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Monday, January 13, 2020

Dystopias, first the comics, now in novels and films

As I recently covered 4 great Dystopia Comics I was thereafter asked by a reader to give a similar account to the best books, and if I could films.  The main control point that I was aiming at is the dystopia doesn't come from the disaster or war humans face, but the government that is creating the dystopia by its actions.  Books however, have taken aim at the subject so often, in such detail it would take me a lifetime to write about.


Brave New World
The Machine Stops
Moscow 2042
Love Among the Ruins
Fahrenheit 451
A Clockwork Orange
This Perfect Day
The Children of Men
Never Let Me Go
The Handmaid's Tale
The Sleeper Awakes
The Iron Heel
Stand on Zanzibar
Make Room! Make Room!
A Scanner Darkly
The City and the City
Infinite Jest
Paris in the 20th Century
The Giver
Snow Crash
The Man in High Castle
Slaughterhouse Five
The Lathe of Heaven
The Trial
The Hunger Games

The common theme of these works is not heroic main character good protagonists or evil antagonists.  The enemy is rarely so defined.  In dystopia you find a enemy now and then, but what sets these works apart from the rest is that the setting itself is the real problem.  I've been writing a story and have been for decades where the government is trying to save mankind by its controls and efforts.  But, the reason it has taken so long to write, is that isn't an easy to portray world.  But what makes ever dystopia powerful to read, is watching the steps taken that establish the worlds the characters, good and evil, have to live within.  Utopia stories generally speak to the attempt to create it, or tear it down.  Dystopias are much different.  You can show the depravity of the human condition through life in a fallen state of human society.  You can show the rebellious rise against such.  But the thing that stands out for me, is how we can see the roots of the problems in our own world today.  

I think these are famous enough that you might pursue them and find it quick to acquire, and engrossing to read.  But beyond that, while there are various great dystopias, these are examples of how society will crumble with every grab by government of freedom.  We might think that we are so very important and free, but the truth of government is, any opportunity to steal our freedom, it will, and we become less free with each act.  And then ask yourself, have you ever seen government give back power or control once it has taken it?  The answer is no.


THX 1138
Soylent Green
Blade Runner 
The Matrix
The Hunger Games
12 Monkeys
La Cite des Enfants Perdus
Mad Max

There are far more dystopias to discover, but if you watch these movies and read all the books you'll have enough for a lifetime.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Entertainment Deadly Sins

I had a long conversation with someone about the purpose of art, and from that all forms of entertainment.  He felt that I'd mistaken the depths of desire in people, being a poet, but writing about higher forms of literature (comics included), that I didn't know what people really want.  Well, I can tell you that I see decay.  I see societal trends that suggest we are expecting less and less of people, and we cut the arts from education, focusing upon directly relatable future skills in employment.  I see our society growing into the debased form of society that prefers less thought, and more pleasure.  I harken back to the comments by the Roman writer, Juvenal.

Bread and Circus

"Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."  Juvenal

Over the centuries different forms of entertainment have been presented by the creators of such, to the readers/viewers/listeners with numerous different goals.  To exalt the human soul, music, plays, literature all were created to reveal a deeper reason to ascend, to glory in our purpose from the gods, or to be more than the simple origins of the species.

Entertainment was presented to allow others to enjoy themselves in a mindless fashion.  Slapstick humor, ribald comedy, parody and satire mocking those in high places all presented a world less than perfect, and thereby allowing the one watching the entertainment to feel comforted and confirmed in their worth.

And there were bread and circus.  Gluttony in the form of food, violence, lust was offered to appease the deeply ingrained sensitivities of the people.  That is, the purpose was to appeal to the lowest forms of thought, emotion, pleasure or desire. 

Most people think that the highest minded works are created by people somehow divorced from reality of common people.  But for every work that Mozart created, that was of the highest mind, there are those works such as the Magic Flute that are just as enlightened, but aimed at the common person.  That is, I think it limits the human soul's ability to be inspired to think that the creators of the highest entertainments are mutants, unable to perceive what people wish to be entertained by.  For every person I know who wrote or created the highest peaks of society, I've been aware that there is in that creator a love of forms of entertainment like the races, boxing, football, or Three Stooges.  Mozart was known to love scatological humor, that is, poop jokes.  His was a talent that could not be bettered, perhaps equaled but never bettered.

I believe our mind needs to nurtured and fed by highest culture, and I think our deepest visceral experiences are attracted to entertainment far from the highest brow.  Violence, broad humor, romance or sex, are not in themselves evil.  They are aspects of the human condition.  Perhaps it is the preference for them over anything else that leads to them being less than healthy in viewing or experiencing.

In the present there are many forms of entertainment and the highest forms have the fewest viewers or listeners or readers, and there is a growing body of entertainment that appeals to the most base desires possible.  Am I saying the UFC or boxing are wrong?  No.  But violence is a problem.  Entertainment through it is not necessarily evil, but if that alone is your entertainment?  Yeah that might indicate a problem.  Is porn immoral?  Well you can make your own decisions there, but I can tell you that sex between consulting adults is absolutely legal and shouldn't be treated as intrinsically bad, without it we'd not reproduce out species.

So we need to learn more about every aspect of our being, but perhaps not focus on the lower forms of entertainment all of the time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Interview: Author of Children of the Ankh Kim Cormack

(All Images are copyright to Kim Cormack and/or owners of said copyright... 2020).

I've been fortunate to interact and experience the presence of numerous writers on twitter, facebook, instagram.  And I really do like many of them, but few of them move me to wish to read their work, and even fewer for their life as a writer. My experience with Kim Cormack's twitter feed made me appreciate her spirit, feel allied with her work's goals, and am really moved by her energy to write in the face of having MS.  I am happy to present this exchange with her, Kim Cormack, writer.

Hi Kim, welcome to the interview.  To begin with, tell me if you will  a bit about you, where are you from, dogs or cats, kids, family?

I'm from the Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island. I have a Twenty-four-year-old daughter in University and a son in high school. We have two cats in our family. Stormageddon is named after a character on Doctor Who, and Winchester got his name from Supernatural. I also have a breeding tank of carnivorous guppies. If I buy a pretty fish for the tank, they gang up and eat it. After a while, I gave up. It just felt like I was sacrificing fancy fish to a tank of inbred guppies.

I'm someone married to a person from Vancouver BC, so I am aware of the epic beauty of your locale.  Does that plethora of natural beauty and awe inspire your work or just surround your everyday life?

My characters spend a lot of time on the road camping, enjoying the natural beauty. There are scenes about towering trees and warm rays of light filtering through the branches, swimming in lakes etc. Everything beautiful I've always had in my life I use in my books. Sweet Sleep takes place in my hometown. In Enlightenment, they have to keep moving so they don't lose the new Clan Ankh to Trinity or Triad. They can be stolen at random until their 18th birthday when they become sealed to their Clan of immortals. In book two, they travel all over North America, even to another world.

