Pathfinder Chronicler Vol. 4

I’m happy to have another short story, The Orphan Crusade, published in the pages of Pathfinder Chronicler which was released at this year’s PaizoCon. PFC is a fan fiction publication featuring fantasy stories set in Golarion, the home world setting for Pathfinder adventures. The cover art for this volume is the best yet, I think.

 

 

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Love Never Dies

It took me awhile to get around to indulging Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, not in small part because I didn’t want the original musical to be spoiled. Some stories are perfectly encapsulated in a single telling. I have long been a fan of Gaston Leareuxe’s original novel. Though not particularly great writing, the story has always been one that struck a chord with me. Weber’s original musical told the story in a way that other productions, the movies and such coming out of Hollywood, typically do not. The Phantom musical recognized the story for what it is, a tragic love story, whereas most of the movies concentrate more on the horrific and climax with violent ends. In the end of Gaston’s book the Phantom, Eric, escapes but ultimately dies of a broken heart after letting Christine free.

So when I first heard of Webber’s extension of the story, I was both intrigued and perplexed. The production never came to American shores, and the reviews were mixed to lacking. All of which made it pretty easy to ignore. But as we were browsing about the used book and music store I happened across the cast recording. I enjoy most of Weber’s music, so I determined it was time to give this show a whirl. The music did not disappoint, and I found myself frequently going about my day-to-day business with its melodies echoing in my mind.

Enough of the angel of music’s songs resonated in my head that I was willing to give the video production of it a go as well. Not to mention that it’s a lot easier to listen to a musical if you can “see” what’s happening in your head. There are a number of substantial alterations to the arrangement order and telling of the story from cast recording (2010)  to video (2012) that smooth the story out, so given a choice I recommend the video production.

The story? The story boils down to a Phantomphile’s wet-dream. Set ten years after the original in Coney Island (don’t pay too close attention to the dates, as some liberties are taken here), the Phantom, with the help of Madame Giry and Meg, has escaped Paris to run an amusement park full of freaks called Phantasma. And, if the story must be allowed to persist, sending Eric to America and that period of Coney Island works for me. It’s a perfect setting for the Phantom, and puts Eric in a new world. Webber seems to have taken off the Phantom movie theme that portrays Eric as a much younger man. Hey, a decade later the original Phantom would be much less limber and even less a prospective partner. Age doesn’t improve ugly unless you’re Sean Connery.

At Phantasma, the Phantom pines over his lost love Christine and plots to get her back into his life. Conveniently, Christine’s childhood love and now husband who confronted the Phantom in the original musical has become a drunken lout with massive gambling debts. That’s okay, we never liked him anyway. Christine and Raoul come to America with their ten-year old son, Gustave (seriously, Gustave??),  for that same age-old reason–they need the money. Christine is set to sing, and her services are (secretly) outbid by the Phantom. Madame Giry and Meg, who has her own bit of infatuation going on with Eric, have been patiently plying their own plans to launch Meg into stardom. Neither are very happy to find that Christine is back on the scene.

Not long after her arrival, the Phantom reveals himself to Christine. The biggest leap in story imagination here, and the least tenable of all this, is the revelation that a decade past Christine returned to Eric “under a moonless sky” the day before her marriage where they consummated their love. Then, ashamed and afraid of Christine rejecting him again, Eric leaves her before she wakes, and so she ends up marrying Raoul after all. After meeting Gustave and showing him his world, it doesn’t take the Phantom long to do some mental math here.

