Aug 102018
 

Back in the day, the first porn stories I posted were parodies of erotic fiction and late night soft-core movies. Part of the reason was that by calling my stories parodies, I could pretend that the stories were not well written because I wasn’t taking it seriously. The other reason I wrote parodies was because I had issues with the cliches and plot holes of the erotica I was enjoying. It is a paradox that I had serious structural problems with porn but I only felt comfortable discussing those problems by pretending I was trying to be funny.

Which brings us to one of my favorite video series, the Porn Critic. Written and performed by real life porn director, Dick Bush, the Porn Critic is a tongue-in-cheek idea about a serious porn critic dealing with the many plot inconsistencies of porn, especially in the porn parody genre. The series is played for laughs but underneath the comedy is some real annoyance with the stupidity of porn plots.

The average episode goes scene by scene of a porn movie and skips the porn. These used to be hosted on YouTube and even though it obeyed all the rules, it still got taken down because YouTube prefers white supremacists and conspiracy theories over anything remotely sexual in subject. This plays well to the premise as the lack of sex or nudity keeps the focus on the story of the movie being critiqued, which is where all the comedy is to be found anyway. I find the show hilarious and as a writer, there is something so satisfying about seeing a fellow porn nerd rant about the lack of plot.

Dick has begun uploading the videos of the series to Porn Hub which you can watch here. Or you can go to his personal website and watch the videos without having the see ads for porn stolen from content providers.

If you like your porn with decent plots, I also recommend checking out Dick Bush’s movies.

Jul 272018
 

My Sex Arena interactive book takes place on the planet of Euphoria. It is a advanced civilization with space ships, lasers and genetic alterations, but they are also a civilization obsessed with sex.  They are ruled by the cruel and beautiful Queen Erishella. Sexual domination and submission is a way of life. You are either getting fucked or are fucking someone else over. Imagine Flash Gordon mixed with a ruthless BDSM novel.

I have been writing adventures set on Euphoria for a while. My monthly space explorer series deals with someone from that planet. It could be argued that I have written more fiction about this culture than any other of my creations. But weirdly, writing this book is the first time I have ever considered that they probably don’t have the same slang for sex organs that we do. Does pussy and cock still work when it is spoken by aliens?

It is tempting to create science fiction equivalents. For one year, I had a culture that Vaquel encountered use the terms ‘port’ for penis and ‘slot’ for vagina, because they sounded like technical words for the organs involved. It also had the benefit of creating a visual image that helped the reader guess what was really being said. I am tempted to recycle them for Euphoria, except I hate repeating myself.

There is also the disadvantage that comes with using new vocabulary in erotica. Making up new words should be the right of every writer, but I feel that erotica writers have an extra hurdle. Erotica is the fiction that is most designed to evoke a mood in the reader. Using dirty words the reader knows is is a direct path to the dirty parts of the reader’s brain. We all have a visceral reaction to dirty words and I worry that a new vocabulary won’t create that same reaction.

I tried researching the origins of our slang words like cocks and pussy, but funny enough, dirty words were rarely documented by scholars and therefore it can be hard to pin down how they came about.

An easy solution would be to just make shit up. Make a word like Xog for cock and pat yourself on the back. I am not a big fan of fictional cuss words. I understand that television shows created words like Frak and Frell so that they can use the ‘F’ word on television because there is standards and practices. That doesn’t excuse every day viewers using those same words because they live in a world where they can say fuck all they want. Nonsense words also have the problem of not being clear when they are first used because they are literally a new word. It would turn the first sex scene into a bewildering experience for the reader, which is not ideal in any situation.

A compromise to that would be to take real words and merge them. I remember when I was younger, I read a Judge Dredd novel where someone was called a “slitch”. That word seemed so vulgar to me and I knew it was dirty without knowing exactly what it meant.  Now it is pretty easy to see they merged slut and bitch, but wow, it just felt filthy at the time. Maybe I can do something like merge pecker and cock to make a word like ‘pock’ or ‘cecker’. I am not sure.

