Cirsova #3 eBook out on Amazon

You can get it here today.

We’re having some issues with Kickstarter money clearing; it should’ve been moved on Tuesday (which was 14 days from the end of the Kickstarter), but has not been transferred to our account yet. We have queried Kickstarter about this; as soon as the money transfers or the end of next week (whichever comes first), we will begin fulfilling backer orders.

Random Thoughts: Nothing to See, Everything to Lose, “Real Writer” Culture, and Following Your Hate

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Talked to an old friend today. The guy is not a serious fan of sff beyond watching Firefly and so forth. I tried to explain to him what all was going on… the way that basically no one would would even be seen talking to me online last January… to things changing in a number of surprising ways in the past few months. My friend wrote it all off as just a consequence of a steadily growing readership. And you know I’d buy that, too, if the coverage in NPR, Wired, and Popular Science had not been so over the top. I guess out in Normie land the press completely losing its shit over something utterly insignificant is not something that raises eyebrows. When I talk about the implications of the old paths to publication and legitimacy being increasingly irrelevant, he sees nothing unusual. Oh, he’d read somewhere that Amazon…

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The Devil is in the (Errors Within Your) Details, or Mike Barr Didn’t Know How Football Scoring Works

I mentioned the other day how at SpaCon I picked up a run of several issues of Batman and the Outsiders.  Let me start by saying that I love this title, and it has better writing than a lot of the comics I’ve read. Katana is one of my favorite DC characters, so you can imagine how annoying it was to see her solo one-shot ruined by a fundamental lack of understanding regarding how scoring in football works.

The conceit of the Katana solo is that the radio broadcast of a game between Gotham and Metropolis is syncing up with the action as Katana foils the heist of a priceless museum artifact.  Sounds cool, right? It would’ve been, but in the first panel, the announcer tells us that Gotham is down 14-18 with only minutes to go in the fourth and Gotham desperately needs a field goal.  Not even Tony Kornheiser would make this call. When the day is saved by Katana making a Hail Mary pass to the museum curator, Gotham scores a touchdown to win the game 19-18.

So what’s my point in this? If you’re going to try to incorporate elements of a game into your story, be sure you can display at least a basic understanding of the rules, otherwise it will pull the reader/viewer out of the story, and they will only be able to focus on the part you got wrong. Or like how I wince every time I hear the line from Punk Rock Girl, “Someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox. It was California Dreamin.”*

This is something I’ve noticed that happens a lot when some show or movie tries to portray D&D, and it’s the point where shows get tons of praise for being within the ballpark.

I know, I know, this is kind of like the cultural appropriation argument, you’re thinking, but it’s not. I’m all for including stuff in your stories; you just need to make sure you don’t do it in such a way that people are going to think you’re an idiot or a space alien. If you’re going to include some sort of detail, whether it’s gaming or culture, that’s a key point in your story, you need to do the research to get it right for YOUR benefit so that people who might otherwise be drawn to your work for highlighting something relevant to their interest won’t just write you and your story off off for doing it wrong.

*:And it turns out that Beach Boys did do a weird kinda new wavey cover in the 80s; see? I didn’t do the research!


Back From SpaCon

It was a long and busy weekend for Cirsova Publishing. Not a particularly successful one, but a long and busy one, nonetheless, where some important lessons were learned.

The folks running SpaCon did a pretty great job, all things considered, what with it being their first year and all, and I don’t want anything I say to be construed as a slight against them, but…

I don’t think we’ll be doing any more anime conventions, at least not until we get the Leigh Brackett Light Novels finished. Fun as they are, small anime conventions are more a place to see and be seen, strutting your cosplay stuff or seeing what other folks have to offer. Most people aren’t there to buy merch, much less books. As a consequence, the lady next to us doing Henna tattoos was killing it both days, while the other small crafts vendors didn’t get much traffic.  Even the bigger toy and comic sellers seemed to be doing fairly light business compared to River City (fewer people seen with swag-bags).

There were a few things that raised an eyebrow, however. We were the only fiction publisher. No one was really selling books, though the local library had a small shelf of cheap SF books along the lines of what you’d expect to see at a normie’s flea market booth (Star Trek books and a few well known thriller authors). While there were a couple people selling comics, no one was selling manga or DVDs of anime.

