to end up.

Same at page 300.

Now the saving grace to all of this is that Anthony Doerr can write his ass off. There is a lyrical quality to his writing that both amazed me and made me realize I could never write like that.  He draws you in with his 5 main characters where you are living their lives alongside them. It isn’t so much a reading but more observing the stories first-hand. Even if I didn’t know what the BIG IDEA of the novel was going to end up being, I still found the characters engaging. I cried alongside them. I rejoiced when they succeeded. And I puzzled at the mysteries they attempted to discern for themselves.

Near page 400, I began to see the threads connect in very real ways. That larger story began filling in along the edges. And while I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone thinking about reading the book, some of the connections between the characters came as a nice surprise in both the ways they were connected and the ways they really weren’t. With something like this, with the multiple points of view, Doerr could have almost made them 5 different novellas and that would have worked as well (again, due to the writing skill alone). But by threading them together, I think he ends up with something that is so much more than the individual pieces could have ever achieved on their own.

***

With Cloud Cuckoo Land, I learned that you don’t have to beat your reader over the head with the Big Ideas. You are allowed to let them breathe and maybe let the reader fill in some of the gaps on their own.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Girl With All The Gifts

My mom and I have decided to do the book club thing; however, she is hustling through the novels so far, and I’m taking my dear sweet time. She got to choose the first book we did, so for my choice, I picked a nice, lovely book about the end of the world (timely, no?).

The thing about the horror genre is that I believe the point of every story is to show the audience what the creator is afraid of and ask whether that might also scare the reader/viewer. And while there are zombies (“Hungries”) aplenty in the novel, the novel is about the changing of society. What happens after everything has long since fallen and the handful of survivors are forced to do things that may go past the line in the world before (or even this world).

Zombie stories have a lot of baggage to carry with them at this point. The Walking Dead has been on the air for more than a decade at this point. I’m sure that everyone has their own zombie story (heck I do… I just haven’t written it yet). With all of that comes the need to look at the genre from a slightly different angle.

So what if there was a little girl who was really smart. A little girl who was fascinated by the Greek myths. A little girl who adores her teacher Miss Justineau.

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

Oh, and by the way, a little girl who is basically a zombie (“Hungry”) who just happens to be able to think and speak and do pretty much anything else a little girl might normally do, except lose her mind when she smells human flesh.

You know, just a little thing.

What M.R. Carey does a great job of is really showing us this world through Melanie’s eyes for the first handful of chapters. As the reader, we know that things are normal (even if we may not completely know what he is at this point), but because we live for so long through only her, we not only get a really good look at why she thinks what she thinks, but also how she’s been institutionalized by this strange life she’s living. She knows nothing different, and can’t yearn for much more than what she has.

And that’s the real question at the heart of the book: Is Melanie a monster or a little girl or something else entirely?

It can be a bit heartbreaking to have her work through these revelations herself. When she’s considering the same questions the readers are considering, it makes determining the answer that much more difficult than if we couldn’t see into her thought process. To read how she can feel the hunger within her take over completely and have that moment always in the back of her thoughts when she is dealing with the others of her little world. How can you protect those you love when you can’t trust yourself.

And trust is at a premium throughout the novel. Melanie can’t trust the Doctor. The Doctor can’t trust the Sergeant. The Sergeant isn’t sure about Melanie.

The other twist of the novel is how much science enters into the story.  The author takes us through the reasons why all of this is happening and how. Where so many zombie stories handwave the WHY, it was a nice addition to the story and played a very important part in the development of the world.

***

One of the best compliments I can say about The Girl With All The Gifts is that I was reminded of I Am Legend a few times. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say any more.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

 

We have about a week left to go on the In Our Dreams Awake #1 Kickstarter, so be sure to check it out!

***

Taken as a whole, a comic book represents the input of multiple people, multiple perspectives, and multiple skill sets before the final product is created. I’ve said many times in the past that one of the reasons I love the format is exactly for that reason. You get to feed off of the creatives who you work with. And what begins as one thing can become something completely different in execution (and making the overall comic that much better).

 

In Our Dreams Awake #1 – Page 7, Panels 7 & 8

The Team

Pencils – Edgar Salazar

Inks – Genaro Olavarrieta

Letters – Egg Embry

Writer – John McGuire

 

Concept

This pair of panels represent the end of a larger conversation within the issue. So much of this world that Jason Byron lives (dreams?) in is dictated by the mages who control everything. They ensure the chaos technology threatens to bring to the people can never exist again. They are Order.

And to go against that would mean going against everything they stand for… and that way lies madness.

So what do we see? We see that Edgar made a choice to not allow for any other colors within these two panels, but instead presented them as a pair of black and white moments. Two men, representing opposite beliefs about their world, are separated by the small table.

 

The Script

Page 7 Panel 7

Annoyed by Peter’s accusation, Jason pushes himself away from the table as if to get up.

Jason – I know all of this, Peter.

Peter – So ask me your question again.

 

Page 7 Panel 8

Same shot as Panel 7 (Jason is still sitting). Jason pauses. No words are needed.

 

Breakdown

As you can see from the script, I actually made a slight mistake between the two panels. In Panel 7, Jason is frustrated/annoyed and pushes himself away from the table. Edgar followed that showing him standing up. His body language is very tense. However, when we come to Panel 8, I note that “Jason is still sitting”…

No, John, he is not.

But Edgar went with it, and I think it actually works in this visual context because of the artist’s choice to make these mirror images of each other (in regards to the black and white). Where Jason was angry in the previous moment, he has sat back down. But instead of either of them furthering the conversation, the darkness envelops them instead pointing two the very ideas that they stand for can not exist alongside one another.

It even mocks the prompt from Peter in Panel 7: “So ask me your question again.” Panel 8 answers that prompt with silence. There is no need to push the issue any longer.

There are no shades of gray here in this place.

***

But perhaps there is another world for Jason to find peace? One he can visit while he dreams?

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

As I talked about last week, In Our Dreams Awake has had a long journey to get from the kernel of an idea all the way to this next milestone: A Kickstarter Launch today!

This is one of those stories that examines that fundamental idea I think everyone deals with, which is wondering if their life is enough or if there might be another one we could live if only the circumstances were a little different.

We are raising funds to get the first issue of In Our Dreams Awake printed and out to readers.

***

In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

John McGuire – Writer/Creator

Egg Embry – Writer/Creator

Edgar Salazar – Artist

Rolands Kalninš – Artist, Colorist, Letterer

Genaro Olavarrieta – Inker

Alexander Lugo – Letterer

Sean Hill – Variant Cover Artist

The Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

***

The Pitch:

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

 

The Story:

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

Cyberpunk Variant – Art by Rolands Kalninš

John’s Thoughts:

I’m obsessed with the idea of What If when it comes to how people live their lives. Those little moments then spiral out to set the course of our lives. How easy it is to focus on the things we don’t have rather than embrace all the gifts we do have. It’s very easy to lose sight of what is important when you always are lamenting the things you don’t possess.

