Excessive Vengeance

In the fiction on which I am working – it needs a name, doesn’t it? Let’s call it Pandora Excess for now, both it and the RPG of the same working title will need name changes, but it’s fine for now – I was planning on having it as a quest story, much like the Borderlands games and the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I find, though, that I am a fan of revenge dramas. Not all of them, but one of my favourite hardboiled action novels is the Hunter by Donald E. Westlake writing as Richard Stark. It’s the basis for the fantastic movie Point Blank and the pretty good movie Payback.

The Hunter is about a criminal who gets double-crossed and goes looking for vengeance. The thing is, in this case, the revenge is about justice – in a weird way. This isn’t unlike the plots of movies like Silverado, Yojimbo, or the Limey, all movies which I love. In Silverado and Yojimbo, the events in the movie lead to the revenge-justice. In the Limey, the crime sets the movie in motion, but is only seen in flashback.

To me, this quest for justice outside of societal norms is very visceral. I like the idea of being able to deal out justice while at the same time getting the catharsis of revenge. Having never taken vengeance, it may leave one as cold as we have been told in many, many morality tales, but I still like to see it in fiction.

As such, Pandora Excess will now be about a crew of mercenaries who got betrayed, and the boss is getting them back together to take a crack at the person who betrayed them. Like the Limey, the betrayal which sets the action in motion will be discussed, but won’t actually be part of the story. Much like in the Hunter, woe betide anyone who gets in their way.

You can learn more about Pandora Excess here and here.

You can learn more about the Hunter at Wikipedia.

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47 Ronin: A Review

So I saw 47 Ronin. I don’t hate it. That’s all you need to know. Move along.

You’re still here? Okay, let’s get into this: the movie is a pretty good sword & sorcery story, not as good as the recent Conan reboot but on par with the Scorpion King. The actors are all top notch. Even Keanu Reeves pulls off his role with aplomb.

Sure the story is clichéd and this yet another white man saves the natives movie – they call him a half-breed, but c’mon, the guy’s as white as John Blackthorne! – but I can push through that for the pretty good action (which becomes great action because no shaky-cam) and some decent SFX. I would actually recommend this movie to fans of fantasy and for ideas mining by RPGers.

I still consider the decision to name this “47 Ronin” because while it uses the basic concept of that heroic epic/legend/history, it has none of the specifics. Sergio Leone did not call it Yojimbo, he called it Fistful of Dollars and even Roger Corman had the decency not to call his movie the Seven Samurai and called it Battle Beyond the Stars. I actually think that “13 Ronin” would have been a better title – the number of ronin we can actually recognize is probably around that number and other good ’13’ actioners precede it, like the 13th Warrior or 13 Assassins.

Confession time: in my second year of university I worked on a novel based on the 47 ronin legend but based on a fantasy analogue of 17th century Scotland. Guess what? I didn’t call it 47 Ronin because it wasn’t 47 ronin. I honestly don’t remember what I called it. The point is, if you are going to twist a story so that it bears little to no resemblance to the original, why keep the name? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep became Blade Runner, why couldn’t this be “13 Ronin” or “Oishi and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”?

Sorry. Too much rantiness.

47 Ronin is a pretty good fantasy actioner, and I give it 3.5 Pacific Rim Witches out of 5.

Postscript: this movie has another linkage to the 13th Warrior. According to Wikipedia, it is “the second most expensive box office bomb ever behind The 13th Warrior” Apparently, I enjoy box office bombs. Who knew?

You can read about 47 Ronin at Wikipedia or IMDB.

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Pandora Excess: Chapter One

I finished the first chapter of the Pandora Excess fiction on which I’m working. I thought I had finished it earlier, but then I decided I wanted at least 2,500 words per chapter . . . for reasons. In filling the chapter out I both elongated the action scenes and added some character growth.

Character growth? In fiction inspired by Borderlands? What heresy is this?

Well, remember those SPOILER ALERT! Echo recordings found during the course of Borderlands 2? What would you call those? Character growth, I’d say. Now, that growth had happened before the events of Borderlands 2, but the chapter I’ve finished is also past tense, so all’s fair.

Right?

On to chapter 2.

In case you were wondering, chapter 1 is titled “Lodgings.”

You can read more about Pandora Excess here and here.

You can read a very short snippet of Pandora Excess fiction here.

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Guardians of the Borderlands

During the thinking-phase of my planning for a Pandora Excess campaign which I could offer up as a possibility to my gaming group here in Ottawa, I came to a realization: Borderlands 2 and the Guardians of the Galaxy movie share a plot. Yes, the specifics of the plot vary dramatically, but both are about keeping alien technology (so advanced as to appear magic) away from a megalomaniacal villain. Borderlands also kind of fits into this plot, but in that the villain is less of a presence than the villain’s group of baddies.

So the campaign I thought up wasn’t that different from the pulp adventure campaign I will be running: group of misfits travel to various locations to get mystical item. In the case of the pulp campaign, those various locations will be around the world, while in a Pandora Excess game, those locations could be anywhere – on a planet, in inter-dimensional space, on the event horizon of a black holes, literally anywhere.

While this isn’t going to inform the campaign – as the campaign won’t be happening – it is great grist for the fiction-mill and will help to push forward work on my evolving Pandora Excess fiction.

You can read more about Pandora Excess here.

You can read a very short snippet of Pandora Excess fiction here.

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Pandora Got Pulped

So it seems that I will be working on a pulp campaign for my RPG group in Ottawa – which I still refer to as the Ottawa Warband, a name applied to the group during our long True20 Viking campaign. After running some Starship Commandos and A Team of Losers – Pulp Edition for them, and then floating the possibility of a Pandora Excess campaign, a large majority of the group voted for the Pulp campaign.