Another way to go about it is to think about what the sex-obsessed Euphorians would consider to be dirty words. Terms like slut, for example, wouldn’t be an insult at all. A word like prude might be the meanest thing you can call someone. It doesn’t help in naming body parts but it is an approach I can use for insults and compliments.

I don’t have an anwser to what I plan to do. I might end up doing nothing. There is still at least two more months of writing to go before the first draft is finished, so I have time to think about it.

 

 

Jul 132018
 

I used to play tabletop role-playing games like crazy. I was often playing two or three times a week and at one point in my 20’s, I was literally playing seven days a week.  I cut my teeth on dungeons and Dragons, Marvel Superheroes, James Bond, Star Frontiers and the much maligned but fun to me, Indiana Jones game from TSR. In my 20’s it was all Champions, Call of Cthulhu, Rifts and still more Dungeons and Dragons. I picked the Amber role-playing game and that became the game system that I run for nearly a decade.

But it was one little known game that changed me the most and it was Over the Edge by Johnathon Tweet in 1992. The game deliberately dropped all of the number crunching and rules that dominated role-playing games and instead focused on something that was mind-blowing to me: telling a good story. Players played anything they could imagined and were encouraged to keep being creative as play progressed. The Amber role-playing game with its diceless mechanics had come close to this kind of play but the structure was closely tied to the source material of Roger Zelazny’s Amber series. Over the Edge dared you as a player and a gamemaster to just make up your own shit. It was a pretty radical idea for the time.

And what a setting Over the Edge had. Everything takes place on the fictional island of Al Amarja. The island is ruled by a President-for-Life, Her Exaltedness Monique D’Aubainne. For reasons undefined, the island is a weirdness magnet attracting all the strangeness of the world. If you are a pyrotechnic on the run from a government agency, you probably come to Al Amarja. If you are an alien rock star stranded on Earth, you end up in Al Amarja. Robot from the future? Last living Minotaur? Porn writer with weird fetishes? They all live here.

The setting is one of my favorite fictional places ever created. It is set in the Mediterranean which means it is awash with nationalities and races that you never saw in role-playing games of the late 80’s. The government is both corrupt and very liberal. Firearms are highly illegal but hey, the Ethiopian cyborg doesn’t need a gun to suck your brain out of your skull. All religions are tolerated but the fast growing one is centered around a pop star who may or may not be divine. I am eager to tell you more but I want to hold back so you can discover it for yourself. The game is crammed with so much wonderful weirdness that reading a gamebook is akin to taking acid.

When I discovered the game, I became an instant convert and tried to get my player group to come along with me. Quite frankly, they were a bit overwhelmed by it all. We played one or two scenarios and they tapped out. It was too much work for them. They wanted to roll dice and consult charts and spend building points. They didn’t want to deal with psychic creations that mirrored their desires in between paying protection money to a lady and her baboon gang. Amber was the edge of their limits but that was at least based on a series of books they could emulate. Over the Edge was way outside their comfort zones.

This put me in a strange position. I realized my friends enjoyed beating monsters and gaining rewards like treasure or experience. I on the other hand, was playing games for the story or the opportunity to be creative. Over the Edge was pure creative with minimum mechanics. Once I had a taste of that, I wanted more. It became painful for me to spend my free time not being creative. I was very unhappy going back to our old games.

A year later, I started writing stories. I spent less time role-playing and more time doing with that I really wanted to do: create.The wild, anything-goes attitude of Over the Edge is a big part of my writing. I see it in my Vaquel stories, my stories about magic and even my straight forward stories like the librarians. I can safely say that Al Amarja is my adopted home.

What is really weird for me is to see so many indie games adopt a lot of what Over the Edge was trying to do.  I am excited to see gaming mature and encourage more creativity but I sometimes wonder that if I had these games when I was younger, and a group to play them with, would I have ever switched to writing? I like to think so. Either way, tabletop role-playing is a much better place now for creative people and I credit Tweet and Over the Edge for it.

And now 26 years later, Johnathan Tweet is remaking Over the Edge for modern audiences through Kickstarter. It is already funded but I wanted you to get a chance to be a part of it. One of the rewards is pdf copies of every book in the previous editions which is fucking treasure as far as I am concerned. The amount of creative fuel on offer here can not be beaten.

