On Dreams of EB Games

I dreamt last night of EB Games.

I was in my store, in Cary. I was alone in the store. Presumably, it was before I unlocked the door. Early morning, then.

My store was… odd. The fixtures were big, bulky, wooden things. No other EB Games store looked like mine. The walls were brown. The shelving was oddly shaped; it was designed for only two DVD cases deep.

I walked behind the register. I opened the cabinets. I thumbed through the gut trays, where the game discs were stored in red storage trays, under the counter. At the primary register, I touched the metal counter top, where it had been worn smooth.

The dream was pleasant.

I don’t often think of EB Games. I left four years ago, but in truth, the company that I loved had died six months before that. All that remained was a zombie, one that employed the people I knew and loved and respected, but one that didn’t have the soul.

My head gets lost in the past sometimes. I close my eyes, and I see stretches of road I used to drive, places I used to live, places I used to work. It’s surprising. And unexpected.

I suspect the trigger, yesterday, was that for the first time in a very long time, I wanted to play video games.

Scratch that. I wanted to buy video games. When I worked for EB, I invariably bought more games that I could ever play.

Yesterday…

Besides reading up on Age of Empires Online, I checked out the website for Lord of the Rings: War in the North (and changed my desktop wallpaper at work to this image of Rivendell from the game). I watched the trailer for the game, which was rather brutal, and while I thought that the game didn’t look especially Tolkien-esque (too much magic), I know I’ll give the game a shot.

Then, I learned that Peter David, writer of stuff, wrote a Fable novel, to tie into Fable III, and I realized that I’ve yet to even start Fable II

And finally, I learned that there is another LEGO Star Wars game on the way:

Unfortunately, it’s based on a series I’ve never watched — nor have any particular interest in. I can see the reason behind the game, though; Star Wars: The Clone Wars is fantastically successful, kids know it, it’s good game fodder. I, personally, want a LEGO Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy game, but I don’t know how viable that would be. Oh, it would sell, no doubt, but I question whether or not it would be especially playable.

Two games I’m likely to buy, and a book I might possibly read. And because of them I wandered down the musty halls of memory last night.

That’s not such a terrible place to be.

On Writing to Soundtracks

To an outside observer, my last.fm profile has gone wonky this week. I’m in soundtrack mode. Specifically, Lord of the Rings soundtrack mode.

I discovered a few days ago that the soundtrack to The Hunt for Gollum, a fanfilm that dramatizes Aragorn’s search for Gollum during the early part of The Fellowship of the Ring, was online and free to download. The score for the fanfilm — by Chris Bouchard, Adam Langston, and Andrew Skrabutenas — is reminiscent of Howard Shore’s scores for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even the music from the trailer is reminiscent of the orchestration of “Lux Aeterna” used in The Two Towers trailer. Getting the music right is serious attention to detail.

I’ve watched The Hunt for Gollum online and I enjoyed it greatly. It’s in line with Jackson’s films rather than J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. The filmmaking, done on a shoestring budget, displays a great deal of inventiveness, and the performances are solid. If it were possible to have The Hunt for Gollum as a DVD, I would gladly have it in my collection.

Back to soundtracks.

Sometimes, when I have to write a lot of words — which is what I’ve had to do this week — I find that the best way to do so is to listen to orchestral soundtracks. I normally listen to rock music at the office; that’s what headphones are for. But when I need something that’s more like sonic wallpaper, that won’t get in the way of the words, scores are the way to go.

Yesterday I listened to Geoff Zanelli’s score for Outlander, the kick-ass Vikings vs. aliens movie that went pretty much straight-to-DVD, in spite of the presence of John Hurt, Ron Perlman, and Sophia Myles. Today, in addition to another couple of listens to The Hunt for Gollum‘s score (it’s only half an hour of music), I tried to listen to Shore’s scores to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, except I kept getting interrupted, so I’d have to go back and relisten to tracks.