How did you go about becoming an author, was it a native born talent, or did you decide to make it your craft and develop the skill through effort and intention?

I used to write music and sing. I made a rather funny country demo twenty years ago. I became busy with being a mom and ended up letting it go. I still wrote lyrics when whenever I felt compelled to. Jan 28th, 2009 at 1;30 am, I woke up and texted a children's book into my cellphone. I had a dream about holding a baby chick when I was four. I didn't know I'd written it until I took a look through the files before switching to a new phone. Being Four was book one, and it came at the perfect time. This was the year I found out I had m.s. After sixteen years as an Early Childhood Educator, I was given a new path to help me survive in a dream. I wrote Shark Boots on B.C Ferries in April of that year and was all in on the Children's books until I was diagnosed with m.s. I had a nightmare in October that altered my direction again. From the slightly open front door in Sweet Sleep to the creepy lullaby, it was all a terrifying nightmare I wrote down in the middle of the night. I haven't left the universe I created to help myself fight, since.

If a person has a burning desire to write what would you tell them to allow them to seek their goal of becoming a writer?  Is it possible to do it all on your own, or do college or other sorts of training courses make you better aimed as a professional writer?

I took a university English course with my E.C.E training, but that was twenty-six years go, and it hasn't applied to anything. If you have an amazing imagination, you know who you are. Just do it. Write a book. Having a PhD doesn't give you the ability to see the world as an artist does. Anything I needed to know about formatting or marketing I found on youtube. Message me on my website I'll point you in the right direction. 

What life experiences go into your various works, is it easier to be inspired by your interests, or does life's capricious whims teach you more?

When I look back on those first books, the theme is, stand back up, and when you can't stand on the outside, you must stand on the inside. Sweet Sleep is tragic, funny and beautiful. I ugly cried every day until I couldn't see writing this book. Snot nosed, swollen shut eyes, sobbing like a baby. It's all about acceptance, and I had a lot to process in my life. In Enlightenment, you are dropped into an Immortal Testing. It's like a thousand ways to die with dark comedy and scenes that will make you blush. There also may be cannibalism, dinosaurs, rat spiders, tar lizards and stone lions that hack up ice loogies. Your strength on the outside means nothing in the Immortal Testing; it's about your strength on the inside. You must strengthen the bonds with those by your side during the journey and realise each version of your demise is unavoidable.

Truthfully, everything figuratively mirrors my life in a creepy way. As I was writing Enlightenment, I finished each day with shock and awe. Wild Thing came before the third book in Kayn's series. Wild Thing took bravery as an author and a human being. I was exhuming a traumatic past and owning it. I could have altered Lexy's age but chose to write free of boundaries. The whole book is like striking a match and letting my inner Wild Thing burn as freely as it needed to. Every book in each series follows the evolution of the characters.

How difficult is it, as an author or in general as a creative person telling stories, to create from nothing and make them become an actual something?  Do you find such a process more difficult from a perspective of creating unique quality, or are you equally or more interested in following the muse where ever it takes you, i.e. a familiar subject in any particular genre.

I just sit down and write. My imagination takes off by itself and I try to keep up. I listen to music sometimes.

Who do you write for, the readers or yourself?  I am sure that you love the subject, so when you write or create, does the prospect of a sale or new reader compel you to write, or, absent a need to sell what you do, would you do it regardless?

I have little to no control over what I write. I have a base idea of where I'd like the storyline to go. I start writing at nine am and set the alarm for when my son gets home. It usually goes off in what feels like half an hour. I've had requests for pairings or name to use, and sometimes it lingers in my subconscious and ends up in there. On occasion, I'll use a friend or reader's name from a funny email. I get a hilarious amount of emails from people who want to be murdered during a Correction.

Comic book writer Alan Moore said writers perform magic, similar to God, in that, they create something from nothing.  But is that really true?  How much of what you do as a writer comes from internal structures and artistic energy combining, telling a new version of the journey, and how much is purely new?

Sometimes, I have an idea of where I'd like my writing day to go, but it doesn't always work out as I'd planned. My Fitbit thinks I'm sleeping pulse rate wise so I'd assume it's a dreamlike state. I try to stick with what I wrote and often that takes guts. My imagination travels into dark places and comes out with a lesson. My characters make remarkably sketchy choices while dealing with the aftermath of trauma. At times, it's a raw, brutal experience but my series has three Clans of immortals who were given a second chance as sacrificial lambs for the greater good, so it's not going to be a light-hearted walk in the park. They stretch their partially mortal brains and hearts to the limit, and on occasion, they snap. That's how Dragon's a formed in my series. There are green scaly dragons, but often that word is a reference to a state of mind.

When I write I find it comforting, being able to express what is inside my mind, which has generally not been the case.  True, when I say things I've had people say, Only Alex would say that, not unfairly, I am a direct person who sometimes misses the cues.  Is writing for you more about the rush of telling your own story for others, or is the writing itself the journey for you?

My writing journey took off as a way to deal with my illness, I see it clearly in the rearview mirror. For me, it's an escape from the box m.s put me in. I only go trail running in my imagination now. That used to be one of my favourite things to do. I usually write for six-hour spurts, and it feels like half an hour has passed. I'll have to actually force my myself to stop because I'm so lost in what's happening.

Does the creative artist owe anyone anything as a proper way to share the gift? I.E., people get pissed at members of the 27 club for dying, being unwilling by their misdeeds to make sure their gift goes on for a full lifetime.  I'd argue we try to tame the creatives of society (for instance, I know film professors who say the construction of certain films are brilliant, but the fans of various franchises want to have a say in how or what story is told.) If any of this is true, what is your reply to the question, do you owe anything to others due to you having a great talent?

People with pimped out imaginations tend to live colourful lives. They spend their childhood stuck in a box, unable to pay attention in boring situations because their imagination is always trying to lure them away into an extraordinary world. I'd love to believe future generations of children with wild imaginations will be seen as having a remarkable ability and treated as such, instead of being shoved into a box they aren't capable of fitting in. In this day in age, the artists of the world have paid their dues in being misunderstood. Artistic brains are different on an MRI. We are unique people who have always been told to act a certain way or behave ourselves because our light was disrupting the others.

As far as readers go, we do owe them something for joining us in the universe we've created. We should be thankful they've bought a ticket for our warped and wild ride. I always take the time to respond to fan mail or messages from readers. On occasion, I'll slip in a name or a pairing request will come to mind while I'm down the rabbit hole.

What does the future hold for books?  Will they die off?  Will my giant library of reference and fiction books be considered as foolish as my old 8 track tape collection?

I heard paperbacks were making a comeback.

Do you think self publishing limits your audience, or, do you think having product in hand to show people is a valuable tool, even if your future goals are not self publishing?

