Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, the Supernatural, Swords, Sorcery, and Star Stuff

Monday, 30 November 2009

Please Support Your Local Doctor Who RPG Fan Forum...


This was posted today on the Doctor Who: Adventures In Time & Space forums by Rassilon, the board administrator:

Bulletin #1

The Unofficial Official Forum

Angus from Cubicle 7 has confirmed that there will be
an official game site, but no official forum.

Dominic from Cubicle 7 has also contacted us and we are now in direct communication with him, so, consider that an endorsement, albeit an 'unofficial official' endorsement.


We can operate as an independent forum, plus we have the blessing of the Big Cahunas. What could be better? Well, getting an advance copy of the game.


Which we haven’t.


Releases


The official news is that the game will be in stores on Wednesday 9th December, with preorders going out in the UK on Wednesday 9th December and in the U.S. on Monday 7th December (lucky U.S.).


Previous Dr Who Roleplaying Games


While this forum is created specifically for the new roleplaying game we do acknowledge the previous games Time Lord and the Dr Who RPG by FASA.


I and many others have enjoyed these games immensely and I have very fond memories of playing these.


To avoid confusing younger or new players, sub-forums have been created in Off-Topic that members can access while the main forum is dedicated to supporting the new game by Cubicle 7 and the BBC.


Ad-Free?


We considered making the site ad-free but when reading through the info decided not to for these reasons:


*Minimum payment is $7 for 1 month, to get 50,000 views without ads.


*This does not carry-over, so if we get 7,000 views for example this month, tough, next month we have to donate again.


*It appears there is only 1 ad on view.


The $7 does not actually give us any more benefits for the site other than ad-free viewing: no bandwidth increase, nothing, period.


Purchasing a domain etc. is all pre-embryonic at this point and if this takes off in a big bandwidth-sucking way, then we will of course seriously consider it.


A Word about Privacy & Policy


The admin does not share, sell or reveal any personal details, email addresses etc. of the members to anyone whatsoever.


The admin and staff will also not lord it over members, make unnecessary bans or lock threads on a whim. We are here as caretakers and to maintain a level of safety for members.


Don't forget to check out Cubicle 7's official forums for the latest and also their Twitter feed on:


http://cubicle7.clicdev.com/f/index.php?trk=cubicle7&


and


http://twitter.com/cubicle7


Take care & best regards,

Admin

Supernatural: Yellow Fever

The Winchester brothers are investigating a seemingly routine case of healthy men suddenly dropping dead from a sudden heart attack, when Dean becomes infected with 'ghost disease' - a paranormal condition that makes him increasingly frightened by everything, prone to violent scratching and subject to hallucinations.

As well as setting a ticking clock against Dean until his heart gives in, Sam discovers that the disease is targeting people whose personality would class them as "dicks", much to Dean's annoyance.

As his condition gets worse, Jensen Ackles puts in a superb performance as the terrified Dean Winchester, pretty much leaving his brother - and eventually Bobby - to track down the ghost that caused the problem in the first place, and figure out a way to deal with it.

Dean's hallucinations of his greatest fears are particularly telling - Sam transforming into the Yellow-Eyed Demon and Lillith (Sierra McCormick) returning to take him back to Hell - especially in light of the final scene.

Once again, Supernatural delivers another superb episode that continually misdirects, but never cheats, its audience.

Yellow Fever starts out as a darkly humourous, almost slapstick (with the squelchy autopsy) story, then just gets grimmer and grimmer as the narrative progresses and the true horror behind the 'ghost disease' is revealed.

As with Doctor Who's Waters Of Mars the real meat of this episode lies not in the main "in-your-face" plot about the disease and the Winchesters' kicking ghost butt (which was never really in any doubt), but in the character work that writers Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin have done with Dean's character - and, by extension, Sam's - in relation to the season's main story arc.

All is not looking good for the Winchesters as they head towards the "Apocalypse", and we're not even a third of the way through the season yet.

The Wait Is Almost Over...

Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space is almost upon us!

Those lucky enough to be at the Dragonmeet convention in London at the weekend were able to see, and play demonstrations of, the game and two very lucky people picked up advanced copies of the box set in the charity auction (for £250!!!!) and the raffle.

A bit more information about the game's mechanics has leaked out and, while I don't want to give too much away for fear of annoying publishers Cubicle 7, what I have learned has certainly put my mind at ease (even at this stage I was fearful that the game might be riddled with hippy, New Age, indie game sensibilities).

Taken in parallel with the preview of the blank character sheet (or The Doctor's character sheet), we learn that normal human attributes are rated from one to six (as, I believe, are skills) and the action resolution system (as we'd long thought) is 2d6 + Attribute + Skill against a target number.

What was new to me was the 'success chart' for such roles is graded "yes and", "yes", "yes but", "no but", "no" and "no and".

This is where I had awful indie game flashbacks (not that I have anything against indie games per se, they are just not my cup of tea), but it was explained that in the context of combat, say, these just indicate simple damage modifiers (e.g. halved for a "no but" and multiplied by one and a half for a "no and").

Speaking of combat: some weapons, such a dalek blaster, are lethal while others cause a certain amount of damage to your statistics - there is no dedicated wound track or hit points, as such, in Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space.

A character's "storypoints" can be used to alleviate damage, however (which, I guess, is how The 10th Doctor survived being zapped by the dalek in The Stolen Earth) - although I expect "storypoints" have far wider uses than just this.

Adversaries covered in this initial box set include: autons; carrionites; catkind; clockwork droids; cybermen; daleks; judoon; krillitane; ood; roboforms; slitheen; sontarans; sycorax; and toclafane.

More will be covered (hopefully including The Master and Davros) in the first box set due out in 2010: Aliens And Creatures, which is now scheduled for release in January/February.

Still on course for a December release is the four-panel The Gamesmaster's Screen, which includes the "difficulty chart", explanations of the various result grades, conflict resolution tables, random hit locations, terrain and cover modifiers, technology levels, story points (spending and gaining), a useful list of page references for the Gamesmaster etc

* Remember, if you want to get in on the ground floor of the game's fan community aim your TARDIS at the Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space forums.

(a special thank you to forum members for their inside knowledge of the game and its mechanics)
.

* In the meantime, I'd also like to draw to your attention a fantastic article by Tim Brannan, author of the Ghosts Of Albion RPG for use with Cinematic Unisystem, about using a facet of Faction Paradox mythology in roleplaying games.