Later the Phantom would prey upon Raoul’s predilection for gambling, wagering that if Christine sings for him, Raoul must leave alone. If she does not, the Phantom will wipe away all Raoul’s debt. If there was ever doubt that Raoul might come out the winner here, that star fades quick. In the meantime, Madame Giry has learned that Gustave is Eric’s son, and that he plans to give his fortune to him, even though the boy turned away from him in terror. Giry imparts this information to her daughter Meg, and it shatters the young starlet’s dreams for the future. While Christine is singing, Meg kidnaps Gustave with the intent to take him to the pier and drown him. The Phantom and Christine catch up to confront her, and Eric learns that Meg prostituted her body in order get him money to build his enterprise. Phantom tales aren’t given over to happy endings without heartache, and Meg accidentally shoots Christine with a pistol she brought along. Christine reveals to Gustave that Eric is his real father before dying in Eric’s arms. Gustave, who ran off at the news and somehow manages to find Raoul, returns. Eric gives Christine’s body over to Raoul (she’s dead, you can have her now) and despairs. Gustave unmasks him and touches his face without fear. Curtain close.

That’s the quick synopsis. Nothing as good as the original story, but they seldom are. What it does fulfill is all the PTO lover’s earnest desire that Christine and Eric were really meant to be together, even if that tragically doesn’t work out. Webber isn’t the first to imagine Christine and Eric having a child, as Susan Kay’s 1991 novel Phantom, which recreates Eric’s story from birth to death, also ends with progeny. The music is worth giving a listen if you enjoy Webber’s work. It is darkly rich and intriguing, and probably sold short given the original’s notoriety and this production’s lackluster fanfare.

 

 

Pathfinder Chronicler Availabe On Paizo

You can now download the fan fiction inspired works published in the Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology Volumes I – III on Paizo! Especially volumes II & III, since they have tales by yours truly in them. Check it out here:

http://paizo.com/products/btpy90io?Pathfinder-Chronicler-Anthology-Vol-2-Download

http://paizo.com/products/btpy98dj?Pathfinder-Chronicler-Anthology-Vol-3-Download

http://paizo.com/products/btpy8lcz?Pathfinder-Chronicler-Anthology-Vol-1-Download

 

 

Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology, Vol. 2 Download

Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology, Vol. 3 Download

The Return of the King

And I don’t mean Elvis. We all know he was taken by aliens to planet Rx.
*spoilers*

When I first heard that a new Godzilla movie was coming out, my mind immediately cringed. After Roland Emmerich’s debacle that was the “American” Godzilla in 1998, which, if not for Jar Jar Binks, might surpass Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in movie awfulness, I was understandably skeptical of this latest installment.

Godzilla has always held a special place in my heart, and brings back a lot of childhood memories of racing home to watch Monster Week when The 4:30 Movie would have that special week of sci-fi bliss. They also had Planet of the Apes Week, but I wouldn’t appreciate that classic until I was older. Apes were boring as hell, but giant atomic fire-breathing lizards were awesome. Whenever I get the bug to go back and watch one of these movies featuring Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidrah and all the rest I am reminded of just how cheesy almost all of them were. But I haven’t forgotten the boy who saw none of the cheese, either, or the things those producers accomplished without the benefit of today’s CGI tech. They are nice jaunts down memory lane, but also everything that I don’t want to see in a modern rendition that doesn’t intentionally aim for the cheese or target kids.

The original Godzilla, or Gojira, was made in 1954 in glorious black and white and remains a classic. With its muted color and adult theme I don’t recall it ever gracing Monster Week, which was filled with kid pleasing robots, monsters, UFOs, alien roaches disguised as people, and more. The first Godzilla, made less than a decade after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was a strong metaphor embodying the fears of a world now filled with the threat of nuclear annihilation. In the end Godzilla is stopped by the scientist Serizawa, who destroys both the atomic beast and himself while taking the secret to his own destructive device, the Oxygen Destroyer, to the grave with them. The original may have been surpassed by electronic gadgetry and other movie magic, but the story has not. When the film was brought to America, it was promptly sliced up and rearranged with new scenes featuring Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin and a few others to help it transition better to an American audience. The attempt was creative, but ultimately takes away from the impact of the original film given the chance to compare.