A small publisher can't do much for you. Really do your research before you sign with anyone. I have my own small Canadian press label, just as authentic as any of the others out there. I have too much in my imagination to sit there and send out thousands of emails per day, for what? I write what I want with no boundaries. Create your universe and readers will come. My Field Of Dreams has naughty immortals in it. When your series takes off, there's nobody else with rights to your work. My advice to anyone taking back work back from a publisher is, rewrite those books from before they went there and save daily rewrite files. If a movie deal shows up, nobody can mess it up but you.

As a young adult I bought an ankh at a fair, and would still wear it if I could find it.  As the sigil of life I found it to be comforting.  With knowing why I am moved by it, why did you choose it as such a visible part of the Children of the Ankh series you are writing?  Was it for religious reasons, for symbolic reasons, or otherwise?

I wish I could tell you why I chose the symbol of Ankh. I picked the names of the Clans in a dreamlike state writing. I debated switching the names out and spoke to friends about different ideas. When all was said and done, instinct told me to let it ride. The spiritual brand of Ankh as a key to heaven prohibiting entry to the hall of souls giving the Clans time to heal their mortal shells each time they die, fit like finishing a puzzle.

Your books have many five star reviews on amazon for them, do you believe that Amazon reviews help especially, or are you just happy they liked it?  I ask because there is a woman who wrote a good book I know who sent out about 50 copies and asked people to leave a review.  Since the margins of profit for some works are so narrow, I wondered the wisdom of that.

I've sent out thousands of review e-books and more paperbacks than I care to admit to sources. Sadly, that's not even a stretch. Amazon erases legitimate reviews so often, I've stopped caring. I had hundreds of reviews erased. For a long time, It felt like a personal attack. Now, I shrug and sigh. I have scathing reviews out there from reviewers, we all do. Most legitimate review sources don't bother posting if they can't give a book at least three stars.

If a three-star review has both positive and negative comments take it as constructive criticism. Learn from it and move on. As human beings, we don't always enjoy the same things. Brutal one-star reviews usually come from trolls. Look at the reviewer's account, if they've posted thousands and almost none are liked, you know they're just a troll. Now, trolls serve a purpose. Bad press is still going to draw attention to your book. If you go look at a famous author's account, they have tons of ridiculously harsh reviews. My advice for any new author would be to check the source. Never engage, do not respond, they'll follow you around to every format to mess with you.

What in particular makes the Children of the Ankh aimed most at Young Adults?  Do you have to think young, or is it in the subject matter?  I can still read my two favorite books from youth, sooo soooo long ago, and enjoy them, (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Mouse and the Motorcycle) so I am not suggesting quality is why, but the particular question is, how does it work as a writer to aim at a certain group of readers. Your press copy for Sweet Sleep says this is not a fairy tale, this is a nightmare.  As a writer do you try to bend genres so to get the reader to have expectations and then deftly switch gears or directions to add impact of the work?  I've almost never sold any large amount of copies of books, so, I am not asking because I think it is wrong, just that I am curious the goal.

The young Adult Genre isn't like it was when we were younger. If there is YA subject matter and it's pg 13, it's YA. Violence doesn't shift a genre anymore, graphic sexuality bumps it up to New Adult. Sweet Sleep is YA, Enlightenment is YA, but at Let There Be Dragons the series crosses over to New Adult. It's a natural progression in a universe of characters. They've grown-up, and readers have been waiting for certain characters to get together since the first book. With my mix of genres, I'm dealing with a sophisticated audience that expects more, they crave out of the ordinary and want to be challenged emotionally. Spoiler alert...I kill off the main character by the end of chapter one in a brutal, unexpected way but all heroes are born out of embers that linger from the fire of great tragedy, aren't they?

If you were to suggest you have a goal for Children of the Ankh, what would it be, and why that?

Emails from people the series has touched, truly make my day. Those messages make it all worth the endless hours. We're starting a new decade with full paperback distribution, so it's poised to take off. You never know, maybe it will.

What books are on the horizon for you in 2020 and beyond?

I'm currently writing book 5 in Kayn's series, Tragic Fools. This book is so much fun to write.

Children Of Ankh Series Universe (YA Crossover)
Sweet Sleep
Let There Be Dragons
Handlers of Dragons
Tragic Fools   (Coming in 2020)

COA Series (New Adult)
Wild Thing
Wicked Thing
Deplorable Me

Children Of Ankh Universe Middle-Grade Novella Series
Bring Out Your Dead

I have a middle-grade old school sci-fi book, Mythomedia Press may release as an extra treat this year, The Repopulation Project.

What words, if any, of advice have guided you through your writing life?

It's a marathon, not a sprint. Nothing happens overnight. I'm glad it didn't, I've matured as an author in so many ways over this last decade.

Write with you filter off and be brave. Write about what scares you. Be true to your imagination. I could have dialled the trauma these characters face back or changed Lexy's age at the beginning of Wild Thing to make everyone comfortable but opted to stay true to my imagination. I have an excellent review describing Lexy's character as Unapologetically Feral. I was beyond proud. That is precisely what I was going for. Every piece of the puzzle serves a higher purpose. There's a series quote, Someone has to go into the dark to lead the others out. If not me...who?

I'm in a cover contest. Vote for Sweet Sleep here.


Just a few series twitter accounts it’s a long list

Friday, December 27, 2019

Don Imus is dead

I generally don't get angry at what people say in the world of entertainment, either in terms of scripted works, or in the moment live voices.  I don't agree with anyone or everyone unless I do, so, that others have opinions does not surprise or bother me.

But Don Imus was called a shock jock, a radio DJ who went to the edge of acceptable words, and beyond.  And the people who refer to him as this, often lump into the definition of shock jock Howard Stern.  But that is so far from the truth to suggest they are made of the same sort of flesh.  They've both offended groups of people, and they have been in trouble with the FCC.  But that is where the resemblance ends.

Yes, Howard Stern has made mistakes and has said bad, even intolerant things. At the same time he has people on is staff from across ethnic groups and genders, and has for a co-host Robin Quivers, who is very bright, beautiful, and black.  Howard has been quoted as saying, he'd retire if Robin left the show.  There are a group of guests of the show called the Wack Pack, they are a gathering of people of different race, different gender, different abilities, who are celebrated by Stern. A sort of member of the Wack pack was Eric the Actor Lynch, a person with substantial birth defects and issues.  He'd scream at Howard to stop calling him a midget. But in the end, Eric the Actor Lynch had appearances on television that his relationship with the Stern show made possible.  When he died Howard was deeply wounded.  He celebrates the differences in the human species.  Whether Howard Stern is funny or not is a question of taste.  But as human beings go, he doesn't have any problems from me.  Don Imus on the other hand...

