Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness

Saturday, 31 March 2018

April Is Going To Be A Great Month For Genre Television In The UK...

David Morrissey in the intriguing The City And The City

With the arrival of Supergirl back on Sky One this week, our full complement of DC superhero shows are back in their rightful place (with an assist from Black Lightning and iZombie on Netflix), but that's not all that will be keeping me entertained next month.

The four-episode adaptation of China Miéville's The City And The City, starring David Morrissey, begins on Friday, April 6, and you can read more about it here on the BBC press site.

Before that, another interesting new show begins on Channel 4 on Monday, April 2: Kiss Me First, which appears to be a virtual reality-centric drama (timed nicely to coincide with the big screen release of Ready Player One).

Meanwhile, the sublime time travel caper Timeless returns on April 4, on E4.

E4 is also home to Gotham now, with season four airing from April 10 (Channel 5 showed the first two seasons, but with that channel's usual dreadful treatment of its shows, season three was never shown, and the now the show has jumped channels - leaving a huge gap in its continuity for those who didn't pick up the DVD release of season three).

Adding to the comic book fun, Marvel's Runaways is coming to SyFy on April 18.


But before that, one of the greatest shows of last year, Legion, returns to Fox on April 17, with its second season.


Talking of great shows with second seasons, Westworld is back - on Sky Atlantic - on April 23.

And if that wasn't enough, in May, Humans returns to Channel 4 for its third season.


Take A Night Flight With New Collection Of Mortal Engines Short Stories...

With Peter Jackson's big screen adaptation of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines lumbering into cinemas this Christmas, the publicity machine around around my favourite literary franchise is beginning to gear up.

A new collection of short stories centring on aviatrix Anna Fang - Night Flights: A Mortal Engines Collection - will be published on August 28, and the glorious cover art by Ian McQue is shown above.

McQue is also providing fresh covers for the original Mortal Engines quartet (Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain), which will be released in June in the UK and can be seen on Philip's blog, with commentary from the author himself.

Slott & Pichelli Talk Fantastic Four...

You can hear the full interview with writer Dan Slott and artist Sara Pichelli on This Week In Marvel.

Magnum Opus...

Magnum Opus by Luke Saunders
In a world over-stimulated with visual content, an artist concedes to temptation and confronts the potential threat of obsolescence.

Set in the near future, an artist is confronted with the temptation of using a newfound piece of technology to automate her artistic process.

The hard work and passion our protagonist pours into her sculptures seem no match for artificial intelligence, leaving her and us to question whether artists are indeed immune from obsolescence, as we are so often led to believe.

Upon taking the easy route, she gazes upon her 'creation' with a feeling of uncertainty and is left with a tough decision to make.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Fleamarket Friday: Howe To Raise Funds And Entertain People...

After building an extension to his less than reliable flying saucer, Professor Howe encounters an enemy from his past with a score to settle.

Escaping to the world of Viciousal, the danger increases. A series of sadistic challenges overseen by a mysterious gamerunner have to be overcome for him and his companion, Pam, to escape with their lives.

Can he survive his out of control ego and horrendous dress-sense? Can Pam raise enough money to buy out her contract? And is the moon really made of cheese?

Professor Howe And The Viciousal Vloggers, the latest Doctor Who parody adventure from Long Scarf Publications, is up for pre-order, raising more funds for Children In Need.

The publisher's website explains the book's origins:
"The genesis of this adventure took the violence of Varos to the Planet of puns and the Viciousal Vloggers. If you have ever experienced difficulties with planning permission, wondered why TV isn't as good as it used to be or wanted to learn the drums, this probably is the book for you."

Fleamarket Friday: Blind Terror Means Gothic Horror For The Ears...

Following the death of her husband, Kathryn Ellis becomes the new housekeeper at Hodder Hall, keen to embark on a bright new future… only, her past won’t let her go just yet, and the ghosts that stalk the village threaten to cut her future short.
Blind Terror: The Gods of Frost, is a new Big Finish Originals gothic horror serial, starring Torchwood's Eve Myles.

