Category Archives: Just For Fun

Flash Mob Fandom

For a few months now I’ve been doing the Disasterpiece Theatre podcast with Alex, where we come up with terrible ideas for Hollywood movies. We’ve had some guests on the podcast, like Colin Ferguson, but none quite like Misha Collins. He’s one of the stars of the TV show Supernatural and has a reputation for toying with his own fanbase.

During our taping he lived up to that reputation. When asked to pitch a movie version of Supernatural, he said,

“Honestly, I’m just gonna answer this quickly to get it over with. Uh, basically it’s gonna be a gay porn incest story…”

He also attached Kermit the Frog as the director.

To a large extent he pitched this because some segments of Supernatural fandom are into Wincest, in which the show’s main protagonists, who are brothers, are romantically involved. Given that, would you believe that Supernatural fandom enjoyed this?

Graph of traffic due to the Disasterpiece Theatre Misha Collins episode

Those giant bars on the left represent the traffic sent to the blog thanks to the episode being mentioned on the fandom triumvirate of Twitter, Tumblr, and, er, tLivejournal. You’ll note that the traffic to the left is hard to see in the shadow of Misha’s fandom.

So there you have it. For anyone looking for an instant hit in traffic, all you have to do is have Misha Collins talk about incest on your podcast.

My Dragon*Con 2011 Schedule

I’m a guest at Dragon*Con again this year, which means I’ll be on all kinds of panels. If you’re wanting to find me to say hi or to hang out, your best bet is to find me right after one of these panels. Or you could haunt the Hilton — that’s where all of my panels are save the Late Show.

The Dragon*Con Late Show. Every morning at 9 I and my co-hosts Brian and Ally will go through the latest news, schedule changes, and what’s hot for the day. This gets broadcast on the host hotel channels, so you don’t even have to leave bed!

D-Wave One: The First Commercial Quantum Computer. Friday, 11:30 AM, Hilton 201.
The first quantum computer is now available on the market. Who is buying them and why? Are they ready for prime time? Can encryption be broken?

Answer key: Lockheed Martin, to play with it and see what it can do, sort of, not yet. I expect this one is going to be all kinds of fun, and should be accessible to anyone who’s willing to learn a little bit of binary.

Planet Hunting: Watching Stars Wobble & Dim. Friday, 8:30 PM, Hilton 203.
The new ‘in’ field of astronomy is the search for exo-planets but we don’t have the technology to ‘see’ an exo-planet. So how are we finding so many?

The description is actually inaccurate: we now can see extrasolar planets! And I have to admit, it’s extremely cool that we can. I’ll run through the history of exoplanets including some of the embarrassing claims that turned out not to be planets.

Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow: 9th Annual Recrument Drive. Saturday, 1:00 PM, Hilton Crystal Ballroom.
Methods of taking over the world for fun and profit – demos and audience participation. Plus evil ice-cream and a working nuclear reactor!

We’re not kidding about either the ice cream or the nuclear reactor. My co-panelists and I will go through real mad science, the crazy stuff we’ve been doing, and how to survive as an evil minion.

What The Cast – Live! Sunday, 2:30 PM, Hilton 204.
Join Brian, Crispy, Patrick and Stephen (the team behind DragonConTV) for nerd punditry at its best.

Or at least funny nerd punditry. Last year we had a guy in a squid hat, the team behind Chad Vader, and our one Zune listener. Who knows what we’ll have this year? (Seriously: we don’t even know. That’s improv for you!)

Helicopter Drone Units. Sunday, 5:30 PM, Hilton 208/209.
Autonomous helicopter drone talk and tentative demonstration.

Sadly no demonstration, as the quadcopter demo isn’t ready for prime time yet, but I will go through the awesomeness that is robot helicopters and how they’re taking over the world.

RevolutionSF’s RevCast – Live! Monday, 1:00 PM, Hilton 204.
Join the crew from RevolutionSF for a live recording.

Well, the crew from RevolutionSF and me. I’ve guested on several RevCasts and had a blast, so I’m looking forward to doing it live with the crew.

So come say hi! Stop by one of my panels and ask pointed questions! It’ll be fun.

It’s a Disasterpiece!

