Not A Review – A Quiet Place

Spoilers will not follow…

Because I have not seen this movie yet.

Yes, it is a strange thing to write about a movie without having seen it. But I have a reason for doing so… you see, this movie has already invaded my dreams.

This past weekend I had one dream from the time I closed my eyes until the time I woke up where I was in the world of A Quiet Place.

Now, without seeing the movie, the only thing my subconscious would have been able to glean was from what we see in the trailers themselves. And there is clearly something about it. I’m not sure if it is the premise: being hunted by things that rely on sound to find you. It might have been the spooky score they play during the trailer. Or it could even be the narrator, his low, gravelly voice breaking through my tv screen in order to make the hairs on my arms stand up. I wish I could know exactly what it was that set this dream in motion.

I think I’m lucky that I have pretty vivid dreams in full color. And most of the time even if I’m the main character of a dream, I’m somehow watching myself from behind the camera.

My dream version of the movie was pretty good (with a bit of strange dream logic, but I’ll let that slide). Very post-apocalyptic. In this, I was a part of a smallish group (maybe 12 people total) moving through the outskirts of where the suburbs end and the farmlands of Georgia begin. Where you get the occasional subdivision but can also not see a house for miles. We were the last ones in the area, somehow finding our way through the initial attack.

It was long stretches of walking, of waiting, of deeply disturbing moments when the sun had set and the little bit of whispering would happen. Everyone needing a small amount of connection with those they were surviving with, but not daring to go too far without there being any other thing that could possibly keep the monsters from hearing us, from tracking us to our lair. There were planned ambushes and being forced to leave people behind due to injuries, but…

It was the feeling that I remembered more than anything else. Thinking about it in the morning, it was clearly the feel I got watching the trailer. That no matter what, basic human nature dictates that we need to interact with others. That we need to be able to communicate. That sheer fear as one of them stalks you.

Normally these types of dreams would happen after I’d seen the movie, but this came before that. It became a movie that was obviously already on my radar before that night and now I’m just wondering if it will actually be too scary for my wife to want to see it or not.

Sometimes I let my dreams help me work out a story problem. Sometimes I go along for a ride I might never actually be able to do. I’ve jotted down ideas from dreams – fresh from waking up – but that feeling while they actually are happening can’t be duplicated. That dream logic will kick in and suddenly everyone is on scooters when we are traveling down a busy interstate. That feeling just can’t be recaptured in the same way because I don’t have the right foundation. So I wonder how it is going to be to actually watch the movie. Will it live up to my version? From everything I’m seeing on Facebook and from friends who went to see it – I think mine is going to be a very pale imitation.

Maybe in my head canon I can claim my idea takes place before the movie itself?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

(Every item on this list was suggested by friends and strangers on the internet.)


Season 1 of the TV series ‘Fortitude’ Great acting. Super interesting buildup. Vastly disappointing ending.

Jack Daniel Honey – Not bad for a party drink. It’s mildly palatable and inexpensive. But once you try higher end whiskey, you’ll never want to drink Jack Daniel anything again.

The city of Chicago – I miss living there, but only during non-winter seasons, which means pretty much only half the year. I have a feeling I’ll end up returning there one day.

The Song ‘Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor’ by Flight of the Conchords – Hilariously sums up trying to land a date by going clubbing.

Washing Dishes by Hand Instead of using a Dishwasher – Dishes get cleaner. Not much more work. Saves money. Ends arguments about how to stack dirty dishes. Sign me up.

Peeps – As a child, I loved Easter for the sole reason of devouring entire boxes of sugar-coated marshmallows. As an adult, same.

Putting Peeps into Burritos – No. Just no. Stop.

The TV Nature Series, Blue Planet – You think outer space is fascinating? Wait ’til you watch this series and see what lives on the ocean floor. Awesome, awesome show.

Russia’s Influence over the U.S. Election – I don’t know what they did. I don’t care. The kind of people influenced by stuff they read on Facebook? They were going to vote the same way regardless.

Dreadlocks – They look cool, but smell kinda like mildew.

Seat Warmers in Cars – For the ladies, I hear they’re great. But for guys, they burn warm all the wrong parts.

My New Cat ‘Bacon’ – Athletic. Mean. Bitey. Adorable.

Bacon, the bitey cat

My Recently Departed Cat, Sticky – Athletic. Scratchy. Sweet. Blind. And now she’s planted beneath a Japanese Maple tree.

Sticky laser eyes, fire!!

Text Messaging w/ Old People – Pretty much the most painful thing ever. Hurts my eyes to read the awkward things my dad types into his phone.

The Movie ‘Game Night’ starring Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams – Pretty damn funny. I’ve come to realize anything with Jason Bateman will be good. Ditto Rachel McAdams.

Twizzlers – Yes. The perfect candy for…everything.

Aussie Licorice – It’s sticky like honey and tastes like engine oil. No thanks.

Sting (the musician) and his latest tour – Did you know tickets are $600? Nope.

Small Talk – Does anyone really want to talk about the weather? Or the latest TV show? Or how your cousin’s mom’s former roommate is doing? No. Let’s skip to something deeper, kay?

The Book ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss – I loved book one in the series ‘The Name of the Wind.’ But book two? Dreadfully slow. Wanders to strange places while making the main character utterly unlikeable.

DYI Plumbing – You might save thousands. Or you might end up doing your laundry in the backyard and taking showers using a teaspoon.

Robert Mueller – FBI Special Counsel – Sounds like the most difficult job in America. Dude gets slandered on a daily basis.

Ménage a Trois Wine – The California Red is good. The Rose is even better. The Silk and Dark varieties are pretty bad, kind of like drinking wine-drenched cotton balls.

The Introvert vs. Extrovert Discussion – It sometimes feels like an excuse for people to talk about themselves at length on the internet. It’s ok to be either or even both. Most people really don’t seem to care.

Cracker Barrel Pancakes – Too dry. Also, they’re super stingy with the syrup. Bring the whole bottle, baby.

The video series ‘The Lion’s Blaze’ – I will never be as flexible as the skinny dude. Never.

What. The. Fuck?

The Kids’ Movie ‘Early Man’ – Pretty funny. A bit sentimental, but refreshingly devoid of cynicism.

Drinking Organic Milk in place of Ordinary Milk – Prepare to spend a TON more on milk. But the flavor difference is worth every penny.

The Restaurant ‘Outback Steakhouse’ – Terrible, dry cuts of beef. You’d eat better steaks and save money just by pan-searing them at home.

James Veitch’s ‘This is what happens when you reply to spam’ comedy sketch – Freaking hilarious. We all want to do this, right?

Men Peeing While Sitting Down – Why would anyone want to sit on a toilet unless they absolutely had to?

The Art of Allen Williams – Dark and beautiful. He’s a wizard with graphite and a master of artistic anatomy. Just go here.

Fake Fingernails – Ladies, I have just one question. Why?

Beards – Love ’em. But had to shave mine off for the summer. Too warm for muggy days in the Georgia heat.

The Movie ‘Sicario’ starring Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro – Probably the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. That ending…wow. You owe it to yourself to watch this late at night with zero distractions.

Angry Orchard Hard Cider – Good when on draft. Not particularly tasty out of a bottle.

The #_____LivesMatter Movements – My position is that no lives matter. Yes, really. None of us have any real value to the universe, so technically we should all treat each other equally. (But we never will.)

The Album ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ by Morbid Angel – Thumpy, ferocious, and superior to most metal albums of the modern era. Even so, not much variety within the album. Basically eleven very similar tracks.

The Theremin, a musical instrument – Weird and haunting. Search for ‘Armen Ra Theremin’ on Spotify and see where it takes you.

Clara Rockmore playing the theremin, publicity shot c. 1930

Finding Stray Girlfriend Hairs all over the House – Women shed more than cats. Or dogs. Or any mammal on Earth. I need a scientist to explain this phenomenon.

The Movie ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ – Not bad at all. Interesting premise, good actors, sharply suspenseful. But somehow in the end a bit unsatisfying. The whole experience feels like one big cliffhanger.

The Album ‘Sleep’ by Max Richter – Soft, serene music meant to help people relax and sleep. The tracks are repetitive and atmospheric, and yet soothing. I use this album for writing epic fantasy and sci-fi books, but if you’re an insomniac, you might want to try it for yourself.

Bras – If I were a woman, I’d like to let my ‘girls’ fly free. Ladies, you have my sympathies.

Aberlour Scotch – One of the smoothest, brightest, and flavorful scotches you’ll ever drink. Try the 16-year and live happily ever after. Here’s my complete rundown of the best scotches on the market.

The Movie ‘Swiss Army Man’ w/ Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe – It goes strange places right from the beginning and never truly comes back to something meaningful. That said, it has some pretty hilarious moments.

7-String Guitars – I don’t like playing on any other kind. Saves me the trouble of re-tuning my strings.

Bing (the search engine) – Sometimes I end up on Bing accidentally. I shudder and click right back to Google.

Homewood Suites Hotels – You’d be surprised by the number of active prostitute rings thriving in various Homewood Suites’ rooms. Yes, really.

Being an AuthorDon’t do it. Seriously. It’s not a path to happiness.

The Video Game ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ for the Nintendo Switch – My kid was alllll kinds of hyped up to play this. But after an hour or two, he came to the same conclusion I did while watching him play. Boring. Same old, same old. Everyone else loves this game. We don’t get it.

Yep. More of these guys.

The Renaissance Festival – Good, cheesy fun. Nightmarish parking. If you go, go when it’s cool outside.

Match.com – Boring

Plenty of Fish – Same as Match, but even duller

Bumble – Pretty damn good

Tinder – Gross

The Album ‘Thinking in Textures’ by Chet Faker – Smooth. Relaxing. Although not particularly inspiring.

Magic, the Gathering – The best game ever created. Great art. Great rules. Constantly evolving. Better to play face-to-face than over the internet, however.

Ketchup – Hey, if you like it, that’s ok. Some people get too uptight about other people’s condiments.

Teachers Carrying Guns in Schools – Do it if you want. Turn every school into the Wild West. My kid won’t be attending.

The Video Game ‘Ghost Recon Wildlands’ – Quietly one of the best shooting games ever made. Realistic, balanced, and addictive.

Bartenders Who Know Everything About Their Customers – A wise policy on the bartenders’ behalf to maximize tips. But I once knew a woman who told her bartender too much (she was cheating) while not realizing the bartender was BFF’s with her husband. Be careful what you talk about, people.

Anal Bleaching (Special thanks to the person who suggested this) – I get it for porn stars…sort of. I just want to know who came up with the idea in the first place. Sasha Grey?

The City of Deerfield Beach, Florida – If you like volleyball, sand, drinking, and pretty girls, you’ll love this neat little beach community.  If not, try Naples.

Deerfield Beach – See you on the sand!

Bangs – Easy hairstyle to maintain. But at what cost? 🙂

The Restaurant ‘PF Chang’s’ – The food is really good. The drinks are amazing. The wait-staff is bad. Really bad. And I’m the most merciful diner ever. The lesson? Don’t hire and underpay teenagers if you want to appear upscale.

School Shootings – They will continue ad infinitum. It’s who we are as Americans now. Knowing this, I won’t be sending my kid to public school. I suggest you rethink your kids’ education, as well.

Nude Body-Painting – It can be pretty cool, maybe even sexy. But definitely not in overheated rooms. And an age limit is advisable.

The #MeToo Movement – Every single woman I know has a horror story of sexual abuse. Every. Single. One. Which means a huge number of guys are involved. Scary, right?

The Album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ by Slayer – The best heavy metal album ever made. Try not to bob your head during ‘Skeletons of Society.’

Melania Trump – She signed up to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and ended up on the mother of all roller coasters.

Bagpipes – Well-played, they make beautiful, mournful music. Poorly-played, they seriously injure eardrums.

Kids Using Foul Language at Home – I’m cool with it. Sometimes. Words are just words. They’re harmless if you want them to be.

Ren & Stimpy – I’d like to personally thank this show’s creator John K. for guiding me through my early childhood. Here’s the complete collection. Worth every penny.

Cream of Wheat – Totally devoid of nutrition. Totally amazing when served with milk and honey.

Next Door Neighbors Who Walk Around Topless – If he can do it, so can I.

 



For the original ‘My Review of 75 Different Things,’ go here.

For my review of life and humanity in general, try this.

J Edward Neill

The Truths About Comic Conventions

This past weekend I spent time holding down one half of a table at the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo.

Conventions are a strange thing. I can’t claim to have done the rounds as much as some of the other people I run into at cons, but at this point, I’ve parked myself at many different tables over the years. You never know quite what to expect, who may be interested in your products or who might just stop by and chat. There are a few things that always occur at conventions… without fail.

As soon as you step away from your table someone will come up wanting to buy one of your comics/novels.

It never fails. You are starving or your bladder is full, so you step away for a few minutes and when you come back the person who graciously watched your table for you says, “Hey, a person came up wanting to buy X thing, but I didn’t know the price so they said they’d come back later.”

You always have more product on hand than anyone could reasonably expect to sell in one day.

If it was possible, I’d try to take every single item I had in my possession into the con… “just in case”. When really, I should have about half that number in my cart/bag/arms and leave the rest in the car. There’s no reason I couldn’t run back out to the car to get the thing that’s suddenly selling out (unless I’ve parked 10 miles from the con, I suppose then you’d want to carry it all inside).

Your pitch probably sucks, but everyone around you has it all figured out.

You stumble or stammer over your pitch to a potential fan and when they leave you are absolutely sure it was because you hadn’t done the correct job in “selling” them on the product. And that may very well be true, but if you listen to the people around you… the words flow like honey past their lips. They are smart and you are dumb. And so on and so on.

