Category Archives: blog

the point of view that creates the world

I imagine my creative process as a cycle of filling up a reservoir with inspirations and ideas, and then emptying it out into various creations. Sometimes that reservoir is drained in one explosive surge, but mostly it’s emptied out a little bit at a time, into different projects.

Recently, I’ve been using my creative reserves to power the writing on the Tabletop RPG show, and whatever is left is going into Radio Free Burrito.  My stupid random thoughts and links, once the exclusive property of my blog, are filling up Twitter and Tumblr, and I haven’t had much to say here, anyway.

BUT.

I have a new Tabletop for you:

Most of the things I’ve been consuming are helping me power up and work on the Tabletop RPG show (all day today I have conference calls with our writers and designers!) and I would like to share some of the ways I’ve been refilling my creative reservoir, starting with books:

And Podcasts:

Also, movies:

Some TV:

And Anime:

So my reservoir is slowly being refilled, at a rate that is just slightly faster than it is being emptied … and neat stuff is happening.

that time I got to see the Arecibo telescope

JCCC5069

I suck at mornings, especially when I’m on a (working) vacation.

But getting up at oh-my-god-it’s-still-dark-out-why-am-I-awake o’clock to go see the Arecibo telescope with my own eyes (and two busloads of nerds) was totally worth it.

The thing about this is that it’s so huge, it sort of distorts the scale of itself and creates the illusion of not being a thousand feet across. But it’s a thousand feet across.

While we were there, I got to watch the detector move, which made me way more excited than I thought it would. Unfortunately, we didn’t discover any aliens or distant galaxies while we were there.

But look at that picture, and just think about this incredible thing that humans built in 1962, existing, harmoniously, next to all that natural beauty. In fact, it doesn’t just sit there beside the natural beauty, it is able to exist precisely because of the conditions created by that natural beauty. I think that’s really neat.

Sometimes we humans don’t suck.

How not to solicit business in 2015 or ever

This email was waiting for me when I got back from the JoCo Cruise:

worst-solicitation-ever

Maybe it’s the fact that the boat is still moving, or the fact that I have real coffee in my veins for the first time in almost two weeks, or maybe it’s just because I’m easily amused, but here is my response:

wil-wheaton-terrible-solicitation-response

Happy Monday, everyone! May all your emails today be amusing.

Guest Post by Ryan Wheaton: Dear Samantha

Ryan Wheaton is a writer. He wrote the following bit of flash fiction, for example. He likes Twitter and sirwheaton.com.

Samantha, you were in the garden again today. I watched you from the window. It rains most days, today wasn’t an exception, but it was only a light drizzle and you had that ridiculous sun hat on. Who knew sun hats could do more than offer shade.

I try not to dwell on it. I try not to think about it anymore. But you still smile at me, smears of dirt on your cheeks. And that smile, it only reminds me how much I miss you. How desperately I wish you were here—or even gone entirely. That smile isn’t yours. This one, though. The picture on the sill. If only I had let you stay there, as you were. Frozen in that moment, content in your garden, happy as daisies.

I’d only been on the Ethics Board for a year. At the time, the world’s leading surgeons and scientists gathered to attempt an impossible feat. Technology had far surpassed practiced implications. Abhorrent, vulgar violence trampled our court systems behind the guise of mental disease. Once potent minds toppled like redwoods. They’d lie to rot while doctors poured water and sunlight through IVs hoping to bring them upright again. Glorified gardeners shameless pruning over-ripened vegetables.

The Board partnered with a dozen private developers in search of a fix. Within the sterilized bunkers of bioengineering corporations, pharmaceutical firms, immunological task force factories, dwelt answers. We plucked the worst cases from their beds and brought them in. Poking, prodding, drilling; we treated them like what they were: animals that didn’t have the faculties to resist or even squeal.

We’d lived together so happily in some nowhere town where street lights turned on one by one as the sun set. Kids hid and hollered, skinned their knees, fell from trees, and smiled. You taught elementary school, just 12 kids at a time. Almost all of them lived on our street. Our life was picket-fenced. So secure, so perfect. But, when the Board took me up, without a sideways glance, you left it all.

I was never much for remembering the days. It must’ve been a couple years after the move. I’d been coming home later and later, and one night the house was dark, your car was gone.

You’d been in an accident. The hospital took you through surgery, hours and hours of cutting and clamping and sewing. You were so broken. Pale as the starched sheets. Quiet. So, so quiet and still.