I’m pleased to announce Disasterpiece Theatre, a new podcast in which I and my co-host Alex White come up with the worst idea for a movie that we think Hollywood might actually make. We pick a topic, like animal horror, or an actor, like Milla Jovovich, and each come up with a movie that we pitch to the other. Then, in grand Hollywood tradition, we tell each other how wonderful the idea is, but that it still needs a bit of tweaking…. By the end we’ve got some awesomely terrible movie ideas.

Don’t believe me? How about a Betty White and Tracy Morgan buddy dramedy where Tracy raps? Or a period family drama starring Milla Jovovich, Brian Dennehey and Albert Finney in which Milla Jovovich is in the Vietnam war?

By the way, those are some of our less-bad ideas so far.

So head to the website and listen to me and Alex describe our bad movies while our long-suffering producer Brooke Fox tries to rein us in. You can also subscribe through iTunes. We’re also on Twitter, should you wish to tell us your terrible movie idea.

We’re Up For Two 2011 Parsec Awards!

Two of the podcasts I’m involved with are finalists for the 2011 Parsec Awards, which celebrate excellence in speculative fiction-related podcasts. WhatTheCast is up for Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast (General), and Dragon*Con TV is in the running for the Best Speculative Fiction Comedy/Parody Podcast. I’m excited that both are finalists, especially given the competition in those categories. Come Dragon*Con 2011, we’ll see if we win!

Continuing the Franchise

Now that the Harry Potter movies are over, I expect that there are movie executives scrambling around, trying to discover the next big thing. Since young adult books are still popular, I expect that’ll be their focus — perhaps the Hunger Games trilogy or Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series will garner a huge audience.

I have a humble suggestion: why not re-work the Harry Potter series? After all, with a few tweaks I think you could bring in a whole new audience. To that end, I give you a scene from

RICHIE DAWKINS AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

INT. SHACK BY THE OCEAN – NIGHT

The room in this broken-down shack is dominated by KEMPTID, a giant of a man with an umbrella. He is talking with RICHIE, a young eleven-year-old with round glasses and dark hair.

          KEMPTID
     Y’see, Richie, yer’ a wizard.

          RICHIE
     I’m a what?

          KEMPTID
     A wizard, o’ course, and a thumpin’ good’un, I’d say, once yeh’ve trained up a bit.

          RICHIE
     That makes no logical sense.

          KEMPTID
     What d’yeh mean?

          RICHIE
     Look, there isn’t any such thing as magic. The universe can be perfectly explained by the natural laws of science.

          KEMPTID
          (taken aback)
     But, but yer parents–

          RICHIE
     They died in a car crash.

          KEMPTID
     No. He Who Must Not be Named, a dark wizard, killed ’em!

          RICHIE
     Really? That’s more plausible than a car crash? There are a little over two thousand car-related deaths per annum in the UK. Do the math.

          KEMPTID
     But…but…all th’ letters, Richie! And I c’n do magic with my umbrella!

          RICHIE
     Any stage magician worth his salt could do the same. Your anti-scientific flim-flammery will find no toehold with me, sir. Now shove off. I’ve got a perfectly mundane life as a friendless orphan to live.

I’m not sure how to spin this out into eight movies, though. Perhaps I should have taken the approach that Eliezer Yudkowsky took for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I’m the Best! I’m the Best at Space!

I loved the game Portal 2 for its gameplay, story, and especially its writing. One of my favorite bits was the Space Core, a computer personality who was fixated on space.

As a sign of my unhealthy fascination with the Space Core, I spliced a number of its lines together into a 30-second sound file that is suitable for being a ringtone. Now your phone can talk about going into space! You can grab either the mp3 file for Android or similar phones or the m4r file for iPhones.

My Fiasco Playset “Town and Gown” is Out

While I was away dodging weather, my “Town and Gown” playset for Fiasco came out!

cover for my Town and Gown Fiasco playsetFiasco is a role-playing game that re-creates neo-noir stories like those found in Coen Brothers movies. Given my history with small-town universities, I couldn’t resist creating a Fiasco setting based on one.

Universities are strange places, and small town universities even more so. Faculty fight viciously with each other because the stakes are so low. Students grub for grades, or give up and drift through school. Townies hate the school, but it’s the only thing keeping the town alive, and many of them go to school part-time.