That one guy/gal who is just doing gangbusters and you cannot figure out why.

Maybe they have a particular art style. Maybe they have been doing the circuit long enough to gain fans who come to really see what new thing they’ve developed. Maybe they are popular and you’re just out of touch. No matter the reason, they will have the line of people while you are staring at nothing.

There will be times that you miss out on a sale because that one person has decided you are their new best friend!

Some people come to cons to see the costumes, some come to buy toys, some come for the artists, and some come just to talk. Those people are both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you get to really engage with someone you might never have the opportunity to in any other setting. Plus it might mean the day just flies by instead of dragging minute by minute. But it comes at a cost, the longer you talk to the one person, the less able you are to talk to the next person who walks up to check out your stuff.

Those people almost never seem to actually buy a comic.

Nuff said.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Steampunk Friday – Kickstart the Comic – Boston Metaphysical – The Scourge of the Mechanical Men

Inventors, investigators, intellectuals…

Madmen (and women)…

And a virus which threatens to turn people into machines…

***

Boston Metaphysical – The Scourge of the Mechanical Men

Creator/Writer – Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Artist/Colorist – Gwynn Tavares

Letters – Troy Peteri

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 3:01 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Granville Woods and Tesla are in a race for time to save Boston from a mysterious disease that turns human beings into machines.

The Story:

Granville returns home to Liberty Row only to find an almost insane Tesla hiding there. But his efforts to get rid of Tesla hit a snag when they discover that a virus is turning humans into soulless mechanical men. Realizing that Emily and Travis Morgan of Morgan Medicinals are behind the outbreak, they fear that the twins are after more than just control of Boston – They want to take over the Great States of America.

John’s Thoughts:

I interviewed Madeleine Holly-Rosing last year (which you can read here) where she mentioned that one of the next stories would focus on Granville and Tesla… and here you go! From her section on the page “The Story behind the Story”, it sounds like this started with a premise of getting two characters in the same place for an extended time and see how that worked out (and what might the writer learn about both characters in the process). It’s an amazing moment when that happens as a writer. When a character speaks to you and lets you know exactly where they would prefer you to go and how they would prefer to act. It makes writing them all the easier because it really does feel like they write themselves (and maybe they do).

It has been and always will be important to me to write characters who, though they come from diverse backgrounds and have different points of view, are able to work together for the common good.

The Rewards:

As this is a standalone story, you can pick it up on its own ($6 for the PDF and $10 for the print), but given the nature of Kickstarter you have that opportunity to play catch-up ($22 for the digital and $35 for print). At the higher levels, you have the opportunity to get drawn into the Granville and Tesla pinup in full period garb ($145). And if you are considering running a Kickstarter of your own you could opt for one of the Consultation packages which include reviews of your Kickstarter Homepage, phone conversation (plus all the goodies from the Kickstarter) ($225 for Economy Consultation and #350 for Premium Consultation).

 

The Verdict:

Obviously, if you have been there for a while, this becomes a no-brainer, but if you are just thinking about dipping your toes into the Boston Metaphysical Universe, this might be a good place to jump in and check it out.

***

To find out more about Boston Metaphysical Society, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic: 5 Seconds Volume 2

When is a power a gift and when is it a curse?

And could it be both?

What happens when the person you save has an extraordinary ability of her own.

***

5 Seconds – Volume 2

Writer – Stephen Kok

Artist – P.R. Dedelis

Colors – Peyton Freeman

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 6:02 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

What would you do if you could see 5 seconds into the future? How will Jake use this gift when meets a girl who can hear your thoughts?

The Story:

5 Seconds Volume 2 is a YOUNG ADULT – 70 page – PERFECT BOUND – Graphic Novel which picks up directly after the first 5 Seconds finishes. Jake finds himself dealing with a new situation, a girl who can read minds. What deep dark secret is the girl hiding and can Jake (with his best friend Ellie) find out before the past catches up with them?

John’s Thoughts:

I’m in that boat, having not read the first volume, but I’m willing to take their word for it with this self-contained story.

I sometimes (all the time) wonder about how it would feel to be able to see into the future. How could you not these days when every new discovery, every new piece of handheld technology, and every advancement in knowledge makes you feel as if the old school science fiction writers had been left to guide us into the future. Going back to HG Wells, we all want to know what might lurk for us around the next corner. What happens if we choose this path over another path.

Where are we going?

Add to that the idea of peering into other people’s heads… all at once it is both enticing and utterly frightening. I think that if we knew what was going on in our friend’s heads at any time we all would seal ourselves away from the rest of the world (and it wouldn’t even be close).

Put those two things together…

The Rewards:

On the higher end, you can get the original cover artwork ($235) or get drawn into the comic ($102). If you are looking to play a bit of catch-up you have the PDFs available ($6) or print copies of both volumes ($39). One thing I really like is that you can also get pdfs of his non-5 Seconds comics (Tabby, Blue, and Word Smith) and really play catch-up on everything Stephen Kok has put out into the world thus far ($12).

The Verdict:

While I haven’t read Volume 1, I have checked out Word Smith by Stephen and really enjoyed it. If you like fun comics with a cool gimick at the core (whether that is words are magic or a glimpse into the future), you may want to check out the Kickstarter.

***

To find out more about 5 Seconds or other works by Stephen Kok, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Steampunk Fridays – Kickstart the Comic – Make/100: Pneumatic Cases #2: Sleuthing Steampunk Spouses

The modern day Holmes and Watson are man and woman (or at least one version of them is)… but why not have that dynamic against the backdrop of a Steampunk world? And instead of the will they/won’t they – let’s just have them say I Do before the story even begins!

A love story, a murder mystery, and the happy couple who is at the center of it all.

***

Pneumatic Cases #2: Sleuthing Steampunk Spouses

Published by Last Ember Press

Creator/Writer – John Wilson

Artist/Cover – Rowel Roque

Colors – Lisa Moore

Letters/Book & Logo Design – Brant Fowler

Edits – Lisa Moore & Brant Fowler

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 12:59 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Lord and Lady Ravenscroft are two brilliant scientists and inventors whose Bohemian lifestyle and inventive ways are in direct contrast to the staid and proper ways of Victorian Era London.

Served faithfully by their steam-driven metallic Majordomo, Pneuman, and armed with a variety of elaborate self-created inventions, the Ravenscrofts pursue the one vocation that brings excitement into their world… solving murders!

The Story:

Brought in to consult on a mysterious murder, the Ravenscrofts began hunting down clues that might lead them to the devious culprit. Making waves and alerting the wrong people to their efforts nearly cost them their lives.

Now, the case takes them to Austria to seek out the next piece to this chaotic puzzle of murder and mayhem they’ve found themselves wrapped up in.

Issue 2, Page 1 Art – Rowel Roque Colors – Lisa Moore

John’s Thoughts:

I think I must have missed the first issue of this comic at some point, because I recognize the title, but obviously have not read it. Lucky for me, there are options to go ahead and catch up on the series. Regardless, this takes its nod from the mystery style stories of the time with a married couple at the center of it. I dig the idea of both of them being inventors as that way they both will have a chance to show off as the story progresses.

The sample pages/ opening to the story makes this feel like it might almost be a stand alone adventure for the two of them, and makes me very curious about whether the first issue was done in the same fashion. Given that my own Gilded Age comic is told in “done in ones”, it is a format that is near and dear to my heart.

Plus, kudos for the alliteration of their title…

The Rewards:

As part of Kickstarter’s “Make 100 campaign”, it’s a interesting idea to piggyback the Acrylic Charm ($39 level) with the comic campaign itself. I’ve seen many people do the small pin designs throughout the month, but couldn’t figure out a way to tie it into a potential comic campaign. Leave it to the Last Ember Press guys and gals to figure that piece out. In addition, at the $17 level they have basically a preorder for issues #3 and #4 as well which again is not only thinking towards the future, but really making it so that this project will get to its issue 3 and 4. At the highest level ($250) you can get Drawn In to issue #3… always a cool option.

The Verdict:

If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing that you have at least a passing interest in all things Steampunk. This is definitely that… so what are you waiting for? Go to the Kickstarter page here!

***

To find out more about Last Ember Press and their other comics, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – The North Star: The Emancipation of Frederick Douglass

Reading a list of Frederick Douglass’s accomplishments is not only a place of awe but also a sort of slap in the face to the modern person. Here’s a person who had to teach himself how to read and write, in secret! Someone who was at the forefront of a movement for societal change in a way that had never been seen before.

It makes me think that if someone tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something that you are passionate about – don’t let them deter you. Look within, find the strength that is there, and put it on display for everyone to see.

Cover Layout

***

The North Star: The Emancipation of Frederick Douglass

Published by Terminus Media

Creator/Writer – Baron Bell

Editor – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist –Koi Turnbull

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, March 23, 2018 at 2:57 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The North Star graphic novel is an adaptation of Frederick Douglass’ memoir “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”.

The Story:

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. Through the course of his life, his force of will, tenacity and ferocious sense of justice not only helped him escape his enslavement but self-educate pushing him onto the national and international stage as a statesman. His life intersected with many pivotal events that helped shape our young nation’s history. He was a man of faith, a businessman, a politician and a prophet of the 19th Century. Frederick Douglass forced a country to reevaluate its moral core. This graphic novel will bring these events to life with exciting and dramatic imagery and help to reintroduce one of history’s greatest abolitionists at a time when such heroes are few and far between.

John’s Thoughts:

One of the interesting ideas with doing a book about someone so influential from history is the opportunity to use it as a teaching aid for students. One of the first exposure to anything comic related was the old Illustrated Classics. It was there that a small seed of wanting to learn was planted. A book like this has the same potential for new readers, for new exposure, and for helping to simply expose more people to Frederick Douglass.

While the team will be marketing directly to schools, libraries, and community organizations, the hope is that people buy extra copies for the next generation.

The Rewards:

You’ll get the PDF at the $15 level and the print trade at $25. At higher levels, you have the opportunity to go ahead and get extra copies of the book as well as get a high-resolution poster signed by artists Koi Turnbull. At the highest end, you can have your likeness drawn into the book along with a co-producer credit ($1000).

The Verdict:

If you are a fan of historical comics. If you are a fan of Frederick Douglass. If you are a fan of teaching the next generation… you might want to give this one a shot.

***

To find out more about Terminus Media, check them out on Facebook here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Steampunk Friday – Kickstart the Comic – Grimwood Crossing Vol. 1 & 2 – A Stylish Supernatural Western

The stranger comes to town…

The Sheriff must defend everyone against bandits…

The corrupt cattle owners do their best to hunt down the ragtag band…

Zombies…

Werewolves…

Vampires…

Just another western? I think not.

***

Grimwood Crossing Vol. 1 & 2

Writer/Letterer – Conner Bartel

Illustrator – Atagun Ilhan

Logo & Book Designer – Marc Bartel

Cover Art & Design – James Liswed

Editor – James Davenport

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 7:59 AM EST.

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The Pitch:

Read the complete story of the supernatural western comic series about a monster hunter and his young apprentice.

The Story:

Grimwood Crossing is the biggest town in the grim old west. Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies are part of the everyday struggle for the townsfolk. That’s why Grimwood’s Sheriff also has the added job title of monster hunter. It’s a dangerous job so a replacement must always be arranged. With the help of his young, scat-talking apprentice, the Sheriff must fend off a vengeful outlaw with demonic powers.

In Vol. 2 the demonic outlaw confronts the duo face to face. The entire town must come together to keep the outlaw from destroying everything. Alliances are made, differences are put aside, and the community is put to the test.

John’s Thoughts:

Weird West stories hold a special place in my heart. One of the first real scripts I ever wrote was for a 8 page western comic with a werewolf appeared in it. So when you mention all the things which go bump in the night against the desperation and opportunity of the wild west… I’m going to at least take a look and see what it is all about.

From what I can tell of the characters, I like the idea of a former bandit suddenly helping a town against the monsters. And maybe they’re not entirely sure they can even begin to trust him. But they know that someone has got to protect them…

The Rewards:

At the $30 level there is an opportunity to have the book with a signed bookplate featuring the signatures of the writer and artist. Considering they live on two different continents, this would be pretty much the only way to get such an item.

For those of us who missed the Volume 1 Kickstarter, there is an opportunity to play catch-up at $20 for the print or $8 for the digital, both which are a great bang for the buck.

The Verdict:

Color me interested. The artwork gives the right feel for such a book and having it in black and white should only help that.  Around 200 pages of comics potentially… seems like a good deal to me.

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To find out more about Grimwood Crossing, check them out here.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

 

Steampunk Fridays – Kickstart the Comic – Transylvanian Knights Issue 1

Gothic Horror, Weird West, Steampunk… in my mind they are separate and yet they fit together in very satisfying ways within my mind. Because what is Steampunk about, if not the horror of the past and the future fighting without any idea of exactly what will be left behind.

Plus, I’m a sucker for these other stories of Dracula…

***

Transylvanian Knights Issue 1

Published by Comichaus

Writer/Co-Creator – James McCulloch

Artist/Co-Creator – Jonny Cannon

Letterer – Robin Jones

Design – Gavin Boyle

Editor – Pete Genepool

Cover by Jonny Cannon and Gavin Boyle

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST.

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The Pitch:

The 40-page first issue featuring classic characters from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker in an all-new horror adventure.

The Story:

10 years after the vampire war, Transylvania is yet again under threat from Count Dracula, but as General Van Helsing hunts down the Count, two weary circus performers stumble onto a secret that could change everything.

Coming from a love of old monster movies, James McCulloch and Jonny Cannon come together to take the classic characters Count Dracula, Van Helsing, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman on a new adventure.