I’ve not watched The Lord of the Rings films in a few months, maybe close to a year, and I’ve not listened to the scores, except maybe for The Return of the King, recently. Thus, “Samwise the Brave,” which comes near the end of The Two Towers, packed a great wallopping emotional punch, as it does in the film. I could visualize the charge of the Rohirrim into the Orc army besieging Helm’s Deep. I could picture the flooding of Isengard. I could even hear Sam’s stirring speech about hope in the ruins of Osgiliath.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow’s a half day at the office. I may listen to jazz. Streaming audio online. WSHA, Shaw University’s jazz station in Raleigh, should fit the bill. :D

On My 2010 Shore Leave Schedule

Shore Leave! It’s the media science-fiction convention held in Hunt Valley, Maryland every mid-July. This year, it falls on the calendar from July 9th through 11th. :spock:

This year, barring any unforeseen happenings, I will again be attending the convention as a guest.

My schedule for panels looks like:

Friday

  • Meet the Pros
    Hunt/Valley Hallway — 10pm-Midnight
    It’s the traditional author meet-and-greet; meet your favorite authors and get your books signed.
    Note: I’m planning on having copies of the limited edition of Star Trek Magazine #26 with me, which has my article on Star Trek: Generations, as well as a few of the chapbooks I produced for Farpoint.

Saturday

  • Writing Fiction at Stupidly Short Lengths
    Salon A — 10am-11am
    Learn about Twitterfics, Drabbles, and Flash Fiction as writers talk about creating stories at super-short lengths that make conventional stories look like War and Peace by comparison. Discover the appeal of the super-short form, uncover the techniques writers use to conceptualize and create at that length, and try your hand at your own super-short story!
    Panelists: Allyn Gibson, Dayton Ward
    (Note to self: Prepare handout)
  • Doctor Who: Smith and Steve
    Salon A — 11am-Noon
    The fifth season of Doctor Who — and the first since 2006 without David Tennant — has just concluded on BBC America. With an entirely new cast headed by Matt Smith in front of the camera and new people headed by Steven Moffat behind the scenes, the show underwent a creative rebirth. What did we learn about the last of the Time Lords, and what does the future hold for the new series?
    Panelists: Kathleen O. David, Allyn Gibson, Terri Osborne, Rigel Ailur, Alan Kistler
  • Magic, Myth, and Merlin
    Chase — 5pm-6pm
    The age of Camelot lives again in Merlin, the reimagining of the Arthurian legend now airing on the BBC and SyFy. What makes this take on the King Arthur myths different and where might the stories take us in the season to come?
    Panelists: Allyn Gibson, Terri Osborne, Marco Palmieri

Sunday

  • If I Were Joe Quesada for a Day!
    Derby — 2pm-3pm
    Imagine you were Joe Quesada, in charge of one of the major comic book companies, like Marvel Comics, today. What would you do? What comics would you publish? What movies would you develop from your properties? What are the trends shaping comic books today? The panelists discuss the comic book industry, where it is, and where it might be going, all by asking the question, “If I were Joe Quesada for a day…?”
    Panelists: Allyn Gibson, Dave Galanter, Glenn Hauman

And, of course, there’s the Shore Leave Bar. ;)

I may see about picking up one more panel on Saturday.

There are some other intriguing things on the schedule this weekend, such as panels on the future of spaceflight on the science track.

I’m very interested in the screening of The Hunt for Gollum, the Lord of the Rings fanfilm, Sunday morning at 10 o’clock; I’ve watched it on my computer monitor (and it’s fantastic stuff), but the opportunity to see it on a wider screen is sorely tempting for this Tolkien fan.

That’s Shore Leave. Hopefully, I’ll see some of you there! :cheers:

On Gandalf and the Vuvuzela

How many times have I watched this? I don’t know, because each time I do I start rolling on the floor laughing.

What happens when the World Cup is held in Middle-Earth? That provocative question is answered in…

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Vuvuzela.

Not coming to a theater near you. Thankfully. ;)

On Growing Sentences

I took a seat on the train, pulled out my notepad, took my pen in hand. The pen’s tip scratched across the paper, and a sentence was drawn out in ink —

Travelers in the lands west of the River Anduin, on the well-worn road that runs from Imladris to the Grey Havens, speak of inns and taverns with great reverance for, though they draw few patrons in these dark days as whispers speak of a nameless terror rising in the East, these inns, especially The Green Dragon in Bywater and The Prancing Pony in Bree, are bastions of warm shelter, good food, stout drink, and enchanting song, offering a measure of comfort to those who venture abroad.