It’s human nature to evaluate and then reevaluate and then wonder about the path not taken.

With In Our Dreams Awake, Egg and I are giving this concept a bit of a twist. Instead of trying to figure out how Jason Byron’s life might have gone wrong, he instead sees a world nearly the opposite of the current life he lives. And that would be fine, we could all use a little bit of fantasy in our lives (or cyberpunk as the case may be), but what happens when those two realities begin to bleed into one another. How would you determine which was the real world and which was the dream world?

And how would you know which one was worth fighting for… or dying for?

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first issue in what we hope will be a four-issue series. We have the options of either the pdf ($5) or print version ($10) to send to you. We also have two different variant covers, one by Rolands Kalninš and the other by Sean Hill ($15).

And if being drawn into the Cyberpunk world as a potential member of Jason’s gang interests you, we have that for $200.

We also have a number of Add-Ons ranging from a copy of The Gilded Age Graphic novel to the Dreamr by the Apocolypse RPG Zine ($10-$20 each).

Mirror Variant – Art by Sean Hill

The Verdict:

As a co-creator of this little project, I’m so excited for it to become a reality. As my post last week talked about, it has been a long (looooong) road to get here, but we only have a little more to go before this story can see the true light of day and get into the hands of all you potential readers.

The other key piece is that the first issue is completely done. Finished. This isn’t going to be a Kickstarter that lingers on and on. In fact, my hope is that we fund quickly, and I can get the second issue into production while this Kickstarter is actually going on, so that the wait between issues isn’t so long.

***

I’d like to thank you in advance for checking the project out. And be sure to check back in on the project throughout the month as I’ll be posting various interviews with my fellow creators.

And be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

RPG TV Friday – The Witcher, The Expanse, The Wheel of Time, Hawkeye, and Star Trek

It’s RPG TV Friday, December 17, 2021! The number of TV options with tabletop roleplaying games to check out this week/weekend is mindblowing! The Witcher, The Wheel of Time, Star Trek: Discovery, Hawkeye, and The Expanse all of new episodes. In addition, they have RPGs that you can pull out and use for your own stories set in those universes!

Netflix’s The Witcher Season 2 dropped. If you can’t watch, play with R. Talsorian Games’ The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG, an excellent fantasy game that recreates the world of the TV series, the video games, or the books, as you see fit. At d20 Radio, I talk about Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion.

Amazon’s The Expanse Season 6 Episode 2 dropped. Green Ronin Publishing’ The Expanse Roleplaying Game does an amazing job of recreating the show and the books. Since this is the last season of the show, the rest of the story (the three remaining books) will have to wait until the next project. But your table can play them out using Green Ronin’s AGE system to give the story a universe shattering conclusion.

Amazon’s The Wheel of Time Season 1 Episode 7 dropped. While there’s nothing in print at the moment, I talk about the Dungeons & Dragons’ version of the world from 2001 and 2002 at d20 Radio. If you’re a fan of the books and TV show, the RPG is worth digging up.

Paramount+’s Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 5 dropped. Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures will add Discovery to their list of games soon. In the meantime, your gaming group can play in the Star Trek universe, dealing with all of the Federation’s problems using Modiphius’ existing RPG.

Disney+’s Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye Season 1 Episode 5 dropped. While there have been a number of Marvel RPGs from TSR to Marvel to Margaret Weis Productions, there’s a new one coming from Marvel (again) and written by Matt Forbeck, Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game: Playtest Rulebook, which you can preorder on Amazon. If you want to roleplay through the Marvel universe, you have a variety of options to suit your play style.

#RPGTVFriday

 

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

Movie Review – Midsommar

 

With a movie like Midsommar, I come at it from two different directions based on what little I knew about it. It’s a movie about a group of travelers (friends) who are given front row seats to experience a 9-day festival in a backwoods part of Sweden. Now, with stories like this, we all know that things are never going to be what they appear to be (otherwise it wouldn’t be a horror movie). So the questions we must ask ourselves are twofold:

Is the lead-up to the big reveal of what might really be going on enjoyable?

Is the reveal worth it?

It’s all about execution in these situations, because if you don’t spend enough time in the build-up where we start to get acquainted with our characters, then when bad things happen to them, we just won’t care. However, if the movie takes too long to start showing the weird, then it is very likely to lose our interest before we actually get there.

Spoilers to potentially follow:

We begin the movie seeing Dani and Christian going through the motions of being in a relationship. Well, it’s Christian who is going through the motions as he has become clearly disengaged with Dani using him as an emotional support person more than a boyfriend. All this comes to a head when Dani finds out her sister has killed herself and taken their parents with her. This tragedy has forced Christian to remain with her whether he really wants to or not.

Weeks? Months? later, Dani discovers Christian and his three friends are going to Sweden for the midsommar festival Pelle’s home commune throws every year. After being invited to go on the trip with the guys, they arrive and we can begin to see that Dani is not only still struggling with PTSD from her family’s deaths, she can’t even rely on Christian as much (as he’s mentally checked out). The festival begins and while there are some odd eccentricities, overall things aren’t too out of the ordinary.

And then things begin to go sideways when they see two of the elders commit suicide.

I’m not going to go any further with spoiling the movie, but I wanted to mention this key moment because none of our characters, save for Dani, have any kind of realistic reaction to what’s happening in front of them. And maybe it falls into the old troupe of not leaving the haunted house immediately, but both Christian and Josh nearly act like what they’ve seen is as normal as anything else (and what they saw was NOT normal). In fact, it is only Dani, who already has visions of horror in her head, who nearly breaks completely upon seeing the display. And for some reason, it’s only a pair of other travelers who decide they’ve had enough, not our group.

From there, things only get weirder and weirder.

The Good

Florence Pugh delivers a great performance and definitely has the most realistic reactions to nearly everything.

The set-up, while potentially dragging things out a little bit too much, does a great job in making sure you understand that while the festival might be odd, it’s still not crazy (until suddenly it is).

The Bad

The reactions of the other characters to strange things occurring. The elder’s deaths aside, at a certain point people, start disappearing and no one seems to care… at all. Like not even a raised eyebrow.

I get that you need the characters to stay, but I wish they’d found a more plausible thing other than “I’m writing my thesis on this.” Bleh.

The Ugly

It’s not really scary. I had a little bit of dread here and there, but only because I was hoping for something big and bad to happen. We have one kill completely off-screen, which felt like a missed opportunity because as the audience, we knew that character was dead the moment he went “missing”. It’s like the film wants to play coy when everyone knows the punchline anyway, so why hide things?

***

Another one that could have been trimmed a little bit (probably 15 minutes easily) (I’ve heard there is a 3-hour version and can’t imagine what that would do that the 2+ hour version didn’t already convey). The ending was just… I get what happened, but I’m not sure I “get” it

I’ll take another shot this weekend. Maybe I can find the one then?

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Something is off.

I’m watching this movie (based off the novel of the same name) and something is off.