So please consider supporting the Over the Edge Kickstarter. It might not change your life as much as it did mine, but then again, it might change it more.

 

 

Jul 022018
 

Cherry Delight is the name of a hot redhead who works for a New York based government agency that fights the mob. Being a porn pulp, she fights the mob by sleeping with people, shooting bad guys and using karate and judo. She is unstoppable in the sack and on the battlefield. Not just a pretty and deadly face, she is also smart and cunning. She is remarkably talented for a woman character written in 1973.

Sadly, the books she appears in are nowhere near as interesting as they could be. In Silverfinger, she goes to Italy to help three rich near-useless adults who inherited a shipbuilding empire from their father. They are being threatened with a takeover by the mafia, more specifically, a mysterious mob enforcer named Silverfinger. The three rich adults are so useless I thought there would be a moral about how they don’t deserve their riches, but no, that is too deep a concept for this book. Silverfinger, despite being named after a Bond villain, is just a thug with a silver luxury car. The plot meanders a bit and then abruptly gets wrapped up in twenty pages as the author realizes he has hit his page count. You might think that last line is a joke but it is really not.

The most interesting part about this book is that partway through, one of the rich adults gets kidnapped by Satanists. The Satanists are the local peasants and Cherry explains to the reader how just about every poor rural person is a secret Satanist and has practiced Black Mass for centuries. It was such a preposterous concept that it both hurt my brain and delighted me. You can tell the Satanic Panic was in full swing when this was written. If the dumb Silverfinger idea was dropped and the entire book was about Mafia Satanists, this would be a book worth reading.

If you are an obsessive collector of period spy porn like I am, then you are going to get this book whether it is good or not. As for the rest of you, there is much better spy porn out there. In my opinion, the Baroness series by Paul Kenyon is the best.

Jun 272018
 

The Spider Queen Collection by Sarah Hawke is a group of short stories set in a fantasy world that features the Drow from Dungeons and Dragons campaign with the serial numbers only partially filed off. if you are unfamiliar with the Drow, all you need to know is that they are sexy pervert elves who live deep underground and hate the surface elves. They worship a Spider Goddess who enforces a cruel matriarchy on the Drow. If you are a male, you are considered next to worthless, fit only to serve as a soldier or servant. If you are a woman, you are considered to be superior but the Spider Goddess demands competition so any sign of weakness is exploited by your female rivals. It is a cut-throat environment where someone is always being tormented by someone, so they might as well torment the person below them in social status.

The main character is a Drow Priestess who is assigned to a remote backwater outpost and is bored from tormenting her male soldiers. Luckily, her soldiers capture a human man and his half-elf girlfriend. The Drow Priestess quickly introduces them to kinky sex, domination, humiliation and bondage. So far, pretty typical for a fantasy sex novel.

Where things get interesting is the second story takes place much later. Now the surface slaves are willing participants in their debasement and are accomplices to the Drow Priestess’ schemes. The third story skips ahead to the Drow Priestess living back in the main Drow city, breaking in new slaves while her old slaves continue to mature as devious hench people. The final story skips ahead again to plot climax where the Drow Priestess’ schemes begin to unwind.

I greatly enjoyed this skipping of time. A lot of long BDSM novels tread the same ground. You have the scenes where the slaves debate their inner nature. You have the multiple scenes where they resist and then are finally broken. You have the long boring discussions of kinky philosophy. Every BDSM book has these bits and the author happily skips past them. Each story feels like the condensed good part out of a typical novel.

The sex is well written. The use of magic is creative instead of merely providing magical recreations of modern sex toys. The ruthless Drow culture is fun to see and the rather willing nature of the slaves takes the edge off of what could have been a much darker story.

All in all, I really enjoyed this series. It feels like the summer popcorn version of other BDSM novels. It is good, cruel fun at the expense of just about every character. I’m looking forward to reading more from the author.