Due out in October, the six half-hour episodes of the full-cast audio drama, penned by Guy Adams, are:
  • Episode 1: Soul Cake
  • Episode 2: They’re Coming
  • Episode 3: Hodder’s Folly
  • Episode 4: The Lord of Misrule
  • Episode 5: Hide and Seek
  • Episode 6: Solstice
The Gods of Frost is available for pre-order direct from Big Finish here as part of their new Originals range, celebrating two decades of award-winning audio drama production by the company.

The X-Men In Everything But Name...

When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained.

Sixteen-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking safe haven.

Soon this newfound family realizes that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and they must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.

Fleamarket Friday: Doctor Who Anthology Is Getting Bigger On The Inside...

Twelve wonderful tales of adventure, science, magic, monsters and time travel – featuring all twelve Doctors – are waiting for you in this very special Doctor Who book.

And now they’re joined by a very exciting, and very exclusive, new tale that will star the Thirteenth Doctor, as she battles to save the universe with her three close and trusted friends.
Originally published in 2013 for Doctor Who's 50th anniversary, and including short stories for every Doctor from William Hartnell to Matt Smith, this collection was updated a couple of years later to include Peter Capaldi's Doctor.

Now, a new edition, embracing Jodie Whittaker's Doctor has been announced - under the title Thirteen Doctors, 13 Stories.

Due out on September 6, the short story collection includes the work of HeroPress favourite Philip Reeve, alongside Neil Gaiman, Eoin Colfer, Malorie Blackman, Michael Scott, Marcus Sedgwick, Patrick Ness (creator of Class), Richelle Mead, Alex Scarrow, Charlie Higson, Derek Landy, and Holly Black.

The writer of the new Thirteenth Doctor tale has yet to be revealed.

Fleamarket Friday: Treat Yourself To A Fresh Serving Of Black Pudding...

Forget about chocolate eggs, the best way to celebrate Easter is with a fresh serving of +James V West's wonderful Black Pudding fanzine.

Issue Four of the immensely popular OSR 'zine has been released into the wild, featuring:
"...a 15 page OSR style play book. These are more-or-less the rules I have adopted for my own game. They harken back to older versions of the game, such as B/X, riffing on Labyrinth Lord, The Black Hack, and Swords & Wizardry... but with some 'modernisms' such as ascending armour class.

Oh, and new classes to boot. And tons of meatshield NPCs. Boom.
The publication is available as a 24-page PDF, with a price tag of PWYW, from RPGNow.

Sample page from Black Pudding #4

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Dr Omega & Professor Howe: Not All Time-Travelling Academics Are From Gallifrey...

Created in 1906 by French author Arnould Galopin, Doctor Omega was a mysterious, white-haired old man travelling the universe in his spacehip, Cosmos, alongside a pair of companions.

Inspired by the works of HG Wells, the doctor's adventures have been reprinted - and adapted to be more "Doctor Who" like - in subsequent years.

And there's definitely a case to made for comparison between Doctor Omega and The Doctor.

You can read more about the French creation here on Futurism.

However, the character has recently been given a new lease of life thanks to publishers Who Dares, and their Doctor Omega Chronicles line.

The first novel, in this new series of adventures for the doctor, is The Strike Of Midnite by well-known sci-fi author John Peel, who has penned many a Doctor Who and Star Trek book in his time.
France in the 1920s and Doctor Omega is on the brink of a fantastical voyage. But he’s reckoned without the interference of a rich and famous aviatrix.

Who is the mysterious Miss Midnite and what does she want with the Doctor?

She is far from what she seems – and when she seems. Now they are thrown together, lost in space and time, never knowing where they will emerge or what they will face.
Who Dares also has a John Peel audio adventure for Doctor Omega: The Silent Planet, which includes a six-page mini-comic.

Meanwhile, like Dr What And His Time Clock from the 1960s, the Professor Howe series wears its parody credentials with pride, as a humorous homage to The Doctor.

The unofficial range of charity books are raising money for BBC Children in Need, and have so far netted over £2,000 for the cause.

To date, there are four titles - two available for order and two in the works - in the collection from Long Scarf Publications.