From there Godzilla would evolve from a lumbering menace born of humanity’s hubris to favored anti-hero and (if benign) champion/defender of earth before going into hibernation in 1975. Nearly a decade later he would reappear in The Return of Godzila to seek out nuclear sustenance (hey, a ten year sleep leaves you a little hungry). The 1984 Godzilla was pumped up in size to compensate for a cityscape now filled with towering skyscrapers. After being knocked out and revived by the skittish Russians launching a nuclear missile, Godzilla is finally led to a volcano by tapping into his evolutionary background with some bird calls. A few explosive blasts to create a controlled eruption sends the giant to a hot bath. Again, the film was sent to America where it would be sliced and hacked. Godzilla wasn’t the only thing that grew in size, as a very rotund Raymond Burr would reprise his role as Steve Martin.

And this would launch into the next series of Godzilla films with a reboot thrown into the mix, as well as reviving such famous adversaries as King Ghidrah. Lots of higher tech movie fluff, but still lots of cheese. Then throw in the American, non-atomic fire fish-breath Godzilla of 1998. Which brings us to now.

The Godzilla of 2014 is the biggest Godzilla yet, and the film does the proper job of not showing too much of him too soon. The film follows the Brody family, which serves as the primary vehicle to transition the audience from scene to scene. Their story is unoriginal and cliché. But we aren’t really here for them. The first full reveal of the new Godzilla, along with the halo jump later in the movie and the first time Godzilla unleashes his atomic breath, are some of the best cinematic shots. This bull-doggish faced CGI Godzilla expresses a better range of creature emotion, from pissed off to exhausted. He is oblivious to the ants (people) swarming around him, and the unleashing of the atomic breath down the MUTO’s throat (MUTO = Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object) at the end before ripping its head off truly establishes Godzilla’s title of “King of the Monsters.” This is the kind of geekdom that makes my inner child roar “hell yeah!”

What the movie lacks is that its titular character, recreated with no acknowledgement of previous appearances, is not the focus of the story. The focus revolves mostly around the MUTOs, giant, radioactive insectoid monsters that go around sucking up radiation and preparing to reproduce until Godzilla comes to save the day. In short, the movie feels like a sequel to a movie that doesn’t exist. The limited history given on how the atom bomb tests were really attempts to destroy the big G leading up to today seems like something worth exploring–“we tried to destroy it, and now look here, it comes to save us.” The movie tips the hat by having Ken Watanabe play a scientist named Serizawa, but instead of having created a WMD of devastation equal to the original Oxygen Destroyer, his job seems to mostly be standing around gawking. But perhaps I pass judgment too soon. With its success, I understand another movie is already in the works.

Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology Vol. III

My copies of PFC vol. 3 arrived late last week. Like the previous volume, it’s a nice looking book with more fantastic cover art by Carolina Eade. My story Monsters in the Attic kicks off on page 91, and takes place in that most wonderful of places, Nidal (Hellraiser, meet Pathfinder).

Before now, about the only way you could pick up one of these fan fiction packed anthologies was to attend a convention–but no more! If you would like to have one of these for youself, you can secure it by making a donation to Pathfinder Chronicler. Visit the site at http://pathfinderchronicler.net/ to find out how to get that, art posters, or to submit your own story. The next fiction contest is underway right now!

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Dice Are Rolling

Had a good time rolling dice this past weekend with free RPG and Worldwide D&D days going. It looks as if D&D Next has greatly solidified itself as a game, but with lots of tweaking still in the works. I’ve seen a lot of people still adjusting to a game that doesn’t require a 1-inch gridded battlemat in order to play. Pathfinder remains my game of choice, but I do like the “theater of the mind” free-flow feel you can get with games like World of Darkness and now D&D Next. This is a much improved step beyond the horror (and failure) of D&D 4E. And then We Be Goblins Too! was released for Pathfinder, because who doesn’t want to play a goblin?? And everybody knows Pathfinder has the best, most fun goblins around. There were some great takeaways from the event, including materials from some of my favorite settings–World of Darkness, Shadowrun, and Star Wars. It looks like both World of Darkness and Shadowrun are working on a little revamping (pun intended, WoD) to their game mechanics.