Although Tim's article is actually aimed more at his particular oeuvre, which is witch/magic-based urban fantasy games, given the Faction originated in the Whoniverse, this idea is equally applicable to Adventures In Time And Space.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

My Life And Roleplaying: I Have The Best Friends Ever...

Pete and Jeni turned up at our door today, with their young son Archie who Rachel and I haven't seen for almost a year, bearing a box of old games materials.

Pete had been into their loft to see what old Top Secret stuff he could find to complement the game he will start running for The Tuesday Knights in just over a weeks' time.

He also found a load of Dungeons & Dragons books, modules etc that hadn't seen the light of day since we were all at school, back in the '80s.

And he wondered if I'd like them...

I, of course, said: "Yes" and "Thank you, very much".

In the box there were:
  • old copies of the Dragon and White Dwarf, which I can't wait to curl up and read through, as well as the premier issue of Adventurer (the first magazine to carry an advert for the HeroPress);
  • a selection of floor tiles and stand-up cardboard figures (Dungeons & Dragons and Villains & Vigilantes);
  • a battered Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide;
  • an assemblage of old modules (including the first seven of TSR's UK range);
  • a 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monstrous Compendium folder, packed with juicy monsters;
  • a complete collection of The Fantasy Trip core booklets (we played the guts out of this game in the '80s, with Steve running an enduring campaign that ended abruptly when we "went where we warned not to go". TFT, of course, became increasing complicated and evolved into GURPS, which we never got into);
  • a 9th printing of the original Blackmoor supplement for OD&D (almost certainly bought from The Dark Tower, when Tunbridge Wells had a 'friendly local game store');
  • a Villains & Vigilantes module (Assassin); and
  • a "characters of Middle Earth" book for the Middle Earth Roleplaying Game (MERP).
A veritable cornucopia that will keep me busy for a good while as I sort through it all and reminisce about the glory days, the "golden age" of roleplaying games.

There was also the one copy of Starhound we all used to share - this was a fantastic wargame of starship combat that we played in Steve and Pete's garden, as the ships could move so far and so fast.

Ahhh, those were the days!

Cloudy Thoughts!

This is a "tweet cloud" of my comments on Twitter since I joined back in February. It pretty much goes to show that the majority of my "tweets" are written to direct people to the latest posting on HeroPress!

I'm not convinced I'm getting maximum utility out of Twitter - but then I'm not Stephen Fry...

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/acrobatic_flea.

I've also just signed up for Google Wave (thanks to a generous invitation David over at Dial P For Pulp), but have no idea how that works, so I'll be sitting back for a while and waiting for enough people to get on there that I won't feel like a lemon trying to use it.

At the moment, Wave just looks like a glorified mash-up of Twitter and Facebook's Instant Messaging service to my addled, ignorant brain - but Google has been telling me it's going to be "the next big thing", so who am I to argue with Google?

Garden Watch: Shedward Takes Shape...

Yesterday afternoon was spent - slowly - moving boxes and random items out of the jam-packed cupboard at the end of the gamesroom, transporting it down through the house and out into the garden to find a new home in Shedward.

These four large boxes contain assorted "bitz" I've accumulated over the last decade or so, along with pre-made (but unpainted) scenery, spray cans of Games Workshop paint, modeling tools etc

Noe this first stage is done, time will need to be set aside to go through all the boxes etc and sort out exactly what I have got here and try and figure out some kind of filing system - using the ice cream cartons.

The idea is, eventually, as I've said all along, Shedward will become a wargames scenery manufacturing hub! Well, that's the theory anyway...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Merlin: Sweet Dreams

The rulers of The Five Kingdoms of the land are gathering at Camelot to negotiate, and sign, a peace treaty but wicked King Alined (David Schofield) is determined to sabotage the conference for his own - vague - reasons.

He employs his magically-inclined jester Trickler (the ever creepy Kevin Eldon) to enchant first Arthur (Bradley James) and then the Lady Vivian (Doctor Who's Georgia Moffett) to fall in love with each other.

The rude and haughty Vivian is the daughter of the over-protective King Olaf (Mark Lewis Jones), who doesn't take kindly to anyone showing any romantic interest in his virginal daughter.

Sweet Dreams rapidly develops into a wonderful farce, with confessions of love being directed to the wrong target, people being whisked in and out of bedrooms etc and if it wasn't for the emotional hurt that Gwen (Angel Coulby) suffers, this would have been one long uproariously comedy episode.

Gwen, unfortunately, receives a love note and flowers from Arthur (by mistake) and finally believes he has overcome the social barriers separating them and professed his true feelings. Sadly when she learned that Arthur was to fight Olaf to the death for the honour of Lady Vivian you could see Gwen's heart breaking on the screen.

The duel between king and prince was excellent - the stunt team on Merlin deserve some recognition for their wonderfully choreographed fight scenes - but it was the kiss between Arthur and Gwen, to break the enchantment, that had me grinning from ear-to-ear like a teenaged Twihard sitting through a screening of New Moon.

While there may have been some minor plot holes in Sweet Dreams, it was - without a doubt - the strongest and cleverest episode of the show to date with outstanding performances, again, from Bradley James and Angel Coulby as the star-crossed lovers.

It was good to see their romance, although still on the QT, slowly developing in a very touching and tender way - while at the same the bromance between Prince Arthur and Merlin (Colin Morgan) goes from strength to strength.

Although Sweet Dreams did feature a crucial appearance by The Great Dragon (voiced by John Hurt), the story proved that you don't need a big, CGI monster for Arthur and his men to fight to make a strong episode of Merlin.

I hope King Alined and his jester are allowed to return later as recurring villains - as Trickler proved a worthy foil for Merlin's magic.

Kudos to Lucy Watkins for writing such a splendid tale; if only Merlin was this good every week.

Next week:

Supernatural: Monster Movie

Given the unrelenting dark and serious tone of the fourth season to date, Monster Movie was a pleasant return to the light-hearted nature of the some of Supernatural's earlier years.

Supernatural isn't the first modern show to film a story in black and white, and almost certainly won't be the last, but there was an air of verisimilitude about this episode which centred around an unbalanced shapeshifter obsessed with classic black and white horror movies.

The Winchester brothers arrive in a Pennsylvania town during Oktoberfest, following up reports of a vampire attack - delighted to be again on a straight forward monster hunt, "a black and white case" as Dean puts it.

