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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where to See Me at (Re)Generation Who!

The bar.

Okay, no, seriously. Like me, you're going to (Re)Gen to see the guests, the cosplay, the panels, and all that. But this event is the only time I get to see some people. That, and... well, apparently some of you like seeing me do stuff.

So, here's my run-down for what I'm up to this (Re)Gen!

Friday, 10 pm: Davros Variety Hour ~ Large Panel Room 
So happy to be working with Terry Molloy, Cat Smith, Team Shenanigans, Antipode, and the rest again this year for some crazy fun entertainment. I won't be onstage much -- mostly behind the scenes herding cats for this and the magic show -- but I will most definitely be around! And if I'm not too tired, I'll hopefully get some dancing in at the Time and Space Jam after!

Saturday, 10 am: Scratchshot 1: A Workshop with Terry Molloy ~ Panel Room 2
A writing and performance workshop headed up by Mr. Molloy. I'll be more on hand for things like timing and being an extra hand, but this is all about you guys. Be sure to sign up in advance, as spaces are limited!

Saturday, 12 pm: George Mann: Writer Spotlight ~ Panel Room 1
A chat with Mr. George Mann, comic and tie-in book writer. Looking forward to talking with him about his varied work across the Whoniverse!

Saturday, 1 pm: Katy Manning is Jo Grant ~ Large Panel Room
I'll be joining the lovely Mr. Paul Magrs for a panel with Katy Manning -- Jo Grand (and Iris Wildthyme) herself!

Saturday, 3 pm: The Tiny-Wimey Children's Cosplay Show ~ Special Events
Make no mistake, I'll just be here as an observer and photographer. The real stars are the young cosplayers! Come see the adorable cosplay... and if you have a young Whovian with you, be sure to bring them along!

Sunday, 10 am: Iris Wildthyme: Life and Times of the Maverick Timelady ~ Panel Room 1
Teaming up with that Paul Magrs fella again, this time to talk about the perennial Miss Wildthyme. Maybe Panda will join us!

Sunday, 12 pm: The Doctor's Friends ~ Large Panel Room
I moderate a discussion with Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), and Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint)! I'm really looking forward to this chance at bringing together actors from across the eras!

Sunday, 3 pm: Companions! ~ Large Panel Room
The Companions panel is always fun. This year we have Peter Purves and Katy Manning joining us. What will happen? In past years we've had surprise guests and spur-of-the-moment episode reenactments. Anything could happen!

Other than that, I'll be drinking tea, being generally stressed, and trying to stay alert. And loving every single minute of it.

I'm leaving for Baltimore tonight, but the show kicks off Friday evening. Hope to see lots of you there!

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Narcissu: Sumire" ~ The World of Closed Eyes

Ah boy.

Narcissu is a game series I have a heck of a time with. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, and emotional. It's also about people dying -- be it via illness, circumstance, or suicide. It's an exploration of the concept of life and death, and what living and dying mean, largely through the lens of the seventh floor of a particular hospital.

On this seventh floor live people with terminal illnesses. The patients cope with their impending death with their own sets of rules when it comes to how they deal with their family, friends, and the outside world. Residents can be discharged a total of three times for short trips home. The third discharge is the end... it's when you're sent home to die.

In this chapter, a girl named Sumire becomes a shut-in during middle school. Ten years later, it's discovered that she has a terminal illness. After years of wondering where she went wrong and assuming she'll eventually have a second chance to have a real life, she finds herself on the seventh floor.

The story is told largely through Sumire's eyes as she struggles with the concept of her identity and her failure to leave her mark on the world. We also meet Akari, a girl Sumire's age whom she meets by chance and reunites with on the seventh floor. Through Akari, Sumire sees a potential chance to do what she was never able to do before.

As I've said in other entries, Narcissu is depressing. Make no mistake. A Little Iris was the odd one out of the series, set in medieval Europe, but it still explored themes of the meaning of life and death. We're back in familiar territory here, even running into characters from previous installments, and the theme continues. How does one die with no regrets when your entire life was lived waiting for your life to start? How do you know when your life went off the rails? Is it too late once it's already happened?