We were much more successful at River City Comic Expo, and while the cheaper table price and lack of two hour round trip commute didn’t hurt, the biggest factor was that it was more of a vendor driven event. People were there to buy things, and a few of them even bought stuff from us. The other pulp publisher in AR wasn’t at SpaCon, which was too bad, because we could’ve benefited from the synergy or, if nothing else, I could’ve maybe picked up the new volume of Bombay Sapphire.

The Tortured Earth folks were there, and I talked to one of them for a bit; I wish I’d had a chance to actually run the game with them at one of their demos to test out their claim that it was compatible with B/X (or see if it was in the same ballpark). One thing that’s a drag about having a table is that the most you can really do to engage at the con is check out the booths doing a quick circuit; you don’t have the opportunity to check out any of the panels or do any of the activities.

It wasn’t all bad. Our booth was on the end with a direct view of the main stage, so we had a bit of entertainment. I ended up buying a Master Grade 1/100 scale GM and a run of Batman and the Outsiders, including several issues beyond the end of collected volume I’d read. My one strike-out over the weekend was getting a Katana action figure. Out of all the McDonalds I hit between home and the con, none of them had a Katana, so I ended up having to buy her on eBay–I went ahead and bought two; I’m going to leave one as-is and the other I’m going to try to paint using her original costume colors.


Also, the flea market that had closed down re-opened a few miles down the road in a new location, and the guy I’ve started buying pulps from since I cleaned the other place out has moved with them. I’ve added this one to the pile.


Of the people who stopped by our booth, most were disappointed that the Simpsons comic my girlfriend was reading wasn’t for sale or that I hadn’t drawn/written/published it, had been bummed to find out that we weren’t a comic book, or lamented they didn’t have money but promised to check us out online. Hopefully some folks reading this now are in that last category; we enjoyed talking SFF with you guys!

As much as it pains me to say it, we’re going to have to hold off on doing cons for a bit unless we find some really good deals. We’ve got big plans and con tables are a gamble that haven’t really paid off.  I can totally see now how folks have squandered big chunks of their kickstarter money getting booths at cons thinking it will make them more money and in the end contributes to the tanking of their project and failure to deliver on the promised goods. Well, we aren’t in that shape and we’re not going to fail at delivering anything, but we’re no longer going to be taking risks with low reward potential.  If there are cons that are specifically sci-fi or fantasy, we might look into it, because people at those might be more ready to pick up new stuff to check out, but for now, you probably won’t see us at any more anime cons.

Why Lengthy Character Creation is Detrimental to Gaming

Inspired in part by this post at Word of Stelios.


Just one reason not to play 3e or Pathfinder.

I’ve made no bones about my preference for B/X and lighter systems. I’ll admit, I used to enjoy 3e, but nowadays, it’s something I would only play if I did not really have a choice.

While I understand that there are people who genuinely enjoy all of the twinking and min-maxing and character engineering involved in 3e and its clones, I now strongly feel that it is potentially ruinous to the game, the DM, and players.

In games like B/X or DCC, you’re typically looking at a range of 2-5 minute character creation for experienced players to 15-20 minute character creation for someone’s first ever time playing D&D. Not everyone wants pre-gens, and people are more likely to feel a connection with a character they themselves rolled up, but in that case, Char-gen only eats up a few minutes of gaming time. On the other hand, even software assisted, character creation for games in the 3e family can take a VERY long time.

One constraint this puts on the group is a barrier to new players; unless you have spare characters lying around, it’s harder to bring a new person, especially one new to gaming, into the group simply because of the time it would take to create a character of their very own.

People who have invested a ton of time into a perfectly crafted twinked out character are going to be more likely to be attached to it in a bad way. You’ve spent possibly hours on this special vampiric-angel-werekitty snowflake, and you’ll be damned if anything happens to xir! The character-build centric aspect of the game means you’re more likely to have players who are focused on their character rather than the party or the game or, in some cases, even having fun. It also creates additional burdens on the DM.

DMs will feel the need to tailor their game around these lovingly hand-crafted characters, nerf things and pull punches for a couple of reasons. While one, of course, is avoiding hurting the feelings of someone who spent so much time on their character, another is a simple matter of time – do you really want to have to either pause the game or have a player drop out for an hour or more while they optimize their feat trees, allocate skill points, and note all of the class and race advantages of having paws, three tails, horns, elf-ears and bird feet? No, of course not!

