Under the Influence: The Dawn of the Network Age

       I grew up as part of the last generation that can remember computers being something that only Scientists and Universities and Governments had – arcane hunks of metal with das blinkenlights and whirr-whirr-whirr tape drives and big, washing-machine sized magnetic disk drives (which held orders of magnitude less than your USB thumb drive does today).        So while ARPANet/the Internet was born when I was considerably younger, I was part of the first generation who had the opportunity to see and operate a computer when we [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Robert A. Heinlein

         In some ways it seems almost pointless to write this post; what could I possibly write about Robert Anson Heinlein, good or bad, that hasn't been written a thousand times before? Heinlein isn't, like Doc Smith, a forgotten legend; nor is he, like Schmitz, a man who failed to quite get the fame he might have deserved. He is, instead, a titan of the field, one of the few names that dominated the genre for multiple decades and whose fame at least sometimes strayed well outside of the limits of that genre. Reams upon reams have [ Continue reading... ]

Under The Influence: Kathleen Moffre-Spoor

         How can I talk about influences without mentioning the greatest influence in my life (in some ways,even more so than my parents), Kathleen?        I originally met Kathleen through her best friend, Dana. I had befriended Dana at the local community college and was at the time starting to date her. One of the primary connections between us was our gaming interests – both of us played RPGs of various types. So I ended up running a D&D game for Dana and her friend Kathleen.        At the time, I was… not [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

         The Elder Scrolls is a long-running videogame series, but I had never had any opportunity to play it as the first three installments were for PC and later Xbox, and I've always had Macs as my computers and the platforms I've had were SNES, PS, PS2, and finally PS3.        But finally, the fourth title in the series – Oblivion – was released for the PS3. I actually had no real expectations, or knowledge about, the series when I put the disc in for the first time, just that it was a well-received part of one of the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Prince of Bryanae

  Prince of Bryanae is a self-published novel that does everything right. It starts by having a fast-moving, well-written story as its core and reason for being, but in addition the author, Jeff Getzin, has gone those extra miles that, sadly, few self-published authors seem to realize are necessary; he has obviously had professionals provide him with editing and layout as well as a well-done cover painting, and the result is a fully professional novel that can sit proudly next to anything the big houses produce.        I will admit [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Terry Brooks’ _Shannara_

    In 1976, I first entered the world of the Lord of the Rings, and my hunger for epic fantasy was suddenly insatiable. In 1977, I saw this huge book with a group of people – human, elven, and dwarf, I thought – around a sword in a stone. A book titled The Sword of Shannara. I immediately grabbed it up – the first of many purchases Mr. Terry Brooks would convince me to make – and took it home.        There were obvious similarities to The Lord of the Rings – many of them quite deliberate. But there was a great deal that was [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Namesake

       A little less than two years ago, something startling and magical began: a webcomic called Namesake. I discovered it very shortly after it started, and it immediately became one of my favorites – shortly thereafter becoming my absolute favorite webcomic, even outracing the formidable competition of Schlock Mercenary (which I will be discussing in another entry) and Girl Genius (ditto). As they recently released, through Kickstarter, a hardcopy of the first volume, Namesake is now truly On My Shelves.        Namesake is the [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Danny Dunn

       When I was young, I read books of SF and of fantasy as well as science fact voraciously. One thing I noticed was that there were commonly books that had children as protagonists – such as Edward Eager's Half Magic, or Edith Nesbit's Five Children and It, or the much more famous Narnia chronicles by C. S. Lewis – but often if anything fantastic or wondrous happened     to the children, it was something treated as a secret – something that couldn't be told to the adults.        This didn't exactly fit with my mindset. My [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Steven J. Reed

    "Who?" I hear everyone asking. "Never heard of him."   No, you never did, almost certainly, unless you read a post I made on my LiveJournal about five years ago. Much of this Under the Influence post is taken from that tribute post.   Steve was my friend -- one of my first "older" friends, someone significantly older than I was who treated me as a full equal (he was about 10 years older than me). From a social point of view, Steve would never impress anyone. He was very intelligent, but never ended up in a job or [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Roleplaying Games (RPGs)

       1977 was the most transformational year ever in my life, with the possible exception of 1995 (the year I married Kathleen). 1977 saw the release of Star Wars, of the first Shannara book and the first Thomas Covenant novel. In 1977, I first began going by the name of "Sea Wasp" online.        And in 1977, I first encountered a game called "Dungeons and Dragons".        In a very real sense, I had been doing roleplaying games long before that, just as had children from the dawn of time: making up characters and [ Continue reading... ]