Narcissu: Sumire has an all-star voice cast, beautiful art, and an introspective story. Spending long spans of time in the world of Narcissu, which I do as an editor, means I have to go cheer myself up quite a bit. But the stories are always haunting and meaningful, and Sumire and Akari are a worthy pair of heroines in the line-up of games.

You can pick up Narcissu: Sumire on its own, or you'll be getting it automatically if you have the Narcissu 10th anniversary season ticket.

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Combat" ~ Just a Little Something.

Between us (so, you know, the entire Internet), I don't consider myself terrible good at flash fiction. It's a new area for me. So when I got my first and only (so far) accepted in any way, I was pleased. I honestly thought it was one for the bottom draw, and that's simply because I'm new to the format and practice makes perfect.

"Combat" was a very silly off-the-cuff idea, all things considered. I was reminded of evenings getting drunk and gaming with college friends (which I still do, don't get me wrong). It worked far better than I intended it to, and I hope it gives people a bit of a chuckle.

For me, the most entertaining part was figuring out ways to describe the body language for my two characters... which will make sense once you've read all of it.

"Combat" was shortlisted for publication in Here Comes Everyone's Toys and Games issue. And while it didn't make the final cut, it did make it onto the website with some very good work.

Have a read of it now! And do let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Back to the TARDIS: A Look at the "Doctor Who" Series 10 Trailer

It's here!... and I'll admit, my enthusiasm is mixed with a healthy dose of regret knowing that we're gearing up for the exit of my favourite Doctor, my favourite showrunner, and (apparently) a fairly strong-looking Team TARDIS at the end of this year. That's the down side of regeneration announcements: they do sort of colour the season.

Nonetheless, it seems as though they're going to give the Twelfth Doctor an amazing final outing prior to his Christmas exit. The new trailer looks exciting and varied, with faces old and new.

My ability to guess plot points in Doctor Who is horrendous (my 'Missy is an abandoned Clara echo' is a rather shameful one), so my once-over of the Series 10 trailer is not meant to guess so much as... you know... once-over. I may do some light theorizing and throw a couple ideas around, but nothing I say comes from deep investigation or assurance that I'm right.

Have you seen it yet? No? We can fix that.

Heart-pounding stuff, right? I do enjoy that we seem to have finally found our middle-ground for 12 between prickly hug-hater and dumpster punk. I'm also glad to see that the sonic sunglasses are staying -- partly because my friends' kids love running around in shades pretending to be the Doctor, partly because the people who dislike them act like they're some sort of civil disservice.

That aside, let's dig in.

Bill meets the TARDIS.

We only see a split second of this scene, but there's something about the way she runs toward it, the look on his face, the light and smoke billowing out... I feel like this scene, where she finally learns more about her eccentric professor, is going to be extremely evocative. I love that moment: the moment the companion-to-be suddenly understands just how strange her life is about to become. It makes me wonder, too, just how closely the Doctor has been guarding the campus from his adventures after the loss of two people in a row -- one he can't safe, one he could save if he could just remember who she is.


Oh, you have no idea how delighted I am that the show is revisiting Mars. I mean, if you know anything about me and my family, maybe you do. But I'm so pleased to see a return to it. Maybe they'll pass by one of the Viking landers?... probably not, but a girl can hope. Also, Bill's wide-eyed enthusiasm is stunning, and I like that we're seeing it in multiple settings. It means she's not going to be broken... er... too early.

Period dress.

I've been praying they'd get Capaldi in some proper period outfits after how well he wore it in Deep Breath, but I also saw just how attached this Doctor was to comfort so I figured we would never have that chance. That, and whoever designed Bill's getup is a genius. Some may complain that Victorian England is visited too much, but I am a sucker for the aesthetic so, you know, fight me.

Nardole makeover.