Don Imus didn't treat others well.  And yes, he might have done good things in his personal life, he might even have been a good person quietly doing good.  But his public persona was not good.  He was racist in ways that shouldn't be celebrated.  He referred to the aforementioned Howard Stern as being a Jew, so put him in the oven.  Howard Stern's black co host Robin Quivers was called a Nigger by him.  He referred to the women basketball program of Rutgers University as "Nappy-headed 'Hos'.  He suggested that the football player Adam Jones committed crimes because he was black.  Imus used the term Ragheads to describe people of Arabic descent.  He called gay people faggots.  Any one of these would be sad, or troubling, but you could perhaps accept that a person can be out of step on one area and not be a worthless human.  Taking all as a larger picture, the man was racist, and racist jokes stopped being funny a long time ago.

I don't wish the Imus family to be broken by the loss, I am not suggesting he is Hellbound.  I don't make other people's choices, and I am not God to judge.  But aside from his family, and whoever benefited from his work, I can't imagine many will be bruised by this loss.  I used to say, to shock people, that when a person dies, who I wasn't a fan of, that I would love to say in public, regarding the death "It is about time they died." Regarding Don Imus's passing?  I hope his family recovers, and I hope he was at peace with his life.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A LIFE in Media Five from each area of interest

I get asked by a certain few people all the time what my various favorites are in the worlds in which I have interest.  Sometimes that is great, sometimes it is hard as heck because I haven't thought enough to delineate favorites.  I think that it is a valid question, and am not saying it is too hard, but, I think choosing five favorite anything can be more difficult than choosing food to eat or sports to watch.  So, in each area of my interest, here are five each of whatever I am considering.

(The only thing I'd say is that there are great comics talents who created amazing works, who are not represented since I've rather large swaths of works I considered.  However, feel free to notice in the comics the works of Timothy Truman, Chuck Dixon, Grant Morrison, Mike Grell and Mike Baron.  I like others too, but you have to make do with the 5 allowed.)

Have a beautiful new year.  Whatever faith you do or don't celebrate, I hope this holiday season is or has been moving and rewarding to you.

Ongoing comic series, limited series and manga.

Roleplaying Games, War boardgames, Video Games, Boardgames

Animated series, Cinema, Kaiju

Philosophy, Fantasy fiction, History, Cooking

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Dark and Different Brain Trips

I was asked what comics are there that are completely new.  Since I don't altogether think new is a possible,  

"Ecclesiastes 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

9 What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun." 

I absolutely cannot tell you what comic books you might think are new. I can only think about the world we have and new ideas or outlooks.  These four books consider different and new paradigms than normally found in the world of comics, and whatever your personal outlook these are all worth reading and buying.

However different, perhaps transgressive, there are works that assume a paradigm that is different than most, that rise above purely speculative, and by doing so, make good and relevant use of the many issues facing humanity.

What are those issues?  We live in an era of vast amounts of information.  We have choices to make that involve sexual expression, drug use, violence as both sport and lifestyle.  But we also have to do all those things in conjunction with a world that tries to limit one's access to those choices.  If you pursue almost anything, it is found on the internet, as well as within the world.  Should you choose to eat, drink, smoke, inject, or anything, you can find a way to do so, and do so both legally and illegally.  

The Filth by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston (DC/Vertigo)

The Filth features a world that is controlled by an over arching society if not necessarily government, and the options that someone has within that world.  In the world of The Filth the reader is asked to look at the life of a character who pursues an interest sex and pornography, to a possible exclusion of real relationships. He is a member of a world that is both outside of the normal world, and interested in culture in a manner that asserts an interest in creating by participation in secret societies to create a new society that is postmodern.  Drugs, Sex, Violence, are all avenues of creating a new sort of world, with permissions from individuals to allow society, government and personal agency to revalue the world.  At the time The Filth was released the worst excesses of the Patriot acts and subversion of individuals in a post war on terror world had yet to be seen.  It seems, however vulgar, to be more hopeful that one might have thought possible considering the near future choices Morrison saw as possible in his near future world.

Narcopolis by Jamie Delano and Jeremy Rock (Avatar Press)

The Narcopolis world we are looking into is very much the sort that 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley would have perceived, and that isn't in any way to say less of it. The protagonist has to explore his world, rights, causes, and eventually rebel from that world. Drugs are used to enhance, to empower citizens and is used to disengage from society.  The society in question relies upon certain ways to control citizens, while individuals are able to enhance or "adjust" their existence by pharmaceutical means, by ability to adjust sleep, to receive surgery or the like.  The world is one where the individual is forced to transgress against society to be allowed to pursue their own path.  This work, even more so than the Filth, looks deeply into our present world,  if you consider the world we live in presently. Data mining, predictive text and AI, the ability to intercept personal data and knowledge by government of individual behavior, surgery to enhance the individual abilities or even to achieve a level of beauty, and drug use by the individuals as well by government to alter lives, all exist in ways that are frightening to consider, but have become deep parts of existence.  While fiction, Narcopolis imagines a world that isn't that hard to consider.

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson (DC/Vertigo)

The protagonists in the previous two mentioned works, feature both rebels and individuals, but Transmetropolitan features a dystopian world with a reporter who is actually a part of that world, and he looks into it, challenges it, and tries to change it.  It seems far more interested in considering the present than the future, that is to say, the world presented is far less futuristic or science fiction, but decayed forms of the presents aspects of life.  Government, media, and culture are presented as dystopian, but are recognizable in ways to suggest, something not so far way in time or event than this our present. Perhaps there isn't an agency to change the present, but perhaps to show that the present world has masses of people who do not perceive the politics, media and cultural forces that exist and that there are forces that alter access to democratic, free, individualistic existence. The lead character is much more a personal character who the reader sees through the eyes of.

Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy (Image Comics)

The three previous series all considered worlds that were mostly extension of the present issues, government, culture that by being made extreme came further into focus.  Tokyo Ghost was a brilliant deep future consideration where the world becomes addicted to forms of entertainment that stimulate adrenaline and addictions to technology, creating a world that allows few areas with little or no technology.  Brilliantly, it suggests that the evolution of tech is something that is self perpetuating, and evolves due to human intervention, but is beyond human perception.  It only reached 10 issues of comics, and has a collected version, but it remains open to further chapters.

So, whatever you are looking for, I think that are new books to consider, the dystopias presented are all means to consider the world of the near future.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Kaepernick Question

On occasion I try to go beyond the concepts of media products or interviews of talents here.  I don't say those are bad, but, popular culture includes sports, as in the following commentary, or food culture, and ever changing values and ideas that challenge the mainstream. Challenging the mainstream offers that someday the idea in question might enter our popular ideals, as having been a victor in a free market, free speech, free will society, where the best idea wins the argument. If we do not talk about things, if we erect echo chambers and follow and listen to only those thinkers we already agree with, why talk?  Why bother if the possibility of change is impossible?  We talk to learn, to negotiate culture, we talk to exchange ideas, ideals, and share dreams and nightmares, because if we do nothing, our society begins to decay, for stasis is not a way to lead, it is the path of those who are accepting of being dead or are too ill to realize that they are dying.

