Thursday, September 18, 2014

Social Gathering with Seattle's Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers

(Image:  The Seattle Space Needle and Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum)
This past Saturday, I invited myself  was invited to the monthly gathering of the Seattle Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers group (SF2W).  Actually, I've been receiving newsletters for the past several months, but haven't been able to attend until now.

It's an informal group, whose origins date back almost a year ago at the Northwest Bookfest.

The Prime Directive of meetings are social, with no personal business agendas permitted.

One of the members followed-up on a previous suggestion to provide "Hello, My Name Is" name tapes for everyone.  So it was easy for everyone to actually remember each others' names.

However, out of the 10 of us, I only know the full names of the following writers:

Django Wexler, co-founder and meeting coordinator.

Janine Southard, our hostess for the day.

And Casey Blair.

We talked about upcoming conventions, such as next month's Geek Girl Con, various comic cons, writers conferences and even "Outdoor Trek."

While no one made any elevator pitches, folks did talk about their good, bad & ugly experiences with certain websites, on-line stores, e-book pricing and computer programs.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover nearly everyone is involved in some aspect of gaming; whether computer games, boardgames, miniatures, or role playing games (RPGs).

I had an enjoyable time, loved meeting new people, and I look forward to attending future gatherings--with my usual caveat of:  Work schedule permitting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Buying Board Games Down Under







Dael Kingsmill rants about discusses the problems Australians have when buying boardgames and other merchandise.



I get turned off about on-line purchases when the shipping and handling (S&H) fees are over $15 (US).  I can't imagine contending with the prices our Australian gamer friends deal with.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Program Review: Emma Approved

 
The folks at Pemberly Digital scored big a couple nights ago at the 4th Annual Streamy Awards, with it's ground-breaking Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD).
 
This vlog version of Pride and Prejudice was my first exposure to the works of Jane Austen
 
Now my latest video venture into the world of Jane Austin is:  Emma Approved, an adaptation of the novel Emma.
 
Meet Emma Woodhouse, (played by Joanna Sotomura), lifestyle coach not-so extraordinaire, and her business partner Alex Knightley (played by Brent Bailey).
 

She's on a quest to "improve the lives of those around her," while he struggles to keep the business afloat.

Yeah, you guessed it, conflict ensues.

(An Emma Approved version of American Gothic?)
Oh, Emma means well, and her grandiose schemes are successful--for the most part.  But, more often than not, Emma leaves hard feelings and heartache in her wake, because she's blind to the obvious.

I enjoyed the series, and from the comments I read on YouTube, the other viewers did too, and looked forward to each new episode.  Emma Approved seemed to be a rebound from Pemberly Digital's LBD spin-off Welcome to Sanditon

However, there's more to these webseries than posting videos on YouTube.  Apparently, Emma Approved didn't work as well as LBD, in part because Emma Approved didn't utilize the full range of transmedia that LBD did.

Other than Facebook, I didn't delve into any other media platforms during my viewing times.  I guess having an "in-character" blog, which includes womens' fashion advice isn't enough anymore.

Well being the Y-Chromosome tainted Luddite that I am, I'm still giving Emma Approved 4 out of 5 stars, or for those who like using the IMDb Scale, 8 out of 10.

I think Emma would approve.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thank You for the 2K Visits!

(Image: The USS Constitution firing a 21-gun salute)

Sometime yesterday, Stern Rake Studio was reached it's 200,000th view.

Thank you for visiting, whether you're a frequent follower, or just passing through.

I appreciate the interest.

Best wishes to all of you.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review--Jurassic Park, Volume 1: Redemption


Jurassic Park Vol. 1: Redemption takes place 13 years after the original Jurassic Park movie.

Tim and Lex Murphy, (the two kids in the movie), are grown up, and are running various remnants of their grandfather's corporation. Lex wants to keep the dinosaur island quarantined. However, Tim enters into a deal with a shady businessman and attempts to clear their grandfather's name--by re-opening a similar park, deep in the heart of Texas.

Predictably, carnage ensues.



Fortunately, Doctors Saddler and Grant show up in the nick of time to help out.

Jurassic Park: Redemption is a valiant attempt an re-igniting interest in the series, long after the last movie was made. Keep in mind, the novel's storyline follows the movies and not Michael Crichton's books.

While I liked seeing all four of the main characters re-united, Jurassic Park: Redemption falls flat in a few key areas.

The artwork is okay at best. I agree with the other commentators, that it's often hard to tell the characters apart. One even said Doctors Saddler and Grant look younger than they did in the original movie.
 (Although both Laura Dern and Sam Neill looked great during last year's media blitz over the release of Jurassic Park 3-D).
The plot seems to be merely an excuse to see dinosaurs go on a rampage--again. Transitions sequences are choppy, or non-existent, making the story even harder to follow.

Since this is the proposed first volume of a series, readers are hoping the quality improves.

Overall, I think the book was okay, probably because I found my copy at a used book store. I'd probably feel less charitable if I paid full price.

