December 13, 2012

Let’s You and Him Fight

Earlier I discussed the perhaps not immediately evident fact that your favorite creators aren’t looking, in any social situation, for unsolicited notes on their work.

Here’s another peek into the writerly mind—an online corollary, if you will. Unless you have been specifically asked to act as someone’s bad PR clipping service, they also don’t want you to point them to negative reviews of their stuff. We all know the general odor in which bearers of bad news are held, right?

Creators all follow their own strategies for dealing with poor or contentious notices. Some thrive on them, deriving creative energy from the mental dissonance. Others use them to self-destructively feed the furnaces of self-doubt. Another school of thought treats a certain degree of blissful ignorance as integral to the thick skin creators must shroud themselves in to move forward. A rare few creators might, with lofty detachment, sift bad reviews for useful insights. Whatever their strategies, however they harness, repurpose or ignore the brickbats that come their way, creators have them well in place. Whenever they develop a yen for bad reviews, they can find them with ease, on their timetables and on their terms.

Social networking gives you more tools than ever to commit this unwitting faux pas. Don’t be the “let’s you and him fight” guy. Not by email, on a wall, or in a forum message. Likewise, you don’t need to use the @ function on Facebook or Twitter or the + in Google+ to summon us into discussions where we are being slagged. Like Hastur, we respond to unsought summoning rituals with something other than equanimity.

This goes triple if you’re prompting the creator to rebut the review. This is always a hideously poor choice. When an author does this, the only question is how big a fool he’ll make of himself. Poking a bear with a stick is bad enough. Handing a bear a stick and urging him to poke someone else with it rises to the level of spiritual negligence.

Critics have every right to consider creative work fairly, or to tendentiously haul it to the pillory. They write not for creators, but for the public, and themselves. But a third party taking that bundle of emotional static and slipping it in an envelope under the writer’s office door has, shall we say, missed an elementary point of etiquette.

December 10, 2012

An Early Wave of Hillfolk Series Pitches Rolls In

Although the stellar roster of writers and designers drafted to create Series Pitches for Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow have until the end of January to get their drafts in, an early bird brigade has already begun to submit their pieces. I’m happy to report that they all live up to the promise of their loglines—the only frustration being that, perhaps like me, you’ll want to play them all.

Jason Morningstar does the brilliant job you would expect from him with “Hollywoodland”, infusing his saga of Tinseltown’s silent-cinema infancy with glitz, corruption, and a battle between money old and new.

C├ędric Ferrand splendidly evokes 1866 New York in “Grave New World,” finding a fresh angle on vampire intrigue by making it a metaphor for the immigrant experience.

Andrew Peregrine’s “Vice and Virtue” gives Jane Austen fans all they need to launch a whirlwind of lunches, balls, and passion within the tightest of social constraints.

With expertise honed in the creation of actual TV series, John Rogers zeroes in on the many clashing societies and factions of “Shanghai 1930.” This is one of history’s richest settings, and John shows you how to cut to the meat of it.

James L. Sutter’s “The Throne” draws on Milton, Blake, and Vertigo comics with his war in heaven, triggered by the sudden disappearance of the big boss. Come for the angelpunk, stay for the chance to remake the cosmos.

Allen Varney’s “Bots” delightfully realizes its hardscrabble, post-organic premise in a piece that could only be described as Fox Animation’s Robots as rewritten by Upton Sinclair. It’s been a long time since anyone lured Allen back to straight-up RPG writing, and I can report that he hasn’t lost a bit of his satirical edge.

Both of our revisionist superhero pieces are in, as well.

Michelle Nephew’s “Mad Scientists Anonymous” lets you choose between Dr. Horrible-style humor or a darker spin on pulp mythology as its titular characters struggle together to stay sane and institutionalized—but what about the strange machinery humming away down in the basement?

Gene Ha and Art Lyon (concept by Lowell Francis) tackle matters from the opposite end of the genre food chain in “Henchmen,” in which no-powered criminals crewing for a costumed madwoman try to survive in her absence, in a city swarming with masks who hopelessly outmatch them. They wound up taking a straighter, crime-drama inspired approach than originally envisioned. This loses the wonderful original title, “Witless Minions”, but will result in a much richer game experience.

Gene has also turned in his illustration for the piece, the awesomeness of which speaks for itself:

Meg Baker has finished “Under Hollow Hills”; likewise Jason L. Blair with “Inhuman Desires.” I look forward to reading them.

Art assignments for all of the Series Pitches have been made already, and we’re starting to get sketches and preliminaries in. So all is on schedule on that front as well.

The on-time delivery of these pieces represents the main scheduling question mark, so I’m taking these early arrivals as a positive omen. I’ll continue to update Kickstarter backers and punterdom at large as the books continue to take shape.