The reason Colin Kapernick began his protest was to bring attention to the problems of police brutality, nationwide inequity towards black people from the US Justice department, and the protest was aimed at changing how people think about the people they watch on the stage of football.  These men are not all just muscles and agility and power.  They have minds and do not agree with the National Anthem, because the country has failed them.

Recently pro football exile Colin Kaepernick was offered a chance to work out for NFL scouts as arranged by the NFL head office.  He saw flaws in the plan, and arranged an alternative event, to showcase his talents.  No one signed him. The NFL has suggested either directly or through channels that the overall product offered by the NFL is harmed by his choice to protest the offering of the national anthem.  Some cynics suggested that his play had seriously declined, and that taking a knee was a means to making his presence more difficult to remove.  Others suggested that his previous career earnings were more than enough to sustain him should his "plot" fail. The worst argument for wanting Kaepernick out of the NFL is to say life is so much better today for African Americans that the act of protest is selfish, false, and attention grabbing.  First of all, it is attention grabbing, that was the point to use the attention to draw interest to the cause. Many people were pissed off by it, that too, was the point.

So did his plan work?  Did change happen as a result of his protest, and was he able to be redeemed by the changed world and raised aloft to return to the NFL?  No. It is also categorically wrong to suggest racism does not still exist, hasn't existed throughout the life of the NFL, and that enough has been done to stop it.  He couldn't stop the continuance of such behavior, and his protest didn't change enough minds to do anything.  But does that make him wrong? I'd agree that it does seem foolish to see African American athletes raise the specter of being slaves upon the plantation.  Millionaires have far more choices than those poor, black or white.  That is called hyperbole.  It is also false that there is any connection between the protests and improvements in the situations regarding inequity and outright racism.  But if John Brown had attacked Harper's Ferry only to die, and not achieve his goals, it doesn't mean he failed.  His legend lived on.  In Japan there is a cultural concept that sincerity makes any attempt to change or fulfill the task given, already worthy.  Rebels do not often succeed.  Because they die in the attempt should we say it was wrong to try? If Martin Luther King had not led a movement, would blacks have the vote and power to use it, or would the Jim Crow laws be unchanged still, without his effort, and ultimate sacrifice?

I promise you, I am made uncomfortable by people who think patriotism is foolish, or that love of country is silly. I don't like flag burning. I don't like a number of speakers for the movements of various causes.  But I like the fact that those who fought in wars because of the love of country did so knowing that the end result might be someone burning a flag.  Many believed in free speech and part of that freedom is the freedom to hear opposing viewpoints and not kill the person speaking those viewpoints.  We live in a world where it is FAR easier to walk alongside of people who are not protesting, who are being well paid, and who prefer no one else to rock the boat. Nothing different happens without something, someone or many things changing course. We live in an era where we had Obama, a good man, a President I voted for, who stands to some as a living symbol of the final victory over systemic racism.  I say no.  He was elected for good reasons, I think I have issues with most presidents so I am not going to jump up and down saying I loved his choices.  We are not seeing the end of a revolution.  We are seeing a moment in time that defied the traditional ways of thinking.  As someone who did analysis for a political non profit organization, I believed in Obama, but believed something that had never happened would have to happen for him to win.  And he did.

As a result of his victory we do not thereafter find an African American dominance of politics.  Nor do we yet have equality over all for all people in America.  You might argue the reasons for that, it isn't going to happen here. My point is, we, as a whole people, Americans, haven't made things that much better nor have they been willing to change. Kaepernick is protesting, or was, the true situation, as well as perhaps being used by some to create a movement that his causing waves might be able to take advantage of that person or group.  We have failed to make America the home of righteousness, of hope, of being fed, or being happy.  We have allowed some but not all to do that.

And as I go, remember, just because slavery ended, it does not mean inequality ended as well. There have been race riots in this country, and I refuse to believe that because it is comfortable for me, that it is similarly so for others.  That isn't the truth.

TIMELESS Holiday Deal


Armand Baltazar announces special holiday deals around his book
Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic.

(Los Angeles, December 10, 2019) Author creator Armand Baltazar announced today two special holiday deals that let readers get keepsakes from the global fan favorite which can be personalized for the holidays. All orders MUST be placed by December 16th to guarantee Christmas delivery and the holiday specials will run until January 1, 2020.

Holiday Specials:
1) Buy a Hardcover copy of TIMELESS and receive a FREE Goldfish enamel pin! Books will be signed and personalized.
2) Buy any signed and numbered limited edition print of art from the TIMELESS book and receive a FREE Hardcover copy of the book that is signed and personalized.

To Order
For Book & FREE Pin:
Go the Book Purchase page and PURCHASE a book.
THEN: Email us at with the name(s) that the book will be personalized to.

AND type Book & Pin Holiday Special

For a Limited Print & FREE Book :
Go the  Book Art page and PURCHASE the signed and numbered limited edition print that you want.
THEN: Email us at with the name(s) that the book will be personalized to
AND type LMTD Print & Book  Holiday Special

About Timeless: Diego and The Rangers of the Vastatlantic:

The book is a first in a new science fiction/fantasy series that explores a world painted new by the Time Collision. Integrating art and text, this epic and cinematic adventure features more than 150 full-color illustrations.

You’ve never seen Earth like this before: continents reshaped, oceans re-formed, cities rebuilt, and mountains sculpted anew. Dinosaurs roam the plains alongside herds of buffalo, and giant robots navigate the same waters as steam-powered ships.

This is the world Diego Ribera was born into. The past, present, and future coexisting together. In New Chicago, Diego’s middle school hallways buzz with kids from all eras of history and from cultures all over the world. The pieces do not always fit together neatly, but this is the world he loves.

There are those, however, who do not share his affection. On his thirteenth birthday, Diego learns of a special gift he has within, a secret that is part of something much bigger—something he cannot understand. When his father, New Chicago’s top engineer, is taken by the Aeternum, Diego must rescue him and prevent this evil group from disrupting the fragile peace humanity has forged.

Stay up to date on Armand Baltazar at

Friday, November 22, 2019

Life isn't like Life Cereal, however much Mike likes it. (Or not).

Writing about Robert E. Howard and why I like his work despite various critic's having averse opinions upon his work, led me to receive a few emails asking what I like other than his work, and it made me wonder upon the nature of taste in popular media.

We are obviously free to like whatever we like, and that remains true even if you live in a country with a repressive government that disallows various forms of media, or subject matter therein.  No one has an honorable reason to shat upon your taste, whatever your taste is.  I might not think porn is a valid genre of art, but others do, and it is legal, when not illegal in content, so, I say, if that floats your boat, do it.  Watch it, enjoy it.  But, that isn't the same thing as saying, because you like it, it is of a higher quality than other things that you do not enjoy.  That isn't aimed at saying you like shit.  I am not believing that either.  I am saying, you are allowed, and free to pursue your enjoyment of anything.