I was led to believe that this was a horror movie of some sort which obviously can cover a ton of ground within the genre. You have slasher flicks, monster flicks, mind f- flicks, slow burn, fast burn, and everything in between. So I understand that you don’t always know exactly what you are going to get but…

I was led to believe I’m Thinking Of Ending Things was a horror movie.

And it really isn’t. Sure, there are plenty of moments within the two hour plus movie where you are a bit unnerved by what’s going on between the characters. The conversations have the appearance of being about something without saying very much at all. They are all surface level things being said aloud with undertones that hint at bigger issues.

The basic plot is that Lucy and Jake, a couple who has been together are taking a day trip to pay a visit to Jake’s parents. And while things have been decent between them, Lucy had been coming to grips with the idea that perhaps the two of them are not supposed to be together. The mantra of the title is repeated within her head throughout the movie. For the first third of the movie they are in the car on the drive there. This means there are lots of moments for the awkward silences hanging in between the two of them. And while it appears that Lucy is the only one who may be clued in their relationship may be headed toward a break-up, I think Jake has begun to realize it as well. Perhaps this trip is one of those hail marys where he sees this trip to introduce her to his parents as a big enough gesture that he might hang onto the relationship for a little while longer.

Here’s the thing, it isn’t until they reach the parent’s house where I began to suspect there could actually be something bigger at work here. And while there is definitely a ton of VERY weird things going on at the parent’s house. And while his parents don’t act entirely normal at times (laughter which feels almost forced and meals randomly being prepared).

But again, it’s never scary. Even a trip down into the sealed basement only reveals more questions about… well, the reality of the situation.

The Good

The two main actors are absolutely crushing it the whole time. I liked the character of Lucy, and was definitely wary of Jake through most of the movie. But…

The Bad

Did I mention it was over two hours?

This movie could have done the same things with a much tighter edit (honestly I think a good 30 minutes could have been lost and it wouldn’t have made a ton of difference).

The Ugly

The dance scene.

Yep. I said dance scene.

***

Maybe if I hadn’t seen the trailer for the movie or read the review of the novel on a list of best horror. Maybe had I come into it cold, I might not have left the movie feeling… cold.

Oh well, my search for this year’s horror movie gem is ongoing. Maybe the next one will be the winner!?!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Origins 2021 Recap – Part Two

You can find Part One here.

Day 2

We continued on with another quick stop at the Exhibit Hall and then attempted the thing that always seems to get the best of us during these conventions: trying to fit a meal in at a restaurant in the hour between the Hall closing and our next game. Somehow we manage to get into one of the local places leading Lee to have a conversation with the waitress about potentially getting either a Bison Burger or a Chicken Sandwich… both of which they were out of. Funny enough, two year previous they’d been out of both of those foods as well.

Regardless, we managed to make it to the game only a few minutes late. Luckily we got there just before they effectively gave our seats away (to some people with generic tickets).

Kult: Divinity Lost

Kult is one of those games where I might not know anything about it, but I’ve seen the images over the years. The best way to explain it is a horror game along the lines of Call of Cthulu. Horror games feel like they are perfect for conventions as, in my mind at least, they should be dangerous for the adventurers (investigators?). I expect that not all of us may survive any particular encounter we have.

For this particular adventure, our GM was running an adventure of her own design which set the PCs up at Paranormal investigators whose leader has received a call from a longtime friend who is having problems with shadows within his apartment coming to life, noises in the hallway, doors opening, and he’s at his wit’s end. Of course, as we begin to dig into the building, the neighbors, the landlord, etc. things begin to take a more sinister turn with the creatures taking an interest in us as well.

It was definitely an interesting game as the PCs seemed to work really well together. Between the group of us, I feel like we managed to look under every tock and look in every hiding place to get to the truth behind everything. The thing with these types of games is that sometimes you end up not asking the right questions and suddenly you’ve gone in circles instead of advancing against the plot. Luckily, I don’t think that happened. The only “bad” thing is that we really didn’t have any dice rolls to speak of, so I still don’t have a great idea as to the system mechanics, so I’d be interested in getting into another game down the line.

You can find out more about Kult here.

Day 3

Excellents

Now it comes to the best game I played all weekend and, of course, it would be the game where we ended up playing some kind of Saturday Morning Cartoon Princesses. The system 9th Level Games uses for this game is based on playing with one die for each player. You have your choice of a D4, D6, D8, or D10 which helps define your character. While having a larger dice means that you are likely better at some of the more physical facets of the game, the lower die are perfect for the more intelligent style of rolls.

Oh, and you get your very own Animal Companion. For my Princess (Of Video Games), the animal pet was the Dog from the old Nintendo Duck Hunt game.

The actual game was very much a collaborative story-telling environment where in conjunction with the GM and the dice rolls, we all got our chances to shine throughout the game session. The GM was amazing to be able to think on his feet with so many crazy things the group threw at him. The ease of the system and the other players at our session made it just a fun game with tons of laughs.

More than anything, the Dice System they use is very interesting and makes me wonder how well it translates to more… “serious” games. But if you are looking for a good session, I’d urge you to check out this particular game. You can find more information about the game here.

The Few and Cursed

This left us with our last session on Saturday afternoon and the chance to participate in an actual playtest session of sorts. I knew of the comic the game is based on from a Kickstarter I supported a couple of years back of the same name. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good western style play experience. For this particular game, it uses a D100 system, so you are trying to roll under for all your successes.

Our adventure focused a bit on the harshness of the world, a world in which water is the most precious commodity. In playing the game, I can see how resource management will be of utmost importance as time goes on, with your PCs scrounging for food and supplies wherever they might be able to find them. Some of the other bits and pieces we gleaned were how critical successes ended up not only increasing your damage/skill result, but you would reference a chart where you wouldn’t end up just getting a 1 for damage, but instead tried to make that moment a feel good for the player (which is one of those things we all have experienced, make the great attack and then do very little damage – so I loved they were taking a look at some way to make all that work a little better.

They are looking to have a Kickstarter for the game sometime in late Spring/early Summer, so be on the lookout over at Rock Manor Games.

 

Day 4

We hit the Exhibit Hall one last time to make those last minute purchase decisions. In previous years at Gen Con, Sunday would be the day I’d end up buying a new game that would seemingly never actually get played. For this year, I opted not to do that (even if there were a few things here and there that certainly spoke to me). Instead, we did our final walkthrough before making our trip back south to Atlanta many hours later.

Due to the pandemic, Origins end up somewhere around 10,000 attendees, which is about 50% of a normal year. So while I got an Origins experience, I was assured that I hadn’t gotten a true experience just yet. At this point, Gen Con is still the one I’d rather do if just for the spectacle of it all, but I wouldn’t mind coming back to Columbus in a couple of years and checking out a more normal Origins!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Origins 2021 Recap – Part One

 

The past few years I’ve been able to make the trek northward to Gen Con. With the pandemic, 2020’s Gen Con was postponed, and after various new dates were determined for not only Gen Con but also Origins, our group made the decision to go to Columbus, Ohio instead. Partially because even at half capacity, Gen Con would still be around 35-40k in attendance, whereas Origins in 2019 was around 20k. It felt like the more prudent option of the two. Thankfully Gen Con allowed us to roll over our badges one more year, so hopefully, we’ll be back in Indianapolis in 2022.

