In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with Michael Monahan, author and co-producer of the documentary American Scary, to talk about Horror Hosts. We delve into the origins of the Horror Host phenomena from its early days with Vampira to the megahit Ghoulardi and the modern incarnations which still stalk the airwaves. All this, and why Bob Wilkins is a name every scifi fan should know, is coming to you in this, the 27th episode of the Department Affairs!
Don’t know what Horror Hosts are? Watch the short video below for a quick primer of a few of the more famous ones in action.
So, the other day I was reading the Tough Scifi blog, a blog dedicated to Realistic Space Combat (a subject longtime readers will know I’m fascinated by) and there was a reference to a new game called Children of a Dead Earth, which I clicked on out of curiosity. What I got surprised the heck out of me.
For years, I’ve searched for a game simulating realistic space warfare using actual physics, weapons and tactics that make sense based on what we know of how the universe and space combat could actually work. (No shields, no FTL, no space dogfighting, etc.) Mostly I wanted a game to simulate the actual physics involved, just to see how the whole thing would play out.
Well, Children of a Dead Earth IS that game.
The title comes from the idea that in this setting (which is our own solar system in the future) the Earth has been rendered lifeless, but not before Elon Musk and friends managed to get us out to Mars and colonize space. So it’s a conflict simulator between system powers, and there is a single player campaign all about this very topic. (Although primarily the game is meant to be a “Sandbox” game where players set up scenarios themselves, build their own ships and weapons, and blow the crap out their enemies.)
Now, one of the things about realistic physics is that it involves a lot of math and advanced concepts, which is why this is a very niche product. However, the game has done a great job of making it all very playable, reducing the math to mostly visual sliders and readouts and keeping the game fun instead of tedious. In fact, they’ve made it so playable it might just reach a wider audience than you’d expect, which manged to get it a Very Positive overall rating with 79 reviews on STEAM, which is where you can buy it. You can watch a playthrough here to decide if this is something you’d be interested in:
I have to say, they managed to make it as visually appealing as they could while staying realistic as well. The ships aren’t ships as in the Starship Enterprise, but structures with a cone of armored plate around them. Lasers are invisible, but railguns and coilguns are quite visually impressive and just plain cool to watch in action. And I find the strategic elements that physics brings interesting as well, since it’s primarily orbital combat and you have limited fuel for maneuvering. (Basically, if you don’t think ahead, you’re in deep trouble.)
This game really ups the Space Combat genre in a new way, and provides Scifi authors with a new tool to see how the battles that they’ve got in their books would actually play out. In fact, it shows just how complicated and interesting space combat really can be, which can add whole new layers to tales of future conflicts.
In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by scholar and game designer Graham MacLean to talk about the Independent Tabletop RPG scene. The trio talk about the origins of Indie RPGs, why D&D was the first Indie RPG, and how the Fruitful Void can make you look at games in a new way. All this, and heaping helping of Paranoia are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with comedian Kevin Doak to discuss comedy and the nerdly arts. The trio debate which superhero you want to have over for dinner, why the Walking Dead needs more laughs, and the depressed turnout of Batman v. Superman. All this, and why Shawn of the Dead is the most realistic zombie movie ever, is waiting for you in this, the 25th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
One of my favourite manga of all time is the manga Bakuman, a fantastic story about two young Japanese comic book artists who are trying to make it into the big leagues by the creators of the famous manga Death Note. Although I use the word fantastic to describe it, there are no fancy elements present in the story, is a very realistic take on what it is like to become a manga artist in Japan. In many ways, is similar to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, the greatest book on comic book art ever written, except that this time it’s in the form of a fictional story. Bakuman itself is an exploration of both the business and the creative side of selling Japanese comics, and it is both educational and enthralling. I have read the whole series of 20 volumes through about six times, and will probably continue to read it again once a year because I always get something out of it and find something new with each read through.
I bring this up, because I recently stumbled across a podcast that reminds me a bit of Bakuman, it is called the Part Time Writers Podcast and is a chronicle of two part-time writers, Chris and Lee, who are trying to become a full-time writers in the course of a year. The podcast itself, which is 100% real, is their weekly journal of their efforts to become successful writers, and is a story in and of itself. Although the protagonists of this particular story are a little bit older than the teens of Bakuman, and not trying to get into traditional publishing, they still have to struggle with many of the same creative and business issues that the young heroes of the manga do. Perhaps, this is why find it so interesting to listen to, and it has become one of my favorite podcasts listen to each week.
Now, I may be a bit biased because I’m quite fond of the superhero genre, and their first effort is to try and write a superhero series. But, the two of them do make a pretty engaging pair, as they have different backgrounds and different perspectives on the writing and the approaches that they have to take to get their books out successfully to their target audience. I have to say, as a part-time writer myself, I’ve learned quite a bit from listing to the two of them and find it fascinating to hear their discussions and their ideas, and then to watch them try out those ideas and sometimes fail and sometimes succeed. I also find the two of them quite inspiring, as they generally keep a very positive attitude towards their work, and are willing to try new directions and try new things when plans go awry.
This particular experiment started in January 2016, and is still going on right now, being a little over two thirds finished. Although, I suspect (spoiler) that they will probably end up doing the podcast for more than a year for many different reasons.
So, if you get a chance I would highly recommend checking out this podcast. I started listening to it for specific episodes about specific topics, but if I were to try again I would probably just go back and start with the first episode and work up from there. Unfortunately, iTunes doesn’t seem to have the first seven episodes and starts with episode eight on its feed. However, I believe you can get those first seven episodes from the show’s home website if you want to listen to them. You can still get quite a bit by just listening to individually targeted episodes, and really you can drop in anytime, but if you want to get involved with their story and understand truly what’s going on it helps to start from the beginning or close to it.
In this episode, Rob and Don interview Scottish science fiction writer Gary Gibson about his career, writing Space Opera, and why Science Fiction has become boring. All this, and why Zardoz is a classic film, in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don discuss the cons of becoming a professional writer (or artist). While the internet is filled with people telling you that you’re one Kindle book away from quitting your day job (mostly by people selling writing how-to advice and services) Rob and Don look at some of the cold, hard costs and challenges that come with trying to write for a living. Along the way, they discuss ways to overcome those challenges and make yourself a better writer if you’re determined to follow the hard road. All this, and a heaping helping of Dinosaur Porn are waiting for you in the 23rd episode of The Department of Nerdly Affairs!
Rob and Richard Moule at an Iron Maiden Concert (Rob is the tall guy!)
In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by music historian Richard Moule to discuss their mutual love and admiration for the musical art form known as Heavy Metal. The trio trace Metal’s history and inspirations, and talk about how metal became THE nerdly music of choice. All this, and why Death Metal is really redneck music, here for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with comic artist and director of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble animated series Tim Eldred to discuss his career in the comic book industry and how it led him into the world of animation. Along the way, they discuss Tim’s advice for aspiring comic book artists, why getting your work done on time is crucial for a career in the comic book industry, and why the secret to successful media production is to have a really big raft! All this, and a look at Tim’s new project Pitsberg, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by their friend Chad Hicks to discuss their love of Tabletop Role-Playing Games. The trio explore the history of TRPGS, and talks about their own experiences and growing up playing these games. Along the way, they discuss the appeal of Gamma World, point based vs. random character creation, and their love of Superhero Gaming. All this, and the future of TRPGs are waiting for you in the 20th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.