 

Jun 222018
 

For the past year I have been fine tuning my thoughts on what the fuck is wrong with so much of nerd/pop culture.  Misogyny is a huge part, and I find that a lot of the worse fans are sexist assholes, but I also find a lot of perfectly not-sexist assholes who truly believe deep down that a female version of a character is some sort of heresy.  I have struggled to put my finger on this weird narrow vision. I finally found some answers when I was studying religions and I wanted to put these thoughts down somewhere.

There is a certain kind of fan that treats pop culture not as entertainment to be observed, enjoyed and discarded as they would other entertainments, but as something closer to religion. More specifically, they treat their chosen religion as something that is burned into holy stone and cannot be deviated from. They approach their pop culture the same way a fanatical Christian would treat the Bible as something to be taken literally. My term for this is Orthodox Fan.

Examples of Orthodox Fandom,

Believing that since a character that first appeared in the racist past as a white male, then any recreation of that character as anything other than a white male is wrong.

Rebooting a character created fifty years ago to include anything from the present day is some sort of terrible idea.

Movies or shows featuring different actors than the ones who originally portrayed a character.

Extreme reactions against anyone applying any sort of logic to a movie series that was made for kids.

I kick myself for not seeing this earlier as the very word, ‘fan’, is derivative from ‘fanatic’. That is what these bad kinds of fans are, they are fanatics. Sure, there is racism and sexism involved, but I think the cause of their sexism and racism in fandom has more to do with their fanatical adherence to the source material.

An Orthodox Fan often have the trait of loving something without ever absorbing the message of the thing they are a fan of. This happens a lot in religion as well. Everyone knows of that person who quotes religious scripture to justify their own desires, We all know of people who claim to follow Christ but seem to be lacking in any Christian qualities. These hypocrites see themselves as the true believers because deep down, they hear and repeat the words without ever absorbing the message. Orthodox Fans behave much the same way.

Star Trek is a science fiction show about the power of diversity and bringing different people together. Orthodox Star Trek fans think it is a show about these white guys who were smart and banged chicks. They see the idea of women in charge or non-white heroes as unrealistic.

Superheroes are about people who feel the call to protect the world and help others. Orthodox Superhero Fans think is a medium where guys wearing spandex punch other guys in spandex. Warner Brothers catered to Orthodox Superhero Fans with their terrible movies until the Wonder Woman movie. This was a movie with an actual fucking message and lo and behold, people liked it.

Star Wars is about, umm. That’s a good question. I sometimes think Star Wars has a really nasty fandom because other than good guys-fight-bad-guys, I couldn’t tell you what message or higher calling Star Wars is trying to instruct. It is truly just an excuse for big space battles and laser sword fights.  Think fast, other than take down the Empire, what does the rebellion stand for? What is the political leaning of the Empire other than a dictatorship? Why the fuck are droids slaves that even the good guys abuse? The Orthodoxy is strong in their fans because other than buy more Star Wars stuff, there is no grand meaning.

Which brings us to the nasty secret about pop culture franchises and their fans. At their very basic root, most of pop culture is created by companies looking to make money. The ones that resonate with people often have themes or messages but these are just designed to attract people into liking it enough to spend more money. Ultimately, nerd culture is a giant consumer’s market. Orthodox Fans treat it as a religion, but only as a religion that they give lip service to without having to actually believe in anything. To these fans, the ultimate act of worship is buying shit.

Not all fans are like this, of course. There are great fans out there. Real fans are cosplayers of color who embrace these white characters and make them their own. Real fans are inspired by fictional heroes to help out in their community and to look out for one another.  Real fans are happy to watch their favorite media creation change and grow to include more people. Real fans would never attack another fan for being “wrong” in their fandom.

You know, some fans truly don’t give a shit and they are cool too. Enjoy your vampire bounty-hunter show as an escape from your bad day and don’t feel obligated to do jack shit except enjoy it. You’re a fan too and you know, I think I love you most of all because you are never going to harass someone on Twitter because they cosplayed as a Hispanic version of your vampire bounty-hunter.

So yeah, this is my grand Orthodox Fan theory. It is not meant to excuse bad behavior but maybe this kind of flawed thinking will be easier to recognize in yourself and others.