John’s Thoughts:

From the preview pages… it just feels like something right out of the old Marvel Monster books. I actually have a couple of them on my shelf (the black and white phone book sized ones) and what I see makes me think this could slide right alongside of those and feel right at home.

These pages begin to paint a picture of the history of this world. Of an ever-vigilant Van Helsing who cannot rest until he finds Dracula. And so while everyone sleeps, he becomes the soldier on the wall… waiting for his nemesis to return.

And now it seems he might have.

The Rewards:

40 pages of adventure horror for the low digital price of $1.39… that seems like a deal in and of itself. You can also get the print version for only $7. Moving to some of the higher values (which end at the $69 level) are original pieces of art from the comic itself (limited to 20 total backers at this level).

The Verdict:

It is a very modest goal needing only about $20 at the time of this writing. Mostly it has the feel of something that if you are into Dracula and how those characters could/would have continued onward from their last stories, then this might be the answer you are looking for.

***

To find out more about Transylvanian Knights, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Comic – The Espresso Detective Comic No. 1 Print Campaign

Sometimes you need something with a little kick.

Sometimes you need someone who will go the distance for you.

And sometimes you just need… a Dick.

***

The Espresso Detective Comic No. 1 Print Campaign

Creator/Writer/Artist/Colorist/Letterer – Eric Erdek

Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 6:29 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Slavers in your town. Your neighbors are their clients. Restaurants. Massage – stolen people. Only one man gives damn, and he’s a Dick.

The Story:

His name is Caetano Sanchez, he’s named after Saint Cajetan, co-founder of the Theatines.

Famous for not owning property or asking for alms. Caetano mirrors his namesake since he seems to own nothing and yet is always seen in the coolest cars and pads. All borrowed… mostly from fallen enemies.

That’s where his saintliness ends. Soul-wrenching loss and heartbreak have made him a man that goes through women and friendships like a Saudi goes through bullets at a wedding (it’s called happy fire. Really, look it up).

Caetano seems to stumble victorious and unscathed from case to case saving the day like a trench-coated Jar Jar Binks. No skills or strategy other than planning how to get his next gorgeous client into bed. However, tearing at the edges of his happy-go-lucky facade is a much darker source to his powers.

Sanchez is addicted to Espresso mainly for self-medicating his MDD (Major Depression Disorder). He has also refined it to an art and a culture. His Nagula (Shaman Teacher) has made it so Sanchez has what appear as superpowers when he is buzzed on Espresso.

He’s a ladies man, a P.I., a Shaman’s apprentice and a savior of the weak and lost.

Literature has a new great Latin lover… and he’s a dick.

John’s Thoughts:

The whole Noir detective story is one that is either in your wheelhouse or not. The solo (mostly) guy who has to use his wits and maybe a bit of luck to not only arrive at the answer to whatever his current mystery might be but also juggle that with living the lifestyle of a P.I.

It’s both glamorous and utterly miserable at the same time… and in that juxtaposition is where you can get a great story. Whether it is about redemption or burying the past or whatever… we come for the tropes and trappings, but we stay for the stories.

The Rewards:

$5 is all it takes to get yourself a print version of the book (26 pages). At the higher ends you can get various wall art ($75) or drawn into the book ($600), but one thing that really caught my eye was the $45 level with a very cool T-shirt.

 

The Verdict:

Normally the answer might be found at the bottom of a bottle of some darkish liquid. Something that will really knock you down and make you wonder who is in control of who. For this guy, it just happens to be Espresso that does the job…

And who are we to judge. So pick up the book and have a morning read with your coffee!

***

To find out more about The Espresso Detective, go to the website here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Steampunk Friday – Kickstart the Book – Make 100: SteamBear Books

I’m always on the lookout for gateway items to get the next generation into the stuff that I’m into. Wondering if anything might make a nephew or neice interested in something comic or fantasy or science fiction related. So a children’s book is definitely right in that wheelhouse.

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Make 100: SteamBear Books

Creator/Writer/Colorist – Andres Salazar

Chief Financial Officer – Nicole Salazar

Chairman of the Board – Santiago Salazar

Kickstarter campaign ends on Monday, January 29, 2018 at 11:51 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

SteamBear is an interactive children’s picture book and comic. It’s book two of  THE ADVENTURE BEAR SQUAD.  A Sci-Fi adventure story designed for the geek-parent and their children. It is built to stimulate creativity and learning. It is a team of bears across genres like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets the Care Bears.

The Story:

The exciting second installment of the Adventure Bear Squad book series is upon us!  Faced with the disappearance of dreams by every man, woman and child the world is thrown in turmoil and it’s up to SteamBear and his compatriots to save the world from curmudgeonry.  They travel through time and space in SteamBear’s Travel-train and find out why the dreams have gone missing and how to bring them back!

John’s Thoughts:

Bears fighting pirates.

Bears in hot air balloons.

Bears wearing top hats and hopefully monocles.

This seems like one of those fun books where you can read with the kid in your life and discover new little pieces while also learning about different points and places in history (judging from the images on the Kickstarter page). I can definitely imagine laughing at the site of a bear flying past Big Ben over in London.

The Rewards:

Given that this is a limited edition of the book, as part of the Make 100 campaigns Kickstarter is encouraging for the month of January, the overall product is limited to… 100 copies. So each category has a limited number next to it for the hard copies (this has digital versions as well). At $25 you get the Hardcover along with an original drawing inside. The intriguing one is the $99 level where you not only get the book and the original drawing, but you also will get an original 11×15 watercolor painting. I could see that as being something to hang up in the kid’s room for a long time.

The Verdict:

Let’s see – Steampunk, kid’s book, bears, and various spots in time… educational and something you and the kids will enjoy as part of your reading rituals… yeah, this seems like a nice additon to your library!

***

To learn more about SteamBear, check out DecadeBrothers here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Last Jedi – Thoughts

I don’t think I’m the right person to review certain movies.

Back in college my wife and I went to the movies about every other week… so we saw our fair share, but compared to some of my other friends, it was merely a drop in the ocean. Add to it the idea that we were only going to see the top end movies… and by that I mean we’re seeing mostly the big movies. The summer blockbusters, or the movies that… well, the ones people have actually heard of.

Obviously, this limits your exposure to some hidden gems, but it also (sometimes) helps to avoid really bad films. You know the ones I’m talking about – terrible comedies with the latest sitcom actor or some romantic movies with no discernible plotline or most of the disaster movies or most of the “Big Giant Animal attacks” movies.

If we saw a trailer that showed a movie we didn’t think we’d like… we didn’t go see it. It wasn’t a moral imperative to make sure to hit all of the movies.

This means, most of the time, I’m predisposed to like movies I got to the theater to see. It means I’m not trying to nit-pick things to death, but am really trying to enjoy the ride.

And hey, people go to the movies (or watch them at home) for any number of reasons. Maybe you just really like the experience. Maybe it’s your trade and you feel like you have to keep up with them.

The reason I even start this with all of the above is that when I like something, I’m “in”. I’m not waiting in the wings to shout “Aha! I knew you would screw this thing I love up!” No, I’m “in” for as long as I possibly can be. I love with my whole heart these bits and pieces I grew up with. And if you want me to not love it any longer, then you have to do a TON to push me away.

So I have to watch the commentary about The Last Jedi over these few days since I consumed it with a bit of a raised eyebrow. I’m never sure where any of the people who poke at their so-called loves are really coming from. Unless I specifically know you, I have to believe that perhaps you have been jaded by something else and you were waiting for this movie so that you might just say bad things about it. That maybe, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away) you might have been “In” for Star Wars. Maybe the Prequels did it. Maybe it was Disney buying the franchise. Maybe it was the wiping away of the extended universe. Maybe it was Han shooting last. Heck, maybe it was Rogue One. Maybe it was JJ Abrams. Or maybe it was just that you only want to love the original trilogy.

And that’s all ok.

 

I liked The Last Jedi. Like I said above, I’m predisposed to liking it. Heck, I may love it, only future viewings will inform that emotion.

I liked that there were certainly call-backs, but many times those call backs were slightly subverted. I liked that Luke had changed in 30 years. Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi is a million miles away from what he was at the beginning of A New Hope, so to think he’d still be in the same headspace never occurred to me. Do I agree with every little aspect of how he got there? I don’t know. I’ve only had a couple of days to digest. I’ve only talked it over with a couple of people

Rey’s parents reveal – perfect.

Snoke’s big scene – I really dug it, but then again, I haven’t been obsessed with trying to figure out who this guy really was.

Leia – Moreso than The Force Awakens I understood that she is the Rebellion and the Rebellion is her. That she is the one person who will never give an inch, never surrender, never give up, and she will always be that true north star for the Rebels. If you are ever confused about what you should do in a situation within the Star Wars Universe, figure out what Leia would do and then do that.

Finn – I like that he’s always running. He’s human and unsure of himself and scared of his past.

Poe – I like that he’s brash, but he’s not Han Solo. He makes mistakes (big ones), but he’s trying to do right… as best as he can. I like that he got more of a chance to be a real character.

Rose – I like that she gives more of an every person viewpoint of the Rebels. She sees these people as the heroes they can be.

Kylo Ren – For the people confused about whether making Rey the main hero of these movies means they are not about the Skywalker family… I don’t get it. Episodes 1-3 were about the fall of a man. Episodes 4-6 were about his redemption. And it feels like Episodes 7-9 might just be about his legacy.

All of that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that felt a little clunky or a little out of place… it just means the good outweighs any bad. These movies don’t have to be perfect (I mean, there is only one Empire Strikes Back).

A friend on Facebook wrote that The Last Jedi may not have been the movie you wanted, but it was the movie you deserved.

That may be the truth.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Penumbra: Fear the Bunny Lord!

There is a term for comic books that became a slightly bad way of referring to them: Funny Books. Meaning they were good for a few laughs, but that was about it. Yet, my friend and I like to take that derisive term and embrace it when we talk about comics. Whether it is Marvel or DC or Image or anything and everything else out there – they are our funny books. They should bring smiles to your face because you are enjoying what you’re reading because that means the people creating the book must have been having “fun” as well.

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Penumbra: Fear the Bunny Lord!

From Shades of Vengeance Comics

Writer/Letters – Jonathan Lewis

Artist – Sebastian Sala

Colorist – Slamet Mujino

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 9:34 AM EST.

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The Pitch:

Penumbra: Fear the Bunny Lord, is the story of the Mistress of Shadows meeting her greatest foe, a lagomorph with great night vision!

The Story:

On a heist to steal a piece of alien technology, rumored to increase the abilities of any Empowered who holds it, she faces off against Wild Hare. He has an aim to test his skills against the slickest of escape artist. Together with the small army of security, Wild Hare will make sure it isn’t Penumbra’s lucky day.

John’s Thoughts:

Like I said in the preamble, this looks like a comic where the creators are just cutting loose and having fun. I mean, a master thief up against a two-legged bunny? And the thing is that comics don’t always have to be these dreary things that we force ourselves through just to have said: “hey, I read that thing – yeah, it depressed the hell out of me, but I read it!”

I gotta think that after you read this issue the response is much more likely to include lots of laughter rather than tears.

The Rewards:

The other thing about this campaign is that the overall amount being asked for is only about $467, so the rewards all lean towards the various digital rewards. However, if you want to spring for something a little different, the $66 level has a “Personal short story by the writer including Penumbra and an Original character of your choice”. If you have that one character you wish you could include in other people’s worlds, here’s your chance.

The Verdict:

Master thieves and the Rabbits that chase them. Nuff said. Go get yourself a funny book.

***

To learn more about Penumbra, check out the Shades of Vengeance website here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Tales from the Loop – RPG Review

Sometime soon as the week approaches its end, Stranger Things Season 2 will premiere taking with it many people’s weekends with it. Thinking about it makes me turn my thoughts back to Tales from the Loop. I talked about how it was my favorite game I played at Gen Con here, but I didn’t get into much in the way of gameplay details.

Tales from the Loop is about kids. It’s about nostalgia. It’s about playing in a world that King and Spielberg portray.

***

Character Creation

Possibly the best part of the game is the character creation. If you are a roleplayer (as opposed to roll-player) then it is perfect for you. Because, more than most games, this one wants you to develop your characters together. It wants you to come up with an idea, but then collaborate to figure out how your kid fits with the other kids. The discussion you end up having serves to help you determine why you guys and gals are actually friends. Each piece somehow builds neatly on what has come before. The game forces you to answer questions about who you are going to be playing, and by doing that, helps to bring to life a more fleshed out character.

You have your base stats where you take your Age and that is the number of points you can put into your primary Skills. Then the Kid types are divided into archetypes: Bookworm, Computer Geek, Hick, Jock, Popular Kid, Rocker, Troublemaker, and Weirdo (though, a little searching on the web can reveal some additional ones players have developed on their own). Each type has 3 sub-Skills they are proficient in, allowing them to devote more points in that particular ability than others (3 is the maximum in your “Key” Skills, where 1 is the maximum in your other Skills).

Next is your Iconic Item. In game terms, it is something that you can potentially use to add a bonus die to a roll, but in character building terms it is that one thing when you were growing up, that possibly identified you as “You”. Maybe it was your badass bike, or you cool jacket, or you cutting edge piece of technology, or…

You get the point.

Then there is your Problem. Problems are the things that all kids have. Think of them almost as a way to grow as a character. It doesn’t have to be solved during a particular adventure, but it is a motivating part of who your Kid is. Which really your Drive. Why are you doing this?

And what is your Relationship to the other players? Was there something in your past that forced you together? Are you siblings or cousins? Parents work together? Share detention most afternoons? All of these are valid and lend themselves to who you are.

Lastly, you have your Anchor. Where the game emphasizes that you can’t really depend on the adults for much help (they are so wrapped up in their own problems), this is the one adult who actually will help, support, and comfort you.