Jurassic Park: Redemption has earned just over 2.5 stars on Amazon.com.  The two raters who give the book over 2-stars liked it because their young sons loved it.  Adult readers are less than impressed.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review--Trekker Omnibus

 
I never heard of Trekker until I stumbled across this Omnibus edition. 

This tome contains all the stories, plus artwork of bounty hunter Mercy St. Clair, as she fights not only criminals on the lamb, but the corrupt police and politicians running New Galeph.

These tales aren't all about blasting bad guys. Mercy is a troubled woman, riddled with as much doubt as her body gets riddled with bullets, while seeking to find a balance between her rough profession and her softer personal life. There's a "creation of Mercy St. Clair" chapter that involves a mentor and an old flame.

The stories are well written and well drawn, although most of the images are in black and white.

Speaking of imagery: While athletic and attractive, Mercy isn't a overly-buxom babe in a skimpy costume. Oh sure, there's usually a picture or two in each chapter of Mercy in a nice dress, while out on the town, or even in lingerie; but her trekker (bounty hunter) uniform looks more practical than just about any other comic costume I've seen.

If you like retro-noir sci-fi with flawed female protagonists then Trekker Omnibus will be a good read for you.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Reviews: Fear Agent Vols. # 1 and 2


If you like pulp action with a retro sci-fi feel, then Fear Agent, Volume 1, Re-Ignition is for you!

Down-on-his-luck alien exterminator Heath Hudson, stumbles across a conspiracy to destroy Earth.


He narrowly escapes from a space station overrun by octopoid monsters with Mara, the only survivor of the attack. 


 They zip past the octopoid armada in Heath's rocket ship, but end up crash-landing on a post-apocalyptic planet, where they discover two things:

One:  They've been transported thousands of years back in time. 

Two:  The planet they're marooned on is the homeworld of a race of killer robots, hell-bent on exterminating all life forms in the galaxy. 

So it's "Plan B" for our intrepid couple--stop the robot conquest of the galaxy before it begins.  But after a desperate battle, all seems lost.


In Fear Agent, Vol 2, My War, our hero Heath Hudson rebounds and manages to thwart the evil robot plan. 

However, as with other time-travel stories, the "present" turns out to be worse off than before--on many levels, from personal to planetary.


The octopoids still manage to conquer Earth, while the survivors flee to an overcrowded base on the moon.

My War ends with remnants of the Human Race preparing to launch a search for habitable planets in order to hide from the octopoids--and just about every other race that wants to see humans eradicated from the galaxy.

Several more Fear Agent volumes have been published since Re-Ignition.  For a synopsis on all of them, with plot spoilers, here's the Wikipedia "Cliff Notes." 

Fear Agent Volumes 1 & 2 are a retro-romp across time and space. 

I give both issues 5-stars/two-thumbs-up.  A plot-twist was revealed at the end of My War, that I should have seen coming, but didn't, because I was too mesmerized by the action.  So I made sure I didn't read the Wikipedia synopsis past Volume 2.

There is a scene with hints of sex and nudity, along with some dialogue discussing sex.  Not to mention all the graphic violence of people, aliens and robots being blasted and/or eaten.

So if you're think about getting Fear Agent Volumes 1 & 2, and probably any of the subsequent issues for that matter, as gifts, you may want to consider this "NC-17 or R-Rated" material.

Both volumes averaged 4.5 stars on Amazon.com.  I didn't notice any of the plot issues the less-than-four-star raters commented on.  My copies of Re-Ignition and My War had no production flaws either.

I'm hooked and look forward to getting caught-up on Fear Agent!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

YouTube Movie # 32


Well it's a little late in coming, but I finally uploaded the Studio's 32nd YouTube video, Enfilade 2014: The Obscure Movie, in honor of this year's gaming theme:  Obscure Theaters. 

Normally, I try finish my NHMGS Enfilade shows within a few weeks after the convention is over.  But this year I wanted to get The Chronicles of Culhwch y Drewllyd published first, while the SAGA Tournament's events were still fresh on my mind. 

Other "Life getting in the way" issues also delayed production, primarily dealing with a busy Fire Season at work. The season's not over, but the issues have dwindled down enough to give me the spare time to complete the movie.

At least it's in time for the as-yet-to-be-named-theme Enfilade 2015!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Goblin Horde

(Kalashtar Bodyguard facing a goblin warrior)
 
In just about any fantasy role-playing game (RPG), a single adventurer, even a low-level one, can dispatch a solitary goblin. 
 
The problem, however, is...


...goblins "hunt in packs." 
 
Several months ago, I bought a slew of Pathfinder Battles goblin packs made for the We Be Goblins Module to add to my greenskin horde. 
 
On the Pathfinder RPG planet of Golarion, goblins are hyper little psychos, living in tribes scattered across the world.
 
It's not that the goblins of other worlds are any less vicious, but the ones found on Golarion push the envelope of zaniness to the point of insanity
 
Once I finished painting and flocking the black bases of my new goblins, I thought I'd muster the new and old figures for a "gathering of the goblin clan."
 