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Jun 202018
 

Sometime around last October, I published my interactive book, Ravished Inside the Haunted House. It was a monster of a book and took my half a year to write it. I was exhausted and told myself that my next book would be a hell of a lot shorter.

About a month later, I decided what I wanted to write next was a story about a sex gladiator on a faraway planet who battled for his ass, literally. In front a screaming crowd and an evil Queen, he would fight aliens and people, with the winner having the right to fuck the loser with domination sex. It would be part of a grand tournament with a big finale where the winner gets to fuck the Queen.  It would be an interactive book where the reader took the part of the sex gladiator.

My initial thought was to write fast and dirty. Just spit this draft out there and I should have it done by June. Polish it and get it published in July. It would be like my version of a summer blockbuster: loud, crass and big. I would even get the jump on it and write some of it in December. Hell, I may have it done by May!

It is now June and I am about 80% of the way through the first draft. Whoops.

My rough outline was simple. Gladiator has a night before the match where he bangs the servant assigned to him. He then has a fight. If he loses the fight, he gets fucked and he is out of the tournament and the story ends. If he wins the fight, he fucks the loser and the story moves on.  The gladiator goes back to his room, bangs the servant and repeat. Easy-peasy. That is six fights and six nights before.

My biggest concern is that this would be most linear interactive adventure I have written. All of my books read like amusement parks; you can only visit so much on one trip. The early choices determine what part or theme of the book you explore. This allows the reader to play through the book at least three or four times with clearly different stories. I like this approach because it gets a lot of replay-ability out of a single book.

This book wouldn’t have that feature. You start at the same place, fight the same six sex gladiators and have the same six nights after the fight. There would be variations of how you fight or how to spend your night, but all in all, it is a single story-line without any real reason to read again unless you really like the story. This was a problem but I figured that I would just have to make sure the story is really good and worth revisiting.

Halfway through writing the first fight, it occurred to me that I have stressed that sex gladiators play to the crowd and play to the Queen but there is no mechanism to encourage the player to keep it mind. It seemed obvious that winning wasn’t enough, I had to quantify how good your win was. By adding that element, it stood to reason that your night after the fight would change as well. If you win and please the crowd and Queen, the Queen sends you a gift. If you win and only please the crowd, then someone from the crowd visits you. If you simply win, then you just have sex with your servant and maybe some luxury that has been provided for your quarters.

Now I have a lot of variety to play with. We have the same six fighters, but now there are three different ways to spend your night after each fight. That will help a lot with repeatability.

Of course, once I introduced the idea of three different ways to spend a night before a fight, it seems logical that the fight itself would change. Maybe fucking a member of the crowd gives you a hint about your next opponent. Maybe the Queen’s gift gives you an advantage. Maybe having sex with your servant can have risks in that you don’t adequately prepare for the next fight.

As you can easily see, now instead of fighting the same six gladiators, you have three possible variations for each of those fights. The math works out to three possible versions of each of the six fighters equals eighteen different mini-stories. Add to that the three different versions of the six nights before each fight for another eighteen mini-stories. Add them together, and I have thirty-six variations to write out for this tournament. Plus any variations I want to do on the grand ending when the Queen rewards you.

So that is how my simple story ballooned into a massive space gladiator epic that has consumed all of my writing for this year so far. I think it will be worth it. On a single run through, you will see twelve of the mini-stories and have twenty-four that you never saw. Of these thirty-six combinations, you could repeat some and see new ones depending on your choices. It may be linear, but there are a lot of ways to get to the end.

It is a lot of work but I can’t wait to share it with you.

 

 

 

Jun 182018
 

Annihilation was a movie that I wanted to see but didn’t get the chance to. I saw it recently and really regret not seeing it in the theater. It was a gorgeous movie about evolution and a failed marriage that happens to feature a group of women exploring a terrible place. It concerns an expedition into a weird place where something fell to Earth and now the landscape is all wacky with weird life. It is an exploration movie, mixed with weird science and just plain mysterious things. Big emphasis on mysterious shit.