***

Oh, one thing I didn’t mention in the Character section is your Favorite Song. We all have/had one. Your character needs to choose one. In my mind, it’s like your walk-up music (and I could see getting a playlist with a group’s favorites and using them as potential story clues).

***

The System

Overall the system is pretty easy to figure out. While I have not played the Mutant Zero system that originated this one, it plays very streamlined and well (never seeming to get in the way of the Story you are trying to create).

You have Skills and for each level, you have a Skill you get to roll 1-six-sided dice (1d6). Every “6” you roll is a success. For most things, 1 success is enough to get by a challenge. If you do fail, you can potentially reroll by gaining a Condition (Scared, Upset, Exhausted, Injured, and Broken). Once you have a Condition, you have a minus 1 dice for your rolls until you get to a safe space (with an Anchor or potentially you Hideout).

The only time this gets tweaked a little bit are the BIG challenges (a Climax of the current story being one possibility). It is then that the Kids have to beat a particular number of successes as a team. Each one (or each subgroup) needing to accomplish a series of tasks in order to prevail.

And while Kids Can’t Die… they certainly can fail.

***

Location

While the game comes with both a Swedish Loop and an American Loop, my guess is that many campaigns will end up creating something a little more in their backyard. For a GM, those old memories of where the old tree fort in the woods actually lies should only help integrate everyone that much more within the game.

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Mysteries

The last half of the book is for the Game Master. One is more of a sandbox style where it sets up a number of possibilities to explore with various Hooks for the players and NPCs to interact with. Past that are 4 scenarios  (“The Four Seasons of Mad Science”) that can be played as one-shots or as part of a larger campaign. From my various readings online, it seems the majority can be played in 3-4 hours each.

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Overall, what is great about the game is that you can make it your own. Whether that means setting it up in the town you grew up in or inserting NPCs from your childhood or even dialing back a bit on the technology presented by the Loop and focusing more of the strange and unusual within the town/suburbs – you make it your own. And as the players get involved they help expand it into something that is everyone’s.

***

John McGuire

The Gilded Age Kickstarter is still going on. Check it out on Kickstarter here.

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Kickstart the Comic – Gilded Age: Vol 1 – A Steampunk Graphic Novel

As I wrote last week, this Kickstarter has been a long time coming for me. There have been many late nights struggling over scripts or waiting for edits or all those moments receiving a new piece of artwork – it has built to this.I’m hopeful this is the next step in being able to tell stories within the comic book medium.

I love writing about these characters. I’m hopeful this is the next step in being able to tell more stories about them. And I’m looking forward to meeting the other members of The Gilded Age who have not appeared yet.

***

The Gilded Age

From Terminus Media

John McGuire – Writer

Sheldon Mitchell – Artist

António Brandão – Artist

Sean Hill – Artist

Rich Perotta – Inker

Tom Chu – Colors

Nimesh Morarji – Colors

Lavata O’Neal – Graphic Novel Cover Artist

Khari Sampson – Letterer/Copy Editor

Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, November 17, 2017 at 11:59 PM EDT.

 

The Pitch:

We are raising funds primarily to get the Graphic Novel, The Gilded Age Vol. 1, printed. 100 pages collecting the first four issues of the comic book.

The Story:

The Gilded Age is about a group of performers, the Branning Troupe. Half actors and half carnival folk, the group travels throughout the countries of Victorian Era Europe. For some it offers a direction to their lives, others get the adoration of the crowds, and the rest find simple refuge from a world which has cast them out.

Each story would be done-in-one. They would tell stories that could be enjoyed by anyone picking up a random issue. The issues would have overlapping characters, but by and large, each issue would focus on one or a pair of characters.

The key would be that I was slowly building up my world. And making the readers care about various characters by giving each the screen time they deserved. And by doing this I allowed for different types of stories within the same world. Whether that is Western or Horror or a Heist or something Fantastical, the hope has always been to build the world from the character’s eyes rather than try and hit you with one thousand years of history.

The Gilded Age – Issue #2 – Page 12 – Pencils – Sheldon Mitchell – Inks -Rich Perotta – Colors – Thomas Chu

 

John’s Thoughts:

Comics have always been this way to connect with stories. Even before I was a “book reader”, I devoured comics. As the years went by, that never changed. I’m sure many of you have that same thing where you just can’t get something out of your system. Whether it is the collaborations or the characters or the universes or the ability to tell a story with a limitless visual budget or a way to connect to a younger version of myself…

I think it is all those things and a thousand others. I think it is about someone holding something your brain thought up and thinking – “Hey, that was pretty cool.”

However, the path of the indy comic creator is full of potholes. Money runs out, print runs don’t happen, and you’re constantly torn between this odd thing of people devaluing your work (“It costs how much!?!”). This Kickstarter will help push the comic to a place where it can start funding itself… hopefully into an issue 5 and 6 and 7 and…

The Gilded Age – Issue #3 – Page 5- Art – Antonio Brandao – Colors – Nimesh Morarji

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first trade of the series which collects issues 1 through 4. There are the options to get either a pdf or the print version sent to you. At the $40 level there is a chance to get the anthologies Terminus put out in the past. At the $60 level there is an opportunity to not only get Gilded Age but also Route 3 (if you missed that Kickstarter).

If being drawn as one of the Gilded Age Carnival Folk is more your style, there is an opportunity to do just that at the $300 level.

The Verdict:

Obviously, you should give this one a try, but I might be biased about such things (*might*).

Seriously though – so many comic book Kickstarters are looking for funds to even come into being. That is a different kind of crapshoot as you can never be 100% sure the book is going to be completed. This is a FINISHED trade. All this money is going to print costs just so that I can get this out there and into people’s hands.

The Gilded Age – Issue #4 – Page 4 – Art – Sean Hill – Colors – Nimesh Morarji

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I’d like to thank you in advance for checking the project out! For more information on The Gilded Age, check out the Facebook here. If you’d like to know more about the rest of Terminus Media’s comics, check out their Facebook here.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age which is currently LIVE on Kickstarter!

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 to keep up with all things Gilded Age.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

10 Simple Ways to Spot a Fake Amazon Review

 

10 Simple Ways To Spot A Fake Amazon Review

John Hawthorne

Let me paint a hypothetical (or perhaps very real) scenario.

You want to purchase something on Amazon. You’re excited about this purchase. It’s a new [insert that thing you’ve been dying to get]. You’ve set aside some cash over the past month and are pumped to finally be able to buy.

You go on Amazon and begin researching the different options. You read reviews on each product and find one that seems perfect. It’s got thousands of positive, glowing, over the top reviews.You click “Buy” and eagerly await for your happiness to be delivered.

When your package arrives, you rip it open with the fervor of a kid on Christmas.

It looks right. It feels right.

But there’s one problem.

It’s a terrible product. It breaks quickly. Or it’s poorly constructed. Or it’s just not the same as portrayed in the pictures.

So what gives? What about all those amazing reviews? You trusted those!

Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that they were fake. Yes, in an effort to boost sales, some Amazon sellers will either purchase reviews or offer free products in exchange for an “honest” review. As you can imagine, this deeply skews the rating system on Amazon.

Fortunately for you, Amazon is beginning to take steps to crack down on and even remove fake reviews.

But until all those fake reviews are gone, you need to know how to spot a fake.

Here are 10 ways to spot a false review on Amazon.

 

#1 – There Are Numerous Reviews Within A Short Time

 

Amazon Shipping
Typically, it takes quite a while for a product to organically accumulate reviews. After all, only a small number of customers will actually review the product, which means that it should take a number of months for it to build up a significant base of reviews.

If there are flood of reviews (particularly positive ones) within a very short time, it’s a good sign that those are not legitimate reviews.

 

#2 – They All Contain Similar Photos

 

If most of the reviews contain similar photos, they’re probably fake. It’s likely that the company asked the reviewers to post a particular type of photo that will best highlight the product.

For example, if you’re looking at an essential oil diffuser and all the photos show it on an end table, that should raise a red flag.

 

#3 – You Can’t Find The Company Website

 

Fulfillment by Amazon Asia
If you can’t find a legitimate company behind the product, a warning bell should go off in your head. That may not mean it’s not a legit company, but it should at least push you to do further research.

If they don’t have a website, it probably means that they’re only selling on Amazon. For all you know, it could be a guy shipping these products out of his basement. If that’s the case, it would be surprising if his product had thousands of positive reviews.

If a product has a reputable company behind it, you can know that you have recourse if something goes wrong with the product. You don’t have this assurance if you can’t even find a company website.

 

#4 – All The Reviews Use Similar Wording

 

What are the odds of every reviewer saying something like, “This is a great product and I am definitely buying a lot more?” Pretty small, right? You would expect there to be a variety of descriptions within the reviews.

If you notice that all the reviews have a similar flavor, it may be an indicator that the company asked reviewers to use a particular type of language.

 

#5 – A High Percentage Of The Reviews Are 5 Star

 

rating ecommerce sellers reviews
If almost all the reviews are 5 star, you should at least pause. The product may legitimately be of the highest quality, but this may also indicate that they’re fakes. In any normal product, you expect to see a mix high and mid quality reviews. If you don’t find any middle of the road reviews, this should raise a red flag.

After all, with any product, no matter how good, there will be issues. This should come out at least somewhere in the reviews.

 

#6 – The Reviews Are All Vague

 

A fair number of the reviews should contain language that is specific to the product, whether that’s how it functions in particular circumstances or the durability. There should be some reviews that are highly technical in nature, left by the type of people who really enjoy getting into the specifications of a product. There should also be reviews that tell how people are using the products.

If most of the reviews contain vague, unclear language, it may be a signal that they’re not legitimate.

 

#7 – The Reviewer Uses the Same Review Language Repeatedly

 

amazon review system changed
When you click on a person’s username, you can actually see all of the reviews they’ve ever left on Amazon. If they’ve left an unusually high number of reviews containing the same or similar language, there’s a good chance that their reviews are being compensated in some way.

A genuine reviewer will leave thoughtful, detailed reviews about the different ways that they’re using the products. A fake reviewer will essentially copy and paste their language across multiple reviews.

 

#8 – The Review Is Not A “Verified Purchase”

 

If a customer purchased the product directly from Amazon, it will say “Verified Purchase” under the headline. This means that they didn’t purchase it from the store or some other site and then come review it on Amazon.

If the review isn’t verified, you should probably discount it. You have no way of knowing whether it’s true, and there’s a good chance that it’s false.

 

#9 – The Review Is 5 Stars And Really Short

 

If a review is one sentence long and 5 stars, it offers very little value and may be fake. A true 5 star review should contain some detail as to what makes that product worth buying. Whether that’s the durability of the product or the many uses it has, one sentence simply doesn’t cut it.

 

#10 – Odd Language Is Used

 

amazon review sample
If a product is being sold in the United States for $13 and a reviewer uses the phrase “13.00 USD”, it should be a red flag. A native english speaker would never use that type of language and it may indicate that the seller is buying reviews.

 

How To Spot Biased Reviews

 

defending against bogus reviews
You will encounter many reviews that aren’t exactly fake, but are highly biased. Fortunately, these can be spotted as well. Here are some simple ways to do that.

Disregard Highly Positive or Negative Reviews On Controversial Products

 

Some products, particularly books, are going to be controversial. If you see a glowing 5 star or vitriolic 1 star on a controversial product, it’s sign that it was written by a biased reviewer.

Disregard Reviews Not Related To The Product

 

Unfortunately, many reviews aren’t tied at all to the product. For example, a customer may have misunderstood what he was buying, gotten angry, and left a negative review in retaliation. Or a product may have been delivered late, which can be just as much the fault of the postal service.

Any review that’s not tied directly to the product can be disregarded.

 

Scrutinize “Vine” Reviews

 

Amazon has what they call the “Vine” program, which provides free products to top reviewers. There is nothing unethical about this, but the simple truth is that any time someone gets something for free, it will bias their review.

At a minimum, you should read some of that person’s other reviews to get a feel for their free product bias.

 

A Safe Rule Of Thumb

 

Generally speaking, you should do several things when looking at products.

  • Look at the overall balance of reviews. The best product should have a healthy mix of 5 and 4 star reviews, with some three stars thrown in. Make sure to read the worst reviews to determine why they rated so poorly.
  • Read reputable review websites like Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, and PC Mag.
  • Watch reviews on YouTube. This can give you a visual feel for what your product will look like and feel like. You can also get some honest reviews.

 

Conclusion

You’ll never be able to fully avoid fake and biased reviews, but if you do some due diligence you can spare yourself a lot of pain.

Yes, it may take some time, which can be difficult if you’re really wanting to get your product, but it’s worth it. The last thing you want to happen is to waste your money on a terrible product.

 

This article is an authorized mirror of John Hawthorne’s original Floship article.

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More Amazon Tips and Shipping:

How Amazon Floats All That Prime Free Shipping

Amazon and the Future Of Drone Delivery

How to Find an Exceptional Online Order Fulfillment Center

How to Source and Sell Products from China Online

My top 5 brands of scotch

On a rainy winter’s eve in the heart of Atlanta, someone slid a glass of scotch my way.

Single ice cube. Short glass. Bright amber color.

I sipped once.

I sipped twice.

And I fell in love.

Since that night, I’ve made it my mission to find delicious, affordable scotches wherever I go.

These are my top five brands (and bottles within each brand.)


Balvenie

In the shadow of Balvenie Castle, Dufftown, Scotland, the finest scotch-makers in the world distill casks of liquid sunshine.

With bright, bold flavors in a wide variety of prices, Balvenie is great for both entry-level scotch sippers and seasoned scotch lovers.