Rulers of the Pack 
 
Every tribe needs a leader, and goblins, whether zany or sane, are no exception.  Here are three unique characters that stand out among the gibbering masses:
 
(Special Characters:  Mogmurch, Reta Bigbad and a goblin adept)
"Pets"
 
Humans aren't the only being capable of domesticating animals.  Goblin dogs are often found guarding goblin lairs.

(Image:  A pack of goblin dogs)
The Rank & File 
 
The favored weapon of Golarion goblins is the Dogslicer.  These cheaply made weapons can be found in the hands of a tribe's heroes...

(Image: goblin heroes # 02)
 
...warchanters...
 
(Image:  Goblin warchanters)
 
...and warriors. 

(Image:  Goblin warriors)

For those goblins who prefer weapons with a tad longer reach, there's these spear-wielding commandos: 

(Image:  Goblin commandos)

Pyromania is just one part of a goblin's psychological make up.  However, for some goblins it's their calling.
 
(Image:  Goblin Pyros 01s and Pyro 02s)

Getting back to "pets," goblin dogs aren't just guard animals either.  Some of the critters have an ever-so-slightly milder temperament, that allows goblins to ride them as cavalry. 

(Image:  Goblin commandos on goblin dogs)
 
Wizards of the Coast Figures
 
Goblins tend to be sneaky overall , but some truly excel at it.
 
(Image:  A goblin sneak flanked by goblin Blackblades)
 
Looking at some "tamer" goblins, archers prefer keep their distance during any confrontation.

(Image:  Graypeak Goblin Archers)

But then there's these armored hatchet wielders...
 
(Image:  Acheron goblins)

Among warriors, heroes and sneaks; some goblins are the closest thing to ninjas a tribe can muster.  
(Image:  Silent Wolf Goblins)

The poorest, (and most expendable) members of the tribe, are usually pressed into service as javelin chuckers. 

(Image: Goblin skirmishers)

But when a tribe wants to capture something--or someone--then the picadors are summoned. 
(Image:  Goblin picadors)
 
According to various myths and legends, goblins come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  In today's high-tech world, goblin figures are manufactured in a variety of shapes, sizes and weaponry.  
 
Hero Quest Figures
 
Here's a comparison of Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, and some old HeroQuest miniatures I embellished:


Apparently, the HeroQuest goblins have managed to manufacture, or steal, better swords than their Golarion cousins: 


But when swords are in short supply, hatches will do.
 

Some swords though are better than others. This band of goblins carry larger scimitars.  

 
Since all the HeroQuest bad guys are rather generic, I selected a few figures to act as leaders. 
 
The rank & file goblins, seen in the above three pictures, wear brown tunics, tied with darker brown belts, with white skull buckles. 
 
Troop leaders, on the other hand, wear read tunics, with silver, or gold belt buckles, and carry shields.  The shields weren't part of the original HeroQuest game.  I got these from an old Games Workshop fantasy accessory kit.



Each shield is unique.  Here's a look at the shield facings: 
 

 
Maybe someday I'll add some additional color to shields. 

Final Thoughts About Mustering Goblins

One of the main reasons why I like collecting goblins, along with orcs, is because they're very versatile.  In addition to populating the usual fantasy setting, they make great mutants in most science fiction, or post apocalyptic settings.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Norse Longship "Brun Drake" Launched


A few months ago, I wrote about the dark ages miniatures I bought from my friend Dan.  Most of the figures were already painted, which was my prime directive in buying them, and included a mostly-painted Norse longship

While I admire Dan's initial paint job, I thought I'd add some finishing touches.


First, I bought a 5/16" dowel, which I cut and painted to use as a mast.  I don't know how long the mast should be, but I made sure it was no longer than the length of the ship.  Better for it to be too long and trim it down, than too short, right?

Anyway, I was relieved to discover I had a similar, if not exact, shade of brown Dan used to paint the ship's hull.  I then picked out several other colors and painted some of the boxes and gear on the rowing deck, so these items stand out better.


The fighting deck's paint showed some wear, so I spot-painted the bare areas with my trusty brown paint.   

In addition to all the Welsh figures, who made their ignoble debut at this year's Enfilade SAGA Tournament, my acquired collection also includes some Norman and Viking figures.

When I finished the ship's touch-up job, I selected some Vikings for a photo op:


Here's a close-up of the herald announcing the arrival of a fearsome Norse warlord...


...along with the rest of the Brun Drake's crew:  


(Brun Drake is Norwegian and Swedish for "Brown Dragon."  In Danish it would be:  Brun Drage).  

You may have noticed that all the figures are warriors brandishing weapons, and no one is manning the oars, let alone steering the boat or keeping the (non-existent) sail trimmed.

There's a simple explanation for this:  The rowers and deck crew are still in their package...


...which will be a project for some other time.  

Until that unspecified completion date, I still have a passable ship model for my Vikings to go a-viking.