The books are:
  • Professor Howe and the Toothless Tribe, by Christopher Samuel Stone
  • Professor Howe and the Sinister Sneeze, by Ann Worrall
  • Professor Howe and the Viciousal Vloggers, by Ian K. Cimm
  • Professor Howe and the Plastic Peril, by Jamie Hailstone

A strange job interview in London turns out to be life changing for Alania, an innocent librarian from London.

Along with Cy, their curiosity takes them to an apparent building site, a flying saucer and the rather rubbish traveller in space and time known as Professor Howe.

This is the mere beginning of a tale that puts the combined wits of our heroes against a wigged villain, and leads to the search for a very powerful woollen artifact.
The Professor even has his own Facebook group.

Dreams Don't Mean Anything As Chaos Takes Control In Westworld, Season Two...

BREAKING NEWS: The Fantastic Four Are Back At The Forefront of Marvel Comics!

Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli on the relaunched Fantastic Four from this August; I couldn't be happier with these two overseeing the return of my favourite superhero team to their rightful place at the heart of the Marvel Comic Book Universe!

WEEKLY WORLD NEWS: Welcome To The New World Of Gods And Monsters...

If the Weekly Worlds News is to be believed (and why wouldn't you?), America is overrun with cryptids and other dangerous critters - from giant grasshoppers and swamp monsters to mutant bats and mischievous cats.

So what gamesmaster worth his salt isn't mining the headlines of his august publication for adventure hooks and interesting NPCs?

Whether your campaign revolves around a pair of monster-hunting brothers or morally-suspect superheroes operating in the shadows, these creatures should make for memorable encounters.

More Light-Hearted Fun And Games Coming In America's Fundamentalist Future...

Will You Answer The Song Of The Siren?

Siren takes us inside Bristol Cove — a coastal town known for its legend of once being home to mermaids.

When the arrival of a mysterious girl proves this folklore all too true, the battle between man and sea takes a very vicious turn as these predatory beings return to reclaim their right to the ocean.

The series stars Alex Roe (The 5th Wave) as Ben, a bright marine biologist who finds himself drawn to a mysterious new girl in town, Ryn, played by Eline Powell (Game of Thrones), who is a strange young woman with a deep dark secret.

Fola Evans-Akingbola (An American Exorcism) stars as Maddie, also a marine biologist who works with Ben, and is highly suspicious of Ryn. Ian Verdun (Life’s a Drag) stars as Xander, a deep sea fisherman on a quest to uncover the truth; and Rena Owen (Star Wars Episodes II and III) as Helen, the town eccentric who seems to know more about the mermaids than she lets on.

Based on a story by Eric Wald and Dean White who both serve as executive produces. Emily Whitesell (Finding Carter) is on board as Showrunner and Executive Producer. Brad Luff, Nate Hopper and RD Robb are also attached as executive producers.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Behind-The-Scenes Of (Possibly) The Greatest Crossover Story Ever!

While Scoobynatural - the long-awaited crossover between Supernatural and Scooby-Doo - airs in the States tomorrow, this new season of the show is due to air here in the UK "very soon".

"Tell Me, Sarah, What Do You Think Of My Labyrinth?"

Pete seeking inspiration on how to get Sarah out of her latest confrontation with Jareth the Goblin King!

Although there was no roleplaying per se, last night's gathering of the Tuesday Knights was a true "games' night".

While Simon (who has missed several sessions this year because of work) generated a character for Pete's new superheroic spin on Top Secret SI (Simon's playing a telelocator by the way, who can psychically find 'objects' up to 100 miles away!), the rest of us indulged in a card game called Dobble, which Clare had brought along.

An insanely addictive - and frustrating - game that involves matching symbols on round cards.

It sounds easy (and that the fact that any two random cards will have at least one matching pair of symbols from the selection on each card is mind-boggling), but even when I thought I had a "system" my stroke-addled brain sometimes just shut down and I found myself blanking on the cards.

There are also numerous different ways of playing, which adds to fun, and we eventually settled on a version called "hot potato" which was very confrontational... and highly entertaining.

However, once Simon had finished his character (hopefully I'll get the low-down on everyone at our next session, so I can profile the team), Clare got out the Labyrinth boardgame.