What else? It’s another year to wait for the next season of Game of Thrones, which remains my favorite program. True Blood kicked off this past weekend, and at this point I can take it or leave it. There are some initial indicators that this season might be interesting, but they’ve got some ground to make up to catch mine. I think it was the whole faerie thing that turned me off. I’ve been catching up on Grimm, as the DVR has been throwing out threatening signs like “!” and “4% space left.” Grimm didn’t turn out to be the show I expected it to be, but I enjoy it as a campy sort of fairy tale. Kind of in the same way I like the movie Lake Placid

I should have in my hands a copy of Pathfinder Chronicler Vol. 3 next month, which will have a short story I wrote within it called Monsters in the Attic.  Although it took a deal of time for them to get volume 2 out, it’s a nice looking book, so I’m looking forward to seeing volume 3. Unfortunately the only way to lay your hands on one of these books is by attending a convention like PaizoCon. Hopefully that will change in the future, as they’re making a lot of good changes to this fan fiction site.

Liebster Blog Award

So there’s this Liebster Blog Award chain making the rounds. I was picked by Marzio Ombra who shares a beautifully rendered web page with my good online acquantaince Narcisse Navarre at http://www.khajj.com/liebster-blog-award/. If you enjoy dark fantasy/erotica, you should go check them out.

So here are the Liebster Award rules as passed on to me:

1. Each nominee must answer the 11 questions passed on to them by the person who nominated them. (If you liked the questions they were asked by their nominator better, that’s just too bad for you!)

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. Create 11 questions for the next nominees to answer.

4. Choose 11 people and link them to your post.

5. No tag backs! (This rule was presented with an exclamation point, so I take it to be important.)

So, without further ado, here are Marzio’s questions and my answers.

1) Bad News! You were accidentally killed in a ridiculous stunt while partying with a drunken God. Good News! He feels terrible about the whole mess and has offered to return you to life. Bad News! Due to the complex and arcane rules dictating what the Gods and Goddesses can and cannot do, you cannot be revived as a human being! Good News! You can be brought back as any non-human race from fiction! Which race do you choose and why?

My first inclination is to say dragon, but some might quibble that dragons are a mythological creature, not a race. So, barring that, I would say a fey changeling creature as the Changelings of the World of Darkness setting or something similar. I’d rather be imbued with magic as opposed to having to study it like some wizard. Given a fey tie to a particular season I would, of course, choose Autumn.

2) Tomorrow at dawn you will be executed, but tonight you dine. What is your last meal?

BBQ ribs, a medium rare bacon-wrapped filet mignon, a fine Merlot, cheesecake, two Twix bars, and a wafer-thin mint.

3) Enough of Death, let’s try Life. Would you prefer mortality or immortality? If you choose mortality, how long would you like to live? Why?

Thing about “immortality” is that it is seldom immortal. Ask that Achilles fellow or the last vampire staked through the heart. So I’ll take immortal with the option of voluntarily snorting a wasabi pea up my nose as a way to end my existence, should things get too boring.

4) Someone who knows you quite well told me that you are like an animal but I forgot which one. What animal do you think they said and why on earth would they say such a thing?

I’ve been called a mouse, because I’m smallish, quiet, and sneaky. #rogue

5) What is the best prize you ever received and what did you do to win it?

Life. Nothing.

6) Hot damn! They are making a movie of your life! Due to the complex and arcane rules dictating what Hollywood Gods can and cannot do, they have asked you to name who will direct this epic film and which actor/actress will play you. Who are they?

Johnny Depp/Scott Bakula. It’ll be the true story of a pirate who stumbled into a quantum flux and leaped into the body of a guy driving a Dodge truck. We’ll call it a tragedy with comedic appeal.

7) You have been banished! What in the Nine Hells did you do to deserve Exile and where will you go?

You see, that’s just it. I’m innocent. I had nothing to do with all… this. But I’m being sent to the Halo Sleep detention centre anyway.

8) We all have our moments. What is the absolute smartest and/or dumbest thing you have ever done?