Believe it or not, this sentence is for work.

I also think this sentence diagrams…

It wouldn’t stop. I would think I had reached the end, and then another clause appeared!

Sentences are mysterious like that. You lose control, they do what they want.

I like this sentence. It’s most appropriate for Mid-Year’s Day.

On a Nerdy Quarter

This afternoon I got some quarters in change. I dropped them in my pockets.

I tend to play with coins in my pockets. Shove my hands down in the pockets, rub the coins between my forefinger and thumb. I like the feel of some coins more than others. The best tactile experience I get from a coin is the Susie B; the reliefs on both sides of the coin are more pronounced than other other coin.

The state quarters all feel different. Some are more interesting to feel than others.

I noticed that one of the quarters felt a bit different. It felt… unfamiliar.

I fished it out of my pocket and looked at it.

It was Hawaii’s quarter.

I hadn’t seen Hawaii’s quarter before.

I didn’t realize it had one of the Pillars of the Argonath on the reverse. :)

Okay, okay, I realize that’s probably King Kamameha. But it looks so much like the the enormous statues of Isildur and Anarion constructed by Gondor in the second millennium of the Third Age along the banks of the River Anduin.

Yes, I typed that out from memory. But no, I couldn’t tell you off-hand which is which, if it’s Anarion on the eastern shore, Isildur on the western shore, or vice-versa.

The Pillars of the Argonath appear in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, that woe-begotten role-playing game for the Xbox and PlayStation 2. There’s a point where if you explore a cave system, you can come out to an opening in a rock wall that overlooks the Nen Hithoel and the Falls of Rauros. From that point, you have an amazing vantage on the enormous statues.

Fantastic visuals in the game. Repetitive gameplay, underwhelming story. It’s really too bad I didn’t work for Electronic Arts; I could have come up with a better story for the game. Alas, alack, and many alarums.

Wait. What was I saying?

Hawaii quarter, that’s right!

Alas, it doesn’t feature the Pillars of the Argonath on the reverse, no matter how much it looks like it, nor how unbelievably cool that would have been.

Alas.

On the 2009 Baltimore Comic-Con

While much of Baltimore had its attentions focused on the changing foliage or the Ravens/Bengals game, I went downtown to the Baltimore Comic-Con.

Some people go to conventions to meet people, or to buy things, or to get autographs. In a very real way, those things, especially the last two, don’t hold much meaning for me.

I wanted to take in the atmosphere.

Most of the major comic companies were represented. There wasn’t an official Marvel Comics booth, whereas the other major publishers — DC, Dark Horse, Image — all had central booths. Many of the smaller publishers also had presences, like BOOM! Studios. IDW Publishing, however, didn’t have an official presence at the convention, though I saw several artists who have done work for IDW hither, thither, and yon in the artists alleys.

I saw Keith DeCandido, longtime friend and writer of the Farscape comics for BOOM! I also talked with the editor of BOOM!’s Irredeemable, and had a geek moment where we agreed on what a fantastic job Peter Krause is doing on the art for that book.

In the artists alley I met Lora Innes, the writer/artist of The Dreamer, the best romance/Revolutionary War comic that you’re probably not reading. I admit it, I geeked out there, too; I was intrigued by the premise — a Revolutionary War comic! — when it was first solicited in Previews, and when I started reading it, I was impressed with the writing and the artwork and, most of all, how much fun it was.

I got a Black Lantern Ring! I really wanted a Blue Lantern Ring, because I’m all about hope and not at all about undead interstellar zombies, but it’s also hard to argue with free, and the Black Lantern Ring was free.

And I bought a Duck print from Don Rosa. When I was at the Baltimore Comic-Con two years ago, he had for sale a print of the Ducks — Scrooge, Donald, the nephews, Gyro Gearloose, and one other I can’t identify — as the Fellowship of the Ring. I wanted to buy it, but I didn’t at the time. He had the print — and many others, some of which took classic Marvel covers and put the Ducks in place of, say, the Mighty Thor or Spider-Man — and I decided I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity this time. So I now have a Don Rosa print of the Duck Fellowship of the Ring or the Fellowship of the Ducks or whatever you want to call it, and now I just need a frame for it.