Pete and Erica took the role of Sarah (although Pete was also in charge of the clock, which shows the time running out for the players), Kevin was Hoggle, Simon was Ludo, Clare was Sir Didymus and Ambrosius, and once again I took the role of Jareth The Goblin King (and the Labyrinth itself).

The goblin expansion that I had given Clare for Christmas added a new element as well, and while it had been ages since we last played, there was definitely more teamwork on display last night...

Even though, at the end of the day, the rescuers failed to save Baby Toby.

They exhausted their willpower battling goblins in The Goblin Castle, forcing them back to The Oubliette as the clock struck 13.

As ever rules were forgotten, and fudged, along the way, but every time we play the game - even months apart - more sticks with us.

And it's lots of fun discussing tactics, the benefits of "team-up", racing the clock etc

Jim Henson's The Labyrith is a magnificent boardgame that I highly recommend to anyone who likes this style of family-friendly collaborative boardgames (this is no Arkham Horror).

At the end of the evening Clare loaned the game to Pete, so he could play it with his family, and he's already entertaining the idea of investing in The Dark Crystal boardgame that is also made by River Horse (the same firm, co-incidentally, that publish The My Little Pony RPG that Simon is going to run for us one day).

Weird Wednesday...

Infinity War: The Avengers Have A Plan...

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

DVD Of The Week: Justice League (2017)

The death of Superman (in Batman v Superman) awoke three otherworldly "Mother Boxes" (alien cubes) around the globe, signalling to would-be world conqueror Steppenwolf (a CGI monstrosity voiced by Ciarán Hinds) that it was time to attack the planet again.

In a prehistoric heroic age, Stepenwolf and his legions of faceless "parademon" cannon-fodder has been repelled from our world by an alliance of Amazonians, Atlanteans, and the tribes of men.

Following this victory, the winners took the three powerful Mother Boxes and hid them away: one in Atlantis, one on Themyscira (birthplace of Wonder Woman), and one with mankind.

Batman (Ben Affleck) starts piecing the clues together that an alien invasion is coming, and realises he needs a team, starting with Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).

He then recruits Arthur Curry aka The Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

Unfortunately, they soon discover even working together they are not strong enough to take down Steppenwolf, and realise their only hope is somehow bring Superman (Henry Cavill) back from the dead!

Why did Steppenwolf wait this long? Why didn't he return  during the several thousand years before the arrival of Superman? Is he just coming back because of pride? What's so important about the Earth - compared to all the other worlds we're told he's conquered? What was he doing in the meantime? Who knows! And we certainly aren't given any clues...

Now, I realise this is going to be a bit controversial: but Justice League turned out to be my favourite of the recent DC Universe movies to date.

For one thing, it wasn't generally as gloomy as the majority of the previous films - even if it was hobbled with a CGI villain devoid of any memorable personality.

The narrative was still patchy, and a bit of a mish-mash in its build-up, and, at first, I found Victor Stone's ungrateful, reluctant superhero shtick quite grating.

There were other elements that didn't work for me as well: e.g. although I loved Ezra Miller's version of Barry Allen, I disliked his jagged armour suit (even though the explanation of the material used was an interesting idea).

And a few of the fight sequences looked like they'd been ripped straight from video games.

There also seemed to be a lot of vague hand-waving over the whole idea of secret identifies, like whether the world knew Clark Kent was Superman, for instance (was his state funeral to bury his body in the grave marked 'Clark Kent', for instance?)

But, by the final conflict, I was reminded why I was such a fan of the Justice League comics growing up - they are supposed to be ridiculously overpowered... so they could fight beings like Steppenwolf.

As well as the various comic book Easter Eggs (yay, Green Lantern Corps!), I also grokked the namedrop of 'Darkseid' that planted the seed for the ongoing storyline of these films (if they carry on, that is!)

I was very quickly won round by the team members I wasn't sure of, each having at least one moment to take the spotlight and justify their role in the team.