So what happens if your enjoyment of a medium leads you to doing things you see in such a thing?  That isn't really the bigger issue, is it?  If you are watching Star Wars and whack your younger brother over the head with a giant foam fake sword, you aren't actually doing anything, are you?  Now, it could be argued that porn is meant to inspire behavior, but, for the purpose of this, let me say, I am not going to suggest that.  But if you get frisky and act the scene you saw, that isn't a bad thing, unless of course you are banging the cat, or doing illegal things to people who didn't give consent. My mother once said my brother's enjoyment of action movies was unhealthy.  If those movies had actually encouraged him to become a mercenary and kill folks, I'd agree. Honestly though, my mother was not actually worried about that. Her moral judgment was about what he watched, and that judgment of taste is really unfair nor is it in any way accurate. I've heard it said that any medium of creative expression is meant to raise the human spirit or conscience, to transcend our lives in the mud and grime, but I do not agree with that statement.  One person's trash is another's treasure. In fact as Ezra Pound said, “Good art however "immoral" is wholly a thing of virtue. Good art can not be immoral. By good art I mean art that bears true witness, I mean the art that is most precise.”

It has always been the complaint by critics of various media that the greatest literature or film or music isn't as popular as works of far less quality, and that higher art and concepts need to be read.  It has always been a response to such a complaint that the masses like what they like and they are not wrong for liking something.  I can say without any hedging of my point, that you cannot lead people into like something that they do not like.  If they do like something great, it is their sense of taste and not your own that led to their appreciation of it.  Someone once said to my saying I didn't like eating a certain food, that I just needed to try more of it to build a sense of taste.  Well, that is like making a person read a genre that they have no desire to be exposed towards, watch a documentary about paint drying, or cause a pacifist listen to a bunch of people singing a song about crime or violent acts and then demanding that they like it. If it happens that you share a book or movie or CD of music, and you've expanded a person's enjoyment of creative works, that is awesome, but it is a very long road with very few success stories.

If you think I do not believe what I just said, you are wrong.  I write poetry and try to sell it.  It does not sell easily, nor do I receive much feedback that is positive.  I write because it needs to be written, so, my motives for writing isn't to exalt or transcend, it is purely aimed at expression. While some think of poetry as a high brow form of writing, I do not.  It is a form.  It is neither positive nor negative.  It is rap versus singing, it is a comic book versus a movie.  It is just a way to express.  However, I've also given away, freely, more than a thousand comics, as many books, and even some music, and usually found that my efforts to evangelize the various people I encountered with great works failed.  Whatever genres, and forms of media I shared, getting people to like what they do not, try what they've never tried, and grow taste is very difficult. Some one told me how a certain crime fiction writer was the best of his class because of the depth of research, and that other writers might know something, but their works were tawdry and vulgar and focused upon the emotion and capricious aspects of human nature, rather than a deeper study if non fiction, or a deeper look into the mind of the criminal, if fiction.  This reminded me of Mickey Spillane's comment about mass popularity versus high culture esteem.  "Those big-shot writers … could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar."

Obviously, people like what they like, and we rarely find people who, as a whole, find the same enjoyment for the creative materials we enjoy... however.  There is something else to say.  You can respect a person's work, without loving it, have the same taste as a person, but find the creative works they make to be out of your area of interest or taste.  I respect many people, but I don't assume shared interests between you and them that therefore you are going to like the things that they place into a form and somehow share.  This isn't saying much, it is obvious, but, I should say, it can be very surprising to learn you share a love of Star Wars with a 90 year old retired minister, or that you can learn that Ezra Pound poetry moves a person you thought would have hated it.  That doesn't mean that if the person you share an interest area with creates something, it will be a thing you like, or even not like,  you cannot predict that, I think.

The germ of inspiration to write this came not from deeper thought, as much, as frustration with others who try to poop on what people like.  If you bring up a variety of creative works you become judged for it, and thought to be a moron or low brow neanderthal to some.  My experience is, we've all this one life, and I am not going to be a slave to anyone else's taste.  That often leaves me with less to watch, listen, play or read.  That is, most of the world we live in tries to create work that will be popular, and if it becomes popular, there will be more like it.  Being original is often thought a risk, because, if someone has never seen something like that, why would they ever want to try it.  Some people love adventure, but as time has gone by I've watched people choose the same old thing over and over again.  I titled this about a cereal that had advertising that suggested just because you don't like it, others don't necessarily think or feel the same.  And if Mikie liked that cereal, maybe it was good.

I have a friend, have for about 15 years and I have worked with him, and we've shared a number of projects and chats.  Michael May is deeply kind and a very generous soul, and I love him, not in the gay way, but if I were gay, hell yeah.  He and I over the years have cross pollinated the others taste areas, but this has been rare.  Michael is a writer as well as a day job, being a father and does great things in the world of ministry.  When he suggests I need to read this, he loves it, I do try it.  But the results have almost never been my being in agreement.  We might in fact liked the same issue of a comic, but when we discussed it, his reason for liking it was X, and my reason for liking it was Y.  And his areas of interest or their form might be the same as my own, but the various products from those areas are unlikely to work for both of us.  I remember reading an article he wrote about a comic he enjoyed, and I had read the very same thing and thought, ew, why the hell did I just read this.

Water is wet, sky is blue, grass is green, yes, all of this is stuff we should know by now.  But, there are a couple different things to consider.  As a writer I think Michael writes well, but more importantly for this, he is fantastic at creating his prose, and I am interested. When he and I have created projects, I will have an idea, it will germ, but I think in poetry, Michael thinks in prose, and the result is, he looks at what I've said, and makes it work for a broader audience.  He inspires me by his way of creating, but he is more than just a writer, he has interests and ideas that I'd never come up with, if I had not interacted with him.  Thanks to mutual friend Joe Kinski Hilliard for his suggestion, in 2004 that Michael and I would be fast friends.  I don't wonder if I hadn't experienced Michael's work that I'd assume that I'd like it.  If I am honest, and I hope to be, if all I knew about Michael was how different his taste was from mine, I'd have assumed that what he wrote was not to my taste, and that we probably are so different we can't be friends.  And that'd be wrong.

My point is, and yes I do indeed have one, that our tastes may vary, or they might well intersect, but taste isn't the same as respect, admiration or appreciation.  So, if you think poetry sucks, it might, and mine probably would suck in your mind if you think all poetry sucks, but if you just reduce your level of distaste for something, you might find layers of worth, even in things you didn't expect to be good.  If you explore an idea, you might find it to be worth your time however that idea has been creatively expressed. A former friend of mine and a friend of Michael had vastly different outlooks on the things from popular media that I liked.  That was all fine.  But I often found myself thinking, how can he think like that and still like my work.  I am not sure he still likes my work, we've not communicated in years, but, it leads me to think, just because you have a different outlook, doesn't mean you can't enjoy the products they produce, ideas they have, or their motives to create.