Only they find it's not any vampire that's been seen but Bela Lugosi's Dracula. Dismissing it as a Gothic wannabe, the boys are preparing to leave town when a young man is torn apart by a Wolf Man-style werewolf and later a museum security guard is attacked by a Living Mummy.

While this has all been going on, Dean has been romancing an attractive barmaid, Jamie (Melinda Sward), who they later discover is the object of "Dracula's" attention - he claims she is the reincarnation of his great love.

Dean and Dracula tussle and Dean realises the vampire is really a shapeshifter, quickly deducing that all the monsters that have been attacking the townsfolk are actually one and the same.

Monster Movie may not have the great twists and turns we've come to expect from Supernatural, but the episode as a whole wrongfoots us nicely in the flow of the season without throwing out the overarching story entirely.

Once again, the story favours one brother over the other - in this case it's Dean who gets most time in the spotlight, but Sam still plays an active role in the tale, unlike In The Beginning where he was absent for 90 per cent of the story.

While this homage to "the old times" (both in terms of classic monster movies and the original format of Supernatural) was an interesting diversion, I was surprised to find that I missed the whole "angels versus demons" antagonism that is the driving force of this season.

Or maybe I'm just getting too excited about the release of Legion next January?

Ladies & Gentlemen, With Great Power Comes...

New recruits to the HeroPress superteam continue to arrive, and this week we welcome:

* Chib of Hadubini - My-o-scope;

* GlennWalker of Welcome To Hell.

Supernatural: Metamorphosis

Dean is so not happy when he finds out what Sam and Ruby have been up to - forcibly exorcising demons with the power of Sam's mind - but before the argument between the two can escalate too far, the brothers get a call from a fellow hunter about a flesh-eating creature called a "rugaru".

The Winchester boys are directed towards a normal, suburban town when Jack Montgomery (Dameon Clarke) is living an ordinary life with his wife, Michelle (Warehouse 13's Joanne Kelly) - except for the fact that Jack has developed an insatiable appetite all of a sudden and just keeps eating.

Soon Jack's eating raw meat and the brothers are told, by the other hunter, Travis (Ron Lea), that eventually Jack will taste human flesh and then his transformation into the rugaru will be complete. Travis had killed Jack's father - another rugaru - 30 years earlier, but hadn't realised his wife was pregnant; the child was put up for adoption and it had taken Travis all this time to track him down.

Jack's situation - of effectively having a demonic force inside him, driving him towards committing evil - served as a metaphor for Sam's own situation; the parallels between the urges driving them to give in to their "powers" and the consequences if they did. Jack was born with the rugaru gene, while Sam was given demon blood the night the Yellow-Eyed-Demon visited him in his crib (and killed his mother). Will Sam turn into a monster like Jack? We will have to wait and see...

Metamorphosis started off as an old style "monster of the week" story but quickly developed into a solid character piece about the clashing personalities of Sam and Dean and the wedge that is being driven between them.

The ultimate on-screen realisation of the rugaru was a shockingly, bloody return to some of the out-and-out gore of the earlier seasons, but still achieved stylishly with a minimum of special effects.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Supernatural: In The Beginning

If ever an episode of Supernatural screamed "fanservice" it's In The Beginning.

Sam has snuck off in the night with Ruby again and Castiel visits Dean, telling him "you have to stop it" before sending him back in time and space to Lawrence, Kansas, 1973 where he meets a young couple called John Winchester (Matt Cohen) and Mary Campbell (Amy Gumenick)... his future parents!

Acclimatising to his new surroundings Dean manages to talk young John in buying the Impala that in 30 years time will become his own car. John, fresh out of the army, is a mechanic and besotted by Mary (who, in Dean's words, is "a babe") who has a secret of her own - her parents are hunters.

At first I wasn't sure what to make of this revelation. Did it cheapen Sam and Dean's heritage in some way?

Despite my enthusiasm for time travel in programmes like Doctor Who, where it is a key and essential ingredient, I'm usually not so happy when it crops up in shows as an almost random "gimmick". But here I was pleasantly surprised.

As the story unfolded and Dean discovered he was tracking the Yellow-Eyed Demon aka Azazel, I began to appreciate the brilliance of the story, especially given its rather downbeat and "to be continued..." ending.

Castiel makes a key statement around the mid-point of the episode, pointing out to Dean that if he is able to kill the Yellow-Eyed Demon now then he, his father and brother will never be hunters and all the people they've saved over the years will die.

Of course, the crowning glory of the episode was finding out that The X-Files' Mitch Pileggi was playing Dean's grandfather, Samuel, and I almost wish there was some way that Samuel and his wife, Deanna (Allison Hossack), could be in the show again, but then I fear it would actually be a cheap gimmick.

Jeremy Carver's script superbly subverted my expectations of where it was going, with the added touch that John Winchester was pretty much a passive participant, on the sidelines, and totally oblivious to all the paranormal activity going on; and yet was still central to the crucial plot thread of how Mary - and eventually Sam - became entangled in the machinations of Azazel (and his mysterious long-term "endgame") in the first place.

Supernatural: Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester

Hunters across America are being targeted by the vengeful spirits of people they couldn't save. When they come for Bobby and the Winchesters, we are treated to return visits from Meg (Nicki Aycox), FBI Agent Henrickson (Charles Malik Whitfield) and Ronald Reznick (Chris Gauthier) in this very continuity-heavy story.

Written by one of the show's most popular writers, Sera Gamble, Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester pretty much assumes that by now its audience is well-versed in the lore and backstory of Supernatural and this isn't going to be someone's first episode!

It's great, particularly, to see Meg Masters again after several years, especially as here she is the girl she was before she was demonically possessed and is able to relay to Sam and Dean some of her torment as a victim of a demon takeover and the aftermath of that horrific experience.

For the most part, after a bit of legwork and some gruesome, barely glimpsed shots of hunters with their hearts ripped out, this story is set in and around Bobby's house as our heroes are besieged by the ghosts.

Bobby discovers that the spirits have been forced to rise by a spell, but later it is revealed that this "Rising Of The Witnesses", as it is known, signifies the breaking of the first of 66 Seals which will ultimately lead to a Book Of Revelation-style Apocalypse and the unleashing of Lucifer onto Earth.