For me, of course, Ezra Miller stole every scene The Flash was in, but Jason Momoa's rousing "speech" to the League was great, and even though he swept in at the end like a deus ex comica to save the day, Henry Cavill's Superman is finally the smiling force of optimism that has made him such an enduring feature of the source material.

Ray Fisher's Cyborg certainly grew on me, as he lightened up and embraced his powers, and, naturally, Gal Gadot shone as Wonder Woman, a role she was seemingly born to play.

If the League had a weak point, for me, it's Ben Affleck's Batman. I really wasn't buying his portrayal here, which was a pity. He doesn't seem to bring the depth of character that Bruce Wayne needs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the god-like other members of the team.

But, thankfully, there was so much else going on in the film that this weakness was soon swept aside by the other, developing, characters.

Even though the film runs for the better part of two hours (with cracking mid-credit and post-credit scenes), it never flags, and - while the effects may occasionally not be as 'special' as one might have hoped (let's gloss over Superman's CGI upper lip!) - there's never a feeling of a bloat or superfluous characters (as I'd experienced several times in Wonder Woman).

Random last thought: I came away from Justice League way more satisfied than I was by Star Wars: The Last Jedi because it made me want to see more of these characters' adventures, whereas the most recent Star Wars film left me with a sense of general apathy for the future of that franchise and a greater appreciation for what had come before.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls...

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment.

The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart.

But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural).

Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.

#RPG For Tonight We (Board) Game...

Back to the Bog Of Eternal Stench with you!

To allow Pete a bit more time to get all his ducks in a row for the sudden shift in focus of our Top Secret SI campaign - it's going all supers now with the appearance of Jeff Grubb's F.R.E.E. Lancers supplement - tonight's gathering of the Tuesday Knights will be a bit different.

The first part of the evening - post-pizza consumption - will be devoted to Simon (absent last month) creating a character for the next phase of the campaign.

Then, once that is done, Clare will be breaking out the hugely popular Labyrinth board game, along with the goblin expansion that I gave her for Christmas.

Well, that's the plan anyway...

Geek vs Nerd vs Dork...

It's a small thing, but I wave my geek flag proudly (see below for examples that Rachel can attest to)

Monday, 26 March 2018

Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Fallout From The Last Of The Time Lords...

Rachel was away at the weekend (attending a dolls house show in Birmingham with her mum) and I found myself, somehow, binge-watching the latter-half Martha Jones season of Doctor Who (because, really, why not?)

After Planet Of The Dead and Waters of Mars, my great online friend Charles Rutledge suggested I might revisit Human Nature & The Family of Blood.

But seeing what was to come I couldn't stop there and ploughed on with the subsequent episodes: Blink, Utopia, The Sound Of Drums, and Last Of The Time Lords.

However, upon reaching the end of that arc I was left with the same question that has been bugging me since I first that final duology:
When time was reset at climax of Last of the Time Lords and that whole year was lost, was it the same for the entire universe? 
Does this mean there are millions of planets with unexplained time loss? Aliens who were born that disappeared or those that died suddenly reborn?

Or did this rollback just affect Earth?

Or, more intriguingly, are there still places out there that remember the year The Master ruled the Earth? Even if we don’t...

Inquiring minds want to know!

This Is Why You Read HeroPress: Duelling Samurai Wearing Jetpacks!!!

Staged by Japanese actor, director, and inventor Shota Mori, this is a for realz duel between katana-wielding samurai wearing jetpacks.

If this isn't the greatest thing ever, I don't know what is.

Should you want to read a bit more about this wackiness, zip over to Sora News 24.

My work here is done!

Torn From The Headlines: Strange Sports...

Inspired by a post on Calvin's Canadian Cave Of Cool the other day, I went hunting for cover art from this comic book series I'd not encountered before: Strange Sports Stories.

Were these stories any good? Probably not. But, as good comic book covers ought to, the ideas this art from the 1970s conjures up are mind-boggling.

Most of these 'strange sports' are crying out to have either their own boardgames or to be a sub-system for inclusion in an off-beat roleplaying game campaign.

At the very least, you should find an excuse to stage one of these sports in-game, either as the focus of an adventure or just as a backdrop to an otherwise mundane scenario...

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)


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