Things I've been liking lately:

Netflix Ultraman is the greatest animated series I've ever watched and I am genuinely worried that when the series is over there will not be anything like it to replace it.  It is a brilliant sequel to the original series which I do love, but more from nostalgia than deeper thought.  This work takes the past, makes it part of the layers of the present, and tells a story that goes WAY beyond anything I've ever seen before. I truly, and deeply, love it.

The music of Aaron Kerr.  The music artist I interviewed a short while back has a deeply moving quality of music he has created, and before you ask, I can't really say the genre, it absorbs and uses so many different genres it would be silly for me to try to say.  It moves me for the depth of originality, the listenability of it, and how it approaches rather deep ideas without feeling like it has made itself better and higher over the listener. 

A Brief History of The Normans, The Samurai, The Vikings, The Celts by various writers.  This series is fantastic.  I've reached a place in my work and research that I am familiar with the subjects I write about, and just need a quick refresh of facts and statistics and dates.  I read and research all of the subjects I write about, thoroughly, for instance my book, with friends helping, Autumn Painted Red required a mastery of the facts and thoughts about the subject. (*more below).  This series is less about creating new ideas, while I like knowing more, it isn't the point of this series.  It is to capture a large movement or event, and make it easy to know the overall entirety of the subject.

(*I acquired and read more than 25 different books, and watched numerous documentaries.  I might be wrong in who I thought was the culprit, but, thanks to the work researching it, I am very content with what I did.  That isn't to suggest that it is perfect, and as I suggest, I could be wrong on who I think did the terrible crimes, but it remains a work I am proud of. I should briefly note, that while I still trust the source of the work, there are many competing theories and I have an open mind about it all.  I was excited by the "news" that DNA from an item led to identification of the contributors of the DNA, but, I've read that there are more than a few reasons to doubt.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Comic Book Talent Tom Lyle Passes

Tom Lyle did some fantastic work telling stories by his artist hand.  He was a thoughtful artist, one who seemed to add to the stories by the layers offered in the panels he drew or covers he created.  His work later in life found him as an instructor in art and particularly of the comic book variety at Savannah College of Art and Design, and he was also an active member of the arts community in which he lived.  In September or August he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was placed into a medically induced coma.  He didn't survive.

While I did buy comics Tom created, he was someone I came to appreciate because of his person, not his art. I did appreciate his work, and bought it, particularly the work on Robin and comics from Eclipse.  We'd been on a secret facebook group where the members were people in the world of comics, and I'd met him only there and by the inclusion of me by a mutual friend.  I came into a number of personal dialogues with him and was moved by his wisdom, kindness and knowledge.  I'd changed profiles there and I'd lost contact for a while with him, but when I returned to a new profile we friend requested and chatted.  He was someone who I found to have an enormously generous spirit, and for that alone I am sad by his passing.  Comic fans have lost a frequent contributor to the volumes of fine American comic books. 

Click on any of the images to increase the size.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


The Children of Men
P.D. James

The world of The Children of Men as presented by P.D. James is one of sorrow, and worse, approaching oblivion.  The women and men of the UK of that time are infertile, and the very few who can reproduce are considered to be valuable, if not unique.  No children for decades means getting to raise a baby into teen and thereafter adult has become impossible.  The sorrow of childless potential parents is palpable, the pain of knowing what this is a portent of, is worse.

I've mentioned this book here before, but it still stands out as a very personal chapter about how our great global society might end.  P.D. James wrote crime stories and mysteries, this was an unusual, and perhaps unique offering from her but one that was vastly better than most other works in similar tone.

It worked for me for many reasons.  I've recently, in the last 12 months encountered a number of ultra conservative Catholics who've tried to, and in fact made it clear that I should be shamed for the fact that my wife and I used invitro fertilization to find our child after two ecoptic pregnancies ended the chances we might be parents by our own physical natures. 

The story is one that some find too personal but it needs telling, because in the light of the people who seek to shame me, they reveal their own misperceptions and foolishness.  My wife and I are Christians, not Catholic, and while I am not able to say I am a good Christian, I fail far to often, I am one who practices my faith.  When we lost our two children and I almost lost my wife, we were devastated.  We had used contraception so that we'd never have had children we could not support.  And when we tried, we were crushed.  But we prayed, and I was willing to end the quest.  My wife was not.  In the time between the loss and the obvious choice to go forward, my wife was deeply troubled, crying, sorrow filled.  I was more content, as I'd had a view of God that rather accepting of the trials for reasons I am not going to discuss here.  My parents visited to show their love and support, and my father who had to this point struggled to be as good as his heart wanted to be towards me, stood up before it was time to leave and said, Shirley and I want to let you know that whatever the doctors can do to help you get pregnant, we'll be paying for that. The cost of IVF procedures at the time was twice as much as I had made in a year, at any time prior to that.  We already knew we didn't have the money, it would have to come from God or somewhere else.  My father by standing and saying that gave my wife a path to a return of happiness, gave us the joy of a child, and gave us something we didn't feel before, hope.  My father had a troubled life, overcame it, but saw me as a source of pain, usually.  But in his later life, he also came to a deeper level of faith, and it changed him. By doing this, giving us the gift of our child he was offering to do so many things, and by making my wife happy again, he was giving me life.  He died before seeing his grandson, but his grandson existed because of him.

We rejected all considerations of selected prebirth embryonic/fetal reduction, we said no, and were willing to accept all of the babies we might get.  We knew that cost.  And we were successful on that first try, and had our one son.  We tried to have more twice but lost both pregnancies and thereby had used all of the fertilized embryos. I named my son Jonathan Chaim after the Hebrew phrase, God has given Life.  And he has blessed us deeply by his presence in our life.

So when the Conservative Catholics I dealt with took issue with me it was because they believe we are taking the choice of a supreme god out of that god's hands and making ourselves god.  We were told by god, in their view, that we should never be parents, due to having the ectopic pregnancies. I used a small g there, because that is the kind of God they want.  One that is knowable, when he is mysterious, enormously powerful, willful, knowing, all wise.  They want a god that is known by how nature is responding.  Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans because god was so angry at their sin?  They want a god who lets them have children at will, because the alternative is an awareness of having a God, knowing that the child is better if it has two parents who love and support it, and financial ability to support them.

Yes I am a Protestant, a Lutheran even, but I am a Christian.  Shortly after I was told that my wife and I stole God's right from making a child, they said you people of a different religion will only enter Heaven if god gives you mercy.  Well, let me tell you, I've been a Christian, but not a Catholic, and a great deal of my life while I didn't necessarily agree with Catholics, I assumed they'd be on the same track to Heaven as anyone in my faith.  But these Conservative Catholics think you are as lost as a Satanist or an Atheist if you are not one of them.  All people need God's mercy, none of us are sinless, and only forgiveness by Christ will give you any hope to enter.  ALL people.  If you are a Conservative Catholic and never told me these things, well then I obviously am not referring to you.  But if you think these things, and just never said them, well then, nuts to you.  (And just to say I never say who gets into Heaven, it isn't up to me.)