I spent hours, days tearing through files, cases, notes, documents. Each moment struck like a hammer, minutes driven into my memory likes nails. There’d been someone. A vendor? Scientist? Some greasy-haired executive. It was months ago, a passing meet up at a conference or a hotel bar. I’d been alone when he gave me his card. I remember his hand was so cold, stiff like leather. He rambled about some biosensor, transducer, or isolated analyte. His number, his card, it was somewhere here. And I found it.

In a fevered sweat, I called.

It hadn’t rung once before a voice answered. “Hello. Is this—” he paused. “Ah, yes, mister, excuse me, Doctor Howard, wasn’t it?”

“Ye—yes,” I fumbled, my tongue thick. “Yes, it is. We met some time ago. We spoke of—”

“Of course, of course! Dr. Howard, please. You talk as if we’d met in passing. My, you were almost an entire ream to the wind. Hell of a day you’d had. Pulled … how many plugs was it? God himself would have knelt to Jameson without a second thought.”

He paused.

“Who—I’m sorry, I—,” I labored for words, some kind of response.

“My apologies, though, a bit brash considering the circumstances. You’ve changed your mind then? I doubt any of your colleagues would agree, but empathize, certainly yes. They’re not monsters,” he laughed. A wet, hoarse bellow. “Again, so, so sorry. But, yes, the implant, hmm,” his inflection inviting.

“Y—yes. What … does it, can it do. Once more, I only vaguely recall,” I lied. It was was like a sleeper recalling the shade of black inside his eyelids.

“A biosensor, Dr. Howard. Well, of sorts. It’s a capacitor, biosensor, and microprocessor all in one. If I might boast a moment, it’s truly delightful,” he squeaked. “My associates and I have isolated the, I guess you might call it, flavor of electrical analyte that … oh my! Dr. Howard, you sly hound. You’ve let my tongue wriggle all about, my cheeks are absolutely aflame. Shame on you,” he giggled impishly. “Trade secrets come floundering like salmon over the falls. You’re some kind of wizard, doctor.”

“I’m, of course, yes. I was just unsure of … well, there’s been an accident. My wife—” I’d spent years working atop the summit of medical brilliance. Some of the world’s greatest minds that had saved countless lives, bore the weight of impossible decisions with resounding strength and conviction. But, not once, had we glimpsed a solution. We’d set out to research and develop our understanding of utilized technologies so we might advance outdated principles of ethics and conduct. After which we could further the development of solutions. But we’d failed. Failed so perfectly that none of us had ever noticed when it’d happened or what we’d become. We sat like supreme judges in a high tower.

“Dr. Howard? Hello? Blast this cordless phone. It’s more magic than function. Hello? Hello, Dr. Howard can you hear me,” he hollered.

“Yes! So sorry. My wife has been in an accident and is—”

“I’m fully aware of the situation Dr. Howard. We only need your approval to move forward,” he said.

“Approval? I don’t understand.”

“Well, we can’t very well proceed with such things in the light of day, in a manner of speaking. With your approval, your wife will awaken tomorrow, credit given to whomever poked and prodded at her. You know, the ones that spoke of waiting and praying, perhaps even hoping. All that nonsense,” he muttered.

“Yes. Please. Whatever has to be done. I’ll pay whatever amount, whatever I have is yours.”

“Doctor Howard! I am astonished. Money? Such trivialities! We do this for science! For humanity! We only request that you never speak of our little conversation here to anyone ever,” he said.

“I understand.”

“Oh, and before we part here, just a few minor dots and crosses. Your wife has been brain dead for some time. The device will work, of this I can assure you. But it will take some time for your wife to regain, well, herself,” he said. “Now, please declare clearly, ‘I approve of the aforementioned discussed herewithin.”

“I approve of the aforementioned discussed herewithin,” I declared.

You awoke the next morning. Confused and unable to speak. You’d retained motor function, which was even more of a miracle. The doctors kept you for a more days to run scans and tests, but you woke so suddenly, the life took some time to come back.

The day I wheeled you out of the hospital, the day you wobbled like a newborn deer up the driveway and into our home, I was beyond thankful, happy, elated. It wasn’t until weeks later that I began to see the changes. The differences.

I cry for you every night and miss you every day. I’m sick with regret for not spending every moment with you. Angry that I chose my job, chose to uproot us from a life we could’ve had. But, as I watch her out in your garden, trimming your roses, pulling your weeds, smiling at me with your mouth, I’m disgusted. I hate myself for trying to bring you back to me. And I’m sure of it now, that God exists. Because I see the Devil reflected in her eyes every night.

I’m on a boat!