Lee and Egg had gone to Origins a couple of times and reported having a good time. I knew that no matter what, this trip probably wouldn’t give me a complete picture of the convention due to a potentially reduced.

Day 1

CHEW

Thursday began with an afternoon game of CHEW, a roleplaying game based off the comic book of the same name. The concept is that you live in a world where poultry is illegal and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now the uber-powerful agency. While I am familiar with the comic book, I must confess that I have not really read any of the comics.

There were a number of pre-generated characters to choose from, and after we all made our choices we start our adventure getting ready to go on vacation, departing from the Baltimore Airport. However, we are pulled aside for a special assignment to discover why a nearby research island has suddenly lost 30 of their prized chickens. As we proceed on this mission, we learned that not all is as it seems at the facility, and that, perhaps, the chickens are not merely animals.

If you’re thinking that the premise is fairly goofy, I’d say you’re spot on. At the same time, we had a good group at the table who all leaned into the humor (even when it was at their character’s expense). The game is currently in the midst of a recently (launched on Tuesday I believe) Kickstarter. You can find it here.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

I remember seeing this game when it was initially Kickstarted a number of years ago, but this was all of our first time playing the game. It is set in a Grim Dark world, where it would appear that the darker forces have succeeded in turning the world into a darker reflection of itself. And while there are those heroes who will rage against the darkness, it is supposed to feel like an uphill battle. For the rules, they were very similar to Dungeons and Dragons in a lot of ways.

For this adventure, it was a twist on Night of the Living Dead, with a bunch of us stopping at the same Tavern just off the road. After finding a dead man upstairs, the reanimated corpses from all around begin to converge on our spot. It was here that I think I misjudged how well I might be able to help with my Clockwork, and ended up taking enough damage to reduce me to one hit point. And while there were opportunities to potentially heal a little bit in between the waves of the dead, you had to make a choice on healing or fortifications or potentially trying a ritual to help put an end to it. Sadly, as the waves became worse and worse, we began to fall before the hordes until eventually, all but one of us died.

During the year when we roleplay online, Egg is notorious for his horrible rolls. I mean, his rolls defy logic, luck, or probability. However, the universe has decided that when he plays during a convention, his dice treat him much, much better. Yet, that terrible luck had to go somewhere… and this time, I was the sacrificial lamb. At one point during the game the GM asked me if I’d actually hit anything the whole session (this was probably 2 hours in). I had early on, but since then I rolled a series of dice that only served to mock me.

I wonder if this was one of those adventures wherein an attempt to show the players how dangerous the world is, they pushed things to make it extremely difficult to survive? One thing I did really like about the system was the initiative where you could choose to act Fast (1 action) and go before the monsters or Slow (2 actions) and go after the monsters. It streamlined things really well, and I wouldn’t mind trying to incorporate it into other games we play.

You can find out more about the game here.

Day 2

On Friday, we made our way into the Dealers’ Hall to check out the various booths. From what I’ve been told, normally this stretches at least two of the exhibit halls; however, the area with the dealers and companies were confined to about 1/2 of one of the halls. There was still plenty to look at and buy, but I’m sure in a normal year it would have been a whole day to really look at everything, whereas, we probably spent around 5 hours in the Hall all told over three days, and I felt like I’d seen everything (and some things twice).

Misspent Youth

You play youths (between ages 12 to 17) who are raging against the machine… whatever that particular machine happens to be. We started out brainstorming ideas for what the big problem with the world actually was. We ended up in a world where organs are harvested from the poor and given to the rich and old who use it as a way to prolong their lives. They wall off their areas to keep themselves away from the riffraff of the rest of the world.

We were EMTs sent out on our first solo harvest, but the patient we were sent to help had already been harvested. We managed to not finish the poor man off by taking his last kidney, but soon uncovered a hospital where people were being harvested against their will (rather than being paid something for their organs).

What was interesting about this system was that you the story is broken into scenes and you roll 2d6 and place a marker on a list of numbers between 2 and 12. You want to seed it with your own numbers, but the GM is doing g the same to trip you up. If you ever roll one of your numbers, then you dictate what happens in the scene, but if you land on the GM’s number, he narrates it. It was another case where I’d never seen a game do something like that, and I’d love to figure out a way to incorporate that type of idea to other systems too.

You can get the game here.

***

That’s the end of Part 1. Next week I’ll finish up the convention and reveal the best game I played all weekend.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review – Malignant

I always tell myself that this is the year I watch a TON of horror movies during the month of October. Yet, sadly, the month begins to dissolve away and before I know it the scary decorations are being put away and Christmas Season comes out in full force. However, this year, HBOMax released the movie Malignant allowing me to get a couple of weeks jump on the Halloween festivities.

Spoilers to follow…

Malignant is the story of a woman (Madison Mitchell) who after an altercation with her boyfriend who nearly kills her, finds herself followed by this demon/creature/person/thing. At first the creature seems to want to terrorize her specifically, but as the movie progresses, we see that it appears to have a different sort of agenda. Soon enough others are killed by the entity, with their only connection being our heroine. Even as the police arrest her, the entity continues to taunt them, until we get our final confrontation between the lead and the killer.

The Good

Some of the special effects are really amazing. There is a connection between Madison and the Killer so that she sees his kills. As the hunt begins, her world melts away revealing the house or room where the next victim is. The first time it happens I definitely let out a “wow”.

There is a pair of sequences where the Killer interacts with the police, the first time evading a lone cop by doing a crazy amount of parkour-style moves. The second is the battle at the police station, which I almost would say would be worth checking out even if you didn’t watch the rest of the movie. Aside from a couple of weird shots (which actually could be explained by the reveal of who/what the killer is), it gives a very creepy feel to how the thing moves in almost counter in style to what we would expect. The action is all over the place (in a good way), and it manages to get into the more gore side of the horror.

The Bad

My very first thought after finishing the movie was to wonder whether there was a classification of movies between an “A” and a “B” movie. There are times during the film where everyone is taking the script very seriously, and it mostly works. And then there are the times where the dialogue (and the delivery) makes me wonder if Ed Wood had a hand in crafting it. This makes it feel a bit disjointed like they didn’t know which way to go, trying to do a little of both and not mastering either.

The Ugly

The Killer… he was definitely ugly but not as scary as I was hoping for. Sadly, I figured out what the twist was going to be fairly early in the process which makes me wonder if it was too telegraphed for the audience or not. When the “twist reveal” occurs, instead of being a WTF moment, it was more of a “OK, that’s what I’d thought”. This doesn’t make it specifically a bad or good thing, but I think speaks to the idea of trying to play something a little too coy throughout the movie.

