On Writing: The Danger of Metawriting, OR, How I Wrote A Book That Did Exactly What I Wanted And Screwed It Up Anyway

The Arenaverse novels – Grand Central Arena, Spheres of Influence, and now Challenges of the Deeps – are inarguably my most successful solo novels. Grand Central Arena itself has continued to bring in significant amounts of money for me even now, seven years after release. I'm also very proud of the Arenaverse itself; developing it was, and continues to be, a huge challenge. One of the Arenaverse's key aspects from a writer's and reader's point of view, of course, is that it is not merely a story but a salute to, and occasional commentary [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry Files #3)

Bob Howard, IT expert, computational demonologist, and sometime field agent for the ultra-top-secret U.K. agency called The Laundry, is back. Fresh from the James Bondian adventure of The Jennifer Morgue, Bob's married to Mo, who he rescued in the first book and who returned the favor with a vengeance in the second, and while any marriage that includes two people who know about the Great Old Ones and their impending arrival in CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN isn't going to be filled with picket fences and cheery nights all the time, you might hope that [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Nero Wolfe, Revisited

Recently, I was in a discussion where I referred someone to the first version of this review/overview of one of the best series of mysteries ever written. To my surprise, the point I referred them to… wasn't there. I then found that, somehow, several pieces of the review had been left out. Thus, having also recently re-read the entire series, I decided it would be worthwhile to re-publish this review – with some considerable and considered additions! In a timeless brownstone in New York City, on West 35th Street, there lives a very [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Dragonball Xenoverse

I've been a fan of Dragonball for… Holy sheep, over 26 years now. The intensity of my fandom has varied, and I am very far from blind to the various flaws of the series, but it's such a very fun over-the-top series in many ways – and its newest incarnation on TV, Dragonball Super, has done a lot of work to address some of the prior installments' flaws.   Because of this, and because I realized I only had one fighting game for the PS4 in the house, I decided to check out what the Dragonball franchise's fighting games were like now. [ Continue reading... ]

Lying About the Future, OR Reality is Unrealistic

I've written, to this point, five hard-SF novels, with two more on the way – the Boundary Series (Boundary, Threshold, Portal), the Castaway Planet novels (Castaway Planet, Castaway Odyssey, and forthcoming Castaway Peril), and one tentatively titled Fenrir. As hard-SF novels, I worked hard to make these stories as accurate-to-known-science as I could, within the limits of dramatic necessity and the need to not bore my readers with calculations and details that they didn't really want. But even within hard-SF, the author has to make a lot of [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Holst’s _The Planets_

There are a few classical pieces known to almost everyone; Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance (from graduations everywhere), Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor. Many more are known, but not always immediately recognized by name, as they get played in part or in whole in many different settings. But in the world of SF geeks, there are some with special significance, and of these, few could compete with Gustav Holst's The Planets, a suite of seven pieces each representing one of the major planets (other than [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Watchmen

Alan Moore and David Gibbon's Watchmen is, justifiably, a landmark in the comic-book universe, a carefully-planned attempt to analyze and deconstruct the standard superhero universe while, at the same time, staying true to some of its most powerful tropes. Watchmen was also made into a movie, which in my view managed to stick fairly close to the original miniseries/graphic novel, but of necessity had to cut out some rather important elements (discussed below). If you don't want spoilers galore, don't read any farther! The setting of Watchmen [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Girl Genius

Soldier: Herr Baron! We need you! All the experiments have either been let loose or turned on! And everything's on FIRE! Baron Wulfenbach(facepalming): Unbelievable.   Agatha Clay is having a bad day. In the steampunk city of Beetleburg, where she's a not-very-good student at Transylvania Polygnostic Institute, she encounters a strange electrical anomaly, runs from that, is robbed by two out-of-work soldiers who steal the locket that's her only memento of her parents, and arrives – late – to discover that Baron Wulfenbach, ruler of [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs 2: Effects Versus Causes, OR Why I Hate _Champions_

In my prior RPG discussion I talked about my basic approach to running a game – that the world is the important thing that I'm presenting, and the rules are the tools – often imperfect and clumsy tools – used to help the players (who are stuck in our world) interact with the game world through the characters, who live in the game world. But what makes a game world a functioning world rather than, say, a bunch of settings, people, and things? My simple answer for this is that it is a place with an underlying logic to it. Our world has the [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs – Game Balance OR World Trumps Rules

I've been a roleplaying gamer since 1977, when I first encountered Dungeons and Dragons – unless you count the venerable game of "let's pretend", which I was playing from the time I was 4 or 5, and even had some rules for to minimize the arguments. I discussed my initial encounter with commercial RPGs, and the influence it had on my life, in this prior entry: http://grandcentralarena.com/under-the-influence-roleplaying-games-rpgs/ In this entry, though, I want to talk about running RPGs and how I view this extremely challenging hobbyist [ Continue reading... ]