Although Dean staunchly disputes his divine status, Castiel (Misha Collins) is still quite adamant that he is a "soldier of God" (even if Dean can't accept the existence of The Man Upstairs... for very sound reasons) and that the demon Lilith is the one doing the seal breaking.

We're only two episodes in to this season and sides are already being drawn up for the ultimate rumble.

Supernatural: Lazarus Rising

Supernatural's back on HeroPress - thanks to a generous birthday present from my wife of Season 4 on DVD.

The new season opens four months after Dean (Hensen Ackles) became a chew toy for an invisible hell hound during the truncated Season Three's finale (No Rest For The Wicked).

Dean wakes up in his own coffin, claws his way out of the ground and heads to Bobby's house. Bobby (Jim Beaver), naturally, thinks he's some paranormal entity or a demon, but is eventually convinced that Dean is really Dean.

Believing that Sam (Jared Padalecki) must have struck some deal with a demon to get his brother back from Hell, Dean and Bobby track Sam down and confront him.

He, too, once he's sure Dean is who he says he is, is equally in the dark and so the trio visit a psychic friend of Bobby who - this being Supernatural, after all - is something of a hottie!

Unfortunately for her, when conducting a seance to find out who actually pulled Dean out of the underworld, she contacts an entity called Castiel with rather graphic consequences!

This Eric Kripke (the show creator) penned episode is a great kick-start to the new season, both continuing the overall Supernatural story and simultaneously moving it in new directions by intrdocuing a whole new team of players to the game.

We also discover that not only is Ruby back - but in a new body (Genevieve Cortese) - but Sam has also been secretly working on his psychic mojo and has developed a rather useful, if a bit brutal, new power.

As always, Supernatural has hit the ground running, grabbed its audience by the collar and is dragging us - willingly - along for another great ride. Fantastic stuff; I'm so pleased to be back riding with the Winchester brothers again.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Tintin-itus!

The other week, Rachel's place of work took their entire staff (all 10 of them) on a day trip to Bruges in Belgium as a "thank you" for their hard work over the last year or so. Knowing that Belgium is the home of Tintin, I asked Rachel (if she had time) to see if she could pick me up some Tintin memorabilia.

She brought me home the awesome sketch pictured above, which is actually a mouse mat but I'm going to get it framed anyway.

I've said before on this blog that I'm a big Tintin fan and although I don't talk about it much here he was one of my main inspirations (along with Clark Kent) for entering the field of journalism at the young age of 18.

As well as owning several Tintin books (including the controversial Tintin In The Congo and a French language guide to the world of Tintin), I have some Tintin crockery in the French dresser in the dining room and a pair of old Tintin: Boy Reporter socks I picked up in a Tintin shop in Paris many years ago, but none of my collections (be it comic books, Star Wars or Doctor Who related) could even come close to rivaling this Tintin superfan's magnificent collection:



The guy even dresses (and looks a bit) like Tintin! So now if Rachel ever rolls her eyes at the latest piece of merchandising I've sneaked into the gamesroom I'll just direct her to this video.

I can only dream of being that organised and regimented in my collecting.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Garden Watch: Shedward Goes TARDIS!

Shedward has had a makeover, thanks to Rachel's dad and two of the best items I've ever purchased off of eBay: a pair of signs duplicating the look of the signs on the outside of The Doctor's TARDIS!

You two can own a pair, from the eBay seller holland 2156, for the paltry sum of £4.99 for the top sign and £5.99 for the door sign. Screen-printed on thick plastic stock, the seller assures me they are waterproof and perfect for outdoor use.

Delivery was fast and they were well packaged, but they are solid enough anyway, I believe, to stand the rigours of the British postal system.

Rachel's dad attached the signs to Shedward today and now I really must get to work moving things in.

Traci Lords Is Dejah Thoris!



I know The Asylum has a reputation for their cheap mockbusters... but I'm really excited about their version of Edgar Rice Burrough's Princess Of Mars.

And the big budget Disney version is still a couple of years away, anyway.

And it's Traci Lords playing a character renowned for "the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure" (to quote ERB)!

Princess of Mars is released on December 29.

Reversing The Polarity...

With mere days to go until Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space is due to be released on the (generally) unsuspecting public, publishers Cubicle 7 revealed it would be removing all reference to Doctor Who from its forums and would not be hosting a forum for the game system.

It is to launch a new website for the game, which (hopefully) will be unveiled later today, but in the meantime an enterprising fan of the Adventures In Time And Space has created his own forum for the game here, with the tacit approval of Cubicle 7.

I hope fans are disciplined enough to focus their posts to this one site, because my own personal vision is for the creation of a hub for Doctor Who roleplaying fans that would be synonymous with Yog-Sothoth.Com's support for Call Of Cthulhu and all things Lovecraftian.

Obviously, it's early days yet, but I'd encourage everyone with an interest in the Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space roleplaying game to sign on at this new forum and start building a sense of community.

* Further annoying and frustrating news, the release of the game has been put again because the shipment of box sets was held up by US customs officials.

Good thing for The Tuesday Knights that Pete has already stepped up with his Top Secret/S.I. campaign, which begins next Tuesday, otherwise we'd have been pretty stuffed as I'd originally said I'd run Adventures In Time And Space for them!

* In the meantime, here's another blogger with some interesting ideas on the game.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Week In Geek...

A round-up of geeky news you might have otherwise missed...

(1) Moorcock's Who: The great author Michael Moorcock writes an article in The Guardian about his forthcoming original Doctor Who novel... but doesn't give anything away.

(2) Starhyke Stars' Signing: Meet Babylon 5's Claudia Christian, Star Wars' Jeremy Bulloch, Red Dwarf's Danny John-Jules and other stars of sci-fi comedy Starhyke when they sign DVDs of the first series at the Forbidden Planet in London later this week.

(3) Back Through The Gate: HeroPress favourite Amanda Tapping is returning to the Stargate Universe as Sam Carter for the finale of Stargate: Universe's first sseason

(4) Absolutely Smallville: The Smallville telemovie (comprising two episodes written by Geoff Johns), featuring the debut of the Justice Society, will be called Smallville: Absolute Justice.

(5) Thor Starts Filming In January: Filming on the Kenneth Branagh-helmed adaptation of Marvel Comic's Thor is to be begin in January and be in cinemas on May 20, 2011.

(6) Golden Glory: Legendary pulp TV serial Tales Of The Gold Monkey is finally getting the DVD airing it deserves.