I’m going to plead the fifth on this one.

9) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book?

Off the top of my head, I thought The Green Mile was an excellent adaptation of the serial series by Stephen King. Lord of the Rings ranks high, too, even with the story changes.

10) The Sphinx owes you a boon for services rendered. She has agreed to answer one question with complete honesty & accuracy. What question would you ask?

So, what about those GMOs, anyway??

11) For some crazy reason, you decided to let the party God from Question 1 borrow your house last weekend and the nut completely trashed the place! While he did agree to have it cleaned up, he feels awful all the same. To patch up your friendship he hands you a “Re-Do” coin. It grants you one free “do-over” for any one event in your life. Do you use it right away or hold onto it for future needs?

Assuming a few things about this, I would choose to sleep in two hours later on May 28, 1989. Thus refreshed, I would use what knowledge I retain of the future to meet some people sooner, and meet others not at all. There are quite a few other things I will do, too, since this makes for a pretty good makeover. Such that you will not recognize your world at all. Of course, you won’t know that, but you’ll know me. Oh, and I’ve changed my name to Zod.

Now for my questions, which no doubt will shed much insight into the human condition and meaning of life.

1. This morning when you woke up, your brain was functioning differently. It may have been from eating all that GMO wheat all your life, bacon & eggs, or that time your mom washed your scalp with toxic chemicals. It’s hard to tell. But, more than likely, it was the wheat. The point is, today you’re different. You have either the mental ability of telekinesis, pyrokinesis, or telepathy. Which do you have, and why that one?

2. Imagine the animal you would describe yourself as. Now imagine the animal your friends would describe you as. Morph them together. What is this creature called?

3. Your uncle, who has always been a bit of a mad chemist after being released from that pharmaceutical company, has left a concoction on his basement workbench. The label on the side reads Inviso, and his notes nearby claim the effects last about 4 hours. Shrugging and imbibing the potion, you turn invisible. What do you do for the next 4 hours?

4. After drinking that potion and later watching Kick-Ass, you feel pretty damn inspired to go kick some ass yourself. So you create your own costume and get ready to set out and beat some butt. What does your do-gooder outfit look like?

5. When you wake next, you find yourself living in Westeros, sitting on the Iron Throne. Knowing that you’re probably going to need a bit of help if you want to keep that seat (and your head), which great House do you pick to aid you in your cause? Stark, Lannister, Greyjoy, Martell, Baratheon, or Targaryen? (You’re still going to die, though.)

6. The Gaming Gods smile upon you, and with all the power at their command have decided to let you alter reality to resemble any one RPG game setting. What setting do you pick?

7. The mischievous god Loki has decided to grant you one small boon. Every time someone carries out a pet peeve of yours that you witness, they experience a mild shock that increases in intensity with repetition. That should stop that pretty soon, eh? What pet peeve do you pick?

8. You’re offered your choice of a functional light sabre or an honest-to-gosh living fire-breathing pet dragon. Which do you choose?

9. Who is your favorite author?

10. You wake up one day and it suddenly hits you–if L. Ron Hubbard can create a brand-spanking new religion, why can’t you?? People are bound to flock to your faith, and think of all the tax exempt money! What’s the name of your new religion and its major tenet(s)?

11. You’ve died a rather gruesome death. Now your spirit haunts the earth. What act by those left behind will send you to your final rest?

As far as listing eleven nominees…I don’t follow that many, and I’ve never been a huge fan of chain emails etc. (which this is kind of like). But this one was a bit of fun. So if YOU, dear reader, want to answer those questions, jump right in. Consider yourself nominated. Post them to your blog, and pop me a link so I can read your answers.

As far as checking out some other interesting peeps, and depending on your interests, in addition to Khajj above, consider these folks. I don’t know if they’ll play the game, but they’re worth a follow on Twitter.

Brian Rathbone

Action Chick

K. Jean King

Amy Ratcliffe

James L. Sutter

Rebellicious Red