Overall, this is very much a popcorn and candy movie. It doesn’t ask much from the audience and tries its best to be a bit of a throwback to the horror/thriller films of the 80s. It does a good job with the spectacle but the rest fell a little flat for me.

Dragon Con 2021 – Review Part 2

After taking Saturday to go hang with family (and watch the Georgia Tech Football game that I’m still not sure how they lost… or actually, I know exactly where they lost, I just still can’t believe it), we ventured back down to Dragon Con on Sunday for what would be our last day.

Actually, before I go into Sunday, I wanted to say that this year’s Dragon Con felt like being in a time machine about 10 years earlier. With a self-imposed attendance cap (and what ended up at an estimated 42,000 people), I just looked on Wiki and it has 2011’s attendance at 46,000, so the 10 years feel was right on. Regardless, in this last decade, the convention has expanded to other hotels and America’s Mart because, well, it had to. And this will sound both stupid and obvious, but the difference of having 85,000 people and 42,000 people spread over the same area meant that this year you could breathe (ironic as we were all wearing masks). The Dealer’s room wasn’t so full that it was bursting at the seams. You could actually take a minute and look around and not worry about being in the way. The lines for the panels we chose were of normal length and didn’t have any problems getting seats.

I really hope that they don’t try to jump back to that 85,000 number next year. I know the money is better that way, but the experience was so much better this way.

In addition, all the other guests really stuck to wearing their masks in the hotels. I think I only saw 2 people not wearing them (the old “chin-diaper” look). I know it helped put us at ease that this wasn’t going to end up as some super-spreader event.

Anyway, we managed to get into the Zachary Levi panel. We’d done it in 2019 before we’d even seen Shazam (since we knew him from Chuck mostly) and were blown away by his frankness in dealing with mental issues, his frankness about his roles, and just how personable he’d come off. This time was no different as he still managed to mix in some cool anecdotes and made us laugh while still not shying away from the harder questions about his upbringing.

After that, we went to see Harvey Guillen (Guillermo) from What We Do In the Shadows. While I only know him from the aforementioned TV Show, there were plenty of questions about some of his other roles. Probably the biggest takeaway for me was just this idea of something always happens for a reason (or if you’re meant to do something, the universe will find a way). He had a couple of roles that seemed to work out just perfectly… apparently, even his audition for Shadows was one where he only got the shot because he showed up to a friend’s party and met someone whose boyfriend (husband?) worked for the show. The actual role of Guillermo was supposed to be a 40-something-year-old man (Harvey isn’t 40), but they humored him and gave him the shot. Then he said he’d blacked out in the process of doing it… just had no memory of it at all. Time went on and he’d heard nothing, so he figured that was it. And at the last minute, he received the call that not only did he get the job but it was starting that next week.

Finally, we decided the Smallville panel had been a ton of fun, but we were bummed we hadn’t seen Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor). However, all four of them were there for this panel… and we got to see Michael in action. He was all over the room, answering questions (even those not meant for him), getting everyone to sing along with the theme song, and just generally someone who I could tell from this panel and the previous one would have been hilarious to have on set with you (the never a dull moment type of guy).

When it was done we had another panel on the list and some years we will do the Masquerade, but the previous two days had begun to wear on Courtney (and me as well) and AEW was having their Pay Per View at 8 that evening, so we opted to head out.

***

With so much trepidation in the weeks leading up to this event due to the Delta Variant, I am so happy we decided to go. Here’s to another one in the books and looking forward to next year!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Dragon Con 2021 – Review

It was, as they say, a game-time decision. After the cancelation last year, our 2020 passes were rolled over to 2021. There was definitely a large part of me who kinda hoped they might do the same again, but we live in Georgia, and Georgia is going to Georgia to be sure. With the numbers from the Delta at the top of mind, my wife and I weren’t exactly sure whether we were going to go or not this past weekend. Given that we are both vaxed, I was less concerned, but still, when you are going to be hanging out with 40,000 of your friends in a relatively small area for the weekend… well…

So we made the decision to go, at least on Friday. I figured that if it was half the s-show that I thought it might be, we could always bolt. If things were alright then we would end up coming back on Sunday (Saturday the in-laws were in town).

The doubts began creeping in when a few of my friends went down on Thursday night to pick up their badges and reported waiting in line for nearly two hours. As many years as I have been going, the ticket line has been the most hit-or-miss thing with the whole con. I remember some years where 2 hours was considered a short wait time. Then a handful of years ago something changed and the process seemed like it had sped up. To hear about the back-slide was disturbing to say the least.

I would like to say, after having been to Gen Con, I really wish Dragon Con would step up and mail you your badge. Gen Con charges an extra $10 for the process and it is the best money I’ve ever spent.

FRIDAY

We tried to give ourselves about 75 minutes to get through the line and still make our first panel at 11:30. I dropped Courtney off at the Sheraton and then went to park the car…

And found out she’d already gone through the line. 5 minutes. No problems. It was the same with me. I’m not sure if everyone came on Thursday or maybe they didn’t have the volunteers or what changed in the preceding 12 hours, but I was overjoyed!

Our first panel was with the Smallville cast. Courtney and I watched Smallville through about season 4 or 5 when I believe we fell behind in our viewing and the DVR ate the intervening episodes (and I kind of, sort of, but really didn’t, write an episode for the show). It’s always been one of those shows I would have liked to go back and finish out (and after this panel Courtney mentioned possibly doing that after we finish our Chuck rewatch). Still, it was great to see Tom Welling (Clark Kent), Laura Vandervoot (Supergirl), and Sam Witwer (Doomsday) talk about the show with such a fondness. I hadn’t realized it had been 20 years since the show debuted.

They talked about stunts gone awry (Laura passing out in the harness which they use to have them fly). Sam having appendicitis in the midst of a shoot and no one realizing it until late in the evening. And the fact that Tom had it in his contract that he wasn’t going to put on the suit. I’d always thought it was an executive decision for that not to have happened before the very end of the show, but Tom talked about how very early on (Season 2) they started talking about it. He put an end to that as he wanted the show to be about Clark’s journey prior to him being Superman. And once he’s in the suit, that’s really the end of the show.

It was such a good panel, the only bad thing was that Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) wasn’t going to be there until Saturday… which meant we might need to check it out later in the weekend to see what wackiness he might bring.

At this point we decided to hop over to the Exhibit Hall for the 4 floors of artists, dealers, cosplaying, clothing, comics, and just about anything else you can think of. We made our way through. Learning from 2019, we resolved to go through the entire thing on Friday as we knew it would be our only real chance to do so. Courtney bought some jewelry, a trio of shirts from the folks that make the Unstable Unicorns game. I ended up browsing through hundreds of $5 graphic novels only to end up with a pair of them. And even though I rarely get to play live other than conventions, I bought a new Flash dice bag for the impending Origins Convention. Finally, we bought a nice piece of artwork, a bit of a cutout of Buttercup and Westley from The Princess Bride surrounded by “As You Wish”.