(7) Special Name: The episode name of the Doctor Who Christmas special has been revealed by the BBC.

(8) Buy Crom! Frank Frazetta's original cover art for Conan the Conqueror has been sold for a reported $1 million.

(9) Lost Found One Last Time: The sixth and final series of Lost begins in February.

(10) Chuck This: Season three of Chuck airs in the United States from January 10, 2010, kicking off with a two-hour special.

(11) Podcasters Tell Company To EFF Off: Podcasters are being asked to help the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in its legal challenge against the 'cheeky' company that has been granted the patent for 'podcasting'.

(12) It Works (Again): The Large Hadron Collider, at Cern, is up and running again after lengthy delays.

(13) Kill All Monsters: Ken Hulsey's amazing Monster Island News blog is going on an extended hiatus, while he concentrates on his new site The Railroad Modeler.

(14) New Moon Shines: The latest Twilight movie, New Moon, had a better opening than either the last Harry Potter movie or The Dark Knight.

(15) Howling Reborn: The greatest werewolf movie franchise lives again with the news that The Howling Reborn should hit screens next Halloween.

(16) Beautiful Blogging: I am a guest blogger on Three Beautiful Things today, please check it out.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Living The Dream(land)...

The third episode of the BBC's daily Doctor Who online story, Dreamland, goes live at 4pm (GMT) today and is available, in the UK at least, on the show's website, via the Red Button service on digital TV or through select mobile devices.

By listing it as "special number eight", the BBC's website suggests that this takes place after The Waters Of Mars, but regardless of when - chronologically - it occurs in the 10th Doctor's timeline it provides a pleasant, light romp in contrast to the dark, horrors of The Waters Of Mars and the looming, apocalyptic End Of Time (at Christmas/New Year).

The Doctor (voiced by David Tennant) arrives in Dry Springs, Nevada, 1958, and immediately bcomes tangled up with an alien artifact, menacing Men In Black, hostile insectoid aliens (the Viperox) and the US Military - headed up by Colonel Stark (Stuart Milligan), commander of Dreamland - the top secret base also known as Area 51, in Roswell, New Mexico!

His arrival comes 11 years after a strange alien spaceship crashed in the desert and was taken off to Dreamland, and the military have been trying to reverse engineer it since - with no success.

The ship looks very much - both inside and out - like the Veil craft from Prisoner Of The Judoon, the first story in this year's Sarah Jane Adventures, and I have my suspicions that the Veil from the crashed ship has taken over the Man In Black... but we will have to wait and see.

A word must be said at this juncture about the shockingly stilted animation. Although it does grow on you as the story progresses (thanks in no small part to Phil Ford's breathless script which doesn't allow you too much time to dwell on the visuals), there is no avoiding the fact that when the characters walk (Thunderbirds-like, but sans obvious strings) in to a room, you catch yourself thinking: "Didn't I explore this area playing Tomb Raider 10 years ago?"

Apparently, this six-part story is the result of a years' worth of animation and a determination to do something different to the 2D animation of The Infinite Quest, the last Doctor Who serial cartoon.

Personally, I would have preferred them to stick to the 2D style of the earlier cartoon, to stop Dreamland looking like a dated video game, but luckily - so far - the story has been a cracking adventure that, after a few moments of acclimatisation, has helped me overcome my dislike and disappointment at the quality of the animation.

Once the six-parts of the story have aired individually, the complete Dreamland will be shown on December 5, on BBC2 at 10am. It's out on DVD (again, in the UK) on February 1, 2010.

Happy 46th Birthday, Doctor Who!



A brilliant tribute video from TheBigBlueBox to Doctor Who.

Thanks also to 76 Totters Lane, the informative Doctor Who blog, for reminding me of the significance of today's date... the anniversary of the first airing of An Unearthly Child, the first episode of Doctor Who.

Top Of The Pile: Deathlok The Demolisher #1

Deathlok is a character I remember fondly from the British black and white reprints of American comics of my youth. I never really got a true handle on the character, I just thought he looked really cool!

Marvel's latest reimagining of the character, Deathlok The Demolisher, is a seven-issue mini-series in its Marvel Knights range written by Charlie Huston, the crime writer who also brought back Moon Knight for the House Of Ideas.

There's nothing particularly original, so far, in the story - although this first issue doesn't even feature the cyborg killing-machine Deathlok (except on the cover and the 'next issue' teaser) - but it is well written by Huston and finely illustrated by Lan Medina.

Highly reminiscent of a 2000AD future sports/future war/future shock story, this new Deathlok run is set on a near future Earth where warfare has been reduced to a controlled, spectator sport and the "teams" are corporate-sponsored mercenaries.

Segueing from a prologue of a young man and his grandfather preparing to refight the battle of Agincourt as a miniatures wargame into the brutality of "Saturday Night Battlezone", the story switches focus between the over-the-top event commentators and the clashing personalities of Roxxon Rockers' team captain Luther Manning and the team's cocky, billion-dollar star 'player' Lieutenant Mike Travers.

Manning is a no-nonsense, military man, determined to keep his troops alive, while Travers is a gung-ho, gloryhound... and you just know wackiness is about to ensue from the interaction of these two strong-willed, polar opposites!

Issue one is very dialogue heavy, but the injections of dark irony and dry wit make it an enjoyable read nonetheless - especially for us old school 2000AD readers who grew up reading this sort of tale.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Four For The Weekend...

A busy time here at HeroPress Towers, what with Clare and Nick's wedding yesterday and my holiday earlier in the week, so here's a brief overview of four movies I've seen recently (two on DVD and two at the cinema):

RAZOR BLADE SMILE (1998, DVD): A sultry vampire, Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly), works as a top-flight assassin, bumping off members of a secret organisation called The Illuminati, for a mysterious client.

Written and directed by Jake West, who made Doghouse this year, the film is saved only by a reasonably clever twist right at the end - up until that point it's a very strong contender for the dubious title of "worst film ever".

The cinematography is basic, the script is appalling, the acting even worse - watch with your expectations at rock bottom (and several bottles of beer to hand) and you might survive with your psyche intact.

There's an arty lesbian sex scene quite early on, but overall Razor Blade Smile is one of those bargain basement horrors that is only worth watching "because it's so bad that it's good".

SICK NURSES (2007, DVD): A gaggle of sexy nurses help a doctor make cash from corpses in a Thai hospital, until one of them - engaged to the doctor - threatens to turn them into the authorities and they kill her. However, because her body is not given a proper funeral within seven days she returns as a vengeful spirit seeking brutal - and bizarre - vengeance.