Well, not at the moment. At the moment, it’s dark and I’m sleepy and I’m at my desk drinking coffee while I try to wake up.

BUT!

I’m going on the Jonathan Coulton Cruise for a week, so I’ve invited my very favorite guest bloggers to come back and do their thing while I’m gone. Please be nice to them, and each other.

the writer’s dilemma

Last night, I slept as deeply and undisturbed as I have in months. I woke up this morning much later than I’d planned, my body heavy, and unwilling to move on its own. Seamus slept against my hip, Marlowe was curled up next to me, her little face resting against my head.

I took my time waking up, and coaxed myself out of bed.

The wood floors of my house felt cool beneath my feet as I made my way into my kitchen and made the first of what will be many cups of coffee — not because I need coffee, but because I’ve figured out a way to make cold brew coffee that gives me the most delicious cup of coffee I’ve ever had.

Through the living room, I paused to kiss Anne good morning. I walked down the hallway into my office, sat down in front of my computer, and began my day.

I read emails, checked the morning news, glanced at Twitter, moderated comments here and at Radio Free Burrito.

Then I looked at a blank composition window, unsure where to begin. I looked into myself, tried to find something that needed to be recounted, a story that needed to be told, an amusing event over the last few days that was clamoring to be translated from memory and experience into narrative.

I found a single thing, but it’s actually too personal and painful to share. That one thing, though, once identified, starts to feel like a bug bite, demanding to be scratched and then itching more, asserting itself more, the more I scratched it. Though it is, in relation to everything else in my world, very small, it became the biggest thing, the only thing, pushing out everything else

And yet, I can’t.

So I begin typing, putting together images and moments from when I woke until when I began assembling them into words.

And when I get to that point where the thing asserts itself again, it holds me and will not let me pass.

And so I write it, but I don’t press publish. I put it away, in a document that is just for me, and I write this instead.

The War of the Worlds Rehearsal

In a few hours, I’m heading to the theatre for the final rehearsal for tonight’s performance of The War of the Worlds, as part of the 2015 Sci-Fi Fest.

I have the great honor and privilege of playing Orson Welles as Professor Pierson. It’s a bit of a dream come true for me, because I’ve been listening to the infamous 1939 broadcast of War of the Worlds since I got my very first cassette player in the late 70s. I can recite most of it from memory, but for tonight’s performance, it was important to me that I didn’t just mimic Welles’ performance. I need to make the character my own, and to do that, I’ve been reading and performing the scenes just like I would to prepare for any other character I was creating.

I thought it would be interesting to share some of my rehearsal process, so I recorded myself yesterday, and put the recording on my Soundcloud.

It’s about ten minutes long, and I think some of you may find it interesting, and maybe even entertaining. You can listen to it there, or push play here:

Tabletop Gag Reel: Stone Age

Agressive BreedingSometimes, YouTube stops to buffer and I get some pretty great Tablederp.

This week’s gag reel is one of my favorites in the history of the series:

it’s the year of the beard!

My friend, Atom, has an EPIC beard that is so epic, his wife commissioned a song from Molly Lewis to celebrate it. That song is called The Year of the Beard.

I have had a beard in some form or another since the writer’s strike of 2007, when it started out as a solidarity beard, and quickly grew into an NHL playoffs beard, and finally into a “I’m lazy and this saves me literally minutes a day” beard.

I like having a beard, though I’ve always kept it very neat and short, mostly because I’ve been working on camera in some way or another, and I’ve needed to keep a constant appearance.

See, always I’ve never been able to drastically alter my appearance in any meaningful way, because for most of my life I had to either look like my headshot, or stay in continuity for the show or movie I was working on. Sure, I’ve done colors and even shaved it (which was awesome and I’d do again in a second if I could), but I’ve never been able to even consider a mohawk or sweet juggalo tattoo on my neck or bifurcating my tongue and changing my name to HISSSSSSSSS.

But I’m not really doing anything on camera at the moment, and I’m primarily working as a writer and voice actor, so what I can do, and am doing at this very moment, is let my beard just grow until I feel like doing something about it. At the moment, I don’t feel like doing anything about it until at least after JoCo Cruise Crazy, and I may even keep it through the production of Tabletop’s RPG Show, because I kind of like the idea of having a big old GM’s beard for that show.

In which the author is bearding as hard as he can.
In which the author is bearding as hard as he can.

Some people think it’s great, others think it’s horrible. I don’t particularly care what anyone else thinks, though, because it’s The Year of the Beard and mine is almost big enough to hide stuff in it.