My first sip of scotch ever was a glass of Doublewood 17, possessed of a particularly dark & bold flavor. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to try almost every Balvenie (save the elusive 50-year, of which I’d kill to claim a bottle.) I’ve yet to find one I don’t enjoy.

Favorite cask – Balvenie 21 Portwood – equal parts dark and delicious.

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Aberlour

A friend and fellow scotch lover offhandedly mentioned his experience with a bottle of Aberlour 15 Select Cask Reserve (shown above.)

I bought the very same bottle that very night, and now I’m hooked. Aberlour’s a somewhat smoother, slightly less colorful scotch than Balvenie, but no less amazing. I prefer it when grilling red meat, noshing on a fine dessert, or closing out evenings on the back deck.

For a bargain, Aberlour 12 will serve your palate right.

To step it up a notch, try my personal favorite, Aberlour 16. Can’t beat the bourbon and sherry dual-cask flavor.

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Glenlivet

Probably the single finest bottle of scotch I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste – Glenlivet XXV (25y)  It’s pretty much like drinking sunshine. I recommend it to everyone…even people who don’t normally like scotch.

So there’s that…

Most full-bar restaurants in Atlanta (and elsewhere) carry Glenlivet 12. If I’m you, I stay clear of the 12; it’s unnecessarily sharp. However, all the other casks are worthwhile.

My favorite, other than the XXV (which will set you back a pretty penny) is the Archive 21. It’s so rich you’ll think you’re drinking a glass of sunshine-flavored syrup. Aunt Jemima wishes she were this delicious.

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Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie translates roughly into the Gaelic term ‘Vale of Tranquility.’ More like ‘Vale of Big Flavor,’ leastways to me. Few scotches are as bright, sharp, and bold as the Glenmorangie family.

Nectar D’Or, Glen’s 12-year offering, is an excellent introductory scotch. It’s reasonably priced with a crisp, bold flavor easily blowing away the standard American whiskeys of the world. Eat your heart out, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and all the rest. Glenmorangie has your number.

They say alcohol (in one form or another) has been produced in Tain (hometown of Glenmorangie’s distillery) since the early 1700’s. Makes sense to me. The stuff’s got the taste of something I’d gladly drink for 300 years.

My favorite is definitely the aforementioned Nectar D’Or. Grab a bottle tonight…and spend some time in Heaven.

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Dalmore

I’m new to the Dalmore experience, so I can’t claim a range of knowledge about every last one of their casks.

For starters, check out their interesting backstory, which explains the stag appearing on every Dalmore bottle.

At least for the bottles I’ve sampled, I’ve found Dalmore to be smokier than other brands. It’s a flavor that might deter new scotch drinkers, but one that appeals to me for its uniqueness. It’s best sipped after a glass of fresh water, and probably separate from meals – so as to best appreciate its spicy, smoky punch to the palate.

My favorite thus far – Dalmore 15. The subtle hints of orange compliment the smoky sherry flavor rather well.

Try it.

Try them all.

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If you’re thirsty and want to read more of my scotch adventures, go here.

If you’re more of a wine-lover, try this.

J Edward Neill – Artist and scotch aficionado

31 Days of Horror – Part 2

Continuing with a month of creepies and crawlies…

Part 1 is here.

Day 4 – Maggie

(currently streaming on Amazon Prime)

Directed by Henry Hobson – Staring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin

A slow burn with this one. To be honest, it really does take about 30 minutes for the movie to get going, but once it did I was more than glad that I’d stuck around for it. Maggie is more about the slow deterioration of a person than about the actual jump-style scares. It’s about the horror of your body being eaten away by some fiendish virus. About knowing that someone you love is slowly going to lose control, but that you need to/have to stick by them until the very end – no matter what that means.

Day 5 – The Thing (2011)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen – Staring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton

On a day when a different sequel to an older 1980s movie was being released, I opted to go with a different sequel… uhm prequel. This version of the Thing decided to go back and tell the story of the Norwegian Base seen in the 1982 film. It dwells a bit more on the alien nature of the creature since they are the ones who dig it up in the first place. However, because of this immediate knowledge that there is something among them, the whole aspect of “it could be any one of us” is probably not played up as well as they could have. Many times the creature seems to reveal itself when discretion might have been the better option. My guess is that they wanted to go a bit more on the monster horror movie side rather than a purely psychological one.

I still enjoyed it, and you can tell they went to painstaking efforts to try and match everything you saw in the original with what you were seeing there. Though, it had been long enough since I’d seen the 1982 film, that some of them escaped me, until…

Day 6 – The Thing (1982)

Directed by John Carpenter – Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David

A cheat, as I have seen this movie, but since I was on a Thing kick, it only made sense to watch this version. The dread of the unknown, the whole “who can I trust” is very much on display in a way you don’t always see pulled off very well. Even remembering what I could about this one, I still got to play along with the characters trying to determine who might be the Thing and who might still be human.

The ending is just about the perfect answer to the question and takes on a slightly different feel having read The Things earlier in the week.

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Not quite the 7 days worth of scares I set out to do, but I’m all for getting some of this back on track as we approach another weekend.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

An ordinary guy’s movie review of Blade Runner 2049

Disclaimer: This review contains no spoilers. It does contain minor plot elements and thematic discussions.

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I’m fresh off a viewing of Blade Runner 2049.

And I’m buzzing.

Director Denis Villenueve’s latest film tackles the not-so-easy task of reviving one of the more classic cult films of the early 80’s – the original Blade Runner. And boy, does he do it in style. For those not familiar with the bleak, mega-dystopian feel of the first film, Blade Runner 2049 recaptures it…and it does so in grand fashion.

Ever present rain drips from a never-sunny sky.

No birds. No leaves. No softness.

Just hard angles, harder hearts, and possibly the most brooding atmosphere since…well…pretty much ever.

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a remake, in case you wondered. It’s a sequel, occurring decades (in movie time and real time) after the events of the original. In it, ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) gets down to the dirty business of hunting the last of the old model ‘replicants.’ Replicants are programmed humans – faster, smarter, and stronger than regular people – but also mostly enslaved to humanity’s will.

As you can imagine, things don’t go particularly well for K. Every time his boss (Robin Wright) rings him up on his next-gen cell phone, you know s**t is about to go down.

And it does.

‘Luv’ – played to perfection by Sylvia Hoeks. When you see her, run.

Now then, if you were to waltz into the theater expecting a bang-bang action flick, you might as well tuck tail and head right back out the door. B.R. 2049 isn’t really an action film. That’s not to say action doesn’t happen or that the fights aren’t razor sharp. It’s just that Blade Runner 2049 is a thinking film-lover’s movie. At its core, it’s about atmosphere, emotion, and tension. It’s about feeling like you’re actually walking through the stark, cold wasteland of Los Angeles 2049. It’s a look at what our world might someday become.

It’s exhilarating. And terrifying.

I felt it. I think you will, too.

Ok. So let’s go ahead eliminate one concern you might have. No, you don’t have to worry about Harrison Ford. Unlike in The Force Awakens, he doesn’t just show up as wallpaper guy rehashing a thirty-year old shtick. He’s as vivid as everything else in the movie. And yeah, he can still fight.

And speaking of vivid performances, I’m allowing myself a moment to gush about one of the movie’s most intriguing characters. Joi (K’s pseudo-lover, played by the absurdly beautiful Ana de Armas) just about won my heart over in every scene she appears in. Poor Joi’s just a hologram-girl meets Stepford wife, and she nails her performance. Hers might’ve been an easy role for movie-goers to brush off as window dressing, but in my mind, she gives us a glimpse at what the future of human relationships might look like.

Bleak. Yet fascinating.

And it doesn’t hurt that Ana de Armas is simply stunning to behold.

Blade Runner 2049 is a long movie. Let’s be honest. Some of the scenes take a good while to develop, and others take their sweet time in coming to a close. This will assuredly provoke boredom in some movie-goers. At times, I admit I found myself begging for the next scene to start. And yet…the longer the film went on, the longer I wanted it to be. The quiet moments aren’t boring; they’re allowing us – the audience – to think. To ponder. To wonder what’s next.

In this respect, Denis Villenueve does very well. Just like he did in Arrival, he doesn’t leap casually from scene to scene. There’s a thoughtfulness in his pacing uncommon to most modern film directors. Some won’t appreciate it. Others might suffer bouts of impatience. But as for me…I learned to love it.

I wanted time to think.

During a movie like this, I needed it.

Plenty of spaces like this appear in the movie. Big. Sparse. Sterile. Beautiful.

Let’s talk antagonists. The bad guy is played capably (if weirdly) by Jared Leto. He’s cool, for a blind dude. The bad girl, however, is one of the best parts of the film. Her name is Luv. And no, she doesn’t luv anything except kicking ass. Evil ass-kicking women with no remorse…well…that just floats my film-lovin’ boat. I think everyone will ‘luv’ Sylvia Hoeks’ performance.

Musically, the film score (by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) sounds a ton like the score from Arrival. It pairs well with the atmosphere, though sometimes feels a little loud. I’m a Hans Zimmer nut, and I’ll admit this isn’t his best ever effort. It’s too derivative. Even so, it’s better than most.

In the end, Blade Runner 2049 creates one of the finest dystopian atmospheres you’ll ever see. It’s populated  with fascinating characters, most of whom continually surprise movie-goers. Even I, the king of know-it-alls, got hit with a few plot twists I didn’t see coming. In a world full of predictable movies, that’s a good thing.

Once again, B.R. 2049 is long. Maybe too long for some. Early on, things take a while to develop. And not everyone will buy into the ending. There’s questions left unanswered, to be certain.

But…

For the patient fan, for the fan who likes to wander into worlds far different than our own, and for those who wonder what humanity’s fate might someday be, this movie is for you.

Go see it twice. I know I will.

And someone please get me Ana de Armas’ phone number.

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Read my other movie reviews here.

J Edward Neill

31 Days of Horror – Part 1

Every year I want to make October something cool. I want to watch as many horror movies as I possibly can. I want to fill the excess time with scares and vampires and zombies and whatever monster lives under my bed.

Yet, every year, I look up and it’s basically Halloween.

But not this year. This year I’m determined to do something every day. Whether it is a movie or a short film or a short story or a game or whatever… I’m going to embrace it!

Day 1 – Honeymoon

(currently streaming on Netflix)

Directed by Leigh Janiak – Staring Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway

There are four characters in this movie and two of them only appear for about a total of 5 minutes of screen time. The entire focus of this movie is on the newly wedded couple who have gone to her cabin in the woods for the week. A week of isolation, and sex, and fishing and strange lights outside, and wandering around in the woods and…

But really, this movie owes more to something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Gaslight than anything else. It is really about how much do you know the person you’re with. And if they act “strange” is something actually wrong with them or is it you, being paranoid. As the viewer, you are there with Paul, trying to figure out if there is something legitimately wrong with Bea or if we might be dealing with a situation more different than we think.

This is one of those movies where I enjoyed it right up to the end, but the coda was probably unneeded in its present form. Definitely worth watching if just for the slow build of things being just wrong.

Day 2 – The Things

By Peter Watts

You can read this short story at Clarkesworld for free here.

If you have read John W. Campbell, Jr’s novella Who Goes There? or seen John Carpenter’s The Thing, then you might have an idea of what this short story is about. But instead of a strict retelling from another of the humans, this is from the POV of the Creature.

Watts does a great job in almost making The Thing into a sympathetic character who is as confused about our world and our ways as we are of it. There is true anguish as it tries to decipher what it can about humanity’s nature, why we would choose to become stuck in one form, and all the ways it thought it could potentially survive the encounter.

If you’ve seen the movie, Watts also has an answer about who might have been human and who might have been a Thing at the end.

Day 3 – Vicious

Written, directed and produced by Oliver Park

You can watch Vicious on Youtube here.

There isn’t anything unique about the story. A girl is alone in her house… or is she? Even if we’ve seen that movie a thousand times, when it comes to the horror side it really boils down to, is this thing scary?

Yes.

Through the use of the soundtrack, slow shots, a couple of jump scares, and an occasional camera shot that is just off-center making you watch the background more than any character in the foreground.

It has a viewing suggestion that I will echo here: watch alone, in the dark, with headphones.

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Three days down, many more scares to go.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Tales From the Loop – Thoughts About the Best Game I Played At GenCon

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

I’m not burying the lead on this one. Heck, I put it right there in the title. Tales from the Loop was the best game experience I had at Gen Con. To the point that I talked about the game session to my wife like I was telling her about some awesome movie I’d seen (ask her about my retelling of How to Train Your Dragon – the rated R version – now full of lots of swearing!). I told my sister, a nut for everything 80s, because the game does a great job at delivering on a premise.

So what is Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the 80s that never was?

Think about your favorite kid led movies from the 1980s. Do you have a list in your head?

Goonies?

Flight of the Navigator?

E.T.?

Stand by Me?

Monster Squad?

Explorers?

Cloak and Dagger?

Short Circuit?

D.A.R.Y.L.?

These are the movies just before you get to the John Hughes films in your mid-teens. These are the movies where the kids are the heroes. Where they aren’t treated as dummies just because they aren’t the adults. If anything, the adults are normally the clueless ones who have no idea that a bigger world exists around the next corner, but their kids know it all too well.

This is the feeling Tales from the Loop taps into the nostalgia of that time when you both couldn’t wait to grow up, but also began to understand that it was pretty cool to be a kid sometimes. When you created adventures with your friends, when you bike was your gateway to the larger world, and when the woods were a sanctuary from whatever bothered you.

Tales is a game that takes that premise and puts it into a world very much like our own (or any of the worlds from those movies) but uses the backdrop of artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings where fantastical machines are becoming more and more commonplace. From the Kickstarter page:

In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.