Bloody and confusing, shocking and sexy, mashing-up dark comedy with twisted violence, this is another film that benefits from a leftfield twist towards it climax.

While most of the ghastliness is very run-of-the-mill 'Asian-ghost-with-long-dark-hair' fodder that we know so well from The Ring, The Grudge etc etc there's a level of inspired, free-wheeling insanity that carries Sick Nurses along.

The film is also helped by only being about 75 minutes long, with a climactic "emergence" scene that knocks The Ring's infamous "ghost climbing out of TV" into a cocked hat.

2012 (2009, cinema): Roland Emmerich is on familiar ground with his latest disaster flick, but this time it's not aliens or global warming threatening the end of civilization, but massive tectonic plate movements and the rising temperature of the Earth's core "as predicted by the Mayan calendar".

Full of bogus mysticism and bad science, 2012 isn't a film to be taken seriously. It starts slowly, but once things really begin to blow up and fall over, the large-scale excitement comes alive on the big screen - with the involvement of human beings being almost incidental to the eye candy of mass destruction.

There's some nice, if heavy-handed, social satire with the Earth's rich finding a way to save themselves, but the two-and-a-half hour movie outstays its welcome in the final act with 'yet another' problem besetting the central characters as they try to get onto the "arks" that will become mankind's salvation.

The problem is that the final catastrophe is all self-inflicted, the characters we are supposedly rooting for are the very ones that create the potentially fatal situation that could have sunk all hopes of humanity surviving. This issue is further complicated by the fact that a more sensible resolution was put forward by another character that, had our so-called heroes just waited a few minutes longer, could have wrapped up the film with everyone safe and sound (and the audience free to go home 30 minutes sooner).

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (2009, cinema): It says something that a film that barely breaks the 90-minute mark feels terribly padded, but The Men Who Stare At Goats is effectively two intertwined movies... one of which is almost totally redundant.

Ewan McGregor is a journalist during the Iraq war looking for his "big story", when he comes across Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), who claims to be a "psychic soldier" on a mysterious mission. The Iraq war story is intercut with flashbacks to the story of Lyn's induction into the American military's "First Earth Battalion" - a genuine attempt by the American army to experiment with "psychic warfare".

It's these flashbacks, based on investigative journalist John Ronson's book and his excellent TV documentary series on Channel 4 (Crazy Rulers Of The World), that make up the interesting and engaging aspects of the movie, while the Iraq sequences seem 'tacked-on' to give what is essentially a mockumetary some semblance of a traditional Hollywood story.

And this is a shame, because these ramblings distract from the truly fascinating parts of the movie. Of all the films I've seen this week, this is the one that I had highest expectations of, and was therefore most disappointed with. With such great - and largely true - material to work with, and a cast to die for, you would have expected something a bit more creative.

And just how many times could they belabour the joke about Ewan McGregor's character becoming a "jedi knight"?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Merlin: The Lady Of The Lake

Young Merlin (Colin Morgan) spots a pretty girl who has been captured by a brutal bounty hunter and decides to free her after Gaius (Richard Wilson) tells him she is a druid rounded-up as part of Uther's continuing anti-magic purge.

Totally smitten, Merlin hides Freya (Laura Donnelly) in the catacombs of Camelot and plans their escape from the fortified city, dreaming of an idyllic life together, despite her protestations that she is "cursed" and "is not like him".

Meanwhile a magical creature is killing random people within Camelot and it doesn't take a genius to realise that this is the manifestation of Freya's curse - at midnight she transforms into a giant, winged panther; a creature Gaius calls a "bastet" (after the Egyptian goddess, I presume).

It was inevitable from the start that Merlin's first love was not going to end well - primarily because the nature of Merlin is usually to dispose of new characters in a single story to allow the next story to begin again from square one.

Luckily for Merlin, his master, Arthur (Bradley James), had reverted to his oblivious and trusting self from the first season because the lovesick sorcerer was incredibly cavalier and careless with his magic - using it at every opportunity in his mission to help Freya.

A surprisingly straight-forward and uncomplicated story after recent weeks, The Lady Of The Lake was a touching, small-scale drama about a teenager blinded by emotion, and made an interesting change of pace for the series.

It's just a shame, as usual, that Merlin's format required both Freya and Halig the bounty hunter (Richard Ridings) to be written out in a single story - although, I guess, there is the possibility that Freya will somehow return as the titular "lady of the lake", echoing TH White's Once And Future King take on Arthurian myth, which had The Lady Of The Lake as Merlin's lover.

The actual "lake" connection in this particular story was tenuous at best - Freya's fondest memory of her childhood was growing up near a beautiful lake - but it didn't really matter in the context of this intimate teen romance.

Next week:

Nick And Clare's Big Day!

Nick and Clare were married today at The Hotel Du Vin in the heart of Tunbridge Wells.

It was very much a Tuesday Knights' affair, with myself ushering, Pete acting as M.C. and Nick's best man Kevin looking like a new recruit to the group!

Here we are (left to right): Me, Pete, Nick and Kevin.

Below is the magnificent cake that Clare's aunt decorated for her, full of pulp and sci-fi references (from The Shadow and Indiana Jones to a Dalek and a TARDIS). It was a four-sided ziggurat with so much detail there was a written guide accompanying it that explained all the references.

And here's Pete and my better halves: Rachel and Jeni, getting into the wedding spirit!

Looking Into The Future...



This three-minute clip, from last night's Children In Need telethon , sets the scene for the David Tennant's swan song as The Tenth Doctor in the two-part Doctor Who special, The End Of Time, to air over Christmas and New Years... with just enough Master-ly input to get our spines tingling!

* Also, don't forget, that 50 years from today (November 21, 2059), Earth's first colony on Mars will be destroyed under mysterious circumstances...

* The BBC starts screening the latest Doctor Who animation, Dreamland, on its red button service and online at its main Doctor Who website today...

* And, finally, and most importantly, it's the wedding of my two great friends, stalwarts of The Tuesday Knights, Clare and Nick!

Expect an update on this later...

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Gift

What a shame that this series of The Sarah Jane Adventures should end on such a light-weight story.