I know the fandom is largely set against Nardole, and I'm not gonna tell anyone not to be, but I think he redeemed himself somewhat in The Return of Doctor Mysterio. He looks a whole lot less like a giant Eric Cartman clone, and we've actually seen him serve the purpose of being an intellectual equal (to some degree) to the Doctor. Which he needs because engineer-brains need that or they explode. Without Clara, whom he considered his equal in all things (occasionally at the exact wrong times), he needs a Nardole. And honestly, this outfit helps the overall impression of him -- he looks a lot less like a lost child being babysat.




Something's coming.

Is this from the series finale? I don't know. The cast of light, the framing, the colour, the Doctor being dwarfed by the elegant old door, all look very Talalay and are somewhat evocative (deliberately?) of Heaven Sent. It's hard to tell. No matter what, there's something very pleasing about the fact that this imagery is returning.

These guys.

Now who are you?

 They sure seem to harken back to Pompeii, which fans have been wanting ever since we found out that 12 would be borrowing a face from Caecilius. The burned, mummified faces; the scorched, old-style robes.

However, nothing about the robes seems particularly Roman -- more generally cultish. That doesn't preclude a "Fires of Pompeii" tie, of course, but I'm not ready to put all my chips on this one.

David Suchet.

All we know is that he's playing "The Landlord." I recall seeing the news piece and being convinced from the photo that he would be playing C.S. Lewis because look at him. That said, whatever he plays will amazing because David Suchet.

Suchet does an amazing job in cult TV, incidentally -- he tore it up in his Discworld appearance.

Oh Missy you so fine.

I was unsurprised to see Michelle Gomez returning -- partly because 12 and Missy need one last standoff, partly because she had to cancel her (Re)Generation Who appearance to come do this. She is such a delightful brand of evil, and I adore this look on her, so I can't wait to see what she's got up her Mary Poppins sleeves this time.

Tree? Lady? Tree Lady?

No idea, but she looks wicked cool. If that is in fact a "she." Hard to tell. But man. I am extremely curious how much of that is practical and how much is CG. One thing I've really enjoyed lately is the repeated use of practical effects, and I'm always down for more.

Doctor socks a dude.

While wearing Victorian clothes.

I am 1000% here for violent Victorian Doctor.

Mondasian Cyberman

I am also 1000% here for these. Sock face Cyberman with people hands? Yeah. If you're unfamiliar with Classic series, this is how Cybermen first looked when they showed up. So any high-strung Classic fan going on about "the teardrop eyes" being the unchanging feature of the Cybies, show them this.

Funnily enough, an early interview with Moffat and Capaldi talked about how the latter loved the early Cybermen and wanted them back, and the former thought they just looked silly. I'm glad sense finally won out. (I love you, Moffat, but dude.)

Ice Warriors?

I've noticed that Classic villains tend to go through a couple makeovers in New series before they're finally satisfied with them. This is an interesting look (and obviously in the same episode as Bill's "Mars!" exclamation). They were quite identifiable in their return in "Cold War," but I'm intrigued by this new look.

Overall? I'm excited. The Twelfth Doctor's era began with Clara Oswald, our toe in the world of storybooks, and he's been something of a Romantic Victorian hero (of the Mr. Rochester sort), despite his power chords and schoolboy grin. I'm excited to see how that persona carries forward when he literally goes from student to teacher in the upcoming series.

Doctor Who Series 10 premieres April 15.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dungeon Tours, Ltd. Part 2 ~ D&D LLC GOES GOAT

I was talking with Michael O'Brien of Managlitch recently about running tabletop games. He'd read a book, which I wish I could remember the title of, about how to be a better DM. And one of the things it said was to say 'yes' to your players as much as possible.

I ran a Sailor Moon Tri-Stat game when I was in college, and my problem was just how closely I felt the need to keep the story to what I wanted. Which, in retrospect, is silly. If you want to write a story, write it. I was disabused of my power when a player with portal magic completely destroyed my cliffhanger with one good roll.

Now, years later, I'm learning (largely from having played Seventh Sea and watching bits and pieces of Critical Role) that the ability to say 'yes' makes all the difference. Does a player want to do something you hadn't accounted for? Let them. Or, you know, let them roll for it. Some of the best moments in the Dungeon Tours, Ltd. beta game have come from me saying 'yes' in places that threatened the structure of 'my' storyline.