While it is a Swedish game, one of the stretch goals set up an American counterpart Loop in Boulder City, Colorado. Again, the thing is you could set this game in the town you grew up in. Those memories of growing up on the coast or in the mountains or playing in the creek or riding your bike through the subdivisions are what the game evokes within the players. It becomes easy to play because you’re tapping into a piece of you from Before you got old(er) and had adult responsibilities.

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When Egg mentioned adding Tales from the Loop to our game schedule, I had no idea what he was talking about. I just smiled and said, “Yeah, whatever. I’m just glad to be going.” Later I looked up the game’s Kickstarter and thought, “Interesting. A game where you play kids in a 1980s style setting.”

Then promptly forgot about it again until the Friday night of GenCon.

Egg was unable to attend the session as he was Cubical 7’s guest at the Ennie Awards. So Lee and I made our way to the room where the game was to take place. After a few minutes our Game Master, Bill Carter, appeared, having hustled from another game. For a while, it was just the three of us. Lucky for us that Alan Precourt and David Cochran decided to swing by and see how things were going. Bill “convinced” them to join in the game, realizing that 4 would probably be better than 2. And off we went into character creation.

Many games we played during the weekend were pregenerated. They had their own stats and histories and connections to the other pregenerated characters. So it can be a bit of a crap-shoot as you’re never 100% on how they are going to work, especially if you’ve never played the system.

However, Bill had us create characters for this game, and I’m especially glad he did.

You pick out an archetype: The Loner, The Jock, The Computer Nerd, etc. in order to have a little bit of framework for your character. But the thing is, you’re a kid, you’re not going to be great at 100 different things like some games. You have 4 main attributes: Body, Tech, Heart, and Mind. You’ll divide up your character points here among those.

Oh, how many character points do you get? How old is your character? Pick a starting age between 10 and 15. Got it? That’s how many points you have to divide.

Pretty cool, right?

Art by Simon Stålenhag

Ah, but there is a catch. There is one other main stat: Luck. Much like other games, using a Luck point lets you reroll a failed roll. So how many Luck points do you get? 15 minus your age. So the younger you are, the luckier you are, but the fewer Build points you’ll have.

The thing that any roleplayer will tell you is that your stats are only part of the story for your character. The story… who you are… what are you afraid of… what do you aspire to be? These are the keys to not only your character but will potentially inform your relationships with the other kids. And that may be the biggest piece of this game. Your kids are going to be friends and it’s really up to the players to figure out why.

In our particular game, I chose the Rocker. A bit of a clumsy, still growing into himself, an 11-year-old kid whose brother had passed away maybe a year or so prior. His parents rode him – trying to have him live up to be his brother, but in his grief, he found his brother’s old guitar and something clicked.

So, I had a background, but how to tie it into the other characters. Why are you friends?

Well… what if the Computer Nerd was helping me actually record something?

What if the Skater-Jock was just big enough to protect the Computer Nerd from the school bully?

And what if the Hick and the Rocker had found friendship in the older brother’s death?

Sounds like we’ve got some friendships going.

And just like that, we were ready to play.

I don’t want to give away the details in case Bill wants to run it again (or maybe publish it at some point). Suffice to say, our four kids immediately noticed something was wrong while at school. You might say that Strange(r) Things were afoot… and it was up to us to figure out why the world seemed to blink or why the robots were acting strange or why- seriously, I probably should stop.

Our attempt at Taunting the missing Egg Embry

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After the game, Lee and I met back up with Egg and proceeded to talk his ear off about the session, about the people we’d played with, and just the joy of the session. I’m sure he was tired of hearing about it by the time we went to bed that night. The next morning we made a b-line to the Modiphius booth where I snagged a hard copy of the game (when we swung back by later that afternoon, they were sold out).

The book comes with all the rules needed to play as well as 4 adventures to get everyone started. So far I haven’t had a chance to bust the game out and play, but I did look to see if they were running any adventures at Dragon Con a couple of weeks later (if they were, I didn’t see any). Regardless, I’m looking forward to jumping into that world!

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For more information about Tales from the Loop, check out the Modiphius Entertainment site here.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – Kickstart the Comic – The Invention of E.J. Whitaker

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Women kicking ass. That’s one of my wife’s favorite things to ask about any kind of media. Conversations normally go like this:

“Does it feature women kicking ass?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’m in.”

The following comic spotlight feels like it is going to be just that: A woman who is forced to outfox those who would try to do her wrong. However, unlike the normal Kickstart the Comic, this Kickstarter actually finished up at the end of last year (check it out here). Still, the comic is due out in a few short months (you can order your copy here), so I thought I’d give it a write-up.

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The Invention of E.J. Whitaker

The Gibbs Sisters – Writers/Creators

Mark Hernandez – Penciler/Inker

Hasani Mcintosh – Colorist

Earl Womack – Cover Artist

Starline Hodge – E.J. Whitaker Emblem Designer

***

Pitch:

When Ada Turner, a young Inventor’s apprentice, creates a flying machine in 1901, she’s introduced to the dangerous side of the Industrial Age.

The Invention of E.J. Whitaker is a combination of science, adventure, romance, and transformation that we have been starving to see visualized since our teenage years gobbling up series after series by Octavia Butler and later Tananarive Due. It was in part developed because of our appreciation and passion for telling classic stories featuring smart, aspirational, and diverse female characters.

The Story:

At the turn of the century, in America’s great Industrial Age, Tuskegee University student Ada Turner is a brilliant and charming inventor with dozens of patents to prove it but she’s got one big strike against her: She’s a woman…and…well, frankly put, she’s got more than a few strikes going on. So in an effort to have her work taken seriously, she comes up with her best invention yet: the pseudonym of E.J. Whitaker…

When “E.J’s” patent for a wondrous flying machine begins garnering national attention, Ada finds herself relentlessly pursued by William, a mysterious young businessman, and his colleague, Samuel. Ada must keep her identity and popular invention under wraps but can she, as more and more powerful people set sights on EJ Whitaker…? People with intentions to use the inventions for their own financial gain and get Ada out of the picture.

(artwork from Pinterest site for The Invention of E.J. Whitaker)

John’s Thoughts:

First off, I like the idea behind the story. Steampunkish espionage. While everyone else is chasing Tesla or Edison, E.J. Whitaker seems to be carving her own path through the world. From the Kickstarter, it describes the sisters’ background in “indie comic book and animation”, which you can definitely see from the concept art they have posted on their website.

(Concept art featured at www.ejwhitaker.com)

Speaking of the art, I love the mixture of engineering patents mixed in with their artwork. I’m not sure if they are all real or not, but it is a nice touch.

The Rewards:

This would be the part where I would tell you about the various rewards, but sadly I (we) missed the Kickstarter.

But you can still order a digital copy of issue #1 for $10 here!

The Verdict:

After some delays, it appears that the comic book is set to come out Winter, 2017. After that, they have designs on doing additional issues leading up to a full trade. Seems like an excellent time to support an indy book to me.

***

For more information on The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, check out their webpage here.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Kickstart the Comic – Frankenstein, Texas

The weather is beginning to turn a bit cooler. Soon enough the calendar will change from September to my favorite month: October. A whole month where it is ok to bask in the idea of the horror genre. A whole month dedicated to experiencing as many scares as possible.

Let’s get a jumpstart on it.

***

Frankenstein, Texas – a 48-page western horror graphic novel

From Dan Whitehead

Dan Whitehead – Writer

David Hitchcock – Artist

Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, at 10:36 AM EDT.

The Pitch:

What if Mary Shelley’s famous gothic novel was a lie? What if Victor Frankenstein paid Captain Walton to announce both he and his creation had perished and vanished in the Arctic? What if instead, the pair headed west, across Europe, to Ireland and from there to the new world? To America?

The Story:

This is a tale of action and adventure, but also a story that explores ideas of damnation and salvation, of fresh starts and bitter ends, and what it takes to atone for the deadliest of sins.

At the heart of the story is the complex relationship between Frankenstein and his creation. The man, constantly wrestling with the knowledge that he created life from death, and the monster, heartbroken by the violence that rages inside him and determined to prevent his “father” from repeating the mistakes of the past.

Page 1 – Art by David Hitchcock

John’s Thoughts:

This is a 48-page graphic novel of Frankenstein in the Old West… it’s one of those ideas that I’m both scratching my head about and also wondering – why didn’t I think of that? What better place for the Doctor and his Monster to lose themselves than in the untamed frontier of America far from their birthplaces?

The Rewards:

Fairly cheap for the digital version of the basic graphic novel ($4), but the printed copy is also very reasonable ($14). Sadly for those coming onboard at this point, the $68 Wanted Dead or Alive level is all gone, and with it your chance to make a cameo in the comic. As to some of the higher end options – the Saloon Decorator ($204) allows you access to an original page of artwork (9 spots are left at the time of this writing). Or the Town Marshall ($272) gets you an original commission of your choosing by the artist (5 spots left).

The Verdict:

The artwork on the page and the core idea tell me to back the comic book. They’ve launched at a perfect time of year for such a story, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished book.

Art by David Hitchcock

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For more information on Frankenstein, Texas, check out their Facebook Page here.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Dragon Con 2017 Recap

Dragon Con always feels a bit like coming home. Even when the numbers of attendees keep going up and up, even when more hotels are added, and even when we take over more and more of downtown, there is just something about Dragon Con that makes it feel different. Long before Georgia became Hollywood South, this was the place for those actors on the shows and movies we all loved would come by for a visit. They would gather us all around and tell their stories to all who would listen.

And for a little while, the gulf between our lives and their lives disappeared.

I hadn’t thought about it much before Friday night, but I’ve been coming to Dragon Con since 1993 when Chad Shonk’s father dropped us off at the entrance to the hotel and we made our way to see Todd McFarlane.

I still have my signed Amazing Spider-Man 300.

It was my first convention. Heck, it was pretty much my first idea that such things even existed. You mean creators of the Funny Books I love to read are coming to my town? I’m sold.

About 10 years ago I convinced my wife to come to Dragon Con for a day. Serenity either had just come out or was coming out, so virtually the entire cast was going to be there. She went, had a great time, and while it took a couple of years before she would be a regular, it has become our little vacation in the city for Labor Day Weekend.

2017

My big take aways for this year were:

  • Standing in lines is not a lot of fun.
  • Standing in lines and not getting into the panel you wanted is really no fun.
  • Being in the overflow room for a panel and then having the feed cut out is just right out.
  • Avoid the dealer’s room on Saturday if at all possible.
  • There are a lot of people in Downtown Atlanta on Labor Day weekend!
  • It never gets old to see the people coming in for the Chic-fil-a Kickoff Classic (college football game for those who don’t know) have confused looks on their faces at the various costumes running around.
  • The costumes continue to impress me year after year. I stand in awe to those people’s dedication to their craft.
  • I love listening to the actors when they are passionate about their work.
  • Catching up with friends might be the single best part.

This year took a different turn when the day before we were to go downtown, Courtney found a hotel room available within 2 blocks of the Hyatt. And we could get it for only Friday and Saturday night. Since we normally don’t go down until Friday and almost never go on Monday, this worked out perfectly.

Throughout the course of the weekend, we’re always amazed at the level of costumes and the creativity everyone has. Whether it is the Zoltar machine from the movie BIG to a robot controlled Stewie from Family Guy, people continue to push the boundaries for the next cool thing. Which is awesome to see, even if I don’t envy the amount of time it might take them to create.

Friday

Somehow on Friday morning, even after getting there at 9:30 for a 10:00 panel, we were forced to the overflow for Nathan Fillion. No biggie. He’s honestly entertaining enough that after a few minutes I mostly forgot he wasn’t in the room… until the Feed cut out for about 10 minutes, and then when they got the audio back, it was probably another 5 before we got the visual. Not anything crushing, but not the way we want to start things off. After seeing him, I realized we’re not doing our due diligence having not seen Con Men (though it was on this weekend, so I have them recorded).

After an aborted attempt to see Wallace Shawn (Inconceivable!) and a decision not to try to fight my way into the Stan Lee panel (they started lining up 2+ hours early), we decided to venture over to the dealer’s room in an attempt to see the wares before the craziness of the weekend really kicked into gear. Last year there was a line to get in by about 2:30, so we made sure we showed up closer to when it opened at 1.

Here’s the thing about the Dealer’s room that I’ll never understand: why is it people stand in the middle of the aisles and talk to each other? I don’t mean the “hey, let’s go this way” but full conversations. Given how packed the room gets, I’d think you’d want to do such things in an area where you wouldn’t be obstructing traffic.

While Friday’s trip was more about identifying potential buys on Sunday, Egg had put me on the look out for Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid Chronicles which my wife pointed out after about 2 minutes in the room. I ended up speaking with Kevin for a few minutes and grabbed a couple of copies of the comic.

The final panel attempt on Friday was one for the Gilmore Girls featuring Sean Gunn. Apparently, a room which holds 350 people is not enough by about 50 people and superfan that my wife is – was shut out.

I feel like this is the second time we’ve missed out on a Gilmore Girls/Sean Gunn panel… but maybe it’s just a false feeling of Deja vu?

We dropped in on TesseraGuild’s own Amanda Makepeace (and daughter) who was busy holding down her table in the art area. Prints were flying off her table and, spoiler alert, she ended up winning the “Best Space Scene” at the Dragon Con Art Show!

War for Jupiter

Saturday

Waking up on Saturday with an extra hour of sleep (due to not having to drive into downtown) was nice. I also realized that the 10 AM panels don’t necessarily fill up (unless you’re Nathan Fillion, I guess). There was no line, the Con could let you right into the room.