The Gift opened with Sarah Jane and her gang struggling to thwart the latest scheme of the flatulent Slitheen - until the arrival of the Blatereen, another family of giant, gangly aliens from Raxacoricofallapatorius, who say they are law-abiding citizens trying to clear the name of their planet by hunting down the Slitheen.

The orange-skinned aliens then ask Sarah Jane to be their 'ambassador' to Earth and present her with a plant, called rakweed, which they claim will solve the world's famine problems.

Of course, they are liars and the rakweed - when exposed to sunlight - spreads wildly, filling the air with its dangerous spores (Luke gets a lungful and is soon on death's door).

Clyde and Rani, however, discover that the sound of their school bell kills the weed and that pretty much wraps everything up.

The Gift was a pitifully weak story that (a) didn't actually require the involvemnet of Sarah Jane and co. as the Blathereen could have simply popped down to Earth, planted the rakweed and let it run riot and (b) relied way too much on the 'lucky break' of the school bell just happening to ring at a frequency that destroyed the plant.

The Slitheen are not the best aliens introduced to the Whoniverse since Russell T Davies regenerated it in 2005, but I guess there's something about their juvenile potential (Clyde gets to say that they "farted themselves to death") that makes them attractive to Sarah Jane Adventures writers.

The introduction of the Blathereen looked, for a moment, as though an interesting spin had been put on the aliens, but it never really developed further than them being ruthless farmers, addicted to rakweed.

Their whole 'scheme' to involve Sarah Jane and make her their "ambassador" was totally and utterly pointless, as was the dinner party they had with Sarah Jane and her young friends. In fact, it didn't even make sense as it was drawing Sarah Jane's attention to their booby-trapped plant, when it would have been so easy to have sneaked it onto Earth without anyone being any the wiser!

Sarah Jane also got to deliver - through gritted teeth - a half-hearted reworking of the famous Doctor Who quote: "There should have been another way" (The Fifth Doctor from Warriors Of The Deep), but its pathos was rather lost under a layer of Blathereen gunge.

Perhaps the only saving grace of The Gift was the further character development of Clyde (he's now half-decent chef as well as a great artist) and Rani (she's the most open to the idea that the Blathereen might be 'good guys' and appears to have a cheeky appreciation of Clyde using K9 to help him cheat in a biology test, despite her protestations).

Sarah Jane was driven by a desire to save Luke's life, which justified her teleporting blindly to the Blathereen craft in the Antarctic, but all these good touches were overshadowed by the disappointingly poor script by Rupert Laight; without a doubt the weakest in the show's three years.

The second episode did end with a nice, optimistic coda for the series, but, overall, The Gift was a paper-thin story filled out with a lot of running about to patch over the gaping holes in the plot.

Sontaran Shenanigans!

Following on from last week's teaser, Alasdair Stuart, in the first of his "Doctoring The TARDIS" columns, gives us some insight into his thinking behind the initial pdf adventure he has penned for Cubicle 7's Doctor Who: Adventures In Time & Space roleplaying game.

He introduces the column with: "As well as the Ninth Doctor boxed set, which I’ll be talking about in a couple of columns time, I’m also working on a series of PDF adventures, the first three of which have to feature a Dalek, a Cyberman and a Sontaran..." then goes on to fill in some background detail to the Sontaran-themed tale set amongst the Vikings of 11th Century Earth.

For the full column, and lots of tasty details about the adventure set-up, visit the Bleeding Cool website.

[UPDATE: The article now appears to have been withdrawn - possibly because of the NDAs the playtesters etc were under.]

Meanwhile, the game is the subject of a full-page article in the latest issue of SFX magazine (#190), entitled The Long Game, which quotes system author David Chapman and Cubicle 7's Dominic McDowall-Thomas.

The article gives a broad overview of the game, its possibilities and its initial coverage of the television show from the Christopher Ecclestone era through to Matt Smith's Doctor.

Dominic concludes the article, on page 17, by saying: "We're currently considering our plans for covering other eras, and other perspectives, such as Torchwood."

On the subject of the game's approach, David says: "This game will allow not only gun-toting UNIT soldiers, but proves that your brains are just as powerful at stopping the alien menace - just like The Doctor."

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Welcome To The Family...

This week started with Rachel and I heading down to Bournemouth (my old university town) to celebrate my birthday.

Monday - my actual birthday - was spent at Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre, one of the most incredible places I have ever been.

I like to do what I can to help organisations around the globe preserve primates, and Monkey World (the subject of the television series Monkey Life and Monkey Business) is one of the foremost.

However, this was my first visit to their centre, a vast expanse of enclosures and buildings in the Dorset countryside.

We spent most of the day there and were surprised by how close (even if through a glass panel) we could get to the wonderful creatures. I found it very moving that these beautiful beasts were getting a second chance at life and our entrance fees were helping that, in some small way.

The day was rounded off magically by Rachel agreeing to finance my adoption of an orang-utan called Kai, pictured above, as one of my best birthday presents ever (Kai means "triumphant" or "victorious" in Chinese).

He was born at Monkey World on March 15, 2005 as part of the European Breeding Programme and is part of a small group led by a 12-year-old orang called Gordon.

His father, 25-year-old Tuan, leads another group and was rescued from wandering the streets of Taichung City, Taiwan, in 2002.

Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars

It certainly looks as though The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) is going to go out in style. This week's one-off episode - The Waters Of Mars - did a fantastic job of sowing the seeds of his own doom while still working as a creepy, self-contained story.

The Doctor arrives on Mars in 2059 and meets up with the first human colonists on the Red Planet, on the day he knows the multi-national group are all fated to die - a fixed point in time that inspired future generations to continue to strive for the stars.

The whole "base under siege" scenario is an old favourite with Doctor Who script writers (and is a good excuse for lots of scenes of people running about), but in all honesty the plot about the alien creatures traveling through water was almost irrelevant to the real story about The Doctor deciding that, as the last of The Time Lords, he could rewrite history and, basically, do what he liked with the passage of time to try and save people.

Seeing our beloved Doctor "lose it" - virtually driven mad with power, for want of a better description - was far more frightening than the dripping zombies, humans infected by the viral lifeform that became known as The Flood.

While the white-eyed, crack-faced infected were quite disturbing, there was no escaping the fact that when they squirted water from out of their sleeves (or mouths), it just looked silly. Which is why it was fortunate that they only used this shtick a couple of times - like the equally daft flame tracks behind the souped-up Gadget robot when it went racing off Road Runner-style.