This session was the 'build': the players have met the client and are now going to build her unique dungeon experience. They have three days to plot out the dungeon layout, gather supplies, put everything together, and deal with a 'hitch' that will inevitably show up on the final day.

So, three interesting things happened in this session of note:

The Teleporting Dwarf Girl

My friends Emily and CJ are hosting the games at their house. This means that usually their four-year-old daughter will be on hand. She likes having so many friends over, but she doesn't necessarily understand 'the imagination game' yet. I was told, however, that she asked to roll some dice this time, so I planned to grab her on one of her runs through the living room and let her roll for Sasha, the ten-year-old client.

Things didn't quite go that way, though.

I had Dungustine (our orc thespian, played by Emily) and Zabrex (our bronze dragon illusionist) scoping out a nearby picturesque cave to use for their dungeon. The plan had been for it to be a hideout for a kobold (as in a Warcraft-style 'You no take candle!' kobold), which they would have to either fight or bribe. But as I was telling them that they heard a sound from deep in the cave, Daughter sounded out a huge giggly screech from her bedroom.

We all had a laugh, but then I said '... no, you know what? You hear that.'

In place of my kobold, I immediately invented a small dwarf child (dwarf to make her even more comically tiny opposite our orc) and called Daughter in. I gave her no prompting except to tell her what the situation was. From there, we discovered that her character (who shared a name with her) was alone after losing her parents in a zombie attack, and was now fighting zombies with a magic sword. Then she slipped into the kitchen, where two other players (one being CJ) were doing some quiet planning in their 'workshop.' CJ played along, and suddenly we had a zombie-fighting, sword-wielding dwarf child who could teleport.

She got to make one roll, which she did well on, but sadly we had to ret-con her character when it was bedtime.

Goat Olympics

The discussion in the kitchen was between Nadiyeh (our shapeshifer) and Sam O'Flange (our halfling engineer) on how to test the client's athletic ability to make the dungeon challenging while not killing her.

The result? Nadiyeh snuck onto the Baronoff mansion's grounds, spotted Sasha practicing 'sword fighting' with a topiary, and... turned into a goat.

From there, Goat-Nadiyeh chased little Sasha through the topiary, through an obstacle course previously dug up, and then into a shallow pit. After which Sasha gave chase.

I certainly hope Sam got the information she needed.

Elf Shibari

Without giving too much away (because there's one sesh left) -- the night before the dungeon run, Sasha's overprotective elven governess Lunella came in and began sabotaging Sam's work. The plan... the plan... had been for them to have to track a few broken bits, kick her out, and repair the dungeon overnight.

What happened was I forgot that half my freaking players have night vision.

Lunella was caught, tied up, knocked out, and dropped in the dungeon's final room as a 'hostage.' Which, all things considered, means I've got to rewrite the third part of the campaign. But it also means the players have nooooo idea how much they've just shot themselves in the foot.

All things considered, I like DTL as a game. I sadly don't think it's as much a 'pick-up' game as hoped simply because the campaign takes either three sessions or an all-day session. Everything else about it -- dice rolls, character creation, etc. -- is easy, as evidenced by the fact that a four-year-old could participate out of nowhere without even technically knowing what tabletop gaming is.

The final sesh is this Sunday. I'm honestly completely happy to write and rewrite in between games based on my players' creativity because there's something very kinetic about it. It also means I have to be on my toes. And... funnily enough... I am enjoying saying 'yes' way more than 'getting my way.'

Dungeon Tours, Ltd. is an upcoming RP system powered by FATE Accelerated. Beta tests are wrapping up now, but a Kickstarter campaign will be opening soon. Stay tuned for more info!

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Five Dates in Room 405" ~ All the Time in the World

When I hear stories about how my friends grew up and what their families taught them, I often feel extremely fortunate. I realise that my grandparents afforded me a great deal of personal freedom, and ensured that I never felt obligated to do anything by a certain age past be able to look after myself.