I also went around the artists alley and asked people to make their pitch, especially on the stuff that they had clearly done in their spare time and taken to Kinko’s to make a couple of copies. Some people could do a great selling job, some people couldn’t. I bought a couple of these self-published comics. Maybe they’re okay, maybe they’re not. We shall see. :)

It was a nice crowd. There were a few people in costume today, though not many. I saw a couple Poison Ivys, and there was a guy in a really nice Blade costume. There were some Watchmen costumes, too, and I saw a kid in a really top-notch Flash costume. For the most part, I’d have judged the crowd to average in age around 23 to 27. There were a lot of kids, so the idea that comic books are a dying artform doesn’t hold water with me. There were also a fair number of older attendees.

At times, I wished I weren’t quite the font whore. Or, in the case, the font snob. I saw way too much Century Gothic today, and way way way too much Comic Sans. Century Gothic has a time and a place, though I don’t know what either are, while Comic Sans simply has no place in this world and must be eradicated like the scourge against reason and sanity that it is.

I didn’t stay long, maybe three hours. I had what I needed. A Don Rosa print. A Black Lantern Ring. Some geek-out moments. What else does one need? Besides lunch, of course. So I had a fantastic burrito at California Tortilla, which is a block from the convention center, over near Camden Yards. I also discovered that the Bromo Tower, while it looks impressive in pictures of Baltimore, is rather dull and uninteresting when seen from street level.

I then wandered around downtown Baltimore. It was a lovely early autumn day, warmer than it had any right to be, and the city had a nice calmness to it. Eventually, I made my way back to the subway station, and from there back home. All in all, a good day, though my left foot hurts something fierce; I think I’ve bruised it somehow.

The only unfinished business? I need to get a frame for my Don Rosa Lord of the Rings print. :spock:

On Rick Santorum’s Second Act

We can only be so lucky — Rick Santorum is thinking about running for President in 2012.

Rick Santorum!

I’m beside myself with glee. :party:

My encounters with Santorum are few. For instance, Santorum compared the war in Iraq to Aragorn’s assult on the Black Gate of Mordor, which prompted me to point out what a terrible analogy that was. Then, after he lost his bid for reelection in 2006, I had to gloat, so I sent him a letter.

Santorum never wrote me back, the wanker. It was probably because I knew more about Lord of the Rings than he did, and he was embarrassed that I showed him up. :)

Maybe Tolkien fans should band together and create a PAC for his 2012 campaign. SAURON-PAC, maybe? Santorum’s America United, Republican One Nation PAC. Okay, I don’t know what that means, but it sounds good. Sounds nerdy. :h2g2:

Rick Santorum! FTW!

On New LEGO Games

Let’s be upfront, here.

I love LEGO. :)

I also love the LEGO video games. Though I haven’t played LEGO Batman, so I don’t know if that’s good or if it’s crap.

That’s okay, though.

It looks like Travelers Tales, the development studio behind such hits as LEGO Star Wars, is looking to develop more LEGO video games.

Like LEGO Harry Potter. And LEGO Indiana Jones II.

Oh, and they’ve put together a tech demo for LEGO Hobbit.

LEGO Hobbit!

I’m crying here, I’m so happy.

I don’t know if it will happen, LEGO Hobbit. I want it to happen, obviously.

Lord of the Rings video game rights have reverted to Warners; Lord of the Rings: Conquest was the last gasp for EA, which is sad.

I thought EA did a good job with The Two Towers and Return of the King. The Third Age, as much as I’ve ragged on it, I’ve played through a few times. Battle for Middle Earth is a decent RTS. I wish The White Council could have happened.

What does this have to do with LEGO Hobbit, though? If Travelers Tales is working with Warners on LEGO Harry Potter, maybe that will establish the working relationship to give us LEGO Hobbit — and perhaps even LEGO versions of the three Lord of the Rings films.

Oh, that would be geek nirvana!

This LEGO fan is happy today. :)

On Unmade Science-Fiction Films

It’s odd. I’ve just read a book that I generally enjoyed, but it was a book that annoyed me to no end.