After I saw the movie, I read the book by Jeff Vandermeer.  Holy crap, if I thought the movie was good, the book is spectacular. They deviate a lot and I read that the director wrote the movie from what he remembered of the book, and didn’t go back to reference the book. Normally I would have some harsh words about that but the sliding perception nature of the book makes me wonder if a half-remembered version of the book into a movie might not be the best way to adapt the book.

Technically this book is about an expedition into a weird place called Area X where the laws of logic and science have given way. The narrator is a member of the 12th expedition, sent in by a government agency to figure out what the fuck is going on. Almost instantly, she realizes that most of their preparation was a lie and their real mission is a mystery.  The narrator is also looking for some answers on what happened to her husband who went in on a previous expedition so there are personal reasons for going as well.

In reality, this book is a deep dive into the narrator’s personality. She’s an introvert biologist who feels most at ease observing life rather than participating in it. This drives her husband away and she knows it, but is so emotionally detached she is not all that sure she really misses him.  She observes the weird land around her with the same detachment, giving her an advantage over her rapidly failing teammates.

As interesting, weird and fantastic as the land she is exploring is, the real story is about how alien the narrator is to her husband, her family and her place in the world. I was drawn to the weirdness of the creatures he meets, but ultimately I couldn’t help feel that the narrator is her own unique species.  She doesn’t get her husband and he never really got her. She failed at most of her field work jobs because foundations need data they can use instead of the data she found interesting. In this weird Area X, she is an alien explorer but she was one in the normal world as well.

As a porn-writing nerd who dabbles in magic, I sympathize a lot with her. I suspect most people of an introspective bent will.

There are themes of perception being played with as well. Truth is fucking fluid. The group was lied to and manipulated but to an unknown end. The narrator inhales some spores early on and it gives her an advantage in perception but maybe also hallucinations. Journals are found and both trusted and suspected of being false. The fact that everything you know comes from the journal of such an emotionally detached person who admits to ignoring unpleasant facts makes every page untrustworthy.

The differences between the movie and the book is centered mostly on the narrator. In the book, she is a biologist who trying to connect with the bizarre life around her. In the movie, she is a biologist/ex-soldier. It is a weird change that turns a book of self-reflection into a movie about shooting monsters and trying to find the true fate of her husband. The movie expedition members get attacked by monsters. Most of the book expedition dies from circumstances only guessed at. It almost feels like a condemnation of Hollywood that the only conflict we accept in movies are things that can be shot or blown up.

The book is part of a trilogy and I haven’t read the others yet. Whether they live up to the wonderful experience of the first book remains to be seen. No matter what happens with the rest of the series, I will think back on this book fondly. The last time I read a book that both disoriented me while making me thinking really deeply was House of Leaves. Thankfully, Annihilation is a lot shorter.

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Jun 122018
 

There is a certain kind of writer that is always in style. It is a cranky voice, angry at the ridiculousness of the world and raging mad at the rich and powerful. There is a hostility in their writing that is a like a vigilante smashing thorough injustices that we just take for granted. They often have a wildman quality in which we think they are crazy but we also wish we could borrow a little of that crazy to be used in controlled doses.

The problem with these kinds of writers is that there is a thin line between being hostile to those who deserve hostility and just being an asshole to everyone.  When you poke past their writing and look at the writer, sometimes you find a wretched person with some nasty qualities.  The writer is less of a vigilante and more of a psychopath who happened to attack the things you didn’t like.

Anthony Bourdain, by all accounts, had none of those problems. He was the rare angry writer who upon closer examination, was even more admirable. Anthony was an advocate for Latinos and their invisible role in the food industry. He was a champion of the MeToo movement. when other people tear into a North Dakota food critic for her review of an Olive Garden, Anthony gets her a book deal and points out how her earnest column was an honest examination of the food that was available.

I encountered Anthony through his television shows and they were such an education. He taught me that no matter where you go, something is frying some kind of meat. He taught me that real food is made by families and the best meal you can find is made by a grandmother. He taught that food is always about who has access to it and what is the scarcity.  he taught me that if you are a tourist, don’t eat where the tourists eat but eat where the locals go. Most of all, he taught that people were much more alike than they were different.