I also remain unconvinced that the legendary, pioneering Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan) being found dead in the front room of her home on Earth, with her brains blown out when she was supposed to be on Mars, would be as inspirational as her heroic sacrifice (albeit under mysterious circumstances) in the 'original' timeline.

However, that aside, there was no escaping the episode's frenetic pacing and claustrophobic atmosphere and some wonderful pieces of scripting, such as Adelaide's account of her backstory (involving the dalek's "stealing of Earth"), the fan-friendly namecheck for the ice warriors (well, they were on Mars, it would have been crass to ignore them) or The Doctor's emotional recollection of Adelaide's influence on her granddaughter and her role in the future of mankind.

The story may not have come close to the fear factor suggested by the prepublicity (it all helped to drum up viewers, though, so you can't begrudge Russell T Davies for hyping his own show), due to The Flood's incidental nature in the story... unlike, say, The Weeping Angels in Blink, where the story couldn't have worked without them.

However, as I've already said, that wasn't what The Waters Of Mars was all about - it was about the massive cracks appearing in the character of The Doctor and that's where this episode excelled.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Check Out The Doctor!

Cubilce 7's latest preview for its Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space is the character sheet for the Tenth Doctor. It is a double-sided affair with the back of the sheet devoted to explanations of the Doctor's many "traits".

Although we still don't know too much about the rules mechanics, except that they appear reasonably straight-forward, what we have seen to date continues to remind me of Eden Studio's elegant Cinematic Unisystem (which is not a bad thing at all).

With time ticking away until the game's release at the end of the month I wonder if we see any more previews?

Perhaps some monsters or aliens, to see how they are statted out in comparison to a player-character would be nice...

Top Of The Pile: Doctor Who #4

The second story arc - Fugitive - of the superb, Tony Lee-penned ongoing Doctor Who comic from IDW continues apace in issue four.

The Tenth Doctor has been arrested for tampering with Earth's timeline, and sentenced to imprisonment by The Shadow Proclamation, but under the auspices of the krillitanes led by Mr Finch (Anthony Head's character from School Reunion).

The issue opens with him being shipped off to Volag-Noc (the prison planet from the Infinite Quest animation) in a space barge along with a sontaran, a draconian and an ogron.

It turns out these aliens were all diplomats heading for a peace conference, arrested on trumped-up charges - and the transport they are on isn't going to the prison planet, but heading straight into a sun.

Naturally, The Doctor manages to persuade his fellow inmates (who all have strong reasons to dislike him) to try and take control the ship and hopefully keep them away from a fiery grave.

As always, Tony Lee's ear for the language of the Whoniverse is spot-on and the story is peppered with little Easter eggs for those knowledgeable of the show's broad mythology (such as the reasons behind the demoralisation and decline of the ogron people or The Doctor's passing reference to Stockbridge, a town that features prominently in The Doctor Who Monthly serials and is currently subject of a three-play arc in Big Finish's monthly audio range).

Conversely, an in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of Doctor Who certainly isn't a requirement for enjoying this exciting 'prison break' tale.

Matthew Dow Smith's slightly minimal art and Charlie Kirchoff's stark colouring took some adjustment to get used to, but after a couple of issues by this team I appreciate how expressive the artwork is in both the emotional beats and the action scenes.

My First Fantasy Novel Wot I Wrote...

The very first 'book' that I wrote, at the age of nine or 10, was a science-fiction one entitled Tim's Planetary Police, about my primary school peers and I as - unsurprisingly - an interplanetary police force.

At the time I was unsure of the spelling of "planetary" and so the cover was abridged to "Tim's P.P." - which some wag claimed stood for "Tim's Private Parts".

Another unfortunate aspect of the book was that I decided to illustrate it myself and so the 'portal' between our solar system and the next ended up looking more like a sphincter than a Stargate.

Sadly, for posterity, that particular note book of scribbles has been lost, either consigned to a landfill or recycled into toilet paper.

My next effort at writing, however, was far more ambitious. I guess around this time - the mid-'70s - I'd just been introduced to the works of JRR Tolkien and so I began my youthful homage (ie. blatant rip-off): The Eyes Of The Eagle.

Eyes was a four-part story (ie four exercise books stapled together and bound with a paper 'dust cover', glued round the outer books) - One More Battle, The Army, Raymor's Evil and The Eagle Is Slain - begun in 1976 and finished on October 29, 1977 (the date is recorded on the back of the 'dust cover').

This being a Lord Of The Rings clone, it wouldn't have been complete without my 10-year-old's attempt to crib my favourite bit of LOTR: the appendices.

Eyes
had a number of short essays at the back on: "the sword" (the magic sword central to the story, imaginatively named 'the sword'); "runes" (random doodles and their alphabetical equivalents); "orders and laws of the land" (basically a racial power structure with elves on top, men and dwarves of equal standing and then hobbits on the bottom tier); "kings and stewards of Rowdor" (historical rulers of a central city from the story); "the Hillhatches" (a family tree and origin story for the central family of dwarves from Eyes Of The Eagle) and some biographies of sundry other characters from the tale (King Acurst, Rucsan, Norlion, Brokenspear and San Chin).

The 247-page, hand-scrawled story follows the exploits of the younger members of a family of dwarf miners - Noddy, Sammy, Bilbo, Sidney, Rodney, Ben and their sister Mary - who get turned around while camping in a nearby forest and instead of spending their five-week holiday with their Uncle Sam end up entangled in a series of random, cataclysmic events that ultimately decide the fate of The Land.

Everything happens at a breakneck pace with - of course - no character development and increasingly oddly-spelled names.

All this is interspersed with puerile songs - my attempts at Tolkienesque poetry, but more influenced by nursery rhymes and playground chants - and random battle descriptions.

Needless to say, The Eyes Of The Eagle has yet to be submitted for publication, although some of the place names have endured through several Dungeons And Dragons campaigns, including my most recent Tekralh (which saw the return of innkeeper Fumbly Weed amongst other Eyes alumni)... and will continue to pop up in future games when I run short of inspiration.

As far as I can remember, Eyes Of The Eagle was my only attempt at writing a fantasy novel, with later juvenile scribblings returning to the broad church of science-fiction with a series of future crime/private eye novels; a lot of Star Wars-ish space opera; several post-apocalyptic epics that rambled on and on but were never finished and at least one collection of 'amusing' stories about anthropomorphic animals.
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