John Cusack was interesting as he’d never been to Dragon Con before, but he also wasn’t there to actively promote a project. So it really became a series of questions from the audience about all of his movies. I wasn’t sure if he just wasn’t as comfortable in such a setting or what. You could tell when he was really engaged with a question based solely on the length of his responses. Possibly because he’d answered the question a million time previously, some of his answers ended up being slightly longer Yes/No responses.

Though, I don’t want it to seem like it was a bad panel, far from it. Just that many times on these type question/answer sessions the worry is always “how many questions can we get them to answer?” and this was a bit more like “I’m going to get through all the questions.”

The highlight question was:

“Do you ever get stopped in real life by someone who wants 2 dollars?”

A laugh. “Every day… every day.”

The Flash panel reminded me that it is beyond cool that John Wesley Shipp is a part of the cast. To have that link to the old show and to see how much he respects these actors and the work they put in… it’s amazing. Danielle Panabaker was definitely the star of the panel as the majority of the questions went to her (many with the questions centered around her Killer Frost alter-ego).

The highlight of the evening was supposed to be The Barrowman Show. As soon as we saw such a thing existed we were set ongoing. Apparently, everyone else at Dragon Con had the same idea and it filled up completely. I can only imagine the craziness that went on behind closed doors.

Sunday

On Sunday, we began with another DC Universe panel: Arrow.

One thing about the highly entertaining Arrow panel or as it came to be called: Game of Arrow. Thea (Willa Holland) was/is clearly obsessed with the show. She had theories, she had thoughts about the end of the season. It was hilarious how she’d get going on a rant before the moderator tried to steer things back to Arrow. And then one of the others would push her to keep talking about it.

She says she wants to guest on a podcast to talk about it. I think you could do far worse than her. Plus she clearly knows her stuff. At the very least she’d bring a passion about the show!

Then it was onto a fan run panel about LEGION. If you haven’t seen the show, you can check out my review here. Lots of theories and thoughts were thrown out. I even supplied my own thoughts about the show – how maybe the reason we’re not sure of when exactly takes place is that just like any memories you have – we’re always wrong about when they take place. I mean, how many times have you thought a movie was only 5 years old when it came out over a decade ago?

In what has become a staple at Dragon Con over the last few years, I end up closing out things in the Venture Bros panel. Regardless of whether the show has a season ongoing or about to come out or nowhere near debuting… things are going to be funny and weird. This year the panel was made up of many of the voices from the show (including Dr. Venture and Wide Whale). Sadly, Doc Hammer and Jackson Public weren’t able to be there – apparently hard at work on the next season!

So I suppose I forgive them.

They showed off a book of artwork, sketches, character designs, etc. coming out in late Fall from Dark Horse which looked very cool (and something I need to add to the old wishlist). The trailer is here.

We capped off the evening with dinner with a couple of friends where we occupied that poor server’s table for far too long, but it had been far too long since we’d seen John and Jeane, so we didn’t have much of a choice!

I also attended a writing workshop session (as well as another writing related panel – at this point I couldn’t tell you what days they were actually held!) run by Michael Stackpole: 21 Days to a Novel. I still need to transcribe my notes, but I’m interested in giving the technique a proper try on my next project.

As we made our drive back, a little of the con depression began to creep in, but considering my month of Gen Con and then this convention that might have been exhaustion more than anything else.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

IT movie review

(Disclaimer: no major spoilers appear in this article. Minor thematic and a few vague plot details are discussed.)

*

I knew what I was getting myself into when I settled into my seat on a chilly Friday evening.

Twenty-seven years ago, on an eve not so different, I watched the original IT. Starring Tim Curry, it promised vast horror, and yet it only partly delivered. Tim Curry’s performance was of course flawless, but the disjointed flashbacks and clunky pacing didn’t deliver in the ways they could’ve.

After all, we’re talking about IT here.

Evil shape-changing Cthulu-esque clown invades small American city to devour children and consume oceans of human fear?

This kind of plot needs a better movie.

And perhaps IT 2017 is it.

As any good movie-goer knows, the key to setting a horror movie’s tone is to make us care about the characters. Anything less, and the most one can hope for is B-grade cheap scares and campy, gory death scenes. Fortunately, character-wise, IT 2017 delivers in a way most horror films just don’t. From the opening scene onward, we care about young (and stuttering) Bill (played by Jaeden Lieberher.) He’s vulnerable, yet strong in ways we can’t yet see. And so it goes for nearly all of the young, mostly unknown cast of ‘kids.’ Bev (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) stand out in the gang of seven Losers. We meet the young gang in their early teens, and they behave exactly like teenagers. They’re funny, sarcastic, and not yet sure of themselves.

Just like we all were.

And not only are the kids believable, they’re nuanced. No cookie-cutter fears here, folks. Each young’un deals with terror in a different way…and each one has a separate reason for fearing death at the hands of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. Best of luck to the adults who have to follow this young cast up in IT – Chapter Two (rumored to hit theaters in 2019.) These kids will be a tough act to follow.

Speaking of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) he’s as creepy as we can hope for. I won’t compare him to Tim Curry (not really a fair fight) but Skarsgard delivers a solid performance. Modern special effects help Pennywise go over-the-top in ways 1990’s IT couldn’t. He’s not the most subtle villain, but likely one of the most powerful…and diabolical ever to hit the big screen.

Side-note: being a movie-geek and a lover of HP Lovecraft, I recommend this wiki explaining the Cthulu-esque origins of Pennywise. (Hint – IT isn’t just a clown.) Beware of spoilers.

Who wants to float?

Now…let’s be honest. The adults in IT are afterthoughts. Bev’s father (Stephen Bogaert) is appropriately creepy, while young hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) has a mom (Mollie Atkinson) who’s pretty much the most overbearing helicopter parent ever. And then there’s bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) whose dad (Stuart Hughes) shows up just long enough to make us hate him. But that’s it in terms of adult, non-Pennywise roles.

And that’s just fine.

This movie isn’t about the adults, but instead the impacts they’ve had on their children.

Now then…

It’s safe to say that an hour in, I cared plenty about all seven kids, but wanted more monster. IT runs pretty long (more than two hours) and I’ll admit at times I craved a slightly faster pace. But that’s just the thing. To really build anticipation, and to avoid some pretty common horror tropes, IT needed space to breathe. Meaning, if you’re looking for an in-and-out gorefest or a quick slasher horror flick, this isn’t your film. The expectation here is that movie-goers will be patient. After all, this film is just part one of two. It’s basically the Lord of the Rings of horror flicks.

IT is what Dark Tower was supposed to be, but failed to live up to.

Other notes:

The special effects? They’re good, but not obnoxious.

The music? Subtle, but not intrusive.

Jump scares? Only a handful, thanks to director Andy Muschietti. If you’re looking to be completely terrified, this isn’t necessarily the movie for you.

Adherence to Stephen King’s novel? Well….not exactly. I didn’t mind the deviations. Although, to really appreciate the bottomless depth of IT’s evil, one really needs to read the book (or at least hope the second movie dives headlong into the monster’s true nature.)

Ultimately, IT is a solid film. It’s not just a horror flick, but a character piece and reflective of several of humanity’s real-life fears. It’s sometimes slow, sometimes perfectly-paced, but mostly very good.

For me (and for most of you, I’m betting) the measures of a good film are:

A. Would I see IT again? The answer is yes…pun intended.

B. Am I itching to see the sequel? Yes. IT can’t come out fast enough. Pun intended again.

In other words, go see IT.

*

For my other movie reviews, go here.

To get into something just as scary (but not nearly as long) go here.

J Edward Neill

Gen Con 2017 Recap – Part Two

You can read Part One Here.

Day 1 Continued

The thing no one realizes is that navigating the Dealer’s Room requires a commitment of time. As it turned out, we had about an hour and a half before the room closed on the day. The goal became see as much as possible while also visiting with some contacts and old friends.

While not the largest Dealers’ Room I’ve been in (New York Comic Con takes that prize), Gen Con doesn’t short change you on the options. Who knew there were so many board, roleplaying, and card games being developed and played?

We immediately ran into David Rodriguez, of Skylanders, Destiny, IDW’s First Strike comic series, and about a billion other things that I’m forgetting right now. I met David many years ago (through Egg) when we roomed together at Chicago Comic Con. It’s always nice to see the successes he’s had over the years, and it led to one of my favorite conversations ever:

Egg – So what are you working on these days?

David – Destiny.

Egg – … um, what’s Destiny?

Yes, Egg doesn’t know what Destiny is. I thought we were going to have to pull David off of him. Luckily, calmer minds prevailed.

After our examining of 5% of the Dealer’s Room, it was on to the game library inside of Lucas Oil Stadium. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be in Indianapolis for a football game, so it was cool to be on the field in an empty stadium.

The Game Library was pretty extensive. So extensive that after our failed attempt to play Arkham House (I’d suggest if you are going to play really complicated games that you get someone who has played the game previously to be around to assist). As it was we spent over an hour setting the game up, played a bit, realized we were playing wrong, still couldn’t figure out how the good guys might end up winning, and put the game away.

At this point, we were saved from our own indecision by Ben. Ben was just looking to game and luckily had bought a copy of Hero Realms earlier that day. It was a fun game (I ended up winning our 4 player game). Pretty easy to teach the rules, and seemed like it had a fair amount of replay value. After the game, though, it was nearly 2 in the morning and time to get back to the hotel and catch some sleep.

Day 2

Friday was a tale of 2 different games: Call of Cthulhu and Tales from the Loop.

Call of Cthulhu is one of those games I often read about. People love Lovecraft and to hear it spoken about in such high regard made it one of those games we had to check out. It also helped that Danny O’Neil was our GM for the session (this was just Egg, Lee, and myself). Egg had contributed to the Dread House Kickstarter, so we were interested to see how it played. Luckily the scenario wasn’t the one he wrote for.

It felt like CoC was very much a Roleplaying game vs. a Roll-playing game. Yes, there are dice rolls, but much of the beginning session was spent gathering clues, talking to NPCs, and interacting in character with each other. When the weirdness began and Sanity checks were called for, it was almost more fun when you failed a check. What did that mean for your character? How would you react to the next bit of oddness? And would you have anything left when it was finished (my character’s answer was a NO, as he failed nearly all of his checks)?

I had a great time. Danny was an excellent GM. It would definitely end up as one I’d like to play again next year.

Tales from the Loop was the second game we played. It was just Lee and I as Egg was the Ebay high bid to be the guest of Cubicle 7 at the Ennies. And from what I understand, he had a great time. But I still feel a little bad for him, because after playing Tales from the Loop we proceeded to talk about it for the rest of the weekend.

There is a reason it won Game of the Year.

I want to write more about it, so I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about the session (in a forthcoming post). What I will say is that all those 80’s kids movies where all sorts of crazy nonsense seem to happen when the parents are away: Goonies, Explorers, Monster Squad, etc., well, that’s what this game is. It takes the best of that genre and lets you play as a kid.

Do yourself a favor and check out the game.

Day 3

Lesson Learned from Gen Con: don’t schedule things at 8 in the morning. That is waaaaay too early. You will skip it.

So it was that Mouse Guard was our first session. I really like the comics, so I was interested to see how the system worked. The basic setup was our group of Mouse Guard needed to find a snake’s nest and deal with the eggs we found there. Using pre-gens, each character had a few roleplaying style traits that they could appeal to during the course of play. Say that you often put other’s needs above your own – you might get a bonus dice to help with that particular skill check. In addition, if someone wanted to assist another character with a check, they could as long as they were willing to accept a condition (tired, injured, etc.) if the roll backfired.

The bigger question I had about the system was more that one of your Skills was your Mouse Nature. You could use this skill when nothing else seemed to fit (or pretty much whenever it might make sense – which could be nearly every time you checked something). As my character’s Nature was probably his best stat, I wasn’t so sure why I would ever use anything else. Perhaps it works itself out in longer campaigns?

The final Boss battle was very different. Basically, you could choose one of 4 different tactics (Defense, Feint, Attack, and Maneuver) as did the GM and then one by one you would almost play a game of Paper Rock Scissors where however the cards came up different things happened. In the end, the Guard was trying to reduce the enemy to 0 before they were reduced to 0 (this was a team determined score). A very interesting idea, but for some of the characters, there wasn’t much to decide. If you were primarily a defensive character, you should probably go with your strengths, but this would leave your combat turns more or less the same. Again, in a longer campaign, I could see a metagame forming as the DM tries to anticipate your moves based off previous battles.

The evening saw us play 7th Sea. Egg and I had supported the 2nd edition Kickstarter and now have more pdfs than I could read in a hundred lifetimes (seriously, it is the gift that keeps on giving). In regards to the session itself…

The successes (known as Raises) work well enough, but my problem is things don’t always feel balanced. The number of Raises you get basically helps to determine the number of things you can accomplish in a round (# of actions you get). Multiple times I saw people get 5 and 6 Raises to my 2 or 3, which meant that they were getting to just do more things. Over a short combat this is less of an issue, but as the rounds increase, the difference of 2 additional “things” means one of the players just isn’t able to do as much.

So while the over the top play was fun, the actual rules didn’t sit well with me.

Day 4

Did I mention not to schedule things at 8 AM?

In the morning.

When you should be sleeping?

Because we didn’t make that session either.

Since this was get-away day, we tried to do the remainder of the Dealer’s Room (you know, that last 95%). I’m proud to say that I think I saw nearly everything, even if it was a drive-by. One of the stand-outs was Shadows of Esteren, a series of RPG books that I nearly bought just to look at the beautiful artwork. It’s definitely one I’m going to keep my eye on for possibly adding to my pdf collection.

As to purchases, I did get a copy of Tales from the Loop (I told you I really liked the game) and a card game called Brass Empire (go figure a Steampunk game MIGHT appeal to me). Still, haven’t busted either of them out to play, but I’m looking forward to doing so.