Given the pressure and the fault lines that run deep beneath, it’s no wonder that sometimes cracks appear.

I learned a lot about writing a Fiasco playset in the process, much of it thanks to feedback from Jason Morningstar, creator of Fiasco. The trickiest part was getting relationships right. Because of how you generate a Fiasco setup, all relationships have to work with all other ones. My first draft had people playing faculty members, students, and townies. That led to some odd potential contradictions: what if two people had a relationship that indicated they were faculty members, but one of those two had a second relationship that indicated they were students? That’s why many Fiasco playsets carefully segregate the relationships into non-exclusive groups such as family members, people who work together, people who know each other through hobbies, etc. In my case, once I made the default assumption that all of the players were students, I could much more easily put together relationships that meshed well.

(You can break this rule, of course. Jason’s Lucky Strike playset assumes that everyone’s an American soldier in World War II. There’s a set of special-case relationships, like “German prisoner of war and guard”, that break this assumption. They’re grouped together and labeled “use with care” to help players realize that they’ll have to work harder if they want to incorporate these relationships.)

I had fun mixing very specific and more gonzo elements (like the “Neophyte Marxist revolutionaries” relationship or the truly unfortunate object “a roomate who died”) with more prosaic and simple ones (like the cafeteria and coffee shop, or the thirty-ought-six rifle). I hinted at possible story lines for players to run with: there are suggestions that something unsavory is up with the local YMCA, that bad things have been going down at the gravel pit down by the river, and that the town mayor may not be on the up-and-up. Even if the elements related to those story lines aren’t used in a game, they tend to inform players’ choices and vision of what the university and surrounding town are like. I chose a couple of elements to refer to multiple times, because I like claustrophobic Fiasco settings. I also spent a lot of time thinking, “How can this relationship, need, location or object be troublesome?” That lent the playset a seedy, sinister undertone that I really like.

“Town and Gown” is free to download and guaranteed to cause quite a fiasco.

Skynet Online in 3, 2, 1…

People have been gleefully pointing out all day that today, 21 April 2011, is the date of Judgement Day, when Skynet comes online and kills us all. That, of course, is the date given in the TV show “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”.

Judgement Day wasn’t always in 2011. The movie Terminator originally claimed that Judgement Day would come on August 29, 1997. Successive movies and TV shows have happily moved the goalposts.

It occurs to me that Judgement Day is a lot like various Christian sects claiming that Rapture is coming on a given date. They typically climb a mountain and wait for God to take them away, only to have nothing happen. So: is Judgement Day the nerd version of Rapture?

Also, Rapture came on 21 August 2007, in case you weren’t watching:

This is the Closest I’ll Come to a PAX East 2011 Post

All right, it’s been two weeks since PAX East and I might as well accept that I’m not going to do a proper post. Instead, I’ll summarize by saying that I had a great time and that it was wonderful to see a lot of the people in the interactive fiction community and have a chance to talk about IF for large chunks of my day. I got to re-connect with old friends and make new ones. I also played “Small World”, which is an excellent board game, so there’s that.

The highlight for me was undoubtedly the IF Demo Fair, which showed off various experiments with interactive fiction’s form, content, and demonstration. Of those, Aaron Reed’s “what if i’m the bad guy?” had the biggest impact on me. Like Emily, I found myself unable and unwilling to play through it in its entirety, in part because of it being in a public space and in part because of the content. “I gave up playing it” may not sound like high praise, but in this case it is.

I took part in a panel on Setting as Character, where we talked about how, in many games, the setting is part of the character. I was joined by Dean Tate, who was a designer on Bioshock and Bioshock 2 and thus had a lot of experience designing graphical worlds; Rob Wheeler, who, like me, has done a lot of work on setting in interactive fiction (see, for example, our two related but different takes on writing IF room descriptions in the IF Theory Reader); and Andrew Plotkin, who is all about cool settings.

There were other IF-related goings-on. There were panels like the Non-Gamers Gaming panel and Nick Montfort explaining Curveship, his IF design system that focuses on narration. There was the Speed-IF, in which participants wrote a short game in a matter of hours — see A Scurvy of Wonders for one such example. And then there was the point where a lot of us wandered into Chinatown in search of non-convention food.

To sum up: I had fun, there was a lot of IF stuff, A++++ would attend again.