I Read Comics: Rat Queens, Issues 1-5

Rat Queens #1

Rat Queens #1. Image is property of copyright holder, displayed under fair use only.

I hope my friends in Tucson had a great time at the Festival of Books last weekend. I certainly did, though I was only able to attend on Saturday. So let’s talk books!

Today I want to offer an enthusiastic recommendation for Rat Queens, an ongoing series of fantasy comics from Image that I picked up a few months ago after reading a review of the first issue at the Mary Sue.

Set in a D&D-esque universe, Rat Queens begins with the plight of the town of Palisade. Once beset by monsters, the community is now facing a new crisis–the adventurers who cleared out the monsters have refused to leave and are becoming a public nuisance. The comic follows the exploits of one rough and tumble adventuring party of four snarky gals, the Rat Queens, as they grudgingly carry out their community service only to stumble across a new, mysterious threat.

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I Watch Movies: A Fantastic Fear of Everything

…So, let’s all pretend I didn’t disappear for four months and instead kick off a new series of reviews and commentary.

I went down to the Loft Cinema last week to see A Fantastic Fear of Everything, a British horror-comedy starring Simon Pegg. It’s about an author whose extensive research into 19th Century serial killers has left him barricaded in his apartment utterly paranoid and so busy jumping at shadows that he hardly seems aware that there’s an actual serial killer on the loose in his neighborhood.

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Sink the Death Star!

Promotional poster for Sink the Bismarck! (1960) Note the way the battleship is depicted as this dark, hulking thing bristling with guns and attacked by tiny airplanes. Kind of familiar, right?

It is pretty well-known that World War II movies of the 1950s, particularly the British war film The Dam Busters, were a significant influence on the first Star Wars movie.

I recently watched another British war film from the same period, Sink the Bismark!, and was struck by the degree to which it, too, featured tropes that would be developed further in Star Wars and other space operas.

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Give me a Crowbar, a Candle, and a Tortoise and I Can Rob Any Building In Town


Today I wanted to share this really awesome post from the Smithsonian’s Past Imperfect blog:

The year is—let us say—1170, and you are the leader of a city watch in medieval Persia. Patrolling the dangerous alleyways in the small hours of the morning, you and your men chance upon two or three shady-looking characters loitering outside the home of a wealthy merchant. Suspecting that you have stumbled across a gang of housebreakers, you order them searched. From various hidden pockets in the suspects’ robes, your men produce a candle, a crowbar, stale bread, an iron spike, a drill, a bag of sand—and a live tortoise.

The reptile is, of course, the clincher. Continue reading

The Problem with Writing Cinematically

For many of us, even those who grew up with an intense love of reading, film and TV have a powerful hold on the way we envision stories. I have often heard beginning writers talking about how they have their fiction plays out in their heads like a movie and they want to put that image on the page.

But unless you’re writing a screenplay (or a comic book), all you have to work with is text. And when the biggest single storytelling medium in most people’s lives is visual, that can create problems. I’d like to run through a few of the issues I’ve seen crop up in my own work and that of others as a result of the way that movies and TV have infected our brains.

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Improve Your Writing Through Tabletop RPGs

A set of dice for tabletop gaming. Roll for initiative!

A set of dice for tabletop gaming. Roll for initiative!

I’ve recently gotten back into tabletop roleplaying as a Game Master for a Pathfinder adventure path and I’ve really been noticing all the ways that tabletop gaming can help fiction writers.

First, a quick summary for the uninitiated: Tabletop roleplaying is a form of collaborative storytelling that relies heavily on imagination, mediated through a set of rules and kept unpredictable through the use of multi-sided dice. Most games feature a single Game Master and several Players. Each Player invents a character that they control throughout the events of the game. The Game Master (GM) is responsible for bringing everything else to life — people, places and events — and adjudicating the actions of the Players.

That means that one of the GM’s core responsibilities is providing effective, on-the-fly description. Continue reading

Writing Contest: We Have a Winner!

I got some fun entries for the “What’s in the Box?” writing contest, both in comments and in messages, but I’m giving the gold to my friend Cassandra for her answer to what’s in the lead-lined box:

“Schrödinger’s vengeful, time-and-space displaced cat.”

Thank you to everyone who participated. Hopefully I’ll have another little contest going sometime soon.

As for what’s really in the lead coffin-within-a-coffin, we’ll just have to wait and see.