PD James's book is perfect because it considers how children and babies are gifts from God but are wrapped in the flesh of man.  We are sinful, we are short sighted and foolish.  We make bad choices.  And James is able by taking away the children, and the ability to create anew therein, show that we are infinitely wrapped up in the future of our planet by how we treat having children, being childless, or being prevented from or forced to have children. It is a religious concept having children because it speaks to our reproductive cycles and our natural inclinations we are giving life, in reflection to our God who gave us life.  By giving God all of the power religious people can make it a holy or even unholy event.  I can tell you this, I involved God in every aspect of our pregnancy, and my son is a child of God's blessing, divine providence, and hope.  No one can steal that from us.  No one.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Highlights of interview with Game content designer Rob Wyatt and Filmmaker Ben Dobyns

A candid interview between TLG CTO, Rob Wyatt, with renown geek filmmaker and content creator, Ben Dobyns of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment.

Why should I trust you? Do you have the skills to pull this off? Will I receive what you’re promising? Do I want you to succeed?

Crowdfunding at a high level is a full-time job. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. Asking for money is hard and asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars is even harder. It’s also personal — a pledge is an emotional investment in a person or team who you believe in. Building that connection means being vulnerable, open, accessible for the equivalent of thousands of miniature interviews, and piercing internal monologue questions.
I’m in the studio when my phone rings. It’s the final week of a massive Kickstarter campaign and we’re live streaming like it’s a PBS pledge drive, celebrating every dollar as we inch closer to our $430,000 goal. The last thing on my mind is designing and running another campaign. But I take the call and listen to the pitch… and the more I listen, the more I realize that I’m going to say yes to help bring the Gameboard-1 to life. Why? It involves legendary engineer Rob Wyatt. If you’ve ever used an Xbox or a Playstation, you’re familiar with his work. He helped design them. And now he’s designed a console for tabletop gaming that’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

It’s one thing to talk with the Gameboard-1 team and plan a crowdfunding campaign. It’s another entirely to learn about the sheer scope of the vision from the person who helped make so much video game technology a reality. So I jumped at the opportunity to interview the man himself!

Want even more detail? You can read the complete interview here

What Rob Plays

Ben: I’m going to talk about the Gameboard 1 in a minute here, but I’m curious about the experience of actually playing games. Do you find yourself going in and playing on the consoles that you helped develop, or do you find that it’s more about, let’s get this functioning and then moving on?
Rob: I don’t really play games much anymore. I don’t like violent games.

Never really liked first-person shooters. For the most part, [that’s] all there is today in the AAA market. You get the odd oddball like Spider-Man, which was great, [but] the last games I really enjoyed working on were the Ratchet and Clank games at Insomnia.

Since then it’s always been like, too many first-person shooters, too much violence, and it’s not really my thing. If people make more casual games, more console-quality platform games, I’d happily buy then and I’d happily play them, but they don’t. So I haven’t played [those] games in a while, and I haven’t really been in the AAA game space for quite a while, I’ve been doing a lot of image processing and camera work. So the AAA space is now like, I have no idea what is going on to be honest.

But the casual games, and the fun elements of these small games: that’s kind of one of the driving factors that took me to the Gameboard, because that’s the sort of gameplay you’re going to get: board gameplay, interactive board games. You’re kind of going back to these smaller games, you’re not committed to violence for 80 hours straight. You might play for 80 hours, but it’s not violence for 80 hours.

Why Rob Plays

Ben: So do you find yourself with the time to play boardgames at all, or is this a case more of appreciating that people do it?

Rob: It’s a bit of both. I have a daughter […] and we play a lot of board games with her. She likes playing board games. It’s that social thing, I mean first-person shooters, although they have an online experience, they’re not social at all. The whole idea of social media isn’t social, because it’s locking you in your room, by yourself. Where, when you play games, or you play with your kids, or your friends bring their kids, it’s a full social experience. You could do so much better if you had digital versions of these games, where they’re interactive and they respond back, but you still get that social element because people have to be there.

You sit around one table, around one board, and you’re playing a game together. And it’s a real good family time, it’s good social interaction. It’s quality time for everybody. So that’s really, and I think if you combined the two, if you combined the core gameplay type systems that you got in the earlier console games, with the board game mentality, and the way you play board games, there’s a totally untapped market there, that no one’s ever even considered. You could do arcade style board games, what does that even mean, I don’t know, but you can.

How Rob’s work on Gameboard-1 is changing both game creation and experience
Rob​: There’s also lots of other gameplay mechanics that you could factor into this as well. The pieces have RFID but they’re compatible with NFC. You can interact with them on your phone. You can have a piece, you can have a customized app for your phone where you can, imagine it to be like a pet, where you can keep it alive, you can program it, and you can do all things, feed it XP, from your phone, not even using the tablet. But this piece is now, the piece has the XP in it, not the server, or not some logged in account, it’s actually in the piece. So you could trade these pieces, you could build with the XP wizard, and then trade it. Because your wizard looks like this wizard, but it’s unique because it’s got a different XP.

The physicality and the way we can deal with the physicality fits very much into some of the D&D type play, and some of the mechanics that are required. And it doesn’t need to be online, that’s another big feature. You could be in the middle of nowhere and it all still works.

Another example of gameplay here, would be, I want to cast a spell, but I have the spell on my phone, so I’m going to take my wizard off the board, I’m going to program, the wizard with the spell, on my phone, where it’s all private, it’s on a private screen, you can’t see what’s going on, and then I’m going to play the wizard, and you guys don’t know what that spell is going to be until I actually play the wizard piece.

There’s lots of mechanics you can do. And then you build this into the high-speed play, and you’ve got turn-based play, you’ve got board game type play, you’ve got high-speed arcade play, you’ve got interacting with your phone and these physical pieces, where you can program them offline and program them on the board.

How you put it together is up to you, as a developer, to make the game you want to make. It’s not, we’re not saying every game has to have a physical piece, every game has to be a board game. We’re saying, we have these tools.
There’s a long way to go to get there, but I think you’ve got to start somewhere, and that’s where we’re starting. And that’s one reason why we’re letting people program their own games. We actually want it to be an inclusive thing.
Right now, [prototyping] a board game is really expensive. We’re going to make a construction kit for the Gameboard 1, where you can use a PC or a Mac, or Linux or whatever, or maybe the Gameboard itself, to make an actual game board, and you can program tags. So you can prototype your game board on the Gameboard 1, for your new custom boardgames, without having to print things. So the whole idea of construction kits and making new board games, and new gameplay experiences, is all part of the scope of the platform.