Of course, by the time we’d gone through all of that, it was dinner time and we’d missed the two or three panels in the early afternoon. After dinner, Courtney and I split up… she went off to a Lucifer panel and I went to a pair of writing panels (one on Indy Writer secrets and the other on controversies in writing). The first was interesting, though the biggest thing for me coming out of it was more about using these types of panels as motivation. One of the panelists said something that really stuck out (James A Hunter): your best marketing is your next book. He’d written 35 books in the last 6-7 years with the thought that if you are prolific enough (and are writing decent enough stories) the odds of something hitting are only going to be increased. You take 35 shots and surely something is going to go in.

Now, I doubt with the day job being a necessary thing to put food on the table and a roof over my head I’d ever be able to have that much product in such a short amount of time. But, I also realize that putting out a book every 4 years isn’t going to get me where I want to go either. Sometimes it is hard to see where the road might be on this writing journey. These panels are like little check-ins for my psyche. I know I need to be a bit more diligent with all of it.

We ended our day with a comedy show. We’d done it once before and both really liked dipping our toes into some of the later nightlife which is the biggest part of the con to elude us. A bunch of laughs later, and it was time to head home so that we could go spend the day with family before returning on Sunday.

***

Next week find out what happens when you see the “same” panel twice but with a new panelist.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It – Karate Kid Part III

As Cobra Kai fever grips my house (I think my wife has watched the first 2 seasons around 4 times now since we discovered the show on Netflix), we decided to take a nostalgic trip with the movies as well. Now, we’ve seen the first two movies many, many times, but still decided to watch the first movie again before we even watched one episode of Cobra Kai. And just last week, with the announcement of certain Part 2 characters showing up, we went ahead and watched the second movie. So that only left some small piece of the saga to catch up with: Part 3 (and maybe The Next Karate Kid at some point, maybe).

Now, to be fair, this was not Courtney’s first time ever seeing Part 3; however, watching the movie with her this time around it might as well been her first time watching it. There was plenty of stuff she didn’t remember about it. In addition, we ended up watching it in two settings because… well, it isn’t the greatest movie. But more than that, the… well, I wouldn’t call them plot holes, but there are just lots of coincidences required to make the movie go the way the bad guys want it to go.

And speaking of bad-guys…

John – I love how Terry Silva is basically a cartoon villain.

Courtney – I know… it’s just over the top. He was talking about dumping toxic waste earlier.

John – He could be the bad-guy for Captain Planet!

The thing is, Mike Barnes is this badass karate champion who they enlist to beat up Daniel, and he just owns Daniel. He’s a solid villain if Part 2 never happens.

John – I don’t understand how this guy… Daniel never lands a punch really. I mean, he’s only a few months removed from fighting for his life in Okinawa.

Courtney – And they never call the cops? Really?

John – Think about all the stuff that has to fall into place for Terry Silva’s evil plan to work. Mr. Miyagi has to refuse to train Daniel. Daniel has to seek out Terry. Then he has to not leave in the middle of the training. Then at the end, when he’s decided to quit, Terry and his evil band have to be waiting for Daniel at the dojo.

Courtney – I just… it’s a lot to believe, right?

So we watched it in two parts, and the second part is a little better. But then you get to the tournament…

Courtney – Wait, Daniel only has to land one point and he wins the whole tournament?

John – Yep.

Which, that was always my biggest problem with the movie. One of the best things about Part 1 was the tournament. Learning how things worked. Watching Daniel and Johnny on their collision course. But with this movie, we only really have the end of the semi-finals and then the championship match. So you remove the best stuff with some crazy new rule that says a defending champion only has to fight one fight? How in the world does that make sense on any planet. We’ve all heard of byes, but to get a bye through, what, maybe 6-8 rounds? You take no wear and tear?

Just makes no sense.

John – Final thoughts on Part 3?

Courtney – I think watching the first half of this one… hurt me. It kind of took something away from the first two (this one being so bad). But as we talked about the characters and how they acted. Basically, the need to have some depth and it created a conflict between our leads that we’d not seen. But over-the-top characters… wow. If you are Mr. Miyagi you justified the previous tournament because he was being bullied, but now you won’t even though Daniel is getting bullied because… reasons? I thought the bonsai tree story was a little over the top (even if it gave us a nice little moment between them at the end).

***

I somehow don’t think this movie is going to enter the replay list for her… Cobra Kai season 3 though…

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Burlap Issues 1-4

Sometimes when I get notifications in my email that other people I follow on Kickstarter. They populate my inbox to the point that I can’t always keep up with all of them. But, with some diligence I do my best to at least look at the various projects and see if they interest me in any way. It can be a title or an image or even the cost which grabs my attention and forces me to read further. Regardless, I never know what is in store for me with such a scattershot approach to potentially finding these new indie comics.

Burlap did something though. It kinda stuck in my brain. Not at the forefront, but just at the edges of my mind. That thought of a slasher killer being the potential hero of the story. It’s enough to plant that seed in my mind, telling me to check it out.

***

Burlap Issues 1-4

Writer/Publisher – Jesse James Baer

Artist – Zoran Jovici

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at 4:45 AM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The idea was to take the slasher formula we all know and love and flip it on it’s head. This go around, instead of a silent, masked killer stalking and executing stoned teenagers or long lost siblings our slasher killer is the hero! And our doomed victims are the series villains!

 

The Story:

It is fall of 1995 in a small town in New Jersey, where a vicious gang of serial killers, led by the charismatic psychopath Cottontail, are spreading madness and bloodshed. But something happens Cottontail did not intend when he comes face to face with BURLAP, a silent, masked killer with a mission of his own; destroy Cottontail and all of his followers. As the mayhem ensues Cottontail comes to realize this is no random vigilante, but a ghost from the past who will stop at nothing to make Cottontail and his lunatics pay for what they did to him. So begins a twisted tale of murder, revenge ghosts, gypsy curses, forbidden romance…and a homicidal Easter Bunny.

 

John’s Thoughts:

A black and white horror comic that focuses on a slasher trying to get revenge on the maniacs (in masks) who did him wrong. That was enough to color me intrigued. Taking a look at the artwork, there is an unsettling feeling as you see these psychos go about terrorizing a mother and son. The idea that one of them is dressed as a clown who both terrifies and also, somehow, is there to try and help cheer the kid up, tweaks the brain a little bit.

And I think that’s what I’m expecting from the comic – something that is going to tweak my brain over the course of the four issues.

The Rewards:

To get the full series will cost you $5 (digital) or $20 (print). As you move up the tiers there are opportunities to get some very unique things. At $125 you get a Custom Made Burlap Mask Bust with Stand. Nothing like having your own slasher movie mask on your shelf! And, it wouldn’t be a horror comic without an opportunity to have a role where you get killed. At $150, you get to have a personal commission where your comic version gets killed!

 

The Verdict:

They have passed their overall goal, which is no guarantee in these times we find ourselves living in. As of this post, there are eight days left for them to run the score up… so to speak. Mostly, I’d say if horror comics are in your wheelhouse, then you may want to check this one out. I know I’m looking forward to reading it.