The book? David Hughes’ The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made.

Getting a movie from pitch and script to screen is a bit like running a gauntlet, and the book chronicles some twenty-odd science-fiction films that had problems getting past pitch and script.

Wonder what happened to Night Skies, the sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind? This book will tell you how it morphed into two films — E.T. and Poltergeist. The book even tells you what happened to the sequel to E.T., which drew upon the ideas from Night Skies.

Or what about films of The Stars My Destination or Childhood’s End? Those are in here, too.

Then, films like Alien 3, Superman Returns, I Am Legend, Watchmen, and other major properties are chronicled.

This is where the book falls short. There’s a chapter devoted to the unmade Star Trek films, but the level of detail is cursory at best, because it covers films from Planet of the Titans to Star Trek: The Beginning and several in-between (Harve Bennett’s Starfleet Academy, Walter Koenig’s In Flanders Fields, Maurice Hurley’s Star Trek VII, Michael Piller’s Stardust) in the span of twenty-five pages. There’s no enough space to deal with any of these in any detail.

Add to this, the book looks at films that were made. A chapter on the Aliens films is interesting, but there’s not much depth — the story of Alien 3 has been told elsewhere better and in more detail, while no information is given for the final two films of Joss Whedon’s trilogy that began with Alien Resurrection. (The answer to that puzzle — it became Firefly.) This is followed by an account of Peter Briggs’ Aliens Vs. Predator script, but again, the information given is surface at best.

The focus of the book appears to be on films that people have heard of. People know Superman, so there’s a chapter on Superman Lives. Everyone knows Spider-Man, so we get a chapter on James Cameron’s Spider-Man film. The Outer Limits is a television series that everyone has at least heard of, so there’s a chapter on that, too.

Which means that other projects don’t get a mention.

There’s no chapter on Harlan Ellison’s I, Robot, for instance. To be honest, there’s probably nothing to add to Ellison’s introduction to the published screenplay, but the absence of I, Robot is noteworthy in a book billing itself as The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made.

(I should note that I have always felt that Warners did the right thing by not making Ellison’s I, Robot. They would have sunk a fuckload of money into an arthouse sci-fi movie. It would have been science-fiction’s Heaven’s Gate.)

There’s nothing on the unmade Doctor Who films. No Last of the Time Lords. No Leonard Nimoy film. Nothing. Of course, Jean-Marc Lofficier’s The nth Doctor covers these films in great detail, but surely these merit some notice in a book such as this.

The most curious omission is one the book itself raises — Harry Knowles writes in his afterword that George Pal’s sequel to War of the Worlds must surely rank as one of the greatest science-fiction films never made. There’s no reference to this elsewhere in the book. Why bring it up at all, then?

And this might be a bit wide of the mark, but nothing on John Boorman’s Lord of the Rings film? Or any of the other attempts to bring Tolkien’s masterpiece to film? Like Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, Part 2, which surely must go down as a lost film?

At the same time, if the book is going to spend so much time on projects in development hell that finally get made (like Watchmen or I Am Legend), why is there nothing on a decade of Indiana Jones shenanigans leading to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? In terms of what the book is offering, this, too, seems as curious an omission as Pal’s War of the Worlds 2.

This is the book’s problem. It spends too much of its time on things that were made (like David Lynch’s Dune, to pull out yet another example), and the level of detail isn’t much beyond a compilation of quotes and articles from Premiere, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, and sources of that ilk. Works that are truly lost and unmade merit no notice, and original research seems to be wholly lacking.

Here’s the thing.

This all sounds harsh. And I admit, there’s a certain catharsis that came from writing it.

Yet, I really did enjoy the book. The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made is a book made for film buffs. It pulls together a lot of sources and compiles them into a cohesive story. I knew a little bit, for instance, about Night Skies, but I didn’t quite understand how we got from that to E.T., and I certainly didn’t realize how Night Skies influenced the unmade E.T. 2. (The Book of the Green Planet it would not have been.)

Just remember that the title of the book is a bit on the hype side, and you’ll be good. It really is an enjoyable read, even if, in the end, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made wasn’t quite what I wanted.