And at that point, you’re not really playing a game. You’re having people roll dice until you arbitrarily decide to move the story forward, either slowing or speeding up the narrative pace to suit what the players are doing. If a DM isn’t nerfing things, though, lengthy char gen makes rage-quitting after losing a character almost understandable, because who wants to go through all of that again before rejoining play?

Another problem with super-complex character builds a game that’s death-free? It doesn’t give players a chance to really explore new things in the system and in the game’s world.

Killing characters will make your game better and can make it more fun for everyone. But it only works if making a new character isn’t an arduous chore.

The first character death is always the hardest; “Damn!” they’ll think, “I just lost the game, I suck, this sucks!” That’s why it should happen early on; treat it as a normal ‘fact-of-life’ part of the game and an opportunity to try something new. Once players see character death as a chance to experiment with both class and roleplaying, they’ll not only be less likely to hold character death personally against a DM, they might even look forward to it! It’ll mean more cool and risky heroics, more big-damn heroic sacrifices, and more awesome ‘round-the-campfire’ stories of ‘that awesome guy who died in a crazy way’.


DC Supers Shows – Just OK Enough To Not Be Terrible

I’ve started watching a handful of the DC superheroes shows, and while I’m not blown away by any of them, they do, for the most part, feel ‘adequate’. They are dumb, kinda cutesy, feel good dreck you can enjoy with the entire family. I just wish it went beyond that into something genuinely enjoyable.

I watched most of the first season of Supergirl, and yeah, it has a quirky charm to it. The biggest issue I have is with Jimmy Olsen; no, it’s not that they made Jimmy Olsen black, it’s that they’ve made Jimmy Olsen a heart-throb that all the women swoon over. There should be nothing cool about Jimmy Olsen other than that he’s Superman’s pal, otherwise it just feels wrong.

One of the best parts of Supergirl is that it fairly explicity exists in a verse where Clark and Kara are the only supers. This resolves the biggest problem that the DC Universe has that while there’s always some cataclysmic crisis on the horizon, there should theoretically be a glut of superheroes to take care of it.

I’ve started watching The Flash, as well; again it’s a kind of quirky, harmless, “oh, we’re a lovable bunch of goofs working to save the world” show. I wouldn’t say I like it more or less than Supergirl; it’s different. While the megaplot of Flash is more interesting than Supergirl’s, the day-to-day is more tiresome. It’s frustrating to watch Flash hopelessly moon over Iris who is a pretty garbage love interest.

Strangely, the setting premise of the Flash reminds me more of Static Shock than any Flash stuff I was particularly familiar with (which admittedly isn’t much).

While it’s certainly a different generation of show from the current crop, Smallville, which I’ve started on with my girlfriend, shows that things really haven’t changed that much. It’s clearly a template for what I’ve seen of the other series so far. I’m not sure how much of it I can take; everything I suspected about this show that I used to justify not watching it first run is pretty correct-BS teen highschool drama with supervillains thrown in. The only interesting hook is pinpointing when and why Lex Luthor becomes a villain – imagine how many lives could’ve been saved if Jonathan Kent weren’t just constantly a dick to him!

The supervillain of the week grind in these shows is frankly pretty boring. None of the villains are particularly developed or interesting, and the shows’ structure seems to exist in part to distract from how uninteresting the interactions between most of the characters are. It’s like, they want to come across as shows with heart, but they really don’t have any.

Somehow, Lois and Clark managed to pull of what these shows try with fewer special effects and next to no supervillains. Somehow the characters just felt more real and more warm than the current crop of DC shows. I can’t put my finger on it, and to just write it off as “well, Lois and Clark was a rom com with some action and the new ones are actually superhero shows” seems to not quite hit the nail on the head, even if it’s partial true.

Unless something changes, the current DC supers shows are never going to have good enough special effects for the superhero aspect to carry them, and I really feel like they don’t have good enough character actors and writers to bring the levels of charm necessary to come close to the old Lois and Clark’s tier of entertainment. Frankly, the main thing these shows have going for them are being recognizable superhero properties that people are hungry for and being family friendly enough that folks can watch them with the kids.

Of the current crop of DC shows, iZombie is far and away the best, and it’s not a supers show, and it’s barely a comic-book show, because the first thing they did was throw out nearly everything from the comic but the name. But it’s got good writers and better character actors than the other CW DC shows, and is just an all-around better watch. It’s really in a class of its own.