My favorite Anthony memory was when he went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The people there seemed so exotic and foreign but yet here they are, gathered at a fried chicken restaurant like you would find in any Southern state. I consider myself such a super-liberal guy but watching that moment and seeing how surprised I was, made me understand that I had a lot of unconscious prejudices that I wasn’t even aware of. That was the kind of stuff Anthony tackled everywhere.

And my Goddess, he could write. If you only know Anthony by his wonderful television shows, then you need to check out his books. I have a fondness for “The Nasty Bits”, a collection of articles and essays he wrote for various sites. Each one is a mini-story about life , food, cooking and everything in between. He wrote fiction with the same edge, crafting crime stories like he has been doing it all his life.  it is truly unfair that he could write that good.

It is his stories of being a chef that really resonate with me. He wrote about how being a chef where everything goes right is cool, but the best memories are when things go to shit and you still managed to send a meal out. Time and time again, he made cooking out to be a madman’s passion where things are always going wrong but you make it work. Or maybe you don’t make it work and you just suck it up. Either way, you keep cooking and you do it again tomorrow.

As an anxious person, these stories always amazed me. When I first started cooking, the smallest mistake would be so discouraging. I used to break down in tears if a meal came out bad. It has taken a lot of work to get past that and I still have my episodes but man, reading Anthony, a genuine bad-ass in his own right, talking about fucking up cooking and carrying on, is fucking inspiration. Anthony, rightfully so, glamorized the mistakes and troubles of cooking as part of the real work of cooking. Any dumbass can make a steak after a few tries but a real cook fucks up a sauce and does his best to save it. Whether he saved it or not is not as important as the fact that he did his best to make it work.

Anthony Bourdain passed away this Friday and I am still in a state of grief. He committed suicide, which as a lifetime depression sufferer, really hits close to home. It is deeply unfair that such a wonderful man could have perished but that is how depression works. Depression sucks and it is a daily fight. Anthony lost that fight and I hope wherever he is now, he is happier.

As for me, I will try to remember what Anthony tried to teach us. I try to cook with love for whomever I am cooking for. I try to be mindful of the privilege I have to enjoy food most people will never get to have.  I try to get out of my routine and try new things.  And for Anthony’s sake, never have the fish special on a Monday because it is most likely the fish that turned bad over the weekend.

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Sep 272017
 

Back in the glory days of my youth, I played Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K. I loved role-playing games but there was something irresistible in managing an army or small squadron through a tactical situation. Role-playing was about stories about wargaming was about the thrill of winning and the almost more entertaining thrill of losing.

As I got older, I stopped playing wargames because they can all day to play. It is can also get expensive as armies grow and miniatures have never gotten cheaper. The days of spending six hours to fight a battle with an army that takes all year to save up for is long gone.

Thankfully, I have been able to get back into wargaming through the wonderful game of Pulp Alley. Games usually take a two hours and the miniatures can be as few as two and rarely if ever cross over into more than ten. More importantly, the rules are simple but incredibly fun. I have been playing off and on for a year now and couldn’t imagine playing anything else.

The premise is that each player has a small league of like-minded individuals. Each game centers on the leagues trying to achieve the same goal. The players have six turns to gain objectives, deduct clues or just slug it out. Fortune cards are drawn at random and used by both players for unexpected advantages. No one truly dies so even if your league gets wiped out, they will just regroup and be ready for next time.

One of the strengths of Pulp alley is that the rules as written can cover any kind of game genre. Want to play space opera with your Jedi Knights or Cylons? Pulp Alley has you covered. Want to play a fantasy game of rival warrior bands fighting over a temple? Yep, you can do that.  I myself have a cult leader and his followers, a band of women adventurers from the mountains of Tennessee and a time-traveling scientist who has an army of robots. Basically, if you ever wanted a game to create your dream group of miniatures, this is the game for you.

I suggest getting the core rulebook, and a set of their fortune cards. If you like it, then I suggest the Pulp Leagues Book which has more skills and rules for creating a game for specific genres. Pulp Alley also came out with rules for solo play which are quite good.

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