One thing I never got -- ever -- was a behest to get a boyfriend. I don't date much. I have had four boyfriends in my entire life (the longest relationship lasting eight months and being largely long-distance) and gone on one casual date outside of that. If and when the time comes, I'm sure there will be chances. But I was never, ever, ever told that I only had a certain amount of time, or a certain amount of chances.

Well, guys I turned down would tell me that. But my family, and my friends who cared about me, never told me that.

Date Night is Zimbell House Publishing's latest anthology, and it asked for... well, what you see on the tin. I can't remember what was on my mind at the time, but I immediately thought of high-school kids who had it drilled into them that your chances were few and far between.

"Five Dates in Room 405" is a story like that -- and also not like that. Our heroine is off to prom, largely because prom is what you do and her parents insist that she needs to get used to the idea of dating. And she does... but in an unexpected way.

I don't want to give too much away. Suffice to say it's a story of a realization not everyone gets to have early: that there will be chances every single day. There will be some you want and some you don't. There will be some you have to take yourself and some that fall into your lap. But the overly romantic idea that if you don't ask That Person Over There out now, or if you don't say yes to the person you're unsure about, you may have lost your shot forever... only flies in fairy tales at best.

It's also a fairly clear message I want to send to young readers, especially young women: you'll know when you're ready. No one can tell you when you're ready but yourself. And listen to that voice.

Date Night is now available from Zimbell House Publishing.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Black Archive 2018 ~ "Heaven Sent" is Coming

Monday morning on my way back from Raleigh post-MystiCon, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why my phone was pinging off its charger. A stop-in at a rest stop gave me a chance to see: Obverse had announced that I was doing the Black Archive installment for Heaven Sent.

I'd told a handful of people (mostly my sounding boards) what I was up to, but hadn't gone public with the announcement -- obviously, as my installment isn't coming out 'til 2018, a lot of it depended on if the Black Archive series did well enough for them to even get to me. Fortunately, the reviews are largely positive, which means there's absolutely room for me at the table... and with books coming out monthly rather than every two or three, it means my time is just over a year out.

Initially I'd had no intention of submitting to the Black Archive. I don't consider myself a critical writer by what the Internet seems to deem critical. But when I learned how they were going about it -- that these were going to be studies first and foremost -- I sent them my take on the 12th Doctor single-hander. Apparently it was the sort of thing they wanted, because I'm now on board as one of three women covering the Series 9 triple-play -- with Sarah Groenewegen before me on Face the Raven, and Alyssa Franke (WhovianFeminism) after me on Hell Bent.

It's an exciting and daunting notion... and one of the reasons that many of my We Are Cult reviews are of Black Archive volumes. Reading my predecessors gives me a chance to expose myself regularly to the writing style, method of footnoting, and general tone so it's hammered into my brain; and looking at them with a critical eye encourages me to go back and look at mine in progress with just as critical an eye.

A stopover on their Twelfth Doctor landing page gives you a look at what I'm plotting, and it shouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows me. Heaven Sent is a deeply Jungian, aggressively character-building piece. Its central mechanic has been used in everything from Stephen King to Japanese light novels to evoke a sense of purgatorial suffering and self-examination. But the Doctor-ly spin on it is what fascinates me the most, and the final chapter is going to explore what I think is the most interesting, fourth-wall-breaking aspect that really defines -- especially for this Doctor -- just how far the character will go.

I've been extremely fortunate in my opportunity to chat with Rachel Talalay, the director of the episode. At Intervention 7, she offered a master class (a phrase that's not even remotely an exaggeration) on the episode, that gave me new insight into a lot of my theories, as well as causing me to utterly upend my chapter on the Veil and dig into the Nightmare on Elm Street series for some heavy research. Rachel was a joy to have at the event, an inexhaustible font of knowledge, and answered questions that I didn't even know I had.

There are days when working on the book is my primary joy; there are others when I look back at previous volumes and wonder if I'm quite up to snuff. But it's such a magnificent episode, with such a lot to think about and work from, that simply tackling one angle within the allotted word count is more than challenge enough without setting myself other hurdled.

The Black Archive #21: Heaven Sent comes out July 2018 from Obverse Books. And now... I really ought to head off and work at it some more.