***

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Godfather

There comes a time in a man’s life where he must step up and stop living the lie. He needs to know that people view him a certain way, and he needs to be comfortable with that. Or he needs to do something about it.

It’s long past time for me to watch The Godfather, one of those classic movies where until you see it, you can’t get the stamp on your Man Card.

Pre-Movie

We didn’t really do a pre-movie portion. It was more that we had time on a Friday to watch this three-hour movie without too much threat that Courtney would fall asleep due to it being too late in the evening (not that it still couldn’t happen, but just that it WOULD happen if we tried to start watching as the sun went down).

For my part, I knew it was a mob movie of some sort, but expected it to be less Goodfellas and more of a slower-paced movie.

Mid-Movie

I want to say that Courtney did nod off in the wedding scene for a half a minute. No matter how much I tell her to sit up, she just doesn’t listen to me. After a verbal scolding that included the remark of “Well, this is going to be another movie we finish two weeks from now and not have a clue what it is that’s going on!” (see our Have You See It? – The Big Lebowski edition).

One other thought I had about 30 minutes left in the movie was that I wasn’t 100% where we were going to end up. I assumed it was with Michael winning, but I didn’t entirely know who things were going to go down.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post-Movie

Both of us liked the movie, which isn’t overly surprising. Things don’t get called classics for no reason (most of the time, at least).

Courtney – I was surprised at how many of the BIG MOMENTS were so early in the movie.

John – Yeah, like I didn’t know the whole “You come to me on this, the day of my daughter’s wedding” bit was in the first 5 minutes.

Courtney – Or the horse’s head in the bed was really quick, too. I just figured those were things we’d get more toward the end.

John – I tell you what though, this is a movie unconcerned about its run time. They lingered on scenes for a few extra seconds. The horse in the bed had like 3 or 4 establishing shots of the house before we even get inside.

Courtney – There were a couple of odd scenes that didn’t make much sense. Like where the girlfriend shows up at the house while Michael is in Italy. It’s like 2 minutes and there is very little point to it and then we are onto something else.

John – I wasn’t sure if the next scene was a few minutes later or a few days later. I also can’t quite figure out the Michael in Italy scene. I liked it, but I was actually expecting him to disappear from the middle part of the movie and then get called back. But I’m not sure if you couldn’t have just cut that whole section out and still had a great film. They never reference it again. He doesn’t say anything to anyone about his now-dead wife. It’s as if that whole time doesn’t matter anyway.

Courtney – Sometimes it was a little hard to understand Brando.

John – Yeah, I thought we might need to turn on the close captions for him. He is phenomenal in the role, but you definitely need to really focus on what he’s saying.

It was a trip to see Pacino so young in the movie. I’m used to him from his Devil’s Advocate and Any Given Sunday time frame.

Godfather is one of those, I can see why everyone should see it. Without it, the modern mob movies don’t exist. But, I don’t know that it will be a rewatch movie for me where something like Goodfellas can be seen over and over.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic – The Crossing

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

***

Last week, when I announced that the Kickstarter was live (here), I talked a bit about how the project came to be. Fundamentally, though, I have a few sweet spots in the things I enjoy. I love Zombie movies. I love Groundhog Day style stories. I love Time Travel ideas.

And I love the idea of multiple worlds.

To my very core.

***

The Crossing Issue #1

Publisher – 133art

Writer – Robert Jeffrey II & John McGuire

Artist (Cover & Interiors) – Sean Hill

Colorist – Sunil Ghagre

Letter – Loris Ravina

Variant Cover Artist – Matteo Illuminati

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 3:00 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

In the tradition of such dimension-hopping adventures as Sliders, Fringe, and Exiles comes The Crossing. Its the late 21st century, and the world has changed drastically with the discovery of cross-dimensional travel dubbed ‘Crossing’. This amazing and innovative breakthrough has provided our Earth with a seemingly unyielding flow of resources, through tapping into other, unpopulated Earth’s raw material. While the collective wealth of mankind has seemingly reached another golden age, the desires of men have stayed relatively the same.

 

The Story:

Fugitive Dr. James Kincaid is running for his life. Years prior he was the most accomplished physicist in the realm of Crossing, but due to his own mistakes (professional and personal), he lost everything. Now, in a last-ditch effort to fix things Dr. Kincaid runs afoul of powerful US Senator Christopher John Rice. Kincaid steals Crossing tech and escapes into the multiverse. However, Sen. Rice will stop at nothing to get what he wants, so he enlists renowned Crossing physicist Jun Patton and FBI agent Kayla Cooke in a covert mission to hunt him down.

Variant Cover by Matteo Illuminati (colors still to come)

John’s Thoughts:

How far would you go?

That’s the question that lies at the center of this story.

How far would you go to save someone you loved? How far would you go to get your loved one back? How far would you go to prove yourself? How far would you go with your lies?

These are the themes we kept in mind as we were writing the first issue and laying out the outline for the four-issue series. Everyone has their own reasons for Crossing over to the next world. Now whether they share that information with anyone else is an entirely different story.

In addition, you are going to get to see amazing worlds from Sean Hill. Glimpses of some, fully realized for others, and all the while we have an FBI agent and an inexperienced scientist trying to track down one of the few men alive who knows more about Crossing technology than nearly anyone else.

Hang on… it’s going to be intense.

 

The Rewards:

We have the PDF of the issue ($5), or the print copy ($10) or both versions of the cover ($15). As you move up the ladder, there are opportunities to get an assortment of first issues from some of the top Black Indie Creators of today ($30). At the top end levels are an opportunity to have Sean Hill draw a full-color pin-up ($300), get a script review and call from Robert and I ($300), be a guest on the NerdSoul Podcast ($500), and finally if you are really wanting something unique: an exclusive variant cover and 100 copies of it ($1000).

 

The Verdict:

Obviously, I am pushing anyone reading this to go and support this Kickstarter. Then again, I might be biased… might.

Just know that all of us who have poured ourselves into this book did so because we love telling stories, love sharing them with others, and we hope you take the first step in this journey with us.

 

***

Be sure to go to the Facebook Page and like it so that 133art knows people are interested! And make sure to check out the Kickstarter!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Big Lebowski

 

 

This series is based on movies that my wife should have seen at this point in her life but somehow has failed to do so…

Until now.

However, I’m in a similar boat as she is on this one. Even if it is one of those movies that all my friends seem to know. But, I must confess, the real reason this is going to be watched is because it is Veronica Mars’s favorite movie.

Pre-Movie

So what do we know about this movie?

I really don’t know anything.

Yeah… I think he’s a slacker or something. And then shenanigans occur?

That seems right.

I press play.

I just hope this isn’t a Napoleon Dynamite situation…

 

1/2 way through the movie

Courtney was falling asleep – not due to the movie, that she was enjoying, but just too long a day. Which means we’ll be picking this up next weekend!