The Pulp campaign uses the action-adventure version of the Untitled Game System, tentatively titled A Team of Losers in honour of both the recent A-Team movie and the comic and movie adaptation the Losers. The idea is this aforementioned team finds themselves in the middle of supernatural hot water, and what it has developed into is a race against to uncover the shards of Pandora’s Box – the pithos of Pandora, which turns out not to be completely as advertised in ancient myth. This is going to be a globe-trotting adventure in the vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with pieces of said pithos to be found all over the trotted globe.

This leaves Pandora Excess as a side project. It also means the fiction linked to it on which I am working is more likely to see development. Whenever I use a fiction idea for a game, even a one-pager, it tends to be the end for that idea. Putting it in public plays it out in my head in some way. Since the campaign idea I had for Pandora Excess won’t be hitting my group, I’ll need to work through it in some other manner.

Not that it matters if it never sees publication.

Turns out, I may have a way to get it out there, though that particular method is going to have to wait. I have a lot to do, and it is lower on the list than some other projects – like Nefertiti Overdrive.

You can hear more about the Ottawa Warband’s True20 Viking adventures here.

You can read more about the Untitled Game System here.

You can read more about Starship Commandos here.

You can read more about A Team of Losers here.

You can read more about Pandora Excess here.

You can read a very short snippet of Pandora Excess fiction here.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Those of you who have been following this blog any length of time know that I very, very rarely get out to see a movie in the theatre. Guardians of the Galaxy was one movie I was adamant I would. I have been a fan since the Keith Giffen reboot of Starlord and the fledgling GoG in Annihilation Conquest: Starlord. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning did an amazing job of following that up and improving upon the formula in Annhilation: Conquest and the resurrected Guardians of the Galaxy comic.

I honestly didn’t have high hopes. I expected to feel about the movie much as I did about the original Thor movie. Very good but missing a lot of what I loved about the character – in that instance, missing a lot of what I loved about the Walt Simonson run on the title. Still, like Thor, I expected to really enjoy GoG.

And then the trailers and previews started coming out.

Was it possible we would get a movie that really closely resembled the Abnett and Lanning comic? Could the universe be so kind?

I’m here to tell you that happened. This is my favourite Marvel movie. This is my favourite comic adaptation. I had insanely high expectations for this movie. It did not disappoint.

If you don’t know the plot and concept of GoG, you’ve been living under a rock somewhere. I’m not going to re-hash that which is so well known. Instead, I’m going to tell you why you need to see this movie.

Strong characters. Every single one of the main characters is outstanding. There is depth. The performances are exceedingly good. I had fears that Dave Bautista and Vin Diesel wouldn’t live up to their co-performers, who are known as actors rather than action stars. No worries. Like Hugo Weaving as V, lacking an aspect of performance available in most roles, Vin Diesel does an amazing job of projecting not only Groot’s emotions, but his meaning, his intentions, and his thoughts through the use of three words, in the same order. Baustista is seriously hilarious as the exceedingly literal Drax whose only joy comes in battle and destruction.

Humour, pathos, action. This movie has everything I want in a movie. It’s got great action delivered without the crutch of shaky cam. It has great lines, hilarious in context, but organic to the story and the characters. It has depth of emotion and dramatic weight that doesn’t crush the movie or ram itself down the audience’s throat.

The writing. Both the characters and the content of the movie comes back to the writing. Fresh, crisp, and incredibly deft, this takes the format of the Marvel movies distilled by Joss Whedon and Zak Pennin the Avengers and perfects it. I don’t know of higher praise than saying this is better written than that. Amazing work by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman.

SFX. And, of course, this movie is going to need special effects. The effects meld so perfectly into this movie as to be seamless. So many characters in SF movies – like the Hobbit or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – are CGI, and Rocket and Groot are yet two more examples of outstanding work. It’s not just the CGI characters, it’s the spaceship battles, the planetary landscapes, and the created world.

What more can one say? What is wrong with this movie? Very little. Sure, there are minor imperfections. Maybe nothing is perfect, but damn this comes really close.

I give Guardians of the Galaxy 4.75 sadly lacking element guns out of 5.

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Shame On You, Canada Council for (Some of) the Arts

On Spec Cover

On Spec Cover

The Canada Council for the Arts has seen fit to deny On Spec – in my mind, Canada’s premier spec fic journal – funding. Apparently, they have been warning On Spec that the work published is not of a high enough quality.

In a word: bullshit.

I really like living in our socialist paradise, but even the fucking Soviets supported spec fic.

The reasoning provided – – “the quality of writing remained low . . . copy-editing errors, and poor production, design and layout quality” sounds like self-serving justification to this reader. Instead, this just looks like a removal of funding because of a distaste for the genre. The Canada Council of the Arts is likely staffed by the same kind of people who thought Joseph Conrad published silly adventure stories.

Listen, I read literary fiction as well, but let’s be frank: science fiction inspired NASA and the space shuttle. Literary fiction inspired. . . more literary fiction.

I will be writing to the Canada Council for the Arts and explaining to them – in less lurid language – how back asswards this decision paints them. It is the Council for the Arts, not the Council of Literary Snobbery. I understand that there is some level of quality control required, but maybe they ought to look to luminaries like Robert Sawyer, William Gibson, and Guy Gavriel Kay to judge the quality of On Spec rather than judges who are likely biased against spec fic.

Because prejudice is the only explanation I can imagine for this decision.

You can find contact information for the Canada Council for the Arts here.

You can find more information about this decision here.

You can find On Spec here.

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