Wrap Up

Would I go back? Absolutely.There are so many things that I would have liked to do. I’d never roleplayed at a convention before, so this was an eye-opening experience to that. There were tons of games and systems I would have liked to

There are so many things that I would have liked to do. I’d never roleplayed at a convention before, so this was an eye-opening experience to that. There were tons of games and systems I would have liked to play, so those would go to the top of the list.

So did the Convention live up to what I had in my head? Yes and then some.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Gen Con 2017 Recap – Part One

You can read Part Two Here.

Before

For as long as I can remember, for as soon as we learned of its existence, there was talk among my gaming crew about going to Gen Con.

“More games than you can imagine.”

“Artists all over the place.”

“Play games until you can’t see anymore. Then wake up and do it again.”

Yet, it might as well have been El Dorado or some other bit of myth. When you are in Georgia, Wisconsin or Indiana or wherever the convention was being held (“somewhere in the Midwest, right?”), that might as well be on the other side of the globe. Add to the fact that none of us had any money at this point.

A pipe dream. And like most pipe dreams it lingered for a while. Random mentions of it throughout our college years, but no one was ever serious. Heck, we had Dragon Con for all of that “stuff” right in our back yard.

Then as our college days faded and with it all the extra time we seem to have in our youth… well, now we had money, but no time to go do it. And even though we still got together from time to time, many of us had moved away, got married, etc.

You know, the adult stuff.

But it was an itch for one of my friends, Lee. He had always been the one to bring it up. Sometimes out of the blue, always trying to gauge potential interest. Even as people wearied of Dragon Con embracing other “stuff”, he continued to look north.

Last year he was convinced. Sort of a now or never some 25+ years since originally bringing it up. Egg Embry joined him and off to Indiana they went.

I must admit I was jealous. I had the opportunity, but after the trip to Alaska at the beginning of summer, a trip to Indiana didn’t seem the best decision.

When they got back the talk had changed. It was no longer something they wanted to do again… at some point in the future, but they were already planning for 2017. And there was no reason for me not to crash their party this time.

Who would have thought the nerds and geeks would need to take over the football stadium. Awesome!

Day 0

As a comic writer, I’ve done a few conventions over the years, but aside from Dragon Con and New York Comic Con, nothing else compares to the size of Gen Con. They took over Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Colts play) this year because the Convention Center didn’t have enough room. 4-day badges sold out. 60,000+ people.

And every one of them either want to play games, buy games, sell games, or maybe just soak it all up.

We arrived on Wednesday night, managed to get checked into our hotel room, and then headed out to see what trouble we could get into, maybe grab a bite to eat, get the lay of the land.

Indianapolis is flat.

And after a few hours of walking around, I was extremely happy with this situation.

We’d already planned out our gaming sessions back in May/June. The goal was to play about 7 different gaming systems. You see, we’ve been pretty much Dungeons and Dragons players most of our gaming lives. We’ve dabbled in the White Wolf Vampire/Werewolf games. There were at least one West End Games Star Wars campaigns. Even a bunch of one-offs with Palladium’s Rifts and Macros sessions. But this was an opportunity to play different things, branch out a little bit, maybe even figure out that the might be *gasp* a better system than D&D.

Day 1

Vampire 5th edition was held at 10 AM on Thursday, which also coincides with the actual “start” of the convention (basically when the dealer room actually opens). What this really means is a mass of people – and by mass of people I mean thousands of people – are lined up in the convention center waiting to be let in. It was so packed in that area there was enough room for two people to walk past each other if you sucked in your gut and possibly leaned into the other people pressed against the wall.

So it would reason our game was at the far end of this area. If only we had Fezik to clear a path… drowning in the sea of people we somehow pushed, slipped, sidestepped, and probably pissed off a handful of people who thought we were trying to cut in line, we made it to the room and a short time after we started the game.

This was actually a playtest. Whether you’d played Vampire back in the day or not, they were making tweaks to the rules (a good thing for me because all I remembered of the system was that I rolled a lot of 10-sided dice). For the adventure, we were provided pre-generated characters. They had their various stats right there as well as a brief background and desires. Well, I say brief, but it was two pages worth of information before you even reached the stats.

The story was one of a drug deal gone sideways. Personally one of the best moments of the session was when the Game Master said to us “yeah, you’re pretty much off script at this point”. In my head, it was like we had figured out a loophole in the story – and since this was a playtest, it kind of meant we actually were contributing to making the adventure better down the road.

As to the system itself – I enjoyed that when you’re playing a vampire the Hunger is always present. Mechanically they simulated that by having one of your die a different color (red anyone?) and if you rolled a 10 on the special die then things could get… messy.

I did see something in this game that would come up again and again in other games we ended up playing over the weekend. Playing non-combat focused characters works really well in a campaign as there will be plenty of places to really roleplay your abilities, but in a four-hour session where you’ll never play that particular character again… well, it makes things a bit more awkward once combat actually breaks out. It’s not so much that I mind other players being able to do cool things in battle, but more that I wasn’t sure how I might contribute with sub par physical stats.

Lil’ Egg Embry Reporting…

After the game, we rushed out to meet Dan Davenport and his wife, Lisa, for lunch (both extremely nice people who made the wait for our food all the more bearable) (check out Dan’s Blog here). Egg had connected with him online, so this became a great opportunity to put a face to each other. Of course, I’m not sure they knew what they signed up for as Egg peppered the two of them for a complete history of their gaming days. I kept waiting for him to say”Egg Embry, press corps, follow up question on my previous question about the

“Egg Embry, press corps, follow up question on my previous question about the aforementioned item…”

When lunch was finished, we made our way back to the convention center and dove into the Dealer’s room…

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Hope you enjoyed Part 1, Part 2 will be up next week.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe #1 KS Exclusive Edition

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Is Edgar Allan Poe Steampunk?

We mostly know him from his horror side of things. Whether it is burying people alive or being driven mad by the guilty thoughts of our minds, Poe had a stranglehold on that part of his reader’s minds. But Steampunk? I honestly didn’t know. So I consulted the all-powerful internet for the answer and came across this article from Tor.com: Was Poe Steampunk?

That’s good enough for me!

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Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe #1 KS Exclusive Edition

Dwight MacPherson – Writer

Luis Czerniawski – Artist

Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 8:51 AM EDT.

 

The Pitch:

I’ve often described this story as “Alice in Wonderland meets The Lord of the Rings.” And for those who are fans of classic literature like myself, I would describe it as “Homer’s Odysseymeets Dante’s Divine Comedy.” 

The Story:

Edgar Allan Poe has lost everyone he ever loved and now he is losing his mind. Haunted by his wife’s ghost and his many literary failures, the poet tumbles into a fantastical world created by his genius…and his madness. This world called Terra Somnium is a nightmare region that merges his macabre literary creations and mythological gods and monsters of old, all hell-bent on stopping him from escaping the land of dreams.

John’s Thoughts:

As a writer, there are many times when you might want the things you write about to actually come true. It would be great to become the hero of some epic fantasy who slays the dragon and takes the throne. Then again, it is less fun thinking about it when you are writing about very horrific ideas.

And then watch them not only come true but pretty much try to kill you? That is right up there with Writer’s Block!

The Rewards:

The interesting thing about this Kickstarter is that there are only 3 Rewards: Digital copies ($5), KS exclusive printed edition with a pair of prints ($15), and the print book with a t-shirt ($25). So many times the talk is about appealing to as many people as possible with the rewards, but here MacPherson boils it down to the core… and as of this writing (with roughly 7 days to go) he’s more than tripled his asking goal ($3000+ vs $1000).

Perhaps the lesson is less is more?

The Verdict:

You get on the ground floor of issue 1 of the comics. The art is a nice mixture of cartoony and horrific… a perfect fit for this time of story.

If you are a lover of Poe then this seems like a complete no brainer.

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For more information on Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe #1 KS Exclusive Edition and Hocus Pocus Comics, check out their Facebook Page here.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. 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 to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Kickstart the Comic – The Owl Tribe

I love it when creators find a spot of history that very few people have decided to set up in and really make it their own. Here’s a book that not only does that but uses one of those pieces of North American history that doesn’t always get looked at in general, which creates a potential goldmine of ideas for the right person.

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The Owl Tribe

Lukasz Wnuczek – Story, Dialogues, and Art

Luke Cartwright – Dialogues and Edits

Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 1:39 AM EDT.

 

The Pitch:

Precolumbian America… The worlds of Vikings and natives collide in this full-color graphic novel.

The Story:

The Owl Tribe contains a single complete story which revolves around a hunt for a beast straight out of the native (and Norse!) legends. It is set in the time of Viking exploration of pre-Columbian America and features fantastic characters borrowed from the lore of native tribes while also drawing from Norse tales.

John’s Thoughts:

Years ago there was a movie called Pathfinder which dealt with Vikings coming to the New World. It’s one of those ideas that just clicks for me. So when I read the initial pitch for The Owl Tribe and it mentioned Vikings and the New World… well, that’s something I’ve got to see.

The level of detail in some of the drawings, the weapons or equipment… not only am I pretty sure those took some effort to do, but they really sell me on the realism side of things. These are people who are clearly passionate about this story and want to make it as authentic as possible.

The Rewards:

There are both the print and digital options to start. Then some art prints (which you should go to the Kickstarter Page to check out those if you do nothing else). However, for those who would rather make an appearance within the comic book, there is both a Single Appearance opportunity ($137 Level) and a chance to become a Secondary Character in one of the scenes ($242 Level).

But the one that is unique is the Art Commission where it appears you can have a One-Page story drawn up in this style. That’s a very cool opportunity that I’ve not seen in other Kickstarters ($320 level).

The Owl Tribe – Page 16

 

The Verdict:

One of the biggest things going for this project (aside from the material, obviously) is that this has already been completed. Especially with something of this scale: 100 page graphic novel with 56 of that being the story, that’s a good thing (nobody likes to wait for months and months if they don’t have to).

More than that, this book just looks like one you know you’ll get drawn into… or, at least, I know I will.

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For more information on The Owl Tribe, check out their Facebook Page here.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – Space: 1889

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

I remember seeing ads for a different kind of roleplaying game in some of my issues of Dragon Magazine.  It claimed it was “Science Fiction Roleplaying in a more Civilized Time”. This was years before I would even hear the term Steampunk, and my gaming friends were content to keep any Science Fiction related roleplaying in the Star Wars universe. Another game, with a new system to learn, would have been asking a lot.

So I never delved into Space: 1889 to see if it was something I might have liked.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, Egg Embry sends me the link to a few odds and ends which might work well with this “Steampunk Fridays” blog series I want to do. Among them is a link to the Space: 1889 FREE Quickstart Rules. So what the heck… I dove in and started reading.

So what is it?

Take the best parts of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a mix of the crazy-fun science fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells, and top it off with some of the pulp stories from the 30’s and 40’s about adventures on other planets (before pesky real science ruined it for everyone). The Imperial nations of Europe decided to look to the stars to appease their appetites for materials for Queen and Country (or Kaiser and Country as the case may be).

The Quickstart Rules provide the brief overview of the history of the settings. Then they give a breakdown of the various stats before unveiling an adventure to start things off.

The Rules

The first thing that really jumped out at me was the use of Dice Pools. Now, I’ve played the Vampire/Werewolf (White Wolf) games in the past where you roll a number of dice and each one higher than the number to beat is a “success”. The more successes the better chance you have to accomplish some task.

However, Space: 1889 takes it in a different direction. It isn’t a value you are trying to beat, but instead, you can use any dice as long as they have an even number of sides. When you roll, you are looking for how many EVEN numbers you rolled in order to determine your level of success.

It is an interesting idea, effectively making it so every dice is a straight up 50/50 chance of being a success (and makes it very easy to know your successes in any situation).

For those familiar with Dungeons and Dragons attributes, you’ll find a similar breakdown of Intelligence/Dexterity/Strength/Charisma/Body (Constitution)/Willpower (Wisdom).

The other piece that I really liked was Style Points:

“Style points are used to help a character boost their abilities and skills when their current ability is just no sufficient.”

Which is another way of saying you can use these Style points (which you gain by roleplaying) in order to possibly upping your chance of successes by 1 dice per Style point or reduce damage against your character. I’ve seen this in other games, but the differing costs for their use feel like an interesting idea. Maybe you save them to more for protection against being hurt if you are down to your last few levels of health. Or do you burn through them quickly in order to end a fight (or another challenge) that much quicker?

And while this is only an overview of the rules, it also includes a handful of pregenerated character sheets at the back of the PDF (Tracker, Inventor, Officer, Discoverer, and Xeno-Archaeologist). There you get an idea of other potential abilities your characters may have as well as Combat Maneuvers you can perform (ranging from “Aim” which increases your Attack at the expense of being able to move to “Total Defense” which increases your Defense at the expense of not being able to attack).

Possible storylines

Like I mentioned above, the guide comes with a brief adventure to help get your group immediately immersed into the setting. From the Quickstart:

“The player characters are recruited on Mars by renowned archaeologist Professor Charles Dyer. He organizes an expedition to explore the abandoned monastery of Tasharvan that stands between Dioscuria and Cydonia.”

From there you have aspects of an Indian Jones type story where you are not just there for treasure, but to really survey the ruins.

For ongoing campaigns, you have a number of exotic settings: the deserts of Mars, the jungles (and lizardmen) of Venus, the middle section of Mercury, caught between eternal night and eternal darkness, Luna, and even the Asteroid Belt, a place filled with the potential for ruins and smugglers and pirates.

There are battles to be fought with Martians, areas that have yet to have mankind explore, and seedy places best left off maps for fear of what you might find.

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For more information about Space: 1889 and the other supplements available, check out Clockwork Publishing.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.