Flash forward about 2 weeks actually…

After not getting back around to watching the movie the following weekend, we picked it up again. Courtney requested that we rewind a little bit, so we ended up backing up to the point that Sam Elliot makes his first appearance. At which point we have the following conversation:

John – I don’t think Sam Elliot has aged. Like he was this old since he started acting right?

Courtney – It’s the mustache. If he didn’t have that cowboy mustache, I wonder how his career might have gone.

John – Does he have a mustache in Road House?

Courtney – (Thinks) I don’t know.

Note – after we finished this, I noticed that either HBO or Amazon Prime has Roadhouse for free. So we fast-forwarded until Sam makes his appearance. He does not have that trademarked mustache but instead has a kind of scruffy not quite a full face of hair, but not just a couple of days stubble.

So crisis averted.

Back to the movie.

Which we actually finish in this session.

My wife during pretty much any movie once the sun has gone down.

Takeaways

I think it was a big no-no to break the movie up onto not only different days but different weeks. Which, anyone watching just about any movie would agree with, but sometimes the ole wifey gets sleepy and I know that when the eyes start closing it is well past a losing battle. When we restarted, I had to give Courtney a quick catch-up on where we were. Plus, given the nature of the movie which is a quintuple cross (I think, there is a lot of BS being spit during various portions of the movie).

We also had a minor discussion about the fact that White Russians and Caucasians were the same drink (remember, we don’t drink, so we know literally nothing about alcohol).

Personally, I liked the movie. It is so random and weird but had a ton of funny moments. However, I would say that the two (I believe there were only two, though you might make the case that the whole movie was one big drug-induced dream) hallucination scenes didn’t do anything for me. They didn’t last very long, but I honestly felt like they could have been skipped and the movie would have been better for it.

I don’t know what to say. I think the big thing is that it couldn’t hold my attention in the second half of the movie.

Well, you were kind of nodding off.

Exactly. I liked what I saw, but it was… hmm… it just didn’t hold my attention that well.

I am a little shocked this has become such a cult classic.

Yeah, me too.

So this is where you and your girl have your first disagreement.

Veronica Mars and I are fine, but I think it might be Rob Thomas’s favorite movie more than hers. Veronica and I are just fine.

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I have a Kickstarter beginning on Saturday, February 29, 2020 for The Crossing Issue #1. It is a story about multiple parallel earths, and about how far a father will go.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – The Hated #1

Divergent history is one of those sweet spots for me. I’m a big fan of What If style scenarios. Taking major moments from history and changing something so that the outcome is entirely different. It really is a rabbit hole to climb down into and allows for story-telling to happen against backdrops that never could have been. I think those new worlds allow you insight into a situation that might not have otherwise been possible.

And the Hated has embraced that.

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The Hated #1

Writer/Publisher – David F. Walker

Artist – Sean Damien Hill

Colorist – Mx. Struble

Letterer/Designer – Becca Carey

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, March 14, 2020, at 12:56 PM EDT.

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The Pitch:

Imagine if director Sergio Corbucci (DJANGO, THE GREAT SILENCE) made a western starring Pam Grier as a badass, gun-slinging bounty hunter. Now imagine the story takes place in a world where the Civil War ended differently – instead of a victory for the North, there is a truce, and what had been one country is now two. This is THE HATED.

 

The Story:

It is 1872, and the war between the North and South is over. Neither side won. After years of bloody conflict, both sides entered into a truce, resulting in the formation of two nations, the Union States of America, where blacks are free, and the Confederate States of America, where blacks are still enslaved. Araminta Free is a former slave turned bounty hunter. She specializes in crossing the border into the Confederacy, and liberating slaves. She also tracks down Confederate war criminals, which has made her a woman with a price on her head in the southern nation. When a group of Confederate Raiders illegally ventures deep into the Union to kidnap free blacks and sell them into slavery, the stage is set for a deadly showdown between Araminta and the men who want her dead.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Growing up in the South, the Civil War is one of those things that you are naturally drawn to. Whether it is visiting battle sites or simply because you are passing through the towns that stood out in the theater of war… or even because in some areas they still aren’t entirely ready to admit how the War ended… it becomes something that the history classes definitely focus on. And I’ve done the mind experiment of what might have happened if X battle turns a different way.

All that said, the story presented here is not anything my mind would have conjured, and that makes me want to read it all the more.

THE HATED cover art by Sean Damien Hill with colors by Mx. Struble

The Rewards:

You get the pdf of the comic for $4 or $8 for the print version. But as you go up the ladder, there is an opportunity for a cover by David Mack ($20). And for those that are a completist who want all the covers and the special Kickstarter Black and White version, you can get that at the $35 tier. It’s interesting to note that is the top end tier, where many Kickstarters continue to push to over $100 with other reward levels, this one you can get everything for a nice enough price point.

 

The Verdict:

The project is completely penciled and inked so they are in the process of getting the colors done, which I always like as that way you know it is only a short matter of time before you get to read the comic. Plus, the artist Sean Hill, is also the artist on issue 4 of the Gilded Age and the artist on an upcoming comic I’m cowriting with Robert Jeffrey called The Crossing. So I might be biased about liking the art!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

 

Kickstart the Comic – Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

I’m a sucker for a few different things. You give me a Groundhog Day-style story, I’m in. Parallel Worlds… I want to discover what makes them tick and what random world are we going to go to next.

And stories about animals.

Heck, I joke about the fact that my Facebook feed is so consumed with politics at times (on both sides of the aisle) that I pretty much only use it to discover the latest story of a dog or cat being rescued by some good samaritan (it’s not really a joke).

When I stumbled across this particular Kickstarter… it might have tugged at those same heartstrings.

 

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Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

Creator/Writer/Artist -Haley Boros

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, February 27, 2020, at 11:01 AM EST.

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The Pitch:

A 40-page comic collection featuring 1-panel tales of my three-legged dog Rusty on a fantasy adventure.

The Story:

Since 2016, I have been participating in Inktober, a global month-long project that has artists creating every day in October. Every year I often branch out from the official prompt list and have used my own themes like Succulents in 2016, taken commissions of people and their pets in 2017, drew 31 dogs doing fantasy jobs in 2018 and now – publishing my good boy’s adventure from 2019. This book will feature all 31 prompts from the official prompt list, highlighted in bold letters in each panel.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Like I said above, animal-related items are a weak spot for me. I saw the title and then you get to see a picture of the “talent” and it’s like “tug on my heart a little more”. I also like the Make 100 idea overall. Something small that doesn’t have to overwhelm the person making it. Plus, it is a very neat idea to have your dog as the subject of this grand fantasy adventure. If I had the artistic talent, I would do the same for my two knucklehead cats!

The Talent!

The Rewards:

The standard reward of the 40-page comic is $16 (USD), with the digital-only clocking in at $8 (USD). But if you want your own personal panel from the 31 that have been done for $57 (USD). Always cool to have some personalized art.

 

The Verdict:

The project is already done. It’s literally waiting to be printed. And since it is part of the Make 100 Campaign, you are getting a limited edition item. All of which sounds good to me.

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To find out more about Three-Legged Tales, check them out here.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com